I recently contributed an article for TrainingIndustry.com’s blog and wanted to share it with my readers. Please visit this link.
If you are a leader, mid-career or otherwise and want to set your new hires up for success, then this is the article for you! Alternatively, if you want to consider how you, the individual, can be successful walking into a new role, there are a few nuggets of high-quality information that can prepare you for the first 90 days. Factoring in your supervisor’s perspective can be very enlightening and advantageous. Happy reading!
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I am approaching the end of my first full year as a full-time career coach and speaker. I can’t believe it! Time flew by so far. Not only was it so different than running a business part-time, I have learned exponentially more about the struggles and triumphs of business! It has been an amazing journey and I look forward to what the next year will bring.
As I reflected on what this year has taught me, I realized that much of the dialogue I was having with myself was about how to do the work more efficiently and effectively, how to identify (and pursue the right) revenue streams and how to identify and leverage my professional advantage(s) while keeping my sanity and faith in the fact that the effort I put forth is or will be paying off.
So, I experimented with my skills and deferred to the things I liked to do. So, I experimented with my skills and deferred to the things I liked to do. Small Business Week takes place April 30-May 6 and was created to highlight and celebrate the importance of small business owners. To support this cause, I have partnered up with QuickBooks whose goal is to provide easy-to-use, invoicing software to small business owners to allow them the time to focus on what matters most, their business (P.S. I use this software myself and it is a lifeline!).
Below I share two of my competitive advantages and how I leveraged them in the hopes that my reflections will give you some ideas.
Competitive Advantage #1: I LOVE to network.
Making connections is the best way to promote your brand, test out your business idea(s), gain customers/clients and find other ways to grow your business. It is imperative for me to market myself, not just do the work I want to do. I’ve accomplished a great deal by integrating into the community, but these efforts are springs that add up to a marathon. I move between making my community feel smaller to widening it as I research and learn more about what I am capable of achieving and exploring in what direction(s) my business could go so that I am ultimately successful. Business ownership certainly allows you to study yourself very closely and honoring those discoveries takes time and patience but let others be your guide. So I…
- Researched what groups exist in your area that are related to your interests. I took note of the local Chamber events, perused MeetUp groups for young professionals and business owners, attended human resources organization mixers, Association for Talent Development events, affiliated with women’s organizations and other volunteer organizations. I then attended at least one event for each (sometimes more) to meet people. It takes time for people to recognize you in your own community. I was persistent and present. You can be too.
- Volunteered at large-scale organization events and fundraisers. I figured that I could meet cool people, potentially find friends since not only was I new to full-0time business ownership, I was also new to the area. Secondly, I wanted to know who were the “who’s-who” in the region. Gathering information and knowledge about your community can help you feel connect but also engaged. This is important to business success but also life. to find potential friends b. to see what individuals were the Who’s Who of my area.
- Invited individuals to meet with me for coffee. I found it valuable to reach out to some individuals one-on-one. For example, there was a company I admired and wanted to learn more about so I reviewed the staff list and identified a young professional to whom to reach out. We met at Starbucks one day and ended up talking for quite some time about business owners, freelancing and other life experiences. We remained in touch and recently decided to expand our conversations about business to other young, female business owners. What started out as a relationship based on business molded into a friendship which still serves us professionally. My outreach and ambition in this regard encouraged others with whom I met individually to introduce me to others in their networks and so my network continues to grow. I pay it forward by connecting my contacts with them as well.
Competition Advantage #2: I LOVE to speak.
Public speaking is a critical and necessary skill for a business owner. I market myself as a career coach and speaker so the majority of what I do revolves around educating others. My primary goal is to help mid-career professionals in their thirties and forties navigate their careers and anchor their futures. Essentially, I want to help them decide how they want to proceed professionally. I help some change careers, others secure promotions, make more money or conduct some professional planning (aka where do I want to be professionally in the next 3 years).
As such, I love talking to people in front of large groups, one-on-one, virtually or in person. So, this past year, I decided to take Angela Lussier’s Speaking School for Women while simultaneously listening to her podcast, Claim the Stage. As a result, I honed this skill, learning the business of public speaking and secured twice the number of speaking gigs and more that were paid than I had in previous years!
