Crazy Ride

Man, what a crazy ride it has been!

This journey has taught me a thing or two. Or… three… okay, a bunch more. When I started this blog, I’d been thinking seriously about launching a nonprofit. If you look back through the pages, you’ll see some very detailed information on what that was going to look like. And, I’m glad I wrote it all out. It helped me get to where I am today.

So, where am I now?

Through my own experience with analysis paralysis, ups and downs through an 18 month unemployment stint, countless classes/workshops/seminars, asking questions and setting up informational interviews, visioning exercises and plugging in to various activities… I learned that the vision I had to start this nonprofit did not fit me. I still believed in the vision whole heartedly, but realized that some key aspects of what I wanted to create for the organization… didn’t fit me personally.

It’s difficult to go back to the drawing board when you thought you knew what you wanted to do. Fortunately I was able to take the four main focuses for the nonprofit (crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living) and spin them into a social entrepreneurial endeavor that does fit me.

That is important in the end, you want something that fits you. That makes you excited and ready to tackle the day!

I wanted to be able to take the vision I’d come up with for the nonprofit and still do something with it… but what? It seemed like it was on the tip of my tongue… or just out of reach for a long time. I felt like I was almost where I needed to be… but, I just couldn’t put my finger on how it would work out.

My room-mate and I talked for months about the possibilities of what could be done. I am very thankful to have had her as a sounding board. Someone with an open mind and servant’s heart for the community. After being unemployed for so long, we saw a vast array of issues people needed help with – and, we weren’t seeing a lot of answers. She had been laid off around the same time I had — around January of 2009.

I found my focus shifting from wanting to serve a broader people group to wanting to serve the unemployed, the destitute hit by this economy – from no fault of their own. Not people who were manipulating the unemployment system. But, people who were striving to find work, who needed unemployment benefits to survive… to live on. Highly intelligent, capable, hard working people who were not able to find jobs. I found myself wanting to shift the four main areas: crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living to help in this demographic of people.

After all… who best to help… than someone who has lived through it and understands the issues.

I have seen the pot holes and pitfalls that are involved… more than that, I have experienced them. Obstacles your not sure how you can get around… your car breaks down, your insurance runs out, the cell phone bill is more expensive than you can afford, you wonder where you can find affordable food to feed your family, your living situation changes and you have to find something else fast… and your savings account starts to dwindle until you have very little left.

I’ve also learned how to reframe my realities to see opportunities where other’s might see failure or impossibilities. I know how thrive through very difficult circumstances… grow from adversity… and I can help other people to do the same.

Then it hit me… an AHA moment.

I can coach people one-on-one. I can teach people how to implement customized action plans. I can help navigate people through the crazy unemployment system, teach how to take stock of current situations, show people how to find low cost healthy food, alternative transportation, develop job strategies, cut expenses, stay healthy/sain and social. I can help people identify obstacles and determine their worst case scenarios. I can show people where opportunities are to thrive.

Unfortunately there is a lot of missing information, lots of questions… not very many answers. I don’t understand why that is. My goal is to change that. I see a need to fill a gap and connect people to experts who can answer their questions from financial, real estate, bankruptcy, mortgage… social services, health care, counseling, and career coaching.

There are many many downsides to unemployment. Unfortunately, there are so many upside down perspectives on what the population of the unemployed look like. They are lazy… that people who have been unemployed for more than six months are riding the system. More than twelve months… what about more than eighteen months? I beg to differ. That’s not the reality I’ve seen.

I am launching a crisis management coaching practice that teaches people to survive and THRIVE through an unemployment crisis.

Stay tuned to learn more.


Plug in!

Originally I’d wanted to go all the way to ten steps of getting out of analysis paralysis. But, there is way  too much I want to share that has been happening since I’ve started blogging. So, I think we’ll stop at #8 — Plugging In!

I hope at this point, you’ve given some of these suggestions a try and are proactively working through them. More than anything I hope you have joined or created an accountability team for yourself. This first piece is key. I hope you have also started working on some visioning exercises to steer you in the right direction to what you need in a career, you’ve researched resources, and you’ve asked some important questions.

So, you may be asking yourself… what’s next?

Plug in… plug in… plug in!

It’s time to get in the game… and get active!

If you have not already, start to plug in to networking groups, volunteer activities that relate to the area of interest you want to go toward… plug into hiking groups to stay healthy, church groups to connect. Take classes, go to workshops… if you spot a free seminar on something you are interested in and you think applies to your field… reserve your space! If you are thinking of starting your own thing, check out SCORE or the local city or county business resources. Generally they offer FREE or low cost services. If you are wanting to become better at public speaking… join Toastmasters.

Knowledge is power! More than that, you’ll meet interesting people who may turn into key networking contacts. The more involved you are the better. And… you will be adding valuable tools to your skill set. Win… win… win!

Be careful not to get overly committed. You don’t want to lose yourself in too many groups or networking activities. Set your priorities. Get your feet wet, and if you begin to feel overwhelmed in getting too involved… pull back from some of your extra curricular activities. Stay in the activities that offer you the most support, feedback, challenge, or forward movement in what you are working on.

I understand that if you are more reserved and have a more introspective personality, sometimes plugging into many things can be stressful. Pick and choose, you will be OK. It may be safer to focus on reading resources… but, if all you do is read resources and ask questions… you may not get the hands-on experience a class, workshop, seminar, or activity may offers.

Take the next step forward!

To successfully navigate through analysis paralysis, it takes a holistic strategy. And now, you have some very useful tools to push through.

Ask, Ask, Ask!!

You’ve done your reading, now it’s time to get out there and ask, ask, ask! Which leads us to building #7.

In the last post, we explored reading resources. Particularly books on job skilling and career development. Another very important step to help you overcome analysis paralysis is getting out and asking questions (to live people). If you are reading a book right now, that’s great! But, know that… your book can only take you so far. You’ll want to take it to the next step… where you can have a live interactive discussion. Practice now and hone your networking skills early (asking questions is part of the networking process), as you will be using throughout your career change and well into whatever vision lays ahead. You’ve heard me say this time and again. You can’t do this alone!

This is a very important step where you’ll be building and leaning on your professional network.

If you are someone who is more reserved in personality… this will be a good exercise in stretching your comfort zones. Whether you are geared more to the quiet side or to the outgoing side of things. This tool is necessary!

Don’t wait till you’ve read a book. Most likely you’ll have questions long before you do a Zen walk at Barnes & Noble. If you’ve been reading something, you’ll have even more questions. How does the information you’ve just soaked up pertain to your personal business venture? As time, progress… so, will your questions. Expect them to evolve. You may find that you need multiple answers from a variety of sources. You will also find that after meeting with couple of contacts… you’re questions change.

Are you ready to start?

First let’s look at where we’re stuck. What questions do you have? Where are you starting from? Be honest. Where do you need help? What are you stuck on?

Make a list. Are you starting something from scratch… or has it been done before? What is the most important information you want to know? Prioritize your list & then start identifying people who can answer your questions. This may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

OK… who do you know? Who are you connected to that may be able to answer some questions for you? What organization or person within can answer some questions for you? Not sure… this is where LinkedIn come in very handy.

You have a couple different directions you can go in. First, let’s discuss the art of the informational interview.

Networking is about forming relationships. It’s not about collecting as many business cards as you can. An easy place to start… that takes the daunting feeling out of networking is asking questions. After all, you may not have your elevator pitch well developed (I’m still working on mine)… you may not know just what it is that you want to say. Which is what makes the idea of networking less than appealing to most folks. But, in reality, if you start with questions… you’ll feel much more in control and able to connect on a real level. You will be able to “own” the fact that you don’t have it all together and that you are trying “to start somewhere”. It’s OK to convey that to people.

If you are unsure of what the information interview is… take some time to Google it. There are lots of good resources defining informational interview strategies and even more sites including lists of questions. Once you start forming a rhythm of what works for you… you’ll be able to ask questions more detailed to what’s going on for you. Start generic and lead up to more specific.

Something good to note (which helped me immensely) was to see information interviews as the first step in forming relationships with select individuals you want to know better professionally. Not always will every meeting gel. Remember that. Don’t get jaded off of one bad meeting. I once met with a founder of a local nonprofit. I had a bunch of questions on getting started… relating to if I needed to go back to school and get more education. And, he went off talking about creating a board… for the ENTIRE interview. That didn’t help me at all.

Not everyone you talk to will be compatible with you. Think about, how many blind dates or first dates have you been on (or are still going on) to find that right significant other? It’s good for us to keep perspective that even in our professional relationships, not every meeting will prove to have compatible communication. Some folks won’t listen to you, you’ll get irritated, some will talk about themselves or grill you about what you are looking for, some don’t value your time. But, don’t let this stop you. Once you master the art of the informational interview… you’ve got an ace up your sleeve.

Once you meet the folks that do value your time, that listen and allow you to ask the questions that are pertinent to you… your golden. These are the people who you’ll want to add to your network. You’ll have planted a seed and as time goes on, you’ll reconnect with them to continue cultivating your connection. These folks are who you’ll learn from and this is invaluable.

Use your LinkedIn… check out who you are already connected to. Who do you know? Use the groups function and plug into a specific special interest. From there, start asking questions. Or… look at your contact and see who they are connected to and ask for a warm introduction.

