rain
Dobrodošli na naš blog

DIGITALNI DNEVNIK

Pročitajte naš blog

It’s Time to Make Your Business Lean-er

January is the month of new year’s resolutions, and so many of those usually involve losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle. You know, “new year, new you” type goals, but what about your business?

If you could make one new year’s resolution for your business, what would it be?

We would recommend devoting this year to beginning the Lean journey and making your business Lean-er than ever before!

What’s the problem?
The truth is every person, every company has a limited number of resources – time, money, and talent. We are all trying to do the most with what we have. We want to provide the best customer service, increase our profit margin, and give back to the community. Unfortunately, in the fast-paced world we live in, we do not often take a step back to understand why we aren’t meeting these goals. We continuously try new approaches, applying new band-aids hoping to avoid the one incident that might make everything fall apart.

Our businesses are operating in chaos. With constant additions of temporary fixes and one-off solutions, our businesses become unnecessarily complicated, inefficient, and expensive.

What’s the cost?
Aside from your workday being a little more chaotic, what’s the real cost of this all-too-common approach to business?

Lack of visibility
Some of the hardest questions for an inefficient business to answer are: “How healthy is your business? Are you on-track or lagging behind on your goals?” As the leader of your company, you should be able to answer these questions with certainty and confidence at any moment. But, if your processes are constantly changing, and you are constantly fighting fires to keep afloat, chances are you have no clue how your company is doing. You don’t know if your operations are sustainable. You don’t know if your customers are satisfied with your product or services. You just don’t know – and, you can’t know – because you can’t see your processes, and, as a result, you can’t measure success.

Inability to improve
With this lack of visibility comes an inability to improve. If you do not know how you are doing, you can’t know what areas of your business need more attention. Maybe you suspect problem areas, but you can’t quantitatively prioritize them, based on the benefits that these changes would bring to your bottom line or the customer experience. Staying constant can be a death sentence for any company in this day and age.

Missed opportunities
Likely the biggest cost of inefficiency is missed opportunities. If all of your time, money, and talent is invested in keeping your business running, how can you look ahead at growth opportunities? Perhaps an ideal opportunity comes along, but you may not be able to invest in it properly because you haven’t done the groundwork necessary to make your business-critical processes efficient. All of your energy is sucked away by the daily, mundane challenges you face, and you have no time or energy left to let your creative juices flow. Just staying afloat is not enough for you or your business.

What’s the solution?
The good news is that there’s a better way. Lean is a simple methodology to help you understand the core problem, or root cause, of all the ailments plaguing your business. Whether it’s increased cost, late deliveries or poor customer service, Lean provides you with the tools you need to solve the problem.

The key is understanding your business processes end-to-end. You need to know how one decision to improve a process step will impact all the others. Most importantly, you need to know how these changes will impact your customer.

Furthermore, mapping out your business processes really highlights your wastes. If you’ve never been on the Lean journey, you’re probably thinking, “Waste? I don’t have any waste in my company. We only do what is needed to satisfy our customers.” But, I think you’d be surprised at how much waste actually exists.

How often do you wait on emails to be returned before moving forward? How many approvals do you have to go through to complete simple, business-critical tasks? Can you clearly articulate what your customers want and how exactly your product or service meets exactly those needs and nothing more?

Chances are at least one of those questions caused you to pause and think about what you could do better. That’s the point. Every business can be better – more efficient, more timely, more cost-effective, more customer-centric. So, take the leap today and begin your Lean journey. We promise you won’t regret it!

Are you ready to make the leap into Lean? Contact us today for a free consultation at info@novaivica.me.

Resolutions vs Goals: Which Should You Be Setting?

It is that time of year when you create a list of resolutions on how you want work and live better. Generally, these are habits that you will try to do every day, or habits that you will try to avoid for as long as they can. Unfortunately, many of these resolutions are tossed away within a month or two. While the effort to adopt resolutions are for positive reasons, a better alternative is to develop new goals for the future. Goals are processed gradually rather than expecting to change immediately.

RESOLUTIONS

Rigid vs. Fluid
When your resolutions in life and career stay the same: “I will stop eating certain junk,” “I will write on our blog regularly, even though I don’t write at all now,” you cannot drive your business up the ladder of success. Habits coupled with flexibility provide you with a path to success. Success is fluid and so rigidity will stand in its way.

Goals, however, can be tackled in steps, beginning with small steps and increasing in difficulty as you become more accustomed to the change. This makes goals more realistic for lasting change. Focus on what’s most important. But don’t be too rigid, like balancing on a beam, you want to have agility and flexibility to cross and create room to have some fun!

Sense of Failure vs. Sense of Accomplishment
The usual dream has two things in common: it’s hard to do and the deadline is far away. So, naturally, we postpone it for as long as possible and then fail. That’s why you need to set milestones along the way. Those milestones should be measurable so you can easily and objectively say if you’ve done them. Instead of saying: “I’ll run 365 kilometers sometimes in 2019,” say “I’ll run one kilometer a day.” This resolution doesn’t allow you to think “I’ll start next week.” Once you’ve broken a rigid resolution, it’s easier to feel like a failure and give up.

But as entrepreneurs, we’re achievers! If you can’t be happy with who you are and can’t be satisfied with what you have accomplished, then this really is the ultimate failure. Setting goals verse setting one-time resolutions moves us from having that sense of accomplishments because if we stumble along the way, we still are moving forward to something better.

GOALS

Keep Your Future in Mind
Think of what you would have in your ideal life, and where you’d like to be in a year, possibly two, five, or even 10 years. Create a big vision to inspire you and give you something meaningful to work towards. Next, break that down this vision into specific goals that you can achieve in 10 years, five years, two years and just one year. If you can keep in your mind this big vision of where you would ultimately like your goals to take you, it’s easier to stick with them.

Create Habits
Once you have your goals set, keep them in the forefront of your mind. Have them as part of your screen saver or written on post-it notes in prominent places around your office or work area at your coworking space for a while. Then, break them down into smaller goals, and think of what steps you need to take to reach these goals. Then, and this is key, create habits that can lead you to your goals.

Think of what specific habits you can maintain that will make bigger changes in your life if you maintain them and embed them into your schedule in the easiest ways you can think to maintain them. For example, if you’d like to be more fit, commit to exercising for a reasonable amount of time. Learn more about how our friend and fitness instructor, Sara Kovačević, created habits that changed her life personally and professionally at our first Užina i Učenje on Thursday, January 31, 2019.

IN THE END, REWARD YOURSELF

Finally, reward yourself with something small for continuing to stick with it, until you make enough progress toward your goals that the progress becomes its own reward. Remember that change doesn’t come overnight, but as you work toward developing what is important to you, the change will come, and it will be lasting. Remember this, and enjoy building the life you were meant to live.

Business Lessons I Learned From a Diet

It’s that time of year again…we’ve nearly finished another year and are beginning to think about New Year’s Resolutions. One of the most common goals in the new year is a healthier lifestyle. But, did you know that completing a diet can not only be good for your health but your business too?

I recently completed the Whole30 diet and learned some valuable business lessons in the process.

Willpower – It’s easy to get in the habit of giving yourself what you want; after all, it’s usually enjoyable. But, sometimes you must deny yourself a momentary pleasure for a greater reward in the future. Whether it’s choosing an apple over an apple pie or weighing your business options, exercising self-discipline and self-control is critical to long term success.

Cheerleaders – There comes a point in any diet when you wonder if it’s worth the effort. Maybe you’ve searched and searched for a compliant meal and still haven’t found one. Or, maybe you’ve been tempted by the delicious stroopwafel for the hundredth time and aren’t sure you have enough discipline to say no again. (Both are personal stories from our Coworking Europe trip!)

It’s in these times that you need a cheerleader – someone to come alongside you and remind you why you made the decision to pursue this goal in the first place. Someone to renew the energy and determination you first had. In nearly every aspect of life, cheerleaders play an important role, but especially when it comes to achieving our goals.

But remember – people can’t cheer you on if you don’t share your goals with them. Selective sharing of business or dietary goals creates a layer of accountability and ensures that you’ll have someone standing beside you when you want to quit. Surround yourself with friends and colleagues who will challenge you to complete the goals you set for yourself and look for opportunities to return the favor.

