Trouble Networking?

What do you do when you know you need to get out there – networking, contacting people, asking for help, meeting people – but you’re too scared? It can be a real issue when you’re trying to change career but are overwhelmed at the thought of all the people you’re going to have to contact.

Case study

I had a client who struggled with networking, Andrea. She didn’t have loads of friends, she found socialising tricky, and her confidence was low. She was well aware that her mindset could be quite negative.

Andrea’s dream was to work for a start-up, and write articles about entrepreneurship on the side. The thought of having to get in touch with people who she knew could help with her career change, was crippling her.

She’d have to apply for jobs. She could try to speak to people in the start-up industry who could give her some pointers or advise her about opportunities, maybe ask them for a phone chat or to meet for a coffee. In terms of the articles, she needed people to interview. She would have to make the first move in getting them involved.

Building up to it

Andrea knew that being more comfortable contacting people would be a massive step for her. It was important to her being able to move forwards.

So together we agreed that building up to networking was going to be challenging. But it would help both in progressing career wise and in building her confidence.

Breaking it down

But Andrea had lots of excuses! There was always a reason why she couldn’t do something, always a barrier. So we broke it down. What would doing each task actually look like, how could she prepare? Could she prepare questions, set a time limit on how long the call or coffee would be? Maybe it would help to create a list of contacts and tick them off one by one? We had a think about what was the worst that would happen, was it someone saying ‘no’? Could she cope with that?

Once we’d broken things down into small, easy steps, and prepared for the worst case scenario, Andrea felt calmer about networking. Slowly she followed the steps we’d set out, and things became easier for her. She realised how great it felt having a positive interaction, and saw that people responded well to her.

Do it your way

Andrea is coming on in leaps and bounds. She goes for things and doesn’t feel the same fear around contacting people for help. She made it into the start- up world by starting her own online travel advisory company on the side of her day-to-day job. She’s also completed various courses including and incubator training programme to learn more about the industry she’s interested in.

Networking doesn’t have to be roaming around ‘events’ desperately finding people to talk to. It can be about focusing on what you need, slowly and quietly doing things in your own way. And getting the results you need.

If you’d like to some coaching sessions with me, contact me at joaopoku@gmail.com or here on LinkedIn.

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

Smiling at strangers. Why should we get out of our comfort zone?

Smiling at strangers. It’s sometimes used as an initiation exercise to practise getting out of your comfort zone. 

Walking along, randomly smiling at strangers. Potentially looking like a bit of a weirdo.

It’s the first step in doing something that might make you feel uncomfortable, nervous, out of your depth. 

Getting out of your comfort zone

It’s widely considered that ‘getting out of your comfort zone’ is one of the best ways to grow as a person.

If you keep on doing what you know, things that are easy and feel safe and certain, then you aren’t taking risks, and opening yourself up to new experiences. Therefore, you’re not going to do much growing.

You aren’t building your confidence by succeeding in doing things you’ve never done before, or never dreamed you could do. 

You aren’t proactively looking to change yourself for the better.

It’s daunting and cringey

Back to smiling at strangers. Some people would really struggle with it, and would find it daunting and cringey. Why would you smile at a stranger? Won’t they think I’m a bit mad? Or want something from them? Or – shock horror – about to talk to them?! Even worse, what if they then strike up a conversation?

Have a focus

It’s really hard to force yourself to do something you don’t particularly want to do. But – if you can see the benefit, and where this action might lead you, it makes it easier. You now have a focus.

You’re not just doing it for the sake of it, you’re doing it because you know you need to change. You need to shake things up a bit. You can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing, as you’re not happy with the result.

It could be that long-term you want to be better at networking. Maybe you wish you didn’t care so much what other people think.

Stand-up comedy?

I find smiling at strangers easy, I do it all the time. I’m a smiley person. But for me, being out of my comfort zone looks like public speaking, live TV, performing. Stand-up comedy? Not in a million years. 

