Today, I guest posted on Laura Vanderkam’s blog: http://www.my168hours.com/blog/. Laura is the author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, a book I very much enjoyed, so I see Laura as a kindred spirit in the Think As Inc movement.
Career choices are also financial choices. Can I do something I love and still pay the bills? Can I make a career change without taking a salary cut? Can I afford to wait for that perfect job when I’m unemployed and need to make money quickly? Some jobs pay more than others. Some offer faster salary growth and bigger bonuses. It is not practical to make career choices without considering the financial repercussions.
That said, deciding your next job and career path requires additional considerations apart from financial planning. Ideally, finances are one criterion of many by which you plan your career.
Here’s how to think about your money and your next move:
Read the rest of my guest post at http://www.my168hours.com/blog/2011/01/09/guest-post-your-finances-and-your-job-theres-more-to-work-than-money/
You give holiday gifts to nurture and celebrate family and friends. Don’t forget to nurture and celebrate yourself! Here are 10 holiday gifts that will advance your future career and celebrate past milestones:
- Restaurant gift card. I’ve written before about the power of networking over meals. If you have a crazy schedule and can’t do full-out lunches, get a Starbucks card so you can at least grab coffee with colleagues and friends.
- Clothing store gift card. You need a professional wardrobe whether it’s from a specialty store like Ann Taylor or a general department store like Nordstrom. 80% of communication is non-verbal, and appearance is a significant part of this.
- Professional association membership. This is an investment in your networking as you deepen professional ties and meet new people. This is also an investment in your training as you stay abreast of the latest industry news and innovations.
- Business magazine subscription. In addition to your specific area, it is helpful to know about the broader economy. Yes, you can get some of this from general news, but a dedicated business magazine often has more in-depth market analysis and insight.
- Beautiful journal. Make it a gratitude journal and celebrate your blessings. Make it a scrapbook of everything you have achieved. Make it a repository for ideas.
- Professional headshot. Speaking engagements and press mentions are ways that recruiters find you. A great shot can also enhance your online profile.
- Electronic reader. Keep all your business and career books in your Apple iPAD or Amazon Kindle, and never have an excuse for not reading.
- Multiple business card holders. I wish I had a nickel for every networking event I attended where someone had switched bags and therefore forgot her cards. Have nice business card holders in multiple quantities for all the bags you bring to professional events, and keep each stocked with your current cards.
- Private coach. This could be someone who specializes in something directly career-related such as communication skills, executive coaching, or career change. Or maybe you need an image consultant to help with your brand or a personal trainer to get more energy.
- Tuition. You don’t have to get another degree. Learn a foreign language, improve your digital media skills, take an improv class to improve listening and spontaneity.
This post also appeared on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/work-in-progress/2010/12/22/ten-holiday-gifts-to-give-to-your-career/
No one wins a game by playing defense. However, good defense gives the offense the chance to do its job. Defense, therefore, provides the foundation for success.
Playing defense in your job search means giving yourself enough time to stay in the search for your efforts to pay off (maintaining your cash flow by judiciously using your severance or taking temp work to make ends meet). It means pacing yourself (making sure you do something towards your search every day rather than in periodic but unreliable bursts of inspiration). It means protecting yourself from the wear and tear of a long search (e.g., burnout, settling for less out of fear).
Playing defense in your career means building a solid foundation (adding skills, increasing industry and functional expertise, growing a nest egg). Some of these steps also fall into your offensive strategy, as increased skills and expertise may lead to promotions or better jobs. Increased savings may encourage more risk-taking. But they are also defensive moves because a foundation of skills and expertise keep you necessary to your employer’s team.
Playing defense in your life means protecting what you already have, so that you can focus on your dreams. No one becomes rich from owning insurance, but medical, disability, and homeowners insurance may prevent unexpected poverty and give peace of mind so you can concentrate on your game. Maintaining good health is good defense – as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Fostering good family and social relationships is a defensive strategy. You’re not trying to win anything from them. But you are building a foundation of support and love from which springs the confidence and inspiration to go for your goals and succeed.
It’s December, the end of another year. Do your annual insurance check. Renew your gym membership. Send out holiday cards. Maintain your foundation.
Regardless of where you are on your current career path, there are certain steps that every career-minded professional should take to grow their career:
Check your current career goals. What companies do you want to work for? What is your ideal job description? What is your perfect day? What is the legacy you wish to leave professionally and personally? Now, how does your current job match up with these answers? You want to do an annual check-up of your career goals because your assumptions, ideals, and needs change. Make sure that you are on track with where you want to go now, not where you thought you wanted to go ten years ago.
Update your resume. Does your resume reflect your most recent accomplishments, title, and responsibilities? Is it still tailored to your career objectives? Are there items that are no longer relevant? Do other items need to be highlighted as your career goals have changed? Even if you are not in job search mode, updating your resume forces you to take an inventory of your career to date.
Maintain your existing network. The best time to network is when you don’t need to network. Block the next few months of the year to call and/or email everyone in your database to update contact information, catch up on summer vacations, and wish happy holidays in November/ December.
