Think back to when you were a child. Did you have a special career in mind? A passion to be a police officer, or a dancer, or perhaps a painter? When you got older and entered high school, did you discover a talent for debate? For shop class? Is there something that really stuck with you? Something from those childhood joys that is with you today? For instance, did your love of debate lead you into practicing law?
When I was a child, I loved to sort – buttons, blocks, cards. In my career, the tasks I’ve performed and most enjoyed have been, logically, those that create order. I love to clear up organizational messes, create and fine-tune procedures and processes. I enjoy making other people’s jobs easier by doing so. These same skills make me a very good process and project manager.
I was an administrative, marketing and executive assistant for over twenty years when I was laid off in 2009. I’d always worked under other people’s agendas, doing everything I could to please Corporate America and to keep my job. At the time I was laid off I had been acting as an assistant to a spiritual motivational speaker in my spare time, and in working with him I had met two other spiritual entrepreneurs who asked for my help. Over time, I found myself working for a wide variety of people in marketing and promotion, client services, proofing and editing, scheduling, and organizing. I was provided a great logo, I created a website and promo materials, and made it official: I was now the proud owner of Lightseeds Office, a virtual assistant service. It has taken some time to develop, but I am now doing the kind of work that gives me joy, with my own agenda and at my own pace.
Did you know that nearly 14 million Americans are self-employed – 7% of labor force? 80% of people age 45+ consider changing careers; only 6% actually do. Does that mean that all the rest give up and settle for what they know, whether they enjoy it or not? I’d love to know what percentage of those that are self-employed are following their bliss, as opposed to working in whatever field they happen upon.
Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not, let’s explore some ways to recapture the joys of your early dreams, and bring that to the present so you can act on them to create your future, whether it’s working for yourself or for someone else. Why settle, like I did for so many years? Let’s go on a journey to discover where you really want to be as you reinvent yourself.
Setting your GPS: Where are you now?
When you set out on a journey using your GPS, you can set your destination, but you won’t get far without allowing the navigator to determine where you are.
Think of your resume, your experience, training, titles, credentials, etc. What do you dislike about your current work life and your career? What do you enjoy? What of your credentials do you use? What do you not care about?
Where have you been?
In the same way, think about what you have left behind. What did you love early in your career or your youth that you don’t do now? What did you dislike you don’t want to return to? What got you where you are today? Many years ago when I was in retail I absolutely loved display and setting up new product. I can relate that to my current love of doing the same thing electronically: creating marketing materials and websites – electronic rather than physical layout and design.
What is your destination?
Now that we’ve discovered what your past brought you to, and what your present offers, let’s set your GPS for where you want to go. Carry forward the items that please you from your past and present into your future.
What’s your bliss? What tasks give you joy? What talents give you joy? Think of those re-inventors I described earlier. Can you see yourself taking people on photography tours? Describe what your ideal day would be, whether career related or not.
I love doing workshops, making PowerPoint presentations, event planning. I love design, layout, sorting, creating order. I love building the foundations for people to live their bliss. Define your goal. “I love gardening/decorating for Christmas/decluttering/baking/detailing cars, etc etc. I could do that for people who hate to do it.”’
You can set your GPS, but you’re getting nowhere fast unless you take action! Your GPS may tell you what turn to make, but it won’t say anything else until you actually make that first turn. Now that you’ve discovered some ways to reinvent yourself, let’s look at the tasks along the way. What do you need to do to get from your current location to your destination? What “virtual Mapquest” will you use? Do your research - find out how to match what people want with what you want to offer.
Taking my example, I looked at the group of people I wanted to target as a virtual assistant – motivational, spiritual, holistic workers. I asked questions and studied online: What is your biggest pain? What do you not have time for? If you had abundant finances, what is the first thing you’d hire out? Based on that, I created a match between the skills I love to use (NOT just skills I have, but those I enjoy) and what they needed. I built my offerings on those things.
Focus on the WHAT not the HOW. Keep your eye on what your goal is, and take all the steps you can to achieve that goal. Don’t try to figure out how success will happen. You don’t keep checking your car’s navigator to see how it’s taking you to your destination, you just know it is taking you there and follow the cues it gives you. Likewise faith in the outcome and taking inspired action will get you where you want to go. If you worry over the details, your focus has shifted from your goal to the “how.” I didn’t worry about how I would become a successful Virtual Assistant. I just took action based on the signs I saw, based on what I learned, and it just happened.
As you continue on the journey to reinventing yourself, remember to stay flexible. You may have a goal in mind that, once approached, changes into something different. Keep your eye on what you want, stay flexible, and it will happen.
. . . to LinkedIn, that is! I just had the privilege of creating a new LinkedIn profile for (with) a new client, and was reminded of how fun the process is, and how powerful the connections to be made.
I understand that there are many people who don't choose to be visible on the internet, but in any sort of business, whether your own or as an employee, it is crucial to be visible and known for your skills and experience. This website currently is the world's largest professional social media site with over 150 million members worldwide. That's an enormous network of potential associates, clients, and employers!
If you are self-employed or job-hunting, LinkedIn is vital to making connections in your industry. A clear, complete and well-written profile serves as your public resume. In fact recently several potential employers used my LinkedIn profile rather than the standard Word document resume. Even if you are content in your current situation, a good profile will increase your company's visibility and thus client base.
Membership in LinkedIn groups is also a great idea. There are a wide variety of professional groups in the network with whom you can chat, make connections, expand your reach. For instance, I joined with two Virtual Assistant groups to share ideas and support.
If you have not created a LinkedIn presence, here are a few tips to make it more effective.
If all of this sounds intimidating to you, I know a great resource to help you through the process - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
I have to tell you up front that I am no "techie" - I know little about the technical aspects of computers and website and code and such. But I'm a layout/design/content kind of gal, and last year I was introduced to Weebly.com as a source of easy website creation.For the several websites I've been involved with, including, of course, this one, I'd used Squarespace, I'd seen WordPress, and I'd investigated freebies like Google and Yahoo pages. But when I started experimenting with Weebly, I must say that virtually anyone can use this resource to create an interesting and effective website.
The several things I appreciate about Weebly:
I've written before about being organized in your workplace from a time management standpoint. But have you ever thought of the environment you work in as a representation of energy? Whether you understand the Law of Attraction or have never heard of it, consider this.
All matter is energy - this we know. What we focus on, grows - this we also know. Insert these thoughts into the workplace, regardless of the venue or type of work. If you work in organized, relatively tidy surroundings, then you are part of that energy. You are steeped in order, ease. If your surroundings are chaotic, messy, disorganized, then you are focused on the energy of chaos, mess and disorder. Just as in a cluttered home, your place of work not only represents your own energy, but also perpetuates that energy as you focus on it.
It can be difficult if you have little control over the environment in which you work, but you usually have some level of control over your own work area. For instance, if you work with people who are flighty, angry, disorganized or scattered people, their energy can pervade the workplace. However allowing your own work area to counteract that means that rather than being affected by their energy, you focus on the order and ease of your area. When you do everything you can to focus on smooth operations, efficiency, abundance, ease and clarity, then that is what comes back to you. In fact, a stronger focus on those qualities is very likely to instead affect the disorder around you!
So take a look at your work area today. Create order from chaos in your surroundings and enjoy the results of a new energetic focus!
And if you need help to create that order, I know a great resource - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Does your work involve serving other people? That's the case for most of us. There is some level of customer service in the process, whether you're delivering a product or service. You need to understand the needs of your customer in order to meet them. You can make the best darn word processing machine in the world, but you won't have any customers because nobody uses those any more!
Service involves much more than the "complaint desk" idea of customer service. Truly it encompasses the entire relationship, from beginning to end, if there is an end. You provide service by anticipating your client's needs. You anticipate that there is a need for your product or service. You anticipate how you can improve it, how you can change it as your customers' needs change.
In new-age spiritual thought, we realize that we take our next step based on where we are, and once we're there, we make another move based on that new place. That's the same concept as in excellent customer service. If we can understand where our customers are, anticipate their potential next move, and then anticipate the NEXT move, we are way ahead of the game in service.
For instance, recently I worked on a project with a new client. Because I know project management well, I was able to anticipate some things she might need to know or do. By addressing those before she even knew she would need them, I solved a problem before it could occur, and made the project go ever so much more smoothly than if I had merely reacted to the need after the fact.
The lesson is to not only know your own product or service, but to understand thoroughly your customer's end use of it. By anticipating their next step in the process, you too can be the miracle worker, and be the hero in your customer's eyes! Go for it!
And when you want help defining your processes and procedures, and in understanding your client, I know a GREAT business consultant: Holly@LightseedsOffice.com or (330) 835-3876.
As you know by now, I believe that how you present yourself, online and in person, goes a long way in communicating your message to your audience. I've noticed many unintentional changes to American English that should be avoided at all costs to maintain a professional front. I have ranted about a few of these recently (see my earlier post) and now I'll focus on a few more items that are either ungrammatical or simply are not words.
1. Gratefulness: No such word! We seem to have a tendency to create nouns from adjectives, even though there are perfectly good nouns already in place! Try GRATITUDE instead. I am grateful that I feel gratitude.
2. Invite: a verb. You send an invitation to invite people to an event.
3. He wrote about you and I . . . Jim and me went to the store . . . confusion between a subject and object of the pronoun. Huh? Easiest way to remember is to say it without the other person. Me went to the store . . . I don't think so! Jim and I went to the store. And the other half of that issue "between you and I." Take the sentence apart to see if it still makes sense: "He wrote about you" is fine. "He wrote about I" is, well, not. It should be "he wrote about you and me" . . . object not subject.
4. Irregardless: No such word! The "Ir" doesn't belong there. Regardless is a perfectly good word on its own.
5. Do you want to lay down? Wrong! If you're talking about getting horizontal, the verb is "lie". Do you want to lay that heavy box down? If you're talking about an object, the verb is "lay." I won't even get into the past tense confusions between those!
6. Orientated: No such word! To get oriented to your new position, you should go to an orientation meeting.
7. It's literally killing me! Well I hope to goodness that's not true, because it'd mean someone is stabbing, shooting or otherwise attempting your demise! Remember that "literally" means "truly", "really", "absolutely."
There are more to rant over, but I'll stop now . . . you're welcome! I understand that languages evolve over time, where once-accepted words become archaic, and where slang becomes accepted language. However, grammatical mistakes like the ones above can make it harder to project a professional, expert image, so don't lay down on the job, irregardless of what you and me think. HA!
It's easier than you might think to manage short- or long-term projects. Oh, I can hear the maniacal laughter coming through the ethers, but believe me, it's true! All it takes is organizational skills. Well, OK, organizational skills and time management. But anyone can do it if you get organized!
Think about your project - is it a series of tasks taking place over a period of time? Is it a one-time event with several aspects to manage? Who is involved? What is the timeline? (This is probably the most important part - write down the deadlines for each stage of planning.) Once you have the details written down, it's time to enter them into a spreadsheet. Excel has several templates you may want to look at (click on File/New and search on Project), you can use one I created, or create your own. Create columns titled with each category you're tracking. For example, contact information for the people involved, date of initial contact, date of followup, date of their response, what the response is, date final sent to person, etc. The columns for which you are responsible should contain the date ranges for the tasks you have to take care of. For instance, a column might say "initial email 10/1-10/7" and then the dates each email is sent in the column below that title.
As the project goes along, it's vital to keep the spreadsheet updated every single day. If you lose track of whether you talked to Joe Gomez about the catering, or whether Shelly Carroll called you back about your email, you might find yourself floundering. When I'm working on a project, I keep the spreadsheet open the entire time I'm working, and enter data every time something changes. Yes, it seems anal, and that's how I manage projects, but believe me, this kind of careful record-keeping is key to a successful and organized project. And key to sanity as well!
Another aspect to keep in mind is communication. If others are working on a project with you, be sure to categorize them as "need to know only," "decision maker," "partner," etc., and communicate regularly as needed for each of these roles. I've been on many projects in my career where a change was made that affected my work yet I was not told. Don't be that person! And expect communication from your staff in return. I communicate with my client often about the status of our project and where we stand.
I hope that this basic guide will get you started on ideas to simplify the next project you work on. If you find yourself overwhelmed, of course, I know a GREAT project management resource you can call on - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Hopefully you just read this title and said "Whah????? Has Holly lost it?" If you didn't, I'm shocked! You can be the best writer, the most connected intuitive, the most accurate accountant, but if you can't proofread your work, you may not come across as the professional you are.
I have read online articles, websites, blogs, emails, and other forms of business communication written by authorities in their field, with important things to say, but their writings contain blatant errors. Granted I've missed a few in my own proofreading (hey, we're all human), but I am adamant about editing and proofing. Think about the two sentences below. Which would lead you to contact the writer for more information? Which presents the writer as a professional who knows what they're talking about?
1. Everybody has to profread what their writing so the customer's know they are professional.
2. Everybody has to proofread what they're writing so the customers know they are professional.
Well, obviously (it is obvious, isn't it?) the answer is #2. Many of us have forgotten the basic grade school grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary we used to be good at. Let's review!
Think about that word: networking. Thirty years ago, what exactly did that mean? Was the word as meaningful then in a world without personal computers? Now, in a business world where computer networks are crucial, it's important to understand that personal networks are important as well.
"No man [or woman] is an island." Nearly every sort of work we do requires a relationship with others. You can write a book alone, but you need others to buy it. You can work on a computer alone, but you need clients. After working for many years in Corporate America where it was my superiors [I don't like that word - we're all equals - but you know what I mean] who networked with others in their field. Once I became self-employed, I was a bit out of my experience in learning how to network with others who might need my skills or might know someone else who does. I have never enjoyed sales and was uncomfortable with the idea of "selling" my administrative services. What I discovered, much to my surprise, was that by attending functions with other business people, I could not only increase awareness of my own work, but hear about all sorts of wonderful entrepreneurship and ideas going on in my city, and it was the education, the sharing that created potential clients, not selling.
Social media has become a great way to meet others, for business relationships or for skill exchanges, however LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. are two-dimensional. You can educate others but your conversations are flat, with little personality behind them. We all know that for business (or any) relationship to grow we need to like each other, and that can only be accomplished face to face. We must learn to follow up our online meetings with personal contact - meet for lunch or coffee, attend Meetup or Chamber meetings, and so on. Even if you are shy of meeting new people, it's vital to form personal relationships to foster the business relationships. In needing to sell myself as the end product and have people like and trust me, it was my conversations and relationship-building that netted results.
I encourage you [good word . . ."en-courage" . . . to instill courage] to think about your friends, family and business associates as the knots in a great net of potential clients. Each knot leads to another thread which leads to another knot. Follow the threads, and network your way to success. And of course, if you need help uncovering your network, I know a great administrative / research assistant who'd love to help you - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Is there a Land of the Paper Mountain? For a lot of folks, they visit that mountain every day - it's on their desk! Don't set fire to it - put it away! Oh stop complaining, you can do it, I know that you can. Here, I'll help.
I offered some tips in an earlier blog about file management on your computer. It's the same principle on paper, except that you have to have a place to put paper. First step? Um, get a place to put the paper. Duh. Depending on the size of your mountain, buy a file cabinet, get one of the many organizational systems in office supply stores, or if you must, use boxes. You'll need hanging file folders and manila or colored folders too. If you want to get fancy, buy yourself some folder labels to write or type on. One thing you can't buy - patience! It's an easy task, but it does take time.
So now take a deep breath. Get a piece of paper and think about the major categories of things you need to file, whether you're a business or you're handling home filing. For example: Building/House, Utilities, Insurance, Warranties, Car, Computer, Taxes, Telephone, Legal, etc. Each of those categories is your major division point. Think then about what goes into each of those. For building or house (business or home), you'll want a file for maintenance, roof, snow removal, plumbing (structural, repairs, etc), electrical (likewise), and any other topics for which you have paperwork. These are all items that need to be taken care of for the structure, the operations of your business. Obviously you'll have more or less, or entirely different categories than what I'm listing.
For Utilities, you'll want the actual monthly invoices. You can split them into categories if you wish - it depends on how many records you have to manage. For Computer, perhaps instruction manuals, warranty information, receipts, etc. You get the idea. Go through each major category and write down the subdivisions that make sense to you.
After you have this figured out, get a hanging file folder and label it with one of your major categories. Label the manila folders with the subdivisions and put them in the hanging folder. Go through and get all your files made and put away.
Now the fun! No, put down the matches - I told you we're NOT having Filing Flambe! Take the top piece of paper on the mountain and decide where it goes. Is it a letter about an inspection? Is it a paid utility bill? Is it a special offer for travel? Put it in the appropriate place. Rinse......repeat. If you go through everything that's loose around the office (or home) and categorize it this way, you'll find that the mountain has indeed become a molehill!
Now of course the key is to maintain order. Promptly file all paid bills you need to keep. Put away new reference manuals or equipment information as soon as you get them. If you keep on this weekly (or less often if you have less paper) you'll have an orderly office all the time.
I've seen files that were labeled with the name of the item within it. I've seen files that were too general. I've seen files that make sense only to the person who set them up. The key, especially in a business setting, is that by using the kind of sorting I've described, absolutely anyone can find what they need.
As always, if you just can't handle it and need someone to come to the mountain, I know a fabulous, ORGANIZED assistant who can help you: Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.