Counting Down to the New Year - The 5 Things I MUST Improve as an Independent Professional
Most people see the year out, wipe the slate clean, and then define resolutions that will hopefully set the tone for the new year. I am not knocking the tradition, but it doesn't work for me. I am much more motivated by pressure, and looming targets that need to be reached. Something like a two-week countdown to the year end - now that's a deadline that sets the juices flowing.
A bit of background...
A little over a year ago, without too much fanfare and very little planning, I began to carve out a new professional identity for myself. This transition saw me moving from the corporate arena to the most tantalising world of being independent. Given the manner in which I have ventured into my new profession, in retrospect, I could have done it much better. Not that I have any regrets: on-the-job experience and the few hard knocks I have felt, have gone a long way to push me forward and to strengthen my resolve. The resolutions that I would like to share; therefore, represent lessons that I have learned in the transition to becoming the founder of my own venture. So, just two weeks before we usher in 2018, here are my five professional resolutions for the new year.
Resolution 5 - COMMIT TO WHAT I WANT TO DO
I am not sure about others, but for me, the entry into professional Independence has been a time of great exploration and curiosity. I have been testing many different avenues and trying to figure out where I want to settle. The possibilities are vast, and I am unwilling to let go of my exploration even if it means that I find myself going off in different directions. The problem is neither in the exploration itself, nor in the potential for multiple ventures, rather it is in setting the boundaries of that exploration. It is about deciding what you want to do and then committing to building it up. You can commit to more than one venture. You can also leave time aside for additional exploration. But, a commitment is needed to really focus on what you want to do.
Resolution 4 - FIGURE OUT WHAT IS MY BRAND
When you are in an organisation, a large part of your professional identity is enmeshed with your role and responsibility toward reaching the organisational and team goals. It is quite natural; therefore, to associate with the corporate ethos and culture. In fact, most organisations depend on you choosing to do this. However, when you are building a new organisation in which the tone, the shape, and the goals are all about you, it becomes really essential to hone in on who you are and what you want your organisation to represent. Or, in other words what is your brand? I have spent much of the year debating myself on the following issues all related to my personal brand:
Am I more consultant or more writer?
Am I more artist or corporate professional?
Am I more interested in creating resources than I am in actually using them myself?
And perhaps the biggest conflict of all - do I have to choose between the different hats I wear or can I do it all?
Resolution 3 - KNOW HOW TO REPRESENT MY BRAND
Given the professional identity conflict that I have experienced over the past year, it is no surprise that I have some difficulty in presenting myself in a professional context. So once, I have figured out who I am professionally speaking, I resolve to work on how to represent my brand. Whether this means that I have several pre-defined profiles, or one all-encompassing umbrella representing my different activities, that remains to be figured out. I am currently guilty of confusing people with who I am and what I represent. Let me give you a for instance: I currently have two blogs, two web sites, three email addresses and I am never quite sure how to integrate social media into the mix. Not only does this result in me working inefficiently and doubling my own efforts unnecessarily, it also leaves anyone trying to follow me stuck in a cloud of confusion. I need to remedy this situation. I need to take stock, consolidate, eliminate and work more efficiently and effectively.
Resolution 2 - DECIDE WHAT I WANT TO ACHIEVE AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT
Committing to build something is useless if you don't have a plan. We are all the architects of our own vision and as such, we need to define our goals and decide how we reach them. Over the past year my goals have been quite clear, but my strategy in getting there has been a bit fuzzy. I have done a lot of trial and error, invested in a lot of independent learning, and had a lot of confidence that my optimism will breed good luck. The thing is when you are really new at something, you don't have any way of knowing what you don't know. What I was missing in my plan is to identify gaps in my strategy that I could not fill by myself, and to realise that parts of my goals can be reached most effectively and efficiently by getting professional support from others.
Resolution 1 - REFLECT AND REJOICE
A fundamental principle in change management is that transformation from one state to another inherently involves losses and gains. In order to gain the new transformed state - whether you are talking about a new job, new accountability, a new skill set, a new set of colleagues: whatever - you need to give up on however it used to be in the past. It is acceptable to be sad, nostalgic, frustrated, even angry at the loss. It is appropriate to reflect. At the same time, successes should be celebrated and enjoyed as significant milestones in the new path. I almost cannot believe how different my life looks today from where I was over a year ago. I am so grateful for the journey, even if in many ways it is a much harder path. My final resolution is to greet the new year with a feeling of accomplishment for what has been and a renewed sense of energy, determination and curiosity to face what lies ahead.