Infusing your career search with holiday cheer!

holidaycheerlogoDon’t let the #holiday season put the bah humbug in your #career progression. Use the cheer that the holiday season brings to infuse your efforts with life! #jobsearch

Whether you are preparing for, enjoying, or recovering from the holidays, it is safe to say that your career goals will not be top of the mind for the next few weeks. Believe it or not, it is fairly simple to leverage the holidays to help with your career progression.

Tip 3: Break the ice with a little holiday chit chat

Use the holiday season as an icebreaker during interviews or networking opportunities. Despite religious affiliation or background, the holidays bring about some very common experiences that allow us to make small talk with strangers.

No matter how uncomfortable the situation (i.e. awkward networking event or job interview) almost everyone can participate in chit-chat crowded stores, their love or hate of the prominent smells of nutmeg and cinnamon, and of course feelings of excitement and anxiety about spending time with family.

Whether it is the commercial aspect or the spirit of the season, there are common experiences that help us connect to one another. Leverage this time of year to expand and re-engage your network by easing some of the pressure you feel about networking. If you missed any of my previous tips, check them out here:

Infusing your career search with holiday cheer!


Tip 2: Ask Santa for help for with your career

There is still time to respond to the question “what do you want for Christmas” with a request for career-related items. Whether it is clothing, technology, software, or simply business cards Santa has room in his bag for a variety of gifts. Instead of receiving that countertop growing garden, ask someone to gift you an annual membership to a professional association. Decline the chia pet and request 100 business cards.

While everything goes on sale during this time of year, people are also more giving of their time. Our friends and family have talents that can be very beneficial to our career progression. A novel idea would be to ask a friend to design your logo or give you one or two lessons in a particular software that they have mastered instead of buying you an actual gift.

This approach is a great way to keep your career goals at the forefront during the holiday season while making sure that your network knows what you are working on.

If you missed tip one posted earlier, check it out here:



Infusing your career search with holiday cheer!


Whether you are preparing for, enjoying, or recovering from the holidays, it is safe to say that your career goals will not be top of the mind for the next few weeks. Believe it or not, it is fairly simple to leverage the holidays to help with your career progression.

Tip 1 Spread Some Holiday Cheer

Use the season as an opportunity to reconnect with members of your network. Extend a holiday greeting via social media or email. If you are really ambitious, send actual holiday cards. Don’t worry, you are still within the allowable time frame to send cards without breaking any rules of etiquette.

Whether you send a greeting digitally or via snail mail, include a quick note about what you are looking forward to or will be working on in the new year. Your message will seem timely instead of calculated.


Career Gratitude: what are you thankful for?

gratful-bubbleOn Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), I will sit around someone else’s table, grateful that I did not have to cook a turkey that I never planned to eat. Each person will take a turn sharing what they are grateful for and I am almost certain that not one person around that table will show gratitude for something career related.

I am not talking about gratefulness for your job because it brings you money, things, and the ability to take care of your family. Those are important reasons to show gratitude but not quite the same as favorably reflecting on the opportunity to grow as a professional.

Take the time to acknowledge successes, challenges that have aided your growth, and other career moments that you should be grateful for this holiday season.

This article from Forbes has some great ideas about showing gratitude through forward facing and private behaviors.

If you still can find nothing to be grateful for on your current path, let’s talk. Comment on this post or find me on LinkedIn.

Just remember, encouraging thankfulness is not the same as promoting complacency. Never stop assessing and moving forward in your career.

What November 9, 2016 Taught Me about Change

what-next It has been about a week since last week’s election and I like everyone in this world am processing this change in guard. Without taking a side, this election reinforced some obvious truths about change and got me thinking about how to actually survive both big and small changes related to the workforce.

Throughout my career, I’ve walked on a pretty fertile ground for cultural, organizational and workplace change. I was working as a  career counselor right after 9/11 and while my primary clientele had been young, African American and Latino adults, entering the workforce, I was now seeing an influx of middle-aged, rural, white job seekers who had built careers manufacturing airplane parts.

Many of the options and services that I offered naturally aligned with the needs of my original clients but explaining to a 40-year-old male that enrolling in GED classes was his best option and that the $60,000 per year salary that he was making in the factory was not coming back was much more difficult.

Obvious Takeaway: Change is not easy to process. I know, not shocking. Whether it be an organizational transition, modifications in our personal lives or a simple change to the aisle our favorite product can be found at the grocery store, I have yet to react or see others react to shifts in a calm way (at least initially).  The worst case scenario seems to be the easiest place to land. While chaos theory is fitting when thinking about some changes, it is not in every situation.

