Career Coaching: Go from Painful Job to Joyous Career

Today many people find themselves working harder and longer with less personal satisfaction and little or no recognition for their Achieve work life balance with career coachingcontributions. How did we get to this place? If work is a ‘necessary evil,’ does it have to be emotionally painful? Does it have to be so totally life consuming that we lose our souls, the very essence of who we really are? One such lost soul contacted me for career coaching.

Karen was caught in a trap of working 60-70 hours per week and had been stuck in this rut for months. She was a technical writer employed by a large corporation, a corporation undergoing restructuring that involved downsizing and elimination of thousands of jobs. Karen didn’t want to lose her job, too. With a journalism degree, she had built her 20-year career in business communications. She had been happy for most of those years, but now it was different. Work was dominating her life. She was always tired and seldom had time for her husband who worried about her, missed her companionship, and pleaded with her to quit the insanity of giving her life away to her company. When Karen contacted me, she wasn’t clear about whether she wanted to ‘fix’ her current employment situation or find a new career path. What she did know, though, was that she couldn’t continue in her current state of being.

Karen came to our first career coaching session a bit unsure of what to expect and what would be expected from her. As I do with all my clients, we spent our initial time together in conversation getting to know each other better. We were laying the foundation for our career coaching relationship, a relationship that had to be based on trust and open communication in order to best benefit Karen.

Karen stated that her immediate goal was to understand herself better in order to help her determine how she could cut back on all those long hours she worked. She agreed to do introspective work on clarifying her values, defining her motivators for working, and assessing her complete repertoire of skills. With this kind of focused observation she could start to figure out how to change her life into one filled with career satisfaction – one offering a healthy balance between enjoyable work and her personal life.

“I believe this introspection was one of the key factors that helped me realize aspects about myself that I hadn’t thought about in many years, and certainly hadn’t thought about in relation to my work,” said Karen. “I also learned which communication style was most comfortable for me and the key role it plays in my career success.”

“Meg and I met for 45-minute phone sessions once a week for about three months. She was always there when I called. Her focus was completely on our conversation during every single meeting and she was able to hear clearly what I had to say. Meg listened and I talked and she asked all the right questions. It was astounding how quickly we became acquainted and how thoroughly she understood my situation in such a short time. She was always there for me and that was a great comfort,” said Karen.

Karen was very willing to do fieldwork between our career coaching sessions knowing that with ongoing concentration she could more quickly achieve her goals. Once she understood her values and how they didn’t align with her current company’s culture, she then defined her motivators and decided she was no longer driven to continue the extended work hours. Finally, she was ready to inventory her skills to see which ones she might be under-utilizing. This is when the ‘dream job’ exercise entered the scene and Karen got really stuck.

Career Coaching moves you forward!“Meg asked me to complete the assignment of creating my personal dream job – anything I wanted to do. The assignment required details about my daily schedule for one week including with whom I ate lunch, what meetings I attended, what awards I won – every detail. I just couldn’t do it! There was no part of any job I could think of that I wanted to pursue, so I decided to write a weekly schedule around all the things I wanted to do outside of work. That consisted of my exercise classes, yoga, walking, and writing. I was actually very discouraged at this point. I just couldn’t think of any job I wanted to do,” lamented Karen.

Karen came to our next career coaching session a bit dejected and frustrated with what she felt was her failure to complete the fieldwork. As we started to discuss her ‘dream job,’ I asked Karen key questions to help her look at her feelings and jump-start her creativity about what an ideal job would be like for her. I stated that I noticed a pattern in her written assignment and asked her what she saw.

“I don’t see anything,” Karen cried. “I couldn’t write about any job I’d like to do so I wrote about the fun things I like to do.” I asked Karen to look closer at what she wrote. What was she not seeing? All of a sudden I sensed the light bulb go on, all the way through the phone line. “I could be a personal trainer!” screamed Karen. “But that would be fun. You mean I could do the things I love and get paid for it?”

What a novel thought! “I had so equated pain with work that it was truly hard to accept the idea at first. I can still remember the ‘aha’ moment and how excited I was,” said Karen since then. Being the career coach, I asked her to test her idea by processing it through the business reality filter. Would it meet her income requirements? Would it satisfy her career goals? How could she make her dream job real?

“I did fieldwork that confirmed that being a personal trainer was a viable option for me,” said Karen. “Not only could I help people with their fitness goals, but I could also utilize my writing talents by writing fitness articles for magazines and assist health clubs with their newsletters. I couldn’t be happier, but this was really ‘out of the box’ for someone who had worked in Corporate America for 20 years. I had no official experience, only the years I’d devoted to physical exercising on my own. Meg helped me work through my initial doubts that something so wonderful could really be a profession that I could successfully pursue.”

Karen and I completed our career coaching about a year ago. Since then she has accepted a severance package from her employer as her department finally got caught in the layoff frenzy. “I felt so guilty about being happy while all my co-workers were hurting and not knowing what to do about getting new jobs. I had already begun my Personal Trainer studies,” said Karen. “My severance package was a bonus as I’d already decided to give notice soon and start working toward my new career.”

A few months ago Karen contacted me to celebrate passing her certification test. She is now a Personal Trainer happily employed in a fitness center. Only a few years just shy of 50, she doesn’t fit the profile of the typical beginner in her field. However, Karen sees her age as an asset in working with her preferred clientele – women over 50 who are trying to get into physical shape. She loves her work and advises everyone to find a way to work their passion as she has done.

“Life is too short to waste it in a job that causes stress and frustration. I now have time for my husband and we enjoy traveling on the weekends instead of going into the office to catch up on last week’s workload. Furthermore, I come home happy during the week with a sense of inner peace in my heart,” says Karen.

“My career coaching experience was nothing short of life changing. I never expected this kind of result. My career coach guided me to my new career path with kindness and thoughtfulness. Meg heard things that I never knew I said, and she would repeat them for me. This allowed me to find my way to this new career on very solid ground. I knew the minute I discovered Personal Training it was really the place for me. I truly don’t believe I could have ever found this place for myself without career coaching,” says Karen with a smile.

No more a lost soul, Karen has found the secret to a fulfilling career. As an Executive Career Coach, so have I.

Wishing you career success in 2018!

Meg

What a Career Coach Can Do For You

perfectjob_12Coaching is a cutting edge method for professional self-improvement. For years, athletes have had coaches, actors have had coaches, singers have had coaches…and you, too, can have a coach, a trained career professional to support your career development. With a career coach, you can discover what it would take to work in your career of choice, advance in your current position, or manage your career in the best way.

Coaching is all about facilitating change and transformation. In today’s workplace, change is the norm, as well as the challenge we must conquer to be successful. A career coach will help you determine what it would take to make change your ally. Coaching is a process driven by you. You decide whether you want to be challenged and held accountable by your coach, or gently nudged and asked curious questions. You decide what it would take to create your action plan and then follow it. Successful coaching depends upon your commitment to the process. As in any activity, you will have to do the work; your coach can only light the path to help you find your way.

Coaching is a skill, a craft, an art…a way of life. The best coaches don’t turn it on and off. They live coaching in all aspects of their lives. More than something one does, a coach is one who is. It may sound a bit corny, but I believe coaching creates a third space where coach and coachee can learn, trust and grow in the truth of now and the hope of the future. Real-life goals get accomplished, if that is what you want to do.

What would it take for you to experience the joy of coaching? What would it take for you to hire a career coach and reap the rewards from having someone there just for you…to cheer you on to career success? No more need to dump your stuff on your partner or spouse. Your coach will take on that burden for you.

Most coaching is done by phone. You call the coach at a regularly scheduled time, usually weekly. Fieldwork assignments between sessions are usually offered by your coach to enhance your learning. Sounds simple? No, not really. It takes a lot of work – but you can do it!

Are you ready to take the plunge? Are you ready to try coaching to boost your career success? Then first find a career coach that is a good fit for you. Check out credentials, experience and recommendations of at least three coaches before choosing one. Three seems to be the magic number – if you interview too many coaches, it will become difficult to keep them all straight. While coach evaluation is important, don’t get hung up on finding the perfect coach. There is no such individual. Learn to trust your gut or intuition a bit. All in all, most coaches are sincere, so the “fit” is probably the most important criteria for you. If a coach is experienced, they will also be looking for the right “fit” with a coachee. Who do you feel is the best fit for you? Whom can you trust?

Finally, remember the old saying, “No pain, no gain.” The coaching journey can become tedious as well as uplifting. It can become painful as well as rewarding. Whatever you do, stick with it! Discuss any doubts you have with your coach. Change won’t happen unless you really want it and do everything you can to make it happen. Just do it! You’ll be so glad you did.

Wishing you career success in 2018!

Meg

Good Questions Enhance Communication – How?

What good questions do you ask? Questions can be powerful, especially open-ended questions starting with what or how and sometimes a non-intimidating why. Coupled with focused listening, you have here the tools for mastering the art of communication.

Let's establish that in most situations questions will produce better responses than commands. Try this with your teenager and you may be surprised. "What time will you be home?" will usually get better results than, "Remember, your curfew is 11 p.m." If your child tries to test you with a reply of time beyond his/her curfew, then you can always step in with the reminder. Just give him/her the opportunity to communicate with you.

In the workplace, how many times have you asked your boss questions that could be answered with yes or no? Did you get a helpful reply, or one needing more discussion? Perhaps you would have received more complete information if you'd asked what or how? Take a moment and ponder this point. How can you reword a question to start with what or how?

In a job interview, which questions produce better responses from you – those beginning with what, how, and why, or those easily answered with yes or no? Do you feel like you're leaving the response incomplete unless you add additional information? Notice how more comprehensive your response becomes when you're asked a what, how, or why question. Which kind makes you more memorable to the interviewer?

There is an art to asking good questions. One tip is to put yourself in the responder's shoes. How will they feel after answering your question? Hopefully, they'll feel comfortable and willing to continue communicating with you.

The next time you want information from someone, ask the what or how question with respect for the responder in mind. Give it a try! Be mindful of your results and fine tune your future questions. For more information on this topic, check out, "The Art of Asking Questions," on the HBR Blog Network.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Job Interviewing: Positive Spin or Just Plain Lies?

After a very long Presidential campaign, it's fair to say that we're all tired of political ads, debates, lawn signs, and "news" programs focused on the election and candidates. More than anything, I'm tired of all the different versions of the "truth" cast about by those fighting to win. How could any of us discern the "real" truth amidst all the contentious babble? I know I struggled, but I did vote.

"Why You Need to Run Your Job Search Like a Presidential Campaign,"  an article published by by Andrea Murad at FOXBusiness on Election Day (November 06, 2012), got me thinking about how the campaign was more than just a job search – it was a very long job interview. Have you ever had those job interviews that go on for weeks where you have maybe six or more interviews with individuals, committees, and then individuals again? At the end of the ordeal, do you even still want the job?

After so many job interviews for the same position, you may begin to wonder if you told each interviewer

Perfectjob_12 the same version of why you wanted to leave your current employer – why you wanted this particular job – why you were more qualified than your competition. Or do you begin to reflect on what you said at different times and hope you didn't contradict yourself? Everyone wants to create the best possible impression when interviewing for a job. But there is a fine line between positive spin and just plain lying.

When asked why you're leaving your current employer, it's fair to say that you want a job or career change where you can build on new skills you've developed. What you don't want to say is that your current boss holds you back and refuses to give you new responsibilities, although you've acquired new skills. Never blame your boss for anything, even if true in your own mind! It's not a lie to omit this information from your reason for leaving. In other words, give your reason a positive spin focused on you, not a negative one that shows your stressed relationship with your boss.

So what is classified as a job interview lie? If you claim to have graduated from college when you've completed 120 credit hours, but not actually graduated, that IS a lie. Just as political candidates are fact-checked for their claims, you will also be. College graduation is easy to check, so don't put yourself in that position. Instead, in a job interview, explain why your combined college courses and life/work experience exceed the qualification of college graduation. Sometimes that will work!

Another easy-to-check fact regards your references. Accept that your references WILL be checked, so don't ever lie about knowing someone you don't. Furthermore, ask your references permission to list them and send them a copy of your resume so that they can feel more at ease with your potential employers when discussing why they support you.

Job interviewing is an art based on facts. If called for an interview, go – even if you have mixed feelings about the job. Yes, you need lots of practice, but more than that, how can you really know anything about a job until you've spoken with a hiring authority at that company? You may surpise youself and get an offer when you don't feel the stress of dearly wanting this particular job!

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Your Career: Have You Reached Its Final Frontier?

Astronaut Neil Armstrong died last week. He will always be remembered as the first man to walk on the moon, saying as he did it for all posterity, "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." I vividly
Moon landing recall that day in July 1969, as do most of the Boomer generation. We were glued in awe to our TVs, some of us still watching black and white sets. What a day! If a man could walk on the moon, then anything was possible! The event filled me with hope and anticipation as I looked forward to my first year in college and the launch of my career. As most high school graduates then, and even many today, I had no inkling that my first career wouldn't be my only career. It's taken years for me to comprehend that career paths are meant to change.

Interestingly, career change correlates to space exploration. Like for those involved with many of NASA's projects, we have to patiently persevere and let the change process evolve, accepting things that can make us say in doubt, "Yeah, but…" If we try to rush it, chances are we'll fall into a career by default instead of by choice. Many names of NASA's space vehicles iterate major steps of career change, the most current being Curiosity.

Curiosity

Forty years after the first moon landing, NASA continues space exploration – this time with a robot on Mars. Launched in November 2011, the Mars Rover, "Curiosity," landed perfectly on the "red planet" on August 5, 2012. Just imagine it, over eight months to travel from Earth to Mars. Once again, I was awestruck at the grandeur of this event that led me to reminisce about the moon landing.

In changing careers, eight months isn't an outlandish time. Some career changers can accomplish the process in as little as three months, while for others, it might take up to a year. Influencing the time factor are one's commitment to the process and the actual hours available to invest. Most of my career change clients reach their goals in three to four months with my career coaching assistance, motivating and cheering them along.

Exploration

The first U.S. satellite, "Explorer 1," launched in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik. Look how far the U.S. went in space exploration in the eleven years before man's walk on the moon!

In career change, curiosity leads to exploration of options and possibilities. Questions get asked and with the right focus, answers are found. Once you see a few career possibilities, it's time to explore their viability for you. At this stage, the career change process involves a lot of research, talking to people who actually work in jobs that you are considering for yourself. Consider the information you receive; what matches your life's purpose and your core values?

Discovery

In the 1990s, NASA's space shuttle, "Discovery," busily carried communication satellites to various space destinations to facilitate man's deeper exploration of the space frontier. This exploration led to many discoveries that contributed to more than the just the satisfaction of man's curiosity. Scientific discoveries built on each other, paving the path for greater things to come.

As you choose a new career following your research and testing, I hope you accept that this career may not be your last. Most people will change careers several times in their life. Instead of looking at it as your final career, do the mapping to build on this career so it can lead you to even bigger and better career opportunities.

Summary

Just as the NASA space program has endured major budget cuts and accepted private industry into the realm of space exploration, periodic layoffs will occur in the workforce and careers will continue to evolve or become extinct. (Does anybody remember a keypunch operator?) One thing is true about change of all kinds – it happens – change is a constant of life. When you are able to embrace change and rebound from it in your career, you will be better prepared for whatever the future may hold for you. Parts of the career change process you can direct, but there is plenty beyond your control.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

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)

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

Top Five Ways to Enjoy a Giftless Christmas

Wondering where to find your Christmas cheer this year? For those on a fixed income, or no income at all, this season can be difficult, to say the least. Too many in our country are still unemployed, though there are a  few signs of that changing in 2012. With no office party or gifts under a tree, it's easy to slip into a Grinch-like mood. But you don't have to! There are many ways to give of yourself instead of store-bought presents. Find a couple of ideas that fit you and go through the holidays with a smile on your face!Xmas.gifts It is important to give to feel good about yourself.

Spread Christmas cheer by:

1) Volunteering to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Converse with someone who is also facing hard times. You may even see that you have much to be happy about.

2) Creating your own gifts for loved ones and friends. Home-baked goodies are a treat that adults and kids alike will appreciate. What else could you make?

3) Giving handmade gift certificates for services you can perform. Lawn care, babysitting, car washing – what else can you do?

4) Hosting a potluck party for family and friends. Ask everyone to bring a dish to share. Spend the evening singing carols, playing board games, or watching vintage Christmas movies.

5) Inviting friends to drop off their kids for an old fashioned tree trimming party while the adults dash out for their last-minute shopping. Provide popcorn and cranberries to string into ropes and supervise cookie decorating.

I'm sure I've left out some good ideas – what are they? Please leave your comments below to help everyone have a Merry Christmas!

Wishing you career success in 2021!

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

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

Don’t Have a Mentor? Why You Need One!

Each of my new career coaching clients is asked a question on the enrollment questionnaire, "Do you have a mentor (or role model)? If so, who?" We all need inspiration to be successful, especially in this crazy work environment. However, most of my new clients don't have a mentor. Do you? Many answer that question by naming a parent, sibling, or friend. That's OK, but did that person really inspire you in your work? That's what a true mentor can do.

If unable to answer the mentor question, I suggest to my career coaching clients that they research biographies and autobiographies of successful people, particularly in their fields. It is possible to glean "mentor-esque" inspiration from reading about accomplished individuals, and applying that inspiration to your own life and career.

One creative, brilliant person that most would happily call a mentor left us this past week. Steve Jobs A lot of glowing information has been written, spoken, and broadcast about Steve Jobs. And all of it is rightfully justified. He was thoughtful enough to produce his biography which is due for release in a few weeks. But even without that, you may learn a lot about him just by researching on the Web. I recommend that college students, as well as all others, spend some time learning about the life and gifts of Steve Jobs. Here is your "mentor" for almost any career.

Perhaps what has impressed me the most is what Jobs said in his commencement address to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. At that time, he knew his life would not be as long as most, so he used his address to inspire young adults to make best use of their own lives. He encouraged them to discover the career that made them happiest as that is the only way to go through life – living your dream. His bottom line was, "Don't settle." These words are simple, yet so powerful! Watch this speech for yourself that is posted by author, Daniel Pink, on his blog.

Don't get to the end of your life, or even retirement, and feel you lacked the will power, direction, or whatever it was to allow yourself to be able to work your passion. Yes, money is important, but most of the time you can find a way to follow your dreams after they filter through a business reality.

Now that we've entered Fall season, it's a time to start making career plans for 2012. What big career dream do you have that has gone by the wayside? Or is it that you just can't come up with any great dream at all? Start with a career coach to discover and clarify, then move forward with a mentor who can give you long-time support as you shift career gears and reclaim your career passion!

Wishing you career success now and in 2012!

Meg

Is Your Career Canvass a Triptych?

During the first weekend in August, I visited Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to see the Impressionist painter Claude Monet's triptych painting, "Water Lilies." Monet While Kansas City has hosted 1/3 of this masterpiece for many years, the other two panels have each resided, respectively, in Cleveland, OH and St. Louis, MO. This was the first time in 30 years that all three panels were brought together for a unified viewing. As a big fan of Monet's work, how moving and exhilarating it was to see this in person! For those who have not seen the Water Lilies painting, I suggest you visit the Nelson's website to get a vague idea of what you're missing: http://bit.ly/i5Br4U.

For me, this was also the first time that I'd encountered the word, triptych. As a resume writer wordsmith, I am always intrigued by any new word. When I researched its definition, I saw how this word could also be applied to the job search process. Let me explain.

Wikopedia defines triptych as the following: "A triptych is a work of art (usually a panel painting) which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and folded." Each panel can stand alone, but when connected, they will provide a more powerful and enhanced expression.

When you consider a successul job search, it normally consists of three main components: 1) clarifying your job goal, 2) writing your resume, 3) interviewing for the right position. Of course, several other activities figure into the process: seeking job opportunities, networking with key players, completing job applications, researching companies, and more. But at its core, the job search process is incomplete if one of its three main components is missing. And like the triptych, each of these components is a stand-alone on which the other two hinge.

The take away here? The next time you sit in front of an artistic masterpiece contemplating life, listen to your heart as it reflects your thoughts and feelings about everyday life. It's not always about what's in your brain that matters most.

Hugs and wishes for your career success in 2011!

Meg

5 Tips for Fighting Summer Job Search Blues

Phew! Another hot day in Kansas City – when will this heat wave end? It's exhausting, boring, and keeps me from doing the outdoor activities that I enjoy in the summer, like going to Starlight Theatre in the park.Summer fun

Perhaps you're feeling the same way right now about your job search? Depending upon how long you've been looking for that next opportunity, you could be approaching burnout similar to what an employee feels when he's overworked and under-appreciated. But now is not the time to give up! Instead, challenge yourself to stay motivated by using new and different ways to conduct your search. In other words, make it fun!

Here are five tips to help:

1) Got a buddy? Job search can be a lonely, thankless activity. If you can share it with a buddy, you'll find the process less tedious. Schedule a regular weekly time to connect with your friend. Listen and encourage him as he recounts his successes or drags his feet on completing his self-made commitments. You'll find that when he returns this favor for you, you'll perk up and feel renewed in your own commitment. Maybe a few email check-ins between you during the week can further your progress.

2) Got a smartphone? Add your job search activities to your I-phone. Besides accessing your email, you can do your online networking with the device. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – all have download-able apps for your phone. Now you can join your friends at the beach, go on a hike, or take your kids to the zoo. Stay in touch with the online piece of your job search while not missing out on all the summer fun!

3) Got a clear career goal? After awhile, job goals can get fuzzy. When discouraged, you may begin to doubt your own intentions. Stop it! Just because you're not landing on your feet as quickly as you'd anticipated or planned, it doesn't mean that you were wrong in choosing your original goal. It does take longer these days to get a new job. Circumstances abound as to why. Maybe it's you, but more likely, it's the tough bottom-line mentality that companies adhere to due to the economic climate that we all live in. Do a little soul searching to confirm your reasons for choosing this goal. Chances are you will still come up with the same thing. 

4) Got a job search plan? I know, it doesn't sound too sexy, but it's mandatory for tracking all your job search activities. Be thorough in recording the who, what, when, and where of networking contacts, job interviews and job inquiries. Then you'll be able to know when it's OK to check back with someone without becoming a pest. Maybe this is not as easy to make fun as other ideas, but consider it critical to staying on course with your job search process. Try to turn it into a game.

5) Got a career coach? Besides being a professional cheerleader for you, a coach will gently push you 009 forward to meet your goals in a timely fashion. She serves as your careers resource, your brainstorming partner, your co-designer of job search action steps – always there to support you, give you insight, and help you stay accountable to yourself for doing what you say you want to do. Your career coach works with you to paint a vision of what you can become and accomplish. She will always be on YOUR side, no matter how the world tries to treat you. And, a career coach shares your pain, your tears, and your laughs. She really cares!

Now, get up off that couch, turn off the television, and find that job search buddy! Get your job search organized with a clear goal, an action plan, and a way to track your progress. Finally, hire a career coach! Make this process easier for YOU so you can become successful and find the next best thing for your career.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Please follow our hash-tag on Twitter – #careercollective – as well as follow each expert's individual tweet on this month's topic of "Mid-Year Job-Search Checkup." You'll be amazed at all the free career advice and knowledge that is available to you from these professionals in the careers field!

4 Summer Strategies to Step Up Your Job Search, @DebraWheatman, #CareerCollective

Putting Your Job Search Up On The Rack For Inspection, @dawnrasmussen, #CareerCollective

Mid-Year Job Search Checkup: Are you wasting your time? @GayleHoward, #CareerCollective

What is your unique value proposition? @keppie_careers, #CareerCollective

It is Time for Your Check-up Ms/Mr Jobseeker, @careersherpa, #CareerCollective

Mid-Year Career Checkup: Are You "On Your Game?" @KatCareerGal, #CareerCollective

How to Perform a Mid-Year Job Search Checkup, @heatherhuhman, #CareerCollective

Reposition your job search for success, @LaurieBerenson, #CareerCollective

Mid-Year Job Search Checkup: What's working and What's not? @erinkennedycprw, #CareerCollective

Mid-Year Job Search Check-Up: Getting Un-Stuck, @JobHuntOrg, #CareerCollective

Mid-Year Check Up: The Full 360, @WalterAkana, #CareerCollective

5 Tips for Fighting Summer Job Search Blues, @KCCareerCoach, #CareerCollective

Are you positive about your job search? @DawnBugni, #CareerCollective

Where Are The Jobs? @MartinBuckland, @EliteResumes, #CareerCollective

Mid-Year Job-Search Checkup: Get Your Juices Flowing, @ValueIntoWords, #CareerCollective

When Was Your Last Career & Job Search Check Up? @expatcoachmegan, #CareerCollective

Is Summer A Job Search Momentum Killer? @TimsStrategy, #CareerCollective

Is It Time for Your Resume Checkup? @barbarasafani, #CareerCollective

“Horrible Bosses” Strikes a Nerve

Have YOU ever had a "horrible boss?"Almost half of all workers have according to a new OfficeTeam survey as pointed out today by Diane Stafford, the Kansas City Star's careers and business columnist, in her article, "Bad Bosses: Nothing to Laugh About." This number makes sense when you look at how many media outletsBad boss  and blogs are publishing "bad boss" articles as the movie, "Horrible Bosses," is released to the general public this week. Besides the Kansas City Star, I've seen commentary on this subject on MSNBC.com, ABC.com, DailyFinance.com, Complex.com (blog), and more.

I can honestly say that I, too, have experience working for a horrible boss – a demanding, demeaning, tyrannical person. But I want to play devil's advocate today. I think it's only fair to walk in a boss's shoes for awhile before casting judgment on so many.

In the present workplace environment influenced by current economic conditions, it takes a lot of skill, poise, and savoir faire to keep a team of disgruntled, tired, and sometimes bored subordinates engaged and productive. Many of these employees are feeling overworked and underpaid before even considering how they feel about their boss. All kinds of surveys have reported that most workers would jump ship if they had a ship to jump to. Furthermore, the boss himself (or herself) may feel the same way about their own jobs, but because they're the boss, they have to follow "mum's the word" on sharing their true feelings.

For example, "bottom line results" is the number one goal in most companies these days. Bosses get leaned on pretty hard by their own bosses – all the way up the line – to squeeze every bit of work out of each person under them. "Do more with less" is the motto of most companies. That kind of pressure can create a lot of stress for a boss. Do you think they enjoy making their people unhappy – really?

Routinely, I have career coaching clients complain to me about their bosses. Some are fearful that they will be terminated based on their boss's behavior toward them. However, most of the time I've seen my clients find some inner peace once they address communication gaps with their bosses. Just yesterday a client confided that she and her boss had a total breakdown in communication over a new, simple procedure involving the use of email to notify outside sources of a situation. An entire procedure had been devised to accommodate this new policy. My client approached the implementation as she always does, using an analytical and logical processing method. On the other hand, her boss's main concern was, "How will this new procedure be regarded by the email recipients?" Bam! Left brain met right brain, a head-on collision. Neither knew how to proceed from their position.

Communication is the real key to success in the workplace, especially when you sprinkle in some empathy. "If you can't get out (of the company), take a deep breath and examine how you can improve communication lines (with your boss)," is part of my quote in today's Kansas City Star article. Try to imagine yourself in your boss's place – what would you do if you were the boss of you?

Approach your boss with open-ended questions to initiate dialog about your communication gap. Listen – really listen – to what your boss says about how you can improve. Don't defend yourself, but ask for guidance on approaching problems from your boss's point of view. Sure, it may not be as comfortable as your space, but give it a chance. No matter where you work, there will be people who look at things differently from you. Maybe sometimes you can get your way, but not always. Play the empathy card and you'll become amazed at how workplace communication slowly starts to improve.

Wishing your career success in 2011!

Meg 

Broken Eggs, Lost Stapler, and All The Changes!

Despite having changed jobs a few times in my life – even careers, even starting my own business – nothing had prepared me for the overwhelming change of moving and downsizing from my house of 20 years into a small, ranch style home – fewer rooms, only one floor, and very little storage space. My husband and I had agreed, "How hard could this be?" since we were only moving 15 minutes away. Oh, how naive we were!

Moving Instead of hiring a moving van to move all goods, we just hired a local outfit for one trip to transport the largest of furniture – bedroom, living room, dining room – you get the picture. Thank goodness we did that! The rest of our "keeping stuff" we packed and moved ourselves using our van and pickup truck for many, many trips. My husband, no longer a spring chicken, got very little help from me or anyone else in toting, loading and unloading boxes. (Tip: don't ever pack books in a box larger than what will hold 6 reams of copy paper – ouch!)

Besides aching backs, sore feet, cuts and bruises, and complete exhaustion over the period of two weeks, the financial cost was astounding for our "simple, little move." Who'd have thought I'd have to buy a window air conditioning unit for my new tiny office because the air just wouldn't circulate enough? Who'd have thought about all the take-out and order-in meals to pay for since this cook just didn't have it in her to fix dinner every night – let alone be able to find any pans? Who'd have thought the fence at the new house wasn't strong enough to contain our three dogs so we had to invest in new fencing to keep them from wandering off? Who'd have thought that four trips to the dump would cost so much, plus the fuel? And on and on – who would have thought?

Speaking of trips to the dump, I think the most difficult part of this whole move for me was emotional. I've shed many tears over decisions I had to make on what to save, what to pitch, and what to donate. It was very hard saying good-bye to most of my children's old report cards, stuffed animals, school-made projects (I think it was a plaster cast dinosaur made by my youngest in second grade that I put into the pitch pile.) I did create a box of memories for each of my adult sons who right now don't care if these things are saved or not – but maybe when they're my age they will.

The day of the final big move reminds me of a Chevy Chase comedy. First, the tree service we'd hired to remove a dead tree over-hanging the driveway at the new home chose our moving day to take it down – it had rained for three days straight, so they got to us at the first available time for them – bad time for us! They did stop working long enough for the moving van to pull into the driveway and unload. However, I still had to carry boxes, clothes, and more from my car parked on street instead of quick trips from the driveway. That buzz saw noise drove me crazy all day, and we all had to shout at each other for everything we said!

Next, the cable guy came on time to install my office phone line, plus set up our cable TV and Internet service. However, he misunderstood his work order. No second phone line installed for me, just moved my number to the existing phone line already in the house. It took me three phone calls, office visits and 8 days later to get this fiasco resolved. Luckily, we didn't lose the AT&T phone number attached to the wronged line. (And I got a credit on my cable account.)

Despite all of our pitching and donating, everything still doesn't fit into the new house. The attic is bursting at its seams. If the weekend weather ever produces two dry days, we're committed to another garage sale. But, things are getting back to a "new normal." Finally…

So, why am I sharing this personal and challenging experience with you? I came to realize throughout the whole moving process that what I was experiencing was very similar to what many of you have gone through as you've been downsized or laid off from employers after 10-20 years of service. The pain, exhaustion, feeling lost – all are emotions we've shared. Change of any kind is never easy. You can't bounce back in a day or two; it takes time – lots of time – to recover. You will have to overcome your grief, hang on to what is dearest in your personal life, and make a commitment to start anew.

I've questioned the decision to make this move, but factors out of our control figured into it – specifically, needing to care for an elderly parent. Like you, I miss my old life, but I know I can adjust and make this change work for me as I begin living in a different place. Looking forward, instead of backward, is half the battle to accepting any change. Can you start to do that? I have faith that for those of us who approach life with a smile will attract to us whatever will enrich our lives.

Oh, I almost forgot – I only broke two eggs in the move,Broken eggs  I found my stapler when I unpacked my last office box, and most of my business books are now squeezed onto a few shelves in my new office. (Anyone want a "Dummies" book on Microsoft Office 2003?) Still missing are my 2011 bank statements, my favorite pj's, and a framed picture that had hung in my old living room. I do believe, though, that these things will also appear sooner or later – even if I have to climb the ladder into the attic (ugh!) and search for them myself! Are you ready to climb your ladder to get your life and career back together again?

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Top 3 + 1 Tips for Making a Successful Career Change

Have you heard? Career change is in vogue. Employment surveys range from 60-80% on how many employees are ready to jump ship and find a better job and/or career. Are you one of them? If so, then it's time to get into action!

As we creep out of this pesky economic recession, many workers are exhausted from overwork and overwhelm. For them, any job or career change is appealing just to get away from demanding managers who are focused with blinders on improving the company bottom line and not so focused on retaining their employees. Before you leave, though, it's important to plot your exit strategy. Make sure you are moving toward the right thing, and not just away from the wrong thing.

Here are some career coaching questions to help you get going in the right direction: A03

1) Values: Take the time to do a thorough self-evaluation. What's most important to you? Are you someone who likes public recognition? Or do you prefer a private pat on the back when you perform above expectations?

2) Work Environment: Know your best fit. Do you prefer a large, medium or small employer? Are you more productive on a team or do you prefer to work alone? What are your expectations regarding flex time, telecommunting, and other working arrangements?

3) Positive Feeling: Sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. Where will you feel most appreciated? Where will you derive the highest work satisfaction? Where will you feel you are making your best contribution?

By now you've probably noticed that I haven't mentioned one word about skills or experience. Why is that? When it comes to career change, skills and experience actually are the last things to consider. I know many people who are really good at what they do but truly hate their jobs. Instead, figure out where what you do best marries with what you most like to do.

Let me boil this down into simple terms:

4) Career change is more about who you are than what you do. Really! As soon you discover your life's purpose – you know, whatever makes you feel good about being alive – then how you express that in your work will easily follow. The whole discovery process can take a little bit of time, but it's very much worth the effort. Isn't it time to get off the gremlin's treadmill and figure it out once and for all?

Limited thinking can tie your hands and make you believe that there is no good solution for career change. Don't assume that! It's just your gremlin restricting your creative thinking and holding you back. Hire a career coach to challenge that belief so you can find your real truth of who you are as a happy, enthusiastic worker.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career-Collective-original-small SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Please follow our hash-tag on Twitter – #careercollective - as well as follow each expert's individual tweet on this month's topic of "Best Advice for Career Changers." You'll be amazed at all the free career advice and knowledge that is available to you from these professionals in the careers field!

Are You Ready for a Career Change? @Debra Wheatman

Changing Careers? Ask yourself these questions. @erinkennedycprw

Changing Careers: Not for the Fainthearted, @GayleHoward

Career Change Isn't An Exact Science, @careersherpa

The 10-Step Plan to Career Change, @KatCareerGal

When it’s Time to Recycle Your Career, @WalterAkana

Best Career Change Advice: Target & Plan, @JobHuntOrg

How social media can help you change careers, @keppie_careers

Expat Careers: You Are Not Your Job Title, @expatcoachmegan

Changing The Direction Of Your Career, @EliteResumes @MartinBuckland

Career Changer: Can You Quell Bottom-line Ache? @ValueIntoWords

Top 3 + 1 Tips for Making a Successful Career Change, @KCCareerCoach

Changing Careers: Look Before You Leap, @barbarasafani

10 Commandments for Career Changers, @LaurieBerenson

Is Career Change for You?, @workwithillness

#Jobseekers: Networking 101 for Introverts

Last week one of my executive career coaching clients asked for tips on how to do in-person networking with new contacts. As an introvert, he feels hesitant just going up to someone and initiating a conversation. Since he is Networking working on improving his relationship-building skills, an upcoming conference offers an opportunity he can't afford to ignore.

Here's what my career coaching client said:

"How can I get more comfortable and effective in general networking situations? When I am in a setting where my position/authority/role is clearly defined, I am much more comfortable approaching people and engaging in conversation; for example, if I am giving a presentation, then interacting about that material is very easy and comfortable. Or, if at a conference with table seating, I can be comfortable conversing with the people on either side because that is a clear expectation.  

Where I am less comfortable is: 1) walking into a general cocktail party or reception where no one knows me or why I am there, and initiating a conversation with anyone. I know this is partly a self-confidence issue as I tend to be thinking, 'why would anyone want to talk with me?' 2) also, engaging directly with people I admire from afar is difficult; I can be totally fascinated listening to a presenter from the audience, but incredibly uncomfortable approaching that individual to have a one-on-one. Part of this is my learning style – I learn by listening intently and then absorbing internally what I have heard – but I have to be able to approach and make contact with key people."

For an executive to admit this is quite a feat. I give him kudos for stepping up and confronting his fear. Perhaps you can relate to his situation? One way to help conquer this fear of networking is to seek out career coaching.

I offered my client the following quick tips:

1) When entering a room, most people are hesitant to jump right in and start meeting people. As an introvert, I suggest you look for one person standing alone and walk up to him first. (Chances are he is also feeling intimidated by the experience.) Introduce yourself and then ask questions that you can feed on in order to ask more questions, adjusting as you go for contributions that you can make about yourself. Usually, an individual will ask questions in return.

2) When it’s time to sit down, look for a different individual who may be alone and sit by her. Then strike up a conversation again with questions. As more people join the table, they will want to get involved in the conversation, too. It’s important that you connect with as many people as possible.

3) Don’t freely pass out your business card if not asked for it, but ask for another’s IF you really feel you’d like to stay in touch. Sometimes at the table, everyone will pass around business cards so all get each other’s. That’s OK.

4) Know your agenda in your mind before you enter a room for networking. Know what you want to take away from this experience. That will help you feel focused and organized.

There are entire books written about networking. One of my favorite books is Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber and Lynn Waymon. These authors offer a site with lots of good networking information.

For introverts to become successful at networking, it's important to practice, practice, practice! Eventually, you will become more at ease with this activity. And don't forget, whenever you meet someone with whom you want to develop a relationship, make sure you email him/her within 24 hours to schedule a follow-up meeting for coffee or lunch. Don't wait for someone else to call you – take the lead and help this relationship grow!

What do you think? How do you initiate conversation in a networking situation? I'd love to hear from you - please leave a comment below.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Importance of Loving Your Job: Diverse Opinions

How important is it to love your job? Only 29% of Americans do, according to a recent global survey.

I know I love mine as a career coach, and find it sad that more people don't feel the same about their jobs. LoveJob Going to work with anticipation of achievement and self-satisfaction puts a smile on my face. I get enthused about what the day may bring my way as I help my career coaching clients reach their goals. I believe I'm truly working from my life's purpose with my career being a vehicle for me to express who I truly am.

My curiosity was piqued by this global survey. So much so, I posted a question about it on LinkedIn to get others' perspectives. What was surprising were the differing view points that showed up, some truly stopping me in my tracks. My assumption has always been that everyone dreams of loving their jobs – but do they? Does this matter to workers?

Apparently, not loving your job raises a lot of issues:

1) Would people change jobs or careers if given the opportunity? Do we really have choices?

One LinkedIn respondent answered, "We all get to choose, Meg." But do we – really? While I think there are all kinds of choices – do I want to major in Chemistry or Computer Programming – we impose restrictions on ourselves influenced by external factors. How about job opportunities after graduation – what will the job market need? Can I predict several years ahead to make sure I choose the "right" (a relative term) college major? And don't forget, most of us will change careers and jobs several times throughout our lives.

The middle-aged careerist faces a different challenge. Following a layoff, what does she do if her career choice no longer exists – that is, the job has completely gone away? Survival has to figure into any career change she makes as she undoubtedly has bills to pay, maybe children to support. Can she really afford to invest the time and money into re-training so she may enter a new field at the low end of the pay scale?

2) Are people afraid to pursue other work due to this uncertain economy?

LinkedIn answer: "Wherever people are in life, they tend to lose their dreams and settle for what they have. Over a period of time, they get bored with or dislike their J. O. B.; however and particularly in these days of economic crisis, most people are reluctant to make changes because they, at least, have a job."

It's sad when we let fear dominate our choices. Fear is a negative motivator, though very real. What if you could hang on to your job while still exploring more suitable career options? Could you lose the fear and choose to embrace hope instead? Time can become a nuisance in the career change process, but you can still choose your priorities. Don't become stuck win your assumptions – discover what's best for you!

3) Is any job better than no job?

LinkdedIn answer: "I find it baffling that only 29% of Americans love their jobs in this economic downturn. Every individual that is currently employed should love their job. We all need to count our blessings."

Burnout from overwork and underpay can negatively impact gratitude. Don't believe everything you hear, especially in the media – there are still good jobs out there needing to be filled. Finding the right fit has always been a lengthy process of analysis, exploration, and application. Today it just takes a little longer.

4) Should people rethink their view of work – perhaps it's just a way to earn money, not a way of life?

LinkedIn answer: "Most people don't manage their careers, set goal(s), or take preemptive career change action. As a result, they end up feeling 'stuck' and settling for less than they are capable of achieving."

Does that sound like you? We can all become guilty of surrendering our personal power to our employers. Remember, you are CEO of Me, Inc. – manage your career as if it's your own business. Never become complacent or take your job for granted. As soon as you do, your choices will become fewer.

What's your opinion about why so few people love their jobs?

There are still four days left to respond to my LinkedIn question, or please leave your comments below. This is a topic that affects all of us. Speak your mind! I want to hear from you.

Wishing your career success in 2011!

Meg

How Blizzards, Dogs and Job Search Relate

Cal_and_Zeva My dogs are a lot of fun to watch on the ice and in the deep snow.

After the Kansas City blizzard last week, we had to "throw" them out the back door to get them to do their "business." Brrr! The icy cold wind hit them in the face, so unfamiliar to their senses.

The first time out, my 20-pound Zeva proceeded with her normal drill, wrapping up with the ritual of pawing the ground and then scooting her bottom. Yeow! She jumped up quickly and turned around to see what was that ice-cold thing she'd scooted on – certainly not dirt and leaves! The surprised look on her face was priceless.

Zeva's 17-pound brother, with the stand-up comedic ears, entertained us with his own show acting like a newborn calf trying to get up and walk for the first time. No matter what he did, Cal couldn't find his three-legged footing on the ice covered patio. His legs splayed in all directions! I could see his brain whirring – this whole thing was a lot more work than it was worth! But he persevered until he was successful, choosing to improvise and squat like his sister. I don't think dogs know how to give up.

As a job seeker, do you ever feel like my dogs – blindsided from the back and/or shaky on your feet? If you do have these feelings, do you forge ahead anyway – or do you give up? These feelings are all quite normal, as far as anything in a job search can be labeled normal. As much as you try to prepare for this new and uncertain landscape, you will get surprised many times along the way. Some experiences will teach you lessons that will help you to not repeat mistakes, while others will make you feel as if you have absolutely no control – and you don't!

For instance, job interviews are great training sites. With each interview, you'll gain more skills with the process. This is one example where practice does make perfect – or at least a lot better. Never say no to a job interview! In fact, going to an interview about which you are lukewarm will let you "practice" with little investment on the line.

But after the interview, you have no control over when the employer will make the hiring decision. That is so frustrating! Just hang in there and keep moving toward the next interview. Never quit the job search until you have accepted a real offer.

One more thing – if you're happily employed, don't be like my dogs and become so comfortable in your surroundings that you don't see the tumultuous blizzard right in front of you! Things do change. That's what this world is all about.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

What’s Wrong with the Spouses of #Jobseekers? (My Saturday Rant)

Several unemployed individuals have recently reached out to me seeking information on my services. For various reasons, they wish to discover what kind of career would really make their lives richer. They need assistance to make a transition back to the workplace. Theirs is a real cry for help! But their spouses just aren't listening. Maybe it's time for couples to go back in time to what they signed on for when they got married.Marriage

One has chosen to stay at home with a disabled child for the past three years while his wife earned a paycheck in a field she enjoys – making enough money to let the family survive, but not thrive. She now wants her partner to get a job – no matter how menial – to help out with expenses, but she does not support his investing in professional career-related services, such as a career coach, to help him return to the job market in a professional fashion. (The family has finally qualified for the assistance of an aide for the disabled son so the man is able work outside the home between 9 AM and 3 PM.) He misses his profession and would like to find a way to get back into it.

Another caller is facing an "empty nest" as her youngest goes off to college. She would love to get back into the field she enjoyed before choosing so many years ago to stay home to raise her family. However, the world of work has changed so much that her self-esteem is weak and she is afraid that her skills are stale. She really needs a career coach to help her evaluate career options and get her "mojo" back. However, her husband sees no need for this. He's happy with his career, so her needs don't appear all that important. After all, he has the financial bases covered and doesn't see a real reason for her to go back to work.

There are more stories from those wanting career coaching, but unable to afford it unless their working spouses loosen the family purse strings. What's up with these spouses? Do they feel threatened by loss of control of the family money if their partners go back to careers they enjoy? Are they acting selfishly in not approving the expenditure of career coaching? Or is it a real financial barrier if their partners to seek professional help?

And then there's the laid off professional who chose to start his own business instead of returning to Corporate America. He was the major wage earner in the family with his wife working part time dabbling in a "fun" career. Since he controlled the money, he was able to hire me as his career coach to help him. But, by the time he found me, he defined his career need as how to "get back into the rat race." His partner had declared that she'd had enough of his business failures and she wanted him to get a real job, just any #$%& job, so the family could maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to. Needless to say, this career coaching client's heart wasn't truly into the job search process. But he declared that keeping the family peace was most important to him.

I wish all couples would revisit their marriage vows when faced with career and job challenges presented by their partners. "For better or worse" is a phrase that appears to be forgotten. Everyone needs to find a way to work together for the benefit of both partners, but more importantly, for the benefit of the family. Career change isn't easy, but even more challengin when a spouse or partner protests the other's need for help.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

How Far Would You Go to Be Happy at Work?

"If You Could Find Job Security in Today's Tough Work Environment, Even Change Your Career to Do Something You'd Really Enjoy — How Far Would You Go to Make It Happen?" This was the title of a newsletter article I wrote two years ago. In reading it again, I feel the content is more relevant than ever for the careerist. As always, your comments on this post are greatly appreciated!

Too many people today are working from a place of fear instead of fun – from a place of panic instead of peace. If this sounds like you, please know that you're not alone. But also know that you CAN do something about it.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It triggers the "fight" or "flight" natural reflex in each of us. What's difficult is Fear when fear gets attached to our jobs. How do you "fight" to keep your job when it falls into jeopardy? How do you "flee" when you can't tolerate a job or job situation any longer – but still need the income to support family and self?

Physical reactions set in when we feel powerless to control job changes. Weak knees, twitching eyes, sweaty palms, stuttering – all are visible signs that you are overly stressed and have lost control of the situation.
 
Temporary relief may come with the drive home from work knowing you have 10-12 hours before having to face it all again. Better yet, Friday evening can allow complete mind block for 48 hours – but on Sunday evening it all starts up for a new week. Anticipating the dreaded job situation can often be worse than the situation itself.
 
The only way to break free from this cycle of fear is to know what your real career options are. This process starts with an evaluation of your career situation. Determine how close the layoff ax is to you. Assess what skills and abilities you have that are in demand in the current work world. Know what values you must have met so you can align with a company's culture. Figure out what makes you go to work with a smile on your face instead of a knot in your stomach.
 
When you have all of your answers, you will be on track toward your next career move. It may mean changing jobs, employers, industries, or even geographic locations. But whatever you decide, you'll know it is YOUR decision – even if it is just choosing to stay where you are.
 
While this is a process that you can do by yourself, you will find clarity quicker and easier when you workLittlehelp with a Career Coach. When processing alone, circular thinking can block answers. To borrow a phrase from an AT&T commercial, maybe it's time to "rethink possible" with a little help from your coach.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

A New Job Thanks to the Elephant

When I interviewed for a business developer position in the early 1990s, I answered one question that I credit with getting me the job. At the time, I thought it was an odd question, but I answered it instinctively – and it was the response the interviewer was seeking.

What was the question? "If an elephant showed up in your front yard, what would you do with it?" My immediate Elephantresponse was that I would sell it to a zoo. I discovered later after I was employed in this organization that other candidates had responded with "donate it to a zoo" or "find a home for it where loving people would care for it." These responses were more philanthropic oriented than what the interviewer wanted to hear.

My instincts had guided me correctly – this organization was looking for someone who knew how to promote and sell, even though they were a nonprofit. Once on the job, I bought a small ceramic elephant that I sat on my desk. The interviewer, Ron, and I would chuckle whenever he dropped my office to visit, referring to the question he had asked me about what to do with a surprise elephant.

Even in the 1990s, behavioral/situational interview questions – like the one I answered – were popping up in job interviews. Today, it's all about behavioral and situational interviewing. Furthermore, storytelling is now woven into the process. For example, instead of just explaining how I'd sell the elephant to a zoo, today I'd go further and say, "In fact, let me tell you about a time when something similar to this really happened." Interviewing is all about positioning yourself, about selling yourself, about proving your uniqueness.

Storytelling creates pictures in the minds of interviewers that help them remember you and your brand. Storytelling helps you create bridges from what you did that provided value for former employers to how these experiences can help a potential employer solve their problem(s). Storytelling also offers you a way to demonstrate what you've learned from possible negative situations about which hiring authorities will inquire.

Marketing Master, Patsi Krakoff, discusses the art of storytelling on her blog. Her post has many elements in it that can be applied to job interviewing. I love her quote, "Stories impose meaning on chaos and organize and give context to our sensory experiences." My advice to you is to remember that job interviewing is your opportunity to sell yourself, so most of what works in sales and marketing can be applied to your promotion of YOU in your job search.

Anyone in a job search today needs to be prepared for typical behavioral and situational interview questions. However, no way do you want to memorize responses. In a job interview, you must appear conversational and have knowledge of your topic, never spouting off rehearsed responses. The key to job interview success is mastering the storytelling process. Train your memory to bring the right responses forward based on keywords you have embedded in your answers. Although not a quick skill to master, storytelling in job interviews does produce positive results and worth all your effort to learn.

One of my career coaching programs with the biggest demand is Job Interview Preparation. A two-session program, it all takes place by phone and customized to a job candidate's needs. Homework is offered to help you develop your own storytelling skills. You may learn more by visiting my website

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Your Building Blocks for Career Self-Management

Many people are experiencing fallout from the global economic crisis that continues to sweep across the world like an out-of-control wildfire. As you know, layoffs have hit so many so hard. But what may not be commonly known is that strategic and proactive management of your career is still possible by adopting a new mentality of career resilience that empowers you to control your own career destiny. Building blocks

Today, self-reliance is the name of the career game. Following are five building blocks for achieving it: Self-Assessment, Self- Branding, Self-Training, Self-Talk, and Self-Action.

Building Block 1: Self-Assessment

"To thy own self, be true." This phrase may sound familiar, but how many of us follow this advice? Do you know what it would take to "work your passion?" If not, find out! Formal assessments can be easily accessed, and career coaching can help you to use their results wisely. Clarify your values, define your interests and test your assumptions that whatever the assessments indicate is true for you. Once you know what really motivates your enthusiasm to work, develop an action plan to achieve your goals and continue to use career coaching to help you reach them.

If you already experience career satisfaction, you are lucky and ahead of the game. However, if your ideal career is crumbling around you – perhaps due to the ever-evolving workplace – then a change is probably in order. Take some time to explore career alternatives that will filter more easily through your business reality. Again, using your career coach will help ensure your success by testing these options before launching your plan to attain desired changes.

 Building Block 2: Self-Branding

Just as smart companies create brand awareness for their products, each worker must develop his/her own brand for his/her career. What makes you unique in comparison to others doing the same job in your field? How do you promote yourself to position your talents and skills?

Much goes into personal branding: the network you create and cultivate is perhaps the most important. Don't think for a moment that networking is something you do only while searching for a job. Networking is a lifelong, ongoing process with success measured by the key relationships that you build. Through networking you take your career self-management to the highest level.

Building Block 3: Self-Training

Another lifelong process is learning. So, you thought you were finished when you got that MBA? Wrong! However, not all learning is achieved through formal education. Company sponsored seminars and adult education courses contribute to your professional growth and development. We are working in the "Knowledge Economy" where change occurs at warp speed and the only way to stay current is to take responsibility for our own training.

Books and periodicals are published (or self- published) every day of the week. Deciding what is important to read, and what is not, is a challenge in itself. Learn to skim the important material and pass up the rest. Accept that reading is one of the most relevant activities you will do to develop career resiliency. Staying up-to-date on current events, knowing the latest trends in your industry and keeping your skills sharp will all contribute to the overall value of your personal brand and ensure that you stay ahead of the learning curve.

Building Block 4: Self-Talk

Communication drives business. Wow! How powerful is that statement? Think about it. Every day we communicate with our colleagues, employees, team members, customers, vendors, families, friends, and more. How we communicate can impact what we do and what others do, too. Communication styles vary from person to person. Do you know your own style? Once you understand it you can learn how to adapt it to the styles of others.

It makes sense to speak French in France or Spanish in Spain, so doesn't it also make sense to speak in other people's styles when we want them to understand us best? There is a simple assessment that can tell you what your dominant style is and how to flex it to the styles of others. Ask your career coach to help you determine which assessment is best for you. Then use its results!

Building Block 5: Self-Action

Active participation on teams, committees, group projects, focus groups, networking events, and more, puts the spotlight on your contributions. What you contribute speaks to your worth in the work world. Most people will remember what you give more than what you take. When you make it "all about them," you leave a positive impression that enhances your brand and fosters career self- management.

How NOT to Knock Down All Those Blocks

Well, there you have it, except for this nugget: Career resiliency only works when you create your personal definition of life / work balance and then commit to living it.

And remember – your job security comes from within you!

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Cyber Monday Promo: Give a Special Gift to a Loved One

Where has 2010 gone?

While signs exist that the recession is over, many unemployed workers are still struggling. Those who are working also struggle, though their challenges are different: extra long work days, no pay raises or promotions, stressful work environments, political posturing with peers and bosses. Some surveys point out that over 50% of all workers yearn for the opportunity to move to a different job or employer, and plan to jump at the first chance they get!

Hope for a dream career has been replaced with a longing to just work in a happy environment. Next year things could change. In fact, I believe 2011 will become the Year of the Worker. However, for the worker, career change won't come easily. It definitely won't come without planning and preparation. If you are someone wanting to change jobs or employers, do you know what it takes to be successful? Do you know a friend or family member stuck in the same spot who needs help with creating a career plan?

One service that we offer at Abilities Enhanced is the Career Power Hour. If you have a single career issue toForus  resolve fast, during this 60-minute highly intensive hour I will do laser career coaching to get you to the heart of the matter and help you move forward quickly. (Not for the timid or very talkative or anyone with complex career challenges.) Some have used this service for choosing between two job offers (nice problem to have, huh?). Others use it to get clues on what means the most to them in a job and how they should begin their job search.

Sixty minutes go fast, but it's amazing how much can be accomplished in this time frame. Don't you owe it to yourself to be ready when the right career opportunity pops up?

Normally $200US, I'm participating in Cyber Monday by discounting this service 25% – yes, only $150.00 until Tuesday, November 30! This is a Cyber Monday deal you may use for yourself or give to a friend or family member as the service may be scheduled until January 31, 2011. (However, this "deal" must be claimed by December 31, 2010.)

Click here to purchase the Career Power Hour

After you purchase, you will receive a follow-up email, "AE Career Power Hour – What to Do Next."  Follow the instructions carefully. If you purchase this service for another person, then forward the follow-up email to them with instructions to claim their "deal" by December 31.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at mailto:meg@abilitiesenhanced.com.

Turnlifearound_19 Get the help you need to make 2011 your best career year yet!

Click here to purchase the Career Power Hour

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career Check-in on Your 2010 New Year’s Resolutions

Have you forgotten your 2010 Career New Year's Resolutions? Not much sense in doing anything about them now. WRONG! It's never too late.1972280  

Here's the list of seven that I posted December 30, 2009. Take a look and see which ones you've mastered this year. Pick at least one that you can work on today! Refresh your job search; pick up your pace on career retooling toward your career change. And pat yourself on the back if you've mastered at least two of these!

2010 Career Resolutions

** I will make it easy for recruiters to find me. Recruiters work for their client companies – not you – and few appreciate your seeking them. However, when they need qualified candidates, they want them NOW. So, facilitate their need by maintaining high visibility on the Internet. Many recruiters claim that LinkedIn is the first place they look – how findable are you there? Yes, your resume needs to be posted, but do you also participate in discussion groups related to your field?

** I will spend no more than two hours per day in front of my computer. Get out of the house! Undoubtedly, you've heard that the majority of new jobs are gotten through networking. But beyond that, you must keep your social skills fresh while building and maintaining professional relationships. It's amazing how one's perspective can improve just by interacting with fellow human beings.

** I will give before taking. While networking, offer your help to fellow job seekers. Volunteer at food pantries or church. Just the act of giving will make you feel valued again. This will enhance your self-confidence and get you going again in the job market.

** I will devote at least one hour per day to self-care. Keep your mind smart and your body toned with exercise. Reward yourself for any job search success, no matter how small, by reading a chapter in that novel you're enjoying or watching a TV program that lets you briefly escape. Better yet, read your kids a story or have a late candlelight dinner at home with your partner (after the kids are in bed).

** I will invest time (and money) into perfecting my resume. Your resume must be PERFECT to stand out above your competition. Does yours do that? Does your resume brand you according the position you seek? A professionally written resume can get your foot in the door. Can't afford it? Just look at what percentage of your first year's income it will be to hire a professional resume writer. How can you NOT afford it?

** I will get support to stay motivated in my job search. You need a job search partner with no vested009 interest in the outcome of your job search. Yes, a Career Coach can help, not only with keeping you motivated, but also providing job search resources, tips, and strategies. Slash your job search time when you invest in a Career Coach.

** I will get over my Internet phobias. Hard to believe that in the 21st century there are still job seekers with no home email accounts, let alone LinkedIn, Twitter, or blogging savvy. But there are! If employed, PLEASE don't use your work email for job search purposes. This is so wrong on so many levels. Get up to speed on critical Internet applications (job search and others) – employers will assess your value to them accordingly. 

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

Unemployment: An Emotional Roller Coaster

Fear and despair – doom and gloom. Yes, it's a depressing work world right now. If you have a job, you cling to it for dear life and do everything your employer asks no matter how much mandatory overtime or how many extra responsibilities assigned. If you don't have a job, you frantically search job boards, blast out resumes, and squeeze every penny until it shrieks.

For those in a job search, there are good days and bad, highs and lows. Besides working through the stages of grief over your job loss, you probably face overwhelming feelings of isolation. Gone are the co-workers you bantered with during the day and relaxed with after work. In their place, is a computer screen that you keep asking, "Where are the jobs?" And it doesn't talk back.

Everyone advises you to network, network, network to find your next job. And you ask, "Where?" If like most, you didn't cultivate a robust network of contacts while you were working – who has time for all that? And now you wish you had. Oh, please, just tell me where to begin…

Family and friends try to be understanding. They offer support, but you worry they're becoming impatient with your continual lamenting, "I can't find any job leads." They send leads for dog walker and lawn maintenance your way, all in the spirit of trying to help. Some friends get bored with your situation, and move on to others who still know how to laugh and have fun. Immediate family members begin to wonder how their lives are going to be affected – can I keep playing soccer? Can I keep getting my nails done every week? Can we keep HBO and cable TV? What about our vacation?

Then, when you get a real job interview, your hopes skyrocket. You tell yourself not to have high expectations in case you don't get the job offer, but you just can't help yourself. Will this be the one?!

So what can you do to manage your emotional roller coaster? Building00001p_small

First: Turn off the television. Don't let yourself buy into the media madness. Sure, the unemployment rate is high, but over 90% of the country is still employed. In fact, if you have a four-year degree, only 4.7% of your peers are unemployed.

Second: Find a job search buddy to share your job search process. This will assuage your isolation as well as provide you the moral support of someone who's going through the same challenges as you. Job clubs (usually free) have popped up across the country to offer support plus job search tips – find one and join!

Third: Invest in a Career Coach.If you want to speed up your reemployment, this is your best bet. I know money is tight, but if you get sick, you go to a doctor, right? When you hire a career coach, you get the best career advice, resources, and support at your finger tips. Your Career Coach becomes your partner as you navigate through the murky waters of the job search process. Instead of taking months, you may take only weeks to achieve your goal. Don't short change your career by trying to do the hard work all alone.

Whatever you do to manage your emotional roller coaster, it's important that you do it now, before despair takes over your life. The longer you wait to face your unemployment fears, the deeper you'll fall into the black hole. You owe it to your family and yourself to take charge of your situation – get this mess figured out – NOW!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

Summertime – and the Job Search Ain’t Easy

Even during "normal times" summer job searches can bump into barriers from company vacation schedules and slower hiring processes. However, our economy is not in a "normal" time these days. This is all the more reason to "turn up the heat" in your job search.

How can you add sizzle to your job search? Take advantage of the warm season to ramp up your networking efforts at all outdoor social events. (I worked with one coaching client who got a job lead from another soccer mom at their kids' game.) Make sure everyone you know has been informed of your job search. Being out of work is not a shameful matter anymore. Ask for help and ask for introductions. Statistics have proved over and over again that more jobs are gotten through networking than by using the Internet job boards.

That being said, revisit old job postings and your old applications. Was a job filled more than six months ago? Then now is the best time to reconnect to inquire as to how the new hire is working out. You might get lucky and catch a company needing to re-post a position but hasn't yet done so. Push gently for another interview and be ready to plead your case for why you're still the best candidate.

Silly as this may sound – I shouldn't even have to say it – don't put your job search on hold until September. Some job seekers do and later regret it. Jobs ARE being filled now. You just have to find them. Redouble your efforts and use all available avenues. Get creative in your outreach. Leave no possibility untapped.

A03 And most importantly, you don't have to do your job search alone. Get help from a professional career coach and you'll see that your job search is doable and your goals are attainable!

My sister, who'd been laid off since March 2009, defied the odds and  accepted a perfect job offer to start June 21. She had applied for a position posted on a major job board, went through three interviews, and proved herself to be the ideal candidate in her field. She got her asking salary (she was reasonable in her request) plus a great benefits package and the promise of a very good job with a stable, growing company.

My son, who'd been furloughed from his conductor position with a railroad in January 2009, was called back to work full time a month ago. He even got based in his preferred location – here! No more moving, at least for now.

If you're in job search mode, it may appear that there's "nothing out there." But there are definite signs that the economy is recovering. Companies are beginning to hire in many fields. Persevere and stay motivated – your next job is just around the corner!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Follow our hash-tag on Twitter - #careercollective  as well as follow everyone's individual tweets on this month's topic: "Heating Up Your Job Search."

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Turn Off The Computer, Tune Into What’s Happening, & Heat Up the Job Search, @chandlee

Heating up the Job Search-How to Stay Motivated During the Summer, @erinkennedycprw

Light the Fire Under Your Feet, @careersherpa

Cool Job Seekers Heat Up Their Search in the Summer, @barbarasafani

Some assembly required, @DawnBugni

Summertime, Sluggish Economy Provide Strong Motivation for an Updated Resume, @KatCareerGal

9 Ways to Heat Up Your Job Search This Summer, @heatherhuhman

Getting Out From Under Chronic, @WorkWithIllness

Upping Your Job Search Flame; Be 'Needed, Not Needy,' @ValueIntoWords

Is Your Career Trapped in the Matrix? @WalterAkana

Put some sizzle in your job hunt – how to find a job now, @keppie_careers

Summertime – and the Job Search Ain't Easy, @KCCareerCoach

Heating up your job search. 5 ways to dismiss those winter blues, @GayleHoward

Hot Tips for a Summer Job Search, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Heat Up Your Job Search: Avoid Job Boards, @JobHuntOrg

Heating Up Your Job Searching Skills: Networking 101 and 102, @GLHoffman

Treasure Hunt—Yo-ho-ho! Heat Up Your Job Search, @resumeservic

Phone Coaching: Getting Best Results for Clients


"Where is your office located?"
is a question I am sometimes asked when a local person calls me aboutA05 career coaching services. Although I've been in business 11 years and seldom ever meet a client in person, and my website clearly states that all client meetings are by phone with email support, people may still assume that career coaching is a face-to-face process with me. Most people are satisfied when I explain that I work with clients worldwide according to my phone-and-email business model. Some are a bit dubious, while others move on to find a coach who doesn't work by phone.

Having been trained by two distinct coaching schools in the delivery of telephone coaching, and having helped hundreds of clients achieve results this way, I strongly believe that I show up as the best career coach possible when I work by phone. Of course, since I support the coaching tenet that coaching is "all about the client" and not about the coach, I fully understand when a person chooses not to hire me. However, I do appreciate the callers who let me explain how coaching by phone can produce outstanding results for them. Most end up liking the idea of doing this challenging work from the comfort of their home or place of their choosing.

Tree01829_small While intently listening to and conversing with my clients, I get lost visually in this big, beautiful maple tree outside my office window. Whether green in the summer, golden in the fall, or leafless in the winter, this tree stands proud and tall. It represents to me the constant of evolving but ongoing life as its leaves change colors and grow anew each year. Like this tree, each client that I help has a history with a need at different times in their lives for change – change I that can help them achieve if related to their career.

As I listen to my clients, I hear not only what they say, but also what they don't say – voice inflections, pregnant pauses, nervous laughter – all contributing to a client's current state of being. If I were to be facing this person, added to the moment could be my distractions coming from what my client looked like, their hand motions, their wandering eyes. These and room distractions would take me off track from hearing – really hearing – what my client was saying.

Since I honor my clients as individuals and truly want to build the best possible rapport with them, I always ask every new client to take a quick assessment to determine their learning style. Consequently, I am able to communicate with them using their preferred "words" to facilitate their highest level of understanding. This exercise is usually enlightening for both the client and me. And it helps to grow trust between us.

Not all learning happens during coaching calls. In between calls, I encourage my clients to spend quiet time reflecting on discoveries and contemplating new ideas. Usually, they eagerly accept homework that I offer or they suggest their own. I want my clients to feel connected to me, their coach, throughout our entire program. So, I encourage them to email me as often as they wish and I promise a prompt response.

Yes, coaching – career or any other type – is a process. It can't be turned on and off. It happens over time through various methods. Telephone and email let me deliver coaching frequently and wholly, without waiting for a client's next visit to occur. No starting and stopping, but a flow of ongoing communication with my client's needs first and foremost.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

“Tell Me About Yourself” (Oh, Yikes!)

Has the "tell me about yourself" question ever been tossed your way in a job interview? What did you do with it – ramble, freeze, or answer it smoothly?

What usually happens in a job interview situation is you shake hands with the interviewer, take your seat, and then, boom – that dreaded "tell me about yourself" question hits you right out of the chute. Those who've never faced that question will likely take a deep breath and then start sharing their life story from birth to most recent job. The interviewer's eyes will glaze over as he sneaks a peek at his watch. He tries to focus on your words because, after all, you may something that he isn't able to legally ask you about. You, on the other hand, are getting lost in your own words and wondering why this interviewer is even interested in the story of your life.

Or perhaps you are the candidate who freezes when asked to "tell me about yourself." Thoughts of "what is this guy looking for" race through your mind as you search for something – just anything – to say. Should I mention why I left my last job? Should I talk about my college years and how I got that "D" in chemistry because the professor didn't like me? Should I explain how I got my first job because my dad knew the boss? Whatever I say, I need to say it now – I'm running out of time! That interviewer looks impatient. Gosh, I sure hope this interview gets easier!

Hopefully, you'll be the candidate who has prepared for the job interview – the one who knows that the "tell me about yourself" question is the first opportunity to "sell" yourself to this company. You will know that an interview is more about the value you can offer the company than what you need to get from the company. You will take this question and only briefly touch on your career (after all, the interviewer has your resume already, right?) and then bring to the forefront a story or two that demonstrates how you've solved a problem for a past employer that could benefit this potential employer, and how you'd like to contribute your unique skills or talent to better this company.

Now, you have the interviewer's full attention. He's beginning to think he has a credible candidate to assess. And you have already scored points in this job interview.

Bottom line: Don't think this job interview is about you – even if you are asked questions about you. It's about the employer – always. You wouldn't be interviewing if weren't qualified for the job, per your resume. The job interview is a process to screen out qualified candidates. The only way to "win" at the interviewing game is to prepare before you go. Know your career history backward and forward. Know what results you've created for your past employers. And above all else, be able to tell stories that demonstrate your value and problem solving abilities.

Now, go get that job!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of career experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Follow our hashtag, #careercollective, on Twitter, as well as follow everyone's individual tweets on this month's topic: What should job seekers do now to prepare for interviews?

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Sit Down and Panic. The Interview is Yours @GayleHoward

How to Stand Out in a Job Interview @heathermundell

Avoid These Reference Mistakes @DawnBugni

Unspoken Secrets of Job Interviewing Prep: How Your Nonverbal Presentation and Behaviors Impact the Impression You Make @KatCareerGal

Prep for Interviews Now: Snuff out the Elephant in the Room Later! @chandlee

What Should Job Seekers Do Now to Prepare for an Interview @erinkennedycprw

Take a Ride in the Elevator Before You Interview @barbarasafani

Are You Ready for the Elephant in the Room? @WorkWithIllness

"Tell Me About Yourself" (Oh, Yikes!), @KCCareerCoach

The job interview as a shared narrative @WalterAkana

Prepare your references for job search success @Keppie_Careers

No Pain No Gain In Job Search and Interview Prep @ValueIntoWords

Job searching? Take a cue from the Boy Scouts @LaurieBerenson

Preparing for Career Success Starts with Interviewing the Employers @JobHuntOrg

The Interview: A Well Rehearsed Performance or Hacked Improv? @careersherpa

How to Make a #Career Change Doable for You

Ready for a career change, but not sure just what?

A first step is to get back in touch with what goes on in the world beyond your current workspace. Start by reading recent business magazines such as Forbes or Fortune and BusinesswWeek. Include the Wall Street Journal AND the New York Times. Discover the current trends in your industry, in your field, in the world. Reflect on how these trends will affect your current career, and on how the skills you already have can impact these trends. When contemplating a career change, think about what your choice will look like 5-10 years from now. It's important to select a career you can grow into and thrive in.

Next, after looking forward, take a peek back at your early life. What dreams did you have as a child that you tossed out along the way? Music, art, school newspaper, team sports, "playing school" with your siblings – all offer clues to what your true passion may be. For example, if you liked to play on the soccer team instead of painting landscapes, you may now prefer working on group projects instead of being a freelance web designer.

Finally, after coming up with a few career change possibilities, talk to some people who actually work in those careers. Find out what they like and dislike about their work. And ask them whether they chose their careers, or fell into them as careers by default. Imagine yourself working in these careers through their stories.

Cheetah_Running_on_a_Treadmill_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_081030-111673-554009As you can see, changing careers is not a simple process. It may take weeks, even months, to realize results that can shape your decision. But if you have defined steps and a career action plan, you will be able to get off that treadmill in your head and actually see some progress. It's never too late to start the career change process. It's your choice as to when you are ready to begin. Working with a professional Career Coach can make it easier.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

The Art of Being Gracious: Much Needed in Today’s Job Search

"Being gracious in life will carry you far," espoused Ted Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize winner who served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 – 2006. When my son graduated from college in 2004, I had the honor of listening to this wise man deliver the keynote address at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Speaking to the graduates, he assured them that his words would be brief and forgave them in advance if they didn't remember much of his speech. Attracted to the speaking manner of this 35-year-career insurance man turned poet, I hurriedly reached for a scrap of paper to scribble a few notes. I felt that I was about to hear a great speech, and I did.

Kooser shared with the graduates a gem of wisdom that all job seekers would be well advised to follow. He said that when these young people left with their diploma in hand, they needed only one other thing to enter the world – a box of blank thank you notes. Yes, they needed thank you notes to acknowledge their graduation gifts, but much more than that, they would need thank you notes throughout life's journey, especially throughout their careers.

While in a job search, expressing your thanks is critical. Besides demonstrating good manners, it can keep your name and face in the forefront. Of course, the most obvious time to send a formal thank you is following a job interview – even a not-so-good interview. But there are other times when a thank you is not only good manners, but also an important career strategy:

  • You receive a referral from a networking contact / colleague / business associate – send a thank you note to show your appreciation, or sending a token thank you gift is even better.
  • You ask a colleague / peer / VIP for assistance or advice – send a thank you with a brief follow-up as to how the advice helped you.
  • You work with a recruiter who refers you to an interview with an employer – send a thank you note that will help keep your name on the recruiter's desk.
  • You get a rejection letter from an employer – send a thank you letter thanking him again for the opportunity to interview, and let him know that you would still like to work for him someday.
  • You land the job – send a thank you to each of your references no matter how many times they were or were not contacted by your prospective employers.
  • You land the job – send a thank you note to each networking contact with whom you connected throughout your job search, even if you've already thanked them in some way.
  • You land the job – send a thank you letter to your new employer reiterating the terms of your new position. This confirmation may serve you well in the future.

One debate around thank you letters centers on email vs. direct mail. I equate direct-mailed letters and cards with being gracious; email with being perfunctory. You decide how much regard you want your message to express. Make it personal and you'll make it memorable.

I'm sure you can think of more times when saying "thank you" is a good idea. I'd love to receive your comments. In conclusion, I just want to say, "Thank you," for reading my blog!

P. S. Within the past four months my son was one of nine candidates hired out of 300 applicants. Having been laid off for 10 months, he really needed this job. I wonder if his thank you note – that he hand carried to HR following his interview - had any influence in his being hired. Hmmm…

Wishing you much career success in 2010!

Meg

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of career experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and appreciated. And follow our hashtag #careercollective on Twitter:

Career-Collective-original-small@MartinBuckland, Elite Resumes,  Career Trends and Transition 2010

@heathermundell, life@work, Kaizen and the Art of Your Job Search

@barbarasafani, Career Solvers, Looking Into the 2010 Careers Crystal Ball

@resumeservice, Resume Writing Blog, The Resume and Your Social Media Job Search Campaign

@kat_hansen, Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog, New Year: Time to Assess Yourself and Your Career

@keppie_careers, Keppie Careers, Help for job seekers in a rut

@heatherhuhman, HeatherHuhman.com, Job seekers: 5 tips for making the most of 2010

@DawnBugni, The Write Solution, Ya, but

@ErinKennedyCPRW, Professional Resume Services, Advice to Job Seekers in 2010–learn Yoga?

@Chandlee, The Emerging Professional Blog, Starfish, JobAngels, and Making a Difference

@ValueIntoWords, Career Trend, Is Your Job Search Strategy a Snore?

@debrawheatman, Resumes Done Write, Making the most of a new year

@walterakana, Threshold Consulting, Starting anew – tips for truly managing your career

@careersherpa, Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa, The Year of the Tiger

@WorkWithIllness, WorkingWithIllness.com, Dogs Can Do It, Can You?

@JobHuntOrg, Job-Hunt.org, Lifelong Learning for Career Security

@AndyInNaples, Career Success, What Are You Getting Better At? Make This the Year You Become the Best You Can Be!

@GLHoffman, What Would Dad Say, A Flash of the Blindly Obvious

@GayleHoward, The Executive Brand Blog, How are those New Year's Resolutions Panning Out?

Your Career Management Plan: Born from Your Obituary

A tweet on Twitter this morning caught my eye. In relation to today's holiday – Martin Luther King's birthday – the question was asked, "What will be your legacy?" It seems that most of us today are so caught up in day-to-day living – or even surviving - that we haven't pondered that question much. It's amazing, though, that if you do start to think about it, ideas regarding career management begin to surface. One hundred years from now, what do YOU want to be remembered for?

Curiously, this same issue was brought up on a movie I watched on television over the weekend – remember "Cocktail" with Tom Cruise? Tom – or rather his character, 20-something Brian Flannigan – was seeking ways to earn his life's fortune. He sat down with pen and paper and began writing his own obituary. When he did that, ideas flowed.

So, my career coaching assignment for career changers this week is this: write your own obituary. You can do it; just give it a try. Imagine the story your grandchildren will tell about how you made your mark on the world. What will they talk about? What do you want them to talk about? Consider all ideas, no matter how crazy they may sound. From all ideas, bits and pieces can be pulled together to gel into one cohesive plan.

Wishing you much career success in 2010!

Meg

Managing Career Change: Shift Your Attitude!

Whether you've been laid off or just burned out with your job, it's important to understand that the biggest factor affecting most worker attitudes today is a rapidly changing work environment. Change is occurring at warp speed all around us, and human nature tends to resist change. Why?

  • Change can mean that you need more education to qualify for a new position, one that didn't even exist when you earned your college degree and thought you were done with studying. (Does that anger you or entice you?)
  • Change can mean having to motivate yourself to meet new people and network to make connections to help lead you to your next position. (But what if you're shy or don't know the social rules of networking?)
  • Change can mean asking for more responsibility at work – cross training – so that you can provide more value to your employer. (What if you feel you already work enough hours and are unappreciated?)
  • Change can mean letting go of outdated ideas and embracing new methods, techniques, and ways of doing business. (But isn't it more comfortable sticking with what you already know – no matter how bad for you - than taking a risk by going into the unknown?)

Change means accepting personal responsibility for your own career management by proactively designing and following a plan to achieve your goals. (Just because you want to change employers, it doesn't mean you are willing to change your attitude – does it?)

Change can be fun, exciting, and full of promise and hope. Or it can be frightening, depressing, and just not fair. It's all up to you – which perception of change do you choose to influence your attitude? Are you letting your attitude block your opportunity to work your passion because you're not willing to change?

Most changes are not easy, but many, especially career change, can be very rewarding. Change will happen whether you want it to or not. Don't fight it. Adopt a flexible attitude toward change, become friends with it, and you will discover how to have less stress in your life and more opportunity for career growth.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

Career Change for You in 2010?

OK, admit it – haven't you been wondering what it would be like to work somewhere else? Aren't you tired of the long hours, reduced benefits, and while we're at it, when was the last time you got a raise?

According to recent surveys, about 50% of all currently employed U.S. workers are ready to find that elusive "better job." Before quitting what you have (especially if you have some degree of comfort there), take the time to evaluate your options. Know what's most important about the next job you go to. Is it the Money, the Work, the People? What really matters most? Perhaps you just want some work/life balance. Or a little fun – what a concept!

Whatever your reason, get the help you need to make a successful career change. On this blog you'll see the link to go grab my f*ree assessment, "The Top 17 Signs You're Due for a Career Change and What to Do About It." Sign up for this, take it and see what you learn. You may be ready to take the leap and didn't even know it!

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

FIND YOUR “JOY BUDDY” FOR JOB SEARCH MOTIVATION

Do you struggle with finding your creativity when exploring new career possibilities? Some of my career coaching clients do. They let the overwhelm of money worries, coupled with the facts and fears brought on by high unemployment rates, get in their way of productive introspection and career clarification.

As a dog lover living with three rescued canines (I only get rescued dogs – but that's for another post), I regularly watch Cesar Milan's "Dog Whisperer" TV show. One of his frequent lessons is to explain that dogs live in the present, not the past or the future. We can all benefit from living in the present. Instead of dwelling on the past (why was I laid off?) or fearing the future (I'll be living on the street with a tin cup in a year), job seekers can help themselves more by focusing on the present.

"Present" questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my core values and why are they important to my career?
  • What makes me want to get up in the morning and go to work?
  • What job skills am I good at AND love to use?

If you let your emotions, or fears of the past or future, cripple your creativity, you will freeze your ability to act. And you have to act to change your job situation for the better!

I found an inspirational article that I recommend to anyone trapped by their worries: "How to squash worry and grab more happiness out of life in tough times". Please read it and discover things you can do today to get your job search back on track once you make room for creativity to flourish again. And while you're at it, find a "joy buddy" – dogs make great "joy buddies," by the way.

FINDING YOUR “MOJO” AFTER A LAYOFF

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NOTE: Job Action Day was initiated by Quintessential Careers. Look for other career-related blogs that display the above logo. Hope you enjoy my contribution.

Wonder where your MOJO went?

It seems like every day I pick up my phone to hear a job seeker cry, “Help! I feel so lost. The layoff crushed my self-esteem and I can’t find the energy to start looking for a new job. What can I do?” My first response is “Breathe!” Then, “Please tell me your story.”

Usually the layoff was not your fault. However, knowing that fact may not provide comfort if your identity is tied up in your career. Please try to remember that the layoff wasn’t personal – chances are you were doing a good job. The company just needed to cut back. To conduct an empowered job search, begin by accumulating baby-step wins to enhance your self-esteem. Don’t try to recover your “mojo” in one giant leap.

With unemployment hovering around 10%, we tend to forget that 90% of the country is still employed. Furthermore, the “10%” includes all occupations in all industries. Experienced workers with college degrees enjoy a lower unemployment rate. Many of us are looking at the glass as 10% empty instead of 90-95% full!

Panic and self-doubt can dominate a job search when fed by the media. So tune out and turn off the news! Beware of all the advice you get from well-meaning friends and family. Don’t let yourself be influenced by matters beyond your control. Yes, I said, “control.” There are still ways to control your job search and career.

Begin by taking inventory of your skills, talents, knowledge, interests, experience – and toss in a healthy dose of values, those things that are must-haves in your life. Do online and off line research to find the fields that ARE hiring. Determine how your “best stuff” can be a match for open job opportunities. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s a lot of work – which is why you need to make looking for a job a full time job in itself. Scheduling job search tasks in a daily planner can help you stay on track – make appointments with yourself and keep them.

Surprisingly, the most difficult task is the research. (You thought I was going to say networking, didn’t you? Gotcha!) Research is where many job seekers get stuck. They try to stay with what they are familiar with instead of branching out. For example, if you’ve been part of the corporate scene all of your life, have you even considered exploring federal government work? Take a spin around www.usajobs.gov and see if anything there catches your eye. At last glance, this site had over 32,000 government jobs posted on it. Don’t let the government application process discourage you. It’s somewhat different from the process you’re familiar with, but it is doable.

As part of your research, try to find someone to talk to who is actually doing (or has done) what interests you. It helps to get the scoop first hand. LinkedIn, where you should already have a robust profile, is a good place to make these connections. (Did you know that this web site is where recruiters go first when looking for candidates?) LinkedIn is also best web site for online networking. (Yes, networking IS a critical part of the job search success equation.)

Finding “anything, just anything” isn’t the best solution to getting reemployed. While you may need to take on a temporary position for a little while, hold out for the permanent job that will challenge your mind and feed your soul. Yes, it’s a jungle out there, but it’s still possible to land on your feet when you trust your instincts and know you deserve the best.

Now, go get your MOJO back!

SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of career experts who will each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. And follow our hashtag #careercollective on Twitter:

Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn't work out

Heather Mundell: Green Jobs – What They Are and How to Find Them

Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint

Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker

Grace Kutney, Securing Your Career While Navigating the Winds of Change

Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Different

Heather R. Huhman: Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job

Laurie Berenson: Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging

Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It's Not Just for Boyscouts

Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow?

Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth

Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today's economy

Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are: 2009 and Beyond

GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You?

Katharine Hansen: Job Action Day 09: His Resume Savvy Helped New Career Rise from Layoff Ashes

“JULIE & JULIA”: A SCRIPT FOR CAREER TRANSITION

"Julie & Julia" appealed to me on many different levels: I love to cook, I love Julia Child's personality, but as a Career Coach, I most love the process of career transition demonstrated in the movie. Seeking a purpose to her life as she felt stuck in a mundane job, modern day Julie set a goal to cook her way through Julia's French cookbook in a year – and blogging about it every step of the way. Her blog took on a life of its own (as blogs can do) and propelled her to job offers from media and publishers. Voila! No more mundane job – hello new career!

Responding to the question every Career Coach asks a hopeful career changer, "What do you really like to do?", Julie Child tells her husband, "Eat!" In a parallel universe we watch Julia Child engineer her own career transition from stay-at-home wife of a diplomat to a professional French chef student that leads to teaching and then to writing her renowned cookbook – half a century ago. With determination and commitment to the process, she keeps pursuing her cookbook dream despite publishers' rejections. She networks (as does Julie) with people who can help her.

The first ingredient required to start any career change process is self-motivation. Julie and Julia did not quit, despite the many obstacles thrown into their way: spouse relocation, unsuccessful cooking attempts, negative comments from others. Instead, they stay focused on their goals, fearlessly trying new things and thriving with the support of those who truly cared.

What really grabbed my attention in the movie was how powerful the blog became as a vehicle for skyrocketing Julie's career transition. Many times a week I discuss blogging with my career coaching clients. Want to get a new job? Start a new career? Then get known on the Internet! That's the first place hiring managers and recruiters look today to learn more about you before scheduling any job interview.

If you don't have a presence on the Internet, you are at a disadvantage – almost as much as if you have a negative presence on the Web. Blogs get indexed quickly so Internet surfers can find them soon after you post. Blog about your career passions spotlighting your knowledge. But if blogging just isn't for you, at least create a professional profile on LinkedIn, the most popular online hot spot for career changers and employers alike.

"Julie & Julia" is a movie everyone who desires a career change must see. Besides its obvious appeal that showcases Meryl Streep's character acting, this movie provides a blueprint for orchestrating your own career change. Watch, listen and enjoy. And take away all its tips to help YOU find the career you really can enjoy.

Bon appetit! (Change your career with confidence!)

CAREER COACHES: DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON VALUE OF THE PROFESSION

Sometimes you just have to speak your mind. And that I did in response to the article, "Your Career: Pros and Cons of Coaches" that appeared on the MSNBC website. I felt the article was presented as fact when opinion was more appropriate. I also felt it was written as advice not founded on fact.

Here is my commentary as it appears on Newsvine along with the article that prompted my response:

"So sad to see an author's opinions being presented as fact based on the experience of publishing a book or two. I wonder how many job seekers has this author actually helped? How many testimonials can she offer to her readers?

"There is NO comparison between self-study through books and regular human interaction with a trained/certified/experienced career coach. What book offers discourse on choices or empathy on personal situations endured?

"There ARE credentialing bodies for career coaches, most notably the International Coach Federation and the Institute of Career Certification International. There are even some colleges and universities now offering coursework in coaching.

"As a Career Management Fellow through ICC International, a Master Certified Career Coach through Career Coach Institute, and an Officer of the Board of the Association of Career Professionals International, I can attest to the fact that most career coaches are true professionals. Career coaches help people discover career options and make tough career choices; clarify/organize their thought processes; enhance their workplace communications; and support/guide them in solving their most challenging career-related problems. And NEVER do true career coaches find jobs for their clients!

"In this very trying recession when layoffs happen at the drop of a hat, career coaches help layoff victims work through the shock and anger of job loss so they can find the courage to risk rejection as they submit resumes into a great abyss and compete for new jobs among hundreds of candidates for each position.

"Active on both Twitter and LinkedIn, I have many times referred followers to MSNBC's career column. Too bad I won't be doing that anymore.

"Oh, BTW, I'm celebrating 10 years as a career coach this year after working as a recruiter, job developer, and employment specialist since 1986."

FIGHTING THE “NO JOB” FEAR

Are you one of the hundreds of thousands of job seekers in a state of panic – not landing fast enough in your next job? Today's job seeker must come to terms with the possibility that work as they've known it may be gone forever. Kind of harsh, to be sure, but necessary to accept. A new job IS out there, but retrofitting your skills and interests to it may take some time.

Online Wikipedia defines retrofitting as "… the addition of new technology or features to older systems." Does that feel like what you're in the middle of doing?

The process of retrofitting takes place in a state I call Career Dissonance, a plateau where the old no longer works, but the change required to adapt to the new has not yet been accepted. Personal attributes required to get you through the Career Dissonance and over to the "change" side include curiosity, creativity, patience, and a healthy dose of self-motivation with perseverance.

Without the above personal attributes, you run the risk of deflating like a balloon, or worse, sinking into a hopeless pit. Panic and fear are your worst enemies. Keep them at bay by maintaining your social contacts, doing something productive everyday, and giving yourself permission to take periodic breaks from the grinding job search to do something fun. It's amazing how much better you can feel after a heartfelt belly-laugh – let the tears flow! Laugh until your side aches!

Everyone has to find their own way to manage the stress, but if you don't find a way, it will control your feelings and your actions.

Just remember that you will eventually come out on the other side of Career Dissonance. Make friends with change because right now it your strongest ally.

DO YOU RUN YOUR CAREER OR DOES IT RUN YOU?

Career self-management is the name of today's employment game. Whether between jobs or not, you must continue to explore your career options, even after achieving your "dream" job. Don't get stuck in a career rut. Job security comes only from within YOU.

Research your career interests. Talk to people in different fields. Develop networks and get involved. Keep looking for ways to improve your skills and increase your knowledge. Gather data, make decisions, and plot your course to career success. Never, ever, ignore the proverbial handwriting on the employer's wall. Always be ready for the next change.

And don't forget about life/work balance. What do you need to do it all most effectively? How can you get focused with a sound action plan? Don't hesitate to reach out for professional guidance and support.

CAREER CHANGE – WHAT’S HEADING YOUR WAY?

In his weekly address to the nation today, President-elect Obama hints at what could yet come for U.S. workers – potentially millions of layoffs in 2009. But he also proposes a plan: "The economic recovery plan being developed by his staff aims to create 2.5 million jobs by January 2011."

The Big Question: Will you be ready to change jobs – even careers – if necessary? Now's the time to take stock of what you know, what you can do, and what you can learn. Don't let a layoff catch you off guard – be ready for it even if you can't imagine how YOUR job could possibly be in jeopardy.

While financial expert Suze Orman says now is the time to "hunker down," only pay for purchases with cash, and save 10% of your income — now is NOT the time to "hunker down" job where your job is concerned. Instead, you have to become proactive – take charge – grab control of your career and your job. Whatever you do, don't trust your company to take care of you – you must take care of yourself.

[Sidebar: Last week I bid an outplacement project for a small company that was eliminating the positions of three employees - each person over 50 years of age and each with 13-20 years' experience at the company. THIS COULD ALSO HAPPEN TO YOU!]

Career change is never easy. It requires an open mind, flexibility, and acceptance that your current job situation is going in a different direction whether you want to go with the flow or not. Please, use this time while you're still employed to create your personal career plan. Take the time to do the research to know where you could fit in if the next layoff hits you.

CAREER CHAOS ISN’T EASY, BUT IT’S WORTH IT!

Making changes under pressure usually results in the wrong decisions. Who can think clearly if you’ve just lost your job? However, if you have the financial resources and peace of mind, then, by all means, take the time following layoff or termination to carefully explore the changes you want to make in your next career move.

"Change Isn’t As Easy As It Sounds" (Kansas City Star, 12-31-06) addresses the dilemma of how much change one should undertake in finding a new job after layoff or termination. It makes for an interesting read, but fails to tell the stories of those who did make radical career changes successfully.

As a career coach, my files are filled with those success stories. It is possible to make radical career changes that result in your increased happiness and overall job satisfaction. It’s up to you to decide when you are ready to change instead of just looking for a job that pays you for doing the same old thing.

CHASING HAPPINESS

As a career coach I see a lot of self-proclaimed unhappy people. When I ask new clients their main goal for the next three months and 90% say they want to be happy, I have to sit back and ask, "What does happiness look like to you?" and "When will you know you have achieved it?"

Most have no specific answer to either question. It seems that happiness is an elusive state of being, some nebulous sense of utopia that can only be realized by having more than "enough" money (how much?), the "perfect" mate, zero stress, total freedom (at work and home), absence of boredom – and so on.

The clarifying question becomes: Is happiness more like a half-full glass or a half-empty glass? "Neither," say most. "Happiness is when the glass is 100% full." So, am I to believe that no one in this world is happy? After all, let’s get real – how many of us live our lives with our glass 100% full? Is that even possible?

Coaching moment: Choose ONE thing you can do today that would result in raising the water line in your "happiness" glass. It doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be sincere. Step back and ask yourself, "Why does this make me happy?"

TOP TEN PET PEEVES OF A CAREER COACH

Working in the careers industry I hear many stories of what "turns off" a hiring authority. Here are some of the top pet peeves along with some of my own. A career coach can support you in modifying these behaviors to enhance opportunities for getting and keeping a job. My comments follow each pet peeve:

  1. Conducting more than 5% of a job search in front of a computer – time waster!
  2. Answering machine with a child’s voice giving instructions – not cute!
  3. Message left with a garbled / racing / indistinguishable phone number – delete!
  4. Business card collector working a room at a networking event – ineffective!
  5. Resume or CV with grammatical, formatting, and data errors – toss!

Want the other 10 pet peeves? Get the whole article in the career articles section of Abilities Enhanced.

DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CAREER – OR DID IT CHOOSE YOU?

Many of us go through life working a job we really don’t like because we just kind of fell into it. Does that sound like you?

I know it was true for me for the first 12 years of my work life. Once I realized I wasn’t happy, it took me 3 years to figure out what I really wanted to do – and then get it! Luckily, I was able to identify my true calling and discover how to work my passion. Of course, if I’d had a career coach, it wouldn’t have taken nearly as long.

Picking a Career isn’t easy anytime, but when you take charge and invest the time and resources into choosing your career instead of letting it choose you, you will find more joy in your work. Take a look at 20 questions to ask before making a leap.