Investing in Yourself

Do you find that many of your friends are either looking for work or looking for a change? The only thing that seems certain at the moment is more uncertainty. 

What can you do?

“Simply astonished”

I found one answer in a student’s thesis that she shared online. Her topic was “Why is WOL accepted by employees?” and she interviewed dozens of people from 38 different companies. Two quotes stood out.

"Many are simply astonished by the number of opportunities that they were offered while applying their WOL practices." 

"The employees indicated that WOL has changed the way they approach and value others as well as the way they treat and value themselves." 

What Nadine discovered in her interviews is exactly what many people today are looking for today. Opportunity, Perspective. Connection.

“To connect on a human level”

This isn’t just an academic issue, of course, but something much more practical than that, something more personal. Andreas summed up his experience this way:

“Not only has it helped each of us to make a massive step towards reaching our growth goals, it also helped in times of remote work to connect on a human level.”

It isn’t selfish to develop yourself. Annette, for example, describes the benefits for her and her company, SAP. She calls it “the magic.”

Practicing WOL had not just an influence on how I approach goals, but how I approach people and challenges in life. It fosters cultural change and makes SAP’s values truly experienceable: tell it like it is, stay curious, embrace differences, keep the promise, & build bridges, not silos."

New Year. New You. 

The new WOL Membership Network makes it easy for you to take a step and realize benefits like these. Daniela described her experience in a Circle this way:

A profound program, the insights and tasks were an inspiring framework to our journey on which we worked, dreamt, and developed all together.

In your annual membership, you get three chances to join different kinds of Circles. Each time, we’ll match you with others, help you with your goal, and offer you coaching & support throughout the entire year. All for less than the cost of a conference or course. 

When will it be the right time to invest in yourself? When will you deserve it? The answer, especially as we come to the end of 2020, is obvious:

“Now.”

When will it be the right time to invest in yourself? When will you deserve it?

When will it be the right time to invest in yourself? When will you deserve it?

The Goal Clinic

The first members of the WOL Membership Network signed up this weekend, and it’s already an amazing mix of people.

Creating this new network opens up possibilities for individuals as well as companies of all sizes. Here’s one of the first things we’ll do together, and the kinds of people who will benefit from it.

The Goal Clinic

All the Circle methods, including WOL Mindfulness, begin with a goal of some kind. It helps you orient your activities throughout your Circle and tap into your intrinsic motivation.

But what should you choose? Though there are instructions in Week 1, I’ve seen how people benefit from getting some coaching to help them choose or refine their goal.

That’s what happens in the Goal Clinic. Before our new membership Circles even form, we will give people the chance to share their goals, listen to others, and explore tips and possibilities with me and others in the network. That will help them get off to a great start with a meaningful goal they can make progress towards.

We’ve been doing this with our biggest corporate customers, and now we can do it for everyone in the new network. Even better, we can offer ways for members with similar goals to continue to connect and exchange throughout their membership, expanding our chances for learning and growing together.

The Goal Clinic.001.jpeg

Five Kinds of Members

Some of our new members work for themselves and some in big organizations. Some joined as part of their personal development program at work and had their company support their membership. Here are five types of members we’ve seen so far.

Career Builders who want to develop their skills and access more opportunities.

Joining my first Working Out Loud Circle was one of the best decisions I made.

- Lea on her WOL Circle experience

The Curious who are looking to explore new topics and make new connections.

[WOL Mindfulness gave me] a maximum outcome with a minimum investment of time. It helped me to reduce stress and to realize how much good is happening in my life. My new habits have become an integral part of my everyday life.

- Melanie on her WOL Mindfulness experience

Supportive Managers who want to offer their staff personal development and coaching opportunities that are proven, cost-effective, and easy to administer.

Many are simply astonished by the number of opportunities that they were offered while applying their WOL practices.

The employees indicated that WOL has changed the way they approach and value others as well as the way they treat and value themselves." 

- Nadine Skerlavaj, “Why is WOL accepted by employees?” [Bachelor Thesis]

Small Company Executives who would like the kind of employee and culture programs that large companies have, so they too can foster a more agile, collaborative workplace. 

An ideal method to further develop our learning and working culture.

- Dürr Systems AG, sharing their WOL experience on LinkedIn

Working Out Loud can provide some of that “social glue” that enables organizations to move forward cohesively. Whether it’s a virtual team or one physically together.

- Shirley on joining a Circle as a new joiner

Progressive HR Professionals who are looking for new ways to help employees collaborate and feel connected, especially in a time where more people are working remotely. Some are even looking for cross-company networking.

We are 70 leaders on a journey towards better collaboration culture and decided everyone should start a Circle. 

- Sebastian Kolberg, Leading Digital Transformation & Change Projects, Bayer

The future of corporate learning is self-directed and social. WOL is an important part of our learning strategy.

- Laura Krsnik, Head of Global Learning, Merck KGaA

Can you relate to these roles and these quotes? Are you looking for new skills, opportunities, connections, or ideas? The WOL Membership Network makes it easier than ever to invest in yourself. 

Learn more at: signup.www.africanmango-slim.com.

The WOL Membership Network

“For those who’ve felt there could be more to work and life.” That’s who Working Out Loud is dedicated to.

You know you have more to offer, but to whom?

You feel there could be more to work and life, but what?

You believe your company could be more collaborative, but how?

WOL helps you discover answers to these questions. Joining the new WOL Membership Network makes it easy, and gives you access to coaching, support, resources, and new methods you won’t find anywhere else.

Time to Invest in Yourself

For every person who has experienced a WOL Circle, there are dozens more who want to try it but don’t have the time or energy to do everything themselves: finding other Circle members, organizing meetings, registering for materials, and going through the process on their own.

In the new WOL Membership Network, we do it all for you and with you. Once you sign up, we help you get started and get the most from your experience so your time is spent on the most important thing: investing in yourself. 

A Professional, Supported Coaching Experience

Your membership fee gives you access to a professional, supported, curated peer coaching experience. We:

  • Match you with Circle members

  • Get you organized & get you started

  • Offer live coaching sessions

  • Support you along the way.

It’s an annual membership, so for an entire year you can:

  • Join a WOL Circle or the new 8-week WOL Mindfulness Circle

  • Join multiple Circles over the course of your membership

  • Connect with people with similar goals & roles

  • Receive an official certificate for each Circle you complete

The Privileges of Membership 

So far, this kind of coaching and support used to only be available to big companies, with WOL Coaches helping them empower hundreds and even thousands of employees. Now you can experience it for yourself.

Maybe you’re looking for the next steps in your career or small business. Maybe you need coaching and development for your employees. Maybe you want to try WOL before introducing it in your company.

This is an opportunity to take a step you’ve been wanting to take.  

How do you join?

The first Circles will begin in January, including the new WOL Mindfulness Circles. (You can choose which kind of method you’d like to start with.) We will limit the initial group to only 100 people—and I will personally support you along the way.

This is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever worked on. After all that has happened in these past few months, I can’t wait to begin a new year helping 100 people invest in themselves and a better future.

To register your interest and get more details, visit signup.www.africanmango-slim.com?.

“A profound program, the insights & tasks were an inspiring framework to our journey on which

we worked, dreamt & developed all together.”

- Daniela, WOL Circle member in Germany

“We know that for the rest of our lives, all the gains we have achieved through WOL will be with us.

This is more than a 12-week process.”

- G?k?e, WOL Circle member in Turkey

Click on the logo to register for more details

Click on the logo to register for more details

Anja’s Story (from the new edition of Working Out Loud)

This story is from the first chapter of Working Out Loud. (Which is now available for pre-order in German too.)

Like other stories in the book, and thousands more in WOL Circles globally, it is about the power of making contributions and connections, earning you access to more possibilities. It’s about self-determination, exploring ways to make more of all you have to offer and realize more of your potential.

I hope you enjoy it, and that you will use Working Out Loud to write your own story.

Click on Anja’s photo to see her LinkedIn profile

Click on Anja’s photo to see her LinkedIn profile

***

Anja earns access to more possibilities

Anja grew up in a picturesque small town of fewer than fifteen thousand people. Upon graduation from the local high school, she applied for an internship at a savings bank about fifteen minutes away. She got the job. 

After four years, Anja knew she wanted more from work but didn’t think she could get very far without a university degree. So she enrolled in a college with an evening program, and for several years she juggled working during the day with going to classes and studying at night. Meanwhile, as it became clear that a career in a local bank wasn’t going to be enough for her, she moved to a large company in a nearby city and got an entry-level job as a clerk in the Purchasing Department. 

When she finally graduated, though, after all those nights and weekends of extra work, she was offered a role as a secretary. It was disappointing. She said, “All that effort to get a degree just to sit there in the end and stick receipts on my boss’s expense report made me more and more frustrated every single day.” Then she paused and slowly repeated that last phrase, as if reliving it: “Every. Single. Day.”

It wasn’t that she thought being a secretary was beneath her or was necessarily a bad job. She just felt she could contribute more. “I wanted a job where I could bring in my passion, where my talents could be seen, and where they would be useful for the company at the same time.” Although her new company had many, many jobs that might be more meaningful or fulfilling, she had no idea how to show she was qualified for them, or to get any extra experience she might need. Although Anja was only in her early twenties, she began to feel stuck.  

Being a secretary is usually a behind-the-scenes kind of job, where few people other than your manager know what you do, how well you do it, and what else you’re capable of. But Anja figured out a way to make herself and her work visible. She had seen that the company was promoting their internal collaboration tools and that a “digital transformation” was part of the corporate strategy. So, she started a blog and called it “How to work digitally as a secretary.”

She began by writing about the tools and techniques she used to be more efficient and effective. The point wasn’t to show off, but to be genuinely helpful. A few people read her first posts, then a few more.

She started to get comments thanking her for the tips she was sharing, and wanting to know more about her approach and how she handled her work. Gradually, her writing began to attract thousands of views, and was shared by colleagues she didn’t know. Her network started to grow. “People started to consider me an expert,” she said. One of the people who took notice of what Anja had to offer was her boss, who offered her a different role.

Anja moved from being an assistant in the Purchasing Department to being a community manager for two online groups in the division. From there she took on the title of “agile coach,” conducting training, coaching individuals, and facilitating workshops. Now she regularly acts as a mentor for teams, departments, and leaders, and she actively promotes digital collaboration and networking throughout the division. Recently, she organized a huge cross-company conference, and shared the stage with two board members. 

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “But it was worth it. I can now show my talents, and live my passion, in my new job.” Anja no longer feels stuck or invisible. Instead, she has found a way to realize more of her potential, and it feels like a new beginning.

Anja is on the far right, together with board members and other managers from Bosch & Daimler, celebrating the WOL Conference she co-organized.

If someone you know is looking for a job

We first talked about “WOL for job hunters” over breakfast. It was February, and he needed to catch the last flight to Zurich before the US closed its borders.

The experiment we discussed ended this month. Here’s what we learned.

The basic idea

Christoph Lindinger’s company, skillsgarden, helps individuals with their careers and helps companies with innovation, leadership, and culture. He wrote to me about using WOL Circles to assist people finding new roles. That led to our meeting where we agreed on how it would work.

Christoph said he would bring together a diverse group, at least half of whom would have the goal of finding a new role. He would meet with the group along the way and collect feedback.  

Each week, I would send them the new Circle Guides via email and include examples related to their goals. I grew to feel like I was a part of their journey, giving them support and a gentle nudge each Sunday.

Feedback from the participants

After their Circle ended, I met the group for the first time. On the video call was a delicious buffet of accents: Italian, Finnish, Sri Lankan, Welsh, German, Swiss.

I knew the skills they worked on in their Circle would help them access more opportunities. After all, purposefully building your network and shaping your reputation through visible work are fundamental to any job search

What I underestimated was how they would feel.

For those looking for a job, the Circle gave them a sense of psychological safety and connection. The support, shared accountability, and structure of their Circle helped them make progress and feel good while they did it. Just as important, they felt they were more than their goal, more than just a label like “unemployed” or “laid off.” 

As other Circles experienced, they started as strangers and became friends by the end.

Using a Circle to find a job

There are many good courses to improve your interviewing skills, LinkedIn profile, resume, etc.  If you have been laid off, there are outplacement companies like Lee Hecht Harrison that are paid to help you. (One of the Circle members actually worked with them.)

But what do you do when those courses and services end? 

If someone you know is looking for a job, encourage them to join a WOL Circle to complement the traditional job search offerings. You’ll be helping them develop skills and increase their odds while they strengthen their confidence and sense of self-determination.

That’s a wonderful way to support someone looking for the next step in their career.

I’ve felt uncertainty, anxiety, and worse when leaving one job & looking for the next. A WOL Circle can help.

I’ve felt uncertainty, anxiety, and worse when leaving one job & looking for the next. A WOL Circle can help.


How will they know how good you are?

When I first thought I was going to be laid off, I began interviewing for jobs. That was more than ten years ago. Yet I still remember how bad I felt about the process.

At the time, I had no network or online presence, so I relied on recruiters to get me in the door. They matched me to positions that had the same keywords on my resume, even though that was no longer what I wanted to do.

When I met with a prospective employer, all I had to show for my career and capabilities was a two-page work history and my answers to a few interview questions. If they called a reference, I’d have to hope that person had something good to say about me.

“Career roulette” is what it felt like. And the stakes were particularly high. 

Not a game anyone needs to play

Currently, more than 26,000,000 people in the US have filed for unemployment. That’s 73% more jobs that have been lost than in the 2008 financial crisis. 

For the millions looking for a position, how would any employers know how good they are? Or if the job someone used to do is no longer possible, how will they ever be matched to other opportunities that are suited for them?

The answer isn’t (just) a better resume and LinkedIn profile. It’s a combination of actively searching, experimenting, learning, and building relationships. It’s about contributions that shape your reputation and connections that earn you access. In short, it’s Working Out Loud.

Increasing your odds

Recently, I spoke with someone in Switzerland who works with job hunters, and he started to use WOL Circles to help them. In his program, they work on a range of fundamental skills like interviewing and new technologies. The Circles build on that, helping them put those skills into practice and develop their network. For some of them it “changed the way they see the modern world.”

If you or a friend are looking for a job, consider joining a Circle to complement your search efforts. The structure, shared accountability, and support can help you make progress and feel better while you do it. 

In an upcoming version of the Circle Guides, there’s a quote: “Opportunity can’t knock if it doesn’t know where you live.” That’s true now more than ever, and more important too.

How will they know how good you are? How will you find a next step that’s right for you?

How will they know how good you are? How will you find a next step that’s right for you?

“Look inside” - A story from the all-new edition of Working Out Loud

I was laid off in May of 2016, three weeks after turning 52 years old. 

Working Out Loud starts off eight years earlier, with a meeting where my boss tells me, “John, we have to make a change.”

The first thing he said when I sat down was that my area was being reorganized. “If you can find a new role in the next sixty days . . .” He didn’t need to finish that sentence. I sat there, stunned.….Eventually, I wound up finding another assignment elsewhere in my department, one with less responsibility, less status, and less pay. 

I still remember what I was feeling back then. Shame. Anger. Humiliation. In the all-new edition of Working Out Loud, I tell a story about a similar meeting with an even worse outcome, but after which I felt very, very different. (You can also use Amazon’s “Look inside” feature to read it, as well as other stories.) 

A setback and a way forward 

Eight years after that meeting with my boss, a different manager told me my job was “restructured,” a clinical way to say I was being laid off. The bank where I worked had been struggling on many fronts, and someone decided I was no longer needed. After nineteen years with the company, my grand exit was a few minutes in a conference room with someone from Human Resources. My manager dialed in via speakerphone. 

This time, though, my reaction was different, because I had been Working Out Loud. 

I had gradually developed relationships with people around the world who knew me and my work and were interested in what I was doing. These relationships gave me a sense of connection and purpose. They also gave me access to knowledge and opportunities. Just a month before I got my severance letter, I had the chance to deliver a TEDx talk about WOL. A few weeks after I packed up my office, I was at Bosch, in Stuttgart, giving a presentation to a global audience—my first bit of revenue as a one-person start-up. Following that were talks at Daimler, Siemens, and BMW. The elements of Working Out Loud led me to more opportunities. I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I wasn’t playing career roulette anymore.

In a word, I was empowered. Even after being laid off, I felt—no, I knew—that I had something to offer that others would value. Instead of relying on chance or hoping to be chosen, I could choose myself. 

So many stories

Part of why I wrote an all-new edition of the book is because there are so many more stories to share. People realizing more of their potential, feeling more confident, and going on to do things they never expected they were capable of (including trying to change the culture of their company).

The paperback and e-book are now available for pre-order. I hope you enjoy it, and that you use Working Out Loud to write your own story. 

***

Note: We had planned to celebrate the WOL Community & the new edition with a big event on March 26th. But recently there is too much uncertainty and unease around such gatherings.

So, we will still celebrate, but in a different, virtual way. Here’s a registration link for a video webinar on March 26th where we’ll share more stories from the book and the community. I hope you will join us. 

A 21st-century skill & the jobs that require it

Recently, I happened to notice “Working Out Loud” in a job description on LinkedIn. Then Mara Tolja, my friend and WOL Coach in New Zealand, sent me another job that included WOL. Then another one. And another one.

“We should maintain a list,” I said. And she created one: workwell.co/WOLjobs

The diversity of roles is striking. From technology companies in Portland and Bucharest to the German train company in Berlin to the Cabinet Government Office in London. One job is for a UN Development Program in Mbabane, Swaziland, a town of 94,000 people.

Five years ago, the well-known author and analyst, Dion Hinchcliffe, recognized that companies would need employees who could work in a more open, connected way, an approach that enables greater collaboration and faster innovation. He presciently referred to Working Out Loud as one of the “essential next-generation digital workplace skills” and later called it “perhaps the most fundamental” of these skills.

Now it looks like companies are recognizing it too. 

If you want to be the author of your own life

The first time I saw the phrase, I thought it was beautiful: “Be the author of your own life.” It seemed so appealing and uplifting, like “Be the CEO of your own career” or “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The prospect of self-determination inherent in the phrase, the power to actively craft your own future, seemed to offer both hope and inspiration.

But the more I reflected on it, the more it seemed like a cruel hoax.

After all, what prepares you to be the author of your own life? Is it the HR survey that tells you what your strengths are? The personality profile that describes your color or element and suggests jobs that are right for you?

Of course that’s not enough. You can’t be an author unless you actually write. And read. A lot. You need to do it every day, day after day, until you develop the skills, habits, and mindset of a writer. It’s your deliberate practice over time - experiments, feedback, connections - that enable you to develop the grit and heart and craft you need to make something great..

The same goes for an intentional life. You must explore, attempt, fail, learn, and adapt over and over and over again. Only through an endless series of small steps will you develop a sense of what feels right for you, broaden your understanding of what’s possible, and expand the perimeter of your potential. 

Crafting a life is not something you say or wish. It’s something you work on every day. Start now.

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What happened to “Working” in the last 45 years

I vaguely remember when Working came out. It was 1972. I was 8 years old. Calculators were becoming popular, and people were just starting to talk about computers.

The subtitle of the book is “People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.” It’s based on over 100 interviews with people in a wide range of jobs across the US - from gravedigger to TV executive, and consists almost entirely of the words of those people. (You can also listen to the original audio recordings.)

Despite all of the changes since those interviews over four decades ago years ago, many of the themes remain the same. Perhaps primarily, there was the need to make a difference, a search for meaning.

“I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us…have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people.”
“You know you’re not doing anything, not doing a hell of a lot for anyone. Your job doesn’t mean anything. Because you’re just a little machine. A monkey could do what I do . It’s really unfair to ask someone to do that.”
“A man’s life is his work. You see humanity in a chair. It was made by some man’s hand. There’s artistry in that, and that’s what makes mankind happier. You work out of necessity, but in your work, you gotta have a little artistry too.”

Many people expressed the feeling of not being treated or respected as a full human being, 

“That’s the thing you get in any business. They never talk about personal feelings. They let you know that people are of no consequence.”
“They call us professional people but they talk to us as very young, childishly. They check on us all the time.”
“These big corporations are gonna keep on growing and the people become less and less. The human being doesn’t count any more.”

Even back then, there was an awareness of the threat of technology, of dehumanization.

“You won’t know their names…You have a number - mine’s 407. You’re just an instrument.”
“It was almost like a production line. We adjusted to the machine. The last three or four years were horrible. The computer had arrived….I had no free will. I was just part of the stupid computer.”

As a result, many people felt stuck, like they had little control and few options.

“I don’t know what I’d like to do. That’s what hurts the most. That’s why I can’t quit the job. I really don’t know what talents I may have. And I don’t know where to go to find out.”

Do these themes sound familiar to you? Our needs for feeling effective and fulfilled - for meaning - aren't new. Helping people fulfill those needs is as important as ever.