You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously ~ Sophia Bush
Feeling swamped by the number of items on your to-do list? Afraid you may have finally bitten off more than you can chew?
Your schedule can get out of control when you’re trying to tackle a change of job or career. Being reminded that you have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyonce isn’t always that helpful (I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have to worry about what to cook for dinner after a hard day at the studios).
When you’re overwhelmed it can be paralysing. Everything feels waaay too hard. You’ll be relieved to know there are ways to deal with that crushing feeling of overwhelm, without retreating to the safety of the couch and Netflix. I know because I went looking for ideas when I faced the same issues in my business.
I have asked the advice of coaches, scoured Facebook masterminds and listened to podcasts with my ears pricked for ideas. What I discovered is that although there’s no one easy answer, there are practical strategies that can empower you and ease the stress so that you can finally take action on those goals (and feel a whole lot better too).
The Magic Number
It seems that three is the magic number. Whether it’s the number of agenda items in your presentation, the points you include in an email or the amount of major projects on your to-do list, aim for no more than three. You can use this rule of thumb in your daily work life – three major tasks a day is more than enough in my experience. You can also use this when it comes to your career planning. Which three things are going to fast track your goals? You need to be ruthless about your priorities. What needs to come off your plate so that you can do what’s most important right now?
The Power of 15 Minutes
I may not be the first to discover the power of 15 minutes, but it has helped me to make major shifts. When I’m short on time and I need to make headway I give myself 15 minutes to complete a certain task. Sometimes I take a little longer but that’s okay, the point is I have tricked my mind into action. I’ve also found that I can get a lot done in 15 minutes, especially when I let go of the need to make everything perfect:
In 15 minutes you can:
- Invite a contact out for coffee and croissants to ask their advice about your next move
- Research your dream company – what are their biggest challenges right now?
- Write an attention grabbing LinkedIn bio
- Search for your dream job on LinkedIn. Tip: lots of folks post openings in their update feed these days
- Research job ads to see what skills and attributes employers are listing
- Do the VIA character assessment to see what your top strengths are
- Complete two exercises from my 10 Step Career Discovery System to find your ideal career
- Call someone who has the job you want and ask about their experience
- Write a blog post about a key event in your industry and post it on LinkedIn
- Tap on it and clear those feelings of overwhelm
My point is that we have a tendency to make things much harder in our minds than they are in reality. If we think about what we need to accomplish as one long uphill battle then it will be hard to do even one thing, when doing that one thing could make all the difference.
Like the one phone call that landed my ideal job
The newsletter that resulted in 2 new clients signing up for my services
The LinkedIn profile update that led to a speaking opportunity
Approaching my to-do list in this way has helped me to achieve more consistency with my newsletter, (kinda) get control of my inbox, become more active on social media, do more marketing, in short, it’s helped me to get shit done.
As you and I know, everything takes twice as long as you think it will, particularly if you’re doing it for the first time (like say creating an online course, running a workshop or doing your first Facebook Live – it’s happening this Friday!!!).
But you’d be surprised by what you can achieve in just 15 minutes a day.
Try it and let me know how you go?
PS: If you’re struggling to make headway with your career plans, I’d like to invite you to have a free Discovery Call with me to discuss your challenges. You can go here to book a spot.
The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go. ~ Shannon L Alder
Have you been working hard to take your career in a new direction with little to show for it? Feeling frustrated and stuck?
This part of changing your career really sucks, but it’s also completely normal. I see it come up over and over again with my clients. All of them are smart accomplished women who’ve had successful careers. They go and get new qualifications and update their skills, but then it’s like: Now what?
When you’ve been goal driven all your life it can be confronting to find yourself at an impasse but it honestly happens to everyone. Not having a clue what to do next is completely normal when you’re going through change and you’re in that state of flux. Not only that, it’s actually a key part of the change process (if you want to know more about the science behind this look up the Change Curve).
Knowing this fact alone can be a massive relief if you’ve been struggling.
If you think about it, no life change follows a linear path, whether you want a healthier lifestyle, a higher income or a more successful career. The way forward is not going to suddenly become clear as if by magic.
You can’t feel clear and certain about where you’re going AND open yourself up to new possibilities at the same time. If you create hard and fast plans too early you might miss amazing opportunities by becoming too focused on what you ‘should’ be doing.
I know this isn’t an easy shift particularly given we live in such a goal-oriented culture and it can feel unnatural and even a little irresponsible to have no direction and be ok with that, at least for now. Don’t get me wrong I love goals but you can’t force them when you don’t know which direction you’re travelling in.
My advice? Get comfortable with flying blind for a little while and stop fighting it.
You won’t always be in this confused place but there’s a good reason why you’re here right now. It also helps is to remember that before you can have what you want (i.e. a more fulfilling career), there’s always something you need to let go of (usually some form of fear or self-doubt).
What can you let go of that’s going to free up space for you to move forwards?
It could be projects and people but more than likely it will be old ways of thinking that don’t serve you anymore.
Maybe you’re resistant to networking outside of your current industry, because it’s way out of your comfort zone and you’re not sure how you will be perceived.
Or you want to take on a leadership role but you’re worried about the long hours or the extra responsibility. Or you are harbouring major resentment towards your industry or boss.
If you’ve got thoughts like this running around in your head they’re going to block you from seeing future possibilities. You have to actually make space for those ideas.
During this time your best friend is going to be faith – faith in yourself, faith in the higher order of things, faith in your inner guidance and a deep knowing that the way forward will be revealed in its own good time.
Remember you won’t stay stuck forever.
It’s very rare that we see our whole career path laid out in front of us in all its amazing glory. More often than not, we’re lucky if we can see the next step, with the occasional glimpse of what lies ahead.
How do you deal with confusion and lack of clarity in your career?
In a gentle way you can shake the world ~ Mahatma Ghandi
After conducting hundreds of career counselling sessions, many on the topic of networking, I have made a few discoveries.
The first one is this: People hate networking.
Not one single person has expressed any form of delight when I suggest networking as a viable job search strategy.
It’s more like: Please Denise don’t make me do it, anything but that.
From my research this resistance is based around three main fears:
1) Fear of coming off as some kind of fake
2) Fear of what other people will think of you
3) Fear of not knowing what to say and ensuing awkward pauses
I totally get these fears (and if you’re in Melbourne I’ve got you covered, see below). I’m an introvert who used to dread networking to the depths of my being.
But your resistance is a problem because no matter what your career path may be, the best way to find a job is always gonna be through people you know.
This nugget of truth doesn’t come as good news to introverts. For us, facing large roomfuls of strangers is uncomfortable at the best of times, without the added pressure of having to make small talk and ‘impress’ potential employers and contacts.
If you are only interested in networking for what you stand to gain, you’re never going to feel wholly confident and at ease with that exchange. And the predominant advice to offer assistance to others first as a sort of quid pro quo is no less transactional.
So here’s what I want you to do.
And start connecting.
Don’t worry about your elevator pitch, your business cards or the dress code. I heard Susan Cain (author of Quiet) say recently that she doesn’t network anymore. Instead, she seeks out kindred spirits wherever she goes.
So next time you go to an event look for one person, not to impress or offer assistance to, but simply for the purposes of connecting at a human level. Talk about work if you want, or movies, dogs or this awesome TV show.
Free yourself from traditional forms of ‘networking’ forever.
It could be the start of a beautiful friendship, which was surely the whole point of networking to begin with.
Psst: If this advice resonated with you, I’m running a Networking for Introverts workshop in Melbourne on Friday 5 May. Learn how to play to your (many) strengths as an introvert, create the right mindset for successful networking, network in a way that suits your personality and discover where to find your ‘kindred spirits’. You can book your ticket here.
Leap and the net will appear – Zen saying
When I first read Tara Mohr’s book Playing Big, I realised there was something I was really good at. Hiding. My hiding strategy was perfectionism: Endlessly polishing and overcomplicating my work as a way to cover my fears about whether it was good enough.
In her book, Tara documents a number of other hiding strategies women use such as collecting other peoples ideas instead of voicing your own or pursuing more and more education (‘I’d better get a PhD in it first’) because you feel that you are not ‘enough’ as you are.
The antidote to this sort of behaviour is what Tara calls leaping. I loved this concept so much that I immediately thought of ways I could use it in my own work and with my clients.
A leap is a simple action you can take within one to two weeks that stretches you out of your comfort zone and puts you in contact with the audience you want to reach. The most important thing about leaping is what you learn from the experience.
So instead of designing the perfect website, maybe you create a simple social media page where you can send clients and trial your ideas.
Instead of writing your memoir you could write a personal essay and send it to a magazine for publication.
Instead of resigning from your job, you could take on a side project to develop new skills.
There are many different ways to leap.
The 10 Step Career Discovery System was my small leap. I started it by publishing articles every day for a month on my blog. It helped me to stop hiding and move into pursuing my passion now. Instead of taking months to write an e-book, I was able to assess whether the information was useful right away.
What action can you take in the next 1-2 weeks that will help you to move forwards?
Remember, leaping will help you do things now. Not years from now.
Back when I started my freelance writing business I knew clients weren’t going to show up unless I put myself out there. I had to start networking right away. The problem was I had no idea what I was doing. Much as I like people, I’m an introvert so I was never going to be good at throwing myself into the middle of conversations. Cue lots of standing around awkwardly holding a wine glass.
I have to hand it to myself. I tried it all. Local networking. BNI. Speed networking. Meetup. I went to all of them. I didn’t always get clients but I learned a lot about what to do (and not do) in networking situations.
When I first started out I thought networking was going to as many events as possible, giving people my elevator spiel, handing out lots of business cards and voila… people would call and hire me.
But that’s not how to network and it never felt right to me. Networking isn’t about selling yourself, it’s about building relationships.
It’s about being genuine in your interactions and asking people questions about what they do and what kind of challenges they’re facing. That’s how you find out useful information that will help your job (or client) search. Don’t forget, networking isn’t just something you do to find a job, it’s also hugely valuable when you’re making a career shift or making a decision on which career path is right for you.
Here are a couple of power tips to help you start networking even if you break out in hives just thinking about it.
1) Network in the groups you’re already in
I’m a great believer in pursuing the path of least resistance. Why make things hard on yourself? Start networking in the groups you’re already in, whether it’s your kids’ sports events, social outings or a hobby like a running group meet-up. Ask people about what they do, what they enjoy about their work and how they got their jobs.
2) Bring a wingman or woman
If you want to attend a networking event, bring along a wingman or woman. This is a particularly effective tactic if you’re an introvert because hopefully your more extroverted friend can introduce you to people and help you out if the conversation stalls. Your comfort levels will go up automatically when you know you’re not going to be left hanging in the corner like a wallflower.
3) Create small challenges
If you’re nervous about attending events like I used to be, give yourself small challenges and then reward yourself for a job well done. For example, stand up and ask the speaker a question if you’re attending a conference, or give yourself permission to go home after you’ve met and talked to two new people. Remember networking is more about sustained effort than pushing yourself to the max at one event.
4) Practice having conversations with strangers
Another issue I used to have with networking was making small talk. It only occurred to me later why this was. I hate small talk. I’ve never been good at it. But if you want to broaden your network you’re going to have to learn to get good at it. You can do this by practicing talking to strangers or people you interact with on a regular basis, like checkout people at the supermarket or the woman who works at the post office. Strike up conversations with people you don’t know. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you will be a power networker in no time.
Want to learn more about networking?
I’m running a Networking for Introverts workshop in Melbourne on Friday 5th May where I’ll be teaching powerful strategies for building your network, and I’d love to have you there. You will learn how to create a network even if you’re starting from scratch, how to approach people you want to meet both online and in person, how to network your way into a new job and how to build your confidence so that you can network with ease.
Years ago as I made my way through a rapid succession of jobs I didn’t enjoy, it never occurred to me that working on my confidence could help my situation.
Back then I thought you were either a confident person or you weren’t, and I assumed I fell into the latter category.
I had no idea I could do something to change that.
Research has shown that while many people think of confidence as a trait like I once did, it’s actually more like a muscle that you can develop and strengthen over time.
That’s all very well but how do you actually do that?
I’ve worked on building my confidence for years and like anything, it’s a process, but I did discover some strategies that made a really big difference. Not surprisingly this has had a knock-on effect on my career and business, bringing many more opportunities my way.
1) Be willing to take imperfect action
Perfectionism will kill your confidence and I should know. There was a time when my perfectionist behaviour was so bad it could take me an hour to write an email let alone an article. I wish that my anxious procrastinating had at least created better results, but the opposite was usually true.
When I made a decision to start a new career, I realised I’d have to get over it or I would stay stuck in a holding pattern. So I started following through on my goals even if the end result was not perfect. I practiced acting quickly instead of taking forever to think things through. I figured that even if it wasn’t perfect, I would learn from the experience. Now if I get an idea that I want to run with, I don’t wait until it’s perfect, I just do it. I’m not pretending it’s easy to let go of old habits, but the more you do this, the more your confidence will grow. Taking action is empowering in itself, shifting you out of the procrastinating behaviour that keeps you stuck.
If you struggle with this make it into a challenge. Give yourself two minutes to write an email instead of fussing over it for 10, or make a commitment to start and finish a project within the next one to two weeks. It will feel uncomfortable at first but you’ll soon get into the swing of it.
2) Keep your promises
We all have stories playing on a loop in our heads about who we are and what we are capable of. Your inner mean girl can be one tough mother. A really effective way to silence that critic is to keep the commitments you make to yourself. Whether you want to make a change with your career or your health, you need to follow through on those promises. I know that when I don’t show up for myself it makes me feel pretty crappy. What can you do (and do quickly) to make sure you follow through on your promises? And remember a big part of goal-setting is being realistic and honest with yourself about what you can achieve.
3) Get happy
I used to think I would be happy when I finally had the career, the family, the house and the money that I wanted. Little did I know that it actually works the other way around! I wish I had understood this at a soul level years ago, but it’s true that you need to find a way to be happy now, even if you’re not exactly living the dream yet. When you feel happy with who you are and what you do, your confidence levels rise.
The things that make us happy are not always what we think (more money? not so much according to the research). Thanks to all the positive psychology research in recent years, we know that using your skills and knowledge to make a contribution to society has a big impact on your happiness levels not to mention your job satisfaction. So ask yourself: How can you best serve? What contribution do you want to make?
And in the short-term ask: What makes you happy now?
Do more of that.
4) Face your fears
I used to be terrified of public speaking. I still get nervous but at one point it was so bad I would struggle to introduce myself even to a small group. My heart would literally pound in my chest and I would rush through my speech or introduction as quickly as possible.
I knew I had to tackle this old fear head-on if I was going to start a business. When I made the decision to face my fear something shifted. Shortly afterwards I was offered an opportunity to present workshops. It was scary at the start but the more I did it, the more opportunities to present came my way. I don’t think this was a coincidence!
Again, I had to let go of the need to do this ‘perfectly’ because the only way to improve my skills was to actually do it. Make a commitment to face your fears and watch out for the opportunities that come your way.
You don’t have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ as the advice goes, that can actually be counterproductive. I recommend taking baby steps. If you have a fear of public speaking like me, start with small events and work your way up.
5) Remember it’s all just feedback
I really care what people think. It used to stop me in my tracks, because I worried that people would judge me if I took certain actions in my life or business. But of course worrying about what people think is paralysing and definitely not good for your confidence.
The answer I found is to unhook from both praise and criticism as much as you can (an idea Tara Mohr talks about in Playing Big). Remember that it’s all just feedback. You can choose to give it weight or disregard it. The trouble with relying on praise to feel good about your work is that it’s not always forthcoming, and you can’t let your work be guided by the whims of others. So train yourself to be selective about the feedback you take on board. When you learn to trust your own guidance regardless of what others say or think, your confidence will soar.
What do you do to build your confidence? Please share in the comments.