Archives for category: Career Change

The Hobbit StoryHumans are hard-wired to tell and remember stories. That’s why smart business people wrap up their message in a narrative.

Master storytellers tap into our need to see a beginning, a progression, and a destination.

What’s your story? As a professional or as a business, you have one – do you tell it? It’s a vital part of having a memorable, clear message.

See what I mean in this one-minute (ish) video:

People will forget a list of facts and offerings. But we’ll remember your story.

(there seems to be a rash of posts about storytelling all of a sudden: here and here and here, for instance!)

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It’s easy to spend a lot of time looking into the rear-view mirror. There’s a lot to learn back there in the past – though we can often find ourselves slowed down or even paralyzed by regrets or confusion in our timeline.

Who we once were shapes who we now are. But if we’re going to move forward confidently, we need to spend a lot more time gazing at a clear-view mirror.

What are my strengths? Where does my performance excel? What’s my DNA, my professional makeup, and how does that map to my current career path?

Sometimes we’re afraid of the truth about ourselves, because embracing our unique makeup – getting a clear view and owning it – may mean change.

After our morning shower, we instinctively wipe the mirror so we can see clearly. We need a clear-view mirror for our professional souls as well.

Let’s do that today with one simple exercise – turn that rear-view mirror*, look yourself right in the eye, and answer this question: What’s the portrait I truly want to paint with the rest of my days here on earth?

Write it down. Embrace it. Begin. Past is prologue – it is not destiny (to paraphrase Shakespeare). Change a few words in the post above, and this advice applies equally well to your small business.

Choose your direction from the clear-view mirror, not just the rear-view mirror.

*ummm, please – not while driving, OK? ;>}

You are capable of doing 10 things.

You CAN sell. You CAN manage a project. You CAN do manual labor. You CAN teach. You CAN design floral arrangements.

We all have a list of things we’ve done in the past, or do in the present.

But our focus should be the one or two things that we SHOULD be doing.

Each of us has uniquely differentiating strengths. Something to offer the world, to offer potential clients. Something where we can be at our best.

We need a career role that is not a commodity. If you’re doing what lots of others can do, and it isn’t  your unique gift, you’re in the commodity zone. You also may experience Impostor Syndrome (constantly feeling like a fraud).

Just because someone else has defined a role and its responsibilities doesn’t mean that you have to fit that uniform (which was never measured around you).

You are probably doing one or two of your SHOULD things (or have done them), but don’t recognize that all the rest of your capabilities need to become subordinate. Your current role may be 90% “can,” and 10% “should.”

Step back and take an honest look. List out 10 things you do. Then cross out eight of them. Maybe even nine.

There is your future direction.

There are millions of companies out there providing something-or-other, and millions of people doing some-job-or-other.

Don’t be one of them. Claim your market[place].

MarketplaceYou have a unique sweet spot as a company, an offering that sets you apart. That’s your [place] in the market.

As an individual, you are developing skills and competencies that are shaping you for a particularly “fitting” role. That’s your [place] in the market of work (whether working for others, or self-employed).

Your primary job, right now, isn’t winning the next project, or grabbing the next available job opening up the ladder. It’s knowing and defining your market[place].

The best way to find your niche, your sweet spot, is by asking for the honest input of trusted others (including clients and co-workers). Generally speaking, they will see more clearly than you do where you fit. You can also get outside help by way of an assessment and professional counsel.

But either way, don’t bounce from place to place based on circumstance. Claim your market[place]. And grow from there. 

Every company, and every individual, reaches a point of stepping back and needing a reboot.

Sometimes, it’s a full-on re-start – more often, it’s a re-evaluation leading to a change in direction.

Either way, there’s one place, and one place ONLY, to start.

I am/We are unique. Everything else has to flow from that.

As an individual, your utterly unique DNA, your unmatched personal experiences, and your very particular strengths suit you to contribute in ways that no-one else can. And, a company is a collection of individuals with a track record of unique successes and failures that point to specific areas of value that no-one else can add in quite the same way.

We all know this; but the world around us constantly seeks to force into a commodity box.

“We’re looking for an Account Manager with these attributes.” How do I fit into their box?

“We need a vendor who can fulfill this set of requirements.” How do we match up to their list?

Everyone approaches the marketplace with their specific needs in mind. We should approach life and business in a similar way – with our unique and differentiating abilities at the forefront.

If we’re going to gain clarity, as companies and as individuals, we have to step back from the forces that put us in reactive mode, and instead, take a very pro-active look at who we are. Our unique DNA, qualities, capacities, values, and offerings.

Clear direction and a clear message do not start with what others devise. The first step of a courageous reboot is discovering and embracing your uniqueness.

The process starts with the blank canvas of your own unique About page. You are unique – but do you see it clearly? And know how to express it?

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Start Here: Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

Discovering Your Professional DNA

What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

Wouldn’t it be nice if each of us, at age 20, got a personalized report and one-on-one counseling session detailing exactly what our professional capabilities and strengths are? What a time- and trouble-saver! “We’ve sequenced your professional DNA, Jacqueline, and here is the career arc you should pursue…”

Dream on.

The reality is, we tend to discover our professional DNA by a trial-and-error process. We move from job to job, finding out what types of roles and work environments seem to bring out the best (or worst) in us.

Some people stumble into their life’s work early on, but for most of us, the process looks something like this:

(horizontal axis equals time; vertical axis represents nearness to DNA sweet spot; blocks represent different job roles)

We often focus on climbing the ladder of bigger titles and higher salaries, when our first priority should be discovering our true purpose and identity. You’ve seen people who absolutely flourish in their roles, right? They’ve hit their sweet spot. Yet many others feel that they’re trapped, working at maybe 50% capacity, and spending far too much time in the grey than the blue (referencing my Ugly Graphic above).

Sadly, some never come to understand what their true potential is, or become stuck in a mis-matched job role with diminishing chances of escape. This happened to my Dad and it set me on a determined quest not to end up in that same position. Hence my passion for Clarity Therapy.

What if you rushed out to buy a brand new iPhone, with maximum memory and a 2-year data plan, all for the sole use of making one 5-minute phone call a day to check on your daughter in college. Would that be best use of its real potential? That’s what happens when we settle for less than discovering our unique professional DNA, and designing our career around it.

We often need assessments, and outside expertise, to help us figure ourselves out. Take the time to do it. It’s your future. No-one else should be designing it. That’s your role!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

I was on LinkedIn again yesterday, in preparation for a call with someone who had been downsized, and found myself sighing, for the umpteenth time, over the format of an on-line resume.

Another list.

This job title. That company. This short list of tasks. Even some undefined insider acronyms. Just swap out the particulars and you could be any one of a billion commodity people.

Don’t undersell yourself. You’re not a list!

When people hire me to help re-write their LinkedIn profiles, I employ some of my Clarity Therapy process to extract three things from them:

  • What they’re really good at and want to do more of;
  • The story of how they got to where they are;
  • The key point of brilliance they want to “sell” to their next employer.

Then, we go back through the profile and turn it into a story. The main themes leading to the new desired role are woven into the past job responsibilities, highlighting the individual’s greatest strength and accomplishments, and showing how they lead in the direction being pursued.

Bullet points and biz-speak words don’t paint a clear picture. They leave you undifferentiated. A resume should not merely be a summary of facts; it needs to tell a story. Your story. And it needs to strongly suggest what your next chapter should be.

Your next employer doesn’t have the time to help you figure out who you are and where you’re going. That’s YOUR next job, before you seek your next job!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Re-Branding – Get Used to it?

It happened again, twice, in a powerful way recently – seeing people begin to be “sold” on themselves.

And by that, I don’t mean emotional hype or baseless self-esteem affirmations – I mean seeing their true value and ability come into clear focus, with a growing recognition that they had something truly worthwhile to offer.

One of the joys of my Clarity Therapy work is seeing gifted and experienced people begin to see themselves in a new light. I find that an outside set of eyes is almost always quite necessary to wipe the fog off the mirror so that we can see ourselves more clearly.

Let’s be honest – for most of us, the default setting is self-doubt. We know we could be doing more valuable work, but no-one has sold us on how that might look in a different role or direction. And we’re hesitant to believe that we can really make that step. We find it hard to sell ourselves on ourselves, or on our own company.

How is that overcome? Here’s how I do it in Clarity Therapy sessions:

– We discover your unique DNA – that specific set of strengths and skills that you need to build your direction on.

– We create a message around it that you can wholeheartedly affirm and believe in. It’s amazing what power is contained in a few well-chosen and accurately-targeted words.

– We explore what direction that might take (instead of just looking at someone else’s idea of a predefined company role or career ladder).

– We weave the past, present, and future into a story that highlights the real you (this also is critical in selling yourself – when you see how the threads actually DO come together).

– We re-create all messaging on resumes, websites, LinkedIn, etc. to reflect the new message and direction.

The process and outcome is essentially the same for individuals and companies. But there’s this one mysterious and powerful deliverable that transcends all changes in strategy and wording. It’s the most marvelous outcome of all – confidence.

When you’re sold on yourself, you can then sell yourself and your offerings. And the better you understand your identity and direction, the more confidently you sell; resulting in more validation from your customers, and an even greater growth in confidence.

All because you’ve finally got clarity.

(Image credit: by David Smith via Wikimedia)

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

“Impactiviti is the eHarmony of pharmaceutical vendor selection.”

