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Remote Career Development: Colleen Valadez Of Preferred Networking Solutions On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With David Liu

Boundaries! With a lack of boundaries in place, our devotion and commitment to work can be very counterproductive.

Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colleen Valadez.

Colleen Valadez, based in the greater Los Angeles area, has been developing networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Colleen created Preferred Networking Solutions to serve the community in the South Bay. In 2020 the business successfully took advantage of the virtual meeting application through Zoom during the pandemic which allowed continued networking success while working remotely from home.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I am originally from Olympia Washington and relocated to the LA area when I was 18 years old to be with my sister. Although my first job was at a drug store I made my way through several other customer service and sales positions as the years passed. I’ve gained knowledge about manufacturing, sales service, the hospitality industry, and even spent several years in the fitness arena. I now have a flourishing organizing business and the Preferred Networking Solutions business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I would have to say that my fitness business always kept me engaged with other people that were sharing their sensitive and personal challenges in keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I was honored to be trusted with such heartfelt and personal information. It always felt good to actively listen and show compassion for another person and then lead them to a personal victory. I didn’t really know I had a natural “leader” that lived within until I worked in that field.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Okay, so, here’s an embarrassing moment: Years ago when I was in my 20’s I worked for a manufacturing company. My role in the purchasing department was shared with 3 other ladies. We had 2 adjoining offices and the doors were open so we could chat with each other across the room. One day the Purchasing Manager was interviewing a new vendor in the adjoining office. The door was open and his back was turned to us. I was goofing around and trying to make the other ladies laugh. I was pretending to be a dancer and I kicked my foot up in the air and my high heel shoe flipped off my foot, went flying across the room and landed into the adjoining office with the vendor. The shoe landed right behind him but he didn’t hear it. The Purchasing Manager was trying to keep a straight face as I was crawling on the floor like a jewelry thief to obtain my shoe. The vendor never heard or saw anything and I got away without having to explain myself. I learned that while it was important to have fun at work it wasn’t worth ever doing anything so immature again.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have several quotes that I like and here is one from President Abraham Lincoln:

“Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.” I’ve selected this one because our world moves so fast and we often expect instant gratification. Our minds are so busy and in a constant state of desiring the NEXT thing or event or relationship, etc. I’ve had to learn to slow down and stay present. Staying present and enjoying the moment, what ever that might be or look like can provide us gratitude, wisdom and a sense of harmony.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?

If a person is doing work that they love while being appreciated for their efforts and results they will not experience a sense of burnout. Being a great leader requires a commitment to a shared vision for all the people. The employee that is truly appreciated and feels an essence of belonging will naturally thrive. Leaders are in the position to serve their employees and that can be accomplished by having role models with outstanding character, integrity, a drive for success, and a lot of compassion.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunities but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?

Oh boy, life can be wonderful when working remotely. I will use the example of working remotely from home for this question.

  1. First, technology connects us together with virtual meetings. What a bonus this has been. The Folger’s commercial showing the executive in his Zoom session with his suit from the waist up and his boxers from the waist down is hilarious. Talk about a state of being more relaxed!
  2. We actually get to spend more time at home with our kids, our spouses, our pets, our neighbors, the backyard, etc.
  3. There is a savings of gas money and wear & tear on our vehicles plus we are not in traffic with angry drivers and smog!
  4. We can monitor & receive our packages & mail being delivered.
  5. We can multi-task by taking little breaks to empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, put the clothes in the dryer, spend time in the garden, complete a 5 minute task like putting things away, get a meal into the crock pot, etc.
  6. We save money on our wardrobes and eating lunch on the road. Most people would prefer to work in their pajamas and have pancakes with the kids before they start their day.
  7. We get to pick and choose what to work on. We get to be our own boss!

Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

  1. Interruptions! While we love our family and fur babies we don’t love the constant interruptions. This can be extremely frustrating.
  2. Distractions! It’s easy to be distracted by the TV and other things we enjoy like our favorite hobbies or reading a book, gaming, playing with musical instruments and general tinkering around the house, garage, and yard.
  3. Boundaries! With a lack of boundaries in place, our devotion and commitment to work can be very counterproductive.
  4. Accountability! This is such a good one. We all need to have some sort of check in spot or person to help us stay on track.
  5. Self-Discipline! Without self discipline working remotely can be a hazard to our health. It creates internal turmoil, a sense of guilt, negative self-talk, frustration and feelings of defeat.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. Avoiding interruptions requires planning and communication. We all know that planning can go a long way. By setting up a harmonious area to work from and a specific time that work is to be done and then communicating that to the family or baby sitter will help avoid interruptions. Reminders on post-it notes saying “QUIET WORK TIME” can come in handy. Using a certain color can be the code for NO INTERRUPTIONS. Asking the sitter to walk the dog or take the kids to the park during the time you are to be at work can cure plenty of interruptions.
  2. Distractions can be settled by creating a work area that is not in front of the TV! Putting on a headset with some white noise is magical. Even if you don’t have a headset, ask ALEXA to play ocean wave sounds or utilize an app on your phone that has white noise selections. Putting your phone on DO NOT DISTURB is a gigantic help.
  3. Boundaries, this is a common trap. Having healthy boundaries means having the ability to speak up and be heard as well as respected. This is when communication is very necessary. Whether we communicate from an email, a text or face to face we must protect our work time by letting others know that we need quiet time so that we can be productive and successful. Without boundaries we are setting ourselves up for failure. Talking to a professional about what healthy boundaries look like can really help. Even getting a self help book on the subject can alleviate a lot of tension and resentment. Talking to other executives or friends about this can also be enlightening.
  4. Accountability is necessary for our success in life. Without an accountability partner or team we can feel lonely or lost like a cast-away on a raft at sea. An accountability partner is nonjudgmental and will provide you with ideas and goals to see projects and deadlines through. They can serve as a voice to validate the great work you are doing and get you through the rough spots. They often can set up a reward plan when reaching a mile-stone or the completion of a project. They can be a coach, a friend, or a boss that is working on a project with you.
  5. Self-Discipline does not come overnight. It is something that has to be practiced just like anything else. While avoiding distractions by removing yourself from certain environments is helpful, trying to work without discipline will be very counter-intuitive. To help develop self-discipline practice by setting a timer for a short period that you will stay focused and be able to complete. Make it obtainable. Reward yourself for reaching the time allotted. Talk to others about how they developed self-discipline. The accountability partner(s) can help with this too. Guided meditation can be very helpful. You can find free guided meditations on Youtube or through apps on your phone. Even 5 minute meditations can help you to free up the chatter that may be interfering. We all have the ability to be very disciplined when we want to. Being your own best friend and seeing the end in mind can set an expectation and perhaps some inspiration. Writing out an intention to become more disciplined will allow the subconscious to help the development of this. A steady use of affirmations can also recharge the mind to go the distance. There are tons of affirmations on the web to choose from. Having love and respect for ourselves can be a magical elixir for developing self-discipline. Read the book Habit Stacking by SJ Scott. It has awesome tips.

Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?

There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of TOOTING YOUR OWN HORN. Letting others know what you are working on and how things are progressing is key. Innovation is a popular subject. Using the creative side of the imagination will help unlock some nifty ideas. Sharing ideas with the boss or virtual community lets them know that you may be out of sight but not out of mind. Communicate frequently by following up and checking in. If you are enthused about your work you will feel inspired about communicating with colleagues, bosses, customers, etc. Always do a little more than what is expected. Over delivering by being early with completion of a project or task can bring wonderful surprises to our work in the future. Learn extra things about your colleagues and supervisors like their birthdays, etc. If they are on Facebook or Instagram follow them and communicate with them. The quality of your work and efforts go a long way.

Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?

Listening to an employee and asking impactful questions about what brings them joy in their work can go a long way. Everyone wants to be heard and validated. Here is what I would do if I was managing a team:

Ask this question of every employee;

If one year had passed and you were in the most perfect environment in your career what would it be? What would be different from now? How would people be treating you? What are you willing to do to create this environment?

If there is passion and purpose for an employee a manager can recognize the joy within the individual. This kind of joy is infectious. Recognition programs like employee or executive of the month can motivate employees and help them to feel appreciated and important.

Provide ongoing coaching, education, and leadership courses. In our own entrepreneurial community we have powerful people that can serve small to large companies in many ways. They have unique concepts and incredible ideas to take a person or department from Good to Great!

I’ve been in the corporate market and now serve the entrepreneurial market. Blending them together would be very innovative.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would create an online international book club. One big club that anyone could belong to. The program would be designed to bring the world together through stories. I would partner people up and have language translation so people could make a friend from across the globe. There would be a small monthly charge to join the club and the money would go to a program to stop human trafficking.

2nd idea: I would open restaurants all over the world by Astrological Signs. For example I would open franchises called Club Aquarius, Club Aries, Club Taurus and so forth. I would ask the Chef’s to create high vibrational foods that are optimal for each astrological sign. I would put items to sell in the restaurant that were appropriate for each sign like candles, books, tea, jewelry, etc. The signage at the restaurant would be the astrological design. I would ask each restaurant to influence specials during zodiac month of each restaurant. There would also be a match making/relationship component to the restaurant. For example if Leo’s get along well with Aquarius people I would have a special meet and greet night for personal and business opportunities.

Thank you for letting me submit this information.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Learn more at https://www.preferred-networking.com/

Follow my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/preferrednetworking/

Interact on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/preferrednetworkingsolutions

Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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David Liu

David Liu

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication

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