Leaps of faith

“Trust in God, but tie your camel to a post.”

-Old Arabic proverb (trusting the internet on this attribution, please correct me if you know a more specific source).

Have you ever heard this one?

Even for those of us who have faith, it does not give us license to be naïve about our future. Leaping without a net might be okay if your family is wealthy or inclined to bail you out. But I live in the real world, and come from humble beginnings.

I made a leap last August, away from a corporate manager position and into a sabbatical, some forays into self-employment: coaching, science writing, and freelance consulting. I designed and delivered some workshops: Embody the Leader Within You and the Neuroscience of Resilience. I began yoga teacher training, and I am loving that experience. I started with about 6-8 months of living expenses put away, and I earned a little money here and there.

I realized back in February/March that this was not going to be a sustainable living for me, and that our reserve funds were rapidly dwindling. So I took a bridge loan of sorts and then headed back into looking for full-time gigs. Good thing my credit is excellent, and I foresaw the shortfall a few months before it became mission-critical. Also good thing that I spent 10 months before I left the previous job in serious preparation for this time away, putting away extra money and hiring coaches to position myself for a break. I do not take that privilege for granted.

tie your camel
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Though I will someday try a self-employment venture again, I was honored last week to accept a position at the University of Minnesota as a Program Manager in the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. I will begin on June 10th (my birthday!) and it feels like an amazing gift. As it turns out, the recruiter had contacted me originally on March 8th regarding this position. So it was about a 3-month period of messages back and forth, phone interviews, in person interviews, interacting with the hiring committee, and eventually the hiring manager (3 in person experiences).

I kept pursuing this one because I see it as a unique blend of an opportunity to build something new in an academic setting but at the same time apply my expertise in clinical research. At the same time, I had a hard time pursuing corporate positions, because I just do not see myself in that sort of role for now, so I did not bother.

Because I was having a positive experience with the interview process, I made a leap of faith and did not do much searching in the full-time realm for other jobs. I front-loaded my YTT studies, knowing that a full-time job may mean less time for focused study of yoga. And I am bringing my coaching practice to a mindful close while I allow lots of energy and time to learn the new job without too much distraction.

I am grateful that I took the leap, learned so much in the interim, and found myself a role that, though it pays less than my previous role in the corporate world, allows for a sustainable and regular income for my husband and me. It is on my “growth edge” and will stretch me in new ways. I am excited and a little nervous, as anyone might be in a new role. But I will embrace it. The faith I have developed in my own resilience serves me. And wherever the road bends next, I know I can meet the challenges ahead.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Mother Lake musings

This week I have the privilege of enjoying some time near Lake Superior. My friend is attending a conference and I will be caring for her two kitties (one of which is pictured below) while she is away.

Olive at e window
Olive at the window 

It was lovely to have some time to catch up with her for a day and a half or so before she leaves. It struck me how similar our career pivots have been in recent years. She is about 5 years ahead me. And while she left a tenured professor position at a University and I left a corporate position, I can tell we have some “threads” in common.

For one, we are finding that recruiters and hiring managers do not always “get” what to do with our experience. As knowledge workers, we often specialize in a particular area for a period of time, say 10-15 years. But then some of us get an “itch” to extend our skills, to stretch outside our comfort zones, or maybe to find work that speaks to our souls. Perhaps we found ourselves living someone else’s idea of success. At the time, it made sense to take that road, to fully immerse ourselves in an area of expertise. And then suddenly (or gradually) we grow out of it.

Many people think we are crazy. “Why the hell would you leave a secure job as a professor (or a clinical research operations manager, in my case)?”

Why indeed?

Deep blue Lake Superior
I just love the deep blue of Lake Superior. This photo was taken near Silver Creek Cliff, looking eastward. Copyright 2019 mexi-minnesotana

Futurists often tell us that the work place is changing. We should expect to make major career moves every 5-10 years. It keeps us nimble, fresh and innovative. But the reality is that structurally, recruitment and sourcing professionals are not hiring this way. It is still about “ticking the boxes” and following a formulaic approach to look for talent, sadly.

My own timeline is such that I will likely head back to full time work soon, probably within the next month or two. I was feeling sad about this a few weeks ago, wondering if I had failed at this attempt at self-employment because I had not planned well enough. I had not narrowed down my niche properly perhaps, or I may thrive under conditions where I have a bit more structure than this wide open landscape.

However it is not failure if we learn from our experiences. And this time I will go back to the drawing board understanding myself better. I know more about the support I need to be productive. I have piloted and tested some ideas and workshop offerings. I have enrolled in yoga teacher training. I am moving forward.

Even if I do need to regroup and re-capitalize a bit, the dream endures. This retreat is an opportunity to go inward to get clear about my deepest longings. I am so grateful for the time and space for this process.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

Ice breaker speech – done!

How many of you on my readership list are current or former members of a Toastmasters club?

I am curious, because if you are, you will know what an “ice breaker speech” is intended to do. It is a way of introducing yourself to the club in a 5-7 minute speech, and helping them to get to know you better.

Whenever I have to speak on a topic for which I have expertise, I feel comfortable. It is harder to give a speech about myself, because it feels more vulnerable and personal. However, after practicing using the voice recorder on my phone in the morning before the speech, I delivered in a way that felt authentic.

My main purpose was to explain the reasons I joined Toastmasters and give them some insight about my motivations, values and goals. I used the term “white Mexican” to describe how I see the world. I was pleased that I got great feedback on the speech and the evaluator thought I used humor, eye contact and gestures very effectively in the speech.

All in all, I am happy to be done with that one. I was not able to write out the speech or even put together an outline. I like to speak a bit more extemporaneously but somehow I found the words I needed by staying present and focused. I am grateful that it is a very kind an encouraging group, so I am looking forward to growing alongside the as we practice our public speaking, evaluation and leadership skills.

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me as I struggled with procrastination. I felt a huge surge of energy after this project was completed. I know the next one will go much better! The ice is broken!

ice broken
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Happy Spring!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Flex work – myth or reality?

Hola Amigos/as:

I am going a little rant, so pardon me in advance for doing it. Of course if you choose to read my blog, this is what you’re going to get now and then. You accept it. Maybe you even enjoy it.

Many organizations lack the flexibility they will need to thrive in a future that looks very different from the present. Or possibly I have not found the “holy grail” of flex work yet, and if anyone can shed some light on this, I will be grateful.

wellworth1.jpg
Wellworth building – downtown St. Paul co-working space I tried out Wednesday, 3/13/2019.

The future of work will not have everyone working 8+ hours for 5 days a week. I am fairly sure of that, based on the research and reading I have done about the evolving workforce. But most companies still seem reluctant to take on employees at less than a  100% commitment. Not only do they want your time, they seem to want your soul.

Ideally for me, a 20-30 hour gig would be perfect. 3-4 days a week of full time work would be ideal, so I could build up the larger vision of my practice (the tagline of which is “Embody the Leader Within You“). I realize it takes time and clientele built over time to achieve my vision, and I am willing to work at it part-time for now, supplementing with a job in an organization. But most organizations either want 100% of your time, or nothing.

I was talking with a friend who is retired, and she told me she had planned to work part-time for a few months or a year for her employer. But they were not willing to consider that, after many years of full time work. When she decided to leave, they gave her 3 weeks to train her replacement and then she was gone. She is now retired now and doing all of the things she loves to do, living free and happy.

But that workplace missed out on some highly experienced and mature work. I am guessing that the Gen X or Baby Boomer manager did not properly value her contribution or may have had stereotypes about her ability to learn technology.

wellworth2
Another view of Wellworth – I really like the light and the openness of this office design.

This is a sad state. I am a Gen X/cusper myself and I can often identify with the situation of millennials (Gen Y) individuals. However, in my limited experience with Gen Y versus Boomer employees, I would go for the latter every time. Mature workers show up every day and they understand that they will not receive a trophy just for doing the bare minimum.

I realize I am over-generalizing here, but mature workers know how to have a conversation. While some of them may be as wedded to their phones as the millennials, most have basic manners as well as focus and attention. They understand the subtle dynamics of social interaction, and how to adjust accordingly to circumstances.

I have worked with Boomer employees who got more done in 15 hours a week than the interns I hired who worked 40 hours a week. So please, if you are in a position to hire someone: do not rule out someone who wants to work for you for 25-30 hours a week. I will bet that that this person may be more productive in those hours than the 40 hour worker, and possibly more loyal if you hire them as well.

End of rant.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Making it up as we go

I have been experimenting with different titles on my Linked In page lately and the results are fascinating.

Recently it occurred to me that “researcher” describes a lot of what I do best and still love to do – constantly learning and taking in new “data” while evaluating and coming up with theories about how to apply knowledge in new ways. It made me giggle when I described myself in a new way on my page. I also added my company name (which is a little generic right now, a place-holder for the freelance LLC). I suddenly I had a lot of congratulatory messages on the new job. Ha, I thought. I am just making this up, people! 

No titles can ever encompass the totality of what makes you YOU in a professional or a personal sense. When you seek employment with a company, typically titles mean something specific, and have a particular job description that accompanies them.

researchers.JPG
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When you are a freelancer, or are starting a company of your own, nobody tells you what title you can have. A lot of folks like the “grand” titles: CEO, President, Creator, Founder… I like those too. But they imply a lot of things that I just don’t care to embody in my new venture. I don’t plan to have a slew of employees, so they do not apply.

I landed on “Principal Researcher” (for the moment) because it reflects a large part of what I truly enjoy, and I like it better than the generic “consultant.” But there are so many other phrases that could describe what I like to do – Creative Director, Facilitator, translator of cultural norms, etc. The “glue that holds a team together…” But since I am Minnesotan and we are taught not to brag, I’ll move right along. 😉

What’s great is that I get to make this up as I go along, and I can change it when I wish. There are NO rules! That’s liberating. I like to defy definition.  Of course, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than most, so that works for me.

What about you? What title would you give yourself, if you could just make one up?