It took me 18 months to come up with the key analogy to explain my pharma consulting practice, but I’ve gotten more mileage out of that one statement than anything else I’ve used for marketing Impactiviti (my client-vendor “matchmaking” consultancy for pharmaceutical sales/training/marketing).

Why is an analogy so important? Because we all need a shortcut into the understanding and memory of our attention-overloaded prospective customers. And the analogy – appealing to something already understood in order to bridge a gap to something new – is the most powerful mechanism imaginable to spark recognition and recall.

You’re at a cocktail party, and someone asks what you do. “I’m a corporate content development specialist for a healthcare company.” STOP!!! See those eyes glaze over? Has comprehension occurred in that person’s mind? No – because you’ve not bridged the gap. And, perhaps, just as important – will that person be able to refer someone they meet the next day to you?

Rewind. Your answer this time? “My company helps people with rare diseases. I’m like an internal reporter – I get to tell people how we do it!” Boom!

Note the following:

  • Your company is now a lot more interesting, and probably will provoke a follow-up question or three.
  • Your role is now clear – you’re a reporter (but on the inside).
  • YOU are more interesting, because your role has an aspirational and positive element, not merely a technical description. And the listener gets it, immediately.

See how powerful a simple and vivid analogy is? And, the next day, when this person bumps into the CEO of another company that they know from the gym, who happens to be complaining about how ineffective their internal marketing is…guess who comes to mind?

eBay caught on very quickly, in part, because it was just like one big virtual yard sale. People could “get” that. If you attach your company and offering to something pre-existing, common, and positive, you save yourself a ton of grief trying to force comprehension through a blizzard of terms and bullet points.

This is the most challenging deliverable in a Clarity Therapy session. First, we map out your professional DNA by digging into your (personal or company) history, competencies, and aspirations. Then we settle on the core offering, the key message, and the compelling story. Finally, we cap it off with a memorable analogy, and you’re ready with a clear and unforgettable go-to-market approach. In a world swirling with information and noise, only the crystal clear will stand out. That should be you!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy (above)

Recently, I was sitting through a capabilities overview from an agency in my pharma network, and it was filled with all the usual elements – we do this, we do that, customer logos, etc., etc. There was actually one potentially distinguishing message buried in there, which was encouraging; but then, toward the end, mention was made that the company has been in business for 20+ years.

And…it was left at that. The ball was teed up, but the 3-wood remained in the golf bag. There was the chance to tell a story – the company story – and it was missed. Any company in business that long has a lot of success, a interesting pathway of evolution, and a great way to build a bridge with the listener by using corporate history to be memorable.

Some years ago, I was evaluating a training company’s marketing and website, and was seeing all the typical verbiage and bullet points – just like everyone else, we do this and this and this. But buried in the web copy was a key point – one of the principals of the company had long experience on the pharma client side of the fence. I told them that their story was the distinguishing message: “We’ve walked in your shoes.” Most of the competitor companies did not have that same story.

When people are evaluating potential providers, one of the distinguishing elements that they subconsciously want to know is the story – why you exist, how you got to where you are now, how you’ve succeeded and evolved. This isn’t just customer case studies – it’s your profile, neatly wrapped with a bow of purpose and progress. People forget bullet points. They remember compelling stories.

There is a story behind my business practice of Clarity Therapy: it is an “accidental” business. I was helping partner companies figure out their professional DNA and message for years as part of my pharma client-vendor matchmaking service (Impactiviti), and I finally came to realize that this analytical ability was a unique skill that met a vast market need. To lead people and companies to an epiphany of their identity in a few hours time? How valuable is that? Yet it came about organically, not as part of pre-planned strategy.

Three entrepreneurs whom I deeply respect (Anthony Iannarino, Lisa Petrilli, Greg Hartle) all have great business stories that happen to be woven in to remarkable medical histories. Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) masterfully weaves her life story into her constant “you can do it, too!” entrepreneurial message. The winner of this year’s Master’s golf tournament, Bubba Watson (pictured above – emotion is a powerful element, no?) has a wonderful story – he’s never taken a golf lesson, but just does what he does as a self-taught athlete.

Apple, Dell, the 3-M Post-it Note, WD-40 – all have memorable stories behind them. And we like to buy into something bigger than ourselves, something that transcends the ordinary, something that is a non-commodity.

Do you have a personal or corporate story? You do – but you may be so close to it, you may take it so much for granted that you haven’t teased it out. It’s one of the first things I do when I sit down with a client to help them get clear about their message – I pull out the story and help them see it.

Yes, people buy what you’re offering. But they also buy the story behind it. Don’t deprive them (and yourself!) of one of your most powerful marketing tools!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories (above)

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy