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."