A Creative Visual Resume

In response to this recent blog post, a friend forwarded me a copy of a resume he recently worked up (and, yes, it helped him get a new position!) – I thought it was quite creative and visually appealing, so I’m sharing it with you.

Identifying information about specific companies has been greyed out, but underneath the grey boxes are corporate logos. It was a nice touch.

My friend used wordle.net to generate the word cloud, and Google docs to create graphs and charts. Nice and simple.

Click to biggify—->

(Page 1 of the resume has a nice pic of the candidate with contact info and the word cloud; page 2 has the other info. I’ve joined the elements into one graphic).

So, what do you think of this approach? Would you use it, as a job candidate? Would it get your attention, as a hiring manager? Also – if you’ve seen other examples on-line of creative resumes, please add links to them in the comments!

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> Don’t Do These Three Things on LinkedIn

Does Your Resume Have A Missing Narrative?

I’m reviewing a resume for a friend, and it’s got a lot of great stuff. Solid and multi-faceted experience, a diversity of roles, evidence of solid talent.

But it’s missing something – something crucial that most resumes and LinkedIn profiles seem to lack.

An overall narrative.

A conversation this week with a solo consultant also brought this issue to the surface. He’s been doing a lot of different projects since being out on his own, but there’s really no storyline to tie it together. Current work, past roles, future direction – they don’t paint a clear picture.

We humans are hard-wired for stories. We want things to fit into an overall progression, showing steps toward a destination and the evolution of the main character. Other people relate to us through our narratives.

Our careers – our lives – have a narrative. Our challenge is to tie it all together and trace the story.

For most of us, the story is not all fairy-tale and unicorns. That’s OK. No-one can relate to that kind of faux narrative anyway. But your many experiences as a professional always have an interesting story to tell (hint: the plot is always progress, through finding your core strengths and progressively succeeding).

Resumes with lists and bullet points are forgettable commodities. Your story, however, is unique. And no-one can tell it better than you!

My Career Fragmentation Story

In a prior post (De-Fragmenting Your Business), I introduced the imagery of fragmentation to describe how, over time, our professional identities can become cloudy and unclear. Ever feel like your career has been full of bits and pieces that don’t entirely make sense together? Yeah – that!

Have I been through this? Indeed! So…let’s use my pinball-like career history as a brief case study to illustrate the process of both fragmentation and (eventual) illumination…

First, I should say that I have held many jobs that had little to do with pursuit of a career direction – like many younger folks, I exchanged time and effort for a paycheck doing things like delivering newspapers, working a McDonald’s grill, cleaning bathrooms, bagging groceries, construction, and waiting on tables. I even worked in a plastics factory one summer. Now THAT was unfulfilling (and malodorous)!

Actually, the second summer I worked at a McDonald’s, so did the woman who would become my wife. So don’t despise any work, OK? :>}

My first real career job was in sales – specifically, high-tech radiation medicine equipment. I took that job for one simple reason – money. Turns out I was smart enough to learn the field and the equipment, and persistent enough to make sales. That job also began to bring out something that was nascent in my makeup – a talent for marketing and messaging. But I was an introvert, I was not highly confident, I was task-oriented more than people-oriented – really, I wasn’t much of a salesperson. I was not driven by numbers, had little of that killer instinct, and I had to learn how to become outgoing. I did earn trust, however, which can partially make up for a multitude of weaknesses. Eventually I started managing a small field force, but that also was not a strong suit. The whole sales/management role thing was like walking in a pair of shoes that never really fit. Been there?

Around the end of my 10 years there, the world wide web showed up. I was hooked. Without any guidance or mandate, I learned basic HTML and created the company’s first website. Instantaneous, global, visual communication? I was all-in! And I wanted to get deeper into that world for my next career step.

So, I learned that I could handle technical stuff, I enjoyed marketing, and I saw the potential for digital communications. Also, years before, I had gotten an initial taste of what personal strength/makeup assessment was all about. That continued to fascinate my analytical makeup.

