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Career advice from a children’s book

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started…” - Mark Twain

In my last post on grappling with imposter syndrome, I shared some of the strategies that I leveraged to push back against this all too common narrative that our internal voices perpetuate. I want to revisit one of these strategies and dig deeper on how this particular strategy was instrumental in my journey to my career at iRelaunch.

I think one of the most underestimated pieces of advice is to take action, no matter how small that action is. I’m reminded of a book from my childhood by Amy Schwartz about a little girl who decides to paint a picture of the entire universe, but quickly is stumped with the enormity of the task at hand, and in her quest to begin, she experiences procrastination, distractions and blocks to her creative genius.

Begin at The Beginning by Amy Schwartz, a children's book cover

I find this story and the overall advice for the young artist embedded into the book’s title to “Begin at the Beginning” resonates with me well into my adulthood. Whenever I am overwhelmed with a large project or a major life decision like changing your career trajectory, I’ve found comfort in revisiting the lesson in this children’s book.

For an uber-organized planner like me, “begin at the beginning” usually means starting with a to-do list of every possible task I could imagine and getting all my thoughts out on paper. However, I also recognize that sometimes we need a catalyst to energize us to move beyond the analysis paralysis that our imposter syndrome imposes on us, stopping us in our well-meaning tracks to take that next step.

For me that catalytic event was the October 2018 iRelaunch Return to Work Conference. Earlier in that year I had entered a business competition sponsored by my then employer, where I pitched the value of creating a return to work program at our organization. My post on imposter syndrome recounted my experience in reaching out to Carol Fishman Cohen for counsel and advice on this presentation, and it was this culmination of many other tiny actions that gave me more confidence to take more action.

At the time of the business competition, I had a vague inkling in the back of my mind that I might want to pursue a career with iRelaunch, but in my reluctance to let go of my former professional identity...I wasn’t yet convinced it was the right move. I kept the lines of communication with Carol open, updating her on different developments after the business competition ended and sending her some resources from my industry that I felt were relevant to iRelaunch’s business, but also hinted at the unique perspective my experience in this industry could bring to complement iRelaunch’s business objectives. By keeping that relationship with Carol warm, she extended an invitation to attend the 2018 Return to Work Conference - which I of course accepted. The energizing environment of that day is precisely what solidified my decision to take action yet again and develop my own strategic plan to position myself as a valuable addition to the iRelaunch team. I remember calling my husband toward the end of that day, saying “this is where I’m meant to be. I’m going to do this.”

A darkened brick wall is lit up by a neon sign that spells out

With this conviction and clarity on my career trajectory, on the train ride home from NYC, I began to make my to-do list, planning out how I would continue - (and sustain!) taking action on this newly crystallized goal of mine. I started the process of prioritizing, combining and evaluating the merits and relative impact that completing each of those tasks would yield. And while I highly suggest you personalize the development of your own roadmap as everyone’s journey is different and the relative importance of each task will vary, it certainly helps to kick off this process by leveraging the framework developed by your Return to Work experts here at iRelaunch!

Once I had all my thoughts out on paper, I developed a week-by-week plan...breaking this large goal into smaller chunks but still creating a sense of accountability by setting reasonable deadlines. For each task, I also evaluated the purpose, or the specific goal I wanted to accomplish by checking that task off the list. Was it to establish rapport? Heighten my visibility? Hone my brand? Research the industry? Breaking my to-do list down by also creating the time and space to examine how relevant or impactful the completion of the task would be to my overall goal helped me to focus my efforts and really pare down the tasks to the most essential, likely saving me from going down a rabbit hole of unnecessary research for the goal at hand.

After the Conference, I prioritized the time-sensitive tasks that couldn’t wait, all with the goal of establishing a rapport with the iRelaunch team and maintaining a profile of visibility as I crafted the rest of my strategic plan. These immediate tasks were to send thank you notes to Carol and the rest of the iRelaunch team for inviting me to attend the Conference (for good measure, I sent both emails and hand-written thank you notes) and to connect with iRelaunch employees on LinkedIn.

The next of my blog posts will dive in deeper into the various phases my action plan...from the first steps of gaining clarity on my career goals and what we at iRelaunch call the "4 C’s" to my company and industry research phase, to determining the right way to pitch myself to iRelaunch. Along the way, I’ll share some exercises and ideas that have been helpful to me - some that I dreamed up, some are resources that others have shared, including your Return to Work experts here at iRelaunch.

Of course, you shouldn’t expect your action plan to be a mirror image of my own - our journeys and goals are different so naturally our tasks, our approaches and the importance of each item will be as varied and different as our career paths. However, I do hope that you’ll borrow this list where appropriate and consider leveraging iRelaunch’s Return to Work Roadmap to guide you through some of the steps you need to take at the start of any job search before jumping right into the tactical tasks of writing your resume or applying for jobs.

Finally, I’m hopeful one of our Return to Work Conferences can be as cataclysmic of an event for you that they were for me.

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Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

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