You’ve been Meaning to Write a Book: 6 Tips to Get it Done

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People ask me daily about writing a book, since my book was published: “Get DARE From Here! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest Of Their Lives.

Everyone, it seems, wants/plans/means to write a book. In today’s new self-publishing world, anyone CAN write a book and get it out there.

Are you one of those people? Do you have something to say and just don’t know how to start?

Many authors will tell you to be prepared that you will do almost nothing else for a year or so while you are writing a book. Yeah, right! Maybe, if they’re already household names! They spew on (disingenuously) about the languid literary lifestyle – writing in your pajamas for eighteen hours straight; subsisting on pizza, potato chips and caffeine; ignoring friends, family and creditors. All the while they’re supposedly developing the concept, writing (and rewriting) the book’s outline, doing the research required, and then writing and editing several drafts before turning out the draft that won’t mortify them when they take their masterpiece down to their local copy center to print out and bind for them to proofread before sending it to their publisher.

Hah! Unlike those languid literary lifers, I spent six months writing and then overseeing the editing, design, distribution and marketing plan for my book – while working in my consulting business full time and teaching at two universities, while also trying to have a life. It wasn’t easy, but neither is working with legacy publishers these days (the ones who are left hanging for dear life), which take a huge chunk of your profits and leave all the marketing to you. The work I put in was worth it.

Many of my friends, colleagues, former professors and students think it’s great that I’ve written a book – they are the best support team ever. So, for all my friends, especially all the mature professionals who also have a story, expertise, valuable life skill, untapped artistic talent, or other aptitude that makes them proud and wanting to get loud, here’s a short tip-sheet, taken from my book, that might help you write your book. The same advice applies to any other artistic endeavor you’re thinking of pursuing for business purposes or other fulfillment.

1. Focus on one thing you do really well and figure out how to write about it, shout about it or grouse about it. Think intensively and extensively about it, and you too might be churning out a few thousand words on of insight, inspiration and motivation.

2. Think hard about your particular interests, passions, concerns, hobbies and other worthwhile endeavors you’re drawn to learn more about in the course of your daily life. What’s your story? Everyone has one. And, if you’re over 40, you probably have dozens of them. If it moves you, it behooves you. And, if you can figure out how to move someone else with your insights and ideas, that’s an excellent motivator to start and – ultimately – finish.

3. If you really want to learn more about a particular subject to the point of becoming an expert and getting recognized as such, do some initial research and seek out others who have similar interests and skills in your area of focus. Want to be known as an expert? Write a book (or other media) on it. (Where do you think the expression, “She wrote the book on it!” came from?) In fact, a  New York Times article details that newsletters are making a comeback. If you don’t think you can spit out a whole book, start with a newsletter. That’s what I did.

4. If you’re considering writing non-fiction or a memoir or how-to (or all three, which is what I did with Get DARE From Here!) to express yourself, be careful about “telling all.” Be sure to think very carefully about what, how and when you want to tell all by publishing, and what your overall objective is for doing so. Edit, edit, edit. Have someone else close to you read it. Then, be sure to consider the consequences before hitting “send.”

5. As a first time author you might want to bypass so-called legacy publishers, and work instead with a credible self-publishing service.  These days, legacy publishers are dwindling in numbers, and there’s no guarantee of making tons of money from your book,  or owning the marketing rights.  Instead, for an upfront investment less than many New York salons charge for one haircut, you can work with a publisher that will help you take your worthwhile message, articulate prose and proofreading stamina the whole distance. Or check out LinkedIn’s new publishing platform, and pretty much anything that content marketing guru and educator Dorie Clark puts out.  

6. If you really want to express yourself fully and with little or no inhibition, write poetry or fiction instead, perhaps short stories or a novel. If you have the discipline and stamina to write and/or edit for at least an hour every day, and publish your novel or series of short stories with a reputable author-publishing service, you need to gain a following via social that helps you sell at least 5,000 units. Who knows, you just might grab the attention of a publisher who will want to sign you to a contract to publish your next book(s). It’s not as much of a long shot as you might think.

This time around, I chose non-fiction, as it had long been my goal to publish a book about and for mature, intelligent and motivated professionals. I’m thinking that my next book, if there is one, will be fiction. No way I will be hanging around in my pajamas to do it. There are easier, faster ways to get a book done these days than ever before. 

Click here to check out “Get DARE From Here!My book, “Get DARE From Here!” – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest Of Their Lives – is available on Amazon.

 

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Get a Sponsor – Part 2

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The critical contrast between MENTORS and SPONSORS is that the latter can be actual drivers of your career decisions and future mobility – and they put themselves on the line for you. Your Mentor(s) may also do that, but once they do, they’ve actually become your SPONSOR. Here are some of the benefits you can expect from SPONSOR:

  1. Championing you for an internal promotion or similar career-advancing opportunity (such as a high-visibility conference) that you would not have heard of otherwise, or for which you are one of many candidates;
  2. Sharing with you pending industry or company news that s/he has access to before it becomes public, news that could directly affect you;
  3. Putting your name forward as an ideal candidate for a prime position at a firm where you don’t have connections – and/or calling in favors with hiring managers and other powerful people who owe them favors;
  4. Making a compelling case for your hire to a fellow senior-level executive, going so far as to convince the executive to create a position just for you.

Furthermore, the guarantor/insurer benefit SPONSORS provide is not only to you and for you, but to and for the individual to whom they are championing your strengths. Their SPONSORSHIP of you has to demonstrate benefits to all the parties involved, including themselves. A SPONSOR is literally staking her or his reputation on you.