Grow your network. The easiest time to network is when you don’t need to network. Block one lunch per week to meet someone new. Join a professional organization, or ask friends and colleagues for introductions. Have fun. Focus on the relationship. Go with the intention of just making a connection (not achieving some grandstanding professional goal), so there is no pressure.
We all know how important networking is. For job search and career advancement, networking enables you to hear about the unadvertised jobs or the plum projects that could propel your career forward. But a strong network is beneficial for day-to-day personal needs as well – finding a good doctor, checking on a contractor, discovering a good place for Mexican food.
How do you know if your network is strong enough to support you professionally and personally? Every few months, you should test the strength of your network:
If you had to contact someone for professional reasons – e.g., “do you know anyone at Pfizer? They posted a job that may be right for me and I want to learn more about that group” – how many people would you feel comfortable calling right now?
If you have fewer than 25 strong professional contacts you could reach out to now, your network is too small. You might have deep connections with a small number, and this is a good start.
But you also need quantity in your network. You should prioritize meeting new professional contacts. If you have the quality and the quantity but you don’t feel like you could reach out today, then you have an issue with maintaining your network. You should prioritize following up with people you already know. A bonus test is how many people you could contact for personal needs. Look at the quantity, but also the variety in your personal network.
When was the last time you had lunch or a Starbucks with a contact outside your day-to-day colleagues or closest friends?
If it is more than a month or you can’t remember, this is a danger sign that your networking is too insular. You are not exposing yourself to diverse perspectives. Remember the above point about how important it is to maintain your network. Setting aside some lunch hours is a great way to follow up with your network.
Do you have mentors and supporters?
When you need some off-the-record advice or candid feedback, do you have people that you can go to who understand your role, your company and your industry? If not, then you’re not taking advantage of mentorship in your career. Mentors are not just very senior people who can move you to the next level by sheer influence.
There is a place for that type of powerful mentor. But mentors can also be at your peer-level. They can be colleagues who have an insight you don’t have and are willing to share it with you – maybe they’ve been at the company longer and have a great sense of the politics, maybe they are super strong presenters and can be your practice audience before you have a big meeting.
Networking is not something that you can cram last-minute. A strong network is built over time and with deliberate attention to both quantity and quality of the contacts. Ask yourself the above three simple questions on a regular basis (set your Outlook to remind you quarterly!), so that you consciously tend to your network before it becomes a crisis situation.
No one likes the person who only reaches out when they need something. No one wants to be the person who needs something but feels all alone. Build a strong network so that you can make requests without imposing. Build a network that is strong enough so you don’t have to go it alone.
This post also appeared at my Work In Progress blog on Forbes.com:
While I’m a big fan of starting something on the side, while keeping your day job (see Part 1 of this series), it’s a time-consuming strategy and not suitable for everyone. Another strategy is to switch day jobs to where you can maintain some aspects of the day job you like but also move closer to your ideal career/ business idea (thus trying you’re your idea without starting a new business outright).
Tony asks: I am considering leaving my career that I have been doing for the past 15 years and starting a coaching business. Should I get a job related to consulting and training first?
If Tony were to migrate to a training job first and then start a coaching business, it makes the leap from day job to a full-fledged business a two-step process. Instead of quitting your job for a business, you first migrate the job closer to your business interest and then you start the business presumably once you have some credibility and contacts in the new area. This may seem like a compromise move or a less risky step, but there are still some major considerations:
You will need to launch this job search around your current day job, so it is very similar to starting a side business while balancing a job. In this competitive market, the branding and networking required to land a good job is similar to the activity you need to expend to start a business.
Your job search will have a heavy sales component because you will not be doing exactly what you did before. You are a career changer who will have to convince the marketplace (of prospective employers) to buy your services (hire you) amidst alternative offerings (from candidates who have already done the job).
There is risk in making a career change if you decide to go back to your first job. Yes, going from entrepreneur to employee is a big return trip if you start a business and decide you want to go back to your day job. But, making a career change and then going back is also tough. There is still a risk that your skills, experience, expertise and contacts will migrate enough when you change jobs that re-entry to your former position is not guaranteed.
There are good reasons to change jobs in preparation for a move to entrepreneurship. It does enable you to develop your skills, backed by the resources of an established company. It enables you to have a ready network of contacts that could be helpful to your business later on. It does keep one anchor constant (you are still an employee) while you shift other things (your industry or functional focus). But if you are relying on a job change to be easier or less risky than starting a business, that’s not true and not a good enough reason to go this route.
This post also appeared at my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
Last week, I talked about managing your time and energy when balancing a job and a side business. This week, I cover another frequent question (and pitfall) I hear: the struggle with perfectionism and an inability to move forward.
Darlene: I have done months of background work on writing and setting up my own blog. What I am stuck on is finding a “provider” that I can work with that provides the templates that I like and who does all the behind the scenes work. There is literally soooooo much information out there that I am getting confused and not moving ahead. Suggestions?
Darlene’s question seems specific in its details but it is universal. It is less about what specific technology solution she needs and more about how she can move forward.
