Thursday, August 12, 2010

Are you a company of one? How do you retreat?

"Have you ever done a post on how to do a career retreat for yourself--if you're a freelancer or a company-of-one contractor, etc? Did I just dream that?" asked a reader of the blog.

That started me thinking about what it means to be a "company of one," and realized this might also be useful for communications directors--who rarely get to bare their souls in retreats with their own staff members--as well as for entrepreneurs, freelancers and anyone contemplating a career change that's not ready to announce. How do you contemplate, then act in a way that propels you toward your goals? This issue shares questions and tactics that have helped propel me forward in figuring out my own strategy. Please share yours--and share this issue with your colleagues.
Get perspective: The personal/work timeline
Communicators put things out and hold things back, as needed...but to get perspective on your own career path, you need a personal/work timeline that looks back on the previous year. I like to use flipchart pages, one for each of the previous 12 months, with the timeline drawn across the midsection of each month. Above the line, write significant things that happened each month in your personal life; below the line, significant events in your work. You define "significant"--it can be good or bad, accomplishment or lesson learned, stumbling block or easy win. When you're done, step back and look at the year in its personal/work entirety. What patterns do you notice? What changes might they prompt in the year ahead?
Get Focused: A checklist to map the road ahead

Once you know where you've been, it's time to look ahead--but you need to pinpoint where you're headed, in effect drawing your own map. Here are 16 questions I think any communicator should be asking to pinpoint a path forward:

Where do I stand?
  • What has my "company" really done so far? What did I like the best?  
  • What was most lucrative?  
  • What's been the sand in my shoe--the work that bothers me or makes me most uncomfortable? 
  • What were the big mistakes? What did I learn from them?  
  • If I haven't started yet, what are 10 small steps I can take toward becoming the company of one: lunches with mentors, building a database, research on monetizing my goal?  
  • Have I scheduled time to do those things?
What do I want to do?
  • If I could give something up without harming my career, what would I give up? What am I tired of doing? 
  • Is there something I've always wanted to do that I haven't done yet? 
  • How can I choose projects that are expansive and energizing rather than sapping?  
  • How do I want to feel about my work over the next few years?
What are the obstacles?

  • If I had to guess, which tasks/specialties/skills that are now common in my work will be obsolete shortly? 
  • If I had to guess, what will be replacing them? How and why?  
  • Which things on my wish list require conditions I don't control? 
  • Where might I go or what might I do to gain control?
  • Am I in the right place to do what I want to do?
What training and technology upgrades do I need?

  • What am I missing that would allow me to pursue and reach these goals?
  • What kind of help can I get to learn the skills I need?
  • Which skills can I hire, rather than learn?
If you really are starting a business, you might want to think about these questions from Seth Godin about what he considers the foundation elements for modern businesses--good discussion starters, even if you're just talking to yourself.

I facilitate retreats for communicators, either as teams or on the topic of communications for boards and management.  But if your retreat is a retreat-of-one, what other questions would you want to ponder on such a retreat? Share them--anonymously, if you wish--in the comments.

This post first appeared in my free monthly newsletter, For Communications Directors. Sign up here to get early reports, special discounts and offers and news that doesn't appear on the blog.  Then head over to the don't get caught page on Facebook and continue the conversation.

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