For Those Who Are Approaching A Different Commencement: Retirement

In May, I talked about recent college graduates commencing and taking on their first job post-college. There is also another group commencing; those commencing to retirement. Congratulations to those approaching retirement! How do you want to spend the last year or months of your career? How can you contribute the most value? Here are some things to consider when approaching commencement to retirement.

You are at the point in your career where you will have the most skills and knowledge. Focus on ways you can add the most value to your company, peers, and mentees.

Here are some thought starters to help you clarify the objectives/goals for your time before retirement.

1 – Have you achieved the work persona you desire?
Here are some personas you may have aspired to your career:
– the successful individual contributor
– the mentor that people find for career advice
– the knowledgeable person who has valuable information or perspective to help make decisions
– the collaborative person with ideas to improve the company
Identify who you want to be and walk the walk. Be the best person you want to be. Especially with the finite time left, you can commit to being your best for one more year. When you feel that you are giving any less than your best, take a pause point: reflection on the situation, put it in perspective, be your best.

2 – How do you leave the company set up for success?
Transitioning Workload: Use the time you have to successfully transfer your workload to the next person(s). Set your successor up for success. Have a clear transition plan and be comfortable playing support through the transition as they get the opportunity to lead. Even if they have the confidence to fully take the responsibility or task before your last day, great, let them run with it. It will give you more time for people and wrapping up projects. Transitioning Knowledge: What information do you solely have? Who can share that information to ensure continued success?

3 – How do you plan for success in retirement?
You’ve conquered successful transition before in your life. College to Professional, Single to Married, or added to your life with kids, pets, or commitments. Each of those transitions required planning and flexibility. Retirement will be the same way.
– Consider what routines and activities you value currently. What will you keep? Where will you invest more time? What will stop with your full-time work?
– Set up some pause points. Identify some timelines where you will pause to evaluate how you are spending your time, energy, and month. This pause point allows you to live in the moment for a defined period. For example, you could say, “I don’t want to do anything for the first three months.” Great. Enjoy that freedom and flexibility for three months. And be fully present in that timeline knowing you’ll review and reevaluate in 3 months.
– Plan a bucket list item. Have you wanted to travel somewhere? Or pick up a new hobby. Plan to start this upon retirement. This activity/event will be something to look forward to and to plan for. It will also give you a strong answer when people ask, “You’re retiring….what are you going to do?” It’s a question with great intentions but can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan.

Congratulations on approaching this career and life milestone. Enjoy your final year of work and focus on what you value: people, sharing value, specific contributions.

Congratulations Graduates! 5 Tips to Make the Most of Your First Job

Congratulations on the fantastic achievement of graduating college!  You are eager to start that first job to set the course of your career trajectory!  This job will be a great opportunity to learn the industry that you want to work in, begin to develop the skills you want to master, and build the relationships that will be a catalyst for your career growth.

Here are five ways you can make the most of being new!

1 – Be a sponge in every meeting.  Whether it’s a 1:1, an all-employee meeting, or a meeting you are observing, you should be focused on two things: the content and the people.  Your content notes can be valuable to your peers if they are trying to remember decisions that were made, the rationale behind the decision, or key statements and questions.  After the meeting, ask your manager or peers about their notes from the meeting.  Did you catch the most important information?  Did they see or hear something different?  Continually develop your content note-taking skills as you’ll need them your entire career.  Also, observe the people in the room.  Can you identify the decision-maker?  Who is contributing the most value to the meeting and why?  Ask your manager after the meeting for their take on the same questions.  Build relationships with those who contribute the most value and emulate their best habits as you begin to add value to meetings.

2 – Ask questions.  In meetings, write down any questions you may have.  It may not be appropriate to ask the question at the moment.  But your manager, peers, or mentor can answer them for you in your next 1:1.  Not only will you learn key information by getting answers to your questions but you will also demonstrate to your manager that you are listening, learning, and engaged.  Create a cheat sheet of acronyms or draw up org charts as a quick reference until you have a solid grasp of the information.  I recommend putting this reference guide in the back of your notebook for easy access.

3 – Build your tribe.  Identify who you want to build relationships with and the value you can get from these relationships.  There will be your go-to people who can help teach you the company culture and information you need to be successful in your role.  There are also mentors that can give you tips and advice on how to add the most value to the company and how to quickly grow within the organization.  Invest in seeking advice from others: what was the biggest factor in their success, what was the best career advice they have received, how did they know they wanted to work in this industry?

