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

Busting Free from the Control of Email

Remember the 1980s movie, "Ghostbusters?" The plot involves a trio of ghost exterminators who try to save New York from supernatural doom when a river of slime grows unchecked under the city, threatening to obliterate humanity.

After 13 years of working in my virtual career coaching business, I admit that I've been "slimed" by the over abundance of emails – email drives my business and I am tired of it! Email notice

When I boot up my computer in the morning, the first thing I do is check my email. I get invigorated from the thrill of never knowing what awaits me. It might be a potential client's inquiry, it might be a sign-up for my newsletter, or it might even be a new client contract! More likely, though, hiding behind cloaked headers are unwanted solicitations for anything from male sexual enhancement drugs to how to get my Santa letters addressed from the North Pole.

After reviewing 50 or more email headers in my inbox, deleting what I perceive as junk mail, saving my subscription newsletters for future reading, handling requests for information about my career services, and responding to clients who have emailed me overnight, whew! – I feel like I've worked a full day and it’s only 8 AM!

At this point, I’d probably be OK having invested only an hour or so into my email management. However, I stay connected to my email inbox throughout the day. Whenever I receive a new email, I am alerted through my email software program. With my business being Internet-based, I assume clients and prospects expect instant gratification when they contact me; therefore, I want to comply. I guess you could say I consider replying to email with a sense of urgency as one way I provide high-quality customer service.

The constant interruption of email alerts distracts my focus. I'm pulled away from whatever I'm doing to read the latest greeting. It’s difficult to create new client materials, prepare for my speaking engagements, write articles like this one, and more. My only saving grace is that I don’t handle emails while coaching my clients. I’ve been caught off guard on occasion, though, trying to multi-task by reading email when participating in a teleclass. I just can't seem to master the art of reading, listening and responding – all at the same time! (Why do I get a picture here of the three monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil?)

Outside the office, my obsession with email continues. I’ve set up my email to route to my cell phone; I can easily access it from my laptop computer via my wireless Internet connection as I watch TV with husband in the evening; I never travel out of town without my laptop for fear I will miss some critical email message. On more than one occasion, my husband has claimed that I am married more to my email than to him! Oh, my!

Now that I've bared my soul, can you help me figure out what to do to control this email monster? Perhaps you have experienced similar feelings about email driving your own work day? What are the challenges you face? What have you done to remedy the situation? Please, tell me your secrets and tips! I need help!

I’d love to hear from you. Then, I will write a follow-up column offering solutions to this dilemma that I’m sure impacts many of us. When you write, please let me know if I may use your name when I quote you in my article. You may contact me at meg@abilitiesenhanced.com.

I did find a good article on email overload, "10 Tips To Take Control Of Your Inbox" – published in the Business Insider. I'll see if any of those tips can help.

Working in a one-person office presents me enough challenges without having "email slime" trying to Ghosts_DSC2516take over. Let's all become "ghost-busters" and discover better methods for handling our email monsters so we can refocus on what's most important while we work. I'm ready to take back my life!

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)

A Few LinkedIn Pointers for a Job Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

A Career Lesson for 2012: Learn From Others’ Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you career success in 2012! Happy New Year!

Meg

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

Layoff Heading Your Way? 7 Things to Do Now!

We all know that today's workplace is like a ship on a turbulent sea: Ship You never know when you might get thrown overboard – or at least injured. So, be prepared for whatever happens. Take precautions so you won't be caught off guard.

Following are some basic tips to brace yourself for a layoff. Heed them, or ignore them at your peril:

1. Move all of your personal files off of your office computer – get them home! Now! And this includes your resume. Sometimes layoffs happen so quickly that you aren't allowed to take personal possessions with you, let alone remove anything off the work computer.

2. Time to update your resume – don't wait until you're already out of work. Hire a professional resume writer to help as you may not be thinking too clearly right now. You need an objective point of view to dig out your key accomplishments and results. Your resume is your marketing brochure to get to the next job search step – the job interview, your personal sales presentation.

3. Update your LinkedIn profile with current job information, as well as new connections. Connect with current co-workers, vendors, professionals in your field, and anyone you know who could help you build a bridge to your next job. Get involved on LinkedIn to build your find-ability. Join industry-related and general local groups where you will pose questions and respond to others as part of the networking process. (Did you know that LinkedIn is the number one place that recruiters go to source talent?)

4. Tell everyone you know in your personal life that your job is ending. This is nothing to be ashamed of! You need the far reach of all your contacts to help you connect with your next opportunity. I had one career coaching client land his next job by networking with other parents at his son's soccer game. Shame is your enemy – own your situation and share the news.

5. Hire a Career Coach to help you develop your job search strategy. Get one-on-one support from a careers professional focused on your special situation – shift your career into full gear! Otherwise, you may fall victim to circular thinking and remain unemployed much longer. Support is critical to your success. This is not the time to believe you can do this alone – you need help! And that's OK!

6. Use whatever time you have left at work to take advantage of your health insurance benefits: schedule and do annual physicals, dental visits, take care of your vision needs, refill prescriptions, etc. COBRA is expensive. Other health insurance can be cost prohibitive when you have to purchase it yourself. Going without health insurance can be very risky, so you'll have to get some coverage, though it probably won't be the Cadillac version you've had through work.

7. Analyze your budget and determine exactly how much money you need to survive for at least 3 to 6 months, maybe longer. Axe the cable TV, daily lattes, eating out, gifts, manicures, and whatever else you don't need to survive (start washing the car in your driveway!). Learn to cook – it's so much cheaper than eating out, and healthier, too!

I'm sure I've missed other important tasks for layoff preparation. For those of you who've experienced this life-altering event, what should be added to this list? Please share to help those who are next up to walk the plank. Career churn is the new norm. We really need to help each other. Always keep your life jacket nearby!

I welcome your comments and contributions.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Pet Peeves of a Ranting Career Coach (Me!)

As a Career Coach, every once in a while I just have to blow off steam. It seems that I've reached that place today. Don't get me wrong – I love my clients – I love my work – I love working my passion. BUT, sometimes frustrations find their way into my career of helping others master their careers. Usually, it's the obvious to me, but not to my clients, that gives me the most reason to pause. I realize that I have lived my career for so many years, while my clients aren't as focused on the minutia as I. However, other career pros, such as hiring managers, recruiters, and HR professionals, also seem to spot these tiny things, and they have the power to pitch your resume or reject you after your job interview. Or worse, if you're working, fire you. So, let's just get it right! As always, I welcome your comments below.

1. If 5 years ago you "led" a project, you don't say you "lead" it. Huh? The present tense of the verb "to lead" is "lead," the past tense is "led." When you use "lead" in the past tense, I'm looking for my pencil to red line your resume error. Get it? There is NEVER a valid excuse for an imperfect resume. It can get tossed out of competition for - wait for it – incorrect minutia!

2. If you are going to give your best effort to finding a new position, how difficult is it to create a professional email address? I've seen everything from bubblegumbaby @yahoo.com to footballfetish @hotmail.com – and a lot of others in between. Ideally, you want an email address that includes your name with as few other characters as possible. Even my husband, who is a self-employed carpenter, is changing his email address from scoot### @emailaddress.com to something more professionally appropriate. The days of cutesy email addresses are gone – time to get with the program!

3. Do you want a potential employer who calls you to schedule an interview to have to listen to your 4-year old kid's 3-minute answering machine greeting on your home phone? Or cell phone? Hmm, how much do you really want a new job?

4. So you don't want to add your photo to your LinkedIn profile (assuming you even have a LinkedIn profile) because you're afraid of discrimination or privacy issues. Gosh, haven't you heard? Privacy is passe – it doesn't exist anymore, thanks to the Internet. If you have ever given a recorded speech, shared a pic with friends on Facebook, volunteered or participated at a media-covered charity event, or had a friend send you your photo in a text message – your picture is already out there! Cover your professional bases with a professional photo on LinkedIn. You'll be glad you did. And you will boost you chances for being targeted for good job opportunities.

5. Speaking of the Internet, what do you think your boss will say when he or she reads your hastily typed comments about him or her on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, email, or any other online program? Please, remember that anything you type becomes a permanent record. People have been fired for saying work-related things they they had thought they were sharing privately with co-workers and friends. Again, let me repeat, "There is no privacy anymore!"

BONUS: Please tell me you already know that you are being researched online by Traffic lightprospective employers and current employers alike.  Just as that red light camera snaps your picture to send you a traffic ticket when you don't stop in time at an intersection, your work activities are being constantly monitored. Quit using work email as a personal email! Stop using the company's computer for non-company activities (shop from home!). In these trying times when jobs are really hard to come by, protect yours by following smart online practices. Find a job by exhibiting the highest ethical and moral standards. Whether we like it or not, the age of Big Brother has arrived – and we're all caught up in it.

OK, this coffee pot has finished brewing. All the steam in gone, for now, except for one last spout-off: Respect is the first expectation any potential employer will have of a candidate, and the ongoing expectation any current employer will have of you. Prove you are reliable and can be trusted by the way you conduct yourself with your professional best practices, and that includes the Internet. 

Wishing you 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

How to Handle Five Common #Career Skeletons

We all have them – situations, that if openly discussed, may have a negative impact on our lives and/or careers.

Several years ago I was surprised by one myself. WillardjohnMy aunt had been tracing the family tree on my mother's side when she came across information about a distant relative who had been hanged over three centuries ago after being convicted of murder. Wow! Although this unearthed family factoid (we believe it was a truth, but not quite sure) did not directly affect my life, it made me stop in my tracks and ponder the question: what else did I not know about my family?

When it comes to a job search, it's more likely that a personal situation a lot closer to home will present a potential roadblock to getting your next job. Following is a list of five possible barriers that may pop up for job seekers, barriers requiring your tact and skill to address in a job interview – if you want a job offer. One recommendation is to hire a professional career coach to help you present yourself in the best manner possible. Please share your comments below, especially if you've experienced these or any other job-busting situations.

Common Career Skeletons

1. Bad Credit Report: It's a sad fact, but today's employers routinely ask your permission to pull your credit report before offering you a job. For anyone who was laid off several months ago, chances are your credit report has taken a few hits. Since you will usually be interviewed before your credit report is pulled, the best action to take is to bring up this problem in the interview. Don't be ashamed – you've been trying to survive! Just offer at the end of the interview a very brief synopsis of the truth of why your report has been dinged. Many employers will be understanding about this.

2. Termination from Previous Job: If this termination was from your last job, you will need to address it more purposefully than if it was from a job way back in your work history. Try to keep from mentioning the situation until you are interviewed as you can soften the situation better in a face-to-face encounter. Briefly sum up what happened, assume the blame yourself (don't blame your old boss), and be ready to discuss what you've learned that will keep this from ever happening again. Once more, don't blame your past employer!

3. Conflict with Previous Boss: If you and your last boss just didn't get along, be ready to weave a story about that relationship into your interview conversation. Address the problem, what actions you took to resolve it, and whatever positive results came from those actions. Don't leave the story hanging in the air – be sure to offer the resolution. Even if the question doesn't arise, it's better to gently discuss it as there's a good chance your old boss will be contacted for a "reference" whether you name him/her or not on your reference list.

4. Criminal Record: Now this is a serious situation, not insurmountable, but very challenging. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is your only option here. As with most barriers to employment, put the emphasis on what you've learned through this experience and how it will positively shape your behavior going forward into the future. There are career coaches who specialize in working with people facing this roadblock. It's probably a good idea to seek professional career advice to maximize your chances for getting a job.

5. Non-visible Disability: It's easy for an employer to see if you're blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair. Many employers consider these "low-risk" disabilities when it comes to hiring. They feel they can make the necessary accommodations to support persons with these disabilities in a competitive work environment. However, if you have an emotional or mental illness, beginning stages of Parkinson's disease, or have been recently diagnosed with cancer, no one may know about it but you. You always have the choice of whether or not to disclose your disability and you can weigh the advantages vs. disadvantages to you in doing so. But if you have, say, ADHD and need any employer accommodations to perform the essential functions of your position, it's best to disclose your disability before accepting a job offer – probably in the second interview. Disability disclosure is a hugely personal thing. I suggest working with a career coach who specializes in the area of disabilities, such as Rosalind Joffe of Working with Chronic Illness, to get the support you need to get the job of your choice.

Perfectjob_12 Landing a job is a huge job in itself in today's economy, even for those with no career skeletons. When you have special barriers, it can become a more daunting task. Just stay focused on your goal, adapt your job strategy to meet any special situations, and get help from a professional career coach. Employers hire self-confident candidates who can solve problems. Know your value and your strengths, and become an expert at demonstrating both. The rest will follow.

 

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

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

Career Success CAN Be Yours in 2011!

As we leave 2010 and enter 2011, take some time to choose what you want for your career next year. When you have a plan, you're more likely to get what you want.

"Fortune favors the bold." This quote from Virgil, a wise man of long, long ago, was never more true than it is today in our workplace. "The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving." Was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., referring to the way we manage our careers? "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers sums it up: we have to take action to make it happen!

Are you getting the picture? Take charge of your own career success! Remember the bestselling book of a few Who.moved.cheese years ago, "Who Moved My Cheese?"  Its author, Spencer Johnson, M.D., uses a short and simple parable to prove how we need to embrace change as a way of life to succeed in today's workplace. He develops the plights of four characters, two mice and two "little people," as they seek crucial nourishment by wandering through a maze, forced to deal with unexpected change along the way. Taking less than a hour to read, this amusing story could impact your life forever and help you process the idea of "change."

Continue to explore your career options, even after you achieve your "dream" job. Don't get stuck in a career rut. Your job security must come from within YOU. Research your career interests. Talk to people in different fields. Develop your networks and get involved. Keep looking for ways to improve your skills and increase your knowledge. Gather your data, make some decisions, then begin plotting your course to a new career success.

Hire a career coach to help you focus on your goals and create an action plan to attain them. When you partner Perfectjob_12 with a professional coach, you have someone who will support you in your goals and keep you motivated to achieve them.

Never, ever, ignore the proverbial handwriting on the employer's wall. Always be ready for the next change, whether you want it or not. You can make it happen! You can make it the best thing that ever happened to you!

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

Your Career Brand: A Scary Trick or an Appealing Treat?

Ghosts and goblins and witches – oh, my! Have you gotten into the spirit of Halloween? Ghosts_DSC2516 We at Career Collective have, but, of course, we see this "trick or treat" time through the lens of career management and job search. What fun metaphors this holiday provides us! 

Does your career "costume" attract your target audience? I'm not talking about the clothes you're wearing, but the career brand you project by the way you talk, the professional groups with which you associate, and the kind of work behavior you exhibit on the job. While you have to be true to your authentic self, there is never a right time at work to be totally informal. Opinions of others of you do matter, so keep your politics to yourself, don't bash your boss or co-workers, and NEVER go into work with a hangover. Crying on the job is usually inappropriate, no matter how difficult it may be to hold back the tears. Habitually long lunch hours and other mismanagement of your time indicate a careless attitude toward your job responsibilities. And whatever you do, remember that your work computer belongs to your employer – don't use it for personal shopping, surfing porn sites, or goofing off because you're bored with your job. (Do I even have to mention why you don't use it for job search? Duh!)

Finger OK, I hear you – you're not currently looking for a job, so why must you project any career brand at all? NEWSFLASH: No matter how secure you believe your job to be, you are always "on stage" auditioning for your next career role. Do I really have to re-hash the "no job is permanent" speech as we continue to crawl out of a crippling recession? Every worker wants security and stability, but these elusive conditions no longer exist, if they ever did. You must take charge of your career, making decisions and choices while still employed as you now is when you have emotional wherewithall to exercise sound judgment.

So, going back to your career brand, take a look at how you can build and weave yourDigital_spider_cobweb_2010  career plan for the life of your career, not just for filling the space between your jobs. At work, everything you do and everyone you meet become part of your career plan in some way. Be strategic – decide how you can integrate both into your next career move. Guess what – this means you need to discover what your next career move should be. Or do you want another career by default instead of by choice? (Note: A Career Coach can help.)

Cultivate your database of contacts. When you collect business cards, note on the back of them a connective word to trigger your mind to remember the individual. And then reach out to them later. A quick email, coffee break, or a lunch can start to build the rapport you need. Recently, I had a client who faced very little challenge in getting a new job when she was unexpectedly laid off. She went to her database and contacted everyone she knew. Voila! She was back at work – in her chosen field – in 30 days. Her lifelong, on-the-job networking paid off big time.

Constantly working on your career brand can become tiring. You will have to consider it your second job, deserving of your time, attention and hard work. I suggest keeping a tracking file – on your HOME computer – of what you do, when you do it, and with whom you connect. Keep it simple, but well-organized. Stay connected to the world outside your workplace by reading about current events, white papers from your field, and global business news (as well as local). We are entering the annual holiday season when you can make networking more frequent – take advantage of this time!

Bottom line: Discover your own way to set your career brand on fire. Jack_DSC2886cut%20copyWhen you light it up, others will notice. Carve out your goals, then go after them by staying involved and engaged so your next job search is an easy one.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

And a safe Happy Halloween!

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. Follow our hash-tag on Twitter - #careercollective  as well as follow everyone's individual tweets on this month's topic of Halloween. You'll be surprised at all the free career advice and knowledge that is availabe to you!

 

Where Are the Wild Things, Anyway?, @WorkWithIllness

Is Your Job Search Making You Feel Like a Smashed Pumpkin?, @DebraWheatman

Hiding in Plain Sight, @WalterAkana,

Don't make these frightful resume mistakes, @LaurieBerenson

How Not to Be a Spooky Job Seeker, @heathermundell

A Tombstone Resume:Eulogizing Your Experience, @GayleHoward

The Top Ten Scary Things Job Seekers Do, @barbarasafani

Oh, Job Search Isn't Like Trick or Treating?, @careersherpa

A Most Unfortunate Resume Mistake No One Will Tell You, @chandlee

Oh no. Not the phone!, @DawnBugni

Halloween Caution: Job Seeker Horror, @resumeservice

Boo! Are you scaring away opportunities or the competition? @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Your Career Brand: A Scary Trick or an Appealing Treat?, @KCCareerCoach

How to avoid mistakes on your resume, @Keppie_Careers

Sc-sc-scary Resume Mistakes, @erinkennedycprw

A Flawed Resume is a Scary Prospect, @KatCareerGal

Job Search Angst: Like Clouds Mounting Before a Storm, @ValueIntoWords

Does Your Career Costume Fit You?, @expatcoachmegan

A Self-Empowering Job Search Resource

When job seekers think of resources to help them find a job, they usually focus on external options, such as job boards, LinkedIn, Twitter, career coaches, resume writers, and more. However, after trying and not winning the game of finding a job after an endless length of time, despair and discouragement can set in. Maybe now is the time to look at resources to assist your internal process.

Journaling is such a resource. When frustration and defeat dominate your thoughts, they can overflow into your actions causing inactivity – the biggest enemy of your finding a job. If you want to work on your inner thoughts and feelings, start keeping a journal. Writing about what's going on with you – inside and out – can help you manage it all so much better. Journaling is an easy-to-use self-empowerment tool – give it a try!

Here's a quote from Steve Pavlina's blog, "Personal Development for Smart People," that summarizes quite well how journaling helps:

"While your brain is technically capable of processing a great deal of input simultaneously, your conscious thoughts play out in a certain sequence. One thought triggers the next, which triggers the next, and so on. Sometimes these sequences have a few branches, but they’re still subject to linear time, and at any given moment, you’re following one of those branches. These thought sequences have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it’s nearly impossible to see the big picture overhead view of a sequence while you’re stuck in playback mode.

This is where journaling can provide huge advantages. Journaling allows you to break free of sequential thinking and examine your thoughts from a bird’s-eye view. When you record your sequential thoughts in a tangible medium, you can then go back and review those thoughts from a third-person perspective. While you’re recording the thoughts, you’re in first-person mode. But when you’re reading them, you can remain dissociated instead of associated. This dissociative view, when combined with what you’ve already learned from the associative view, will bring you much closer to seeing the truth of your situation."

Until recently, there were only a couple of ways to journal – write by hand in a notebook or type a Word document and save it on your computer. Now there is a third option: participate in an online community where journal topics are even provided for you to help sort out your thoughts.

Last week Abilities Enhanced launched a free Career Community where after you join you will receive a free 52-week journal. A public forum and Abilities Enhanced newsletter are also included in the program. Of course, Career Coach comments from me are part of your membership. You may choose the level of privacy you wish to maintain and how much you want to interact with your peers.

As our career community grows, I will be adding paid options to enhance your experience. But for now, there's a lot to do that doesn't cost a dime – perfect for the unemployed job seeker. However, journaling is really for everyone involved in career management.

To join, click on the link below that will take you to a shopping cart where the purchase price is $0. Following a couple of thank you's, you'll receive a "Next steps" email from me with a link that takes you to the actual AE Career Community site where you'll need to set up your profile to become a member. This is a critical step – you have to set up your profile before the career community will let you participate.

(Note: if you are a career coach and want to join, please do! The free option is open to all.)

Here is the link to get you started:

http://tinyurl.com/29osgno

Happy journaling – hope to see you in the AE Career Community soon! And, please, let me know if you have any questions.

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: "Favorite Resources for Job Seekers."

 Career Collective Posts for September 2010:

Career-Collective-original-small If your industry does not participate online, you can lead the way, @Keppie_Careers 

6 Ideas to Put In Your Toolbox, @WorkWithIllness,

Your Best Job Search Resource? You!, @WalterAkana

In a Job Search, Knowledge is Power, @barbarasafani

Jump Start Your Job Search Now!, @resumeservice

Favourite Resources for Jobseekers, @GayleHoward

The Best Job Search Tool Ever, @careersherpa

Find What You Do Best, Know Your Stuff, and Connect, @chandlee

27 Recommended Blogs for Entry-Level Job Seekers, @heatherhuhman

Invaluable Resources for Job Search Success, @heathermundell

Favorite Social-Media Resources for Job-seekers, @KatCareerGal

Canadian Resources for Job Seekers, @EliteResumes @MartinBuckland

A Self-Empowering Job Search Resource, @KCCareerCoach

Covering your bases: 5 ultra-useful online career resources, @LaurieBerenson

Favorite resources for Job seekers, @DawnBugni

Top 3 Resources for Job Seekers to Position Themselves as Experts and Increase their Visibility, @expatcoachmegan

Time as a Career Resource: How "Not" to Squander It, @ValueIntoWords

Favorite Internet Resources for Jobseekers, @ErinKennedyCPRW

The Facts Behind Why LinkUp Is the Most Revolutionary Job Search Engine Available to Job Seekers, @GLHoffman

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

#Career Coach Musings on Office Politics

Office politics, that hated beast, is a dynamic that most people in the workplace can't avoid. Wherever people gather – office, church, even a camping club – relationships are formed and power struggles ensue. Everyone brings his or her personal agenda to a team or a group, an agenda filled with personal expectations that is rarely openly shared with all. These hidden agendas cause surprise and dismay to other group members who unintentionally step on toes or take an independent path.

Communication, or lack of it, determines who rises to the top of any group. Words with their shades of meaning get interpreted various ways depending upon one's perspective or hidden agenda filter. Words can be used intentionally to drive a personal agenda, forcing issues to the forefront or making others feel slammed. Body language is also a strong communicator indicating desired inclusion or exclusion of another's words, actions or presence. Lack of any communication leaves group members to their own imaginations to fill the void that can drive wedges between others in the group.

So, what does a person do? How do you fit or blend into a group? How to do find your place where others will respect and accept you? How do you keep office politics from hurting your career – or can the politics even help it?

Unfortunately, there's no magic wand you can wave to make everyone play nice. People are wired in so many different ways that there's no one recipe that will work for all. Over the years I have learned from work and other situations that authenticity is still the best policy. Speak up – be yourself. You'll feel better if you are first true to you instead of trying to play other people's games. That doesn't mean that you'll always "win" or be included in a group. There may even be times that you end of getting fired or have to walk away from a group. But in the long run, you will be the one who's taken the high road. After all, you have to live with you for the rest of your life.

I would love to hear how you manage group dynamics. Please leave your comments below.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

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

Career Change Requires Losing the Fear

Career change isn't easy.

  • First, you must want it very much.
  • Second, you must make it your top priority.
  • Third, you must be willing to take a risk or two to make it happen.

The perception today is that workers have "dramatically lowered their career and retirement aspirations." (Workers Perceive Little Opportunity, Wall Street Journal, 3/16/2010)

Whoa – not so fast! As a career coach, I encounter people every day who want to change careers, hope to change careers, and actually do change careers. But there are some who let fear paralyze them from actually changing careers. People haven't "given up looking for higher pay or better positions" (despite what a recent Towers Waters HR survey claims per WSJ), but they are acting cautiously and discreetly – the same as employed workers have always behaved.

"Employees are overwhelmed and under appreciated" is my quote in today's WSJ article. And, yes, I do believe workers are tolerating "more work discomfort." But why is that? Is it in "gratitude for even having a job" or is it perhaps because they're afraid of being terminated if their true feelings were to be exposed?

I would be out of business if people weren't exploring career changes, as would other career coaches who specialize in helping people find new career paths. Instead, just this year I have helped a financial expert discover his passion for counseling college students, a field sales professional choose his retirement career in lawn and garden retail, and many more. These individuals didn't let recession fears, workplace fears, or even identity fears stop them from discovering how to work their passion. They chose hope over fear. They chose self-reliance.

While fear can become crippling, hope is more powerful. As long as people have hope, they will be able to overcome whatever obstacles are thrown into their career paths.

Wishing you career success in 2010!

Meg

You Can Beat the Job Search Blues: 5 + 3 Tips to Get Re-energized

Let's face it: job search is a tedious task, even during the best of times. When you're used to being motivated by others in a team work environment, it's so very difficult to motivate yourself while conducting a job search on your own. Particularly if you're a layoff survivor, you know that the longer you're out of the work, the harder it gets.

So, what can you do to keep up your spirits – to stay on track with your job search? To keep moving toward finding your next job?

Noah Blumenthal, best-selling author of "Be the Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life," offers his five tips in a CareerBuilder article posted on CNN: 1) Go online; 2) Separate yourself; 3) Have fun; 4) Set a big goal; 5) Go to work. Jump over to the article to read all the details.

While I agree with everything Blumenthal says, as a career coach, I have three more tips (or variations on his themes) to offer you to overcome job search discouragement:

First, get in touch with your personal spirituality and get strength from an inner anchor. For believers, this is probably your God. For others, this may be your connection with nature and all its wonders. (Yes, a pet counts as nature! Pets offer a great source for unconditional love.)

Second, plan your escape time. Now, I don't mean sleeping around the clock. But everyone needs to take purposeful breaks in job search to jump start your creativity. Examples could include a short weekend trip to clear your head and make room for new ideas; take in a free concert; or invite friends over for a potluck dinner.

Third, join free job clubs for face-to-face social interaction with others who understand what you're going through. Empathy is good, as long as it doesn't turn into a pity party. Remember, you're seeking positive energy for rejuvenation. (Read about how "life rewards action" from Rules for Unemployment.)

Bonus tip: I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage you to hire a career coach. The special relationship you form with your coach can do much to help you stay energized and focused.

Whatever you do, some action is better than no acton. If you can stay connected to the "who" that you are, you will project a more powerful presence to all you encounter in your job search.

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:

Career-Collective-original-small@MartinBuckland, Job Search Made Positive

@GayleHoward, Job Search: When It All Turns Sour

@chandlee, Strategy for Getting “Unstuck” and Feeling Better: Watch Lemonade

@heathermundell, Help for the Job Search Blues

@heatherhuhman, 10 Ways to Turn Your Job Search Frown Upside-Down

@WalterAkana, Light at the End of the Tunnel

@resumeservice, Don’t Sweat The Job Search

@careersherpa, Mind Over Matter: Moving Your Stalled Search Forward

@WorkWithIllness, Finding Opportunity in Quicksand

@KatCareerGal, Job-Hunting in a Weak Job Market: 5 Strategies for Staying Upbeat (and Improving Your Chances of Success)

@ErinKennedyCPRW, Dancing in the Rain–Kicking the Job Search Blues

@keppie_careers, What to do when you are discouraged with your job search

@DawnBugni, It's the Little Things

@ValueIntoWords, Restoring Your Joy in Job Search

@jobhuntorg, Just SO VERY Discouraged

@barbarasafani, Making Job Search Fun (Yeah, That’s Right!)

@GLHoffman, How to Overcome the Job Search Negativity

@LaurieBerenson, Ways to Keep Your Glass Half Full

@ExpatCoachMegan, Dealing With Job Search Stress: Getting to the Source of the Problem

In Support of #Jobseekers Getting Hired (Rant)

One of the biggest ironies of this crazy recession is the unfair Human Resource practice of credit checking new hires. Following layoff, there comes a time when unemployment benefits run out and all savings are gone, and life as you know it changes in ways you never could have predicted.

Can you imagine surviving months – or years – without cash reserves and having to feed your family using credit cards? Eventually, falling behind on your monthly payments so your credit score drops? And then, not able to make your house payment, you become a victim of foreclosure, so your credit score takes a bigger nosedive? And now comes a default on your student loan… (unless you can get a deferment).

Even if you're working part time at a fast food restaurant or convenience store, there's no way you can pay all your bills. There's no way you can support a family. And then, you finally get a job interview scheduled despite all the odds, and OMG, you get a job offer!!! But wait, the offer is rescinded because of your credit score. Give me a break!

This is uncalled for. A person's character these days can't be measured by their credit history. Too much of life has interfered to make credit scores valid anymore. While government tries to enact job bills, what about just banning automatic credit checks of new hires instead? I wonder how much this could help to reverse the unemployment situation. Could this stem the tide of the long term unemployed?

Maybe career coaches and counselors and career management professionals could band together to put pressure on hiring authorities to become more pragmatic in their new hire practices. Or maybe it's time to write our senators and representatives, or send them signed petitions – anything to call attention to this crazy practice that defeats the purpose of getting people back to work.

Thank you for listening to my rant. I'd love to hear your comments.

Wishing you career success in 2010,

Meg

Jump-start Your 2010 Job Search with 7 New Year’s Resolutions

It's that time again – the end of one year and the beginning of another. Many make New Year's Resolutions fully intending to keep them, but seldom do. Whether it's to lose weight, save more money, be nicer to in-laws, spend more time with your kids — speaking your intention is only the initial step to success. Creating a plan and then working it will bring you much closer.

This is particularly true when it comes to your job search. If you've been out of work or laid off for any amount of time, overwhelm and apathy may have set in. Yes, it's difficult – very difficult – to keep going. Rejection is the most painful emotion to feel, even when you try so hard not to take it personally. Now, more than ever, you need a job search buddy to keep you motivated and moving forward.

Hopefully, you took some time off during the holidays to focus on YOU and your self-care. You'll need every ounce of this renewable energy as you renew your job search in January.

To help boost your job search as we enter 2010, I've made a list of recommended New Year's Resolutions. Not in any particular order, each offers its own importance to assist you.

  • 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 boday 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 vested 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.

While writing these resolutions, I see that there are so many more that could be added. What are your comments? What do you consider to be the most important New Year's Resolutions for job seekers?

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Wishing You Job Search Success and a Happy New Year!

Meg