Posts tagged: career

Building Your Business

When I say your ‘business’ I mean whether you HAVE a business or whether you ARE the business. Today, being prepared for changes is what required.

I work with several entrepreneurs and meet with new ones regularly. It is such a joy because each one is excited about their business. They have energy and a hunger to learn and grow. It is infectious and wonderful.

Many of them, like me, have had plenty of ups and downs. In fact, most of them will experience more downturns that they believe they can stand! What separates a successful ‘business owners’ from the unsuccessful, is flexibility. The ability to pivot.

So how do each of us, whether we starting a business, reinventing ourselves or invigorating our career, take the “just do it” train?

Ideas are easy to come by, in fact, very easy. What’s not easy is making that idea into a business (or career) that works. Here are some rules for navigating the terrain:

  1. Build skills. In my corporate years, I looked for assignments that would allow me to learn new, specific skills.
  2. Try on different roles. Find ways to test out various roles, tasks, assignments. Volunteer, talk to your boss, be specific about what you want.
  3. Fail fast. This one sounds the worst. Most of us don’t want to ‘fail’ at all. What we don’t realize is that we learn the most from our failures. It is what propels us to do new and better. It is what helps us learn quickly and meaningfully.

Are  you excited about your work? Do you wake up ready to learn? If not, perhaps it’s time to pivot.

Photo Credit: Empowering Startup 

You’re A Genius … In Your Own Way

File:Albert Einstein Head.jpg

Everyone is gifted, but some people never open their package...” Anonymous

Albert Einstein (the inventor of the bed head hairdo) is a recognized worldwide as a genius. Reading through his life story, you will see that he was pretty “flaky.” But in his field, there was no one more advanced. Did he know he was a genius? Did he fret about all the things he couldn’t do?

Each of us is a bit like him. It’s always easier to see the ‘spark of genius’ in others. He’s such a leader, she’s so athletic, he’s a great cook, etc.

In the Nine Different Types of Intelligence, I see myself in a couple of categories. I look forward to using this list to remind myself of ‘where I shine.’

Some are better known:

  • Logical//Mathematical – Beep… I missed this train although I do pride myself on my common sense. Math.. not so much.
  • Spatial – Yeah, you know, people who can see things in pictures when the rest of us are standing there going huh?
  • Linguistic – Ok, now we’re talking… cross word puzzles, writing, reading… yeah, I finally get one!
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic – Also known as athletic, you know that person… they are graceful on land, on sea, in the air. (Nope not me)
  • Musical – I think this is the most interesting one because music is cultural. What sounds like music to Tibetan or Japanese might sound odd to Western ears. I think this one deserves wide application. (I know a lot of song lyrics… does that count?)

Here are a few less common ones that I like:

  • Naturalistic – people who connect with animals… my daughter Jenna is one of those people. Animals, any animal, gravitate to her like she’s bacon.
  • Interpersonal – people who ‘get’ other people… and can sense the mood and temperament of others and adjust.

Here are some I just made up (but are probably on other lists):

  • Mechanical – yeah, I missed this train
  • Geo-spatial – my gyroscope is and always has been broken
  • Cooking/gardening- this might sound funny and maybe it’s baked into one of these others but don’t you know someone who just does these things naturally and always has? -This doesn’t mean gourmet or fancy. It’s just that they shine.
  • Color – My brother is a color expert.

I’m sure the list could go on and on. My point is that’s not important which of these you have, only that you recognize which ones and celebrate them, Just for today, pick one, even if you’re not 100% sure you’re a genius in it, and praise yourself.

False modesty serves no one. Enjoy your gifts, whether society appreciates them or not. They are what make you, you. The world needs you just the way you are.

Photo credit: Albert Einstein

Single Best Piece of Career Advice

People at all stages of their careers look for work that ‘fits’. But most of us don’t know how to find it. This is as good an assessment tool as I have seen. The intersection of these 4 things is probably where you’ll be productive and happy.

1. What you’re good at (Ability)
2. What makes money (Financial security)
3. What helps others/society (Altruism)
4. What you enjoy

This is why when you go to a career counselor, they give you some tests and talk to you about your goals, what you like to do in general, etc. They don’t start with… what do you want to do for a living?

For many of us, we’re pretty good at #4. We’re sketchy on #1 and pretty clueless where the intersection of #1 and #4 meet #2.

This is why we need to try new things. But most of us get hung up at a very young age on #2 and then end up miserable. Sometimes this is our own fault. We don’t live within our means so we get used to spending and having ‘stuff’. If you want to make money — great. But finding the intersection of all of these is not easy for most of us.

Also, we are very quick to judge others (and ourselves) when it comes to careers (and lots of other stuff). Just for today, try to look at a career path in new way. Which of these 4 are you working on?

Reminder of my 3 criteria for how I spend my time: 1) am I having fun? 2) am I learning? 3) am I appreciated?

 

The basis of this post came from: Yermie Cohen’s dad (med student, engineer, start up founder) Quora.com

Photo Credit: 42 to Know about 42

 

 

Creating Work You Love (Sounds Scary or Ridiculous)

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Why am I an entrepreneur? “We’ve made the decision to let you go,” my boss said over the telephone.  I was shocked and upset.That was, the first time.

The second time I was let go, not so much. By the third time I said to myself, “Never again.” I am not going to put myself in a position where how I earn my living is dictated by someone else’s priorities.

I learned to work hard when I was young and frankly, since I’m a Baby Boomer, being a workaholic is normal and I always wanted my own business. I remember more than one person saying to me, you can’t start a company (you girl, you), what could you possibly do? As angry as I was at them, I used the anger to motivate me.

Assessing the possibilities I had a bunch of skills, foreign languages, marketing, healthcare, blah, blah, blah. They didn’t really fit together into a solid plan for earning a living being an entrepreneur. So I devised a three pronged strategy for creating income.

1) Teaching

2) Speaking and workshops

3) Consulting

Getting started I met with a lot of people and talked about my idea. Some nodded, “Hmmmm, I could see them thinking, she’ll never make this work.”  Some tried to discourage me, “Get a job,” and a few encouraged me, “You can do it!”

I can report that 5 years in, I am doing better than I ever hoped. It isn’t what I expected and that’s not only good, it’s fun.

You can do it too.  So if you are wondering where your next job is going to come from… I will ask you this; what will it take for you to say, “Enough. I’m gonna try something different?  I can guarantee you will learn more in 1 year on your own path than you will in 5 years working for someone else. If, at any point,  you decide to go work for someone else, you’ll be even more valuable to that employer. You will be a better problem solver, see the big picture and actually empathize more with your boss in a different way.

But I can’t…. I have responsibilities   The first time I co-founded a start up I was the single mother of 2 kids, 14 and 12 with no family to help me. That start up only lasted 2 years, thanks to 9/11, but I learned so much and my actions showed my children how to go for what they want and to not be afraid.

Just Do It. Join millions of others who are finding a way to create meaningful, interesting work.

Photo credit: You Can Do It

Key Hiring Question: When & Why Will You Leave?

When you are interviewing for a job… probably one of the last things on your mind… is why and when you might leave. You’re thinking… I don’t even have the job… why would I think about when I might leave?

Great companies make this complex question part of the interview process.

In an insightful article by someone I admire, Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, How I Hire: Figuring Out Fit — And The Exit Strategy… she outlines the criteria and process for assessing candidates based on culture, skills and my favorite and what I consider relatively unique…  sense of purpose.

“As part of the hiring process, I also talk with people about how they will leave Altimeter one day. The idea of lifetime employment is dead, so why not face up to the reality that this person we’re hiring will one day leave? It’s a core part of us living the value of Integrity — that openness and transparency develops trust.” Charlene Li

The last regular, ‘show up in the office’ job I had, I actually negotiated my departure date as part of my hiring package. When they offered me the job, I told them I would stay one year.  It allowed me to focus on getting the job done without worrying about how I’d leave. It was very empowering.

I am not suggesting that every time you take a job, you should negotiate your exit. What I am suggesting is that you think about what you want to get from the assignment… even it it’s just to earn some money or stay for 6 months.  Be conscious of what it will look like when you have reached that goal.

By the way, this takes courage and it puts the responsibility for finding your next ‘step’ right where it belongs; with you.

Image credit: Diane Arbus Moving On

Shut Up and Listen. You Can’t Learn If You’re Talking.

<a href="http://voxterra.blogspot.com/">TerraVox</a><a href="http://voxterra.blogspot.com/">TerraVox</a>

Have you ever tried listening to someone who is annoying you? Have you ever tried going a whole day without giving your opinion, not even once? If you’re an introvert, this may be easier for you. But for outgoing people, this  is a big problem.

And, by the way, it can be a problem for all of us. Most of us love to hear ourselves talk. We love to tell our side of the argument, our thoughts on other people’s lives etc. That’s why people love stories. It satisfies the need we humans have to know about others and compare ourselves to the them.

But the truth is WE CAN’T LEARN IF WE ARE TALKING.

Put a sock in it. The more important the relationship, the more we need to work on listening. Try it and let me know how the experiment works for you. I’ll let you know how I’m doing.

(By the way, if you have a job interview and the question comes about areas of self- improvement; a statement about the sincere desire to improve one’s listening skills for both personal and professional reasons can work. Just be prepared to talk about what you are doing to improve and make sure you are really practicing!)

Photo credit: Shhh Vox Efx

A Dog Never Tells What She Knows…

A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing. Mary Oliver

This is my dog Gildie. She is the first dog I have ever had.

What is there to learn from your first dog? Wow. Everything. She is so excited to wake up every day and play. I need this.

She is motivated by food and people and toys. She is completely engaged in life except when she’s asleep and then she’s completely engaged in that.

I got a dog so I would have to go for a walk everyday. Rain or snow, whatever the weather, I needed a reason to get up and walk. Since she has the energy of 2 toddlers, I am compelled to play, walk, laugh and be completely engaged with her.

The quote above about how a dog perceives the world — through her nose– was brought home to me on one of those walks. She trusts her nose more than her eyes and it got me thinking. Which of my senses do I trust the most?

I am certain my eyes deceive me. Happily, I learned to trust my gut. Take all the information and sift it through the sensor that is my years of experience.What do you rely on? What you see, what you hear, what you believe? Do you jump to conclusions about people?

Understand how you learn and make decisions and you’ll be more effective in everything you do. How free are you with your opinions? Do you offer to give everyone the benefit of your wisdom? Or do you use your experience to let others find their own path? Use all the information given to you to help you be a better friend, co-worker, partner and parent. We’ll all benefit.

No Boss, No Office and My Peers Decide My Pay… What?

“Imagine a company where everyone is equal and managers don’t exist. A place where employees sit where they want, choose what to work on and decide each other’s pay. Then, once a year, everyone goes on holiday together.”

There is such a company, it’s called Valve.

For those of you who think this is: stupid, could never work, is just an experiment and could only work in a handful of cases, perhaps you are correct. I’m not here to argue with you. The point of this post is to challenge our ideas of what is ‘necessary’ in the work environment.

You can read the Valve Employee Handbook here. It is titled: “A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when there’s no one telling you what to do.”

If you are in any kind of leadership role in ANY organization… I encourage you to browse their handbook.

… if you are a 10 year old company that has worked hard “to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling, them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.”

The handbook goes on to outline what to expect and how a new employee can find their way through this new way of working.

Check this out: “While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours, at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.” And then they give you guidance as to how to get help to resolve the problem.

Would you like to work here? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Most importantly, what about the Valve culture can you adopt at your organization to make it more effective?

Image Credit: Banksy

Why Grit, Not IQ, Predicts Success

I wish someone had told me this when I was in middle/high school.

I am thinking of two mid-30′s business leaders.

One went to Yale and had a lot of advantages in life. He’s good looking in an Abercrombie kind of way, soccer star… you know the type. The other is also good looking (by that same standard) and athletic. He has a degree from a state school. His parents are teachers.

If IQ or ‘what college you attended’ or grade point average were the measures of success – the Yalie should win. But  something else is really at the heart of  business ‘success’ and it relates to:

– whether you see obstacles as opportunities or things that slow you down.

One way to to learn about obstacles as opportunities — is to grow up WITHOUT advantages. This builds grit and grit builds success. I wrote a post a few year back about people who failed time and again. Michael Jordan and Ulysses S. Grant. I had a college professor tell me I’d never graduate from college. Haha. I showed him.

Bottom line is — if you think that people who went to Ivy League schools are automatically successful, I ask you to think again.

As a country, we are suffering from ‘elitism fever’ (we think we’re better than others) – but deep in our hearts we know – the American spirit is grounded in pure grit. So next time you go to hire someone, why not ask… what obstacles have you overcome to be here? That might tell you everything you need to know.

Image credit: Elia Locardi

Living for Today… and Tomorrow

A year from now (General Electric poster)

My aha career moments… here are two.

1) I had been working in corporate America (a Fortune 25 company) when I got pregnant with my first child. I realized that if I was going to create the ‘life’ I wanted, I was going to have to figure out how to work part time. There were no ‘part-time’ ‘professional (non-exempt) women working as managers at the company at that time. I made my pitch to my boss… I’ll continue to manage the group, get my work done and you can pay me less (I’ll work 30 hours a week). In return, I’ll manage my own schedule. He didn’t want to say yes but I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. (Well he could have but he had a daughter my age..etc.) My aha moment was not getting the green light to test this new idea, which I did… the aha moment was the incredible push-back I got from my colleagues; particularly women.

Take-away: Be clear about your priorities and don’t let anyone stand in your way. I decided that the push-back came from inside these people. They were jealous that I was ‘brave’ enough to do something so radical (haha, radical).

2) Jumping off a cliff – When I left that same large corporation during a down-sizing (I was made an offer.. go back to full time or leave the company) — I decided to leave and start a company. I was the single mother of 2 school-aged children. People thought I was crazy. What they didn’t know was that I was carefully plotting my career to be an entrepreneur. Every assignment I took inside the corporation was designed to teach me a skill I would be able to use in my future entrepreneurial adventure. So I jumped off the cliff and started a company. It worked for about 2 years and then 9/11 happened and all our customer’s funding dried up.

Take-away: If you wait until everything is perfect, until you know what you’re going to do, until you’re certain… you’ll never jump. Some people are born to jump, some people aren’t. Don’t waste your time wishing you were one or the other. Know yourself and take the risks that make your life meaningful.

Live for today… the sun is shining, you can walk, talk, eat, smell, smile, see — but pay attention to your tomorrow. Don’t listen to others when they tell you — you can’t and leap when the leaping feels right. I sleep well at night and look in the mirror with a quiet confidence. I can always improve myself. But I can happily say; I didn’t let fear get interfere with doing it my way.

Image credit – GE Pinterest Board -That’s Genius – Thomas Edison