Careers, Networking, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Basic Rules of Civil Communication

Starting in 1971, we spent 18 months in Thailand. My parents decided they wanted an adventure, so they took three kids and traveled half way around the world for my father to become the Deputy Director of Peace Corps in Thailand. I was 8 years old and my little brother and sister were 7 and 4. We stayed in the Indra Hotel for over five weeks waiting for our household goods to arrive. Some memories fade, others stick around.

There was a baby elephant tied up in front of one of the luxury hotels to attract tourists. Took-tooks careened around corners on three wheels weaving in and out of traffic. A driver was assigned to us, because no foreigner wanted to brave the road rules in Bangkok. The Saturday-Sunday market was one of my most memorable spots.

Each weekend the poles and weatherworn pieces of material were erected over individual vendors to cover their goods and provide a bit of protection from the intense sun. As we wandered through the marketplace, people would stop to stroke my little sister’s pale skin and note her blue-green eyes. The cacophony of tonal Thai bombarded us on top of the honking cars and the noises from loose livestock. Once in the market, each direction you turned filled your eyes, nose and ears…pig snouts displayed, slaughtered chickens tied together at the throats-three to a bundle, shiny tin animals ornately pressed, and hollow, heavy jeweled decorative plates, and the puppies. Live ones.

Our driver told us that we shouldn’t bargain unless we were truly interested in buying. Most prices were instantly raised at the sight of our white “Pharang” skin. We couldn’t hide our foreignness, but we were advised to bargain the price down to half. The driver told us it was an insult if we didn’t bargain, even if we thought the original price was dirt cheap.

Vietnamese ate dog, not Thais, at least that’s what I remember being told. We each left with a hollow tin animal and I was so excited about my bejeweled dragon. But the prize purchase of the day was actually alive. That afternoon we smuggled a small cocker spaniel looking puppy, in an antique brass bucket, back to the Indra hotel suite.

The puppy stayed in the bathroom, and the entire cleaning staff colluded with us. Duchess Lady, as my sister & brother named her, proceeded to explode everywhere. Worms was declared the cause, and after several weeks of treatments, the explosions and smell disappeared.

The dog return home to the US with us after our school year finished. Our time in Thailand was cut short. But the lesson that our driver taught us, stayed longer,

“Don’t negotiate unless you are buying, it’s about respect.”

Recently, I worked with a client to identify a director for their research operations. We identified several potential candidates and they picked two to interview. They liked them both so much that we were asked to do references to help them decide. In the end they went with the candidate who was less costly only to find hidden obstacles. For the first time in many years, this candidate refused to be transparent with us and share their present compensation information. I’m direct with my clients, the companies, and with the professionals that I work with, but this person was not. Their references were excellent so I tried to put my concerns aside.

My mistake. 

The candidate decided they felt more comfortable negotiating directly and proceeded to push not once, but twice, and then turned the position down. Before I work with anyone, I normally share two things,

“My fees are paid by my clients-the companies, and my fees are based on the salary you receive, so there is a relationship there”.

This search was a favor to a client and different from most of my searches. To the best of our ability, we estimated this person was earning around 90-100K, the offer came in around 125K. I typically recommend that a 10-15% increase on the base is an excellent offer. If you stay put with your firm a COLA (2-3%) raise or one based on merit (5-7%) are lower. The company liked the candidate. After the candidate said they wanted more, they decided to act in good faith and raised the base to 130K. In the end, the candidate wasted everyone’s time by negotiating not once but twice and didn’t accept anything. This person may have even used the offer to leverage a counteroffer at their current firm. Counteroffers are a whole other topic.

This story is not unusual. 

Regardless, it made me wonder where common courtesy and professionalism begins and ends in present times. You hear people talk about applying to jobs online and not hearing anything back, ever. Other professionals complete an interview and then don’t hear a word. No note about if they got the job, or someone else was hired, or even an acknowledgement of their thank you note. I’ve prepared a candidate for an interview only to get feedback that they didn’t even know the basics about the role and came in khakis and sweater rather than a suit and tie. You leave a message or send an email, but don’t receive a response. These are all actual behaviors I have witnessed or stories that have been shared with me.

Are these acceptable behaviors?

Is this behavior indicative of the modern technological age? Is there too much information coming at each of us all the time and does this make us become numb? Is there a way for us as professionals and companies to retain our sense of compassion and treat people who come in contact with us through work with respect? Phone calls, emails, FaceBook, texts, LinkedIn, Snapchats, Tweets, IMing, and Instagram…so many ways to communicate and not enough time. Is there a way to limit communication, still get the information to each valued stakeholder, and accomplish daily tasks? Plus, can our messages be expressed or delivered in respectful ways? Appropriate behavior between genders requires another entire discussion but it is a part of the conversation about communication.

I’d say modernity is wonderful, each generation builds upon the previous one. Cures are found, technological advances are made. We have found that new ways don’t always make the old ways obsolete. Many times there’s room for old and new-like streaming music through a bluetooth speaker, and hearing the scratch of a needle as it touches down on vinyl. It doesn’t have to be either or. An email/text can be short, direct and to the point, but sometimes a phone call or a face to face meeting can really clarify the message.

