Archives for taking action

Step 5 to a Happy Career: Action

Work by Hamza Butt of Flickr

Nothing feels better than when you are facing a challenge or trying to achieve something by taking action. But does taking any old action make a difference? Or does it have to be the right one? The answer is they are both right.

You may have of heard of a phenomenon called “analysis paralysis.” That is when you think through all of your actions so carefully that you scare yourself out of taking that action. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum where you act before you think and then your actions can actually have negative consequences and put you further away from your goal. There are so many benefits to being in action, however, there is such a thing as a wrong action, and if you are uncertain what the right action is, the best first action is to ask for help.

There is a right and a wrong way to ask for help. The wrong way is to obligate anyone to help you. Depending on the volume of help that you need, you may also use the wrong medium, and that is a more difficult thing to understand. Everyone has their own preferences about communication. Some people in the professional world would rather you not find them on Facebook to ask them for help. Keeping that in mind, you might be starting to see why there’s so much to consider and some people spend so much time in consideration that they do not act. Let me go back to the benefits of action.

When you act, you let the world know that you are serious about what you want. It is not always true, but most commonly people do not receive the help that they need and ask for because they have not inspired people to believe that they will follow through and make them look good. When you think about it, most of what we do all day, every day is to make ourselves look good, or make someone else look bad. Hopefully, we do not spend as much time doing the latter, but if you have been in a CYA corporate environment, you know that making other people look bad is sometimes how you survive. It is an awful existence, and nobody needs to spend their days that way, because they have options. However, these types of environments can do a lot to diminish your belief in better things.

That is when people get stuck, like my mom. That was one of the major reasons this line of work resonated so strongly with me. I get to help people renew their hope and get into companies that have more nurturing conditions where they can thrive. There is also the benefit of pride. There is so much that can happen in a job search that can make you feel bad. When you take action, you feel like you are doing something to make your situation better and that feeling can develop into greater confidence and self-worth. These are two things you need in order to convince an employer to hire you. However, when you take action and have high volumes with your results, it can actually have the opposite effect and make you feel worse.

There are five different categories of action that you can take that will move you toward greater opportunity. Any given day you can decide that you are up to tackle one of these kinds of activities, or you can do all five in one day and really feel accomplished. The key to this, just like anything, is balance – do not rely on any one kind of activity too heavily; they all need your attention and action.

 

  1. Administration

You need to have systems in place to track your activities and you need to actually input those activities in order to see where you can make improvements and get better results.

 

  1. Research

Before you even ask for help, you need to understand who you are asking, what their experience and expertise is, and what kinds of things they have going on that you can provide value for. You may even be able to discern how this person prefers to be contacted based on what they say or share. If there are several options, pick the one with the least volume. Other things we can research include potential careers, positions, and companies. Find out what a day in the life of someone whose footsteps you want to follow in is like. This research does not have to be purely online, in fact, the more you get away from your computer, the better. Head to the library and read a biography. Attend a professional organizations event and come with questions.

Asking questions is a deceivingly simple action, but actually doubles as massive action, which is the next type of action.

 

  1. Massive action

This could really be any action that requires you to have courage and be bold. While it is recommended that you make research the step before this action to make sure that your action is as strategic and effective as possible, this is something that you want to do at least weekly. For most people this means picking up the phone. The action should scare you and excite you at the same time. Not only is it intended to help you make quantum leaps toward your intended goal, but it is also intended to expand your comfort zone and test yourself. If the phone just seems way too scary, then pick an action that isn’t as scary and build up to the phone. For instance, send someone a direct message through social media. I would advise against sending an email, even if it is something that you find to be uncomfortable, simply because it is such a non-urgent form of communication, and some people like short emails while others want you to tell a compelling story. It is too easy to spend a lot of time crafting an email, get no response, and make that mean that you are not worthy of a response. If the phone is easy for you, do something in person, or whereas you might feel comfortable reaching out to a director or VP, reach out to a C-level executive.

Before you take action, set your intention. Know and visualize clearly the outcome that you want. Determine that it will happen. If you need to, remind yourself of all of the great value that you have the potential to offer.

It may help you to practice what you were going to say, and you can also over-practice what you were going to say. It does not really matter what words you use as much as it matters where are you are coming from when you speak. When you come from a place of high confidence and intention for the highest good, the right words tend to naturally follow, and they flow with powerful heart-felt inspiration that leads people to know you are serious and want to take action on your behalf.

