Career Coaching: The Core of All Career Services

As the phone rings, I set my timer for the career coaching session that is about to begin. Sally is always on time for her weekly career coaching calls, and I tell her how much I appreciate her promptness. Once we exchange pleasantries, I ask her what issue she wishes to focus on today. Although I had offered her fieldwork to complete after last week’s session, I ask her what issue is most important – perhaps the fieldwork will have to wait, as the client always drives the career coaching agenda and I let her do that.

Phone coachingSally decides to discuss the fieldwork, an exercise on clarifying her work values and determining how they align with her company’s culture. It so happens that Sally is unhappy at her current company, or maybe it’s just her current position, or her boss. She’s not sure, and that’s why she has hired me. She needs a sounding board, a personal career trainer who will ask her the tough questions to help her figure it all out and determine which career changes she needs to make. She needs a career coach!

When Sally first contacted me she thought she just needed a new resume as she felt her only option was to enter a job search. Upon initial discussion with her, I quickly learned that she couldn’t define her job target, wasn’t sure of her skills, and was overall very confused. I explained the career coaching process and how it could help her resolve her dilemma. She was intrigued and relieved at the same time, eager to start a career coaching program.

What attracts clients to coaching? Other than the fact that studies have proved that it works, coaching offers clients the opportunities to be accepted and self-centered in a safe environment. They come to coaching full of desire for self-discovery, ready to do whatever it takes to define their goals, create an action plan and achieve their best results.

How does coaching work? As a trained career coach, I ask a lot of questions; I call it using a “pragmatic inquiry approach.” I practice active listening to hear not only what is said, but also what isn’t; to hear the nuances caused by voice inflections, pauses, and silences. I tell stories with metaphors to stimulate “aha” moments. I provide feedback; I tell my executive clients that I do “in your face” coaching and they ask, “How soon may I start?” They are not accustomed to having someone be totally straight with them and appreciate the fact that I will always tell them the truth.

Although some coaches still meet their clients face-to-face, like most coaches around the world, I prefer coaching by phone. Whenever I coach a client, we enter into a safe “third space” where all activity is client-centered and confidential. By conducting coaching sessions over the phone, potential distractions can be eliminated (for the client and myself), so I can focus my entire attention on the client.

Sometimes I am contacted by coaching prospects who express doubt that coaching by phone works more effectively than in person. Whenever this happens, I offer a complimentary coaching consultation so that the skeptical individual may experience phone coaching first hand. Usually, the outcome is positive and a doubting client has been converted. However, if the outcome is not positive, I am quick to refer the person to a career coach who does coaching in person. (A comprehensive referral network is just one of the benefits of membership in professional coaching organizations.)

Between coaching sessions, I encourage clients to exchange unlimited emails with me to address challenges and concerns, or celebrate successes. Some coaches will conduct coaching sessions by instant messaging with any of their clients. Another coaching method made available by technology!

Regardless of the method used, the profession of career coaching is growing rapidly. It is the leading Definesuccess208gifvirtual method for providing career management and career transition services to global clients. In our world that has transitioned from an industrial to a knowledge economy, career coaching is more than just a trend. It is here to stay, not as an add-on to other career services, but the foundation from which other career services sprout. Just like my client who thought her only need was a resume, most coaching clients don’t initially realize the power of what coaching can do for them until they experience it first hand. Then, watch out! They take off like a shot and nothing can hold them back.

As for Sally, she has decided to leave her project management position and begin a new career as a personal trainer. How did she make this decision? She has always been passionate about Yoga and exercising. Once she realized that it was “OK” to have a “fun” career, she raced to research what requirements she would have to meet to get certified. She is now enrolled in a special class and studying in preparation to take her test. Her attitude has shifted from one of over-responsibility in a job she detests, to one of joy and enthused anticipation for a new career just over the horizon.

This original article was previously published a few years ago. After review, I realized it is still very applicable for today's career changers.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Need a New Career – Why Can’t I Just Figure It Out?

Such a frustrating feeling to get stuck on the career change treadmill, the one where you know you're not happy with work, but go in unending circles every time you try to come up with new ideas. Sound familiar? It's OK to admit it – many people are doing the same these days. They want to find something new and different, where the work hours may be fewer and the job satisfaction is greater.

As a Career Coach, I get lots of calls from individuals wanting my help to "just figure it all out." Some Turnlifearound_19 have tried assessments, research, and long hours of conversations with friends – all without results. They call me as a last resort thinking that maybe they'll have to invest in some professional assistance. There's no shame in that. It took me three years and two job moves to make a career transition from my 12-year career in college financial aid administration to working in the careers field. If I'd known about career coaches then, I wouldn't have spent three years spinning my wheels. You shouldn't either.

Do you "avoid any strategy that is not logical and almost certain of desired outcome?" (From the program quiz, "Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction." Take the free quiz to see where you fit.) If you do, this is your biggest mistake. The first step to changing careers is to play in your right brain for awhile; that's where the creativity will get sparked. You must give yourself permission to take a time-out from logic. Breathe, relax, and let your mind wander. Get involved in a fun activity where you surrender all thought of your career. You'll be surprised that after a day or so, new ideas will rush into your brain. But stop! It's not yet time to act on anything. New ideas need to percolate. Just let them exist for awhile as you go about your current job.

When ready to explore your ideas, do just that – explore. Research possibilities and talk to people who actually work in these jobs. Cast a wide net while keeping all the "yeah, buts" at bay. Now is not the time to let logic restrict you! There will come the time when any final career idea you choose must be filtered through business reality – but not yet! Restrictions at this time will only drag down your creative juices. Sometimes the "right" career idea comes from a sprout of the original idea, so just go with the flow for awhile. Don't rush the process!

There's a lot of information on the Internet and in publications on how to change careers, most stemming from logical processes – assessments, research, reading, etc. While this may work for some, I know my career coaching clients are forever grateful after experiencing the three-month, innovative, right brain approach.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Boost Your Job Search Effectiveness

Has a state of exhaustion overcome your good intentions to stay focused on a job search? Many job seekers have been unemployed for months, if not years. Many are burned out, burned up and just plain tired. If that fits you, now is the time to re-examine your job search strategy and kick it up a few notches! Imagine a tired long-distance runner nearing the finish line. What does he do? Fall out of the race or dig deeper for the extra spurt of energy needed to cross that finish line?

Let's look at some ways to enhance a job search that will help speed up your reemployment.

Boost Your Activity

How do you track your job search activities? Do you have a system in place to keep your contacts organized so you can methodically follow up on a regular basis? Do you set goals and reward yourself when you meet them? Organization is the only way to stay on top of all the activity surrounding a professional job search. Utilizing technology can save time and the support of a Career Coach can keep you on track.Perfectjob_12

Challenge yourself to increase the weekly contacts you make. If you currently reach out to three per day, raise it to ten. For anyone with sales experience, this tactic should be familiar. You up your chances for success by increasing your calls – it’s a numbers game. Track your average rate of return…you will need to collect your "no's" to get a "yes," but it only takes one "yes" to get a job!

Boost Your Visibility

Now is not the time to stay home. When you are unemployed, looking for a job becomes your full time job. How many people do you meet in a week? If it's fewer than 20, then you are probably contributing to your state of unemployment. Most people (some career experts say as high as 85%) are getting their jobs today through networking – the kind of face-to-face interaction that involves building personal, ongoing relationships. Sure, money is tight, but try to consider the cost of breakfast and luncheon meetings as an investment in your career. Don’t forget the networking you can do on-line, such as through LinkedIn. It is mandatory that every professional has a LinkedIn profile – you must boost your findability on the Internet.

Of course, when you meet and greet people you’ll have to pull yourself out of that "black hole" into which you may have fallen. Put a smile on your face, even if you don't feel it in your heart. Get to know others by asking questions to find out what you can do for them and their job searches. When you leave meetings, you will feel reconnected with humanity. You will be remembered for what you have to offer which will result in others wanting to return the favor. Watch how many job leads begin to come your way! You are probably only 3-4 degrees removed from someone who has the authority to hire you, and you don’t even know it!

Boost Your Creativity

When small business owners launch their enterprises, they are advised to publish articles and deliver presentations to increase public awareness of their new ventures. And it works! So, what would happen if you did the same? Try writing and speaking about your expertise to attract interest in your personal brand. It would be interesting to see how many responses you receive due to this new found notoriety, and how many of these might turn into bona fide employment offers.

How do you reach your target markets through publishing and presenting? Do your research to discover what potential employers are reading, then write and submit articles relevant to their interests and your expertise. Printed periodicals and on-line publications can both work to your advantage. Use the same approach in scheduling presentations. Where does your target market go to learn more about your expertise? (Hmm, are we back to networking?) Contact event organizers to offer your speaking skills. Most professional groups welcome presenters who don’t charge fees.

Boost Your Knowledge

Visibility and creativity will work to your advantage as long as you stay current in your field. As learning is a lifelong process, take advantage of your unemployed status to attend seminars and workshops that keep your skills fresh and up-to-date. (You may even be able to do this on-line, but don’t miss out on more in-person networking.) This rings particularly true for anyone in the information technology field. However, people in most industries would agree that change is occurring at warp speed…don't get left behind! While you continue your learning, remember to read business journals, nonfiction bestsellers, and current events periodicals.

What business trends do you spot? How can you position yourself as a change agent? Companies seek drivers of innovation to impact their bottom lines. Does your resume portray your successes in such a way that hiring authorities can easily see the value you offer them as they try to not only cope, but thrive, in an ever-changing marketplace? Ask a Career Coach or professional resume writer to critique your resume to ensure all your bases are covered.

Boost Your Chances to Succeed

With most things in life, history repeats itself and change challenges the best of us. The status of work in the 21st century is changing as this article is being written. It will continue to evolve as more baby boomers retire and are replaced by their children and grandchildren. For those currently out of work, today's angst will eventually fade into the past as new positions are obtained and careers move forward. What role do you want to play in your overall career satisfaction? Do you want to take charge of your own destiny or surrender your control?

You don't have to do it all alone. "At a time when companies are downsizing and out-placing…at a time whenOver50 boomers are facing 50, coaches are easing traumatic transitions." This quote is from "Career Coaches Offer Help in the Game of Life," Long Beach Press-Telegram, July 9, 1996. Let's see…that was almost sixteen years ago. Now boomers are facing 60 or already there! Isn't it about time to hire a Career Coach to help you map out the rest of your career? Career Coaches can help you with job searches as well as help you with career reinventions.

Job search exhaustion is real. It affects your attitude and your motivation to stay engaged. Get a handle on it now to find that next job. Better yet, take the time to reinvent yourself for a better career for the 21st century.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

(Updated from April 2, 2009 post)

How a Resume Writer Writes the Best Resumes

So you think it costs too much to hire a professional resume writer? After all, why should you pay a few hundred dollars for a quick typing job that you could do you yourself, right? If this is your belief, then I beg to differResume3a with you. Let me show you why.

Anyone who has written his or her own resume will tell you that the process takes hours to produce a document that will get you a job interview.No, it is NOT a typing job – that's the easiest part. Preceding the typing is the assembly of your employment, education, and other resume data; organizing it; selecting impactful action words and phrases to articulate it; choosing which accomplishments merit bulleted statements; designing the format and style (oh, you're just going to use a Word template? Hmm..); rewriting it to fit into two or three pages (depending on certain factors); and so much more.

I'm sure you've heard that tons of people are searching for jobs these days. Without attention to the necessary details, your resume won't pass the 10-second glance the time a recruiter or HR person takes to look at your resume to see if it deserves further scrutiny. What does your resume say – and how is it said – to draw in the reader? Will your resume get picked to go to the second round? Mind you, we're not talking about job interview here, only resume screening.

Here's how a professional resume writer approaches the resume writing process after you hire him/her:

1) Gathering the resume data

Whether the resume writer provides you a questionnaire to complete, interviews you verbally, or does a combination of both, the goal is to extract so much information about your career and education that there is much more data than could possibly be included in a resume. What's the purpose? A resume writer needs to know your job target and the supporting background you have to document it. A resume writer uses an objective eye to tie your experience to your niche goal and needs a deep pool of facts from which to choose to make this happen.

2) Choosing the appropriate style and format

Your resume must make you stand out from the crowd if you have any hope of getting it read. In years past, colored stationery helped do this. In our electronic age of today, format and style must be appropriate for your target, experience level, and field. I can hear people asking, "What role do format and style play when pasting a resume into an on-line application box?" Yes, you lose your formatting (which makes conversion to simple text mandatory), but style also means how your resume writing flows. You won't lose your format and style when applying with a resume attached to an email. And don't forget that a professionally formatted and styled resume (printed on watermarked stationery) will earn you bonus points when you take it to an in-person job interview.

