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Career Focus: She knows how to thrive as an artist in Sonoma County

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,
Many of us have creative pursuits and get a lot of satisfaction out of the expressive arts. Some of us wonder if those talents can be translated into a meaningful career. Can one make a living through art? I am meeting with Sherrie Lovler, a local artist, who does make her living through her art. Let’s see what her career is about, and how she has made it a go of it.
What do you do? How do you describe your work?
I am an abstract painter inspired by the calligraphic form. I work with ink and watercolor on paper. I teach my method of painting locally, nationally, and internationally through my Lyrical Abstract Painting class. I am also getting known for my poetry. My latest book, On Softer Ground, features the collaboration between my painting and poetry.
My key source of income is my online business selling my calligraphy prints of famous poems and quotes. This provides a consistent income, and gives me the opportunity to follow my passion of painting.
How did you have the confidence to focus on an art career? Many people think of the starving artist, or look to do art in retirement, or as an adjunct to a day job. I am wondering what your thinking was in getting started.
I learned calligraphy in a high school graphic arts class and fell in love with it. In college I majored in studio art, but had no idea I could build a career based on calligraphy. When I graduated from college I had the good fortune of a mentor who taught me how to teach. I taught my first class in calligraphy when I was 22. This forced me to hone my skills as both a calligrapher and as a teacher.  Confidence built as my skills built.
How did you build your career over the decades? 
I started selling my calligraphy prints in stores and through a national catalog. In 1996, a friend designed a web site for me and I started to sell online.
Eventually I took several excellent classes in web design at the Santa Rosa Junior College to keep up with new technology. This is before there were ‘shopping cart’ sites, and I wanted to control how my webpage looked. I understood early on that the web is all about customers being able to find your work; it’s all about search engine optimization. 
The most famous print I offer is a poem called Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Through effort and luck I bought the domain, As number 2 on Google for ‘desiderata’ I derive a good portion of my income from selling those prints.
I sell around 25 different poems and quotes, popular sayings, which I mat and frame. These are niche items that appeal to a small audience, but I try to make it easy for them to find me. I would advise artists to find their own niche market as a way to reach a specific audience.
Over the years the market has changed. Competition is fierce. I find it’s vital to keep my standards very high. One needs to stand out. It is not about a lower price. It is about quality, and having a unique style or skill.  Additionally, advertising, social media, and good reviews are essential.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
My biggest challenge is to keep up with the demands of a changing business environment.  Google changes their rules and I have to change to keep up. When they decided that mobile ready websites would have priority in their searches, I had to upgrade my site. When they said that websites should be secure, that’s another update.
I also need to keep up with new sales tax laws. I sell on Etsy and Amazon, too, so I continually need to keep up with these selling platforms and their requirements. The challenge is to take care of all the business aspects and not let those get in the way of my creative expression. It’s a balancing act of right-brain and left-brain activities. It all takes time and requires vigilance and persistence.
What are the greatest rewards of your career?
In my print business I touch people every day. Just today I received an email from someone who bought a print from me 27 years ago. He wrote to tell me that he still loves the work I did for him.
The real joy is that I get to do what I love every day. My passion is my fine art, my paintings. These lead me on an inner journey where I never know what will transpire.  And I get to interact with people on a deep level. I am a part of Art Trails open studio tours in October, where people come to my studio to see and buy my art. This is my joy — to share what I do and touch others. It is a thrill to me for people to love my work enough to want it in their homes.
Do you have a personal philosophy about your work or other thoughts to add?
As an artist one needs to be well rounded and continually learning and growing. If one is going to pursue an art career I believe it is imperative to be a lifelong learner. I also feel it’s vital to be a part of a broader community, as art can be a lonely profession. I am very involved in our local art scene. Here in Sonoma County, we are lucky to have a vibrant art community with Art Trails, First Fridays, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and several excellent galleries and museums. I keep my hands in many things at once. It’s a complicated life, but a very rewarding one.
Thank you, Sherrie. You are an inspiring artist with a robust career and beautiful artwork.
Readers, you can reach Sherrie at: She is excited to be teaching Lyrical Abstract Painting in France next summer.
Onward in your career development and success,
Coach Joan
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Career focus: How to run a successful yoga studio in Santa Rosa

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,
Many of us enjoy yoga. But what does it take to build and run a yoga studio? Let’s find out.  I was introduced to Lisa Ellisen (in photo above), owner of Soul Yoga Studio in Santa Rosa, and here’s her career story:

Lisa, what do you do? How do you describe your work?

I own Soul Yoga in Bennett Valley, Santa Rosa. We opened in 2014, but I’ve been teaching yoga since 2001. Our studio is in a shopping center, between a bakery and an ice cream shop! Soul Yoga offers about 35 classes a week, 7 days a week. Classes range from pre-natal yoga to kids yoga to power vinyasa, to Hips and Heart Openers. All ages and levels are welcome. I teach 12-15 classes a week, including private sessions. I am responsible for: social media, web development, flyer design and production and teacher mentor and training programs. I also do the more traditional business functions: payroll, accounting, hiring and managing staff, plus physical maintenance of the space to keep it clean and welcoming. My commitment is to creating a community whose commitment is to healthier bodies and happier souls.

What are the rewards of owning Soul Yoga?

I get to do what I am passionate about every single day!” I enjoy being able to move my body and help people move theirs. There is endless variety to my days. I enjoy using all of my skills: leadership , business management, graphic design, teaching yoga, and training teachers. I enjoy continually learning and growing and being able to provide for my family. I’m proud of creating an income from something I am passionate about but no one should get into the yoga business looking for great financial reward.

We are committed to the community, and have provided free and sliding scale yoga to people who don’t have the means to pay. After the 2017  wildfire, Soul Yoga served victims through stress-reducing yoga classes.

It’s very rewarding to know that I have created a space that people want to come to each day. I get pride knowing I designed a welcoming, clean, comfortable environment, beautifully designed for yoga practice. We intentionally designed the space to make people feel good.

What are the challenges of your profession?

The downside is that days can be very long, sometimes running 7 am to 11 pm.
I’m challenged sometimes because Soul Yoga can’t provide all the reduced/free classes we’d like to as we have to carefully balance the mission to reach everyone with balancing the books.

What does it take to become a yoga studio owner? 

Key traits needed to do the job well include:

  • a passion for yoga
  • a true love of people and of creating a space for them to be who they are
  • leadership and business skills
  • maturity to deal with different kinds of personalities

Yoga studio owners often come from other careers. It’s vital to have business skills or bring in a partner or mentor who has those skills. You need start-up capital to get the business started. Costs can be lower than for other  businesses as you just need an open space, good flooring, good lighting and ventilation. The biggest expense is personnel.

What was your path to this career?

I grew up in the fitness industry in Santa Rosa. My mother owned California Lady, an aerobic fitness studio. Coincidentally, it was just down the street from where Soul Yoga is today. This was back in the 1980s, circa the Jane Fonda style of workouts, high impact and intense. California Lady is where I hung out and helped out; learning business and fitness by osmosis. I loved the world of fitness, went to UCSB to study sports medicine and along the way  became a fitness instructor, then gained a credential in graphic design. I worked in graphic design for several years, which comes in handy doing all the design work for the studio. Once introduced to yoga, Lisa was hooked. The rest is opportunity meeting readiness. Through the support of her life partner, Tod Ceruti, I developed the confidence to reach for my dreams. “Soul Yoga truly is the realization of my vision to create a space for people to enjoy, feel accepted, welcomed and participate in yoga.”

Any additional thoughts or personal philosophy about your career?

The Soul Yoga philosophy is to provide a warm welcome and acceptance to each person who walks in the door. We know that every individual brings their unique body, story, history and typically some kind of desire. We want to give them the opportunity, through yoga, to feel what they need to feel, heal what needs to be healed, and end up happier.

Soul Yoga is committed to our local community. We are a part of First Responders Resiliency, Inc. bringing yoga to first responders to empower them to be more resilient in their important work.

Lisa can be reached at: 

Soul Yoga is at 2700 Yulupa Avenue, Santa Rosa

Onward in your career success, Lisa, and thank you for sharing your career story with us.

Readers, kindly let me know any thoughts, questions and ideas for local career stories. You can reach me at:

Coach Joan

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Career focus: ‘How I became a local celebrity chef’

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

Laurie Figone, a lifelong Sonoma/Marin resident has a career that’s taken her to Scotland where she won a Porridge Championship, to appearances on major TV talk shows and reality shows, to winning a cook-off show in LA. Our local Laurie has worked with: Giada, Emerill, and Ray Lampe, Dr. Barbeque.

