Category Archives: Branding

On Change & Transitions: Make Your Change Work For You!

chMarriage/divorce, relocation/migration, critical illness, new job or starting a business, are just a few of the important life events that one may have to deal with at some point in their lives. If you’re lucky, you may only have to deal with just one of these life events, and hopefully one that you choose. Sadly, sometimes, and for some people, the circumstances are never that easy, and they don’t ever get to choose. Regardless of who you are, how strong you are, your situation, dealing with any of these life events can be a potential “deal breaker or game changer”, fundamentally altering life as you know it, and sometimes-forever. Life events have the potential to derail people, or place them on a path towards actualizing their personal and professional dreams and goals. Whichever the case, the range of emotions that people experience during, and after any of these life events might include: fear, sadness, confusion, doubt, uncertainty or happiness, hope, excitement and fulfillment. So how does one manage these challenging periods of transitions? How does one cope with the far-reaching changes which life events produce?

chaIn 2012, I made the decision to migrate to the United States. This decision meant I would opt to leave my solid job (Nearly 10 years), my homesweethome, my friends, my native country, and life as I knew it, to start over all in a whole new big world. I recall many of my friends, and co- workers expressing congratulatory sentiments. and well wishes, amidst the sad expressions/ sentiments about being sorry to see me go. All were confident of my continued success, and encouraged me to continue to do my best. Like many other people  who have also made this decision,(Some say brave and courageous step), I also recall feeling some trepidation about the move, wondering whether I would successful, whether I would like it, whether I was doing the best thing etc. At the same time, I brimmed with hope, and excitement about the move, and the possibilities of fulfilling my personal and professional dreams.

chgAs with any major life event, adjustments are inevitable. Managing the changes that come along , and making the transition is never seamless. For the  process of change is often times painful and difficult as challenges and uncertainty  abound. For me though, everything has not gone according to plan,  there have been many detours and significant strides. I have had to totally re-invent myself, re-position my skills, adjust my mindset to consider other opportunities that are not directly related to my background, to effectively navigate my current environment. I have learnt that, it is one thing to be successful in your own country where you have many advantages (by virtue of just citizenship), or the ready knowledge and understanding of how everything works. But, establishing yourself in a totally new and different country, with a different culture and climate, coupled with the pressure of competing with people who are equally, or much more qualified than you, for the same employment opportunities, is no easy feat. There are barriers everywhere (Tangible and intangible), yet at the same time, there are limitless opportunities that I didn’t have, might not have thought of, or known of before.

chgaLike many other people in this situation, I spent many waking moments doing research, and trying to figure out how to position my skills and experience, acquire new skills/certification, and brand myself (Read related post on Branding) for an international market, to enable me to find employment opportunities commensurate with my education, skills and background. I found that, my previous experiences and exposures  mattered, but , only to the extent that I was able to show solid employment and work history. In this new environment, I was an “unknown quantity and quality”. My ability to prove that my skills and experiences were relevant and  transferable became even more paramount.

In managing this  life event and trying to make this change work for me, I have learnt some important  lessons, and gained some  new insights that might prove useful to persons grappling with how to make the change work for them, or how to effectively manage the transition periods in their lives. As such, The tips I’m sharing for managing life events are not exhaustive. They might apply to one life event more than another, and might not apply to some persons but not all.

  1.  Have a vision and make it clear: This simply means you need to plan and have a plan (in your head and down on paper). The phrase-“fail to plan or plan to fail”,  is true. Your plan should clearly answer the 5Ws and H questions, i.e .Who, What Where, When, Why and How? This  is key since even the best laid plans may go awry. However, having  S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you to organize yourself, clarify your short to long-term goals and prioritize key activities. Having a clear vision will also help you to communicate your brand to the people  you seek help from, and help them steer you in the right direction.
  2. Build and establish a new network: The fact is, your network of friends, family and professional connections, might no longer be just a drive away or readily accessible. And even if they are, they might not be able to help you in your new environment, to the extent to that you might need support. The world works differently from place to place, and you will need to establish yourself in your new environment and in your field. One strategy I found hugely beneficial in my move was, doing informational interviews. These interviews enabled me to connect with new people, professionals in my field, understand how the industry functioned, as each person I met with, referred me to, or connected me with other professionals.
  3.  Develop and lean on your support system: Whereas one can reasonably expect support from family and friends, help can come from the most unlikely places and people. Continue to believe in the generosity of the human spirit. If you need help, ask for it. People are and can be generous with their times, resources and connections. So be kind and polite to the people you meet, and help and support others when and where you can. Some days will be better than others as you experience near hits, misses and curve balls coming at you from all sides. On other days your emotions will run high, and will need to step back, hear that encouraging word from a friend, or just  need someone to take the time to listen as you share your doubts and frustrations. Don’t be took hard on yourself, every experience is priceless
  4. Stay focused and positive: As you attempt to make the transition,  you will find that everyone will have an opinion on what you do,  or what you should be doing. This may apply to the kinds of jobs you should be seeking, where might be the best place to settle, or even how to prepare your resume (Omitting education and/or experience).It is wise  to listen to the advice your receive, but be careful of the advice  you accept. Surround yourself with positive people, for some persons might not be able to see your vision, or to even support it. To some people, your vision may seem too lofty, or vary too far from their own personal experiences and/or the expectations they hold for themselves. Therefore, it is most important  that you stay committed, know who you are, what you can do and what you are about. This will help you to stay focused on your own goals, and not accept the limits that  some people place on you, or  set  limits on yourself. Ultimately, it’s your life, your decision, your goal and  your dream.

Finally….Keep an Open Mind! Always Be Positive! The journey continues as long as your life does!


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Volunteering: A Great Option For You!

“You discover yourself in losing yourself in the service of others”.Ghandi


All across the globe, people in every country, sector and of all ethnicities volunteer their time, and give their resources to help/support varied causes, events or efforts. But what exactly is volunteering? According to Wikipedia “Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life”. Today, people volunteer in the communities where they live and work, schools they attend (or those their children do), at church, or in regions being affected by natural disasters, political conflicts or economic challenges. As such, there are many established organizations, clubs, and societies, and companies that mobilize people/staff to get involved and take part in said initiatives.

Last week, I spent three days volunteering at my professional association, the American Society for Training & Development’s (ASTD) pre- conference workshops, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC. These workshops were precursors to the real big event, which is the ASTD 2014 International Conference & Exposition which “brings the training and development industry to life”. This international conference brings together thousands of learning/training and development professionals from across the world to Washington, D.C., to share best practices and insights. And sure enough, I met learning and development professionals from government ministries in Jamaica, who were participating in the workshops and attending the conference. You can just imagine how happy and excited I was to see learning and professional representing from home, benefitting from the leading trends in learning and development. I am also equally confident and optimistic that, they will take back the tools and new insights gained, and use them to improve their learning and development solutions, thereby improving human performance across the public sector.

Having said all that, I will go back to the focus of this post, which is highlight a few of the many reasons everyone should volunteer:

1. Great way to show your brand, build your network and meet new people: As a relative transplant to the Washington DC Metro Area, I left my comfort zone and home (Jamaica) for a totally new country, and, some would say to start another chapter of my life. You could only imagine how daunting it was to, try to find a place in a whole new world, where a friend or colleague isn’t just a call or short drive away. One of the first things I did was to find my professional association, and become a member. On becoming a member, I was truly amazed at how dynamic the Metro DC-ASTD Chapter was. The Chapter has a myriad of program and opportunities to network with brilliant and talented colleagues in the field. But, the most surprising part came when I realized that, volunteers are the lifeline of organizations such as these. The varied programs and events are staffed by members with full-time and demanding jobs which they have to balance with their different roles. Yet, these members diligently volunteer to contribute to the development of their field. Over the following months, I was able to do many informational interviews (each person referred me to another) with peers, who helped me get “a lay of the land”, better understand the learning and development industry here, and guide my job search. As such, I can tell you truly that these opportunities made my transition to the USA much less challenging.

