What’s Next? Seven Tips to Your Future Life

What’s Next? Seven Tips to Your Future Life

We all start our careers eager to learn and anxious to demonstrate our value. Along the way, we may marry and become parents. We contribute to our retirement fund and plan for old age. We assume we will leave the work force ready to relax and do whatever it is that retired people do. Rarely do we consider preparing for the potential of leaving our careers before we are ready.    

Throughout the forty plus years of an average career our enthusiasm for our profession ebbs and tides.  Some of us plan for early retirement only to discover we aren’t ready. We realize we have so much more to give.   

Several times a month I am contacted by a friend, a connection, or a stranger with comments like;   

It is clear I am being encouraged to leave. I am not ready to retire. What do I do?”  
I know it is time for me to leave, but I still need an income. What else might I do?” 
“I want to do something different but have not clue as to what. How did you figure it out?”
“I am not ready to retire. I have so much more to give.”   

The saddest situation is when a person in their late 50’s tells me: My job was eliminated. I fear my age will prevent me from finding a new one.”    

When I first started to receive these messages, I questioned if my articles or posts were accidently presenting me as a recruiter. I discovered that if you search for a recruiter on LinkedIn, I show up. I need to fix that, but in the meantime, it has given me many great opportunities to talk with senior people looking for a new job.    

My discussions revealed a prevailing common thread. Almost everyone I talked to was either not prepared to take on searching for a new role or not ready to consider their options in retirement. Most had not thought to plan for a career change later in life or what they would do after their current career.  As such, they were finding their options to be limited.   

It is unrealistic for a person to be thinking about their next act at the beginning of their career. They are all too consumed with making ends meet and paying off student loans. It is most helpful to begin planning near the middle of your career, no later than your mid-forties. This will give you 15-20 years to figure it out beyond financial planning.    

I am no expert at life planning. I can share lessons learned and scars earned layered on the ever-wise hindsight. With that I offer these rambling thoughts for anyone thinking about their next act  

  1. Find the hobby the feeds your passion.  My biggest challenge when attempting to retire was and is that I did not have a hobby or interests that fulfilled my overwhelming need to contribute.  I am working on that now by exploring various volunteer opportunities and by trying my hand at creative outlets. If I keep working at it, I think I might be there by 70. In the meantime, I am finding joy in spending time with family and friends.   
  2. Renew your basic office skills and keep them current.  Seriously. Many people leave their corporate executive role, aspiring to become a consultant, without understanding they will no longer have administrative assistance to plan their travel, create their proposals, or to create presentations. These basic skills will serve you well no matter what you have decided to do. 
  3. Consider a transition role before retirement.  One of the best career decisions I made (by accident I might add) was to leave a CIO role to take on a transformation leadership role. My last two corporate “gigs” were heading large transformation programs reporting to the CIO. These two roles helped me to renew my tool kit and prepared me like nothing else could to take on consulting. 
  4. Read “Threescores and More” by Alan Weiss.  The subtitle, “Applying the Assets of Maturity, Wisdom, and Experience for Personal and Professional Success” says it all. Every time I feel a sense of ageism, I pick up Threescores and allow Alan to set me straight. We can choose to let ageism get in our way, or we can choose to harness the power of wisdom our age grants us.    
  5. Read “Lifestormingby Alan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith.  This book, written by two of my most favorite authors, guides you through exploring life in a bit by bit way. One of my favorite paragraphs is found early in the book. “Many people arise each day simply awaiting what occurs, without the intention of exerting themselves on the world.”  I believe that we all make a huge difference in creating our own lives, bad stuff happens, and we are best positioned when we are prepared for it.

     

    Let me pause by sharing my perspective of Alan and Marshall.  

    • Alan Weiss is THE consulting guru. He bills himself as the Contrarian Consultant. One of the BEST decisions I’ve made in my post retirement journey was taking courses from Alan. He is contrarian. He can come across as an ass. He challenges me every time we meet. At the same time, there is no one I respect more or have learned more from. If you are thinking of consulting as the next step, look to Alan to help. He has written over 500 articles and 60 books, including his best-seller, Million Dollar Consulting (from McGraw-Hill) now in its 25th year and fifth edition. It is on my bookshelf, well dog-eared and tagged. 
    • Marshall Goldsmith is my coaching hero and the role model I aspire to. I am blessed to have had the honor of meeting and learning from him live. He opens his website with “My mission is simple. I want to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people, and their teams. I want to help you make your life a little better.” He means what he says. Two of my favorite books authored by Marshall are: What got you here, wont get you there” and “How Women Rise with Sally Helgesen. I highly recommend adding both books to your reading list along with Lifestorming.  

     

  6.  Network! Get off your duff and build relationships.  I get that many IT professionals lean towards the introverted side on personality tests. I get that that the idea of networking can bring on anxiety. Guess what, it does for me too, and I am an extrovert. At the same time, waiting until you need a network is way too late. I’ve found the best way to get over the discomfort of networking is to be actively involved. By actively involved, I mean join in the conversation. Make a game of it such as how many new people have, I met and how many new friends have I made tonight. Join in conversations that interest you on LinkedIn, demonstrate your thought leadership. No, lurking does not count as networking. Do something that works for you. Remember, doing nothing provides nothing. Enough of the preaching on the value of networking. I found this great resource for you: 4 Reasons You Don’t Like Networking (and 4 Better Options You Will Like!) 
  7. Don’t be afraid to seek outside assistance.  Everyone goes through transitions in life. Being confronted with change often leaves people feeling stuck, confused, and frustrated. This makes it difficult to see the positive opportunities that lie ahead. At other times, you know something needs to change, but you don’t know what and you don’t know how to start to figure it out. Coaching will guide you as you set new goals. If a change is being forced on you, acoach will help you figure out your options.  

 In Closing 

 One of my favorite quotes is, “And in the end, its not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.”   

 Do you know what you are looking for in life? There are no right or wrong answers – only your answers.  I am here for you if you need a little help in figuring it out.   

 Until next week!  

Mary 

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Positive Networking – Six Tips to Make Networking Easier for the IT Professional

Positive Networking – Six Tips to Make Networking Easier for the IT Professional

Last week’s article ended with a commitment to discuss techniques designed to help you with networking.   

Let’s face it; networking is awkward. Small talk is challenging for even the most seasoned professional. Even as an extrovert, I have to work at adjusting my attitude. I remind myself of its importance and the crucial role it plays in building professional friends and connections. The connections we build play an equally important role in building our career.  

Positive networking benefits from a positive attitude. Instead of focusing on our fears of facing strangers, flip your focus to look forward to the opportunity to meet new friends. To meet new friends, we have to get out of our workplace and homes and attend industry conferences, conventions, and networking events. In most cities, you can fill each day and night with opportunities to network. In small towns, you may need to travel to meet new people. In either case, be thoughtful in scheduling. It is easiest to go to the events of our peers, but those we know well, won’t stretch our comfort zone. However, will it get you to where you want to be? 

There is nothing wrong with this approach per se – as long as you are honest with your intent and realistic with the potential outcome. I encourage you to stretch beyond yourself and look to your future self by seeking out those events frequented by those where you want to be.  For example, if your current role is a systems developer and you aspire to be an enterprise architect – find the conferences, organization meetings, local meet-ups, vendor briefings targeting enterprise architects. If you are an IT manager and aspire to be a CIO – join SIM Society for Information Management.  Trust that I joined ICF long before I was a certified ICF coach. “Learn from those already there” is a good mantra to adopt.  

Before you head out to your next networking event, here are some tips that I learned to make conversations start and flow with less effort. 

  1. Take a few minutes to prepare: Many networking experts recommend taking a glance at the day’s news stories before you head out to an event so you can ask others about current events. To keep things light, you can also scan popular culture news — list one goal with one or two professional questions that are at the top of mind. Preparation gives you a place to start and allows the discussion to flow. Whatever you do, remember to avoid the conversation pitfalls – avoid politics and religion.  

     

  2. Don’t stress the elevator pitch. Many will tell you that you need to have an elevator pitch ready and memorized so that you can succinctly state what you do at a networking event. As a business owner, I even attend classes to help me to build the just right compelling phrasing that I don’t use as they feel what they are – contrived and rehearsed.  When asked, I say something like “I work with amazing clients who are…..”  I find it much more rewarding to talk about the results of my work instead of me.  Focusing on my clients expands the conversation beyond me. I trust that people remember me as the person who helps people.  So let’s apply that logic to the corporate IT leader.  As an IT leader, you might reply something like “I am helping my business adopt a new digital platform targeting…. “  Or “Wow, we are doing amazing work at Employer Inc deploying, integrating, etc.”  it is a much more interesting and compelling discussion starter than saying “I am IT executive coach” or “I manage Infrastructure.”  
     
  3. Ask and listen. Sometimes the best small talk is not talking at all. Learn to ask great questions that get others to talk. Remember that people love to talk about themselves, especially when they have an attentive listener.  Be curious about your questions. People’s responses will make you ask more questions, and you’ll soon find you’ve had an entire conversation, just by encouraging the others to talk person to talk. More than once I’ve been told I am a great conversationalist – when in reality I only asked a few questions. 

     

  4. Ask questions that matter. Openended ones are best (start with How or What) rather than closedended ones (start with Why or Do). An example is: “What’s keeping you busy these days?” rather than the more conventional and expected “What do you do?”  The openended question allows someone to talk about their professional and personal lives, while the latter will immediately box them into just their job. 

     

  5. Ask for advice. Asking for advice can be both a conversation starter and a useful way to get helpful information. If the person you’re talking to has attended the event before, ask what they thought was helpful about it, or what other events they attend. Or you can ask them for unrelated advice on common interests like a restaurant or movie suggestion. These kinds of questions can get the conversation flowing naturally and illuminate common interests. As an additional plus, it feels good to have your opinion requested.

     

  6. Be courageous in sharing yourself. Most networking talk is forgettable because it’s so generic. No one shares much, and they stay clear of controversial topics. While it’s not good form to provoke an argument, it is fine to share your opinion. Be brave enough to be real with others, and to allow yourself to be a well-rounded and interesting person is far better than the alternative.  That does not mean you should feel the need to tell your life story; just keep it interesting.  

In Closing 

I encourage you to stretch beyond your self and look to your future self by seeking out those events frequented by those where you want to be.  For example, if your current role is a systems developer and you aspire to be an enterprise architect – find the conferences, organization meetings, local meet-ups, vendor briefings targeting enterprise architects. If you are an IT manager and aspire to be a CIO – join SIM Society for Information Management.  Trust that I joined and attended International Coaching Federation meetings long before I was a certified ICF coach. “Learn from those already there” is a good mantra to adopt.   

Remember networking is about making connections.  You have as much to offer as those you seek to make a connection That realization will make it much easier to start a conversation and keep it going into the future.   

Have a great week!  

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Networking Beyond Your Current Vision of Yourself

Networking Beyond Your Current Vision of Yourself

You’ve all heard it. You might have even said it, “I don’t have time to network,” “Ugh, networking is not in my comfort zone,” “I am not good with small talk,” “I don’t have anything to say that anyone would care to hear. 

Yes, that may all be true – until the day you need it. Networking is particularly challenging for IT people. Let’s face it, many of us are introverts, and many of our non-IT friends don’t always understand what we do for a living. Regardless of your discomfort with networking, it is highly likely that someday you will need or want to find a new job.   

I am certain you are aware that networking is one potential path to finding a new job. However, did you know it might be the best way to get the job done? (The job of finding a new job, that is.) Some estimate that upwards of 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking. If you’re looking for work, it might be better to put your time into building your professional network rather than poring over all of the online listings.  

Is it possible that networking might be the best way to find a new job?  I believe so 

Let me offer you an approach that may resonate, and that is to take a projectbased approach to the network.   

Traditional networking advice suggests that you look at your current network and think about how to nurture your relationships. The problem is that this is a purely relationship based approach and looks at who you know and have known. It is based on your strategic vision for where you want to go in your career. 

A more powerful way to think about your network is to start with a vision of where you want to be in your career in three to five years, and then work backward from there. Sound familiar? It should. It is how we build a strategic plan.  

To make this more concrete, follow these steps: 

  1. Take a moment to envision your best possible career in five years. Where do you want to be, what do you want to be known for? 
  2. Who will the people be that you know, and who will know if you achieve your vision? Don’t limit yourself; get creative! Think about leaders in the IT field locally and globally who you admire. Who do you want to have coffee with?  
  3. Put yourself into that future space and work backward to write the story about how you came to know these people. Which associations did you join? What conferences did you attend? What assignments did you complete? What leaders did you follow? Who did you look to for introductions? How did you develop new skills and abilities?
  4. Where do you need to be to interact with the people in your story? What do you have to do now to show up differently to attract the types of people you need to make the story come true?  
  5. What are the key steps you can take right now to start building your ideal network and moving powerfully into the future? What would it mean to you to take these steps?  How important is your vision for you? What are the barriers and who can you look to for guidance in knocking them down?  

This approach is a new way of looking at networking. Instead of starting where you are, you start from the future and work backward. 

This “from the future” networking can be scary for many because it may mean that you have to reinvent yourself and show up differently than you have been.  

It has been said that we are who we hang out with. That is true, and the same is true for our network of professional relationships. If you want to be associated with top-tier professionals, you must be one yourself, and you can become one by choosing to hang out with these types of people and choosing to model yourself after them 

 The strategic network approach outlined here forces you to think about how you show up now as a professional and as a leader. Next week, I will expand on networking techniques that will help you in your quest to achieve your strategic career goals. You can do it. I know you can.  

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.