I actually have no desire to be on TV or perform. But I’d like to not have that irrational fear of public speaking, the few times I need to do it. And I’d like to care less what other people think.

So – I sometimes have to present to groups of people, which pushes me back out of my comfort zone. I regularly give webinars, which sometimes still makes me anxious.

Caring less what others think

And I’m currently more active on social media, (well, LinkedIn), and experimenting with writing posts and video. Partly as a way to connect with more people about my coaching business and the things that are important to me. Partly as a way to care less what others think, to worry less about expressing my own opinion in public.

How about you? What do you find tricky that you know will help you long-term if you can get more comfortable doing it? What would be pushing you out of your comfort zone?

If you’d like to try coaching with me, contact me at joaopoku@gmail.com or here on LinkedIn.

Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

12 Things I wish I’d known about career change

Over many years, I learned all of these things and it led me to a brilliant career change. If I’d known them before, maybe I wouldn’t have spent years making the change. Perhaps these career change tips will help you with your career change.

1. So many other people are going through the same thing or have gone through it. You’re not the only one, and you’re not a loser or a failure if things aren’t working out. 

2. Working in sales can be really different company to company, and it doesn’t always have to be about cold-calling and the hard sell. It can be more consultative. 

Also, in sales, you have to believe in the product and care about helping the clients. Otherwise it’s always going to feel inauthentic.

Learn from others

3. You can learn from those who have gone through it. Try what they tried. Refine what appeals to you and what doesn’t. Speak to people, find examples online and in books. Remind yourself that if they can do it, so can you.

4. Go to talks about career change or simply about interesting people doing interesting things. It will inspire you to do interesting things with your life. 

5. Recruitment consultants will most likely try to put you in exactly the same role in another company. They probably don’t care about whether or not your values align with that of the company. It’s up to you to work out what sort of company you want to work for.

And that means looking at what sort of environment you want to be in, what sort of people you want for colleagues, what’s the culture, what’s important to the company? Are you interested in what they are aiming for? Does it sit well with you?

Get to know yourself

6. You really need to take time to get to know yourself, assess where you are right now in your life. Find activities online or in books to help you with this.

What are you most interested in, how do you actually like to spend your time at work? Identify what you enjoy in your day-to-day and what you don’t. How do you like to work, always on the go or slow and peaceful? What do you want to feel proud of doing? 

7. Remember that you can change industry or company, and do something different. Your skills are transferable. There are way more opportunities out there for you than you realise. You have to seek them out, speak to people, stay open.

Separate from your current ‘work identity’

8. A job title, status, working for a well-known company, aren’t the most important things, for you. Separate yourself from your current ‘work identity’. You’ll still be you doing something else.

9. There will be a transition period. You’ll enjoy the freedom. 

10. Career change can be really exciting. You’ll feel rebellious, free, so pleased that you are taking control rather than following everyone else and suffering. 

11. Change can be really, really good, and lead to other great things.

12. Getting out of your comfort zone is scary but also can be thrilling and confidence building.

If you’d like some coaching sessions with me, check out my LinkedIn profile and message me there: www.linkedin.com/in/joannaopoku. Or email me at joaopou@gmail.com.

Photo by Georgie Cobbs on Unsplash

How do I deal with to-do list procrastination when I want to change career?

You’ve made the decision that you want to change career. You’ve got your to-do list.

You’re feeling motivated to get researching and networking and go for it.

There are loads of things you could do, researching, contacting people, searching, applying for jobs, looking at courses…

…but where do you start?

There’s a way I deal with my to-do list which works really well (whether for career change or anything else for that matter).

1. Highlight 1-3 of your top priority tasks on your to-do list. 

Take a few moments to pick the things that will actually have an impact and move your forwards. Such as contacting someone who could give you practical advice or an opportunity, or sending off an application. Don’t get bogged down in the easy stuff like general ‘research’.

