Tag Archives: awareness

America: 40% Satisfied. 10% Unemployed. 50% Miserable. How to Be the Exception.

11 Jan

As I write this, approximately 2.5 of the expected 8-12 inches of snow has already fallen on New York City, approximately 25%. Funny how that also matches the percentage of my Facebook friends who have similarly already posted statuses describing their hopes of having a snow day tomorrow (including myself). When you’re 12, a snow day means no school and getting up early to go sledding. When you’re 30, it means no work and getting up late to do, well, nothing most likely.

An astonishing 45.3 percent of Americans are “satisfied” with their work, according to a survey for the Conference Board Consumer Research Center released last year. And don’t forget that nearly 10% of the country is unemployed (how can we?) on top of that, bringing the percentage down even more. And while I intend not to make this into the ‘Debbie Downer Career Hour’, I’m simply being realistic. Are we truly satisfied with simply being satisfied? Continue reading

Advertisements

Forget Resolutions, Remember Gratitude, & Celebrate the Small Things.

30 Dec

What a year 2010 has been!  Aspyre Solutions flourished beautifully with  the support of all of our fantastic clients, fans, friends & colleagues. Thank you for your continued support, and I wish you all the joy, empowerment and exciting success 2011 is sure to bring!  Get there!

With the closing of 365 days and the opening of another 365 ahead of us, this is the time of year where we sit down and evaluate what we’ve accomplished, what we want to accomplish NEXT, and maybe even how we plan on doing that, once the champagne and clam dip has worn off, come January 2.  It’s a time to remember the importance of gratitude, and to honor accountability.  Who or what are you grateful for, and what were you able to bring into your life this year by keeping yourself accountable to your own personal fulfillment & success?

For me, it was building this business into a successful, exciting brand that I love.  It was completing my professional coaching certification with IPEC.  It was expanding my network with literally hundreds of fabulous new friends and colleagues, whom I respect both professionally and personally.  It was a number of personal successes in my relationships, my friendships and my overall sense of personal wellness.  I also discovered a new-found love for sour pickles, fromage d’affinois and skirt steak, and I learned to drink coffee for the first time in my life. And despite all that, when it comes to matters of the heart (he he he)…my blood pressure is still damn near perfect.  Cheers to that. Continue reading

The Friday Edition: Following A Vision, Creating A Legacy

3 Dec

I noticed I get a lot of continual readers from my Boston University Alumni group, which thrills me!  I follow BU’s Alumni updates on Facebook, and this morning they posted an intriguing story about 4 BU students who formed a rock band in 1964.  And although Barry and the Remains’ tenure on the Boston music scene lasted a mere two years, their following was so popular that they were invited to be on Ed Sullivan and open for the Beatles!  Today, fans still wonder if these guys, had they continued on, could have been the next (or first) Rolling Stones, or something of the like.  Not bad for a few college guys in Allston.  Now, out of focus for the better part of four decades, they’re being inducted into the  Boston Music Awards Hall of Fame, joining the likes of fellow Boston rockers Mission of Burma and a little known quintet called Aerosmith.

And sure, I’m probably still wearing my theoretical red and white hockey jersey and beaming with alumni pride for my alma mater, but I read this blurb and I had a thought.  What are we each doing today, socially, professionally and creatively, to build our own legacy for tomorrow? What do we want that legacy, and our impact on our community to look like?   And how can we take steps to start forming that today?

In an age of instant gratification and having the world at our fingertips, many of us tend not to look 40 years ahead in the future with real clarity, or even regard.  But at the same time we have higher goals, or vision, of what we want to create for ourselves professionally and personally, than extend beyond tomorrow.

Speaking of alma maters, last weekend I attended my 10-year high school reunion.  As I sat pondering scenarios of what everyone would be like a decade later, I said to the fiance, “Everyone’s going to ask me if I”m still

Could have been a great comic book artist.

drawing.”  Because that’s the legacy I created for myself  earlier in life, since the day I was able to hold a pencil.  I had good grades, stellar rollerblading skills and one terrible haircut circa late elementary school, but my artistic abilities were what people remembered about me, what stood out above any other  accomplishments or shortcomings.  I’m approaching 30, and the image I inadvertently created for myself at 10 still sticks like glue.  And it always will, and fortunately for me it’s a legacy I’m sincerely proud of.

At that young age, it would have been hard to fathom creating something so lasting and impactful on our idea of self, given our minimal life experience on earth as children.  Now as adults, it’s easier to understand how reputation and character are formed over time, by the actions we take and the decisions we make.

So what influences all those decisions and (re)actions?  When you think about your vision for your career, your relationship, your life, chances are the vision you have for yourself extends several decades into the future, simply because we want to build lasting, fulfilling results for ourselves that we can continue to build upon.  It’s okay to stumble along the way and find happiness & fulfillment by accident – many of us do.  But for the other many of us, we value careful consideration and planning when it comes to the direction of our personal and professional lives.  And while chance and unforeseen events will always be a part of that pathway, much as we try not to deviate, it’s important that we check in with ourselves regularly to make sure what we’re doing and creating is truly keeping us on that path toward our higher vision.

Because it’s easy to get sidetracked by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, to make bad decisions or take impulsive actions.  But what we can do when we recognize that negative shift is remind ourselves how committed we are to that vision, how important that legacy is to us, and then get back on the road.  Whether the vision is 4 months or 40 years ahead of us, keeping it in plain view each day will allow us to keep focus and create action and decisions in accordance with attaining that.

So what is your vision for living the best possible version of yourself? When you’re living that life, what kind of legacy will that allow you to create, and what will that say about you?  Food for thought, for the weekend.  Mmmm.

The Importance of the Details: 7 Critical Ones for the Employee-To-Be

1 Dec

I’ve had the flu, or something of the like, for the past two days.  Neither my wit, nor my mental acuity are operating at peak levels right now, but I’ll try my best to offer something of value here. Nonetheless, the gratitude-subscribing coach within me realizes, “Hey, at least I wasn’t sick for Thanksgiving!”  Glass half full my friends, glass half full.

Speaking of both gratitude and optimism, I found my pants.  The laundromat, trying to be helpful, removed them from the rest of the pile after they realized they were still damp, and tossed them into the dryer for an extra cycle.  Unfortunately, they forgot to take them out, and they ended up in some other Brooklynite apartment, someone who was nice enough to return them to whence they came.  So thank you, whomever took the time to do that.  It’s the smaller gestures that can truly brighten someone else’s day, or your own.

Little things are important indeed.  Little ways in which you communicate, in which you present yourself, in which you brand yourself – they’re little, yet they can make all the difference.  For example, I hate when candidates have “Objective” statements on their resumes.  I tell everyone to remove them and replace them with a 4-6 line “Summary” statement.  Why?  Because an objective statement communicates what YOU want out of a company, as if they’re bringing you into their office to interview you so that they can fulfill a favor for you.  A summary statement communicates your strengths and core competencies, and instead presents the idea of “Here’s what I can do for YOU…Mr. Hiring Manager at Company X”.  It seems trivial, but sometimes a trivial detail is what separates you from the  new hire.

Here’s another one. When you’re thinking about communication, especially in the professional sense, remember this: Only 7% of your message comes through via what you actually SAY.  The other 38% is intonation and the remaining 55% is body language.  So you might have most well-crafted answers to every interview question in the history of man, but if you’re going to look down at your interviewer’s shoes, or around the room, speak incoherently  and lace all your sentences with “like” and “um”, you might as well throw in the towel right there.  Same deal if you walk in smelling like smoke or heavy perfume.

Because sometimes a trivial detail is what separates you from the new hire.  Details are important, and unfortunately ten years of fantastic experience and accolades won’t necessarily overshadow 1 hour of careless, hasty  judgment.

Here are a couple of details to keep in mind whether you’re starting or already knee-deep into your job search:

  • Invest in at least one interview-appropriate outfit, and make sure it fits in with whatever the standards of dress are for your industry.
  • Do a quality-control check on your resume Summary (or Objective) statement – what message are you communicating?  Is it about YOU, or about THEM? (Hint: It should be about how You can HELP them.)
  • Do not use BCC or CC fields when emailing your resume. You should be sending it to one person, if possible, and tailoring it to fit the company and role to which you are applying.  Yes, it’s more time and effort-intensive, but far more likely to yield a positive return.  No decent recruiter or hiring manager will ever reply to an application that is generically blasted to multiple people at once- it shows lack of initiative.
  • In addition to attaching your resume and cover letter as documents, include them in the body of your email.  I realize computers never fail and the chance that the file might not open correctly is slim… but you never know.
  • Creativity is great, just not when it comes to fonts and formatting on your resume. Likewise, unless you’re Stan Lee, keep Comic Sans out of your professional email signature.  Ariel, Courier, Times, Verdana or Calibri are all safe bets.
  • Set your Facebook profile to private, for God’s sake.
  • And then Google yourself. Be fully aware of what information about you is available to the greater public and what messages are being communicated.  This effects your personal brand as much as your LinkedIN profile does, so keep it professional.

THE FRIDAY EDITION: Who Needs Pants When You’ve Got Gratitude?

12 Nov

“They’re just things,” is a phrase I find myself uttering modestly a lot lately. In times of sheer frustration, such as when my bank account is hacked into, or the dry cleaners loses all my jeans (today), I try to summon my inner coach who tells me I’m bigger than each of these situations.  Money, my favorite pair of jeans from the GAP, the brand new cardigan I left on a dirty bar chair – they’re all just “things”, right?

