Red plastic shovel with black handle stuck in fluffy snow.

Here’s a quick thought about snow days from a career coach and mom, as the East Coast is being pummeled by Blizzard 2017, the snowmaggedon or whatever we are calling it today.

As a snow day gives you time to reflect on what you want for your life and career and (for many of us) what you want to pass on to the next generation, I was thankful for the snow.

My son took the snow blower and cleared the driveway this afternoon, which shows grit. He doesn’t always have grit. In fact, as a talented yet distractable boy, it is a key skill that we know he will need to build over time, as it does not come naturally to him. So we try to create situations that require grit but will not overwhelm him, so he will be motivated to push forward.

Grit is as old as time and has become the new power skill, as it is needed in just about every life situation. Here’s some more about instilling grit in children and educating students about grit:

The Carnegie Foundation

The Atlantic

NPR

I think often about how we build grit as a world and within our own families. In particular, what can we do to help children appreciate the skills they need to serve as leaders in the future and “show up” the right way to succeed? Today, the answer fell from the sky.

Snow Day Grit - Snow Blower

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership development coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon.com) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

First image above: Adobe Images.
Second image copyright 2017 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

 

Seljalandfoss waterfall at sunset in HDR, Iceland

Creativity – where and how do you find it?

As I enjoyed a beautiful day outside in perfect weather yesterday, I started reflecting on the times I am most creative and what inspires me: when time slows down, I wonder at the beauty of the world and am able to think expansively. It’s a goal of mine to increase the frequency and intensity of these moments in the coming year.

Is creativity a top value for you?

Does you need to consistently refuel your creativity to do your best work?

Where do you find that you are most creative?

Do you need to step out of your regular life to achieve it?

Where and how can you increase your opportunities to find wonder in the world?

Does exposure to the creativity of others fuel your own?

Can you generate more to fuel yourself and others?

How can increased creativity drive positive change in your life and career?

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Top image: Seljalandfoss waterfall at sunset in HDR, Iceland (Shutterstock).

Text and bottom images (taken in Tampa, FL; Norwalk, CT; New York, NY; and Cruising Altitude, Somewhere, USA; respectively) copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal.
All rights reserved.

girl on a rock
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone (Adobe Images)

I welcome my first guest blogger, Melanie Glover, a personal friend on the career path journey. Melanie is a young attorney and certified personal trainer who writes about professional development, health, nutrition and exercise at Balanza and Beyond.

Melanie Glover
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Every time I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, it has hurt.  But I have not once regretted it. 

It was the beginning of my legal career, and I had to cover a hearing for my supervisor.  The hearing was supposed to be simple and straightforward.  It was not supposed to take long.  However, everything turned out how I least expected. 

The hearing that was supposed to last five minutes lasted five hours as I waited for other attorneys to take their turns with their clients before the Judge.  I came back a second and then a third time; I went back and forth with the Judge on the record; and I interacted with my client.  I was not prepared for that marathon day in Court when what I had been expecting was a five-minute hearing.  At the end of the day, I just wanted to hide:  despite my all-afternoon efforts, we would have to appeal.

I confess:  I felt like I had let my client and myself down. 

The hearing was supposed to last five minutes.
It lasted five hours.

Then, after several months, I took a step back and reflected.  I learned practical things, such as (1) always to take my Statute with me to Court, and (2) to always be prepared for a hearing to last all day. 

But I also learned a deeper lesson to apply to life in general both in my professional and personal lives.  I learned that undesirable situations might just bring a person to the edge of discomfort only to come out on the other side with a fresh perspective, a new relationship, or some other productive and creative energy or opportunity.

That day I felt less than my best self in front of my colleagues, the Judge, and my client.  But after further examining the experience, I realize that I also made a valuable friendship with another attorney who went through the same experience by my side.  And out of that friendship, I have been able to commiserate, receive advice, and even give advice.  In summary, I have learned that even what seem to be the most challenging situations at the time can still produce hope; you just have to look – and practice looking – for it.

When we reflect, we learn.  And when we fall, we do not have to stay defeated.  We can stand back up, and we can learn from the tumble.  Coming to a positive conclusion after enduring hard circumstances is not comfortable.  In fact, it can be a bit reckless; but it is unexpectedly worthwhile. 

When we fall, we do not have to stay defeated.
Search for that unexpected gift.

My overarching advice for young professionals is to search for that unexpected gift – a lesson, relationship, or new skill – in difficult circumstances.  Searching deep and wide for the good within the bad is definitely a practice that I have had to acquire intentionally.  But those trying situations have allowed me to practice seeking the underlying positive message despite the adversity. 

Guest post insert and image © 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved. Originally published at Balanza and Beyond on July 22, 2016. 