I share this example to reinforce the importance of professional development as a business owner. Pick a skill every quarter or every half year to improve upon; you never know what you might learn about yourself and where it might help you grow your business! Since my experience was so positive and because I care about others’ abilities to speaking up, advocate for themselves, share their stores and change the world, I became trained as a club leader to launch a Speaker Sisterhood Club this summer in the Lehigh Valley, located in eastern Pennsylvania. These clubs are places and spaces where women can share their voice in a safe space and learn public speaking best practices. Not only will this become an additional revenue stream for me but it will also allow me to support my target audience in a way that is relevant to my primary business’ goal.
To played with this skill further, I have been practicing my speaking skills by experimenting with Facebook Live. It comes easily to me to create valuable video content about topics related to professional development, share information about my life as a business owner and offer resources to my audience. It is a free way for them to know what I am doing and for what I stand. I encourage you to view one of my videos here and try it out for yourself. My friend, Sandra Costello, has tried Facebook Live too and you can see one of her videos here as well.
Lastly, I leveraged Twitter more regularly for a couple of months as an experiment to grow my number of followers. I posted resources on topics related to my business, interests and skills regularly (e.g. mid-career professionals, public speaking, women and work, productivity, business ownership, etc.). As a result, I increased my number of followers by almost 100 people and was asked to participate in several Twitter chats, gaining even more exposure. This helped me stay top of mind and expand my networks beyond my immediate community.
Disclaimer: Not everyone loves speaking but it can be helpful to practice speaking up, whether it be virtually or in person about your work and what you care about. Find a way that works for you. People connect with more deeply with you when you share your passions and, despite how intimate or public your venue is, that is how you create customers, clients, followers and even friends, especially when solopreneurship starts to really feel lonely.
I encourage you to sit down with a pen and paper and reflect on what your competitive advantages are.
- What do you gravitate towards naturally?
- On what have you been spending your time?
- What activities have you been feeling less than enthusiastic about? Think about your experiences in business thus far, what has been working?
- Have you pulled any financial reports to see where most of your money is being earned? On what activities? Have you been tracking the metrics on your social media sites?
Those are just a few questions to get you started. There will always be more but choose one or two that jumped out at you first and spend some time on them. I encourage you to experiment for as long as you can but then take some time to focus on one thing for a while and then go back out and experiment, experience and explore. This malleability is intrinsic to entrepreneurship; it keeps you honest. I know it has for me.
Photo credit: Business Betties
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We have all heard the advice to dress to impress. In the job hunt process, this lesser considered step in preparation can have a big impact on your professional perception.
It takes only a tenth of a second to form an impression of a complete stranger from just the appearance of their face and cues from their nonverbal behaviors. The majority of people form an opinion on others within the first minute of their introduction. In the face of a job interview this makes the process even more competitive.
Office culture and employer dress codes can often feel as though you are navigating the battlefield trenches. Have you ever stared deeply into your closet with no certainty or confidence for what you should be wearing? In many cases we wonder what actually defines business formal from business casual? For past generations of workforces this subject was not as complex, professionalism once had a uniformed appearance. Today, there are many more creative jobs, digital start-ups, internet companies, shared work spaces, and a rise of on-trend offices. All complicating the question of what attire fits most appropriately for my place of employment. Of course, dress codes will vary across locations, positions, lines of work and company cultures. Eventually you go from interviewee to proud employee and decoding the dress code comes more natural with ease. As a prospect or candidate for a desired position, crafting the perfect professional image can feel daunting. Beyond receiving an employee handbook (which often comes once we accept an offer), defining professional dress code and company culture is ambiguous. Imagine if we wasted less time worrying about what to wear and focused more of our energy on preparing to sell ourselves for a position.
The Five Most Common Office Dress Codes in Job Listings
Always dress Business Formal for interviews. Use your best judgement when including subtle pops of personality. Men should wear a two or three-piece suit in a neutral or dark color along with a plain (white) formal shirt, solid tie, cufflinks (or watch) and black/brown shoes (your belt should match your shoes). For the ladies, A pantsuit or skirt-suit is suggested, complimented with a button-down blouse, modest accessories (small, fine jewelry), dark tights and a closed-toe heel.
When dressing for any position you want to avoid dressing more than one tier above your respective office dress code, this will avoid an overdressed feeling. Dark colored suits, formal shirts and conservatively-patterned ties are acceptable options for men in a Business Professional setting. For women, conservative length skirts with solid colored blouses and neutral-tone accessories are most common.
Business Casual is the most commonly misconstrued dress code. Casual does not mean leggings, denim nor athleisure wear. This business setting is more versatile in terms of color, prints and pops of personality. Men can be comfortable in formal shirts in any color/pattern. Sweaters and cardigans are comfortable alternatives to a dress shirt. Ties are optional and chinos are a nice substitute for dress slacks. For women, a Business Casual environment is more inviting of statement jewelry, flat footwear and loafers.
Small Business Casual
Small Business Casual is very similar to Business Casual with a more creative flair. Differences include, the ability to wear denim (dark colored), open toe footwear (nice sandals), well-kept sneakers, as well as polo shirts or collarless shirting. Small Business Casual allows room for aspects of personal style and individual personality. Although as professionals we must remain conscious of becoming too relaxed with our image.
Creative Dress Codes are the most undefined. Specific niche dress codes will depend on the specific culture and field of the company. Trendy fashion items including layers and stylish accessories are acceptable. Although sneakers and T-shirts are also acceptable, your clothing should always be wrinkle free, appropriate in size/fit, and of course, clean.
Even the most prepared candidates who research the prospective role as well as the company background, will commonly forget to consider the office dress code. While at an office, either for a tour, to drop off a resume or for your interview rounds, be sure to get a sense for what others are wearing. That said, no matter how formal or informal, you should prioritize comfort, fit and confidence, first impressions are powerful. Your potential employer is not only looking for candidates who fit a skill set but also seek individuals who embody a positive energy (a well-tailored outfit and a sharp pair of shoes might be the dignified suit of armor to empower you on interview day).
Quick ways to gain the insights on company dress codes prior to your interview
- Be Observant. If you know someone already employed, use them as a resource. Take note of what others in the company are wearing on a daily basis.
- Explore the company’s social accounts. Here you can gain a perspective for the culture and day-to-day office life. Employee headshots are often formal and don’t depict the true standards of dress for that business.
- Visit the surroundings of the office. Watching people pass through the lobby or an employee parking lot will give you a better sense for what people are wearing.
T.M.Lewin, London-based tailors established in 1898, have been historically recognized for their invention of the “coat shirt,” the first shirt to feature buttons down the entire front of the garment. Fashions have surely changed since then; the dress shirt has cemented itself as a true staple in professionalism. The T.M.Lewin have embraced this connection and are seen to be experts in office-ready work-wear. T.M.Lewin a helpful guide to help us Crack The Office Dress Codes allowing aspiring professionals to navigate the working world with style and ease. If you happen to be in need of an impressive look for your upcoming interview or first day on the job; T.M.Lewin has a premier selection of men’s shirts and timeless blouses for the ladies.
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This last year as a full-time business owner has proven to be both challenging and rewarding. Understanding my strengths, what the market will bear and how to differentiate myself were consistently on my mind. When I heard about Fundera, a bias-free lender marketplace for small businesses that need to fund their dreams, I was inspired to share my perspective on the needs of a small business owner. I came up with solutions to my top five challenges and want to share them with budding business owners like you!
Difficulty #1: Limited to no interaction with colleagues on a daily basis
Solution: Get out into the community at least 1-2 times per week.
- Join mastermind groups, attend free community events via your local Chamber of Commerce, find meet up groups for business owners and learn more about their challenges and successes in your area.
- From these larger gatherings, you can orchestrate additional, informal and, yet, consistent gatherings or one-on-one meetings with mentors and colleagues who are also flying solo in business in any industry.