I met Laurie at Wine Country Barbeque at the Petaluma Fairgrounds where I had the pleasure of tasting her Fingerlickin’ Ribs.
I kept her card, and recently followed up to share her career story with you.
Laurie, what exactly do you do as a celebrity chef?
Joan, my work is multi-faceted:
– recipe developer
-brand ambassador
– TV personality
– cookbook author
– cook off competitor
-food judge
Laurie is a self-described  cookaholic.   She’s been involved in all aspects of the world of cooking since growing up on a ranch in Novato. Her family used everything from their garden, orchards and fields, including foraging for mushrooms in the hills. She took a hobby and went professional with it at the prompting of friends and family. One thing led to the next. “It’s not a typical 9-5 job. One day I’m developing a recipe, and the next day I am a judge at a cooking competition.”  Laurie is comfortable on both sides of the stove.
For three years she was the featured chef on KTVU TV, Oakland. She had enjoyed free rein and loved developing creative recipes using local ingredients. “I love using and promoting our fine local deliciousness, from local cheeses to meats, eggs, produce, even local beer and wine.”
Laurie was the featured chef at the Sonoma County Fair for three years doing several demonstrations a day and inviting local growers on to the stage with her. She loved connecting with the local community.
“I think myself as a real pioneer, cooking and eating seasonally since the 1960s.  In those days most Americans were eating out of cans and preparing frozen dinners.”
When Laurie enters big competitions, such as the World Food Championships, she competes with home cooks and professionals from all over the world.
In 2014 she was the world dessert champion with her King Cake meets Banana Fosters meets Pecan Praline. With the competition in Las Vegas she actually had duck eggs flown in from Petaluma! (She is a stickler for using the best possible ingredients) She won the top prize of $10,000!
What are the most rewarding aspects of your celebrity chef career?
I love to share my love of cooking with others. I love seeing my first cookbook in print, and getting feedback from readers who are successful with the recipes.  I love teaching myself new techniques and combining ingredients in innovative  ways. And I adore the adrenaline flow that comes with being in the competitions.
What are some of the challenges of your profession?
It feels great when you’re a winner of thousands of dollars, but oftentimes the expense of competing can eat up much of the winnings.
It’s a career that has its highs and lows and it is very physically demanding. This career involved a lot of travel which can be stressful to family life.  And it can involve cut-throat competition.
How would one follow in your footsteps?
There are several roads to getting here. Mine was a unique and personal journey that didn’t involve special schools or certificates.
I was born into the opportunity (on the farm) and had encouraging parents. I called the kitchen my playground, and clearly have keen passion for food and cooking.
Some people go directly to culinary schools like the Culinary Institute of Napa, or  start out with cooking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College.
It  is a career that takes tremendous passion, talent and a stomach for very hard work, determination and little guaranteed income.
For readers interested in finding food competitions go to the web site:
What is your personal philosophy or approach to being a celebrity chef?
Laurie’s mantra is  ‘What do I have to lose? I have everything to gain and nothing to lose’
She loves preparing dishes and watching people enjoy eating them…even if they are not contest-winning recipes. Her family and neighbors have been her tasters.
Important to know, too, is that to  win a competition your food needs to taste great and look great. Some dishes don’t look so great but they are fantastic to eat. Laurie learned the hard way that they have to be the best in both dimensions to win. Food for the eyes and for the mouth.
I am a strong supporter of  local growers. Their products taste the best. We are so fortunate to live in a place with such natural bounty!
Laurie is clearly a unique combination of entrepreneur and performer, with a foundational love of food and cooking. You can learn more about her at
Onward in the career of celebrity chef,
Coach Joan
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Career focus: ‘How I became a winemaker in Sonoma County’

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized


Dean Katzung, a Healdsburg-based winemaker says, “There’s true magic in winemaking. Each year we create something that didn’t exist before, and each harvest year is different. There’s both art and science in winemaking, and many decisions to make along the way. Winemaking is my occupation and recreation.”

Dear Readers,

I thought you’d find it interesting to learn about locals in our community involved in various careers. We’ll cover what the career entails, the rewards and challenges, and how to get into the field.  Living in wine country, I’m starting with a focus on winemaking and meet with a local winemaker, Dean Katzung.

What’s involved in the career of winemaking, Dean?

To be a good winemaker you need a good palate to be able to evaluate grapes and wine at all stages.  You need analytical, scientific,  and problem-solving skills – there will be problems along the way.  Above all, you need a genuine interest in wine. That’s what spurs your curiosity to keep thinking, learning and growing as a winemaker.

You have to really love it.  I know for me, most every vacation my family takes involves visiting wineries. I’d say that winemaking is both my occupation and recreation.  I love getting outdoors, working in a team, and reacting to changing conditions.

How did you become a winemaker?

I’ve always loved science and followed that path through my doctorate in biochemistry. But pure science and research weren’t enough. I needed something more tangible. Being a Wisconsin native, I was lucky to join the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewery as a brewer  and found it a rewarding form of biochemistry. But for someone with a science background, brewing proved to be more science (especially engineering) than art.

I moved west to winemaking because it has seasonality to it, and winemakers make countless decisions throughout a vintage to make the best wine they can. The harvest period, roughly Labor Day to Halloween, is high-intensity time. We work closely with our vineyard managers and operations team to find the optimum time to pick each of our vineyards.  Winemaking is a team process.  With smaller wineries, it can be a team of 2-3 and with larger wineries it can be a team of 10, 20 or more.  The team needs to work well together. They need to have the talent, and a balance of artisanal flair and scientific rigor, plus a kind of human chemistry to make the magic come together.

What credentials, skills and background are needed to become a winemaker?

There are typically two tracks. First, people who go straight to college to earn a Bachelor’s and or Master’s in Enology (the study of winemaking).  Schools such as UC Davis, Fresno State and  Cal Poly offer programs in Enology. Many of these students are legacy people who grow up in winemaking or farm families.

I followed the other track, which is to come to winemaking from another career.  Often, they end up at a school like Davis, too, just later in life.  But there are other ways to get into a winery, such as diving in as seasonal help.

How would one become a winemaker, say mid-career?

Our Santa Rosa Junior College offers classes in grape growing, cellar operations, basic winemaking and sensory training (developing your palette). With that training, you can often get your foot in the door through a seasonal job at a winery. You’d need to prove yourself to advance to a secure position. Once in the field, there is always opportunity for proven talent.

Are there downsides to being a winemaker?

Purple teeth! Winemaking is not all glitz and glamour. As with most other professions, we deal with spreadsheets, too, and lots of logistics.

Anything you’d like to add, Dean?

My philosophy after 20 years of California winemaking and visiting some of the most traditional and respected wine regions in Europe is  I like the dichotomy of celebrating the good and traditional ways, and being open to innovation for improvements. There is a time and place for both in winemaking. We need to capture and celebrate the innate goodness in the grapes,  and also be open to  improvement. Again, a dichotomy that requires both experience and good judgement.


Thank you, Dean. Perhaps others in our community are now inspired to look into the fascinating career of winemaking.

Coach Joan

PS- Readers, if you have interest in learning about a specific career, please write to me at



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You can have it all. Just not all at once.

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

Clients often come to me with many aspirations. They want to have a challenging and satisfying career. They want to have a positive impact on the world. They want to help others, and they want to make a good income. They want to have career and life balance. They want professional growth and development. Often they want to travel the world. Most of them want to have a family. And oh yes, they want to own a home. A nice home.

I love that enthusiasm! And I do believe they can have it all (with very hard work, naturally!) but just not all at once.

And therein lies the rub. How do you parse what what to do when, and which motivation and value to follow when? That is the tough part.

Let’s begin with breaking it down to key motivations and key drivers or values. Then, let’s see the skills involved in getting there. Then, let’s see the needs one has in one’s life cycle. That is key. Because it is often difficult, for example,  to match altruism and the financial backing needed to buy a home and raise a family.

But the fundamental truth I want to impart is this:

You can have it all, only not all at once and not always on the terms you might imagine.

The best way to look at this balancing act of aspirations is to follow someone’s real career.

Mary came to me with a bachelor’s and nursing degree wanting to get a job at a top hospital in San Francisco and see the world. She also wanted to work on her master’s in nursing, and save to buy a home (yes, in pricey SF). She had multiple goals. She also wanted to have a family and stay home with her children for at least a few years.

I suggested we map out a plan for her.

First goal, within the next 3 months was to secure a nursing job in SF. We updated her resume and Linkedin profile, had her research to find available nursing jobs and put her job search first. I advised her not to talk about her further aspirations in the job interview, but focus on the skills, credentials and desire she had to be a nurse and fulfill the requirements as posted in the job. At the three month mark she got her job!

