Creative Ways to a Second Career

Many people long to do something different. They dream about starting a new career but can’t get past the common hurdles: how to leverage what they know into what they love and how to live on less, as a new career often means a pay cut.

This is what Morgan Jensen was faced with. As a chiropractor for the past 20 years she had built a successful practice. While she loved treating patients, her profession didn’t allow her to use her creative talents. She longed to be a product designer, “I was always looking at things and thinking what else could this be or do?”

Then one day her passions intersected, “It was my most challenging patients that helped me realize there was a way to combine my love of design with my practice.” After treating hundreds of women with neck and shoulder problems due to the way they hiked up their shoulder to carry their bags, Jensen created an ergonomic and, importantly, stylish backpack. She was thrilled with the prospect of launching her bag and new career. Then the realization hit, “I was 55, had no formal design training or connections in the fashion industry, so how was I going to get this bag to market?” That’s when she decided to put her creation, “the City Bag”, to the test on the crowd funding site, Kickstarter.

The beauty of crowd funding is that you can get great exposure and feedback for your creative project and raise the necessary money to bring it to market. With 10 days to go, Jensen is almost half way to her $20,000 goal. Even if she doesn’t reach it, the response to her design has given her the confidence to switch careers, “The fact that so many people want the bag is validating. I feel like I can call myself a designer now”.

Aimee Gilbreath had a similar situation, as her profession and passion seemed miles apart. After getting an MBA from Stanford she joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as a consultant. Soon, airports and hotel rooms took the place of home. With a hectic travel schedule and demanding job, Aimee couldn’t have a pet, which was especially tough, having grown up with cats, dogs, horses and pigs. That’s when she decided to volunteer at a local pet adoption center. Unfortunately, the way the organization was run, it wasn’t a fit, “I wanted to feel like I was making a difference and this place was more focused on politics than getting animals adopted”. So she left.

A few months later she was at the office late one night thumbing through the Harvard Business Review when she spotted an ad. It was a job posting for an Executive Director at a pet adoption center, Found Animals. This organization wanted someone with business building skills. Aimee immediately called the recruiter and was thrilled to learn that Found Animals shared her vision for what an adoption center should be. They wanted to run it as a business for the benefit of the animals. After a series of successful interviews, she got the job. Although she admits the decision to leave BCG and get off her career trajectory was “agonizing”, she has no regrets. As to making less money, “I still have the lifestyle I want and, importantly, have a job that’s emotionally fulfilling”.

Under Gilbreath’s leadership, the foundation has grown from a staff of two to more than 40 employees and their programs will help over 90,000 pets this year.

Changing careers is seldom without risk and not every story has a happy ending. But research has shown people’s main regret is not the things they have done, but the things they haven’t.

As you prepare to make your New Year’s resolutions and evaluate where you are in life’s journey, consider looking for a way to marry your professional training with your passion. Sometimes the road less traveled can be the right one for you.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

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How A Coach Can Help When Your Own Efforts Fail

You’ve been wanting a new job, a new career, a new “fill in the blank” for a while now.  Despite your best intentions you haven’t been able to start.  Or you’ve started but what you’ve tried hasn’t worked.
Even though you are accomplished in many other areas in your life, achieving this goal has been elusive.  This circumstance is one of the key reasons why coaches exist.  The right coach can make the difference between continuing to try and ultimately reaching your goal.

If you’re thinking of going this route, here’s what you should expect from a good coach:

Accountability:  A good coach will hold your feet to the fire and not let you get away with excuses like “I’ve been too busy traveling”, “I got the flu”, “I’m in the middle of a big project”, etc.  An experienced coach has heard all the excuses and knows how to navigate through them so you keep making progress.

Perspective: “Oh what a gift it is to see ourselves as others see us.” A good coach can provide perspective on yourself that other people in your life may not be able to.  Coaches are impartial and better able to give you objective input on what’s holding you back.  Having coached a lot of people, they have seen issues like you’re facing and have solutions to address them.  They know what works and you benefit from their experience.  Getting perspective is important at every level.  People at the top of their game frequently use coaches to keep their competitive edge. Even Tiger Woods, as great as he is, has a coach who can give him perspective on his swing.

Brainstorming: Evaluating possibilities is part of what a coach does.  Even if you think you’ve covered all the bases there may be some areas that you’ve overlooked.  Brainstorming helps you look at your options more creatively and expand your vision.  Using a single concept, the right coach will springboard multiple ideas and create new opportunities to help you reach your goal.

Measurement: Rarely do people, on their own, follow through on measuring their progress against their goal.  Measurement is part of the overall structure the coach will put in place.  This includes a plan, various milestones with timelines and the strategies necessary to achieve these.  As you measure your progress along the way, you may need to make adjustments.  Your coach can help you develop alternatives.  Measurement takes the “guessing” out of where you are.  It gives you an accurate accounting relative to where you need to be.   Measuring your progress can also spur you on to redouble your efforts.  When you know you’re getting closer, this can turn your jog into a sprint.

Encouragement:  It’s hard to encourage yourself.  Encouragement is the fuel that keeps you going when you might be tempted to quit. When you hit a rough patch, that’s when you’re most likely to become derailed.  Once you’re off track it’s harder to get back on.  Having a coach who is vested in your success will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of how capable we are.

Contacts:  Most goals involve other people and to the extent that you can be connected, the path to your goal will be accelerated.  A good coach will have contacts that you can leverage.  These “door openers” are very important and can either directly or indirectly lead you to the person who can help your cause.

The road to any goal – whether it be professional or personal – can be rocky sometimes.  If there’s a goal you’ve been thinking of and have tried to achieve without success, consider using the resources of a coach.  Having your efforts directed and knowing that you are doing the right things will give you the confidence and energy to reach your goal.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

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Communication Goals for the New Year

Of all the goals you set for yourself, one of the most important ones is probably not on your list — communication goals. As important as communication is, most people overlook this as a critical goal.

It’s impossible to be too good a communicator. We all know people who seem to always know the perfect thing to say. What you may not realize is that good communicators work at it — it doesn’t always come naturally to them. They make a conscious effort to think before they speak.

Nothing gets done in this world without communication. If you want your relationships to improve and you want to be more effective in the things that you do, make it a goal of yours to hone your communications skills.

Communication goals to consider:

Addressing an issue — If you have been harboring bad feelings towards someone, this may be manifesting itself in comments and actions that are undermining your relationship. As awkward as it may be to bring something up, most people appreciate when someone takes the time and effort to try and improve a situation. The sooner you get this conversation behind you the better you’ll both feel. Moving forward, make it a point not to let bad feelings fester. If you are having trouble with someone, address it right away. Let them know how you feel — not what they did wrong. Importantly, offer a solution and be open to listening to what they see as an alternative. Your goal should be to address the situation in a positive way without being attached to an outcome.

Being honest not hurtful — A management consultant was pitching a potential client and lost the business. He called the two decision makers to find out why. One called and left a message saying that, “The other firm was more professional.” Ouch. The consultant felt rejected and insulted. Later that day, the other decision maker called and said, “The reason we chose the other firm was that they gave us more specifics on how they would handle the project.” Both decision makers were being honest, however the second one didn’t make it personal. They pointed out the specific reason which, if the person addresses, can be rectified in future presentations. Being honest is a good quality but being “brutally honest” is not necessary or effective. When you have to provide critical feedback, couch it in language that enables the receiver to learn from it in a positive way. Strive to make it about the “thing” and not the person.

Inspiring and Motivating — Try to inspire people to want to do their best. Let your passion show and be specific around the mission. Focus on what the opportunity means to your team or peers: a promotion, more money, a chance to create something, greater responsibilities, etc. Look for every opportunity to be inspiring. Don’t wait for a “kick off” meeting or the end of the quarter. There are countless, informal opportunities to let someone know how excited you are about what you’re all working towards.

Keeping in touch — This is always on everyone’s “wish list” but they seldom make it a priority. Make it a point this month to schedule emails and phone calls so you can stay connected on a regular basis. Identify the people you want to stay in touch with and the frequency of contact that feels right to you. Schedule your emails over the course of the year. Sending an email only takes a few minutes and if you follow this approach, you’ll stay connected.

Speaking up in meetings — Like someone once said, “If everyone waited to say something brilliant in a meeting, no one would say anything.” The purpose of a meeting is to share ideas. If you’re in the room, no matter what your position is, you’re there for a reason. To break the ice, jump in at the beginning of the meeting. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but after a while you’ll just be part of the conversation. Look at the agenda beforehand to help organize your thoughts. If speaking up in meetings is one of your goals, start with the first meeting of 2012. If you suddenly start contributing, people will take notice. Don’t be afraid to let them know it’s one of your goals.

