Tag Archives: The Huffington Post

7 Things I Learned in Trying a New Career

A little over a year ago, I decided to pursue a freelance writing career. I started to write a book and wanted to expand my reach by writing blogs for The Huffington Post and the like. I continue to maintain my full time job as a clinical social worker, and write during my evenings and weekends. It is nice in the sense, that I don’t feel pressure to write all the time. However, there are moments, I feel pressure to leave my social work job and give everything I have to my writing career. Then logic weighs in to remind me that I need a steady paycheck and health insurance. In the past year, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some very lovely people, even famous ones. At times, I feel like I am in an ultra-marathon, with no clear finish line. I stop here and there to take breaks, refuel, share my joys and woes, but I continue. It is surprising who along the way continues to cheer me on and who, to my disappointment departed from my cheering section. Some of the departures were unexpected. They came after I refused to compromise my integrity and do professional favors or when I simply didn’t feel endorsing their child’s work was the right thing to do. I am new to this type of “ultra-marathon” within the publishing industry.

I’ve learned many lessons by trial and error, and I’ve discovered that growth makes you vulnerable. This sounds obvious, but I was surprised that the growing pains I’ve experienced often came as a result of being raw and open. Early on, I knew virtually no one within the business, and had very little guidance. I sought out others who I thought could provide direction. I didn’t need handholding 24/7, but checking in to bounce off ideas turned into uncomfortable conversations. I sensed jealously on their part, and later it was often confirmed. I know what you are thinking, that is their issue, not mine, but still it caused deep disappointment. I began to withdraw and follow my gut and pursue whatever opportunities I sensed were right. It ended up paying off. Long story short, I was personally introduced to Dr. Deepak Chopra. This was my version of a “runner’s high.” He is just as genuine and authentic as appears in his work.

Weeks later, after my meeting with Dr. Chopra, I had a series of conversations with another very successful business man. I met this individual through a writing assignment, which I did free of charge. Others criticized me for working for free, for cheapening “my craft,” and their comments gave me pause. Yet, something deep inside me told me it was the right thing to do. I was curious about the subject matter and pursued it. It ended up that I was introduced to this wildly successful and gentle soul. His guidance and friendship is priceless. During our conversations, I shared with him some of my earlier highs and lows. I knew he understood. He looked straight at me and said with all seriousness, “You should only be around people who lift you up and only let a few people into your inner (professional) circle.”

I knew that I needed to recheck my approach. My attitude towards my professional race so to speak mattered. This wasn’t anyone else’s ‘race,’ but mine. In many ways we all have our own races. We each have a goal line, a finish line that we strive to cross. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from journey:

1. Growth can make you vulnerable both emotionally and financially. People you know will offer you suggestions which in turn benefits them, and disguise it as help. This sounds severe, but I wish someone had told me. Don’t get me wrong, there are growth spurts which are exciting and helpful.

2. Re-examine your game plan. You may feel that your plan is solid and able to withstand the test of time, but as new challenges arise, you may need to readjust things. I’ve learned to have Plan B formulated as I am pursing Plan A. This helps because it won’t leave you feeling disorganized when things seem to fall apart.

3. Be aware of social poachers. Before this may have been someone that you invited to the party and next thing you know your babysitter is at their home every Saturday evening. The risks at this level were minimal. However, when it comes to your career, social poachers can do damage. They will scan your network, zone in on who they want to target and go after it. They may be even so slick as to have you introduce them to their target. You won’t know what happened until after the fact, and this will leave you feeling emotionally drained.

4. Be careful who you listen to especially if they can benefit from you in any financial aspect. We all have blind spots and when money is involved. We may think that person may be giving you genuine advice. However, these nuggets of wisdom can be tainted with dollar signs.

5. Don’t take things personally. This is very difficult for me at times because I want to believe that everyone has my best interest at hear,t and I want to believe their comments are constructive criticism. People will judge you and offer unsolicited advice. Follow your gut.

6. You are your own cheerleader. People often ask, “What is your brand — your label?” You are the best to decide this. It is you who is running this race. It is you who is having to stop, readjust, make decisions on the spot. You know your body, your brand the best. Only run each mile at a time. In other words, don’t try to live tomorrow today. “Listen to your body” is a phrase athletes are familiar with and it means that only you truly know when it it time to rest. Remember, rest prevents injuries.

7. Gratitude is the answer to nearly every question. I haven’t had a situation yet where I couldn’t apply gratitude. It is the great equalizer of the heart. It allows you remember what matters.

I’m running on, literally and figuratively. Like all runners those who continue to work on their core strength, they do the best. I’m pressing on and looking at this ultra-marathon as a gift. I’m in the best race of my life. I’m not competing with anyone but myself, and I’m even learning to dance along the way.