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Melanie Glover is a young lawyer and certified personal trainer who blogs about creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle through tips on fitness, nutrition, and self care.  Her blog is a personal endeavor to help others become the best versions of their personal and professional selves and can be found at Balanza and Beyond. Melanie’s book on an American’s view into a Spanish kitchen, Fusión Cultural, is available on Amazon. 

shutterstock_229967803 (three doors of decisionmaking)

Kristina has always secretly dreamed of owning a vineyard in France.

She has other dreams, too. But this one just won’t go away.

How can Kristina, from her windowless desk at a bank in New York City, figure out how to bring more of her dream life into her actual life?

Exploration is the first stage of a successful career transition, as I covered in my prior post. Stage 2 is a decision-making process that involves vetting the ideas that have been uncovered through brainstorming, research, informational interviews, networking and other means of discovery. We vet against a set of factors that we have enumerated, such as our values, talents, interests, skills, financial needs and the market.

These two first stages (exploration and vetting) work in tandem but are distinct. In fact, we do them naturally every day, but not always intentionally.  More importantly, too often we rush to judgment about our ideas without fully opening ourselves to the brainstorming process, missing valuable information about ourselves and our true career goals as we try to vet while still exploring ideas. Often this rush is triggered by our own anxiety about transition, while at times it is the expediency of the situation.

In the best case scenario, we will explore and vet in a cycle, which will look a lot like the following image. We explore ideas, we vet them, and then we explore again. In other words, each time we make an interim decision about career transition that has not led us to a final conclusion, we go back to the proverbial drawing board with an open mind, returning to further vetting until we make a final decision (about one or more options to pursue in our career transition).

Here is what this might look like.

Exploration - Vetting

As we covered in the prior post, there are three aspects of the brainstorming phase:

Creative Mindset – Facts – Exploration

Kristina can generate ideas about her vineyard dream, conduct actual research into what it takes to own a vineyard and explore her questions with people who are already in her dream space.

As a coach, one of the points I would try to tease out from Kristina is what exactly appeals to her about this dream. Some of the appeal may be one or more of the following:

  • Living on the land; more in-tune with the seasons
  • Being involved with the wine community
  • Making money while drinking wine! 🙂
  • Doing something completely different than her current job – i.e., curing burnout
  • Feeling relaxed, the way she feels on vacation
  • Owning her own business; being her own boss
  • Living in France; speaking French
  • Feeling as though she has made an impact on the world
  • Leading a team of people committed to a quality product

For your own dream job, I would encourage you to do the same brainstorming about what exactly is appealing about that dream. Think through what is missing in your life that this dream job would offer. Imagine what you would be doing every day and how that would support your values and vision of yourself.

Notice that we haven’t yet vetted anything. We don’t know if Kristina has the money it takes to buy a vineyard (or could get financing), the talents to do it, the stomach for the risks or the true interest in doing the day-to-day work of running a vineyard. We also don’t know if she would be any good at it – would she be able to sell any wine? There are a hundred questions she would need to answer before actually moving forward, and each of those questions (and their answers) may open more ideas to explore as well as offer good feedback to Kristina about how a successful career transition would look.

The reason for separating exploration and vetting is that we often try to make decisions with too little information. Kristina will not know why this particular dream keeps coming up if she does not explore it, without the shoulds getting in the way. (You know the shoulds, I am sure. She should be practical. She should stop wasting time with something that will never happen…. And the rest of their should cousins.)

As part of her exploration, Kristina can explore vineyards from Long Island to Provence and beyond. She can talk to people in the business. She can sign up for Alliance Francaise, if her French is a little rusty. If she feels ambitious and tentatively committed to see if this could go anywhere  – or just for fun, to give it a whirl – she can create a business plan for the vineyard. In other words, Kristina can bring her dream world a bit more into her real world and recall the sensation of being carried away by an idea. 

In summary, the openness and creativity resulting from Kristina’s indulgence of her dream job idea may at some point lead to the actual result of opening her own vineyard – if it passes the vetting process – or it may throw off side ideas that are a better fit.

If you are ready to move to Stage 2, here are the main points to vet:

Values – Talents – Interests – Skills – Needs – The Market

Like Kristina, once you have some ideas on the table and have done your initial exploration with an open mind (whether these ideas represent dream jobs or simply “a bit better than what I have now” jobs), you are ready to subject these ideas to the vetting process. As an overview, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Your Values: Will the targeted role be meaningful to you? Will it meet your top values or will there by any values that need to be compromised (or left unmet) in this role?
  • Your Talents: Does it play to your strengths, and will it best utilize your greatest talents?

To insert an example here, in Kristina’s case, does she understand the how to market wine (or could she learn it) and would she enjoy doing that? What about how to run a farm? Run a business? Manage people? Manage cash flow?

What other talents will she need, and which of these play to her strengths?

  • Your Interests: Will the role be challenging and interesting on a daily basis? Are the problems that arise ones that you enjoy solving?
  • Your Skills: Do you have what is needed for the targeted role and if not, how can you acquire those skills? What commitment is needed to close the gap?
  • Your Needs: Will the role serve your financial needs? Will it meet other needs, such as the need for autonomy, the need to feel part of a team or the need to be recognized for good work?
  • Your Temperament: Will the minor annoyances in this job one day become major ones? Are you well suited to the day-to-day aspects of the role?
  • The Market: Does the marketplace need what you would like to do? How many of this type of role is available at the level that will meet your financial needs? Note: If it is a new idea or a niche market, you may need to conduct market research to know the answer to this point – don’t assume that just because you build it (and love it yourself), they will come.

Through thoughtful exploration and careful vetting – which is not all work, it can be fun too! – you will find new ways to frame and “reframe” your ideas and decisions about career transition. Whether you are looking to make a major change like the one above or if you simply want to tweak your current role, putting structure and organization around the process helps you make better decisions. You also may, as part of the process, find a “bridge job” that will help you incorporate into your life some aspects that are missing, as you continue to explore and vet your longer vision for your career.

For example, say that Kristina decides that she does want to go for it and open a vineyard in France – not an immutable decision, but a concrete goal – and that she has or can find the means to do so. She may first move from her bank job in New York to a similar role in Paris – admittedly also a move that takes effort – as a way to get geographically closer to her goal, meet more people who can make it a reality and satisfy a number of points on her dream list that appeal to her. Alternatively, she may seek a role at a vineyard (or a service provider to vineyards) in some capacity that is closer to her current role and uses her current skills, learning the business as she goes.

Remember: neither is not a compromise, either is a bridge. As she takes smaller risks and gets closer to the life she desires, Kristina will increase her resilience, self-awareness and capacity for change. 

Hungry (or thirsty) for change? What will your next move be? 

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

 

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

First image above: Shutterstock.

 

shutterstock_201564593 (cropped woman jeans red light bulbs)Marilyn hates her job. She has many ideas about where she would like to land next and needs help sorting them out.

Rob is stuck in a rut. He has spent so long at the same role that he can hardly imagine doing anything else. He wants to identify new possibilities and opportunities.

Jamie likes what she is doing and would like to stay in the same field, but she wants to find a way to advance within her company or, if necessary, outside of it. She is also open to changing to a new job altogether, if it does not require starting over.

Each of these career-transition questions inhabit Stage 1 of the Career Transition Process.

The Marilyns, Robs and Jamies of the world crave structure around their exploratory work. Otherwise, they live in their own heads, and they fail to make much real progress that will help them out of their current situations and into a better place. I know, because I was there myself once. I also know because I see it every day in my coaching practice.

  • Stage 1: Explore: Are you open to and ready for change at this time? What options are available? How and where can you explore further? Who can help?

A successful career transition begins with creative brainstorming, targeted research and empirical exploration.

Creative Mindset and Brainstorming

Having a creative mindset allows you to generate ideas and be open to a range of possibilities. Brainstorming isn’t about vetting, that comes later.

Stage 1 is the “what if” stage.

  • What if you changed industries, practice areas or careers?
  • What if you stayed in your current role? How could you improve it?
  • What if you decided to go for CEO, another C-level role or partnership?
  • What if you gave up one of those roles to pursue something new?
  • What if you took a risk and …?

Research

While keeping an open mind, research facilitates brainstorming. I often suggest that clients search job descriptions (not to apply, as background material), and read through what they describe as the basic components of the job. Along with job descriptions, they can often pull up resumes of individuals who are already working in similar jobs from a simple internet search. These resumes can give key insights into what actually goes into a particular job, which may be much different than the job seeker had imagined before such research was conducted.

In addition, job seekers in the First Stage of their job search can research:

(1) industries, fields and companies,

(2) what skills they would need to acquire to achieve certain roles, and what that skill acquisition would entail,

(3) compensation in the desired field, and

(4) information about analogous roles that would help them widen their net of possible roles that could be a fit for their talents, skills and interests.

Remember: If you have gone through job descriptions in the past with a feeling of dread, kick that feeling to the curb. These words on a page have no hold over you. You are simply brainstorming to help yourself get on the right path.

Exploration

In addition to analytical research, the third means to open your mind to the possibilities in your job search is to meet and spend time with individuals in your target fields.

“Hi Pam, it’s Marilyn. Confidentially, I am considering a career move that would put me in a role similar to yours. Would you have some time to meet me for coffee near your office sometime next week? I would like to ask you a few questions so I can better understand what your day-to-day workload is like before I make the leap.”