In that vein here are several important things to consider regarding what SPONSORS expect from you:

  1. An accurate view of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and that you can lead with your strengths to minimize threats. Know and articulate your competitive advantages, as the SPONSOR needs a compelling reason to advocate for you. Likewise, be prepared that a SPONSOR will (and should) vet you thoroughly before they agree to serve as your SPONSOR.
  2. A clear mission and vision of your career path and the SPONSOR’S role. This means you have researched your SPONSOR thoroughly – personal, career, charitable contributions, etc. – and you know what his/her priorities are. That way, you can easily answer not only the why-them question but, more importantly, the what’s-in-it-for-them questions they will have, and their expectations of you.
  3. A clearly articulated “ask.” Mentor relationships usually have ebbs and flows, allow for brainstorms and quasi-therapy interactions. SPONSOR engagements tend to be more transactional and specific to the situation, company, job, executive or other opportunity.
  4. Respect for their time and efforts. While this is where the needs of Mentors and SPONSORS are very similar, Mentors often forgive their mentees’ manners and may even forget past lapses. In comparison, if you disappoint, disrespect or embarrass a SPONSOR, there are usually many more negative consequences.

woman headphoneOur final, positive note on Mentors and SPONSORS: The power of please, thank you and an explicit recognition of the gravity that Mentors as well as SPONSORS confer on your behalf cannot be over-emphasized. In the uber-connected, 24/7 social media ecosystem, proper business etiquette is more important than ever – whether you’re gainfully employed, seeking a transition, or trying to build and sustain your client base.

 

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Get a Sponsor – Part 1

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people meeting 5 20 13From clients as well as students, I field a lot of questions about the importance of having a career SPONSOR, specifically:

1) The role of SPONSORS vs. Mentors
2) How to find a SPONSOR
3) What to expect from a SPONSOR
4) What SPONSORS expect from you.

Those are all questions that serve the mentee or sponsored individual much more so than the Mentor or SPONSOR. Each role has very often different parameters, benefits and expectations.

mentorThis blog deals with the role of SPONSORS vs. Mentors; and how to find a SPONSOR. Part 2 will address what to expect from SPONSORS and what SPONSORS expect from you.

Mentors are usually informal advisors and counselors, perhaps your supervisors, teachers, colleagues or even – and most especially for mature professionals – former direct reports you trust. “Mentor” comes from the Greek guide who helped Odysseus on his legendary journey; therefore there’s both an implication and an inference of altruism. Don’t ignore or neglect to maintain good relationships with younger professionals you helped early in your career, as they may be in good positions to help you later…as Mentors or SPONSORS.

Typical roles of Mentors:

  • …provide guidance, opinion and perhaps difficult to obtain information and introductions that could be useful for your job or career.
  • …are good sounding boards that can help steer you as you refine your goals, consider your options and develop an action plan.
  • …can be short-term or long-term advisors, and they usually get satisfaction from the fact that their wisdom, experience and expertise are valued.

A SPONSOR, on the other hand, is someone in usually a more elevated position of power or influence, with crucial connections. The SPONSOR is a guarantor, patron and ambassador of your strengths, motivations, knowledge and aptitudes – an advocate for you to someone with whom they have a strong reciprocal relationship, often one of “quid pro quo.” SPONSORS open doors to places that other people don’t even know exist, and they have levers others may only suspect, wish for, or deny exist. In many cases, the SPONSOR acts as a protector and defender – hence, the most literal defining characteristic of an advocate.

Mentors and SPONSORS can be the same people, and I have served in both capacities. Mentors are slightly easier to cultivate and engage. The SPONSOR relationship is a different construct, and involves considerable more work and responsibility, depending on the environment and your goals.

Here are a few tips on how to find a SPONSOR, depending on your goals:

  1. Internal advancement: Volunteer to contribute to important task forces and committees whose leaders are executives of considerable power, influence and connections. Many SPONSORS pick the people they think will be stars in the organization, and champion them accordingly.
  2. External visibility, advancement, job hunting: Join at least three professional organizations where you can assume active committee roles that will increase your visibility and enhance your capacity to engage influential executives with the power and inclination to SPONSOR you – for your next job, promotion, etc. This includes becoming active as a volunteer or board member for a nonprofit that you respect and whose leadership you admire.
  3. Prospect Cultivation, Solicitation and Client Engagement. Serving on professional organizations’ committees is crucial for executives who work in consulting as SPONSORS can recommend them to clients. SPONSORS alert consultants to account movement so they can gain entrée to new business before other firms do. Consultants have to be extremely good at what they do, as referrals and other testimonials are prime SPONSOR currency.

Midcareer Transition? Hope for the Best, Take Charge of the Rest! by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA

As a Baby Boomer who endured two career crises in under a decade, I know that hoping for the best means taking charge of the rest.   On 9/11 as I watched the collapse of the World Trade Center from a window in my corner office, I felt a compelling need to pursue a more noble purpose. A few months later, I left a successful high-paying marketing job and made a tough transition to the grueling field of nonprofit fundraising. In 2009, when I completed my MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the Great Recession was in full swing, as was egregious ageism (I was 57).

The challenges of 2020 have reaffirmed that taking charge in midcareer requires planning, focus, creativity, realignment, tenacity, collaboration, and compassion – for yourself as well as for others.  Here are several ways that visionary, intelligent and motivated professionals can reframe, recharge, and resurge in midcareer – and for the long run.

 

  1. After five years in the workforce, every professional should write a life plan.  Start with what you want to see when you look back on your life twenty or thirty years from now.  Emphasize outcomes you want to achieve, outputs to get you there, and hurdles blocking you now.  Break it down to the next 90 days, assessing what you really want and what you absolutely need, so you can anticipate, manage, and gain a measure of control over your life.  Consider multiple options for earning, investing, and retaining assets.

 

  1. Tap into friends, family, and colleagues you trust, as well as cultivating mentors and sponsors.  Friends and family provide moral support, as well as boosting your sense of urgency, attention to deadlines, and overall accountability.  Mentors listen, advise, and comfort.  Sponsors are like elite advocates for your career, and they expect more from you.

 

  1. Treat your resume as if it is an ad for what you most want to sell, targeting a particular customer. Software filters are the biggest obstacle to getting an interview, so include key buzzwords in a particular job description or the hiring company’s industry.

 

  1. Quantify results. A midcareer professional’s resume must focus on quantitative accomplishments as well as job descriptions that demonstrate progressive advancement.  Detail the strategic, operational, or financial benefit you added, such as: “helped reduce costs by XX%;” or, “raised XXX$ for organization by doing A, B, C;’’ or, “generated 1, 2 ,3 outcomes that were key priorities of the organization.”

 

  1. Be more strategic about networking online, to access, approach, and interview with hiring managers. Attend low-cost online events of professional groups and associations that represent your prospects’ industries.  Choose the associations you want to join, become active on pertinent committees, enhance your visibility, and reach out to people who can mentor, connect and sponsor you.

 

  1. Adjust your targets for a role, company, industry, salary, or location. This will help you diversify your skills, gain exposure to more hiring managers, and deal with difficult interview questions about resume gaps, salary history, and the like. If the need for health benefits is causing you the most anxiety, then make that your top priority.

 

  1. Maximize LinkedIn – here’s why: Almost every executive recruiter and corporate hiring manager checks LinkedIn before anywhere else. Update your profile often. Beyond your profile’s landing page, you can craft a portfolio of your expertise and experience – showcasing the work you want to do next.

 

  1. Update your soft skills, especially how to sell. How to Become A Rainmaker, by Jeffrey J. Fox, is a short but powerful book on consultative selling.  Daniel H. Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human, will disavow you of the notion that you are “not in sales.” Courses in public speaking, improv, and creative writing, can enhance your ability to listen actively, answer tough questions, and remember key points.

 

  1. You’re wonderful, you’re smart, you’re branded, but enough about you. A common mistake of midcareer job hunters is writing long cover letters that resemble their resumes. Cover letters should be only one page. In addition to referencing your transferable skills, they should indicate you have researched the company, its culture, and its industry.

 

  1. Focusing on your strengths will help you prioritize career activities that will be most fulfilling in midcareer. StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Gallup guru Tom Rath, helps you identify your top five strengths and provides in-depth analysis and recommendations.

 

  1. Participate in local philanthropic events where connectors, mentors, sponsors, and hiring managers congregate. You don’t have to have a lot of money to do this, but you must contribute – volunteering time or other intangibles – to receive something in return.

 

  1. Be extremely kind, responsible, and accountable to your colleagues, direct reports, and any service professionals you encounter. Midcareer managers experiencing difficulties with their personal lives or current jobs sometimes neglect or disrespect the staff that reports to them, as well as vendors, industry peers, neighbors, and service professionals they encounter. Those professionals could complain to your most important client, or to your boss, or to a prospective employer.

 

  1. Become inspired by this short list of visionaries who turned their midlife crises into life-enhancing opportunities. Jean Nidetch was 40 when she launched Weight Watchers. Liz Claiborne (work clothing), Ruth Chris (steakhouse founder), and Mary Kay Ash (cosmetics maven) launched after enormous setbacks. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), and Harlan Sanders (KFC) were well into middle age when they launched. Steve Jobs was 52 when he launched the iPhone.

 

  1. Be sure to dedicate enough time to relaxation, exercise, healthful meals, and pursuing entertaining ways to deal with challenges. Walking and swimming are extremely therapeutic, as are meditation and journaling. The importance of adequate sleep has spawned entire industries. Try Laughing Yoga, Zumba, listening to different kinds of music, or binge-watching comedies to divert from the constant litany of alarming news.

 

My 9/11 epiphany – to pursue a more noble purpose – was spot on.  Despite humbling experiences, I went on to raise millions for worthy causes.  After earning my MBA, I became a strategic planning consultant for nonprofits, and an author and educator teaching college students ages 18-55 how to navigate the business world.

 

I know it’s not easy to stay motivated, focus on the positives, learn new things, meet new people, and engage in our communities in meaningful ways that enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Yet we must – not only for ourselves and our families, but to support the thousands of essential workers who help the world to cope. They are excellent role models for us, as we all hope for the best, and bravely take charge of the rest.

 

Liz DiMarco Weinmann is a strategic growth specialist, nonprofit leader,  business educator and author. For a free guide on career reinvention, including additional tips, insights, and a reading list, email: lizweinmann@gmail.com. More at:  www.thedareforce.com and www.beam-impact.com.   

Plant Seeds of Renewal in Your Brain this Spring!

plant-164500_640This year, it seems like there is no spring season in sight… for so many reasons.   

It could be the best opportunity to plant seeds of renewal in our brains. Here are 7 SEEDS of ideas to get you growing and sowing. After all, Mother Nature herself needed seven days to get the earth in BLOOM, and even SHE rested!

  1. To PLANT your SEEDS of accomplishment for this year, first decide what you want to reap. Do you want to learn valuable new skills, gear up for a brand new, exciting and fulfilling career? Develop new connections, friendships and relationships? Maybe you have an even loftier goal, such as starting a business. Decide what you want your full-blown PLANTS to look like, and get to making it happen. 
  2. Once you determine how you want your flourishing GARDEN to look, you need a plan to make it happen. If you want to learn a new skill, why not sign up now for a finance class, a computer class, a graphic design or writing class, or music lessons? Why not learn a new language?
  3. If your goal is finding a new career, it’s never a bad time to set up informational interviews or networking sessions where you talk with people about their jobs and figure out whether their career might be a perfect career for you. People you want to know are ready to come out of retreat for a quick lunch or espresso – online or IRL. 
  4. If you have to literally crack open your copy of What Color is Your Parachute, then don’t wait for evidence of moth larvae infestation between the pages before you buy yourself the new edition. No one writes about career reinvention, midlife crises or having a “Plan B” the way that Richard Nelson Bolles does.
  5. If you haven’t taken a career assessment test since you wore miniskirts the first decade they were in style (which would also be the decade that Cher could scowl and smirk with the lips, eyes and forehead that Mother Nature gave her), then sign up to take a Myers-Briggs personality test (www.mbticomplete.com). Even though Myers-Briggs experts say that your personality traits stay the same as you move through your life, taking the test again will reaffirm for you who you are today, and what type of job would be a good fit for your personality now. At the very least, it’s a way to PLANT new SEEDS in your own head, and then in others’ heads.
  6. Speaking of heads, two (or more) heads are sometimes better than one. If you want to develop new networks of friends or relationships, make sure you have a profile on a business social network like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), or update your professional profile, and make plans with people whom you haven’t seen in years. Or, how about hosting a dinner party for six friends that you think would have fun together brainstorming the next move in their lives – even if you have to order in? Or, go to a panel sponsored by your alma mater or the local YMCA, so you can be exposed to new ideas while meeting new people.
  7. Finally, this might not sound like an activity for a “day of rest” but if your daydreaming time tends to veer toward visions of having your own business, maybe this is the perfect time to PLANT the SEEDS for that. Decide what type of business you want to start that fits in with the rest of your goals in life. In entrepreneurial finance, the term “lifestyle business” is used to define a business that will also allow you to have a normal life. And, we’re all for that! Start researching the industry you’re thinking about entering, and the companies that might be your competition. Then think about what you would need to do to put together a kick-butt business plan. 

    SEED that need and get yourself in full BLOOM!

 

Bully for You? Et tu, Brutus? Don’t Be A Bully!

Glinda the Good Witch

VERSUS

Cruella de Vil


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

With all the heightened talk of mentors and sponsors, it’s sad to consider that there are 40-something bosses out there – men and women – who are terrible bullies. What’s more, they blame (sometimes rightfully) the generation of manager before them – e.g., women like me who are now in their fifties and sixties who were also bullied early in their careers. It gives new meaning to: “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

Don’t believe me? Deny the obvious? Come on! How many of us older women can honestly assert we never thought, “Oh, what a wimp!”, as we watched a younger impressionable woman cry in anger and frustration in front of us about a work or personal issue? How many of us can honestly say we have never cried at work?

One such young woman on my team many years ago not only survived some mean moments with me, but thrived, moving on to head up a respected boutique PR firm. Now in her forties, she is a partner at a large prestigious marketing firm – no small achievement. I know that it’s an achievement she earned not by being a bully, not by being a diva, and not by being a screamer. A few years ago I ran into her in a restaurant, where she warmly greeted me and graciously provided a business lead that became of tremendous value to me. I’d like to think that she learned how to be tough, street-smart, strategic and kind by observing those who were not.

Unfortunately, the queen bee sting is still a big thing. The female boss who not only has little interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to throw them under the bus.

Women have even more responsibility to stop this behavior. As I speak with many women about bullying (and its evil stepsisters: apathy, neglect and rudeness), the reality emerges that it’s tolerated in men but unforgivable in women.

Bullying isn’t just an older manager/younger subordinate affliction. It can happen whenever someone else controls your paycheck, promotions, raises, contracts, referrals and other career advancement factors (or, similarly, a spouse who controls your financial security).

Although it happened many years ago, it’s still hard for me to forgive, let alone forget, the hulking mass of a former boss, a (female) CEO who one day physically pushed me – someone who is decidedly not demure, not shy, and not petite – up against a wall to chew me out following a client meeting. I did not see her as powerful or strong. I saw her for the weak and frightened vendor she was. The client himself was a tyrant who routinely threw papers and objects at me and my team, and should have been sued and marked for unemployment forever. My boss was desperate to retain his business, so she chose me as her punching bag. I left the firm soon after that.

The lessons I learned from bad bosses and caustic clients didn’t dilute the far more positive lessons I’m able to exchange with others today. They drove me to business school in mid-career, and to start my own company. More than just learning how to master corporate finance, my MBA taught me lot about respect, motivation and true leadership. Ironically, case histories of powerful (and often bullying) men dominate business school curricula, which is what inspired me to write a book about how great women leaders over 40 lead differently.

In fact, many women in their 20s, 30s and 40s today are helping to pull from career abyss unemployed women over 50 who still want to work. These women are battling a barrage of issues: restructurings, rejection letters, ageism, under-employment, and exploitation of their willingness to consult for free in the hopes of winning paying contracts that never fully materialize. Some of these affronts are by female CEOs, including the increasing practice of ignoring emails from seasoned professionals these CEOs have engaged and to whom they promised decisions.

As one article summed it up: “No reply is the ‘new no.’” While such apathy or cowardice is not limited to female CEOs, it’s perceived as nastier. Is this how they would like to see their daughters and sons treated? If not, they have themselves to blame for proliferating rudeness that will surely pass on to the next generation of hiring managers. Is this what feminists envisioned when they talked about sisterhood, and about women having bigger balls than men? Ignoring courteous requests for closure after you’ve engaged these women to your benefit is the loudest promo that you in fact have no balls – doesn’t matter how powerful you think you are.

What’s even more astonishing in this age of uber-connectedness is that anyone thinks they are immune from the reputation-damaging consequences of such rudeness. People talk and they name names – to your potential clients, your prospective employees, your funders and, most especially, to the media and to your competitors.

Because of the 24/7 spotlight on – well, everyone! – in the work I do today, I try to focus on the positive and to be as responsive as possible. I spend a lot of time mentoring women and men of all ages, some whom I’ve never even met, and some who don’t have the ability to pay. It makes me happy that so many of these young professionals become mentors and sponsors for the next generation. Some may say I do it to “redeem” my own past leadership missteps. Better late than never, at least I’m righting – and writing – my own best “leader-ship”.

My hope is that all the truly powerful, truly empathetic women today – the mentors and the mentored – remember the good lessons of the women leaders in their lives. And I hope they heed Ms. Angelou’s heartfelt pronouncement as profound advice:

“…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

 

 


[i] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323884304578328271526080496.html

Strategic Planning: Why Every Nonprofit Leader Should Watch “Shark Tank”

 © Liz DiMarco Weinmann, 2/15/21

The current online edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy features a thoughtful advice article https://www.philanthropy.com/article/what-to-know-about-3-charity-monitoring-groups summarizing the key strategic and operational assets the top three charity-monitoring groups look for when evaluating nonprofits.  They include, in varying terms: governance, financing, fundraising, and effectiveness.  An excellent reference tool, the article is also an impetus for strategic planning.  After all, few would argue that a fully operational strategic plan encompasses the assets that smart funders – like those on the popular CNBC series, “Shark Tank” – look for in deciding whether to support an organization.

