Mind the Gap!
The second step in organizing yourself is to identify your starting point and define your endpoint, so you can see the space between where you are and where you want to be.
Don’t feel discouraged when you look at this space! The first step to success is assessing the gap so you can build a bridge to your goal.
You’ll need to find out which skills are most valued in your target career or business, and start matching them up with what you have in your toolbox. We call these “legitimacy points,” and the more you have, the stronger your case for potential employers or customers. The stronger your case, the easier it will be to make a transition.
The thing about legitimacy points is that you don’t necessarily have to have all of them to make a switch. You just have to have enough, or at least enough of the most important ones. There are two specific kinds of tools that you need to pay close attention to in order to successfully make your case:
Those that are absolutely required. This is the price of entry. Without these tools, or legitimacy points, you’ll have a tough time getting in the door. You won’t be a doctor if you haven’t attended medical school. If every single person working in your target job has a Ph.D. in statistics, then the statistics are not in your favor if you skipped that class in college.
These legitimacy points are usually clearly outlined by hiring managers in the position brief or job listing, although there may be some wiggle room if the other tools in your toolbox are strong enough. For example, maybe they won’t require a Ph.D. in statistics if they desperately need someone with management skills, and you spent ten years running a multibillion-dollar company.
You will have to gauge the required legitimacy points on a case-by-case basis.
Those that seem to be required, but aren’t. These are excuses you tell yourself. It’s really your fear
showing up in the guise of imaginary requirements—usually large and practically impossible
requirements—that you insist must be satisfied before you can pursue your opportunity.
Something on the order of: “I have to get a patisserie diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in order to
open my cupcake business.”
Let’s look a personal example of where you want to get more sleep. The first thing you’ll do is clarify your starting point by asking yourself “How much sleep am I getting?” Be honest with yourself, and don’t fudge to minimize the gap. You can’t build a realistic plan with fake data. *smile*
Then define your endpoint by asking yourself “How much sleep do I want to get?” Say you’re averaging six hours a night, but you know that you need eight hours to feel great. So now you know you need to carve out an additional two hours somehow so that you can increase your sleep levels.
After identifying your gap, you’ll need to dispel the myths about your goal. I talk about them in The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention; they’re unquestioned beliefs that act as blindfolds and keep you from sorting fact from fiction.
So you might tell yourself that you’re fine with 6.5 hours of sleep, even though you find yourself mainlining caffeine just to get through the day. Or you might say “I just can’t get to bed before midnight,” when you’re spending from 10:00 to 11:30pm playing Candy Crush on Facebook.
How do you identify a myth? Ask yourself: Is this REALLY true?
The path between where you are and your goal is paved with bricks of radical honesty. So being willing to let go of myths is essential to being able to move forward.
Your next step is to identify potential hurdles and barriers. What moats do you need to cross to reach your goal? Write a list; it’s easier to brainstorm solutions when you get them out of your head. You can then map out a plan that steers you in the right direction.
There will also be times when you analyze the tools in your toolbox and realize that you do need to add a few more. This usually happens when the case you make isn’t quite strong enough to convince your target to give you a shot. Now you will need to go a step further and gain experience or learn something new that adds another skill to your toolbox.
The most obvious way to add tools is through education, whether you take a one-off class, get a particular certification, or go back for a whole new degree. Another obvious way is to volunteer for projects at your office that expand your skill set beyond what you use in your current position.
Giving away your services for free is one way to monetize your time at the start of a new career. If you’re an entrepreneur, doing a project or two pro bono is a good way to build legitimacy. If you’re in a corporate career, volunteering is an excellent path for gaining experience in an unfamiliar area. Perhaps you’re in sales but a local nonprofit lets you design their upcoming marketing campaign, or you can help the marketing team in your own company on your own time.
- Example: The videographer for my wedding commanded top dollar (and he was worth it!), but that wouldn’t have been the case if he hadn’t any prior work to show. He had been managing project teams for a software company when he decided to start his new business, so he asked a friend if he could do her wedding video for free. The friend was certainly happy with the arrangement and the fledgling videographer came away with a professional sample of his work to show other brides. By the time I came along five years later, he was booked up to a year in advance.
No matter what, bridging the gap requires commitment. You may need to make tough choices or expend effort to shift your behavior. But the payoff is that when you close that space and reach your goal, you’ll see its benefits cascade through other areas of your life.
Coaching Action Steps
Minding the Gaps
Take a moment to identify any gaps and brainstorm strategies for filling them. Be specific!