You can tell yourself that all you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be shelling out another $70 that wasn’t planning on for new pants.  And the worst part is that I’m petite – and curvy.  It’s hard enough to buy pants when you’re a petite woman, but throw the fact that I didn’t inherit the stick figure gene like the rest of my family into the mix, and shopping becomes a whole other party.

This morning I debated storming into the dry cleaners and making a giant fuss about the situation.  I went so far as to call my father to vent; his highly  conservative views often come in handy when I need someone to back me up on the various injustices of the world, and then promptly leave the conversation at that. The fiancee was already at work, and it’s his birthday, and the last thing he needs is to hear me screaming at him over the phone about how I can’t find my pants.  There’s a much better context for that discussion, at a different time & place.

And then it occurred to me that ruining someone else’s day on top of allowing this to ruin my day was the biggest injustice of all, and ultimately gets me no closer to finding my pants.  <sigh> Why do I have to be so wise?

One of the things I always tell clients who are trying to wrap their head around why negativity has seemingly taken over their lives, is that they’re greater than whatever the situation – meaning they’re not defined as a person by the outside events that come into their lives.  They are defined, however, by how they react to them.  We cannot control the workings of the world, the weather, or the actions/reactions of others.  But we can certainly control our own perspective on things, and how that affects the actions we take and the commitments we make.

I wrote down a brief description of what the pants looked like on the front of my original receipt copy, which sat in a book attached to 300 other receipts.  And that was it.  I’m not too hopeful about finding my pants.  But there are plenty of other pants out there to wear, and maybe that’s the answer- to suck it up, recognize the situation for what it is and take the opportunity to step into a different pair of pants that fit me better; leave the old ones behind.

And isn’t that what we do automatically whenever seemingly injustices come into our lives, and we want to blame, and scream and get angry?  Sometimes we do those things, but in the end we automatically move on, because what other choice is there?  It’s human nature’s survival instinct kicking in when we force ourselves to keep going.   If we refuse to define ourselves by our disappointments and instead look at the underlying opportunities, we invite success and happiness into our lives.  If you didn’t get that dream job you had interviewed 4 rounds for, it’s okay to feel disappointed and angry.  But then let go of that negativity and allow yourself an opportunity to replace it with something more positive – perhaps an understanding and trust that there is something better around the corner that is coming to you.  And when that opportunity arises, that old story of disappointment will be long forgotten.

Who needs pants when you’ve got gratitude?  Don’t focus on what’s been given (or not given) to you today.  Instead, allow yourself to focus on what you can give back from that situation, and react from a place of gratitude and not a place of grief.  Trust in what comes next, and the higher reasoning behind things.  Gratitude as an attitude.  I’m going shopping.

“You’re No Less Alive on a Tuesday Than You Are On a Friday”

4 Nov

Since moving to the new neighborhood in Brooklyn, the fiance and I discovered a new cozy, European-rustic wine bar that makes me feel like I’m hanging out leisurely somewhere in Southern France. Yesterday, I was sharing my own interpretation of work-life balance over a couple glasses of Malbec at our new Provencal escape.  Which is ironic, given that the point of my work-life diatribe was around doing something you love, or at least loving the something you do enough that you don’t constantly feel the need escape the daily grind in the first place.  And ideally, you avoid using terms like “the daily grind”.

Photo by Zen on Flickr

“Live to work, or work to live,” he asked.  “Which one do you think is better?”  And my gut reaction said ‘work to live’, because isn’t that why most people go to work, to afford themselves the lifestyle they want, and live it?  And then I realized that most people go to work because they basically have to.  Some people don’t have to work, and they still do.  Regardless, the objective of a person who ‘works to live’ isn’t necessarily the same as someone else who would categorize themselves that way.  I might work to live, and by live I mean scrape by and pay the bills, versus live a certain quality of leisurely lifestyle.  The same holds true for the  ‘live to work’.

That’s when things got confusing.  When the choices are either “one of the other” it doesn’t leave you much room for compromise.  Perhaps we don’t work to live or vice versa, we just work AND live, and the goal for most of us is for both of those actions to be beautifully in sync and complimentary to one another.  And if they’re compliments, then neither one specifically drives the other, or serves as the means to the other end.  You just do them both, and you do them well, hopefully with a smile on your face because you have integrity around what you do each day.

He started telling me a story about a toll collector in California who had been collecting tolls for decades, and had some bigger dream of doing something else that he had continually shelved in return for making a more immediate living for his family. He was one of those people you really wonder what internal switch they have that everyone else lacks.  And they flip it on each day, and suddenly their outlook on life is 100 times more positive than everyone else’s.

I’ve never collected tolls myself, but one might assume it’s not the most exciting of occupations.  And this fellow probably understood that logically. But our emotions often come from a place separate from logic, and in turn those emotions influence our perspective and opinions based on feelings, rather than factual thought.  Like so few people, this man approached each day of his job, which was probably far more identical to ones preceeding and following it than most could tolerate, with a smile on his face and integrity around what he did.  So much so, that every one of the thousands and thousands of cars that drove through his booth were greeted with the same grin as he joked, “Big spender today, eh?”  And that type of welcomingly   unexpected cheer and humor in such an unlikely place became contagious, and sent driver after driver away down the highway with a chuckle and a smile.  So it makes you wonder what was really in a day’s work for him – just collecting tolls, or a contribution on a bigger, more human level?

“My ideal version of work-life balance is where what you do for a living is fulfilling and satisfying to such a point that you feel no less excited on a Tuesday than you are on a Friday,” I said.  Because let’s face it, most people rush their way through the 40+ hour work week in anticipation of the weekend, their time away from the place where they spend nearly 40% of their waking hours!  They rush through slightly less than half of their life, just tolerating everything.  Somebody please tell me how we’re expected to move ourselves forward toward our ultimate goals when our main source of fuel is tolerance.  It won’t happen.

“You’re no less alive on a Tuesday than you are on a Friday,” he said. And something about that simple statement glowed like a fluorescent light bulb.  Because he’s absolutely right. The universe has no concept of whether it’s a Tuesday or a Friday, a weekday or the weekend, only what we do with that information in terms of our actions.  The Beatles gave their first ever live performance in America on a Tuesday, on February 11, 1964.  It was a Tuesday on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson made history with his major league baseball debut for the Dodgers.   And on a Thursday night November 9, in 1989 was the fall of the Berlin wall.  Most of Berlin probably stayed home though because they had work the next day.  That, and who the hell are the Beatles, anyway? [I kid.]

Great things happen in the world and in our own lives, no matter what day of the week it is.  And when we expend our mental and emotional energy wishing away so much of that time, what is that saying about the way we’re conducting our lives, and our work, each and every week?  Are we happy with our contributions?  Are we fulfilled by what we’re doing?  Are we wasting our days week after week going through the same old motions of doing something that holds minimal purpose and brings little if any positivity to us and to the rest of society?

It’s inevitable that there will be points in your life where you don’t have your dream job and maybe don’t love, or even like, what you do.  But are you at least doing something that is moving you closer to that greener pasture, whether it’s gaining experience, making contacts, saving money or simply learning about yourself?  Maybe it’s not WHAT we do each day that matters as much as how we do it and why.  And when you think about it that way, it leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Get a Life. Get a Job. Whatever You Do, Get Creative.

8 Oct

When I was applying to colleges, I heard this story about a wanna-be ivy league-er who wrote their admissions essay to Brown University on Post-It notes.  They were accepted.  Doubtfully due to their perfect grammar or well-structured paragraphs, but because they were innovative, and their vehicle for communication, however unconventional, sent the Brown admissions committee a clear message:  “YOU WANT ME! And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

This is kind of how I feel about cover letters.  I’m not a fan of the old standard.  Yea, they’re “professional”, but unless you’re saying something that really has value to your reader, usually the person looking to hire you… it’s not really worth it to regurgitate the same resume babble everyone else does.  Granted, in some cases, it’s still just required.

Applying to college was the first time we were faced with the challenge of how to be distinctively creative in our communication while still remaining credibly professional.  Nowadays, as job seekers and career changers it’s something we toil with on a daily basis.  How does one creatively make their brand stand out above hundreds others, while keeping the professional face of the subject matter expert?

I worked in recruiting and talent management for the creative industry for close to 7 years, with hundreds of fantastically talented graphic and web designers, developers, producers and writers.  I love the creative industry and people involved in advertising because they perfectly illustrate this idea – boring self-promotion doesn’t work.  I had more people come into my office in faded jeans than business casual, and this was perfectly acceptable within that population.  Because when you’re vying for a job at one of Boston’s top advertising agencies, you don’t strut into the interview in a Canali suit and briefcase.  No, you rock a messenger bag and t-shirt that you designed for your last brand-name client and show off how awesome you are, because in reality, you ARE getting hired for your awesomeness.  And your Flash design skills.

Granted, that’s far from appropriate for other industries.  But regardless of industry, there needs to be a high level of awareness around who your target employer is and how and what your personal brand is communicating, the second your credentials come across someone’s desk.  Very often in the creative industry, a standard format cover letter detailing who you were and why someone should hire you was not very effective.  Particularly in a profession like design or advertising where your creativity is the driver of your success, it’s imperative that your ability to walk the talk is clearly communicated when you present yourself to a prospective employer.

Walk the talk. I’m not saying don’t write cover letters, ignore standards of professional dress or to not follow appropriate formatting guidelines for your resume – not at all.  The type of company and the nature of your targeted industry will dictate what’s acceptable for those items.  What I AM saying is that no matter what industry you are in, there is competition, and you need to differentiate yourself in an effective, creative and credible way if you’re going to beat candidates 1 through 56 into the door.  Boring self-promotion doesn’t work.

Answer this question: Why should I hire you instead of the person who came in right before you?  You know nothing about their credentials or experience, only that you have something great to bring to the table and you’ll bring megawatts of success to the company.  The other person probably has something great to offer as well.  What makes you different, and how can you highlight that in a way that is memorable, appealing, appropriate and makes the person interviewing you or looking at your resume say, “We HAVE to have this person on our team!”  Hint: it has nothing to do with money or blackmail.

A former boss of mine was pitching her recruiting services to a new department in a well-known Boston advertising agency.  The agency had just won a lucrative contract with a well-known beverage brand, and while they hadn’t publicized it yet, surely they would be looking to build up a new creative team to support the account.  I love what she did next.  She did her research and thought outside of the box of how to approach this potential client who pretty much every other recruiter in Boston was calling on as well.  How could she stand out in a saturated, competitive market?  She bought a case of the agency’s new client’s beer, and emptied out the bottles (I’m not entirely sure by what means), and in each bottle, she rolled up a resume scroll-style of 12 different candidates whom she thought would be great for their new team.  She was still presenting resumes to a prospect, but she got their attention.  And unlike the competition, her delivery shouted, “Hire me!  And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a one-stop formula on how to be creative with your resume presentation and win the affections of your potential future boss.  It simply comes down to knowing your target prospect, what keeps them up at night, how you can solve that for them, and then how you can communicate that ability to them in a way that makes you look irresistible.  Make them have to have you.  At the very least, get their attention, and create the venue to tell them why you’re the best person for the job, instead of waiting for it to present itself to you.  Take control – create an opportunity for yourself to communicate your worth.  While your message may not change the world, it can certainly change your life.  But nothing changes if you don’t allow anyone the opportunity to listen to you in the first place.  So go out there, create opportunities for yourself, and then tell the world what they’ve been waiting to hear – “Your perfect candidate has arrived!”

Get Out of Their Head, and Into Your Own!

4 Oct

Everyone I know is trying to get into someone else’s head lately.  No one is concerned with the inner workings of their own psyche, at least not when there appears to be a plethora of confusing, cliche, emotionally-withheld and skeptical single men and


Photo by mitopencourseware on Flickr

women whom we can date and dissect psychologically until the cows come home.  Everyone I know wants to know, “What is he/she thinking?”

“What are you thinking?” The fiance asks me this as we’re sitting on the couch on a Friday evening, watching the 90s Alternative music channel.  More often than not, this question annoys me, and not by any fault of his, but mostly because I rarely know the answer.  This is due largely in part to my tendency to have 25 different thoughts running through my head at one time, and an unwillingness to commit

to just one as the dominant thought the moment, worth discussing.  Because then I wonder if he really wants me to start a discussion about whether Port Salut cheese is better with or without a dash of salt, and should I or should I not eat what’s left of it in the fridge with a couple of saltines?  Or maybe I should reserve the bit of information about “Step by Step” being my favorite New Kids on the Block song, as of not that long ago.

See, this is the dilemma.  There’s no one really interesting thought, just a bunch of small ones that give the illusion of me contemplating something really deep and noteworthy.

But the difference is that the fiance’s quest for this information and insight into my brain isn’t driven by his desire to uncover some breakthrough, some long-awaited clarity on how I feel about him.  He already knows this. He’s just curious as to why I’m staring blankly at a wall. And only when you can ask this question without the resulting answer determining your self-worth and your legitimacy as a potential partner…is it  safe to ask.

One good friend of mine is navigating a breakup while another is navigating a new relationship, and both want to know what the other parties in each of their situations is thinking.  In the case of the former, she feels that knowing exactly what he’s thinking about her (and how often) will better help her determine whether they’ll get back to together at some point, which will assumedly ease her feelings of loneliness and longing.  She’s made it all about him, and not her, which is more common than we like to admit.  We all do it. The other friend  wants to know what her partner is thinking so she can better determine whether they’ll STAY together. Again, we all do it, we all try to figure out our potential based on vague clues and references from the other party. The point is that both share the same inconclusive theme of “What does he want from me?”  And now here is the magical answer that will answer this every time for you without fail:  It doesn’t matter.

Here is why it doesn’t matter: Because no matter how well you know someone (or how manipulative you are), you absolutely cannot control either 1) what someone else thinks of or feels about you, and 2) how someone else reacts to any given situation.  If you want a great book on this and how you need only focus on “your 100% of what you bring to a relationship”, check out Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Mastery of Love”.  And he explains this theory in depth.  Of course, the answer here isn’t to just sit back and hope, it’s not to wait to see if the person echoes your sentiments and your desires to remain or become a couple.  It’s about understanding that every time you ask yourself “What is he/she thinking?” you are taking the control away from yourself, and giving it to someone else, whom you may barely even know.

When you give up control to someone else, whether it’s by becoming emotionally dependent upon a partner, a job, or allowing yourself to be manipulated in any way, you are putting yourself in the victim seat. Plain and simple. Trying to figure out what is going on in someone else’s mind or heart, so that you can feel better about yourself, the relationship or your future, is allowing yourself to be a victim at the hand of someone else.  Even if they didn’t ask for that control, you willingly gave it to them.  But luckily, it’s very easy to take it back.

And it’s important to note that when I say “regain control” that does not mean having the upper hand.  It simply refers to regaining the control you have over you… not anyone else.  The mistake we commonly make upon entering a relationship is forgetting to clearly define to ourselves what we want out of this potential partnership.  Unlike relationships, we do typically do this with jobs…we figure out what industry we want to work in, what our core strengths and talents are that we bring to the table, the types of people we want to immerse ourselves in, the desired outcome, etc.  So why do we throw values to the wind when it comes to seeking a successful, fulfilling relationship, and instead just rely on hope that it turns into what we want?  Why are we not asking ourselves first and foremost, “What do I want out of this relationship… and does this person fit into that which will support my objectives?” Instead we assume we’re the ones that need to prove our worth and fit into their picture.  This is why so many relationships fail – we don’t set any expectations, for our partners, and more importantly for ourselves.

Just think – if you know confidently what you are looking for in a person and what you need out of a relationship to feel fulfilled, energized, motivated and loved, won’t it be much easier to determine whether it feels right, rather than trying to decode their every thought, movement and word?  This isn’t an invitation to be close-minded, or saying that you will be happy if you’re committed to only dating a guy who is 5’10, makes X dollars as a pediatric surgeon and says things like “I completely understand how you feel…please, tell me more.” It’s about establishing your non-negotiables, the underlying aspects of a person and a relationship that you want and need, that are based on your values.  These are the  things you’re not willing to bend on – like monogamy, or someone who is legitimately interested in a serious relationship that has long-term potential.  But do be aware that once you know what you want, you’re not wasting your time trying to mold someone else who’s not on the same page as you, into the ideal partner that they’re not.  Be honest with yourself.  If the shoe doesn’t fit, there are a million other pairs potentially more flattering.

So start by asking yourself these revealing questions:

  • What does a successful relationship look like to me?
  • What do I need from someone to feel appreciated and loved?
  • What are my non-negotiables?
  • What level of commitment am I looking for right now at this stage of my life?
  • What qualities does the person I want to be with possess?
  • What am I currently tolerating, or have I tolerated in the past, that I won’t tolerate going forward?
  • What excites me about a person?
  • If I found this person, am I in a position to give to them what I want them to give to me?

I can give you a bunch more, if you want.  But the general idea here is to construct your own vision of your  successful relationship, to build awareness and confidence around that, know that you deserve it, and then be able to use that vision as a foundation for moving forward.  Knowing what you want and need eliminates that typical early-on scenario of the blind leading the blind, where neither person knows what page you’re on, what the other person wants, or what’s okay or not okay to say.  And yes, being the one to stand up and admit what you need can be scary, as you’re essentially putting yourself on the line, hoping the other person accepts you for that.  But know that our fears of doing this simply stem from our own  limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves as a partner, or about what we think other people expect of us.  They’re not necessarily true, but they certainly hold us back.  What are those limiting beliefs keeping you from voicing what you need, even if it’s just to yourself?  They exist…we all have them.  It’s time to break them down.

Drop the labels, drop the rules.  Know your relationship vision and stick to your plan.  Leave room to improvise, of course, but build that awareness around where you’re coming from and where you want to go, and you will eliminate that feeling of being at the mercy of someone else all the time, and the god-awful  drudgery of trying to decode someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  Because that should be the fun part – finding someone who really compliments you, some in ways you’ve always wanted, and in ways you never even know you needed.  Personally, I think relationships are self-discovery at its best.  And the next time someone asks you “What are you thinking?” maybe it’s not a bad idea to <gasp>… let them know.  For the love of God, (and hopefully the love of someone else) get out of their head and into your own.  If you’re like most people, you already have your work cut out for you there.

Dressers, Dream Jobs & Boyfriends – Stuff I Got By Networking

22 Sep

Networking works wonders for both your career and your relationships (personal and professional).  Case in point- the fiance and I, by the grace of God, found an AMAZING apartment in Brooklyn that was nothing short of everything we were looking for.  This, after weeks of scouring Craig’s List and the numerous floor-throughs and “luxury” rentals where the standard for “luxury” was a subterranean dump to which the landlord added a last minute “jacuzzi” to class things up a bit. I suppose I could enjoy building the next decade of my life looking out into the rotting underpass of the BQE…as long as it’s done from my jacuzzi, 24/7.  But anyway.

What’s even more amazing than the wall-to-wall carpeting, the functional fireplace, or the lovely Italian family downstairs, is how I found the place.  Several weeks ago I went to a women’s networking event in Manhattan and met a couple of great women with whom I’ve since stayed in touch.  One graciously invited me to an invite-only networking website called “Quentin’s Friends”, where members share information and recommendations on local services, real estate, buy/sell items or offer up their own expertise or professional services.  I figured I’d post an ad for an “apartment in Park Slope or Carroll Gardens for October 1”.  Miraculously, someone replied that their friend was moving and looking to sublet.  We got in touch, exchanged contact, and I arranged a meeting with said friend to view the place.  My hopes weren’t high, but what the hay, it was worth looking.  Less than a week later, we signed a lease on our new amazing Brooklyn abode.  Karma! I promptly emailed my contact from the event, promising her a few rounds on me the next time we meet up!

Trust in the unconventional happenings of the world, I say.  I’ve found two  best friends and a future husband via networking sites and other forms of untraditional advertising (that’s not what it sounds like…).  But that’s another story.

So there is truth to networking, and a great deal of it. And one thing I always stress to job seekers or newcomers to the networking arena is to remember that the results don’t manifest within the course of one conversation at a rooftop bar.   Nor does it happen overnight.  In nearly all cases, you are not going to attend one event and walk out of there with a job offer, so you cannot go into it with that intention.

The key to networking is approaching it in a manner of generosity and gratitude – how can YOU help someone else?  It is much easier to approach and talk to a stranger if you go into it with the mindset that you are open to helping them (and of course, they will help you in return).


Photo by Craig Hamnett on Flickr

And the first conversation is simply that – the first conversation, the initial encounter, the starting point.  You don’t make best friends in one conversation, and similarly you don’t make trusted business contacts in that way either.  It is about building a complimentary relationship with someone with whom you share professional and personal interests, and perhaps can benefit from one another’s knowledge and community.  That is why most networking groups or events have themes – women’s groups, entreprenurial-focused, young professionals, dog lovers, alumni of Boston University, etc.

For instance, you can’t look up the person who heads up the HR department at your dream company on LinkedIN, send them an invite to connect, and expect them to respond.  Sure, it’s beneficial to you to connect with and know them, but what benefit will the person on the other end get out of the relationship?  Why should they connect with you?  Give them a reason.  A good way around this is to see what groups you have in common, or that you can join, and then contact them asking about their experience in the field, and how they navigated their own path to the role they’re in today.  Be open to simply listening and learning.  If nothing else, remember this:  people LOVE to talk about themselves and offer advice, so invite them into your circle by offering them a venue to share their story with you.  Most times, they will be glad to.  That is far more effective than approaching someone you don’t know and blurting out selfishly, “Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I’m looking for an entry-level marketing position.  Is your company hiring?”

When you go to a networking event, and you collect cards, keep track of the people you meet.  Follow up with EACH of them the day after the event, even if you have nothing in common and it’s simply to say, “Nice meeting you!  Thanks for that last drink- it really put me over the edge.  I don’t even remember how I go HOME last night!” Fine, that’s too much information, but a cordial note of acknowledgment will go a long way.  Why?  Because people know other people, and other people might know about opportunities that you don’t.  But no one is going to put their professional reputation on the line and recommend you to a colleague or contact if they don’t have some kind of very positive rapport with you.

And rapport is built over time, with communication, gratitude and mutual effort. Even if it takes a few months to receive a lead, isn’t it worth the couple of emails you sent to build the relationship, in return for a lead that could potentially lead to a fulfilling job with a great company?  Keep in touch, send an article you think might be of interest to your new contact, or put them in touch with someone you know who might be able to help them out. Set them up on a bad blind date…at least you tried.  No doubt, if the opportunity arises, the favor will be returned.

The next time you walk through a door at an event, intimidated by the fact that you’re flying solo in front of a room full of other professionals, ask yourself calmly and confidently – “How can I potentially help someone today?” And then put yourself out there, and see what is created. And while I don’t need an accounting degree to realize that the bills can’t be paid in karma (at least not in New York), that is the point-  you have to start somewhere.

The Myth of Stability, The Wrath of Complacency (And the Token 9/11 Reference)

13 Sep

A friend of mine is in job transition right now, and she’s freaking out.  10 million other people are as well.  So this is nothing new.  And much like the swapping of seasons, career transition and change is always happening somewhere, to someone, yet we react with the same disbelief that “Here it is!” But seriously…is it really almost Fall?

The fact that everyone goes through career or life transition, some of us multiple times in our lifetimes, doesn’t diminish the impact we each feel emotionally, physiologically, financially and otherwise when it happens to us.  Quite heavy is the realization that we want to make a significant change to something we’ve become comfortably adjusted to.  For those of us already employed, it’s worse. Because not only do we find ourselves contemplating how to navigate the roadmap of “what’s next”, but then we also have to shake off the complacency of already having a source of income, and finding the motivation to abandon that and welcome the several weeks (or months) of hard work in job searching that we’re likely to endure.  Even in cases where you despise your current occupation, job or employer, admit it – some fear or limiting belief has kept you there this long, whether it’s the “stability of a paycheck” or “having work friends”, or even just being mildly satisfied in having a routine every day.  But here is the truth:  STABILITY is a myth, and COMPLACENCY is dangerous.

Stability.  What is that? In an economic downshift such as the one we’ve been experiencing in the last 18-24 months, many folks are realizing that the stability they thought existed for them, was completely a myth.  “Stable jobs” were yanked out from under our friends, colleagues and loved ones like rugs, and the unsuspecting, UNPREPARED victims (I don’t like that word) were left with their hands out to their sides wondering, “Oh my god…what do I do now?”  And often times for many, job loss can be a God-send, an opportunity to reinvent themselves – a push off the cliff that they couldn’t force themselves to take on their own.  For others, even if they knew they wanted a change eventually, they were unprepared to make it in such an abrupt fashion.  It happened to them, and it can happen to you.  And I say that not to worry you, but to instead solidly prepare you, by opening you up to a wonderful idea, that the falsity of stability that has been keeping you where you are when you desperately don’t want to be there… no longer has to have that control over you.

Abandon that.  Let it go.

To truly be free, you have to make the distinction that stability isn’t necessarily linked to your paycheck, your job or your relationship, but rather it is linked to not having to depend on someone else for your well-being.  It means not having to worry that you will lose something by means that are out of your control.  For some, that means working for themselves, and for others, not being in a job where the fear of losing it or the lack of integrity makes them feel stuck, or to question their value.  No matter where you are, whether you were pushed off the cliff, you’re standing on it or you’re running open-armed toward it, if you rise above complacency, and detach from that belief that stability is at the hands of your employer/spouse/etc., you no longer risk being the victim of change, because you have become the CREATOR OF CHANGE.

And the only thing more limiting than perceived stability is its evil brain-child, Complacency.  Born from an unholy union of False Stability and Fear, Complacency continues in the family business of ruining the careers and lives of otherwise motivated, talented and passionate individuals.  We cling to perceived stability in an unhappy career for the same reasons we cling to perceived stability in an unhappy relationship or marriage – fear of being alone (or jobless) and fear that we won’t have the strength to pick ourselves up in the face of loss and move on to something better.  That fear drives us to rely on and cling to what we already have, because it’s easy, and we fool ourselves into thinking that so long as it is there, we are protected.  That idea right there is complacency- our inability to move ourselves forward toward our own goals, despite any willingness and desire we may have to change, because of the circumstances we allow to control us.  So we cling, for dear life.  But how good is that life?  What’s the worst that can happen if you loosen the grip and quit feeling the need to hold onto what you don’t really want anyway?

Yes, you can “do it tomorrow.”  You can set it as a goal for the New Year.  You can do it whenever and however you like… but you haven’t yet.  Why not?

Friday was September 11, a day in American history continually reminding us all of our own falsely perceived invincibility and which echoes the sentiment that life is indeed short.  Despite multiple subsequent threats over the years, as of today 3,289 days have passed without harm being inflicted upon New York City. As my fiancé likes to say, “It’s all the NYPD, not the government faltering those attempts…” And then he argues how New York should get pretty much all the domestic security funding, which he may be right, but that’s beside the point.  Had the NYPD (or government) relied on that faulty logic, the fact that, “3285 days have gone by without any danger, so what’s a few days off?” there’s no guarantee that life would go on uninterrupted in America’s brilliant metropolis of the East.  After all, one thing we’ve learned as Americans is that we’re not infallible, we’re not exempt from the tragedies and obstacles of life.  And the truly lucky ones are beginning to accept that.  So you have to think… even New York City does not falsely perceive its own stability, nor does it choose complacency.  And it never will… so why should YOU?

So allow me to repeat the idea above, as it’s probably the key take-away from all of this.   When you rise above complacency, and detach from that belief that stability is at the hands of your employer/spouse/etc., you no longer risk being the victim of change, because you have become the CREATOR OF CHANGE.  No-thing or person has control over you and your outcome unless you allow them that power.  That is the power of conscious choice, and that, my friends… is a story for another time.

Cheers, New York City!  To another fruitful year of disgruntled urbanites living, thriving and taking for granted the liberty and security that was never just a coincidence.   I guess in fairness, no one ever said being human was easy.

%d bloggers like this: