Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

I have been at the same job, in the same position, for three years. It’s gotten too comfortable,and I’m getting bored. And this year has been a wash for me, like many of us in Sonoma County.

Between complacency, perhaps laziness, and then the fire, I’ve gotten next to nothing done toward career advancement.   I’d really like to get a promotion or a new job 2018,  but I need some direction. Perhaps other readers will find this information helpful,too.

Hoping to be career energized in 2018.




Dear Haley,

You are not alone. Over the years I’ve heard the same sense of feeling stuck quite often.  For many reasons, otherwise ambitious people often find excuses to just keep to a routine and not find ways to make changes or advance. And yes, having the trauma of the fire here in Sonoma County, it’s been a game changer for all of us.   When you just can’t move forward and feel stuck it is  called inertia, and it’s a common, though non-productive, phenomena in career building.

It happens often when one is employed in an OK job, one knows the routine,  and there is very little pressure to make change. But if advancement is desired, it will not happen by sitting still!

So let’s get going in 2018!!!

Here are the top 3 things I suggest you resolve to do in 2018  to create career momentum:

  1. COMMIT TO LEARNING: The world is moving quickly.  If you are an ambitious person you need to keep up. New technologies and new best practices are being discovered all the time. Read up on new developments in your field. Google to learn about the issues, trends and leaders in your industry. Read relevant blogs, new books, listen to TED talks. Get inspired by new ideas!   If you’re not learning and growing you will be falling behind. Talk to your manager, your peers, a professional association in your field, and ask what’s new. If you want to get promoted, talk to your manager. Ask what additional skills and knowledge you need for the next level. Your company might offer training and development programs you can attend on company time for no fee. Look for local college classes online or in person. Perhaps  learn a new language. The world is now global and by learning a new language you open all kinds of possibilities for advancement and new kinds of engagement with your world. By learning something new you will feel energized and excited. Learning opens new doors!
  2. CHRONICLE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS AND SKILLS: People often fail to document their achievements and new skills. It is vital to capture this information to market yourself. Continually update your resume and LinkedIn profile.  Mention any quantitative results. Also, capture these achievements to share with your manager on a regular basis. Communicate that you are aspirational and working hard to have impact and show how! Ask your manager for new ways to  build skills and apply them. By documenting your accomplishments you will feel energized!!
  3. ACTIVATE AND BUILD YOUR NETWORK:  70% of the time a new job is gotten though one’s personal and professional network! Build a database of all your contacts. Start with the contacts on your LinkedIn profile. Highlight your inner circle of closest and most meaningful career contacts. These include your managers, peers and colleagues who respect you and your work. They are your inner circle for references and it’s vital that you communicate with them regularly and share any new accomplishments or activities. They are often the ones who can notify you of new positions and opportunities. You are a known and positive resource to them. Try to meet with some of the for coffee or lunch. If they are non-local, make sure to send periodic email updates and holiday wishes.  A rule of thumb is to have at least three touch points for each person in your network each year.

Yes, Haley and readers, these three actions as key career building resolutions for 2018 will take you far! Keep me posted on how you’re doing and if you have further questions. Onward to a super year of achievement and career momentum.

Coach Joan

Send any questions to me at:  [email protected]

Dear Readers,

There is a lot of bellyaching and complaining about the hiring process. I hear it from both job seekers and from employers. Both sides have problems with the ‘other side’.

Yet, both sides are fully justified in their complaints.

The chief compliant from job seekers is that they often feel that they are not hearing back from potential employers, especially after they apply for a job, and or have had an interview, or a series of interviews. They often feel that they encounter the big black hole. They describe this as the place where they send in their resumes, applications and cover letters and don’t hear back.And they complain that after putting in a lot of time, energy and preparation, including the stress of anticipation and hope, they feel letdown by getting no response at all.

The chief complaint from the other side of the table, the employers, is that oftentimes job seekers come ill prepared for their meetings, showing little or no effort to get to know the company, the industry or exactly what attracts them to the job. Employers complain about getting resumes with errors, cover letters with the wrong name or spelling of their organization, and even worse, in-person interviews where the candidate has not thought through how they qualify for the position or how their skills match the job description. Sometimes they complain that it seems that the candidate has not even read the job description.

