It’s Social Enterprise Week in Minnesota. So What?

If you haven’t heard of social enterprise, you’re not alone.

Interested in having custom honey at your wedding? You'll feel good when you buy it from the Beez Kneez.  Photo w/founder Kristy Allen

Interested in having custom honey at your wedding? You’ll feel good when you buy it from The Beez Kneez — a local social enterprise that advocates for bees. Photo: founder Kristy Allen

But last year, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak proclaimed the week of May 19th to be Social Enterprise Week.  So did St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman — and Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton!

Why? It’s not business as usual — it’s about businesses that focus on social-purpose too.

So this week, please make a special point to buy from a local social enterprise.  

When you buy from Peace Coffee the profits fund international agriculture and trade policy. When you buy from The Wedge, Linden Hills, and Seward Co-Ops you know they do more than traditional grocery stores; they evaluate the ecological, economic and social impacts of their business and their communities.  When a business buys services from Momentum Enterprises, they can then hire people with challenging problems and give them paid on-the-job training.

These purchases strengthen and expand our economy in ways that buying from traditional businesses do not, creating a win-win for our community.  Social enterprise products and services do double duty (double and triple “bottom lines”).  And you’ll find social enterprises in practically every type of business: recycling, online retailing, job placement, and a whole lot more.  Many of them are household names, but there are plenty of start-ups in the past several years.

Buying from a social enterprise is an easy way to put more of your money to work doing good.  Let’s make Minnesota a social enterprise leader!!

WHERE TO BUY GUIDE: a sampling of local social enterprises

The Arc Value Village Profits from the Twin Cities best thrift store raised $2 million to support children and adults with disabilities.  They even have a concierge!

Beez Kneez Honey House*  Buy from this social enterprise that delivers honey by bike!  They are tireless advocates for bees and offer education classes, which are going on right now.

Birchwood Café*  This “good real food” restaurant goes the extra mile to advocate for healthy food systems, supports local farmers, pays living wage salaries — and is 100% wind powered. Having raised $100,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, they reopened just in time for Social Enterprise Week!

Eat For Equity  People meet for dinner and give what they can: the meeting place, the ingredients (local, organic, fair-trade), food-prep, and money. The proceeds are donated to nonprofits. Check out their local events or “Collaboration-Kitchen” training. Launched in Minnesota, it’s spreading across the country.

Full Cycle  Need to fix your bike — or buy a refurbished one? Your purchase supports young people experiencing homelessness with paid internships, street outreach, food shelf and more.

Latitude Prints  When you buy business cards, brochures, or banners online, 50% of the profits support empowering women and children living in extreme poverty.

Midtown Global Market  This cultural marketplace supports economic development in diverse communities. If you’ve never been there, you’re in for a real treat.

Now Boarding When you use their pet airport boarding, doggy day care and training facility, profits go to fund the Animal Humane Society’s mission.

 

Unfortunately there isn’t a master list of all social enterprises. Not yet!  So where can you go for more information?

Social Impact App lists a few local social enterprises (and many across the country).

Social Enterprise Alliance TC hosts events where you can meet social entrepreneurs.

Minnesota Business often features social enterprises (sometimes called social ventures).

I hope this inspires you to “start seeing social enterprises.”

At Mentor Planet, we specialize in mentor-matching social entrepreneurs and social innovators.  I’ll be posting interviews with social entrepreneurs, start-ups, innovation and more! 

 

 

Successful Nonprofits: Going Beyond the “New Normal”

Should your nonprofit have a double or triple bottom line?

Should your nonprofit have a double — or triple —bottom line?

The world is changing — in a good way.  Here in the Twin Cities, and around the globe, there is a growing trend to use social enterprise to accelerate change — and make nonprofits more financially viable.

Social enterprise is not really new.  In fact, many local nonprofits have been operating one for decades.   What is new is how many are launching, innovating and scaling!  While they serve highly diverse missions and operate a variety of businesses, what they have in common is a double bottom line: social mission and profits.