As a former private-sector marketing executive who transitioned to nonprofit fundraising after the events of 9/11, I know it’s almost impossible to secure adequate funding from major donors and foundations without a fully operational strategic plan.  [More at: www.beam-impact.com.]  A strategic plan needn’t comprise dozens of pages. In fact, some of the best strategic plans I’ve produced are under five pages, and one of the first grants I ever secured for over $1million was presented in a one-page proposal.  It was to a corporate foundation whose previous gifts to my client’s organization had topped out at $100,000. The proposal reflected my client organization’s strategic plan, which I had recently revised.

If developed and written well, a nonprofit’s strategic plan indeed can be distilled to a single page or graphic that also can be used to secure internal engagement of staff, board members, and other volunteers.  Which brings us back to Shark Tank.

[To book a 15-minute pro bono session with me on how to jump-start your strategic planning process, please send me an email – lizweinmann@gmail.com – and we’ll make it happen.]      

Here are just a few reasons why a few episodes of Shark Tank – perhaps binged early in the day with a triple espresso (oh, just me?) – could serve as a master class for the importance of a strategic plan when meeting with demanding funders:

  1. With increased competition for funding, and fewer resources to accomplish goals, there is more intense pressure to demonstrate how and when your organization’s strategy and operations will create measurable positive impact. In times of crisis, a strategic plan becomes much more than a road map.  The plan should drive – i.e., operate – the organization, so that leaders look forward and move ahead, while also dealing with short-term priorities.
  2. The intensity of the Shark Tank “plot structure” is how fundraising meetings often play out, i.e., it’s not just for TV. The principles and scenarios of Shark Tank apply in real life.  As one who has faced discerning and demanding funders (and aren’t they all?), I know having a strategic plan to reference is crucial.
  3. Nonprofits seeking funds today are expected to commit to memory myriad facts and figures about their organization. A strategic plan provides a framework for that data to be presented with the precision, clarity, and confidence that convinces donors to give.
  4. Venture capitalists and private equity investors (such as those that appear on Shark Tank), often stipulate that a firm’s pitch for funding be summarized in an oral introduction of no more than five minutes, and that written summaries be limited to a single page. Impossible for a nonprofit? Not for someone who has done it a thousand times, with a high success rate.

If you’re a current or aspiring nonprofit leader or board member who has an upcoming meeting with a demanding major donor or foundation,  then here’s what you should watch for on Shark Tank to prep for your meeting:

  1. Watch to see if the private-sector entrepreneurs present a concise case to scrupulous venture capitalists, about how their product is a solution, or enhancement, or completely different, than anything currently on the market.
  2. Watch to see how succinct and precise contestants are about their entire business plans when hoping to secure funds, whether for thousands or millions.
  3. Watch to see how they deal with the most scrutinizing questions and objections when a “Shark” requests more of a profit share than the entrepreneur thinks is fair.
  4. Watch to see how the word “profit” can become an analogy for your organization’s stated theory of change, or projected outcomes, or desired societal impact, and what a major donor or foundation might expect.

Now imagine your toughest donors, and the nonprofit monitoring groups they consult, will behave like those “Sharks.” As we all know, they often do.   While there is much defensiveness and protest about whether nonprofits should face the same – and sometimes higher – expectations of transparency and accountability than the private sector, it is no longer a question of “should”.  The reality is that the expectations are already there, and they are mounting – with every grant proposal you write, every business cycle you evaluate, every quarterly report you distribute, and every 990 you file. For those reasons alone, a fully operational strategic plan is no longer a “should” proposition, or a “someday” option.  It is a must, and that day is now.

 

 

The COVID Career Chasm – How deep, how long

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 800,000 women left the workforce as of September 2020, and that number is probably underestimating the women who have home businesses they have put on hold.  It is a dire trend that will reverberate for at least one generation, if not more.

Many of the women affected are professionals in their prime, ages 38-53, spanning Gen-X, which is already hard-hit from the squeeze of more nimble, less encumbered Millennials and baby-boomers who also need to stay in the workforce.  These prime professionals are lawyers, accountants, surgeons, professors, and other high-intensity achievement-oriented women.  Many of them will lose promotions, face reductions in salary, and deal with a drastic diminution of their retirement funds.

As they go, so do the women who help them run their homes and their careers – the childcare workers, household helpers, classroom aides, bus drivers, and numerous others.   Generation X, indeed.

A few rays of hope:  many notable women in the 20th century did not come into their own until after great adversity – founding valuable businesses, nonprofits, and social movements after the age of 40.  These include: Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouts of USA at age 57; Jean Nidetch, who founded Weight Watchers at age 41; Ethel Percy Andrus, who founded AARP when she was 74; and Rachel Carson, biologist and author of the landmark book about dangerous pesticides, “Silent Spring”. At age 55, suffering from stage 4 breast cancer, Carson testified before Congress about what she called “biocides” – chemicals that harm humans as well as animals.  She died just 18 months after “Silent Spring” was published, but she is often credited with the launch of the Environmental Protection Agency.

While not many of us can aspire to Rachel Carson’s greatness, perhaps we can be  optimistic about pondering the many miles to go before we sleep, to paraphrase Robert Frost.  Here’s hoping we all get to have many more miles, days, night, weeks, months, and years, to, as Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “…do the thing you think you cannot do.”  

Working at Home – Fast Track to Middle-Aged Wasteland?

gray haird woman computerWorking from home, on your home, or partial telecommuting? 

This past year, with many of us working from home, what at first seemed like oceans of free time or an infinite flexibility in managing one’s own time, turned into a blur and cacophony of added duties, roles and responsibilities.

And, what often suffers in all the time constraints is one’s own physical and emotional health.  Even if your home-based reality is for the most part a pleasant one, there are going to be days when all you want to do is pull on the sweatpants, slash open the potato chips, and giggle through a marathon of Schitt’s Creek. More than once. (Just me?).

Not only is the  mind a terrible thing to waste, but your mind is a muscle that needs rebooting all the time! So, let’s accentuate the positive in looking at  how to make the WFH environment more conducive to physical and psychological health.    There are many productive and positive reasons to work at home, and many ways to offset the challenges that come with feeling “marooned” in a home office.  Here are just a few:

Some people are working in their own businesses, or working with employers whose business models enable or require working from home, whether it’s full-time at home or flex-time.   If you don’t have to report to an office even part of the time, that’s all the more reason to get out to breakfast, lunch or drinks with colleagues or other people in your industry – even if it’s in an online gathering.   

Many people are working on their homes, or inside their homes, in some way while also earning a living.  Working on a home could mean prepping for a sale, or downsizing and the clearing out that comes with both those transitions.  Or, it could involve taking care of children and elderly parents – many Gen-X women and boomers are doing both while also working full time.   

During really hectic times in your life, push yourself to carve out time just for you.  I force myself to exercise several mornings a week, while it’s still really early, just so that I don’t spend my entire morning binge-watching cable or locked to news reports on screens.  If I do that, then the rest of my day is spent doing something for someone else.

Others are working at home only until …  Here, just fill in the blanks to suit your own situation.  It’s all the more important to be in “work-style mindset.”   Job-hunters are the people I empathize with the most, because their identities are about work (work clothes, work habits, work skills), and they can’t predict how long the job search might be, especially now, even with a variety of Covid-19 vaccines coming to market.  Prepping or waiting for calls or emails about leads, decisions and other search issues is happening at home these days for more and more people.  It takes Herculean effort to bound out of bed, get outdoors, or do an online workout.  For sure, those are the days when you have to get out of the sweatpants and plan on healthful foods that will make you actually feel good, and schedule meetings – online or outside your home.

In the winter months when the weather is bleaker, it’s worse – but you have to get over it and get out!  I get invited to lots of networking events – I could be out every night of the week!  Some are well worth the outing, but others are not as productive.  Regardless, I still push myself to go out on most nights.  Engaging with other people – especially people who are different than you, is the best way to enhance your social skills, broaden your horizons and make you more productive in your work at home.

 

Are you sure you know your strengths? Try the Strengths Finder Test.

StrengthsFinder 2.0As we’re all looking for positive thoughts these days,  let’s focus on less on what we’re doing “wrong” or what we have to “do less of” or “give up”… [or insert vice of your choice] in order to lose the weight, stop smoking, find a new job, etc. and focus on what’s good, strong and forward-thinking.  

There’s a better way to focus on the positive as opposed to everything you think is just plain wrong. Focus instead on STRONG. Ask yourself: Are you doing what you are best at every day, and if so, do you love doing it? I’m not talking about what you’re told you’re good at, or the things you’re good at that you get paid to do. I am talking about your real strengths. If you are doing what you love, you are using your strengths.

But don’t just take my word for it, because it’s not my original idea. It is the brainchild of those brainy people at Gallup.You know Gallup: the people who pose a lot of questions about a lot of things to a lot of different people, from every walk of life. A few years ago, Gallup came up with a survey/test to help people discover what they’re good at and what they’re passionate about – two very different constructs.

If you’re confused about this idea, then consider taking the Strengths Finder Test. This is a test, and book, that Gallup introduced in 2001 (and again in 2007 with an updated version, StrengthsFinder 2) to help people discover their top talents and skills.

I know we all think we know what our strengths are – I mean, seriously, over 50 we have a clue, don’t we? But I have to say, I believe this test can help, if we take it every few years. It will re-inform you, or inform you in a new area, or re-motivate you in your life path, career, or job choice. Or it may simply help you focus and polish the areas in which you are strongest.

Here are a few ways the book and test can help you:

  • Career planning – You can find and polish the areas for which you are best equipped in your work or career choice.
  • Team building – You work better with others when you really understand your own individuals strengths.
  • Improving work performance – When you know and understand your strengths, you’re more able to channel your energies to work more effectively.
  • Interview preparation – You will find that the results of your StrengthsFinder test will really empower you when that interview question pops up: “Can you tell me what your strengths are?”

I have taken it once since its new iteration, but it remains valuable to me every time I look at the list of strengths, their analyses and the concomitant advice they offer. The author, Tom Rath, states that we are better off cultivating our strengths, rather than spending too much time trying to improve our areas of weakness, as we are often taught to do here in the US.I agree!

Rooted in more than 40 years of research, this assessment is a real powerhouse! Check it out!

Click here for more info: Strengths Finder Test.

 

Hello, your insurance company called. They want your baggy pants back.

The realities of working from home for many people have hit home whether we want them to or not, and whether we like working from home or not.  

Here’s a wake-up call you can’t ignore: Statistics from almost every insurance company show people telecommuting for work gain weight faster and have a harder time losing it than those who go out to work every day! We tend to underestimate the expenditure of energy it takes to get up, get showered, get ready, get dressed and get out the door – all the mundane tasks we don’t really think of as physical exercise but which burn calories. Hey, just blasting a hair dryer for 14 minutes during weeks when I’m sorely overdue at my hairdresser’s (like today) causes me to fume to the point where I just know I’m burning up some extra calories!

File:RIAN archive 555848 Testing on treadmill.jpgWe all know that 24/7 screen time not only takes away from our physical activity, but interferes with sleep, which then negatively impacts our ability to do productive work.  On top of that, not being mindful of how much comfort food we’re eating also packs on the pounds.

