Allison Jones has a great blog post today on places where she finds career inspiration. She says:
When it comes to career advice, it is very easy to focus on tactics: how to write a resume; how to use social media to find a job; how to network.
However, in the time that I have been blogging about nonprofit careers, I have realized that while tactics are important, they make it too easy for us to ignore bigger questions about our careers: what are we good at? What are we willing to commit to? What do we value most in our work and our lives?
To that end, many of my favorite places for career advice, aren’t entirely career-tactic focused. Instead they focus on sharing powerful stories, asking compelling questions, and encouraging me to slow down.
Then she lists some of her favorite sources, including friends, children's books (love that one!) and going inward.
Allison's post got me thinking about some of my own sources of inspiration that I wanted to share.
Social media connections
Through social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.) I'm connected to a lot of different people from all over the world working in a lot of different career areas.
In fact, Allison's blog post came to me via Facebook:
I find that on any given day, someone, somewhere offers me a little nugget of gold that can spur my thinking. It might be an inspirational quote or a link to something interesting they're working on or even a complaint they have about their jobs. In some form or fashion, though, I get a little jolt that can keep me going--or at least gets me thinking.
One of the things that I can count on my social networks bringing to me are great TEDTalks. Some are oldies but goodies, while others are newly posted. Often the right talk comes to my attention at the right time--a little piece of serendipity that I try to notice and that boosts my day.
I keep two types of journals. Actually, three.
The first is a diary-type arrangement where I write about what's on my mind, from the personal to the professional. It's an emotional and mental dumping ground that helps me clear my thoughts. It's also a place where I take notes on books I'm reading, including recording key quotes that "speak" to me.
I also keep an art journal where I draw, paint, collage, make lists and generally express myself visually. This is can also a dumping ground of sorts, but it is more often a source of inspiration. And the process of art-making can get me in a good head space for dealing with a problem or seeing something in my life differently. The image below is from one of my visual journals.
The third type of journal I keep are idea books. These tend to be more professionally focused and will contain all of my notes, thoughts, articles, etc. related to different project ideas I have. I'm very interested in the power of conversation right now, so I have one devoted to that. I also want to do more face-to-face retreats, so I have a book on that. Some of these idea journals are a mish mash of different smaller ideas, but others--like the Conversation project and the retreat stuff--merit their own book.
Key to my journal-keeping is a regular practice of reflection on my journals. I will set aside time to go back through what I've written, which often leads me to see themes that have been happening for awhile across my personal and professional spheres that I've done nothing (or very little) to address. Although I find it relaxing and helpful to dump things in my journal, what is even more helpful is having a regular practice of reviewing and reflecting. At a minimum, it shows me where my blind spots and ongoing dreams are. When the process works really well, it will spur me to action.
While I love time to think and reflect, I find that talking to other people can be a powerful source of inspiration too. Sometimes narrating what's going on with me gives me a way to hear myself say things that I didn't realize I was thinking.
I also enjoy hearing what's happening with other people. I like asking them what they want MORE of in their work, which often helps me further refine what I like and don't like. I also like finding out what problems and issues people grapple with, as this sometimes gives me ideas for things I might be able to do to help fill in the gaps. For example, last year's end-of-year women's retreat was partially the result of conversations I was having with different women in my life who expressed a need for reflection and connection time. This spurred me to put together a weekend retreat that gave all of us space to do that together.
I am a voracious and eclectic reader. I have business books, novels, psychology texts, New Age chakra books and art collections littering my bedside. My Kindle is an equally weird conglomeration of whatever captures my interest at the moment. What I love is that eventually (always!), there will be some strange coming-together of ideas from two disparate sources that somehow spark my thinking. Plus I'm usually able to pull something from my reading that I can use in conversations (see above) to further inspire discussion.
In the past few years, I've gotten in the more regular habit of going away on weekend retreats to give myself time and space for reflection and conversation, often for a particular reason. I already mentioned the end-of-year women's retreat I did last December, which I plan to do again this year. That retreat was all about transitioning from 2011 to 2012.
This past weekend my husband and I went away to a little cabin in the Poconos where we both worked on some of our creative projects. We returned home, thinking of some projects we want to work on together, as well as feeling renewed in our relationship and in our sense of what we want to be working towards in our lives.
For me, retreats are a critical inspirational experience. I try to enter into them with intention (What aspects of my life do I want to work on? What do I want and need to experience to feel renewed?). I give myself time for both quiet reflection and writing time as well as for conversations and connection because I find that both are needed for me to feel truly inspired and clear about where to go next. I've never been disappointed and I'm now becoming more purposeful in planning them. (BTW--West Coast friends--check out Christine Martell's upcoming Women Unplugged Retreat if you're feeling the need to go away!)
So these are my major sources of inspiration. . . let's keep the ball rolling. What are your sources of inspiration?