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Discernment has been such a THEME around me lately, that I decided it is worthy of a post.

BACKGROUND STORY-

I spent the last weekend helping my mum go through the closets and drawers of her 4 bedroom home of 20+ years to decide what was worthy of keeping as they streamline into a 1 bedroom home. What a process!

But the truth was that at least 75% of the clothes in the closet, and the VHS tapes, and the stuff in the garage, and the books on the bookshelf were NOT needed/wanted!
This could be seen a few different ways:
1.) She should have done a deep Spring cleaning every year.
2.) Americans have way too much stuff and it’s ridiculous.
3.) She should have been more discerning of what she bought in the 1st place.

Though they are all somewhat true and interesting, especially #3. Perhaps if we have higher standards we will surround ourselves with more quality but less quantity. Perhaps if we know what we Really want in life, we will be less easily convinced of the merits of so many (extraneous) things.

I think we could all practice more discernment about the FOOD we put into our bodies, the CARE PRODUCTS we cram into our bathroom cupboards, the TV SHOWS & MOVIES we put into our minds, the CLOTHES we buy because they are on sale and kind of cute (but don’t end up wearing), the PRODUCTS that sound good at the time but we know we won’t really get around to using…

EXAMPLES

I have a client currently going through all his collections, possessions, and all the art he has produced in the last 25 years. His task is to discern the treasures from the junk.

I have another client who is realizing she needs to cut some social connections out of her life that are draining and distracting her from her stated priorities. Her challenge is to discern true allies from flashy distractions.

The internet is the biggest bundle of exciting, stimulating, overwhelmingly distracting endless tunnels of information that humans have ever had to reckon with. If you don’t come to the search engine with a clear query, you can bounce all over checking out cool stuff and realize that hours went by just ‘surfing’. All of us have the challenge of discerning what Content (in books, newspapers, tv, & internet) is actually worth our time.

So, a few TIPS if you are sorting through anything in your life, from contacts to stuff… Ask Yourself:
* Do I truly Love this?
* Does this in any way help me get towards my biggest goals?
* Would I miss this if it disappeared?

And if the answer is No— help it find a new home!

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I am a big believer in looking at the bright side of every situation, and seeing the opportunity in every challenge.

What to do when you lose your job or freelance work slows down and you suddenly have time on your hands?

Unemployment and underemployment can be very stressful. It is tempting to freak out and spin your wheels with hours of Craigslist searches and submit your resume to everything under the sun that you could conceivably do. And when this ‘strategy’ fails, to get depressed and catch up on your sleep, eat/drink too much, and watch a lot of TV and movies to distract you from the state of your finances, career, and general self-esteem.
Stop! Don’t do it!

Instead, try some of these worthwhile endeavors:

1.) CATCH UP ON READING

No, not reading novels or magazines. Catch up on the key periodicals, books, and blogs about your industry. (If you are sick of your industry and can’t find any motivation to read about it, then find one that is compelling and bring yourself up to speed about it) This way you will feel up to speed on new developments, and be able to dazzle people at dinner parties and job interviews.

Some tips to ensure that this reading time is strategic:
* Capture key bits of information and advice in files. Extract the best information out of any and every book/newspaper/blog and put it in a place that you can find it again. [for hardcopy texts, use my highlighter tips from my most popular blog post of all time- Ode to the highlighter]
* Write up a summarizing book report after you finish a book. May feel dorky at first and send you back a decade or two, but there is a reason our teachers gave us this assignment—so we would better integrate the information.

2.) TAKE SOME COURSES

To succeed in this competitive job market, it is smart to adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner.  Always seek to expand your skills and keep your brain and job skills toolbox in good shape. When you suddenly have time on your hands, it is a great time to sign up for a couple courses at the local community college or a university extension program. Take a marketing, writing, or computer class.
Or learn a whole new software application in your bathrobe through cool video tutorial programs like Lynda.com.

3.) STRENGTHEN YOUR NETWORK

Use some of your spare time to nurture those friendships and professional relationships that have been withering from lack of attention. Sure, build up your facebook friends and your linked in profile, but don’t stop there. Virtual community only goes so far. Pick up the phone and call people, send friendly emails or letters, and attend parties and networking events. Try to be positive and not needy in your interactions. When people ask what’s new- don’t gripe about being underemployed, tell them about the cool courses you are studying or the volunteering you are doing. (see tip 5) Take people who could give be helpful to your job search or career advancement out to tea/coffee. Have a potluck dinner party at your house. Make sure you are socializing for genuine reasons, and also some for strategic reasons. Be generous with your network and it will be generous to you.

4.) POLISH YOUR SKILLS & YOUR PACKAGING

Work on your resume. Rewrite your bio with the help of a couple people who know you/your work well. Get a new headshot. Update your social network profiles. Work on your portfolio or promo kit if you have one. Upgrade your personal branding.

Research jobs related to your previous positions and ideal jobs. Do you get excited at the prospect of any of them? What skills do they require that you don’t have? How can you attain these skills? Spend time looking at the web sites, bios, and portfolios of people whose careers you admire. Emulate some of their best practices in your own promotional materials.

5.) VOLUNTEER—-Strategically

Find one or two local organizations doing inspiring work on causes you believe in. Think of how your specific skills and experience could be beneficial to them, and then contact them to volunteer these services.

This will have multiple positive effects: It feels good to work for a good cause, it takes your focus off you and onto something larger, it can be included in your resume, and it could even result in a paid position down the road. If you see a perfect job for yourself in their organization, volunteer to throw a fundraising event to pay for your salary.

1.) DEVELOP YOUR WILD IDEAS

Do you have some crazy idea for a business you want to start? A creative project?
A community project?
Maybe this extra time is the universes sign to focus on it.  Sketch out your project; draft a business plan, work on that book you always wanted to write. Use this as a brilliant excuse to work on that thing you have been wanting to work on for years. If Plan A isn’t working out so well, might as well develop your Plan B.

Who knows? That sketch or book proposal or 1 page business plan may lead to a whole new exciting direction in your career. Even if they don’t seem ‘practical’ give your wild ideas and harebrain schemes their due and develop them out of the idea phase.

To Your Inspired Success!

There are so many people seeking work right now. Whatever label you want to put on our current economic situation, one of its undeniable effects has been many out of work, leading to many seeking work.

Though I am a certified career coach, these tips are not just general intellectual ideas. They have been extracted from the lessons I learned these last few months during my own job search process. (After spending the Winter in Asia I came back to California and had to dive into manifesting a couple of day jobs to pay the bills while I keep progressing towards my big goals)

So- here they are.

1.    Intentionally target your ideal work situation and pursue them even if they have no Job Listings.

The truth is that most jobs are filled via “internal” connections within an organization before they ever get posted to the public. (internal meaning the friends, family and colleagues of those already working at the company) By the time a job gets posted on Craigslist or a job board, job site, or in the newspaper, it becomes victim to an overwhelming pile of resumes. Due to this huge load of qualified and overqualified resumes, your chances of standing out are pretty slim. So try another approach altogether. Ask yourself who you really want to work for and what you want to do. Choose what you have the most qualifications or the most passion for and get as specific as possible about your ideal job situation. Then do your research and single out a small group of target jobs and gather relevant information about the company and people in leadership. If possible, deliver your resume in person and make a friendly positive impression on anyone and everyone you meet during the process. Perhaps they have a position opening up in the near future, or are open to hearing what you have to offer. In any case, you have shown yourself to be pro-active and flattered them by choosing them specifically, so you have already set yourself well apart from the majority of the competition.

2.    If you can’t find a job, Create one.

If you get depressed looking at the list of available jobs and feel like you would not fit into any of them, then maybe you should try custom making a job to suite you. There are many ways you can go about creating a job. As is often true, the only limit is your imagination. Some Possibilities:  Volunteer for your favorite organization and offer to creatively fundraise to pay for your salary. Propose a position for yourself and then make it risk free by offering to work the position for a period of time for free to let them feel the benefits it will generate. Turn a hobby into a side job. Teach a class or workshop in something that you love/are good at. Basically, look for needs and opportunities everywhere and then get creative.

3.    Create a simple Follow-Up System.

It is very easy to attach a resume to an email and hope for the best. But it is relatively rare to be organized and persistent enough to actually follow-up. This is an easy place to set your self apart from the masses. Example of a very simple system: Create a Follow-Up List on your desk, and document the relevant info about the position you applied for and date you applied. Then schedule 2 or 3 follow-up communications in the week or two following your initial application. You want to be persistent in a friendly way and not become a nuisance. There are software applications and calendars, and phones and coaches and friends and many possible elements to utilize in customizing a system that works for you. Get creative in making your own follow-up system- and make sure to use it!

What about you? Any useful tips you have gleaned from your own experience?