She Asked Good Questions

What will be your legacy? Will it be attached to your career? Or will you have one?

Journalism lost one of its pioneers for women this past weekend, Helen Thomas, 92. She joined the White House Press Corps in the Kennedy administration and retired in 2010. She was the first female reporter to cover the President. Always with a lot of spunk and persistence, she prodded presidents to get responses to her questions. One time she had President Kennedy talking in circles – he didn't know how to wrap up his answer. With grace, she rose and said, "Thank you, Mr. President." With obvious relief, he replied, "Thank YOU, Helen," and quickly exited the stage.

Just before Helen's retirement, Ann Curry of NBC News, interviewed her about her long career with the White House Press Corps. One of Ann's pointed questions was, "Helen, what do you want to be remembered for?" Helen quickly replied, "She asked good questions."

Many people wander through life with no thought to what the world will be like once they're gone. Others spend time trying to make the world a better place than when they entered it. Which type of person are you? Your legacy doesn't have to be grandiose or larger than life. It can be as simple as dedication to recycling or planting a tree in a park. Those with larger ambitions may run for office to improve their city, or join nonprofit boards or foundations to help improve others' lives.

Some peopled just want to give their children a better life than what they had. They work all the time to build savings and acquire "things" to leave their kids. Others focus on enriching their children's lives with beauty, fine arts, and appreciation for all around them. Whether you teach by example, experience, or with textbooks, kids will get their values from you. Your values will become your legacy to your children.

Maybe now's the time to give some thought to your legacy. You still have time to build one. In the future, someone will stop at your gravesite or flip through a photo album or see a plaque with your name on it and remember you – what do you want them to say about your life? As for me, being a career coach, I'd love to have people remember me by saying, "She asked good questions."

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Networking for Life – Do You Do It?

Today Joan called me in a panic. The job she's been happy in for the past two years is coming to an end due to company restructuring. I had coached Joan for several months to help her land this position after she'd been laid off the last time. She worked so hard to get it, and now she's going to have to hit the pavement again. It's so unfair! What makes the situation particularly painful is that Joan did not maintain her network of contacts once she accepted her current position. She thinks she knows where some of these people are, but will have to do some legwork to reestablish all her connections. This process will slow down her job search considerably.

With the average stay on a job now less than three years, it is critical to build and nurture a strong
Networkingprofessional network for the life of your career.
Stay in touch with people through occasional emails, greeting cards, and phone calls. Go out to lunch once in awhile. Don't end up like Joan – out of work one more time and having to start from scratch to rebuild your network. You are the only one responsible for your job security; you cannot afford to stop networking just because you get a new job. Jobs are transitory and will not last forever. Focus on the relationships you build to bridge you from one job to the next.

We're heading into the holiday season where more opportunities for networking present themselves. Please take advantage of these. Don't just party – build personal relationships! Even if you're not in the market to change jobs, broaden your knowledge base about what career opportunities exist. You never know when you'll need a little help from your friends.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

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

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

Your Career: What Do You REALLY Want?

"I hate my job." How many times have you said this? Do you know why? Like many, you may have a career by default instead of by choice. You know what I mean – a career you fell into right out of college, a career that you've grown by expanding your skills without passion. Or maybe it's a "job du jour," one that you're doing this year, didn't do in 2010, and hopefully, won't have to do in 2012.

I know, the economy is tough right now; new jobs aren't easy to get. But guess what – if you love what you do (and are good at it), you'll move from one company to another with ease as your personality shines through during your job interview. Attitude does matter, and is quickly discerned by hiring authorities. If you are looking for just a job, any job, interviewers will see right through you and choose a little less qualified candidate who shows enthusiasm and energy! No kidding – best skilled doesn't always win.

The big question isn't how do you get a job. No, the big question is this: What do you REALLY want? Most people find it much easier to say what they hate than what they like – does that ring true for you? The only way to get closer to naming what you want is to eliminate all the "hates" off of the table. Make a list and then throw it out the door, burn it, or whatever you need to do to get it out of your way so you can once and for all name "IT," own "IT," and get "IT!"

