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Category Archives: Transitions

I recently returned from hiking 135 miles of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. The Camino was originally established as a pilgrimage trail when St. James was instructed to bring Christ’s message to the end of the world. Well…he reached Santiago, Spain, saw the ocean spreading out before his feet for as far as the eye could see, and declared that he’d made it.

This was years before Columbus approached Queen Isabella and King Fernand to request funding for his trip to the West Indies. And well over a thousand years before I set foot on the trail.

What started as a solitary journey by one devotee turned into a pilgrimage route. Although many people still journey the trail solo, they are never truly alone. Community is everywhere on the Camino. And it is powerful.

Although I embarked on my journey with my husband and a small group of friends, I found it easy to connect with others along the way. We hailed from different backgrounds, different countries, different demographics, and were hiking the trail for different reasons, but we all melded together easily in a multi-colored bouquet of humanity.

Rarely have I found so many people so welcoming. We ate together, shared our stories, and sometimes divulged our deepest secrets. I was surprised by what complete strangers were willing to share with me—but then again, many people hike the Camino as a way to release past hurts, and what’s the harm in sharing your story with someone you’ll likely never see again?

As I walked the trail, I marveled at how safe and protected I felt. You know how when you’re walking down the street in your normal, everyday life and you hear someone come up behind you? Usually, you glance back, you become on guard.

On the Camino, you welcome footsteps and a chance to get to know someone new.

All of this got me thinking: What if everyday life were more like the Camino?

  • We’d welcome strangers to our tables
  • We’d be more open with others
  • We’d smile more often and aim for connections (instead of putting on our headphones and ignoring each other)
  • We’d trust
  • We’d care less about a person’s background and appearance and more about who they really are
  • We’d live life with open arms and open hearts

Even if you’ve never walked the Camino, you can still bring the spirit of the trail to your life. Challenge yourself to be more open and candid with others; practice being more welcoming to co-workers and acquaintances. You’re entire world may change.

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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There you are, day in and day out, punching the clock. Suddenly, after many dedicated years at an okay job, you are laid off. Unfortunately, that seems to be the story for so many individuals over the last few years. What to do now?

Most people dive into the traditional job search, seeking out something similar to what they had done before. But, that’s not the only option. You could take your experiences and acquired skills and strike out on your own! Or, you could go back to school, even taking just a few classes, and gain new skills for a flourishing business.

Here are a few resources to help get you started when you find yourself thinking about entrepreneurship (running a business), or even becoming a solopreneur (running a business on your own, such as freelancing).

Program Specifically for Laid Off Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

Here in Minnesota, the government offers the Dislocated Worker Program to laid off employees. If you want to start your own business, you can take advantage of their Converting Layoffs into Minnesota Businesses (CLIMB) sub-program. CLIMB allows you to work toward building your business full-time while still collecting unemployment, eliminating the “regular” job search stress. They offer counseling, training, and financial help to guide you on your self-employment journey.

Programs for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: 

  • S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers counseling, classes, loans, and special services for minority and women-owned small businesses.
  • WomenVenture provides women with classes, counseling, and loans for successfully starting a small business. Their Guided Business Plan course is a six-month long program intended to help you complete your business plan and strategize every aspect of your business.
  • SCORE is a free mentoring program for small business owners. They also offer workshops and tools to get started and thrive.

Training and Development for Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

 Bolstering your education or training can give you a leg up for starting a thriving business. I know one woman who was laid off after eight years on the job. Because she felt that her skillset was outdated, she decided to take advantage of the classes offered in the programs mentioned above. The classes renewed her confidence and gave her the courage to start a freelance writing business, something she had considered doing for a long time.

Another option to brush up your skills is to take classes online or complete an online degree. Many universities and colleges also offer continuing education certifications if you want a shorter time commitment. The CLIMB program can help pay for these classes.

Use any of the above resources to see if they offer training that may help you move forward in your quest for self-employment. There are many other resources in Minnesota; check out this website for further information on starting a business in this state.

 

It can be scary to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it can turn into an exciting journey toward entrepreneurship, and this state has excellent resources for successfully starting a business. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled toward a new career where you call the shots. Contact me if you would like support with your self-employment goals.

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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build a boss program

Last week, I talked about a program that career coach, Karen Kodzik, and I created called Build A Boss. We noticed a gap in how managers are trained—many are only trained on bare bones office mechanics and not how to effectively lead people—so we sought to fill that gap. In last week’s post, I discussed new leaders and how Build A Boss can help them achieve success in four key areas. This week, I’m going to focus on established leaders and how they can get back on their feet after a significant change.