Try to get in front of someone (you can do this even with LinkedIn – unless they live in another city/state). Go for coffee (typically you’ll be paying… save your receipts – you can write it off on your taxes.) Send an email to introduce yourself: include how you got their name and what your agenda is for a meeting.  Ask them for coffee… wherever is closest to them. Let them know that you are flexible to meet their needs. Make it casual… for them and for you. I used to wear interview clothes… and now I dress down. Remember they are real people… just like you. Fnd a way to put them at ease… show them that you value their time AND yours. Remember to always ask for a referral at the end and give them your business card.

Something important to note: the point of the informational interview is about gleaning information, not to ask for a job. This breaks the etiquette code. You can ask ABOUT a job…. but, not for a job. Save that for the actual job interview.

Doing this, even if your start is a little bumpy, will give you a sense of satisfaction, control of your situation, and the feeling that you accomplished something big. Plus you’ll be one step closer to achieving what you want. The more questions you ask and the more people you talk to… the more your vision will evolve. You never know what will happen… the more people you talk to… means the more chances something will happen.

Read, Read, Read!!

Ok, I’m shooting for ten tangible tools to help you move forward. All of which have helped or are helping me. We’re halfway done. You’ve had some time to do some visioning. Now, let’s jump again… to building #6 — become a bookworm. Read… read… read!!

When I was in the thick of my analysis paralysis (since using these tools… I have become unstuck)… I was overwhelmed. With stress, information overload, uncertainties, money woes, moving… you name it. So, the thought of reading anything was not appealing to me. I didn’t have any room in my brain to take in any excess information. Even if it would help me move forward. My mind was already saturated. If you are in this place, you are not alone. Use this step when you CAN take in information.

What helped me get past all of that… was I was able to drop some stress weight off my shoulders. I lost my part-time job which was allowing me to pay my rent, and moved in with a friend who graciously opened up her home to me for a few months so I can get back on my feet again. Losing the part-time job opened doors I couldn’t have imagined. It also allowed me to take action on things I’d been putting on the back burner for awhile. And… as I felt less stress… out of the blue came the desire to start reading again.

Understandably some of you may not be able to take out stressers. But, the more you come out of analysis paralysis… the better you’ll feel. Hopefully you’ll feel more in control and have the desire to pick up a book.

So… as for me, I’d been hearing over and over again that I should have a resource… a book that helps spur me forward in my career change. Laura (the facilitator of my New Creations networking group) calls it a “Barnes & Noble Zen Walk”.

Go to your local bookstore… pull a bunch of books off the shelf that speak to you (where you are in your journey)… something you can work through. Pull up a chair or piece of carpet and pour through them. Filter which ones work and which don’t, write them down, and then go get them on the cheap at Amazon!

So… that’s what I did! And, that’s what you need to do to. Become a bookworm. Find a resource that speaks to you… for wherever you are. What works for me right now, may not work for you. I have a defined vision and I have some very specific questions. Where as, you may be just starting out and trying to figure out what direction you want to go in. You could be in accounting and wanting to switch into personal fitness. Or… you’re going from the private sector to the nonprofit sector. Maybe you’re building up your skills. Maybe you are starting something from scratch…

When I was at B&N I found a handful of good reads ranging from marketing to restaurants to a book on bootstrapping from Google’s perspective. I think I found a total of 8-10 books. Some of which I ordered and some of which are sitting on my Amazon wishlist. I’m eagerly waiting for their arrival to my mailbox.

Currently, I’m in the midst of three resources. What can I say… I’ve got some questions I want answered… and, I want to move forward! I’m almost done with a book called “Career Renegade” by Jonathan Fields. A highly recommendable read! He writes a no fluff prose on ‘how to make a great living doing what you love’. Included are a multitude of free online resources including everything from brainstorming/visioning… to marketing, social media, and how to write an ebook (including getting it published)… and even how to set up your own podcast. Out-of-the-box… innovative ideas that work to make your passion a reality.

I’m also reading a book specific to the direction I’m going: marketing for restaurants. I want to know specifically what is a revenue generating event for a restaurant and how I can provide that. How do I stay on top of the game? My last resource is called: “Pitch Like A Girl” by Ronna Lichtenberg. It’s a book for women. Specifically on pitching: from the elevator pitch to pitching to an investor or getting a raise/promotion. This book offers “funny and candid know-how to help women understand the fundamental gender, hormonal, and cultural systems… the advice helps women improve their pitching, from warm up and prep through execution and closing.” I thought this would be good for me… since I am having trouble compressing my ideas… and articulating an elevator pitch.

This gives you an idea of where to start. You can also see that varied reading is where I’m at. You may want to stick with one read at a time… don’t rush. Some good tried and true resources include: “What Color Is Your Parachute” by Richard Nelson Bolles (2007 & 2008 seem to be the best editions), “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss, “Work Less Make More” by Jennifer White, and “Professional Destiny” by Valerie Hausladen. If one resource doesn’t work for you or speak to you… drop it and look for something that does.

You’ll have to decide what works best for you. If you can’t afford buying… check out your local library and see what they have to offer. So… go for it… unleash your inner bookworm!

Inventory Lists

I feel it’s necessary to mention another exercise on taking a personal inventory. Mainly because not everyone is wired the same way… maybe some of you are listers – and, it helps to be able to jot down defined bullet points. You may benefit from a verbal/word exercise. So, please jump with me as we aim our web shooters to building #5 — Inventory (via lists).

Something to note, both the inventory lists and the inventory book work well together hand in hand. Previously we talked about how to create an inventory book. The difference with this particular exercise is that encourages you to use the ability to articulate your inventory through words or dialogue. Where as the previous inventory exercise used an entirely different area of the brain. And, set of materials… previously we used pictures to identify categories/qualities/values/ideals about ourselves or what we wanted. And, we physically cut out or ripped out the images or phrases.

I find the word exercise more difficult, it doesn’t resonate for me as well. Mainly because, when asked a series of questions or asked to make a list of say… my accomplishments… my mind goes blank. I like making lists. Lists are direct and to-the-point. But, for whatever reason, that information is not readily accessible (when I need it) in my brain. It’s not to say that I haven’t accomplished anything grand.

So, for all you folks that are able to identify those answers much more effectively. This one is for you!

Tools you’ll need:

  • pen
  • notebook

Now, in this kind of inventory… write down these questions/phrases (and let the answers rip!).

  1. In your last major job, what was or were the “something extras” that were done? How did you go the extra mile?
  2. What is your ideal day?
  3. What does your ideal office look like?
  4. What is the ideal wardrobe you would wear?
  5. What are your top 3 non-negotiables?
  6. What are your values?
  7. Select something you love to do (for me, I chose backpacking). Now, make a list of EVERYTHING that you enjoy about this particular activity. What is it that you do well in this activity.
  8. Do a skills inventory.
  9. What is the stuff you’ve done in previous jobs that you didn’t put on your resume? Make a list. Let it be long.
  10. Write down everything that was messed up where you used to work. Own it… let it rip!
  11. Write down a list of everything you were good at in junior high. Seriously… you may uncover something here. (This was an actual category give to us via my New Creations group.)
  12. What is something that you did well in the very FIRST job that was paid?
  13. What things have you done since you were laid off from the major job – that you have liked and were good at?
  14. Where do you want to live/are willing to relocate to?
  15. What are your goals? Now? Five years? Ten?
  16. If you were a car, what kind of car would you be and why? List all the attributes that match. (I would be a Honda Element & yes… I have thought about it and I can give you a list!)

And… the list could go on.

Write down whatever sounds stupid, bizarre, or doesn’t seem to go. If you are too vague… be specific. Get it all out of your head and write it down.

For instance… the one that was most easy for me to pull apart was number seven. I love backpacking and I’m quite good at it. Go ahead & toot your your horn. (Toot… toot.) For me, I can translate what I love about backpacking into a tangible skill set. And, most likely it will be similar for you. You can choose any activity (but, I would list volunteer activities separately). This is more relevant to hobby activities or sports. So, here’s what I’ve got listed:

  • resourceful – I can carry everything I need with me and there are multiple uses for gear
  • hands-on
  • efficient space planning
  • simple living – getting in tune with nature – liberating
  • innovative – new ideas for gear I already have (ie: duct tape)
  • I can do what the guys do & sometimes even better (building a fire & keeping it going)
  • I like doing it with people – group activity (small)
  • personal achievement – challenge myself
  • I love getting dirty
  • allows me to build relationships & get to know people better
  • teamwork
  • can do things on my own
  • opportunity to prove myself (without feeling like I have to)
  • can offer empowerment/training – equip someone on skills (new/old)

Now, if you know me… you know that a majority of these things I’ve listed are completely transferable into my professional skill set.

Have at it! What makes you… you? Discovering these truths will be liberating and help you have a better understanding of what next steps you want to take and quite possibly help you eliminate where you don’t want to be going.

Mind Mapping

By this time, you’ve got some useful tools that are hopefully nudging you forward out of your analysis paralysis. We’re not done! Get your webshooters ready as we jump to building #4 — Mind Mapping.

useful tool to see workable solutions to your vision

We’re still in the visioning part of the process. This is more than an exercise, it is a useful tool. It especially helps if you are a visual learner. This is something that I learned to do in college during my Interior Design degree. (Although, I don’t remember calling it mind mapping.) In creating a concept and being able to move into the planning phase — you have to take into consideration many factors. It helps to be able to “get them out of your head”… and onto paper or use software designed for this specific purpose. By actively identifying the factors and seeing them, you can move forward in your planning process. You can use this tool from everything to moving past anxieties (see below) to changing careers.

