The New Year is a perfect time for a fresh start. About 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions each year, and while most of these resolutions are related to self-improvement, losing weight and managing money better, some are focused on career. Yet statistics show that just eight percent are successful in achieving New Year’s resolutions. What is the key for those 8% success? They key may just be an ability to form a strategic plan and visualize a new approach.
Jackie and I met one afternoon for coffee after she called sounding very distraught and confused. In December (2014), her company reorganized and she lost her job. She is a single mother of two children with no support from the father, which means she carries the full responsibility for her family. Jackie received 8 weeks of severance pay and was upset at her company and scared to death. It’s understandable that Jackie was upset, but her emotions were keeping her from taking a practical approach to her situation. When I suggested she start making her plan, like most people she wasn’t sure how to begin. So we started with a list.
I asked her to write down her objectives and goals for the year. We looked at several things:
- Her previous job
- Potential comparable jobs utilizing her skill sets
- Temporary jobs that could hold her over
- Opportunities for her to cut expenses
When we got to the objectives regarding comparable jobs that would use her skill set, it became very evident that Jackie had never considered jobs that were different than what her last role as technical operator in a broadcast company. However, there weren’t many jobs available for this type of specific role. So rather than focus on that job, we began to explore the skills that she had developed to see if we could apply them to a different role.
Jackie also had great soft skills – she was very organized and personable, plus she understood the broadcast industry with the software and tools that are used. Until this point, she had not thought about how important these skills would be to her job search. So we discussed potential alternative jobs that would leverage these skills such as:
- Customer support for the vendor of the software packages that she knew.
- Administrative assistant to a technical executive where she could utilize her technical aptitude and possibly help with project work within the department.
- Industry consulting firms that help organizations establish process and procedures within the technical area for clients.
- Possibly training others in the software that she has learned.
- She also considered working for herself in some capacity utilizing her skills and knowledge.
It became clear to Jackie, that there were far more options than she had originally considered – but she had to visualize a different approach. We took each option and wrote down the pros/cons/next steps to move forward.
Through this exercise her plan began to crystallize and she saw how to attack each area, one step at a time. As part of this action plan, we talked about getting the word out to her network that she was exploring new opportunities, so that she could leverage their insights in her search. We also discussed broadening her network (and possibly skill sets) by volunteering for organizations that would place her in the environments that would help her to meet others in the industry.
One Jackie could see formulate her professional plan, it was time to address her personal plan: her family needs and the operations of her household. I mentioned to her, “Remember, you are the CEO of your company called HOME. You must put all pieces together to move forward.” This included:
- Financial plans – including a thorough review of the family budget;
- Strategic plans for each member of the family. She had started her plan, but she also needed to identify what her kids needed and visualize the plan to meet those needs.
- Operations plans for how to operate on a daily basis;
When she started approaching her home life with a methodical, business-like approach, something wonderful happened. She stopped feeling so angry with her previous employer and realized that the decision to eliminate her job (and others) was not a personal decision meant to harm her – but an objective decision made in the best interest of the company. This was a huge step forward – not for the company’s sake, but for Jackie’s. This allowed her to let go of some of the bad feelings about what had happened, and move forward toward her next career move. This was great to see!
As we examined her list, she began to differentiate between her family’s necessities and indulgences. She knew that by eliminating some of those “wants” her budget would be extended, and she knew it would not be forever – but for the time being. She was amazed that by cutting those expenses out, she was able to save an extra 20% per month of her disposable income!
Jackie’s children were her priority, and losing this job put her further away from a goal she had been working toward – sending them to private school. This was not an option now, but she wanted the best education for them – and public school was not offering her kids all that she felt they needed.
We discussed alternatives and I tried to help her visualize new approached to supplementing their education without spending money she didn’t have. I asked what she could do for her kids – and she put together a plan for reading in the evenings, using free computer games for math and language online, etc. She actually created a supplemental program for the kids in the evenings and weekends.
The last piece of her puzzle was a logistics plan. She was struggling with getting her kids to after school events and sports practice, etc. so we listed friends and neighbors who might also need help and be willing to trade off and work as a team. Jackie was thrilled with the plan and looking forward to starting it.
To make sure this logistics plan would work, Jackie took the time to create a calendar. As you know, when you write down your plan and consistently follow it, you are more likely to keep it up. Jackie wrote down everything in her schedule for her and the kids. She included chores that the kids could help with and processes for checking their progress with the supplemental educational tools.
By the time we were finished with our coffee, Jackie finally had a plan in place to work and accomplish her goals. She was thrilled. By redirecting her energy from feeling bad about her lost career path, she was able to develop a strong, strategic plan, visualize a new approach and take a positive step in the direction of a great year and even better future.
Stay tuned for update on Jackie’s plan and success for 2015.