Tuesday was stop #54 on my world tour to help people refine their career strategy (and perhaps a bit of life strategy too!). The event was sponsored by the Women of Advertising and Consumer Monetization at Microsoft with about 100+ attendees who joined in person and on the webcast.

We kicked off the lunch discussion by asking one important question to the room of 50+ people:

Who feels they have a solid career strategy and plan?
Nobody raised their hand.

I thought well this should be a captive audience!  Starting a new year is a great time to think big and challenge the status quo. As I led the participants through the framework I thought about how many people I often meet who are in a state of inertia:

Resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed and direction (Wikipedia).

Most of us go back to work and get into the daily machine often not thinking about what changes we could make in the new year to improve our lives and careers. That can take reflection and hard thinking so it is put off for some distant day.  That day eventually comes but it may come at a cost or crisis situation.  As I closed I encouraged attendees to explore their well-being and the environment as a first step to refining their career plans.

Following the presentation, I had a conversation with one person that reinforced inertia’s powerful force. This colleague had done a great job thinking about how a number of personal interests could be weaved together for a future job.  The problem is she had not taken action to explore those great ideas.

Many of us don’t know what is possible until we venture out of our normal routine to talk with others and get their ideas.  Put time on your calendar next week to explore something you may be thinking about but have put off.

Later in the day, I attended my virtual classroom at the Berkeley ISchool. Our homework assignment prior to class was to write a biography three years from now in the data science field.  It was a thought-provoking and fun exercise.   As we shared our bios a theme emerged – many of us were thinking incremental.  Our professor challenged us to think big, real big!  I would encourage you all to explore this exercise as it may change what you start doing tomorrow.

How will your biography read in three years?

The next morning while running on the treadmill I could not stop thinking about inertia and thinking big. The easy path was to continue as is but on this morning I would engage in career discussions with a few leaders to explore new opportunities that would align more closely to realizing the future biography I had written.

What made these conversations easier was the ability to put a clear value proposition on the table that described what I was selling and where I wanted to grow.  Your goal should be to select opportunities that result in evidence for your stated value proposition.  Don’t have an aspirational value proposition? Leaders have a short attention span so they need to quickly understand what you are selling to judge if that is something they want to buy.   Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Pursuing our unique career path with confidence depends on convincing ourselves first about the story we want to tell to others.

Everybody loves a great story – what is yours?