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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Changing Your Life

meaningful career

It’s a common challenge: How do you love your job and make money? Some are lucky to achieve both, but many people feel stuck between one or the other. Unfortunately, many artistic endeavors and social services do not pay well, despite their value to society. Because of that, many people are left feeling unfulfilled in their office jobs, wondering if they should be doing something MORE with their lives.

Does that sound like you?

If so, you’re not alone. If your discontentment is severe, consider talking to a career coach (drop me a note if you’d like). If, however, your discontentment is more of a nagging tug at your conscience, you may be able to improve things on your own.

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s usually an opportunity to integrate art, altruism, community, or whatever piques your interest into your work. It only takes a little creativity, initiative, and perseverance. Start with these four steps:

1. Look For Existing Opportunities

Depending on your organization, meaningful opportunities may already exist. Some businesses have groups devoted to community projects, art, or forming connections between like-minded co-workers. Do a little research and see if anything that aligns with your interests already exists.

2. Integrate Interests With Daily Work

Interested in photography? Volunteer to take pictures for the monthly newsletter or company website. Love writing? Ask your boss for writing-heavy assignments or, if you’re working in a team, offer to take on the writing tasks. See if it’s possible to meld your interests with your everyday workload.

3. Take Initiative!

Create your own meaning by initiating groups devoted to volunteering, artistic endeavors, or other projects related to your interests. Of course, you’ll want to go through the proper channels to do this, but you might be surprised by how willing organizations can be when it comes to volunteer or enrichment programs. Chances are, other people will also be interested in your endeavor, which translates into a more tight-knit, content work community.

Some ideas for you to consider include:

  • Creating an artists’ club for knitting, painting, photography, or whatever you’re interested in (Instead of a weekly happy hour, host an “art session” instead!)
  • Volunteering in the local community (soup kitchens, book drives, etc.)
  • Initiating fundraisers for schools, safety, health and wellness, or whatever you’d like
  • Starting a “green” group that occasionally gets together to do roadside cleanups or raise money for parks, clean water, etc.
  • Founding a wellness program that focuses on clean eating, meditation, weekly yoga, or whatever you’re passionate about

4. Look For Resources

Some organizations have funds set aside for “extracurricular” work activities. Do your research! Might your company be willing to sponsor your initiative? Don’t forget, people count as resources too. You may be surprised by others’ excitement and willingness to help.

 

Do you feel invigorated? Energized? Ready to dive in and figure out how to make work more meaningful for YOU? I hope so. Finding meaning in your work is vital for your sustained happiness.

If you’d like a little more guidance, I’m here to help.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Teresa Thomas leading a 50 Fun Things workshop. Photo credit: Lisa Venticinque

How often do you stretch outside your comfort zone? How often do you pause and appreciate the simple things that bring you joy? How often do you prioritize yourself and your desires without feeling guilty about it?

If you’re thinking “not too often!” it may be time to infuse your life with a little more spontaneity, courage, and happiness. It may be time for 50 Fun Things.

The 50 Fun Things concept was created by speaker and networking expert, Teresa Thomas, right before her 50th birthday. She had been going through some “tough stuff” and knew she needed a drastic change. She began brainstorming ways to turn around her life, experience more joy, and appreciate all the good things she already had.

Before she knew it, Teresa had a list of 50 things she wanted to accomplish over the next year. The list brimmed with simple pleasures (a fancy cup of coffee), comfort-stretching activities (singing karaoke for the first time!), and opportunities to learn something new (taking a painting class).

50 Fun Things workshops. Photo by Lisa Venticinque

Suddenly, Teresa was finding herself living life more fully, achieving long-held dreams, and learning and laughing along the way. Many of her adventures included others, so 50 Fun Things was also a great way to connect or reconnect with friends.

50 Fun Things was so effective that Teresa decided it was a gift too good to keep to herself. She developed an entire program (check it out on her website) revolving around 50 Fun Things, including an interactive workshop. Today, she has helped people from all walks of life think big, stretch themselves, and get out there and achieve their dreams!

So, what about YOU?

What are 50 things YOU want to do in the upcoming year?

It is time to stop feeling guilty about taking intentional time for yourself. You are human! You deserve growth, new challenges, and the chance to pause and appreciate life. You deserve a little fun.

A 50 Fun Things workshop

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Valuable Interview Tip

One of my top interview tips is simply this: Ask for the job.

Though it’s easier said than done, it is one of the most effective ways to make yourself memorable and appear confident and competent to your interviewer.

