Activating the best of you!

1. Breathe life into your interview:  Strategically delve into your past successes and develop stories and interesting anecdotes, with details, to make your capabilities come alive and become memorable. Practice delivering these stories and highlight the skills they demonstrate that relate to the position you are applying to.

2. Use props: Bring something unexpected to your interviews to create curiosity and interest. Make it something relevant and appropriate. Examples: flyer from a conference where you’ve been a presenter, new book by an industry notable or  article on a current topic of interest in your field. One client who was interviewing for a position in aeronautical engineering brought in a scaled model of a plane he and his colleagues had built. The interviewer loved the model and asked to keep it. Yes, the client got the job and the model was finally returned when he started the job!

3.  Smart use of your resume’s real estate: Add a compelling testimonial, a line from one of your recommendations to the resume. Put it directly below the objective section to highlight the positive things that have said about you. Through informal tracking it seems that resumes with testimonials get more attention than those without them.

4. Discuss your volunteer work: By playing a volunteer role and showing enthusiasm and perhaps leadership skills, you are perceived as an active giver and doer. You are seen as a community minded contributor who will probably be an active and enthusiastic employee.

5. Get a career or job search buddy: Yes, two heads are better than one, and if you are a job seeker, a search buddy can keep you accountable and brainstorm new ideas, practice interviewing with you and more. A peer coach can also be helpful, energizing and inspiring.

6. Do more face to face:  If are you like most job seekers, you are spending more time in front of the computer than in front of other live human beings. Yet research shows that 80-90% of jobs are never listed, they are obtained through informal networking. Make sure you are attending networking events–actively, not passively– following up with personal introductions and creating informational interview opportunities.

7. Even if you are #2 or #3 for a position: Nurture relationships with everyone who interviewed you because if you were a top finalist, you clearly you have the qualifications. Several clients have done this and are now happily employed as candidate #1 took another position, didn’t work out or another position opened up.

8. Focus on your wins: At the end of each day, write down three things that went well that day. Research shows that those who focus and track positive outcomes tend to create happier and more productive lives. Success breeds success. See yourself as a winner who gets hired, gets promoted and goes further, faster!!!

Onward to your career success,


Coach Joan

Please Note: Next week we return to our series on Local Career Stories. A reader wrote in recommending someone who had been an extraordinary  student in her paralegal training program at the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC). This young woman had owned a local cake catering company for years and then was inspired to do a 180 and move from the kitchen to the law firm. Stay tuned for a fascinating and inspiring local career story about Jenna Cook!!

Sonoma County through the lens of Silicon Valley
Profile #1: Will Bucquoy, photographer

“Photography is not a job.  I’m telling stories in a single image and I love it.” – Will Bucquoy.

The photographer doesn’t realize it but I’m seeing him through a lens of my own — a Silicon Valley lens. As a transplant from the South Bay, I have started a series on locals with an eye to what makes toiling here uniquely Sonoma County.

I met Will Bucquoy when I was looking to hire a photographer and he was referred to me as the ‘go to’ guy.

When we got to work, I saw Bucquoy’s professionalism, but even more impressive was his passion. I was curious about his backstory.

Now in his 50s, Bucquoy grew up poor in Oregon.  He worked really hard to earn his way and felt lucky when he had the opportunity to attend college. During school he chose the practical major of business and found a well-paying job in the automotive industry to help pay college expenses. One thing led to another. Bucquoy stayed in the automotive field, going from corporate sales, to being a franchisee, to association president and then on the board of directors. What started as job to help him cover college expenses became a 30-plus year career that would allow him to afford a home, raise a family, travel and enjoy the good life. And that good life took him to Santa Rosa in 1989.

But deep inside Bucquoy always knew what his passion was: art. From painting to music, to photography, to performing on stage, the arts captivated him.

Before long a conflict broke out in Bucquoy’s mind. The practical voice in him said, “Stay with your profession. It’s secure. It’s good money. It fuels the life you lead. It takes care of your family.”
Meanwhile the hopeful artistic voice said, “Someday there might be the chance to express my real self, my creative self.”

What finally got Bucquoy to GO FOR IT?

A combination of things happened when he turned 50:

1. A very good friend, also 50, died of a sudden heart attack. Bucquoy said it was a real wake-up call that life was not forever.

2. His kids were getting older and ready to move out of the house.

3. An insatiable desire to fulfill an artistic passion was rising in him.

At this point Bucquoy was working 50 hours a week and at the end of each day he was watching television and reading magazines. He didn’t feel fully alive.

“I wanted to be a role model to my kids. I needed to show them how to live AUTHENTICALLY and how to get as much happiness out of  life as possible,” he said.