Then, her plan was to give herself a few months to adjust to the new position and do a fine job. Once that happened she looked into the training and development programs the hospital offered and started taking some classes.

After a year, she looked into a master’s program in nursing.

And the last I spoke with her, now 5 years out, she has her master’s and is looking to work overseas. She has postponed her plan for house purchase for another 5 years as working overseas is a priority. She also realizes that San Francisco is a very, very expensive city and she will look to relocate to a less expensive area when it’s time to look toward home purchase. Mary has now met her life partner and realizes that she’d like to take time off from work to raise children. She and her partner have decided to move to a less expensive part of the country as they can’t have the lifestyle they’d want in an expensive city. And they are researching where to move and have already saving for their next stage of life.

Now it’s your turn to plan:

  1. List your aspirations. Identify the skills, credentials and resources needed for each one.
  2. Make a life achievement plan. Yes, it might change but anticipate year to year what you’d like to achieve and how you can make it happen
  3. Be open to change and compromise. Like Mary realizing SF is too expensive a place for her to have the kind of home she’d like.
  4. Balance out enjoyment of today with goal attainment for tomorrow. Life goes quickly.

Most highly successful people do put together life plans. They realistically consider their goals and map out their steps over time. They are open to compromise, changes and sacrifices today, for reaching tomorrow’s goals.

Remember, you can have it all, just not all at the same time.


Onward in your career and life success,                                                                                           Coach Joan



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Should I apply to a job without having all the qualifications?

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

You may be  reluctant to apply for jobs where you don’t have all of the qualifications listed. Should you apply anyway?  Great question.  The answer requires an understanding of how job descriptions are written and the expectations of the hiring team.

Let’s take a closer look:

  1.  How job descriptions are written: Typically, the hiring manager writes the job description. The description is a profile of the ideal candidate and includes a listing of the ideal qualifications.  Considerations include:  number of years of relevant experience, education and or certifications, scope of the job and skills needed. Human resources (HR) usually reviews the description and ranks it relative to other positions to ensure parity in salary and responsibilities.
  2. Are only ideal candidates hired? No! The job description is for the ideal candidate who comes with all of the proven skills and credentials listed. But guess what? The chosen candidate, the one who gets the job offer, on average. has approximately 60-70% of the requirements listed.  Hiring managers develop their job descriptions based on a WISH LIST. But most candidates for the position do not bring all of the listed requirements. In fact, if all employees came to their position with 100% of the qualifications, how would they grow and develop. Often those candidates are looked at as over-qualified and it is though they might get bored and leave after finding a more challenging role.  Most hiring managers are really looking for that 60-70% fit, leaving room for growth and development .
  3. Which 30-40% of the ‘required skills’ are really not necessary?? That depends and is often difficult to determine. Sometimes the hiring managers don’t realize their true preferences until they meet that ‘right’ candidate! A recent client was offered a position as  senior recruiter even though she did not have the five years of experience required. However, she was fluent in six languages and had lived in several different countries. Turns out her international background was seen as a relevant ‘bonus’ and helpful for their increasingly international recruitment efforts. She got the job with only 50% of the listed requirements!
  4. How do I know if I should apply???  The best answer is to make a best-guess and err on the side of applying if you have at least 60-70% of the requirements.  The thing you often don’t know is: Which of the requirements are must haves and which are nice to have I had one client with only 30% of the qualifications listed for a public relations (PR) assistant position and yet she was hired. The PR director was looking for a bright, enthusiastic candidate that she could  mentor.  In most cases, with 60-70% it’s worth a try. Highlight the key qualifications you do have and focus on those in your cover letter, your resume, and in your interview. Emphasize your eagerness to learn and grow. Provide examples of how you’ve been a fast learner.
  5. Remember:  Job descriptions are a wish list for the ideal candidate. Do not be dissuaded if you don’t have all the skills and credentials listed. Remember the 60-70% rule. I compare it to the lists that people often make for their perfect spouse. Does anyone fit those lists?
  6. Perfect People? Remember that there are no perfect people and no perfect job candidates. Take risks and stretch. Do apply for jobs where you clearly have some strong qualifications and demonstrate enthusiasm, competency and knowledge of the organization and how you will propel them forward.Onward in your career success!! Coach Joan
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Millennial vs Baby Boomer speed in the workplace

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Joan,

I guess you could call me an ambitious millennial, but I am super hardworking, ambitious and having made key contributions to my company in the first few months of employment, I expect to be rewarded.  Yet, I am expected to wait a full year before getting a promotion or a salary increase. Why should I wait for a full year, for an annual performance review, when I’ve done so well in these last few months? How might I speed up this process?

Thank you,


Dear Tim,

First of all, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, hardworking and making an impact at work. In fact, that is to be commended!

That said, the reason we see a lot in the media about impatient millennials is that, in fact, they often have a different timetable and different expectations for when they should be rewarded at work.

Yes, for many decades, the standard performance review occurred every 6 or 12 months in most corporations and organizations. And for many of today’s millennials, that is perceived as too slow. I personally think that time has sped up for all of us, but especially for the younger people, like you, who’ve lived in a sound bite, instant communication environment. For you, a few months of excellent contribution feels like a long enough period of impact for you to have earned a significant reward. Seems like we have a case of differing expectations.

So how do we develop a shared timeframe that works for all involved? Here are some ideas that have worked for others:

  1. DISCUSS EXPECTATIONS WITH YOUR MANAGER UPFRONT: Have a talk with your manager about exactly what her/his expectations of your performance will be. Try to make those objectives measurable and clear. Ask what/when can be expected if you meet all of those goals and even if you meet them early. Let the manager know that you are ambitious but that you understand that you need to prove yourself via outstanding performance. Ask what kind of rewards (salary or promotion) might be coming your way if you achieve and even over achieve your goals. There are often other ways that you can be recognized for excellence without having a raise or promotion, if your organization sticks firmly to its six month or annual review. But things like title change, new projects, opportunities for training, attending professional conferences, business travel; these can be additional ‘perks’ that you might be able to earn. Sometimes companies have special bonuses that are designed for high achievers.
  2. DOCUMENT ALL OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS: Oftentimes there is a disconnect between the level and quality of contribution that an employee feels they have made and the perception of that performance by their manager. Prepare a worksheet that documents your contributions and provide the date, impact and who was involved. See if your manager agrees that that kind of document is a good way to earn some kind of reward or advancement. Include any classes or training and what new skills you are developing that are relevant to your job.
  3. HAVE PATIENCE: Recognize that your speed and that of your employer might be different. And realize that they have the the power and you are in their system. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t recommend changes or improvement to the system and even suggest other ways they can periodically show reward for a job done super well, but it is vital the understand that the system of how they hold performance reviews might be long standing. If you really feel that you are not being appreciated for your work and you have already communicated that to your manager, perhaps you need to find a new opportunity. Some organizations ARE moving ahead to millennial speed! You might find you fit better in those kind of organizations. FIT is a vital part of success on a job.  You might want to read some new business books that compare the mindset of the baby boomers with the mindset of the millennials (and GenX) and talk about how the two groups can work better together.    Tim, it is great that you recognize that your pacing might be very fast compared to that of your employer. But please take the time to discuss expectations and offer ideas of additional reward (examples mentioned earlier) that might incentivize you while not upsetting the more traditional performance review timing at your company.

All the best to you in your career,  Coach Joan


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Long term unemployed?

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Coach Joan,

Am I the only laid off person in my late 50s still job hunting after a two year search? It is really disheartening. I had made it up to a mid manager level but was laid off during a merger. I keep reading articles about ageism, and how difficult it is to get a job when most of the hiring folks younger and are more attracted to younger candidates like themselves. In the first few months I had a number of interviews, mostly from referrals from former colleagues, but nothing worked out.  Lately both my activity and mood has down and I wonder if it’s worth it to even apply anymore?

Downhearted Debbie in Sonoma County

Dear Debbie,

No, you are not the only long term unemployed out there. And it is a tough GO.  It is especially hard for those in the mid level management ranks to find new employment as there are fewer of those positions available. Yes, the younger people are naturally moving up the ranks and yes, they do often feel more comfortable hiring those like themselves. Automation is another trend that is flattening organizations and leading to fewer mid management positions. So is it it a tough situation? YES. But is it an impossible situation? NO, emphatically NO.

But the recommendations I am going to make are not a magic wand, and I would not set expectations that you will get a mid management job in your first hiring.

Here are the steps I suggest you consider:

  1. Review/Improve Your Sales Materials: That means your resume and LinkedIn profile. Make sure those tools are professional, clear and highlight your key skills and achievements. Remove jobs from 15+ years back. Have three trusted friends, colleagues or family members read your materials carefully and give you feedback. Sharpen them. Also, make sure you have at least three recommendations posted on LinkedIn, and people available for phone recommendations about you.
  2. Set a Wider Net: If you have only been applying for managerial roles, look to apply to individual contributor roles. If you have been looking in one industry, look for job listings in a similar industry. Again, apply for job that might be easier for you to get.
  3. Show you are a LIFELONG learner: On the one hand you cannot become a younger person, but on the other hand, you can show vitality and openness to learning and keeping up professionally by taking classes, getting additional certifications, playing an active role in professional groups. And then add these recent accomplishments to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  4. Get a Temp or Contract Job: Yes, I’ve even had clients who were corporate controllers take temp jobs as accountants! They earned a fraction of their typical pay, and had lower level responsibilities but it gave them visibility in new companies, new colleagues to meet, a little money coming in and very importantly, a renewed spring in their step, being back in the working world. You never know who you’ll meet when you’re out on a job!!
  5. Volunteer! Yes, almost any elected official will be looking for office volunteers. So will most community humane societies, schools, hospitals, food banks; all are looking for volunteers. Sometimes it might feel good to volunteer in a different capacity than your regular job skills, but you will feel purposeful and good with yourself, you will be meeting people and it will put you in a refreshed and positive state of mind.                                            Debbie, you also want to make sure to keep yourself as happy and healthy as possible during a stressful time. Exercise. No need for a gym membership. when you live here in Sonoma County you have parks, galore and all kinds of free or low fee hiking groups to join! Get out and walk, find a walking partner. I know that a 2-year unemployment period can be depressing but I will tell you that I’ve had clients who’ve gone even longer, yet they made it make to the world of the working. Usually they did it step by step…Please try some of my suggestions and best of luck in getting back to work.                                                             Coach Joan
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3 tips for new college grads

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Joan,

I know that as a career coach you’ve helped many young people launch from college to career. What are some of the best strategies to help make that transition a success? I’ll be graduating next month and really want to line up a great first job.



Dear Kelly,

Good question! And boy oh boy, do I wish I had had some good advice back when I graduated from college. I had no idea how to get into the world of work. Most young people don’t!  I knew how to be a good college student, but the skills necessary to be a good college student are different than the skills needed to be a good job seeker. In my case, I knew I wanted to take a few years off between undergrad and graduate school, but I had no idea how to get that interim job where I could leverage a bachelor’s degree. OK, a bit of humor to show just how out of touch I was with the job seeking process….

My friends told me about an upcoming on-campus job fair. It was  scheduled from 7:30 – 9:30 am.  I didn’t go because I thought it was too early in the morning! I assumed that just as in college life you could work around early classes by finding ones scheduled later in the day, I would find job fairs scheduled for later in the day. That’s not how it worked. In the work world, one typically has to accommodate to early morning start times.


1.REALIZE YOU ARE MOVING FROM SCHOOL TO WORK: You’ll need to change your mindset. There’s a big difference!! For one thing, in college you are oriented toward learning and growing. Yet, when you are interviewing for job, they want to hear how you are going to contribute to them! What skills and abilities are you bringing that will help grow their business or have a positive impact on their organization?? You see, you are paying for college and paying for an experience for you to learn and grow. But in the real world, they will be paying you.

During interview meetings you need to be prepared to focus on how you can help them. You need to know what this company or organization does and how you can play a role. Yes, over time your growth and development are important, but competing for a job, they want to see that you have thought about how you will be  contributing. They are paying you vs when you pay for your college experience. Many young people don’t realize this. They go on job interviews and focus on how the job will help them to grow and develop. The interviewer is silently thinking…next candidate!

2. PREPARATION: Identify at least three key college projects that demonstrate your capabilities, interests and skills. Prepare and practice narratives to describe each one. Show passion and enthusiasm! Discuss with clarity the objectives, strategies, challenges, peers, resources, outcomes, etc. It’s vital that you  have successful experiences and achievements to draw upon and discuss.

Explain how those experiences show skills that are relevant and helpful to the position you are applying for. Also be prepared with recommendations from professors or employers you had for internships, summer jobs, etc. Best to have those prepared in writing and the contact info for your recommendations in case they want to make follow up contact. Develop professional resume and Linkedin profile.

3. CONSIDER A STAIR STEP APPROACH TO CAREER SUCCESS: Do not expect to find a perfect job. First of all, no job is perfect and second of all, it takes time to develop enough skills and knowledge to even know what a great fit for you might be. Many first level, entry jobs are support positions but you can often learn a lot in those positions. Do them well, you are often being watched and evaluated for future development.

I had a client who knew she wanted to work in communications and she tried both for-profit and non-profit jobs before realizing she was much better aligned with the people and values in non-profit. Additionally, new college grads without career experience often need to try out different fields and roles before they get a sense of what and if they might want to study in graduate or professional school. One client was an art major and got a job as an assistant art teacher. She learned that she would prefer to have art as her hobby, her interest is more in  helping people.  She interned in a hospital and was attracted to the work that occupational therapists do. She is now preparing for an investment in professional occupational therapy school.

Kelly, your interviewers and prospective employers want to see that you have a mature mindset.  You are there first and foremost to work and contribute, not to grow and develop on their time. They also want to see if you are self aware and know what kind of person you are and what you have to offer. They will be impressed to see that you have put time and effort into preparing to present yourself positively with your background, capabilities and interests. The more you prepare, the more people will be inclined to hire you, and the more doors will open for your career opportunities.

Congratulations on your college completion, and onward in your successful launch to the world of work!

Coach Joan

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Radical Ideas for the NEW Retirement

by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

Lately I’ve been seeing many clients  facing the end of their career lives and wondering what’s next. Most are  looking forward to retirement and ending a career that was once fulfilling, but has become routine, stressful or even boring. Many feel that enough is enough and it’s time to switch gears.

So the big question is often, what’s next? Most people anticipating retirement are accustomed to a nice paycheck on a regular basis. With few people getting pensions these days, they are often looking at a reduced income, especially if they have to rely primarily on social security. Even with some investment savings, retirees often have to anticipate lowering their expenses.

But does that necessarily translate into lowering one’s quality of life? And will there be uncomfortable trade-offs?

As we get into discussions anticipating retirement lifestyle, and spending habits, people often realize that  they will not require as much income as they originally thought.  Why not?

  1. Professional Image:  Just the other day I met with a woman attorney who realized that she spent thousands of dollars each year on her corporate look. Between suits, dresses, coats, shoes, purses, briefcase, etc., it all added up to a lot of money. When she retires she no longer needs any of that! In fact, she looks forward to a much more informal way of dressing and has already started to give away some of her work clothing to a local career closet. It makes her feel good  to help job seeking women dress for entry or re-entry into the work force.
  2. Eating Out: Dining out often is common for folks who work long hours. They don’t have the time and energy for food shopping, preparation and clean. However, once they have more time, they often look forward to the process of creating their own meals, even planting a vegetable garden, and typically saving a lot of money.
  3. Downsizing/Moving . We are seeing people, post retirement looking forward to selling the larger homes they often no longer need. Most baby boomers retirees  are  empty nesters and don’t need or want the cost of maintaining a large home. Many opt to move to  less expensive, though interesting areas,  and smaller properties. Some opt for less expensive, more communal situations with shared amenities like pools, laundry facilities, etc.
  4. Vacations. Most working people in the US are accustomed to limited vacation time and want to make the most of each trip. Once retired one has free time and can create less expensive, though fulfilling and fun travel experiences. Elder travel groups like Roads Scholar and inexpensive college alumni trips are often good ways to go. Additionally, research shows that most people enjoy travel up until their 70s but beyond that often enjoy staying closer to home. That translates to less money out.
  5. Fun Activities that are Low Cost or Free!! I am seeing people in their late 50s, 60s and 70s who are retiring and finding that they are in a NEW phase of life. A phase I call ReVitalment!ReVitalment is after your primary career is over but before true old age. And the opportunities for fun, growth and enjoyment are endless. You can find all kinds of FREE or low cost programs at your local community center, college or arts center. Try dance, poetry, memoir writing, hiking, studying history, literature, drama and pay very little yet expand your life and enjoyment!!

Today we have  radically fun new opportunities post career!! Think in a radically new way. Look honestly at your lifestyle today and that of tomorrow. Pause and really look at anticipated needs, costs and opportunities.

Onward in your ReVitalment, the NEW retirement!

Coach Joan

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