In this blog series, Georgianna Marie will share insights and experiences from various Experience Matters workshops. Georgianna is an Explore Your Future, Encore Discovery and Book Group Facilitator and, as she explains in this article, going through an exploration process of her own.
At some point, I just knew. I’d been the CEO of a successful training firm for over a decade, having started the company from a one-person, working-in-the-guest-room startup to a thriving business with big name clients, a great reputation and an amazing staff. I’d started the business, single and pregnant with my son, to have a flexible work-at-home schedule, more control over my income and the opportunity to do work I loved. Amazingly, it worked! And then, one day, a small, still voice inside began to wonder, began to question: is this your life’s work? Is this what you really want? One day, I just knew that it was time to move on.
What was challenging about this “knowing” is that I had only a vague idea of where I would go in my career next and what – exactly – I was moving to, at least not in the traditional sense. You see, previously in my career path, each step incrementally moved me “up,” in terms of title, salary and prestige. I went from being a training developer at a nonprofit to being a training manager at a large corporation. I moved from manager to director. Then, I became my own boss.
Then, nearly five years ago, “the voice” began urging me: “It’s time to move on.” On the occasions I paid attention to this voice, my mind would fill with all the reasons I couldn’t possibly make a change, all the questions that I couldn’t answer: Who would run the company? Who would take care of the clients? How will I earn money? And, on a much deeper level: Who am I if I am not “President and CEO?” What will I do? What do I want?
Somewhere along the way I began to entertain those questions and have even managed to answer a few. For instance, I found the absolute best organization to acquire my operation and provide a good home to our clients, employees and associates. I say “our” because I remain a part of the company, with a vested financial interest for the next several years and a vested emotional interest, I would guess, forever. What I learned in this letting-go of the company is that I could not find answers to those questions of “how” until I acknowledged them and got clear about what I really wanted for the company. So, Part A accomplished: the business transition was underway.
Now the harder work began: what about the “Who am I?” and “What do I want?” questions? As the practical matters of the business began to fall into place, these questions became louder and more persistent. So, I did what I do when faced with the unknown – I started reading books about life transition, later-career changes, meaningful work…whatever I could get my hands on.
One day, while having brunch with a friend, I mentioned Marc Freedman’s book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, which I had read twice, amazed that there were others like me: 50-ish and ready to do something else. Ready to take the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm that we’d developed and invested in our corporate careers out into a different world: maybe nonprofit, maybe public sector, maybe private practice? Ready to rediscover some of our earlier interests and passions, that somehow didn’t get air-time in our busy lives. Ready to remember who we are in the first place.
It was at that brunch that my friend told me about Experience Matters. A few months later, I completed the Explore Your Future workshop, became certified to facilitate it and am now, happily, an Experience Matters Facilitator, a transitioning business owner and an explorer of my own future. In going through and leading Experience Matters workshops, I’ve learned how much courage it takes to acknowledge “the voice” and how much inspiration and excitement there is when we begin to understand that we are not alone. There are literally millions of 50+ men and women making these kinds of transitions, by choice or by chance. While each person’s story is different, I see commonalities:
- A desire to get back to what really matters on a personal level
- A need to do something socially relevant and meaningful
- The very real concern about finances and security
- And, a lot of excitement about the endless opportunities we all have, if we are able to see them
And, that’s what Experience Matters workshops are about. We provide a process for helping us see the possibilities and, on a very practical level, develop a plan for getting there. Certainly, these workshop experiences don’t provide all (or even most!) of the answers, but they help us identify the most significant questions for each of us and set us on a path toward answering them. As I continue to explore my future, it’s truly a privilege to be in the company of others on this journey – the journey toward the next phase in our lives.
This is the second in a series of blog posts by Georgianna Marie to share insights and experiences from Experience Matters workshops. Georgianna is an Experience Matters Facilitator and happens to be going through an exploration process of her own. Each new post appears at the top of this article. Scroll to the bottom to read anything you may have missed in prior weeks.
Where to Start?
When we reach that intersection in our lives where we know it’s time to move on we may start asking ourselves questions we’ve been avoiding; questions like, “What is my life’s work?” and “What do I really want?” That can be scary. When we know it’s time to make a change, for whatever reason, we often don’t know where to start. That’s where I was when I decided to leave my 15-year business and begin exploring a new future. Where to begin?
