Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
Many of us living in the Sonoma County area are thinking about retirement or we might already be in the midst of it. Our society has given us images of retirement that I believe are outdated for many of us. They are images of being out of the mainstream, tired, worn and only set on an early-bird dinner.
I contend we need a new phase of life that acknowledges that many of us in the 55+ category are ripe and ready for MORE. We are still VITAL, we still have energy, good health, ideas and intents. We can go beyond the bucket list of fun stuff to create later lives of purpose, meaning and fun! We can move to something I’ve named ReVitalment ™.
Some of us are lucky enough to:
- Take an “inside-out” perspective.Throughout our careers, we’ve focused on being responsible and hardworking. We concentrated on qualities shaping us from outside forces, spending much of our energy on how society tells us to live. But now we can shift our focus to those personal preferences that we’ve had to ignore or tamp down as professionals. Now we can operate from our essential selves. This means we can acknowledge, embrace and give expression to our inner gifts. Perhaps it’s deepening our spiritual or creative sides, or reconnecting with family and friends who may have slipped from our busy lives.
- Cultivate a new spirit of exploration and enrichment. Ask yourself: What are the hobbies or experiences you’ve always wanted to pursue, but never felt you had time for? Have you missed having moments for reflection? Now you can take up journaling, meditation or memoir writing. Are you a people person who thrives on social activities? Join a hiking club, a discussion group, or take part in Meet Up gatherings. This is your opportunity to embrace the new — for no other reason than pure enjoyment and enrichment.
- Explore ways to apply your skills and abilities.After decades of honing our skills and expertise, many of us are reluctant to walk away from applying them. Rather than abandoning those aspects of our careers that we truly enjoy, we can look for new ways to use them. Volunteering as a part-time mentor or trainer for entry-level or mid-management employees in our former or a similar organization shares our talents in fulfilling roles. Many in the health, education or other fields find exciting places to extend their vocations in less committed roles.
- Give time and attention to your physical wellbeing.We live in a youth-oriented culture where the messages to look younger are profound. But, removed from the professional world, the pressures to battle ageism can fall away. At the same time, our freedom from work life allows us time to give our bodies the attention they deserve. Getting into a daily exercise regimen helps give us energy, improves sleep and fends off numerous health issues. With more time to make healthful meals, we can improve our diets. We can also pay better attention to staying well hydrated — a key health component in our later years.
- Find ways to leave a legacy.Whether in our own communities or in far-flung regions of the world, endless issues need attention. What issues in our world beckon to you? Online resources abound for finding ways to help. Giving back may just be the secret to living a life that’s not only happier, but healthier, more productive and more meaningful. A study published in BMC Public Health concluded that taking time to volunteer could reduce early mortality rates by 22 percent. Volunteer work can also provide structure that some people crave after leaving the workforce.
I strongly suggest we reconsider what we can and should do when we are 55+. Whether we have the resources to fully retire or still work, or work part time, our time is precious and we need to make the most of it. We have plenty to do to enhance our lives, our families, our community and our world! Don’t sit by the sidelines and retire when you can create ReVitalment!
Onward to activating the best in you and bringing it to our world. We need your energies, your ideas, you skills and your passions!
Coach JoanRead more
I’ve been working in banking for over 25 years. I started as a teller right out of high school and am proud to say I’ve had several promotions, and even moved to a new bank for a better position a few years back. At this point I am itchy to try a new industry. The problem is that I have no idea how to get started, and honestly, no idea what other job or industry I am qualified for. I have worked mostly in banking operations but I do know I enjoy helping people and have always been good at customer service and training. Can you kindly offer some guidance?
First of all, pat yourself on the back for clearly achieving decades of good work and progress in an industry that has undergone many changes and has had many challenges. You survived and you flourished! And it’s excellent that you are self-aware enough to recognize that it is time for exploration and re-creation. You also have clear preferences and a track record of proven skills. It’s an exciting time for you!
Many people get to the point where they are ready for the NEW but just don’t know how to start. Here are some concrete first steps:
- Surprise! Clients sometimes come to me thinking that they are ready for a major pivot and ready to leave their industry and leave their employer only to find out that they can ‘scratch their itch’ in an easier way. The surprise is that sometimes people don’t realize that they are merely unchallenged in their current position and might find new opportunities for growth, new direction and re-creation within their own industry and sometimes within their own organization. For instance, you mentioned that you know you like to help people and you must be naturally good with customer service and naturally good with explaining things. Well, have you considered doing an informational interview with managers and leaders in both the customer support department and the training and education department? It might very well be that considering you already have years of familiarity at the bank, and have played various roles, you might be perfect for a lateral or even an upward move into a position in a new department.
- Peak Performance Exercise. Do this exercise when you an hour or two to devote to it. It involves thinking, reflection and writing. Think about three times in your career where you have really been at your best. Times when you were in the flow, enjoying your work, your project, the people you were working with, the scope of the project and the outcomes and results. Write down all aspects of three times you had your best times. Include the challenges, the opportunities, the problems you solved, the resources your used, what you enjoyed and what you can take credit for. Next, read back over the three narratives and identify the SKILLS that you demonstrated. Then make list of all the skills and all the outcomes and results. Put them in order of both impact and interest. That should give you a pretty good view of what you are good at and what you enjoy.
- Learn about other fields and set up informational interviews – There must be other industries and fields that have some appeal to you, especially now that you have determined some of your key skills and areas of impact. For example, perhaps you are thinking of joining a training department. Research to find local training professional organizations, go to their web site and look at the topics they discuss and upcoming events you can attend. Then, look for some of the leaders both in the organization and ask to schedule informational interviews where you can find out the inside story and views on the profession. Ask about their challenges, the opportunities, how they into the field, what they see as the success factors, etc. Yes, Bobby, make it easy to get started by starting within your own organization, then branch out once you have a clearer sense of your preferred skills. You have what it takes to start on your journey for the NEW! Good luck to you! Onward in your career development and success, Joan
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
Dear Coach Joan,
I had an incredibly frustrating six month job search. I followed my wife to Sonoma County for her job opportunity but have had trouble securing a job here myself. Sometimes I’d be asked back for five interviews only to lose out to another candidate. Then I’d make it through two rounds and be rejected. But after six months of consistently putting myself out there — using my network, going to professional meetings, having recruiters seek opportunities for me, nothing was working.
Then POP. All of a sudden, just after the six month mark, I am now juggling three job offers and I don’t yet know which one to take. I clearly have a preference but the offer from the company I am most attracted to is not as good as the one that would involve a lot longer of a commute.
How can I best manage this situation?
Congratulations for persevering beyond the three to six month mark! In my experience with hundreds of job seekers, most people hit a frustration wall between three and six months. Yet, that is often how long it takes for professionals to get to a job offer.
But you have made it through that period of frustration and have made it to opportunity– three of them. Congratulations!
But how to choose?
Though no one has a crystal ball, there are certain norms in juggling job offers:
- Most organizations expect to have at least one round of negotiations. That means they are not expecting you to accept the first round of terms. They expect you to ask for more and are typically willing to ‘sweeten the pot’ by adding to the offer with a higher base salary, a sign-on bonus, some equity or another way to compensating you. Sometimes they even offer an extra paid week of vacation, a car, paid public transportation, local gym membership and other things. So don’t feel that you will miss out on the job if you ask for more, in the first round.
- Do your research. Determine the benchmarks for your industry and for that particular position. It is no longer legal to ask what you made in your last position, but you can opt to offer that information if you like. For instance, say they are offering a base salary of $75k and your last base salary was $85k, tell them that and tell them that you have clearly earned the higher amount. Go to web sites like Glassdoor.com to do your salary research.
- Buy time. When you are juggling three job offers and one of them is your preferred organization, see if you can say that you are highly attracted to the position/the company but want to ask some additional questions directly to the management. See if they will allow you to prepare some questions and get them in within a few days. Thereby you have some time. Or, just ask them if you can have a few days to think about the offer. Typically you will be given a few days.
- Always a Risk to Defer. Do keep in mind that it is always risky when you ask for time to make a decision. Companies typically have 2-3 top candidates and if you say ‘no’ they might quickly go to the runners-up! But if you ask for a day or two, or have questions for them, they typically will allow you a few days. You might want to find out if there is an urgency in filling the role.If there is, you might want to take a ‘bird in the hand’…the offer that has been presented to you, not one that just might come along.
Yes, it can be tricky and nerve-wracking to juggle job offers because you don’t have a crystal ball and because you don’t want to be left with no job at all. But do know that typically you can buy some time and find out which position looks best.
Also remember that you are always a more attractive job candidate when you are employed. I always encourage my clients who’ve had a long term job search to take a position even if it doesn’t seem ideal. Sometimes it turns out to be better than they thought and if not, at least they are back to regular paychecks and they are much more attractive to the next employer.
Good luck, John, and I hope this information proves helpful to you.
All the best,
Coach JoanRead more
I see a definite pattern. Having coached hundreds of job searching clients for the last 10+ years I’ve observed a very distinct pattern. I’d like to make you aware of it because it could be preventing you from getting to your next great employment situation.
When you make the decision to look for a new job you typically go through a process of deciding what kind of job and industry you are looking for. Then you develop your positioning and key capabilities, write your resume and Linkedin profile. You also try to get some good written recommendations and ask people to serve as references. Fine.
Next, you search the appropriate online job listings, contact recruiters, friends, colleagues, former managers, and even family members to see if they have any connections for you. Check. And you meet with everyone you can to let them know your interests and capabilities. And you follow up with everyone.
You typically go full steam ahead for about three months, sometimes four or five months. You have been actively planting seeds and making connections. And you never know when a contact will lead to a concrete job lead and finally the right new job for you.
By 3-6 months you’ve often had a few interviews. And if you get hired within that first 3-6 months, terrific. But it often can take longer, especially if you are 10+ years or more into your career. The higher a position and larger the salary and responsibility level, the longer it typically takes to secure a new job. The rule of thumb is one month for every $10k in income. That means that if you earn $60k it can take 6 months to find a new job.
But it is at about the six month point that I see folks lose steam. They get down on themselves and sometimes even depressed.
That is when the initial excitement and hopefulness wears off and disappointment kicks in. This is when you’ve often had a few promising situations and you might have even come in second place. But in the job search arena, when you’re the runner up, I call that the red-ribbon candidate and as you know, as the runner-up you leave empty handed.
And that is precisely when you need to re-fuel. You need to find a way to keep yourself fresh, motivated and focused. Think of the runner in the course of their marathon. They periodically need to stop at fueling stations. You do, too! That is when you need to review all of your past accomplishments, re-read all of the recommendations that have been written about you and actually practice discussing your key skills and capabilities. Yes, practice them aloud and say them with conviction. Persevere!!
Many of us are naturally more sprint-players, we like to do things in a focused and quick way.
But when it comes to the job search we need to change modes. We need to get ourselves ready for the long haul.
In some cases I’ve seen it take up to 12-18 full months to secure a new job.
Does that mean you sit on the sidelines and just wait?
Most people cannot afford to do that; both financially and emotionally.
If you are currently employed and looking for a new job at least you have your daily work and your regular paycheck.
But if you are unemployed I suggest that you find a way to get contract work, even a low level part time job, or if money is not an issue, do regular volunteer work to keep yourself involved, with some daily structure and weekly ‘anchor points’. You need to keep yourself fueled for the long race. For some people that means a regular exercise program, a focus on healthy eating, regular sleeping hours, enough socializing, etc. Do what you need to do to stay in top form!
But please, be aware that most people start to lose steam after the 3-6 month point in the job search.
And if you’ve been doing the search correctly and planting a lot of seeds, it is often in the 6-12 month period that those seeds start to blossom.
Keep the faith, the seeds you plant will come to fruition, but they can often take time.
I’ve never seen a serious job seeker, who was doing all the right things NOT get a job after that 12 month period.
Remember, it is a numbers game and it is a marathon and not a sprint. Please keep well- fueled and ready!
Onward to bringing the BEST of you to work!
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 JoanRead more
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?
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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!
Dear Coach Joan,
I should be delighted that my manager picked me to lead a major new project, but I am stressed out and feel like there are too many moving parts.
I just don’t have my arms around the project. I did put my hat in the ring for this opportunity, but now that I have it, I am scared and feeling like I am overwhelmed with the responsibility and sinking. Ugh.
First of all, congratulations on being selected for a position of increased responsibility. Clearly your manager saw qualities in you that gave the impression you were qualified to do the work. And, the fact that you volunteered for more responsibilities shows that you are ambitious and eager to advance in your career.
But now that you have the challenge, you are feeling overwhelmed. This is not uncommon. Like many workers, though you are good at your job, you felt the desire to do more and advance. But what does that really mean? It means you are leaving your comfort zone. We are typically in our comfort zone when we are fully capable of doing about 85-100% of our work with ease. The downside of being so qualified is complacency and boredom.
Please sit down and do some self talk now. Tell yourself you are now in learning curve mode. You are asked to stretch and you need to learn new skills, tasks and or strategies to be successful. You need to ask yourself how you can find the resources and ways to close the gap between what you currently know and what you need to know. To do this you need to define the skills involved with your gap.
The way to define those missing skills is to talk with your manager. Ask for a 1:1 and in advance, tell your manager the situation and try to be as specific as possible about the areas that are giving your trouble. For instance, you might have to work with a large number of people, some who are in different locations and have different levels of understanding and perspectives on your project. Write out that situation and specifically ask how to coordinate all of the communications, ask who are the key people to meet with first, how to contact them, what materials to show, how to present the project plan, etc. Your company might even offer training classes where you can learn some of the needed skills. Or your manager might even step in to directly assist in the project and demonstrate some of the necessary skills.
Tom, this is actually an exciting time, too. You know the old expression: No pain, no gain.
This is a learning and growing time for you, and I also suggest that you document the skills you are learning and the impact and results of your project. Then, make sure to put that information on your resume and in your Linkedin profile. Additionally, as the project continues and you do well, ask your manager if your demonstration of successfully managing this project can result in a promotion, new title, bonus, salary increase, etc. The more skills you demonstrate and the more you show your increased impact to your organization, the more you can leverage your capabilities and advance in your career.
Onward in your career development and growth.
Coach JoanRead more
This is a conundrum I have seen quite often as a career coach and it is not an easy question to answer.