2. List each teeny tiny easy step you need to do to complete each task. 

Really easy – such as ‘find phone number’, ‘have a quick read of their LinkedIn profile’, ‘write small summary of what I want to say’, ‘make the call’.

Or, ‘open up job application document (or download and print)’, ‘open up copy of CV to refer to’, ‘set aside x minutes to complete’, ‘work on first section’, ‘work on second section’, ’review’, ‘hit send’.

3. Pick one of these top priority tasks and get to work, step by step, crossing each off as you go along. 

4. Ignore all else until you complete it. This is important. Focus and get it done. Then pick the next one and carry on.

So now I know how to break down the tasks on my to-do list. But how do I actually get started?

Now, as a client pointed out to me, you might get wrapped up in the art of to-do list-making. You spend all your time adding to and reordering your list (ehm, procrastinating) rather than actually ticking off the steps. How do you get yourself motivated to actually take action?

A few more tips:

  • You need to focus on the result you want. Are loads of the tasks things you could do but aren’t essential? What is it that you really need to do that will make you progress? What will have the biggest impact if you do it? 
  • A fresh short list for that morning can help, forget about everything else for now, what’s the one thing you need to do today or this morning? What are the priorities? 
  • I’m a fan of setting a timer, 10-15 minutes to really focus and make progress, then I can have a break and make a tea or whatever. That really helps me, doing what I can in a short burst. If I’m then on a roll I’ll extend the timer! 
  • Finally, when you’ve had something on your list for a long time, a week, a month, it’s worth reassessing if it’s something you really want or need to do? Can it be scrapped? Or does it need to be broken down into something more doable?

Keep things as simple as you can to avoid overwhelm, and just super methodically work through the important tasks, breaking them down.

If you’d like to work with me on some coaching sessions, email me at joaopoku@gmail.com or find a slot and sign-up here: calendly.com/joannaopokulifecoaching

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Real life career change case study – from London NGO to remote work in Paris.

Kate had reached a point where she was really unhappy with her work, her social life, her living set-up. Everything just felt wrong and not suited to her. She needed a career change.

She felt that she had no control over her life and had somehow ended up in a situation that wasn’t making her happy.

She’s a really big-hearted person, who wants to help with terrible things going on in the world. 

Office life

Kate had recently started working for an NGO and working with disadvantaged school kids on the side. She wasn’t sure about the NGO work. Part of the issue was the set-up, she really didn’t like the tiring commute, being in the office and at her desk all day, and sticking to formal 9-5 working hours.

Kate loved working with the kids, and wanted to do more, but there didn’t seem to be many opportunities for full-time decently paid work.

Dream life in Paris

She lived in someone else’s house in a nice part of London, but craved her own space and independence. She had dreamed of living in Paris for years, and spent her free time studying French and watching films.

Kate had some career change coaching sessions with me, and at the start she felt lost. She had a vague idea of what she wanted but it all seemed so out of reach and unlikely. She was overwhelmed by the task ahead. But she was intent on finding something that really sat with her values and her lifestyle. 

She got specific

Over the weeks we narrowed down what she really wanted; what kind of work, working environment, hours, working space, pay, non work stuff, living situation. We weighed up what was feasible, and felt good, felt exciting. And we worked out a plan that would get her there. She thought out each step, different things she could try, with me prompting or questioning her. 

She’d have to do some pretty tough things, like asking her boss for an honest conversation, applying for a job abroad, consider finding accommodation abroad and all the admin that comes with that…but she’d started to see that it was just a series of steps, which she was capable of completing.

Part-time in Paris

And a year on, she’s working for the NGO part-time, remotely, from her new home in Paris. She’s also working with French business students part-time, and loving it.

It’s amazing that what had once been such a faraway dream is now her reality.

If you’d like my help with your career change, email me at joaopoku@gmail.com or contact me via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/joannaopoku/.

Photo by Sebastian Brennes on Unsplash