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.

Prioritize Your Purpose; Not Your Tasks

Since 2009, 24% of professionals spent some time working from home according to the US Department of Labor; thanks to our connectivity through smartphones and an increase in flexible work schedules.  This connectivity also has burnout on the rise. Sometimes your job can seem like a loop of mundane tasks.  To reduce the chance of burnout, prioritize your purpose, not your tasks.  Your role is critical to the success of your team’s or company’s goals.   When you focus on your contributions to the greater team and goals, it’s easier to be excited and motivated about the work on your plate.

Here are two examples of how changing your mindset and language can help. 

I am a copywriter.  I write multiple articles each week for clients.  >>> I craft messages for clients to connect with their audience to be informed, inspired, and motivated. 

I am a salesperson; I work to hit my sales goals and thresholds.  >>> I connect our clients with valuable services/products to help them reach their goals.  I get to brag about our awesome team/product and help our company grow. 

Take a minute to think about your role and contributions.  Shift your mindset to focus on your purpose and not your tasks. 

Align your Actions with your Leadership Aspirations

Who is that leader you emulate? What does your leadership style look like when you are at your best? Which adjectives would you use to express the leader you want to be? How would you want others to describe your leadership? Think big: Sheryl Sandberg, MLK Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, your parents, a mentor, your best boss ever.

Now think about all the work they invested in becoming that leader. They all successfully aligned their actions to their aspirations in authentic ways. They learned to walk the walk.

I’ve worked with leaders who shared in 1:1s that they care about their people but then on stage at an employee meeting, they felt they had to talk about themselves and almost justify why they have their job. We collaborated to figure out their aspirations and priorities, then aligned their actions and messages to push them to be the best leader they can be. It’s incredibly important and rewarding working. I love doing it.

What are your leadership aspirations? What is your action plan to get you there? Let’s connect to brainstorm actions that align with your aspiration and develop a robust action plan you can start with today.

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.

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!

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!

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.