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I spent the last couple of hours speaking with several VocationVacation and Brian Kurth + Company clients.  The energy with all three clients was running high….positivity was abound….and I could feel my adrenaline rushing with theirs.  All three were so excited about their progress in finding or creating a great career and balance it all with life including family, friends, hobbies, etc.  Such a great start to a Friday.

And then I asked the question to all three clients, “What will you do if/when you get to the point that you are about to collapse out of exhaustion as you approach the finish line to finding or creating your ideal career and life/work balance?”

Well, wasn’t I just Mr. Debby Downer, huh?

Not at all.  The sense of exhaustion and questioning, “Is this career transition REALLY going to happen?” is a natural step in the process for many (not all) people.  This morning’s clients are like marathon runners at mile post #21.  They’re going strong.  But three miles later, by mile post #24, they might start questioning things a bit as they can SEE the end of the marathon ahead but are starting to wonder if they’ll truly make it to mile post #26 as their lungs and legs are feeling the pain and are simply tired.  The answer is, “yes, they will make it”.  But they need to keep several things in mind.

Here are my 3 Top Tips to Making It To The Career Search Finish Line if you hit a bit of burn-out:

1.  Don’t look so far ahead.  Stop looking at the finish line.  Instead, just look at what’s immediately in front of you versus what’s ahead months or years ahead.  I’m not saying that planning ahead isn’t important.  It is.  But sometimes you simply need to recognize where you are right now and acknowledge your successful progression from where you came from versus looking at what’s still ahead.

My past client, Sandy Huddle, recently sent me an email update and she NAILED exactly what I’m talking about.  She is making a career transition from working in the insurance industry for the past 23 years to becoming a Video/TV/Film Producer after having gone back to school several years ago.  She recently felt the pain of being so close to the finish line with college and looking forward to her new career — when she hit a bit of a wall.  Her comments below are full of sage advice and inspiration:

“I started this whole journey in October of 2006 – it’s been a long, exhausting, and ABSOLUTELY incredible experience. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned, experienced, and grown…I’ll be honest, it hasn’t always been easy or without some challenges.  The challenges are mostly internal where I have to remember to be patient with myself and provide some positive self talk.  My present mantra, courtesy of actress Janet McTeer, is “Someone has to succeed. There’s no reason why it can’t be me.”  I’m still taking it one day at a time, staying very much in the present and perhaps taking a peak at tomorrow. I try not to set my sights too far in the future or ponder on how many classes I have to go.”

2.  It’s the journey, stupid (remember Bill Clinton’s sign in his office, “It’s the economy, stupid”?).  Keep in mind that the root in the word, transition, is “transit”.  Yes, a career transition IS a journey, folks.  Enjoy the path as best you can.  Sandy Huddle also added some sage advice to fellow transitioners when she said in her email to me:

“…It’s the journey not the arrival that matters.  I am so grateful for having walked through my fear and taking that first step on a new journey that has unlocked my creativity and allowed me to pursue my dream.”

We ALL need to be reminded of the journey versus the destination from time to time.

3.  Blind faith can buy you time.  OK, you got me: Blind faith does not buy much else other than time.  True enough.  But time is your friend when in a career transition.  Career change often doesn’t happen overnight.  It truly is much more of a marathon than a sprint.  Simply believing that you will SOMEHOW cross the finish line and find or create your perfect career will get you far.  You might not know exactly how it will occur or look.  Or when.  And the ideal career and life/work balance might be a bit nuanced from the point that you started your marathon.  It’s OK.  Simply be open to the possibilities.  Perhaps it’s the dream job with the dream company — but in a different city in which you end up loving to live.  Or perhaps you want to become a chocolatier but along your marathon you realized that you also want to incorporate a coffee house into your business plan.  It’s all good.  Be open to the tweaks that will come your way.  Be open to blind faith and you’ll be surprised what will land in your lap.

Those are my three top tips….but you may have more suggestions….please give your thoughts!