Control – Any control freaks out there? I started Whole30 in a desperate attempt to control something in my life when everything else seemed to be spinning out of control. The truth is, you can’t control everything, but you can control some things! I can’t control the fact that sugar is added to nearly every pre-packaged meal, but I can choose to cook homemade meals instead. The same is true in business – I might not be able to control what happens to me or my work, but I can control how and when I respond.

Planning – On Whole 30, I began planning on the weekend what I would eat, when I would cook, and where I would shop for the following week. I considered every window of spare time and diligently planned my time to make sure that I had healthy options throughout the week. Healthy meals don’t make themselves and great business ideas don’t suddenly spring into reality; they require planning.

Self Care – Maybe the most important lesson I learned on Whole30 was the importance of self-care. Generally, I really want to focus on helping others, but I am learning that I cannot pour into others if I don’t first take care of myself. In the same way, so many of us want to give back to our communities and support other businesses, but we can’t do that if our own businesses aren’t healthy. Investing in ourselves pays dividends to our communities in time.

30 Days – When my friend first recommended Whole30 to me, it seemed impossible. I pretty much lived on quesadillas and ajvar, so how in the world would I be able to prepare three meals a day with no sugar, no grains, no dairy, and no legumes? But, she reminded me that the diet lasted for only 30 days. And, you can do anything for 30 days, right?

So, what impossible business practice have you written off? Is it keeping a balanced budget or a maintaining a regular social media campaign?

Whatever it is, do yourself a favor and choose to do the “impossible” for 30 days.

You’ll be so glad you did!

 

Delivering a Message That Counts

Delivering a message that counts requires a compelling, simple narrative, but we can be crippled by fear of public speaking. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate nervousness, but being organized in your message and confident in your purpose can help ease anxiety.
It is important to start preparing for your message by answering the following question: “What is the takeaway that you want people to have?” Then, you move backwards and explain your topic, show evidence for why this should be taken seriously. Next, show a case study or share a stories. Lastly and most importantly, we must empower the audience to respond by a call to action. If you forget this step, your speech may be inspiring at the moment, but it is will only last for a short time and soon be forgotten.

Coworking Europe Conference 2018 Recap

Last week, our team went to Amsterdam for the 9th Coworking Europe Conference, and we came back with some things to share with you. The conference traditionally started off with the Coworking Survey presentation from Deskmag, which included several insights that set the base and tone for the presentations that followed, as well as the more informal conversations during the week.

One of the biggest statements released by the survey is that €10 is the daily amount that coworkers will spend per working day around a coworking space in Europe. We believe — and many of you would probably agree — that a coworking space does not just help the community inside its wall but also outside.
Other presentations that followed were certainly more popular. B. Amsterdam, where the conference was being held, helps the business community innovate, grow and flourish their business in Amsterdam. And for a more personal perspective, Thom Wernke from StartDock gave a very insightful presentation on their journey from building a community first with focused on growth, friendship, collaboration and entrepreneurship, and how he founded the Coworking Federation Amsterdam to bring together the entire coworking ecosystem in Amsterdam. This was a great example of an informative presentation, which highlighted assuring both community and growth for a space — but also collaboration.

WeWork is Not the Only Coworking Space That is Expanding.

Established locally-operated coworking spaces are reaching capacity, estimated at least 85% capacity, and they are looking into expansion of their current space or opening a new location. There are a few questions to ask if you should expand: Can your team handle a move? Are you full? Are you profitable? Expansion should offer more space to more people, like private offices, startup space, etc. Of course this depends on your community and its needs.

Also, another participant said something that rand true this year. “Finally, there was not sessions on how to define coworking.” 🙂

Coworking Spaces Do Memberships, Not Leases.

Coworking spaces are not doing leases or rent, but they are doing memberships. It is important to think about what rights members may have. Events are part of your membership, and they add vibrancy to your coworking space. Another option that coworking spaces may want to offer is virtual office, but it is important to define what this means for your space. There are three types of virtual offices: (1) use of services like meeting rooms and printing, (2) place for registration of business or (3) a mailing service. Seek counsel from your accountants or lawyers to make sure that your space is following the law. Lastly, have membership plans that work for your community, such as monthly, 10-day flexible membership, weekly and daily passes.

