Archive for November, 2008

Giving Thanks in Challenging Times

November 27, 2008

Whether you have finished a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family or friends, or whether you have been pursuing other interests on this holiday set apart for gratitude, I would like to share my thanks for an outstanding year chock full of challenges, opportunities, and wonderful people.

  • For individuals who entrusted themselves and their career dilemmas to me, I am grateful. The world is a better place because each of you is in it.
  • For workers in places where I had the privilege of teaching or training, thank you. It is reassuring to know that there are some outstandingly creative people out there who continually strive to do better by their customers.
  • For readers who followed this blog, offering comments and suggestions, you are the reasons I do it. I am gratified that the internet brings us together.
  • For employed people, concerned about their future opportunities, I share the hope that the coming year will be better, calmer, more ordered than this one.
  • For unemployed people, I especially pray that you will find fulfillment and opportunity in a new position. And I hope that you will look back on this time as one of the most pivotal and significant in your life. And no, you can’t see that now.

Here’s an idea: how about saying thanks to the people who have been significant in your work life this year? Think about it – do your co-workers, interns, volunteers, bosses and support staff know they are important to you?

Do the key people in your network know that you think about them and are grateful?

It might be a great idea to say thank you this week – to let such folks know what they mean to you and how they have made a difference in your life. They will be reminded of you, that you don’t always approach them when you want something, that you are a person who knows that we accomplish very little on our own. (Furthermore, it’s a great career strategy, but that’s for another blog posting.)

Follow the Leader to a new Job

November 21, 2008

I heard a familiar story today – a client told me that he has just accepted a new job, in the headquarters building of a major organization, as a deputy director.

Don’t these people know that we are in a recession? How did he go out there and get such a great position?

When I asked how he did it, he replied that a former professor had proposed that he apply.

I asked the successful applicant to make some suggestions, and here they are in his own words:

  • A year ago I realized that I was not satisfied with my job.
  • I made a list of everyone in my field who could help me.
  • The list included colleagues from professional meetings, graduate school and former professors.
  • I thought about who on this list may have had professional experiences similar to mine.
  • Then I asked who seemed most willing to provide guidance, and I thought of one of my professors.
  • After I had completed my graduate program, I had kept close ties with my program, volunteering with the Alumni association andattending functions such as lectures and the holiday party. At these events this particular professor was very sociable, circulating and talking to different people.
  • The professors in the program knew me and remembered me by seeing me at events. It is probably helpful for me because I attended a school where I live, so it was not difficult.
  • Initially, I sent the professor an email to ask him about pursuing opportunities in a new specialty area. I said I would be interested in learning more about how he had transitioned into this new field. We arranged to meet for lunch.
  • During lunch I shared some of my professional experiences and he provided guidance on how he had made his transition.
  • He made suggestions about places to submit my resume. He provided me with inside info on where he anticipated there would be openings.
  • Also, he forwarded my name to the HR department in one place, as a resume to “keep an eye out for”.
  • The place that he recommended actually hired me about 7 months later. It took a while but it was worth it to make the transition from one specialty to another.

It would be a mistake to say that this man got the job only because a kind professor put in a good word for him. True, that happened, but look at how many steps took place before that event!

Morals of the story:

  • show up at alumni events,
  • take on responsibility in an organization where interesting people hang out,
  • ask questions about a successful person’s career path,
  • do what they suggest (and let them know you are doing it),
  • be patient: success often takes time!

I’m grateful to this person for sharing his successful strategy with me and with my readers. I look forward to hearing from others who have successful shifted specialties within their occupational fields.

The Great Depression: I get it!

November 20, 2008

Did you have parents or grandparents who came of age and worked (or tried to) in the 1930s?

I did, and I wasn’t patient in hearing those stories.

I listened to my mother, trained as a music performer and teacher, speak of the dreariness of small town music programs, with school boards who didn’t want to pay, with parents who didn’t see the value in playing an instrument, having to be content with the occasional talented student who actually got it.

I used to ask her why she didn’t leave those jobs, head back to a bigger city and work in a more sophisticated and appreciative setting.

You have to understand, the depression was on.

My father was a clergyman, trained in ancient languages as well as theology, who had grown accustomed to scholarly conversations with friends who enjoyed delving into the mysteries of language, literature, and religion. He, too, was frustrated with the folks in his tiny churches, who didn’t see why they had to pay him if there was a fifth Sunday in the month – he should just show up there and work for nothing.

I asked him why he stuck it out in such places.

Well, the depression was on and there weren’t any other jobs.

I look back with embarrassment on how little I understood of those times. I wondered why they weren’t more assertive, why they put up with ignorance, why they let their gifts languish in mediocrity, why they spoke so bitterly of those times.

Now I get it. Today, I read that the Washington National Cathedral is cutting its staff by 30%. Libraries may cut their hours or their staff. School systems may drop subjects and activities that attract the smallest numbers of participants.

With these dismal omens around us, it is hard to remember that we are gifted people, that we have unique skills to share with the world. It is hard to remember that laughter and creativity can bring people together. And most of all, it is hard to remember that you have choices in your career path.

True, you may have to take a job, a position that does not thrill you or stimulate you. It is honorable to work for sustenance, but it is also honorable to remember who you are and what you are capable of achieving.

Our plans and dreams may be put on hold while we support ourselves and our families, but we are still taking steps in that direction. One of these days, opportunities will return. I hope you will not be dragged down by bitterness. If you would like to speak with a career counselor about your dreams and the steps needed to achieve them, please visit for contact information. I’d love to hear from you.

Now more than ever: your network for a job!

November 17, 2008

Stores closing, delivery services cutting back, retail seasonal jobs disappearing, even restaurants cutting hours… what’s a job seeker to do?

The first task is to keep in touch with your optimism, and if you can do that, you are capable of wonderful things. It appears that we are in this stagnant economy for the foreseeable future. Remember:

  • You have skills.
  • You have accomplished many things.
  • You have friends.
  • You have co-workers.
  • You have co-workers from previous jobs.
  • You have met good people in the course of your job search.
  • You have former teachers, neighbors, carpool members.

In other words, you have what it takes to get a job.

It is your unique combination of who you know, what you know, and how you connect the two that has gotten you work before, and it will do so again.

I know someone who is about to start on a job he heard about through a co-worker on a previous job. This insider has provided information, suggestions, and support throughout the application process. I don’t even know if the job was posted for the public.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the axiom that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. True now as always, it can be infuriating to think that opportunities are out there.

Spare yourself the moments of frustration: make a list of all the good people you know. Starting calling or e-mailing. Remember – all you need is one good offer. Those openings are out there, quite possibly hidden. You need to dig for them.

If you have an interesting networking story, you can inspire others by sharing it in a comment. We’d all love to hear from you!

Top Ten Holiday Gifts for the Job Seeker

November 13, 2008

Have you noticed that everyone is compiling a list of gift suggestions? Here’s my list for the job seeker/career changer in your life:

  1. A briefcase, portfolio, or planner that suits the individual’s style and taste,
  2. A serious, expensive-looking watch,
  3. A hair appointment with the best consultant in town: suitable for a man or a woman,
  4. A promise of an hour or two of good listening and debriefing after an upcoming interview accompanied by a pot of tea or whatever,
  5. An invitation for a long walk and conversation to share life goals and strategies to achieve them,
  6. An hour’s consultation with a career professional for a resume critique or a mock interview,
  7. A copy of the latest edition of Richard Bolles’ What Color is your Parachute?
  8. A hot-off-the-press copy of Maureen Anderson’s The Career Clinic: 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love,
  9. A lunch invitation with you and your friend (who happens to be in the field the job hunter is pursuing),
  10. An upscale-looking pen. You have no idea how it looks to be interviewing a qualified, educated, experienced person who produces a tacky plastic pen, particularly one with an inappropriate logo.

A few thoughts about my list:

Yes, some of the items require a serious expense, but not as much as you might think. I don’t mean that the pen has to be a top-of-the-line, but it should be plain, tailored, and classic in appearance. Same goes for the watch.

As for items with no price tag attached except your time and caring, remember that job hunters need support from their friends and family. What is support? It’s knowing when to speak up (not often) and when to listen (when hearing about an upcoming interview or debriefing when it is over).

The best career books have humor sprinkled throughout, so please peruse carefully before selecting a book as a gift. Bolles (of Parachute fame) and Anderson (The Career Clinic) are both writers who know how to turn a phrase, inspiring, engaging and entertaining the reader at the same time.

It’s hard to be a friend at a time like this. Your neighbor, co-worker, or relative may be emotional, short-fused, or needy right now: the most important thing you may do is remind the job hunter that something interesting will have happened by this time next year, and that you will be there throughout the search process.

If you have further suggestions for a meaningful holiday gift for someone searching for a job, please feel free to leave a comment.

Where Work and Play Come Together – a Great Job

November 12, 2008

What if vegetables and dessert tasted equally wonderful?

Great chefs can actually make that happen.

What if your job were as much fun as your leisure activities?

The right job can be that, and you can make it happen

Maureen Anderson, author of The Career Clinic: 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love, has identified the ability to have fun as one of her rules of career success. Her message, here printed in bold, might jog your thinking about work possibilities:

Have fun.

My first radio job was with the Minnesota News Network in St. Paul. When I was out with friends and they started talking about their work my first thought was always, “I don’t work. I go to MNN.” When those friends waxed dreamy about what they’d do if they won the lottery, I thought, “I’d still go to MNN.” Back then my title was “intern” and my salary was “nothing.” But I knew I was headed somewhere fun because I was already having fun. I imagined myself on an airplane, wearing a suit, and sitting next to someone wearing a suit too. “What’s your business?” that person would ask me. I’d flash the biggest smile and say, “Stories.”

Try something new when you stop having fun.

It really is that simple. Have fun, and learn a lot.

Well, Maureen has given us a challenge. Do you remember the most fun you ever had on a job? Surely there was one where you and your colleagues laughed a lot, shared jokes, and looked forward to seeing each other each day. Maybe it was a volunteer or intern situation, maybe it was an early paid job… or maybe it’s the one you have now.

Are you having fun? Are you laughing and working at the same time? If so, congratulations!

If not, something could change. I don’t know how to make every career situation jolly good fun, but I do know that it is reasonable to expect that you can be happier in your next job than you are now. If you would like some help in getting a job in which you are more compatible with with co-workers, able to be more creative, and actually enjoy your work, please visit my website at for contact information. Together, we can look at your options (and have a good time doing it!).

A Career Secret: Consent to Living a Fuller Life

November 10, 2008

Say yes.

You’ve probably heard the cliché–it will be the things you didn’t do that you will most regret. So do yourself another favor. Say yes to more of what you’ve always wanted. Make the list, start picking things off, add bigger dreams to the list. Be the person at Thanksgiving dinner with the most stories because you’ve done the most living. You don’t have to say anything at all–the sparkle in your eyes will make a great contribution to the festivities – Maureen Anderson, The Career Clinic, 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love (2008)

Saying yes opens one up to opportunity, adventure, humor, and a new line on your resume.

Saying yes opens you up to ridicule, risk, and even failure. It can also offer a darned good story once you get the whole thing in perspective.

Saying yes can provide fodder for an interview question. I’ve heard stories of applicants being asked to describe something they’ve failed at. Can you imagine saying that you’ve failed at nothing? That would strongly suggest that you haven’t tried very much.

Saying yes can take you in new directions you’d never dream possible. I once heard an experienced career specialist ask a class to list things they were doing now that they couldn’t have imagined doing ten years ago. Whatever appeared on our lists represented a risk, an opportunity, and an adventure in saying yes.

Saying yes is an exercise with infinite career potential. If you need a nudge toward being that more affirmative person, please visit my website at to contact me. I’ll remind you of the possibilities in risk-taking, I’ll help you adjust your resume to reflect your new skills, and I’ll even help you explain your actions if it doesn’t work out (“growth opportunity!”)

Saying yes is a step whose time is now.

Free! Try it – you might like it

November 7, 2008

Could the concept of a free sample actually apply to career choice?

Maureen Anderson, author of The Career Clinic: 8 Rules for Finding Work You Love, thinks so.

Read the following excerpt from her book (Anderson’s words are in bold), reprinted with permission, to see if it might give you the courage to try something new in your job search.

Accept free samples.

Have you ever browsed a street fair and made your food purchases based on the treats you sampled? What about clothing–do you try that on before you buy it? When’s the last time you bought a car without taking it for a test drive? So when the stakes are higher–a job, or a career–why isn’t testing it out standard? You don’t have to intern, although grownups as well as students can do that. Volunteer to do a job for free. Help a friend, whose career intrigues you, on the weekends. Ask someone if you can tag along for a day. Anything to get a feel for what the work you’re considering is actually like. You won’t be sorry.

Exactly how do you ask for a free sample?

  • You can visit a worksite,
  • You can volunteer in a field of interest,
  • You can ask your friends who they know that works in that field,
  • You can follow news of that place in the newspaper or on the internet,
  • You can join a professional organization in that field and go to local or national events.

When some of those activities and interests find their way onto your resume, you will find that you are a stronger, more interesting candidate to them. The concept of a free sample is one which can give you a boost up the list of possible candidates.

Would you like to read more of The Career Clinic? I have a few copies for sale at $15 each, plus shipping and handling, and the author has promised to provide an autograph if you are interested. This book is so new it is probably not in your bookstore yet, although it is coming. You can contact me to purchase one through my website at

Career Common Sense for the Confused

November 5, 2008

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful new book called The Career Clinic: 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love, by Maureen Anderson. Maureen, the developer and facilitator of daily (!) and weekly radio shows on all aspect of career exploration and job hunting, has provided a few teasers from her book. Here’s an excerpt:

Ask for directions when you get lost.

If you want to be happy, hang around someone who is–and take notes. The more successful people are, in my experience anyway, the more they love to tell you how they became that way. Sure, you can hire a career counselor–I know a lot of good ones!–or go to a workshop or retreat. But a lot of great advice is yours, simply for the asking. Don’t be shy. Do be a good listener–it’s the best gift, and a sweet way to make someone glad they’re investing time in you.

I think this excerpt sounds a bit frivolous on first reading. Come on – the economy is in the most uncertain mode most of us have ever experienced. Employment figures are headed in the wrong direction. It’s a very difficult time to look for a job. And Maureen wants us to be happy? About this?

Think about it. What if we substitute successful for happy? Maureen has managed to make that transition in the above paragraph. Happy doesn’t have to mean the person wearing a silly grin. It might apply to the person who is enthusiastic about his/her work responsibility, seeks to upgrade skills, and has plenty of wisdom to share with you.

If you have been in a car with someone who refuses to ask directions when (to your thinking) it is obvious that you are lost, you know what a waste of time it can be. Could it be the same with your career?

Refusing to ask for help, refusing to consult a career professional, refusing to follow up an interesting conversation that got interrupted, refusing to go to an exploratory meeting of something that interests you – all these are equally a waste of your work life.

Engage! Consult! Question someone!

If you would like to speak with a career counselor, but have been putting it off because it just might work out on its own, please visit my website at for contact information.

And by the way, if you would like to read something inspiring and original, you can purchase a copy of Maureen Anderson’s new book from me. I bet I could even arrange an autograph for you!

Doing what you love – it is that simple

November 5, 2008

At some point, probably in elementary school, most of us learned that we don’t know much, that there are experts who know far more than we do. That was certainly partly the truth, but those experts never, never knew more than we did about ourselves and our longings.

What did you want to do/be?

That question was important then and remains so. Reality is also important, but your passions should definitely lead your career decision-making.

I’m continuing to quote from Maureen Anderson’s helpful new book called The Career Clinic: 8 Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love. The following lines in bold are directly from the book:

Talk to yourself.

Quit thinking in terms of whether your plans make sense to other people. It’s not their lives we’re talking about. Pay attention to that little voice inside that knows going after still another corporate job is wrong. Sure, some careers command more interest at a cocktail party or will pay for fancier vacations. But if you hate what you do for forty or fifty or sixty hours a week, you’ll probably want to spend more time at cocktail parties…or on vacation.

I once read a story about a man who loved his job so much he was embarrassed to get paid for it. What would you love doing so much you’re embarrassed to get paid? Think that’s impossible, that you shouldn’t get your hopes up? Not according to my sources.

Who decided you shouldn’t get your hopes up, by the way? A few people who did, and were disappointed? That’s their story, not yours. Do yourself a favor. Go after a job you’re so excited about it won’t matter so much what you put on your resume or wear to the interview. Passion for the work is one thing employers consistently tell me is irresistible.

Several times, I’ve had the experience of students and clients who, after suffering through exercises and assessments and feeling dissatisfied with the results, have muttered,

“of course, what I’d really like to do is teach little kids.”


What’s that again?

If you know what you want to do, then why are we sitting here avoiding this obvious possibility?

  • because it doesn’t pay much,
  • because I might get tired of it,
  • because women don’t have to settle for teaching,
  • because, because, because…

To which I reply, true, true, true. And you may be a gifted and patient teacher who will influence hundreds of children for the better. And the world needs you.

If you are called to be a teacher, and you know it because of that little voice inside you, then run, don’t walk, to the nearest institution of higher learning and get registered for a class or a program. You are needed. You will love it. You’ll be so glad you listened to yourself.

Need some help with putting some form to that inner voice? Please contact me for career guidance or to buy a copy of Maureen Anderson’s book. You can reach me through my website at