4 – Have the right mindset. Your attitude is magnetic; it can attract or detract the right people to you.  I have found the most success when I have had the service mindset and worked to make everyone’s tasks easier.  That can be volunteering to schedule the follow-up meeting, sending your notes post-meeting, or offering to grab a coffee to someone who has been stuck in meetings all day.  These little acts of service earn more responsibility for yourself and add value to your co-workers.  Don’t be too good to do anything or be worried that it’s not within the scope of your job description.

5 – Own your development.  Lastly, remember that your career is yours alone!  Gain advice, leverage company provided growth opportunities, and plan your career path.  Find the right mix of what your company will provide and what you will do on your own.  Identify that dream job, develop skills that you want to have, and build your network outside of your current company.

Enjoy every step of your career journey!  I came out college and landed my “dream job!”  I soon learned I need to keep dreaming bigger and moving forward.  Cheers to commencement and best wishes in an amazing career!

Moms, you can have it all!

In honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I wanted to repost this blog and give some love to moms – in all their amazingness.  The dichotomy of raising a family vs. career growth is shifting.  Yes, moms, you can have it all and you should have that opportunity!

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed multiple moms who had taken 5+ years off to raise a family and were ready to jump back into their career path.  Some candidates told their career story very well, had strong responses to questions about filling the skills/tools gap, and others….did not.  It was enlightening to discuss the evolution of teamwork (hello Slack, Dropbox, and Office 365).

Here are some tips on how to remain a competitive candidate for future jobs while leaving the traditional career path to focus on your family.

1 – Have a strong career story.  You should be proud of taking time off.  Integrate your time off as part of your career story; it was a step in your career, not an abandonment of the value of your career.  With work-life balance being top of mind for companies, use that corporate speak in your story.

2 – Share your growth in your role as Mom.  As we age, we experience personal growth, and that may even be accelerated by becoming a parent.  You may be up against candidates with the same level of professional experience but less life experience; what skills can you demonstrate as your strengths over your competition?  For example, “over the past 5 years, I’ve grown in my self-awareness, emotional intelligence, or ability to negotiate…by…”

3 – Stay current in your industry.  There are many opportunities to engage with thought leadership and develop your skills:
– attending continuing education classes, seminars, or events
– developing new skills: there are multiple online and local courses available like LinkedIn Learning or at your local library
– participating in industry networking groups
actively posting on LinkedIn or starting a blog to demonstrate you’re POV
– taking a freelancing gig: there are opportunities posted on freelance sites and companies like The Mom Project
volunteering: most volunteers experiences will keep you connected to your network and grow your skills.  Check out Taproot or local organizations where you can leverage your professional expertise!

All of this effort demonstrates your ability to prioritize, your growth mindset, and maintain a work-life balance.

4 – Keep in touch with mentors and peers.  Asking advice is one of the most powerful leadership skills.  By staying in touch with your mentors and peers, they can give you insight into how the workplace is evolving and give you advice.  Also, when you’re ready to take on your next career position, they may be your best connection to land that dream job.

5 – Hire a coach.  When you’re ready for your next career move, hire a career coach that can be an unbiased guide to the current job search and interview process.

This is your life.  Make the best choices for you, your family, and your career.  You can have it all!

We’re All In the Customer Service Business

All of us are in the customer service business. Your customers may be your boss, co-workers, clients, or vendors. When you take a customer service approach with everyone you work with, the results can be transformational.

Some benefits of using a customer service approach:
– Better relationships. When you can demonstrate empathy for others, the favor may be returned. You’ll find more people want to be a part of the solution vs territorial blame.
– Improved reputation. You’ll be recognized for being positive and part of the solution. People will want to work with you.
– Increased happiness. When you choose to acknowledge and focus on the positive in the situation, you’ll begin to find there is more positive than negative in your world.

Tips for the customer service approach with a co-worker:
– “The customer is always right.” Start with the assumption that your co-worker is sharing the truth with you. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
– Be understanding. Did they put a lot of effort into their part of the project? If they worked on something for a week straight and you found one typo. First, demonstrate that you know all the work that they did. Secondly, reinforce that you’re a team and everyone shares the same goal. Thirdly, correct the error.
– “Thank you. Come again!” Demonstrate your gratitude for the work that they do. A simple thank you and acknowledgment for their effort, collaboration, and partnership. When you can all our specific positive behaviors that you notice, you will see more of those positive behaviors.

What does the customer service approach look for you?

Man, I Wish I Could Do​ That

I’ve taken a few risks in my career. Well, I don’t see them as risks but more as twists and turns. About every 5-7 years, I have taken a sabbatical. One time I spent 7 months volunteering in Peru. And just recently my husband and I traveled extensively in our Airstream. Over the years (and adventures), people have said, “Man, I wish I could do that.” And the reply is simple, “You can.”

Sometimes people put these arbitrary boundaries on their career and life.

  • They need to keep climbing a ladder and can’t hit pause.
  • They live paycheck to paycheck and need a certain amount of money to live.
  • Everyone always works a full-time 40 hour/week job; it’s what you’re supposed to do.
  • Credit card debt, student loans, a mortgage, kids, pets, family, anything

However, all you need to do is prioritize and make some sacrifices. If you want to take a sabbatical, start planning it out.

1 – Sabbatical Budget.  There are three things to focus on with your budget: Save Money, Reduce Expenses and (possibly) Identify Alternative Income. What are those things you are currently spending money on where you can stop or put on pause?  Easy ones: stop buying clothes, stop shopping the aisles of Target, reduce your subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BirchBox, StitchFix, Gym), reduce eating out or bar tabs.  Even if you don’t get to your sabbatical quickly, it’s powerful to have a Freedom Fund stashed away in an investment account or high-interest savings account.  Research some Alternative Income Ideas.  Are there ideas for passive income (rent out your condo/home on Airbnb or a long-term rental, rent out your car on Turo)?  Is there some Extra income you can develop while you’re saving up for your sabbatical (drive for Lyft, dogsit on Rover, freelance)?

2 – Sabbatical Goals.  Write down what you want to achieve by taking a sabbatical.  Anything from learning something new, furthering your education, traveling, giving back, spending time with family and friends or caring for a loved one.  Why do you want to do this?  Print this goal out, write it in your planner, hang it on the wall.  Keep your goal front of mind because this will be the guide to make the most of your planning and your sabbatical.  With every decision, you should ask yourself, “Is this decision in line with my goal?

3 – Sabbatical Ideas.  Once you’ve established your goals, then narrow it down to 2-3 ideas for how you want to make the most of your time.  If your goal is furthering your education, that may be getting your MBA.  YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest are full of inspiration.

4 – Sabbatical Plan.  Here’s where you add a Timeline and Action Plan – make it real.  When do you want your sabbatical to start: will that be when you hit a savings goal or a certain time period?  What are the Action Items you need to complete to make it real?

Develop your plan and find an accountability partner to help you achieve your Sabbatical Goal!  Be flexible and pivot when it makes sense to pivot.  Commit to making this a reality.  In the end, you either take a Sabbatical and have the experience of a lifetime or you’ve saved up that Freedom Money to use in the future.

You’re Not Stuck, You’re Empowered

Each day we get to show up: for our families, our peers, our company. We make the choice to get up and go to work. We make the choice on how to respond to emails and in meetings. We make the choice how to react to good news and bad news.

And most of all, we make the choice on actions to make it better. It’s really powerful when you can shift your mindset from “stuck,” to “empowered.”  I’m empowering all of you to take 15 minutes and thinking about a situation when you felt stuck.

1 – Write out the situation.
Who was involved?
What was the problem?
Where did it take place? (in a meeting, over email)

2 – Reflection on some factors.
Why did this happen?  (What were the internal and external factors that created this situation? How did the way you “showed up” in this situation contribute to the situation and/or outcome?)

3 – Analyze how you could have acted better.
How did you wish it ended?
If you could have given advice to yourself at that moment, what would you have said?
Is there an opportunity for you to change the outcome? Or will you show up better if a similar situation arises?

When we can make a conscious effort to show up at-your-best every day, you’ll have stronger relationships, feel more accomplished, and grow in your career.

For a limited time, you can receive this free BGSD Stuck to Empowered Workbook by completing the form below!

The Value of Having a Dream Job

I’ve had many dream jobs throughout my life. Some dream jobs that have been on my list were an Executive Director for a non-profit or to run an agency. While I haven’t officially had either of those titles, these positions have been incredibly valuable to my career growth and development.

Here are three strategies where a Dream Job can be valuable:

1 – Skill Development.  I firmly believe that own your own skill development is essential to your career growth.  Find some job descriptions for your dream job.  Look at the job requirements and create a plan for how you will acquire those requirements.  Look through the roles and responsibilities and identify which skills are needed; add to your plan how you will develop those skills.

2 – Build Connections.  LinkedIn shares that 71% of job seekers will earn their next job through a connection.  What communities do you need to be involved with to be successful in your dream job?  Who do you need to network to be a part of your dream industry?

3 – Ask Advice.  Find some people that have your dream job and ask their advice?  Aside from the skills you found through job descriptions, ask them what skills are essential for success in your dream job.  What were those pivotal moments in their career that lead them to their role?  What advice do they have for you?

Even if your dream job changes, the skills (technical, soft, leadership) that you developed will be valuable for the rest of your career.  The connections you created can become key members of your tribe or inspire you to a new dream job.  The process of ask advice will help you with emotional intelligence, interviewing skills, and increase your confidence the next time you ask advice.

Dream big and work intentionally towards having the career you want!

Were you “At Your Best” today?

We all want the chance to be at our best at work and we know when we are at our best.

  • Can you easily identify who you are at your best?
  • Do you take the time to celebrate when you really crush it?
  • Can you identify professional parameters/environments that allow you to be at your best?
  • What are those 3-5 words that describe you at your best?

Now, who’s keeping you in check to be at your best?  Do you have an accountability partner?  Or maybe a block on your calendar for some self-reflection.  Bring out those 3-5 words and see if you’ve been living it out each day, each week, each month.

Being in tune with when you’re at your best will help you feel accomplished and happy at work.  It will also give you clarity as to how you want to grow in your career.

Diversity & Inclusion: International Women’s Day

This Thursday, March 8, is International Women’s Day.  It’s a great day to celebrate women, understand their unique challenges, and build some new connections.  If you would like to do something in your office for International Women’s Day.  Here are a few ideas.

Goal: Celebrate women

Idea: Share stories of amazing women.  If you have a monitor in your office, create a PPT slideshow to keep looping all day.  If you use Salesforce Chatter, post about 1 woman/hour.  Or print some pages out to put up around the office.

Goal: Build awareness of women inequality

Idea: Share facts about women and inequality or tips on how to get involved or do something about it.

Goal: Create a community of strong women

Idea: create an employee resource group or an informal group that meets once/month.  There are some amazing communities I am a part of where I get to connect, learn, and mentor like Ladies Get Paid and Everwise Women.

Take a moment on Thursday to celebrate the women in your tribe!

3 Ways to Nail Your Performance Review

Performance Reviews are an amazing time to focus on your professional development. Here are three strategies to make the most of them.

1 – Listen. Naturally, there will be positive and negative feedback shared during your performance review. And you may want to figure out who said that about you or what situation someone was referring to which lead to that feedback. It’s important to stay in the moment and listen. Take it in, process and revisit later if needed. If you feel that in your review there’s a situation that wasn’t accurately represented, there are two ways you can respond: (1) ask your manager for advice for how you could have better shown up in that situation and (2) share your intentions and present solutions for how you could have handled it better. Remember your review is about YOU, not what others have done to you. Keep it focused on how you handled yourself, how you could have been better. Feedback is a gift, use it to understand what your work perception. And improve it!

2 – Develop. Many companies have great development opportunities that employees may not take full advantage. Your performance review is a great time to learn what they are and how you can take advantage of them. Focus on your development and how your manager and company can contribute to your professional development.

3 – Negotiate. Congratulations if you are getting a promotion and/or raise. Be grateful that your company appreciates you. But don’t be afraid to negotiate. Ask for more money (and demonstrate the value and contributions you have made to your company). If you can’t negotiate what you want during your performance review, share that, “this raise/promotion is not in line with the value you bring.” Your manager may have authority to give you a raise of $X and will need to get approval for anything above that. Schedule a follow-up meeting to allow for your manager to have the needed conversations and offer to provide your manager with anything that can aid her/him in their negotiation with leadership. If they can’t hit your number, understand what is needed to get that promotion, co-create a development plan with your manager/HR and schedule a mid-year review in 6 months to formalize progress and re-commit to what is needed.

Ultimately, you want to be at a company that is helping you develop into the best you can be. If your company is not invested in your development, own it yourself, and look for people, and possibly a new company, which will support your development.