Keeping the dreams alive,

Brian

Please excuse some shameless self-promotion but here’s what my publicist has to say….
Brian Kurth is an innovative career transition expert, TV contributor, entrepreneur, author and a sought-after speaker.  Brian has provided career mentorship, transition and reinvention (MTR) advice on CNBC, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NBC’s TODAY Show and National Public Radio (NPR), and has been featured in articles in O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Fortune, Men’s Journal, and Black Enterprise Magazine, just to name a few.  Brian founded VocationVacations in 2004 and Brian Kurth + Company in 2008.  He is the author of “Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding And Creating The Work You Love” – Hachette, 2008.

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I am a corporate refugee.  I got laid off from a corporate job in September, 2001.  I decided to take some time off to decide what my game plan was.  I flew to the Canadian Rockies from Chicago to relax a bit.  That was on Sept 10, 2001.  Luckily, I was in no way directly impacted by 9/11….but the horrible events DID confirm my desire to be an entrepreneur.  Life is indeed short, I thought.  Now was my time to really explore my passions.

Amazingly, almost eight years have passed.  I did become an entrepreneur.  And, on the most part, I truly love it.  When I get asked the question by either my VocationVacations or Brian Kurth + Company career consulting clients if I think they should become an entrepreneur, I always “answer” them with a set of questions.  I will share them with you now.

5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

1.  Can I live like a student again?

Seriously.  I’m not talking about downgrading one’s car from a Mercedes to a Suburu.  We’re talking about driving your existing car into the ground.  I’m talking about a night out on the town is a $10 Thai dinner with a $4 beer versus a high-end restaurant and an evening at the symphony or going to an NFL game.  Vacation?  Your business is now your vacation.  Rather than booking a trip to Hawaii in January, you’re going to need to simply take a day off from your business and find a wonderfully, relaxing thing to do much closer to your hometown.  The bottom line is that you need to cut back ALL expenses if you are going to become an entrepreneur.  Regardless of how much money you have in the bank.  Because you know what?  Being an entrepreneur takes a minimum of TWICE as long and TWICE as much money/savings as you will ever plan.  Trust me on that.  I know first hand.

2.  How strong is my relationship with my spouse, family and friends?

You need support.  On the days where you can feel your hair falling out, turning gray, or both, you need your cheerleading team.  If your spouse is not on board with you, you have a HUGE problem on hand (one that may require a relationship therapist versus my dime-store, non-professional assessment here).  That’s a show-stopper, in my opinion.  I don’t know a successful entrepreneur who has a nay-saying spouse.  So, get your cheerleading squad together.  I have mine.  They come and go as to who’s cheering the loudest at any given time but I know I can count on not only my partner, Wade, but also my 85-year old Dad, my siblings and friends such as Gwen, Carolyn, Glenn, Anne, Heidi and Curtis.  They have been there for me since Day One.  They don’t pretend to have the answers or solutions along the way.  They simply LISTEN and tell me that no matter what, I will succeed.  It works.

3.  Is “resiliency” my middle name?

Get ready to get slapped down.  And I mean SLAPPED in the face.  Hard.  Like when Cher slapped Nicholas Cage in “Moonstruck’.  You might be slapped down by a banker saying “no” to your loan request.  You might be told by a prospective angel investor that your ideas suck beyond belief and that you might as well go back to your Dilbert cubicle now.   You may be slapped down and rejected by a potential business partnership that could have really grown your business despite your kick-ass proposal to them.  You might be turned away from the biggest media appearance ever that could have driven a ton of business your way because there was a communications snafu (true story on my end — I’ll share with you if you buy me a beer sometime).  The point is that you MUST be resilient beyond belief to be a successful entrepreneur.  Soak in the rejection.  Take it.  Acknowledge it.  Learn any key take-aways….but MOVE ON.  I invite you to find a successful entrepreneur who hasn’t struggled through rejection.  Resiliency is key.

4.  Can I hold positions in the following “departments”?  IT.  Legal.  Accounting.  Operations.  Marketing.  Sales.  Business Development.

This is near and dear to my heart.  Almost every day I want to pick up the phone and call the IT department.  Or general counsel.  Or accounting.  But, I then realize.  Damn!  I (!) am all of those.  I am my own IT on the most part with the able assistance of Melissa Townsend.  If it weren’t for Melissa over the years, this technophobe clearly would have somehow mistakenly clicked on some wrong button and would have dropped a bomb on North Korea or something.  Meanwhile, although we don’t have accounting and legal in-house at my companies, I must make phone calls to those INCREDIBLY important people in my life on a regular basis.  Honestly, I love my accountant and attorney.  As I should.  They’re expensive people to call.  Since you have to spend the big bucks on these two people to make your business run, you have to respect them and feel their advice is sound.  You do NOT want to cut corners when it comes to your accountant and attorney.  Now, it just so happens I really like both of mine.  That matters too.  You want them to be on your cheerleading team even though you are paying them to be on it.  Meanwhile, operations is something I want done and I want it done right.  But don’t make me cut payroll and vendor checks.  Well, guess what, at ANY time in the process, an entrepreneur needs to know how to cut checks, for example.  It may be the responsibility of your (future) operations manager but you too need to know how to pay your people.  They depend upon you.  My personal strengths generally lie in sales and marketing so I’ve been able to take on those on the most part.  But you get my point.  An entrepreneur wears ALL of these hats.  You need to be prepared to manage it ALL at the beginning.

5.  Is my business my child?

Yes, it is.  If you answered “no”, you’re getting your first slap as an entrepreneur.  From me.  Starting, growing and managing a business runs much like the growth of a child.  At one year, it still needs constant nurturing.  At three years old, it runs….but falls down and scrapes a knee or two and comes crying back to you.  VocationVacations, for example, is a very precocious five-year old.  It’s gaining independence but in doing so, it will at times surprise me with a need for a “time out”.  For example, this week we have been battling with our web hosting company (which will remain nameless) regarding some serious email server issues.  I want a break.  I don’t want to be dealing with it.  But, I must.  The five-year old demands it of me.  You get my point.  You MUST think of your entrepreneurial endeavor as a child and how you will raise it or, in my opinion, it won’t grow up.  But the good news here is that it DOES grow up.  And when it does, you will have earned financial security, time flexibility and overall independence.  And it’s worth it.

After asking myself these questions, would I still become an entrepreneur or does the fluorescent-lit cubicle look better to me now?  Oh, I’m still the entrepreneur.  For sure.  But I’ve had to work really hard along the way.  Entrepreneurialism is not for the faint of heart.

So, if you’re thinking about opening a bakery…becoming a free-lance writer…starting a dog-daycare center…starting your own marketing firm or whatever your passion is, I am a huge proponent and cheerleader for you.  But DO ask yourself those 5 questions before you forge down the WONDERFUL journey of entrepreneurialism!

GOOD LUCK!

Brian

www.briankurth.com

www.vocationvacations.com

Job search is hard.  And it can get expensive.  Times are tough enough right now so the last thing you should do is incur debt, or more debt, in your job search.

So, here are my 5 Tips To Keep Your Job Search On A Budget:

1.  Join a networking organization

Join a networking organization (or two, if your budget allows) that does not cost an arm and a leg.  Now is NOT the time to join that expensive business or athletic club in the spirit of networking.  No.  Pace yourself.  Instead, this is the time that you should join or renew membership with your university alumni association.  And/or, it’s the time to join a trade organization such as PRSA, AMA or ITAA.  Join one organization.  Two if you can afford it.  Prioritize your purchase (it IS a purchase so think of it in those terms!) based on which organization will give you the most bang for your buck.  How many members does the group have?  How often do they meet face-to-face?  How close to your home (include travel, gas, parking costs into your equation)?  What’s their online presence and level of activity?  You want to join an active organization – both “offline” face-to-face and online via the Internet.

2.  Upgrade your LinkedIn account for $50

Upgrade your LinkedIn account for $50 (yes, their prices have gone up…but I still feel it’s worth it).  In doing so, you will be able to directly contact ten people you have targeted in your desired field regarding networking, meeting for an informational coffee and/or establishing a mentorship relationship with them.  These are people you’ve found via researching on LinkedIn by company name, city or vocation type…but to whom you have no direct linkage.  The $50 gives you that direct connection to them.  You know me, I stress the value of mentorship every chance I get and this is an ample time to stress MTR: Mentorship > Transition > Reinvention!  That extra $50 may change your life by linking you with exactly the right person who may help you network and may mentor you – all the way to the point you land your dream job.  MTR is the crux to the proven 8-Step Process for a Successful Career Transition I use day-in and day-out with my clients.

3.  Go to the library.

Sorry, Barnes & Noble, Borders and my beloved Powell’s here in Portland and Strand Books in NYC (let alone, my own publisher).  But you’ll be back shopping there when you’ve landed the job and have more money!  For now, check out the latest career search and business-related books from your local library.  They’ll be happy to see you and you’ll be happy to have just saved some money.  That being said, IF you find a book or two of great value after checking them out at the library, then go to the bookstore and buy them so you have them for long-term reference and you can mark it up all you want.

4.  Write Your Personal Biography

In addition to updating your resume, write a biography of where you’ve been, where you are today and most importantly where you want to go.  This is YOUR brand you’re creating.  It tells a story that a resume simply cannot.  Then have a graphics person create a nicely formatted one-page PDF for you including the content you’ve written.  The formatted PDF should not cost more than $50.  For more on how this fits into the mix of your career search, checking out Step #6, Branding, in the 8-Step Process.

5.  Negotiate Your Terms.

Get a career coach or consultant.  BUT….negotiate with them.  They may not negotiate on their price, but they will (should) work with you on establishing a payment plan.  To be honest, I find it frustrating to hear that some of my career-consulting colleagues insist upon a client signing a one-year agreement and/or a minimum of ten or twelve sessions.  That’s overkill.  A lot can be accomplished in as little as five sessions, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Once you’ve found the right consultant or coach, ask them to establish a payment plan.  For example, I offer my clients the ability to split their payments in two.  They also can either pay by check or by debit card (Avoid using your credit card unless you know you can pay it off in the next payment cycle).

One last point:

Talk to an accountant and save your receipts for everything mentioned in all five tips.  Most, if not all, should be tax deductible.

Now, get out there and find that job….AND STAY ON BUDGET!

Cheers,

Brian

Career Consultations:  www.briankurth.com

Career Mentorship Programs:  www.vocationvacations.com

Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-by-Step Process To Finding And Creating The Work You Love – Hachette, 2008

This is a quick blog post today as I’m having a great time working with some career consulting clients’ biographies with our phenomenal new bio writers at Brian Kurth + Company.

I was walking down the street yesterday after (finally!) getting my haircut during lunch and walked past Plaza Cleaners in the Pearl District here in Portland.  And I saw a sign in the window saying:

IF YOU ARE UNEMPLOYED AND NEED AN OUTFIT CLEAN FOR AN INTERVIEW, WE WILL CLEAN IT FOR FREE!

I love it.  OK…so it’s not a free lunch….but who ever said there’s no such thing as free dry cleaning!?  Kudos to Plaza owners, Anne and Steve Young.  Way to help out folks during this Great Recession.

Just had to share.  Now it’s back to having fun working through the 8-Steps of a Successful Career Transition with my clients…

Cheers!
Brian

www.briankurth.com

www.vocationvacations.com

Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love – Hachette, 2008

I was on a flight back to Portland from NYC last week and reading the NY Times and found two articles that really intrigued me.

The first was about a former NFL football player, Keith Miller, turned opera singer:

For an Ex-Fullback, Big Plays in a New Game

The second was about, Michelle Nihei, a former neuroscience researcher at Johns Hopkins who became a horse trainer (unfortunately, the article isn’t on the Times’ website).

At first you might think, “Oh, these folks had natural talents that made such huge career shifts possible.”  Not completely true when you read both of the brief articles.

Instead, in addition to their inherent strengths, Keith and Michelle also utilized three key characteristics for their successful career changes:

1.  Allow Your Passions to Lead the Path – Despite what some of their friends, family and colleagues may have said to them upon their decision to forge ahead with their drastic career changes, they followed their natural passions.  They thought with their HEARTS and GUTS versus just their brains.

2.  You Cannot Do It Alone – Keith and Michelle reached out to mentors to learn how to make the transition.  They did not make their decisions or take their first steps in a vacuum.  Instead, they reached out to experts in the field to better understand if and how they could make the switch.

3.  Stay Positive – Despite the obstacles and naysayers, Michelle and Keith were driven by their dreams — some days with blind faith.  They battled their own “chatterboxes” (the negative voice in one’s head according to author and psychologist, Susan Jeffers:  “Feel The Fear….and Do It Anyway“) pounding out the “Are you serious???” thoughts in their minds.  But they stuck to it.  Part of it is simply SHOVING negative thoughts out of one’s mind in order to stay true to the positive, passionate path.