You can also read this story on The Huffington Post

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Why Women Need Mentors

Women need mentors. We all need that loving cheerleader saying, “Don’t give up. Stay the course.” More importantly, we need someone who offers wisdom and insight. This goes beyond the Facebook thumbs up you receive when you announce a recent accomplishment. Mentors provide guideposts and their own stories offer hope and inspiration. Yes, instruction books offer valuable facts, often provide detailed steps on how to complete a challenging task, but nothing can top an in-depth, no nonsense conversation. The mentor is someone you can have a frank conversation with, and your tough questions are met with honest answers. The mentor’s only agenda is to help you reach your full potential.

Mentors know what is close to your heart. They may be a someone with the title “coach” or they can have a less formal role. I found my mentors when I least expected it. In January 2012, like thousands of other Americans, I was trying to figure out a plan to achieve my New Year’s Day goal: run my first marathon. Let me preface this by saying I’m not a natural athlete. In elementary school gym class, when students were picking others to be on their team, I was the last one chosen. Then in high school, the assistant junior varsity track coach made it clear to the other students that I was “slow.” In other words, running a marathon was a stretch.

After hearing about my goal, a friend suggested I join the 501 Novi, MI running group. Reluctant yet wiling to try anything to help reach my goal, I emailed the coach. Within minutes, Coach Suzi replied. Three days later, on a 12 degree Michigan winter morning, I was at a metro park meeting other runners. Before my first group run, I heard other runners talk about training for Boston (Marathon), running multiple times a week, and I felt then that I was out of my league. Recognizing that I was new to the group, Coach Doug guided myself and another new group runner through the snowy run. While running, he proudly announced that he was turning 70 next month and set various national race records. At this point, the only record I was setting was running in the winter.

The marathon regimen was intense. By July, I completed my first 20 mile run and the group cheered. This was a major training milestone. In late August, I was running over 50 miles a week. That month, I was injured. I could hardly walk and the panic set in. I sought three different medical opinions, and each expert had the same diagnosis: hip / groin injury. I was crushed. Sure, it wasn’t the end of my world, but not running a month before a marathon shook my confidence.

Immediately, Coach Suzi and others without prompting emailed me offering words of encouragement. They shared their own injury stories. My new focus was to complete the 26.2 miles without getting injured. On that October marathon Sunday, two miles from the finish line, I thought I was near death. I looked around and saw others walking. I seriously thought about doing the same until I heard my two friends and Coach Suzi yell my name. Surprisingly, they were standing there waiting to run me in. Just as I was trying to say “thank you,” I heard Coach Suzi yell, “you’re not slowing down here.” The three of them ran with me until I could see the finish line. I’ll never forget that moment when I conquered that marathon.

While you may not be running a literal marathon and aren’t searching for a “running” mentor, note that a mentor can also guide you in the right professional direction. Women tend to become emotionally involved when rejection occurs, wondering, Why don’t they like me? What did I do wrong? Women assume they made a big mistake, then fear and anxiety rises. These emotions can get in the way of rational thoughts. A mentor can bring you back to practical thinking. When you face an obstacle, the mentor provides an alternate plan to help you still reach the same goal.

Currently, I’m in uncharted professional territory. I’m cowriting my first book while learning firsthand how the writing world meets the business world. These are two worlds I’m completely foreign to. Lack of experience in both of these areas leads to a lack of confidence, and it shows. Recently, I was visiting with a lovely woman, who knew nothing about me, and my aunt, who introduced me by saying this, “This is my niece Kristin. She is writing her first book and writes for the Huffington Post.” The woman asked me about it and I felt my voice begin to go softer. She looked right at me and said, “You have to self-promote. It’s not about ego here. Tell me everything”.

This invitation led to a deep discussion about women in business. Recently, she started her own business and said, “women wear a lot of different shoes, literally, but we need help.”. She went on to talk being stretched in different directions, and feeling the growing pains of a new business. She underscored the importance of asking for what you want.

I am fortunate to have a mentor who also believes you should ask for what you want. She is best selling author Laura Munson. Over the past two months, we bonded over a few phone conversations, and several emails about the process of writing and publishing. I kept thinking, Why is she being so kind to me? I can’t do a thing for her.

Laura understands that my co-author, psychologist James Windell, and I took on the difficult task of transforming the way widows respond to grief. Part of the book research involves my co-author and I talking with widows who lost their husbands to difficult circumstances, and writing about how they overcame this tragic loss. Although in many ways, these are stories of inspirartion, I told Laura more than once, that I struggled with hearing about a death caused by suicide or substance abuse. Laura continues to encourage me to write about the stories that matter.

Eventually, I was led to a book agent. Last week, when the book proposal got rejected, I took it personally. She reassured me that there are plenty of wonderful agents. Her words of wisdom were, “Take heart. Believe in yourself.”

Within two days of these words, an agent contacted James and I. While nothing is set in stone with an agent, I know this much is certain, mentors all carry that same message, “Take heart. Believe in yourself.”

You can also read this article on The Huffington Post

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