- I am an extroverted person so I attend 2-3 events per week but one to start is perfectly fine as long as you can schedule a few one-on-one meetings per month. Being visible in the community whether at large networking events, small committee or volunteer meetings and educational events is critical to feel part of a community and to get the amount of socializing, both professional and personal you need to feel sane.
In addition, I’ve established an informal team of advisors. These are individuals in my network (e.g. friends, family members, mentors, former colleagues and others I admire) whom I can turn to about a business idea or with a concern. I would recommend that you have a conversation with most people you want on this “team” so they understand your needs and can vocalize their commitment.
Difficulty #2: Establishing viable revenue streams.
Solution: You know what kind of work you want to do but you have to spend time building others’ awareness of your area of expertise. Oftentimes that means that you need to consider other ways to make money as you get your products and services rolling. I have tried (and succeeded with most on) the following:
- Leveraging my skills in forums such as Thumbtack, Freelancer and Upwork.
- Monetizing my hobby – I started my #walkphotography Instagram experiment two years ago. I’ve always loved photography and this has given me a creative outlet, but along the way, I’ve received really positive feedback about my “eye.” One of my goals for early 2017 was to set up an e-commerce site where I could sell prints. It can’t hurt to see what happens, right?!
- Retainer clients – Contact larger companies that are required to meet a certain criterion of contracted services for the year to understand what their needs are and how you might be able to assist. Local economic development groups, industry-specific professional associations or small business development centers may be a good place to start.
- Take on part-time, mindless work. You can stay afloat monetarily doing something that pays the bills but lets you use your mind to “work” on your business. For example, Champion chess players often worked jobs such as putting caps on bottles to allow their minds to play several games during the day while doing this mindless manual labor. What kind of work might this be for you?
- Partner on programming and community presentations. Doing so will allow you to cross promote services, gain exposure to new circles of influence and individuals as well as help you think about your skills and content differently than you might have previously. Volunteering for community organizations allow others to get to know you without the pressure of hiring you. This activity can go a long way in terms of building your credibility. I am working on a presentation with a financial advisor about how mid-career professionals can effectively invest in a career change, professionally and financially.
Difficulty #3: Managing my time, finding balance between my personal and professional life activities and learning when to power down technology.
Solution: I’ve found that the best strategies for me in this area have been about mindfulness.
- Establish a routine (morning and evening). Go for a walk around the block or in your neighborhood in the morning as your commute and to signify to your brain that it is time to get to work.
- Establish official “work” hours and stick to them. Communicate those hours with your clients, family members and whomever else would put a demand on your time during those hours. As an experiment in awareness, for 30 days starting in February, I am going to shut off my computer during weekday evenings at 8:30pm and drink a cup of chamomile tea. This will allow me to prioritize larger projects earlier in the day and give myself time to unwind before bed.
- Set aside time for working out, even if it means doing a few exercises for 10 minutes in between calls or during breaks from working on projects. A healthy body encourages a healthy mind.
- Spend time working at coffee shops. This will help you feel visible (above) and encourage productivity.
- Take 20 minutes at the end of the day for 30 days to summarize the type of activities you spent time on, if they gave or took energy away from you and how you felt at the end of the day based on your behaviors. At the end of the that month, look back at your journal entries to identify patterns or opportunities for changes that can be made. For additional journal prompt ideas, check out this link.
- Prioritize time for you. This could be enjoying time with friends and family or a solo activity; do what replenishes you. I take time to work out, listen to podcasts, read, travel and/or take pictures in an area of my hometown.
Difficulty #4: Marketing my services, managing my brand and finding my niche
Solution: This is something you must consider throughout your career no matter what your profession. However, as a business owner, you are your brand so make sure to think about how you’d like to be known digitally and in person. Are they consistent with one another?
- Create a website or pay someone to do so and update it regularly.
- Do targeted Facebook ads for products or services that are your bread and butter.
- Create consistent colors, font and brand messaging across social media platforms. For example, my designer created customized banners for social media with my logo. Hubspot is a great resource for learning more about this area of business management.