However, food manufacturers always get blamed for making people fat, but they could be a boon to consumers who want to think inside the box when planning healthful meals. Frozen processed foods, eaten in moderation, are a secret weapon of people who really want to lose weight but hate the whole planning, measuring, chopping, cooking and clean-up work. When I lost 60 pounds several years ago, and managed to keep all but 7 pounds off, I relied a lot on frozen meals. I would much rather spend my creativity on real work rather than cooking and cleaning. Besides, all that prepping tends to make me munch between chopping, since it takes so much time before I actually sit down to eat my meal!

The key benefit of frozen meals is portion control. If Lean Cuisine and similar lines are too “mini-meal” for you, add a big salad, cut your dressing with lemon juice and make sure you have satisfying vegetables with your meal. Bottom-line is that the food industry doesn’t lift that high calorie snack bar or bag of chips to your mouth again and again. And, if you’re not commuting regularly and your office is in or near the kitchen, it’s just too easy to grab the snacks and lose perspective.

Get dressed in clean clothes every day. Yes, seriously. I know it’s been said before – in some good ways, actually: “Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up.” You may be fighting some depression, some rejection, some anxiety, or even the stubborn remnants of winter’s SAD disorder (Seasonal Affective Disorder- try some full spectrum light bulbs for that). But this can help: put on real clothes, something that makes you look put together. It will prepare you for the day in a way that working in your secret pajama bottoms just can’t.

File:Skinny20080428.jpgHang up your “5-pounds-to-go” jeans (or slinky dress, etc.) where you can see them all the time. I don’t mean your skinny-skinny-skinny jeans that would require liposuction for you to get back into, but something attainable that will help keep you out of the refrigerator or the cookie jar. A colleague of mine hung hers OVER the refrigerator, so that she would have to actually move the jeans in order to open the door to the fridge. May be a bit extreme, but she swears it mortified her into shape.

Consider getting a Soda Stream water carbonator. No, I’m not paid by them, nor do I have shares in the company. It’s just a really good idea. Coffee with sugar and cream in it, fruit juice, lattes and sodas, all have calories that we forget to count, and come with other negative health effects. Instead, Soda Stream will help you drink more calorie-less plain seltzer water with ice, or lightly flavored with a touch of lemon, lime, grape juice, etc.

Set a timer to go off once an hour to take a break. So many of us are as focused as we are sedentary, even eating our lunch at our home office desk or table. The New York Times routinely publishes research about the importance of getting up and moving – for our brains as well as the rest of our bodies.  Every hour, when your timer dings, get up, run up and down the stairs, or do a few minutes of jump-rope. Even do ten push ups and ten sit ups, if this doesn’t leave you in a sweaty heap. It is the movement, the increase to your circulation and metabolism that we are after here. Some blood to the brain. Refresh and recharge and feel better.

These are just a few ways to accentuate the positive, focusing on the things to actually do rather than not do, to charge yourself up.  Whether you’re working from home temporarily, or for the foreseeable future, make sure you get yourself in a productive work mindset, get dressed, put on some music, keep moving and refresh your brain at least once an hour.

As for those baggy pants, tell your insurance company they’re just for sleeping – which you try to do for at least 7 hours – or the temporary bottoms of your Zoom, Webex or GoToMeeting uniform.   

 


[i]http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/12/telecommuting_may_be_terrible_for_your_work_life_balance.html

High There! – High-rise over 40!

woman trapezeThe education industry offers us literally millions of options for expanding the depth and breadth of our brainpower, from womb to tomb. Yet, there’s an assumption within some industries and organizations that when someone has reached the age of 50 and beyond, they are no longer in the classification that talent management gurus call “high potentials.” The term “high potential” refers to individuals an organization should devote the majority of its efforts to mentor, sponsor and retain.  Harvard Business Review, among others, has published numerous articles on the topic of high potentials, a recent one in 2010[1], excerpted here:

“…High potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization—more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”

In some firms, it is often presumed – mistakenly – that these behaviors are most attributable to younger, presumably more energetic, employees. When I was a young, aggressive, frenetic manager I worked to my full capacity to be fiercely competitive, running a robust portfolio of business for large ad agencies yet was always on the lookout for more revenue, and was fairly well-compensated (almost) for my skills. But I was not as loyal to “companies’ culture” as the definition above would suggest. And now when I think back to all of the things I did not know when I was younger I want to laugh out loud.

The fact of the matter is that I was well into my forties when I learned the most valuable lessons of my personal and professional life. Among these is how to be a good leader of people, beyond knowing how to manage a P&L. Becoming a leader, one of my favorite business-school professors confirmed when I decided to pursue my MBA in my mid-50s, is not something that can be taught. It must be learned through experience.

brain partsScientists ranging from prenatal experts to gerontologists assert there are nine different types of intelligence. And throughout our lives we don’t need to compartmentalize ourselves into just one of them! Just because you reach a certain age and become known for your math (or juggling) skills, it doesn’t mean you can’t suddenly discover an amazing talent for painting (arts, or another form of the nine kinds of intelligence) that you never knew you had.  So, just because you’re reached “high performer” in one skill doesn’t mean you’re DONE reaching your high potential as a human relative to some other skill.

That someone over 40 may not be considered a high-potential is unfair, yes, but it is often the perception. If this is the perception you have of yourself, there’s no excuse for that! 

Here’s just a short list of ideas, articles and books that should change your mind, literally and figuratively, about how much there still is to learn and develop your own high potential:

book pen notepad1) The New York Times: OPINION: “Fast Time and the Aging Mind,” by Richard A. Friedman, July 20. 2013.  Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psycho-pharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College. posits: “Is it possible that learning new things might slow our internal sense of time?” My favorite passage is this:

“…It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.”[2]

2) The New York Times: PREOCCUPATIONS: “She Turned Her Upspeak Down a Notch, by Jessica Grose, July 27, 2013.  As the Times call out summarized it: “A freelance journalist was tired of sources thinking that she sounded like a little girl on the phone. So she set out to change her voice.”[3]  Think an “uptick” is the bailiwick of the young? Think again! I hear so many women over the age of 40 using an “uptick” in their speaking style that it reminds me not so much of the so-called “valley girls” that supposedly started the trend but of an antiquated time of deference and asking permission that smacks of pre-Mad Men secretarial pools.

3) The “Gravitas Guru,” Raleigh Mayer: One of my favorite executive coaches in New York is a woman named Raleigh Mayer,  who rightly calls herself “The Gravitas Guru.” She rightly puts enthusiastic women of all ages through paces to break out of habits that include poor grooming, ill-fitting shoes and speaking as if every sentence is a question. And, she does it with total aplomb and the utmost courtesy, even as she gets everyone to laugh at themselves.

time keeping watch4) From The New York Times: APP SMART: “To Manage Time, Track Time and Pass the Time, by Kit Eaton, June 26, 2013. As the Times call out summarized it: “When they aren’t listening to music or playing a game on their devices, people who work from home can stay on task with a range of productivity apps.” [4]  As a career-long time tracker and “billable hour” monitor, I long ago developed the habit of tracking my time for productivity and also as a planning tool before I even sit down to work. Most experienced adults know how important this is, perhaps even better than our younger colleagues do.

5) From The New York Times: BUCKS BLOG: “Helping Older Americans Avoid Swindles,” by Ann Carrns. As Ms. Carrns in the Times call out summarizes: “A new educational tool from the F.D.I.C., called “Money Smart for Older Americans,” aims to help people protect themselves against financial abuses.”[5] 

Finally: Even when – and especially if – there seems to be more of an alarming trend against hiring older workers, don’t rule out the capacity to expand your own high potential through various productive and constructive means that don’t have to cost a fortune.  

If you’re still unconvinced, lift your spirits (and your potential) by reading the cover story in the July 8-15, 2013 issue of TIME Magazine, entitled: “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  That will help you get on the high road to developing your potential. It’s likely there’s a long stretch of highway and miles to go before you sleep.

highway white line

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Ready, Douglas A., Conger, Jay A., Hill, Linda A., (2010, June) Are You a High Potential? Harvard Business Review, Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2010/06/are-you-a-high-potential/ar/1

[2] Friedman, Richard A., (2013, July 20) Fast Time and the Aging Mind. The New York Times: Opinion. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/13UmKa2.

[3] Grosse, Jessica, (2013, July 27) She Turned Her Upspeak Down a Notch, The New York Times: Preoccupations. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/13cNCQ9.

[4] Eaton, Kit, (2013, June 26), To Manage Time, Track Time and Pass the Time, The New York Times: App Smart. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/e/kit_eaton/index.html

[5] Carrns, Ann, (2013, June 13), Helping Older Americans Avoid Swindles, The New York Times, Buck’s Blog. Retrieved from. http://nyti.ms/18CtGdj.

Job Hunters Over 40: Time to get past the long, cold winter of discontent

Job Hunters: How to Spring Forward, Make Rain Happen!

men joggingAs we hope and wait to get outside and enjoy warm weather, many over-40 executives in transition between jobs, or those who are employed but job-hunting, have been feeling more overwhelmed, discouraged and listless than ever over the past two months. The postponements or outright cancellations of networking meetings, job interviews, valuable education seminars and the like, have made even the most tenacious procrastinators hope for some kind of deadline, deliverable, or other indicator that they need to be somewhere, produce something, anything, that will want them to get out of their caves (in some cases, out of their pajamas) without having to suit up as if they’re drilling for oil in Alaska!

So here are just a few suggestions to fire up your motivation for a renewed job hunt or career rejuvenation – with the hopes that you become your own “rainmaker” and refresh your networking and selling skills along the way.  

  1. business cardThis could be a great time for new business cards, especially if you’re re-starting your networking after a few months indoors. I’m astounded at the number of job hunters who, because they’ve left a company’s employ, or are on LinkedIn, don’t carry their own business cards! It doesn’t matter who you were at your former company and what you did, if you don’t have a card that tells prospects who you are now, your expertise and what you’re seeking in your next position, you’re communicating that you are in a “holding pattern” with no contact information for the people you meet who actually want to keep your info handy. Always have business cards with you that demonstrate what you’re looking for next in your career.
  2. Where there’s rain, get covered – a cover letter! Many job hunters over 40 fail to realize that cover letters regarding the specific company’s market position, financial profile or other personalized insights can land them in an “A” pile that makes the resume a secondary priority. State your career objectives in cover letters, comment on specifics, detail clearly why you’re interested in the organization, and then customize your resume accordingly.
  3. The only three questions every resume needs to answer. Does your resume sell your strengths, fit and motivation to the organization you’re pitching? Not customizing your resume to serve the type of opportunity you’re seeking is like writing the same ad copy to sell food, wine or electronics. Customize your resume to the company you’re pitching.
  4. It’s show-time, do you know where your mentors and sponsors are? Make sure you know the answer to that question by listing all the people you already know that could help you in your job hunt or career moves. Are they connectors, mentors or sponsors? Connectors can help you access information or introductions. Mentors guide and advise. Sponsors – the most valuable resources – are like your personal agents. Sponsors can be advocates and ambassadors for your candidacy. Identify, research and cultivate at least five sponsors. Work that list, contact them for informational interviews by phone or Skype, and persuade them to introduce you to potential hiring managers or clients.
  5. Do it full time, lose the fool time. If you’re really serious about the hunt, you should be working on it at least 9-to-5 every day, and not by surfing job sites, emailing people who don’t know you and, worse, who don’t care. Instead, use your evening and weekend hours to do research on your priority companies and hiring managers, customize your resume, or draft intro letters to those you want to meet. Your weekdays should be spending in meetings (online or IRL) with connectors, influencers and hiring managers, plugging in to the strategic networking events these important resources also attend, and getting involved in organizations (including nonprofits) that can help you fill resume gaps.

umbrellaSo, although it seems we’ve had the worst half-year on record, and the universe has all but swallowed up our action plans, it’s time to plant new seeds, get the right gear in place, get out there and do more than pray for rain.

Spring forward, Make rain happen!