Maybe you're not ready to hire a coach. Here, some of America's leading coaches reveal eight steps you can take on your own that can help improve your life and career prospects.
Network, Network, Network
This is harder than it sounds. "You don't sit down and say, 'Today I'm going to develop a network.' You do it as a matter of everyday living," says Jim Jose, an organizational effectiveness strategist and leadership coach based in Tucson.
Join professional associations, do community service or become a board member. "I think every human being has an obligation to give back to society in some measure to make it a better place," Jose says. Altruism aside, this can also be a wonderful way to make important contacts.
"People are often afraid to ask for feedback," says Michael Banks, principal and director of KRW International, a top provider of executive development coaching services to Fortune 500 companies. "They think people will perceive the request as weakness."
According to Banks, nothing could be further from the truth. "People become more successful with support and help." A less intimidating way to approach this might be to meet with a friend and each choose three goals that you work on together for 90 days to achieve.
List 10 Things in Your Life That Don't Work
"Look at what frustrates you in your life: an abrasive secretary, a harsh boss, a leaky faucet," says Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Take Yourself to the Top: The Secrets of America's #1 Career Coach. "If you just cleared up that list alone, you'd be looking at a different lifescape."
Pay Attention to Your Wardrobe
Whether you like it or not, how you're perceived makes a difference. Barbara Reinhold, a former Monster career coach, says a good rule of thumb is to "look at what the natives are wearing and then dress up one notch."
This is especially useful for standing out in a crowd just enough to get noticed. She cautions, though, that there is an important exception to this rule. "If you've been told you're not a good team player, dress to blend in."
Seek Life Experiences That Cause You to Break Through Barriers
"In situations where you have to take risks -- experience some fear -- you move through it and become a bigger person as a result," says Banks. This might mean parachuting out of an airplane or asking a beautiful stranger to dance when the dance floor is empty.
Read Books About Leadership
"Good books can inspire, touch and move you to action," Banks says. Ask friends for recommendations, and read magazines and newspapers that offer serious and credible reviews. Having said that, don't rely on books alone. "The danger is that reading a book is still only an intellectual exercise."
Develop Your Reflective Capacity
"What kind of job or task really gets me going?" asks Zachary Green, senior scholar at the University of Maryland's Burns Academy of Leadership. "You need to become attuned to that part of yourself."
The way to do that, he says, is to "write journals, do meditation, pray, ride your bicycle, jog -- anything that gets you to step back and look at yourself." In addition to increasing self-awareness, this approach allows people to transfer knowledge from one experience to another.
Focus on Whom -- Not What -- You Want to Be
"People get so attached to 'what goals' rather than 'who goals,'" says Fortgang. "The reason people achieve the 'what' and then wonder why they're still so unhappy is that they've left the 'who' behind."
Figure out whom you have been to people, she says. To do this, approach five friends or colleagues and ask them to list your personal qualities. Even our thorniest qualities can become assets if we determine how they can serve others. "I really like to shake up the pot," she says. "I tell people the truth. And they may not always like it, but they always thank me, because it gets them off their derrieres." This one adjustment in your thinking, she says, will -- over time -- dramatically improve your prospects.
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