Change

Stretch Your Rubber Band

One of the concepts I often share with my coaching clients is that of ‘stretching the rubber band.’ rubber band

You know how when you are going to use a rubber band, you stretch it first, making it bigger than it needs to be, before placing it where you actually need it? You can also use this concept when you are trying to develop new skills or stretch your existing skills. Before you are in a situation where you actually need that skill, practice stretching it way beyond where it needs to end up.

For example, let’s say you want to become more concise in your speaking habits. Rather than just trying to reduce a little (which is hard to measure), take a situation you commonly find yourself in, or that you know you have coming up, and think about what you would say if you could only say three words in that situation. Or, for one whole day, practice speaking to people only in sentences of no more than six words.

If you struggle with engaging with others, give yourself a day to run errands and commit that you will make eye contact and say hello to every person you pass on the street, or stand in line with at the grocery store.

If you want to be a better listener, use verbal mirroring all day for one day (you’ll be exhausted, trust me!) Verbal mirroring is repeating literally every single word the other person is saying, generally done silently in your head.

These all seem like silly examples but that is the point–they are extreme. By getting the feel of a behavior that is more extreme than what you actually desire in the long run, it provides perspective. When you later use the behavior you actually want to use, it won’t feel nearly as uncomfortable.

Think about it–what are you working on and how can you stretch that rubber band in a safe environment before you have to really perform? Now, get out there and try it.

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Fall is a time of renewal

There are seasons.  There are tides.  There is a natural ebb and flow to life, and we often think of Spring as the time when everything begins anew.  But for as long as I can remember, Fall – not Spring – has felt like a time of renewal to me.  Maybe because Fall is when school starts, and that means so many new things – new classes, new teachers, new school supplies and sometimes new friends.

As much as I love Summer, and the respite it (sometimes) brings, or New Year’s with all the celebration, the Fall is when I feel energized to re-evaluate my goals and adjust my compass.  How about you?

Where are you going?  If you don’t know, carve out time for a meeting with yourself, maybe in a cozy spot on the back porch with a nice cup of something, and give yourself permission to really ponder.  It’s like Fall cleaning for the brain.

If you do know where you want to go, look back: have you been on the right path this year, or have you veered off?  What adjustments can you make?  Even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference in the long run.

Take advantage of this new season, as a time of renewal.  I’ll be doing the same.

Considering creative careers: a new series

Creative Director (CCA)

A lot of people have been re-thinking their careers over the past few years.  Some by choice, some not.  Here are a few examples:

  • the civil engineer whose construction firm slowly withered on the vine as the commercial real estate industry dried up
  • the sales manager who, after years of meeting progressively more challenging production goals, traveling extensively and hardly spending time with family, finds her job eliminated
  • the coordinator whose role has become impossible because she’s been asked to take on the work of every other person who left the department and wasn’t replaced
  • the baby boomer who was planning to work for 3 or 4 more years before retiring but who was laid off when the job was outsourced
  • the young college graduate who cannot find a suitable job in his or her chosen field

In some cases, these people are stopping for a moment to ask themselves what do I really want? Sometimes they just want to find an alternate way to pay their rent or support their family.  But often, they are looking for more meaning in their work. Or more flexibility. Or to feel like they have more control over their own destiny. Many are turning to creative pursuits as a result.

If this resonates for you, I have good news: According to an article in the Atlantic, “The growth in creative class jobs is a bright spot on the employment horizon. And the growth in these jobs in smaller metros…is especially good news.”

http://m.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/03/where-creative-class-jobs-will-be/1258/

The definition of creative class is quite broad and includes science, technology, and engineering; as well as those types of work we traditionally think of such as arts, culture, media, and entertainment. It may also include skilled trades such as wood working or producing custom-made bicycles, as highlighted in this great article in the Orlando Sentinel:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/sc-fam-0809-skilled-trade-20110810,0,3848199.story

Though you may be interested in a creative career, you may also have a lot of questions or even misconceptions about the creative career path.  So, I’m beginning a new series.  I’ll be bringing you interviews with folks who have embarked recently or many years ago on creative career paths.  I hope you’ll enjoy their perspectives and perhaps find inspiration.

What is a goal without a dream?

At this time of year, we are usually bombarded with well-meaning advice on how to improve our lives.  Usually this advice is along the line of sticking to our resolutions, making very tangible goals that can be measured and so on.  This kind of practical activity has its place in creating a better future for ourselves and I wholly endorse it. There’s just one drawback, and it’s a big one: often these goals are build upon foundations of “shoulds”.  Not what we want, but what society or our friends or our family tell us we ought to want.  And when we build our goals on foundations of shoulds, we have a mighty hard time sticking to them.  Our plans look like oceans before us and we have no wind in our sails.  We find ourselves in the same place the next year, declaring the same resolutions all over again.

Today, let me humbly suggest that you forget tangible goals just for a little while.  Instead: dream.  What does your gut say you would love, love, to do or achieve?  Maybe this year.  Maybe next year.  Maybe twenty years down the road.

Finish these sentences:

  • I’ve always wanted to: ______________________________________.
  • I wish I could:_____________________________________________.
  • Someday, what I’d really love to do is: __________________________.
  • The person whose job I really covet is: __________________________.

If your stomach doesn’t clench, you aren’t digging deep enough or thinking big enough.  Keep going until you hit that spot.  What I’m talking about here is in the context of work, but this can really apply to any area of your life.

Many of the big dreams I’ve had for myself professionally have come true in the past year or two.  And, although there are certainly small steps which I’ve taken along the way, without recognizing and honoring my dreams, I would never have taken these steps.  I would have stayed on another path.

Soon enough, you can create a solid plan with timelines and milestones and checkmarks.  But for now, dream.

It’s a new year! What is waiting for you?

I’ve got a friend who decided to turn the phrase What are you waiting for? on its head.  Now she says:

What is waiting for you?

By changing the words around, she changed the whole meaning.  I absolutely love this mantra so I’m adopting it as my own for the year.

Think about it – what is waiting for you in 2012?  And what are you going to do to go out and get it?  Think of the possibilities, and then take action!

Here’s to a great year!

From Entrepreneur to Corporate Life

A number of people recently have sought my advice on their intended transition into the corporate world.  They are entrepreneurs who, for a variety of reasons, have decided that now is the right time to leave that path. Some are in businesses that have slowed down or have become too difficult for other reasons.  Some are in business school, which they entered intentionally to use as a lever for finding a role in corporate America.

Entreprenuers have amazing skills and a lot they can bring to the table within a larger corporate setting.  However, their self-employment history can also be of concern to recruiters and hiring managers.  Why?  Well, here’s a look inside their heads:

Does this gal really want an internal role?

The number one concern is the motivation for applying to a corporate role.  Does the applicant truly want to be a part of, not in charge of, the business?  Or, are they just doing this because times are tough right now, and as soon as the market defrosts, or they simply get the itch, they’ll jump ship?

Can this guy really take orders or will he buck the system?

This is closely related to the question above.  They wonder, Can this person fit within our system?  The larger the organization, typically the more processes and policies in place and the less likely one individual is to influence them.  Ever heard the phrase My way or the highway?  If we’re being brutally honest with each other, we must admit this is often the way it works in large organizations.  In very large companies it’s common to not even have contact with the person who chose the highway.  People who ask too many questions or do things their own way are considered difficult.   Understandably, managers don’t want to hire someone, only to have to fire them later because they don’t “fit”.

Is she really as good as she says she is?

Recruiters and hiring managers may wonder if all the achievements listed on the entrepreneur’s resume are 100% accurate.  They generally don’t have any way to verify the information.  An issue related to this one is salary or overall compensation.

These are just a few issues, but they’re big ones.  If you are moving from entrepreneurship to corporate life, you need to figure out how to counterbalance these concerns. How?

1.   Be ready to talk about why you want a corporate role, not why you don’t want to own your own business anymore.  If you just tried the entrepreneurial thing for a while, it’s okay to say “it wasn’t for me” but if you owned your own business for a long time or are a serial entrepreneur, that won’t cut it.  If you were in a corporate role before and enjoyed it, say so.   Do you enjoy structure?  Being part of a larger team?  Be prepared with a message that will make them comfortable that you understand what you would be getting yourself into and that you truly want it.

2.  Make sure that when you talk about your experience or achievements, you illustrate how you’ve successfully worked with or within larger structures.  That you can follow the rules.  For example, were you a vendor to a large company with strict purchasing guidelines and a rigid RFP process?  Were you a franchise owner who had to work within very closely defined operating standards?

3.  You aren’t obligated to open up all your financial records to any potential employer (unless you’re going into politics, the FBI or something like that), but the more specific details you can share in an interview the better.  Quantify your achievements.  Sometimes non-financial details illustrate this better than dollar figures, i.e. “I won the contract renewal with Large Co., Inc., three times due to our excellent customer service and product quality”.

4.  Of course, always be prepared to highlight what you bring to the table that non-entrepreneur types may not.  For instance, a profitability mindset.  A broader understanding of the business.  A humbleness that comes from knowing how hard it really is to herd cats.

People make this transition successfully all the time, though it is certainly more challenging now due to the competition in the market.  If this is your plan, do your homework now so you can make it easy for a potential employer to say yes.

Change is good

Yes, I’ve changed the appearance of this blog.  Once again.  What can I say?   I like change.   At least, change that I’ve initiated. 

Sound familiar?  Yes, over the past few years many of us have been through change that was not in our plan.   Our paradigm was shifted for us.  Our cheese was moved.  A natural response can be to hunker down and resist any further change.  However, this does not carry us forward. 

Rather, we can use the energy released by the initial change and channel it into further changes – changes we steer into taking us down the path we wish to go.  The vaccuum created by the loss of one thing is an opportunity for something else to rush in and fill it.  We can influence that process.  We do not have to be victims, sitting idly by. Instead we can take a moment, think about what we are really striving for and then take specific, productive action to fill the gaps. 

Change can give us a fresh perspective and help us to actually think differently.  The next time you want to think differently, change something – your environment, your schedule, your actions.   That’s what I did.  And I hope you like it!

Try something new

I’m trying out a new theme for my blog.  Most likely, you won’t notice.  It’s not radically different from the original theme.  But I like it.  So, I changed it.  Just because I can. 

Sometimes it’s good to do this.  It’s like re-arranging your furniture.  It knocks the dust off.   Provides a new perspective.  Sometimes we need to do that in our career too.  Keeps it fresh.  Keeps us growing.  I did it in my own, and have never regretted it.  

The timing of this post was unintentional, but I guess this is a good time of year for trying something new.  I’m already thinking about some more meaty changes as well for next year.  What new thing will you try in the new year?