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For many of us, the last few years have been very difficult. Work slowed or stopped. Our network changed as great contacts became unemployed.

All around us was bad news and fear.

Since 2007, 1.1 million entrepreneurs have disappeared, based on government records. Plus, many went from having several employees to few or none.

But you are still standing!

And whether you feel fearful or encouraged, you have kept going. Maybe you even have taken on new business or changed your focus.

Now really is the time to build on your strengths.

The economy does appear to be rebounding. Companies are hiring. Retail sales are up. And it is spring – the very earth is birthing new growth.

Build on your strengths: you’ve heard that before! And you read the articles and the books. You know you need to embrace change, use your strengths, find your passion, be proactive, blah, blah, blah …

Stop! Before you quit reading, I want you to do a deceptively simple little exercise.

One I actually do myself and which I teach regularly to career and job seekers – because it works!

Sit down someplace quiet and comfy and identify 6-7 successes that you are proud of and which made you feel good.

No need for them to only be work-related. Consider successes in volunteer and community work, at school, or in other areas of your life.

Then take each one and flesh it out.

What was the situation or environment? What actions did you take? What were the results?

Let it rest a day or two and go back and add in any more details you can.

Sure, quantify what you can but other aspects of success are also valuable.

Once you have some good information, think what this success story tells you about yourself.

What skills and attributes can you take forward in your business? Are there themes or patterns that surprise you?

Take your success stories on the road.

Ask a trusted mentor or friend to listen to them and see what they identify that you missed.

I have a friend who has told me for years how much she values my perception and breadth of knowledge. I even heard similar things from clients. And it is a role I enjoy.

Yet it is only recently that I have begun to actually market myself to potential clients as a strategic advisor!

Use your success stories to reconsider your work.

Are you doing the things you really want to do most? Are you working with organizations or people where you can succeed? Who should you be targeting? What research do you need to do to enhance your success?

I learned long ago that I did not work well in highly bureaucratic organizations. I don’t want to create a 25-page travel policy and spend six months getting it through Finance and the executive team. But I know people who are terrific at this.

Can I create a simple effective policy for your start-up today? Yes. Different strengths.

These success stories can form the basis for you to expand or realign your business. Use them to remind yourself of your best attributes on difficult days.

Find partners or great resources for the work you do not do well so you can concentrate on what you do best.

Or, turn some into stories you can tell potential clients to see if you have a great match.

If you feel truly stuck, you might consider Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute, which is a much more extensive version of this technique.

Or check out Carol Roth’s The Entrepreneur Equation.

At the 2010 Grace Hopper Conference, Dee McCrorey led a workshop on “collaborative risk-taking,” in which she talked of new rules for women leaders.

One was managing your career life cycle: recognizing the on-going ebb and flow of change and how you need to understand your personal change patterns and reinvent yourself.

For many of us, reinventing ourselves is critical now. Your success stories can help you retain your best and move forward to greater success.

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Image: fairlight13 via Flickr, Creative Commons

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced Human Capital issues speaker and management consultant. She founded Strategies for Human Resources to advise organizations facing organization and people challenges. Previously she designed and managed human resource functions for GE, Software AG, Maxwell Online, and others. A Wharton MBA and an Air Force veteran, she actively supports the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Check out her website, SHRinsight.com, for management and development articles.


    1. This is a great reminder to stop and celebrate. All too often, we think our success were just achieving our goals and move immediately to the next goals on our to do lists. It’s important to stop and recognize our successes and strengths. And then to apply those to the challenges. Those of us who have made it through the last couple of years have lots to be proud of that will serve us well in good times too!

      Julie

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    2. Very few of us actually stop and take stock of what we have actually done, and, even if we think about it for a little while, we tend to downplay the good parts.

      This is good advice so I hope readers do actually do it.

      The other important point, is to make sure that you write it down on a piece of paper (don’t type it onto the computer). There’s something more immediate and truthful about hand-writing and it can make us reflect deeper.

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