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!

 

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.