Activating the best of you!

Yes, this is an awfully large image, isn’t it?

And it really gets your attention.  Good. That’s my intention.

Because the two magic words in career success have a lot to do with attention-getting.

And I don’t mean the kind of attention you get by wearing bright colors.

I mean the kind of attention you get by the magic of your:


All employers want to know:  What have you done? What kind of contributions have you made? 

Then they can imagine what you can do for them!

I’d like you to reflect on that for a moment.

Whether you are a baby boomer in mid-career, a millennial  applying for your first job, a transitioner intent on moving from one field to another, someone who’s had a gap in their resume, or someone who’s new to town and looking for new employment, your interviewer will have their interest PEAKED when you talk about specific contributions you made in your past,  and the positive impact that had on the organization.


  1. I’m a training manager and under my leadership, my team developed three online classes a year and for four years in a row  the companies’ salesforce increased profitability and efficiencies by over 20% a year.
  2. As a production engineer, my team and I delivered more products on-time with lower failure rate than another of the other teams in the company for the last two years.
  3. As one of seven partners in my law firm I was the proven rain maker. I brought in more than half of the new clients in the last 10 years, year after year.

Your turn:

Please reflect on how you will present your CONTRIBUTIONS and IMPACT. You don’t need to wait until you’re applying for a new job, either. Develop a presentation for  your manager to share at your next one-on-one meeting or at  your next performance review. Let them hear the MAGIC words, CONTRIBUTION and IMPACT and how that applies to what you’ve done, the results you can take credit for. And add quantitative results for maximum power. Plus, identify  and discuss the skills that underly your successful achievement. This will also serve to positively impact your own self confidence. More bonus points for your career success!

Yes, focus on the two magic words for career success:  YOUR CONTRIBUTION & IMPACT.

Dear Joan,

My husband and I moved to Sonoma County six months ago for a great job he got at a major corporation in Santa Rosa. We are both professionals from Europe and now have two lovely sons who have settled well into their charter schools in Santa Rosa. We just love the public school options here! The problem is my employment. I have a 10 year track record of professional work and top business credentials, and I  took ten years offf to raise the children. I know I have a gap and I have managed to get part-time job in a winery in a tasting room, but it is not the challenge or pay that I am qualified for. I apply for jobs and have periodically gotten to the interview stage but I am never the one selected. Any ideas?

Frustrated, overqualified, yet unemployed,


Dear Sophia,

First off, welcome to Sonoma County and I am so glad your husband is well employed and your sons are settling well into good schools here in Santa Rosa!

Now the challenge is your employment.

My first suggestion is to see this as a marathon and not a sprint!

You have two things that are challenges in your career portfolio. One is that your experience is from other countries and the other is that you have a 10 year gap in employment. The good news is that you do bring both academic and professional credentials.

But you will need to re-build! Even if you were in Europe you would find that a gap is a challenge or barrier to overcome.

That said, it is taking you longer to find employment that is both challenging and remunerative.

I would suggest you see your employment goal as having several steps in the process and all involved PREPARATION, PEOPLE and MAKING CONNECTIONS, NETWORKING!!

Getting a positive profile in this, local community. It is excellent that you’ve worked in a winery and presumably have some people who will give you positive recommendations.

  1. Getting affiliated in some professional local groups like the Chamber of Commerce and other professional associations in your field. Check with the local chamber to learn about local professional organizations.
  2. Have your professional sales tools ready. This means an updated resume and both past and local letters of recommendation. Include examples of your past contributions and projects that show IMPACT and CONTRIBUTION.
  3. Get to work! Volunteer in local organizations that appeal to your interest and get to know people! You never know when you’ll meet people who can refer you to appropriate connections, while you demonstrate that you are DOER and a CONTRIBUTOR.
  4. Find others who have relocated from your country or from Europe. See how they have made their connections. See if you can affiliate and contribute to get known in their community.
  5. Get to know the parents of your kids friends at school! You already have the school community in common and I’m sure that many of them are affiliated with local employers. See what impact you can have via the school and the school community.

Sophia, it is never easy being a re-entry professional and it is especially difficult as someone from another country, but realize that once you are IN, you are IN, and it all starts with getting to know people and making positive connections through being willing to work and contribute!!

See this as a marathon and not a sprint and you will see, step by step, that you will develop your own community of people, supporters and advocates for you.

