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Career Make-Over / Southern Californians Learning How
to Improve Their Careers

She Seeks Growth in Writing Sector

October 22, 2000|SUSAN VAUGHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jan Lyons, a soon-to-be-divorced mother of two girls, ages 7 and 9, is yearning to do great things. She thinks about launching a corporate consulting business, doing public speaking and providing educational services to recent immigrants.

But right now, she's teaching business writing once a week to Los Angeles city employees through the Learning Tree University, and serving as a substitute ESL teacher at Cal State Northridge. Lyons, 45, makes less than $25,000 annually, a far cry from the $65,000 she aspires to earn.

"I'm floundering in my career," Lyons said.

What's stopping the Woodland Hills resident from achieving her goals, or even attempting them? Certainly, Lyons isn't lacking in business experience.

She holds a master's degree in economics, and has worked as a corporate planner, marketer and project manager.

For assistance, she consulted Westhampton, N.Y.-based entrepreneurial advisor Marcia Rosen.

After reviewing Lyons' resume and autobiographical writings, Rosen said, "You're very educated, you've got some really good skills and you've got potential. Nothing is holding you back. So we should talk about [your] 'mind blocks.' "

At Rosen's urging, Lyons spoke about her fears.

She felt torn between investing considerable hours in a new career and devoting time to her daughters.

She also worried that, should she become successful, she might alienate loved ones.

"I know what's in my head is an illusion--I think my [family members] would actually be really happy for me," Lyons said. "Maybe this is my way of procrastinating."

Rosen told Lyons to test the rationality of her beliefs by holding honest discussions with those close to her. She could tell her parents about her fears, and ask them for support and encouragement. She could explain to her daughters that she may soon require more time for her business goals.

"Bring them into the process," Rosen said. "They're old enough to understand. You have an opportunity to become a role model for your two girls. By following your dreams, you can show them that they, too, can be what they want."

The two then discussed career options for Lyons.

She said she would prefer entrepreneurial or freelance work because she wants to maintain a flexible schedule.

She also said that she's interested in incorporating her interests--teaching, writing and helping immigrants--into a communications business.

Lyons could specialize in teaching business writing, and possibly American corporate etiquette, to the immigrant population, the two agreed.

Rosen encouraged Lyons to formulate a business plan, draft a mission statement and create a marketing plan. If she finds that she needs help, she can visit the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) in Glendale where volunteers assist aspiring entrepreneurs, Rosen said.

Experts in business communications, writing and etiquette offered these additional tips for Lyons:

Each immigrant population has its own challenges with American corporate practices, said Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert for 30 years and author of "Manners That Sell--Adding the Polish that Builds Profits" (Longfellow Press, 2000).

Before creating programs or seminars to help such workers, Lyons should extensively research each culture's concerns and struggles, said Marjorie Brody, head of Brody Communications and author of nine books on etiquette, including "Professional Impressions: Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day" (Career Skills Press, 2000).

She should consider visiting Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern and other ethnic communities to learn about their issues firsthand.

Lyons also can contact human resources departments that do overseas recruiting, said Diana Booher, president of Booher Consultants, a communications training and consulting firm in Colleyville, Texas.

Lyons should thoroughly study American business protocol. She may want to apply for certification in business etiquette through the Protocol School of Washington (http://www.psow.com) in McLean, Va., suggested Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Florida.

Once Lyons has collected extensive data about American corporate practices and immigrant concerns, she can consider writing a reference guide for those unfamiliar with American ways, said Dana May Casperson, director of the Professional Institute of Etiquette in Santa Rosa and author of "Power Etiquette: What You Don't Know Can Kill Your Career" (AMACOM, 1999).

But Lyons also may want to broaden her targeted marketing population--at least initially--to maximize her public exposure and revenue potential, experts said. Course topics that might interest immigrants and American nationals include cultivating a professional appearance, conducting business luncheons, telephone/e-mail/cell phone etiquette, cross-cultural awareness and conflict resolution.

Once Lyons has defined her business and its offerings, she can launch her marketing campaign.

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