Three steps to the next career move

Three steps to the next career move

I’m well aware that this blog has become consistently inconsistent. For the past 3 months I was basically working four part-time jobs (and still not actually earning a living wage). I did manage to cut down hours from two of the jobs and last week was my last week at the third job. The fourth job is my own business (and the time I am putting into looking for work, either clients or full-time employment).

I wrote about my struggles in this version of my life back in April. Since then, I have continued to have challenges pulling it all together. I have nine rough drafts of blog posts in my “ideas” folder, yet have, for the past three weeks, been unable to complete those thoughts. I have promised myself that I would be mindful of when I am beating myself up and be more productive, so I’m going to do that now.

Going back and reading my own blog can be helpful. Practice what I preach. I wrote about the importance of having a plan two years ago. While I have had a plan and I’ve been committed to the tasks – showing up at work, marathon training, packing for my next move, spending time with the people most important to me – when I really thought about “the plan”, I realized I didn’t have a lot of clarity about what I really wanted.

That’s what I worked on last week. Are you struggling to find work, trying to transition to a new career, or more fulfillment in your current career? Or some other aspect of your life? Start by creating a vision statement. What is it that you want? What is that you can do and be successful (don’t allow self-defeating demons to sabotage you here – think about the times in your life when you were most successful and what was in place that allowed you to succeed).

Here’s my vision statement:

I want a job (or to earn equivalent of a full-time salary and benefits) that utilizes my non-profit and fundraising experience and coaching skills. I want to feel connected to my creativity, confidence, and passion (helping others, building community). I want to work with good people that I can respect and who make me feel appreciated and acknowledge the work I do. I want to feel valued for my expertise. I want to feel positively energized by the work I’m doing. I want to work where I can get positive results. While money is the bottom line, I understand that in accepting work, it’s more important to feel fulfilled emotionally. Consulting/coaching with/for non-profit organizations, leaders and fundraisers is where I know I can do well and be successful. I will focus on this vision and not settle for less.

The next step is to get really clear about what you’re saying to people: “the elevator pitch” (meaning a quick statement that you can say to someone in a short elevator ride that communicates what you do and plants the seed of how the other person can work with you or help you in some way). With my vision statement in mind, I created a concise and specific statement that I can provide when I’m asked what I do.

This is it:

I help non-profit organizations, leaders and fundraisers become more successful through strategic planning, board and committee development, systems analysis, community needs assessments, interim executive leadership, and special event fundraising maximization.  I am a consultant and certified professional coach with over 20 years in the non-profit sector, and I am looking for a full-time or contract position with a consulting firm or non-profit clients.

Now you try it. What will you say at your next networking event? Is it clear? Can you communicate with confidence?

The final piece is to stay focused. For me, that means not accepting every opportunity to make a little bit of money. It means saying “no” to “opportunities” that don’t fit with the vision. It means putting off immediate satisfaction for long term gains. All the little things are distractions. Distractions (perhaps amplified by my ADHD) have been an Achilles heel popping up here and there my entire life. Having a clear vision of what I want – writing it down and having it someplace I can see it every day – is a good first step to staying focused.

All of this is not unlike Marathon training. Know your goal first; create a clear vision of what you really want and create a realistic plan to get there. Now, to go be consistent with my training…hill repeats today!

My Marathon Training Pace group. In addition to having a plan, a coach and the support of others can help you navigate challenging intersections — in marathon training — and life!
Chicago a year later

Chicago a year later

This time last year, was my last week in my New Jersey home. This was the week the movers took our stuff away and we turned our keys over to the new owners. This is the week I had one last great party with my friends before heading for I-80 West.

The predictions about what I was going to miss about New Jersey were pretty accurate. Read more

An explanation, not an excuse

An explanation, not an excuse

If you’re wondering why this blog has been so inconsistent in the past couple weeks, it’s because I’m working three jobs – four if you include my own business. Since the promotional and networking part of my business is not time I’m being paid for (including writing this blog), that stuff falls at the bottom of the priority list. Clients and employers are prioritized. Read more

A few reasons why runners make better employees

A few reasons why runners make better employees

When I first started running – that is dragging myself out of bed early in the morning, often in the dark – I noticed something. I was suddenly more awake on my commute into the city.  I was a little more focused when I got to the office.  The more I ran, the more I was able to apply the discipline it took to complete those morning runs to my work later in the day.

Running made me a better employee!  The meditative value of running also allowed me to think through issues; I’d often arrive at work after a morning run with solutions to yesterday’s challenge. I even had the courage to transition from a dissatisfying sales career to a very meaningful position planning events for a local non-profit.

Read more

Living (and running) SMART

Living (and running) SMART

Somewhere in your career, or maybe in school, you learned about SMART goals. SMART goals are the first step in creating an actionable plan to achieve success. Creating SMART goals works in life and running as well as business.

It is generally accepted that the SMART acronym was first written down in November 1981 in Spokane, Washington. George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company published a paper titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”. – A Brief History of SMART Goals 

The original definition of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. was Specific, Measurable, Assignable/Agreed-to, Realistic, and Time-related/Time-bound. There have been variations on this to make it more usable outside business management. Those include: Strategic, Significant, Stretching; Motivating, Meaningful; Attainable, Action-oriented, Ambitious, Aligned, Achievable; Resourced, Reasonable, Relevant, Results-based; Time-based, Time-limited, Timely, Time-sensitive, Tangible, Trackable. I’m sure there are more you can add to the list.

Whether I am working with runners or life coaching clients, the definition that I believe works best, which is pretty close to Doran’s definition, is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant,  and Time-sensitive. So let’s look at goal setting within that frame work. Clients come into coaching with a goal in mind. Usually it’s a very broad goal. “I want to run a marathon” or “I want a more fulfilling job” or my favorite, “I want to be happier.” Yikes. It’s understandable that most people don’t know how to move forward from there. Everyone one of us is creative and resourceful however and by contemplating  the answers to some questions, we can begin to shape some goals with which we can realistically begin to shape future we desire for ourselves.

Specific…What is it that you really want to achieve? If the answer is that you want to be happy, I would follow that up with what does happiness look like? What does a better job look like? Answering those questions will help steer the way to specificity. Vague goals don’t work because they are hard to plan around. If your goal isn’t specific enough you won’t know what to do today to work towards it. So a specific goal maybe something more like, “volunteer with an organization that has meaning to me” or “go back to school to finish my degree” or “build the skills necessary to move to the fundraising department in my organization.” Finishing a marathon is a specific goal, and therefore has a plan attached to it. For many who has never run before, though, or maybe have achieved a 5k so far, its not a good place to start. It may not meet some of the other criteria, and be a better longer range goal.  When I finished my coaching core classes and began the certification process over 6 months ago, my obvious (specific) goal was to become a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, and in working with my mentor-coach, my desire was to deepen my understanding of coaching, which without the next piece of criteria isn’t that specific.

Measurable…What does success look like and what will determine that you’ve reached it? Crossing a finish line is obviously measurable. How do you measure happiness or fulfillment? Or a “deepened understanding?” When I work with clients, we discuss big goals, those major changes that they want and usually the reason they came to coaching.  Those can be 6 month or 1 year or 5 year goals. In working with my mentor-coach, I was focused on the next 6-12 months and ultimately achieving certification as a professional coach.  The measurement that I laid out with her however gave me a better sense of measurable – and specific – benchmarks along the way. I will know I’ve succeeded when I am familiar with the process of coaching and feel more confident that I want to pursue this as a career; I feel comfortable with the material I’ve learned and it feels like the skills come naturally to me; I can write comfortably about coaching concepts in my blog without consulting “the book.” Check.

Achievable…What can you actually, realistically, do? Here we need to take into account other commitments we’ve made that make realistic demands on our time. We need to consider our real physical limitations and make adjustments accordingly. I use the words realistic and real here because I want to stress that achieving the most meaningful goals will be challenging at times and require us to stretch. There wouldn’t be the same sense of accomplishment in achieving a goal that didn’t require some sacrifice or ask us to move beyond our comfort zone. Going back to school will take time. Training for a marathon is hard. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t physically capable of doing it. There will always be voices inside our heads telling us we are too young, too old, too fat, too slow, too weak, too poor, etc. trying to talk us out of our goals. That’s different and we’ll talk about those saboteurs and gremlins another time.  What I’m focusing on now is setting achievable goals that don’t set us up for failure. The goal should be to walk, then run, then register for the marathon. And at your first job out of college, while it’s good to be focused on the CEO job, it’s good to be open to the progression that will get you there.

Relevant…What does this goal have to do with everything else going on in your your life? What does it do to other goals and desires you have? What will it do to support or complement them? What change will achieving this goal accomplish in your life? If your goal is to run a marathon, it’s important to understand that training is time-consuming and requires a lot of energy (and time to nap after long runs on a Sunday afternoon). A goal to go back to school however supports a goal of getting a better job. Buying a house supports a goal of wanting to start a family. When I first started pursuing my interest in coaching, it was to complement my goal of transitioning my business into something that would give me more flexibility and be something I could do beyond retirement age. Getting certified as a coach was relevant to my life plan.

Time-sensitive..A goal isn’t really a goal without a due date to which you can hold yourself accountable. So what’s the due date? Target dates should have a little bit of wiggle room so, again, you’re not setting yourself up for failure. And they should be realistic, and have some progressive bench-marks built-in. For example: “I will run a 5k in 10 weeks, a 10k in 3 months, a half-marathon in 6 months and a marathon before next summer.”

So decide on your SMART goals and write them down. Have long-range, mid-range, and short-term goals that complement and support one another and the life you want to create for yourself. Then begin to put a plan in motion that will help you reach your goals. Goal setting is simply creating the end zone. How you get there takes planning; a process of doing, training, conditioning or learning that when executed will make the goal that much more achievable. More on planning another day…

IMG_6050The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory. Washington Heights, New York City. March 2017.