Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

My current job is challenging and rewarding, but the salary and benefits are not good at all. For the first five years (my first job after college)  I was so stimulated by the job as a teacher in a small private school, but now that my husband and I are expecting a child and  just purchased a home, I notice myself feeling resentful and unhappy about my compensation.  I am afraid that if I move to a more lucrative position, I will miss the rewards of being stimulated and knowing I am making a difference. I have been contacted by a few recruiters and colleagues about new jobs but so far have not shown interest. Can you advise me on how to look at the trade-offs?

Thank you,


Dear Ann,

It’s wonderful that you found such satisfying and stimulating work for the first five years of your career. Many people find their first jobs to be drudgery and unfulfilling; paying the dues, as the expression goes.  So you should appreciate that you had quite a good run for the five years and also make sure to reflect on the key things you’ve learned and, keep that network of interesting people involved in your career life.

Your life is now changing and as your life changes, you often have changing career needs. At the start of your career, just out of college, you looked for a job in your field and you lucky to find one. Most young people are not too concerned with living with roommates to keep costs down, they often drive an old car, if they have a car at all and they often are not thinking about supporting a growing family.  Our needs and values change over time as our lifestyle changes in the course of our  career lifecycle. Let’s look at four periods of life and how the trade-offs might look. I’m basing this on actual clients I’ve worked with of varying ages and stages of life, and the composite is a woman named Leslie, at various stages of her life:

  1. Leslie, 22, the college graduate: Leslie graduated with a degree in early childhood education. She had done student teaching and loved it! The problem was, the year she graduated, there were too many graduates in her area and competitive to get a position was fierce. She wisely decided to widen her job net and found a position about five hours from the place she wanted to live. But at that stage of her career, entry level, the most important thing to her was getting a job in her field, getting experience, so she could then be a more competitive candidate and return to her location of choice. So put the criteria of JOB IN HER FIELD as the A#1 priority and she was willing to give up geographic location and high salary and even how the school district was rated, just to get in the door and get experience. She accepted her job with a low, base salary, lived with three roommates and barely paid her bills and put all savings to pay off her college loans.
  2. Leslie, 32, now married: Leslie followed her plan and it took her three years to get back to her location of choice, leveraging her teaching experience. But now she was married and she and her husband were saving to buy a home and planning to have a family. Now her priorities were to get as high a salary as possible with a solid benefits package as her husband was a contractor and didn’t have benefits with his work. Leslie leveraged her work experience and fine references and got into a top school district with good pay and excellent benefits. She was also looking for a local job as she knew she didn’t want a long commute for when she had children.
  3. Leslie, 49, kids to put through college.  Leslie and her husband now have two kids to put through college. They are focused on making as much money as they can. Leslie looks into transitioning to a corporate training job as she finds out that it pays almost double compared to her teacher’s salary. She joined a professional training organization, reached out to other former teachers to see what kind of skills she needed to make that change. She did informational interviews and met a number of former teachers who mentored her and helped me get a new position. Though she preferred working with children, a high salary was now paramount to her.
  4. Leslie, 64, wanting to paint and use her artistic talents: Now Leslie really wants TIME and flexibility. She returns to part time teaching as she really missed working with kids. And she discovers during her ReVitalment ™, the period of life after full time career and before true old age, that she used to love to paint and draw but put her art box away when she needed to focus on career, then family building. But now she realized she had a love of painting and craved being in the art studio. With a part time job in teaching she now had two and half days a week in an art studio!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, Ann, there really is a CAREER LIFECYCLE and at different stages of life, different things are important to you. It sounds like you are now in one of those transitional stages and you need to reflect and think about your priorities of today!   All the best to you and wishing your success and awareness as you go through your Career Lifecycle Journey.   Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I’ve been thinking about your profession and all the situations and experiences you’ve seen with people in their working lives.  I’m wondering if you’ve seen some odd or unpredictable, strange things that have happened to people in their careers.  Anything readers might find interesting and informative?

Thank you,

Curious in Cotati


Dear Curious in Cotati

I think that’s a great question and it’s funny timing, as I was just telling a prospective client that I really could not predict how long it would take for her to secure new employment. I could give a ballpark of under 6 months considering her skills, credentials, track record, years of employment and market need in her field. However, there are so many, many factors that go into someone’s success in the job seeking process.

But OK, you asked for strange, odd or unpredictable things that’ve occurred in careers.  Here are a couple I could not have anticipated:

  1. FIRED BEFORE STARTING THE JOB:  This happened to a director level sales professional. She was in her late 30s, in the prime of her career and had worked for several notable, large technology firms in Silicon Valley. She took the chance on a start up that went belly up and had an unemployment period. She hired me in the hopes of making her job search more efficient and effective as that’s what good coaching can do. We honed in her positioning and key strengths, made sure her resume and linkedIn were top notch and got her references set to go. We had her leverage her network of both professional and personal contacts in hopes of finding just the right position. FYI, over 70% of jobs are gotten via one’s network so do keep that network fresh and activated.  We also had her reach out to all her former managers and colleagues, as part of the ‘Friends and Family Outreach Letter’. And she played an active leadership role in her professional association. She had many interviews over a 5 months period but no offers. FYI, for a senior level position it is not unusual to take 6 – 12 months to find new employment.  Finally, at month 7 she had a HIT. One of her former bosses reached out and was in another start up that needed her sales leadership skills. At that level there is often an employment contract that both parties need to agree to and sign. This one addressed her base salary, commission structure, start date and scope of her responsibilities and the geographic region she was assigned to. She was to start in two weeks from the date of contract. All was signed and sealed. Or so she thought….. A week later she got a call from the prospective employer and was told that her position had been cancelled, that the company did not get the round of funding that were counting on. She called me immediately, understandably quite upset as she’d already let her network know where she was headed for her next job. She called off all interviews that were scheduled and was preparing to start her new job.   HOWEVER, I told her the episode was NOT OVER. She had a signed employment contract and they were reneging on it! I introduced her to an employment attorney who saw there was a good case. My client ended up getting a 1/3 of her first year’s projected income as compensation. Yes, she had to restart her job search once again but with the financial cushion from the lawsuit, she was more relaxed about it.  TAKEAWAY:  Don’t ever stop the job search until you have actually been on the job for a week or more!! Things happen, as they did in this case. And do not update your network, resume or LinkedIn profile until you have started the job!!                                
  2. CLIENT GOT THE JOB WITH NONE OF THE REQUIRED CREDENTIALS!!  OK, this is a GOOD NEWS STORY that really happened! This young man had dropped out of college and was basically ‘going nowhere’ when his parents decided it was time for TOUGH LOVE; time to get out of their house unless he could pay for rent and food. They had given him 6 months on the couch with a bedroom, food and laundry and they felt he was getting lazier by the day. His only job skills were retail sales but he did have a passion and love for high end, luxury and sports cars. And he knew a lot about them.  Well, he found out that one of the top brands was opening a dealership hear him. He decided he wanted to work there in sales. He called over and found out they wanted to hire only people who had college degrees and 2-3 years track record in selling high end automobiles. But he was undeterred.  He decided that was the job for him! He asked him parents to loan him money to get professional clothing; a suit and fine leather shoes. And he augmented his knowledge of that brand of cars and the competition. He also read up on professional sales and consultative sales. Once he felt ready, he went to the dealership and introduced himself. He was lucky to find the VP of the corporation that owned the group of dealerships in the office. He knew he looked professional, but knew he had to convince her he could do the job. They had a 5 minute talk in which she told him the requirement was a college degree and minimum of 2-3 years with a proven track record in selling high end cars. She explained that everyone in that dealership had those credentials. He left. But he came back everyday for the next 5 days, making conversation with the woman and letting her know he really did know ‘his stuff’ about these cars and the competition! On the 6th day, she gave in…She told him she had never seen a candidate with that degree of persistence, knowledge and perseverance and for the first time in her career, she was going to totally bend the rules and hire him, but on a probationary basis for one month…….One year later he became the #1 sales rep in the dealership, and now 5 years later, he’s had three promotions and has a significant career in the high end automotive sales field.    TAKEWAY: If you have a passion, GO FOR IT. Do all you can to prepare for success and conjure up your courage and confidence and try for a position you really want. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Notice that this young man acted on my adage:       READINESS + OPPORTUNITY = SUCCESS  

Yes, Curious in Cotati, I have seen strange, odd and unpredicable things happen as a career coach! And I want to remind you that you cannot depend on bad luck or good luck but you can work as hard as you can to make yourself find those opportune career moves that really fit your strengths and interests, hone in on what you want and then reach out to all influencers and connections to find that right opportunity. And keep at it. As we often hear:  THE HARDER I WORK, THE LUCKIER I GET!! Tis True!                                                                                                                                             HAPPY HOLIDAYS and onward in your career success in 2020, Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I am  28 years old and have been quite successful in commission-based selling for the last 6 yrs. My income has continued to go up each year but I do not like the stress of month-to=month pressure to make my numbers. I also don’t like working weekends and missing time to socialize with my friends who have weekends off.  I do enjoy two full days off during the week and work a structured 4o hour week, which I like.  Recently, I was approached by a start-up company attracted to my sales experience (they found me via my LinkedIn profile) and they want to consider me for a strategic sales planning job in the same product line I currently work in.  I had several phone interviews and then spent a full day meeting with key managers and seeing their products, impressive! The internal sales recruiter told me that the salary would be about 40% less than I am making now, But I would get stock options, too, as a part of my compensation package.  How should I decide whether to take the position?

Unsure about a career move,


Dear Lisa,

Congratulations on attracting a new possible career opportunity. I’m always encouraging clients to keep their LinkedIn profile fresh and attractive for just this kind of opportunity to happen. Clearly yours was, and look where it’s taken you.  I am so glad you wrote because I think your situation is a common one. People often don’t know whether a new job or career will put them in a better situation or not. Partly the answer is, who knows, because we don’t have a crystal ball and many variables are at play. Sometimes start-ups that don’t look promising at all do a surprising turnaround and become tremendously successful. Other times a start-up might look very promising and have a lot of investor money pouring in, only to fail because of poor leadership, a better competitor, a technology disappointment or many reasons. So that part we just don’t know.

What I suggest you look at are these key variables:

  1. Is the work itself something you are good at:  In other words, does this work play to your strengths.  We tend to be successful in those jobs that we naturally enjoy and do well in. Is this in a subject matter that both interests you and you are good at?   You mention that your sales performance is going up year after year. That is a sign that you are good at sales!  But does that mean you are good at strategic sales planning? To me, that sounds like a different skill set.  When you are selling you are working 1:1 with a customer on providing information and being persuasive and using strong interpersonal skills. The role of a strategic sales planner is more analytical and if often involved more solo work in an office, on one’s own. It could be analyzing a lot of data and making recommendations and plans based on data trends.
  2. Are you imagining that the grass is greener: You mentioned that you don’t like not having weekends off. But have you spoken to people who work at start-ups? Not only do they sometimes work on weekends but unlike your regular hours, it’s not unusual for them to work 12 hour days. You might not like having to work on weekends but you probably really enjoy having set hours. Also, you are used to a better income than what is being suggested in this start-up. You might have pressure each month to make the sales, but it sounds like you are good at it and getting the results. In a corporate job you get the same salary each pay period. So you might not have the pressure, but you do have a lower, read more disappointing salary. And stock options are not a reliable form of income. You need to look at your financial picture. If a salary reduction might not be too difficult to adjust to, the upside of a stock position might be a good risk for you at this early stage of your career.
  3. Trying a new career environment and developing new skill sets: On the positive side, you are under 30 years old. You are young and early on in your career. It might be a good time to try working in a new setting, meeting and getting to know different kinds of people in different professions. It would be interesting to compare working in a commission-based environment to a corporate based one. You might find you have additional skills and interests you could develop.
  4. My advise: Lisa, focus on getting to the offer. If the offer comes in, negotiate to your best ability (see if you can have them put you on a performance plan with bonuses for bench marked achievements as they know you are used to working toward specific, measurable goals)  and if the terms look good and you’ve considered the above aspects of the situation, then feel what your gut wants and your analysis suggests. The good thing is that once you have a proven track record as a sales professional, you can typically find another position in sales if you want to return to it.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Best of luck to you Lisa, and onward in clear-sighted decision making,  Coach Joan
Getting 2020 off to a GREAT start!

Dear Readers,

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and the best of career success as you move into the new year, the new decade of 2020!

What is the best I can offer to you for this new beginning??

Here are three tips which most professionals wish they had done all along.

Start now…

Keep Up with Your Network:

2. Communicate Achievements and Aspirations to Your Manager:  It is so vital to communicate well with your boss. They are not mind readers. It is so valuable for them to get periodic updates from you about your achievements, your aspirations and your ideas. Some companies require monthly status reports, even weekly. Some do not. But make it a regular habit to communicate with your boss. If you are ambitious and looking for a promotion or raise, tell them, and then ask what steps you need to take to reach your goals. So often bosses are taken by surprise when an employee is disappointed they did not get a promotion or a raise. Do not assume your boss knows that! Have a one on one meeting to discuss your goals. Start out with your achievements and contributions to lay a groundwork for credibility and proven performance. Then state your goals and ask how you can best reach them. If you are looking to earn another degree or take classes in your field, discuss that with your boss. Communicate!

3. Do Great Work!  I know this should go without saying, but having been a corporate manager for decades, I will tell you that employees sometimes don’t follow through on what they say they will do. Make sure you are reliable and you are meeting all of your deadlines and doing your work thoroughly. If you are delayed or have a problem, it is vital that you let your boss and or your team know that asap!!! There is nothing like coming to a team meeting and learning that a few of the members did not follow through on their roles and responsibilities. Again, bring up your performance with your manager and ask her/him how you are doing? Be open to constructive feedback, correct any misunderstandings that may have occurred. Do what it takes to be the best performer you can be. Set new goals.

This is a new decade. In 2020 give some thought to improving your work performance. Communicate well, keep you with your network and do GOOD WORK!  Onward in your career success, Coach Joan

Dear Joan,

I knew I wanted to leave my job but I thought it’d be on my terms. So when my manager asked me to come to his office the day before Thanksgiving break, I thought it was just for a routine meeting. But NO, I was FIRED!!! Yes, I knew the company was losing money and things were tight. But I expected to quit on my own terms, after the holidays. I am really in shock! I’ve done a great job, gotten excellent reviews and after 2 years I thought there’d be some loyalty from management. My severance is only 2 weeks and I have counted on an income through January. So many thoughts are swirling in my head and most are fear based. I’m 50 years old and in my profession youth is preferred. Prior to this job I worked in a large company for 20 years and I thought this would be my my last position. Please help me get my thinking right so I can move forward for a job search. I am surprised and down in Santa Rosa,


Dear Tom,

First off, so sorry that you’re going through a layoff and even worse, that it came as a surprise. This is not the scenario you planned and the surprise element alone is a shock to your system.  You are human and change is difficult, especially when it’s change that is thrust upon you and you hadn’t prepared for it.

I have coached hundreds of people through this situation and on to new employment, so first thing to realize is that are you going to go through a process.

Here are the first steps that you need to take:

  1. Give yourself time to absorb what happened. Just as with a death, this is a kind of death, an ending, and an unexpected one. You need to give your system a TIME OUT to absorb the change of circumstances. If you’re like most people, you need to give yourself a few days. If possible, take off and go to new surroundings; the ocean, the mountains, even a good hike outdoors, it needn’t be an expensive trip to Hawaii! So first give yourself a breather and let your family know what’s happening. Also, assure them that you will rebound and things will be OK. Perhaps set realistic expectations about gift giving this season and get with the new thinking of experiences and recycling good stuff as gifts. As you assure those close to you that you’ll be OK, you will be assuring yourself, too.
  2. Take a realistic look at your current expenses and ability to pay. Perhaps you have a 6 month cushion and can just pull back from some ‘unnecessary expenses’. Perhaps you have  repayment debt payment where you need to contact them and negotiate for more time, perhaps smaller payments. But don’t put your head in the sand. Try to look objectively at your financial situation and see what needs to be done NOW. Look into unemployment. From the way you describe the situation, with a good performance track record, you probably qualify for it.
  3. Boost your CONFIDENCE. Yes! Being laid off, especially with a surprise layoff,  is a confidence killer. Knowing that, you need to do what you can to restore your confidence and rebuild faith and belief in your abilities. I have found the most effective way to do this is with a devise I have created. It is called CONFIDENCE CARDS. It is a series of several playing card size thick paper that has you list one of your key capabilities on the front and the proof points on the back. You are welcome to get a set of CONFIDENCE CARDS from me directly if you write to me at [email protected] Please remember that no one can take away the things you’ve accomplished and they are real!! You need to own them and do affirmations about them so you will project true confidence when you meet with people on interviews or for new connections. Your academic credentials, professionals accomplishments, skills, these are vital to record and remind yourself about. There are many people walking around with these confidence cards in their pockets and purses. They are invaluable to job seekers!!                                                                 Tom, new doors will open. Get some space and time from the layoff. Then, really assess your financial situation and if it’s looking bad, then get a part-time job asap and or apply for unemployment. Yes, take care of the financial side of things. Then, work hard to appreciate your capabilities. Reach out to me if you’d like a set of Confidence Cards. Understand and practice articulating your strengths and capabilities. Then the job hunt begins!! You can do it!!Onward in Your career resilience and success,  Coach Joan