A mind map diagram helps you find a way to make your ideas, concepts, realities, whatever it is you need to map out… tangible so that you can understand it. It helps you clear out the cobwebs. You are creating a flow chart… this type of diagraming exercise helps you see areas of your vision that work — what works together. And, also helps define what does not work.

Need an example? The diagram above is an example of a mind map. It is a representation of my evolving vision. I’m not done with it yet… it’s still a work in progress. The more that I work at it, the closer I can get to reaching a tangible end product. To see it in more detail, click on the photograph and it will automatically generate a larger photo.

Creating a mind map of my vision has helped on multiple levels. For example, one area of frustration for me, I have found that sometimes I lack the ability to convey a large idea into something people can understand. And, that become a sticking point for me. Mind mapping has offered me a way to break down ideas into smaller… more digestable pieces.

Don’t feel as though you have to show off to the world the maps you create. This is about your moving forward and sometimes that is a personal step for your eyes only.

So, how do you get started?

  • paper & pen
  • dry erase board/pen
  • computer

The easiest way is with a good old fashioned pen and pad of paper. It will involve lots of scribbling and scratching out. You may find the activity of physically scratching out information cathartic and satisfying. If you can do it on a large dry erase board… all the better. Then, as you evolve in whatever it is that you are working out… your dry erase board will represent the evolution process. You’ll be able to physically see the changes happen. Which is very rewarding!!

If the computer is your cup of tea, I have stumbled upon a great website called Bubbl. Check it out. It allows you to import/export images, collaborate with colleagues, and share your creations. All the diagrams in today’s post were created using Bubbl.

Mind Mapping: Anxieties

Let’s say you’ve got a lot of anxieties going on while you are looking for work. That makes sense… and it’s easy to understand. We’ve all got them. First, create a “bubble” on your page or dry erase board (you’ll want to put it in the center) and label it “anxieties”. Next, draw a line to another bubble… this represents an anxiety you have. You can color code them if you would like. Continue doing this in a circular pattern. (See diagram below.) Draw lines to individual bubbles for any anxieties that you have. It can be whatever… write ALL of them down. Get them out of your head! For me, anxieties range from paying bills to wanting to learn new information that fills in the “unknowns” for my vision. Your mind map will most likely take the shape of a bulls-eye. See my diagram below. This is a great exercise to have a visual of all the worries that plague us. It’s great when we can find solutions to them and then physically scratch them off our map.

useful in determining and finding solutions for anxieties

Mind Mapping: Career Paths

Another mind mapping diagram example (similar in shape) could be if you are trying to narrow down what career you want to focus on. What direction do you want to go in… you may be having trouble narrowing down your options… there are lots of ideas and interests swirling around in your mind. Similar to the last exercise, draw a bubble in the center of your page/board and label it “career paths”. Now, draw a line to an individual bubble and write down a job/career path you have wanted to do. Continue to do this… draw bubbles for any/all jobs you have ever wanted to do and have done in your life. You may want a big sheet of paper for this! Go back as far as childhood.

These are just a few examples of how you can use this tool. You may find there are other areas you are stuck in that you need to “pull apart”. Get creative and start scribbling. Trust me… it will make a difference.

You never know what you’ll uncover… or how your ideas will change. This is a wonderful tool in helping you move forward!

Vision Board

Hopefully you’ve got some supplies started: magazines, glue sticks, and something to stick them on. As we head to building #3… the vision board.

The vision board is much like the inventory book. Except it allows you to be more vague. Perhaps you are not clearly defined. The inventory book helped me clear out all the stuff I was thinking about and put them in concrete categories. It helped me see it visually. Having a full understanding of who I am helps me. But, perhaps… you are working from another angle… or, you need something to supplement.

Do you have a vision? Do you know what you want to do? Or… are you still trying to figure it out? Maybe… you are somewhere in between.

With the vision board, get your magazines out again. Rip, rip… rip!! Again you don’t have to be an artist to do this. You’ll need the same tools as with the inventory book, with the exception of the sketchbook. You’ll want to substitute poster board for the book. Start… ripping photos and phrases that speak to you. If you linger on something for more than a couple of seconds, then rip it out. It’s OK if the images or phrases are negative. Perhaps, you’ve got something you are working through right now. The difference is… between this exercise and the last one, you don’t have to know why. With the inventory book, we had a list of categories. This time… it’s a free for all.

A vision board is helpful in determining what is it that you want to see in your future. For me, I have a vision for a nonprofit that I want to make a reality. But, I am not sure what it will look like. I don’t feel as concrete (due to insights and new ideas) on how to get started or what the end result will turn into. Allowing myself to create a more vague representation helps me see the direction I want to go in. It allows me to be flexible in the vision. I can rip out and start again (on poster board).

Perhaps your vision board represents your career, the way you want to live your life, or something that is meaningful to you. Right now, you may be less able to define it or put words to it. You may be in a vague place. You want to start somewhere… but, you don’t know where. Trust me… on this. The act of doing this exercise will enlighten your mind. You will become more aware of yourself, your desires, your passions… where you see yourself going… more importantly what you want for yourself and in your life. Those things may have been lying dormant for some time lost in the compartments of your mind.

How do you create your board?

You’ve got your clippings ripped out. Now, start to place them in an arrangement on your poster board. You’ll decide what goes where. Allow yourself to be flexible. Try not to limit yourself to concrete categories. Allow yourself to see the big picture. It’s OK if it’s messy. And, it’s OK if you’ve got some negative stuff in there. You can arrange like clippings with like clippings or your board can be more spread out.

Now, take a step back.

What resonates with you? What do the photographs and phrases mean to you? What do they suggest? What is your board representing?

Have you learned about yourself in this exercise? What important areas of your life longings have been laying dormant? Is there something specific that you want/need to work through?

This board may be a good step for you in getting unstuck. As it allows you to not have everything defined right now… and to allow yourself to be OK with that. You don’t have to have everything laid out or all-put-together right now.

A great place for this… hang this on your refrigerator or on the wall as a reminder of what you want or are trying to accomplish. Use this as motivation. Put it in a place you will see it.

Inventory Book

OK… so, you’ve got a SWOT Team… now what?

Well… it helps to know what you want to do.

Have you got ideas? Are you starting completely from scratch? Do you have direction? What’s holding you back?? It’s time to aim at another building. Are you ready? OK… you know what to do… let’s aim… shoot… and land!

Building #2 — Gaining perspective by taking inventory of yourself.

How does taking inventory help you gain direction? An inventory helps you better understand who you are… and not specifically the career side of yourself. You’re whole self. You’ll be able to determine visually from your findings what fits you and what does not.

We’ll look a few different methods.

Taking a personal inventory of yourself can take shape in several different ways. Some methods may work for you and some may not. I’ll share with you what works for me… as well as, some other methods to try.

First Method: Inventory Book

I’ve created an inventory book… including everything from my values to my ideal office. What works for me… may not work for you. When asked… it’s difficult for me to spontaneously make a list of my accomplishments, skills, values, etc. — my mind goes blank. I have trouble articulating quickly or generating a list of my talents. What I am not able to articulate via lists or stories. I can articulate through pictures and words found in magazines, postcards, and other paper media sources.

There is something special that happens when you allow yourself to tap into different parts of your brain. So, that’s what we are going to do. You DON’T have to be an artist to do this.


  • Sketch book (mine is a 70 pg Academie sketch diary — 14″x11″)
  • Magazines
  • Glue Stick
  • Scissor (specifically for cutting paper)
  • Magic Markers

If you don’t have any magazines, most local libraries recycle magzines and offer them free of charge to the public. So… go crazy. Collect all types. Don’t limit yourself to only magazines you would usually purchase.

I like to have a variety of magazines covering: home, small business, money, backpacking, computers, etc. Look at manuals, post cards, newspapers, and brochures. I think that the post cards for local events offer great slogans and photos.

What to do:

  • Rip, rip, rip!!!
  • Tear out ANYTHING that stands out to you. If you find something that you linger on, rip it out. Rip out words, phrases, and best of all photos/pictures.

1. Once you’ve got a pile of clippings ripped out (ripped or cut, they don’t have to be cut perfectly), start to sort into piles the clippings. Like goes with like. For instance, I’ve sorted mine via: fashion, work, ideal office, values, personality, home, relationships, odds & ends, recipes, etc. Do what works for you.

Where to start:

I started with my strengths. I’d been working through the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” put on by the Gallup Organization… the book includes a special quiz you can take that will determine what your five primary strengths are. Plus a description of what that looks like. Mine included: Strategic, Relator, Individualization, Ideation, and Input.

You can start with anything: strengths, values, what you were like in junior high, your personality, interests, etc. It’s easier to let your book evolve naturally instead of planning it out per each page. You may realize that you want to add or subtract information.

My table of contents looks something like this:

  • Strengths
  • My Ideal Job
  • Spiritual Gifting
  • Personality
  • Fruits of the Spirit
  • Top Three Values
  • Life Values
  • Natural Gifts
  • Honoring Gifts (including realizations)
  • What I don’t want
  • Fears
  • Interests
  • Ideals (Career) — office, ideal day, wardrobe, etc…

I will add more as I continue to take inventory of myself.

2. With magic marker in hand… label your page in large letters.

3. Next, grab your glue stick, scissors for trimming (if you want), and clippings. Start placing them on your page. It’s up to you to determine the best layout/placement that will communicate what you are trying to say.

I found as I was arranging my clippings, insights would form. For instance, while I was creating my natural gifts page… it helped me to see visually all of my natural skills and talents. As I am on unemployment searching for a job (paying rent is good). I realized… by being able to “see”… visually seeing something I had physically created… this collage showed me that taking administrative jobs was not an answer! Yes, clerical jobs may be readily available… but, they don’t fit me. I also was able to see what natural gifts I was NOT honoring. And, from there… the realization of what I DID NOT want to do in the vision that I have. What a surprise that was! And… what a relief to realize it!! Now, I can better hone my role and my vision.

So, let your pages evolve AS you are doing them.

From creating this book, not only do I better understand myself… I better understand changes I want to make to my vision and how to present it. I know what my passions are and now I can see better what they are not. Very important in gaining ground and determining direction in your career.


Stick with me, as we find tangible solutions to analysis paralysis.

I have identified the problem… and I have a plan!

In the last post, if you recall… it was all about this huge web of things that I could do… directions I could go in. And, an overwhelming… daunting task of trying to figure out which direction that should be. What do I do? Where do I go? What is the right direction?

What’s this plan you ask? Well we’ll be traveling from rooftop to rooftop… one building to another. Each building representing a safe place to land, a tangible solution, and forward motion. In order to go forward… you’ve got to DO something.

Ready? OK, let’s aim… shoot your web… and LAND!!

We’ve landed on building #1 — Building/joining a SWOT Team.

SWOT stands for “STRENGTHS”, “WEAKNESSES”, “OPPORTUNITIES”, and “THREATS”. Build your support network. Get with people you know will spur you on, keep you accountable, and support you… get with doers.

Don’t know where to find one? Ask around… or better yet, start your own!

Shortly after writing my last post on analysis paralysis… I realized I can’t do this alone. I can try. But, if left up to me alone.. I could easily get swallowed up in too much thinking and not doing. So, I called up a couple friends of mine, who I knew were going through the same things. We are ALL doers… trapped in our thoughts and possible strategies. And, we started our SWOT. Aptly named: “SWOT Away Analysis Paralysis”.

What’s involved in a SWOT Team?

Meet consistently. Pick a day that works for everyone, find a time, choose a location that is central to everyone, and set aside 1-2 hrs. Commit to meeting.

Documentation. If you’ve got folks on unemployment, each meeting counts as a job search contact. So, make sure to have a record of each meeting and who attended. You’ll need to make sure you’ve got contact info for each of your members. Including any new members who have recently joined your group.

Accountability. Set weekly goals… realistic and attainable goals (so, you can accomplish them). Include these four catagories: professional development, job search, personal business, and health. All are important in your career change or job search. If you do not identify or allow yourself to admit your personal business and/or health needs… you’ll feel lousy because they may be keeping you from achieving career related action items.

For instance… I’ve been focusing on a move for the past few weeks. I’m moving from a two bedroom apartment (where I own the majority of the furnishings, kitchen items, plus my bedroom/bathroom) and I’m downsizing into a single bedroom, bathroom… with the majority of my stuff packed in storage. It’s been a chore to meticulously comb through all my stuff and purge what I don’t need or want. Did I mention we have to be out of the apartment this Sunday?? (It’s Friday now.)

If my weekly goals this week were to look like: sending out four resumes, set up two informational interviews, check out new networking meetings to get leads for my career change or vision. None of it would get done… and, I would feel lousy because my goals didn’t get done. Where in reality, my priority was taking care of my move (personal business). If I set my goals to focus on taking care of the personal business… at the end of the week I have achieved my action items. And, I feel good about it. More than that, I’m identifying the realities… I’m allowing myself to be OK with honoring the priorities I need to focus on.

The same would be true of taking care of a health issue: not feeling well due to a cold/flu, doctor’s appointment, therapy. Maybe something you want accountability on is exercising three times a week. I remember not getting enough sleep over a three day period… and catching up on sleep became one of my high priorities for my weekly goals. Honor that!

We’ve learned in our SWOT team… we have to honor each aspect of our lives. And, we need to be able give ourselves credit. It helps us go into the next week… feeling more assured and confident. If we don’t give ourselves the credit, it’s easy to look back on the week prior… and say, man… I didn’t get anything done! When in reality, you did… or something legitimate was holding you back.

My weekly goals this week:

  1. Personal Business — Be moved out of the apartment (includes: cleaning, shampooing carpets, sorting/purging last minute odds & ends, Goodwill runs, last load to storage, walk through inspection, calling utility companies, and dropping off the keys.)
  2. Professional Development — Define table topics questions for Toastmasters presentation.
  3. Job Search — Send my resume to a friend who has offered to help craft a response to a job posting.

For the past few weeks… my Personal Business catagory has taken the most of my time and been the biggest priority.

Check in with each other. Ok, so you’ve got your goals. Now what? Next time you meet, check in with each other and find out how everyone did.

Identify. Talk about what’s holding you back… what your weaknesses are and what is threatening your search. Could be fears… could be lack of time/too many extra commitments… or could be needing more experience.

Support. As iron sharpens iron… spur each other on. And, support each other. Give affirmations. Build each other up with encouragement.

Tangible tools. In our group, we’ve talked about setting aside time (or meetings) to work specifically on filling out applications… and crafting resumes. Find out what the needs are of your group, and set aside some meeting time to actively complete tasks together (working separately, but each person is actively working, on say, an application.)

Networking. One primary reason this team counts as a job search contact, is because of the networking aspect. Two heads are better than one. Where are you stuck? Who do you need that informational interview with? Maybe you need the name of a hiring manager of a company… a warm introduction. Or… a lead on a consulting project you’re working on. SWOT team is an easy way to share networking contacts.

Ok… you’ve landed on a safe rooftop. What are you going to do about it?

Next up… building #2. Defining your vision. What in the world is it that you want to do?

Analysis Paralysis…

I’ve hit another brick wall.

On one hand, I want to tell you all about what kinds of services will be held at the resource center. But, on the other I’m realizing there is a ton going on “behind the scenes” that I need to give attention to right now…

The cell phone has been on the fritz, the computer crashed, the car is on it’s last leg. Yes… all three at one time. The water stopped… for no reason. I swear I paid that bill. During the month of December, my unemployment insurance was sitting on shaky ground.

That darn life stuff! It always has a way of sneaking in… sometimes at the most un-welcomed times. After all, there are some things I could do without dealing with.

So, how do you get to what you want? While, navigating the curve balls life throws at you. I read a great quote recently… which inspired me to push forward.

“Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.” — Willis R. Whitney — Underneath the quote the author goes on to say… “Give yourself a reason to follow and fulfill your dream. All it takes is one.”

So true.

What if you’ve got the reason… it’s just trying to figure out how to get there, that’s causing you to get stuck?

That’s where I’ve been. Behind the scenes, I’ve gotten stuck. Stuck in the thinking… through all the different directions I could go in: get my Master’s degree in Social Work, get a certificate in Event Planning, informational interviews, work in event management with non-profits or restaurants, identify organizations/people to work with, identify ways to gain experience, new people to network with… I get overwhelmed just thinking about what I could do.

Analysis Paralysis

You get really good at thinking through all the ways you can get it done. But, you get paralyzed in the doing.

I imagine myself like Spider Man… having the ability to shoot fast a web (from each wrist) that will stick to any building I aim at. But… there are so many options. So many buildings. Which one is the right one… which one is a safe one to land on? So… I sit on the rooftop overlooking the city pondering. What do I do? Which way do I go? Which building do I jump to.

So, what I’ve figured out is… the more I stare at what’s ahead of me. The more daunting it becomes… the more overwhelmed I feel… and the less that actually gets done. I worry about all the possibilities… the directions to take… and the deadlines that go with it.

The longer I look over the city and ponder which direction to take… the more comfortable I get on the rooftop I’m currently sitting on. Even though, I don’t like where I am. Sound familiar?

Analysis Paralysis.

Want to know what I’ve learned?

You can’t do it all… and you can’t do it ALL right now. It’s OK to let somethings go. Do one thing at time. Commit to doing one task a day. It will feel like in the beginning… that you aren’t getting much done. But, over the course of a week or a month… you’ll have gotten a lot done. It will FEEL good! And… it may open up doors to new opportunities, you didn’t expect.

So, I’ve put my focus on working on one big task a day (which includes a variety of projects — from sending out resumes to calculating mileage). And… I’m giving myself some grace as well. It is true that sending a non-perfect resume is better than no resume at all.

I’m tackling my big stuff first. Getting a new cell phone carrier (less money to spend each month). Filling out FAFSA applications. Calculating mileage for taxes. Networking with key people. Responding to emails. Finding courage and the motivation to walk through fears — to ask for what I want. More importantly, contacting key people and introducing out-of-the-box ideas — that can help me get closer to what I want to do.

And, I’ve made a pact with myself, if I can send one resume, ask for something that helps me get closer to what I want to do, or complete one big project each day… then, with my time afterwards… I can focus on brainstorming the vision. I can write more on what that looks like. I can work on a projected budget. I can identify people and organizations to collaborate with.

Join me… in getting unstuck!