How do you know when it’s time to change careers?

Chances are, you were directly impacted in your work due to COVID-19. You may have been an essential worker, laid off, or forced to work remotely. You were juggling childcare, work stress, and worry of the unknown. Perhaps it was a time of renewal as you enjoyed being at home more. Whatever the impact, it will bring a lot of us to a decision point as things reopen and reengage.  

Did you know according to the Labor Department, nearly four million Americans quit their jobs in April 2021? This is a 20-year record. Some people have coined this as the “Great Resignation.” I am watching this with interest as a career coach who is there for others when they make these kinds of transitions. In fact, recently I asked the following poll to my LinkedIn network about what matters most.

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The clear “winner” in the poll was the quality of job prospects. I think this reflects the trend toward job seekers being intentional and selective when it comes to a career decision. Job seekers in 2021 are considering the company culture, benefits, flexibility, and shared values perhaps more than in the past. This is by no means a scientific poll and the audience was simply who saw the post, so I want to bring it home even further:

how do YOU know when it’s time to move on? At what point do you start looking at other options? 

For my clients, it’s about 2 things. 

  1. Prioritizing what’s important to them 
  2. Knowing how they make decisions

Prioritizing what’s most important

You must assess what’s working and not about your new normal situation. Everyone has their own set of priorities and examining those to further rank them will help you to evaluate your options. I’m a firm believer that you are the driver of your career. 

What does that mean? Think about the car buying process. You decide the make, model and features of your next car purchase. You decide the dealership you want to work with. You know your budget and your must haves. You decide the time (or you get in a wreck and that’s decided already). 

This works when you consider your career. As the purchaser of a new car – you are always free to consider other opportunities that may work better for you. As a car owner – you know what kind of car makes sense for what’s going on in life. You might want the sports car or it might be better to have the minivan. The same is true for your career. You might want to work early in the day and be done by 2pm so you can pick up your kids at the bus stop. You might need to have a flexible schedule so you can care for your aging parents. Whatever the circumstances, you are still the driver. 

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 As the driver, what are the most important aspects of your career? What did you learn from previous jobs – both good and bad – that you want to bring forward into another opportunity? What does your life demand of you now with regard to work? 

We are creating career paths that look less like ladders and more like jungle gyms

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Your life changes with moves, marriages, parenthood, family obligations, and interests. Your career can reflect that as well. People are taking jobs that are lateral moves or industry changes more now than ever. The hierarchy in companies is also changing. While it used to be that you worked hard, got the promotion and sought toward more leadership in a company – now people move around companies and take on projects or positions that are reflective of values beyond prestige or status. People want meaningful work and what makes it meaningful is individual.

Determine what’s meaningful work for you

To determine your own meaningful work, you have to take stock of what you know about yourself and the work you like to do. It takes some looking back and introspection to make a leap forward. I created a downloadable worksheet to help you define your own meaningful work and it’s FREE for you here.

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Know how you make decisions

Once you know your priorities, it’s also important to know your decision making style. Do you make pros/cons lists like I do? If so, you create them and then make them equal and feel like you’re still going to go with your gut so they don’t work. 🙂 

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 Have you ever thought about how you make decisions? Most of us don’t. We simply keep going. How do you make simple decisions in your day? This can hint toward how you would make bigger decisions. How do you know you are making the best choice for yourself? Some people need to pray or consult certain people who help them decide. Do you do a lot of research or make quick decisions? All this can influence the way you will consider a job change. It also will influence the amount of anxiety you’ll feel about this too. 

 If you’re like many people who want to reduce risk in decision making, it can increase our anxieties and we may need some help to move through. I have just a couple tips I plan to share in the next week around this topic but for now, I would encourage you to consider your decision making style. You can learn more about that here: 4 Types of Decision Making Styles .

If you’re considering a job change and want to move from indecision to action, you’re invited to Is it Time to Move On? A Workshop Course on September 23 where I walk you through getting clear on your definition of meaningful work, determining which factors are most important to you in a job change, steps to take before you resign and building your confidence in applying and interviewing for jobs. I can’t wait to share more with you there.

This was first posted on LinkedIn on 8/27/21

Human Connection: Let’s talk about Empathy

Empathy is defined as understanding another’s emotions but it has expanded to include, according to Daniel Goleman, three kinds. First, cognitive empathy or how people think and perceive the world. Secondly, emotional empathy which is simply to resonate with the other. Finally, empathic concern is to show you have someone’s back. With the wide range of application and research that is being done, I wanted to share a few more insights regarding empathy that have popped up for me lately. 

I came across this video a while back and emailed it to myself to really think about it more later. (Anyone else do that?). Well today I was able to review it again.

It’s all about empathy and the science of human connection. She mentions being an emotion detective for her client. This resonated with me because right now my young children are into solving mysteries and looking for clues. This detective mentality doesn’t have to be just for psychologists or young children, it can be for all of us. As a fan of Brene Brown, I try to stay curious about my emotions and boy have I been learning a LOT lately.

  • I’ve added a module on emotional intelligence to my career planning course I teach because I know it’s that important. In fact, there were 32.6 million results on Google when I typed “emotional intelligence in the workplace.”
  • I am currently doing EMDR therapy to work through some issues that have come up since becoming a mom. Wow, that modality is effective and enlightening. I will devote a whole blog post to this at some point.
  • I’ve been overcoming my own biases regarding seeking help. Funny enough, even as a trained counselor I had hang ups about seeking help myself. It’s much easier for me to help others.
  • I’ve been learning about the connection of the mind and body and learning where I store my stress. I’m also realizing how my unconscious emotions might be signaling me in the aches and pains that have distracted me from dealing with them. Our brains are incredible.

But back to Helen, she created an acronym for empathy to help us further our knowledge of how it plays out with someone else. I’ve included it here with some of my own observations. The biggest takeaway I have though is how this is fundamental to our species AND it can be trained. We can all build skills in empathy. This often shows up as emotional intelligence (see below for further resources).

Her acronym to help you be more empathetic:

E – Eye contact

Eye contact which initiates the connection and can show the other person they are seen. What a gift we can do for another when we stop our frenetic way of life and see someone for where they are.

M – Muscles of facial expression.

I think this has been seriously impacted in our era of wearing masks in public as I must rely on eye contact to get an impression of someone. I have adapted by not looking at people – which is sad. I want to change this when we aren’t mandated to wear masks anymore.

P – Posture.

This is not about good spinal health. It’s more about open or closed posture. Are you leaning slightly forward or are you leaned back with your legs crossed? There are strong messages we can send in the way we sit with others. We can do this in Zoom life too – remember to look at the camera to really “see” the other person. Today I said to a student – “you’re nodding which could just mean you are listening so let me know what you think of what I just said”. We can state our observations and curiosities. It gives them a chance to correct you or affirm you – either way, it shows you are paying attention.

A – Affect.

Brené Brown says most people can only identify 3 emotions – happy, sad, angry. We can and should do better than three. Here is a wheel of words to add to our understanding.

T – Tone of voice.

My therapist is so good at encouraging me to let it out when she can hear me holding back tears in my voice. When I was in graduate school, we learned the phrase “low and slow” to talk to our clients in a supportive way. The tone of your voice says a lot about your words.

H – Hearing the whole person.

 70% of what we say is nonverbal. To be empathetic is to notice – be an emotion detective like my three-year-old. Look for clues to what they are saying.

Y- Your response.

You often mirror others emotional responses, for example smiling when others smile. Daniel Goleman mentioned we have a social circuitry of the brain and we have mirror neurons which help us connect in our interactions. His video linked here is also a great resource to kick start your understanding of this topic.

Which letter adds to your understanding of empathy?

“We are hardwired for empathy, our survival depends on it” –

Helen Riess, Co-Founder, Chief Scientist and Chairman of Empathetics, LLC

How can you do something today to help someone else feel seen?

5 Ideas to Avoid Burnout

Research shows a majority of people in much of the world say their mental health has been negatively affected by the pandemic.

I don’t know about you, but I can tell you with certainty that the lived experiences of myself and those around me prove that the pandemic has negatively impacted our mental health. I didn’t need an expert to tell me.

I’m glad there are more people talking about this so we don’t feel as alone in our struggles, but I also want proactive suggestions to pull me up and out – not deeper in the same boat. So I’ve compiled a few things I’ve done this past year that has helped me and I hope it will help you.

*This post contains affiliate links*

1. I was thoughtful about my space.

I bought some essential oils, a diffuser and a sun lamp for my office space. When it’s rainy or dreary, I put on both and lift my mood. This is not something I knew anything about before the pandemic.

