Improved Communications Skills should be a Goal that lasts your entire Career

One of my current clients has a goal to improve her communication skills. I hear this goal from almost every one of my clients in every stage of their career. It demonstrates self-awareness that even professionals at the top of their game want to be better communicators.

Being a better communicator can be broken down into multiple SMART goals throughout your career around presentation skills, active listening skills, emotional intelligence and more. Over the last six months, my client has increased her confidence contributing in meetings, tailors her emails to her different audiences, and even joined a group to improve her presentation skills.

As we talked each month, she was shocked to realize that even people she considers great communicators still have goals to improve their communication skills. Just knowing that almost every self-aware professional is working on their communication skills gave her the confidence to go outside her comfort zone and push herself.

Thank you Adam Grant, You Explained Why I Wander the Aisles of Target So Often

Last year, I took on a new freelance project and was out to lunch with my new colleagues.  Because this group travels quite a bit for work, we were discussing how/where we do our best work.  Both of my colleagues described a quiet room with few distractions where they could put their head down and work.  My answer was entirely different; I do my best work wandering the aisles of Target.

I often like to start things, walk away from them, think about them when I’m driving in my car, wandering the aisles of Target, or other free-thinking spaces, then come back to the assignment to edit and finish.  I couldn’t explain why this worked for me until I was recently reminded of Adam Grant’s book Originals and this excellent TEDTalk.  Procrastination is valuable.  Stepping away from a big idea or task can make it better.  He talks about it better than I ever will; so watch this video.  And if you only have a little time to procrastinate; start at 1:42.

The surprising habits of original thinkers | Adam Grant

 

How to Evaluate Your Work in the Gig Economy

The Gig Economy: it’s sexy, liberating, and scary. So how do you know if you’re doing it right?

I recently went through this three-step exercise with a client to create a clear understanding of how she is currently spending her time and effort and shift to spending if more effectively.

1 – Establish Clear Career Objectives.
We have to identify objectives for so much of our traditional full-time work; don’t give that up when you transition to Gig work. Some Career Objectives that may have you shifting to Gig Work could be location independence, work you are passionate about, additional income while starting your business, or reduction of hours working.

Keep these objectives front and center through this exercise.

2 – Create a List of each Gig with your pay information.
Pay. Your pay may be a flat fee or hourly rate.
Time. How much time do you actually spend to earn this money? Consider unpaid travel time, how often you wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, preparation time before a meeting, completing time sheets or invoices. My former manager in my agency life would ask, “If you weren’t on this project, what would still be doing this (driving, prepping, etc)?” Consider how much time you are spending if this is ongoing work. While you can include any upfront costs of sales efforts to get this Gig or administrative work; I generally look at those at sunk costs. I consider them in my annual analysis but not in this snapshot.
Actual Hourly Rate. Divide Your Pay by your Time.

3 – Identify a Value for each Gig.
Value. On a scale of 0-10, how much value do you receive from this work? Your cost is the more qualitative side of your Gig. Value can come from your passion for the job, whether you are building foundational content that can be resold or reused if this Gig gets you closer to your goals, and any other considerations while thinking of value?
Considerations. Is there anything else you can to note about this Gig? All the factors will roll up into the score you select for value, but this is a pause point for you to get out anything else that is on your mind about this Gig.

4 – Visualize Your Gigs on a Scatterplot
Whether you use excel or paper and pen, see where your Gigs land.
The X-axis: Your Actual Hourly Rate
The Y-axis: Your Value Score
This Scatterplot will show you your High Pay, High-Value Gigs. How do you do more of that? Should you stop any of the Low Pay, Low-Value Gigs? Can you adjust your expectations and stress for the Low Pay, Low-Value Gigs to remind yourself these are temporary and helping pay the bills for now while making your energy is going to grow your High Pay, High-Value Gigs.

The Gig Economy is varied and messy. There’s not one path where you are solely doing your High Pay, High-Value Gigs. Having clarity and awareness of your current situation is essential. And be deliberate in moving towards your goals in the future. If you are stuck on this exercise and want to complete it together or if you finished this exercise and want to create a plan to move forward, contact me for a 1:1 Coaching Session.

Photo: SELF Journal by Best Self Co.  Check out their amazing tools.  Use code BGSDSelf to get 15% off your order!

It’s Not You; It’s Me Resignation Letter

A resignation letter is meant to achieve two objectives:
1 – Provide HR with the details they need to complete their paperwork.  Namely, identify your last day.
2 – A thank you letter to the company that you are resigning from.

