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Reflect, decide, focus

Lynn Tinneyby Lynn D. Tinney, Cisco Systems

2013. It’s here. Another turn of the page. A new calendar on the wall. The frenzy of the holidays is past, and fingers-crossed, the trappings and decorations of these festive days are stored safely back in the attic. It’s a rare time to catch our breath and let out that collective sigh. Come on, do it with me… One, two, three, exhale. A big belly breath. Now, drop your shoulders and unwind that neck. There.

These first days of the new year graciously afford us a brief moment to reflect. Take stock of what we’ve accomplished in the past year as well as cast our eyes forward and consider, “What will the coming year bring?” Too often we quickly craft resolutions to kowtow to the scale lurking in the bathroom corner or make an oath to complete our taxes as soon as that W2 arrives—and, perhaps, not often enough do we take a moment to reflect on one of the major components of our lives: our careers.

At the Massachusetts Conference for Women, my badge didn’t say wife, mother, sister, friend. Nope. My badge looked like yours: Name, Title, Company. When asked what I do, I don’t reply with “driver to five practices and three games, dog walker, food shopper, and head of household serenity.” For most of us, our career consumes the majority of our day and takes much of our energy, yet we don’t give ourselves time to reflect on this major component of our lives. Do we enjoy what we do? Does it reflect who we are? How do we want to see it grow and evolve over the coming year?

In enjoying the conference this year, you probably took home a few nuggets of advice. Whether you collected these advice nuggets from a keynote speaker, a breakout session, or a pleasant chat with a friend or co-worker, now is the perfect time to think about what you heard. Take those advice nuggets out, play with them in your hand. Flip them over, turn them around— take a lingering look at them. How can you use them?

The simple act of looking at something closely is a powerful tool we often overlook. There’s a popular saying: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” Thoughtful consideration of something—like those beautiful nuggets of advice—can be particularly empowering if you do so with intention.

I invite you to linger a little in your new year contemplation and consider yourself—an unnatural act for most of us—and your career. Your thoughts about your career might be reflective and thankful: I’m engaged and fulfilled. They might be upsetting: I’m underpaid and miserable. The simple act of “thinking” puts you in forward motion to address and improve what makes you dissatisfied, and embrace and build upon all that is positive; your career will happen “for you” rather than “to you.”

Still, when change is part of the equation, looking closely at your career can be frightening. It takes courage to think about change; courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to carry on, with dignity and with focus, in spite of it. Wherever you are on the career-change spectrum, there are resources to help you make a decision. The first, best resource is you. What is your gut telling you? Trust your instincts.

The second most valuable tool is those who know you best, the family, friends, mentors, and colleagues you trust. We branded this a “network” more than a decade ago, so now that you’re engaged in the powerful act of thinking about yourself, share, get other perspectives. It is likely that your network revels in your success, so pay them the compliment of considering their opinions.  They will repay you in kind.

It’s 2013. What will this coming year hold? Where will you take it? What will make 2013 successful for you? We all measure success differently, but consider this important caveat: success is not luck. Success is achieved by intention, preparedness, and opportunity. Two of these three elements are based on the decisions we make as individuals, perhaps thanks to insights gleaned from the “nuggets” of advice we pocketed at the 2012 Massachusetts Conference for Women, or from thoughtful contemplation about our own careers, or through the perspectives shared by those in our networks. Even opportunity can appear when you seek it, when your intentions are clear, and you strive to learn.

Here is a nugget I gathered from Mona Lisa Vito, the out-of-work hairdresser in My Cousin Vinny, who closes the movie with terrific career advice—and an important life lesson: “You know, this could be a sign of things to come. You win all your cases, but with somebody else’s help, right? You win case after case, and then afterwards you have to go up to somebody and you have to say, ‘thank you.’ …What a… nightmare!”

Lynn D. Tinney
Director of Strategy, Strategy & Planning for Americas Services Sales
Cisco Systems


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