Category Archives: Career Advice

7 Quick Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

It is so easy to slide into the rabbit hole of procrastination, especially when big projects are looming, your calendar is overflowing with meetings, and your devices keep pinging at you. The urgent, everyday stuff like email and social media can lure us away from what we know is most important. Never does “getting organized” seem as alluring as when there’s something you’re uncomfortable or hesitant about doing even though you know you need to.

stop_buttonTry these ideas for beating the temptation of time wasters:

  • Each morning (or the night before) plan what you will get done today that will help you meet your most important goals. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.

  • Do your most creative work when you feel most fresh. Avoid looking at email and social media or taking non-urgent phone calls during those times. Close out of those programs, use the mute button, and focus.

  • Commit to an output goal or number of hours doing something on a consistent basis that helps you meet your bigger picture goals. This makes it harder to “accidentally” not make progress because of everything else that got in the way. For example, I’m going to write  for 3 hours every day without interruption, in two different time slots. Or I’m going to reach out to a minimum of 10 X-type of people through at least X emails, social media messages, and phone calls each week day.

  • Set time limits for how long you’ll spend doing more routine tasks like answering emails or posting on social media. Use a timer if it helps.

  • Are you trying to perfect something that wasn’t meant to be the next Mona Lisa? If you find yourself honing something endlessly, for example crafting the sixth version of anything, consider if you’re caught in the grass blades which is preventing you from looking at the forest. Seth Godin’s points out that there comes the time when you need to execute and complete the stepping stone projects that help you get where you want to go.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals or coming close, whether it’s meeting friends, reading that novel, or watching a fun movie.

  • Is your procrastination your brain or heart’s way of telling you something? If you find yourself elbows deep in cleaning out your desk or closet and you haven’t gotten your most critical goals done, ask yourself what is holding you back. Are you avoiding it because you feel uncomfortable doing it, are unsure of how to do it well enough to meet someone’s standards or your own, or is it taking you in a direction you don’t really want to go? Experts like Chris Brogan speak eloquently about pushing yourself to focus and execute or re-plan your strategy.

For more ideas, check out my recent article 12 Time Saving Hacks for Busy Professionals.

What are your strategies for overcoming procrastination?

 

Reinventing Yourself Continuously Essential in a World of Constant Change

As an eternal optimist, I see change as an open door to learn and explore new possibilities. The reality is the world is changing at a much faster pace than in the past. If you want to stay essential and feel fulfilled in your career and profession, continuously exploring what is new in your field and how to evolve your perspective and skills is critical to your success.

stairway leading to an open door and blue sky

Embrace change as an opportunity. Avoiding change is a path to extinction as companies like Blockbuster and Borders learned when it was too late. No one wants that to happen to their career, which is why learning and change is such an important part of a personal branding plan.

For more tips on personal branding, check out my article 10 Ways to Manage Your Professional Brand, Reinventing as Needed.

Anticipating Where Your Field is Headed

What trends do you see in your profession and sector? How are technology and new ways of thinking disrupting your business? Ingraining an explorer’s passion will keep you nimble, scanning your horizon for opportunities and threats and seeking innovations.

Do you want to disrupt or be disrupted? Imagine if Borders had acted thoughtfully and promptly to buying and downloading books online when Amazon first started to become popular. What if they had created a clever, useful e-book reader early on? What if Blockbuster had anticipated that video stores could become yesterday’s news and figured out a game changing way to manage video streaming? Now the collaborative economy with success stories like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft are disrupting traditional businesses starting with hotels and taxis.

What can we do individually to find intrigue in change and imagine how we can re-engineer our careers to take best advantage of the changes? And not be left behind as changes inevitably impact our profession and industries.

After all, creative individuals help drive the change and the innovations that disrupt and to put it more positively, improve, create and enlarge our worlds. Far better to be driving change than see it drive by us.

Find the mentors and network you need to help you learn and grow. And to be part of the change rather than having change pass you by. Don’t wait for a crisis to network, reach out regularly to interesting people you admire or who have expertise you can learn from. Connect people to each other and seek out opportunities to mentor others.

Watch for success stories and what you can learn from them. Businesses, nonprofits, and people who have expertise, skills and success you admire. Read up and reach out to them. What can you take from what you learn and apply it to your organization and career?

How can you update your skills or apply them to other interests you have?

A video store evolves to a cell phone repair store

A video store evolves to a cell phone repair store

10 Ways to Manage Your Professional Brand, Reinventing as Needed

You are your own career planner and coach. Gone are the days when we could rely on others to guide our career, waiting for the next obvious step on the ladder. This is probably for the best, since who knows best where your best interests and dreams lie than yourself? We are all responsible for our own destiny and careers.

