BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

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10 “Shovel-ready” Projects Everyone Should Have Ready

Posted by denisefisher on February 16, 2009

When Congress and President Bush, and then President Obama, began discussing a financial stimulus package that would help create jobs and revitalize the economy, everyone started plotting to figure out how they could get a piece of the action. One cliché that continues to be used as a responsible justification for financial funding is “shovel-ready,” meaning project plans that have been prepared in detail, with forethought (without the incentive of the financial feeding frenzy), and are ready to go. That differentiates the industries and individuals that are looking for a bailout to maintain their status quo or to compensate for previous lack of foresight or their irrational decisions. It also excludes the opportunists who are scrambling to put together a plan at the last minute, to rationalize their worthiness for a slice of the pie.

So how does this relate to you? It should show you how opportunities favor those who have clear objectives, plans in place, and who are well represented and well connected. Opportunities arise in forms other than financial funding and you don’t always see them coming, which can make them seem outside of your control. You do, however, have control over defining your objectives, preparing plans that are written out, illustrated, and presentable, and fostering connections and group representation.

Here is my list of 10 shovel-ready projects that you should have ready for an unexpected stimulus opportunity:

1. A Publicity Package. This should include at least one photo of yourself and a brief professional biography that tells your story or, at least, a bit about your background and credentials. Kodak has some tips on photo composition (including photos for profiles) at their website, for those who wish to do it themselves.

The potential opportunity: You could be selected to be featured in a story, article, interview, or other media. You might be asked to speak at an event, and need the photo and bio for publicity, a printed program, or for an introduction. You might want to enter a contest or competition which features, as a prize, financial funding, consultation, or other support for your project or selected worthy cause. If there’s a submission deadline, you don’t want to waste time that you need for preparing your content on writing up a bio or having to get your photo taken. A photo and bio provide a credibility boost to an individual’s status and their associated venture.

2. Résumé and Business (or Personal) Cards. A current résumé can be a godsend in a situation that could advance your career, present an unexpected partnership, or identify a potential business opportunity. Well-crafted business cards (or even personal cards – those that are not necessarily associated with a company or job title, and just include your personal/home contact information) are worth carrying anywhere you’d go with a wallet or purse.

The potential opportunity: You might be acknowledged for your skills or expertise and sought out for a business opportunity. You might encounter a person who could advance your career, your business, or your pet project, if they knew more about you and how to reach you. Someone might also want to refer you to a prestigious person they know; so having a card on hand will assure that your contact information will be passed on and that opportunities are not missed.

3. Cocktail Party Introduction/Elevator Pitch. The “elevator pitch” is a commonly used phrase which refers to a business introduction that you might give to a potential investor or other “power player,” should you encounter them and have only the amount of time that it would take for a brief elevator ride, in which you could make your pitch. I coined the term “cocktail party introduction” to describe a similar introduction you might make to someone in a more casual setting, and without the hard-sell angle reserved for business situations. In either case, however, there is an element of scripting and practice required to make your introduction concise and thoughtfully worded, without seeming contrived. Try the exercise method prescribed by Laura Allen and Jim Convery at

The potential opportunity: This one should be obvious. You are very likely to meet interesting people wherever you go, with whom you’d like to connect and, perhaps, establish a relationship; and it’s very likely to happen at a social gathering, if not a business setting, or a chance encounter.

4. Online Profiles. This includes any and all of the following, and more: your blog, the “about” section of your website, facebook, myspace, linked in, twitter, Amazon, classmates, online dating websites, and other member/social networking sites. Again, you should have a suitable photo and a thoughtfully written self-description that suits the venue. Check out the profiles of others if you need inspiration or ideas.

The potential opportunity: You never know who might be viewing your public online profiles and what might develop. Trying to beef-up a weak profile to create a favorable first impression after the fact is too late. Forget about the idea of maintaining separate identities for business and personal settings. That ain’t happenin’ any more; so make sure that your public persona represents you well.

5. The Plan. This could be your business plan (as a full-blown report, in a professional binder or in an abbreviated, custom-designed format of your own choosing). It could be a “back-of-the-napkin” type of sketch (only a bit more polished). It could be a photo portfolio, a 3D prototype, a book proposal, or an outline for a screenplay. Whatever it is, it should be something tangible that you can see and touch. (Check out Dan Roam’s The Back of The Napkin concepts and book at his website.)

The potential opportunity: When you do encounter a person or an opportunity where you have a chance to show ‘em what you’ve got, you’d better be ready and have something to show that represents the amount of thought, energy, and preparation that you’ve put into your idea. Just talking isn’t going to cut it. And waiting until you get that invitation for a follow-up meeting or appointment is not the time to start developing your idea into tangible plan or a model that you can present. Be ready for the opportunity before it presents itself.

6. Your Presentation Look. Your clothes, shoes, coat, accessories, hairstyle, briefcase, portfolio – do they look like “presentation material”?

The potential opportunity: If you only had an hour or two in which to put yourself together for a once-in-a-lifetime, face-to-face meeting or presentation, do you have the right look to make a great impression? This type of situation is not that uncommon, and you need to have your selections made in advance of your big break, if you really want to pull it off.

7. A Presentable Environment. A conference room or banquet hall is fine for official occasions, but you need to have your personal spaces up to the standards you wish to convey about your work/life style. This includes your workspace, your car, and your home.

The potential opportunity: If the prize patrol showed up at your door, would you be ready to invite them in and pose for a photo, without  cringing at the condition of yourself and your home and self-consciously apologizing for their appearance? Ok, even if that opportunity seems extremely remote, there are others that aren’t so unlikely. A high-profile executive, a celebrity, someone you admire, or a potential love interest might show up at your workplace for one reason or another. You never know. A client or associate or someone you’d want to impress might ask to ride with you to a luncheon or event, or you might have the opportunity to offer them a lift. Would you be comfortable enough with your home environment to invite in a guest – even if it’s just for coffee?

8. A Packed Travel Bag. I’m talking about a carry-on type of bag that’s stocked with all the toiletries, cosmetics, accessories, and personal appliances you’d need, along with a swimsuit, underwear, socks and hosiery, and sleepwear you’d need for an extended weekend trip. You could add whatever clothing, footwear, and outerwear would be appropriate for the occasion of your travel, but having the basics packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice can make the difference between an opportunity being seized or passed over. Doug Dyment has an excellent website called that has an amazing array of advice for packing and travelling light. His single most valuable tip involves the proper use of a packing list.

The potential opportunity: What if a friend, family member, business associate or someone special offered to take you with them on an important business venture, weekend getaway, or even just an overnight stay? The occasion might only be available on short notice (maybe some unseasonable fantastic weather or an unexpected business opportunity or travel prize). Assuming you had no pressing obligations, could you go? Or would you be in the position to make a similar offer to your potential travel companion?

9. A Financial Opportunity Fund. This is a more advanced option, but important, nonetheless. It can include funding that can be used for investment opportunities, travel opportunities, a business opportunity, a special event or a fantastic deal on some item you were already planning to purchase (albeit at a later date).

The potential opportunity: Do you have money set aside (without raiding your retirement or emergency fund) to take advantage of a great deal or other opportunity that you’d readily jump on if the money was available? If you have to choose between passing up an opportunity that requires immediate funding or taking on excessive debt and interest charges, you’re not fully ready for the opportunities that will come your way.

10. A Financial Wish List. This is the counterpart to the aforementioned opportunity fund. This would include all the items and experiences you would identify for future purchase and savings goals. The list might include these types of material objects or experiences: car, furniture, electronics, appliances, flooring, fixtures, home remodeling, travel, wardrobe, books, seminar, workshop, professional classes, fitness-related activities, sports or dance equipment/attire rental or purchase, coaching, training, instruction, trip or excursion.

The potential opportunity: What if you received a cash windfall to spend in whatever way you choose? Would you use it wisely to purchase things you’ve always wanted? Do you actually have a written wish list that includes pictures, features, descriptions and prices? Someone might want to give you a generous gift or a deserving reward for something you’ve done. A wish list would sure come in handy for such an occasion. It’s also handy as an initiative for savings too. But that’s a larger topic for another day.


3 Responses to “10 “Shovel-ready” Projects Everyone Should Have Ready”

  1. avtoz said

    It actually interestingly. Good job! I wish successes!

  2. Donielle said

    Great post! I can think of a few of these that I need to get ready myself. Given the economic conditions, a few of these are really critical (and would have been helpful to people before they got laid off). In addition to those looking for work, those who still have jobs should take note of projects #2,4,5 and 9.

  3. Some of my shovel-ready projects are in need of a tune-up (or in a few cases, a complete overhaul). After writing this post, I decided I should document each of my shovel-ready projects onto paper or with a photo. So, by the end of this quarter (March), I want to have evidence to show that my projects are ready for an opportunity. And if anyone wants to come by and check them out, I’ll be able to invite them in for coffee.

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