Undaunted by “the new normal”  — major reductions in government funding or philanthropy’s reluctance to fund general operating costs — these innovative nonprofits are changing the way nonprofits “do business” by operating one. 

  1. Did you know that CityKid Java operates a $2 million coffee business? You may have seen it at Cub or Target.  Coffee sales made it possible for them to “donate” $45,000 to fund Urban Ventures youth programs.  They’re revved up and well-positioned to scale their “business” with a major rebranding underway, thanks to a pro bono team from General Mills. A targeted expansion is planned for specific markets across the country.
  2. With the Genesys Works “business model,” less than 25% of their budget relies on donations or grants.  What’s more, they are expanding nationally — achieving a 50% growth rateGenesys Works trains a highly diverse group of economically disadvantaged high school students.  In their senior year, they have an internship with businesses that are seeking technology-proficient employees. It’s a real win-win.
  3. Last year, PPL Enterprises merged with Rebuild Resources and then underwent a rebranding. Under their new name, Momentum Enterprises, they generate approximately $6 million in revenue from light manufacturing, recycling, and more.  With a new leadership team, they are well on their way to increasing profitability so they can achieve greater social impact and serve more participants.

Should your nonprofit start one?  If you have one, how can you make it more effective?  A smart organization does their homework.  So I encourage you, your board and senior staff to attend the national Social Enterprise Alliance Summit, which will be held in Minneapolis May 19-22.  It’s a great opportunity to hear directly from innovators and experienced leaders.  Choose a 4-day or 1-day registration. Go behind the scenes to find out what makes these social enterprises successful with Summit Tours.

Can’t attend the Summit?  If you’re in town, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to  network with 50 social enterprises at the first  Twin Cities Social Enterprise Marketplace, May 20, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.  It’s free and open to the public, thanks to the Greater Twin Cities United Way.  As the new president of the Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities, I encourage everyone to get involved and help us participate in building a thriving social enterprise community right here.

The Social Enterprise Alliance Summit in the News: MinnPost Minnesota BusinessStarTribune

Naturally, Mentor Planet will be part of the TC Social Enterprise Marketplace.  After all, we’re a social enterprise that mentors social entrepreneurs so they can accelerate impact!  Please stop by to say hello and meet some of our Mentor Partners.

Perfectionism and Mentoring Don’t Mix

We're all diamonds in the rough.

We’re all diamonds in the rough.

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.  

—Salvador Dali

So true, yet how did our expectations get so out of whack?  What makes us think perfection is at all possible — in ourselves or in other people?

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.   

—George Fisher

You’ve seen the hidden trap of perfectionism in others.  They’ve got great ideas; yet they fail to move forward.  They’re waiting — for the perfect circumstances, the dream project, or the ideal job.  Ironically, all too often we fail to see it in ourselves as well. What are the reasons not to choose a mentor:

  • The Critic:  “I doubt if anyone would have the right experience to be a good mentor for me.  Besides, I’m working on something innovative; no one has done this before.”
  • The Procrastinator: “I’ve even talked to a few people about being my mentor.  But I’m not exactly sure what I really want to do.  I need to wait until I’m fully prepared.”
  • The Fire-fighter:  “I’m too busy already.  How could I possibly find the time.”
  • The Dreamer: “I’ve been thinking about my idea for years.  Some day I’ll start hammering out the details and find the perfect mentor.”
  • The Worrier:  “I’d like a mentor, but I’ve never had one.  I don’t know what to expect.  I don’t want to let them down.  What if it doesn’t work out?”

Are these really strong enough arguments to keep you from excelling?   Not really.

If whatever you want to do is truly important you, you will find the time.  You’ll stop dreaming and act.  You’ll acknowledge your fears and get started.  You’ll find a way. Smart people know the importance of surrounding themselves with other smart people. They seek out others who stretch them — so they can actually achieve more, be more.

But it requires vulnerability and honesty.  

