As a consultant, the “time between” projects is both a blessing and a curse. Having done this wonderful lifestyle for 10 years now, I’ve shared a few of the blessings. Now some of the downsides… your mileage will vary.
- Focus. (Squirrel!) Schedule disruption; the temptation to binge watch. (Though if you must…)
- Anxiety. Will I ever get a new assignment?
- Self-doubt. Boy, that last assignment went pear-shaped. Was it me? Are my skills still relevant?
- More self-doubt. Explaining what I do all day.
- The massively built up to-do lists. (Finally putting some brain cycles into this, for example.)
A Different Way to Think About the Time Between
BUT… recently in an in-between time for me, I met a very inspiring woman, Carol Novello, who gave me a different way to think about it. She caught my attention when I heard her speak about an interesting turn in her career journey. After a successful tenure at Intuit, she took the time required to allow her brain to follow her heart down a new path… a path which brought her gifts and energy to help both people and our furry friends.
Carol’s Three Pieces of Advice
- Give yourself permission to take the time to let the right thing find you.
- Make a list of what’s important in a role.
- Experiment. Try on a new hat.
1. Give yourself permission to take time.
It turns out, we are both fans of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. In her recent book, Big Magic, she explained a belief that inspiration and right opportunities will literally find you; confirming a hope I think we all have. We have been given gifts, specific to our situations and nature. If we are given the chance to exercise them, we will be fulfilled.
But inspiration will not necessarily come when you beckon. It is a luxury to be able to take time to wait for the right opportunities. Try things in the interim. (In Novello’s case, she tried consulting as she waited for the right next thing to present itself). Give yourself 12 months (why not say the number).
This reset my thinking about what is possible. Thank you, Carol.
2. Make a list of requirements.
Know what’s important to you. In retrospect, this seems so common sense I can’t believe I hadn’t done it before. But well, I hadn’t! She pondered a list of requirements that her next thing had to have. Things like travel time and pet friendliness. (Score on the latter!)
We all have a list in our head, but putting it down on paper forced two things for me: it clarified what inspires me (see #3 below) and helped address my anxiety. “What if I never work again?” put me down a path to choose a gig that really wasn’t what I wanted to do nor was a fit for my talents. If an opportunity truly lacks enough of the items, shouldn’t you wait for something better?
So, just for grins, here is my list:
- Great people
- A genuine connection with my manager
- A culture that actively seeks to better the world
- Clear expectations
- A clear vision of what success looks like
- Remote work OK
- Some travel
- Same or better money than previous engagements
This last one I wrestle with. Is it good to take an interesting job if it takes you sideways or backward financially? I think so, yes. At the same time, putting that on my list pushes me to keep building my skills so I can take on more rewarding assignments.
3. Experiment with the ideal.
During my most recent break, I volunteered with a group on an event that combined two things I care deeply about: cycling and helping people find homes. It was a very satisfying project, and in meeting a group of kindred spirits, I now have opportunities to learn and expand into new areas where I think I may have gifts to give.
Oh, the places I’ll go, now that I’ve got my beloved lists to light the way.