Bucquoy did not jump into a new career. As a reflective business person he developed a 5-year plan including:
-Benchmarks and timelines.
-Education, with a focus on all aspects of photography.
-A Dual Track Approach, keeping his day job while he trained for his new career.
-Networking in the photography industry.
The 5-year plan may not have included luck, but luck stepped in. The right person at the right time arrived. A good friend introduced Bucquoy to Rolling Stone’s first-ever photographer, Baron Wolman. The mentor generously shared his theory for being a successful photographer. He told Bucquoy the words that have stayed with him since, and have propelled him forward:
“JUST SAY YES TO EVERYTHING. YES opens doors you can’t even imagine!” were Wolman’s magic words.

“Wolman encouraged me to go for every opportunity and every kind of exposure I could get!”

Bucquoy said: “I let go of fear and SAID 100% YES to photography, and that was the key turning point.”

Bucquoy was out there at every community event from Wednesday night Farmer’s Markets to Chamber of Commerce events, to all theater, art performances, any and all local events where he could meet people and photograph.

According to Bucquoy, he’s naturally a shy person, but he said that to be successful in building a photography business you need to develop networking skills. You need to know how to connect with people.  The people dimension is vital!

What was the hardest part?

Bucquoy said the hardest part was letting go of the other track.” I had to be ALL IN. And the more people hired me, the more people that wanted to hire me.”
What was the biggest obstacle in making the transition?

Bucquoy said “Fear and making sure I’d have enough to eat in a world where everyone with a cell phone camera thinks they are a photographer. He needed to focus on his operating mantra: JUST SAY YES!

What’s been his most exciting opportunity as a photographer?

Bucquoy said “From rock star musicians to published authors to political leaders, to leaders in the arts, I’ve had extraordinary opportunities to meet fabulous people and had chance moments you can’t buy a ticket to!!”

For those of you who are considering a second career, one thing to realize is that you probably have already developed skills that are transferable to your next career. In Bucquoy’s case key skills included a good work ethic, project management and outstanding customer service skills.

Was Bucquoy sorry he hadn’t started out in the arts?

“Joan, I get up every morning like a little kid, brimming with enthusiasm and excitement! This is clearly the right path for me at the right time. The 30 years in my first career gave me so much to bring to my second career. And I wouldn’t be as skilled or appreciative had I done it any other way.”

Bravo to Bucquoy, an impressive local career success. And you can see more of his work at:

Facebook: WB Photography or Instagram: @Willbucquoy

Readers: Do you have someone with a local career success story you’d like me to cover?
Just write to me at: [email protected]

Thank you,

Coach Joan

Photo by Will Bucquoy

Hi Joan,
I am 50-something and have always been interested in farm life. I am currently enrolled at Sierra College for a degree in sustainable agriculture. I have been a secretary since I graduated secretarial school in 1978 . I have been a legal secretary for the past 27 years and am ready to get out of the office and into the dirt. Am I crazy? I have been married 28 years, raised a family, and am ready to change career paths.

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Happy New Year!


Dear Kelly,

Thank you for your letter. Like you, many mid life professionals have an itch for a new carer. But few take the big first step to invest in a new direction as you have. BRAVO for going back to college mid life! You are far from crazy. You are smart, aspirational and courageous. And by writing to me you are reaching out for knowledge and direction. BRAVO, too for your field of study, sustainable agriculture, which is a field gaining a lot of traction, and one that clearly benefits our planet and all of us! And I love the way you position your situation as ‘getting out of the office and into the dirt”.

There are many issues that you need to consider in making your move off the mountain and into farm life:

  1. FINANCIAL:  A key aspect of careers is livelihood. You and your husband need to determine your financial picture and what kind of income you’ll need going forward. You mentioned he’s slowing down, but does he plan to retire? If so, do you have time to do some unpaid internships? You need to assess your full financial picture in determining a big change. And especially when we’re in our 50s, 60s and 70s, we need to look at planning which is sensitive to timing and aging; things like social security, medical insurance, etc. As I always said to my son growing up, “Dream big but remember to brush your teeth everyday!”
  2. RESEARCH:  Please see the career center at Sierra College and learn about the job opportunities in your field. See if there are successful alumni in your field you can meet with.  If you haven’t already done so, build close relationships with your professors. See if they have career ideas, research projects or connections for you. Consider doing INTERNSHIPS to see how you like the field and what specific jobs appeal to you. Research also to find professional groups in California that are focused on Sustainability. Get to know the PEOPLE in your field. Look to the Sonoma County wine industry where there is a new commitment to sustainability. Agricultural sustainability is a HOT HOT area and you’ll want to see the job needs that the industry has, and you’ll want to begin to build a NETWORK of people in the industry who know your capabilities. I’d Google to find key people in ‘sustainability agriculture’ in California and in the counties you’d be interested in living and working. Google searches can lead to a LOT! Mine them.
  3. VOLUNTEER: If you have the time or can make the time, look to get a volunteer internship in a farm, non profit, winery, a place where you think you’d ideally like to work in the sustainability field. It is usually much easier to get a foot in the door if you offer to volunteer. Sometimes, intern volunteers are then offered a paid job. You might want to consider that soon, while your husband is still bringing in an income. Might you be able to do your law work part time and work part time in your new field?
  4. GET YOUR MARKETING TOOLS READY: Develop, both online and in print version, a portfolio of your capabilities, skills and any letters of recommendation coming from both current employers, professors and anyone you’ll intern with in your new field. You have a 27 year track record as a law secretary and some of those skills are transferable to any job. You probably bring things like commitment, reliability, communication skills, project management and more. Make sure your resume reflects all of those attributes, too. Update your Linkedin profile and update your resume. Have your marketing tools ready for your outreach. Though do be mindful to protect your day job. Think through how and when to talk to your current employer about changes in your career.
  5. INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS: Through your professors, career center and professional organizations try to find people who will give you 30 minutes of their time for you to ask them career questions. Prepare for these ‘asks’, explaining that you’re looking to transition to the field of sustainability with a degree in it from Sierra Foothill by (the date) and you’d like to learn more about the actual jobs in the field. Tell them how you heard of them and mention a fact or two about what attracts you to their farm, their winery, their organization, etc. Then, prepare intelligent questions in anticipation of the meetings. Ask them how they got their start. What they find most interesting, most challenging. Ask them the skills and capabilities that are most important for success in the field. Remember that this is NOT an interview, do not ask for a job. If they are impressed with you, they might mention job opportunities but wait for them to bring it up. Do ask if there are other people in the field they suggest you meet with.
  6. DREAM AND EXTEND TO MEET: This is my new recommendation. I suggest to my clients in career transition to start with a creative exercise. Find a quiet place and give yourself 30-45 minutes. Meditate or sit quietly and ask yourself to imagine your ideal career situation. What kind of environment? What kind of people? What tasks are you doing? What does it look like? Feel like? What is the mission of the organization? What kind of compensation can you expect? What kind of lifestyle? Write down all these thoughts. Then, go to a more analytical approach and put together a prioritized list of what is important to you. Then do some outreach to find places that match your dream situation!  And share your dream with your husband. Transitions work best when both spouses are on board. Often, one will be energized by the enthusiasm of the one in transition. Kelly, I do believe that with careful planning, research and executing on a well structured plan, you can make that move from the office to the dirt! All the best to you, and onward in your contribution to sustainability on our planet. Bravo!

Coach Joan

Note: Next week I’ll begin the local career stories starting with Will Bucquoy, photographer.


Yes, Joan, you’re not in Silicon Valley anymore. 

What if I showed you Sonoma County through Silicon Valley eyes?

I realize in starting this third year as a Santa Rosan that I’m choosing to stay close to home to enjoy my “Sonoma County lifestyle.” I am crazy about the beauty —  the hiking trails and woods, the beaches, and the bounty of wonderful food and wine.

I still enjoy forays into the city and back down to the Peninsula for clients, friends and family, but more and more my life is here, and especially in the career arena, it is a different experience.

People are drawn to Sonoma County, but it isn’t necessarily career that brings them to this destination. They intentionally come to live here because of the emphasis on LIFESTYLE. Even when locals move away for college, they often feel a pull HOME to Sonoma County, especially when they are ready to build roots, create family.

In contrast, in Silicon Valley most people come for career opportunity first and foremost. The fact that it is in northern California is secondary to the career and financial opportunities it offers, and of course, the  hotbed of technology leadership it represents.

Because of the cultural difference between the two regions, I had an epiphany.

What if I showed you Sonoma County through Silicon Valley eyes?

I will be doing up-close stories of local people in their career lives.

If people are moving here for a sense of place, then how do they make their living?
I’ve met a number of interesting local professional people through my career coaching clients,  two book clubs, creative people in my screenwriting group,  board membership of the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, literacy and art volunteer work at Santa Rosa schools and of course, neighbors and friends I meet in daily life.

I am also looking for  recommendations from you. If you know of locals who have an inspiring career story and one that that shows strategies that others can benefit from, kindly send them to me at [email protected] or write them in the Comment section of this blog. Thank you.

I have chosen Will Bucquoy, photographer, as my first local career candidate because of the inspiring story he shared with me. He had only recently become a professional photographer though it had been a lifelong passion. He had been in a completely different field for almost three decades, a career that allowed him to provide income and security to raise a family. But when that stage of life was over, he took the plunge. And I think you’ll find his story really inspiring, with some key career building takeaways.

Stay tuned, and please let me know if you have suggestions for Let’s Go Local Career Stories for 2017.

I’ve enjoyed the questions and comments you’ve shared with me in 2016. Thank you. And please keep the dialogue going.
Onward to your career success in 2017,
Coach Joan