Activating the best of you!

In reflecting on her 30 year career, she realized her favorite thing was working with deaf students. Marie had completed the  specialized training in deaf interpreting, but in her administrative role she hired others to do it.

Dear Readers,

It used to be that when you turned 65  you retired. You were done. You got your  gold watch, and you moved on.

Perhaps you played golf, sat back, enjoyed the grandkids, and spent more time visiting with friends and family.

But you were basically done. It was black and white. You were on, then you were off.

But today it is different. We are seeing people leave their primary careers in their 50s, 60s, 70s, sometimes even in their 40s, and moving into what I call  quasi-retirement.

These quasi retirees are not quite done with being in the workforce.  They are contributing selectively, and for many reasons. Some do it for extra income. Others realize they have the financial means to retire fully, but want to stay with it selectively. They extract what they consider the ‘fun’ parts, but in a more focused and discriminating way. I’ve been working with clients in this new phase of life. and helping them transition from full time careers to a more diversified lifestyle that includes work as just one component of a multi dimensional life:

Yes, we are in a new day. For the first time in history there is a cadre of people who have these three things:  good enough health, good enough wealth and the time to do more, with vitality and purpose. So whether you are looking to retire, are retired or just interested in how you might set up life later on, think out of the box to intentionally and multi-dimensionally draw on what gives you satisfaction!

Onward to your success and happiness in all phases of the career cycle,

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

This is the time of year that recent college grads are scrambling to find a job. I often get asked what they can do to best prepare for the job market.   My recommendation is fairly unique. It is not the typical focus on problem solving skills, communication skills and perhaps computer skills. I’m not saying those are not good things to have, but in my experience as a coach who has helped launched many college grads to their first professional position, I would offer a different approach.

I call it SELF-AWARENESS and TELLING YOUR STORY. Who are you, and what makes you tick? By the time you have graduated from college you should have had enough projects, challenges, team interactions, feedback and accomplishments to begin to see what kind of professional person you are starting to be. What kind of achiever you are, what is  your style? What brings out the best in you? What have you done that shows your strengths and capabilities? This is vital information for potential employers, and they are very impressed to meet a young person who knows who they are and what they can contribute.

Here are three case studies:

Susan graduated from college with a business degree. She graduated in the top 5% of  class. She describes herself as  focused, serious, achievement oriented and undaunted by a challenge. She explains she has wanted to work from the time she was 8 years old and first grasped an understanding of going to work.  She had a job since she was 13 year old, first working for her parents who were real estate agents, then, when she was 16 she started working at a local CPA office doing increasingly more complex tasks as she asked questions and learned. She positions herself as hardworking, focused, alert and also a team leader. She was the head of the student marketing association; created and managed a new student business newspaper with a staff of five. She was typically the leader of class projects.

She enjoyed professors who gave challenging projects, especially group projects where she could lead. She brought with her to job interviews examples of the projects that earned the team As. She  brought along her worksheets with clear roles and responsibilities showing how she updated the worksheets as the projects continued. She is thorough and believes in advance planning. She had requested and collected reference letters from six of her professors and all of the employers she ever worked for.

This is a young woman who was ‘on top of things’ and she was immediately hired by one of the top technology companies in Silicon Valley, her first choice! Susan is clearly an exceptional young woman and it’s no surprise to hear that 15 years later she is a Vice President of Marketing at one of the largest tech companies. Incidentally, she married a man who is the stay-at-home dad to their three children and loves being the primary breadwinner.

Tom graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He is an introvert who positioned himself as a serious math, science type since he was a child, always fascinated with becoming an engineer. He had to stretch and get a tutor for his English classes but he said he’s the kind of person who applies his strengths, realizing he needs to work harder in areas that don’t come as naturally easy to him. In fact, he said he developed leadership skills because his college counselor  suggested he needed learn to work better with others. So he got a team together to build a small kit airplane with a small, soft model first.

He brought that model into his interview at NASA and the interviewer was so impressed that he asked if he could borrow it. He returned it on the day Tom started to work for him! Tom didn’t realize that he had anything ‘special’ to offer until we reflected on his college experiences, including heading up a team to build the plane! I coached him on telling his story in a way that showed his natural interests and skills but also showed that he was mature enough to listen to advice on how to grow in more challenging areas to grow.

Peter graduated college as a history major. He had some series obstacles to overcome. Peter is legally blind, yet with appropriate technology, he can work professionally.  His story includes the vision problem as it also contributes to his character, his style and his resourcefulness. He was born with degenerative eye disease and was fortunate his parents got him trained in mobility and technology early on. Sadly, he was also in a plane crash that resulted in a year being bedridden. Yes, Peter’s story focuses on overcoming challenges, but he also has a great sense of humor, loves to tell stories and spent summers working in corporations where he did phone sale effectively. He does best with strong managers who structure his goals for him so he can plan his tactics.

Peter majored in history and  has an uncanny love of going to original source materials and creating unique new versions of events. He explained that to his interviewers, yet some were clearly turned off or intimidated by his walking stick or his visible eye problems.  We researched to find the larger companies that provide the visual augmentation technology he needed. Peter was confident in who he is, his story and how to tell it, and how he can create value for an employer. He found just the right manager who saw how his creative personality would add value to the sales team and the development of the sales success stories.

So, college grades, know thyself, and know how to communicate your unique story and your unique style and value-add. Many recent college grads do not take the time to do this or just don’t know that it will be valuable. But is it. And it can be just the thing that sets you apart from your competition, and earns you that first professional job.

Onward to your career success,

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

Lately I’ve been meeting some very creative, artistic people who have found a way to build a life with a sound financial foundation. Not easy. We all hear of the struggling artists, many of whom have day jobs that pay the bills, but are boring. But last week, while attending a writers conference,  I had the good fortune of meeting creative people who  have wisely set their lives up to support their creative side with a practical career.

Their day job financially fuels their passion for creative expression and provides another outlet for their intelligence:

Melissa’s Story. Melissa is a published poet whose work is represented in several noted anthologies. She has also self published several volumes of poetry. Her work, honestly, is not too accessible for me, but in her circles she is well respected and sought after. Her poetry has not yielded a big income. In fact, the self publishing can be costly. But Melissa is one smart cookie! As she completed her MFA in Creative Writing she saw the writing on the wall that lucrative careers in poetry were, well, they were NOT. So she thought long and hard about the kind of life she wanted and realized she had other interests and capabilities that could be developed into a financially secure, if not wealthy, career. She decided to become a librarian and with her good grades and low income, she was admitted on partial scholarship to a master’s degree program in library science.

Fast Forward, degree completed,  she is now a librarian and doing quite satisfying work. Naturally she has set up a poetry group in her area, and she is also teaching creative writing and poetry at a local community college in the evenings. Yes, Melissa found a way to use both her creative side, fueled by a challenging and interesting day job that allows her the comfort of a fairly good living. Melissa told me that during her undergraduate years she worked as a waitress and did retail sales but found that work dreary and soul crushing. She persevered to find a way to address both her artistic and practical sides.

Debbie’s Story. Debbie just retired after 30 years in law enforcement as a sergeant and trainer. She said her path was a somewhat unusual one. Back in high school her favorite classes were history, creative writing and physical education. Yes, she was an intellectual, creative jock who had a passion for both law enforcement and writing! Her good fortune was having a counselor at the high school who encouraged her to pursue it all. He cautioned her that she might not be able to have it all at one time, but that she could build a life that allowed her to have full expression of her talents and passions throughout a long life. He suggested that while she was in high school  she apply for an internship with the local police department and also work on her writing both in school and with a local writer’s group.

She took all of her counselor’s advice and ended up being recommended for the police cadet program directly after high school. In the evenings she took creative writing classes at the local junior college. I met her at the point of completing her 30 years in law enforcement and now having a full pension. In her late 50s now she is devoting all her time to completing a novel and a screen play, and wants to get them published and produced. She also has a couple of grandchildren she spends time with and yes, she encourages them to be all they can be, in all areas of life!

Andy’s Story. Andy is a young man in college, pursuing an accounting degree. He is also a fantasy, science fiction writer whose imagination is enormous! He grew up reading lots of science fiction, graphic novels and playing fantasy video games. He’s in that new world of virtual reality, VR. But he also has a very practical side. Both his parents are teachers and he saw that it was not easy to make a living and provide for their four children. They both have artistic passions and the need for creative expression, too. One is a painter and one is a sculptor and they encouraged him and his siblings in all areas of learning. They were excellent role models.

Andy knew he loved math and art and actually did an internship in a CPAs office in his town. He realized it was fun to couple his day job of numbers and on weekends and evenings he wrote and created in the outer universe of fantasy! Andy’s now well on his way to becoming a CPA by day and a fantasy writer by night.

Society tells you that you can’t have it all. But maybe, just maybe ,you can creatively and practically find a way to defy that limitation.

Many creative people are very smart, and they often need the kind of wise guidance that you just read about. They need to discover ways to make a living in jobs or professions  that are not deadening to their spirit.

I like the idea of reaching for the stars while keeping a firm footing on the ground. In other words,  find a way to express your heart and soul while finding a way to pay those bills

May your creative side reach for the stars, and may your practical side give you firm footing,

Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I’m coming to the end of a 30 year account management career and need to transfer my clients to my partner or I lose out on my income payout for the next several years. The problem is that several clients are showing resistance to my  partner even though they gave me very positive feedback as they got to know him, starting  five years ago when he joined the team.

Do you have any insights or suggestions as to how to get them more comfortable with this change?

Thank you,


Dear Mitch,

Congratulations on completing a 30 year career run! And it’s wise of you to set up a way to get a payout in these next several years. Many companies have done away with pensions so it is important to be forward thinking about retirement in advance.

The situation you are dealing with is called CHANGE. And people are often resistant to change. This applies not only to the work arena but to all areas of life. Children are often difficult to a replacement teacher when their regular teacher has to leave. Patients are often uncomfortable with a new physician, dentist or hairdresser when the one they’ve known for years is retiring.

Mitch, put yourself in their position. These clients have trusted you for many years and although they met and seemed to like your partner, think about it. They liked the new person when you were still there. Now you are going to be leaving. The don’t really know or trust what the new lead person will bring. You were there first as the senior partner, from the clients experience. And they need to feel confident and comfortable with seeing your  partner moving into your role; the senior position. They need to have opportunities to see your partner as a leader.

Here are some suggestions for how to make the clients more comfortable with the change:

1. Invite key clients out to lunch. Review your relationship and the key benefits provided by you and your company. Listen closely for any objections that you might be able to address. Reiterate the similarity of  your partner’s approach and listen for any concerns about him that you can discuss. Suggest they imagine working with him. Ask how it feels and what they might like and what they might be fearful about. Offer to include him for a next lunch or to schedule a  one on one lunch with the partner.

2. Set up a client dinner. Invite key clients and your partner.

3. Invite Upper Management to Face to Face Meetings with clients who are apprehensive. Invite those clients to meet with you, your partner and key upper management to reinforce the company’s commitment to them. Remind them that even though you are leaving, the organization remains committed to them, and to the high level of service they have always received. And let the clients experience that they have a complete team of fully capable experts to support and service them, even when you are gone.

Mitch, good luck to you on this transition. It is probably one of the most important projects you will have in ensuring a good transition to fueling your retirement. Onward to your success and a fulfilling retirement.

Coach Joan