A Career in Beta and A Life of Dreams

"We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers. Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve. But it’s still a mind-set brimming with optimism because it celebrates the fact that you have the power to improve yourself and, as important, improve the world around you." - Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha (The Start-up of You)

When a friend of mine suggested I read this book, The Start-up of You (Reid is LinkedIn's founder/CEO), I was immediately curious. So, even though I already had a few books on my list, I decided to give this a go anyway. You see, I find reading books to be a great part of life transitions.

Hang On. Rewind and Reset, Please.

For those of you who may have missed the informal announcements: Over a couple of weeks ago, I left my job at Connecting Up. Some of you may have already read it through my Facebook posts, Twitter updates and/or blog posts here and here.

My departure is somewhat part of a restructuring and budgeting thing that the organisation's going through. There are a lot of changes happening - long-serving Chairman of the Board was stepping down and a new one just got the job, my former boss and current CEO has also announced that he is about to leave the organisation, financial reviews, a couple of other board changes... So yeah, things have been going through some transformations. And, I had to be part of that transformation through my departure.

I'm trying hard not to be overly sentimental about it, but it must be said that I have loved my job at CU. Probably one of the best jobs that I've ever had, working with some of the most fun people I've ever met. Considering how full on the role was, I gave myself to my work wholeheartedly. Even if there were a few sacrifices that had to made. And, even though it had to end, I have no regrets.

The people I have met, the work I got to do, and all the opportunities that opened up for me through CU had been incredible. I travelled to Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Darwin, and Canberra, as part of work. I have been to the Philippines twice, visiting four cities, to present at events. I went to Sri Lanka for the first time and got to see San Francisco twice. I revisited Kuala Lumpur and Washington DC through work. I am even due to go to New Zealand next month for the first time too, as a remnant of my time from CU.

I got to meet and work with incredible people, including Beth Kanter, Holly Ross, and Nancy Schwartz, as well as the amazing folks from TechSoup and Microsoft. I even got to celebrate my 38th birthday on the streets of SF with a group of nonprofit folks that I met from a conference where I presented.

Before I came to CU, I was a terrified public speaker and a reluctant networker at events. My former colleagues could attest how much I hyperventilated every time I had to take the stage. By the time I left, I didn't just grow to love presenting, I even learned a lot of skills along the way. And face-to-face networking became second nature. Sure, I still feel shy and all most of the time, being a natural introvert. But, I have definitely learned to speak and to become an extrovert on demand.

During the time that I was there, I was happy that I had a number of professional highlights: From increasing social media presence by over 1,000% in the first year (and doubling that within the second year) - to leading the rebranding work and improving our website and content (grew our website views by 570% within two years). I hired two incredibly productive people, recruited our first official volunteer, and helped to build the nonprofit community around the CU brand. Also represented our organisation in the different events and in TechSoup's global content and community initiatives, as well as launched events as part of the organisation's new program offerings. Was also instrumental in the launch of NetSquared Adelaide, and trying to champion NetSquared in other states of Australia. I was a committee member to two CU conferences, one of which I keynoted and the other one, I was voted as one of the Top 4 speakers, receiving over 90% approval rating from the delegates.

So yes, it was a great couple of years. With a lot of wonderful memories. And, even though I am no longer part of CU, I still wish the organisation all the best. They provide a great service to the not-for-profit sector, and I know that I will always champion the cause and the NFP sector, even if I'm not getting paid to do so.

And, I also know that I will always be grateful for my experience at CU. I will miss a lot of people and I will miss the work, but I am also ready to face the next stage of my professional life.

So, where to from here?

Frankly, I am not a hundred percent sure yet. All I know is that I would love to stay in the technology field, particularly, in digital media and community, if at all possible. I have developed enough soft and hard assets around these aspects over the last 12+ years, so I would prefer to keep building on them.

But, as the authors of The StartUp of You has pointed out, there are three important puzzle pieces that can inform us when we figure out our career direction and competitive advantage: Our assets + Our aspirations + Market demand/realities.

Knowing what my assets are, I am also familiar with my aspirations. Ideally, I would like to use my assets to make a difference in the world. To be part of something big, something greater.

So yeah, digital + community to make a difference. That's the dream. But, will someone pay me to do it the way I currently see it? So far, I've always found that I get to have that privilege one way or the other.

The thing is, all the great and wonderful things that I have come in my life - from my romantic whirlwind marriage and my two amazing kids to the start-up life of b5media and my work with NFPs at CU... They were all things that I never would've imagined for myself in a million years.

After all, I was just a girl from Manila, who was raised by hardworking parents who took us out of poverty and into a more privileged upbringing. And, I just dreamt a lot of dreams as I was growing up. In all those dreams, I have pictured a different kind of happy. The only kind of happy I knew then.

But, I grew up. I changed. I evolved. I transformed.

In every new job, every resignation, every redundancy, every move, every new challenge... I keep finding a new kind of happy. In fact, almost always - especially when it comes to work and career - it's a kind of happy that was better than before.

That's why my husband reckons that I should be known as the Come Back Queen. Apparently, he thinks that one of my secret super powers is the ability to bounce back better, higher and happier than the last time.

Good guy, that hubby of mine. In fact, I know that I am married to the right guy because he even says that he thinks I'm even prettier now than I was when he first married me nearly fourteen years ago. Yes, I'm an incredibly lucky woman.

But, I digress.

Back to the career direction point: You know that one of the amazing things that happened since leaving CU was that it opened up a world of possibilities* for me.

In less than 48 hours since I left my job, I have received a number of leads and opportunities (not to mention, dozens of incredibly supportive messages from friends and contacts!). I've been to a few meetings and exchanged several messages with different people. Many, coming from really unexpected sources. In fact, even now, two weeks later, I am still getting a lot of surprises.

I've been really amazed by it all.

There were requests for meetings, requests for marketing collateral, requests for proposals, offers to connect with someone they know, offers to explore projects, etc. I even had one really flattering message where I was jokingly offered a co-CEO role if I move to this incredible place in Europe. Said he'll hire me on the spot, budget be damned. I would if I could too, as I think he'd be an awesome person to work with. 🙂

But seriously... Would any of these possibilities and opportunities come in to fruition? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, as part of my thinking and waiting process, I decided to set up Vervely. Yes, within a week of leaving CU, I set up my own business, with its own website, a Twitter account, and a Facebook Page - now with a growing following. Even applied for a PO Box!

I'm not sure yet where Vervely is headed. At the moment, I am building its website content and using it as my main business entity as I explore my options.

Depending on the third puzzle piece - market demand/realities - I will make my choices as I see fit.

If I can stay in the area where I already have built my assets and have a market for it, great. If I can meet my aspirations to make a mark in changing the world doing what I love to do and I can get paid for it, great.

But, should I need to make adjustments on my assets and aspirations for this beta version of my career, then I am keen to find out what comes next. After all, when I found CU, I wasn't even looking for a job*.

So, who knows what will turn up this time.

Will provide updates on improvements as soon as they're available. 😉

So, my fortune cookie says that I shall always find success... Heh.

* Possibilities as my 2012 Word of the Year now seem really apt, right?

** And guess what? 2010, the year I ended up working at Connecting Up, is the year I had Connect as my Word of the Year. Incredible, huh?

NOTE: Photo collage highlights some of my CU memories. Couldn't capture them all.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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