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Understanding Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills #careers

July 2nd, 2020

When I’ve hired, or evaluated candidates, in the past, I consider hard skills and soft skills. There’s lots of talk about soft skills and how important they are. At a point they supposedly become more important than hard skills. I want to share some important thoughts to help you put the two into perspective.

I recognize that some people don’t like the phrases “hard skills” and “soft skills.” I’ll let them debate that… for the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter what we call them… just imagine whatever favorite phrases you want :p

HARD SKILLS

Hard skills are the skills you need to do the job. If you are a widget maker and need to run machinery, can you run the machinery? Have you had training? Do you have certificates or licenses?

If you need to pull levers, how many times have you pulled levers? How many levers have you pulled in your life? Have the levers been different colors, or different sizes?

If you program, which languages do you know, and how proficient are you at those languages?

If you write (ie, a marketer), how much have you written? Do you write blog posts, or ebooks, or copy for websites, or manuals?

If you train people, what methodologies do you use? What size is your idea group, etc.

Hard skills can usually be trained in a classroom and on the job. You likely can learn hard skills for the rest of your career. I had some plumbing work done recently and the licensed journeyman plumber was stuck… he called in his mentor, a master plumber. They were both licensed but the master plumber had 30 years on the job and had seen a lot more than the younger journeyman. I appreciated that the journeyman plumber was wise enough to recognize he had reached his limits and wanted to consult with someone more expert.

JibberJobber Hard Skills

Hard skills can be hard to define. Usually we say things like intermediate or expert to describe our hard skills, but those descriptors can be meaningless. I know a programmer who said he was intermediate at a certain language but I would have said he was expert. There is too much subjectivity from the person self-assessing and too much interpretation from the person on the receiving end.

Tangent: This is why Pluralsight Skills IQ is so awesome for techies. Instead of arbitrarilly guessing your proficiency you can essentially rank yourself against thousands of peers and come up with a number that tells you what percentile you fall in. It’s way less subjective. If you can find something like that, to assess yourself against others, DO IT. Pluralsight Skill IQ is free, btw.

When Hard Skills Are Important

As a hiring manager I *might* ask you about your hard skills in an interview. If I do, it’s usually in the first interview, and less with each interview that follows.

I say might because I might have already looked you up and done a bunch of research on you before you come in. This is a critical concept… before you get an invitation to the interview I will have already answered this question:

Can this candidate do the job?

This is 100% a hard skills question. My invitation to you is this: communicate the answer to this BEFORE you even get to the interview.

How do you do that? There are a few elegant ways:

  1. Have a portfolio. A portfolio is not just for artists. You should be able to create some kind of documentation or collection of projects or thoughts or writing to showcase your work. If you can’t showcase your work because of confidentiality then here’s a simple suggestion: write some articles on LinkedIn or Medium or your own blog. The articles should showcase your professional breadth and depth and passion and experience. When I see your portfolio I should say “yep, this person can obviously do the job. The experience and passion and thoughtfulness is here.”
  2. Have testimonials. You can tell me you are qualified, but what if you had peers, colleagues, bosses, and customers tell me how good you are? There are many ways to collect testimonials… I usually recommend LinkedIn Recommendations. This is something you can’t fabricate or falsify, and they are pretty easy to get. I talk about how to do this in one of my LinkedIn courses on Pluralsight (one or two, I can’t remember which). Here’s a quick tip: too often recommendations are too generic and weak. I suggest you ask for a recommendation and say “It might read something like this” … and then hit the main points you want to hit (bringing out specific hard skills). I cover this in my course, but #AMA.
  3. Have ministories. In my personal branding course on Pluralsight I talk about crafting ministories… I think I talk about it in the LinkedIn profile course as well. These are SO powerful to (a) claim you have a skill, or can do a thing, and then (b) substantiate and quantify your claim using a simple story. These should be used on your LinkedIn profile, other online places where you market yourself, in social media interactions (like a post on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn), when you network with others face to face, and definitely in interviews.

Make those three things easy to find and understand.

The most important thing I want to communicate about hard skills is that they help you get into the interview. I do not ask you to an interview to see if you can do the job. By the time I have you in the room I assume you can do the job, but I might ask some qualifying questions to dig deeper into your hard skills.

BONUS: if you can quantify the value of your hard skills, all the better. When you show me you can do a certain job with a certain proficiency and you understand you bring value, I LIKE THAT.

SOFT SKILLS

Soft skills is the funny-named cousin to hard skills. This is the one I hear people saying “we need to rename that!” I don’t care what it is called but society calls it soft skills and I doubt we’ll see that change anytime soon.

JibberJobber Soft Skills

Soft skills are harder to quantify. “I’m a really good presenter” is very subjective. Too subjective. I once interviewed someone who was an excellent presenter… until this person did a presentation. I learned they thought they were excellent but I was cringing a lot.

It’s a lot easier to quantify proficiency in hard skills because we have tests and assessments, but there isn’t really a test or assessment for presenting. A presentation received very well by one person might have been received horrible by another person.

A lot of times soft skills are just kind of … felt. Perceived. Gut reaction. You might tell me you are a great listener but when we actually talk you do all of the talking, talk over me, and don’t give me a chance to talk at all. I’ve been there. It can be equally funny and frustrating.

Soft skills have to do with cultural fit. Is your communication style and demeanor a good fit for our team or our culture? I hired someone once who I thought was a fantastic fit… turned out they were a horrible worker. I have passed over people who had soft skills that were just not a good fit… either too quiet or too loud. This wasn’t anything I could read on a resume or LinkedIn profile… this is something I had to experience myself.

My courses on Pluralsight are all about soft skills… 36 courses and counting. How to communicate outbound (in writing, presenting, talking, etc.) and how to communicate inbound (becoming a better listener is one of my most popular courses)… there are probably a couple hundred soft skills courses on Pluralsight to choose from. If you want a 30 day pass hit me up and I’ll see if I can get you one.

When Soft Skills Are Important

A few months ago I was chatting with my fifteen year old who was asking what I do for Pluralsight. I told her I create soft skills courses…. courses on communicating, listening, working with different personalities, emotional intelligence, and job search and career management. She said “oh, most of Pluralsight’s courses teach people how to do the job and your courses help them get jobs and promotions!”

YES!

I wish I had written down word-for-word what she said because it was better than what I just wrote, but that’s the idea.

Soft skills help you get the job.

Soft skills help you get promotions.

When I bring you in for an interview I want to know if you will be a good addition to our team. I want to know if you’ll be as “cultural fit.” That doesn’t mean I want to hire you if you will fit in… maybe I’m looking for someone to shake things up and bring us up a few notches. But I definitely want to know about your likability or coolness factor. I’m not looking for the most popular or likable person, but I certainly want to know if I’ll like working with you.

My team and culture are different than where you just left. I don’t want to go backwards on our team environment, for sure. The only way I can really assess that is by bringing you in and chatting with you. Behavioral questions give me an insight into your soft skills and communication. Listening and watching how you think, react, respond, and treat others gives me insight into your soft skills.

By the end of the first interview I usually know whether you can do the job or not (see hard skills, above). I will have an idea of your soft skills, and whether I think I’d like to work with you or not. If I think you can do the job and you might be a good fit, and I might like working with you, you make hte cut and might come in for another interview. Usually this is with a panel, or with other people. Of course they’ll ask about hard skills because they haven’t done the same level of research on you as I have, and they’ll want to know “can this person do the job?” But when we all circle back and talk about the candidates I think most people will come back with their gut feel. By that stage everyone should be qualified to do the job, so hard skills isn’t much of the conversation… we tend to focus on who we “like.”

How does someone “like” you in an interview when they know you can do the job? It comes down to your soft skills. Your emotional intelligence. Your likability.

The Great Thing About Hard Skills and Soft Skills

I think the great thing, and a hopeful message, is that you can learn and improve your hard skills.

And, you can work on and improve your soft skills.

Improvement in either area will take time and practice and intention. But you can definitely improve.

And that is why I hope to continue creating courses for you.

 

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The Job Search and Career Seminar Series

June 22nd, 2020

Last week I finished my three week six session series on job search and career stuff, sponsored by Pluralsight. I posted the entire series here… you can watch each of the six sessions as well as download the slides (nothing special there) and see what Pluralsight courses and other resources I talked about.

Feel free to share this… lots of people should be needing this stuff pretty soon…

Pluralsight Free Seminar Series: Job Search and Career Sessions

Here are the individual YouTube videos:

The Interview Process

Personal Branding While in Transition

Job Search Processes and Systems

Networking with Humans

Onboarding Yourself in Your Next Job

Personal Finances for Job Seekers

Enjoy, and share!

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New Pluralsight Course: Using Critical Observation on the Job

June 18th, 2020

Last night I got this in my email:

Pluralsight Jason Alba Using Critical Observation On The Job

One of the coolest things about this course is that it is my 35th published course (I consider it my 38th course I’ve done for Pluralsight… because one was retired and two were massive updates). Seeing this last night was really cool:

Pluralsight Jason Alba 35 Courses

Critical observation is an interesting topic. As I spent many, many hours researching and thinking about critical observation I grew to really appreciate the importance of it. I think some people are inherently good at critical observation while other people are more aloof.

This course builds on my Leading with Emotional Intelligence course. In that course I talk about becoming self-aware, and becoming more aware of others. Obviously, there is cross-over in both courses… especially since the fifth pillar of emotional intelligence is “social skills” (the ambiguous catch-all), and “improving social skills” is a big part of becoming better at critical observation. The other big tie-in was listening skills, which I happen to have a course on: Becoming a Better Listener.

It has been interesting to be on a journey of soft skills and professional development over the last few years. I realize I’ve taken soft skills for granted, not appreciating how important they are for our career. Whether on the job or in a job search, imagine how much more effective we can be if we increase our emotional intelligence, if we improve our critical observation skills, if we become a better listener, and proactively work on other soft skills?

Imagine how different the world would be! We can change the world, one person at a time… starting with ourselves. I’m on that journey… will you join me?

Oh yeah…

When you watch any Jason Alba course on Pluralsight you can self-report in JibberJobber and earn three extra premium days on JibberJobber. Simply go to to the video tracker page to self-report. Through the rest of this month (June 2020) you can click TWICE on the Critical Observation course to get double (6 days).

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Shorter, More Concise, More Updated Pluralsight Courses by Jason Alba

May 29th, 2020

Earlier this year I was asked to update a couple of my Pluralsight courses. I shaved about 20 to 30 minutes from each of these:

Effective Email Communication (1 hr 1 m)

Informational Interviews (1 hr 1 m)

DID YOU KNOW? Every time you watch a Jason Alba course on Pluralsight you can self-report (in JibberJobber) and get additional premium JibberJobber days added to your account! 

The effective email communication course is an hour of my tips and ideas on writing better, more concise (see a theme?) emails. Emails that are read and responded to. And, I needed to update some things because I think that was a course from 2013.

I updated my informational interviews course because, well, they asked me. I cut out the superfluous and tightened it up. More importantly, I’ve had a few years to really fall in love with the power and effectiveness of informational interviews as a power strategy for job seekers. I even created the Job Search Program, which centers around informational interviews. I am impressed that this “networking on steroids” tactic can be used by people not in a job search… for example, people who are looking for funding, or partners, or customers, or to expand their team.

The reason I put so much time into JibberJobber and my Pluralsight courses is because I want to share the message of HOPE. And it is my HOPE that these two courses will help you become better at what you do, and what you want to do.

Check them out!

JibberJobber Jason Alba Pluralsight Courses

 

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The Time To Look For a Job Is NOW! (Even Through Quarantine)

May 13th, 2020

Sad.

A friend of mine posted that he is sad, and snappy. This line particularly stuck out from a long facebook post:

Maybe you weren’t at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy. I know this person was living a great life. He isn’t wealthy but he really was living a great life. Rich with friends and doing what he loved. And then everything is taken away.

Combine that with news that we are at 24, I mean 27, I mean 30, I mean 33 MILLION people unemployed. And those are just those who have reported for unemployment insurance. I guarantee there are more. Not to mention people who had their own businesses who have shut down.

It feels like no one is hiring (here’s a link to a spreadsheet of who is freezing hiring). Except that companies are hiring (here are some jobs in Utah for product managers (my dream job) and UX/designers).

Whether you are part of the unemployed, the furloughed, or whatever, there is absolutely no reason to NOT do job search stuff right now.

In my Job Search Program I guide you on a six week journey of informational interviews, or, as I say, “networking on steroids.” Even with all of the economic question marks right now, with no one knowing what Fall or Winter will look like, there are things you could do for your job search. I’m not sure if you’ll land next week (people are getting hired right now) or in a couple of months, or early next year, but you need to get ready. You need to do things to put you in the running.

So what can you do when it feels like there is nothing going on, and no options? Here are nine ideas:

Personal Branding Activities To Do Right Now

JibberJobber Personal Brand Blue Orange

Fix up your LinkedIn Profile. This is your professional landing page and it shouldn’t suck. Here’s my Pluralsight course on that…

Write something to let people see your subject matter expertise, thought leadership, and/or professional passion. This could be as simple as ONE LinkedIn article (here’s my LinkedIn course for proactive strategies)… just think of it as a smart email. Or, you could write a guest blog post for someone with an established blog. Or, consider your own blog (post once a week, or once a month?), or start tweeting. But you gotta share your expertise somewhere, if you want your personal brand to grow.

Fix your email signature. This is what I call the “secret weapon of personal branding.” Secret because everyone could easily have one, but hardly anyone does it well. Strip out useless info (including inspirational quotes) and come up with clearly branded statements to help others know who/what you are.

Networking Activities To Do Right Now

JibberJobber Networking Chatting

Make your list and check it twice. Really, spend some time on this. If you are bored at home you have time to do this. Your list becomes your game plan. It can be the most important list you ever make. Do it in a spiral notebook, or a spreadsheet. Or, if you are serious about career management, keep track of your contacts in JibberJobber. We were designed to replace the job search spreadsheet!

Figure out your target companies. This is also a critical part of your game plan. You’ll want to figure out how you will network into those companies. Maybe you do research on LinkedIn and figure who does, or has, worked there. You can spend a lot of time planning and preparing… time that most of us have right now.

Call someone TODAY. And tomorrow. And pretty much every day. Do this strategically. Not just to chat, but to have an “informational interview.” This is, I think, the most effective job search tactic you can employ. I know it might feel weird, and you might feel uncomfortable. But do it anyway. It will be worth it when you land your dream job. Here’s a course you can get on Pluralsight (the free 10 day account will get you full access) on Informational Interviews. If you are serious about your next job, get on the Job Search Program.

Multiple Income Stream Activities To Do Right Now

JibberJobber Multiple Streams of Income Money

Brainstorm and list ways you could make extra money, even if it is only $100/month. I am super passionate about creating multiple income streams so that when your main stream goes away you still have income. Read this post to see how it worked out for me. There are plenty of lists online you can research to see what might work for you. I’m not saying to burn the ships and become an entrepreneur (although that might be right for you). But imagine making a few hundred, or a few thousand bucks a month that don’t go away when your job goes away.

Learn from others who have multiple revenue streams. I’m not talking about the tons of people on Youtube that are like 18 and telling you how to get rich like they did. Maybe you read books to learn (Multiple Streams of Income, Rich Dad Poor Dad, etc.). Maybe you talk to friends who are entrepreneurs. Maybe you talk to financial advisors. Maybe you talk to the 15 year old kid who is doing stuff (because they aren’t afraid to fail, like us older people are). How you create your other income stream(s), I have no idea. But you can get ideas and inspiration from others to create your own recipe for success.

Try something. People ask me if they should major in entrepreneurship at school. My answer is NO. Why wait to get a degree on how to be an entrepreneur when you can try something right now? Whatever your skills are I bet you can find someone to pay for them. Walk dogs (seriously), paint numbers on curbs (seriously), clean window wells (seriously), or whatever. Dave Ramsey’s go to alternative revenue stream he always recommends is to deliver pizzas. This requires hustle but you can make good money doing that. The biggest issue is usually getting over your pride and other false constraints and just jumping in.

Do something. Don’t get overwhelmed with things out of your control… each of the nine ideas I listed above are in your control.

If you are wondering what this has to do with finding a job right now, or job search activities, every single one of these nine tasks can be a part of you getting your next job. I’ll never forget the phone call I got in 2006, out of the blue, essentially offering me a job. Why? Because I had started JibberJobber. I showed what I could do, I showed I had hustle, and creativity, and could get things done. And I had a job offer. Just starting my own revenue stream led to a job offer. Mind blowing.

You got this.

JibberJobber Like a Boss

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Pluralsight Discount: 10 Days to Decide

May 4th, 2020

Today Pluralsight announced they are discounting their pricing for the next 10 days by 33%. This is a great time to invest in YOURSELF! Click here:

Pluralsight 33% Off

I’m a sucker for a deal. I don’t care about 5% off or 15% off…

But 33% off? I’m digging that!

Last month (April 2020) I spent a lot of time blogging and youtubing about Pluralsight and my courses.

Pluralsight just sweetened the deal… this comes out to about $16/month and you get full access to the entire library of over 7,000 courses.

That is a great investment in YOU.

Isn’t that an investment worth making?

Upgrade here.

 

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The Job Search Channel on Pluralsight

April 21st, 2020

JibberJobber and Job Search CoursesPluralsight is the deepest and broadest content library for technical professionals. That is, they have the most courses that go in-depth and are highly technical. They have recruited amazing experts and thought leaders to help professionals understand their trade, and what’s on the horizon, with a bazillion hours of training (over 7,000 courses).

When I started as a content producer (aka “author”), back in 2012, soft skills was not the main focus. It still isn’t… but I’ve carved out my little niche in the library and have created over 30 courses for them. Over the years my courses have shifted from job search and career management to professional development (like Understanding Your Audience and Becoming a Better Listener and, yes, really, a course titled Effective Email Communication).

But my day job is still JibberJobber, and I love The Job Search Program, focused on informational interviews. I field questions and have conversations about job search a good part of my day. Tonight I’m doing a presentation for a job club on the East Coast. It’s in my blood, and has been since I got laid off in 2006.

With that in mind, and because of the reports of over 22 million unemployment claims, I created the Job Search Channel on Pluralsight. This is a short collection of courses specific to job seekers, including:

Designing a Killer Job Search Strategy

Developing a Killer Personal Brand

Informational Interviews

LinkedIn Strategy: Optimize Your Profile

LinkedIn: Proactive Strategies

Resumes, Job Seeking, and Interviews in Context

Resumes, Research, and Writing on the Job Hunt

Career and Survival Strategies for Technologists

Careers in IT: How to Get Your First Job

Working and Communicating with Different Personalities

Becoming a Better Listener

The Successful Technical Interview for Interviewers

Onboard Yourself: What to Do After You Land Your Dream Job

Check it out at the image below. Get free access for the rest of April (2020). If you are reading this after April 2020, hit me up and I’ll see if I can get you a 30 day pass.

Pluralsight: The Job Search Channel

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Pluralsight’s #FREEapril Means HOPE

April 20th, 2020

Pluralsight is still free this month…….. wait. All I ever talk about is Pluralsight, right? WHY???

I absolutely believe in sharing hope and good news. When I was a job seeker I had no hope and didn’t hear much good news.

When I had lunch with the late Dick Bolles, and he said we shared a message of HOPE, I was impacted. I realized that more than being the guy who wrote the book on LinkedIn, or that spoke across the U.S., or that came up with JibberJobber… my purpose in my career had shifted to sharing a message of HOPE.

You have hope, he said, when you have options.

You have options when you grow and manage your network. Hence, JibberJobber.

You have options when you further your education, and learn more (or deeper) hard skills. Hence, my support of Pluralsight.

You create options when you develop your soft skills and professional development. Hence, my massive investment in creating over 30 courses for Pluralsight.

You are on top of the world when those options come looking for you. It’s a beautiful thing.

My message is to manage your career. It is to learn, do, become. It is find self-empowerment. It is to create and manage your multiple income streams. It is to get a handle on your expenses, and savings, and future.

Why do I talk about Pluralsight so much? Because it is about creating hope, options, and empowerment.

And that’s a message I hope I never get tired of spreading.

There are still 10 days left of #FREEapril. If you miss it, find the money to invest at least in a month-to-month plan, and create a better present and future for you. Wondering where to start? Check out this list I’ve created.

Pluralsight for Professional Development and Soft Skills

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Becoming a certified project management professional with Casey Ayers

April 15th, 2020

One of the best kept secrets in the Pluralsight library is the collection of courses that helps you get your certified project management professional certification. This is world-recognized, and not a fluff certification.

Today I talked with Casey Ayers, the creator of this learning path (Project Management Professional – PMI-PMP® Exam Prep), and wanted to share it with you.

If you aren’t in tech, great. If you aren’t interested in the certification, fine. I promise this 36 minutes will be worth your time. There’s something there for you, even if a PMP certification wasn’t on your radar.

If it is on your radar, you can do all the exam prep FOR FREE because of Pluralsight’s #FREEapril. Pretty amazing.

Here’s the interview:

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The (Career) Sky Has Fallen… What to Do During Covid-19

April 14th, 2020

All joking aside, this is getting old.

It got old a month ago.

But it’s not over. Yesterday I learned a friend of mine, and his wife, had both gotten Corona. We’ll see how that goes. Probably fine. Hopefully fine. But for many people around the world things aren’t fine. The old normal has been shaken – jolted. The new normal includes isolation and facemasks and wondering when more tragedy will come.

Will friends or loved ones get sick? Will they die?

Will my job last? Will anyone’s job last?

If we can’t work, and we can’t pay bills, then what? Will we lose houses? Will cars get reposessed?

You can be glass half empty or glass half full, but when you don’t know where your next meal will come from, or where you will lay your head to sleep in a month, that is some scary stuff. I know people who are panicked, I know people who are not. Some are glad for the governmental reactions, others are disgusted.

Let me tell you, many of the things we are worrying about, while real, are not in our control.

I am not a doom-and-gloom kind of guy. But I know there is a lot of uncertainty, worry, and wondering. During this time we can crawl into a protective hole (maybe under our covers), or we can get into fetal position and wait it out. OR, we can have hope that one day we’ll get back to some kind of normal. Assuming we will get back to some kind of normal, what can (or should) we do right now?

The Winter of Your Career

For most of my life growing up I didn’t know what snow was. I was exposed to it at a young age but I lived in places that didn’t have snow. When I was 15 we moved from a tropical island to Virginia, two days before Christmas. And it was then, at that very time, that I thought how ridiculous it was that people lived where it snowed, and got so cold.

Big city Virginia snow life is not like Rocky Mountain ski lodge snow life. A quarter inch of snow shut down schools because “no one knew how to drive in the snow.” The humidity was ridiculous and made the cold that much more unbearable. I had learned to love winter on the beach, and here we were bundled up to the point of being unmovable, the fog seemed like hanging ice crystals. It was just miserable.

Years later I would start my early married life in Idaho. I never did go back to live in the tropics, and by this time was about as used to the snow as I would ever be. But winters in this area in Idaho were depressing. Gray skies forever. Miserable cold. The beautiful white layer of new snow would last a couple of days, then it would be gray and gross. I was not impressed. And I continued to wonder why in the world people chose to live in this forever gross gray, instead of living it up on a beach in the tropics.

Springtime was awesome. Even though there were some false starts, where it was a beautiful warm(er) day, and then it would snow for a few days… you could tell that things were changing. Tulips would be an early sign that winter was ending. Tulips would start to break through the ground and you would hear people say “my Tulips are coming in.” Before you knew it gardens would go in, snowsuits and sleds would get put away, and we’d complain about how hot the summer days were.

Within a few months, it would get cold again. Halloween with snow is dumb. But we did it. And just like that, as if we were never hot and miserable, winter would come back.

You can see I’ve had plenty of time to think about this. When I was in college I’d get out of the house around 6 (I am NOT a morning person, so that was just plain miserable), scrape my windows (a ridiculous ritual), and leave for school during the dark. I’d get home well after dark… months and months and months of this. Wondering WHY PEOPLE LIVE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT.

One of the thoughts I had, as we we close to various large farms, was that winter was a necessary time for the crops and lands and farmers to pause, and prepare for growing season. Just as crop rotation is important, it was important for the land to get a break. The snow on untouched farm fields was allowed to, for months, replenish. The plants were allowed to pause so they could come back strong in the spring.

I’m no biologist… so maybe I was wrong in my scientific assessment, but this was the pattern I saw. And I started to see that we indeed needed a pause. Every single of one of us has this pause within a 24 hour period, when our bodies and minds replenish and rest while we get a good night’s sleep.

I had a career pause in 2006, when I was laid off from what I felt like was my calling, my fast-paced career trajectory. And then the whole thing stopped. Paused. I hated it. I went in kicking and screaming. But I paused.

And then the pause ended, and I’ve been going ever since. My pause sucked. It hurt. It was scary. Really, really scary. But, as I look back on that part of my story, it was necessary.

It was the winter of my career. I replenished. I grew. I recalibrated. I contemplated. And yes, of course, I worried.

I also tapped into family for financial support, and I drained my entire 401k (which was a little more than $60k). Scary. Humbling.

But in a way, healing.

From this experience, that I did not choose, I was put on a new path.

Getting On Your New Path: Creating

I know that going through the winter can be critical for some of you. It can also be painful and scary to the point of paralyzing you. I want to suggest TWO things that you do during your winter. These two things might not pay the bills today, or next month, but they will help you build and grow and develop and replenish and think and heal during your winter.

The first thing I want you to do is to create. Create something. Anything. Build new skills and reinforce old skills. Instead of resting and consuming streaming videos, create something. Try things… what have you to lose? I’m not saying to go build a workshop, or to invest in expensive tools (from sewing machines to kitchenware to drills). Use what you have and create.

One of my favorite stories of this pandemic comes out of Canada. Here’s an article from The Globe and Mail from a week ago:

JibberJobber Career Winter Ear Gears Canada

Quinn is 12. He has a 3D printer (although you don’t need a 3D printer to create!) and an active imagination. Curiousity. A bit of a “why not” attitude. He brought to life an idea that I never in a thousand years would have thought of. The idea was sparked by someone else, and then he noodled on it. He came up with prototypes, had a friend try them, and finally settled on a design.

He should not have done this. He was too young to make this big of a difference in the world. It would cost money to print all of these devices, and besides, if he did, who would really benefit? Certainly not the world.

But he did do it. He created. He moved forward. He tried. I’m sure he failed at some things, but he kept creating, refining, doing. And now he’s a hero to people who have to wear masks for 12+ hours straight.

The kid is 12. And he created. He didn’t binge-watch entire series of shows. He created.

Why don’t you create something? It doesn’t have to be successful. It doesn’t have to change the world. It doesn’t have to even see the light of day. That’s not the point. Creating is about what happens inside you. The growth, the rejuvenation, the hope that becomes a part of your healing, is powerful.

Getting On Your New Path: Learning

The other thing I suggest you do during your career winter is to learn. This goes hand-in-hand with creating.

Dave Ramsey has a segment on his show where millionaires call in and he quizzes them on how they became millionaires. He asks a number of questions, one of which is:

“How many non-fiction books do you read each year?”

The answers are usually around two dozen. That is a new non-fiction book every two weeks. I don’t think that’s because millionaires all of the sudden have tons of free time to sip their tea, sitting in their sun room, while their friends go to jobs, so they need to do something with their free time.

No, it’s because they continue to learn. They continue to grow one of the most important assets they have: their mind.

I have always loved reading, although I always thought finishing school would be awesome because I wouldn’t have to learn anymore. I would have “arrived.” Over the last few decades, though, I’ve realized that you never “arrive” when it comes to learning. Learning is something I hope to do until the day I die.

It’s one reason I’m so passionate about what Pluralsight offers. For about $300/year you have access to a library of over 7,000 courses. Most of those are for programmers, or data professionals, or techies, but many of them are for other audiences. There are hundreds of courses on soft skills, many around effective communication. That is a topic that anyone and everyone could improve.

Some of the hidden gems in Pluralsight are the exam prep learning paths. Did you know that certified project managers can make more money? That having a project management certification can help you get through the interview process easier? Pluralsight has an entire series of courses specifically designed to prepare you for a project manager certification exam. Maybe you won’t ever become a programmer, but how awesome would it be to be a certified project manager?

Or maybe you do want to be a programmer, or UX designer, or graphics designer, or business analyst, or data scientist, or even just a better manager, leader, presenter, or communicator. There are courses for all of those.

This month isn’t even half over… which means you can still get at least two solid weeks of learning, for free, on Pluralsight. This is their #FREEapril campaign, where they have opened up the library. They are saying “stay home” and “skill up.” I completely agree.

Please turn away from streaming movies, at least for an hour or two, every day, and learn.

What a great time to be proactive about YOUR career, and prepare for when this winter is over. Perhaps you’ll be on a completely different career path. Perhaps you’ll be ready to get some certifications. Perhaps you’ll learn things to help you be more effective in your job.

Learning now will put YOU in more control, which is important in a time when no one feels like they are in control of much of anything.

Click below to get access to Pluralsight for the rest of this month:

Pluralsight Free April Stay Home Skill Up

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