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Category Archives: Goals

hand writing on paper with coffee

Our nation is going through a time of unprecedented hardship and fear. In an effort to quell the COVID-19 virus that is spreading like wildfire, many of us are hunkering down at home and only going out for necessities. Though some of our activities might be moved into the virtual space, we all know that isn’t the same. All this alone time can feel isolating and downright scary, but it doesn’t have to be totally terrible.

You have the power to make alone time YOUR time.

Think of it this way: What other time in your life has allowed you to have so much autonomy and control over your schedule? You don’t have to make a long commute; you don’t have people popping into your office every five minutes and interrupting your work flow. Sure, you might be dealing with babysitting your kids at home or working alongside your significant other, but I would still argue that you have an unprecedented opportunity.

How will you use all your newfound “home time?”

I am a big proponent of setting aside time for yourself. Even though you inevitably have other responsibilities, be sure to allot a few minutes every day (even an hour, if you can) that’s dedicated to YOU.

Practice reflection, journaling, or meditation. Think about what you want your personal and professional life to look like after this is all over, and make plans for how you’d like to get there. Perhaps, your plans involve self-improvement steps, such as reading professional development books (I’m planning on putting together a list for my next blog post) or taking online courses.

If learning a new skill (such as coding, video-making, or writing) is part of your personal development plan, you might consider doing a little research to see what, exactly, you need to learn and how you can learn it. Reach out to those who already have these skills, and request resources. Or, you might try combing through an online course bank, such as Udemy or Teachable.

If leadership is part of your personal development plan, try interviewing leaders in your community OR start taking an online leadership course (My 10-Minute Leadership Challenge course is now 50% off to make it more accessible during this troubling time).

No matter which personal development skills you choose to pursue during this time, it is important you make a plan AND stick to it. When you’re at home, it’s easy to let the days drift away in clouds of social media or television. Don’t let that be you! I want you to emerge from this time period, feeling empowered and equipped with a new set of skills to further your professional goals.

If you’re going to be stuck in isolation, you might as well make the most of your time. You’ve got this!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Hand writing in notebook near laptop and phone

Years ago, I sat with a group of co-workers, listening to our CEO as he described his goals and visions for our company’s future. It was clear he was excited about what was ahead, and he succeeded in drumming up excitement in all of us, too. As I listened, I began to picture myself in a leadership role, helping the company get to where we wanted to go. I could see myself spearheading projects and guiding a team. The thought got me so excited, that I left the meeting with fire under my feet, ready to take action!

The only problem was…the CEO hadn’t discussed any practical implementation for his plan. He did not go into many details, and it was unclear who was going to lead his initiatives and, more importantly, how.

So, I decided to write my own job description. I laid out my responsibilities—precisely the work that was needed to bring the CEO’s goals to fruition. The job fit me to a tee, and I was excited about the possibilities, but then…that negative gremlin on my shoulder began to speak.

It told me I couldn’t do it.

It told me my plan was silly, and no one would listen to me.

It said I would be foolish to show my dream job description to anyone.

So, I put the piece of paper in my drawer and I didn’t show a soul.

Not long after that, one of my co-workers was given a job that would directly fulfill the CEO’s requests. MY job. His responsibilities almost directly mirrored the ones I had laid out in my job description.

Shocked (and more than a little annoyed with myself!), I decided to show my mock job description to my boss. I explained what it was, and handed it over. After he read it, he looked at me and said, “I had no idea, Margaret. I didn’t know your ambitions so closely aligned to this job.”

But it was too late to change things. The job had been created and awarded to someone else, and I was left with only a valuable lesson:

Visualize the career you want and take control of it.

Write out your dream job description, and then let your boss in on your plans. Don’t keep your ambitions a secret. Share your goals, and create a road map for how to get there.

Asking for what you want is never easy, but it is absolutely critical if you want to get to where you’d like to go. Be true to yourself and candid about your goals. This openness and honesty will be worth it in the long run.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Mossy trees on hill

In my last post, I discussed the fact that many people’s career paths are not straight and linear. We don’t necessarily “climb the ladder” anymore. Instead, many modern careers resemble a lattice or a tree—branched out and spreading in many different directions. While some may think such a career lacks focus, I would argue that it makes people more well-rounded and gives them a wealth of experiences.

But, how can you possibly map out your goals if your path isn’t straight and linear?

Start by assessing where you are today and where you’d like to be within a few years. Think big-picture. What, ideally, would you like to be doing? What kind of role or roles? What responsibilities? How much money would you like to be making?

Once you have your big picture goal in mind, start thinking about different skills and experiences you will need to get there. Think of these like the branches of a tree, shooting out from the main trunk. To get to where you’d ultimately like to go, you might need to improve your grasp of PowerPoint or become a better public speaker or learn a new type of accounting software. List all the different things you need to learn or experience that will help guide you to your big-picture goal.

Then, break down those items into smaller branches. For instance, if you’d like to become a better public speaker, what do you have to do? Do you need to take classes? Practice in front of a group? Take improv classes? Join Toastmasters? List each of these smaller steps, then add them to your career goal tree.

Remember: Build some flexibility into your plan. It’s possible you’re missing a crucial “branch,” and will need to add it to your tree later. Leave some blank areas in your plan, and fill them in if you happen to get additional insight from others or realize you’re neglecting a certain area.

When you’ve filled out your career goal tree, share it with your boss. [NOTE: This might go with out saying, BUT only share your plan with your boss if your ultimate goal involves your current company.] Explain the different steps you’d like to take to reach your destination, and demonstrate that you’re committed to getting there.

On a personal note, I would be blown away if one of my team members presented such a comprehensive and thoughtful plan to me. This type of visual helps create a fuller, richer picture of what someone needs to do to navigate from Point A to Point B. It’s much more than “I’d like to become a team leader next year.” It’s a well-thought-out plan on how to get there.

If you have any questions about creating your own tree-like career map, please do not hesitate to ask. Let’s get you to where you’d like to be, one branch at a time!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Text over a red lattice
Background image via Alicja from Pixabay

At one time, it was fairly common for a person to spend their entire career at the same company, working their way up the rungs of the organizational ladder. Today, things aren’t nearly so neat and tidy, and career paths are not nearly so straight (or even vertical). Instead of a ladder, many modern workers’ careers resemble a lattice.

How can a career trajectory resemble a lattice?

A lattice fans out in many different directions. It climbs, but not necessarily in a straight line. Similarly, a person might take on a variety of different roles in a number of different industries. They might learn various skills along the way, each one building up their expertise and knowledge base.

This type of “climbing” creates a more well-rounded person—someone who has dipped their toes into many different waters and has developed skills in numerous areas. The latticed career path also inevitably makes people more adaptable—they’ve had to learn the ins and outs of a variety of different workplaces and roles.

If so many modern employees move in a lattice style, how is it possible to map out one’s career? Is it even plausible?

Absolutely. You just have to adjust your thinking. Instead of visualizing your career as “climbing the ladder,” think instead about the different skills you’d like to learn, experiences you’d like to have, and goals you’d like to attain. How will you get there? What training do you need? What roles and responsibilities do you need to fill? These different skillsets and experiences are offshoots of your lattice.

If you’re having trouble with this visual, you can also think about your career path like a tree. While the whole entity goes up, some of the branches are more horizontal than vertical. These branches are the different career detours you might take. You might, for instance, take the time to earn your MBA, learn how to code, or take a class in public speaking. While these little detours may deviate from your main career, they make you more well-rounded and valuable in the end.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to lay out your non-linear career goals (moving like a lattice or a tree!) in more detail. In the meantime, simply recognize that your trajectory may not be straight, but that doesn’t mean you’re not moving forward and picking up valuable skills and lessons along the way.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

I know how it goes. You attend a professional conference (either by choice or because your company sent you), you learn a few things, you become motivated to make changes…and then you leave and neglect to follow up on any of it.

What good are these events if you never implement anything you learn?

It’s time to change the way we approach conferences. Start with the following four steps:

1. Do Your Homework

Before the conference begins, be sure to look up the schedule and note anything that appeals to you—relevant break-out workshops, lectures on interesting topics, events that might build your network. Going in with a plan helps you be more efficient with your time and prevents you from being roped into a lecture or workshop that might not actually suit your interests.

2. Ask Questions

Once you determine which sessions you’re going to attend, jot down questions you could ask the speaker/presenter. Keeping these questions in mind helps to deepen your relationship with the subject matter and keeps you engaged (if your questions are answered, great! If not, find time to ask them, if possible).

To dive deeper into a topic, ask follow-up questions to fellow attendees as well. Asking open-ended questions such as, “What did you think about [SUBJECT]?” or “What were your take-aways from the presentation?” will stimulate conversation and help keep the topic top-of-mind.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

There’s nothing like a little accountability to help you follow-through on committing to change. If you’re attending the conference with people you know, ask a trusted colleague (or colleagues—the more the better!) if they will agree to be your accountability partner. Say something to the effect of: “I’m really hoping to implement some of the things I learn this coming weekend. Are you hoping for the same? Would you want to do brief check-ins after the conference to make sure we’re both on track?”

