Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pacing to Solve Problems

I spent part of the weekend at a beautiful retreat property in Pennsylvania called "The Country Place Retreat and Conference Center". Visited there with the author of "Don't Take it to Work" Sylvia LaFlair and her husband Herb. Great people.

The property has a labyrinth on it built with stones and woodchips. One way I use to solve business (or I suppose any) challenges is to pace. The labyinth is a great place to do this. It is outdoors in a beautiful setting. This particular one is 300 steps (I did not count it, I wear a pedometer but that is another post).

The way I use pacing is first I brainstorm on paper on my challenge. Then I leave it for a while. Then I start my pacing. I like to carry a pen and paper in case any great ideas come into my head. Pacing for me is slower than walking. It is just a plodding pace.

If I do not come up with a solution or find my mind is wandering too much, I will leave it. Then start again later. Some particular challenges can take 20 or 30 pacing sessions. Most of these sessions only last 10-15 minutes for me.


I did an online career and job search course called my personal job coach. It starts with a modified version of Myers Briggs personality test to determine the right approach for me. Then it works through sections on strengths, blind spots, satisfiers, and skills. It then walks through sections on target jobs and even interviewing (including how to deal with blind spots).

It has a short videos followed by a short exercises.

Like anything, the more the person puts into it, the more they will benefit from it.

The whole thing takes about an hour. Interesting process.

If you are interested in doing it, it costs $49.95. But for 3 readers who post creative ideas in the comments here on how they have gotten a job, I will give them the course for free. Include your email address in the comment so I can contact you.


At 12:09 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

I essentially got my job through Twitter. I graduated school last year in September at what seemed like the worst time in the recession, there were no jobs being posted. I knew I wanted a really cool job (and local to KW), like an evangelist or community manager. I happened to notice someone who was very active on twitter and in a the type of role I wanted to obtain. I recognized her name and picture from different articles, and from conversations with local entrepreneurs.

I decided to ask her about her job, what it's like, and how I can get into a similar role. She was very open and I built a rapport with her. She helped me over chat and email, teaching me about the role, how it came to be, it's importance and evolution, where I can look, and eventually she had a job opportunity come across her desk that she passed to me. She told me who to contact at that company to get more research done, and I followed up with those contacts.

I went in for the interview and I nailed it and ended up getting the job!

I also got a coop job at a local company by walking up to the CEO at a meet & greet session at UW, telling him that I've seen him speak at a few events and that I thought his company was cool. I asked him about being an entrepreneur and running a company. The next day I sent him an email with some pearls of wisdom that he gave me and told him that I'd bring great value to his team. I got an interview within a few days, nailed it and got the job!

My email is found here:
(that hides it from spambots)

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Monique said...

I've got lots of interesting stories on how to get a job. However, one of my best was to apply for a job I didn't want...

The first job I got out of university was with a large consulting company. I knew I wanted to be a consultant - but the ad I saw with Coopers & Lybrand wasn't for consulting staff. The ad said they were hiring for an internal positions that seemed to cluster all around the kind of work I wanted, even implying a kind of hybrid job that was partially internal and partially external. So - I figured there was a job in there that just wasn't obvious on the advertisement. As a result, I applied.

The HR recruiting professional that I met with was really interesting herself. After some appropriate chit chat, she asked me point blank, "Why did you apply?" And I told her the truth - that it had seemed as if all the positions that were advertised were all around the kind of position that I wanted, and that it was there, but in the paper. And she said, "Well, you're right - but I wasn't sure how you knew!"

The HR person was Vicky Cohen. She lined me up with an interview for one of the partners that same afternoon and I had a job offer before I left.

I suppose I'd shown exactly the right skills to be a consultant: seeing what isn't obvious. ;-)

If you decide this is an interesting story, you can find me at

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Monique said...

Of course, there is also the story of how I launched my current career....

People have been telling me for years that I should be a writer. For some reason, I avoided that - maybe it was that starving artist archetype that drove me away! ;-)

Anyhow, I had been doing my version of pacing: I'd taken a voluntary leave of absence from my own independent consulting practice, and was thinking about what was important to me. I was dealing with some health issues and trying to find work that would give me a better balance in my life.

As I considered my situation - including my young family - I decided I really needed more work that could be done from home. In that moment, I decided I'd go looking for some writing work and I'd start with my friends.

That's when I called Jim Estill - the guy who writes this blog!

Long story short - I asked Jim if he had any writing work that he might consider me for. He said he didn't have any at the moment, but he had a friend who was looking for writers. In the end, I started a writing for the web - which is a direction I'd never have thought of! I continue to write and edit a couple of websites with a new business partner - and will always remember how my career got launched in a whole new direction by taking some time to think; calling a friend; and getting a referral!