Yes, it’s really tough to admit what you don’t know — especially if you think you should already know it!  And of course we feel more vulnerable tackling our emotional roadblocks: overcoming procrastination, managing our temper or timidity, accepting criticism, or being a control freak.  (Some days perhaps its not one but all of these!)  Even asking someone for support is difficult, particularly when we care very deeply about something.

Why take a risk?  Why be vulnerable?  Why ask for real, long-term support when you work in today’s hyper-critical business world — where excessively high expectations are the norm?  Because it’s your life, your dreams, and your potential that are at stake.  How else do you expect to get to where you want to go?   

Mentoring isn’t therapy, but vulnerability is essential.  Brené Brown explains the power of vulnerability well in her TED Talk.

To escape criticism — do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.  —Elbert Hubbard

So get out there. Give yourself permission to let go of perfectionism. Breathe in a giant sigh of relief!  It always feels energizing to me.  (I hate to admit it, but I need to do this mental exercise fairly often!)

Naturally there will always be roadblocks and plenty of surprises, both good and bad.   But imagine what you could achieve with a smart, caring mentor in your corner.  Start thinking about all of the new ideas, innovations, and connections you will make.  You don’t have to be perfect.  You don’t need a perfect plan to get started.  You just need to be open to learning — and to being fully committed to living up to your potential.

The imperfections of a man, his frailties, his faults, are just as important as his virtues.  You can’t separate them.  They’re wedded.   —Henry Miller

No, your mentor won’t be perfect either.  Start off right, assure them that you’re not expecting perfection from them!  You might be surprised just how much that will strengthen your mentoring relationship — and how much more you’ll learn.

So switch off your perfectionism.  Whether you’re a leader, change-agent, entrepreneur or social entrepreneur, surround yourself with smart people who care about you and where you want to go. Focus your actions on finding a mentor — or 2! Just in case one doesn’t turn out to be as perfect a match as you might want. Everyone’s human after all.

Aim for success, not perfection.  Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. — Dr. David M. Burns

Engage Your Touch of Genius

Stay Focused

Stay Focused: Click on the photo, then focus. You’ll start to see the trees. 

You’re smart. You work hard. You’ve got a dream. You have a glimpse of an idea, a way to make a difference in the world. Maybe you don’t know where to start. Maybe you’re making real progress and you want to make more impact. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed and uncertain about the future.

Today ideas and technology change every minute! Check out this infographic about what happens on the internet every 60 seconds.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. — Albert Einstein

So engage your touch of genius.

This January take a time-out instead of writing a long list of all your New Year’s resolutions. Take an hour (or an afternoon) to eliminate the distractions and seriously think about what you really care about.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Decide to pick just 3 things for your Dream List. With only 3 things, you’ll be able to remember them and commit to them. Focus. Focus. Focus. (What if you can’t pick just 3, read What to Do With an Avalanche of Choices.)

I have to admit, I had a very hard time narrowing my Dream List to 3. Yet I felt a big sigh of relief after I did. I even surprised myself by eliminating something I thought I “should” do and replacing it with something that is more fun and positive. I’m confident eliminating a “should” will likely make it easier for me to achieve #1 and #2!

My natural inclination is to think about all the connections, possibilities, alternatives, and more. So something simply had to go! I revised my Dream List again and again, trying hard not to be vague. That’s the worst, because vague goals can’t be checked off the list. So unsatisfying. Yes, I need to exercise more, meditate more; but I know that if I’m making progress on what matters to me I’m more likely to accomplish other things that are good for me.

So dare to embrace all the uncertainty and get going. Yes, you need to be smart about it. Of course, there are no guarantees you’ll be successful. You’ll need to manage the risks. By narrowing your focus, you will increase your chances for success — something any management consultant worth their salt will tell you.

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox… The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow. ― Tony Schwartz

Keep your eye on the prize.

Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible. — Unknown
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If your Dream List includes finding a mentor with real-world experience to support you on your way, here are tips to choosing one who’s right for you.

Mentor Planet offers 1-to-1 mentoring relationships for 6-12 months for only $99/year.