Best of luck to you Sophia,

Coach Joan

Dear Joan,

I am the newbie in the office, a recent college grad, and a trying to decide what to wear to the company holiday party.

We tend to dress pretty conservatively in my office,  and do have casual dress Friday, but I’m wondering about the balance between looking festive for the holiday season vs. looking like it’s an extension of my work scene.

Are there other things I need to think about regarding the holiday party?

Thank you,


Dear Peg,

Wow! The holiday season and what to wear to the company party. This is something that has been a question for thousands of people over many, many holiday seasons.

And the answer is variable based on the culture, region, industry and particular organization you are in.

But a consistent theme is to remember that this is a WORK event; not a holiday party with your personal friends and family. You will be at this holiday party with your work colleagues, and you will be seeing them the next Monday morning! You want to make sure your behavior is appropriate throughout the party. I don’t know about you, but after a couple of drinks, my filter can tend to disappear!

When I worked at Apple and they’d make blow-out parties, we dressed very formally, in sequins and men wore suits and even tuxedos! And when I worked at start-ups, our holiday parties were often at the end of a very long work day and we didn’t even bother changing out of our casual work clothes.

But I’ve also heard the disaster stories at company parties. Typically they involved alcohol and people losing their regular inhibitions that they bring to their sober work lives, and clothing can play a role in sending certain messages, non verbal messages.

It’s not just what you wear. It’s how you BEHAVE. Please monitor your drinking and your comments carefully. Perhaps have an agreement with a trusted co-worker to watch over one another.

That said, my suggestion is to avoid what anyone would call SEXY clothing. Whether you are a man or a woman, or identify as queer or trans, or… is important to NOT project your sexuality at company parties. Even though it is a PARTY and it is the HOLIDAY SEASON, it is not OPEN SEASON on PARTYING. There is a very careful line to be drawn.

As this relates to your choice of dress for that holiday party, I would suggest erring on the side of conservative, with a touch of holiday cheer. What would that look like? Yesterday I was doing volunteer work in a 2nd grade class, and the teacher opted to add some holiday cheer to her outfit. She wore black slacks and a striped sweater of black and silver with a little sparkle. It was festive and pretty, but it was not at all provocative or inappropriate.

A sound strategy is to ask a friend or relative how they’d rate your outfit, from work-friendly to bar-friendly. If it is rated closer to bar-friendly, it is WRONG. And remember, it is not just the actual clothing or accessory, but how it fits. A simple black dress can be appropriate on one woman, and tight and alluring on another woman. The same is true for men’s trousers and outfits.

Peg, with some thought and planning into both your appearance and behavior, you can be  appropriate, comfortable and allow yourself to have a good time…with your WORK colleagues.


Coach Joan

Post-election all eyes are on the glass ceiling.

Many were expecting to see Hillary Clinton head to the Oval Office. But you don’t have to seek the most powerful job on the planet to shatter the glass ceiling. There’s plenty of shattering to do in everyone’s world, whether you’re a woman, a man, a Baby Boomer or a Millennial.

That’s why my subject today is:


What is your glass ceiling and how do you plan to shatter it?

To walk you through the process, I offer up the model of one of my clients Lauren, (not her real name.)

Lauren had raised her children and was ready to use both her work experience and her academic credentials to snag a leadership job in a top biotechnology company. She had a solid foundation — 10 years of work experience — before bringing up babies.

Lauren’s goal was to identify the companies she wanted to work in, then seek out colleagues who worked there and try to find personal introductions in. A smart strategy but WAIT. As I worked with Lauren and asked her about her past work experiences I found out she had witnessed some ugly sexual harassment and unethical behaviors in the workplace. She was understandably very angry about these situations.

Lauren’s experiences are not unique. Many of us experience ugly things in the workplace. The problem is not that bad things happen. The problem is that if we HOLD the negative emotions associated with them, they WILL seep into the job search and the interview process.

In a sense, the anger and resentments we hold become our own personal glass ceiling!

With Lauren, we re-visited each one of her negative experiences and had her process them. Next, we discussed her positive takeaways, and the key contributions she made in her role at each company.

In Lauren’s case, once she dealt with the negativity from the past she could break through and succeed in her job search.

Not all glass ceilings are external. Do you have any internal glass ceilings you need to break through?