Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

After a year of temping I have finally found a position I really like in an excellent company that is both close to home and in a growing industry. I have been there for three months so far, and I see that there are permanent employees at the company doing similar jobs to mine, yet I have learned that their benefits and pay exceed mine. Plus, they are offered all kinds of training classes, invitations to meetings and offsites, and basically a career path, where I am just offered my basic pay, no job security, no job growth and limited benefits.

I know that there are other temporary workers who’d also like to become permanent and I realize there are probably right ways and wrong ways to go about becoming a full time employee. Could you kindly let me know what would be involved and what some smart strategies might be? Should I first talk to my manager at the company or to the contract agency?

Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions, Coach Joan.

Yours sincerely,


Dear Clay,

First of all, congratulations on finding employment that you enjoy and a company that is attractive to you for permanent employment! Many people do temporary (temp) and contract work to find a situation they enjoy, and it looks like it’s paid off for you.

So now you have the next challenge of finding out how to transition from a satisfying but limited temp position to a permanent one. And you clearly know there are better and worse ways to do this. In fact, there are people who lose their temp jobs because they don’t manage the process well. So you are smart to ask how to best navigate such a transition.

First off, know that your key allegiance at this point is your temp or contract agency. They are the ones that hired you and they are the ones signing your paycheck. And, they are the ones who are managing the relationship with your employer and, importantly, earning their income from contracting your services to them. So it’s vital that you let them know first that  you are enjoying the work, and the company, and in fact, you would welcome the opportunity to work there permanently if given the opportunity. This opens the discussion to how that might come about. You would not be the first employee looking to go from temp to perm! They will be pleased that they heard from you first. At that point the discussion can go in many different ways.

It is also important for you to realize that many companies choose to have both temporary and permanent employees on an ongoing basis to both keep costs down and to be flexible to expand and contract their workforce as needed. That said, you might find that your current company is not looking to increase their permanent hires in the short term and you might want to consider starting a new job search, specifically for a permanent job but at a similar company to the one you now enjoy.

And let’s continue looking at how you might, however, go from temp to perm. Again, it’s important to first talk to your real, current employer, the contract or temp agency that signs your paycheck.

They might tell you one of the following:

Depending on what your contract agency tells you; something in line with the above possibilities (or some variation on the above) you are always at liberty to meet with your manager at the company to just discuss how much you enjoy the work, the environment and to review your contributions and skills, and basically hint at your interest in full-time employment. At that point your manager might fill you in on the company’s plan: perhaps to hire more permanent employees in that group, perhaps to even shrink the team, perhaps something else. But if you are on good terms with your manager, they will often give you a sense of the likelihood of your moving from temp to perm. It is a very common wish of temp employees.

If your contract agency gives you the green light, you can also meet with an HR person at your company and discuss how much you enjoy the position, why and how you’re a good fit and mention that you’d welcome the opportunity to work directly for the company….Again, you might get some good information on hiring prospects.

The other strategy is to get to know employees who’ve gone from temp to perm and ask them how they navigated the process.

Clay, this is a situation you should be careful about and go slowly, step by step, as you don’t want to jeopardize your current situation in being too aggressive for permanent work with the company. Go slow but steady and start with your contract agency.

And, do consider a two prong strategy now that you know what you like in a job. Pursue permanent status at your current job and look for a new permanent job at a similar company.

Best of luck to you and let me know how it goes.

All the best,

Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I left my last position voluntarily, but not happily, as I really did not respect or get along with the organization’s new executive director. I had enjoyed my position at the non profit  for eight  years and built up many supportive relationships both in the agency and  with vendors, partners and supporters. I am now actively job seeking and want to know how to anticipate setting up references to support me in my job campaign. And do I need to explain why I left the agency and my opinion of the new director?



Dear Len,

First let me say I am sorry that a productive eight year run at your last position ended negatively, and I am sure you have heard that it’s better to leave a job after you have a new one lined up. But I know that isn’t always possible and sometimes it is just TIME to move forward and that’s what you did.

It also sounds like you have two questions. One is about how to explain your departure from the agency, and the other is about how to set up a good group of references to support you in finding new employment.

First let’s consider how to explain your departure.  You have several choices and a lot to think through.

Whenever my clients are in a gap period of being without an employer, I always suggest that they find one. And I don’t necessarily mean a new, ideal employer right away. What I mean is something new to add to the resume so that you are doing something productive that can be written down. It could be a volunteer position with your local school board, food bank, local elected representative, local hospital. The point is, it’s important to have a new and current affiliation. It shows that you are getting out, being productive and participating in the world, even if you are doing it on a voluntary basis. For several years I was a speaker at Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s ‘Job Hunters Bootcamps’ and we addressed hundreds of unemployed people during the recession. We always recommended that every person in the room find a volunteer position in their community and Congresswoman Speier always offered her office as a place to volunteer, and she would substantiate their participation if they actually came in to work at least two times a week! By having a new affiliation, more recent than the  last employer, it  minimizes the idea  and stigma of being unemployed and it actually gives you something positive to talk about. And interestingly, in subsequent Bootcamps, Congresswoman Speier and I always noticed that the people who came back to present their successful employment stories often were the ones who volunteered in her office or elsewhere in the community.

And now let’s explore how you can best position and explain your departure from the agency. Here are some approaches:

1.‘I enjoyed my tenure very much and my key accomplishments include this, this and that (you fill those in). And I very much respected the leadership of ________ ____________(the name of the exec dir you enjoyed) and we worked together for five years. In fact, she is a key reference of mine and we both saw the agency priorities in just the same way. When she decided to leave and the new executive director arrived, I realized that the agency was going in a completely new direction, one that I didn’t fully agree with and I felt it would be best to explore new options.’

2. “My position was eliminated when the agency brought in new leadership which changed the strategic direction.” Sometimes when you leave an organization you can agree to have the official explanation of departure be that the position, as you knew it, came to an end and you agreed to amicably part ways.

3. “My priorities changed. I very much was committed to the non profit for 8 strong years. But once my own children began school I realized that education/high tech/health care..(for example) were my new priorities and I wanted to explore finding a position where my new priorities were reflected.”

What you are not seeing is any bad-mouthing of the new executive director. One never does that in a professional setting.

You make it about you and your interests/priorities and where you can best apply your skills and talents.

Now, about the references.

I suggest that you first compile a list of 3-5 people including people from  your agency that you really got along well with and who you knew and appreciated your work. It is often good to have at least one person who supervised or managed you, a peer and a subordinate if you were in a managerial or supervisory role. You can also have one or two people who you worked with who are vendors, partners or supporters of your organization.

Call or meet for coffee or lunch with each of them; try to make it more personal that just a phone call. Remind them of the work you did together and what you appreciated about them and the process of working with them. Remind them of the key skills and capabilities you brought to the work and ask how they perceived you, and if they’d be willing to serve as a reference. If the answer is yes, then ask if they can write a linkedin recommendation about you and if they can send you a paragraph with key strengths and skills you demonstrated.

Some people will willingly agree to do both. Some might need to you help them write the recommendations. Be sensitive to determine if they want help with you writing a first draft. And remind them of how important recommendations are in the hiring process and that you will contact them in advance when a potential employer will be contacting them.

Make sure to let them know exactly what your new job will be and the skills they should emphasize that are important to the success of that position. You want to make sure your references are well-supporting your candidacy.

Good luck, Len, and really leverage those eight strong years and focus only on the productive, positive good times and good people!

Coach Joan

Dear Joan,

I read your blog about how to avoid being laid off but the timing was a bit awkward as I had been laid off the week before your article came out. As you might imagine, I am pretty down as I didn’t expect to lose my job and now. I find myself doubting my abilities and judgements. Can you suggest some strategies that might help me to re-build my confidence?



Dear James,

I am so sorry to hear that you lost your job. No matter what the circumstances, but especially if you were not prepared for it, a layoff can be very painful. And although knowing that many people go through it, it is still a very personal pain and an assault to one’s sense of efficacy and value. It can set you back. But you can REBUILD!

The good news is that you still have your skills, capabilities, knowledge, experience and credentials. No one can ever take those away from you. And for most people, they also have some colleagues, supervisors, managers and or peers who see them in a positive light and are willing to be a good reference.

Let’s explore, step by step, how to rebuild that strong sense of confidence, using both past accomplishments and an identification of proven skills and talents. And let’s support and reinforce your proven capabilities by putting them in  writing so you can reflect on them, reinforce them, and eventually use them to build your new sales tools (resume and possibly linkedin profile). And we will have you look to connect with your advocates, our supporters, to secure written recommendations.

  1. Reflect on three times in your work history/career when you were at your best, when you really did good work and were acknowledged for it. When you even enjoyed it and enjoyed being with the people around you. Write up three narratives of those ‘peak performance’ times. Include the scope of your work, your role, your colleagues, the challenges, the resources, the obstacles, the ways you problem solved, the outcomes, your inner motivation, your sense of achievement and any special compensation or rewards.
  2. Then, put those three narratives aside for a few hours or even overnight. Return to them and this time read them to identify the key SKILLS those achievements represented. Then take a look at the skill list. Clearly, you were effective, you had impact and you have skills that can be transferred to another employer!
  3. Make a list of your key advocates; people who know you do good work. Contact them and ask them if they would be willing to write a reference letter for you and to serve as a reference to potential employers. Remind them of the work you did with them or around them. Ask them to tell you their impressions of you (presuming they are advocates of yours!) as it will make you feel good to hear your strengths and past accomplishments.
  4. This part is FUN.  Take 6 index cards or cut out paper in index card size (about 4 X 6″). These will be your CONFIDENCE CARDS and you will take them with you wherever you go until you are reemployed. They are powerful and they will remind you of your powers!  On each card I’d like you to write a key strength or capability that you have demonstrated at work. Then, on the back of the card write out a description of how and when you demonstrated that skill. You have proven skills and capabilities. Become comfortable and compelling in talking about your skills and capabilities. They are your GEMSTONES and no one can take them from you.But you need to be clear about what they are and how to talk about them

And surprise, James, when you really focus on your proven capabilities and practice talking about them and writing them up and having others actually write them up (as your references) somehow they become more REAL and your CONFIDENCE goes way up!

Good luck, James and let me know how you’re doing with rebuilding your career confidence.

Onward to once again bringing the BEST of YOU to work!


Coach Joan

Make your own confidence cards to read whenever you need to re-energize and re-empower yourself.

Dear Coach Joan,

I’ll be graduating from college next semester and have already begun on-campus interviewing.

I was completely caught off guard when at the end of my first interview  I  was asked what it would take for the company to hire me! I didn’t see that question coming and  I didn’t know what to say. I floundered when they offered me a low offer and the meeting ended awkwardly.  Can you give me some ideas on how to prepare for next time.

Thank you very much,


Dear Jane,

First of all, congratulations on doing such an outstanding job on your first interview that you were basically offered a job, though they put the ball in your court and you weren’t quite in the ready position.  It should give you confidence though, as it means you must have really impressed them quite a bit!

The topic of negotiating for a job is quite similar in a distinctive way as looking for  real estate. The key words for real estate are location, location, location. The key words for job negotiating are preparation, preparation, preparation.

Many companies are aware that the smart college graduates are often excellent at preparing for the interview in terms of researching the company, developing good questions, making insightful comments and presenting themselves and their capabilities in a strong way. However, companies are aware that in the first round of interviews many candidates are not prepared to say what they want their compensation to be. Many candidates believe that a compensation discussion won’t occur for  several meetings out. That’s where the interviewer has the advantage.  They know what they want to pay; they know their bottom line and their top line and all of the possible ‘goodies’ they have to offer. When you are unprepared you often lowball yourself or agree to a package that doesn’t necessarily include the things that are important to you had you anticipated and thought through a realistic but optimistic negotiation stance.

The biggest mistake that most candidates make, other than a complete lack of preparation, is thinking that salary is only thing that needs to be considered. It’s up to you to know all the elements that make up a compensation package. You need to think about aspects of a total compensation package that might include any of the following:

As you can see, this is an awfully long list and it can include other elements as well. I will ask my readers to write in with other things they have successfully negotiated for with an employer.

Jane, and readers, if you do find yourself again in an interview situation where early-on you are asked what it would cost to hire you, I would suggest that you say that perhaps the salary discussion is happening prematurely before you have a complete understanding of the scope of the position and how your  skills and experience align. Make the comment that you look at salary as a part of the overall compensation picture. When it is time for the compensation discussion, because you are PREPARED, you would share the list you’ve compiled that includes all relevant aspects of the compensation for that position.  From now on, when you begin researching for a job, make sure that compensation preparation is included in your homework.

A key way to find out about a company’s compensation strategy is to look at the web site, and any other compensation web sites that you can find. Another way is to find current or past employees of the company who are willing to share salary and compensation information with you. If you are working with a recruiter you can also inquire about the company’s salary and compensation practices.

Good luck to you Jane, and readers, let’s keep this conversation going.

Onward to bringing the best of you to work!

Coach Joan