January is National Mentoring Month. Considering being a Mentor Planet Mentor and help someone reach their potential.

For more information go to MentorPlanet.com.

Take the International Women’s Day Mentor Pledge

If you really want to help women have an equal voice in the world, mentor one. Be willing to become one woman’s biggest fan, her strongest advocate and active sponsor.  Invest your valuable knowledge to help her truly succeed.   So today, in honor of International Women’s Day, personally pledge to mentor at least one woman this year.

Are you willing to be a supportive catalyst, and mentor a woman this year?


Yes, women have made significant advances in the past 50 years, but there is so much more women could do.  Because at all levels of leadership – boardroom, school board, court house, state house – women remain underrepresented, and in some cases, absent altogether. Only when women are equally represented in all leadership roles with men, will our local communities and global economy maximize potential.

Why mentor a woman?  When you mentor a woman, you could vastly increase her potential to succeed.  Relationships make the difference.  Authentic mentoring goes much deeper than networking, trouble–shooting, or an occasional lunch.  It’s a relationship built on trust, which makes it possible to provide relevant insights.   Mentoring is more than merely access to someone’s contacts; it is person-to-person involvement  and investment in another person’s life.

A good mentor is a smart friend, one who is committed to helping a woman learn faster, take risks, and avoid mistakes — someone who is willing to share their experience, insights, and passion.  Just take what you already know and accelerate her growth. It’s that simple.

Whatever you’ve learned — from your success and failures or managing your career and personal life — someone out there can benefit from your know-how.  Be a catalyst for a woman to advance her career, take on a leadership role, run for office, or lead a better life.  Help her work through a business plan or career options, help navigate office politics, shore up technical skills, role model a balanced work/personal life, and much more.

Wondering who to mentor?  The opportunities are endless, so choose something you care about:

  • If you’re a change agent, mentor a change agent.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, mentor a start up.
  • If you’re an intrapreneur, find another in your company.
  • If you’re an accountant, mentor an accountant.
  • If you’re a consultant, mentor a new freelancer.
  • If you’re in political office, mentor a woman who wants to enter politics.
  • If you’ve survived a merger, mentor someone who’s in the middle of one.
  • If you’ve changed careers, mentor someone who’s considering doing the same thing.

(Need more proof that women need mentors to make real progress? Check out the links below.)

And let’s totally bust the myth that “women don’t help women!”  I know I’ve been mentoring women since I started my career more than 30 years ago.  Some women help other women, some don’t.  (And some men support women, some don’t.) Whether you have a sister, daughter, wife/partner, cousin, co-worker, or friend, you’re likely to know a woman who could benefit from having a mentor.

Looking for a woman to mentor?  Find one at MentorPlanet.com.  You’ll also find tips to start your mentoring relationship.

Still need inspiration to take the “Mentor a Woman Pledge”?  Check out the leaders and activists from around the globe at the 3rd annual Women in the World Summit  — from Hillary Clinton to Angelina Jolie.  

So today, take the International Women’s Day Mentor Pledge to mentor a woman in 2012 — and become her biggest fan, her source of support and courage.   Imagine how different our world would be if everyone decided to mentor just one woman in 2012.  Working together, we can create a tipping point to build momentum for women’s voices and leadership to reach equal representation.  Be a mentor and support women who are on the move, making a difference around the world.

Links:

On average, a Minnesota woman is shortchanged $11,000 annually or $1 million over the course of her professional career; women with advanced degrees (doctors, lawyers), it’s twice as much (a $2 million loss). Poverty, homelessness, and a lack of affordable quality childcare remain problems that disproportionately affect Minnesota’s female-headed households, women of color, and older women.

McKinsey Research: Changing companies’ minds about women The percentage of women on boards and senior-executive teams remains stuck at around 15 percent in many countries, and just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women account for roughly 53 % of entry-level professional employees in the largest US industrial corporations, but only 37 % of middle-management positions, 28 percent of vice-president and senior-managerial roles, and 14 percent of seats on executive committees.  And nearly four times as many men as women at large companies make the jump from the executive committee to CEO.

