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.

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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.

SWOT Team

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?

Intial insights, more in depth… looking for answers, needing tangible tools.

Let’s look at how these insights play a part in the bigger picture. The more we understand the better we can be at coming up with good solutions that “break through” as opposed to just offering band-aids.

“People don’t know where to look to find the answers they need… and many times don’t know who to talk to. We, as people, need tangible tools to be proactive… to make healthy and responsible decisions…”

This can go for any struggle we have… health, housing, food, relationships, job, family issues, addictions, etc.

image4963930xSay you’ve lost a job. Where do you turn? What do you do? How long has it been since you’ve done the job search process? Do you locate the newest newspaper and consult the local help wanted section? Is your resume in order? Do you have a resume? Do you know how to write a resume? Do you even know what you want to do? Are you in survival mode?

I could go on with these questions… there are a slew to ask. Many of you may know that now-a-days looking for a job is so much more than looking inUnemployed Worker the help wanted section, searching Craigslist, or scouting the neighborhood for signs in the windows. It’s about “creating your brand”. What do you have to offer… what are you bringing to the table… what is your expertise? How do you present yourself in person, on paper, on the internet, through business cards/stationary? Touch, smell, sight, and sound.

Let me ask you this… how would you know that you needed to create a “brand” – the brand known as you, if you were never introduced to the concept? Where would you go to hear about it… where would you be introduced to such a concept? It’s becoming more main stream… but, I didn’t hear about it until I started actively participating in a job networking group. I wouldn’t have known. Sure, the networking group was readily available… but, if someone doesn’t know it exists, how would they know that’s where they’ll learn this?

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Let’s also take into consideration people who may be starting from scratch. There are many people trying to figure out how to summarize their entire work history on a couple pieces of paper. Who may not know the language to use, what’s most important to include, they may not have much to include or it’s all over the place – what do you do with that?unemployment_250x251

There are people who may have never used the internet (or may not have access to a computer). If they have access, they may not be equipped on how to use it for locating a job, and certainly may not have any inclination of what Linked In is.

What about the people who need just to have a job, and have taken any job to survive to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Or, the people that don’t have a work history, what do they do?