Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

This should be one of the happiest times in my life but honestly, I am miserable.

I started a new job when my wife was 6 months pregnant with our long-awaited first born. Two great things, or so it should have been. But it is now almost a year later and it is not the joyous situation I had anticipated. My job ended up being much more demanding, with a lot more out of town travel than was anticipated. And my wife is discontent and upset with her  job as a CPA. She worked hard for the credential and now it’s especially brutal during  tax season. Our little boy is great, but we wonder how he’s being affected with two stressed out parents.

Please advise.



Dear Mike,

You know the old expression, be careful what you wish for. It clearly applies to your situation. Too many of your dreams came through, all at the same time and it feels like too much.

First, take a few deep breathes and remind yourself that this too shall pass. This intensity will not and cannot go on forever. And there might be both small and large things you can do to take the reins of the situation and slow things down to a more manageable pace:

  1. Talk to your manager: Explain that you really are enjoying your job and mention aspects that are going well. Mention key contributions and positive impacts you have made to the organization. Then, explain that you signed up for a job that did not require extensive travel and though you understand the reasons for the travel (could be new accounts, or….) but that with a new child at home and a spouse who also works full-time you really prefer less travel. See if there is a way for your workload to be changed to require less travel. Do not be demanding, but inquiring and appreciative of their consideration.
  1. A vacation: Perhaps you and your wife can book a much needed vacation. Yes, together! Sometimes that is what a family with a new baby really needs. Sometimes I hear from clients that they feel like they are really missing their child’s development and by taking a week off, as a family, it can be a bonding, wonderful experience. It can even be a staycation (an at home vacation) without the demands of the regular workdays.
  1. Part-time or flexible work schedule: Perhaps you or your wife could opt for a more flexible schedule. If your family finances allow it, maybe one of you could work just 3-4 days a week. Sometimes a day or two working remote, from home, can really ease the stress by not having a commute and being able to work in casual clothes. More and more employers are trying to be flexible with employees (especially the ones who have proven to be productive) during the demanding childbearing years to elicit longer term loyalty to the company.
  1. Discuss the options as a family: At this stage, it means you and your wife (your baby is too young to voice an opinion!) should really sit down and explore the options together. This won’t be the first time in your lives that you’ll be facing stress or problems. You know the expression, Little kids, little problems, Big kids, big problems. So it is really good to establish a format and style of problem solving together. Also, think longer term about the solutions. If, for instance, you opt to work part time for a year, then the next year it can be her turn. Naturally, that is just an example as you have to see what options, realistically, are available for you.

Mike, best of luck and I am hopeful that you and your wife can explore and find options that take the heat off this intense period of life.

Onward to your continued work/life balance. It will be an ongoing exercise throughout your career and family building years. The earlier you take the reins the better.

Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I’ve been in my professional career in the same corporation for 10 years, since college graduation.  I have not been advancing as quickly as I believe my accomplishments and impact warrant. I am a petite woman and I feel that I am often not listened to or respected.  I got feedback from a few colleagues that they believe I was passed over for promotions because I’m perceived as weak. How can I assert more authority and gain more of a powerful  presence in the workplace?

Thank you,



Dear Marilyn,

You know, size and gender may play a role but I would contend that even if you don’t have the advantage of size or maleness, you can most certainly project a more powerful, strong stance in the workplace. And these four practices can even work for large or male persons!

  1. React Thoughtfully, Not Emotionally.   Slower reactors are perceived as more powerful and more in-control.  Practice pausing.  Think, reflect and choose to respond or choose to respond later. Most situations do not require immediate reaction. Whenever you feel anger or hurt rising inside, taking a break — separate from the emotion, especially in business settings.  Reactive types are viewed as weak.
  2. Be large. Even if you are a small woman you can use sweeping gestures, you can lean back, you can go for direct eye contact. Glancing away or using small gestures or the frozen look is weak. Be bold. Also, if you are small, wear one-hued outfits to give you a longer, taller line.
  3. Measure your words. Think before you speak. Don’t talk too much. Make sure the words you use are intentional. Make sure you have your audience’s attention and that you are continuing to command attention. Sometimes people fill in silent moments by talking, rather than making succinct points and ending there. Why would they do that? Because they might not feel they truly belong in the room. Tell yourself you Do belong in the room and your presence can be felt even if you remain quiet.
  4. Self-Doubting, Undervaluing, and Not Listening to One’s Innate Inner Wisdom.  Listen closely to hear if you have a critical and negative inner voice.If you hear an inner nagging voice that stops you from injecting a fresh idea, asking a question or volunteering to be in a leadership role, catch yourself and change that negative self-talk to a positive one. If you need to, find a supportive colleague or friend to help you with this. Nip it in the bud and become your own inner cheerleader. Marilyn, power is truly projected from within! You have got to catch yourself doing any internal self deprecating talk, feel large, be large and consciously edit yourself to say what you feel is most important to say. But only choose to fill airspace when you know it will improve upon the silence.  And the other thing you might consider doing to counter the size-matters issue is to look up all of the super powerful petite sized men and women in history. There are many of them and they truly knew how to project power!
    Onward in your career success!


    Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I’ll be graduating from college later this year and I’ve already had several job rejections. I was even rejected from a low paying internship for which I was definitely qualified for. The career counselor at my college said that my resume and Linkedin profile look good, and I am bringing a solid academic record with good grades, and several positive recommendations from my professors.  I am wondering what I might be doing wrong and how I might become  a more competitive job candidate.

Thank you,



Dear Barbara,

Congratulations on your upcoming college graduation. It is quite an achievement to go all the way to completion as many students drop out along the way. Bravo!

You are very smart to ask how to be a competitive job seeker. In college you learned how to be a competitive student and earned the grades to reflect that. But I assume you were not offered the college class called Career Success 101?? I’m joking with you because I don’t of know any college that offers such a class, but it might be helpful.

So here are the top 3 things I would offer if I were developing the curriculum for Career Success 101, starting with how to win at interviews:

1) Do your research and make sure to say why you are interested in working with their organization. Give specifics and show real interest in exactly what that organization or corporation is doing. Research  their web site and Google them to find other articles about them to show that you have researched and understand their mission, their  mission, work, their people, processes, products, services, etc. Prepare a couple of good questions, too. A bonus is if you can find some of their competitors or comparable organizations to explain why and how you prefer theirs.

2) Provide specific examples of why/how you are qualified: classes you took, papers, internships, etc. that show you have the skills that they need. Explain your qualifications for the position and how that will impact their bottom line, their goals, their needs. For each of the job requirements listed show how your background supports your candidacy.

3) Show ENTHUSIASM — All employers want to hear that you are really excited and jazzed about their opportunity!! You must express enthusiasm even if you natural style is low key. You can practice raising the volume and varying the pitch of your voice. Do an exercise where you imagine something that truly excites you, and bring that energy to the interview. It is OK to fake it till you make it. You must make a first impression with energy, enthusiasm and excitement….Passion is attractive!

Many first round interviews are on the phone so it’s important that you speak clearly and articulately. Practice in front of a mirror and even stand in front of a mirror when you do your phone interview. It really helps. Also, practice smiling as you talk.  Research shows that a smiling face actually projects more energy and positivity to listeners.

Barbara,  imagine being on the other side of the table when you envision job interviews. Imagine you are now a seasoned professional and you are looking to hire staff members. Now review the three items in the article above. Don’t you agree that a job candidate demonstrating those three tips would impress you?

Onward to your career success!


Coach Joan