 

  1. Network Nurturing

Do something to help someone in your network without the expectation that it will be returned. This could be making an introduction for someone else, sharing a resource, sending relevant news or articles, or letting people know about an event. It could also be a random act of kindness. Volunteering is absolutely one of the best ways to satisfy this action. You may think that your volunteering has to have something to do with your profession, but, in fact it does not. However, I will say that the better volunteering opportunities are the ones that enable you to interact with people and work on a team. Perhaps you can even be the one that organizes a community event. If you do this, then your massive action can actually be combined by having a conversation with someone there about your goal. Just make sure that the conversation is actually satisfying that action- what you do for others is the number one agenda.

 

  1. Take Care of You

Some may argue that YOU should come before nurturing your network, just as they teach you on the airplane to put the mask on yourself before you help other people. If that resonates as true for you, then do that. I did not put this item last because it is the least important. I simply put it last because I’m planning your week, most people use Friday as a day for personal things, and if you are doing one thing per day, Thursday would be the better day to nurture your network. However, it is worth noting that you can evaluate your own cycles of high and low energy to determine when you do different types of action. For instance, massive action requires high energy. Maybe you have the highest energy on Friday. I have actually had more personal success reaching and engaging VIPs on Fridays.

Taking care of yourself can look like doing yoga, watching your favorite show, having tea or a drink with a friend, taking a nap, playing an instrument, coloring, seeing a concert, calling your best friend far away… I think you get it. It could really be anything that makes you feel alive.

Yes, as you probably guessed, the importance of this is to replenish yourself, but it is also important because the more time you spend happy, the more your chances of success increase.

We used to recommend number five as a reward, but I learned from Gretchen Rubin that rewards are more effective than reinforcing positive habits when they are tied to the goal itself. So, if you seek to reward yourself for a week of great action, perhaps you can reward yourself with a nice pair of dress shoes for interviews, or invest in a personal brand touch up with us. You could reward yourself by getting a ticket to a high profile event or conference. There are things you can do that cost no money at all. A great way to come up with this type of reward is to think about what your ideal job could offer to your life, and sample that in some way. For instance, if what you are aspiring to have by landing a new job is more time with your kids, reward yourself by going on an adventure or playing a game with your kids. This type of reinforcement will produce good feeling hormones in your body and train your brain to condition you for even more action. In other words, implementing a reward system will help you form better habits.

For a better idea of how these five activities could look in your schedule, refer to this blog post.

It is unfortunate that so many people do not reach out for help from someone like me because they know that they have been making very strong efforts, so they conclude that I do not have the results that they want, or there are external conditions that they cannot control. Unfortunately, they are destined to stay stuck. The ones who actually do change their situations are the ones that recognize that they need to do something differently; I learned specifically what the most effective different things to do are. If you are unsure, ask. You can even ask me.

 

If you want to know if you have been doing something wrong, take action and have a free consultation with me.

 

5 Must Do’s for a Successful Job Search Week

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

Job Searching by NJLA of Flickr

 

I have received a lot of feedback and many of you found the sample schedule to be very helpful. As a result, I decided to outline five major components of a successful job search activity that you can integrate into your schedule every day or, at least, every week. This will help build competencies toward your expertise in job searching.

Why would you want to be an expert in job searching? I know most people find it rather dreadful. However, when job searching is done right you can feel as much like a rock star in the flow, or in a groove, as you did when you were on top of your game in your job. The major benefit of gaining this critical life skill is reclaiming power over your destiny.

 

1. Research

The research you will be conducting every day or every week will be to identify new target companies, find out what major initiatives, challenges, and potential setbacks your target companies are experiencing. Discover how you can add direct value, and identify people who can either be internal sponsors for you or be your next potential boss. If you are really adept at research, you can even find out some personal things about these people that will enable you to build rapport and hit their hot buttons.

The resources that you will use to conduct this research include the obvious search engines like Google or Bing, as well as local business journals and newspapers, niche authority sites, business directories and databases such as leadferret.com and zoominfo.com, and your network.

If you are really bold and adventurous, you will try feet-on-the-street research. This means that you attend events or “stake out” the location of various popular breakfast, lunch or dinner spots in the vicinity with the intention of procuring intelligence from strangers.

2. Bold Action/Experimentation

The above can be considered bold action. I encourage you to experiment with this approach, if not for the adrenaline rush, for the fact that it can get you further faster than waiting for friends and acquaintances to take action on your behalf.

The activities that fall in this category very well might be outside your comfort zone, and thinking about them as experiments may help you detach from an investment in the outcome. I encourage you to celebrate everything that you try, whether it turns into an opportunity or not. Do keep track of your results so that you can repeat the experiments that produce great results such as pivotal introductions and interviews.

Everyone has a different comfort zone threshold. You know yourself best. If incremental progress works best for you, then take baby steps. A good example is trying out a new social media platform that you recognize some of your potential bosses are using and sending them a direct message. Some of you may thrive on taking a big leap and testing your limits. This could look like a creative gesture such as sending an unusual gift with a hidden meaning.

An example of a successful gift attempt that led to an interview and a job offer was a candidate who was demonstrating his attention to detail by creating and sending intricate origami eagles. I heard a story once about a candidate who sent a shoe with a note that he was hoping to get a “foot in the door.” I’m not sure how that went over, but the results of any of these attempts are going to vary from person to person. This is where it is critical to know your audience.

Being bold can also look like attending a keynote where an executive leader is speaking and asking the best question. The key, really, is to garner POSITIVE attention that you can use as an opening to create intrigue, build rapport, discover needs, and promote yourself as a solution.

3. Network Nurturing

I saw Ellen Weber of Robin Hood Ventures speak at a TedX event in Philadelphia and she forever changed the way I advise my clients to offer help to their networks. The eye-opening insight she shared was that when we ask someone generally, “How can I help you?” we put a burden on them to figure out how we can help them. She talked about a very personally challenging time in her life, and how her closest friends made that time easier simply by taking the initiative to find ways to help, as opposed to waiting for her to direct them, which felt uncomfortable. One friend would drop off meals, the other would help fold and put away laundry, and another even cleaned her bathroom while some friends whisked her away to get a pedicure.

Think of consultative sales, where you are not pushing a product, but asking really great questions and listening earnestly to what the client’s actual needs are so that the solution that you propose sells itself. In a podcast interview between Larry Benet, CEO of the Speakers and Authors Networking Group (SANG), and Vishen Lakhiani of MindValley, I learned some really great questions that are simple to ask and easily uncover some of these needs, such as, “What is the project you are working on right now that excites you the most?” followed up by “What would help you complete it sooner or better?” Another question, which can be quite personal, is “What keeps you up at night?” or “What wakes you up in the morning?” Vishen actually starts all of his interviews with this question, and, of course, he already has a good rapport with guests and relates to them on a personal level prior to the interview.

Once you know what you can do to help, the next thing to do is to follow through. If you cannot identify a need, the next best thing you can do is to share some relevant news, resources, or tools that you think may be of assistance. If you have ever wondered when and how to follow up, now you know.

 

4. Self Nurturing/Wellness

I considered putting this before network nurturing, as we have all heard the analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist others. What good are we unconscious? Well, similarly, as we have written before, science has proven that you are at your best when you are taking care of yourself. Do not skip the workout, but get at least a couple minutes in to increase your oxygen levels. You will actually work faster and more productively. What you produce will be better with fewer errors, meaning you won’t have to re-do that work. Have a cover letter to write? Go for a brisk 10-minute walk or do some jumping jacks. Eat a diet rich in the healthy fats your brain needs to be at its best. Cut out the carbs that cause brain fog and sluggishness. Once you start to treat yourself better, you will perceive yourself as more valuable and be better able to promote yourself as such.

 

5. FUN!

There is a lot more to these start-ups with their ping pong tables and video games than just hoping to attract elusive millennials. Fun is known for increasing creativity, building more cohesive teams, making employees more receptive to bad news or constructive criticism, and, if you believe in the law of attraction, it is apparently responsible for bringing good things into our lives.

You can leverage fun activities for your job search such as organizing a happy hour or bowling night with your friends so that you can catch them up on how they can help you. Moreover, you can also just have a good old-fashioned good time and still reap the benefits in your job search. As we wrote last week, happy people tend to achieve higher levels of success than people who simply work hard. Really! Harvard says so.

 

If you are in a full-time job search mode, I recommend doing each of these daily. If you are working full-time while searching, I recommend that you designate a day of the week for each of these activities.

As an experiment, try these activities for four weeks. Then share with us how intentionally integrating these critical components into your transition helps you build momentum and opens new doors of opportunity.