Get My Posts Delivered Straight to Your Inbox.

Lose your job? Here is how to find work you love immediately.

I believe that losing one job can often be the best thing that ever happens in your life. Do you?

Let’s face it.  Layoffs are all to common right now.  It’s a rough economy.  However, I think it’s easier to get back to work than people realize.  All it takes is a different perspective on your job search.

This fall, my life has really forced me to examine how I focus my attention and intention.  In October, I was laid off from a nice consulting gig where I was writing requirements for some of the larger hardware companies in Austin.  It was a really good job, and layoffs are never easy.

However, since then, I haven’t had much trouble finding projects to work on that keep my belly full and my tank full. They also keep me busy and learning.

Since that Friday in October, I’ve gotten involved with several projects, all of which challenge me, and none of which require me to commute regularly.  Not all of them are paying gigs yet, but all of them have a clear path to getting paid for the quality of my work.  For the gigs that aren’t paying me yet, I’m basically operating as a temporary volunteer.  And I know when I’ll walk away if I’m not getting my needs met by a certain date.

Aside: Volunteering will get you hired.  I worked for 2 years at Tech Ranch Austin, and that position began unpaid.  It took 2-3 weeks for me to convert the job from volunteer into part time, and another month or two after that to go full-time.  I highly recommend that you find volunteer opportunities for yourself.  It’s one of the best ways to get a better job.

I’ve gotten to where I enjoy the challenge of only getting paid when I’m adding significant value to the company.  It means there’s no ambiguity about what I’m accomplishing.  I am either making a measurable contribution and getting compensated accordingly, or I’m not making a contribution, and I’m not getting paid.

It’s a scary proposition at first, because there isn’t a guarantee that I’m actually going to get paid.  But the other side of the equation means that I can earn more money if I do better work.  For the time being, it’s a good arrangement.  I’m not saying I’ll never accept a full time job again, but I am saying that right now, I have found a variety of good projects to work on, and I’m enjoying them all.

Examples: I’ve done a blogger outreach for the Ronald McDonald House’s Lights of Love last week, which shattered it’s fundraising goal for 2011, or logo and branding work for the 2012 launch of the World Entrepreneurs Network, and a few other projects that I’m looking forward to talking about as they develop.

It’s not been a seamless process for me by any means.  Transferring from a job to a more entrepreneurial existence requires a different way of thinking.  For example, it requires a higher level of focus because nobody is telling me what to do.  On any given day, I have to figure out what needs to be done and decide how to do it.  I decide what I accomplish in a given day, and when something gets done, I get credit.  If something doesn’t get done, I have no one to blame but myself.  I have to (get to) make it up as I go along.

Sometimes it freaks me out not having a rule book or instruction manual for my life.

Google "focused" and you get pics of Jay-Z and P-Diddy. Men in possession of legendary focus.

But, if I remain focused on what I want to accomplish day to day, I’m likely to get it all done.  But when I’m unfocused, I get so much less accomplished in a day.

This applies directly to your job search as well as building a solopreneur business.  The more focused your attention is on what you want to accomplish, the easier it will be for you to accomplish it.

If you’re going to go volunteer, you’ll have to be focused.

When I suggest people volunteer, I often see varying degrees of emotional reactions, varying from an openness to the idea, to a slight wince, and my favorite is the shudder going down someone’s spine.  The shudder says that the conversation is over.  They don’t want to stop sending resumes in on Monster. Volunteering seems too risky and unconventional.

For those who want to volunteer and create new opportunities for themselves, I’ll share the Top 10 list of things that I do to create Volunteer Opportunities.  These will help you find work you love to do almost immediately.  Feel free to apply any of them to your life as you see fit.  Some of them will work great, others may not work for you.  Don’t be limited by my experience.  And if you think I’m full of it, let me know.  

  1.  Network 3-4 times a week - make sure you get out of your house and talk to new people as often as possible.  Even going out for a beer with acquaintances has turned into paid work multiple times.  Things happen by accident a lot of the time, and the more you put yourself out there, the faster those accidents happen.  It’s just like dating…
  2. Ask people how you can help them first - This is the secret to building a network.  Make as many introductions as possible and people will remember you and they will help you out when the time comes.  
  3. Email everyone you meet within 24 hours - Frequency is critical to building a solid network.  The more visible you are, the easier you are to remember.  And if people remember you, they will help you out.
  4. Make a list of people that you admire - Then go interview them about their business.  Don’t talk about you.  Just ask questions about what they do.  You’ll learn where they could use a volunteer to solve a problem for free.  
  5. Know how to ask questions about someone’s business -What work do you need done” doesn’t count.  “What problems are you facing this week / this month” is a much better question.  Everyone has a dilemma that you can solve.  You just have to find out what it is first.
  6. Make a specific offer to volunteer - It must have a simple objective that you know the other person cares about, and it must have a time limit.  “I want to help you reach out to bloggers for this upcoming event by emailing them individually so that they will share your event with their readers,” is awesome.  “How can I volunteer for you for a month,” is too ambiguous.  
  7. Know how to ask for more work, and ask to be paid for it - The goal is to get paid, right?  And if you’re doing work that matters, it’s a no-brainer for you to get paid for it.  Volunteering is just an unconventional, and really effective, way to get yourself in the door (Read: It’s better than a resume).
  8. Know when you’re going to walk away - If a month passes and you don’t see your volunteering leading to work, it’s probably time to go.  Say thanks to everyone, write thank you cards after you leave, and keep everyone posted on what you’re doing next, but don’t hang around waiting.  This is about creating your own opportunities, remember?
  9. Make sure that you’re doing work you actually want to do - Because if you’re volunteering you’re not getting paid, so you better enjoy what you’re doing.  
  10. If you’ve done good work, but you didn’t get paid, ask for a reference - This is a gangbusters way to keep your resume filled up while you’re in between gigs.  If you’ve got a gap in your resume, make sure you’re doing short-term work in your field, even if it’s volunteer work.  Showing signs that you’re a go-getter is a hirable trait.  (NB: During job interviews, it’s not always helpful to mention that you’ve been volunteering, but not working.  It can complicate the interview process.  If you’re asked, be honest. Don’t ever lie in an interview.  Get hired because the company knows who you really are, not because you’re acting.  But you may not always need to explain the circumstances of your work, just explain what you accomplished along the way.)

I’ve done all of these in various capacities over the past several years.  All of them are effective network builders, and all of them build your personal brand.  None of them are a waste of your time or energy. 

If you’re curious how to create an amazing LinkedIn profile, or want to update your online resume, let me know.  I’d love to talk to you about that in person.  If enough people are interested in reading about that, I’ll be happy to write a post about how to make your social profiles bring employers to you.

You can answer these questions in the comments:

  • Which items on the list is most surprising?  
  • Are there any of those steps you already do without even thinking about it?
  • Do you think any of those are a complete waste of time?
  • What’s your #1 Tip for Savvy Networking?

I’ll be curious to see what you guys say below in the comments.

Thanks for reading.  I hope this helps.

-Austin W. Gunter

Success – It’s All Who You Know

Elizabeth Quintanilla and Me Networking

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…”    OR,

“It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you…”  OR, to add a bit of edge,

“It’s not what you know, or who you know, it’s actually what you have on who you know.”

The last one is my favorite.  It’s some of the wisdom my entrepreneurial Granddad shared with me when I was working with him one summer as a teenager.  He was an entrepreneur who built a large commercial beekeeping company in Central Texas, and who showed our entire family what the fruits of hard work and persistence are.  Walker Honey Farm, the business he started during the Great Depression, is growing under the leadership of my Aunt and Uncle (they’re making local honey wine now too!). 

I don’t think Granddad meant that we should keep a ledger of all the favors people owe us so that we can call them in one day.  My Granddad was more salt of the earth than godfather, and he knew the secret of networking.

My Granddad understood that relationships have incredible power to define a person’s success.  If you respect the relationships you have, don’t over tax them, and make sure to maintain a spirit of service to the other person, those relationships will act like an springboard for your life.  

He also taught me to always say thank you. 

Saying, “thanks,” is the simplest place to start. When someone forgets to send a thank you note after they buy you coffee, or they pick your brain without picking up the tab for lunch, or they don’t ask how they can help you in return, they aren’t honoring your investment in their life.

Successful networking is a dialogue of value: the investment must be mutual.