Now, you might be thinking: “What?! What do you mean? How could I possibly be so bold?”

You can. And you should.

Keep in mind that you are one person amid a sea of candidates. Think of yourself as part of a gigantic choir. How will you make your voice stand out? How will you deliver a solo that can be heard above the rest?

I have several strategies for developing your “solo” (if you’d like to learn more, let’s talk), but one of my key strategies is to have the confidence to ask for the position you’re seeking. Note that this is different than begging. You’re not on your knees, desperately pleading with the interviewer. Instead, you’re self-assured, enthusiastic, and authentic. You demonstrate that this job means a lot to you and you know it’s aligned with your skill set.

So, HOW do you ask for the job?

Start by affirming that, yes, this is the right fit for you. Research the company and the position. Read reviews on Glass Door. And listen to your gut–if you walk into an interview and notice that everyone in the office seems to be anxious and stressed, this might not be the company for you. Or, if your interviewer is curt and unfriendly, that might be a warning sign of what’s ahead. Trust both your instincts and your research. If you’re impressed with the company and you get a good feeling when you walk through the doors, that’s a good sign you should make the bold move of asking for the job.

When you’re asking for the job, timing is everything. Your ask should come toward the end of the interview. Usually, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions or anything you’d like to add. This is your chance to make your move.

Start by complimenting the company (but be sure you sound sincere). Say something like: “When I researched ABC Company, I was really impressed by your annual growth and the way you give back to the community. Now that I’m here in person, I’m even more impressed by the atmosphere and the way everyone has treated me with such warmth since the moment I walked through the door…”

Then, deliver your ask. Be confident. Practice asking for the job in front of the mirror so you become accustomed to how it might sound. Here are a few ways to do your ask:

“Your company seems like a great fit and I can picture myself thriving here. What can I do to convince you that I’m the right person for this position?”

“I can tell this position aligns with my skill set and I would very much like to work here.”

“This job sounds like a perfect match for my skills and experience. What can I do to demonstrate that I’m ready to work with you and your team?”

“I’m even more enthusiastic about this position than when I came in this morning and I’m confident I would be a good fit. What is the next step in the hiring process?”

REMEMBER: Go into your ask with grace, confidence, and the realization that the interviewer may respectfully decline OR hire you on the spot. Are you ready to get out there and put your new skill to work?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Gain Experience

If you are contemplating a career change or looking to expand your horizons, you know that experience is everything. Being able to add that new skill to your resume or LinkedIn profile can make all the difference to many hiring managers.

Or maybe you’re going back to the drawing board—you have finally decided to go with your gut and pursue your passion…even though on paper you’re not technically “qualified.”

So how do you take steps in the right direction? How do you build up your skillset when you’re starting from scratch?

Going back to the beginning seems overwhelming, but the experience you’re looking for can be found in places you might not expect.

1. Zoom Out

Maybe you’re looking at transitioning from a financial analyst to a graphic designer. While that’s an entirely new set of hard skills, don’t forget to consider the transferable soft skills you’ve built up over the years. If you can work to a deadline, communicate effectively with clients and team members and prioritize tasks effectively, you already have the start to a great skill section on your resume.

2. Start From the Beginning

Heading back to school may not be an option, but there are ways to get an education that don’t require a dorm. Look for online masterclasses in a topic relevant to you—check out Udemy, edX, or Masterclass for some affordable or even free options. There are dozens of useful websites out there, full of the type of specialized information you need to jumpstart a new career.

3. Small Steps

The truth is, any career requires some time at the bottom of the ladder. Look into opportunities as an intern or volunteer in your chosen field. See if there are remote or part-time opportunities that you can fit into your schedule. Positions like this will be less about fetching coffee and more about gaining real time in the field.

4. Leverage Your Connections

Though it seems intimidating to make a big change in your life, you don’t need to do it alone. In fact, it will be a lot harder if you isolate yourself. Ask people in your new field about their experiences. Set up informational interviews and ask the experts what steps they would recommend for someone in your position. If you don’t have any personal connections right now, that’s okay. Utilize LinkedIn, or try sending an email inquiry to someone whose career you admire. People are generally willing to share their experience and offer advice. Before you know it, you’ll be the one being asked to share your journey to success in a brand new field!

 

Don’t let a lack of experience prevent you from pursuing your dream career. I’ve worked with plenty of people who have successfully transitioned from one field to another. Though I’m sure you already have many applicable skills (which can be emphasized in a Functional Resume), it’s essential to gain relevant experience. Get out there with a positive, take-on-the-world attitude and let me know if you need any guidance!

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

 

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Carrie Green is a successful entrepreneur and founder of Female Entrepreneur Association. In her Ted Talk, she discusses reprogramming your brain for success. Many of us have limiting thoughts (I can’t, there are too many obstacles, etc.) that hold us back from achieving greatness.  Carries argues that anyone can overcome these limiting thoughts by having a strong vision and believing, wholeheartedly, that that vision will come true.

In short, success is no accident. It starts by :

1)Knowing exactly what you want to achieve

2)Knowing why you need to achieve it

3)Knowing the kind of a person that you need to become to achieve it

4) Programming your mind to achieve it (Visualization, Affirmation)

For the full talk, click on the video below. Begin at 10:20 or so for the meat of the lecture.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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leadership and continuous learning

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking out new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat everyday as another chance to acquire knowledge and skills.

Why is lifelong learning so essential for leadership? How does curiosity and exploration build character, aid in personal development, and position you as a leader? Read on…

1. Continual Learning Preps You For Inevitable Change

In order to remain a relevant leader, you must learn and continue to learn. Just because you earned a leadership role 10 years ago does not necessarily mean you’re equipped to lead today. Each situation you encounter presents new challenges that can only be accomplished with an appetite for new knowledge. There’s a reason why medical doctors are required to continue their specialized education long after they graduate from medical school. Could you imagine going to a surgeon who was using standard practices from the 1940s?

The same is true in any office setting. Standards change; innovations occur. Capable leaders stay on top of those changes, adapt, and guide others to adapt as well.

2. Well-Rounded People Make The Best Leaders

To be well-rounded, you need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert at everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it gives you a greater sense of perspective and maturity. Go outside your comfort zone; read history or philosophy if you’ve always been a numbers person. Take public speaking classes if you’re shy (Toastmasters is a great club for this). Learn a language. Focus on areas you’ve told yourself that you’re bad at, and give it another go. You may surprise yourself.

3. Learning Helps You Problem-Solve

If you’re constantly making an effort to learn new systems, programs, ways of thinking, etc. you’ll be more creative when it comes to problem-solving. If you train your brain to perform many different tasks (no matter what they are), you’re enabling yourself for outside-the-box thinking.

4. Your Actions Will Encourage Others to Keep Learning

As a leader, you set the standards. Your pursuit of innovation and discovery will encourage your team to also prioritize continual learning. Demonstrate that you’re willing to dive into uncharted territory, get your hands dirty, and make mistakes. Your example will help create a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out how to overcome obstacles.

 

How will you commit to continual learning? What will you do this week to help expand your horizons or learn a new skill? Start today!

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Get things done

David Allen has influenced people all over the world with his best-selling book, Getting Things Done. What can we learn from his methods? I’ve highlighted seven key lessons for increasing productivity, each and every day:

1. Focus on your workspace

Where you work is important. Set up your workspace so that it is your “cockpit of control.” That means everything is intentionally organized and you have efficient, instant access to information or tools you need.

2. Don’t multi-task

Focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention. Multi-tasking ultimately slows you down because your attention will be disjointed and you may not complete tasks to the best of your ability.

3. Cut down on distractions with a Thought Bucket

When you’re working on a specific task and something else comes to mind, jot it down in your “Thought Bucket.” That way, you won’t lose your thought and it’s less likely to control your mind. Every week, take a look at your notes in the Thought Bucket. Remove unimportant items, complete 2-minute tasks, and plot out appointments/deadlines in your calendar.

4. Break down goals

If you’re staring down a big-picture goal, it may seem intimidating (and you may turn and run the other way!). Instead, break down your goals into bite-sized pieces and tackle those pieces one at a time. The most urgent step on the project list goes to the Next Action list.

5. Pay attention to time-sensitive items

Allen suggests keeping track of time-sensitive tasks in something called the Tickler File. Use this file to set reminders for deadlines that are coming up within the next 31 days and also 12 months into the future.

6. Keep a Someday/Maybe list

Dare to dream. If you have ideas for projects you’d like to tackle or initiatives you’d like to start in the future, keep track of them on your Someday/Maybe list.

7. Regularly update your information

Allen suggests reviewing and updating all lists weekly. In his view, daily to-do lists are inefficient because of their warped view of time. Weekly lists help you think “bigger picture,” but do not overwhelm.

How about you? Are you a list-maker? How do you organize your day/week/quarter/year? Do you tend to multi-task or lend your focus to one task at a time? If you’re finding that your current system isn’t working, you may want to give David Allen’s a try!

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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