Review

Want to receive a good review from a client or employer – one that wins you the right kind of work? Well, write your own!

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Audio

Have you ever read a positive review left by a client or employer about someone who provided a service, on their online profile or homepage? The review looked really good. It perhaps went like:

“I hired X several months ago to work on a project and was very happy with their output. Their communication skills were on-par. They got on well with the team.”

Have you ever read one of those positive reviews and thought, “goodness, I’d like to have one of those!”. You wouldn’t mind having a review like that on your profile. I had this thought go through my mind more than a few times!

Then I had this idea: what if I ask my next client for a review, but instead of asking for them to write it, I write the review for them? I could give it to them and say:

“Look, you don’t have to give me this favourable review if you don’t want to, but if you do, here’s a template. You can make any changes you want to make, or just write it yourself. But if you’d like to just go with the ideas I’ve got, then go for it!”

Happily this experiement of mine actually succeeded, and I ended up with a great review, that I could put to my profile.

I thought this was beneficial for two main reasons.

Firstly, it saved the client time and effort. Clients, like anyone, are busy people and have a lot to do, and they might not have the time or energy to write a positive review about someone. And they can’t necessarily remember much about what you were good at. They know you were good, but it takes a fair amount of effort to really specify in what ways you were good and then put that into writing. So it’s much easier for them to just use your writing, maybe tweak it a bit, and send it off. So it’s less effort for the client.

But secondly, and perhaps this was a bigger benefit, when you write your own review, you get to think about what you are good at and what you want to be good at, and what you want your brand and reputation to be.

This might take some thought. You might think about it over a weekend, or stretch it out over time, as with decisions, or just spend an hour or two in a room with a piece of paper. However you do it, if you think about what sort of review you want to have of your work, what you’d like others to say about your work and perhaps about you, that can be a really good exercise in itself. It can help you to figure out what you’re currently good at, and what you’d like to be good at in the future, and perhaps what work you’d like to be doing day-to-day.

So if you think ahead-of-time about and picture in your head what you’d like to be good at, say, 3 months’ time or 6 months’ time or a year’s time, then if you write a review of yourself as if you’re already good at that thing, then that gives you something to aim and strive for. It gives you more direction.

Once you’ve developed this review, you could even show it to the client and tell them something along the lines of:

“This is what I want to be good at, this is what I’m aiming for. I’ve like to get this review from you at some point in the future. So, let’s work together over the next 6 months and see if I can’t knock that out of the park!”

If your review aligns with the client’s goals, all the better, because they’ll also be happy and motivated to have you succeed at getting better.

And over time, as you get these good reviews, the reviews will help you to get into the kinds of roles you want and utilise the kinds of skills you want to utilise. For example, if you have a review that says that you have good communication skills and work will with people from diverse backgrounds, you’re more likely, in future, to get offers for roles that require people with those skills and abilities, and are tailored for those kinds of people.

So, over time, you can use carefully worded reviews to position yourself where you’d like to be in the job market. You can move into a space in your career that you enjoy and that uses your best capabilities and that pushes you in the direction you want to go.

Downtime

Work and life comes to us in ebbs and flows. The “ebbs”, or “downtime”, can be a great opportunity for “slow thinking”.

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Have you been working on a large, challenging, long-term undertaking? Perhaps a startup, or a large corporate project?

You are probably going to find that there are up-times and down-times. Ebbs and flows.

There will be stretches of time during which you’re fully engaged and “in-flow”, i.e. you’re spending multiple hours of a day, perhaps 6 or even 8, and those times are fully engaging you, and you’re using most of your mental and physical capacities, and you’re engaged in the immediate problem at hand.

But you will also probably notice that there are downtimes. These will vary in length and frequency, according to the nature and kind of work, the industry you’re in, etc. For example, some industries are seasonal. Some corporations have periods where people are away on holiday at certain times of the year. Some consulting relationships go through periods of less direct contact/communication with the client.

These “down” periods could go for months or weeks at a time, or parts of the week (e.g. weekdays vs. weekends), or parts of the day (e.g. morning vs. afternoon).

It can be helpful to notice these downtimes and to spot the patterns in them. This is because, during these downtimes, you can perform activities, mental or otherwise, which are better suited to downtime. Activities which would be more difficult to do during “uptime”.

During uptime, you’re in a more “reactive” move, responding rapidly to events and situations as they occur. Whereas during downtime, you can do more of what I call “slow thinking”.

By “slow thinking” I’m referring to things such as strategic thinking or long-term planning. Taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture. Asking what you’re trying to do. What are the broad goals? Are my day-to-day actions (when I’m in “uptime”) appropriately focused on, and contributing to, those goals? And, heck, am I enjoying myself? Is this sustainable over the long term? Are there strategic changes or tweaks I could be making? For example, could I be taking my effort in one domain and applying it to a different market, where it’s more sought-after or more valuable, or applying it to an additional market, so that I can increase my customer-base?

Using down-time in this way may not only be beneficial – it may be critical. It may only be in those slower contemplative moments that you identify a major problem or issue or risk to what you’re doing, that otherwise would have gone un-noticed in the hustle and bustle of “getting stuff done”. So it can be important to pull yourself out of up-time, if needed, and deliberately move into down-time, to give yourself a proper chance to have insights you wouldn’t have otherwise had the time and space to have.

The down-time can function as a kind of rehearsal for up-time, because, during down-time, you are preparing ahead-of-time for the decisions you’ll need to make and the actions you’ll need to perform when you’re back in up-time again.

During down-time I recommend putting yourself in spaces and doing things that mentally relax and inspire you. Perhaps visiting a calm and peaceful place such as a park or a camping site. Perhaps walking or exercising. And giving your mind a chance to “tick over” everything. Everyone has a different way and you might have your own way of creating a space. But whichever way you choose, it should give your mind freedom to contemplate, wander, retrospect, revisit and then be strategic about the future and the next steps.