This Thanksgiving: Reflect On Your Career

Thanksgiving: endless plates of food, football playing on TV all day, family you haven't seen in a while, kids running around on a sugar high, Dad falling asleep in the recliner, arguing with teenagers to get off their phones and join the conversation...

Maybe your Thursday will look like this, or maybe it will look completely different. Still, this holiday is an important time to rest and be with family and friends. But if you do have extra downtime this week, it might be a good time to reflect on your life – and how your career is impacting it.

Most of us spend the majority of our time at our jobs. Studies show that nearly two out of three workers are not happy in their careers. If you’re not happy at your job, chances are it’s affecting your happiness with life in general.

This Thanksgiving: Reflect On Your Career

Write down the following steps to determine if you’re truly satisfied in your career:

Reflect on the positives of this year.

  • What have you accomplished? What were the highlights? What are you thankful for about your company?

Reflect on the negatives of this year.

  • What were your biggest challenges? What didn’t you like? What would you go back and do differently if you could?

Make a list of the values and benefits that are important to you in a company.

  • How many of these does your current employer have? How important is each one to you?

Think about what you want to accomplish in 2015.

  • Set goals/resolutions. Can these be accomplished at your current employer? Is there anything standing in your way of achieving these goals?

Decide what matters most to you in your career. Rank the importance of these factors:

  • Salary
  • Work environment
  • Technologies used on the job
  • Benefits, perks
  • Flexibility
  • Telecommuting
  • Good team/leadership
  • Other: _____________

Ask yourself: are you doing what you want to do at a company that you want to work for?

Hopefully you’ll be inspired this Thanksgiving to think about what you’re thankful for. Researchers have found that gratitude is important to emotional well-being. If you don’t feel thankful for your job, it might be time to start thinking about other options.

Tweet your response at @MATRIXResources or leave your questions/comments below. Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

We live in an age of diminishing talent in many fields, tech being the most obvious. With the proliferation of mobile technology and do-it-yourself apps, there is less interest in pursuing software development degrees.

Companies are going to extremes in interviewing and screening to hire the top people. Google may put a candidate through 25 interviews. Twitter does 5 interviews in one day with interviewers from different parts of the company and must have a consensus of at least 4 to make a job offer.

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

At the same time there is a dearth of tech talent to be found in Silicon Valley. Google, being the behemoth, will buy candidates right out of Twitter's hands with shares. Google will also hire people to get their ideas off the street. But not everyone is Google. And more often companies are now opening remote offices in order to hire talent in other parts of the world or country.

What is the price of this war? There is a definite price on hiring, training, and turnover. In this economy, many companies' main goal is to just hire the brightest people from their competitors.

How do the best companies retain this talent? If they go to extremes to hire from competitors (and they do), then the goal ceases to be that of just putting butts in seats.

The goal must shift. Turnover is now so common that many Gen Y and millennial workers will know within the first few months of employment how long they will stay with an employer. Workers see jobs more as projects which can be done with many different employers over a career.

So they leave every 2 or 3 years. But are some companies keeping these workers longer than others? And what kind of praises do these workers sing of their former employers when they do leave? Are some companies winning the war on employer brand and reputation?

Yes and yes.

The war on talent is won today not with a continual churn of warm bodies. This war is won by acquiring souls.

We must make work so compelling, vital, and urgent that our workforce feels constantly challenged, appreciated, and that they are continually growing. We must give them the tools to be more efficient. And we must make it easy for them to work when and where they want.

Most importantly, we must make an effort to court boomerangs. If we play our cards right the best workers will work with us again and again in some capacity.

Kevin Wheeler of FutureOfTalent.Org says "We're heading to a world of what I call "Career Mosaics" where people move through various types of employment as their interests, needs, and skills change. One day an employee, another a part-timer, and another a contract worker. This may be interspersed with times when they do not work (at least for money), but travel, learn, chill out, etc. It will be very fungible and much of it will be virtual."

This week I will be in New York participating in a Thinkathon hosted by Purematter and IBM. The Thinkathon is a hands on, interactive think tank-meets-workshop event. It serves as the kick-off event to a three-day experience in partnership with IBM, all centered around hacking the future of work and the unveiling of IBM's new Mail Next product.

I will be reporting back here with some of the sure-to-be-interesting ideas that come out of this week.

Food For Thought

Here are a few fun resources some of my colleagues who will be in attendance have shared to think about the #NewWayToWork.

Dion Henchcliffe: The new digital workplace: How enterprises are preparing for the future of work

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

Kevin Wheeler: Future of Talent Work Trends

Acquiring The Souls of Boomerangs: The #NewWayToWork

Some interesting stats from our friends at IBM and Purematter:

  • 82% used social networks to recruit, versus the 16% average determined in an Jan 2014 IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study*
  • Mining community expertise is a grassroots effort (compared to other ambitions where it’s more top-down) – 43% rely on employee evangelists to help kick start adoption*
  • Most organizations know what it means to be “social” but many don’t know where to start or how to achieve their goals:*
  • 74% of respondents define a “social” business as one that uses social technology to foster collaboration among customers, employees and partners
  • Only 20% believe their organization is currently acting truly “social”
  • Embedding social isn’t just about bolting on a few extra components onto an existing process. It’s about building social capabilities into the underlying systems and making them an integral part of the process: 43% of respondents said company systems are now set to default to social capabilities*
  • Despite access to a wealth of social data, less than a fourth surveyed use social analytics to inform their marketing decisions*
  • Uncertain ROI is a top two concern across aspirations, yet few (34%) have established formal metrics*

What do you see in your future? Is it possible for an employer to capture your undying loyalty for a long-term career these days? Share your thoughts here or on Twitter @fishdogs, and I'll share them with the "futurists" at this week's #Thinkathon.

Follow the conversation at #NewWayToWork

About the Author: 

Craig Fisher is a recruitment consultant, social media strategist and trainer, and serial entrepreneur. He consults with some of the world’s top companies on using social media for sales, marketing, recruiting, employer branding, and talent attraction. He is a featured author and speaker in industry publications and at conference events internationally. Craig created and hosts the original social recruiting forum on Twitter, TalentNet Live (#talentnet), and the TalentNet Live Social Recruiting/HR conferences. Follow Craig on Twitter @fishdogs and @TalentNet.

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Hiring Manager

Goals vs. Objectives: The Secret Ingredient That Explains The Difference

Why is there confusion about the difference between goals and objectives?

A colleague and I were recently collaborating on a new effort, and there was some confusion on the meaning of goals vs. objectives. Goals vs. Objectives – The Secret Ingredient That Explains The DifferenceTo him, the words were interchangeable – perhaps a concern of formal semantics. Indeed, we could include other terms in our discussion: outcomes, benefits, mission, vision, purpose, etc. The nuances of how these terms relate is varied.

Why is this the case? First, in our initial exposure to these concepts, our responsibilities and tasks are more or less defined, ideally with a correlated goal or objective. Sometimes, while our tasks and responsibilities may be defined, our organization or environment may lack any clear sense of purpose. Perhaps most damaging, our organization or environment may have defined goals or objectives, but lacks the accountability or discipline to act in alignment with them. This is a failure of integrity. In these contexts, any goal or objective can provide the necessary orientation and direction on a daily or weekly basis.

Second, often there are personal or organizational challenges that overshadow any concern that would meaningfully differentiate a goal with an objective. Even in a position of management or leadership, one’s role can simply be that of steering and communication in relationship to stated goals and objectives. Other concerns can quickly overwhelm.

A simple search can return a number of different interpretations on the difference between goals and objectives, some of which can be helpful. But there is a nagging feeling that it should be ‘common sense’. Why should a particular blog post or book be necessary to illuminate the difference, especially to something that can have a huge impact on the direction and effectiveness of one’s efforts?

Here is the secret ingredient: your team.

Your team should have a clear and “common sense” model that encapsulates goals, objectives, outcomes that serve its purpose. Depending on the size of the team (it could be just you), or whether it is a part of a larger effort or organization (or serving/partnering with other teams), different components of these orienting and decision factors may be inherited, shared, tweaked, emphasized, etc. But for goals and objectives to be effective, they must be shared, and there must be a shared understanding for how they work together – and how they work together.

It really doesn’t matter too much what the individual definitions are. As long as you have a shared or model/process, that's what matters. Dr. James T. Brown puts it something like this: 1) have a process, 2) follow the process, and 3) improve the process. The model or definition for goal or objectives should be “common sense” and provide just enough definition necessary to improve the accountability and discipline of an effort to improve. What does matter is that the definitions are shared. Without a shared understanding, accountability and discipline will suffer.

At an individual level, this means “managing oneself”. Have a disciplined intentional approach for fulfilling your responsibilities. If you are a member of an organization, using shared models and definitions is one way you can increase accountability, facilitate disciplined execution, and encourage organizational integrity. If you are on the leading edge of an effort that requires an enhanced program or project management, seek to partner with others with the same challenges to mature the shared ethos that will build a stronger organization capable of meeting its goals and objectives – whatever their definitions happen to be.

About the Author: 

Craig Smitham works for Pariveda Solutions where he leads teams through the design, construction and evolution of software systems for the web, mobile, enterprise, and cloud. His software development mantras are 1) quality through rapid feedback, 2) agility through good engineering, and 3) effectiveness through sustainable development — valuing others, one’s craft, and oneself. Craig’s current focus is on empowering superior business capabilities by embracing the distributed nature of today’s computational and business environments through reactive message-driven systems and services. Craig can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and GitHub.

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The Most Important Thing I Learned From a Three-Month Dev Camp

Attending a three-month-long dev bootcamp isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t really sure if it was for me, even after I made the commitment to attend a small code academy in South Carolina called The Iron Yard this past year. I didn’t have much coding experience to speak of and I was about to take a three-month dive into javascript programming. The stakes were high for me. I was leaving my family in Texas and draining our savings to make this happen. Failure, while completely terrifying, just couldn’t be an option. The Most Important Thing I Learned From a Three Month Long Dev CampI had to make it work.

Attending this school was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The pace of the course was intense and the workload often daunting. Every weekday the lecture portion of the course would begin at 9am and last until noon. After lunch we would all work on our homework which was due the following morning. I don’t remember a day that I went to bed before 1am (I took an hour break each night to eat dinner and FaceTime with my family). Weekends were spent on longer homework assignments. It was intense work, but exciting. I came to this program because I was convinced that through it my life would change for the better. As each week passed, that conviction became more of a reality.

Looking back I am amazed at how much we were able to cram into such a short time. The track I attended focused on front end development, in particular javascript/jQuery/backbone, but the gains I made were beyond just programmatic syntax. I took away some really life-altering things from this program.

I Learned to Hustle
Every day we had homework that went beyond what we learned in lecture. Our instructor gave us a push in the right direction, but we had to do the hard work of figuring out how to accomplish the assignment. It felt kind of like learning to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. As time went on I got better at identifying which parts of the assignments were going to be the most challenging. I would start with those and focus my daylight hours on them so that if I got stuck the TA or instructor would be available for questions. Get the coding working during the day, get it working well at night. It didn’t always work out that way, but it was the race I had to run. With practice, I could tell I was getting better at the mental sprinting.

I Learned How To Learn
You learn a lot about yourself when you need to aggressively learn something that you have little to no prior experience dealing with. At some point you are going to come up against something that is beyond your ability. I’ve heard marathon runners describe something similar to this. At some point in the race they hit a mental wall when their own physical capabilities feel lacking. Whether or not they will continue to run becomes a sheer act of persevering willpower. That is what I felt week after week (sometimes even daily). After a while, you begin to expect it and it does’t feel quite so overwhelming. You learn to push through it. As time passes you eventually see what things help you get through that wall faster. For me, it was cramming/researching like crazy and then taking a walk. That gave my brain time to stew on what I had read and find perspective.

I Learned How To Think Like a Problem Solver
Not too long ago I made a list of the top five people who had most influenced my life. I included my instructor from The Iron Yard on this list because he essentially taught me how to think. Yes, he taught me how to think like a programmer, but really the change in my brain feels too profound to define it by a profession. With each new program or framework we learned, he took great care to teach us the problem that that particular language was trying to solve. He wasn’t just teaching programming, he was teaching the philosophy behind programming. Over time, I began thinking like a serial problem solver. The way I was learning to look at programming challenges was changing the way I looked at everything: parenting, design, relationships, etc. I returned to Texas with a newfound perspective.

I Learned That People Can Be Pretty Awesome
I would be doing a disservice not to mention that getting to know my fellow classmates, fellow coding comrades, was as significant to me as any other part of the program. We were in the trenches together, all of us willing our minds to understand the unfamiliar. My skills in programming and design were richly impacted by the people I was learning alongside. Watching them learn, hearing them explain their solutions and sharing with them solutions of my own were all sharpening my own ability to problem solve. Sometimes when you have stared at the same problem for hours a fresh set of eyes is what you need most and an encouraging word can go a long way.

Was Attending A Dev Bootcamp Worth It?
I decided to attend this program because I felt that it would change my life for the better. In terms of my career, I would say that it had a definite impact. After completing the program at The Iron Yard, it took about three months of job searching before I received offers for four different positions. I accepted a junior developer role with an amazing web shop in Allen, TX. I work with some pretty brilliant team members building websites and web applications for really interesting clients. It’s a small team so I get to be a part of both the design and development process which was important to me. While there is still a lot of room for improvement, I’m able to make significant contributions to the team I’m working on. I absolutely love it.

But my affinity for my time at hack school is not due solely to the career benefits I’m enjoying as a result. I know it sounds like I’ve taken a sip of the coder camp Kool Aid, but it really was a life-altering experience. What I gained most was confidence. I didn’t just learn about coding, I was writing code. I had proof that I could do this, I could become a hacker because for three months I was hacking. That proof was of utmost importance, because the person who needed it most was me.

About the Author: 

Daniel Donaldson is a front end developer for LifeBlue Media, a digital media agency in Dallas, TX. After years of experience in non-profit project management roles, Daniel made the career jump into the tech field by attending an intensive dev bootcamp. Having a passion for technology, design and human behavior, he felt that the world of web design was a perfect fit for him. You can read more about his experience at his blog or find him on Twitter @Color_Turtle.

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Job Seeker

The Best (And Most Rewarding) Way to Bond Your Team

MATRIX has been annually volunteering with HouseProud Atlanta since 2012. This organization provides no-cost repairs to low-income, senior homeowners living in the greater downtown Atlanta neighborhoods. Their mission is to keep these homeowners “warm, safe, and dry” in their existing homes. MATRIX volunteered with HouseProud for the first time several years ago and we recently decided to return in 2012. Everyone has enjoyed it so much that we continue to go back every year. We’ve done everything from painting to planting, and the families are always so friendly and appreciative. It’s nice that we get to meet and interact with the people we are helping.

Last week we worked at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Smalls. Mr. Smalls is a veteran who has terminal kidney cancer and his wife, Mrs. Smalls, has a very bad lung disease. The couple wanted their house to look nice so that they can enjoy it as long as possible. We were lucky enough to get to know Mr. Smalls as he stayed outside with us the whole time and made it a point to talk to and thank everyone! It was a very rewarding experience for everyone involved.

I personally think it’s great that MATRIX has such an active community service committee. We do multiple donation drives throughout the year for various organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Atlanta Humane Society, Partnership Against Domestic Violence and many more. While partnering with these organizations is important, it’s even more valuable when we get to do something hands-on like volunteering with HouseProud or in the Fun Zone at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It brings coworkers closer together, acts as a team-building experience and gives us the ability to help others in need…win, win, win! I hope that the community service involvement at MATRIX continues to grow year after year.


Here is what some other MATRIX team members had to say about their experience with HouseProud:

“HouseProud is always a great way to spend an afternoon with your coworkers, helping people in need. It’s nice to feel like you are making a difference in someone’s life! I’m glad that MATRIX continues to volunteer with HouseProud, and I’m excited to keep coming back each year!” – Catherine Mootz

“HouseProud is awesome! It gives us a great opportunity to help the Atlanta community in a very hands-on way (literally!). The homeowners are always so appreciative and grateful. It’s definitely rewarding to see our small repairs come together to keep them warm, safe & dry.” – Kara Ritter

“For me, it was just great to be part of something that helps people in our community who are in need of a little assistance, especially people going through a difficult time in their lives, and put a smile on their faces. It really stood out to me how kind, appreciative, and hospitable Mr. Smalls was to all of us. You could tell that he takes pride in his home. I learned that he served in both the Korean and Vietnam War! It’s always nice to be able to help someone out who has given so much to his country.” – Michelle Spears

“This was my first year in volunteering at HouseProud and it was a very fun and rewarding experience. I had a great time with my co-workers and the fact that we were able to help a family in need made the time we spent together that much more fulfilling. I think HouseProud is a wonderful program that helps many families in need and I hope we continue our support of this worthy cause.” – Savannah Dortch

“What a fun afternoon! It was great spending time with my MATRIX teammates and most importantly, being able to participate in such a wonderful activity. I feel honored that we could help out the Smalls family and hope we can do it again.” – Sage Kroell

“This is the one event I look forward to each year. It’s just the most fun. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding.” – Legend Wilcox

“The homeowner was so appreciative and grateful. He was outside with us the whole time, encouraging us and thanking us. It felt good to help someone and feel like we were making a difference.” – Heather Folkers

“This year was my third time participating in the HouseProud volunteer event with MATRIX. It's a great way to spend time with your coworkers while helping out a family in need and it’s a very rewarding experience. “ – Christine Geiger

Check out more pictures on our Facebook page.

About the Author: 

Hanna is the Proposal Analyst for MATRIX. She manages the RFP/RFI process for all MATRIX offices and provides sales support for client-facing presentations, proposals and required client documentation. Learn more about Hanna and connect with her on LinkedIn.  

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