Which side is right?

Both sides are correct!

From the job seekers perspective, they are entitled to get a timely response from a company after they have taken the time to respond to a job listing. And especially when they have gone through an interview process, they deserve to get a response. A timely response, not more than a week after the meeting. A yes, a now or a further explanation. One job seeker I worked with heard back from a company six months after they had applied for a position and were already in a new job. Another candidate said that the employer circled back to him two months after the interview, actually offering him the position. Two months later?

And from the employer’s perspective, they are correct in expecting a job seeker to do some work to show that they understand the company, the market and how their qualifications fit the position and will result in a positive impact on the company or organization.

Why this disconnect and disappointment?

I believe both sides are often at fault. And, I believe our employment system needs correcting.

Both sides of the table have gotten lax in their sense of responsibility to the process.

So for 2018, let’s all commit the following new NEW STANDARDS IN THE HIRING PROCESS:


Once a job candidate has in good faith applied for a position, including a professional cover letter, resume and or complete job application, you will respond to them in a timely manner. You will respond with either a ‘no thank you, not a good fit’, or ‘not know but we will keep you on file’ or ‘yes, we’d like to interview you’ and they will specify a phone or in person or Skype interview and offer some specific days or time.

And, throughout the interviewing process, make it very clear when you will notify the candidate and ensure that they have your business card and or contact information so they can follow up with you in a timely manner.


Once you have decided to apply for a job you will commit to doing some research to learn more about the company or organization, the position, the market they are in and figure out how your skills meet the requirements of the job. You will also try to explain in a cover letter why you are attracted to the organization and how you believe your skills

and experience will have a positive impact. Once you have been notified of an interview, do your research and come fully prepared to your meeting/s. Make sure all of your written materials are error free, well presented and that you ask about next steps at the end of the meeting. Make sure to follow up within two days with a thank you note and a reminder of your qualifications for the position.

Yes, readers, both employers and job candidates can do better to professionalize the employment and hiring process.

We are moving into a new year, 2018. If you are a job seeker, or an employer, please try to be sensitive to the folks on the ‘other side of the table’ and do what you can to professionalize and show respect in the hiring process.

Onward to a better, more respectful, and professional hiring process for all in 2018!


Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

I’m learning that Sonoma County has a bounty of unique and creative people with unusual career paths and a mix of great talents.
One of those is Andrea Granahan, who has been living, writing and working in Sonoma’s west county for decades. She just wrote a truly wild and wonderful book of true stories about the West County Coastal characters from towns including Bodega, Bodega Bay, Occidental and Sebastopol. Andrea has been a journalist, college instructor, travel writer, author of  three books, and homesteader in the woods.

This book, Backstories from the West Edge is  filled with zany characters, bizarre happenings and stories that are often funny and poignant. I read the book on the plane going to east coast and home. My husband kept asking me what was going on, as I couldn’t keep from laughing aloud, then sharing some of the more incredible stories.

This is a great holiday read; and certainly an antidote to  the seriousness and pain of the fire and its aftermath. It’s also a great book for visitors and folks from other areas to get a taste of our west county history. I plan on purchasing several for friends and family from all over to enjoy.

Andrea Granahan has served as a journalist on California’s north coast for four decades. She describes the rural area she worked in as “QuirkUtopia” because of the varied and interesting people (and animals) she has met there. She revisits the roots of some of the more controversial and exciting events she covered as a reporter. From going to war with the US Navy over submarines killing fishermen, to Mario Savio demanding she censor her journalism students, Granahan’s career saw a lot of action.
Some of her tales will make you laugh, others bring you to tears, or stir your sense of justice. This book reveals a unique corner of the world and shows small town journalism at work proving the pen is still mighty.