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2. I try to watch how much water I’m drinking.

When home all day it’s easy to forget to drink water but if I’m well hydrated, I will function better throughout the day. I am prone to headaches so being hydrated is even more important to avoiding a migraine. I have started using Liquid IV to maximize the water I do remember to consume.

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3. I’m in therapy.

Talking to an unbiased professional about life’s stresses is SO helpful for me. I can avoid overburdening my partner and friends when I can process with someone else. I hold a degree in counseling yet had not done much as a client. Then after getting married and having 2 children in a short span of time I had a lot to unpack about myself. The investment in a counselor has been a gift.

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4. I am intention with what I take in on audio.

I listen to a lot of podcasts or audiobooks in the car or while I’m folding laundry. I tend to choose self-help type titles that can encourage, reinforce and introduce positive ideas to help me be successful. I’ve become a junkie for personal development. I keep listening to sermons from my church. Even though I can’t worship with them as I want to right now, I can get valuable content from our pastor and allow the reminders of God and myself to permeate my days. Confession, I often binge these as opposed to each Sunday, but something is better than nothing in my opinion.

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5. I allow more space to do nothing.

This one has been a steep learning curve. When the pandemic hit I did a lot of things around the house to stay occupied. I power washed everything, I screwed in any loose knobs in the kitchen and I got crafty with my kids. What I realized over time is that I just needed to zone out. So I give myself evenings where I just watch TV shows on Netflix or scroll mindless on social media. Sometimes it works and sometimes I wish I just took a nap instead (and occasionally I realize that’s what I need and I do it). There’s been an “unlearning” about the busyness of life that I think it helpful.

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What are some things you’ve learned or unlearned this past year?

What do you want to take forward that makes you a better person?

This first appeared on LinkedIn

I am a Certified Career Counselor

I love helping others make confident career decisions and one of those choices to make is who to work with for help. The internet is a hornet’s nest of information and it can be difficult to know what you’re really looking for. This post is to help you understand my credentials and some differentiators between someone like me and others out there.

My Background

So first, a bit of background. I got my Master of Science in Counseling in 2010 and have been working in career development since then. I’ve worked in higher education and am now working with clients privately as well. I don’t bill for insurance (just private pay) and don’t hold a state license. I do have my National Certified Counselor credential (NCC) which I maintain and just renewed again in 2020. To maintain this credential, I attend continuing education seminars, webinars, and conferences which total 100 CE hours within 5 years. I also adhere to the National Board of Certified Counselors code of ethics.

Being a trained counselor has been invaluable to me as I approach people holistically and seek to help the whole person through their career transitions. It was important to me to understand more about mental health so I could ask better questions, refer as needed and show empathy and care while talking about career choices, job stress and and meaningful work.

Where does coaching fit in?

I am partial to finding career professionals with this kind of background but it’s not the only people out there. Coaching is another area that people get credentials and enter the market as Career Coaches. This is a bit more of a gray area for what defines a coach. There are wellness coaches, health coaches, career coaches, executive coaches, etc. Each of those professionals could have any number of certifications, trainings or education. I was given the title of career coach in higher education and have identified with it in my approach in my business. I coach my clients through clearly identifying the career problem and map out how to solve it.

You can make a confident choice about who is right for you by considering the following questions:

What do they talk about? Check their social media, articles on LinkedIn or a blog, newsletter etc.

Have they helped people like you? Look at their website for testimonials or do a quick call to get a sense of who else they’ve worked with.

What’s the investment? Good coaches will charge comparably for their services. This can vary widely. I suggest working with someone who charges per session so neither of you are in a long expensive commitment. Inquire with them. Most have a way to connect with them in FB messenger, on their website or access to their calendar. You can do that with me here.

A Certified Career Counselor

What is the Certified Career Counselor (CCC) credential?

According to the National Career Development Association, this credential is is a recognition of counseling and a specialization in career development, theory and practice. It is intended for career counselors with an advanced degree engaged primarily in a career counseling practice.

The most important aspect of this credential that differentiates it from other recognized practitioners is that it recognizes the intersection of counseling and career development. As other counseling specializations include substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, family counseling and others, career counseling involves a core set of competencies that bring together counseling and career expertise.


These competencies are

  • A core understanding and appropriate application of theory
  • Adherence to ethical counseling practice
  • The ability to identify and understand familial and cultural influences as they relate to clients’ careers.
  • Expertise in evaluating and selecting valid and reliable instruments appropriate to the client’s gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and physical and mental capacities; administer, score, and report findings from career assessment instruments appropriately
  • Demonstrating knowledge of education, training, and employment trends; labor market information and resources that provide information about job tasks, functions, salaries, requirements and future outlooks

In Conclusion

With my background in counseling and strengths-based education, I bring a positive approach to career problems. In collaboration with the client, I engage in a meaningful discussion on goals and career problems. I ask probing questions for the purpose of helping establish goals with the client. In our work together, I commit to helping the client identify a strategy to address the agreed upon problem. A client can expect to have next steps and, with commitment to the process, should see improvement of certain career behaviors. I am not a recruiter and cannot guarantee job placement or employment success. I don’t provide mental health counseling and ethically uphold confidentiality.

Interested in working with me? I invite you to read more posts and get one of my free resources to get a feel for my approach. If you’d like to talk with me directly, let’s get on the calendar.

P.S. Want more ideas of choosing a career counselor? How to Find or Choose a Career Counselor

3 Tips to Find Joy in Networking during the Holidays

As we all try to catch the holiday spirit in whatever ways we find this year, I want to share a few helpful resources on networking. This time of year people do work differently. Deadlines loom and are met. Vacations are planned and taken. And in typical years holiday parties are scheduled and had. This gives job seekers (and really everyone) a unique opportunity to nurture and build their networks at the end of the year. Below are my favorite tips from people wiser than me and this is as much tips for me to take as for anyone else! Enjoy.

Quick Podcast

Check out this podcast (5 minutes) from Laura Vanderkam and the New Corner Office called The Joy of Networking

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My favorite takeaway

Tip: When you get a holiday card, reach out to the sender to reconnect! This can be as simple as a text that turns into a catch up call or as formal as scheduling a time to reconnect on Zoom.

I’m sending more Christmas cards this year simply because we haven’t see people, yet I still think of them and want to appreciate them from afar. I’m a fan of “happy mail” where I include a note and maybe some kid “artwork” they colored to make the mail more fun.

Practical Article

If you are invited to a virtual get-together this holiday season, use it as an opportunity to connect. Here’s how to make the most of it. (CNBC article)

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My favorite takeaway:

“Gear up for the event in a similar way you’d prepare for a video job interview: sit in a quiet and presentable place in your house with good lighting, and shut off technology distractions.”

A List of Tips

The Muse published some naughty and nice ways to network this year and they are worth sharing. It can feel especially anxiety producing to be job seeking during the holidays but these tips calm us down a bit and move us toward action.

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My favorite takeaway:

When reconnecting, focus on giving something every time instead of pitching your own needs right out of the gate.

I really hope you’ll take a moment to check out these resources and let me know what is most helpful to you! Comment below with your thoughts and add to the list. We can all use the tips for authentic connection this time of year.

This first appeared on LinkedIn December 2020.

Why I like CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) for Career Decisions

So much of my work as a career coach is asking good questions and encouraging reflection. I believe you have what you need inside you but sometimes you need some help getting it out into the world. One way to do this is to use an assessment as a tool to give you language for what’s going on inside. One of my all time favorites is CliftonStrengths and I’ll share my reasons why here.

I like good questions.

This assessment, CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) comes out of the question

“What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?”

~ Don Clifton, “Father of Strengths-Based Psychology

This positive approach to defining success helps me own my uniqueness and encourage others to own theirs. There is enough measures in the world that come out of a deficit way of thinking – improve this or fix that and you’ll find success (lose weight or buy this).

My strengths fit for me

My top 5 are: Connectedness | WOO | Individualization | Positivity | Communication

I have only taken the top 5 and not all 34 which they now suggest. I believe the roots of this assessment encourage exploration in just the top 5 and really own them before exploring further. Perhaps my top 10 would be helpful, but I am still finding ways to leverage my top 5 so until then…

I regularly call upon my top 5 when making decisions around my own career. Perhaps you can see the value of a career coach having connectedness – I help people find the patterns in their own stories and see the connections intuitively. I also teach about networking and am helping others find each other as often as I can. As a career counselor, I feed the individualization strength when I get to be one-on-one with others and respect each person’s story as their own. I have never liked the tendency to say “oh here’s another nursing major” so I do X, Y, Z.

I’m literally a fan of my own strengths. This is my laptop currently.

I got these here

CliftonStrengths gives light bulb moments

The stats around this assessment are encouraging for anyone who avoids tests that “put them in a box.” I think this assessment frees you from any box and allows you to be more of yourself. Don Clifton began his research by studying successful people and noticing what they had in common. After decades of research the 34 themes emerged and I always share 2 stats that reflect just how unique we are as humans.

The likelihood of you having the same top 5 as someone else is roughly one in 275,000. 

If you wanted to find someone with the same top five themes in the same order as you, the odds are one in 33.4 million.

So regularly as I share this assessment with others, there are lightbulb moments. People see themselves in the descriptions of themes and it helps them explain “oh that’s why I do what I do.” It also helps them realize that things which come easily to them might not be so easy for others and that is part of their value they can bring in any job or career path.

This is a well researched assessment

The folks at Gallup say “Your CliftonStrengths themes are your talent DNA. They explain the ways you most naturally think, feel and behave. Their research shows that people who know and use their CliftonStrengths are:

  • more engaged at work
  • more productive in their roles
  • happier and healthier”

With over 23 million people having taken the CliftonStrengths assessment – they have quite the sample size analyze for reliability and validity scores. The CliftonStrengths has been found congruent with the Big 5 Personality Factors as well as the 16 Personality Factor.

You too can nerd out on stats by checking out the Technical Report.

CliftonStrengths gives language to share in a job search.

Once a client claims their uniqueness via Strengths, they have an arsenal to use in their job search materials.

It becomes easier to read a job posting with discernment.

You’re able to create a filter with which to view opportunities and companies. For example, I would look for job postings that include a priority on presentations because I can utilize my WOO (winning others over), communication and positivity as I educate and speak.

It gets you out of writer’s block.

You need a cover letter? Consider each of your strengths and how they developed, how they’ve been used in previous jobs and how they relate to parts of a job posting – all this can frame your cover letter content and get you moving toward a good draft. It doesn’t always make sense to use the actual theme (like self-assurance or command) but providing concrete examples for why you are the way you are and how this relates to their future employee makes an excellent case in an cover letter.

It helps answer “tell me about yourself.”

In an interview the first question posed by most interviewers is some iteration of the above. You can fall back to your strengths when addressing this question. By the way, you should practice this response ahead of time and decide what you want to emphasize in an interview about yourself. Nobody else is in that room advocating for you. If you don’t say it, it won’t be said. Often explaining something in light of your strengths can ground you and avoid sounding boastful.

It can enhance your personal brand.

Your brand is what people associate with you. If your CliftonStrengths results resonate with you, they can be a way for others to understand you more quickly. Case in point: I put my top 5 in my email signature and in my LinkedIn about section. This way, before I’m ever applying to something, I’ve given a new contact an idea of what they might get when they meet me.

So as you can see, I’m a true believer when it comes to CliftonStrengths. Have you taken it? How many do we have in common? Shoot me an email and let me know.

If you haven’t taken it and I got your attention, here’s all the books that come with a code. Note: I’m not an affiliate or a certified Gallup coach. I am however, very familiar with the assessment, available to provide one-on-one and group workshops about it. If this is of interest, contact me.

This assessment is part of the conversation I have with my clients around meaningful work. It’s important to understand yourself and how you work best so you can make confident career decisions. Need help? Check out my FREE guide to defining your meaningful work.

5 lesser known ways of building your network

While it’s fairly known that upwards of 70% of jobs are obtained through some form of networking, I have found we tend toward narrow definitions of this concept. Additionally, many people abhor the myths of networking (awkward, forced, inauthentic, large events, for other people) which keep them from engaging in any kind of networking activities.

So first, let’s redefine networking to simply “building relationships.” To build a relationship takes investment of time and of yourself, intentionality, reciprocity and generosity.

Be open to opportunities that may come your way.

Startup Stock Photos

I was at a meeting on behalf of a service project with my church. I was seated at a table randomly and we were given a couple topics to discuss. As I shared my thoughts on the topic, I connected with a woman across the table whom I’ve never seen before and liked what she had to say. I went up to her after the event to share contact info and see if we could talk more. She asked me a couple questions about my work, and I shared my transition to motherhood and interest in working closer to home.  She then told me about her assistant who left to stay home with her kids and how she’d love to talk more to me about that position. We followed up via email with details. I didn’t apply after learning more, but I literally was invited to apply to a job simply by expressing my own thoughts and then following up with my real needs. So get out there and talk to people!

Get humble and ask for help.

I moved to Orlando, FL in 2007 after graduation. I was doing a year-long internship with a large nonprofit. As the year progressed and I knew I didn’t want to stay in Orlando, the pressure was on to figure out my plan. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go but had dreams of moving to NC since my family had vacationed there my whole life. I researched a few graduate programs, made some calls and decided I wanted to establish residency in NC before going to school so I needed employment. I sent a mass email to my parents’ friends, extended family and peers from high school and college to update them on my life, my plans and areas where they could help. I also told everyone I worked with and asked for ideas and contacts who lived in NC. Now this may sound desperate, but I knew I couldn’t do this without connections. We are not islands – we are part of systems and networks and I believe people want to help others if and when they ca. What came from that was amazing. I received encouragement, connection to churches, ideas for work and roommates, and offers to look at my resume or share it with someone they knew.

Get curious and stop making assumptions

When I was 16, my parents had their annual meeting with their financial advisor who was a friend from our church. During the meeting they were just updating each other on their families and he mentioned his son was going to Eastern Kentucky University for school. He also told my budget conscious parents that his son qualified for reduced out-of-state tuition given where we lived in OH. My mom shared this information with me just as a curiosity and I explored further. My initial thought was “Kentucky? Why would I go there, I want to go further away from home and closer to the beach  – North Carolina here I come!” But we decided to do a campus visit and fast forward, I’m a proud alumna of EKU with a BA in Public Relations and an honors graduate. The life skills I gained and the friends I made have impacted who I am today in immeasurable ways.

Be a giver.

Any good friendship is reciprocal in that there are times when you give and when you get. The same is true with networking. As we seek to build authentic relationships with strategic people who may be able to help us in our careers, we need to look for ways we can give not just receive. Adam Grant defines this well:

I have served on the board of the NC Career Development Association for several years in a variety of position. This service has been so valuable to me personally through the relationships formed and the professional support I have felt. It has also allowed me to meet leaders in our field across our state, and even nationally. As one of the veteran board members, I’m able to share what was done in the past around a topic and offer insight from my vantage point.

Know what you need.

When I had my first child, I was job searching on maternity leave so I could reduce my commute and have more flexibility. I interviewed but nothing had panned out. I went back to my full time job 40 minutes away and struggled. My identity shifted from all-in worker to mom and worker and I wanted my time to be used differently. Through conversations with my partner and self-awareness of my skills, must-haves and desires – I decided it was time to “activate” my network and see what I could uncover that could help me change my work life. I wrote an email to a few folks at my church who were well connected in my city and shared my desire to live and work in the same place. I didn’t know all of them well, but I did feel confident they were the kind of people who would help if they could. I received a few quick replies with prayers and encouragement. Then I got an email asking for my resume to share with someone he played basketball with weekly. I replied and got connected with one of the leaders at Wake Forest. That conversation led to two opportunities he knew about that I could explore further. I did a few more meetings with folks and got interviewed for the job I have now as a career coach for graduate students.

So be open, get humble, get curious, be a giver, and know what you need. Do these things and you’ll not only have a stronger network to help when you need it but you’ll be an asset for others now and in the future.

Now’s the time to be career savvy.

Want to define your meaningful work so you can communicate it clearly to others? Check out this free worksheet guiding you through creating your own statement!

4 Steps to Start Your Interview with Confidence

My breath gets shallow and butterflies rumble my stomach as I wait for the Skype call on my computer. I get hot and red faced (no blush needed for this gal) when it begins. I’m asked some version of “tell me about yourself” and a flash of panic comes on my face.

Then things begin to shift. I take a breath and start in on speaking my truth. I seek to make a connection with my interviewer and say what I know is true of my skills, personality, and reasons for wanting this job.

“Well, I’m excited to be here talking to you about the role of academic advisor. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working with college students in various roles of advisor, mentor, teacher and coach. The undergraduate experience was pretty transformational for me, and I am looking for an opportunity to help others have a positive experience. College is also very complicated. I know I was stressed about the credits needed, course plans and getting it all in before my scholarship expired – oh and avoiding the 8am classes if at all possible. (smile). So I can see my skills being applied here at ABC University and it being a fulfilling role on your team. I look forward to hearing more about your staff and what you’ve got going on this next year.”

This is about 45 seconds long and is a sample of the kind of answer I would really give if interviewing for the role of academic advisor.

I’ve been in a lot of interviews – some in groups, some on camera, some on phone, some while in my car, some in a full suit – and if I can start out with confidence in my answer to their first question, the interview will go well. 

The stakes are always high in a job interview. They have the power to give me a job or NOT. The power differential between the interviewer (aka employer) and me is obvious. It’s no lunchtime small talk.

Most of the interviews I’ve had or helped others prepare for start with a question such as “tell me about yourself” or “what interests you in this position?” or “why do you want this job?”

This is your time to shine; your time to engage the question with enthusiasm. Nobody else is going to advocate for you or cheerlead on your behalf. While they may have a preconceived notion of you – the interview experience solidifies whether they want to give you an offer of employment.

I want you to nail it.

There are a few things I’ve found in my own experiences with interviewing as well as gleaned from being in the employment space for over 10 years that I want to share.

1. Create your own template.

START WITH YOUR PRESENT: Say why you’re currently sitting in front of them.

  • I just graduated
  • I am interested in this new industry
  • I’ve recently moved to the area

THEN SOMETHING NOTABLE ABOUT THE PAST: Share what brought you to this point.

  • I’ve cared about this kind of work since middle school
  • I want to work with your clients because I had this unique experience with them
  • I’ve had success in this kind of work before

THEN GO TO THE FUTURE: Finally bring it to a close with why you like their company or organization and how you can see yourself there

  • Your impact in the community is admirable and I would be honored to align with your vision
  • I am putting down roots here and look forward to impacting more people through your organization
  • After reviewing your values and mission, I believe we are a good fit. I too care about x, y and z. (this one is great because it also shows you’ve done research!)

2. Get clear on your reasons for wanting the job.

Then decide which reasons they will care about and develop those. You may need this job to pay next month’s rent. The company isn’t going to care about that. Analyze the job posting and take notes on what key skills they want and why you have them. Note any interests that you have which align with the industry, the reputation of the company or the position you would fulfill. What did you include in your cover letter? What do you think they noticed from your resume? Perhaps these are clues to what information you want to include in your intro. You can translate whatever questions they start with to “why do you want this job?” This filter will keep you from sharing how much you like long walks on the beach or cooking for your friends.

3. Say it out loud, more than once.

I just typed up the example above. Then I went to the voice memo on my phone and recorded myself to know it was about 45 seconds. If I was really interviewing for this position, I’d also go stand in front of my bathroom mirror without the notes, and say it again. Then I might ask my partner to pretend to interview me and say the main points again – not scripted, but familiar with what points I want to make when the pressure is on. This practice is going to keep it at the forefront of your mind when you enter the real interview.

4. Trust your preparation and just go for it.

This final point is critical. So much of confidence is the delivery of the content. Feel the fear and do it anyway. When my body tells me this is high stakes and I get nervous – I have a choice of how to respond.

I can get distracted by thinking about what questions I want to ask them at the end (hack: write them down and bring them so you don’t have to remember them).

I can share whatever pops in my head at the moment and then regret how disconnected it feels from the rest of the questions.

Or I can translate to my mind “they want to know why I am the best person for this job – just tell them.”

If you follow these steps – I am sure you will start your next interview off on the right foot!

Thoughts on COVID-19, Social Distancing, Creativity and Worry

My kids are about to start their second full week of being at home with me instead of being with their friends in preschool. This is the story for everyone in my community as we navigate our ways through COVID-19. I am spending part of my Sunday planning out how we will use our home in the coming week so we don’t go stir crazy. These are interesting times! 

I want to share a few thoughts that keep coming up for me.

First, on the topic of Social Distancing: 

Basically social distancing is a constraint put on us to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and not overwhelm our healthcare system. So as I think about constraints, I am reminded of Rachel Olsen spoke at the Inspiration Lab Conference back in the fall. Her session was titled, “Break Through the Noise: An Interactive Session to Unleash Your Creativity.” 

It used to be thought by psychologists that constraints stifle creativity, but now we know that is in fact not true. 

 “Your constraints can be powerful catalysts for creativity”

~ Rachel Olsen

We are in a new season of some serious constraints

  • Don’t be in groups of more than 10. This means no church meetings; many work places are now working remotely, all schools are closed and so many events have been canceled.
  • Don’t go to the beaches. The beaches are now closed in Wilmington. For me and lot of my friends, this was an outlet for our kids and ourselves to re-center and remember God in nature.
  • Work at home, educate your kids at home and basically don’t leave your home. This is a huge stressor that I don’t want to understate, AND I can’t help but recall a this quote from Mother Teresa 
  • We don’t know how long this will take and we don’t know what the world will be like after this. The planners in my life are quite stressed about this! If your job is about holding events or anticipating trends to market solutions, this time is at a standstill.
  • There will be layoffs, furloughs and unemployment spikes. Something like this can rock your world. As a career coach, I am anticipating a lot of conversations about where to go from here, how to find a job and how to fight the feelings of depression and failure that can easily creep in. 

Your boundaries don’t hold you back. The way you think about them does. You could succeed and do amazing work because of your constraints! 

Now on the topic of Worry:

A pastor friend of mine, Nate Stratman spoke about worry not too long ago and these are the notes I kept from his sermons:

  • You can focus on the weeds or focus on growing healthy grass. This is a choice we make when facing the “weeds” in our lives. 
  • Say you have two dogs. If one dog was worry and the other is peace, the bigger one is the one you feed. It’s all about perspective. 
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God and your problems get put in the right order. 

 So what will come after this season of constraints and worry?

I am hopeful that despite the potential for recession and huge economic impact there might be a renaissance of sorts where we rise and share our ideas with the world in new and innovative ways.

Want to learn more about the Inspiration Lab (my favorite professional women’s networking org)? Check out the deets here:

Facing a layoff or career change? If I can help, I’d be glad to. Learn more about my coaching practice here

Maternity leave and Marriage

Let’s be real for a minute ok? Life after having a baby is SO tough. As women, we are dealing with the pressures of crying babies, bodies that aren’t cooperating, family expectations, stress of returning to work, childcare options or lack thereof and more. For our marriages, the struggle is REAL y’all. I can only speak for myself more assuredly, but I’ve had countless conversations with other moms who say these things when we discuss marriage postpartum: 

1. I am so GRATEFUL for my partner, I can’t imagine doing this alone, BUT, there are times I get so overwhelmed with how unfair it feels. I am doing SO much more, particularly since I’m literally keeping this new human alive on the outside of my body! 

2. I wish my husband knew how much I’m thinking about at any given moment. He gets up once at night to help with baby and he feels justified to complain the next day, REPEATEDLY about how tired he is. I don’t get the luxury of thinking about how tired I am – the day just keeps going! 

3. The “second shift” work is so real for women. Having to handle taking care of the children and keep the house functioning is a full time job and during maternity leave it’s so much harder. Add onto this “kin keeping” which usually falls to women and between dressing your child in the outfit your mom bought on the day of her birthday to sending a wedding gift to a cousin across the country – these tasks seem endless. 

4. We are fighting more often and I know it’s because we are sleep deprived and still adjusting but it’s such an emotional roller coaster and I just want to step off! I wish my partner would have more empathy for me. He was only home the first 4 weeks of maternity leave, which I’m thankful for, but now he’s back to work. We are either away from each other or exhaustively eating dinner at the counter counting the minutes until the little one needs fed. We choose mindless TV shows and drag ourselves out of bed to survive. I wonder will it get better? 

Sister, I know it gets better. The hard things of that first 12 weeks are so unique, dramatic, and intense. We can’t (and shouldn’t) look past the day at hand. But that does change as baby gets older. Seasons change and give us perspective.

If you’re in it now or about to be – I stand in solidarity with you and don’t have any magic formula to make it a seamless transition. 

If you’re looking back like me, reflect and share encouragement to your community. Nothing can prepare us for our own children, but a listening ear and empathetic smile go a long way! 

I was inspired to share this after coming across this article Fighting Constantly After Baby? Read This. I recommend you check it out as it shares great suggestions for partners to make it through this difficult season and remain partners as it passes by. 

Also, if you’re new to this parent life, I recommend And Baby Makes Three which really focuses on your marriage and the changes that come when adding a kid. 

If you know someone who would be encouraged by this post, please share it with them. I invite you and your girlfriends to join our conversation at Career Savvy Mamas on Facebook.  Let’s talk soon!