The next position, with a software company servicing the pharmaceutical industry, allowed me to continue to get my geek on, and to grow more in the marketing arena. But my primary responsibility was still sales, and I did my best to create new business. However, partway into my 10-year tenure there, we hired a REAL salesperson, and as I watched her in action, I finally realized something – I’m not wired as a classic sales person at all. Hello, mis-matched role! Actually, turns out that I’m a problem-solver. I’m consultative. I like designing new solutions. And, in this job, I got to also taste software design, project management, corporate leadership, strategic alliance development, enterprise IT collaboration – all of which helped me to clarify what was, and wasn’t, in my DNA.

Social media began to dawn during the latter half of my time there, and once again, I saw the future. In some way not yet definable, I knew that a large shift was underway, and I needed to be part of it. And I was beginning to understand more of what my sweet spot truly was. I compulsively saw holes in the marketplace, and couldn’t stop thinking of creative new ways to solve business challenges.

I was a consultant-communicator-builder – who loved digital.

What was happening during these years was both a fragmentation (trying to perform in a variety of differing roles and titles) and a refinement (this I can do; that I cannot do; this I can do really well). My conclusion since then is that many of us can do 8-10 things adequately, but there are typically 1-2 (maybe 3) things that we truly love, and do exceptionally well. It took a long time to figure that out – in all the fragments of ore, our main job is to find our unique nuggets of gold and run with them.

It was my intention 6 years ago to build a company around my specific strengths and long-term vision, and to put aside the fragments that weren’t core. So, my current solopreneur job is designed around me. I consult, I build opportunity networks, and I’m a vendor/client matchmaker. And, in the process of working with a variety of vendors, I discovered something else that had been slowly simmering over my entire career – I am an intuitive identity analyst who can help people and companies discover their DNA and brand themselves. Now my sweet spot has become clear: assess purpose; distill message; define opportunities; connect with targeted others. Or, to put it another way – helping individuals and businesses de-fragment and gain clarity about their sweet spot!

It took a looooong time for that train to arrive at the station.

Lots of trial-and-error over many years got me to those four verbs (assess, distill, define, connect). Various roles and titles  brought certain strengths to the surface, while also creating the discomfort of mis-matched capabilities. And many good friends along the way gave objective input to help gain a 20/20 view. I believe that some level of pinball-like experience is likely for most of us, but many individuals and businesses never seem to get to the point of sorting through the fragments and refining down to a clear roadmap. And addressing that problem is the passion that burns in my soul.

Why should any of us – individuals or businesses – settle for working at 30%, or 40%, or 50% of our true capacity? What is stopping us from finding our sweet spot and prospering there, instead of floundering elsewhere? I really don’t think it’s an exaggeration to view the fog of fragmentation as one of the biggest threats to productivity in our entire economy. Too many great people are adrift in mis-matched roles, and too many companies are doing the wrong kinds of work. Maybe we can get that right first, then worry about six sigma and team-building exercises later!

So, that’s my story of fragmentation and gradual illumination. There’s a massive relief when you can distill down to the key verbs that reflect your strength, and also plug in the right coordinates into your professional GPS.

Do your career shoes fit yet? Do yourself a favor – get there quicker than I did!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> De-Fragmenting Your Business

Want To Be Taken Seriously As A Consultant? Don’t Do This.

The last thing you want to do is blow up your own message – right?

It may sound old-school, but: yes, spelling matters.

For crying out loud, the squiggly line is telling you to spell-check. No only do you fail to do so, you actually use the screen shot highlighting your error??

This, in an article about how to be a high-priced consultant.

Here’s STEP 10 – Don’t shoot yourself in the foot if you’re trying to run a race.

(now, off to spell-check this blog post before pressing Publish….!)

