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!

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!

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.

How will you invest in your career development in 2018?

A new year is upon us. You may be starting the year off strong with great momentum or you may be exhausted by 2017 and need a boost. Either way, you should constantly have a career development plan in place. You are solely responsible for your own career development. There are a number of support systems available to you (peers, mentors, managers, your company) but the person solely looking out for you, is you. You should absolutely leverage your support systems. They can be a fantastic support for helping develop your plan and even provide resources for you to execute or commit to your plan.

There are two investment resources that you have: time and money.   Here are some thought starters on how your time and your money can contribute to your career development in 2018.

1 – Get Inspired! There are a number of people/accounts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter you can follow to keep you thinking about your Career Development. (Resource: Time)

2 – Connect! If networking overwhelms you, reframe networking. Think about it as connecting with people. Learn from others, ask their advice. Find some peers at work and commit to encouraging each other. Get a group of friends together for brunch once/month where you celebrate successes. (Resource: Time)

3 – Learn! If your dream job requires certain degrees or certifications, make a commitment to earn those. How will you get your PMP or MBA? What are the budget and time requirements to earn this degree or certification? Create a Commitment Plan to save, explore options with your current company for tuition reimbursement or discounts, and talk to programs to find out what’s right for you.  Also, look at programs like LinkedIn Learning if you don’t want to commit to a full degree. (Resource: Time & Money)

4 – Hire a Coach! A coach can help you build a Commitment Plan to move your career development forward. Working with a coach will give you an opportunity to have an unbiased cheerleader!  As your coach, I’ll ask questions and guide our conversations to help you gain clarity towards the next steps in your career.  If you are interested in learning more about coaching, fill out the form below to schedule a free 15-minute conversation. (Resource: Time & Money)

Cheers to 2018! I hope it’s full of motivation, inspiration, and action in your career!
Jenn

Three Planners to Achieve Your 2018 Goals

You have big goals in 2018, and sometimes, need a little kick to make them happen. Here are three journals I’ve used over the years to Get Sh*t Done!

Passion Planner: I loved this journal. The exercises to start the year and each month were great reflective exercises. The color coding was fun and kept me balanced.  Three years after I used the Passion Planner, I went back and reviewed my initial goals and achieved most of them!

Commit30: This planner is great because it makes you live intentionally every day – reflecting on what you’ve accomplished and having a plan to move forward. Also…30 days? Anyone can commit to 30 days! The undated planner is great if you’ve fallen off the horse and want to start anytime that isn’t January 1. And I love their mantra SMALL STEPS = BIG RESULTS.

Bullet Journal: I’ve tried carrying around 5 journals with me (one per project) or online note capturing, and then I found Bullet Journaling. You can buy a Bullet Journal or learn the system and start in your journal now. This system helps me quickly jump from meeting to meeting or project to project in one journal. And allows me to easily find notes connected to each project. Referring back to all my notes on a specific project with the index has been life-changing. And adding in specific goals has kept me moving forward.

You are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. So pick a system that works for you, hold yourself accountable, and achieve those goals!

Taking Feedback Gracefully

Feedback is a gift but only if we can hear it. Receiving positive feedback is easy and motivating. It’s a great way to learn your strengths, understand where you are effective, and a resource to use during performance reviews. I actually have a folder in my inbox called “Be Awesome Today!” where I save positive feedback emails. I go back to those emails if I need a little pick me up or if I’m prepping for a performance review.

Negative feedback can be difficult to really hear but also gives us great insight into how we can grow.

While receiving feedback, it’s important to stay in the moment and keep listening.  As much as we want to defend ourselves and share our POV for situations where we may not have acted our best, it’s important to listen to what people are saying.  Perspective is reality, especially at work.

Listen and take in all the negative feedback.  Take notes and then walk away.  Think about it for a couple days.  Then make an action plan for going forward.  Feel free to involve your manager as well.  After you have processed the feedback, you can talk to your manager about the negative feedback.  And if you feel there was a specific situation where you acted at your best but are getting negative feedback, walk your manager through that situation and ask advice for how you could have done things differently.  It’s amazing how when we give ourselves space and time, we can respond better.

Finally, always remember your end game!  What’s your ultimate goal: better relationships at work, a promotion, or shaking a reputation you don’t want?  Then what actions can you take that support your ultimate goal?  Control your controllables (how you react at the office, how you react to feedback) and forget about what you can’t (other co-workers focusing on you and not them).

The 8-Week Career Goal Challenge Begins this Friday!

Do you have a New Year’s resolution to find a new job, earn that promotion, or develop as a leader?  Let’s spend the next 8 weeks prepping for your New Year’s career resolution!
Every Friday (November 10 – December 29),  I’ll email out a 15-minute challenge for you to complete.
By the end of the year, you’ll have your SMART goals to grow your career in 2018!  This 8-week challenge is completely free, so join and encourage your friends too as well!
Sign up below to participate and let’s go!