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Tag Archives: Career Coach Advice

Learning agility and using fear as a catalyst

When learning something new, we instinctively keep it close and secret until we feel confident that we’ve got it down pat. Usually this is because we feel embarrassed by our clumsiness with new skills. However, we can’t learn until we apply our skills, which means a bit of screwing up. You’ll find that even though screwing up might be hard on your ego, it’ll increase the rate at which you learn and respond in unique situations.

This is because of a special nerve in our bodies, called the vagus nerve. As Christopher Bergland explains in this article on Psychology Today, “When people say ‘trust your gut’ they are in many ways saying, ‘trust your vagus nerve.’ Visceral feelings and gut-instincts are literally emotional intuitions transferred up to your brain via the vagus nerve.”

Bergland goes on to say that we can teach ourselves to respond positively to the “gut-feeling” we get from the vagus nerve by being in tune with the loop between our bodies and minds and using this awareness to our advantage. Instead of choking under pressure, which comes from a negative response from the vagus nerve, we can control its signals and stay calm under stress.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and look for the most stressful situation you can find and purposely make your learning experience as intense as possible. Many people thrive under pressure, while others do much better using more gradual methods, and I understand that. I do want to encourage you to push the limits you think you have when you’re taking on something new, because:

  1. Most of us underestimate ourselves.
  2. Most of us overestimate the thing we’re learning.
  3. You won’t really know how true either of the above are until you go out and see for yourself.

Examples of diving in:

-Giving a presentation using material you’re new to. Of course, don’t do this at your next big, job-on-the-line presentation, but do try out new materials, approaches and styles when you have a less career-defining presentation.

-Teaching yourself a skill that is outside your normal set of skills. If you’re a numbers wiz, try out some of the good literature. If you’re an extrovert, try meditation. If you’re shy, try the above suggestion!

-Wearing your mistakes as badges, knowing that each falter invariably pushes you closer to mastery.

How do you deal with handling pressure? How does it impact your ability to learn?



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job hunt while working current job

It’s a common story. You desperately want a new job, but because of financial constraints, you’re unable to quit your current one and start searching. What do you do?

The simple answer is, of course, you have to search for a new job while you’re still working your current one. But that isn’t always easy. How do you balance your time between everyday work and job hunting? How do you field calls from potential employers? Or dash out for an interview? How do you maintain a positive attitude and a good work ethic, even when you want to get the heck outta dodge?

Great questions! Here are 5 tips for effectively job hunting while working your current job:

1. Respect your current job (and company)

First and foremost, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re still employed by your current company. That means you still have to do your work and do it to the best of your ability. It also means that you should limit job hunting to your lunch break or to times when you’re not at work (before work, after work, on weekends). Consider taking a day off every now and then and dedicate it to job hunting.

REMEMBER: A future potential employer may call your current boss down the road. You don’t want to be remembered as a slacker!

ALSO REMEMBER: Every skill you build in your current position can only help you in the job hunt. Use that as motivation as you plow forward!

2. Set deadlines for yourself

Make goals and commit to achieving them. You might want to apply for a certain number of jobs each week or set aside an hour each day for job searching/applying.

3. Invest in your future

Job hunting may seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. Think about taking an online course in effect job hunting, or enlist the help of a career coach. Career coaches, such as myself, specialize in résumé editing, cover letter writing, job search tactics, and interviewing best practices. Your job hunt doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor!

4. Set boundaries

When applying for jobs, make your availability clear. Let recruiters know that you will only take a call outside of normal working hours (or during your lunch break). If you have a separate home phone, give the recruiter that number.

And emails? Reply to any job hunt-related emails during lunch or during a designated break. Otherwise, reply after work. Most recruiters understand job applicants’ constraints and it is acceptable to let recruiters know that you’d like to remain discreet.

One other thing related to setting boundaries: Try not to get your coworkers involved. While it may be tempting to tell others about your job hunt, be careful who you divulge information to. Office gossip can spread quickly!

5. Network with care

If you attend a job fair, you run the risk of bumping into someone you know. If you update your LinkedIn profile to say “Seeking a new position,” you really run the risk of being exposed. What to do?

According to Liz Ryan of Forbes magazine, “Your best bet as a stealth job seeker is to network one-on-one with people you already know, and to allow or encourage the folks you already know to introduce you to other people — friends and colleagues of theirs.” Personal references are one of the best ways to find a new job, rather than taking your chances at a job fair.


Remember to be tactful, respect your current job, and set a regular job-hunting schedule. And don’t let your search distract you from doing the best work you can do right now. Best of luck with your hunt!

Do you have other questions about job hunting while still working your current job? Please post them in the comments section below or, if you’d like to remain confidential, please feel free to contact me.


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water ripples-It All Matters

It’s easy to think that our words and actions do not matter. That they get swallowed up by the world and don’t have any effect. Even though you may feel like a small fish at times, your words and actions DO matter. They can have a profound effect on others–your co-workers, children, friends, or the stranger to whom you lend a helping hand.

From a career perspective, there have been times when I’ve done a little extra or gone out of my way to compliment or thank a team member and have had those actions return to me tenfold! How might your actions help earn your next promotion? Or a loyal team member? Or simply respect? Keep that in mind as you read this lovely poem by Laura McBride:

We Are Called To Rise

by Laura McBride

It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the wind-blown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, listens to the repeated tale, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.

It all matters.

Care to talk? Reach out to me today and let’s have a conversation. YOU matter.

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UXL, Margaret Smith, Befriend Your Boss

Let’s face it, the key to achieving many of your career goals (that promotion, that next raise, etc.) is to pass through the office gatekeeper: your boss. Befriending your boss can be a tricky endeavor. You don’t want to seem like a brown-noser or disingenuous. What’s more, your boss might seem distant or guarded, reluctant to make new acquaintances with people from the lower ranks. If that’s the case, you might want to set your sights on making an impression on your boss, rather than a friendship. But, no matter the situation, there are certain steps you can take to become more visible in a positive way in your boss’ eyes.

The key is to approach your boss in a natural, authentic way and treat her like any other human being. The goal is to develop an authentic relationship with another person, not to feel intimidated or uneasy with a superior. Try getting to know your boss like any other person at the office:

  • Say hello
  • Ask about his or her family (and remember family member names when they come up in conversation)
  • Ask about their weekend plans or ask about what they did this past weekend
  • Attend company events and make small talk with your boss
  • Discuss shared interests (but do NOT pretend to like something your boss does just to fit in)

Notice that this list does not include things like “buy him small gifts” or “call her to have coffee.” Those kind of activities tend to cross the boss-employee line (unless, of course, you actually are close friends with your boss OR your boss is the kind of person who enjoys regularly going out for coffee with her employees).

The other way to gain positive attention from your boss is to make your achievements known. Stand out from the crowd by speaking up at meetings, volunteering for extra projects (and delivering excellent results), and involving yourself in extracurricular work events. Make yourself a positive presence—someone who is friendly and inclusive, rather than closed off and self-centered—and you will be noticed. Even if you do not quite reach friendship level with your boss, you can at least make yourself visible and visibility goes a long way toward reaching your career goals.

Are you having trouble with your boss? Not connecting with office leadership? Contact me and we can discuss some potential solutions.

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Last week I highlighted some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide if it’s best to let “it” go. “It” is different for everyone, whether “it’s” a goal, a project, a relationship, or even the career you’re presently in. This week, I thought I’d give a few counter points: how do you know if you shouldn’t throw in the towel? How do you decide to stick with it?

1. You know deep down that this is what you want. Maybe this has been a childhood dream of yours. You lay awake at night fantasizing about it; you daydream about it. No amount of time has dissuaded you from it.

2. You have a plan. It’s great to know you truly want something, but this isn’t worth much without a game plan describing how you’re going to get it.

3. Although sometimes difficult and discouraging, this goal has made a net gain on your self-esteem and your general happiness. 

4. You’re seeing progress

If these points describe your journey in any way, don’t give up! Keep pushing forward, stay open-minded, learn from your shortcomings, and most of all, reach out for support and guidance. You should never feel like you need to do it all on your own.

Keep chasing the dream!

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Ever witnessed a child being told they must share their toys with another child? Their reaction to this news wasn’t too pretty, was it?

Although we’ve grown to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around us and we don’t always get our way, that small child’s voice is still inside us, protesting whenever things don’t go how we want them to.

But the truth is, in order to lead in any real sense of the word, you must learn the art of making compromises. It’s easy to say that, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but how do you actually do it?

1. Express yourself fully, and listen intently. Explain your reasoning behind your viewpoint. Often our views are skewed by our emotions, which make it harder to make effective decisions. Articulating your view to another person forces you to take a good long look at your position, and in many cases this allows you to see where your view may not be perfect. By the same token, listen to what the other person is actually saying, not what you think they’re saying. Hear them out before you rush to judgment. Open communication is crucial to getting things done.

2. Think from the other person’s perspective. If it continues to be difficult for you to accept the other person’s position, do your best to put yourself in their shoes. What’s the reasoning behind their thoughts, ideas, and opinions? Even if you disagree, can you see why they hold these views?

3. Be committed to results. Compromising pushes two opposing viewpoints past a gridlock into a region where they can move from ideas into actions. In this way, compromise is one of the most powerful tools we have to getting results. A compromise is a mature way of acknowledging that we can never fully get what we want all of the time, but we can get more of what we want if we work together to achieve it.

4. Be prepared to be disappointed, but give it time. At first, you’ll only see what you didn’t get out of a compromise. This is understandable, but don’t give up on it just yet. In the longterm, compromising pays off for both parties, as you’ve established an alliance and proven to one another that you are capable of working together and taking steps forward.

Have a great week!

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