Investing in Me, Inc.

{Click here to read the original article on Oprah.com.}

Create a business plan for yourself, and make your career your life’s work.

Author and career consultant Ronna Lichtenberg believes that by taking a day to think about the way you earn your living, you can make a huge difference in making your job more fulfilling. Ronna recently led a career seminar for a group of women looking to get more out of their work. Whether you work for an employer or yourself, in a major corporation or behind the counter in a coffee shop, you’re the CEO of your career. The tools any CEO needs are the same ones the rest of us need.

By following the steps outlined in Ronna’s seminar, you can create your own business plan and find more fulfillment your career.

Who Are You?

Write a curriculum vitae in 15 lines or less – not a résumé, but a description you might give to someone introducing you as a speaker.

Repeat the exercise, but write your description as if it were 15 to 20 years from now.

Start thinking about what it would take to get from the first introduction to the second. In CEO lingo, this kind of thinking is called gap analysis.

Most people have trouble with this exercise, according to Ronna. While many of us often worry about our careers, we don’t take the time to think about them in a focused way. To help the process, Ronna suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you know what your most valuable skills are?
  • Could you write an ad for yourself?
  • Do you sometimes feel there’s something stopping you from reaching your potential?

The next step involves thinking about what it means to invest in Me, Inc., and how to be your own CEO. Any CEO needs the following:

  • A vision for the business
  • Financial skills
  • A marketing plan
  • The ability to manage and motivate others

Work on these skills, concentrating on the next 18 months to three years. Ronna says that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and give up if you go beyond that time frame.

Develop a Vision

Use these exercises to help you begin to see what Me, Inc. means for you. Remember, some people are better at visualization than others, so keep at it. After the exercise, take out your curriculum vitae again and look at it in the context of your visualization. Is your image of your future self in sync with what you described as your best working day? If not, why not? Rewrite your description to fit your new vision of your future.

Imagine Your Ideal Working Day

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What time of day is it?
  • Where are you?
  • What are you doing?
  • Who are you working with?
  • What about this work feels good?
  • Who are you talking to for support?
  • Who is paying you?
  • How much are you getting paid?
  • Why are they paying you instead of somebody else?

Now imagine your worst possible working day, using these same questions. Focus on your priorities. The challenge is not avoiding bad days completely – they will always happen – but knowing what the issues are at work that you want to avoid.

Take a Relationship Inventory

Make a list of the people with whom you have regular contact in your work life. Divide that list into three categories:

Category A is energizers. They’re people you trust, admire and respect; they give you good advice and help you grow.

Category B is people you like well enough. They are reasonable to work with.

Category C is battery drainers. They’re users, underperformers or people you believe, for whatever reason, are your enemies.

Now think about the time and energy you spend on people in each category, including the time you spend thinking and talking (complaining!) about them. The Category A people are the ones you should be reaching out to: if you go to lunch, they are the ones you invite. Category B people may have roles that make them important to Me, Inc., so stay in contact with them. But limit the time you spend on Category C people as much as you can.

Making It Happen

Evaluate yourself by answering these questions:

  • Write down your target markets – who needs to know about Me Inc., and its value?
  • How often will you be in touch with them? What specific marketing materials (resumes, new ideas) will you present them with?
  • What skill do you most need to improve in the next 18 months? How will you accomplish this?

It’s time to develop a Me, Inc. business plan! Thinking about yourself as a business can feel funny, says Ronna, but even as an employee, you’re offering buyers a set of products and services for a given price. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your advantage over the competition?
  • How does your “price” compare?
  • Who is your target customer?

You may find it difficult to answer these questions, especially when trying to articulate exactly what your products and services are. Dig deeper for your answers.

Sell Yourself

Now you’ll use your business plan to pitch Me, Inc. Selling may be uncomfortable for you, but to be successful, you need to be able to describe what you bring to the marketplace.

Create your own ad: Fill in the blanks: The goal of your ad is “to convince ______ to buy ________ because _______.” With this goal in mind, create your ad.

Pitch your ad: Invite a friend or co-worker you trust to listen to your pitch. Give yourself three minutes for the pitch, and give your friend two minutes for comments.

Make an impression: After your pitch, the listener should know what your “brand” was, and what made it different from its competitors. Pop-up window Exercise Two: The Relationship Inventory. Once you know what you’re selling, who are you going to tell? In the case of Me, Inc., you’re going to be spending your time and energy. You’ll be advertising yourself to the people you pay attention to. Make the most of your limited time by spending it with people who can help you grow.

You’ve figured out who you are, what your plan is, and how to sell yourself—what’s the next step? First, evaluate yourself based on what you’ve learned.

Exercise Two: The Relationship Inventory

Once you know what you’re selling, who are you going to tell? In the case of Me, Inc., you’re going to be spending your time and energy. You’ll be advertising yourself to the people you pay attention to. Make the most of your limited time by spending it with people who can help you grow.

Exercise Three: Making It Happen

  • List three specific steps you would take to reach your goals.
  • Write yourself a letter detailing your plans, stash it away, and read it six weeks later.
  • Share your plan with a trusted friend and set a specific time each week to measure your progress.

Don’t let yourself off the hook. If you’re having trouble, figure out what’s holding you back. Don’t just dump the plan – revise it and recommit yourself. Soon you’ll be on your way to working for the best company possible – Me, Inc.!

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