When you are starting a business, it will seem like there is an endless amount to do. You will also hear a lot of advice. In fact, you can spend all of your time just reading business how-to literature. But at the end of the day, you know your business is moving forward when you have customers.
In Darlene’s case, the real question is: Do you need the blog to get customers? She might be better served focusing on something else, and therefore tabling this technology question for later. If she is determined to blog, then the question is: What blog is good enough?
For the early part of your business, it’s more important to focus on what directly generates business, and then getting something out there that’s good enough to test that. Stop waiting for perfection. You will always have to tweak and refine, so why not let the real market give you feedback rather than guessing on your own.
With a side business, you have even more limited time because of your day job, so you have to be choosy and quick. Focus on revenues and customers. Try different things and cherish your mistakes because they can point you to better directions.
The benefit of good-enough choices also applies to your day job. If your day job is the means to cash flow for your business, then the advantage of being able to stop at good enough is very clear: you save your energy for your side business, but you still do enough on the job to maintain it. If your day job is more than just cash (i.e., you like it and want to have a career here) then going above and beyond in terms of work performance is recommended.
Don’t wait for the perfect strategy for what to do next: the perfect idea for your exact long-term role, the perfect time to network, the perfect moment to ask for a raise. There is no perfection, and the benefit of movement almost always outweighs the benefit of waiting for the better time.
When you have a job and a side business, you are incredibly short on time. You don’t want to get bogged down in endless detail before asking yourself if whatever is holding your attention hostage is actually worth your precious time. Even if it is, you don’t want to overwork your activities and move too slowly forward in the process. As noted choreographer Martha Graham says, “Nothing is more revealing than movement.”
This post also appeared at my new Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
I often coach on the topic of career change, including the option of starting a side business or project while maintaining your current job. This is a strategy I advocate whenever possible because it lowers the financial risk (you have money coming in from your day job), emotional risk (you try out your idea and/or interest before making too drastic a change) and transition risk (you have time to build experience and skills before migrating 100% to your side pursuit).
This strategy is not just for aspiring entrepreneurs but also for people looking for traditional employment. You can consider your job search or career change as your “side business.”
People like the benefits of this strategy but have problems with execution. So this post is the first of three to answer the most popular questions I get around balancing a job and a side business.
Lisa asks: How should I balance my time and energy so neither is neglected? Should I very slowly take on one client at a time?
I recommend a clear timeline for how long you plan to juggle the two and decide what success markers you want to see along the way to ensure you are on the right track. If you take on new business very slowly, this enables you to get used to the balance, but it isn’t an accurate portrait of your actual new business.
In addition, it is hard to ensure such measured growth. Businesses launch in fits and starts. You don’t always know what works, much less how to control your marketing so you only get as much business as you can handle. You might find that your efforts to grow a small business are not what you need for the actual business you want. So your experiment doesn’t get to the heart of what you’re trying to do.
Another option is to go full out on the side business right away but for a set period (say six months) and then review at that point whether to continue as is, dial down, ramp up or quit one or the other. Yes, you will be busier but for a shorter time period. You can freely explore the business, see what works and what doesn’t, and get a feel for what you enjoy or not. This option may not be feasible if your day job has unpredictable hours or long hours. If you find the prospect of going full out on both the job and the business too daunting that you never get started, then forget this suggestion and go for slow growth.
You also need to decide your objectives for your current job. Do you want to just get by, or are you going for a promotion? Is there restructuring or other changes afoot where you have to pay closer attention? The job/ side business juggle isn’t only for people who hate their job. Maybe you like your job enough but want an extra and/or different stream of income. If you like your job, you need to be clear about your goals there as well, not just for the new business.
Depending on what you decide to do with your business and with your job, the time and energy requirements are different. The slow growth side business takes less time than the full out side business, but in both cases you still need to carve out time. This means that something else has to go: you might use vacation days, you might reserve specific evenings and weekend hours, and you might have to inform family and friends that you will not be around as much. When you have to do things during normal business hours, carve out lunch and breaks to do this. Do not do your current job on autopilot and work through these break periods!
With energy, pay attention to when you do your best work. If you know that you are just too unfocused after a full day of work, then you have to get up early for your side business. Or you have to clear your weekends for it. Joining an entrepreneurs group or other support group of like-minded people is one way of keeping your energy and focus high.
For your day job, keep in mind that managing your career overall is separate from what you day-to-day. So you need to reserve time and energy to prepare for performance reviews, read up on industry news, network with colleagues in and out of your company and other professional development activities. If you are not committed to your day job, these are activities that you can switch out for your new business activities. But if you like your day job, these activities are in addition to what you do everyday.
This post also appeared on my new blog for Forbes.com Work In Progress:
Here is my Oct. 6 interview with Leon VanderPol about extreme career change on the International Coach Academy International Speaker Series:
If you missed my guest radio spot on Transformation Talk Radio, you can still hear me and Dr. Jeffrey Hull talking about “The Recession is OVER! Now is the time to JUMP START your career!”