You can purchase Backstories from the West Edge, by Andrea Granahan at Copperfield’s in Sebastopol,  Hand Goods in Occidental, The Sebastopol Center for the Arts Gift Shop, and Granahan has won awards for her reporting and feature writing from the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. and the National Newspaper Publishers Assn. She is the only reporter to hold three Lincoln Steffens awards for investigative reporting. She was the founding publisher of the Bodega Bay Navigator, a weekly newspaper. Her work covering the fishing industry has been described as unparalleled. She is currently at work on another book and continues to be a  travel journalist.

Disclosure: Andrea is in a book club with me. I am a founding member of the Sonoma County Wednesday Noon Book Club. We read all genres, and especially enjoy reading local authors whom we often invite to meet with us. One of those local writers is Andrea, by way of another one of her book’s It’s all Greek to Me.   It’s about Andrea and her family’s  experiences living for a full year in rural Greece. We all loved the stories and were so happy when she came to our meeting, armed with relics and even more stories, even poems. We had such a fantastic time with Andrea;  her intelligence, humor and enthusiasm, that we invited her to join our club.  She agreed. That was three years ago, and the rest is history!

Onward in enjoying some great backstories from the West County from Andrea Granahan.

And, if you know someone in our community with another interesting career story, kindly send me an email for consideration for this blog.  Thank you.

Happy Holidays!

Coach Joan

[email protected]

Dear Readers,

Last year I wrote about some Do’s and Don’ts for your office holiday parties; including some light-hearted and humorous messages about not dressing ‘sexy’ or drinking too much, not getting stoned or high, or mistakenly thinking you were partying with your friends. But it was written a bit tongue-in-cheek, knowing that there might be some degree of good fun, and perhaps ‘letting loose’ at the holiday party.

This year, for the holiday party season of 2017, my sentiments are more serious and more cautionary.

Our political and social climate has changed quite a bit. And our local community changed; the impact of the fires continues and will continue for years, especially powerful in these first number of months.

Some of the people at your office party might be feeling down; they may have lost their home, they may be experiencing depression or anxiety that is more acute around holiday time.  Some people are frightened and concerned about the financial aspects of the fire;  rebuilding or repairing a home. Right now many people don’t know if their insurance will cover the cost of rebuilding so they are in limbo.

And in the broader political and social climate, the pendulum is swinging in the direction of ‘outing’  sexual harassment on the job and becoming ultra sensitive to sexist comments and behaviors. I believe that is  good, but it is making everyone a bit awkward and sensitive, especially with dealing with potentially sexually charged issues. We are very conscious of comments and actions that could be perceived as inappropriate, and yet there is not a rule-book to follow.

But due to the heightened sensitivity and awareness of sexual harassment, I am proposing the following three recommendations for this year’s holiday parties. Better safe than sorry.

1.Dress on the conservative side and this advice is for everyone. Plan to wear normal business attire, perhaps a brighter holiday color. Dress as you normally would for work, maybe in slacks and a sweater. Be especially aware and sensitive that although you’re going to a party, it is still an extension of your work life and you will be with your colleagues.  Dress in a way that does not look like ‘let’s party’.

2. Do not drink or smoke or do any kind of mind altering anything! Be very aware of having your full wits about you. When you greet your work colleagues you can give warm verbal greetings but I’d be sensitive about hugs and kisses. Use a big smile instead of physical contact. Even if that’s a way you might greet some of your ‘friendly’ co-workers at other gatherings, I would be very aware of not having body contact. If someone leans in to give you a hug, you can pat their back, but do avoid frontal body contact.

3. Talk about easy topics and avoid more personal topics. Do not comment on the dress or appearance of others, except if, for instance, a woman is wearing a lovely holiday pin or hat or a man is wearing a humorous holiday tie. But try to avoid comments about appearance and talk more about general topics of vacation plans, the food at the party, etc. Do not bring up the fire and the impact of people losing their homes. You don’t know how those comments and topics could trigger sadness or anxiety in others.

This is NOT a normal holiday time for office parties. It is not a normal time for our country and it is not a normal time for Sonoma County, either.

This is a time to be on your best behavior, SOBER, SENSITIVE and KIND, with a certain amount of friendliness without touching!

Onward to a better 2018.

Happy Holidays,

Coach Joan