Careers, Jobs, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

“Forced”​ Career Transitions

Have you or someone you know heard or said these words recently?

“My final day will be Friday, I resign.”

“You’re fired!”

“You’ve been laid off because we are decreasing our staff.”

My basement flooded right after I had major shoulder surgery. We had to replace everything, and I was told think about the situation as, “forced redecorating”. Instead of crying, my friend’s comment made me laugh. I didn’t want to redecorate my basement. Most people don’t want to job hunt either. Sometimes we get pushed into certain decisions.

To be honest, it’s much easier to find your next opportunity when you are currently employed, but that’s not how it always happens. Life can be messy. Recently I have seen more people unhappy in their roles. Against my advice, they choose to resign and focus their entire energy on finding a new position. I’ve also heard several heartbreaking stories about talented professionals being fired, yes, I said talented. Additionally, in the ever-changing landscape of organizations, there are a lot of mergers and changes that fuel lay-offs. Whole departments can be wiped out in a single swoop. The work place is constantly changing. A person I interviewed once told me, “If companies don’t evolve, they become extinct”. I think this goes for professionals as well.

You may think that resigning, being fired, or getting laid off, is career ending. I would counter that often it can be a gift. Yes, we all have to pay our rent, and eat, but here are some ways to counter this life hurdle and focus on the upside. First, you need to prepare a statement that describes your present employment status. Next, you need to consider some practical aspects of keeping yourself solvent. Finally, you need to identify an opportunity that is a better fit for your talents and can benefit from your skills.

What to say when….you’re in career transition

This can be the most excruciatingly painful part of the whole process. Some people feel like they are failures. Other people are morbidly embarrassed. Shake it off. Unless you made no effort, lied about your skills, or had a major problem, it’s more likely that you were in the wrong position with a culturally mismatched organization. Both you and the company will be better off with a different solution. Come up with a simple few lines that explain the situation (not putting blame on the company) but sharing responsibility for where you are now.

Here are some real stories (names have been changed to protect the innocent) and what I would say in the situation. Find one that you identify with and then skip to the next section for further suggestions.

Scene 1

A health policy lawyer was referred to me by a friend.  Jake had been working very hard as the policy person for an association. Despite enjoying the subject matter, the situation with his manager was not supportive but combative. After multiple years of letting the manager take credit for his work, he was fired. It devastated him.

Status Statement

Recently, I left my position after several years with a health policy association. The lead policy maker wanted to take the group in a different direction. I’m seeking a place where I can contribute my expertise.

Scene 2

A young professional worked several years for a large corporation. Thomas received stellar reviews and was learning new skills plus taking on more responsibility. In the midst of planning several big projects, he was suddenly fired, and told he violated a company policy. It was confusing to go from being a great employee one day to being fired the next day.

Status Statement

After several years with a wonderful firm, we parted ways. It was a surprise, but now I have an opportunity to delve more deeply into the IT programming that really intrigues me.

Scene 3

A hard working young scientist takes a position with a start up research project. Dan’s role is to share his knowledge and create their research strategy. Unlike the former organizations where the field collection workers made their own schedules to get the work done, this corporate culture required structured hours and set approaches. Pressure builds and everyone is unhappy. Despite doing some good work, Dan’s fired after several months.

Status Statement

I joined a great organization but we were a mismatch on the best methods to achieve the objectives. I’d like to contribute ideas in a more scientifically rigorous environment.

Scene 4

A healthy financial services organization had a department dedicated to financial administration. During a recent reorganization, a young millennial is put in charge of the seasoned team.  Soon several of her friends complained about the changes, and were offered buyout packages to leave. Sheila tried to fly under the radar after dedicating herself these past 12 years. Unfortunately, Sheila no longer wanted to be there. She resigned, after asking for a severance package.

Status Statement

My department went through a reorganization and changed their staffing needs. I accepted a severance package and am excited to identify a new challenge.

Scene 5

A large market research firm wanted to build a new practice and grab a part of the market doing audio ratings. Tom had strong analytic skills, knew market research, plus specialized in media. He was recruited to build a group. Unfortunately the economy took a downshift and the company no longer wanted to invest in a nascent market. Tom and the people he hired were laid off.

Status Statement

I was hired to build a new capability for XYZ company in the media world. Unfortunately the venture funding for the department was cut. Presently, I’m considering new options.

Scene 6

After taking a break to raise a family, Susanne returned to the consulting world. She was tasked with the strategic role of building a practice. For two years she successfully added talented staff and helped grow the bottom line of the organization. Personally though, she was unhappy, missed being hands on, and found she preferred the task to the business strategy & office politics. She decided to consider other options and resigned.

Status Statement

I effectively built out the consulting capabilities of my firm and hired talent with a succession plan. My role was heavily focused on operations and I missed the hands on analytic work.  I’ve discovered this is what I love to do and plan on moving in this direction.