Today, I had coffee with a college student to talk about her career.  She asked me, “what are you getting out of helping me figure out this stuff?”  I told her that I was working with her because so many people have worked with me.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help, and so I make time to work with the people who ask for support.

I told her that I believe those relationships are a source of personal growth opportunities, and it’s important that I pay that forward to people like her.

Our relationships shape who we are.

I have relationships with mentors who constantly help me focus my career and my life.  My relationships with friends support me when I need it, and they keep me honest when I’m getting carried away.  My family forms the core of who I am, and I have received more support, encouragement, and yes connections from my family than anywhere else.

Example: each job offer I’ve received since 2009 has come from a connection to a friend who knew that I was looking.  Those relationships were literally springboards for my career, and they have become a part of my story.

If networking is a dialogue of value, then success is a community effort.

Entrepreneurial communities, in particular, seem to understand why it’s important to help one another out. I think entrepreneurs are supportive of one another because they understand that nobody becomes successful overnight, and nobody becomes successful alone.  Every successful entrepreneur knew when to ask for help, and they had someone willing to offer it.

If you look around you, you’ll see a community of people collaborating to your success as well.  What’s more, it’s easier than ever to reach out to potential mentors – there’s no excuse for not meeting the people who inspire you.

In a hyper-connected age, the walls between one person and the next have come down.  Social Media gives us direct access to the people that we want to emulate and learn from.  Turns out they are willing to help if you ask them the right way.  I’m always blown away by the support that entrepreneurs are willing to offer when I ask for it.

Some of them will do it in exchange for lunch, or barter services, or ask that you volunteer for their favorite charity.  Many of them are happy just to help you out.

Many of them of them will say something like, “Just go take this conversation and change the world.  If you want to repay me, go do what you said you wanted to do.”

This afternoon, I didn’t mention the other reason I was willing to have coffee with the college student.  The other reason is that I believe she will do something important with anything that she happens to learn from me, and from everyone else she talks to.  And in the process, she will teach me something about myself.

How do you repay someone for the time that they spend with you?  Take what you learned and put it to good use. 

 

Go Change the World.

 

And once you do, make sure you keep openings in your schedule for coffee with the rest of us who are still working on it.  We need to learn from the stories that you have to tell, and the lessons that you’ve learned along the way.

 

Thanks in advance.

I hope this helps.

-Austin W. Gunter

What is a Social Architect?

Bridging the gap to network entrepreneurs

Bridging the gap to network entrepreneurs

This blog is going to take shape according to my work with Tech Ranch Austin and the BarnBuilders.  People ask me pretty regularly what it is that I’m doing at the Tech Ranch that I’m always so excited about.  I have a hard time coming up with a static answer because the things that I do are constant only in their ability to change every day.  This is frustrating for my listener as well as for me because I often stumble around for catchphrases or conceptually rich words that will clearly illustrate that which I spend all my time and energy doing at the Tech Ranch.

The catchphrase that I have started using most often, Social Architect, has, thus far, not done much to clarify my nebulous rhetoric.  I’m going to fix that right now, and define Social Architect as I see it.  So for those of you looking to cross-reference at Urban Dictionary, don’t.  It won’t be there.  This is Austin defining Austin.  Who woulda thought, right?

When I use the catchphrase, Social Architect, I am referring to the process of building a social connection, a bridge, if you will, between formerly disparate individuals.  The goal is to create a connection that would otherwise not exist between two people.  This connection allows both parties to engage in what I call a dialogue of value where each party freely shares knowledge and resources with the other.  The dialogue of value, where each party shares their unique information, means that both parties are measurably better off by participating in the dialogue because they both received specialized information for free.  This free information may be put to use to take an entrepreneurial venture to the next level, or to create a new product.  Other times the information results in a partnership between the newly connected parties.  However, the inevitable result is a net gain for both parties as a result of their connection.

As a Social Architect, my job is to facilitate that connection and build bridges between people who will have a tangible benefit to one another.

This is the basic idea behind the Tech Ranch BarnBuilders. More information may be found at the link, and I’ll write about it in my next post.  The BarnBuilders is a group of Austin-Area entrepreneurs and local tech talent helping one another out.

Hope that helps.  Until next time.