Congratulating — Never miss an opportunity to congratulate someone. Most people reserve congratulations for major events and miss the many chances to acknowledge achievements on a smaller scale. If someone completed a project that had been languishing, congratulate them. Saying congratulations doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to an event. For example, if there’s a department in your organization that shines, congratulate that manager for having a great team. People love to receive accolades and will feel better about themselves and you.

Listening — We all know how frustrating it is when we’re speaking to someone and they zone out. Half listening is not listening. If someone approaches you and you’re too busy to listen, let them know there’s a better time for you to have the conversation. Otherwise, give people your undivided attention and don’t be quick to interrupt if you don’t agree with something they’ve said. Resist the impulse to jump in. By listening you’re respecting what they have to say and who they are. It also keeps the door open for future conversations. If they know you’re going to shoot down their idea right away, why should they try again?

Communication is the most powerful tool we have available. It has the ability to inspire and energize people to achieve things that they would otherwise think impossible. Make it your goal this year to sharpen your communication skills and you’ll see the benefits.

“The greatest communication skill is paying value to others.”
Denis Waitley

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

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Building New Year Momentum Now!

Many people view the month of December as a time to wrap things up (no pun intended) in order to start fresh in the New Year.  If you’re one of these people, you may have projects that are lingering and December seems like a good time to bring them to a close.  There seems to be a collective mindset of ending things in the current year before starting anew in the next.  What if you looked at things differently? Instead of December being a great time to complete things, what if you thought of it as a time to create momentum into the New Year?

January is like a start to a race – the pistol goes off and everyone is moving their agenda forward.  Everyone wants to get off to a good start and believes January is the time to do it.  That’s why health clubs are inundated with new members in the beginning of the year.  The downside to starting in January is that the field is crowded and it takes more energy to start compared to building on the energy you had in December.

There’s no magic to January 1st, it’s all a continuum of time.

Right now would be a great time to call someone you planned to contact in January.  Chances are they may be even more receptive because of the general holiday slowdown. In contrast, those same individuals may be barraged by calls in January.  People are always looking for a competitive edge yet they miss something as obvious as timing.  Take a look at your calendar for January.  What could you possibly move to December in order to get the ball rolling sooner?

The law of physics states “a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion”. We all know how difficult it can be to start a project, but once we do, we find the energy to work on it until it’s done. That’s the theory behind maintaining momentum throughout December and rolling it forward into January. If you never lose the momentum from December, you’ll start off the New Year with a head start on your peers who decided that the end of the year was a great time to bring all their work to a grinding halt. While they are just beginning their efforts on new projects, you’ll be a couple of weeks into yours and well ahead of the game.

Just picture a big, heavy ball, five feet in diameter that you kept moving forward all year long. When it comes to mid-December, do you want to let that ball roll to a dead stop? Probably not, because you know it will take a lot of effort to get it started again. Keep that visual in your head as you decide that this is the year you will maintain your energy as you end one year and begin a new one. We know the holidays are upon us and believe you’ll enjoy your time off even more if you know you have momentum going into the New Year.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career

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Need a Job? Work Your Alumni Network

Jonathan Greenglass graduated in 2009 from Holy Cross with a degree in Sociology and something maybe even more important, a job. He was hired as an analyst by the investment banking firm, Sandler O’Neill, and attributes his success in getting the job to the alumni network.

Greenglass started reaching out to the alumni network early — while he was still a sophomore — targeting alums in financial services. He sent an introductory email to 10 individuals, most were willing to meet, and some allowed him to shadow them. After each meeting he asked for a referral, one of which led to a summer internship at JP Morgan Chase. Armed with some relevant experience, he continued to network through the alumni, “I approached everyone from an associate to a partner to get different perspectives.” He eventually got his dream job.

Chris Perry took a similar approach. While an MBA student at William & Mary’s Mason School of Business, he worked in the career center and learned firsthand which alumni approaches worked and which ones didn’t. Rather than calling and asking for a job, which he says is “me focused”, Perry turned the call into an informational interview asking how they broke into the business, etc. Through this effort he was offered a job at Nestle Purina, which he turned down because he had already accepted a brand management position at Reckitt Benckiser, through another alumni connection. Perry, appreciative of the help he got along the way, started Career Rocketeer a networking site to help others.

Recent grads are not the only ones getting jobs through alumni networking. Josh Hall with 10 years of work experience used his alumni network at the Naval Academy to land his current position as Director of Real Estate Projects at the real estate firm, Trigild. Emmett Daly, the partner at Sandler O’Neill who hired Jonathan Greenglass, agrees that the network is not just for entry level people. Daly recently hired a senior person into the firm whom he met through the network, “I know a number of senior people who got jobs through alumni connections they had just met.”

Another great vehicle for increasing job prospects are alumni networking events. Sam DeHority took this route after hitting the jobsites hard. He had applied to over 50 positions, but hadn’t gotten any responses, “I was scared out of my mind thinking I’m not going to get a job.” That’s when he noticed that Ithaca College was having an alumni event. He attended and met an Associate Editor at Men’s Fitness. Over the next few months, DeHority stayed on his radar screen and eventually landed a great position at the magazine.

Doreen Amorosa, Associate Dean & Managing Director of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, says their alumni network is stronger than ever, “When we ask our alums to help with career activities like informational interviews, it’s safe to say over 90% say ‘yes'”.

Employee referral programs are on the rise, which gives alums an added incentive to help, so alumni networks should absolutely be leveraged. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Target – use the alumni database to target specific individuals in your field. Send them an email introducing yourself and ask for their advice (e.g., How to leverage trends in the industry?). Don’t ask for a job. Do ask for a referral.

It’s a Numbers Game — but a relatively small one, according to what we heard and reinforced by Doreen Amorosa. She recommends job seekers contact 20 alumni, “That seems to be the number that works”. She should know — last year 88% of McDonough’s 250 MBA students had jobs when they graduated thanks to the network.

Attend Alumni Events — you’ll meet a ton of people who you automatically have something in common with — your school. It’s an easy icebreaker to ask when they attended and what they studied. These events are a quick way to expand your network exponentially and help you stay in touch both personally and professionally.

Network Before You Need Anything — This is the best way to manage your career. When you meet people without an agenda it takes the pressure off and allows the conversation to flow more freely. There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs when you don’t ask for anything — people will usually offer you something.

In this job market you need to be strategic. Tapping into your alumni network is a smart and effective way to land a great job. As Emmett Daly says, “With such high alumni participation, the question would be, why not use it?”

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

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Want a Higher Performing Team? Act Like a Talent Agent

We all know how important it is to develop your people. Many companies place a premium on how effective you are in helping your people grow and may base part of your bonus on it.

But, what if your entire salary depended on your team’s success? You would probably take a more proactive approach, similar to that of a talent agent.

Talent agents are always looking to promote their people. They know what their clients’ special talents are and look for projects that will leverage those skills. They actively look for ways to develop their clients’ careers because they have a vested interest in their success. It’s pretty straightforward — the client’s success is the agent’s success.

What if you applied the same philosophy to developing your team? What if you became a talent agent for each member of your team? You can, and here are some ways to put it into action:

Create a Brag File — Keep a running file on each person’s success. Agents are always ready in a moment’s notice to speak to the successful track record of their clients. Not only will a brag file help you prepare during review time, it will also keep each person’s accomplishments top of mind. If your boss asks about someone on your team, you can immediately rattle off an impressive list of achievements. That lets your boss know that you’re plugged in to what each team member is doing, and also gives an endorsement to that person.

Grow Their Connections — Agents have clients attend functions to meet key people in the industry. One way this can translate into your role as a talent manager is to encourage people on your team to build their own network — internally and externally. In addition to having them work cross functional projects, some companies like Intuit allow their employees to attend most meetings within the company regardless of whether it involves their area. It gives them a chance to meet new people and expand their knowledge base to other areas of the company. To grow their network externally, have them take your place at conferences and events. The more people they meet, the more resources they’ll have to get things done.

Promote Them to Your Boss’s Boss — Talent agents work the system many rungs up the ladder. It’s great if your boss knows about people on your team but they may not take the next step and tell their boss how great these individuals are. There are multiple benefits to this: it gives you an easy talking point two levels up; it helps your boss’s boss be better informed about people who they may not have regular exposure to; it positions you as a leader because you’re focused on your team and it helps raise the profiles of the individuals you discuss with senior management.

Play To Their Strengths — Sports has long recognized the need to play to an individual’s strengths. In baseball the pitcher doesn’t spend spring training trying to learn how to be a better batter. They focus on what they do best — pitch. In the same way, utilize the strengths of each person on your team. Know what they do best and look for ways to capitalize on it.

Give Them Something New – As a talent agent you’re always looking for projects that might be exciting for your client and which could also represent a growth opportunity. As a good manager, you always want to be exploring new avenues for your people. Companies benefit when an individual brings a fresh perspective to something. In addition, your team member will be invigorated by a new challenge.