WHAT YOU HATE is addressed during the first week of the career coaching program, "Now What? 90 Days to a A03New Life Direction." As an Authorized Facilitator for this program created by Laura Berman Fortgang, MCC, I can tell you that it works! If you'd like to learn more about it, visit my Now What? web page. Be sure to download and take the quick quiz to determine your eligibility for this program - how many of items did you check off?

Make 2012 the year you decide to take a risk and go for a career change. When you follow the right process, you'll surprise yourself at what you discover about your career must-haves for your career satisfaction.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Movies Teach Career Lessons

This past week I posted on how communication gaps lead to misunderstandings with bosses. I got my inspiration from the newly released movie, "Horrible Bosses" – "Horrible Bosses Strikes a Nerve."

Today I'd like to shine the spotlight on one of my posts from 2009, "Julie and Julia": A Script for Career Transition." This movie depicts the story of how a modern-day character starts a blog about her experience as she cooks her way through Julia Child's cookbook over the course of one year.

My fleeting thought is that movies can teach career lessons by imitating life. Now, I'm on the search for more movies to review from the perspective of a careerist!

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Remembering Mom’s Green Mashed Potatoes

When I was a child, I always anticipated St. Patrick's Day with the wonder of what my Irish mother would do this year to help us celebrate. Sitting down to a hearty farm breakfast, I'd begin my day listening to the Irish folk songs she had playing on the radio. Of course, she sent us all to school wearing something green with a shamrock pinned to each of our collars.

The most fun of the day was at dinner when she'd serve green mashed potatoes. Just a drop of green food coloring made the dish festive. Of course, Dad, a third generation farmer of Dutch descent, would shake his head and ask, "Where's the meat?" Usually the serious parent, his sense of humor often lacked the spontaneity of Mom's, although he did surprise us on occasion.

Mom made each holiday special and memorable. Most were celebrated in traditional ways: Easter baskets fullMargery-1945   of eggs and candy, Santa Claus and the Christmas tree with lots of presents, and Independence Day with flags and stories about her WWII service in the U.S. Navy. One April Fool's Day she sewed the tableware to the tablecloth. I won't even repeat what Dad said about that!

So, you say, what do my mother's holiday celebrations have to do with careers or job search?

More than these happy childhood memories, these fun times will always remain precious as I recall what Mom did with her life for us and my father, the husband she dearly loved. Marrying at 28, she gave up her teaching career to become a farm housewife, making a commitment to a new way of life. Yes, she chose this new life, but it's important to acknowledge the many changes she had to make – from baking bread to tending chickens to growing fresh vegetables in a big garden.

I see her holiday celebrations as one of her ways of maintaining her personal identity and not letting herself become lost in this different culture. When Dad was struck down at the age of 51 with a series of strokes and heart attacks that caused permanent disability, Mom returned to her teaching career to keep the family going. Always adapting and changing, she taught me the importance of being flexible in my life and my work. She also taught me that a woman CAN do it all: have a career AND have a family.

Lessons are here for all job seekers and careerists:

  • Don't fear the unknown.
  • Keep your eyes open for opportunities that can enrich your life and give it meaning.
  • There is no good reason to stay year after year in a job you hate – get proactive!
  • Find that career that lets you work from your life's purpose.

Thanks, Mom, for the life and career lessons you taught me!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Meg 

Employer Curiosity vs. Personal Privacy – Who Wins?

OK, folks, it's time for me to rant again. Sometimes a bubble rises to the top and just has to burst! I'd love your comments on this topic that I'm raising today.

In order to get a job, should you have to surrender your personal privacy? Where is the line drawn between what a potential employer wants to know and what you, the candidate, must tell them?

Certain rights are protected (supposedly) under current equal employment laws – such as those related to race, sex, marital status, and disability. However, we all know of the exceptions when those "rights" weren't respected. For example, the young woman wearing a wedding ring being drawn into a conversation about childcare. Or the man with a limp asked to explain the reasons why he left his last employer so long ago – due to a workman's compensation injury.

Most recently, unemployment status and personal credit checks have been exposed as common barriers to new employment. Help wanted postings have been seen blatantly stating, "Unemployed need not apply," while candidates lucky enough to get job offers must agree to credit checks before starting work. Of course, credit problems due to no job/no money situations have had adverse effects on credit reports that can lower the axe on job offers.

An article I read today ("Officer forced to reveal Facebook page") really takes the cake! As part of the jobFacebook_favicon_large_2_bigger application process, an individual was asked to provide his Facebook page along with login and password! Are you kidding me? Why not ask for all his emails, text messages, and birthday cards from grandma? What this tells me is that employers who do this are unwilling to assume any risk in hiring employees. They want ironclad guarantees that they have control over the actions of those who work for them. If this doesn't tell workers that there is no loyalty left from employers, I don't know what will. (In the interest of full disclosure, this employer did back down on its request.)

Sure, not all employers have gone this far, but actions like these fuel the feelings of workers who are ready to jump ship as soon as the economy shapes up. But why wait? If you are a skilled and talented worker with a solid career history, there are employers who want you now. I urge you to take charge of your own career and not wait on the economy; and especially, don't wait for any employer to make your decision for you.

Wishing you career success in 2011! (And continue your vigilance over digital dirt!)

Meg

Career Strategy for Grads: What’s Your Plan B?

For many people, careers by default have guided their lives. What's this? "Having no plan or road map for what you want to do in your life." This process gets kick-started in college when you feel pressured into choosing your major. The pressure may come from parents, peers, or the college counselor – even from inside you. No matter where it comes from, you find yourself facing a decision that you may not be ready to make. So what do you do? You choose anything – just anything – so that you may finish your coursework and get on with your life. Sound familiar?

After graduation, more decisions need to be made. What kind of job can you get with your degree? OMG! The jobs in your field have gone away while you were studying. Now what? Either you move back home with your parents, or you bunk with friends also doing a job search while you all work in fast food restaurants, retail sales, or if you're lucky, entry level office jobs. What happened? Why isn't your life turning into the great experience you were promised in your teens? (Another option is to return to school – but do you really want more debt?)

"If only" becomes your cry – if only I'd given my career choice more thought; if only I'd researched career options before choosing my major; if only I'd paid more attention to what I really enjoy doing – who knows? I may not have even gone to college at all, but studied while working in some kind trade instead.

I remember in high school when my mother (a former high school teacher) advised me to take a semester of typing even though I planned on getting a bachelor's degree. Honestly, typing really didn't appeal to me, but like a good first child, I listened and followed her advice. Today I look back and realize how important that one semester of typing has been to my entire career. In my first full time job I used typing and have relied on my keyboard skills ever since to manage whatever tasks that my jobs dictated. For me, typing was my Plan B. Today it is my tool for facilitating all my other skills and talents.Plan B

What is your Plan B?

If your career isn't quite working out right now, do you have a backup plan to go to? Even it's just a part time job, it's important to have something to supplement your living expenses while you continue to pursue your dreams. Sometimes a Plan B is your current position while you work on defining and exploring a career change. After all, you have to eat, right? If you're not working at all, what can be your Plan B? Perhaps something as simple as selling your services for cleaning houses, walking dogs, building websites, or even acting as a companion for an elderly neighbor.

The ideal Plan B job will be a temporary, short lived thing. It needs to help you survive while you make the transition into your chosen career, a career where you achieve your goals and meet your working wants. And a Plan B doesn't have to be job itself, it can be a skill you utilize while holding down a job.

What's most important here is that you do have options. What do you choose for your first – or next – career? What kind of Plan B can you come up with to give you the time to get what you really want?

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career Digital Launches Huge Career Site

I am so proud to be an affiliate of Career Digital, a new online site featuring "Career Insights and Advice," a comprehensive compilation of blog posts by today's careers experts. Offering all of the important categories for CareerDigitallogo job seekers and careerists, this site will help you conduct your job search and manage your career. 

With navigation ease, you may search by pertinent topic and get linked to careers experts blogs. Headlines clue you in to the information each blog post presents. No need to look further – now you may find answers to all you career questions in one place.

Career Digital launches today! Do yourself a favor and check it out!

You may even search the site from this blog! Just scroll down a bit.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg