Land the Plane

Is this you?

You have never felt quite comfortable in the job market, asking for help with your journey, or explaining to your networking connections what your next step is likely to be.  As regards your network, you don’t often ask for help.

You are okay when you are researching job postings, filling out online applications, or refining a resume that illustrates what you used to do, where you have been, and what you have done—but writing a cover letter authentically describing what you want to do, where you want to work, or how your past connects with your future, not so much.

You get interviews, but don’t like or warm up to  the interviewers or their questions.

You apply for jobs when the posting sounds interesting, even if you aren’t familiar with the job family, terminology, profession, or company.

The job often sounds interesting but the company culture or the fit is all wrong for you.

You want to make sure you have seen all your options before you make the leap to a less than perfect fit.

You are starting to imagine a different future than the one that you have been pursuing—maybe a complete turnaround, to something you haven’t considered until now.

You have turned down three or more interviews or jobs, including applications you have withdrawn before you were offered the job.

Here’s the thing.

It’s time to land the plane.  You are finding ways to avoid commitment.  You are actually not looking for the right job—or any job.

I don’t know how many ways this pattern of avoidance can go wrong from a mental health point of view.  But I do know these things:

Your destination is on the ground, not in the clouds.  You have to land the plane to get started on the work of the work, which is different from the job.  A job is a relationship with an organization, with others who are committed to getting something done, a service, a product, a plan.  The work is the activity or collection of activities that form a profession, a process, a role, or in general, a contribution to the whole.

There is no ideal job anymore—no one finds the perfect place, pay, people, or projects.  Everyone compromises on the ideal in order to be current and learning and economically stable.

Not all that long ago, Gallup did a study of best places to work, and determined that they are marked by this: their employees like the people they work with, trust the people they work for, and take pride in what they do.  You can choose to like, trust, and take pride in your work—it is, in fact, up to you to do so.

You should not respond to an online posting if you do not know a lot about the company, the work, and (not or) the upside and the downside implications of that job forevermore appearing as the next job on your resume.  Think about that.  Upside and downside.  Where do you do after that job?  Why?

Whatever you are doing behind that computer screen, stop it and go to places where there are stimulating working people who make you laugh and think.

When you interview or network, force yourself to find the very best things about the people who cared enough and had enough interest in you to invite you to learn more about them.  Just decide you like them and think of them as good, kind, and helpful.  Do not test them.  Do not find them imperfect.  Do not imagine them being their worst selves.  Imagine you can depend on them, see them daily, and learn to like them very much.  They have moms, dads, siblings, and pets—just like you.  Good days and bad days,

I used to tell job candidates who were not sure about the leap to imagine what it’s like when they bring all of their skills to the party—not what is it like now, but what would it be like if you taught us everything you know and showed us your personal leadership in the thing you are good at.  Think about that—how can you make it better?

At the end of the day, there is very little that “feels” right about a new place, new job, new friends, and new work to do every day.  It’s a commitment to make it all less new and more familiar.  You cannot stay up in the air.

Land the plane.

Change is Inevitable

John Maxwell said “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.”  Tony Robbins’ version is “Change is inevitable; progress is optional.”   Either way, the world and the economic environment are changing more rapidly, more suddenly, and more dramatically than ever before.

If you are choosing a career, how then do you consider the question of sustainability?  You love what you do, or what you think you want to do, but what about the future of whatever career or careers that might represent?

I don’t know the answer, and the horizon on answers about the future is shorter than it used to be.  Five-year plans are probably really three-year plans, and in some cases they become obsolete faster than that, depending on the industry and region of the world.

Drama aside, you still have to make decisions.  Here are some things to think about.

  1.  What is it that you really like about work itself?  Identify the elements and contours of the attractors inherent in the career or job you sought or are seeking.   Are they sustainable into the future of the job you declared for?  Or are they obsolescence-bound?  For example, face to face contact has succumbed to FaceTime and Skype, travel as a job feature is fast coming off the table, and as well we know, news reporting is more entertainment than journalism, no matter the medium.
  2. What is your risk/reward tolerance?  Jobs with substantial paychecks most often involve higher risk:  sales, scarcity of resources, specialization, geographic undesirability, start-ups, long and painful hours, immense emotional burden.  Jobs with less risk pay less and will likely continue to throughout your career.  You can budget risk; many people choose high risk situations early in a career, where the risk of failure is presumable more tolerable, and where high rewards can lead to a broader range of future choices.  Choosing wisely early can be a hedge against future change.
  3. Are you able to stay current in your field?  Often, change sneaks up on you, and there you are, using language suitable for the last millennium and talking about irrelevant matters in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Yes, people notice when you haven’t kept up with the times and your own professional development.
  4. Do you want to be a generalist or a specialist?  The current career popularity contest is producing STEM winners, so anything science, technology, engineering and math is open for business.  A word of caution:  shortages lead to overabundance, and it doesn’t take that long.  So if you heard that a specific job (ceramic widgets engineer level three, for example) is making megazillions, know that that job has a boss who supervises lots of cweL3’s and has a PhD in management.  Generalizing may lead to the more sustainable path in the end.  But you don’t really know.
  5. Do you have the genes of an Entrepreneur?   If you do, you may have the most choices (but we are back to that risk/reward thing).   It’s hard to know until you leap into the volcano if volcano-leaping is for you.  starting and managing your own business can be satisfying or it can be lonely or it can be both.  Depending on the business itself, it may be either sustainable (at the right scale) or salable enough to allow you a handful of future choices.
  6. Are you considering a profession that requires extensive education and a license at the end of the education road?  Doctors, Lawyers, Architects, Pharmacists, Ministers, Teachers, Veterinarians are pretty sustainable careers, but the compensation is all over the map and rises and falls with the tides.  You can almost always work, but you may not always be able to bank.  Teachers and Veterinarians will tell you that you really have to love the work itself; it’s a lifestyle as much as a career.  And–very important–before you invest in the very expensive education you are contemplating, know where pay in the profession is heading
  7. What does the world really need?  To the 3 circle diagram my husband loves (what do love to do, what are you good at, and what will people pay you for), I always add:  think about what the world needs, or at least what your corner of it needs more of.

I am crazy about Anthony Bourdain’s show on CNN, Parts Unknown.  One of his dinner companions–I think it was in Shanghai–pointed out that with a world population of more than 7 billion (and of course those are not all people of working age wherever they are)  it is conceivable that economically speaking, for purposes of production, we do not need as many people working as we have in the past.  One of our human challenges of the future will be to develop a solution to the puzzle of productivity–that as we become more efficient as a society, we eliminate jobs, careers, and economic platforms.

Change, meanwhile, marches on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Don’t Know What You Want

You don’t always get to do what you love, find your passion, or or even identify your dream place on the wheel of jobs and careers.  For a great many people (of all ages and stages), ideal work is elusive, or that job requires so much training and education that it’s out of reach, now and maybe for always.

So what do you do instead?

Here are some alternatives.

  1.  Find the thing that can fund the thing you like to do but can’t get paid to do.

If you make films, write books, create art, or travel voraciously every chance you get, decide what can float that boat, either by supplying funding, or by creating swaths of time, or even by getting you close to the thing in some other way.  Business travelers usually get to keep miles earned, teachers often get summers off, publishers place you near authors and ideas, and editors.  Look for the opportunity to create a platform or a bridge.

2.    Decide where you want to work, geographically, and do what is there to do.

Living where you want to live is a worthy objective, and expanding the definition of “where” to include proximity to things or people you love, as opposed to specific cities makes it a broader, richer set of considerations.  For example, if you want to be near the water, there is more than Florida to choose from.   Similarly, you can pick between cities and suburbs, plains and mountains, cold or warm climates before getting into the nitty gritty of exactly where you might launch a venture.

3.    Select an industry.

What makes your world better and how might you fit into it?  Can you see yourself somehow supporting health care, agriculture, fashion, or automobiles?  A great many people are just plain good at operations, they make things happen, whatever the things are.  For those folks, operational jobs, service jobs, administrative jobs, managerial jobs, are going to be fulfilling, as long as the work makes sense and they can see the need–and do what they do best, make things happen.  Think about pet food manufacturing, tax preparation, attractions management, or theater operation.

4.  Find kindred spirits or just really nice people who appreciate you.

Go where you think you will fit in–who thinks like you do?  Where do your friends go or where are they planning to go?  Is there a training program, a big department in need, a church enterprise, a social enterprise, or a school, or a program?  Collaboration with like-minded people can be rewarding and creates a social structure you can attach to for nutrition, connection, and sustaining interest.

5.  Consider becoming a specialist in a very specialized field.

Focus down into the details and learn everything you can about one thing.  Whatever the thing is, and it could be anything–but you do need education, so that’s important.  Without knowing you, I can’t know what the thing is, but if you start to write about it, people will as you to speak about it, and then you will meet other people and learn even more.  Being an expert does require staying up to date in your chose field–but it doesn’t require much more.  Consultants get found by the folks who need them and eventually this leads to a living.

Very few people are perpetually happy with every career contour, move, feature, or assignment.  Even the self employed struggle with exhaustion, fear, and boredom.  A career is not particularly fragile, most of the time, but it does require some patience, with yourself, and with the choices you have.  If you want different or more choices, you have to move forward, you have to produce, and you have to connect and stick with an idea that makes sense for you.

 

 

 

 

Eight Big Mistakes

I’d rather approach this from a positive point of view–eight things you can do right, right now.  However, unless you see these from the negative side, I’m not sure you can appreciate the problem.  So here they are–the eight big things that can undermine your best efforts to make a good match in the job market.

  1.  Too many narratives.  Just who the heck are you anyway?  It is fine to evolve, to have many interests, and to give in to the occasional impulse, but it’s important to establish and maintain your personal brand.  Your narrative isn’t just what you put into the world.  It guides how you think about your choices and how you can explain them to yourself as well.  When you think “Hmm, that was not like me at all” it usually means you were careless or not deliberate or intentional.  The common problem is known as trying to be “all things to all people.”
  2. Mistaking an execution error for a tactical or strategic error.  Let’s say you go to a networking event and you are unprepared, dressed inappropriately, in a bad mood, or just having an off night. It doesn’t mean that your strategy is all wrong.  If it was an event for accountants, it doesn’t mean that you should not be an accountant, or that accountants are not good networkers.  It only means you need some practice.  A strategic error is a big one–like becoming an accountant when you are sure you should have been a charter boat captain.  That kind of error requires a segue instead of more practice, advice, or preparing better next time..
  3. Overemphasizing resume, cover letters, writing samples, thank you notes, and even job postings responses.  Your materials are not you, and your crafting and redrafting of them is not a great use of your time and effort.  Get out from behind the computer and meet new people, make new friends, join other people, collaborate, and air out your brain.  Your tribe–your inner circle–can help you more than that resume, so you should spend time with them and treat them extremely well.  And never, ever, complain to them.  You do have to have a basic resume and to be familiar with the standards for a good cover letter, but thinking these will ever be perfect or that they will get you a job is to exaggerate their importance.
  4. Administrative shortfall.  Keep up with the administration of your life–paying bills, planning, maintenance on the equipment, your health, and all of the other things that go into keeping you on the straight and narrow.  Doing so builds and sustains your confidence in your choices and in your self.  That confidence provides you with space to make good decisions and allows you to be resilient when you are rejected or don’t get what you want.
  5. Debating feedback.  You don’t have to accept all feedback, but you should not debate it or be defensive when you get it or hear it.  If the feedback is objective–a score, count, deadline, or other measure, it’s easy to re-do and check the accuracy.  No debate required.  If it is someone’s opinion, it’s an opinion.  Thank them.  Move on.  No need to defend the castle; it’s yours and owner-occupied.
  6. Not defining your purpose and your core competencies and leading with your strengths and purpose at all times.  We like to think we are good at many things, and usually we are.  but core strengths are what fuels the rocket and purpose is what makes the destination clear. This could not be more important–the ability to assess yourself against criteria that you establish is a foundational career skill and you begin to learn it by simply doing it.  Many of us become known for many things, but are not always sure how they fit together or help us get better at what we want to do.
  7. Undervaluing personal traits, appearance, or language.  We either think no one is looking, no one cares, or that everyone is looking and that everyone cares.  Neither is true–it just matters when it matters, so you have to be prepared for the times when it does.  that means good habits but not excessive self-consciousness.
  8. Accepting innumeracy as a thing that is okay.  It isn’t.  If you say you aren’t good with numbers you will believe it and then you won’t be.  If you aren’t, you need to practice and get better at quantifying accurately.  It’s important.

Your Playlist

We used to call it “Playing the old tapes.” because music used to live on physical recording media.  “Playing the old tapes” meant listening to the songs from when you were stupid, either stupid in love, stupid in breaking up, or, well, maybe just not who you were eventually going to become.  In effect, the old tapes are likely to take away some of your more recent, rational learning and replace it with some strangely familiar, irrational yearning.

Usually, old tapes are just fine for normal nostalgic purposes, like remembering where you were when you first heard some of the classics–Desperado, This Old Heart of Mine, Stairway to Heaven, or Sweet Caroline.  Or anything from the Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin.

But.  We all have a bit of a figurative playlist hanging around inside, and when certain songs come on–something happens and it strikes a familiar chord or when you make a mistake and experience regret, it can trigger feelings that lead to old reflexes and bad habits.  Instead of conjuring up your current vision of competence, new behaviors, and new opportunities to get what you want from within yourself, you find yourself in fear, frustration, or anxiety.

You have to keep your playlist current.  We do that through affirmations.

Everybody who just thought of SNL’s Jack Handy raise your hand.  That isn’t what I mean, but some of those were funny.

An affirmation is a specific, positively written and crafted, present tense description of a desired state.  For example, “I am at my best when I prepare and organize my day.  I eat a healthy breakfast, make a list of priorities, and take the time to think about and visualize how I want to present myself in meetings.”  Or, “I’m happiest when I am able to make others happy.  I look for opportunities to thank, acknowledge, provide feedback to, or otherwise recognize everyone for their importance in my life.”

Or this simple:  “I pay my bills on time, and set funds aside for emergencies before I divert money to luxuries.  I manage my finances by the 15th of each month, and compete the task before the end of that day.”

Or this wild:  “I am innovative and I nourish my creative side.  Each day, I break one habit by doing something completely out of my routine.”

Or this profound:  “I am on the road to changing my life.  Today, I will meet two new people and learn how I can help them accomplish something that means a lot to them.”

Affirmations don’t have to be grand.  I once affirmed my way into becoming a nonsmoker.  I affirmed my way into competence in Algebra.  I affirmed my way into discontinuing my negative self-talk and accompanying reflexive dismissal of compliments on hard-earned skills (Example of my toxic self-talk:  Friend:  You are so good at that.  Me:  Oh no I’m really not; just lots of experience.).  I am a habitual and chronic corrector of negative self-talk when I encounter it.

I hate to hear anyone say they aren’t good at something, and I usually stop that dialogue or soliloquy and say:  You probably would be if you didn’t tell yourself you aren’t.  And that is true, to a large extent.  I was never the math whiz I started out to be after my parents told me I was better at words and meaning.  Oddly, I later found out I was pretty good at both and liked them both pretty much equally.

You can’t control everything with affirmations, but you can make a dent in your mood, your performance, and your ultimate health and happiness.  Calm shines through everything, and learning to affirm what you want influences that more than anything else.  Calm and serenity is not random; it’s the product of acceptance, determination, and positivity.

Start affirmations this way:

  1.  Write your affirmations in positive language, in the present tense, and be very specific.  Each affirmation can be several sentences, or just one.  It helps if you can visualize the active form of the affirmation.  For me, for example, if I wanted to smoke I would visualize myself clapping my hands and smiling–no cigarettes in that mental picture.  I imagined myself joyful after a year of being cigarette-free.
  2. Say your affirmations to yourself each day, not necessarily aloud, and visualize something that represents that affirmation as you do that.  You can do this any time of day or more than once each day, but make sure you advance them each day.
  3. Retire affirmations that are no longer representative of your priorities, that have been accomplished, or that are not under your control.  I think it’s hard to tell someone they shouldn’t try to affirm something they can’t control, but inevitably, we all learn that through experience.  When you learn that through experience, change the affirmation, not the objective.   For example, an affirmation to lose weight does not work as well as an affirmation to eat healthy food in sensible portions.  “Lose weight” is not a behavior, but a result of many small changes, all of which can be affected by specific affirmations.
  4. I like to put affirmations on index cards or on separate pages of a journal.  Focus on only one at a time.  If writing another note or adding a drawing comes to mind, do it.
  5. You can share or not share your affirmations.  When I learned to do this, via Lou Tice’s Investment in Excellence education program, we discussed them with other program participants and it was a powerful experience.

But the most powerful experience is when you begin to see changes in yourself and in your life and in the way you think and react to others.  Think of yourself as a force for good in the world and your affirmations as your supply of spiritual raw material.

 

 

 

Say this, not that.

It’s happened a few too many times in the last few weeks.   Someone tells me they are thinking of making a job change, or a student or grad mentions the future, and I ask, “What are your plans?” or “What do you want to do?”in response.

No matter what, no matter how confused you may be, never say “I don’t know” to the person who asks you that question.  It stops the conversation, it renders your potential helper or ally helpless, and it isn’t quite as honest as you think.

It just looks a little like you may be lost and waiting to be found instead of doing the finding, and that’s not going to inspire anyone to mention the opportunities they might know about.

Expect to be asked this, if you are a student or graduate, and prepare.  If you aren’t a student or grad, but you give someone a reason to ask, you too can be prepared with a good, motivating answer.  The holidays are a great time to meet the very people who might lead to the right opportunity.  Aim for a personal brand that inspires others to get behind you, find a way to help, and enlist in your challenge.  To be effective, you have to say what you do know, not that you don’t know.  “I don’t know” is an affirmation; here are alternative responses, also affirmations. to the question “What are you considering doing next?”:

  1.  I haven’t settled on one thing yet–I’m good at X, Y, and Z (general talents, like planning, analysis, operations, project management, or building relationships).  So I’m exploring ideas that use those competencies.
  2. (Said while nodding affirmatively) That’s my big question–I like so many things.  I find myself drawn to jobs that really test my math skills/persuasive ability/tenacity/fun-loving nature/commitment to animal welfare.  What do you think I should consider?
  3. I’m so glad you asked.  What do you know about XYZ Company (or firm)?  I’d love to work for them and I haven’t met anyone who knows the inside story of their success.  Or how about ABC Company?  Do you think its true that they provide really great training?
  4. I just love work; I’m the one who will try anything and stick to it until I get it done.  If you know of anyone looking for a great utility player, I’m the one they should talk to.  [Here’s what we know about those of you who don’t know: you do know WHO you like to work with and WHERE you’d like the work to be, geographically.  What you actually do probably matters less to you than the organization’s culture and community. You’re the ones who want the fit with the people.]
  5. Tell me what you think are the strongest needs in the market right now with someone who has my skills (name them) and experience (briefly).  I’ve been doing some research on A,B,and C, and I’m curious about your thoughts.

All of these are more digestible than “I don’t know.”  You think the question was “What do you want,” but really, it was “How can I help?” in disguise.  It is the relationship with the person who asked–an interested helper–that you are looking for.  The right job emerges from that relationship.

Five Things You Can Do Right Now

Without preamble, these are for you if 1.) You are not happy with the way things are going at work, or 2.) You are happy but concerned that you are not keeping up with your career plans, or 3.) You have not been thinking about yourself and your career, or 4.) You just feel like doing something to generate a different tempo in your work/life balance, or 5.) You just try stuff you read about online.

  1.  Start a new kind of journal.  This is a paper and pencil (or pen or tape and crayon; just not pixels and code) exercise.  Begin by buying a portable book of paper and a pen or pencil just for this journal.  When you see or find something written or drawn that generates new ideas, affirming research, or just pictures or words that move you, write, copy, cut, paste, or draw in your book.  That’s all.  Just think of this as focused, real-world Pinterest, maybe?  In only a little while, you can start to see your new pattern, and watch it pick up steam and energy. I think of this as my portable vision board.
  2. Research.  If you want fresh ideas, a new perspective, new friends or an interest group, or a better sense of what could be nagging at you in the back of your brain, research is one of the keys.  Research tends to be outward–it’s not always okay to hang around in your head and expect new thinking to just show up.  Research includes asking people the questions that lead to answers or new questions, using search engines to gather formal knowledge, and going to places where information is dispensed.  Developing spreadsheets and data follows immediately–it isn’t real if it isn’t written and organized.
  3. Sleep.  You need to process, and that happens when you aren’t fully awake and alert.  If you have to nap, you have to nap; if you need to sleep through the night, you have to arrange to do that somehow if it doesn’t come easily to you.  Pay attention to this; you need to sleep in order to think and make good decisions.
  4. Affirm.  Practice affirmations to manage your day to day mood, reactions, energy, outward appearance, and interactions with others.  If you are experiencing distress or confusion, frustration or anger, it’s really important to get that under control.  The best way to get control of yourself is to affirm that you are who you want to be.  Negative self-talk (“I’m a mess; I’m out of control; I’m too angry to deal with this; I’m never going to get what I want”) is affirmation, and it’s powerful.  The only way to stop it is to replace it with positive self-talk (“I can handle this setback; I’m getting a lot done; I’m going to be fine; I am calm and thoughtful under pressure; I’m really in a great position to get what I want”).  Write your affirmations in your new Journal and review them every morning and evening.
  5. Create a timeline and list of goals.  All goals should be time-sensitive, if not time-bound.  Write your goals and deadlines in your journal and revise them as needed; you can do that; they are yours.

I promise–this little list is better than stewing helplessly about and letting your fears and frustrations boil over and change you in a negative way.  Don’t force your own hand by reciting the crazy over and over.  Build your strength buy staying in control and performing some basic rituals–you will find comfort in the process of quantifying and articulating what you really want.

So I made a list. . .

What was interesting about the whole list thing was that my husband Jim adopted it immediately.  See number 3, below?  Twenty-four hours after it was published, we had a replacement cable box.  Now I did go to the Brighthouse office (along for the ride, it seems), but there was no doubt Jim was on board with the cable box plan.  Note: what a good idea; who knew the whole system had been upgraded while we suffered and rebooted?

Number 2: the car at least has new headliner, but we continue to discuss the detailing and the timing of same.  And his car has been added to the list.  As well as several matters that extend beyond detailing.  And the notion of a new car seems to be under discussion.

I had a wonderful lunch with Laura–two hours and I got to see her amazing son when we picked him up from camp.

Number 5:  closets cleaned.  Not fun, not at all.  However, Jim has cleaned out at least three more, and they really needed it.  We seem to have a lot of closets.  We did discuss turning a room into a closet, but then were not sure what we would do with the closets.  For those of you wondering about closets, it’s Florida and we don’t have basements.  But we do have garages, and now those are cleaned out also.

The stuff in number 6 was discarded.  By the time it got to the envelope it was not interesting.  Lesson learned.

I couldn’t part with the textbooks. Not one.  I have no idea what that means.

Numbers 8 through 12 did not get on the table, and I think I know why.

The main value of the list appears to have been in motivating my list-maker husband.  Anything he could participate in, motivate, cross off the list, or influence, got done.  But by the time I got to number 8, I was in serious in-my-head territory and it may be that these are really too cerebral and/or creative for list inclusion.

But I have been paying more attention to lists, list-makers, and list management techniques and will be experimenting with another round.  Jim says that getting something on the list is a task in itself, that half the effort is done when the note is made.

I don’t see that.  Oddly, I remembered everything that was fairly concrete, and carried that list in my head.  But if I had not written and published the list, I don’t know that Jim would have made sure that even part of the times got checked off, which for a list maker is apparently the best thing about the list process.

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1. Finish Christmas presents for sisters. I make these, so this requires time and a brisk pace, but also quality.

2. Get car detailed. This has its own list.

3. Replace sitting room Cable Box. Which has been tiling, sputtering, achieving a dead stop, and generally not working for at least 6 months.

4. Get together with Laura H. It’s been too long.

5. Clean out at least three closets.

6. Mail stuff that has been sitting on the table in the upstairs hall.

7. Discard MBA textbooks. Okay, most of them.

8. Assemble letter and photos for Dad. Actually mail those too.

9. Find out what is in the pantry cupboard and why we need it. Also check the dates on the packaging.

10. Learn how to Twitter and Instagram.

11. Research M.Ed. programs.

12. Outline a chapter. Or the whole book

Making a List

I was once interviewed for a job by a very disorganized person.  She was so disorganized that ten minutes into the interview, she very suddenly exclaimed “Oh My  God; I forgot!” And then loaded me into her car to continue the interview while we sped toward an unknown destination where the incomplete task awaited her attention.

When it was my turn, I asked her if she was organized, given that it looked like she might not be, and that could very directly affect the quality of my work life.  She paused, and then tapped her right temple and said that she thought of herself as “Intuitively Organized,” which as I well know means “Nope, not me.”  I declined the next interview and escaped.  I tend to work better with the well-organized, list-making, question-asking, reminding, and all around beloved obsessives who start every day, if not every hour, with a list.

List-makers, you fascinate me.  I marvel at grocery lists, being one of those folks who decide what I need once I get the cart, and not a minute before.  I check my email to find out what’s on deck for the day ahead.  I decide what to watch once I’m seated in front of the television.  I get it all done, mind you, and to a fairly rigorous standard, but without a list.  There’s a plan–find dinner, get work done or just moved in the right direction, watch television–just not a list.

So for this vacation, I’m going to learn to make a list and see how that works out.  My plan is to get organized, so here is my list so far:

1.  Finish Christmas presents for sisters.  I make these, so this requires time and a brisk pace, but also quality.

2.  Get car detailed. This has its own list.

3.  Replace sitting room Cable Box.  Which has been tiling, sputtering, achieving a dead stop, and generally not working for at least 6 months.

4.  Get together with Laura H.  It’s been too long.

5. Clean out at least three closets.

6.  Mail stuff that has been sitting on the table in the upstairs hall.

7.  Discard MBA textbooks.  Okay, most of them.

8.  Assemble letter and photos for Dad.  Actually mail those too.

9.  Find out what is in the pantry cupboard and why we need it.  Also check the dates on the packaging.

10.  Learn how to Twitter and Instagram.

11.  Research M.Ed. programs.

12.  Outline a chapter.  Or the whole book

We shall see how this goes.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

A Letter From Your Mentor

This is a guest post contributed by my dear friend and mentor Professor Kristen David Adams, an extraordinary woman, author, and law professor.  We have had many occasions to wonder together at good choices and bad choices made by the people with whom we share our connections.  I think Kristen says it better than I ever could.

Words From Your Mentor

Good afternoon, Mentee. Earlier today, I made an introduction on your behalf to one of my close professional contacts, at your request. I am not entirely sure that you understood the significance of your having made this request, or of my having granted it. So here are some things I would like you to know.

You Probably Can’t Improve My Relationship . . .

Although I think highly of you, which is why I made this introduction on your behalf, you probably are not in a position to improve this relationship for me. Here’s what I mean: the person to whom I introduced you already thinks highly of me, which is why he or she agreed to talk with/meet with you. My contacts expect that any person to whom I would introduce any of them would, similarly, be impressive.

. . . But You Can Harm It.

Having said this, you are in a position to make me look bad. Very bad, in fact. If you are rude or nonresponsive, you may cause my contact to second-guess my professional judgment in having sent you their way. Thus, you can actually harm my professional reputation as well as your own, by handling the situation badly.

Think About It.

So stop and think about this for a moment, and you will understand what a gift it is that I made a professional introduction on your behalf to one of my close professional contacts. In fact, given that I am putting you in a position in which you could ultimately harm one of my close professional relationships – and there is actually no clear upside for me other than the fact that I care about you –one of the greatest acts of confidence is for a mentor to introduce a mentee to a member of the mentor’s own professional network. Don’t undervalue this gift.

It’s Not About You

To be blunt, I actually don’t care whether you decide you aren’t interested in whatever my contact has to offer, or whether you are terribly busy when he or she contacts you, or even whether you are dealing with a difficult personal circumstance that makes it difficult for you to be responsive. This is a situation in which it is, really truly, not about you. It’s actually about me; specifically, my long-standing business relationship with another person whom I value.   

Treat My Contacts Better Than Your Own

To sum up: (1) Introducing you to my own network is probably the greatest gift I can give you, (2) Any rudeness or non-responsiveness on your part has the potential to hurt my professional reputation as well as your own, and (3) There are really no circumstances in which it is acceptable for you to be rude or non-responsive to one of my contacts, whom I have engaged on your behalf. So don’t look to the Golden Rule here; instead, treat my contacts even better than your own.

Note:  If you have not asked for help, but it is offered to you, and you don’t know you have the ability or the will to follow through, say so to the offerer.  It sounds like this:

I appreciate your confidence and trust in me, and I know how valuable your offer is.  I am not quite ready to accept it, because I don’t know if I can follow through in a timely way.  Can I call you or let you know in a few days?  I have some other obligations and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.  I hope you understand.  And thank you very much.”

If, however, you have asked for help, support, or a referral, your patron or mentor goes to the front of the line.