Some Career Advice (For What It's Worth)

March 8, 2009 11:02 PM

I struck out on my own one year ago this week. Much of my early success and ongoing satisfaction can be directly attributed to those who reached out to me as I tried to find/make my own way. While some folks I'd known over the years, others represented newly-formed relationships. Almost to the person I felt their genuine concern for me and a desire to help.


I have been trying to do the same, that is, investing in others as others have invested in me. While I am neither an executive coach nor trained mentor, I have been dispensing individual doses of advice to those "in transition."


Amidst all the professional upheaval many are experiencing, it seems people are longing for someone to listen to them, empathize, provide perspective, challenge them, and encourage. More and more, these "conversations" are taking place online via email, IM, texting, and social networks. But call me "old school," I still prefer talking over a good cup of freshly-brewed coffee. 


Below are two "stream of consciousness" missives I recently sent. The first was to a seasoned professional asking, "what next?" The second was for a young man about to enter the workforce and wondering, "what now?"



Advice for a Seasoned Professional:

"...don't just get "on" LinkedIn, become a power user. Your relationships (don't think 'networks') are key. Everyone you know, everywhere you've lived, every job you've held, etc. Request recommendations. Your online profile becomes your resume. Push it out to people when they ask. Link with people or check out their profiles before you meet with them. Follow other power users and draft behind them. Repurpose your content across social media/networks. Also get on Facebook (175M and growing). Don't be afraid to ask for and give advice, freely. Go out for coffee with folks (a lot). Consider consulting. Set up an LLC and get a separate checking account/credit card for business. Stay optimistic. Do something creative you have always wanted to do (e.g., teach, speak, write) that makes a difference. Oh, invests in others." 



Thoughts for a College Senior:

"A good start is just asking others that have gone before you, walked the trail so to speak. Of course, it's hard to know just what you want to do, are best suited to do, and what you will be doing 5-10-15 years down the road. So dream big, be willing to change, be O.K. with that. Don't make excuses. Apologize and learn from your mistakes and be willing to step out and risk failure. ASK YOURSELF: 1) What am I passionate about?; 2) How am I gifted?; and 3) Where can I impact? Also, what can challenge and grow you in the ways that are healthy, positive, and God-honoring? Don't compromise your integrity. I recommend you take the "Strength Finders 2.0" assessment. Buy the book, take the test, send me a copy of your top five strengths, then read the book on your own time. Play to those strengths. Make a "start doing" AND "stop doing" list. You are more than your career... meaning your title or position or office or money or perks should not define you (so guard your heart and head against drawing your identity from them). Don't compare yourself to others (stifles self-determination). Become part of a project, idea, initiative, or effort that is powerful and makes a difference in some way. I also believe in adding value to something as in being a small part of something really big. Oh, I learned a lot of this stuff the hard way."


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80 Comments

Thanks for the information and motivation.

It is much appreciated.

Great info Bill.

I'm a firm believer in utilizing networking and relationships. And it's an on-going action that should be incorporated into your daily activities regardless of where you are in your career. I also use LinkedIn and Facebook as my two main social media sites. These will become more and more valuable over time as your online resume and personal brand.

John

This is a great post.

As I finish out this year, and enter my final year at Ferris, I will take this advice to heart and work to become even more involved in projects that I’m already a part of and join some of which I am not.

Thanks so much for the insight!


Great advice, Bill! With many people fearing the stability of their own jobs, I'm hearing from candidates that those in the workforce seem less willing to help others get into their companies. Your advice is right on the money. If people spend their time worrying about potentially losing their jobs, rather than seeking out ways to help others, both within and outside the work place, they will most likely lose their jobs. I've seen it again and again where someone tries to "fly under the radar" so to speak and doesn't do everything in their power to help the company and others survive. This approach typically backfires. Shelley Crooks, Recruiter at The RIO Group

"Relationships" not "Network": Good input. I found myself in a rather similar role a couple of years back. Many colleagues generously assisted me as I searched for the next step, and I have been used to assist several others over the same time period. One young lady landed a position due to an upublished lead I forwarded her, which became a testimony to God's provision for/to her as well as being so rewarding for me.

Rick, Shelly, Aubrey, John, and Elizabeth:

Thanks for being so quick to respond. You too, Billy (my Facebook friend). Seems this post has struck a chord. I appreciate how you all have enhanced it with your unique perspectives and observations. - Bill

Thanks for the great thoughts and encouragement, as ever. Amazing timing on your reference to "Strength Finders' because I'm writing this in a hotel room after hearing Dr. Albert Winseman, one of the co-authors of 'Living Your Strengths' and the book was in our conference bag, so I look forward to taking the test and comparing notes on our top five!

Bill -

I appreciate the insights and perspective. Its about relationships regardless of how you slice it, what technology you use or what process you formulate or what system you follow - "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." You have demonstrated that to others and you have seen success. This was an encouraging post and helped me to continue to move forward in the adventure called LIFE!

Bill,

Thanks for your comments and the value found in them. The neighborhood where we live is now worldwide and we must not forget to include everyone as if they live next door or work in the next office.

I look forward to our next "cup of coffee"!

Carl

I stumbled across your blog looking through linkedin's network updates and I'm glad I did. Very encouraging and empowering especially during a time when motivation and sustained mission takes that much more effort. I'll dust off my strength finder's book, it's about time I reviewed that again. Take Care.

Bill,

Starting out as a consultant has been a positive life changing experience for me. And your heartfelt interest in me during the vulnerable time of transition is something I cherished. I agree with everything you wrote and I want to add one piece of advice myself. When it comes to reaching out with a little kindness to somebody who is hurting due to job loss, timing is everything. Do it now! Those first few days and weeks in particular are when they need you the most.

Jim

Bill,

This is great. I have been "coaching" some people too. Some younger, some seasoned. The one thing that I keep seeing is debt being the trap that keeps people in jobs they hate. Debt can make you an indentured servant. Get out of debt and go do something you enjoy. Life is too short!

Todd

Bill,
Great to walk the adventure with you and help each other along the way. We will see where "Do something creative you have always wanted to do" takes us.
Tom

Has it been a year already? Time can't go any faster, can it? Congratulations on thriving in this environment (Aslan is on the move!). As usual, you give excellent advice here. You are one of my role models; I've learned much about marketing/branding from you, as well as how best to "do life." Thanks for introducing me to LinkedIn so many months ago. It's been a springboard for me into the whole social media marketing realm. You remain ahead of the curve.

Bill,
You truly are an inspired person, living what you believe. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us... for we all on our own life's path. Be it new or seasoned, we each need a quiet moment to appreciate everything we are gifted.

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