Look Back, Look Forward
Ironically, what I learned through much reading, networking and, ultimately, finding Experience Matters, is that the first step in moving forward is looking back. This is what we do in the first installment of the Explore Your Future workshop, in several of our book groups and as part of the Encore Discovery experience. Using specific tools and the support of our cohorts, we learn how to review the “what was” for clues that will help us learn more about “what is” and, ultimately, to define “what will be.”
It’s Not the “What.” It’s the “How.”
When we “look back,” it’s important to properly adjust the lens we look through. When we review the past and take a look at key junctures in our lives, how we do this can make the process productive and meaningful…or not. For many of us, who are our own worst critics, a trip down memory lane can be painful – filled with regret, judgments and a lot of “woulda, coulda, shoulda’” thinking. This is not only NOT helpful; it actually can hinder our learning and keep us from real insights that will inform our futures.
As we look back then, we let go of the judgments, the evaluations and the regrets and we “just look.” We write down the major events, people, places and things that have had an impact on who we are today. Sure, there may be painful memories along the way. The point is not to dwell in our perceptions of either the negative or the positive, but rather to just notice what we see. Make no mistake, it’s not easy to let go of our habit to judge ourselves and this work is not for the faint-of-heart. It takes time, commitment and deliberate, conscious effort to look back from this detached place. But if we really want to understand where we are today and how we got here, this work is key, and worth the investment.
What Do You Notice?
Once we’ve documented the major events, people and places, then it’s time to take notice trends and patterns. When I did this work, I noticed how major life “crises” always pushed me to a better place. I realized that I’ve always emerged from the most challenging periods of my life a little better, in both small and big ways. For others, they’ve noticed trends of putting others’ needs before their own, or a pattern of avoiding certain situations only to have them arise again in another context. Each person will notice different things about the landscape of their life – and these insights become just one piece of data that informs our next steps.
A Little Help from My Friends
It’s important to have support and input during this time. Certainly, we can each, individually, “look back” and may even make great strides in recognizing patterns and themes. But something magical happens when groups of like-minded people get together in the spirit of moving towards their life’s purpose and greatest good. Amazing things begin to happen. By listening to others, we learn more about ourselves. By hearing others’ perceptions of our stories, we discover things we never knew. By seeing patterns and themes for other people, we see more about ourselves. The synergy that takes place when we look back with that support enriches the process.
Don’t Forget to Celebrate
One aspect of looking back that we often aren’t able to do so easily for ourselves is to celebrate. Take the time and making the psychological space to really acknowledge all that you have accomplished, all the lives you’ve touched and the person you are. This is important. Honoring the past and really giving ourselves credit for how we’ve spent our first 40, 50, 60 or more years helps us form a foundation for moving ahead.
In a similar way, it’s often difficult for us to acknowledge losses and take the time to let go of the things in the past that didn’t work out as we had hoped. Sometimes, even as we celebrate what has “worked” about our lives, we also must mourn what didn’t. This recognition of our losses is different from evaluating and judging. Again, we notice and acknowledge our disappointments and honor them by mourning and letting go. This too, helps form a solid foundation for forward movement.
What Will Be
It’s been my privilege to work with dozens of people as they experience Experience Matters workshops and book groups. The starting point of “looking back” helps us to:
- Identify the significant people, places and events of our lives
- Notice patterns and themes
- Gain insights from colleagues
- Celebrate our accomplishments
- Mourn our losses
- Choose which aspects of our lives we want to bring forward—and which we don’t
This process helps us get a clear, complete picture of “what was.” With that in mind, we then move on to discover “what is.” The insights we gain in this first step provide a small part of the data we will ultimately use to help us define “what will be” and how we choose to move ahead in the next phase of our lives.
Georgianna begins a discussion of “Where are you now?” and how understanding and defining this is important grounding for moving into your desired future.
Who were you? Who are you?
In the last installment, we talked about the importance of looking back in order to be able to move ahead with purpose. The process of reviewing our lives thus far helps us to:
- Identify significant people, places and events of our lives
- Notice patterns and themes
- Gain insights from colleagues
- Celebrate our accomplishments
- Mourn our losses
- Choose which aspects of our lives we want to bring forward…and which we don’t
With this grounding, we have a framework by which to move into the next phase of this journey, which is about understanding and appreciating where we are – and who we are – right now.