- Remember your ideal customer avatar and target your products and services to their needs, emotions and wants. You have the luxury of building true and genuine relationships with your clients because their interactions will be with you, the CEO, instead of a person down the chain.
- Getting out in the community will also help you learn about the needs of your people. In the fall/early winter 2016, I conducted phone interviews with members of my target audience. This allowed me to test my ideas and hunches about their needs and helped them become more aware of who I am, especially outside of my normal circles. This is great for building my brand and expanding my circle of contacts.
Difficulty #5: Doing everything yourself from bookkeeping to selling your services and products, to doing the actual work that you love
Solution: Larger companies can divvy up the work of the organization. Small business owners or solopreneurs often do not have that luxury. It may be possible for you to do the following to offload some of these responsibilities that are not as enjoyable to complete:
- Hire a virtual assistant or invite a friend/family member to help and pay them back in baked goods, etc. Be creative!
- Set aside a day for an hour when you dig into your most unpleasant or dreaded tasks.
- Revisit your strategic plan to ensure that the work that you are doing matches your priorities and goals.
- Purchase QuickBooks or Freshbooks to manage your invoicing and other finances.
The bottom line is twofold in my opinion. First, you must become part of the fabric of your community whether that be local, regional, national, international, professional or a combination of a few of these networks in order to succeed as a small business. You need to be visible and engaged. Second, you must stay attuned with how you are showing up in your business and with the feelings you have related to your businesses activities.
It is hard to compare yourself with companies that are farther along in their years of operation. Therefore, I encourage you to pick one or two of the strategies above that resonate for you and give them a try this month. Show some self and business love in February! Talk to me about what you discover on Twitter, @MeghanGodorov.
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Happy New Year! As January comes to a close, I am even more ready to kickstart the goals and dreams I have for the year into gear. What about you? When most others have given up on their New Year’s resolutions, I am digging in. You, too, can dig in.
At this time last year, I was drained, stuck and wholeheartedly in need of a professional change. I was in a job that I had outgrown but was still hanging on. I could not sit back any longer and hope for a resolution. Instead, I needed to act. So the end of January became the start of something new for me. I quit my full-time job in higher education to pursue business ownership.
I did not go it alone. I had personal and professional mentors, friends and family members empowering me in, through and beyond my decision to change careers, taking it all one step at a time.
Considering a career change yourself? Are you unhappy at work?
You, too, can take one step at a time and get unstuck. So this year, I resolve to help you take one small action today, tomorrow or even in the next hour that will move you forward and toward a more satisfying professional experience.
3 Actions in 1 Hour to Kickstart a Mid-Career Shift
Connect with a friend, family member or someone new to do one (or more) of the following:
- Unpack what is going on in your workplace, get a neutral opinion and ideas regarding next steps to take
- Information and tips for exploring a new industry/field, perhaps one that they know well or know that others in their network know well.
- Learn more about someone’s career that you admire. Taking some time to step back and dream or borrow from the best practices of another field can help shape the impact you have on your company’s bottom line or for your own career goals.
Update your Resume
- There are basic resume do’s and don’ts. Take a look at this list and implement one change over your lunch break. If you are considering a truly fresh look, take advantage of my Quick Fix Resume Review offer of $47.
- Never wrote a summary of qualifications before? Have over 10 years’ experience? This is also a great resource for you to review.
Revisit your Budget
- Financial concerns were high on many of mid-career professionals’ list that I interviewed earlier this winter when considering a career change. Here are 7 simple and free budgeting tools you can start using today. You might also try your credit card’s spend analyzer tool for a bird’s eye view assessment of your spending. it is important prior to a change that you assess your financial situation so you can comfortably (and realistically) meet you career dreams.
- Visit Salary.com for information about specific position’s salaries in your industries of interest and in your target geographic locations so you can understand your earning potential both immediately and in the future.
- Weigh the pros and cons of following a “passion” career versus a more traditional or stable career. Make a pros and cons list and then take it one step further by assigning a weight to each item or rank order in terms of importance.
Any shift or change is scary but you do not have to wait to get started nor be alone in the process. Have questions? Email me! I’m happy to chat and here to help.
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