Take time to network and conduct what are called informational interviews (as opposed to job interviews – you are asking for information, not a job) as you continue to generate ideas and ask people what they know, and who else they may know, to help you explore possibilities.

It is worth noting that you should choose your networking contacts carefully at this fragile Stage 1 of your job search. The proverbial Debbie Downer (who sees everything negatively) will not be helpful for you as you are trying to keep an open mind. Keep Debbie for the vetting process, which is Stage 2 and will be covered in my next post.


Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Image above: Shutterstock.

Green Pants
I believe in the power of mistakes.

No one likes to make mistakes, of course. But that is where the learning happens. Bigger mistake, greater opportunity to learn.

What may have been my biggest career mistake happened very early on, while I was still finishing my undergraduate degree. I had my very first internship and was ready to conquer the world. Good so far. I also thought I knew exactly how to do it. Ha!

I was a lowly intern, feeling on top of the world that I had gotten “in” at a place that I very much wanted to work. The secretary in the department was very good to me, trying to help me out so I could make my way. But I didn’t take the cue.

Not only did I not yet understand that secretaries rule the roost (if not the world), but I did not appreciate that someone could make choices very different than mine and still have a lot to teach me.

Here’s the thing. This secretary (we’ll call her Nancy) wore lime green capri pants, corduroys and other outfits to work that in my naivety had judged as “not fit for the professional world”. I call myself naive not because I was wrong to recognize that Nancy would not move up the corporate ladder if she didn’t emulate the look of those at the top: dark-colored suits. She wouldn’t. Rather, I assumed that moving up within the organization was and should be Nancy and everyone else’s goal, without realizing that she had her own plan. One that was more carefully formulated than my 19-year-old point of view would allow.

Nancy wanted a place to work during the day (while she pursued her own interests on the side) that was forgiving enough so she could wear want she wanted and be whom she pleased. She was expected to conform to certain norms and left blissfully free to ignore other ones. She made calculated decisions to achieve the results she wanted. She knew exactly how to get where she wanted to go, but it wasn’t anywhere that I could have imagined.

So when Nancy pulled me aside one day to tell me that I should “follow the lead” of the head of the group (we’ll call him Troy), who wanted to talk about basketball and sailing a good part of the time, I ignored her advice. I wanted to ask Troy about things that interested me, and at the time these were not at the top of my list. While others joked and called him Captain Troy, I smiled through gritted teeth and pushed on for the certain set of experiences that I had expected out of the internship.

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After all, we were not on a yacht, we were in an office. I wanted to learn the ways of leadership and success, and they were not going to come from talking about sailing, I thought. At the time, I didn’t have a boat, or any family or friends with a boat. The one time I had taken an extended trip on a boat as a child, I had been seasick most of the week. I was bound to say something ill-informed, so wasn’t it better to steer the conversation back to what was comfortable to me?

I couldn’t look bad if I just avoided topics that were out of my league, right? Anyway, I reasoned, what did Nancy know, with her green pants and all? How could a chat about sailing be useful to me at all, other than to smile and humor my boss? Why would I encourage him to continue that conversation?

Turns out, Nancy knew a lot. In particular, she knew how to keep everyone happy while keeping herself happy. She kept these two goals in perfect balance, giving Troy and the group the support they needed while feeding her own needs. She intuitively understood that showing an interest in sailing was showing an interest in Troy. And that was the important part.

By contrast, I was being immature, overly serious and even selfish – holding on to the world as I knew it – by expecting to direct the line of conversation. And I was missing out on the chance to learn, bond, grow and have fun.

So, my biggest career mistake was actually a set of related mistakes:

Mistake #1: Discounting the message of an unexpected messenger.

Mistake #2: Closing myself off from new experiences.

Mistake #3: Making it all about me.

As I found out later, the green pants were a statement on Nancy’s part, a line in the sand that she was in a bridge job and had no pretense of “moving up” to a management position within that organization. She had her eyes on another prize – her own set of professional goals – but she also made sure to be so good at her job (orienting herself to the situation, as needed) that there was no way she would risk losing it over something as simple as wardrobe choices. In fact, as a highly creative person, she literally wore her authenticity on her sleeve. And she was respected for that by others in the group, including (in the months and years following my internship) by me.

I often think back to Nancy, the unexpected messenger, with whom I have lost touch in the over 20 years since I had that internship. I am indebted to her wisdom. I wonder if she has started her own company, maybe even a fashion line.

Nancy could have changed her style of dress any day. Changing my attitude took a lot longer.

From my biggest mistake, I learned my greatest lesson. It is not all about fitting in, it is also about being a fit.