The World Needs Female Entrepreneurs Now More Than Ever


What to Do With an Avalanche of Choices

We like having lots of choices.  Yet with each option, there is always the lurking possibility we’ll make the wrong choice.  And, we hate being wrong.

Which is the absolute right choice?

In her book, Being Wrong, author Kathryn Schultz points out that, “As a culture, we haven’t even mastered the basic skill of saying “I was wrong.” Instead, we justify our choices and actions with false apologies and rationalizations: “I was wrong, but” … or “mistakes were made.”  She explains that, we do it so that we can “distance ourselves from responsibility.” (Schultz references statements by Nixon and Reagan.)  Yet our choices continue to impact our lives.

What’s more, she says, “Our default attitude toward wrongness — our distaste for error and our appetite for being right — tends to be rough on relationships.”  (Here’s her intriguing Pop Tech video.)

Given our distaste for being wrong, what can we do to make better choices? 

What can we do to increase our success and happiness — at work, in our relationships, and maybe even improve the world a bit along the way?  

1.  Limit your choices.  Yes, it seems counter intuitive.  But Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, makes a good case. But it’s not easy to do in a world of seemingly endless choice where you’re faced with literally dozens of toothpaste options or hundreds of dating choices on Match.com. She says, “more choice leads to less satisfaction or happiness.”

Meaningless minutia” bogs us down so that every little difference matters way too much.  We end up constantly second-guessing our decision: “How do I know that there isn’t something better?”  Your enjoyment of this avalanche of choice, Ivengar contends, “will be diminished by your regret over what you had to give up and leaving you less satisfied than you would have been if you had had less choice.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good. — Voltaire

Fearing that you’ll make the wrong choice, your anxiety increases. “We exhaust ourselves in the search,” she warns us.  “Even the most unbiased source can’t promise that a new finding tomorrow won’t reverse recommendations. The more information we seek out, the more confused we become.”  In a study involving 401k investments, “more choice, had, in fact, lead to worse decisions.” Of course, there are times where we really need more choices and do our research, such as weighing job choices or considering surgery. (Check out Iyengar’s TED talk.)

In Acquired Tastes, author Peter Mayle takes you on a journey with the wealthy and their choice dilemma. He says, “I’m not at all sure that they enjoy themselves as much as we think they do.  And why?  Because, damn it, something is always not quite right.”  He explains, “expectations tend to increase in direct proportion to the amount of money being spent, and if you are spending a fortune, you expect perfection.  Alas, life being the badly organized shambles that it so often is…perfection is rare.  Details that we would consider trivial assume enormous significance: the breakfast egg is inedible because it is marginally under boiled…the list of maddening blots on the landscape just goes on and on.”

Regardless of our financial situation, this search for perfection infects most of us. Not only do we hope to find the perfect job, life partner, or doctor, we expect to find perfect all around us:  the perfect cell phone contract, romantic restaurant, or pair of shoes.

2.  Know who you are.  This sounds ridiculous at first.  It’s not the trivial choices that require you to know yourself; it’s the decisions without any easy answers.  Just think about the decisions you’ve had to make recently — about healthcare, a mortgage, a job change, or a relationship conflict.  All too often we don’t know what we want until a situation arises.  Ivengar says, “we don’t bother to mull over the tough questions until we’re caught between a rock and a hard place, and by that time, we’re in no shape to give the answers most beneficial to us.”  We’re so busy racing around that when the time comes to make a tough choice, we’re usually too overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. 

Often there isn’t an obvious right or wrong choice. So “it becomes exponentially more difficult” to choose.  Paradoxically, she says, asking for more options proves that we don’t really know what we want.

For important decisions, Ivengar recommends that we do some honest soul searching — and be open to thinking and acting differently.  But that takes time and reflection.  Most of us aren’t willing to do that.  Then we only have time to react, and fall back into our “I was wrong, but” excuse.  While keeping the status quo seems easier, it’s unlikely to improve our choices — or our happiness. Habits acquired over the years don’t change easily. It is hard work! If we are truly interested into thinking better and improving our decisions, it’s worth it.

3.  Get your automatic brain under control. Ivengar reminds us that, “even when you know what you ought to be doing, what you would prefer in the long run, you can find yourself distracted and dazed by options that set off the automatic system.”  So you over-indulge at the dessert counter, or worse, sabotage a relationship and end up paying the price for a bad decision for years.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, refers to the automatic brain as “the elephant.”  It’s enormously helpful because it effortlessly, subconsciously, operates our bodily functions and more.  But for many key decisions, you need more — logic and reason — or what he calls “the monkey” brain.  Your logical brain is “completely absorbed in looking out for problems and opportunities.”

Unless you make an effort to control the elephant brain, your automatic thinking will kick in about 95% of the time according to Gerald Zaltman.  The elephant brain can get you into trouble — reacting instinctively to pleasure (over-indulgence) and danger (anger). Oscar Wilde said, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”   Imagine how much happier and successful you’d be if you could just engage your logic and reason a bit more often.

4. Learn to be an expert in the process of choosing. It sounds complicated, but it is easier than you might think. Ivengar recommends borrowing the knowledge of others because they can help you develop insights and expertise more rapidly than if you attempt it on your own.  Find a mentor to help you test your thinking.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust your judgment — but rather test your judgment where you know it needs improvement.

Ivengar says you need to “find reasons not to choose what you’re immediately drawn to. Have a heavy dose of skepticism about your own thinking.”  Work with your mentor to probe into how and why you make choices. Start by paying attention to your decisions (which is easier said than done!). Brainstorm about ways to reduce your reaction mode.

Having an outside expert doesn’t solve the problem of your having to choose, she warns. “Given how many ways one can go wrong when choosing, it’s tempting to pass off a choice I’m supposed to make as an opportunity for another person to express an opinion.  This way, I don’t have to take responsibility for the choice, and the person I ask often enjoys giving advice.  Your mentor can’t make decisions for you — or make perfect recommendations.  They can probe deeper, recommend alternatives, and share decision-making successes and failures.  Over time you “can learn to simplify, prioritize, and recognize patterns.”

Don’t start with your most complicated choices.  Instead, begin with something easier so you’re willing to take risks and it will be easier to see progress.  Simplify your decisions and decision process. Invengar and others recommend limiting your choices to 3 — or groups of 3s. (McKinsey consultants apparently use this with their clients.) In a New York Times article, Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, says, “When looking for a new camera, limit yourself to 3 Web sites.”  (That makes sense, unless you’re a photographer.) Or if you’re wrestling with something bigger, such as a career change, break down the decisions into groups of 3s.  Instead of thinking of all the possibilities at once, consider categorizing them into types of organizations:  nonprofits, government, or social enterprise.  Then repeat the process of creating job categories.

No one can make the right choice all the time.  But you can stop wasting time on meaningless minutia.  Instead, invest your thinking time in decisions where you feel that you’re making progress in your life.  Leverage them to your best interest — and best self.  Feel more in control and less on automatic pilot.  Get there faster with a supportive mentor who can accelerate your ability to learn and grow.

How I Took the Leap: My 9 Steps

Taking the Leap: It takes both optimism and thoughtful planning

by guest blogger Angela Bushman

I recently left an enviable, reasonably well-paying job at a Fortune 500 company in favor of a free-fall into the great, unknown landscape of opportunity.

The sort of role I (until recently) occupied offered splashy, exciting projects, travel and connections with people of mind-blowing talent. It was, as many have told me, “a dream job.” It just wasn’t my dream. And that dissonance made it stressful.

I am a blend of free-spirited idealist and responsible mother and homeowner. Yet my own experiential evidence supports what might otherwise qualify as irrational optimism. I have been hired during hiring freezes, in poor economies, in dire times, when pundits and public alike have preached doom and gloom. Others in my circle have made recent moves that have offered both higher pay and reduced stress. Even the LinkedIn newsfeed notified me that a rather significant percent of my connections had made a move in the past year. Thus, I am choosing to believe in great possibilities based on the tremendous value I offer, my network of supporters and luck.

Each day I face a kaleidoscopic range of emotions, from confidence and excitement to fear and doubt. Even my optimism has a pragmatic bent — I’d begun networking and found positive support among outside colleagues even before I leapt. I have a financial cushion, and there are folks I know I can call for freelance, contract, and project work. My resume, bio, and online profiles had been diligently updated.

I struggled in my recent job for some time. Even when I began, I knew my stay would be temporary. A position in an established department of a large company calls for a narrow set of skills.  I’m better at creating something from nothing, synthesizing disparate ideas or programs and establishing the structures and systems to support what I’ve built.

And yet my ego told me I wanted this recent job on my résumé, even if for only a short time. What I planned to be a two-year stint turned into nearly four years as project after project came at me, causing a hamster-on-a-wheel effect. I had no idea how to get off. Developments in my personal life made the relative stability of staying put a necessity. Now that I am a single mother of two, established in a new life routine, I’m re-prioritizing my own health and happiness.

Within days of having made the decision to take this leap, friends and colleagues began asking me what was different?  Was I in love? Had I lost weight? Did I do something different with my hair? I was immediately happier and more joyful — and those around me could easily tell. Stress no longer plagues me. I’ve begun sleeping restoratively through the night. And I actually crave healthier foods. Even if this leap of faith seemed crazy, I know I’ve made the right choice for me.

Are you ready for a major life or career transition? If so, give yourself the gift of planning:

  1. Prepare the tools you’ll need for next steps. Update your resume, LinkedIn profile, bio and other tools you might use in your search.  Or have your business plans drafted.
  2. Start networking. Ask colleagues for recommendations, connections and contacts. Go even further:  tell everyone you know what you’re looking for and what makes you great!
  3. Plan your finances. Save or negotiate a financial cushion.  Six months of expenses is often recommended.
  4. Craft a personal marketing plan. Identify your key strengths, competencies and types of roles and organizations you’ll target. Be sure to think about what skills or services you might be able to offer on a freelance or contract basis.
  5. Notice cues in your environment. When you stop hearing “Are you crazy?!” and begin hearing, “Good for you! Let me give you some names,” — you know change is afoot. Allow yourself to be fueled by the positive energy around you.
  6. Look for evidence. I’ve recently seen a number of colleagues not only find a better work-life balance but also achieve higher earnings. There’s a trend I can embrace!
  7. Consider your total compensation. Evaluate your salary and benefits and find ways to discover how you can leverage your strengths in growing industries.
  8. Build a support system. You may experience times of uncertainty or self-doubt. Have a plan for managing through these times. Find a mentor — or counselors, colleagues and friends who can affirm your value and skills.
  9. Adopt a sales mentality. Every “no” means you’re one step closer to “YES!” in theory, but here is a link for practical tips to help you in the process.

So what’s my plan?

  • I’m taking my time and re-focusing my career direction to better leverage my strengths and achieve greater work-life balance.
  • I’m viewing opportunities in the way I view dating:  I’m not a great fit for everyone, and not every one is for me. Still, I can always get excited about meeting new people and learning about new opportunities. I’m working on finding a match that’s rewarding for both of us.
  • I’m searching for an opportunity that values and rewards my strategy, program-building, communication and relationship skills.
  • I’m connecting fearlessly by reaching out to people in decision-making roles and expanding my network.
  • I’m exploring how to publish the children’s books I’ve written.
  • I’m researching the costs and potential market for two new products.
  • I’m writing business plans for two or three business ideas that I believe have potential.
  • I’m blogging.

I wish you the very best on your next leap of faith, and I hope you’ll return the favor.

Angela Bushman is a Minneapolis-based writer, marketing communications consultant and mother. Contact her at writetouch@gmail.com.