December 30, 2011

3 Career Trends to Watch in 2012

Hybrid Entrepreneurs: The number of entrepreneurs with full time jobs will increase. Businesses survive with money. If you can make more money on your own, go for it. If you can't, why put extra pressure on yourself? That means keep your day job and swing your business (idea) on the side. When your current job is holding you back from making more money with your own business, quit. Most entrepreneurs have a hard time making money. There's no shame in admitting creating a steady source of income on your own is challenging. We have bills to pay before we have dreams to chase.

Face to Face Networking: Online profiles and resumes don't land you jobs, in person meetings do. If you can't put a name to a face, you're simply forgettable. Most social networking tends to be done locally, so why not take the next step and meet in person? The reason for so many network events popping up all over the place is at our core we are social beings. Online access is great, but face to face conversations will always be better. 90% of people don't follow up after meeting a contact. Follow-up in person and you'll stand out as that 10% who do.

Rise of Local Partnerships: If small businesses are going to bring the economy back, then we have to do it together. It's not one or two small businesses that will start the trend, but the sum total working cohesively. Reach out to your neighbors and figure out how you can partner up to serve a similar customer. If you've created a niche, it only benefits you to link arms with someone else to provide a product/service that will enhance their experience. Stop with the "silo" mentality and learn from the younger generation. We're better together than we are apart.

December 26, 2011

What I Learned in 2011

2011 was the year of change. New experiences forged a range of emotions, but there is much to learn from the previously unknown. Let me share with you my takeaways:

Achilles Injury: In late January I tore my left Achilles tendon playing basketball. It wasn't painful when it happened, but immediately I knew something was wrong. After resting it for a couple of days I got a couple of opinions and if I ever wanted to play sports again, I had to have surgery. The next two months were spent in a cast and I felt helpless. I fought to be independent, but needed care especially from my wife. I figured my business would be on hold for a while, but to my amazement I was provided a couple of opportunities in the next several months. 

Serial Entrepreneurs: During a monthly network event that I started at the beginning of the year, a friend who owns several companies asked if I would consider helping him out. At first I thought he was kidding, but after confirming, I took the opportunity. Limping around from meeting to meeting was a chore, yet I was able to sit with numerous entrepreneurs and hear stories that you can't read in a book. A couple of months later I stepped down and tried a new venture, joining a sales team for a new product. Being part of a strategic new launch is exciting and tedious at the same time. In the end, both weren't a good fit, but I took the blame for my skill set not being a good "fit" and maintained my professional and personal relationships with two men I consider business mentors. 

Shift in Mindset: One of the main reasons I've wanted to have my own business is for freedom and flexibility of schedule. What I've learned over the past 4 years is businesses survive and thrive based on cash flow. Since selling isn't a natural strength of mine I've been applying to university positions in hopes to land a more stable position and expand my current platform. It took me a while to tame my ego and fully pursue a job that would essentially replace my own business. I now understand what it feels like to be in my clients' shoes (I'm a career coach). Through networking I have some leads and will continue to build my connections because that is what I believe is your greatest career asset.

Looking back there was a lot to be thankful for. My faith and dependence on others was tested while I was recovering. I learned a lot (and was humbled) by working with two serial entrepreneurs. I'm now comfortable pursuing a position, then eventually swinging my business on the side. One of the highlights of 2011 was starting a monthly network event geared towards young professionals, called Career Synergy. There I've experienced the power of networking and met some great people I respect both professionally and personally. I look forward to 2012 with much optimism, but take time to pause and thank God for all I've experienced this year. What did you learn in 2011?  

December 16, 2011

Farm Raised or Wild?

Which one do you prefer? Farm raised means the environment is controlled. You can figure out what wild means. This question has a direct application to your career...

"Farm raised" is working in the same job, for the same company for a long period of time. Baby Boomers call it loyalty, but the younger generations call it boredom. If your career is condensed into one experience, your mind has limited options because that's all you know. You can become an expert and narrow-minded at the same time.

Wild means you've jumped around. Your experiences are diverse and changing: a mixture of internships, volunteerism and positions. You may be labeled as a generalist, but it's much easier to adapt to the task at hand. Wild means you're open to new and innovative ways to accomplish your goals. Your mind is piece of clay, ready to be molded.

When I was in 8th grade, I had attended private schools all my life. As the school year came to a close, I decided to attend a local, public high school. There were some negative adjustments (such as my grades dropping), but overall it was the right choice. Growing up in private schools all my life I was sheltered. Public education opened my mind to new people, experience and ways of learning. In ways, I transitioned from being farm raised to wild.

In today's economy we may not have as many career options. I encourage you to work hard where you are, but never stop looking (or applying to) for new opportunities. There's no finish line when it comes to your career/learning. Challenge yourself to grow by exploring "wild" environments and stay open minded!

December 12, 2011

Why is Growth so Painful?

Look a plant's life cycle. Each season parts die and/or are "pruned" in order to grow. Humans aren't much different. In order for you and I to grow, we have to be willing to be "pruned" in certain ways also.
Change is uncomfortable. We want to know what's next. The unknown scares us. Take for example this recession. Economic stability is fleeting. What job is really safe anymore? 

We are creatures of habit. When traveling in uncharted territory, we feel lost. We thrive on routine and when that is broken, sometimes so are we. Think of all the traditions you celebrate. It's hard to imagine our lives without it. Tradition isn't a bad thing, but have you ever questioned it's purpose? Constant evaluation is key.

Growth is hard. Take for instance strength training. Your muscles need to be challenged beyond what they're used to in order to slightly tear. These tears make us sore, but without them muscle can't be built. Growth is a long process. It takes perseverance and drive. 

Growth starts with you. It begins with your attitude. You have to be willing to hear constructive feedback (yes, that means potentially negative comments) and accept it. Take responsibility and be your own catalyst for growth. Be willing to uncomfortable, break tradition and be patient knowing that in the end growth is a long-term investment. How will you challenge yourself to grow in 2012?

December 1, 2011

When Plan B is Plan A

How often does Plan A happen? Does it lead to disappointment? What if we started looking more favorably at Plan B? How would that affect how we view our current situation? 

Here's what that shift in mindset from Plan A to Plan B looks like:

Be Flexible. Things aren't always going to happen the way you planned them to. That doesn't mean that you don't have plans. It just means be willing to respond to situations accordingly. You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to circumstances. In my experience as a coach, one of the greatest assets I've seen in my top clients is the ability to cope. Flexible people cope more effectively.

Be Realistic. This economy forces us to be more creative and innovative with our resources. You may have to extend the time frame on your dreams. Be willing to make sacrifices short-term for what you want long-term. Having idealistic expectations leads to disappointment. Adjusting your expectations based on the context of your situation will help you view life more favorable. Changing your perspective changes everything.

Be Thankful. Instead of focusing on what you don't have, why not be thankful for what you do have? Your attitude is like the rudder of a ship that determines the direction traveled. Even if you are part of the 99%, there's still a lot to be thankful for. Count your family and friends as blessings. There are a lot of people in much worse situations than you are. Honestly, in times of frustration, one of the best things you can do is reach out and help someone in need. What are you thankful for today? 

Switching from Plan A to Plan B isn't about settling. It's more of an attitude shift to help you cope with today's challenges. The most successful people deal with failure the best. In fact, they've probably dealt with failure more often because they're willing to face rejection. In my own life, most of the time Plan B worked out much better than Plan A. When you and I focus on the future too much, we fail to enjoy the present. I learned this lesson over time through my wife. She's more flexible, realistic and thankful than me. Are you willing to embrace Plan B?