Practical Aspects

Regardless if you resigned, were fired, or laid off, you now find yourself in a situation without an income and bills to pay. This is easier if you are dual career household, but if not, you need Plan B while you seek your next career move. This is where those old skills of waiting tables, tending bar, babysitting, substitute teaching, coaching sports, retail, can fill in. Higher paying gigs are consulting back to the industry you came from. Consulting lets you network, take on small projects, and check out different organizational styles, all at the same time. Temping can also let you see inside a company and explore the culture fit without committing to full time.

You can be more particular about your next role now that you know corporate culture matters. Remember, what you do during this transition time is important too. Make your activity count. It needs to be related to something you are really passionate about, and add value to your portfolio of skills going forward. It may be appealing to travel, take a break, or a vacation, but after a few days of R&R, I would encourage you to set a firm schedule, map your plan of action and focus. It’s hard to relax on that vacation when you don’t have a job. Best suggestion I can make, is find a new role, and then let them know you can’t start for two weeks because you have a pre-planned holiday. Then you can truly relax and celebrate.

Down the Road

We can’t keep any of these scenarios from ever happening again, but we can learn from them. Spend some time to be introspective, think about the role, the industry, the type of organization that suits you best. Look at where you came from first to help you learn about where you want to be. Think about what you liked and what you didn’t like about your role and the organization.

As an executive recruiter, these are some characteristics I explore when I consider introducing a candidate to a potential employer. You can make your list of important interests, skills, and desires (both professionally and personally) and compare them to each option. Even with this rational approach, in the end though, you will have to learn to trust your gut again. 

Careers, Jobs, Resumes, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Road Map to Find “The Job”​

Each year I give hours of advice to job hunters on how to identify and secure the job they want. Next week, I’m doing a workshop on resumes & preparing for interviews for our current Empowered Women International Entrepreneur Training for Success program. I realized that the road map is the most important piece that comes before you can get to the interviews. I remembered the coaching tips or tweaks a matchmaker and dating coach gave me about dating. Yes, there are some strong similarities, and a few differences. Most of the time, it’s just small adjustments that can make a huge difference in your dating life or your job hunting success. Here are my coaching tips & tweaks that can improve your search for “The Job”.

It’s a lot of work, I won’t lie. No one else can do it for you, it takes research, name gathering, building a spreadsheet to track it all, and then you are finally ready to start your journey. Creating a road map is not for the faint hearted, and there may appear to be short cuts, but we all know what happens on those, the wolf eats you, or you get stuck in the mud. Here are the steps that I share with people who are looking for their next opportunity. Regardless of where you are in your career, I know this process works. You must be proactive to have success, and remember you can’t skip steps.



  • Where are you on the education spectrum, did you complete HS, tech school, college, grad school?
  • Have you gained the skills of your trade, SW, HW, subject matter?
  • Language skills?

Professional Experience

  • Do you have any work experience?
  • Is it related to your areas of interest or unrelated?
  • Do you need additional training or retraining?

Marketing Materials/Packaging

  • Have you crafted your “Elevator Pitch”?
  • Is your resume well developed and representative of your best skills?
  • Do you have people who will give you references?
  • Have you built a portfolio, a body of work, or a reputation through presentations & publications?


When people say they are job hunting and sending out 100s of resumes each day; or they tell you that they are applying to lots of jobs via the internet, but nothing is happening; they don’t understand why they aren’t making progress; I call this kind of job hunting “PASSIVE”. This kind of plan or action doesn’t get you closer to “The Job”.

The best career search is a PROACTIVE one. This requires effort, and going through all the steps I describe here, self-evaluation through creating a plan, and implementing it. Here’s the next step after self-evaluation.


First, leverage your spheres of influence, your inner circle to your outer circle. Gather names of people you have worked with over time, people you went to school with, people you have met in your field. Next expand your circles to people you know or can be introduced to through friends and family. The outermost ring is created by doing research on people you heard speak at professional meetings, or discovered online, or read something they wrote.

To grow your networking options even more, consider organizations where each of these professionals work now or have in the past (see LinkedIn comments for more info). Plus professional associations that are strong in your industry are a great resource. There are lots of tools out there to do research and gather information. Now, within moments you can Google information about most any organization or person. What can be especially helpful is the power of LinkedIn. You don’t have to pay for the service, the free version has plenty of bandwidth.

I’ve walked many a person through some of the helpful tools or data points you can gain from LinkedIn. I’m sure there are many more ways to use this medium but I’m going to share some basics here.


Looking up a person on LinkedIn gives you several pieces of information. You can see where they trained and what firms they worked with over time. You can also see similar profiles on the right hand side of your screen. Below the list of similar people, you can also see profiles that other people checked out. This gives you additional people or possible companies to network with about their roles or organizations.

If you look up a company, you can see all the employees who are on LinkedIn, presently working with the firm, or who have in the past. Plus, there are often groups of alumni-former employees, or groups with shared interests on a myriad of topic areas. Once you are looking at a company profile, you can also see a list on the bottom right hand side of your screen that shows similar companies. This is another way to gather related companies and their employees for potential networking.


Gathering all the information on small scraps of paper, or on your phone in lists, doesn’t count. It’s really important to build a solid spreadsheet in Excel or something similar. I like to capture the date you enter the information, the company, the contact with their title, their contact information, their industry sector, follow up dates, and notes.

Schedule everything on a calendar (Google or Outlook), and include any follow up instantly or it won’t happen. Trust me after years of recruiting, I know that it takes several efforts to reach someone (no it’s not personal when they don’t respond), and there is no way you will remember to follow up if you don’t put it on your calendar. Numbers are key. You need to reach out to lots of people and companies through different mediums; email, phone, and LinkedIn to have success. 

In the tracking notes you need to write down the outcomes; if you need to send information, or need to follow up, or even to arrange a meeting. You will not have any recollection of someone after you speak with 50 people. There are CRM systems out there, but not everyone has access to this. Write down your notes so you won’t forget something key.


Periodically assess your tool. See if tracking sheet needs reorganization. Look to see if there are patterns, or sectors that are stronger, or what you can learn from all the data. DO NOT SPEND HOURS MAKING PRETTY CHARTS AND NOT REACHING OUT TO PEOPLE OR HAVING CONVERSATIONS. Working on your tracking sheet can be used as a way to procrastinate, but the tracking device is to keep you on your path. Plus, sometimes you can get travel weary or discouraged. The TRACKING DEVICE will show you that you are making progress on your journey.


Start reaching out to people for Informational Interviews (Informational Interviews). Be prepared to share your pitch, follow up, and ask good questions. Track the outcomes, and know that you are getting closer and closer to your destination. There is a good opportunity out there waiting for you to find it, it’s up to you to map the best course. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

Careers, Mentoring, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Why Mentoring Matters

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in Julie Kantor’s, founder of TwoMentor ( and Co-Chair for Leadership Greater Washington Signature Program ( workshop, “Speed Mentoring”. Yes, you got that right, it’s pretty similar to “Speed Dating”. But before we get into what happened, Julie started the activity with some strong stats and supporting evidence about why mentoring is important.


  • Increase in connection to each other and to the organization
  • Greater retention of staff and less institutional knowledge loss for organizations
  • Higher promotion rates in shorter time period compared to peers
  • Increase in earning potential and have greater success in the workplace

To start the activity, Julie had us all sit down at a long table. Half the participants were on one side and the balance of the participants on the other side, facing each other. The ground rules were that one participant of each pair would be the mentor for seven minutes. Then we’d rotate and have a different role. We were guided through the experiential activity to see what would occur.

Could we build rapport? 

What would we talk about? 

Would the conversation be genuine? 

Never fear, we didn’t ran out of things to say. Julie gave us a question for each round, timed the conversations, and debriefed us afterward. As a group we also crafted definitions of modeling, sponsoring and mentoring. To fully appreciate the value of mentoring, it’s important to understand these terms and what roles they can each play in the success of our careers.


  • Sponsoring is someone senior promoting you “behind closed doors” or when you aren’t present.
  • Mentoring is when a relationship is built through trust and respect. There are regular interactions with specific goals or expectations. Both parties benefit.
  • Modeling is a person we “worship” or aspire to be from afar, there isn’t a personal connection.

As a headhunter, I often counsel people about their career choices. It’s not always as structured or consistent as formal mentoring, but most people (including my kids) will tell you, I do offer plenty of unsolicited advice. As a board member for Empowered Women International (, I also present a workshop to share ideas about promoting yourself, building a network, and identifying your marketplace. Most of the time I’m in the role of coach-sharing my insights, but through “Speed Mentoring”, I learned that you can gain as much from being the recipient of advice as you can by sharing your knowledge. The only caveat is, both parties have to be receptive to the relationship or it won’t work.

Read on if you aren’t yet convinced that finding a mentor or being a mentor could greatly influence your career success-plus you might enjoy it.


Often as a recruiter, after twenty years, I don’t have many peers. I work from a home office since we gave up our bricks and mortar location. It can be isolating. Not that I lack interaction with people, but intellectually and professionally. All day long I share pieces of advice with candidates and clients. Sometimes though, I need to bounce ideas off a peer or someone with a different perspective from me. Even experienced people need to find mentors. While we have a lot of knowledge, there is a need to collaborate and share with peers. Or learn from experts in our field. Plus up & coming young professionals have new perspectives. This enables everyone to learn from each other. It’s not just young people or inexperienced people who need mentors, but all people in whatever stage they are in their career or life.


The other interesting idea I learned about was “Reverse Mentoring”. It’s like 360 degree feedback in the workplace. Julie presented it as an opportunity to learn from junior people around us. Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials, can all learn from each other. We are the first cohort to have three generations in the workplace because people are living longer, and also have to work longer because they lack enough funds to retire. There’s lots of experiential learning (aka on-the-job-training) that’s invaluable. Someone fresh from the university though, will know the most current methodologies and can share new approaches. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

So by teaching or mentoring others, we break down a task and can remind ourselves of forgotten skills. By working with people of all ages, we can share knowledge gained from experience and fresher approaches straight out of academia. Through mentorship we learn, we connect with others, and we all find ourselves richer for the experience.