3 tips for developing a product or profession

by Katie Ledger on May 26, 2008 · 0 comments

in Uncategorized

Mike Pegg is a wonderful coach and mentor – he has certainly helped me to think clearly about important career decisions.  He writes a very practical 3 tips blog where you can find great material. I thought this post was VERY useful.

So how can you take the next step in your career? The old approach was: a) To clarify a role – a box – that would give you satisfaction; b) To identify the qualifications you needed to obtain that role; c) To then work hard to get the role. This sounded logical. But upon achieving the role, some people found it did not actually fit their inner aspirations. The ‘new’ approach is one that has been practiced by freelancers for ages. It is: a) To start by doing the things that give you positive energy. The operative phrase is ‘doing’ these things – rather than intellectually trying to clarify the exact role; b) To translate this energy into a specific project; c) To translate the project into a ‘product’ or profession. Let’s explore this latter route.

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1) You can do what gives you energy.

“So how did you get to where you are today?” This is a question frequently asked of peak performers. There are normally two answers. One person says: “I always had a clear vision. So I made a plan, worked hard and kept going until I reached the goal.” Another person says: “I had a general idea, but could not crystallise it into a specific role. So I started by doing the things I enjoyed, which led me along many highways and byways. Eventually I arrived here – which for me is my perfect role. Will it last forever? Probably not. But then I will simply pursue the things I enjoy doing, because my future role may not yet have been invented.”

So what are the specific activities that give you energy – even when you simply think about them? You may love helping people, fixing engines, designing gardens, selling to certain customers or whatever. “That sounds too vague,” somebody may say, “shouldn’t you be more specific?” Certainly you can translate your energy into a specific project – which we will come to later – but doing what you enjoy may lead to stumbling upon a particular theme. This emerged in a meeting I had with an outstanding leader in a high tech company. Despite his ‘VP’ title, he said the theme that continually turned him on was: “Creating environments in which people grow.” Delivering his financial and customer service targets was mandatory, but he did this through recruiting the right people and educating them to deliver great work. “This is what I also did as a student at university,” he said, “setting-up and leading a successful lacrosse team. My VP job is great. But if it becomes boring I will move on to a place where I can follow my theme.” So start by focusing on the activities you find stimulating. Try completing the following sentence.

The specific activities that give me energy

– even when I simply think about them – are:

*

*

*

2) You can translate the energy into a project.

“This is what I do naturally,” said one manager. “Every January I ask my team to look ahead to the next December and write a ‘press release’. They are to describe the specific things we have achieved during the past year – complete with ‘quotes’ from customers. Why? When I arrived, some ‘lifers’ were in ‘maintenance mode’. They saw the job as doing the same thing every year and displayed little sense of urgency. So I shook things up and threw in stretching targets. Some people left, but now the place is buzzing. The ‘press release’ is on our wall and we make sure everything can be delivered by December.”

There are many ways to create projects. You may want, for example, to translate a job-search into a ‘project’ – complete with daily schedule and milestones on the route towards achieving your goal. Some activities are relatively easy to turn into ‘projects’. When I ran a therapeutic community for troubled teenagers, we set-up speaking engagements for them at social work schools. They were to explain to social workers the ‘do’s & don’ts’ for helping teenagers. The deadline date forced us to ensure the youngsters were well-versed in the theme – but could also speak from their own experience. ‘The best way to learn is to teach,’ we are told. So during this process the teenagers clarified how they could be helped to achieve their life goals. Such ‘projects’ helped to accelerate their development.

Try tackling the exercise on this theme. First, looking at the energy-giving activities, choose one which you would like to translate into a project. Second, describe the specific things you can do to make this happen. Try completing the following sentences.

The specific activity I would like to translate into a project is:

*

The things I can do to translate this into a specific project are:

*

*

*

3) You can translate the project into a product or profession.

Let’s assume you have done a fulfilling project. That may be satisfying enough in itself, but you may also want to turn it into something more long-term, perhaps even a profession. Certainly it will be vital to show how you can help employers to achieve success. (The Strengths Toolbox contains many tools on this theme, such as 3 tips for clarifying what you can offer to potential sponsors.) One of the key challenges will be to establish credibility. How to make this happen? You can publish articles, write books, produce ‘before & after’ photographs on your web site – particularly if you are a builder, renovator or in a similar field – develop a portfolio of references or whatever. Translate your project into tangible ‘products’.

Nicki Hayes-Singh took this step to build her business. A gifted writer, she pursued a career in marketing, before moving-on to raise a family. Returning to work, she took several assignments while looking for the right niche. Eventually she found it – writing ‘success stories’ for organisations. She interviewed employees to clarify how they had, for example, ‘lived the organisation’s values’ – such as giving outstanding customer service. Nicki wrote compelling pieces that brought such stories to life, which were then published, both internally and externally. Collecting the pieces together, she compiled a portfolio that could be shown to other companies. Nicki found that producing success stories became the foundation for developing her new fulfilling career.

If appropriate, you may want to take a similar step in your own way. Try completing the following sentence.

The specific things I can do to translate

the project into a product or profession are:

*

*

*

There are many ways to develop a career. The old ‘structured’ method may still work in some cases – but people must now be fleet of foot. One way to stay ahead of the game is to follow your energy and pursue a stimulating project. You can translate this into a product – which can then become the basis for a fulfilling profession.

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