De-Fragmenting Your Business

As I talk in-depth to small business people (including consultants), I am seeing a pattern over and over again. I think it may actually be endemic for most businesses. Fragmentation.

(apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!)

What do I mean? Well, over time, offerings become more diverse or less focused (sometimes in response to a rapidly-evolving marketplace), and messages get muddled. Soon, customers are really not sure what we do anymore – instead of being the default “go-to” for some very specific service or product, we’re…a supplier of something, broadly speaking.

In fact, this fragmentation subtly leads us into the habit of broadly speaking, instead of having a precise message. And, like a hard drive with too much scattered data, our messaging becomes inefficient. Hence, the need for regular de-fragmentation.

I see this in larger settings as well, such as pharmaceutical training departments. Courses, programs, workshops – they get added over time to address specific needs, and where once there may have been a strategically-designed curriculum, now there is fragmentation – particularly in a fast-evolving setting.

In fact, this is common among individuals – people who reach a point in their career where they’ve done a bunch of things, but are no longer clear on what their true core competencies and their ideal direction really are. Personal/professional fragmentation.

Have you experienced this? What have you done to de-frag your business and get back to a clear focus?

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> Don’t Do These Three Things on LinkedIn

Branding the Flag

I’m going to really step in it today, but a (political/branding) discussion with strong feelings is already brewing, and maybe we can attempt to have a reasonable conversation about it.

Think with me for a few minutes.

Yesterday, on the Barack Obama twitter feed, the following tweet appeared, with a link leading to the image shown below:

(one of several posters you can order for $35.00)

My immediate reaction was one of being offended, a sentiment shared by many others, judging from the on-line reaction. This is hardly, of course, the first time that the American flag has been artistically altered in some fashion. However, the immediate message that this graphic sent to me was that we Americans are to be united under Mr. Obama. The replacement of the 50 stars and the 13 stripes (representing people and states united under a Constitution), seemed jarring and presumptuous. If a big Romney R were in the upper left corner, I’d feel the same way. From a branding perspective, should it not be obvious that this approach would offend many who feel a deep reverence for the American flag? How would people in the Armed Services feel about seeing this rendition?

You. Just. Don’t. Do. That. Or so it seemed to me on the gut reaction level.

But that’s my reaction. And I’m interested to know how others feel. I’m going to encourage you to add your comment, but here are the ground rules:

1. In one sentence, describe your gut emotional reaction to this graphic and approach, in one of three ways: Offensive, Neutral, Positive.

2. In that same sentence or perhaps one other, explain why you feel that way.

On this blog, we talk a lot about branding, and a lot about condensed and vivid messaging. Political campaigns are all about that. I’d like to know how others respond to altered flag imagery.

DO NOT go off on a political rampage about Romney, Obama, Bush, Iraq, the deficit, Putin, Ayn Rand, or whatever – those arguments are raging everywhere and this blog isn’t the place for it. Don’t go on a bashing rampage about “the other” political party. I’ll delete such comments. Let’s keep it to a discussion of this one issue about use of American flag imagery in this particular instance. If you have longer-form thoughts about artistic use of flag imagery in general, you might want to have that discussion on your own blog. Agreed?

Go!

Book Review: Fierce Loyalty

There are any number of books – thousands, really – that will give you advice on how to build a business. But nowadays, that’s not enough. How do you build a community?

That’s the topic Sarah Robinson is addressing in a brief but meaty e-book called Fierce Loyalty. I talk a lot about professional DNA at the individual level – Sarah scales up to examine something equally vital: the DNA of successful communities.

From a summary of the book:

Building and sustaining a fiercely loyal community of clients, customers and raving fans is critical for success in today’s turbulent marketplace. Organizations, both corporate and non-profit, that are thriving have discovered a secret – the underlying DNA shared by all wildly successful communities. Fierce Loyalty unlocks this secret DNA and lays out a clear model that any organization of any size can follow.

