Creating an online profile to help develop your career

I’ve just added another story to the Portfolio Career Stories page, this time about Katie Barnett who has recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Birmingham. Katie is developing her career by building up a portfolio of work in line with her skills, interests and ambitions.

When reading Katie’s story I was struck by how effectively Katie has used the website about.me to create a personal home page for herself. You can see in an instance her key areas of expertise: Researcher, Writer, Lecturer.

You can read Katie’s “about.me” profile here: http://about.me/katie.barnett and her career story if you click on the Portfolio Career Stories tab on this site.

Seeing Katie’s about.me profile has got me thinking about how we can best create an effective online profile.

Do we choose just one channel for example a LinkedIn profile or an about.me page, or do we need multiple ways to communicate our key messages?

I guess as with all marketing strategies it starts with a clear idea of what you want to achieve and who your target audience is. Whether you go for an organic way of building up a profile as you go along, or whether you have a well-thought out strategy at the outset – one thing is for sure, the opportunity to use online profiles to help develop our careers is big.

Just relying on a CV and traditional ways of seeking out and applying for jobs or building a portfolio and freelance career will without doubt limit your options.

If you’ve got examples to share about how you’ve created an online professional profile and what’s working well, do share your ideas and comments with us.

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Spinning plates – how to manage multiple projects

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Having multiple projects on the go means that you have to be good at project management and here I’m going to use the analogy of spinning plates as a way to share tips for managing multiple projects either as a portfolio worker or in other contexts.

Project start-up

When I first get involved in a project or a new piece of work it’s a bit like getting the plate spinning in the first place. It requires dedicated time and attention and depending on the complexity of the project there is likely to be new things to learn and new people to meet. To get the plate spinning efficiently you need to define the scope, your contribution and expectations of others and depending on your role in the project initiate the kick-off. In my experience communication with all stakeholders involved in a project is one of the key elements to the success and to getting the plate spinning well.

Multiple projects

Once you’ve got the plate spinning you need to ensure that it continues well and if you’ve got multiple projects on the go at one time this can be tricky. Sometimes despite the best planning in the world unexpected things happen, and it is important to allow for these risks. You also need to consider how to keep the plate spinning when you are not physically engaged with project. Planning ahead and also dedicating specific time each week to a certain project helps me to do this. A client recently remarked that she finds it useful to know that I have a dedicated time slot when I work on her project. This provides the structure and I then build in flexibility by also being available to answer ad hoc queries outside the dedicated time slot. This often requires a quick assessment to establish if the request outside the dedicated project time slot is urgent, essential or not.

Estimating well the time you need to do tasks is another important aspect of working on multiple projects. I am getting better at this and not over committing so much. You need to ensure that you have the time each week to go back to all the plates that need attention to keep them spinning. Or is there anyone working with you on the project who can help out, if you are otherwise committed. Delegation and communication are key skills to managing multiple projects


Win-win

This is an interesting one, and I’ve written before about finding work and building your portfolio in line with your interests and strengths. I’ve built my portfolio around this and it seems to be working. It has resulted in me working on projects which all feed in to one another, so whilst they are separate pieces of work, with different customers, the content crosses over. So whilst I am spinning one plate, this is likely to be having a positive effect on other plates. I refer to this as win-win because everyone wins when you are able to facilitate sharing of learning and ideas across the projects you are working on. As long as client confidentiality is maintained, and open discussions take place then I am a big advocate of collaboration and sharing. If through your work you can enable this then it is a win-win and you can add value through your networks.

Number of plates – Plan, Plan, Plan

At the moment I am reflecting on the number of work project “plates” I have spinning and planning ahead to see how I get new ones started. Project plans are key to my work and I usually have three plans running concurrently – next week, next month and the year (or two) ahead. This is in addition to each project or contract having an individual project plan. To make sure you have a manageable number of plates spinning I recommend looking first at the big picture and then to chunk it down. I find this enables me to reflect on how any new project may fit in, and sometimes to say no. Currently I am looking at ways to increase capacity to have more plates and I’ll write more about this in another blog.

Long term success

Finally lets look at projects ending and new projects starting and how to ensure long term success. To succeed as a portfolio worker, freelancer, contracter or whatever you want to call the way you work, it is essential that you deliver well on projects and don’t let a plate fall. I learnt from my days working in sales that it is far easier to grow business with existing customers than to attract new ones. So my number one priority is always to deliver well on existing business before chasing new. This can be tricky when you are a solo entrepreneur because you need to have an eye both on delivery and ensuring there are new contracts or “plates” in the pipeline.

One last tip is to recommend that when the project or plate spinning comes to an end that you evaluate and review the project outputs. Even if the customer has not asked for an end of project evaluation report, offer them one, however brief, and also reflect for your own learning. It will help with getting the next plate spinning well.

I hope that this has triggered some useful ideas. I don’t have any formal project management training although I’m considering investing in some to help move on to the next level of plate spinning! Whilst I don’t have the formal training, what I do find works well is to build up experience over time and to make changes to keep improving.

Please do comment or add more ideas so that we can share. And following on from my conversation this week about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator with well qualified colleagues in this area, we each approach activity such as project management in different ways, so do reflect on your own experiences, strengths and ways of doing things. I’d love to hear your ideas.

I do not own the copyright for the photo in this article.

The art of making connections

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the focus of my business going forward and my personal brand. To do this I’ve asked the questions “What are the key themes of my work?” and “Where does it add value?”. One of the key themes which emerges is “making connections” and here I’ll share four ways in which I consider making connections to be important:

  • Business Development – Connecting with clients to attract work and projects
  • Collaborative Projects – Connecting with collaborators to win business
  • Community – Connecting to build a network of like-minded “colleagues”
  • Creativity – Connecting themes of my work to create innovative and new ideas

Business Development

Key to a successful business and portfolio career is the ability to attract customers and contracts. If you attract work through word of mouth recommendation and by developing connections then you are in a strong position to grow your business or career. Today we have the benefit of platforms such as LinkedIn which more than ever enable us to build connections, make contacts and network. Blend an online presence with more conventional face-to-face networking and this can serve your business well. To make the most of your business development activity ensure that you are clear about your brand, the value of your service to customers and by building on successes. Ensure you have a clear message and a reason for clients to connect. If you grow your portfolio through recommendation and through making the most of connections then this is likely to be a cost-effective and time efficient route to building your business and portfolio.

Collaborative projects

I’ve recently sent out a couple of proposals in which I am collaborating with others. This has enabled me to to work with others who complement what I offer and to build on strengths. Finding people you can collaborate with requires you to make connections at a number of levels. Similar to business development you spend some time gaining clarity in the first place with regard to potential collaborations. Be clear about what you are looking for and why.  Then network and communicate with others to start the process of connecting and engaging with potential collaborators. Connections are likely to work where you share similar values and ways of working. In more conventional work environments we can’t always choose who we work with; when we work in a more fluid and portfolio way we do have the choice and scope to build effective connections which work for us. So use this to your advantage and the benefit of your business.

Community

Portfolio Career Connections is in essence about connecting with others who are on a similar journey.  Working freelance or having your own business often means that you miss out on the sense of community which you gain from  going to a regular place of work. As more and more people work remotely and in virtual teams I think that it will be increasingly important to build communities based on shared interests. I co-lead a coaching group called “Coaching Connections Midlands” which does just this. Each month we meet to share learning and development and key to the success of the group is the sense of community it gives us. What connects us is an interest in coaching and personal development and it is great to see how the group attracts a variety of members coming together in a supportive environment. Communities succeed where there is a shared connection and sense of purpose.

Creativity 

I mentioned at the start of this blog post that I am currently reflecting on my personal brand and the focus of my business and work going forward. I think that the art of making connections to enable new and creative ways of working is at the heart of what I enjoy doing and a cornerstone of my work. Whether I am working on a large scale project to develop a service or enable change in an organisation or with an individual coaching client who wants to create a new direction for their career, there is a core element of enabling change and making the space for new connections and ways of doing things.

Writing this blog post has helped me to articulate one of the key themes of my work “making connections” and to do some thinking about the potential value to those I work with.

What connections have you made from reading this blog post?

What tips can you share to help us develop the art of making connections?