The #1 Thing You Can Do For Your Career- Wherever You’re At

PROACTIVEI’m often asked questions like, “If I only do one thing to advance my career, what would you say I do?” And while I wish I had a silver bullet answer for a question like that, the truth is that it’s a bit more complicated than that.  You all work in different fields and have different skillsets and different personalities for starters. And I’m not a one size fits all kinda career lady.

 

BUT! (and there’s always a but). But nevertheless, I do have an answer to this question, and it is this: BE PROACTIVE. If you make that the guiding force of your career (and life overall), then you’ll be building your skillset, nurturing valuable relationships and able to see and reach for opportunities as you see them.

 

Ok, Jill. Grrrreatt.  What the heck does being proactive mean in practice?  I’m glad you asked:

  • Brush Up On Skills: And not just the ones you have in your current role, but also skills you’ll need to advance your career. This might mean taking an online course on Udemy or checking out Coursehorse or com for online learning. If it’s a bigger skill that can’t be learned by one small onling course (for example, you want to go from being a traditional web designer to a UX designer), you may want to consider longer courses where you can roll up your sleeves and actually create the end product for your portfolio. Don’t wait for your manager to suggest doing this- go out and get ‘er done yourself! (And check and see if your company has a tuition reimbursement program).
  • Reach Out to People You Never Thought You Would. We think once people reach a certain level in their careers, they’re unreachable. It’s a pretty common assessment people have of those who have ‘made It’ (yours truly included!). I’d like to challenge you to shed that thinking and reach out to people you never would have reached out to before. Take fear (of not hearing back, of being rejected) out of it- who is on your list, all the way up to the Michelle Obamas of the world? Obviously have a specific ask as relates to your career or reason for getting in touch, but beyond that, I think you’d be surprised at your response rate, since most people are scared out of their minds to do this! A story springs to mind about this. A pretty successful entrepreneur (and I’m blanking on his name at the moment, so forgive me!) did this as part of a project at Princeton. No one else even thought to reach out to business experts, but he did and got an audience from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, among many others.
  • Put Your Hand in the Air: Make it your business to know what the company’s upcoming projects and goals are and understand how your skills (and your future goals) might fit nicely with the project, so you can raise your hand for upcoming projects that make sense for the trajectory of your career. What we don’t want to have happen is you take on projects that aren’t mutually beneficial to both you and the company/department, and then you end up resenting working on it because it doesn’t align with you, your current skillset and/or your future goals. It would be like if I wanted to move into training and talent development, but raised my hand to be the de facto project manager for an upcoming event the company was running. There’s no alignment there, and I’m not learning any more about the area I want to take my career in!
  • Keep Your Network Fresh: Don’t wait for contacts to reach out to you for a catch-u. Be proactive. I highly recommend setting aside one evening after work a month (or maybe one morning before work, if you find yourself too tired after work) to reach out to your contacts and aim to grab two to three coffees throughout the month. Go to an event or two per month that’s relevant for you and build new connections to then add to this monthly outreach list. If you aim to see your best contacts once a quarter, then you’re on the right track.

 

 

What other ways have you been able to be proactive in your career? What success stories can you share about how proactivity has helped your career? I’d love to interview you for the Career Kitchen podcast (coming at you soon!).  Email me here and we’ll set up some time to chat.

If You Don’t Have This One Thing, Your Career Change Is Doomed From the Start

www-jillozovek-com

Ok, so full disclosure here. I usually hate hyperbolic headlines like that, but here I am writing one. Why? Because there’s SO much advice out there and I so truly know this one thing to be true that I literally can’t stress it enough.

And no, it’s not a fancy resume or a kick ass social media presence. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not even your network or who you know.
While those things are helpful and can help you cross the finish line of your career change, nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace your mindset. Cultivating the right mindset from the get-go and revisiting it regularly (ie this is not a “Set it and forget it” kinda thing, guys!) is CRUCIAL to getting started and staying moving.

Sound Captain Obvious-y to you? I agree; this is not rocket science, but what I really want you to dig in to today is how YOU are actively cultivating that mindset on a regular basis. It needs to be crystal clear. Make a list of the ways you are clearing space for this change. I’m talking physical space- is your workspace cluttered? I’m talking mental space- is your mind cluttered? And I’m talking energy-space- are you drained each and every time you try to start? Do you not pinpoint your roadblocks and thus keep them up unwittingly, letting them derail you from your major goal of finally getting in a job that you actually want to go to 5 (or more!) days per week?

Below is a laundry list of potential ways that might help you with this big FIRST step toward making a career change. Maybe you do one or two of these. Maybe adding in another element to augment what you’re currently doing might help. For example, I recently added “Morning Pages”  to my morning meditation practice. They really go nicely together and help me clear my plate before I enter my day.

  • Daily Meditation practice (with or without apps like Headspace or calm.com)
  • Daily intention journal
  • Daily gratitude list
  • 2 Minute End-of Day Recap (How am I feeling, what worked about today and what do I want to work on for tomorrow)
  • Morning Pages (to get the creative juices flowing and remove the clutter)
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness retreat
  • Work with a mindfulness teacher
  • Visit your local Shambhala Center
  • Books like “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “The Alchemist” or “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar”
  • Checking in throughout the day with how you’re feeling and what might be getting in the way of this

Are you sitting there thinking, “Jill, I don’t have TIME for any of that. I gotta get to work.” To that I ask you: Do you have time to spend more years than you already have in a job you really don’t like? Do you have time to spend more late nights at work and miss time with your friends, husband, wife, kid, mom, cat?

Until very recently, I was very much like that, running around from thing to thing and checking boxes off my to-do list. And while I’m by no means a levitating Buddha nor am I telling you that you have to be one to change careers (quite the contrary actually), I’m saying that investing a little time in this each day will make a BIG difference toward achieving this really big goal you have for 2017.

I will add that sometimes-annoying people like me can tell you this til the cows come home, but it’s up to you to give it a whirl. And by ‘a whirl’, I mean dedicate yourself to it for at least a month, if not 3 months. I was one of those people who sort of internally rolled my eyes (not VISIBLY though!) whenever someone told me I should meditate. So that’s why I’m not telling you that you should meditate- because that’s annoying if you’ve heard it a million times or just don’t like being told what to do (who does like that?)

So what I AM saying is this: 

A career change requires the right Mindset Toolkit. It will be slightly different for each and every person. This is all I’m asking you to accept. THEN, I want you to fill your toolbox with what works for you and leave the rest. And as you grow and evolve, you might pick up new tools but your core go-to tools are always your stead standbys.

BOOM. Happy holidays ya’ll.

PS: Mindset is where we start in the Career Change Kitchen- our new comprehensive career change online course (with some extra goodies and various levels of support from me!) Check out the info here.

PPS: You may have noticed the blog is getting a little less love lately. That’s because we’re focused on VIDEO FUN as we enter the New Year, so I’m trying my hand at vlogging in front of my Christmas tree. You can check out the goodies on my Facebook here (like the page to know when we’re doing special offers on courses and other events!) or my YouTube channel here.

You Got the Coffee Chat With That Important Person You’ve Been Aiming For….Now What?!?!

You Got the Coffee Chat With That Important Person You’ve Been Aiming For….Now 

You Got the Coffee Chat With That Important Person You’ve Been Aiming For….Now

coffee chat

Many of us aren’t natural networkers….or at least we feel like we aren’t. We know networking and connecting are important for our career advancement or career change, but really, we just don’t wanna do it. At all. Like we’d rather send 200 job applications into the ether, never to be heard from again, rather than going on 5 coffee chats or info interviews. You may be familiar with what I’m putting down here. The “oh crap, well now I’ve gone and done it! I’ve got the coffee chat set up and it’s PURE DREAD to figure out what to talk about!!!”

