Activating the best of you!

Dear Readers,

Several clients, friends and family members are approaching retirement. When sharing the news, their eyes widen with delight, but beyond delight, I see mixed emotions. I sense tremendous excitement, plus a noticeable glimmer of apprehension.  It’s similar to the look on people’s face as they approach a roller coaster.  They know that a  big and exhilarating ride is coming up, but they don’t fully know what’s in store.

What is in store for retirement?? Here are three main things to start thinking about:

  1. THE OBVIOUS – THE MONEY PART. Are you worried about having enough money in retirement? Most people are. Do you have the financial resources to retire? Your company might be ready for you to retire, but your bank account might not be. Do you have a full understanding of your financial needs and wants during retirement, and how they will be covered? I am not a financial adviser, but I do know some of the aspects you need to look at. Consider making a budget of your current expenses and where the support currently comes from: your income, a partner’s income, social security, any pension, rental income, investments, etc. Then, budget for your anticipated lifestyle, needs and wants during retirement. If there is a gap, you want to consider ways to downsize and reduce costs, or ways to add to your income.  You might need to consider part time work, consulting, or even postponing retirement. You also may want to sit down with a trained financial person. Just as many people avoid doing their taxes till the last minute, many people put off financial retirement planning. But it  is a must-do.
  2. LIFE STRUCTURE – Many people don’t realize how much they rely on work to provide structure to their lives. Yes, it’s wonderful to not have to set your  alarm in the morning. Yippee, sleep in! But when will you wake up? And what will you wake up to do? It is a huge shift to have no structure in your life after decades of having your life structured around work. For this, I suggest creating anchor points. Anchor points are structured activities set up for several, say 2-3 times a week, same time, same day. They should be things you enjoy doing, things  that make you feel good and feel purposeful. The activities could be volunteer work, a college class, babysitting, an exercise class, hiking group, photography outings, activities you know you need to go to several times a week at certain times. It is comforting for us to know we will be expected at certain days and times to be at certain places. Anchor points. Necessary.
  3. SOCIAL – You may not like some of your co-workers and you might feel relieved  to never have to see them again (!), but as human beings, we do need social interaction. The importance and value  of social interaction  is proven time and again in research studies. People need other people. In fact, people live longer when they have more social interaction. Especially if you live alone, you need to intentionally come up with ways to connect with others. It could be a neighborhood group, faith group, family gatherings, hobby groups, re-connecting with old friends, but you really want to set up regular social events.

Yes, money, structure and social are three key areas for you to think about in considering retirement. I will cover these topics in more detail in future articles, but I wanted to set the stage for thinking about retirement.

Onward to bringing the best of you to work (my tagline) and now, to retirement.

Please send me your career and retirement questions. I am broadening the discussion to include both your work life and your life after work.

Coach Joan

Bringing the best of you work – and a vital life post career.

[email protected]

(650) 759 – 7386

Dear Readers,

You may know that I split my work hours several ways. Some of my favorite hours are in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms in Santa Rosa low income areas, where I design and deliver literacy and art programs. I try to empower, enliven and enlarge the scope of possibilities for the kids. I often read them inspiring biographies about people who start off in limited circumstance, but with big ideas and big dreams, grow to be successful. Examples are Cesar Chavez, a poor laborer who grew to be a  powerful organizer for farm laborers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman to become Supreme Court Justice fighting gender and religious prejudice to get there, and Wilma Rudolph, a poor African American girl who became one of the world’s finest athletes, winning a Gold Olympic Medal for running, despite having had polio as a child.

We discuss how people with big aspirations make it via persistence, education, courage, resilience and hard work. And they move one step at a time, despite problems and obstacles.

I repeat to the children that everyone has good things and bad things happen. But not to let the bad things slow you down or sidetrack you. I heard the children’s cries of ‘oh no’ when I read the story of  how Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother died the day of her high school graduation. That tragic event prevented her from giving the valedictorian speech, but it did not stop her from going to college, her mother’s dream for her.