Then, follow up! Schedule weekly or bi-weekly check-ins on your calendar (a simple chat over a cup of coffee will probably suffice).

If you’re feeling self-conscious about asking someone to be your accountability partner, try holding yourself accountable by scheduling—and committing to—self-check-ins. Set aside fifteen minutes every week, retrieve your conference notes, and see where you’re excelling and what areas need improvement.

4. Take Notes

Speaking of notes…take them! Jotting down your take-aways (and going over them shortly after the conference) will help you retain the information for longer.

Remember: Many speakers who present at conferences have valuable advice to share. You just have to be willing to listen, absorb it, and act.

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person jumping at sunset

Happy New Year! Now is the time when many people reflect on the past year, examine their life paths, and resolve to make meaningful change. Though you may start the year with the best of intentions (earning a promotion, losing weight, learning a new language), it’s easy to quickly lose steam after a month or two have passed by.

You might slip up once, then twice, then you toss the whole resolution out the window and tell yourself you’ll do better next year. But that doesn’t have to be the drill. It IS possible to commit to the resolutions you’ve made and actually make positive changes in your life.

Try these three steps:

1. Try 90 Days Instead

While this may seem like cheating, it is actually a good idea to commit to a goal for 90 days rather than an entire year. According to David Horsager, author of the Trust Edge, the attention-span and commitment of most people doesn’t usually stretch beyond three months.

However, he argues that most people can make huge strides in just 90 days. If you map out a plan for that stretch of time (outlining not just what you’re going to do, but how you’re going to do it), you can do everything from losing 20 pounds to writing a novel.

2. Lean On an Accountability Partner

Whether a trusted friend/co-worker or a professional coach, it’s a great idea to use an accountability partner. This is a person who knows about the commitment you’ve made, and agrees to hold your feet to the fire. Ideally, you and your accountability partner will have regular check-ins, so they can keep tabs on your progress and you have an added incentive to get things done.

3. Break Down Your Goals

When I’m coaching individuals or teams, I often advise them to take their goal and break it down into “bite-sized pieces.” When you only look at the end state you’re trying to achieve (write a book, get a raise, eat healthier, etc.), it can seem daunting or downright impossible.

Instead, set incremental goals that lead you to the BIG goal you’re trying to achieve. Whenever you hit one of your incremental goals, don’t forget to celebrate! This will give you a little extra incentive to keep at it.

It’s the New Year, and you want to start it out right. No matter what big-picture change you’re trying to make this year, you CAN get it done. Follow these steps, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have an off day, and don’t forget to celebrate your achievements. Happy 2020!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Woman thinking, looking up
Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

It pays to be a problem-solver. Rather than either A) Sitting around and waiting for things to resolve themselves or B) Counting on others to solve your problems, it’s better to take a proactive approach. For one, the problems you’re facing may not resolve on their own. Or, they may not resolve themselves in the way you want. If you take “approach B” and let others solve problems for you, you lose crucial opportunities to learn and grow. Not to mention, your fate (or the fate of a project) will always be in others’ hands, beyond your control.

It’s much more rewarding to be proactive and attempt to solve problems yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to go about problem-solving on your own. The most adept problem-solvers use whatever resources (human or otherwise) that are at their disposal.

Work on becoming a problem-solver in your workplace! Focus on building the following six traits:

1. Be Courageous

Some risk may be involved in finding solutions to sub-optimal situations. You might have to speak up, contact your superiors, or tap into uncharted territory. Be courageous, knowing that you’ll be learning valuable skills, no matter the outcome.

2. Adapt

Not every solution is going to keep you squarely within your comfort zone. Be prepared to be flexible.

3. Innovate

Think outside the box! The best solutions may be paths you have not yet explored in your workplace. Look to other industries or unlikely sources for problem-solving inspiration

4. Be Resourceful

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Online research, your HR department, co-workers, or your professional connections could be sources of advice or inspiration for you.

5. Build Unity

If a problem is affecting an entire department or group of people, it pays to rally the troops and get everyone working toward solving your mutual issue. You know what they say about several heads being better than one!

6. Be Vocal

Silence is the worst way to deal with a sticky issue. Refusing to address a problem with open communication will only suppress it or force people to talk about it in whispers.

Embrace your courageous, vocal, innovative, and adaptive sides! Rally the troops and use whatever resources are available to you. Be a proactive problem-solver, and you’ll gain a better handle on your future. Not only that, you’ll also develop valuable skills along the way and likely gain recognition from your superiors as someone who is unafraid to face problems head-on.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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