I suspect I don't need to leave my email again - and perhaps, as Ivan pointed out, my email can be removed so that it doesn't get picked up by spambots....? ;-)

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Joanne said...

I too find walking/pacing helpful for problem solving... I also find it really useful for opening creatively. It fascinated me to discover Brenda Ueland (who wrote "If You Want to Write") walked 9 miles a day right up into her 90s.

The labyrinth is actually a very useful way for focused and mindful walking. The path is set out for you in a repetitive way, but unlike a maze there is nothing to figure out. The path is clearly marked for you. The journey you make to the center is symbolic of getting to the core of any issue.

After reading the first two responses I think you have an interesting seed for a whole series or discussion area/web presence on creative ways for finding (and landing) employment. The Twitter story is especially interesting, and goes to show how powerful social networking online really can be...

The most creative experience I had was for a position I didn't really want, but really needed at that time. The director was really nervous about hiring the right person for the position. He was very honest about having a tough time deciding on a candidate because it was an environment full of very tangled interpersonal politics. The interview turned in to a brainstorming session. We discussed ways he could go about making his selection and feel more comfortable about finding a good match for the position. The solution we came up with was to have each candidate interview with every person in his department so his employees could feel they had input into which candidate was chosen... The process began with me... I left almost five hours later, with the job offer.

I think what you, Ivan and Monique (and even my own story) have reminded me of is how important it is not only to be open and aware of unique opportunities and resources that exist all around (i never would have thought of Twitter), but also to be able to adjust in any moment, and think and see creatively inside that moment, and then continue to adjust in it. Watch any of the top tennis players and you will see a constant adjustment of footwork, a constant re-positioning, sometimes with the tiniest of steps to make that adjustment in the moment.

At 5:42 PM, Blogger gullchasedship said...

I was teaching high school in Canada and considering a career change. During this time I developed a friendship with a VC that I met at church. At about the time that I finally decided to quit teaching, he and I were having breakfast once a week when he wasn't travelling. After he found out I'd quite, he offered me a job working in investor relations for an American oil production company. As a result, two weeks ago I moved with my family to England.

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Monique said...

I agree with Joanne - this is a very interesting conversation! I love the Brenda Ueland anecdote - I guess I need to do more walking to get more thinking done! ;-)

In many ways, what we are all saying here is that it's simply about taking advantage of what life offers you. Our stories speak to that quote that I've heard many times: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. All of the stories talk here talk about that - and the willingness to take a chance and follow up.

Makes me wonder how many times people meet someone with a great opportunity and say something to themselves like, "Oh, that's not for me" or "I can't do that!" or "Not yet" and then miss the chance.

This thread also speaks to the power of cultivating relationship. We like to help our "friends" and folks we like. We go out of our way to do things for the people who are in our lives. Most people never realize the real potential there and look on networking as "work". What if it's really just meeting people you like and cultivating friendships?

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Jason Shick said...

I have found that looking for a job is better done through referrals and talking to people you know- or meeting new people in the field you want to be in. Confidence also plays an important role. About a year ago I was looking for a job in a down market and the one I really wanted seemed just out of reach. The person in charge of hiring knew who I was and had said on numerous occations that we needed to talk, however, was non-committal and kept brushing me off. I didn't want to look too hard elsewhere because I really believed in the vision of this organization. So one day I told my wife I was going to wrap this up and that I would know when I got back if I had a job.
I walked into the organization right at closing time in order to get a moment with the decision maker with as few distractions as possible. After being told to call next week for an appointment I said, "why don't we just wrap it up right now.." and went on to explain that I really believed in what was going on. The conversation soon turned to Jim Collins book Good To Great and the importance of having the right people in the right seat on the bus. I think the fact that I had read and was knowledgeable about the book really anchored the job for me. (I knew reading would pay off sometime in a tangible way. ha-ha). But I think my committment to not leave without a yes or no was what made it happen.
Anyway, it turns out it was the wrong seat on the wrong bus for me and I am no longer with the organization. Live and learn.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Ann Gomez said...

I found my current job by launching my own company 5 years ago. While there are several benefits to working for a big corporation, I couldn't be happier with my current role.

Owning my own company allows me to seek out the exact kind of work that I enjoy, diversify as much (or as little) as I want, build in as much flexibility into my work life as my other role (mom of 3) requires and benefit from the financial upsides of running a business.

Yes - there are some risks and downsides of running a business. But overall, I couldn't be happier.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not carry a small digital recorder on your paces in case you have a great idea? More efficient than pen and paper in that setting, I would think.

I enjoy your posts and have gotten some very helpful hints from you.



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