In the same way, I’ve coached educated people who had significant opportunities. They aimed high, but needed to learn persistence, and to not allow problems and obstacles to deter them. They needed to go one step at a time. Here are two examples from my coaching practice: 

  1. A mid-40s executive in a panic. He was terminated as a partner in a top accounting firm with a 15 year track record cut short by a technical error. Then his wife of many years filed for divorce. His career and home life were shattered. He hired me to help him find a way back to career success. In working together we realized he was better suited as a business man, more than  as an accountant. But that change was scary, as  his income would be about halved. He agreed to work toward that new goal, step by step.  It took perseverance. After about 25 meetings and sleepless, scary nights, he got a job offer.  It was a lower salary but it had promise. He worked really hard, fit in well, and in the next two years earned two promotions and is much happier.
  2. Two years out of college and still working at minimum wage job a 25 year old client came to me feeling lost and down. He had college degrees in engineering and design but no idea how to enter the professional world. He wanted to go from being a coffee clerk to being a manager of user interface design for a top firm. He was an ‘all or nothing’ kind of guy. We brought him down to earth and helped him to position and package his true skills and capabilities. We helped him  find companies with appropriate positions for his skills. He landed a good entry level job.  After two  years of hard work he built an impressive portfolio and landed a job at top interactive design firm. He is well on his way to a management position, one step at a time.

Most people can fly higher and go further in their career if they set clear goals and are willing to put one foot in front of the other. It’s vital to stay focused on moving ahead and lick your wounds when bad things happen.

Onward to your career success, step by step.

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

Calling on all Sonoma County job seekers….

This Thursday, May 4 is the Sonoma County Job Connections event. It runs from 4- 7 pm at the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park. The event is free. Visit to register or you can register on site. There will be nearly 50 employers on hand, and you will have the opportunity to meet directly with prospective employers and hiring managers.

A local job fair means lots of career opportunities right in your own backyard. It is a place to network, get to know your local employers, and perhaps find that next great job. And if you are not quite ready for a formal job search, you will also find experts to help you with resume writing and Linkedin preparation. You will have the chance to get lots of  information about the local job market, ask questions directly of the hiring managers, and get a real pulse on the local job scene.

Here are three tips from me on how you can make the most of your time at a job fair:

1. DRESS PROFESSIONALLY: Make sure to dress to impress! Some say that showing up is half of success. Another aspect is showing up looking ready-to-go!  That alone will differentiate you. Sonoma County is a pretty informal place but you will always impress potential employers by dressing a level up. For males that means putting on nice slacks and a button down shirt that is well pressed. For females that means nice slacks and a professional looking top or a skirt and blouse or a dress. No flip flops for anyone, please!  Make sure you are well groomed; neat hair and for women, light or no makeup, and leave the bling at home. For people who have tattoos I suggest you cover up the ones you can. You don’t want people to focus on extraneous things-  you want them to engage with you as a professional person, focused on work.

 2. YOUR SALES TOOLS: Bring at least a dozen copies of a professional and clean looking resume. Please proofread your resume to make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Ask a someone else to proofread it as well.  And make sure all the information is up to date. Also make sure to include all contact information: your name, email, phone contact, the name of your town and your Linkedin address if you have one. List each job in chronological order from the present to the past. Use action words to describe what you did. If you are not happy with your resume, there will be specialists at the job fair to help you to improve it.

3. YOUR OPENING LINES: Yes, most people don’t practice this but just as dressing more formally can differentiate you, so too can a planned opening line help you make a great first impression. When you reach out to extend a handshake to a potential employer, look them right in the eye, say hello and have something positive to say about their company or organization. For example, if it’s a local retailer like Kohl’s you might say, “I’ve had really friendly and helpful salespeople whenever I’ve shopped at Kohl’s”. A positive comment about their company or establishment goes a long way in setting up a positive interaction. Additionally, have something positive to say about yourself. An example would be, “I’ve worked in retail for the last 3 years and really enjoy getting to know my customers and providing them with the best experience as possible.”

And I will be at the Sonoma Job Connections event, too.  You can see many of my Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice articles in the event program and you can also review them online.

Please, please come say hello to me. I’ll be wearing a COACH JOAN name tag.

I enjoy meeting you, my readers, and are always learning from your questions and situations.

All the best, and onward to bringing the best of you to work.

Coach Joan