Business strategist Sarah Robinson helps you break down the process and gives you clear, specific steps for a fiercely loyal community squarely in the center of your business plan. Drawing on her own extensive experience as well as her research into the inner working of some of the most successful communities around, Sarah de-mystifies the process and gives an actionable model along with real-world case studies and action steps designed to make Fierce Loyal happen in your organization.

This is not a dry, drawn-out business book. It has a more personal and informal tone, and is more suggestive (demonstrating a framework of community-building) than exhaustive (300 pages of mind-numbing research, quotes, examples, and fluff – you know that drill!)

Speaking of practical and down-to-earth, I particularly like this perspective, right up front on page 10: I learned one very important lesson as I took on the challenges of my first job. It’s a lesson that will help you face your own challenges as you build Fierce Loyalty. Once you grasp it, you’ll use it again and again and it will propel you forward no matter what stands in your path. That lesson was and is: make a decision. Every day, decide that a fiercely loyal community is your goal, no matter what.

Sarah outlines the details of fiercely loyal community creation into these 5 building blocks:

  1. A Captivating Common Interest
  2. People Who Share this Common Interest
  3. A Set of Compelling Needs
  4. A Specific Organizational Structure
  5. Advanced Evolution of the Community

I won’t give any more away, but if you need an excerpt to whet your appetite – well, click right here!

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this book, nor are any links above affiliate links. I do think highly of Sarah and her work, however! And, she did provide me with a free copy of the e-book to review.

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

Four Reasons Why I Bought a Ford This Weekend

This weekend, I did something I don’t believe I’ve ever done before.

I went to a Ford dealer and bought a Ford automobile.

We tried getting by with our two cars but, with 2 high-school age kids and the ever-growing list of places-to-go and people-to-see, we finally had to make an addition. The odd fact is, that I never even bothered seriously considering another make of car this time around. This, from someone whose last few business cars were all Mazdas and whose family van is currently a Toyota.

Why? Let me give you four simple reasons:

1. Quality. I don’t care what the item is, or what the argument for domestic production is, if you’re not high-quality, you don’t earn my business. Ford has been making great strides in this area, enough that they slowly but surely edged back onto my radar screen. When my 18-year old and I took a test drive in a gently used 2010 Fusion, we were quite impressed (at the top of his list: the sound system, and the cool blue vanity lighting in the cupholders!)

2. Scott Monty. Scott is Ford’s social media guru, though I became acquainted with him back in 2007 or 2008, before his tenure with Ford. Scott has done a great job putting a more human face on a venerable American institution, and that goodwill (earned over time) translated into, not only consideration, but strong leaning, when it was time to make a purchase. It pays to hire good people. If you’re keeping score, President and CEO Alan Mulally: +1, Scott Monty.

3. Principle. Ford had the guts to refuse the government bailout years ago. While Chrysler and General Motors decided to become state-run institutions (or facsimiles thereof), Ford held to free-market principles. Thousands of us Americans never forgot that, and when it was time to make a purchase this weekend, guess which two companies were not even in the running? Granted, Ford is not some perfect company filled with angelic beings, nor are the employees of GM and Chrysler the spawn of evil. I reserve the right to re-consider GM products in the future, of course – but only if and when they are no longer a ward of the federal government. It’s not personal – it’s principle.

4. Referral. My entire solopreneur business model is based on trusted referrals. When I reached out on Facebook about my upcoming decision, a good friend (thanks, Janice!) recommended that I deal with Tommy Garcia over at Wayne (NJ) Ford. They also said that the General Manager (Troy Mol) was great. I reached out on-line and got an immediate and friendly response from Milca Irizarry, and meeting each of them over at the dealership was a pleasure. Purchasing cars can be a dreadful experience. My time at Wayne Ford has, without a doubt, helped advance my view of the Ford brand. If you’re keeping score, Mr. Mulally: +3, Wayne Ford.

I am not going to change the world of business by one little car purchase, or through any of my social media rants about it (e.g., here and here). But this entire experience simply reinforces the power of what should be obvious, in any business. Make great stuff. Do the right thing. Hire the right people. Treat customers right. And the end result will be the vein of gold that every business seeks – enthusiastic referrals. And sometimes, very public commendations…

(lest there be fuel for cynics, so let me say up-front that I have received no financial or other consideration for writing this post. I just believe in telling it like it is – and that includes the good stuff when it is earned!)

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

>> How I Manage My Introversion

Discovering Your Professional DNA

Wouldn’t it be nice if each of us, at age 20, got a personalized report and one-on-one counseling session detailing exactly what our professional capabilities and strengths are? What a time- and trouble-saver! “We’ve sequenced your professional DNA, Jacqueline, and here is the career arc you should pursue…”

Dream on.

The reality is, we tend to discover our professional DNA by a trial-and-error process. We move from job to job, finding out what types of roles and work environments seem to bring out the best (or worst) in us.

Some people stumble into their life’s work early on, but for most of us, the process looks something like this:

(horizontal axis equals time; vertical axis represents nearness to DNA sweet spot; blocks represent different job roles)

We often focus on climbing the ladder of bigger titles and higher salaries, when our first priority should be discovering our true purpose and identity. You’ve seen people who absolutely flourish in their roles, right? They’ve hit their sweet spot. Yet many others feel that they’re trapped, working at maybe 50% capacity, and spending far too much time in the grey than the blue (referencing my Ugly Graphic above).

Sadly, some never come to understand what their true potential is, or become stuck in a mis-matched job role with diminishing chances of escape. This happened to my Dad and it set me on a determined quest not to end up in that same position. Hence my passion for Clarity Therapy.

Apple will announce its new iPhone 5 today. What if you rushed out to buy it, with maximum memory and a 2-year data plan, all for the sole use of making one 5-minute phone call a day to check on your daughter in college. Would that be best use of its real potential? That’s what happens when we settle for less than discovering our unique professional DNA, and designing our career around it.

We often need assessments (<–great story!), and outside expertise, to help us figure ourselves out. Take the time to do it. It’s your future. No-one else should be designing it. That’s your role!

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your Sweet Spot

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

I don’t know how many times I’ve thought (and said), “Most business books are 30-50% too long.

It’s not that there isn’t value in the content. It’s just that the reader has a lot of work to do in order to distill it. Can’t we buy 100-proof books instead?

This appears to be the approach of SlimBooks. So, when Sarah Evans announced that her new book, [Re]Frame, was available through SlimBooks, I had to check it out. Not only because I think highly of Sarah, but also because of the SlimBooks format.

I like what I’m seeing.

The era of quick and simple electronic publishing is well underway; traditional publishing is being thoroughly disrupted. With ventures like Seth Godin‘s Domino Project and Tim SandersNet Minds, we’ll continue to see innovative new way to introduce voices into the marketplace. SlimBooks looks like a great addition to the mix – it seems to me like a perfect format for at least two types of books:

  1. Nugget collections
  2. Distilled, focused content (without all the fluff)

Sarah’s book falls into the first category. It is a series of brief thoughts, drawn from her life and business experience. It’s the kind of book designed for a quick pep talk each morning, helping you “re-frame” how you look at challenges and opportunities. It’s folksy, practical, personal, and to the point. And, importantly, it’s Sarah – not some unrecognizable version of Sarah fitting into a pre-baked business book format.

Worth $4.95? Sure. [Re]Frame will probably provide greater value to those earlier on in their career arc, but I already found myself musing a new blog post based on the idea contained in the chapter, Be An Owner (a “chapter” in this book being, typically, 1.5 pages!)

As someone for whom distillation of content and ideas seems to be a DNA-level blessing/curse, the potential for the second type of book fascinates me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I think traditional books don’t refine the gold very well, and leave us with far too much ore. I suspect that there are many potential authors out there, who have valuable ideas but for whom the traditional publishing format (both writing and business) is a mismatch. It will be interesting to see new voices liberated through the availability of a platform that approaches content in a different manner.

Will we see a spate of new “diet” books? I hope so – as long as the content is nutritious and the extra calories are left out!

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> How I Manage My Introversion

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

Do Introverts Have a Pulse?

Being wired as an introvert is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it has tremendous advantages – we all, as a society, simply need to better understand how introverts (typically) operate with their built-in makeup (for background, see my post last week: How I Manage My Introversion).

We may be quieter, but yes, we do have a pulse, thank you very much!

There are several helpful ways to better understand how introverts handle the stimulation of human relationships (compared to their more extroverted companions). In fact, one way is to think about relational involvement in terms of pulses.

One pattern common to introverts is a need to withdraw for periods of quiet and solitude. While extroverts tend to feed off of a steady stream of human contact, introverts typically are wired with a more frequently-used On-Off switch. When “On” with other people, introverts can appear little different from extroverts – we can be engaging, outgoing, and glad to talk to people (though often tending to favor smaller groupings or one-on-one discussions rather than the milling crowd). But our cup of interaction fills up pretty rapidly – we may have a coffee mug’s worth of interaction capacity, while our extroverted friends have a super-sized Slurpee-cup-capacity to mingle and chat.

We introverts then need a break to process and re-charge. Introverts often prefer to handle stimulation in a pulsed fashion, with more On-Off control, while extroverts are typically energized by higher levels of human contact.

Not being an extrovert, I cannot speak with as much certainty, but I suspect the red bars would tend to be significantly higher and wider, while the blue bars might be a bit lower and narrower – and the green “quiet times” probably shorter and less frequent. What do you think?

(by the way – I fully realize that I’m generalizing in any post like this, and that there are always variations and individual exceptions. What we’re seeking to identify here are broad trends!)

Introverts aren’t being anti-social when they avoid some social settings (or feel the need to spend a shorter time in them). We’re just instinctively avoiding overload, and taking the time to think through what we’ve seen and heard. In my particular case, my mind is constantly analyzing, atomizing, systematizing, categorizing, figuring out alternatives – and I’m learning to give myself that space. It doesn’t stop me from in-depth interactions, pro-actively building an extensive network, selling my services, speaking publicly – but that all has to occur in pulses, or the boat becomes unbalanced and starts to totter.

If  you tend more toward extroversion, hopefully this will help you understand those of us who seem to need more quiet. If you’re an introvert – what are your strategies for keeping up a healthy pulse?

(Light switch image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net Ugly graph: I take full responsibility)

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> How I Manage My Introversion

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

Finding Your Sweet Spot

For some, work is simply an exchange of time for money, living for the weekend when the real fun begins. But for many of us, work is a crucial piece of the puzzle of maximizing our potential. This post is for the latter group.

The holy grail of a career that brings together our abilities, our greatest value to others, and an ongoing sense of deep fulfillment is often found only after a long process of trial-and-error (if it is found at all). Along the way, we yearn to find the sweet spot – that place and role where we really fit. I often think of the process as like a pinball machine – while we’d love to think that our lives proceed along a nice, straight, well-planned arc, the reality is that we often bounce from here to there, learning along the way what works well and what doesn’t. I worked in Sales for many years before concluding that I’m really not a naturally gifted salesperson. By the same token, I can now look back (in retrospect) and see that certain of my marketing instincts were present, though unrecognized, way back in my teens. It took a long while for them to surface professionally.

So, if you’ve found your sweet spot (or if you’re on the journey), what has helped you to begin to see your “fit” more clearly? Was it wise counsel from a friend or co-worker? Was it a particular book (for me, the book Now, Discover Your Strengths was absolutely revolutionary)? A formal personality inventory/assessment? Was it just the ongoing analysis of circumstances and performance over time that helped you see your personal and professional bulls-eye?

I believe that one of our highest life challenges is finding our sweet spot and running our best course. I also know that many people in their 30′s, 40′s, and 50′s are still searching, still asking what they’re going to do when they grow up. Tell your story in the comments – and, how would you advise others? Let’s discuss – I’m very curious to see how others have moved toward their bulls-eye in life.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Following Your Passion: A Story

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

How I Manage My Introversion

I’m happy to be an introvert. Maybe I wasn’t always so sanguine about this aspect of my internal wiring – in fact, most of my life, I guess I felt somewhat inferior to my more extroverted earth-dwellers – but not any more!

(What is, and isn’t, introversion? Read this excellent summary post by Lisa Petrilli – also, Lisa’s e-book on the subject is extremely helpful: The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

A tendency toward introversion is quite common – anywhere from a third to a half of the population tends toward the “Quiet Side.” While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around other people, introverts recharge through being alone with their thoughts. The introvert is usually not the life of the party, but the person having an earnest one-on-one conversation in the corner (and secretly wishing to be away from the noise and chaos). Extroverts will tend to speak first, and organize their thoughts later; introverts often pause to carefully consider their words.

It’s not easy being an introvert in a world that tends to value extroversion (the theme of a superb book on introversion by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

So, how have I worked with and worked around this tendency over the years? A few thoughts:

  1. Above all else, the primary step is to embrace it. We can’t change our fundamental wiring, and why should we? A tendency to walk on the quiet side often leads to fountains of creativity, richness of perspective, and relational depth. In Lisa’s book referenced above, she tells the story of how our friendship and professional collaboration blossomed on the foundation of shared introversion. I can remember way back to my high school days feeling an aversion to loud groups and superficial chatter, and wondering what my problem was. Actually, there was no problem. My style is different – and goes deep instead of wide. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING!
  2. Also, I’ve learned to have realistic expectations. I can only take so much people-time before I have to back away, and I now give myself permission to retreat. I have learned to become outgoing and pro-active, but I’ll never feel at home in a loud, crowded schmooze-setting. I’ll always look for the quiet corner and try to find an individual or small group.
  3. I use social media extensively as my relationship-building bridge. I have “pre-met” so many wonderful people using on-line networking, which removes the awkward stage when we finally meet face-to-face. Nowadays, first-time in-real-life meetings are like reunions, because on-line networking has allowed me to get through the first layer of introduction. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more video Skype calls to move past introduction and start getting in-depth with people in ways that could never happen randomly at a party or a conference. I think digital social networking was created for introverts!
  4. I ask a lot of questions. Introverts tend to be better at this. By focusing on the other person and trying to understand, you often can bring a surprisingly amount of value and kindred-ness to a person who drowns in the sea of surrounding superficiality. Sometimes, by playing this very natural role, you can bring surprising levels of comfort and healing and wisdom, even in a brand-new relationship.
  5. I’ve disciplined myself to be outgoing. Not extroverted – outgoing. Introverts can seem (or be) anti-social at times, and I’ve made a lifelong commitment to be pro-active to the point that, now, it’s pretty natural. I still have a hard time making small talk with seatmates on airplane flights, however. My default setting there is to retreat into my own reading and my own thoughts. That’s a tough one!

As with any other tendency, there can be a dark side to introversion. Tendencies to insecurity, analysis-paralysis, or depression. All of these things need to be seen clearly and managed, sometimes with the help of both introverted and extroverted friends. But my main point in all this is to state unequivocally: Introversion is not a curse. It is not a problem. It is not a weakness. Introverts can lead, and can speak effectively in public. It’s actually pretty wonderful to be introvert-ish, noisy parties notwithstanding. And if you see me in a crowded social setting, looking around a bit awkwardly, then pull me off to a corner and let’s talk about it…!

For further reading (and aren’t these a couple of beautiful introvert-authors?):

(affiliate links to these books on Amazon: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership).

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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