3) Creating the resume from scratch

With a desktop full of resume questionnaire, potential job postings (where scannable keywords are found), dictionary and thesaurus, a professional resume writer starts crafting your document with a blank computer screen. Wait a minute – is that acronym supposed to be capitalized? God bless Google and Wikipedia! Recording job titles and dates, colleges and degrees, professional affiliations and community activities – all are done before any actual technical writing begins. After studying employment history, next comes the crafting of content using vivid action words that create winning perceptions in a reader's mind. Responsibilities go into a brief paragraph under a job title, while quantifiable accomplishments and results stand out as bulleted statements underneath.

4) Proofread, rewrite, and repeat process

Tweaking is a professional resume writer's passion for perfection. Yes, every resume must be perfect – there's never a valid excuse for not being so. And don't put all your faith into spell-check. (There's a big difference between "Public Administrator" and "Pubic Administrator" – but spell-check can't think for you.) Usually, 24 hours away from a project brings a fresh approach to wording, spacing, and correct grammar. As a rule, no resume leaves a writer's desktop until it is perfect in every way. However, professional resume writers want their work to reflect your personality, so draft reviews and more rewriting are common before any resume writing project is closed.

So, there you have it – this is why professional resume writers earn the "big bucks!" Just kidding – if you break down all that a writer does for one project, you'll find many man- (or woman-) hours involved. No, resume writing is not just a typing exercise, but so much more. When you partner with a professional resume writer, you really do get a resume that will get you job interviews! Still not convinced? Then go to the library and pick up one or two of these Ten Top Resume Writing Books. Take a big bag to carry them home – most of these tomes are packed with details and sit on my book shelf as reference books. Hey, you may even find my resume samples as contributions in some of them.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

New Grads: How to Do a Smart Job Search

An Open Letter to My Stepdaughter

Dear Kate,

You've worked hard the past four years. A lot has changed – around you, for you, and most of all, YOU! Now you're facing one of the biggest changes of your life – landing your first job in your new career. While theCollege student economy has been brutal as you studied and played during your college years, signs are pointing toward an improvement for new graduates. But don't let this influence your need for a smart, focused job search! You still have stiff competition.

Now that we've created your career marketing materials, what are you going to do with them? It would be so easy to sit in front of your computer just scanning job boards, copying and pasting your resume into on-line boxes, or attaching it to emails and sending it to HR professionals. However, a smart job search is doing so much more! You don't want to get lost amid the crowds of recent grads applying in your field. That can easily happen if all you do is use the job boards to seek out job leads.

Instead, build your career network. Who do you know who can put you in touch with someone who can introduce you to a contact wanting to hire a new grad in your field? You see, networking is not easy. In fact, remember your most difficult college course – calculus? The energy and effort you mustered to pass that course you now need again to build your job search network.

You've already made a good start by creating your LinkedIn profile. But LinkedIn isn't a "Field of Dreams;" you must "work" it or "lose" it. Connect to professional groups in your career field, as well as professional local groups that hold "meet-ups." Then spend at least an hour per day answering and asking questions in those groups to put a spotlight on your expertise and how you build relationships.

Let everyone in your life you know what kind of job you're seeking. Job leads come from the least expected sources. Stay social, on-line and in person.

When preparing for job interviews, role play tough interview questions with a friend. Watch your face in a mirror as you speak your answers out loud. What will an interviewer see? Anything you need to correct in your mannerisms? We discussed how to dress, but just remember to dress for the job. A watch and small earring studs are OK, but no other jewelry. Light make-up and lip gloss are OK, but no heavy eyeliner. Thank goodness you have no tattoos to hide!

Since you enjoy using MS Excel, create your job search tracking record with that program. Perfectjob_12You'll want to track job leads, what you do with them, when you need to follow-up, and then repeat this for job interviews. If you submit a resume, it IS all right to call the employer in a couple weeks if you don't hear back right away. During a job search, you must be proactive and keep moving forward! Don't let rejections get you down. A job search is a numbers game of averages – the more "no's" you get, the closer you'll be to your "yes!"

As you work through the job search process, know that I'm hear for you. Email or call with your questions, and I'll guide you down the right path. While you will have to maintain your self-motivation, I won't be shy in giving you a push when you need it.

Most of all, know that you are unique. You have a great education and preparation for the job you want. You deserve it. Go get it! I am confident you will be successful!