Coworking Can Impact Cities.

Coworking spaces are revitalizing neighborhoods in cities, making a meaningful impact not just on the members, but on the surrounding community, providing jobs, improved healthcare and hope. “Instead of knowledge — these buildings, these spaces, these communities — can create opportunity. This is a way of using the movement and the spaces that we run to help communities and people flourish.” As noted earlier, coworkers are more likely to spend money for food, supplies, etc. in areas around the space.

Not Enough Talk on Metrics

We often get asked why we attend conferences like Coworking Europe, and in the end, it is the deep discussion during coffee or at lunch that we have with participants, probably more so then the sessions. After attending a few sessions this year, it was disappointing that the speakers could not discuss more about metrics in their operation and growth, especially since sustainability is a core value of coworking. Fortunately, it was after a few introductions that we had the chance to discuss what research some organizations are doing, such as Coworking Library and others. Thank you to participants who came up to us and answered a question that a speaker could not. It is a reminder how much value everyone who attends the conference adds to our community.

As a company that provides a modest coworking space in a small country on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, we know there are infinite models of coworking out there, and we do not always fit under the same umbrella. But we must always keep the dialogue open, engage, be critical, look at what needs to be improved and remember that coworking is not only about the spaces, the number of square meters, the decor or even the tools, but mostly about the people in it.

And while there might be a miss or overuse of the word “coworking,” we can only hope that this means that our movement is inspiring to more traditional models of working and the corporate industry – and that they are looking up to us, rather than the other way around.
Thanks to our old and new friends from Smart Office, Seat2Meet, Coworkaholic, Startit Centar, Nova Iskra, Infostud Hub, KG Coworking, Klub Heroja, The Melting Pot, The Living Room Coworking, Coworker, Cutwork and many others from Coworking Europe 2018 for the discussions and conversations which inspired this post.

Happy Coworking!

The Practice of Thankfulness

Beta Bar Coworking is preparing for our annual Thanksgiving celebration, where we gather and share the things for which we are thankful. It’s a way for our community to share in some of the American traditions of our co-founders, but it is also a great way to deepen our friendships as we reflect upon the highs and lows of the year.

But, thankfulness shouldn’t be something we express once a year, it should be intertwined in the very fabric of our lives. As entrepreneurs, especially, we need motivation and positivity amid the inevitable setbacks and disappointments that we face to keep our creativity flowing. We need encouragement to keep pressing forward towards our dreams, and thankfulness can help. We need only to focus our minds on the good things around us instead of dwelling on the bad.

Practice gratitude daily

Too often, our natural posture can become tainted with negativity and complaints, but we can practice thankfulness daily, and eventually we will train ourselves to look for the good in the circumstances we face. Like any mental discipline, gratitude takes time and practice. Not every day is full of significant progress, but we can learn to celebrate the small victories.

I have chosen this month to practice thankfulness, and I hope you will join me! Commit to a daily practice, you’ll see the benefits in your life. You’ll be a happier and more fulfilled person, a more efficient and less emotional leader, and a better resource for your customers.

Challenge: Write down five things you are thankful for at the end of every day for the next month.

 

Strategic Thinking in Business Planning

A strategy is an important for a organization’s culture in our dynamic culture. The purpose of the strategy is to identify clear goals that develop, enhance and improve the overall health of an organization. A tool that strength’s a business is called strategic thinking, defined as the act of generating and applying unique opportunities and that allows an organization to create a competitive advantage. It encompasses innovative, creative and entrepreneurial insight into an organizations environment, which increase greater success within an organization. While attending a course on “Delivering the Strategic Message: Make the Manner and the Message Count” at the University of Texas, Penny Crow, MS, RHIA, introduced her PILLARS© toolbox on how structured thinking process makes us better strategic thinkers.

PLAN
You must plan before you act. Many organizations become reactive because they spend more time “doing” rather than planning for success. During this stage, you must determine your purpose, develop a road map, have a clear vision or direction and know why you are doing what you are doing.

INTENT
Intent is important because an organization must be self-aware, intentional and deliberate about their business planning for people and processes of their organization rather than being victims of the market situations. “Think” time is crucial, so your organization does not lose its creativity by being reactive to these situations.

LEADERSHIP
Leadership establishes the climate for the success of its people and processes. Leaders need to establish trust, so its people will listen to them and work together by providing a collaborative environment of growth and development. They must be able to provide direction and executes the plan with intentional movement for success.

LANGUAGE
It is important to learn terminology and language used within the industry of your clients, employees and partners, so that the organization can communicate consistently well with each others. Understanding each others’ language allows you to cross generations, and it gives clarity to the plan. Language and listening are parts of communication. Make sure everyone is saying and meaning the same thing.

ACTION
After the planning is done, an organization can be intentional about the actions that you will take for your business journey. The action plan  should be deliberate, focused, calculated and empower your employees.

RESOURCES
It is only through planning, resources can be defined as time, budget, people and processes.

SUSTAINABILITY
This component involves three distinct, yet highly connected categories: operational, social and environmental. Building an effective sustainability initiative involves addressing financial stewardship and talent management, developing a succession plan for your organization’s well-being, and engaging your employees, customers and community.

Business owners and entrepreneurs need to be proactive and need to make time for strategic thinking. The sustainability of an organization requires not only thinking about what is happening now but also thinking about future outcomes. Without strategic thinking, organizations lack the capacity to successfully advance the direction of their business into one that possesses innovation, creativity and a competitive edge. The ultimate goal is bring your business to a new edge (nova ivica) through Strategic Thinking!

Sustainable Business Principles for the Entrepreneur

Lean principles find their origins in the manufacturing world, and as such, many people mistakenly think that they have no place in the business world. However, when applied correctly, Lean principles can bring increased efficiency, sustainability, and value to even the most unsuspecting process – including a business startup.

Don’t Squelch the Talent Around You

Of all the mistakes we could make, failing to utilize the talent around us dampers the entrepreneurial spirit and ideation the most. Innovation doesn’t take place in isolation – we need others to challenge, criticize, and celebrate with us. As such, we surround ourselves with teams (formal or informal) that bring value to our pursuits.

But, in the stress and pressure of day-to-day deadlines and requirements, we sometimes force people to work in areas in which they aren’t gifted or that under-utilize their skill sets. We give clerical or administrative tasks to those who thrive in collaborative, highly-communicative roles or ask the those more comfortable with the inner workings of a computer to develop our sales strategy. And though necessary at times, prolonged time spent on tasks in which one does feel effective can lead to burn-out, frustration, and lack of motivation – not to mention that people typically complete tasks in their areas of strengths more quickly and with higher quality.

The best way to combat wasted talent is to know your team. Know what they enjoy, where their talents lie, and how they are motivated. Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0 is a great way to begin understanding and assessing your team’s strengths and also learning how to work well on a team where diverse talents are represented, which is the best kind of team.

Avoid Over-Processing

In the world of entrepreneurship, we take our work personally; we count our entrepreneurial pursuits worthy of sacrificing stability, personal time, and, oftentimes, financial security. When we launch our product or service, we’re giving away a piece of ourselves. So, naturally, we design to be the best in the marketplace, but what if striving to be the best is more than what’s required?

Ultimately, our goal is to turn a profit by providing exactly what the customer wants with the minimal amount of resources required to produce it. So, we don’t necessarily have to be the best; we just have to be the best at meeting the customer need. It’s possible to spend extra time and money refining the product or service and making it shinier when the customer would have been satisfied with an already existing version.

For the success of any business, customer insight is foundational. As you’re building your business, surround yourself with potential customers who can tell you what causes them pain and what they most desire. Then, build your minimum viable product and use your network of potential customers to test it out. Don’t waste resources making something prettier when you could already be earning a return on your investment.

Prioritize Your Investments

Let’s face it – big thinkers aren’t always big doers. Some of the most strategic, forward thinkers in the world will be the first to admit that they don’t always know how to put their ideas into action or how to prioritize their investments. But, to let strategic ideas sit undeveloped in the crevices of the mind is the same as letting containers of in-process materials lie around a warehouse. They clutter the workspace and create confusion and inefficiency.

Documenting your and your team’s ideas declutters your mind and ensures your good ideas aren’t forgotten. Because our resources – time and money – aren’t unlimited, we need to invest them wisely. And, spending them across a long list of ideas won’t bring as much value as investing them strategically in those that will bring the most forward motion. Download a prioritization matrix template from Lean Methods Group, check out Fortune magazine’s 5 Apps to Track Your Every Idea, or replicate the matrix below to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investments.

Buy What You Need and Make What You Sell

This principle seems foundational, but have you ever been lured into bulk purchases because of a discount? In an effort to stretch our money, we can be tempted to purchase more than what we need, but to give into such a temptation could be crippling for a start-up. Funding is one of the biggest challenges for the entrepreneur, and to invest your hard-earned money in something you may or may not use is foolish. The storage costs of this decision alone are a waste, but the opportunity cost can be far more significant and, oftentimes, not fully realized until a later date.

The “make it and they will come” philosophy has been around for years, but it’s against core lean principles and is certainly unwise for the freelancer. The last thing you need is to invest your money in something no one may ever buy. It’s far better to require letters of intent or, better yet, contracts from prospective customers before you develop the product or service. Doing so shows you that your prospective customer is serious about purchasing your product and reduces the financial risk involved in the development and launch.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Learning what not to do can be just as valuable as knowing what to do. So, endeavor to be a life-long learner. One of the keys of Lean methodology is continuous improvement – note the word continuous; it implies that there will never be a day when the process cannot be improved. Let that be a guiding principle for your business ventures as well.

Collect feedback from your customers or partners. Look at your investments of time and money seeking to understand why they did or didn’t bring a return. Ask the hard questions and take action based on what you learn remembering to see each failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Social Entrepreneurship: 4 Types of Social Enterprises

The topic of entrepreneurship has become increasingly common in the last decade. Many business leaders even bemoan the idea that it has become a fad, something cool, a status of sorts. However, one area that has benefited from the increased attention given to entrepreneurship is that of social entrepreneurship and building social enterprises which look to better society or solve a particular challenge within a community.

This expanding branch of entrepreneurship has given birth to new lingo which should be clarified. Giving clarity to the words being used and the models practiced aids in how entrepreneurs develop their ideas by providing a clear vision they desire to see achieved.

Social Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It is the “Why” in the business approach. Those organizations or businesses who focus on the problem knowing the solution is one owned by the community. Social entrepreneurship is generally using socially innovative means to address the problem mobilizing communities in a different way.

Social Innovation is about the idea which can transform a community. These are the new steps and new paths people walk to address old problems. Good innovation is creative, transformative, and does not drain the resources of a community. The ideas are generally reproducible even with minor modifications.

Social Enterprises are the business models used to carry out the ideas and accomplish the vision. There are a variety of models that can be used to address social ills within a community, however, not all are equally useful for a particular problem. It is important that the model chosen is something sustainable and fits the values of the community and involves their participation in solving the problem.

Types of Social Enterprises

Awareness

There are a variety of social enterprises and entrepreneurs who seek to bring awareness to a particular problem, cause, or a second brand solving a social issue. These enterprises attract a larger attention to draw out help from a community that may exceed the local community. In one sense, awareness brands crowdsource solutions to solve the social challenge.

Nonprofit

When most think of nonprofits, they do not consider this to be a “business” model. However, a nonprofit can be sustainable while not turning profits. A nonprofit does not have to exist solely on gifts from donors. While many do, the work of a business and earned income can go towards sustaining the business practices, paying salaries, and giving toward the causes it is seeking to address. In most countries, nonprofits benefit from tax breaks and less restricting business laws making it an agile form of social enterprise.

For Profit

For profits are businesses who have a stated goal to increase their profit margin, yet still maintain a social goal. Clothing companies which create an increased transparency in the textile industry are examples of this. A specific example is Everlane. They maintain the focus of transparency in practices and pricing to ensure fair pricing and fair wages. Businesses such as Everlane similar to an Awareness Brand, yet turn a profit to reinvest in the social cause. The business is not only sustainable, but thriving.

“One for One”

The “One for One” model has been made famous by brands such TOMS and Warby Parker. Blake Mycoskie traveled to Argentina in 2006 and saw the hardship of children without shoes. This struggle led him to introduce a simple show model that was efficient, durable, and affordable. For every pair of shoes sold, they give a pair to a child in need. TOMS operates as a for profit and has expanded to address other social issues such as affordable eye care.

We address the power of social entrepreneurship here. If you wonder about starting a business and have difficulty deciding if it fits the social model, ask yourself, “What problem am I solving? Does my solution relieve pain within the community?”

5 Pieces of Valuable Career Advice

As a newcomer to Montenegro, one of the most common questions I’m asked is “How did you get here?” While sometimes I’m sure it’s prompted by the fact that my family is from a relatively small town in Mississippi, often times it’s a more probing question inquiring about my journey to follow my dreams of living and working overseas. The truth is that I’ve taken a nontraditional path to arrive in this beautiful place, but my success and my story is built upon the words of wisdom others have offered to me and that I now hope to pass along to you.

#1 “Do what you love”
My dad once told me that one day I would spend more cumulative time at work than I would spend
anywhere else, so I might as well choose something I’d enjoy. While that’s a sobering thought, I found it to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to accumulate money or the prestige of progressing professionally, but those ambitions are easily choked out by the challenges we face in the workplace. So, it’s important that you choose a professional path that allows you to do work you actually enjoy. After all, “we work to live – not live to work,” right?

#2 “Vertical isn’t always better”
Early on, a more experienced colleague shared that often young professionals are so focused on
climbing the corporate ladder that they work to develop expertise in one specific area – assuming this expertise will eventually lead to career growth. But, in reality, this decision can be far more detrimental and limiting to their aim than helpful.

As you think about the leader of a company, he or she needs to have a broad understanding of its inner workings. He or she doesn’t have to know all the details of how things work (there are managers for that), but the need to understand how one decision impacts all areas of the business is critical. Thus, making lateral career moves over vertical ones to gain a broader view of the interconnectedness of a company is critical for young professionals.

#3 “Take jobs outside your training”
I didn’t know what I loved to do when I first entered the workforce, so, out of necessity, my story is full of a lot of trial and error – taking jobs or volunteer opportunities to test the waters and see if I enjoyed the work. Often times I found out that I didn’t like the work, and that could be discouraging. But, even learning what I didn’t want to do long-term was valuable information because this knowledge guided my future decisions and pursuits. The courage to seek out and take opportunities outside the area of my formal education was fueled not only by my own prior experience but also by a mentor who saw a creative way to apply my skills as an industrial engineer in the sales and marketing field and later as a project manager – areas in which I never expected to work.

Taking jobs outside my structured training afforded me new opportunities to learn and gain skillsets that opened my eyes to work I really enjoyed but likely would have never considered if I had not been open to something non-conventional. As an added benefit, my diverse background allowed me to complement my colleagues’ expertise by adding value through my strengths, while at the same time developing my weaknesses by shadowing and learning from them.
#4 “Seek out those you admire”
The most valuable tool for building my career that I’ve received to date is the introduction of the
“informational interview”. Truly, the concept is quite simple – reach out to people you admire, meet
them for coffee, intentionally ask probing questions, and act on the information you receive. Yet, this tool alone has connected me with far more professionals than countless “networking events”, has connected me with job prospects, has led to shadowing opportunities, and has even kept me from making career moves that I would have regretted.

The hardest part of leveraging this piece of advice is using it. It can be intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know and initiate a meeting while clearly articulating the desire to learn from them. But, I’ve found that most people enjoy talking about themselves, and they typically enjoy helping other people – especially when that person approaches them humbly. So, be quick to admit that you don’t know it all and still have a lot to learn, then invite some inspiring experts to coffee – the worse they can say is “no”.

#5 “Look for the window”
Sometimes, we can’t find a job that meets our needs but also allows us to do the work we love. What do we do then? We look for the window in a room full of closed doors. Find a job that allows you the flexibility to pursue your passions simultaneously, outside of or in conjunction with your day-to-day job. And who knows, maybe your side venture will eventually become your main gig – as is the case with so many entrepreneurs.

Let’s learn from each other. What advice have you received that’s made a profound impact on your life?