I’ve worked with many people who have years of leadership experience in a certain area. Then, a change happens. Maybe they move to a new company, shift positions within their current place of employment, or are faced with a drastic restructuring of their company’s way of operating.

Whatever the case, this kind of change can be jarring for a manager who has only practiced a certain brand of leadership. Fortunately, there are coaching companies like UXL that can help established leaders bounce back and reimagine and reinvigorate their leadership.

Although it is helpful to enlist the help of a coach, there are certain things you can do on your own to help you through a difficult leadership transition. Try these six “quick tips.”

Quick Tip 1:

Set aside “you time.” Take the time to reflect upon your personal attributes and strategize on how to build your strengths.

Quick Tip 2:

Don’t get caught up in your perceived weaknesses. You can’t be good at everything! Practice smart delegation and enlist the help of your team.

Quick Tip 3:

Schedule more one-on-one meetings. Getting to know and understand each team member is crucial for building trust, understanding their areas of strength, and understanding team dynamics.

Quick Tip 4:

Take an effective, science-based self-assessment AND have your team take it as well. One of my favorites is Insights Discovery.

Quick Tip 5:

Open up your communication. Create ample opportunity for your team to give (and receive!) feedback. During meetings, make sure to be inclusive and encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas.

Quick Tip 6:

Be goal-oriented. Set small monthly and quarterly goals, as well as one or five-year goals. Remind yourself of your goals often. Be sure to set both personal and team goals.

 

Established leaders can learn new tricks. Open yourself to new ways of practicing leadership and remember, there’s no need to go it alone! Enlist the help of a coach and seek support from your team members and fellow managers. Leadership is an ever-changing thing and it’s always a good idea to refresh your ideas about what it means to be an effective, capable leader.

 

Contact me for more information about one-on-one leadership coaching.

Know an emerging leader? Or someone in a new supervisory role?
Our next Build A Boss workshop series is at St. Kate’s University on May 11, 18, and 25.

build a boss leadership program

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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are you a new leader

I’ve met a lot of people who were promoted to a management position, given their corner office, and then left alone to fend for themselves. It’s possible they were given basic information on the mechanics of running the office—when to do annual reviews, what financial reports to file, who to call when their computer is on the fritz—but they are seldom trained in on how to lead.

Leadership is not something that new managers should have to figure out on their own. There’s a real art to successfully engaging and motivating a team, dealing with conflict resolution, and achieving results through effectively delegating work to employees.

How can new leaders build those skills?

Sure, they can read leadership books or attend seminars, but it’s difficult to sift through all that information and really get to the crux of effective leadership. That’s where programs like Build A Boss* come in.

Career coach, Karen Kodzik, and I saw a gap in the marketplace a few years ago for developing new managers into leaders. Many managers were struggling with team dynamics, communication, or achieving the kind of results that their companies expected. With that in mind, Karen and I set about creating Build A Boss, a program that takes a four-pronged approach to leadership:

ME

We start with helping new leaders develop a deep understanding of themselves. This is the root of excellent leadership and helps to open the door to understanding others. By building emotional intelligence, a new leader can bolster their personal brand, improve communication, and increase their confidence.

ME +1

One of the most commonly overlooked (and vitally important!) areas for managers to develop their skills is in one-on-one interactions. These private meetings between a manager and team member are important for building trust, getting to know each other’s areas of strength, and soliciting feedback that can be used to improve the current system.

ME +Team

How does a leader select a team for a particular project? How can she capitalize on individual strengths? Or avoid team conflict? Selecting and building a team is no small task. And once a team is established, how does a leader keep them focused and motivated? Our Build A Boss program gives new leaders tools and methods to help build a powerhouse team and keep them engaged and results-driven.

ME +Org

A manager’s relationship with his organization is an essential piece of the leadership puzzle. Ultimately, how a manager performs can either help or hinder the organization’s goals. It’s incredibly easy for managers to get bogged down in day-to-day details and forget about their place in the big picture. We encourage leaders to pull themselves away from the trees and begin seeing the forest! This perspective can help them better develop their personal brand, earn office-wide recognition, and develop forward-thinking stratagems to carry themselves and their organization forward.

 

As a leader, have you considered these four areas as they apply to your work? Do one or more of the areas need improving? You’re certainly not alone!

Instead of struggling through your difficulties, DO SOMETHING about them. Start taking proactive measures to improve your one-on-one communication or your team building expertise. If you’d like additional guidance, please reach out and contact me. I’d love to talk over your situation and help you make the most of your leadership.

