Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

I guess you could say I blew it the first couple of tries – college that is. I admit that I was immature and a party guy, but I ended up getting a great job in professional sales.  I’ve been with it for 3 years so far. My salary is actually much higher than  many of my friends who did complete college. I am now 25, fully self supporting, and live fully independent from my parents. Yet, they are strongly encouraging me to complete my degree online while working full time.  But I wonder, do I even need it? I enjoy my time away from work socializing, working out, watching sports and otherwise, taking care of my life.

Thank you. My parents and I will all be on the look-out for your response.



Dear David,

Wow. I am impressed with your honesty and candor. You realize that you missed out on college achievement at first, but you went on to achieve career success despite that. Good for you! You must have matured quite a bit to be engaged in professional sales and commanding a salary that is high enough for you to cover all of your costs at a young age.

That said, my answer to you is, the value of returning to college is based on a number of factors:

  1. COMMITMENT: Do you now really have the maturity and commitment to make a go of it and work hard to completion? Are you ready to devote some of your fun time to study time?
  2. COST: Do you have the funds to cover it? Does your employer provide the benefit of educational reimbursement, typically tied to a grade of a B or better? Will your parents help fund it? Would you need to take out loans? The financial consideration can be a big one. Can you research to find better priced/better valued online college education? And do make sure to select an accredited college so that your degree has value in the marketplace.
  3. PASSION/DIRECTION: Do you have a passion to learn? Are you motivated to earn a business degree to help you in your sales career? Or do you have a passion in another area of interest? As you know, college can be demanding but if you have an intrinsic interest and desire to learn, it can be self motivating.
  4. EARNING POTENTIAL: Did you realize that statistically you will be a better earner with a degree than without one? On average, after a 10 year career you could expect to earn at least 20-40% more in many fields with a degree. And in most fields, higher level jobs require the minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
  5. INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS: Have you met with others in your field who have progressed further? Do they have degrees? I’d suggest you do some informational interviews with people who have jobs you aspire to and find out what credentials they bring and what credentials they recommend.

Lastly, I have a strong bias in favor of more education. Education and learning broaden you and open you up to new ideas, new concepts, new people and often, new opportunities. I recommend all my clients who are ambitious to become LIFELONG LEARNERS. With a commitment to ongoing growth, development and learning,  you will find life to be more interesting and rewarding. The dollars you get in salary are important, but they only tell part of the story. Try a new way to work out using  your curiosity muscle :  ) Check it out. Honestly, the best investment you can make is in yourself, and in the expansion of your knowledge and skills.

Onward to your exploration and hopefully, to a successful college experience. This time to completion.


Coach Joan

Dear Joan,

I was just presented with an an opportunity I’ve never had before. A vendor that works with my company has asked me to do a freelance project. I’d like to do it but don’t know if I should.  This vendor is not a competitor of my full time employer and I would be doing the work at night and on the weekends.

Is it OK for me to take on the assignment?

Thank you,


Dear Paul,

Paul, you are to be applauded in attracting freelance work, without even seeking it out. Clearly, your skills and style are appreciated by this vendor. This is an excellent question and one that periodically comes up in career life. I think many of my readers will be interested in this topic.

Can one do freelance work when one is employed full-time?

The answer is: It depends, and it’s often wise to speak to your manager at work before you proceed.

When you signed on with your current employer you may have signed an agreement that stipulates the exact terms of your work. It would include things about non-compete clauses, ownership of any patents that were submitted while you worked for them, the number of hours/overtime involved with your work and more. The safest way to proceed is to talk with your manager. If he or she is uncertain, you will be referred to HR.

I would take the safe route and ensure that it is all on the up and up before proceeding. And you need not mention the specific opportunity, just the nature of the work and the relationship of the company to your current company.

Once you get the go-ahead, make sure that your freelance work is done outside of work hours. I would suggest, too, for you not to discuss freelance projects with your colleagues. There might be resentment. It is important that your full-time work endeavor is perceived as most important. In fact, it probably is most important as your main income source.

Good luck to you, Paul.


Coach Joan


Dear Coach Joan,

My new manager asked if I’d like to accompany her to a professional conference in our field of architecture. I’m wondering if there’s really any value to meeting up with others in my field. I wonder if my time would be better spent at work?

Thank you,


Dear Elaine,

You sound like a very conscientious employee and your firm is lucky to have attracted someone with such a strong work ethic!  However, I strongly encourage you to get involved in professional conferences. You manager is generous and wise to give you the offer. Take it! No matter the field, professional groups all share in the mission of bringing their members together for:

  1. LEARNING – Professional networks are focused on bringing the latest in trends, discoveries and methodologies to their membership. Often you will learn from other practitioners in the field and you will benefit from their knowledge. Additionally, you have the chance to get to know the presenters by developing good questions or comments to direct to them after their talk.
  2. SOCIAL – I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea that it’s who you know that matters in business. I do believe that your skills matter, too. But it’s tremendously valuable to meet with others in your field, outside of your own company. By participating in a professional group you have the chance to be visible and known among your colleagues.
  3. PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP – One of the best ways to attract positive attention is to share your knowledge. Perhaps you’ve designed a local building and your firm gives you permission to discuss it. Do it! It’s vital that you become known for your accomplishments. Leaders attract opportunities. Leadership skills are invaluable in the course of any career!
  4. CAREER ADVANCEMENT –  When firms have the need to hire they often look to their peers in professional organizations.  That is who they think to call. And you often Linkin with the colleagues you meet at these events. Networking these days must be both online and face-to-face for maximum impact. And organizations often have web sites with job postings, too.

Elaine, I strongly encourage you to say YES to your manager’s offer of going to a professional conference. And further, look into how you might play some kind of leadership role for visibility, growth and career exposure. Build a reputation of professionalism and capability in your field. Doors will open for you!!  Good luck and get out there!!

Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I have a good job, but honestly, I am bored and ready to quit. I work for a large, well run company and have full benefits.

My work is in the financial area and although I’m competent in it, I feel like I’m just counting my weeks, months and years to retirement. My spouse would prefer I stay at the job as I am the main bread winner.  She doesn’t want to risk financial insecurity for our family. I tend to agree, but lately I have feelings that I am actually in a prison cell.  I feel locked in and more miserable as each day passes.

Any advice?

Thank you,



Dear Richard,

I am sorry for your boredom and discontent. You are basically in a rut and feeling burned out. Yes, this is a career liability and many of us have felt that way.

But let me start with a question: Have you ever heard the expression that the purpose of travel is not necessarily to see new places but to come home and see things with new, fresh eyes?

That’s the approach I’m going to suggest you take. You work in a LARGE company. That means there are many different departments and areas to work in. Your speciality is finance and finance is involved in many areas of running any company and any department. That alone tells me that you most probably have transferable skills. And that you are currently in a comfort zone that you are outgrowing . You are yearning for MORE and you are not seeing that MORE might be in your own backyard, in your current company!

Your situation reminds me of a client who came to me after 20+ years when she was offered a lucrative buy-out package. Like you, she was also bored, but she was concerned that she might be sorry in the long run if she took the package.

In working with her we discovered that she had started at the company with tremendous excitement, respecting the organization and feeling inspired to make her contribution. And she earned several promotions. But in the last few years, like you, she felt bored and actually used your same words of feeling like she was in prison!! I think prison is a good metaphor for feeling locked in and unhappy. It also means that you have outgrown your job and need to have the courage to leave your comfort zone.

Meantime, I helped her to open her eyes to other skills and strengths she might have and to bring those to informational interviews within her own company. She had been ‘blind’ to the opportunities right in her own company because she was so used to being there that she really forgot she could knock on those doors! But when she did, she found that there were some really interesting managers and interesting projects that could use the skills and strengths she hadn’t had a chance to express in her current job. And here’s a key consideration, Richard, if you have developed a good reputation over the years, the likelihood of being attractive to another manager within the company is quite high as you are a known and trusted entity.

My suggestion to you is to do an inventory of the skills and accomplishments you posses, even the ones that haven’t been expressed on the job but perhaps are shown in your personal interests. They could be things like being a good writer, being a coach to a sports team or skills as a trainer or teacher.

So put together an updated resume, and explore other parts of your company. Much easier to relocate within your ‘home’ company than move to a new organization where you need to start over in building longevity and benefits.

Onward to new beginnings for you, Richard! Time to leave that comfort zone behind, and do a ‘prison escape’ to a great new opportunity!!


Coach Joan