As you prepare to leave your current company, take some time to reflect on what your current company has done for you: What skills did you build?  In which areas has your confidence grown?  What experience did you get?  How did your professional network expand?

As tough as the end of your time at a company can be, there have been positive moments.  Focus on those when writing your resignation letter.

It’s okay to leave a company and for neither party to bad or wrong.  You may have outgrown your potential growth, want to take a turn in your path, learn new skills, make more or work with people with a new perspective.  Growth is good!  Who knows, maybe you’ll go get experience somewhere else and come back to your current company to contribute more value?

Use this opportunity to craft a resignation letter to celebrate the good times, thank your company for their investment in you, and maintain relationships with your coworkers.

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.

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!

What Skill will you Develop this Year?

Your career development is solely your responsibility.  You get to develop the skills you want.  You get to apply for the roles that you can use those skills and develop more.  You get to seek out mentors and accountability partners who can help you achieve your goals.

Now, sometimes it may feel like our development is someone else’s responsibility.  There are influencers and decision-makers that are needed to get you that next role, title, promotion, or pay increase.  There are mentors and managers that will give you insight into areas of improvement or give you opportunities to stretch yourself.  But sometimes, we give all these other people too much power in our career development.  You do not need permission or an invitation to grow.  Remember they are team members in your development, you are the team lead on this! Build relationships in your career, learn from others, and get advice.  Work with your manager and HR team to see what’s available.  Some companies do tuition reimbursement, will send you to conferences and events, or have subscriptions to Harvard Business Review or Lynda.com.

What is the most important skill for you to develop this year? Here are some thought starters.

Leadership Skills: Who is a leader that you admire?  What leadership skills do they have that you want to emulate?  Think big and create an action plan to develop these skills!  Keep yourself in check.  At the end of each week, set aside 15 minutes for a reflection.  Celebrate the successes from the week and replay when you fell short.

Team/Relationship Skills: Most of us work in teams at work.  Even if you don’t work directly in teams, other people contribute to your success.  How can you improve your teamwork?  How are you currently perceived in team settings, and more importantly, how do you want to be perceived?

Technical Skills:  Is there a software you want to master?  Does your boss have a task that you don’t understand but want to learn?  As a business owner, do you wish you were better at P&Ls, insurance, or marketing?  What are some technical skills future-you needs?

If you are ready to commit to your career development, it may be time to hire a career coach!  Reach out to me for a free 15-minute introductory call to learn more about coaching.

Difficult isn’t a barometer you’re on the right path

I used to be motivated by the whole “no pain, no gain” and other strong quotes about how brilliance is on the other side of hard work. I don’t always buy it anymore. It doesn’t have to be difficult. And we shouldn’t use pain or difficulties as a barometer we’re on the right path. I’ve learned something greater – mindset. So let’s look at two ways difficult can be reframed to tell if you’re on the right track.

Do the work. Real work is awesome. When you set a goal, put the effort in, learn amazing skills, ideas, and philosophies along the way and you can find great success. I suppose real or hard work can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t discount real work as being difficult or painful. Celebrate real work for what it is – helping you achieve your goals.

Other times our professional lives are difficult. Sometimes we’re in the wrong situation. And we are empowered to do something about it – we can make changes or we can leave. If you are waiting for changes to happen outside of your control, you’ll be sitting in a difficult, painful place indefinitely. Here are some questions to help you identify if you can change the situation.

Environment: Are you in an environment where people like you can be successful?
– Are there people around you that you can look to as a role model, mentor, or advocate? Have you put in the real work to find them and develop a relationship with them?
– Are you at an organization that is helping you develop or master the skills you want to use in your career? Can you articulate what those skills are and an action plan to achieve those skills?
– Are you at an organization that celebrates and leverages your uniqueness to contribute to the success of the organization? Have you had the conversations to validate your answer?

People: Are you in a difficult place because of the toxic people around you?
– Have you built the skills (technical, soft, leadership) that you need to earn a promotion but other people are holding you back? Who are the real decision makers and have you had the conversations with them about your inability to grow?
– Are your managers, peers, or executive team demotivating? If there are specific things happening, have you had the right conversations with the right people to initiate change?
– Are you unnecessarily competing with people when it’s not a competition? How can you change it from competition to collaboration?

It’s Just You: And maybe it’s you. Maybe you aren’t being true to the career life you want. Maybe you’re not on your right path, leveraging your best skills, or building your future skills? Maybe there’s something else out there that aligns with your work priorities. What’s holding you back from pursuing your dream career? Maybe it’s just you.

Take some time to think about if difficult parts of your professional life are:
1 – real work and you need to evoke your mindset.
2 – difficult because you’re not on the right path.