Your Career May Be A Jungle Gym…And That’s OK

A popular book on the #SBBX and one my wife read this summer is Sheryl Sandberg’s thought-provoking book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. It’s a great read for working women and for the men who are married to them.

One of the more popular quotes from the book, one which we have discussed at length, is the following: “A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career. I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” She attributes the metaphor to Fortune magazine editor Pattie Sellers.

She’s totally right. We grow up hearing about the “career leader” and how your career should be a “climb to the top” or at least a climb to a level that makes you happy and secure. I had this mindset for most of my early professional career. It was all I knew really. But, if I had to do things over again, I’m positive I would approach my career differently.

The era of employment for life with one company is over. Workers now switch from job to job much more frequently in search of grafter fulfillment and compensation. Today, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Most workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to the next.

That is why approaching job searches must be done differently these days and consistent networking is a must. You also have to be agile as you track and adjust to job market trends.

So how do you go about having this agile mindset? How do you plan for professional development and not just career planning? Let me provide a few examples I now employ during my career shifts that I wish I had been more cognizant of from the jump.

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Stay Relevant I’ve written this previously, but staying relevant by learning to code, getting various certifications and learning the basics of video production and photography are great ways to stay up to date on industry trends. Many companies today look for talent that is experienced in wide areas of expertise. Always learning new things and staying relevant in the skills that industry HR people are looking for will help you as you look to advance your career.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Presence — I have many thoughts on “personal branding” which I hope to write about for FOS soon, but I did want to touch on the topic here. Whether you realize it or not, everything you post on social media can help form people’s opinions of you. Therefore, it is your choice to either actively control and shape your personal brand, or let others do it for you. You need to be your best advocate because how you present yourself online could determine future leadership or career opportunities.

Take Advantage of Lateral or Downward Moves — This one may seem counterproductive, but career opportunities come in all shapes, sizes and directions. This is really what can turn your career path into a career jungle gym. During my time searching for new employment I’ve spoken with many people who arrived to their current position by moving laterally within a company or even down, to then progress in a different department. These moves also allow you to see the bigger picture of your business or brand from another point of view. Always stay open to the opportunities that present themselves. You never know what move, no matter the direction, may be the next key to your career success. Trust me here, I can pinpoint a specific lateral opportunity with a previous employer that I wish I had pursued. I don’t dwell on it, but I do look back at how foolish I was for not even entertaining the thought of trying a different route during my early tenure in athletics.

Apply For The Position Anyway — I can’t tell you how many times professionals hold back from applying for a position because they don’t think they have the skills needed to succeed. It’s OK if you don’t, as long as you have the drive, motivation, and resourcefulness needed to get the job done. Be calculated in your risk taking. Honestly assess where your skill gaps are and get advice from a mentor to help you determine if the position is a right fit for your development plan.

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These are just a few things to consider as you move around on your career jungle gym. It’s perfectly OK to not always climb upward as you move to each new career opportunity. You have to move in the directions and in the positions that will bring you the most joy and give you the most career fulfillment.

Just because the move may not be in the direction that your father, mother, sister or brother made in their career path, doesn’t mean you’re not advancing your career.

By considering the steps above, continuing to network and build relationships, and knowing it’s OK to make career moves every few years, you’ll ultimately find that progressing through your career like a kid on a jungle gym is perfectly normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Personal and Professional Meet

IMG_1307When I launched my personal blog last spring, the goal was to share my personal experiences through a creative outlet (writing, duh) that most recently I hadn’t been able to do for pleasure. Each blog to date allowed me to express information I am not sure I would have shared publicly in the past, while remembering how much I love to write. 

Additionally, the feedback and encouragement I have received about my posts has been tremendous. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment or reach out to me in some way. Those messages reinforced that I made the right decision.

That said, my blog is going to take a slightly different direction and tone as I continue to immerse myself in the world of Verge Pipe Media. After my first few blogs, I mentioned that my goal was to mix personal posts with content that would establish me as a thought leader and innovator in the world of inbound marketing. Now that I am at VPM, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to help grow the company, as well as writing for our company blog.

Going forward, I will link to the blogs that I publish for VPM on this site. I will also occasionally take the time to write about my personal journey and express my thoughts on how to set a positive example.

Because I have a very structured “work” blogging schedule, I want to make sure that my creative professional efforts are published to the widest audience. So, I hope that my readers (do I have readers?) will welcome this new mix of professional industry information as well as personal posts.

I said all that to say this . . . I won’t just be pushing my marketing and public relations thoughts on this blog. But, you will see a lot of that content here more often.

I plan to hold myself accountable and also provide additional blogs that are both entertaining and inspirational for those that may need the encouragement.

In the meantime, please read my first official blog post from the Verge Pipe Media Blog: Creative Possibilities For Brands and Live-Stream Video Apps

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Failing Your Way to Happiness

unnamedFailing Your Way to Happiness…sounds like a funny concept right? But when you think about it a little bit deeper, it kind of makes sense. I know when I really thought about what that phrase meant, it hit home for me.

I must give credit to my inspiration for this entry, Marc and Angel. I learned of this couple and their blog just recently, and they are a great source of encouragement for me.

The words fail and failure carry a negative connotation. I mean, they are defined as being unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.

But I like to flip that notion on its head and think like Winston Churchill once said: Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

What I take from that quote is, it’s all about how you handle failure. You can either look at all the positives you still have in your life and move ahead in hopes of better things, or you accept the failure and pack it in.

For the better part of my 33 years, I’m positive I accepted failure as a finality. Now, through reading sites like Marc and Angel, clearing negative things out of my life, and realizing that thinking positive is an easy change, I’ve had the courage to continue in the face of failure.

I’ll be honest, my pursuit of a full-time job this spring has produced mostly rejection. Through all the rejections, I was able to stay positive and always cherished the good I had in my life. It’s through these events and actions that I think that I’ve finally “Failed My Way to Happiness.”

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Remember, thinking positive costs nothing and changes things for the better. I’m the happiest and most confident I’ve been in my life despite all the recent rejections and what some would perceive as failures.

By facing things with a positive outlook, I’ve been able to have my “moment of clarity” and am ready to share publicly my latest happy news. It is with great excitement that I announce I have taken the newly created position of Executive Director, Client Services with Verge Pipe Media (VPM) here in Auburn.

I’ve been doing contract work for VPM and its founder Don Crow since March. Along the way Don and I realized that we had many things in common both personally and professionally. We also developed a great respect for each other and realized that together we could really take VPM to new heights.

I’ll let Don chime in here to lend his perspective…

“When I think about what makes an entrepreneur, or in this case, join me in an entrepreneurial journey, I think about Tod’s transformation over the past year. I’ve seen him grow as a true professional in many facets, including having a ‘stable’ job working remotely, going into a contract role with us, and then making the decision to join Verge Pipe Media full time on the partner track. The trait that sealed the deal for us was watching the resolve and the positive mental outlook he maintained through the journey. Once we saw that, coupled with the consistency in performance, we knew Tod had the character to make this work and ride the roller coaster that this industry demands.”

I’ll say this again, positivity is a choice. You have a choice to wake up every day and be positive. Choosing to face each day with enthusiasm and positivity has changed my whole outlook on life.

It has allowed me to stop worrying about what I can’t control. It has also allowed me to not rely on other people to define what makes me successful.

I’ll close with a passage from the great Steve Jobs. To me this is a perfect way to show how drowning out negativity and doing things for only yourself can truly allow you to Fail Your Way Into Happiness.

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Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Routines Are Good

IMG_2004(1)I have goals to make this blog much more focused and to post more frequently. But, life keeps getting in the way these days. Even without a steady job, I find it difficult to carve the proper time to create new posts.

I told myself that to get back on this writing thing, I need to hold myself accountable and develop a content calendar for the rest of the summer.

That said, this week I will touch briefly on a point I brought up in my first blog. From there, anticipate a few new pieces each week and possibly (hopefully?) updates on my job search and career opportunities.

If you remember in my first post, I provided ideas to help you cope with difficult times. I’ve expanded on a few of those already in this space. The one I am finding most helpful these days is . . . routines are good.

I can’t say this enough, routines are good.

My newest routine, the ones that I implement daily, are writing down thoughts which are swirling in my head to un-clutter my mind and sticking with my workout plan.

Even if your routine is doing one common thing each day that you enjoy . . . Do that one thing. Then do it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. That is all. If you do your one thing, it will make you feel good. You did it. That’s all you need to do!

You may think that one thing can’t possibly be enough to consider it “a routine,” you’d be wrong. You will be amazed at how once you’ve accomplished your one thing, you will feel like you’ve accomplished something big. Your day will feel complete. You will feel fulfilled.

Then you start to stack those “one thing” accomplishments on top of one another and, before you know it, your outlook on your circumstances is better. You’ll soon have achieved a month’s worth of “one thing” accomplishments and your attitude will have improved.

Your “one thing” could be anything, such as these examples I’ve mentioned before:
1) Working out
2) Meeting a friend for lunch
3) Writing a blog post
4) Playing with your kids
5) Writing down your ideas
6) Starting a savings fund for a vacation
7) Reaching out to “weak” contacts
8) Cooking dinner

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My “one thing” routine is a stabilizing force for me right now. When you hear “one thing a day,” boy does it take the pressure off your circumstances.

Routines are good, especially “one thing” routines. So, no matter what that one thing is . . . get up, get the blood moving, check things off that “to-do” list, but don’t forget to accomplish the one thing that YOU enjoy each day.

People Want To Help

IMG_1127Life is full of challenges. Regardless of the challenges we encounter in life, I’ve learned their weight and impact is lessened when we are able to connect with others who want to help. It may sound cliché, but I’ve found it to be true during my recent difficult timesPeople want to help.

Now, I promise my topics won’t all trace back to me losing my job, but this one is especially compelling to me. I also hope that some of the items I mention here will be useful to others.

Something I wasn’t sure of before I lost my job, but am now, is that people truly want to help when you are in need. While you like to believe your friends and family have the same principles as you, you’re never really quite sure. And, you always hope that you’re never in a situation where you need to rely on others or reach out for help.

But, I kept hearing over and over from friends and family in the last few weeks that they were there for me if I needed help. Many also advised me to reach out to many different groups of people, because they would want to help as well.

I know that in my adult life, from time to time, I’ve seen others struggle and felt compelled to help or reach out. It wasn’t always the easiest thing for me to do; it just felt like the right thing to do. You may not even be asking for “help” but you don’t want to seem desperate or needy.

I think the first step, the reaching out, can be the most difficult for people. People want to help or even just talk about what issues you may be facing, but they aren’t often sure how to begin the dialogue. Therefore, if you don’t initiate and seek the conversation, it may never take place.

So, I hope the following tips from someone who has been on both sides of this situation will help others as they either feel the need to seek help or hope to help others who may need it.

1) Just say anything
Have you ever received a note from someone unexpectedly and ended up being upset about it? I’m assuming rarely or never. You were just happy they contacted you in any way and it didn’t matter the context of the letter. The contact outweighs the context, so say anything! The initial contact will prompt future dialogue.

2) Be honest
The old saying goes — honesty is the best policy. That holds true when you want to reach out to someone for help or to help someone in need. Be honest and forthright when you make contact. Don’t be afraid to be upfront about what is bothering you or if you have a concern for someone else. People appreciate honesty and it will build a solid foundation for your dialogue.  

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you are in need of some help or guidance, just be honest and come out and ask for help. If you are afraid people may perceive it as needy or desperate, don’t. Friends and confidants will be flattered that you feel they can help in any way. I’ve seen first hand in the last few weeks how receptive people are when you seek their help or advice.

4) Reach out to “weak” contacts
Lastly, if you’ve reached out and made contact with your trusted confidants, but are in the position where further networking may be needed, reach out to your “weak” contacts. Those people who you’ve lost contact with or haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe you’ve had a close relationship before and for one reason or another that contact has lessened. Trust me, they will be happy that you reached out and it will also start a fresh dialogue. It is all about the contact. Then follow what I’ve said above once you make the re-connection: be honest and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Life isn’t easy. Life throws challenges your way and those challenges usually make us stronger. Along the way, as you face these challenges, no matter how big or small, you don’t have to face them alone. Remind yourself that daily. You are not alone in this mortal coil and you are surrounded by many people who truly want to help.

-Tod

Tod and A Fitness Blog?

IMG_0575(1)This post was originally written as a guest blog  for my friend Megan’s site here:
http://bit.ly/1aLTANY

I sit here asking myself: why is a 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, single dad being asked to write for a fitness blog? I’m thinking of 20 good reasons why I wouldn’t be asked to write for a fitness blog, but then the reason why hits me. Maybe my article could serve as a good outlet for me to tell my story. And if – along the way – it helps someone in my same or similar situation, then maybe blogging should continue to be a regular outlet for me.

Are there any other 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, single dads out there? That’s another question I ask myself a lot. Not because I feel sorry for myself, but because just a few short years ago I never would have thought that description would fit me. In fact, writing it twice already, it still sounds absurd. Perhaps you find yourself in your own life changing situation, one that you never foresaw happening. Regardless of the circumstance, the best we can do is hope that our actions and decisions will bring us to a better place in the long run.

Without getting into the gory details, the last six months of my life have been rather tumultuous and some drastic changes have taken place. Some that I chose to make and others that were forced upon me. In the face of all of this change, I realized that I needed to find some stabilizing idea or belief to get me though the adversity I was facing. Yet, how do we implement the necessary changes in our lives to create this stability, to overcome adversity? What do those changes look like, particularly in the fitness realm?

Previous Success
Back in 2013, I committed to working on my health and fitness to be a good example for my young son, and as a way to break up the day working in my home office. The changes I made weren’t drastic, yet produced good results. It just took a little effort and dedication. I lost close to 20 pounds and felt better about myself in the process.

However, that feeling of accomplishment was short lived as my personal life began to change for the worse and I fell back into some bad habits. These habits continued up to, and through, my divorce in late 2014. The hard work and dedication I put in to making myself better physically had all but been erased.

It was then I decided I needed to re-dedicate myself to improving my health. There were things in my life that were out of my control, but one thing I can control right now is my well-being. But, this time I wasn’t sure where to start. My previous success was a guide, but that routine had grown stale and I was ready for a new challenge. This is where my good friend Megan enters the picture.

A True Professional
Megan and I have known each other since 2002 when we began working together at the Illinois State University student recreation center. Even then, she was dedicated to her workout routines and had made living a healthy lifestyle a priority. I had always admired that quality about her, knowing I lacked the same discipline and elf-motivation.

She and I had lost touch in recent years as she began to establish herself as a fitness professional in Chicago and I was living 12+ hours away as a married father to a young son. That said, sometime in the past year we had re-connected superficially on social media. Our conversations were few and far between, but as the thoughts entered my mind about re-committing to my fitness, I felt comfortable asking her for some advice.

A True Friend
It’s intimidating for anyone to admit weaknesses or discuss things that are out of their comfort zone. I was putting myself out there to a certain extent, but I felt like Megan would understand my needs and be able to help me get on the path to success. I’m glad to say that I was right and she has greatly helped me in the last few months.

Not only has she helped me understand my fitness level and also start me on a program that is sustainable for me, but she has been a source of positive energy in many ways. Most specifically, she has developed a great way of thinking positively through adversity and has transferred those ideals to me. She has made me realize that there are positives to be taken from any situation.

What Now?
So, how best to wrap this up with some actionable items — in case there are any other 33-year-old, divorced, unemployed, singles dads out there. Actually, I hope that these tips can be applied by anyone facing adversity such as losing a job, struggling in a relationship, or just feeling like you are in a “life rut” and need some help in improving your well-being.

Consider these thoughts if you find yourself facing hard times and need some structure to help you through whatever you may be facing.

1) It is going to be OK…It is going to be OK!
2) Reach out to your family, friends, former colleagues, former bosses…people want to help
3) Network with your “weak” ties or people you have lost touch with…people want to help
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice…people want to help
5) Write down items swirling in your head, it will help you “un-clutter” the mind
6) Establish a solid sleep and workout routine (the structure is important)
7) If you do nothing else each day, fit in a workout…you’ll feel better about yourself
8) Stay positive and always reflect on the good that you have in your life

I can tell you that putting these thoughts to paper (or word processor) have really helped to reinforce in me that the steps I am taking right now are positive ones that will help lead to a positive outcome. I can also tell you that Megan has played a part in getting me through this, and for that I am grateful.

Megan has been kind enough to let me be a guest on her blog; so, if you’re reading this and unsure about where to start on your fitness journey, reach out to Megan. Her philosophy that “everyone is unique” and “not every workout works for everyone” is one that resonated with me and I think will make many feel comfortable. She is a true professional and also a great friend and I can’t thank her enough for her support during these trying times. Now, it’s time for me to go do some planks….

Tod