 

First, take some deep breaths and remember the following:

 

  • No one is going to die or spontaneously combust by going to a coffee chat.
  • The person SAID YES to you, meaning, they want to meet with you too. #twowaystreet
  • It really is a win-win, no matter how the meeting goes. If you have a good connection and gel, then that’s great for obvious reasons: building a long-term relationship, potential mentorship, and idea exchange, they think of you when they hear of a job- the list goes on and on. If you don’t gel, as sometimes happens, then that’s great too. You don’t have to spend time on the relationship and neither do they. You can instead focus on relationships that are mutually beneficial.
  • You may feel selfish and that you’re take-take-taking, but in reality, it’s a two-way street. Sure, maybe your aim for the meeting now is for job prospects, but you’ll more than happily return the favor or offer help in some way when they need it, right? (And if the answer is no, then we have a whole other blog post for that!)
  • It’s worth repeating: no one ever spontaneously combusted or melted into a pile of mush from a coffee chat. I guarantee it.

This morning, a client admitted that she gets into “Why Bother?” mode, meaning if someone responds favorably to her request for a meeting, she drags her feet at responding to finalize, asking herself what the point of it all is (in other words, ‘this won’t lead to anything!”)

 

If you’re nodding your head vigorously at that, remember the following:

 

  • You never know where a connection might lead. Maybe their colleague mentions a job and your connection thinks of you, or maybe they see a job posting and pass it along to you.
  • If you get into the “why bother?” mentality, actually answer the damn question. Yes, write down all the reasons why you should actually bother. For my client, she said it was because the woman was well connected, wanted to help, was a prolific public speaker which is one of my client’s goals, etc. Actually write it down so you don’t talk yourself out of something due to nebulous “Why bother?” questions.
  • No one has ever died by going on a coffee chat.

 

Ok, so now that we’ve got all that covered and you’re READY to rock and ride, what the heck do you actually TALK about in these meetings?!?

 

  • Coffee meetings are great because they’re generally 30-40 minutes, give or take. So it’s not hours upon hours of dreadful time to fill!
  • You don’t need to script every minute. As a matter of fact, I don’t advise that. I’ve never seen a coffee chat/info chat start right off the bat with business. People typically like to ease into these things, so you can ask them something non-work related. Ideas:
    • What’s this neighborhood like to work in? Any restaurants or bars nearby you’d recommend? (And from there, you could talk about food and cuisines and culture for a bit- sky’s the limit!)
    • If you know something personal about them (ie. Have kids, got married, went on a trip, started a networking group, gave a speech), ask them about it.
    • If something in the news is interesting to you and timely, bring it up! (Read: not politics, generally speaking)
  • Know your outcome: Do you admire their career path thus far and want to gain insights into how they did it? Ask. Do you want to let the person know you’re open to new opportunities? Tell them! This is where it’s important to have your narrative down- help them understand why you’re looking for a change and how you want to grow and why that’s important to you.
  • Listen more than you talk. There’s a misconception out there that you, as the coffee chat setter-upper, need to talk the entire time and carry the conversation. You don’t! I always try to invoke the “listen more than you speak” mantra and think it’s important for coffee chats especially. Relationships are built when you let the other person feel heard. This should take a little of the pressure to talk talk talk off your plate!

 

Most importantly, going on this coffee chat is important because as you do them, they become less onerous and scary and just another thing you do. Rip that band-aid off and get a-movin!

I Boxed Myself In And Didn’t Know The Way Out: A Cautionary Tale of Burnout

I Boxed Myself In And Didn’t Know The Way Out: A Cautionary Tale of Burnout

burnout

Aidan hanging up the pet portrait I had made of his dog, courtesy of http://www.grinvites.org

 

A lot of times, people write about stuff after they’ve already gone through it, but I don’t think most of us, myself included, spend a lot of time writing about the tough parts when we’re actually IN the tough parts. I’m not sure what it is- maybe it’s the idea that in this online, social media-frenzied world, we feel we have to show the good stuff or we can talk about the bad stuff, but only after we’ve overcome it to show we’ve grown and learned and all that jazz.

 

I’m gonna take a little departure from what I normally see (and do!) and talk to you about something that is going on RIGHT NOW because I suspect many of you are struggling with something right now, and I also suspect that you may not have told anyone.

So here goes:

I’ve been facing some real burnout. I knew I was going to have a busy fall, so Aidan and I went all out on Labor Day Weekend. We had a fun date night at my favorite BYOB in Manhattan, and then we had two Sunday Fundays in Queens on both Saturday and Sunday. We explored 2 new neighborhoods, discovered a hidden brewery, practiced taking pictures with our DSLRs and went to a tortilla-making factory near Citi Field. I felt expansive, creative and fun, and I was churning out ideas left, right and center- both for future adventures we might take together, as well as fun ideas for my business and for my clients.

 

It was glorious.

 

Then Labor Day hit, and I went immediately into hunker down mode. Cue the beginnings of burnout! You see, I was beta testing my online career change course with 12 women and I was planning my wedding (sans wedding planner). This large workload was on top of my normal day-to-day work, not to mention being there for my wonderful clients. I decided that in order to get it all done, I had to say no to (most) friend and social engagements and 90% of external meetings. I focused on my health and exercise, and my work- and that’s it.

 

As the weeks wore on, I became increasingly stressed, despite my intense wellness efforts. My stomach was nearly constantly hurting, my head felt like it had a giant ever-tightening clamp on it, and I started going through the motions. Cue, increased potential for burnout!  I write in a daily intention and gratitude journal every day, and even that had become rote- I didn’t actually FEEL what I was writing about. Then there were the days that I felt an all-out panic over my to-do list, and even creating my to-do list was enough to raise the fear of who-knows-what in me. I’d race around from task to task, never fully being where I was- whether it was at pilates or with Aidan or heck, writing blogs, which used to bring me such joy.

 

Anyway, you can guess how this ends: this hamster wheel situation culminated in me getting really dizzy and nearly passing out in a pilates class a couple of weeks ago. Hello, Burnout!

 

In other words, I was miserable and felt terrible.  And how’s this for irony: I was speaking at W.E.L.L. Summit, one of the premiere annual wellness conferences that same week, too! Oy.

 

So, how the heck did I get here, and how can I change course to move ahead?

  1. I thought I could do it all. In typical Recovering Event Planner fashion, I thought I could easily handle this. I’m efficient, able to do a lot at once and flourish under pressure, or so I thought. I met my match this time, and I underestimated my take-on-too-much nature. And add a dash of stubbornness to this equation and you get a whole lotta pushing ahead despite myself.
  2. I didn’t ask for help. This is related to #1, but it’s important for this to have its own section- if you’re feeling stuck and increasingly isolated you must ask for help! People are happy to help if you just ask- they are not mind readers, for Pete’s sake! For me, I had to get over the vulnerability of asking for help. It feels weird to admit you’re stressed and overwhelmed and can’t handle it all. I reached out to a couple of close friends and told them what was going on as well as my business coach, sister, and therapist. I got a little something from each of them: my friends threw me a fake bridal shower and cooked me dinner, my business coach helped me slow down and take a look at what was truly important and my sister made wedding magic happen- and she told me it would all be ok. Who are those people for you? What do you need from them? ASK. I guarantee it will make you stronger, not weaker. I also hired a pretty amazing assistant who has taken a lot of tasks that drive me nuts and take me tons of time off my plate. Maybe you work for a company so you can’t just go hire a work assistant, but you can offload certain things- maybe you have a cleaning service come in once a month or you drop your wash off to be done by someone, or maybe you hire a personal assistant to do errands for you. Think about the time for money thing and think about what would truly free you up so you’re not working all day and playing catch up with your life and errands all night and on weekends.
  3. I sucked the fun out of everything. I’m a pretty fun person, but when I’m stressed, boy, do I know how to take the fun out of everything. WOW. I even didn’t allow myself to have fun- no adventures, I put my career retreat/winery idea completely on hold and didn’t discuss it for 2 months,
  4. I became formulaic and my days became predictable. This is semi-related to #3, but it also needs its own category. EVERY DAY WAS THE SAME. This led to repeating the same things without really living it. I didn’t make any plans or create any impromptu opportunities. I was a slave to my work and forgot about creating. If this is sounding familiar, I urge you to set aside some time to find something fun and creative that sparks your fancy and go do it. Don’t wait for permission or for the busy period to pass or whatever. Yes, I totally get that during busy periods you may not get to do AS MUCH as you’d like or experience as much as you’d like,  but make the time for something for yourself so you can avoid fainting in pilates class.
  5. I forgot one major thing. This is as good as it gets, folks. (Ok, and by that, I do NOT mean- “it’s all downhill from here!”) I just mean things are pretty damn awesome. I’m about to marry the person I love most in this world, I own and run my own business (and I’m a certified corporation) and I’m learning stuff every day. In other words, this is exactly what I’ve been working for, both personally and professionally and really, when I take a step back, I’ve made it.  And my point in saying this is, that if you don’t quite feel that way yet, keep at it and I guarantee you will (but take breaks, for the love of god!). And if you have been feeling stressed and uncreative and you take a step back and realize the same thing I did, BOOM. You’ve made it too (whatever ‘it’ is to you).

So, what kinds of burnout or disassociation from your true self are you facing? Have you tried any of the above methods? Have they worked? Leave a comment below!

Tough Career Question of the Week: How Do I Contact Someone for Info on a New Job Field, But I’m not Ready to Say “Yes” To the Field?

new job field

How Do I Contact Someone for Info on a New Job Field, But I’m not Ready to Say “Yes” To the Field?

This is the hottest question that has come across my desk (ie email) this week, and I’m excited to share some perspective on this!

Basically, what this person was asking was as follows: they’re exploring several career paths but have not yet chosen which way to go. They know that to find out information on each of their potential paths, they gotta talk to some people in those roles, but they want to strike a good balance of not wasting the person’s time by being too vague and non-committal and being gung ho about the field before they are ready.

So I’m here to give you some quick tips and a script to get moving and not let you trip you up. Remember, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good here!

 

  • Talk to one of your close peeps first: You may not have this, but if you do, absolutely start with people who know you well and that don’t mind you bumbling around to get more information!
  • Gather preliminary info first: Check out an info session online for the professional association of the field you are exploring. Do a (timed!) Google search on the field. I say ‘timed’ so you don’t fall down the Google rabbit hole. 45 minutes per field is PLENTY. Make notes of what appeals to you for each field and what additional information you want to ask someone about.
  • Check out live in-person networking events in your area: It’s a good way to get a grasp on the lingo people in that field are using, what kind of ideas they’re talking about and what’s important to them. Heck, you might even make a connection there! But if not, that’s fine- the name of the game is info gathering.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups in your proposed field: Now, not all LinkedIn groups are created equally, so some might…well, they might suck. But check some out, see what kinds of (non-promotional) discussions are taking place in there and see how people are talking about the issues of their industry/field and what information is being passed around.

 

Once you have a basic sense for what appeals to you about the field, how your current skillset could gel with the proposed field and some questions you want to ask, you’re ready to contact someone for an info chat.  Woo hoo! Congrats!

I’m including a brief script you can adapt for your outreach – to make it specific enough that you get a response, but not so specific that you’re painting yourself into an interview for a job you’re not even sure you want!

This is adapted from a script a good friend going through her own career exploration process has used with massive success. When she was first sending it out, she had an 85-90% positive response rate. So, try it and let us know how it goes! J

 

Here’s the script:

 

I hope this email finds you well, and I apologize for the “cold call” approach. I’m currently exploring a transition from a WHAT YOU’VE DONE BEFORE at COMPANY into a career in NEW PROPOSED CAREER, and I would be so grateful to spend 20 minutes with you to learn more about your own career path and your role as THEIR ROLE AT THEIR COMPANY. You are highly respected in WHATEVER THEIR FIELD IS and I’ve noticed your work doing <CITE WORK YOU’VE NOTICED> and I would be extremely appreciative of any insight you may have for me as I navigate this new area.

 

If you’d be willing to meet for just 20 minutes and chat about your career and experiences please let me know. I can come by your office or call you via phone at a time convenient for you.

 

Thank you very much for your consideration and time.

 

Warmest wishes,

 

YOUR NAME

YOUR PHONE NUMBER

A LINK TO YOUR LINKED IN PROFILE

 

So, in closing, there IS a way to connect with people even when you’re not 100% sure of the final direction you want to go- it just takes some up front research and a specific ask to do so, as you’ve seen in this blog. And remember, it’s a great way to start to build a relationship – who knows, maybe you know of something or someone or a resource that can help them down the road, so if you’re feeling shy about reaching out, remember that- it’s a two way street!