The Cycle of Change
Before we get into the question of who are you now, we first look at where you are, along the cycle of change. There are many models of change that present this cycle in a variety of ways to help us understand what can be a confusing time of transition. One way to look at it is by reviewing our life structure in terms of an “Inner Journey” and an “Outer Journey,” as described in the book Life Launch: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life by Pamela McLean. Our work here is to notice where our time is most spent and where our energy is most directed. When we are more focused on the “Outer Journey,” we are in a state of accomplishment and doing, where achieving and evaluating those achievements is of most importance to us. Most of us have spent a large portion of our adult lives in this outwardly-focused state of mind.
When we are more focused on the “Inner Journey,” our energy moves inward and we are in a state of introspection and renewal, where being (versus doing) is more significant for us. Many of the people who participate in Experience Matters workshops and book groups have found that they are moving out of a predominantly outward focus and becoming more inwardly focused. This generally happens as a result of a current chapter ending – by choice or by chance – and a natural evaluation of “Where am I?” taking place.
Renewal and Moving Ahead
This cycle – moving from outward to inward and then outward again – is natural and necessary if we want to craft an encore chapter (or several!) that fulfills our dreams and desires. The challenge is that the inwardly-focused work is often uncomfortable. We resist this slowing down and turning inward, because it seems easier to move on to our next challenge; our next opportunity to “do,” rather than take some time to “be” and really listen to ourselves.
The Advancing Leadership Institute talks about the inward journey in terms of the seasons of “Autumn” and “Winter”, as follows:
“Autumn” is a time for harvesting and evaluating the chapter we are finishing. For example, a recent workshop participant found himself ending a 30-year career as an engineer and recognizing the benefits he had gained through his career; he felt great gratitude and satisfaction. At the same time, he also experienced feelings of uncertainty and resistance to the change ahead. He was evaluating the 30-year role he had played in the company, while breaking down the structures, relationships and routines that had defined him in so many ways.
“Winter” is a time for contemplation, when we move out of our known ways of being. Here, we reflect on the chapter we are finishing and do whatever “letting go” is necessary. Whether the transition has been by circumstance (a layoff, for example) or by choice (like a chance for early retirement), there will likely be feelings of vulnerability as we step into the unknown. Another workshop participant found that she was withdrawing from her usual activities and routines during this time, in order to spend quiet time writing in her journal and reflecting. Ultimately, she moved through this into the usual outcome of this phase: exploration of “what’s next?”
Where are you now?
So…key work as you move through transition and begin to explore and define your future is to understand where you are in the cycle of change. You will likely discover that you may be in several places along the cycle at once – maybe you are completing your long-term career while you are exploring a hobby or interest long forgotten or neglected. Maybe you are spending your weekends in quiet introspection, while continuing to feel committed to and challenged by your weekday career. Or, maybe you’re wrapping up your career and don’t have a clue what’s next…and are fully ensconced in contemplation and exploration.
To get an idea of where you are, look at the list of words below and note which ones best describe how you feel at this phase in your life. Are you feeling:
If you identify more with the words in the first column, you’re most likely in an outwardly-focused phase of life. If column two speaks to you, you’re more likely feeling a pull toward introspection. During the Experience Matters workshops, we learn not only where we are, but how best to support ourselves as we move through these phases.
By looking at the transitional cycle of change, we can then learn:
- Where we are in the cycle now
- Where we have spent most of our time
- What support we need
- What feelings we can expect
- What routines will best enable us to work through the cycle
- What comes next
Knowing ourselves helps us get a clear idea of where we are, which provides a framework for who we are, which we define through looking at our values, interests, skills and dreams. So…spend a little time on the “Inner Journey”. My experience with the workshop is that it’s time well spent. It will serve you well as you move into the next phase of your life.
This installment of Georgiana Marie’s self-discovery series focuses on the question, “Where are you now?” with some valuable ideas and insights around understanding and defining “WHO are you now?” before moving into a new future.
The Cycle of Change
Last time, we talked about gaining an understanding of where we are in the “Cycle of Change” so that we can learn not only where we are, but:
- Where we have spent most of our time
- What support we need
- What feelings we can expect
- What routines will best enable us to work through the cycle
- What comes next
This introspection provides clarity about where we are, which provides context for an exploration of who we are, during this transitional time in our lives. At Experience Matters, our framework for exploration of this question of, “Who?” focuses on considering and defining each person’s values, interests, strengths and dreams.
Who are you?
Many of us may see our values as static and unchanging and, in many ways, that’s true. For example, if you value honesty and kindness when you are 20 years old, it’s likely that you’ll continue to value such things when you’re 40, 60 and beyond. For our purpose – to define who we are during this critical time of transition – we look at values not from a moral or ethical perspective, but rather as deeply held motivators. In this context, we consider what matters to us most and what is most important to us – our “essence”.
We ask ourselves to narrow down the infinite list of valuable concepts and ideals to just five that matter to us MOST right now. This is challenging work. To see what I mean, consider this short list of possible values:
It’s pretty difficult to argue that any of these are “better” or “worse” than the others, but it’s easy to see how – especially during a transition – one of these may become more important than another.
Consider a recent participant in the workshop, coming into his “encore” phase after a long and meaningful career as an oncology nurse. For many years, his primary work-related values were compassion and service. Now, as he entered his early 70’s, he discovered that, while these things were still important to him, he felt more compelled and more driven by values like mentoring and nature. His declaration of mentoring as one of his key values came about as he reviewed his past and realized how much he enjoyed acting as a tutor in college. He discovered a passion for nature in group discussions – he’d been an avid hiker and enjoyed camping in his teens and early 20’s…then the demands of career and family had pushed these interests into the background. (For more information about the importance of “looking back,” scroll down to part one)
In the Experience Matters workshop, we work from a list of about 30 values, but this is just one way of taking an inventory of what matters to you most right now. In the book Life Launch, a more condensed categorization of values is used. For practice, try to rank order (1 = most important; 6 = least important) this list of six core values for yourself, right now at this phase in life:
|Personal Mastery||knowing who you are|
|Achievement||reaching your goals|
|Intimacy||being loved and loving others|
|Play and Creativity||following your intuition|
|Search for Meaning||finding spiritual integrity|
|Compassion and Contribution||leaving a legacy|
Not easy, is it?
There are many types and styles of values inventories available (many for free) on-line. If your interest is piqued and you’d like to explore more, try out one of these:
This exploration of current drivers is just the first step in an overall self-assessment that also includes defining and embracing your interests, strengths and dreams. It’s important to start with a survey of values because these motivators then become your guideposts for your encore efforts before, during and after each stage of your evolution. Here’s how:
|When||Clearly defined values help you:|
For example, if your primary driver is achievement, you’ll know you need to focus on goals, measurement of success and networking/support.
For example, if your primary motivator is service, you can decide whether to spend your time volunteering at the local community center or taking tennis lessons, in terms of which is more in alignment with service.
For example, if your core value is empathy, you can look back over a period of time – a month, a quarter or a year – considering how you have spent your time against a backdrop of empathy. Based on what you see, you can then either create a new plan (see “Before” above) or reconsider and redefine your values.
The process of considering – and reconsidering – primary motivators and drivers at this transitional time of life is incredibly valuable and insightful. Research shows that we all live happier, more fulfilled lives when we align ourselves with values that are meaningful to us. Never is this more important than when exploring your future and planning your encore endeavors.
Georgianna talks about building a portrait of all the things that make up “you” at this point of transition, providing valuable information and insights into your next steps.
Last time, we talked about the importance of reassessing your values at this time of transition. A thoughtful and thorough survey of values can become guideposts for your encore efforts before, during and after each stage of your evolution.
Through the work we do in workshop sessions and in self-reflection assignments between classes, we place our values at the center of our emerging “Self-Portrait” and come to understand other components that are at play at this time in life:
- Ideas – Most of us have some idea of where we would like to head next. In a previous workshop, a participant came into the sessions knowing that she wanted to do some work with children, but didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do or where to start. By the end of the sessions, she was exploring several different volunteer opportunities, working with children in various capacities.
- Motivations – While our Values define what is most important to us, our Motivations speak to what we would like to get out of a particular endeavor at this time in life. Some examples of common motivations during this phase of life include: have fun, create greater meaning, have a flexible schedule, add some structure to my time, give back, share my vision, challenge my mind and thinking, mentor others, gain new skills, work for a team, supplement my income, and stay active and healthy. By spending some time considering your most important motivations, you can better assess if a particular opportunity is a fit for you, or not.
- Skills and Interests – What are you good at? What do you like to do? What are you interested in, but haven’t had the time or resources to pursue? Through looking at these questions, we begin to define our “Top 5” skills and interests. Important here is focusing in on those things we have learned – through paid and unpaid work and contribution – that we are both GOOD AT and also LIKE TO DO! If you’ve been a CPA for 40 years and can’t stand the thought of completing another tax return…but all means, let’s keep “accounting” off your list of skills! Many people in transition are ready to start up with something completely new, while others may want to continue with skills and interests they’ve honed for years, but perhaps apply them in another venue.
- Dreams – Dreams can be very difficult for us to access, yet the characteristics of our dreams can provide helpful clues to answering the question of “what’s next” for each of us. To assess our dreams and what they mean, we consider questions like: What would I do if money and/or time were not a consideration?
If I had 2 years, 1 year, or 6 months to live, how would I spend my time?
What did I dream of doing or becoming when I was 6 years old? 12? 18? 30?Sometimes, we can find ourselves resistant to looking into our dreams, as it may be painful to recognize what we have abandoned…or, we may just think our dream of being an astronaut at age 12, for example, was silly. If we give a thoughtful consideration of our dreams some time, we may find useful information. Perhaps we can’t be an astronaut at age 65, but we can volunteer at an air and space museum, or study astronomy, or…who knows?
- Financial Considerations – Our work at Experience Matters is not that of financial planning for these “What’s Next?” Years, but we recognize that financial considerations play an important role in the shape your next steps may take. For some, earning a full-time salary is required; for others, finances are only a minor consideration and their focus is on “giving back.” Regardless, insight into your current financial situation and needs is an important factor in building your self-portrait. By considering what you have, what you need and through making choices about what you ‘need to have’ versus what you would ‘like to have,” we gain insights into our relationship with our finances, that can inform our decisions about this next phase of life..
The process of building this Self-Portrait provides us with a picture of ourselves right now. By painting this picture, we begin to see where we are in alignment with our values and where we might have disconnects. We also have the foundation for generating ideas about how we might like to spend our time as we move ahead. Since many of us have not stopped and considered such questions as these for years – if ever – they are especially valuable and insightful. By building your self-portrait, you come to know yourself better. Through knowing yourself better, you can then make better choices about how best to use these bonus years.
Building on the idea of a self-portrait Georgianna now explores how to define a mission for ourselves and how that can inform our future.
From Self-Portrait to Personal Mission Statement
In Experience Matters’ workshops, participants create a summary document that answers the question “Who am I?” for this period of life based on ideas, motivations, skills and interests and dreams.
Building this self-portrait provides participants with a picture of themselves and helps them see alignment – and nonalignment – with values. It also provides a foundation for generating ideas for what’s next.
From this self-portrait, we can now work toward developing a Personal Mission Statement. For many, the idea of a “Mission Statement” sounds overblown and perhaps a little scary. Participants in past workshops have expressed resistance to taking this step because it can seem, well…final. They wonder, “Do I have to make a statement about my mission for the rest of my life?” and “What if I write a statement and then change my mind?”
What is a Personal Mission Statement?
A Personal Mission Statement is a brief, engaging summary of what you’re “about” for a period of time with which you feel comfortable. For many, this is a period of a couple of years…or maybe even just the next six months. Having this statement – in writing – provides a milestone that can guide your next steps. For more in-depth discussion of Personal Mission Statements, see Life Launch, a wonderful resource for life-transition exploration and planning.
How Can I Write a Personal Mission Statement?
First, know that your statement will likely not emerge all at once. It may take time, contemplation and rewriting before you have a statement that feels like “you” for this period of time.
Here are some suggestions for development your statement:
1) Write down 3 – 4 words that capture the essence of who you are at this point in life.
2) Look for common themes in your Self-Portrait.
3) Consider what new awareness of yourself you have as a result of what you see in the Self-Portrait.
4) Brainstorm ways to put these words together to tell someone else about yourself – something like an “elevator speech” that describes you, at this time in your life. (And if you’d like to try out an interesting tool for developing an “elevator speech,” see this: How to Develop an Elevator Speech.)
5) Start your Personal Mission Statement with a phrase like one of these:
- I am motivated by…
- For the next X years, my purpose is to…
- I make a difference by…
- My purpose, for the next chapter of my life, is to…
Keep your statement simple, succinct and empowering. And, don’t worry if it doesn’t come together all at once. If you’d like some online help with the development of your statement, Franklin Covey has some interesting examples and tools available here and here.
With your Self-Portrait and Personal Mission Statement in hand, you can then move ahead toward looking at what types of causes you would like to impact and roles you would like to play.
How can we make a difference? In this installment, Georgianna talks about honing in on what is really important to us.
Making A Difference
Many people come to Experience Matters because they feel something has been missing from their life, particularly their work life. Through our workshops, participants go through a process of looking:
Backward…to discover the themes and trends that have influenced their lives so far, in order to determine what they would like to take forward and what they would like to leave behind.
Inward…to explore their values, interests, skills, motivations, financial considerations and dreams, in order to understand what drives them at this point in life and what, for them, would be meaningful.
Forward…to create a vision of what this next phase looks like in terms of work, leisure, relationships and, significantly, community and contribution.
Community and Contribution
Often, a key component in that “forward vision” is gaining a stronger sense of community and contribution. People want to be with like-minded others, doing work that makes a difference in their communities. Just as often, while participants can articulate what’s missing, they are not quite sure how to fill in that void.
One way to get some ideas is by researching causes and issues that speak to you. In Marci’s Alboher’s book, The Encore Career Handbook, she includes an exercise that walks readers through a process of deciding which social issues are most important to them.
In our workshops, we build on Marci’s foundation by asking a series of questions that enable participants hone in on what type of impact they would like to make. For example, the progression may look like this:
|What am I interested in impacting?||I want to help others.|
|What kind of “others?”||Women|
|Which women? Where?||Underprivileged, low-income women in Maricopa County.|
|How would you like to help them?||I would like to help them get better jobs and become home owners.|
As you can see, this process of questioning leads from a very general statement (“I want to help others,” to a very specific statement, “I want to help low-income, underprivileged women in Maricopa County get better jobs and become homeowners.” With this specificity, a person can then move toward finding the organizations that might be able to use their services.
But…What if I Don’t Know What Causes Speak to Me?
For some of us, we can’t make the move from general-to-specific statements about our desire to give-back…because we don’t know what would we like to impact. With so many social concerns and issues, it can sometimes seem like there is nowhere to start! Two websites can help us with this search:www.dowser.org and www.change.org.
Both of these sites can help us to learn what issues are pressing (if the news doesn’t tell us enough!) and which organizations focus in on those issues. It’s a great place to start.
What Type of Contribution?
In addition to honing in on what we want to impact and which organizations might need our help, we also need to think about what roles we could – or would like to – play. Nonprofit organizations are especially in need of “infrastructure” talent, things like:
- Information Technology
- Human Resources
- Fund Development
- Public Relations
Whether you want to engage in periodic, one (or two)-time contributions, project-based and short-term efforts or longer-term assignments, there are multitudes of ways your background and experience can be put to use…to affect the very causes that speak to you.
How? Well, another of the exercises in The Encore Career Handbook has us look at the various roles we could play within organizations focused on our cause or interest. This includes roles like:
- Direct Service
- Policy Making
In our workshops, we again build on Marci’s work by looking at how our Self-Portrait and Personal Mission Statement (LINK THIS TO PART 6) relate to the causes we are interested in and the roles we might like to play. When we are able to see all of these aspects and their interrelationships, it’s amazing what ideas and plans emerge.
How About a Little Inspiration?
All of that being said, it can be quite overwhelming for participants to look at all the information they have generated about themselves and try to craft it into something meaningful. It’s at moments like these that we turn to others like us who have successfully made transitions that include meaningful community contribution.