I love Michelle and Keith’s stories.  I hope you do too.  We can all learn from their examples.

What is YOUR unfilled dream that is being held back by YOU and your chatterbox?  Time to take Michelle’s and Keith’s lead….

Cheers!
Brian 

THE 8-Steps To A Successful Career Transitionwww.briankurth.com

Test-Drive Your Dream Jobwww.vocationvacations.com

THE DIY Book On Creating Your Own Career Mentorship In Your Career Transition

I’ve been chatting with my career consulting clients who are going through a tough time during this recession.  I invite them to take a deep breath and say the following sentence outloud:  Survival is the new definition of success!

I believe these words. 

Whether you’re a corporate person who’s been laid off or an entrepreneur barely holding onto your business during these tough times, this one little sentence can make a world of difference each and every day.  Appreciate every day’s small successes.  The small successses add up over time. 

Once the recovery occurs (and it WILL happen), you will be able to look back with pride that you SURVIVED the worst recession since the Great Depression.  That alone is success.  Be proud.  You’re getting there.  One step and day at a time.

Again, say it outload:  SURVIVAL IS THE NEW DEFINITION OF SUCCESS!

Go Get ‘Em,

Brian

www.briankurth.com

www.vocationvacations.com

OK.  I’m going to vent, folks.

I’ve had a plethora of “the sky is falling” emails from baby boomers the past week or so who are wigging out that their world has changed.  Now, I can be guilty of being a tough-love career consultant but I’m here to tell ya’:  Welcome to the New Reality.

I totally understand what you have today, financially, isn’t what you had five years ago.  I understand that you may not have as much saved for retirement.  I understand that you’re suffering from some loss of identity after being laid off.  The big corner office is gone.  I get it.  I really do.  And I have compassion for it.  But I ask you, Boomers, were you really happy anyway?

Here’s the deal, Boomers (and the whining GenYs and GenXs too — the Boomers do NOT have the lock on whining):  Life goes on.  Whining about it isn’t going to bring it back.  Set an action plan and move forward. And it IS going to be OK.  Yes, this is a paradigm shift in today’s society, our income levels, etc. but there ARE positive stories out there about people successfully making career changes.  So the laid off IT manager may not be able to make $100K in 2010 but he/she can use his/her skill set in a different industry and still make a great living on national (let alone global!) standards.  Bottom line:  Boomers, readjust your expectations of what it takes financially to be…..happy.  That’s right.  Focus on being HAPPY.  And the money will come.

I don’t mean to beat up on all Boomers as clearly I have many Boomer career consulting clients who are not at all whiners.  They appreciate what they have and what they’re going to attain in their reinvention.  In fact, I just spoke to a woman this morning who had been laid off only a month ago.  She was making great money as in-house counsel but got laid off due to a company merger.  She was wigging out since she’s the bread-winner in her family of four.  But….she wrote down what she wanted in a new job in her reinvention:  A minimum of $x (which was less than what she was making), a light commute and some international work.  Guess what?

In only a month, she landed a new job that is paying her MORE when you weigh in bonus potential, she has a commute that is 5 minutes less than her previous commute….and she is now heading up a Fortune 200 company’s INTERNATIONAL LEGAL COMPLIANCE for God’s sake.  She is even still getting severance from her former employer while still employed in her new job.  See.  She did it.  And she’s just one of many.  The key:  She took action.  She didn’t wallow. She moved forward.  With a postitive attitude.

This is where I really want to insist that everyone apply the 8-Steps To A Career Transition that’s the basis to everything that my career consultants and I do.

Whew.  That’s off my chest.  How many people did I just piss off as being too tough on Boomers?  Hopefully not too many.

That being said, for all you Boomers who aren’t whiners OR want to stop whining because you know it’s not going to get you anywhere, then I suggest you attend my expert Boomer panel and me this Monday, June 29; 8pm Eastern / 5pm Pacific for a FREE (other than your long distance charges) teleclass geared toward the 50+ folks – “8 Steps To A Successful Career Transition For the 50+”.  Sign-up!

Let’s have some FUN talking about career reinvention, exploration and happiness.

Brian

www.briankurth.com

Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love (Hachette, 2008)

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