2. Fun way to learn: Not only did I have the amazing experiencing of meeting new people, exploring the city, engaging with like-minded peers and other wonderful volunteers, but I learnt a lot and got a huge boost to my ongoing professional development efforts. Over those 3 days, I benefitted immensely from the discussions, and conversations with learning partners (from all across the states and other parts of the world), as they shared their experiences, ideas and how the learning and development function works in their organizations. Therefore, I say kudos to the Designing Learning certificate program participants, and our most engaging and fun knowledgeable facilitator who has an amazing grasp of the content.

3. Awesome way to lend support/contribute to a cause/effort/event: My volunteering experience dates back to my days as an undergraduate at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona. As a participant in the Leadership Development Program, we were encouraged to find projects in the surrounding communities to lend our efforts to. Many of these projects positively changed the lives of children, the elderly, or just members of the various communities. As students we contributed to schools (donated computers, organized book drives, tutoring), helped in children/old age homes/visited orphaned by HIV-AIDS, or simply painted a pedestrian crossing. And though I wasn’t a member of clubs such as Kiwanis, Lions or Rotary, I saw the huge impact that the work of volunteers in those organization made, and how they changed lives. I also got to see the gratefulness of the people whose life were touched by those efforts, and the sense of fulfillment it gave the volunteers.


4. Effective way to practice and hone skills: “If you don’t use it, you lose it. I fancy myself a good writer with ways to go, and as such I am keen on improving my writing skills. When I declared my theme for this year -Increase 2014, I decided I would pursue opportunities to increase my skill in this area. So, as well as starting my Blog, I responded to a call for volunteers from the Metro DC-ASTD to join the Membership Outreach team. The team is responsible for recognizing noteworthy members of the chapter for feature in the chapter’s newsletter .In my role, I have the opportunity to interview selected members and write profiles which are published in the Beltway Bulletin. In doing this, I get to connect with and engage with talented new people, and practice my writing skills. And the best part of it is that, I don’t have to leave home (unless I want to), and it only takes a time commitment of about 6 hours a month (via phone or email).

5. Enhances your resume or prospects in your job search: I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. When you volunteer, you get a chance to meet and talk to people. People who you would probably never meet if you sat down at home doing nothing, or mindlessly submitting hundreds of resumes online. People know people, or may be able to give you the much-needed encouragement and leads , to help you in finding that “great opportunity”. And overtime, these people may become your friends or useful references that can attest to your work ethic and personality. I must also add that, volunteering is a great way to explain gaps in work history on your resume. So whether you’ve been unemployed voluntarily or involuntarily, being able to share with the interviewer(s), how you have used that time to continue your personal and professional development will be a huge plus.

6. Develops skills and builds experience: Recent college/university graduates often bemoan the absence of work experience, given the fact that, they have no work history. In addition to internships, volunteering presents a viable option for them to gain experience in their chosen field. By targeting companies and organizations, recent graduates can approach specific organizations/interest groups for opportunities to get hands on experience. However, it is important to note that, volunteering requires the same level of professionalism, dedication, positive attitude and work ethic that would attend a paid job. As such, the decision to volunteer should not be treated any less seriously. The soft skills gained from working in teams, communicating with internal and external customers/stakeholders, applying technical knowledge, can be used as excellent talking points in behavioral interviews, where you may be asked to share you STARs (Situation, Task, Action, Result) stories. And like I always say, there is no great difference between two good candidates with similar education and training. The main separator will be those attributes and experiences, which will enable you to show the interviewer(s) how you can add value to the organization.

So what are you are you waiting for? Go find your opportunity!

Images Courtesy of Google.

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved