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By now, I know my fellow extroverts are going half-mad from being cooped up in quarantine. If you’re like me, you thrive on human interactions. Talking to others gives you energy and motivates you. It carries you through the day.

If we’re talking about this from the Insights Discovery lens, extroverted folks typically lead with Yellow Energy. Translation: their normal state of being is energetic, sociable, and dynamic. They typically enjoy brainstorming ideas or doing activities with other people. In an office setting, they’re the one with the candy dish on their desk.

Enter quarantine…

Most of that energy has been zapped from us extroverts. Yes, we might have family members around, but it’s just not the same. We might feel rudderless and sad. We might dive into social media for just a taste of human interaction. This COVID quarantine is taking its toll on extroverts, both mentally and emotionally.

If you have extroverted friends, make an effort to reach out. Schedule a video chat happy hour, send them a good old-fashioned letter, meet in an open park and have a conversation six feet away from each other (with masks on!).

Better yet, get a group of people in on the action. Form an online book club or do a weekly video check-in. You might even play a game or watch the same movie together.

These small gestures can and WILL help. Your extroverted friend might put on a happy face and pretend that they’re ok, but chances are, they’re lonely and need a little boost. You can be that boost. A few minutes of your time could make a world of difference.

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 50% off: MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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dandelion fluff

I know. Things are difficult right now for many families. Millions are unemployed or underemployed, the stock market is volatile, fear is rampant, and many are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the reality…but do you really have to dwell on the reality every day? Do you have to spend hour upon hour watching the news, combing through social media, or reading the headlines?

No, you do not.

That doesn’t mean you should stuff your fingers in your ears and go, “La la la,” until things are back to normal. What it does mean is that you are allowed to take a break from bad news and frightening statistics. You are allowed to stay optimistic and look on the bright side (we will get through this).

One of the best ways to stop yourself from falling into a “woe is me” state of mind is to focus on others. Even if the COVID crisis has negatively impacted you, there’s always someone who is worse off than yourself. There’s always someone who is homeless, sick, or wondering where their next meal will come from. There’s always someone who is too weak or frail to mow their own lawn or weed their garden. You have an opportunity to help these people, and by helping them, you can also distract yourself from your own personal plight.

Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs help picking up groceries or doing yardwork? Volunteer your time and services (making sure you stay six feet away from your neighbor, of course).

Are nearby indie bookstores struggling to keep their doors open amid the quarantine? Consider ordering a few books from their online shop to keep them afloat (and keep you entertained!).

Are local restaurants suffering? Make an effort to order takeout from them at least once per week.

Do you know of any couples who are completely out of work right now? If you have money to spare, you might consider purchasing them a restaurant gift card (for takeout, of course!) or a gift card for groceries.

Do you know of an elderly person or someone who lives alone who might be feeling isolated during this time? Write them a letter or send flowers.

These small gestures can make a world of difference. By reaching out and putting your time and energy into volunteerism, you will not only improve someone else world, you will put yourself in a better frame of mind. And that’s a win-win if I ever heard of one!

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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Girl with sparklers

If there ever was a time for an acronym like GLAD, it’s right now. These four letters signify a positive outlook and a forward-thinking mindset. Though some may have different interpretations, I have seen this acronym stand for the following words:

G =  Generosity

Even if you’re going through a hard time right now, what are you able to share? It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift; it could be as simple as writing positive messages with sidewalk chalk or putting a teddy bear in your window for children to find in a scavenger hunt.

L = Letting go 

What is truly important in your life? What are the things you have control over and the things you can NOT change? Focus on what you CAN do right now (practicing shelter-in-place, social distancing, safe shopping practices, working as best you can from home, etc.) instead of what you can’t (other people, the status of your job, etc.).

A = Attitude

Do you need to adjust your mindset? You have the power to see the good in anything, even a prolonged quarantine. Think about the family dinners you now get to enjoy, the friends you can connect with over video chat (something we were not able to do only a few years ago!), and the money you’re saving by not going out to eat or attending expensive events. Figure out how to make isolation time YOUR time.

D = Different

The corona virus pandemic is changing the world. Things are, and will continue to be, forever different. Embrace the differences! Perhaps employers will be more open to occasional work-from-home days. Maybe you will continue to connect with friends through virtual chats. Maybe your family will continue to find comfort in each other’s company.

Word Challenge:

Now that I’ve given you a few words that represent GLAD, I challenge you to think of other words that might represent G, L, A, and D. Gratitude comes to mind, as does learning, adapting, diligence, and listening.

Pick a few of your favorite words and write about how you will make them a part of your life. How will you become more grateful? What will you do to be a better listener for your spouse, friends, co-workers, or children? How will you dedicate your time to learning something new?

Even though these are unprecedented times, we are all in this together. Keep in mind the “A” of my GLAD acronym, and let your positive attitude dictate how you will spend your days.