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Three Good Questions to Ask at a Job Interview

As a job candidate, you probably prepare for answering tough job interview questions. However, do you also prepare for what you ask the job interviewer? Your questions can be just as much of a "fit" indicator to potential employers as your answers are to their questions. Job interview 3

Never ask the interviewer anything about their company that you could have learned through research, e.g., the company's website, LinkedIn, your library's resources, etc. Companies want to feel special – that you have taken the time to determine if you are pursuing their opening because your interest is piqued based on your research, or if you're just desperate for a job. Do your due diligence!

Here are three good questions to ask:

1) Why is this position open? (Is it a new one, or did someone leave? Why did they leave? Is there an internal candidate?)

This question tells the company that you're serious about wanting this position. It also tells them that you are trying to assess your fit for the position, which you are. It's important for you to know who the ideal candidate is for this job, based on who's held the job before. If it's a new position, then you may have some input into how the job is defined, if you're hired. If there's an internal candidate, then that raises many more questions in your mind, e.g.,  will the internal person have an edge among the competition? (Not good news for you.)  

2) What is the most important (or biggest) problem you have that you want someone in this position to tackle?

This question tells the company that you're already processing how you may contribute value to them. This is good! The answer you get can help you evaluate whether or not you're up to the task, whether or not you want to do the job, and whether or not you still have an interest in pursuing this position. Do you feel challenged by the problem or overwhelmed at the idea of being responsible for solving it? Be honest with yourself. Don't set up yourself to fail.

3)  How will my performance be evaluated in this position? By whom?

This question tells the company that you are thinking about how you'll be doing your new job, another sign that you are interested in the position. It also tells them that you are ambitious and not just a time-clock puncher. Your answer will help you better understand the reporting structure of this company. It also helps sheds light on how your job tasks should be prioritized.

A good, solid job interview is a give-and-take. If you ever leave an interview relieved because you didn't have to talk much, know that this was NOT a good interview. You will NOT get this job. Interviews are rarely about you, only what you can do to meet an employer's needs, solve his problems, and contribute high value to this company. You are on stage at a job interview – perform well!

For more information on this topic, check out Amy Levin-Epstein's CBS Money Watch column, "6 great questions to ask on a job interview," featuring my contributions. "Asking for a job? Ask good questions" by Diane Stafford of The Kansas City Star lists some other good questions to ask an interviewer.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

A Few LinkedIn Pointers for a Job Search

Do you have your professional LinkedIn profile posted? Even if you're not in an active job search, you still need a LinkedIn1787141145781871883 profile. Some people feel that all social media is an invasion of privacy. However, a LinkedIn presence has become a requisite career cornerstone. You may update your LinkedIn profile anytime you wish – and should. But there is so much more than your profile available to you through LinkedIn to increase your "findability" on the Internet.

Recruiters use LinkedIn as their Number One way to source job candidates for their client companies. Their preference is to find "passive" candidates; i.e., candidates not in an active job search, but interested in the "right" opportunities should they present themselves. Even if you are very happy with your current position, in this ever-churning economy, it is a good idea to have career options. You never know when your company may be sold or file for bankruptcy. You don't want to go down with a sinking ship! Your LinkedIn profile is a type of career insurance. With it, you'll always be "findable" on the Internet for hiring authorities seeking to fill new positions. (Did you realize that having no presence on the web is just as bad as a negative presence?)

Treat LinkedIn as your friend. Use it to build business relationships. Invite people to connect with you if you share a common career bond. Using the Groups feature helps you showcase your career expertise, as well as make new contacts. The Groups tab is found in the LinkedIn top menu line. Answer Group questions, and also ask your own. Besides joining and participating in Groups related to your career field, join a few local LinkedIn Groups where you may meet people face-to-face, even if they are not in your field. You never know who knows someone who knows someone. By the way, you'll find that many groups are open – meaning you don't have to be approved to join. Others are only available to you upon approval of your request to join. There is value for you in both types of Groups.

As a Kansas City Career Coach, I recommend the following LinkedIn Groups for relationship-building online and in person in the Greater Kansas City Area. Contact me if you know of others:

* Kansas City Live Networking
* Linked to KC
* Kansas City Networking Society

If you want to relocate to another part of the country, look for online LinkedIn Groups to join in that area. You may get job recommendations from Group members to pave the path to your new job before you physically relocate. When you make LinkedIn a part of your everyday social networking, you'll be surprised at the rewards you reap.

I would love to hear your comments on how you have used LinkedIn for your career. Please leave your comments below. For more great information, check out Inc. magazine's, "6 Steps to a More Marketable LinkedIn Profile." Another great resource is the book, I'm On LinkedIn, Now What?, by Jason Alba. This book can be found at Amazon.com.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Find Career Solutions By Taking Time to Process!

About six weeks ago, one of my career coaching clients took the leap of faith to work with me for three months. Treadmill3Ben (not his real name) had been feeling like a hamster on a treadmill as his head spun in circles trying to figure out what he wanted from a career, or even a job. All he really knew was that what he was doing now was eating him alive. A man of many talents, he couldn't decide what he wanted to do, where he wanted to do it, and how to become successful in his quest. He'd been spinning out of control for months.

Like so many floundering career change wannabees, Ben wrestled with mixed messages all around him. He gave me permission to share his struggle with you in the hope that others could more quickly overcome their own career barriers and make a satisfying career change. One exercise we did was to assess Ben's negative beliefs that have held him back. We all harbor assumptions based on personal past experience or external messages. Here is one of Ben's beliefs and how he processed through it:

Message: My background and experience aren't good enough to find the work I desire.

Source: Hiring managers pile on rejection letters following my job interviews that reinforce that I'm not good enough, that I lack something.

Assumption: I lack the right skills, or I'm not presenting them well enough.

Analysis: I know this is true because I haven't been able to find a job I enjoy. Also, I see the struggles of so many people trying to find work. And the media keeps saying that the economy and the job market are tough.

The Shift of Ben's Belief:

Is it productive to believe this? No, since this limits what I can do going forward.

What is more productive to believe? While my inability to find work may be blamed on the economy and glut of unemployed talent, it could be the result of my needing to learn new job search skills.

What is probable? That my beliefs are a combination of my unrealistic conclusions and the economy in general.

What is possible? I need to find ways to promote myself better, either through a better resume, networking, more nuanced job interview responses/techniques – or all of the above.

What models show me this is possible? I've seen other job seekers succeed at finding employment. Their preparation and dedication paid off.

What action can I take? Remind myself that I am not alone. Every time I receive a rejection letter, I know there are hundreds also receiving similar letters. Understand that the job search search process is a numbers game – I first have to collect my "no's" to get my one yes! And, I have to turn off the television and talk radio; instead, put myself only into positive learning environments.

Wow! And this was just one message! Ben had more to work through, but this one shows you how it is possible to create your own beliefs and not become a passive receptacle for the messages and pontificating around you. Don't get sucked into the prevailing head winds. Stand up and face your beliefs. You decide what you want to believe. The easy way out will not move you down the road to successful career transition. Quit blaming others and start seeking honest answers from within you. Take the necessary time to process. (Not widely known fact: for college graduates with experience, the unemployment rate is only 4.4% – so forget that 8.9%.)

What happened to Ben? Here are some sound clips from his email to me just this week:

"Meg – I think I may have had some sort of epiphany!"
"I started thinking about all of the big ideas from our previous coaching session…"
"The above will sound rambling and disjointed but this idea of [blank] is sticking for some reason."
"I also started thinking about potential applications."
"Anyway, I've been thinking about it a lot. We can discuss this more in depth during our next career coaching session. Just thought I would share." 

I just smiled. I so love it when my career coaching clients discover their "it." A05That's what makes my own career one I truly enjoy.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

A Career Lesson for 2012: Learn From Others’ Mistakes

Reading the article, "Six Tips from Your Future Self," started me thinking about the career lessons I've learned over the years. As a career coach, I now understand how experience is a teacher, but may also be a curse. Sometimes we become so rooted in our ways based on past experience that we fear taking the risk to go after something better or something more. Questions arise such as: What if I fail? What if I lose? What if I don't like "it" after I achieve it?

Let me share some of my personal career lessons so you may by-pass anything similar for your own career: Oops

Pain is too comfortable. It took me several years to learn this lesson. While one may hate their job, it is familiar, and therefore, offers comfort. Such a convoluted feeling! After falling into my first career (a career by default, not choice), I spent over five years trying to figure out how to get out of it. How I wish I'd had access to a career coach back then! The solution to my pain? Change jobs, but stay in the same field. I thought it was the employer I hated, but it was really the work I that I did. My first job in this career lasted nine years. Then I changed jobs twice inside of three years trying to find job satisfaction. Needless to say, this approach didn't work at all. With serious introspection and reflection, I finally began to plot my next move to go where I wanted to be, a process that took a couple of steps before I landed a solid job in my chosen career field.

Beware of blurting out what's on your mind. Oh, the innocence of youth! Yes, I learned to contribute ideas and such in teamwork situations, but inside the context of helping the project or mission succeed – never trashing the idea behind it. Unless you're the CEO, your vision for the company is just your opinion. If you're smart, you will be on the same page as your manager. If you operate from your own agenda instead of your company's, you will quickly get labeled a troublemaker and end up on the short list when it comes time for layoffs.

Respect for your boss is expected; he/she doesn't have to earn it. I'll never forget the day when I told the company president not to call me a girl. A "mature" 25-year-old, I was hung up on the stereotype between men and girls. I wanted to be treated as a woman, not a girl. The president hadn't said anything resembling gender harassment, but stupid me still had to point out that when he called the administrative pool "girls" he was being demeaning. Surprisingly, I held onto my job after that. I even got promoted. I realize now what a good leader he really was.

"Friends" at work are different from friends outside of work. No matter how close you feel to someone you work with, you can never completely trust them when it comes to your career. Maybe that's a bit cynical, but wherever competition is involved, I've learned that each person looks out for Number One first. I guess the true scoop here is that those with whom you work are never your family. The workplace is for improving your company's bottom line, not for building a safe haven for you. And what about dating someone with whom you work? Do so at your own peril!

Your career needs a plan to follow, similar to a business plan. Without a plan, you'll continue to leap at whatever presents itself as new and shiny – not necessarily smart and wholesome. Not too many people know which career position they want three years from now. But imagine if you did! Now you could be developing the necessary skills for that move; acquiring the knowledge you need to succeed in that role; networking with the right people to help you make a smooth transition.

I look back on my career and see it as choppy, at best. I know that making a move for money was not always the best strategy. While I learned a lot about life and work over the years, the only career move I truly made as a planned choice was the one to start my own business. It took me six months of research to confirm that my goal was achievable and good for me. Thirteen years later, I know it was the right move, too. Can you say the same about your current position?

If you're in your '20s, heed what I say here as you begin to design your career. If you're in your '30s or '40s, it's still not too late to shift career course. If you're in your '50s or '60s, you can still find that right career for you – many of us will be working into our '70s, or longer.

Wishing you career success in 2012! Happy New Year!

Meg

How to Answer Catch-22 Job Interview Questions

We've all been there – sitting uncomfortably in a face-to-face job interview struggling to answer a tough question. For example, "describe an area you're trying improve." Or, "tell me about the worst boss you've ever had." Yikes! How do you answer questions like those without incriminating yourself? Job interview 2Maybe it's time to hire a Career Coach to help you win at job interviewing.

Today's job interviews are all about situational and behavioral questions. Let's face it, you wouldn't be in the interview if you hadn't already met the basic qualifications for the job. Now, you're being scrutinized on your personality, teamwork abilities, "fit" for the company and position, and other difficult-to-assess character traits. (Hope you've done your homework on the company!)

The best single thing you can do to prepare for a job interview is to hone your storytelling skills. Let me explain. Employers invest a lot of money into the hiring process. To ensure that hiring you would be a good investment for them, they want to measure your job "stickiness." In other words, will you get along with co-workers and supervisors? Will you follow through with projects from cradle to grave? Will you become an asset to the company (or not)? Will you stay for a good amount of time before leaving them to go elsewhere? These will be the questions in their minds as employers verbally ask you tough questions. Employers need reassurance that they're making a sound financial decision in hiring you. You can help them do that by answering their questions not only with facts (the what), but also with examples (the how).

A common model to follow for your job interview stories is the "CAR" method. Respond to most questions with your answer followed by your words, "Let me tell you about a time when…" Back up your statements with real life stories. First, state the Challenge (or situation) that you faced. Next, discuss the Actions that you took. Finally, list the positive Results (or outcomes) of your actions. Be truthful, but never negative.

Even for those questions that beg for a negative answer, you can turn them around by using the CAR method. Choose examples (stories) that may have started out in negative territory, but end in a positive place. Of course, preparing for an interview in this fashion does take some time. But if do it, you will definitely bypass any possibility of incriminating yourself! This is where your Career Coach becomes an invaluable partner.

A colleague of mine, Randy Block, wrote a good article, "36 Tough Interview Questions," that can help you create your personal stories. Better yet, hire a Career Coach to help you master this process. Get the feedback and support you need as you prepare to get your next job.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg