October is Halloween time with spooky costumes, ghosts and witches, and other fearsome things. Career management may instill just as much fear. And like Halloween, where braving your fear and getting out there means you end up with a bag full of treats, so does the proactive career manager benefit when you respond productively to career fears:
Fear of downsizing? Then, find out from your manager how you’re doing. Find out from your department head how your area is doing. Read your company newsletters, annual report and trade magazines to find out how your company and industry are doing.
Fear of being stuck? Then, look at where you add value and make sure your manager knows about it. Sign up for training classes in areas where you’re weak. Sign up for projects in areas where you excel. Book breakfast, lunch or drinks at least once a week with a different person each week to ensure that you maintain your network.
Fear of living hand-to-mouth? Then, focus on getting ahead financially. Save something regularly, even if it’s your spare change that you then deposit at the bank. Sign up for your company’s 401K plan or boost your current contribution. Read a personal finance book or Money magazine or a biography of a person who seems to you to have it all.
No one comes to your house to drop off Halloween candy. No one is going to manage your career. The best way to conquer your career fears is by doing something. In the words of Paul Valery: The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.
There is a lot of anxiety on how to make a job the job of your dreams. Entry-level workers want to find the career of their dreams. Experienced professionals want to transition to the career of their dreams. Everyone’s asking: how do I fuel my passion AND get paid for it.
While that is truly the ideal – to earn a living while enriching your life — I think people put too much pressure on themselves to find this ultimate job. People seem to think that every job should, not only sustain their financial and physical needs, but also simultaneously sustain their spiritual, mental, and emotional needs as well.
If you find yourself in a job that doesn’t fuel your passion, that is definitely a sign to consider alternatives. But, don’t beat yourself over the head if you’re just working hard, earning your keep, but still not finding nirvana. Earning a living and actually living can be separate pursuits and should be separate depending on the circumstances. In this chaotic labor market, it is difficult to maintain a current job, much less initiate a career transition. If you have a creative dream (e.g., acting), it might not always be possible to rely on earnings from your art to get the bills paid.
This isn’t to say that you don’t pursue your passions. You just don’t have to do that in the context of every paying job or at least your job right now. This ultimate job is your long-term, not necessarily immediate goal. First, try living outside of how you earn a living. Take a class in something interesting but unrelated to your career. Make seeing your friends a priority. Spend time with yourself – to catch a game, to visit a museum. Once you get going on this small scale, you will be renewed, and it will have an impact on your life and career. These small actions might encourage you to make bigger changes, even a career change. Or, you might realize that the way you earn a living is just fine, and you can just continue living outside of your job.
Most everyone knows (or should know) that networking is THE key to getting a job. Here is a review of the basics:
Try networking everyday. Make small talk with people on the elevator.
Practice OUT LOUD the three critical pieces of your networking introduction: your name; your bio; your goals.
Go from low- to high-risk networking targets. Start talking with people you know, then referrals, and then work your way up to cold calls.
Be creative. Contact industry associations, editors of relevant trade journals, and names you see in relevant articles or conferences.
Remember to GIVE and take. Think about interesting and useful information to give back to your networking contacts. Recommend articles you’ve read. Refer people.
Continue networking even when you do find a job. The best time to network is when you don’t need anything. If you continually make contacts and build relationships, you’ll develop extraordinary people skills, make new friends, and be well-positioned in any market.
Two new events have been confirmed just in time for the busy fall season:
Sept. 28, 12p-1p ET, Beyond Balance: Integrating Personal and Professional Goals, an 85 Broads Jam Session
Presenter: Caroline Ceniza-Levine
This is a virtual workshop. There is no cost to attend, but seats are estremely limited and are for 85 Broads subscribers only.
Oct. 6, 9a-10a ET, Extreme Career Make Over!, an International Coach Academy teleseminar
Thinking of making the leap to a whole new way of working? Considering starting a small business while still working 9-5? Leon VanderPol of the International Coach Academy interviews Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, on techniques for making extreme career transitions and how to triumph over the fears and barriers that keep us from moving to live our greatest dreams.
Presenter: Caroline Ceniza-Levine
This is a virtual workshop. There is no cost to attend. http://www.icoachacademy.com/en/ts/caroline-ceniza-levine
It’s the start of the school year. For me (a former college recruiter and a parent), for working parents, for people in academia, the year begins in September. In addition, we’re all refreshed from summer and ready to go. So it’s time for an assessment: How has your career changed since last year? Where do you want to be in September 2011? If you don’t have a career plan in place, then you are choosing to let circumstances dictate your fate. But, if you’d rather choose more money, more growth, more freedom, more security or a combination of the above, then craft a plan now.
If you are happy in your current job, then your career plan may not include any major moves, but should include basic career maintenance. Check in with your manager to outline upcoming assignments and get feedback on developmental areas. Keep networking. Work on your life outside of the job – solid finances, physical fitness, strong relationships, emotional fulfillment.
If you are unhappy in your current job, then plot a career transition plan. This could be changing jobs within the company, looking for a new employer or trying a new career. A new job/ career search can be a full-time job in itself, so be prepared to scale back on other activities while you balance your current job and future job/career search.
If you are unemployed, then you also need a career transition plan, but with different constraints. You may have more time to devote to your search, but you may have more time urgency and less money. This career plan needs to balance traditional job search strategies with strategies for getting through a job loss.
If the entrepreneurial bug has bitten, then you need a business plan. Do you want to build a company or freelance? What kind of company do you build – product or service, small or large, something to keep or a quick sell? Whether you have a job or not, moving into entrepreneurship requires a plan for researching your questions, starting the business, and growing it.
Last week’s post entailed listing 100 dreams. The large number was meant to encourage you to stretch your mind and your memory to capture all things, big and small, that you wish to accomplish. This month, pick five of those dreams that are small dreams. By small dreams, I do not mean insignificant, but rather dreams that can be accomplished with only a small amount of planning or financial commitment. For example, one of my 100 Dreams is to visit Wave Hill, a garden in the outer boroughs of NYC. This would be an afternoon’s time and very little money (potentially free since many institutions offer free admission during certain days and times). Pick five small dreams and do one each week over the next month. The purpose of this exercise is twofold:
First of all, it will give you a taste of discipline and follow-through, especially if you pace yourself over one month rather than all at once. The process of following through with small dreams is the same as with big dreams, only on a smaller scale. If you practice it now, when resources are not committed and the stakes are not high, you have created a fun and rewarding way of learning a critical skill that you need with your big dreams.
Secondly, achieving your small dreams will give you a taste of what is truly meaningful to you. These are dreams that you have picked for yourself. Because they are small, they are probably not associated with long-range professional, family or financial gain. They are likely just satisfying in some personal way to you. Getting in touch with what is truly meaningful and satisfying to you is another skill that is critical for going after big dreams. This is why I recommend not picking dreams where there is even a chance you might not follow through. The impact of this exercise depends on your feeling that satisfaction from YOU making YOUR dreams (albeit the small ones) come true.
Many of my clients are life changers. Some change careers. Some change lifestyles. In all cases, the leap from the original life to the new one seems large. However, the process is actually made up of small steps, each very doable on its own. Thus, the leap can be made, not by jumping at all, but rather by staying grounded, as long as you move continually in the right direction. By honoring your small dreams continually over a set period of time, you practice this small-step progression and you inspire yourself with the satisfaction of fulfilling your own dreams.