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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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 by Анастасия Гепп from Pixabay

Many of us have opportunities to meet new people regularly. Whether at a conference, seminar, or simply a gym class, we may be brushing shoulders with others who could prove to be value networking connections. But oftentimes we’re either A) too timid to strike up a meaningful conversation or B) bad about following up or keeping in touch once we do make a new acquaintance.

Let’s change that pattern! It’s time to turn potential alliances into solid connections. Start by following these five steps:

1. Speak Up

So many of us miss opportunities to connect with others because we’re nervous to strike up a conversation with someone new. At a conference or workshop, it’s so much easier to stick with the group of people you already know and not venture outside your comfort zone. It’s also easier to stick your nose in your phone or laptop during breaks, and not bother to seek out new acquaintances.

I challenge you to dip a toe out of your comfort zone and start talking to strangers! It may be intimidating at first, but honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? The other person may not be receptive to your efforts…so, you move on.

2. Ask Good Questions

If you’re attending a business event, you might consider coming up with a few questions ahead of time to ask would-be connections. Go over the day’s agenda, and think of relevant questions you could ask.

Another way to engage new acquaintances is to be genuinely curious about them. Go beyond “What do you do?” Dig deeper and ask questions about their client base or how they became interested in their work in the first place. Or, connect on a more personal level and ask about their background and interests (without being too nosy, of course!). If you’re going to go this route, you probably want to offer something of yourself first. For example, “I’m thrilled about all the book recommendations we’ve been getting at the conference. Do you like to read too?”

Asking questions creates bridges between people. Just make sure you’re mostly asking open-ended questions (not ones that can be answered with yes or no), and you truly listen to the reply. You don’t want to completely miss what someone says because you’re thinking up a response.

Asking questions creates bridges between people.

3. Demonstrate Your Value

When you’re connecting with a professional acquaintance, it’s a good idea to think about how you can help them, instead of focusing on what you can gain. Make it clear that this relationship is a two-way street, and you have valuable skills and services to offer.

4. Connect Within Three Days

Be sure to follow up with new acquaintances within three days, while your interaction is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Send a short email and/or connection request on LinkedIn. You might also give a brief reminder about how you met, saying something like, “It was great talking about data collection methods at the ABC Conference on Thursday. I’d love to continue the conversation sometime…”

5. Create a Follow-Up Schedule

Designate time to follow up with new acquaintances. Set your dates and plug in a calendar reminder to make sure you follow through. Don’t be too pushy, especially if you don’t get a response from your acquaintance, but do make an effort to reach out. Consider framing your message like this:

Hi Rachel,

You crossed my mind the other day because [FILL IN A REASON]. I wanted to reach out and see how you’re doing with your XYZ business. Have you had any more issues with [FILL IN DETAILS]? If you’d like to grab a cup of coffee sometime soon, please let me know. I have some free time at the end of next week.

Take care,
Margaret

You worked hard to make your new acquaintances; don’t let them fall between the cracks! Your connections could prove to be fruitful, both for you and the people you meet.

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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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Hands holding a seedling
Image via Pixabay

Striking out fresh in any career comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re lucky, you’ll enter into your industry with a few contacts and entry level skills before having to navigate where to look for employment and how to distinguish yourself from a large pool of talent. While this generation of young people are capable workers in their own right, young professionals don’t have the benefit of having experienced an industry for a decade or two like their superiors. Mentoring others provides a unique opportunity to fill in the gaps for these workers and offers many rewarding benefits:  

1 . Better Outcomes and Relationships

Mentoring, like tutoring, is an interpersonal skill. When people feel their voice is heard and being encouraged to grow, they are much more likely to remain engaged with their work and voice concerns more confidently. Any time you can foster better feedback from your team, the stronger the team becomes.

2. Reputation

Building a reputation as a mentor in your industry can become a distinguishing part of your career. Often, companies seek to draw upper-talent from pools of candidates that are known in professional circles to be helpful leaders and actively collaborative. Mentoring your employees demonstrates both of these skills easily and clearly, particularly for mentors who’ve done so throughout their career. As the adage goes: “You get back what you put in.”

3. Professional Development

Just because someone can benefit from the guidance of a mentor doesn’t mean they’re without skills to bring to the table. New workers, especially young people, often come with the proficiencies or strategies needed to approach new technology or use new software. You can take advantage of the personal relationship you strike with your mentee to have them teach you how to effectively use these tools. You both walk away more competent.

4. Networking

Life is long and careers often take unexpected twists and turns. The analyst that started at your company five years ago may quickly rise in the ranks of the industry to a sector you’re interested in doing business with or simply learning more about. The more people you can foster a mentoring relationship with, the wider you cast your net across the next generation of leaders. These relationships may end up among the most important in your working life.

5. Personal Fulfillment

Any teacher can attest to this last benefit. Mentoring is an opportunity to open yourself to others whose perspective may be entirely different from your own. Learning from one another about subjects that extend beyond the scope of your job will enrich you personally and professionally.

Mentoring others is essential to bridging the gap between generations of workers. Stepping up to help guide colleagues through this process will not only reward your mentee and yourself, but your industry as a whole. So take a leap and share what you know!

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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