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When I was in college, I had a real problem with English classes. I would pull an all-nighter over a two page paper. I just didn’t seem to get how to write. I thought there was some way I was supposed to write that no one was telling me.

I finally took an intensive poetry class, and that’s when I was introduced to structured poems like villanelles. In that form, there is a particular line count and rhyming scheme to follow. Once I got that, it allowed for my creative part to come out, and I was then able to write in other forms as I accessed my creative side. I then knew that I just needed to write like I talk and I’m in my element.

This has two lessons for my writing here:

  • As I have written about before, many people freak out about writing there resumes and cover letters because they don’t know what to say and are trying to get it right. Again, write like you speak (professionally of course) and let it be a reflection of you.
  • This past Thursday, I had s biopsy that confirmed what I had feared. I am gluten intolerant aka I have Celiac disease. This means that that my body has a systemic reaction to gluten (wheat, rye, and barley) where it kills off the villi in your small intestines so that you don’t absorb nutrients. The only way to manage this is to eliminate gluten entirely from my diet. Yes, that’s right; no more beer! Given that I have been a vegetarian for over 25 years and I have a string sensitivity to any foods with high sulfur concentrations (major one being eggs), I am limiting my diet even more. This is going to be a tough transition, but I’m going to have to find that inner creative and see what I can do with this. Thank God Trader Joe’s has a lot of gluten free options.

So, what restrictions do you have and how are you being creative in getting around them?



Tomorrow, I’ll be at the 3rd New England Xpo for Business at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, one of the largest Business to Business (B2B) events in New England.  There will be numerous workshops that will be presented by industry experts, as well as many companies looking for business connections.  I went last year and learned a lot (I’ll be at a lot of social media workshops!)

While this event is not one that I will particularly one that I think I’ll be finding particular customers, but you never know what opportunities will come up. Last year, I was interviewed by Jennifer Shaheen, the Technology Therapist about how to utilize social media in your career development. Check that interview out here. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to.

I’ll be there and will be tweeting, so check me out at @kenmattsson on Twitter, and the hashtag for the event is #NewEnglandXPO.

So, what are you changing up?  Where are you going that you normally wouldn’t tread?

Last Thursday, I participated in the iRelaunch Conference at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The focus of this day was on people who have had a noticeable gap in their employment history and are now trying to “relaunch” into the workforce. The large majority of the participants seemed to be professional women who had taken time to raise their children, but there were others who had family and personal medical issues, as well as other issues. From the initial introduction, I learned that the largest constituency in the room was lawyers but there were professionals of all stripes.

The organizers were Carol Fishman Cohen and Vivian Stein Rabin, who were both careers relaunchers and co-wrote the book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work. They not only shared their stories of triumph in returning to the workforce, but also brought in voices of others who have relaunched (both employees and employers).

Here are some of my key thoughts from the day:

Relaunching Takes Preparation: if you’ve been out of the workforce for a number of years, it will probably take more time to get all your preparation in order before starting a job. Don’t put it off!  Do your research.

Reassess Your Goals: While you might have been quite clear in where your career was going a number of years ago, you might have a different perspective on it now. Do some self-assessment to get clear on what you really want right now. Of course, I can help you on that if you need.

Know Your Value: You will be offered a job for what you have, not for what you don’t. Do your research and understand what it is that’s needed and look to describe how you can fill that gap. When I work with clients with a disability/challenge, I always emphasize to them to talk about what you can offer, and not what you’re missing or can’t do. Emphasize the positive!

Make It Easy on Recruiters: There was a recruiter panel, and what became clear to me is that they would like to help this population, but too often candidates don’t present themselves in a way that makes it easy on recruiters to help them.  You need to understand what the recruiters needs are, and them give them what they want.  (As a side note, I don’t think that they are always clear about how you can help them.  Two of the recruiters said that they felt that you should bullet everything on your resume because they need to see it quickly.  Well, I’ve come to realize that resumes can suffer from Death By Bullet as much as presentations can suffer from Death By PowerPoint.  I don’t think that bulleting everything gets them what they want, but that’s how they understand it. You can see my comments on resumes here.)

Networking Is Key: You need to be able to talk with many people about your experiences and get them to know you as more than just a piece of paper.  The more people who know you and your value, the more you’ll be able to impress others you don’t know yet.

You Are Not the Only One: There were probably 200 people at the conference, and many of them had similar stories, and they can share their successes too. As I like to say: You’re special, but you’re not unique!

So, what are you doing to explain your situation to others?

In our new world of social media, there are numerous new ways that we can be in contact with friends, business connections, high school classmates, and random people that we met at a party nine months ago. While two if the most prominent networks online are LinkedIn (for professional contacts or friends who you don’t mind vouching for) and Facebook (for friends, sort-of friends, random one-time contacts, etc.), there are numerous other social websites that look to connect people who share particular interests. Two that I currently and involved with are GTD Connect (for people working on productivity issues using the GTD philosophy) and Real Jock (a sports and fitness website for gay men).  These are places that you can find people who have the same interests as you and share ideas. There’s a site for just about every interest; many which I am sure would surprise you as to its narrowness of focus.

In just about each of these site, there’s an opportunity to make a connection to another person. Whether it’s called a friend, link, buddy, co-worker, or whatever, it’s your way of saying that this is someone that you have a mutual understanding that you share some experience.

I have found that there are two types of approaches to this: the “open networker” and the “I-take-the-phrase-friend-seriously connector”. The Open Networker is one who sees social networking as way to expand a network and figures they will get to know you when you get into your inner circle. The other is one where they aren’t going to admit you to their secret club until you’ve already got a relationship developed outside of the venue.

There are plusses and minuses to each, and it can vary for each person within the different settings. It also depends on how you want to be seen in the world. I don’t tend to be an open networker, as I want to be able to speak with some knowledge if someone asks me about someone I’m connected with. If I really don’t know them, then 1) I won’t have a lot to say if someone asks me about them, and 2) if I want to engage them in some way, they don’t know me and will be less likely to help.So, here’s how I manage my connections in the three largest social networking sites:

LinkedIn: I only connect with people who I have had personal or professional interactions (in person or on line) previous to our connecting. I also need to feel that I could speak highly about them if asked for a recommendation. Since everyone can see your connections, you are as credible as the company you keep. If I don’t know you, I can’t recommend you.

Twitter: I’m happy to have as many people connect with me on Twitter as possible! That’s where I try to put a public face on what I do, both personally and professional.  Feel free to follow me at

Facebook: I have two places on Facebook to connect.

  • The Spirit-Work Connection: This is my group where I post about issues that I think are important to think about where you intersect with the work you to and the spirit you are.  I post meditations daily and links to resources that I think can help people.  I encourage everyone (that means you!) to join the Spirit-Work Connection.  It’s open to everyone, whether I have a strong personal connection or not.
  • My personal Facebook Account: This is where I write about all sorts of things that come to mind.  I limit this to people who I know personally outside of Facebook.

I’m more of the “get to know me first” type guy. Once I get to know you, I’ll can let you in (guess it’s the chilly New Englander in me!) Granted, you can also subscribe to this blog, and get to know me more here.  Even better, post a comment about something I’ve said.

If you ask to connect with me, and I don’t know you, I’ll probably ask you where we know each other from.  That will force you to say “oh, we don’t know each other.” Then I’ll probably refer you to this blog post. 🙂

I want to manage my reputation in the world, and part of my reputation is the people I surround myself with. If I don’t know you, then I can’t be sure.  I’m sure you’re great, but until I know that, I’ll play coy.

So, how are you managing who you’re connected with?

I was fortunate enough this past Friday to participate in the Making It All Work seminar instructed by Mr. GTD himself, David Allen. As many of you who read this blog know, GTD (Getting Things Done)  is a productivity philosophy first explained in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. The main goal of the process is to get ideas out of your head so that there’s room to think of more creative ideas and to live in the very zen-like state of “mind like water”.

I’ve been studying GTD for about two years and seeing how I can integrate it into my life. While I’ve read books, participated in online forums and study groups, this seminar was great in filling in the gaps and bringing things together for me.

Here are some of the tidbits that I picked up in this session, and I can say that they are applicable to just about every area of one’s life:

  • The optimal state is being in control, relaxed, and focused.
  • Concentration minus distractions = Power
  • Getting something off your mind frees up a lot of energy, so figure out where to put ideas so that you’ll find them again. That’s why we put the trash next to the door so we’ll remember to take it out in the morning.
  • What frazzled us most is when we don’t know what to do with something, put it down, and pick it up again not knowing what to do with it.
  • People blow fuses because they don’t know where to start.
  • “Trust in Allah but tie up your camel.”
  • Fear = Fantasized Experience Appearing Real
  • We have a stasis with what we are comfortable. The only way to change is to make ourselves uncomfortable where we are. Until then, we won’t move.

While there were lots of other things I got out of the seminar, that’s all I can process now. If you’re interested in learning more about freeing up your mind, here are some resources I’ve found helpful.

So, what are you doing to stop the voices in your head?

I just got back from a great dance weekend where I got to contra dance, English Country Dance, waltz, and catch up with many friends who I haven’t gotten the chance to talk to in a while. This community has been a constant support to me and gets to the core of my creative life, which is music and dance in a GLBT context. In the story of the past few years, I’ve been exploring other parts of my life, and I’m now looking to see how I can integrate this part of me that has been  secure back into my life.

That, and I need to get back into dancing shape. I’m a sore puppy today, and I even tried to pace myself. I guess that and I’m not 25 anymore. More transitions.

What really touched me is that I connected with two friends, one who just started a new job and another unemployed and looking, and they both mentioned that they read this blog and have gotten either techniques, context, understanding, or all three. I try to bring whatever insight (or crazy idea) I have, and it’s nice to know that others have gotten benefit from it. I never know who reads this blog, so it’s nice to get some positive feedback, as that gives me impetus to keep writing.

As usual, I like to see this in the broader context of how each of us shows up in the world and makes an impact. It made my day that I found out others appreciated what I had to say, and that it made a difference in their lives.  You never know what it is that you have to offer will make a difference to others, whether it’s the knowledge you share, or the acknowledgment that you made a difference.

So, if this blog has helped you, let me know, and what ways are you making a difference to others?

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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