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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Stuck at the Crossroads


For those of you just getting started on your career, or for those who may be in a transitionary period, you may be running up against the “catch-22” of the job hunt. You know what I’m talking about, that annoying part of a job advertisement that says “entry level position,” followed directly by “three years of experience required.”

Here are a few tried-and-true ways to get the career ball rolling. Remember, the beginning of anyone’s career is often sluggish, so it’s imperative that you follow the Three P’s, and stay patient, persistent and positive.

1. Take Any Opportunity That Comes Your Way.

Even if it’s volunteer work or an unpaid internship, if it has anything to do with your field, say yes. You can’t afford to be too picky at first. Any experience looks great on a resume, but more importantly, any experience equips you with the confidence in yourself to meet your career goals.

2. Be Conscious of Your Personal Brand.

What are your strengths? Where do your interests lie? How do these apply to the field you’d like to break into? How will employers perceive you, and more importantly, how are you demonstrating your skills and strengths? These are questions that you must be able to answer in order to be a competitive prospective employee.

3. Network, network, network!

Do informational interviews. Follow up on leads. Keep your LinkedIn profile and your resume current. You never know if and when you’ll encounter the big breakthrough, so be ready at all times.

4. Don’t Be Discouraged.

Sometimes the market is just plain old tough tough, and that’s not your fault. All you can do is your best. Don’t let a bad economy make you feel like you’re not qualified. Staying proactive even in when jobs are scarce will show employers your resilience, which will help you land the job when the time comes.

5. Take Advantage of the Internet.

We live in a unique time: the information age. There are countless online resources at your disposal, including social media sites, job listings, blogs, and event notifications. Keep your eyes peeled and learn all you can.

Good luck!

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better than yesterday

We show our true colors when things don’t go as planned. It’s easy to be kind, confident and happy when everything goes our way, but not so much when we encounter that unavoidable road block.

If you have a pulse, you’re going to hit road blocks. So how do you prepare yourself to deal with failures and letdowns with grace and character?

1.  Take a step back.

Think of all the times in your life when you thought it was the end of the world. How often did that turn out to be true? I’m guessing never, since the world is clearly still here. It’s easy to get trapped in doomsday thinking when you run into a real problem. The truth is, it’s almost never as bad as you think it is at that given moment. When you learn to reinforce this while you’re brain is in crisis mode, you’ll be able to take a step back and see the situation more clearly.

2. Don’t give up.

Your self-destructive voice in your head I like to call your saboteur will take every stumble as a chance to encourage you to throw in the towel. Don’t listen!

It takes thousands of hours of work to reach success and mastery, and nobody gets it the first time around. Be patient with yourself, and keep plugging away.

3. Reach out.

Letdowns, failures, and detours can be embarrassing. The last thing you may feel like doing is going to someone else for help and support. But just remember, there’s no shame in failure, only shame in not trying in the first place. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how happy your friends and family will be to get behind you. You need only be humble and honest about your situation.

4. Revise your plan of attack.

If you’re constantly failing at the same task or project, there’s a good chance you need to change your plan altogether. The definition of insanity, after all, is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Take hiccups as a chance to reassess your strategy. What’s not working? Why? How can you make it work? You may need to reign in your goals a bit, and this is okay. It’s better to make incremental steps forward than to have grand plans that you’re unable to reach.

Take comfort in the fact that setbacks are part of the process, and keep plugging away!

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I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of excitement we get when we decide, gosh darn it, that we’re going to go on a diet, or get in shape, or work our way to our dream job. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? It’s a relief to know you don’t have to settle for less.

But if you’re anything like me, you’re also pretty well acquainted with the feelings that begin to creep on in the following weeks. You begin to rationalize: “I’ve been doing so great with this diet, I’ll allow myself some ice cream as a reward.” Or how about this one: “Well, I’ve had no luck getting interviews so far, and the job I have now isn’t so bad, so I’ll just stop looking and keep on doing this.”

Then you look back on the excitement you had only a few weeks prior, that eagerness to make a positive change, and you become discouraged when you realize you haven’t really changed at all. That’s when you’re saboteur, that voice of constant self-doubt, takes over. “You were never going to make that change. You’re just a mediocre person. Leave the big goals for the big people.”

Lies, lies, lies!

If you’re serious about achieving your goals, you need to understand that it won’t come right away. It’ll take work. Merely getting excited after deciding to make a change is great, but it takes more to achieve your goals.

It Takes 14 Days To Break A Habit

Keep in mind that you are used to living a certain way. If you let yourself, you’ll easily slip back into your default lifestyle. Part of achieving a new goal means intentionally behaving differently everyday until the new behavior sticks.

With bad habits, like overeating, smoking, or too much drinking, expect a voice inside you to tempt you to “reward yourself” by falling back into the very patterns of behavior you’ve worked so hard to alter. Think about the absurdity of that notion: that’s like saying to someone who is learning how to walk again after an accident, “As a reward for doing all this agonizing work to regain use of your legs, how about you take a break and stay in the wheelchair indefinitely?”

You Won’t See Results Instantly

Doesn’t matter. You resolved to make a change, so take that seriously. Your saboteur will try to tell you that it’s pointless, that you just aren’t cut out for this. It’ll use every setback as a way to try to convince you to go back to your old ways.

This is because it’s scared of your progress. It likes complacency. Ignore the negative voice in your head and keep doing what you know you need to do.

There’s Virtue In Following Through On Your Goals

Even if you don’t see results right away, you should be proud of the fact that you’re living according to your own personal standards. You’re taking away all the ammunition the saboteur uses against you. Besides, you know going in that there will be setbacks. You know what your saboteur will try to tell you. You’re prepared. This is just part of the journey.

Making A Change Isn’t A One Time Decision. It’s A Daily Resolve

Because of this, be sure that your goals are realistic going in. Will you really be the next U.S. President? Probably not. Focus on things you know you can do, and take steps forward daily

What are your goals? What’s holding you back? What is your game plan?

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travelingSome of my best memories come from the trips I’ve taken. Whether I’m remembering cozy summers with the family on the ocean, or adventurous backpacking endeavors in college, all my travels have left me with nostalgic, warm feelings.

And that’s great. But it’s not the complete picture, is it? I’m sure if I really tried, I could remember all the things that were stressful, exhausting, and uncomfortable; in other words, the inevitable parts of traveling we like to ignore.

So while I love the memories traveling provides me, it’s meant to do much more than simply create fuzzy feelings.

Traveling recalibrates our expectations and assumptions about life. When we stay in one routine for long periods of time, tunnel vision takes over. Without even realizing it, we begin to assume that all life has to offer is what’s right in front of us in our particular circumstance. Traveling wipes this clean when we see all the differences, big and small, between places and cultures. There are many ways of doing life. Traveling both inspires us to try new things and forces us to investigate our own lifestyles.

Traveling gives us the chance to test ourselves. This might mean a physical challenge such as a long hike, a mental challenge like learning a new language or familiarizing yourself with cultural customs, or the general challenge of relinquishing your sense of control as you navigate your way through new spaces and experiences. A family friend told me that after spending time in Colombia, she no longer found herself worrying as much about the trivial stresses of everyday life, because her experience abroad proved she was capable of handling all sorts of challenges. This is the kind of personal growth traveling provides.

Traveling forces us to prioritize. You can’t fit every trinket and comfort you own in a suitcase. You have to instead focus on what you really need to make your travels special for you. You’ll take this mindset home with you. How can you simplify your life at home to optimize your priorities?

Traveling doesn’t have to be long and grandiose to be meaningful. Take a train ride through the country, spend a weekend  biking or camping, or coordinate a roadtrip to historical sites in your area with friends and family. As long as it transports you to new experiences, your adventure can be almost anything.

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Decisions bombard us every minute of every hour of our day. They come in all types: some are so trivial and daily–like choosing what to wear or eat–that we hardly notice them, while other types of decisions can make life pretty stressful. Still others appear trivial at first, but turn out to be deceivingly tricky. How to word an email, for instance, seems small but can be extremely difficult.

So the question inevitably comes along: How do we make decisions, and how do we know that our decisions are good at the time that we make them?

Understanding a bit of psychology helps us answer these questions. We know, for example, that gut decisions are generally not good decisions, because they are fueled by our emotions, which as we know, can shift in a heartbeat. Tony Swartz, CEO of The Energy Project, writes that “Our first challenge is resist being reactive. Many of our worst decisions occur after we’ve been triggered–meaning that something or someone pushes us into negative emotion and we react instinctively, fueled by our stress hormones, in a state of fight or flight.”

Any decision we make under this kind of fight or flight stress is only concerned with resolving the present issue and disregards future consequences. You can see why this usually doesn’t work out. A shortsighted perspective yields rash decisions that cause more stress in the long run.

This isn’t to say that decisions should be completely divorced from your feelings. Some decisions that make the most logical sense aren’t always the best decisions to make. Sometimes irrational decisions yield the greatest benefits (see my post on taking risks). So I know that our feelings are deeply tied to how we choose, as they should be. However, I do want to caution you to take a step back when you have the urge to make an impulsive decision. If it’s a decision you should make, that feeling will stay with you, and therefore you can sit on it for a day.

This is because good decisions are based on how you’ll benefit from them in the long run . Of course, what you wear today is not a very world-shattering decision, but you can view your little decisions as components of larger patterns. What you tend to wear, or how you tend to eat, compose a larger lifestyle you create for yourself. And because all the aspects of your lifestyle are connected, you can always trace your larger decisions back to the small ones.

In summary:

1. Good Decisions aren’t based on reactions. Decisions should be thorough, and to be thorough you need perspective, which leads to point 2…

2. Good Decisions are made when you have a healthy view of yourself and your surroundings.

3. Good Decisions follow your deepest convictions. What values do you hold to? Where do you see yourself a few years down the line? What are your dreams? These questions help guide you to making the decisions that give you the life you want to have.

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By Margaret Smith, UXL:

Today I read a fascinating article published by the Urban Institute titled “Can Unemployed Workers Find Work?” that really changed the way I think about the challenge older unemployed workers face in today’s job market.

Let’s face it–we all know about our own experiences, but how did job loss affect Americans in a larger sense? Read on for the real story about how the “Great Recession” has affected the American workforce.

Who Really Lost Jobs

As we all witnessed, and in many cases firsthand, people rapidly lost jobs as the recession swelled. According to the Urban Institute, the male workforce was hit slightly harder than the female workforce, with monthly male unemployment rates averaging “10.3 percent in 2009 and 10.5 percent in 2010, the highest since reliable records began in 1948.” These percentages compare with women’s job prospects, “which were only slightly better… whose unemployment rate averaged 8.1 percent in 2009 and 8.6 percent in 2010.”

You know what else I learned? This unemployment stuck around—and it’s not just you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a shocking 31% of unemployed adults had been without work for more than a year in the second quarter of 2010.

The Good News for Older Workers

Contrary to my expectations, if you’re an older worker, you’re actually less likely to be fired. Workers employed in wage and salary jobs in the second half of 2008 age 50 to 61 were “34% less likely than those age 25 to 34 to lose their jobs within 16 months.” And, what’s more, unemployment rates are consistently lower for older workers.

Unemployment among Older Workers Hard to Defeat

So there’s less of a chance that an older worker will be laid off, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t, and didn’t happen. Now what? Unfortunately, if you’re an older worker who’s been laid off, studies show it will take substantially longer to find employment. “Workers age 50 to 61 who lost their jobs between mid-2008 and the end of 2009 were a third less likely than those age 25 to 34 to find work within 12 months, and those age 62 or older were only half as likely.”

That means that although less older workers were laid off, it was 33-50% more difficult to get back on your feet again.  No matter what your age, however, getting back to work was no piece of cake. Workers age 25 to 34 were faced with a 36% likelihood of finding a job within a year, compared to 24% likelihood for workers age 50 to 61, and 18% likelihood at age 62 and older.

Not only are older workers toughing it out to reenter the job market, they’re also settling for a lower wage.


So how do older workers combat these daunting statistics? I advocate the active pursuit of training, taking advantage of employment services, and reaching out in new and open-minded ways. Let’s face it, being stuck in the job hunt—especially for a longer period of time—can really be a drain on your motivation and positive energy. If you think that your progress toward your next career could benefit from a guiding, professional career coach, contact me today to learn how I can help you find direction and energy once again.

Source: “Can Unemployed Older Workers Find Work?” by Richard W Johnson and Janice S. Park, Urban Institute

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By Margaret Smith

Many of my clients tell me that they are interested in making change in their lives. Some of them are dealing with a job loss that has allowed them to realize that they didn’t really like what they were doing before. Sometimes these people decide that they are ready to pursue something different when they reenter the workforce.

Many other clients, of all ages, find themselves at the crossroads and in need of tools to help them move forward. With these common challenges in mind, I’ve created a little exercise to help you think about the changes you hope to make and the steps to make these changes happen.

Moving forward starts in the “now”—understanding where you stand allows you to move forward.

Find a Quiet Place to Consider the Following:

1.   When we feel dissatisfied, it’s natural to jump to the conclusion that everything needs a major overhaul.  Instead of rewriting the entire book, begin by considering what is going well. What is working that you don’t want to change? List four components of your life (this could be your family, community, relationship, job, etc) and explain why you feel they are going well.

2.   Now consider one area you would like to change. What does that changed area look like? What is the first step for creating this change that immediately comes to mind? Imagine your first step has been accomplished. What are the next 3 things that have to happen? Now your game plan is starting to take shape, bringing your vision closer to reality.

3.   Do you worry you don’t have the time? Fill in your typical daily activities on the timeline below. Where could you reclaim an extra 30 minutes? Does that rerun on television or updating your Facebook page 4X/day really deserve your attention?

4.   Admit to yourself that none of this is easy. In fact, creating change can seem daunting, and we are tempted to abandon our efforts when faced with obstacles. Jot down some challenges you expect and a list of people you could call to help. Is there a friend who you consider an expert in developing a business plan, giving professional advice, or writing resumes? Perhaps reaching out to these people is an important step in your creation of change.

5.   Throughout our day we talk to ourselves, and this voice is not always positive. Realize that negative self-talk can stall your efforts. What do you say to yourself regularly that is especially debilitating? Try to let go of two negative messages you send yourself this week. Identify your personal saboteur, give your negative feelings names and banish them from your space. Once you have successfully banished these two, try for the next group.

Interested in having a helping hand effecting change in your life and finding success in your job hunt or your career? Contact UXL Today!

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