Get “Outside” Yourself and Open Up the Possibilities!!

Springtime is here, and even if your spirits are in a funk because you’re searching for work, there is something to be said for getting outside. I refer often to the importance of exercise, and to the critical act of getting out “on foot” to make sure you know everyone and everything in your neighborhood. We Americans can be very good at moving about our daily routines at the speed of light, missing the who, what, why and how of the goings-on in our own neck of the woods. There is value in getting to know the neighbors, the businesses around you, and the conditions and concerns that affect your town. But this message is about much more than that.

It’s important, yes, to always be broadening your personal sphere of knowledge and influence. And you know what? It doesn’t stop there. Julie LaCroix, MA, CMP and I put our heads together recently, and agreed that there are definite ways that an executive in transition can make a powerful statement to the community, and even the world, by taking on a cause, or participating in an inspirational event. Seriously, the adage about how 90% of success is “just showing up” doesn’t just relate to job sites. It also relates to your personal involvement with your community.

Your willingness to be present at the activities of others, particularly others who are striving to do great things with the little they have, or under less than advantageous circumstances,  makes an enormous statement about who you are inside. Likewise, your willingness to give of yourself and your resources, no matter how small a contribution you can make, says volumes about your character. They’re demonstrations of “the stuff you’re made of” and will not go unnoticed.

If you’re stumped about where and how you might contribute to your community while you get outside yourself, literally and figuratively, I’d like to give you some brief examples of things that have appeared on my own personal radar in the last few weeks:

Unless you live in a cave, you have probably heard of The Boston Marathon. It’s never been something that has had great meaning to me, other than my obvious respect for anyone who is able to participate in such an event. (How DO they do that?) But, interestingly enough, it has touched my life in a couple of unexpected ways. First, my sister-in-law was the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon. (I know!! Can you believe there was a time in 20th century history when it was thought that women and girls were incapable of such physical feats?) Then, just a few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine, a world-class athlete who was paralyzed while training in 2001, completed the event – coming in 2nd place among the 24 female hand-cyclists who qualified. Beth Sanden literally bypassed her paralyzed legs, and with an emotional and mental strength that can move mountains, and a heart with the fortitude of a giant, used her arms to propel herself to the finish line.

Beth has always been a hero and a role model in her community, with a thriving personal training business in San Clemente, and a global player as an athlete. But, when she was thrown from a bicycle while taking a curve on a training run in 2001, her spine was shattered. All of us who know her well, remember her months in the hospital, the beginning of her journey back to “life” and her intention to be present in the lives of her two teenage daughters at the time. She had lost her ability to run her business, to use her legs, and to attend to the daily tasks of motherhood, at least for a period of time. Talk about losing one’s sense of self – Beth knew she had to reinvent herself if she was going to be the mother, wife, girlfriend and contributor to the community she always believed she would be.

Slowly, methodically, and painfully, Beth dove back into life. She went from a wheelchair to a tripod cane, then to a regular cane. She began to swim laps daily, using buoys on her legs. She became an active member of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), a group of individuals who have been paralyzed or suffered loss of limbs, but just keep on going, reinventing themselves as champions, all the while raising money for other victims of accidents who need wheelchairs or financial assistance. In 2006, Beth completed her first triathlon in five years atop a new CAF handcycle. She kept going, and going and going …. and then, she made history, at 55 years of age, in the 114th Boston Marathon. It gives me goosebumps. And if you ask her how she did it, she will tell you she has tremendous faith, and she wants to give back. In every photo you see of Beth, she is with her fellow athletes at CAF, and her smile ignites the scene.

The second thing that got me thinking about how our lives can make an impact on others, and get us “outside ourselves” was when Judy McCoy, a woman who shares one of my evening fitness classes, approached me about helping her promote her nonprofit group’s fundraiser that was held on May 1st. Judy knew that I guest host a radio show (www.bettertimesafterfifty.com) and wondered if I could arrange an on-air mention about the event. Judy’s group is called Ordinary Women, Inc., and they support orphans in Kenya. They are dedicated to placing orphans in local Kenyan families, and providing food, education, and medical care to each child. It was one more reminder to me that there is a whole world of magnanimous activity that goes on in our communities, creating heros among us. We just have to step outside of ourselves and look around to find it.

Getting back to Julie LaCroix, a Career Management Consultant at Power Connections Inc. Julie assists executives in transition every day.  “Sometimes you  gotta do what you gotta do,” she says.  And at the top of the list is taking part-time, temporary, or volunteer work to stay in top form.  “Show your skills, but most importantly, show YOU,” Julie advises.

Start with your attitude and build from there.  First, show these organizations who you are and what you are like to work with.  Then show them your skills.  “You have nothing to lose, so go out on a limb!” Julie exclaims, “Surround yourself with interesting people who can get to know you through working with you. And while you’re at it, do something great for the world!”

Perhaps your efforts won’t lead you directly to an interview or a job, but look at it this way: the relationships you build will most likely bring referrals, and your pro bono work counts as consulting. With the right attitude, you will succeed at communicating your brand, keep your skills sharp, build new relationships, look like a consultant, and generate valuable references and referrals.  Do what you “gotta do”!

Besides, there are people out there who need you, your energy and your talents. I’ve named just a couple of them above. There are so many more. What are you waiting for? Get going!

Di Chapman, President, Words To Your Advantage Speaking and Writing Service (www.dichapman.com) and Chief Communications Officer, Power Connections Inc. Career Management and Executive Outplacement Service (www.powerconnectionsinc.com)

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