- Josephine Baker, the world’s oldest female body-builder who leads fitness classes for her church.
- John Baker, pursuing his passion for music and leaving a legacy.
- Jeff Abraham, using his career experience to help the Tempe Community Action Agency.
With hard work, a little introspection, research and this type of inspiration, you’ll be amazed at what aspirations and plans emerge!
As you begin to discover ways to give back and contribute to your community, the needs and possibilities can be overwhelming. In this installment, Georgianna tells us about the Service Profile – a helpful tool for making choices about how to spend our time.
Making a Difference…but How?
Last time, we talked about the exploration of community and contribution and how to begin to hone in on where you might want to spend your time, for greatest impact. Whether it is in a purely voluntary position, an assignment that includes a stipend, a paid contract or a full-time job, the needs are many in the nonprofit community.
In our work here at Experience Matters, we’ve seen how the sheer volume of need can be overwhelming – there are so many good causes, and so much need for skilled talent, it can be challenging to know where your talents would be put to best use. That, along with the fact that a large percentage of people who engage with nonprofits don’t feel their skills are being used adequately, can lead to unsatisfying efforts to do good. That, it seems, is a shame!
What is Your Profile for Service?
With these challenges in mind, we’ve developed a handy new tool we call the Service Profile. This is an online, interactive quiz that provides you with information about YOU so that you can better match yourself to the needs in our community. You may be wondering, “what type of information?”
First, you will answer questions about the Nature of the Work you would like to do. Some examples are:
- Do you want more responsibility and accountability…or less?
- Is your preference for mostly mental work or do you want to do physical work?
- Do you want to learn something new, or use skills and knowledge you already have?
Second, you’ll encounter a series of questions about what type of Physical Environment you prefer. Things like:
- Outside or inside?
- Nearby or anywhere?
- In an office or okay with a cubicle?
Next, you’ll discover more about your preferences regarding the Interpersonal Environment that is best for you. This includes questions about such concepts as:
- Team member or individual contributor?
- Small organization or large?
- Communicate in person or via email?
Finally, the last category of questions concerns what Personal Characteristics of yours are important. With these questions, you’ll consider:
- Do you mostly make decisions based on facts or feelings?
- How do you handle conflict?
- What sort of recognition do you want?
What does it All Mean?
When you’re done with these questions, you’ll not only learn a little bit about yourself, specifically in relation to your wants and needs in terms of community service, but you’ll receive two reports that make up your Service Profile.
Short Form – You’ll receive a short-form of results, which basically summarizes your responses and gives you a one-page picture of what you’re looking for, in terms of the four categories of questions. Even for the most well-seasoned community contributor, you’re likely to be surprised by what you see.
Long Form – You’ll also receive a longer report that not only tells you how you answered, but what this might mean to you as you move ahead. For example:
|If you said…||Then your results might tell you…|
|It’s important to you that your service work produces measureable outcomes and tangible results.||That you should determine if you are likely to see these sorts of outcomes for any service work you consider.|
|Because you are most comfortable in structured work environments, you’ll likely experience greater satisfaction and success in organizations with clearly defined procedures and responsibilities, such as you will find in more “mature” organizations.||To find out if possible assignments will provide this level of definition of tasks and how to complete them.|
It’s Between You…and You!
With these results in hand, you can decide how to move forward, likely with a stronger vision of how you’d like to spend your contributory time. You can use the results as you explore options and opportunities that are available to you. These results are just for you—they’re confidential! This confidentiality allows you to consider and answer each question fully, knowing you’re the only one who ever needs to see your results.
That being said, you might want to share what you learn. Talking through your results with a trusted friend, advisor or significant other could yield you even more insights and help you generate ideas about where to put your significant skills and talents to use. The more ideas you have, along with the knowledge you’ve gained from the Service Profile, the greater your chances for finding the best match for you.
We Can Help!
Of course, Experience Matters is also always here for you. If you’re considering engagement as an Encore Fellow, Service By Design Associate, AmeriCorps Member or RSVP Reading Tutor, you can use your results to guide you on your way. And, if you’d like to share what you’ve learned with us, we can offer our ideas and suggestions for the best match for you.
When the right talent is matched with the right need, magic happens!