As I say in the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge: Become the leader you already know you are!

 

* Please note: Build A Boss is meant for either new or established leaders. I focused on new leaders in this blog post, but next week I’ll touch on established leaders who are facing challenges. Stay tuned!

UPCOMING BUILD A BOSS WORKSHOP:

build a boss leadership program

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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preparation for job hunt

It pays to take a page out of the Boy Scout’s book and always Be Prepared. You may be somewhat content with your current job, but you never know when things may change. Perhaps your company downsizes and your position is cut, or your new boss is nearly impossible to work with, or you discover an amazing new work opportunity and would like to apply.

Instead of scrambling to get your ducks in a row, take action NOW to prepare for your “someday” job hunt. How to do it? Try out these five “Keeps.”

Keep your information updated.

Get in the habit of looking over your résumé every few months, or whenever you have a major work-related change (a new position or responsibility, an award, a new training certificate, etc.). Update your résumé and potentially delete outdated items. Do the same thing for your LinkedIn profile (you’d be surprised how many recruiters turn to LinkedIn for hiring!)

Keep a list of your accomplishments

No matter how small the achievement, write it down! Keep a list of all your successful projects, awards, recognition, new clients, and more. If you’re able to find statistics to back up your accomplishments (i.e. “I brought in 10 new clients for the company this past year” or “I contributed to 15% of our sales this year”), that’s even better. It’s always a good idea to bring up specific accomplishments in interviews.

Keep up your training/education

Don’t let yourself grow complacent! Look for continuing education courses, webinars, or workshops that can help keep your skills sharp. Keeping your skill set up to date will also help you in your current position.

Keep networking

It’s easy to ignore networking events when you’re not actively looking for a job, but they can provide a wealth of opportunities. You may connect with someone from your dream company or meet someone who is doing work that may be an excellent fit for your talents. Besides, networking isn’t all about job hunting. It’s about meeting potential new clients and collaborators as well. It’s also possible that you might be able to help someone else who is looking to get into a similar position or company as yours.

Keep a clear vision

Don’t forget to take “you time” every now and then to reflect upon where you currently are and where you’d like to go. What is your vision of the future? What makes you happy? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Keep your dreams top-of-mind and recognize that they don’t have to be just dreams. With a little effort and a clear path, they can become your reality.

 

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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ask for the job

When I tell my coaching clients that they should ask for the job in an interview, I often get slack-jawed stares and looks of horror.

“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 for 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 that 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’re sounding 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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tips for successful networking

Even if you’re not looking for a new job, networking is still a valuable pursuit. It’s a chance to learn more about your industry, the jobs you didn’t know existed in your field, how to advance your career, or how to start your own business. For some people, networking can feel like shallow interactions that are barely masking the attitude of “what can you do for me?” but this doesn’t need to be the case. With a positive disposition and helpful strategies in place, networking can be the start of a nurturing, collaborative, trustworthy community for you.

Practice your intro

You may not be selling a product or an idea, but in networking scenarios, you need to market your skills and talent. When people ask you about your job title and your pursuits, have a clear, short summary ready to go. Practice it in the mirror or record yourself, if you can; hearing your voice played back can help you determine where to pause or when to punch up your pitch for optimal recollection, for you and your potential contacts.

Set goals for yourself

Networking goals will vary between people and industries, but it is important to set them. It’s far too easy to sweep that type of work under the rug, but setting goals will keep you accountable. Create goals that are achievable: attend at least one networking event within the next month, reach out to three new people in your industry, or schedule a meeting with an existing contact. Once you meet those goals, make new ones.

Treat every encounter as important, because it is

While it is easy to think of networking as a means to a new job, there is more to be gained from these interactions. Don’t dismiss someone because they can’t help you right now: the benefit of continued communication could come around in three months or three years. Keep in mind that they could also introduce you to someone else who needs your skills.

Follow up

After you meet these new contacts, you need to reach out before they start collecting dust. Use the method of communication that works for both of you: phone, email, Skype, or face-to-face. Check in regularly and ask them about what they’re working on, what projects they see for the near future, and the skills and experience needed to complete their work. If your skills don’t align with their needs, you might recommend someone from your network. Consistent, thoughtful communication will hopefully result in contacts thinking of you when relevant opportunities come across their desk.

Bring people together

As you your network grows and you learn about the skills and needs of your contacts, you may realize that one needs the services of the other. This is what networking is all about: helping people connect. Hopefully, they will get a chance to repay the favor: when one of those contacts comes across a job posting or freelance opportunity in your field, you know they will think of you first.

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