How do we keep from letting an imminent change prevent us from moving forward?

  1. Look for the opportunity. Please do not misunderstand this recommendation. I am not talking about silver linings nor am I channeling my inner Pollyanna. Opportunities available in the midst of a transition do not fall into your lap. In many cases, you have to actively seek them out or cultivate situations that will benefit you. Step away from the change, take the potential personal impact out of it (which is probably the piece that is giving you the most angst), and develop a plan.
  2. Develop your own plan. The person, organization, or entity driving the change has developed a strategy and in most cases, it was not developed with your best interest in mind. Your job is to have your own course of action, designed with your goals and needs at the forefront. If you don’t have a plan, make one. If you do have a plan, continue to work it. You may have to tweak it in the face of change but you should not let someone else’s change derail you.

Change happens but it doesn’t have to happen to us.  The most important element in not only surviving but thriving during a period of change is remembering you are not “out of control”. What are some of your best tips for dealing with change?

The Clock Changes but Time Management Issues Stay the Same

melted-clockA few weeks ago I called a co-worker who works remotely to complain about how little time I have to actually get things done. I wanted to make sure he could focus on my complaining so I acknowledged the irony of using my time to place a call to complain about not having enough time.

Every day I work with people to set their professional goals and help them identify barriers to success and I would guess that ninety percent of the time, people name “time” as one of their biggest challenges. No one has time to spare or invest, or commit toward their goals. I have made very similar complaints during my own journey.

But, is it true? Do I and they really not have the time to do the things we say we want or need to do? A couple of tactics that I have used to answer these questions and help me feel more in control of the time that I do have are

1. Know where your time is actually going

A year ago, I developed and tested a time management chart before asking my staff members to record their activity for a week. I wanted to find out how labor intensive it actually was to document activities by the hour.  What I found was that I could better use my time in the office. I was having a number of unproductive conversations (not always initiated by me), shifting focus from one activity to another instead of following things through to completion, and spending far more time working on other people’s issues than I should have.

Now, when I am feeling stressed to my limit, I take a day or two to conduct an inventory of where my time is going. I look at my time during the work day as well as what I am doing during non-work hours. Most of the time, I find spaces that could be used to work on a specific goal of mine.

2.  Make you and your goals a priority

It is very easy to let everyone else’s priorities trump your own. In the midst of caring for and spending time with our families and friends, work, and all of the unexpected shenanigans that we can’t seem to avoid, it can seem frivolous to take the time to do something as simple as give your next professional move some real thought.

No matter how trivial or wasteful it sounds, YOU HAVE TO! Your goals have to be a priority for you and you need to make sure that anyone who cares about you knows what your priorities are.  When you list of your priorities in life or just for the day, include at least one thing that brings you closer to accomplishing one of your goals.

3.  Learn to multitask

It would be great if we could all get a six-month sabbatical (I would settle for a 72-hour break), to think, research, and actually work on a goal that I set. Alas, it ain’t going to happen. I can make use of the time that I have. For instance, I am typically alone in the kitchen when I am cooking. Once I have prepped everything and put the food on the stove, I have at least 15-30 minutes to focus. That is my time to finish a self-assessment, update my resume, or work on my LinkedIn profile.

Don’t categorize your activities so tightly that you don’t use all of your time wisely. When children are doing their homework, do your homework. Work on that goal. When you are supporting your kids or family members at their game, instead of Instagramming, Facebooking, or whatever activity you are doing to pass the time; work on that goal.

Finally, be very mindful of where you put your time and energy. Are you focusing on the “right” things? Does it matter to you and your end goal? If you are spending a lot of time on irrelevant things, recalibrate immediately.  Make every moment you actually have count toward what you have decided matters.

That Loving Feeling: When the Career Fits

Love Image

Remember how it feels to fall in love?

That “click” you feel when you meet someone who peaks your interest?

They push their way into your thoughts when you are working to focus on something else. Everything you hear makes you think of them.  They’ve captured your heart.

This 100% captures how I fell in love with my husband and career development.

That’s right, I have a long standing love affair with workforce development.

I know it sounds odd to hear someone say that they are in love with a career path, but it is February, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I am going to ask you to go along with it.

A few weeks ago I attended a conference specifically focused on one of the federal grants I manage. I entered my first session alert and ready to engage on the topic, “Telling program stories during the life of the program”. It is actually a pretty important topic with regards to funding!

As the presenter began to speak in a very folksy style, telling a number of stories about her kindergartner, my mind immediately started linking everything she talked about to career development.

Storytelling is a key element of the job search and in career advancement. There will be more to come on this later.

My thoughts did not shift because I was uninterested in the presentation. I made the connection because thinking about career, professional, and workforce development is what I love.

Much like the incomprehensible doodles, fueled by infatuation with a new love interest, my notes include little thought bubbles with ideas related to my next career development blog post.

The week after the summit, I was scheduled to meet with a local nonprofit to discuss creating and facilitating career development courses for underserved women in the Washington DC area.

The night before the meeting, the DC area was hit by a light snowstorm that resulted in roads completely covered in ice. On my drive home, I sat in traffic for more than 4 hours, and when I was moving I slid, fishtailed, and prayed that I would make it safely.

When I woke up the next morning, exhausted and still a bit irritated, I immediately sent an email. It wasn’t an email to say that I was too traumatized to even venture out that day. Instead it was an email to the organization leaders confirming our meeting.

The opportunity to work with groups on the topic of professional and career development motivates me.

It’s my essence.

I am purposely using the word essence as opposed to “passion” for several reasons. When discussing career related topics, the word passion is completely overused and doesn’t mean very much. Those things that hit on your essence help to define your character, what you care about, and why. Your essence is bigger than a job and perhaps even a career. You find your essence in that compartment where you file your hobbies and your “if I could do anything, I would …”dreams.

I am very good at what I do, my “day job” if you will. People and program management are my crafts. With that said, I don’t leave part of my essence behind in order to do my job. A piece of what makes me such a strong manager is my ability and desire to think about my staff’s professional development needs. I work to coach them to do their best work, but also realize their career goals inside and outside of the organization.

I weave workforce development into my program management as well. When working with a program focused on professional development, like a mentoring or internship program, the connection is clear. It may seem less direct when I discuss having oversight over environmental education programming, but the connection isn’t a stretch.

Creating diverse and inclusive groups of people to discuss environmental issues is a key component of executing good programming and an important outcome of well delivered programs. Job opportunities are an essential entry point for people new to the issue. Job availability and ultimately economic prosperity will motivate people to lean in on a topic that may not have interested them before.

The ability to align my essence with my craft helps to strengthen my direction and my overall sense of joy. It can take time and work to achieve this cohesion, but is definitely worth the effort.

Do you know what your essence is? Does it match up with your job? Do you want it to?

New Year, Old Program-Tips for Program Managers

Program Management

It’s January; time to muster excitement for that program or project you inherited. It’s not a bad program. The people who work on the project are okay.  The problem is that this program has been with the organization since the beginning of time (or so it seems).

It runs smoothly and has good participation, but why would you want to go in and simply follow the steps laid out by the many predecessors before you? You want to make the program your own without discounting all of the great work that made it a “good” program.

But how?! It is established and no one within the organization is asking any questions.

You can gain some ownership over an inherited program and look for opportunities to update and refresh something that is not broken.

Here are a few strategies that can help.

  1. Host a kick off session. It is easy to assume that because a program has been with an organization for years, everyone within the organization understands what the purpose of the program is and how it operates. That is simply not true. Use this kick off session as an opportunity to gauge the organization’s understanding of the program. This opens the door for questions and allows you and your team an opportunity to resolve misconceptions about the program. If staff are confused about certain elements, I guarantee you the community you serve has some of the same questions.
  1. Assess the program’s alignment with the organizations’ goals, mission, and vision. A flagship program that runs well can be a blessing and a curse. It is great that it is not an issue but it may not have grown or evolved with the organization.  Assessing alignment can help you create an action plan for the next program year.
  1. Discuss evaluation throughout the program-planning phase. Evaluating a program should never be an afterthought and must be more than an obligatory, online survey sent to program participants.  Convene a group of staff to discuss evaluation during the preparation stage and task them with leading regular discussions around program evaluation.

You are good at what you do. Do not let an inherited or established program change your approach.

Are You Using Common "Career" Sense During the Application Process?


Growing up, my mother had a favorite phrase, “common sense ain’t so common.”  What can I say, we are from Texas.  After spending the past six months reviewing application packets for everything from leadership awards to full time positions, my mother’s little quip has never seemed truer.

While I love the opportunity to interact with so many hopeful and talented individuals, I have worked in career development for over 15 years and there is no way for me to overlook the common, but unfortunate,  mistakes that people make.

Last week, when I could feel a rant coming on after receiving a generic resume that included a headshot, I decided to channel my frustration into something productive.  I challenged myself to impart some common career sense by providing reality- based tips.

Let’s start at the beginning of the process: submitting your application.  The majority of applications received are submitted digitally. There are pros for electronically submitting application packets including the ease of attaching and clicking submit. However this ease can cause people to overlook or neglect some very important factors.

Faux Pas: Being lazy with your submission

Common Career Sense Tip: If you are emailing your application materials, be sure to address your email/cover letter to a specific person. In many cases, it takes no time at all to visit the company or organization’s website and find out who will likely review your resume. Take the time to personalize the submission instead of using a generic and somewhat maddening salutation, such as “Dear Prospective Employer”. I promise you I’m looking at an email submission with this greeting right now and I’m not happy!

Faux Pas: Submitting your information in an unprofessional manner

Common Career Sense Tip: I’m still fuming after receiving an application packet from someone using an inappropriate email display name. If you are submitting career related information with an email address or display name that does not clearly identify who you are, change it now! Ideally, your display name should be your first and last name. Save the cutesy epithets for your personal email address.

At some point, whether it is program admission or a job application, you will have to provide a resume.  My resume is probably one of the most personal documents I’ve ever created.  It’s me on a page – everything I am proud of and a constant reminder of what I want to achieve in my career.  With that said, resumes are personal, but they are developed for a public audience.

Faux Pas: Submitting your resume in a program specific format

Common Career Sense Tip: Submitting your resume as a Word document does not mean that every reviewer will have an easy time opening it or that it will be formatted correctly once it’s opened. A person using the Google Docs may not see the document and formatting you want them to see. If possible, always submit your resume and supporting documents as a PDF.

 Faux Pas: Including unnecessary information on your resume

Common Career Sense Tip:   Editing your resume does not solely apply to spelling and grammar mistakes. Resumes should be edited for content as well in order to ensure that information included is relevant to the position and company you are applying to.  I don’t need to know everything you can do or have done in your past.  If you include a skills section on your resume, make sure the skills are relevant to the position you are applying for.

Faux Pas: Selling yourself short on your resume

Common Career Sense Tip:   There is no need to discount volunteer experience on your resume. I review resumes on a regular basis that relegate important, professional experience to a “Volunteer” category and use the “Work Experience” category for one or two temporary or low skilled positions simply because money was exchanged for the service provided. Create a broader heading (i.e. professional experience) and promote that “volunteer” experience to the top of the resume.

Respecting Your References: Don't Make Them AfterThoughts

Happy New Year! For everyone resolved to find a new position in 2015, here is the single greatest tip I can give you with regard to references for success in the New Year: Reach out to them BEFORE using their name.

The initial application process for many companies now includes a request for a minimum of three references.  While I find this odd, the great news is, you are ahead of the game.  You don’t have to be caught off guard by this step because you already know you are looking for a new position and will at some point need to provide references. Do yourself a favor and start building/updating your reference list now.  Here are a few proactive steps to take prior to receiving a formal request for references.

 1. Make sure they still know who you are and are able to speak to your skills as it relates to your current career path

If you no longer work with or for this person, this is a must. Reach out to them via phone, email, or even social media and let them know that you are in job search and plan to use them as a reference.

Reminding a potential reference who you are means stroking their memory of who you are as a professional. Even if a professional relationship has turned into a friendship (I am currently friends with a number of my past supervisors) and you just hung out with this person for the holidays, take a moment to ensure that they know where you are trying to go in your career.

Help them give you a great professional reference by reminding them of projects that you worked on and skills that you possess that directly relate to your current career path. Sample job descriptions can also help when explaining the types of positions you are interested in.

2. Make sure that you have updated contact information

During your outreach, make sure you have their preferred contact information. What are the best phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses to reach them? To ease their burden, provide them with the information you currently have and let them update where necessary.

3. Make sure that they actually want to be a reference for you

Give them a chance to opt out. Touch base with your reference before you submit their name to a company. It may not happen very often, but there are cases in which a person will decline a request to be used as a reference.

4. Make sure you actually want to use them as a reference

Knowing or working directly with someone does not automatically make them a great reference.  Use the initial contact to gauge their responsiveness (if they never respond to your inquiry, don’t use them) and how articulate they are.  Remember, this person is speaking on your behalf.

Someone agreeing to provide a reference for you does not mean you have to use them. You make the final call!

The New Year gives you a perfect reason to reach out to former co-workers, supervisors, and acquaintances and reintroduce yourself in a non-awkward way. Take advantage of this opportunity and avoid the scramble to put together a reference list on the fly.