There has never been a better time to learn from what has been incredibly successful in Hollywood — consistently develop and promote your talent. This will help their career grow and yours as well.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

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Misconceptions of Working at a Non-Profit

For the longest time you have been thinking about how great it might be to follow your passion and work for a non-profit. You fantasize about what it would be like, working with people just like yourself who are passionate about what they do. And you’ll get to dial back on your workload and spend more time with your friends and family. What could be better than that?

Sounds great, but is it reality?

Here are some of the common misconceptions (pros and cons), and the truth about working at a non-profit:

Pros:

It won’t feel like working in a regular business: Just the opposite. Typical is the situation of Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network. Before joining Blue Planet, Nash was a VP of Marketing at Yahoo! “The biggest surprise moving into a non-profit was that I could run Blue Planet just like a for-profit company in terms of setting goals, measuring progress and managing based on what works. The only difference was that our ‘profit’ was the number of people who gained access to safe drinking water.” So if you are thinking about joining a non-profit, recognize that it will be run just like a for-profit company with the focus on aggressively achieving results.

I’ll work fewer hours and be less stressed: Don’t join a non-profit if you think you’ll be spending more time with your family, because the reality is that you may end up spending even less time with them. People mistakenly think that working at a non-profit is like having a hobby. The reality is the stakes are so high in an organization that is trying, for example, to cure cancer, eradicate liver disease, or bring safe drinking water to many parts of the world, that the commitment to working harder and longer hours is often the norm. When you bring committed people together who are passionate about a cause, the energy that is created causes them to work more, not fewer hours.

The pace will be slower: Unlikely, given all that needs to be accomplished with limited resources. Moving too slowly can result in missed opportunities. Reaching each goal as quickly as possible is the highest priority, so expect to work harder and faster than you have in the past. In the quest to cure a disease, time is the enemy.

I’ll be able to move up through the ranks: To a certain extent, in that you will have greater access to senior management. The downside is that there are only so many leadership spots at a non-profit. In a corporation there are lots of options for career advancements because there are usually more layers of management.

I’ll be surrounded by people just as passionate as I am: For the most part this is true. However, just like in any organization, there will be those people who are there just to have a job.

Cons:

My skill set may suffer: If anything, your skill set will strengthen and expand. In a non-profit you’re not as siloed as you are in a corporation. Because resources are tight you’re expected to wear many hats which creates opportunities to expand beyond your functional area. For example, in a non-profit you may be find there is no marketing communications department to turn to and that “you” in fact are that department.

I won’t be able to leverage my experience back into the for-profit world: This depends on the non-profit. If it’s a fairly sophisticated organization it’s highly likely that your skills will be transferable to a for-profit company. Bob Madison is a great example of this as he’s switched back and forth between for-profits and non-profits his entire career. For example, he moved from a communications role in the United Jewish Appeal to Communications Director at Golin Harris. Later he left his position as Director of Strategic Communications at Porter Novelli to join the American Liver Foundation as their National Communications Director. Madison was able to seamlessly move back and forth between these two worlds because the non-profits he worked for were large and sophisticated. He credits his non-profit experience with helping him start his own firm. Bob Madison is Founder of Dinoship, a communications firm that focuses on non-profits and healthcare.

The non-profit will likely have an unsophisticated management team: Committed, passionate people with strong management backgrounds are the norm, not the exception in the not-for-profit world. Importantly, the board members in the non-profits are selected because they bring a specific skill/talent to the organization that is critical to its health and longevity (e.g., fundraising, growing a start-up, a specialty in that area, etc.).

My network might dwindle: If anything, it will get stronger for two reasons. While all non-profits compete for charitable dollars, there’s a greater cooperative spirit among people who work at “competing” non-profits. The second reason is that you will create stronger bonds with the people you work with internally. The passion you shared while working at the non-profit will continue long after you or they have left the organization and this translates to a long term network of strong contacts.

The environment won’t be as efficient: In a non-profit, efficiency is king. People in a non-profit have to work in a more streamlined fashion. While corporations have money to throw at a problem, non-profits rely more heavily on ingenuity to counteract the fewer dollars they’re working with. The key to success at a non-profit is the ability to do more with less and to make every dollar translate into $1.50 worth of gain for the organization.

If you’re thinking of making the bold move into a non-profit you’ll be happy to know that most people who have made the move are glad they did. The experience added another important dimension to their career and they felt good about making a valuable contribution to a worthy cause.

As Lisa Nash put it: “There’s nothing like an inspirational goal you believe in with all your heart to make you move mountains”.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

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