In a world of constant change, we are likely to change careers multiple times. Which gives us a world of opportunity to use our strengths and skills to explore different fields and options.

fireworks burstBuilding your personal brand based on your unique strengths and passions is critical to success. What do you want to be known for? What do you care about?

How does your plan for your personal brand fit in with your organization’s goals?

Think about your strengths and weaknesses realistically and aspirationally.  Do you enjoy what you are doing now? What do you want to do long term? What do you need to get there? What do you need to learn?

Seek out how you can be truly helpful to others. Most of us don’t feel comfortable trumpeting our accomplishments (though summarizing them in a well articulated LinkedIn profile is certainly appropriate). Sharing useful information can highlight your strengths and abilities in the best way possible.

Reading advice that helps solve your potential customer’s problems is a much better way to convince them you’re awesome than your just telling them how great you are.

Continuously reinvent yourself. What trends do you see in your profession and sector? How is technology and new ways of thinking disrupting your business? Make sure you are constantly learning and staying up to date, especially in the areas you have identified as your strengths and what you want to be known for. Find trusted sources of information, follow thought leaders and experts in the field, and attend virtual or in person professional development.

Also check out my article Reinventing Yourself Continuously Essential in a World of Constant Change.

Find the mentors and network you need to help you learn and grow. Don’t wait for a crisis to network, reach out regularly to interesting people you admire or who have relevant expertise. Connect people to each other and seek out opportunities to mentor others.

Explore different social media sites to see which are most relevant to your interests and needs. Having a presence with a strong profile and engaging with like minded people will benefit you with community, networking and reinforcing your personal brand. Just keep in mind what you most want to project as strengths and skills while engaging.

Emphasize conversation and sharing useful information rather than trumpeting how great you are or pitching whatever you are selling. Listen and learn the tone, style and jargon of each social media site before you start posting. Sites like Social Media Examiner provide great tips to help familiarize you and summarize the latest changes to the various social media sites.

Create and share content in your area or aspirational area of expertise. Use a combination of  sharing other people’s content (always crediting them!) and writing  your own. Be realistic about what you have time to create, such as tweeting tips, guest articles, your own blog, slide decks, webinars, and podcasts.

Connect with people online and in person. Starting with a strong LinkedIn profile, build a strong network. Find interesting online discussion groups, Check out related LinkedIn or Facebook groups, tweetchats (scheduled twitter chats on specific topics identified by a #hashtag), and webinars or Google Hangouts. Many professional associations  and universities host online discussion forums for their members or alumni. Periodically schedule in person time with key contacts.

How to manage the time crunch, aka when am I supposed to have time to do this, too?!? I shared tips for assessing what needs to get done versus things to let go of in my post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most.

10 Ways Prof Brand

Focusing on Most Important Goals, Values for 2014

Setting New Year’s resolutions can either sound efficient or pointless depending on how you look at it. Resolutions can be an exercise in setting aspirations or opportunities for failure. Which is why I prefer using the start of a new year as an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to me personally and professionally and set priorities for the year.

start mark at beginning of running trackProfessionally it is important to have in mind the most important goals and priorities so that in the craziness of every day there is something clear to aim for. Otherwise how will we know if we really accomplished anything except the uncomfortable awareness of how easy it is to get distracted by the hundreds of small, urgent pings and tasks surrounding us.

Having those big picture aspirations can make it easier to prioritize the mundane from the future changing opportunities. Check out my previous post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most for tips on creating a stop doing list.

Reflecting on what is really important to your business and personal future can make all the difference. This also includes thinking about how you balance the two so you have quality time for your family, learning new things, taking care of yourself, and some volunteering – the various spheres of your life. What gives you energy and inspires you, what leaves you sapped, who and what you really care about.

And while the instinct to think about the future is great, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished in the past year. It’s so easy to think about what could have gone better or the negative, but looking for the positive and happy times will leave a much more joyous momentum for the new year.

Wishing everyone a very happy. fulfilling year!

 

What Are You Thankful For This Holiday Season?

Hopefully it’s easy to think of things we are thankful for in our personal lives (which is so important to do!), but this is also the perfect time of year to think about our gratitude in the professional sectors of our lives. The people who make a difference in our daily lives, profession, and network from the baristas who smile patiently when we rush through, people in our network who made an introduction or shared advice when we needed it, the colleagues who rushed to meet a last minute deadline, and the mentors we turn to regularly.

bonsai photoWhen was the last time you reached out to your network, said thank you, shared an article or amusing (appropriate) video or comic that reminds you of someone? What more perfect time of year than now. It can be challenging to squeeze in when the holidays can be packed with personal and professional obligations on top of family travel, but staying in touch enriches our lives. And no one wants to only hear from people when they need something. I talk more about networking in this article on Tips for Building a Strong Network.

Heading toward the end of the year invites reflection on all that you accomplished this year as well as who helped you. I confess to a tendency to gravitate to what else I want to get done (and wish I could have also gotten done) rather than taking a moment to appreciate what I’ve achieved, but that reflection is important. To feel good about the positive and to show appreciation to those I worked with professionally and my family and friends’ support.

For example this year I am so thankful for all the wonderful support for my sister Vicky Keston and I launching our Gooseling startup’s parenting blog and Cavity Dragon PNG_edited-1first ios apps to teach children life and social skills through video games.  We are very grateful to the many people and organizations who helped spread the word about the Cavity Dragons apps designed to motivate kids to brush their teeth. And I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with my best friend-sister, fellow Mom, business partner Vicky. My beloved family’s never ending support is the essential ingredient for success as any budding entrepreneur has undoubtedly experienced.

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and the opportunity for reflection and thankfulness that it can bring.

 

Maximizing LinkedIn to Reach Your Career Goals

Networked SpheresLinkedIn can be a powerful tool for networking and enriching your professional life. But to really capitalize on its strengths it’s important to reflect on your professional goals and what you want to accomplish by using LinkedIn. You can spend a lot of time exploring the different features of LinkedIn but to be successful, know what you want to achieve:

  • Meet new professional contacts within your field
  • Attract new clients, customers, members, or donors
  • Find a new job
  • Gain visibility for your business or start-up
  • Recruit new employees or partners

The more you can articulate about that big picture purpose and then the specific outcomes you are seeking, the easier it is to finetune which tactics and LinkedIn features are best to use to accomplish them. For example, if you want to use LinkedIn to find new clients or business contacts, think through as many details about who your ideal client is as possible, such as industry sector, organization size/type, geographic area, job type/titles, interests, past experience or education.

Then picture what success will look like. How can you measure that?  An example might be that your active engagement in LinkedIn would result in 6 prospective clients and 3 confirmed new clients of XYZ type in the next six months.

Key Steps to Maximize Your LinkedIn Presence

Explore how you can use the different Linked features and functions to make your goals a reality such as:

Review your profile. Does your profile position you with the right keywords and accomplishments to appeal to people in the way you wish to be viewed? Use your headline as your personal brand and emphasize concise highlights of your results and impact. Complete your profile sections such as education, certifications, honors and awards, volunteer roles, and interests to reinforce your expertise while also showing that you are a well-rounded person. Do the same review of your organization’s LinkedIn page, taking advantage of features like the ability to highlight your products and services.

Regularly share useful information related to the expertise you would like to showcase, such as links to insightful articles, data, or research. Give an update about an important project you completed or that you are giving a presentation at an upcoming conference.

Join the right groups and engage in conversation. Search for groups related to your interests and professional goals, looking to see if they have active discussions happening. Show your expertise by answering questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn.

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Reflecting on Your Professional and Personal Goals Amidst the Daily Rush Critical to Success

photo of colored pencils and crayon boxes on top of lined paperWhether you have children or teens starting school or the Labor Day weekend brings back memories of shopping for school supplies and the transition from fun summer pastimes, this is a great time of year to reflect on your personal and professional goals.

Just like the start of the school year was a great opportunity for a fresh start and renewed focus on favorite courses and extracurricular activities when we were in school, adults can jump on the bandwagon by thinking through what you want to accomplish for your organization, your career, and your personal life.

In the day-to-day rush of urgent, frequent tasks, projects, emails, meetings, and more, it’s hard to take the time to contemplate what is most important to you and whether the to do’s you take care of each day are leading to accomplishing your goals. Making sure you have articulated your most important personal and professional goals is the first step. If you have already done this, be sure to regularly reflect on whether your goals have changed.

When you think one or five years into the future, what will you want to have accomplished? What do you most value spending your time doing personally and professionally?

Five years from now, what will make you feel wonderful looking back on this time? What would you regret if you didn’t do?

Then as I discussed in my New Year’s post, visualize the steps that will get you there and if you know people who are role models who could inspire you. This includes following thought leaders in your professional field, industry, and related to your personal aspirations (e.g. if you have fitness or parenting goals) who you could follow on twitter, facebook, google plus, or other online forums. Who could you learn from?

Here’s to a successful, fulfilling (school) year ahead doing whatever is most meaningful to you!

 

What Will Success Look Like in 2012?

When you think about what would ideally fulfill  you personally and professionally, what does it look like? Can you visualize what success would feel like, what you would experience?

What are the key steps it would take to get you there? What things are holding you back? New Year’s is the perfect time to step back and think about what is most important to you, what would give you the most satisfaction, and what the road map would be to get there.

red carpet award runway up steps to trophy prizeVisualizing can be a powerful tool to thoughtfully reflect on what would bring us joy and fulfillment – whether it is personal wealth, starting a new business or changing careers, meeting an organizational vision or target (e.g. increasing revenues or specific segments of donors, members, clients, customers), balancing spending truly quality time with your family, and/or meeting personal fitness goals. Brainstorming and creativity techniques like mind mapping can be useful to articulate your ideas and vision.

Can you think of people who have achieved similar goals or who you admire that you can turn to for advice and encouragement? This can include people you personally know and people you would like to get to know – including thought leaders in your field you can follow on twitter, google plus, facebook, et al to soak up their philosophy and thought processes.

Are there things you are doing now that just use time that you could use to fulfill your dreams and vision? Whether endless meetings that don’t bring you closer to your dreams or enhance your team’s collaborations, or the allure of mindless email or other time wasters, curtailing them can help buy us the time we need to meet our personal and professional goals.

Here is to a very successful – and most importantly – fulfilling and joyful 2012 spent pursuing our dreams and what is truly most important to us. What are you envisioning for 2012?

Embracing and Anticipating Change Critical to Ongoing Success

Today change is the only constant. The world is in perpetual motion just as most of us are. If we are too distracted by the endless day-to-day tasks to keep an eye on the whole picture we can lose sight of critical trends, technologies, and changes that will affect our future.

changing colors of leaves in a group of autumn treesWhat are the trends and issues that most impact your profession, industry, organization, and customers? What are the best sources for not only tracking but anticipating the changes that will affect your organization and ultimately your career? Are you reserving some time for reflection about these issues?

Continuously seek opportunities to learn, read, and talk to customers and key influencers in your field. Watch what both thought leaders and up and coming dynamic newcomers in your profession and industry are saying and doing.

Embrace with enthusiasm that change is an ongoing part of the fabric of our lives. Change is constantly unfolding around us whether we like it or not. So finding excitement and natural optimism in the opportunities that change can bring to our careers and businesses will surely be more satisfying than worrying about negative aspects of having to learn new things or resisting letting go of aspects of your business or products that are no longer successful. None of us want to be a case example of the alternative (aka Borders and Blockbusters).

Over the generations, it is the people who have embraced the new technologies of the Thomas Edisons and Alexander Graham Bells who have truly impacted their worlds. It is the unique thinkers like Warren Buffet who recognize the paradigm breaking technologies to invest in or capitalize on for their world. We like to say that things are changing more than ever today. While the speed of change has increased, dramatic change has affected most every generation. Think how the world felt before and after electricity, the telephone, and indoor plumbing.

What new ideas and strategies can you find in the demographic, technology, and social changes you see happening in your slice of the world that can drive new business? How can you use what you are learning to anticipate your customers, members, or clients’ needs and problems and solve them? What will solve their problems and wow them will undoubtedly be different next year than what it was last year.  Are you staying on top of the curve to anticipate those needs?

Following Your Dreams – In Honor of Steve Jobs’ Legacy

In honor of Steve Jobs, let’s take every opportunity to pursue our dreams and focus on what it is most important to us. In the hours since his passing I have reflected on how much he not only emphasized in his words but more importantly lived his life pursuing his passion. He built his career, Apple, and Pixar on his unique vision of what was possible, impacting our world in ways we could not have imagined.

Touching tribute articles have reflected on how committed Steve Jobs was to delivering the ultimate customer experience using his keen sense of every design detail to ensure every font, bell, and whistle was just right.  He said “Design is not just what it looks like. Design is how it works.” He meticulously thought through how the devices and experiences he created would feel to people who used them.

Yet he also ensured that his vision was executed. He shipped. Regularly.

When we sense we are spending more time on meetings, emails, and other minutia of daily life that don’t help us achieve our dreams, let’s stop a minute and think about what we most want to accomplish that will really matter to us. Looking back later, what will I be glad I did? Attended another meeting? Connected with people? Launched a product, program, or company that will make a difference? What will it take to make that happen?

As Steve Jobs said so eloquently in his famous Stanford commencement speech, “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” I am grateful for the amazing impact Steve Jobs made on our world that will be felt for generations to come.