Setting respectful boundaries for communication and professional interactions is imperative.

I pick the most widely used mode of communication to reach the audience I need to get my job done. I can’t be on all of social media all the time, I don’t have the bandwidth. I communicate on the major ones so that I can reach multiple generations. Then I retain the common courtesy from the days of chivalry, or the advice from Ms Manners, and despite technology, I respond to each phone call, each email, and most texts, with honest clear answers. It’s time to remember what basic respectful behavior looks like and act accordingly.

Careers, Networking, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Make Quality Career Choices

We can do all the right things… study, get a job, work hard, and still be dissatisfied. Many of us go on autopilot and wake up 20 years later wondering where all the time went. If you pause and reflect, you can change your career trajectory by becoming an active participant on your journey. Or you can take it to the next level by having a career conversation with a professional. Dare to share your hopes, dreams, and dissatisfaction. Brainstorm and don’t judge. Include all and any ideas about skills, interests, passions, and priorities. Think about which ones exist in your life presently (personally and professionally) and which ones you’d like to add or drop. This is where we start our exploration, by building a list without judgement of our interests and abilities, and finding where they overlap with how we can earn a living.

This limbo-land can also mire us down at any point of our career; beginning, middle or end. Recently, my daughter was at a crossroads with her nascent career; either go back to school and stick with a job that wasn’t ideal, or to find something totally different. It’s hard to find the path when we have so many different interests, skills, and desires. We discussed the situation and I agreed to hire a career coach for her. We picked someone that was working with one of her friends because we thought it would be a good match. What we didn’t think about is that each coach has a different style and different way of approaching careers.

Here are some thoughts about being proactive in designing your own career pathway and how a coach or counselor could impact you in a positive way.


How to best identify your own work/life priorities, and how to find the best possible guide to reach this goal made me to think about other coaches I had worked with in the past. I thought about who I clicked with and who I didn’t. When you select a career navigator, it is a very personal thing. You don’t want a spineless “yes” person, but you do need to find someone who has a compatible style to yours. Someone simpatico, but willing to challenge you. Definitely compare expectations in advance. A career change can be a very emotional experience. If you explore your career choice options with a rational approach but consider emotional factors too, the right guide can help you reach a point of clarity that can be very rewarding.

Ask questions of yourself:

What are you looking to get out of the coaching?

Are you seeking a traditional career path?

Do you want to identify alternative career options?

Are you seeking a consulting gig or a longer term commitment?

Ask questions of the coach:

What types of clients does the coach work with typically?

Do you specialize in an industry?

Are your clients newly entering the workplace or heading towards retirement?

Is there a curriculum, structure, or program you offer?

Do you have open-ended sessions?

The more communication there is up front, the more satisfaction there will be with the outcome.


Many people have never spoken to a therapist or a career coach. This isn’t good or bad, as some people like to noodle through ideas on their own. Other people like to bounce ideas off friends or colleagues. I’d suggest that working with a career advisor or navigator can help you reflect on more choices, learn new skills, and explore different approaches. Personally, I would say that having another perspective to brainstorm ideas can increase the odds of positive outcomes.

Definitely take time to jot down ideas about what your skills and interests over several days or weeks. Digest the lists, and then split them into personal and professional preferences. Next, narrow down the top 3 to 5 preferences in each category. Rank them in order of strength or interest. Let these ideas come together and be a gauge as you consider various options. This may seem simple but sometimes you can get stuck and make this more complicated. I have helped countless people sort through the noise or the tangle of thoughts to see that there are several common themes, skills, or interests.


Come back to the list of interests and skills to review it multiple times. Then go out and collect more data. Start with informational interviews. Yes, you can Google to find out lots of details about companies, professions, and people in the professional world. Regardless, nothing beats meeting with a real human being. Informational interviews are the first step where you learn about what options exist out there. These types of interviews help you build your network, and eventually can lead to a job or career change. Each time you meet someone new, you gather more information and different perspectives. This can help you recalibrate your list of personal and professional priorities. It can also ground you in reality about what options exist. Or if they don’t exist, can you create them? Is there space in the market and/or do you prefer something outside the traditional 9 to 5?


Check each opportunity you learn about to see if it has the various components listed on your priority list. Here are examples of possible areas of interest:

Will it feed your creativity?

Does it let you mentor people?

Can you use your tech skills?

Are you able to continue to learn?

What’s important to you will be different from what’s important to me. Be honest with yourself. Remember as you learn and grow, your list can evolve too. Each opportunity will include some of your priorities and preferences. Our goal is to evaluate each option to see how closely it comes to meeting our overall goals. If you keep this in mind you won’t get as distracted, take a job for the sake of having a job, or put yourself in a situation that is less than ideal.

There’s a quantitative way of looking at this process; you need to gather data and make statistical comparisons. There’s also a qualitative part of career exploration. After you have done the math, you then need to use the intuitive side of your brain. You need to trust your gut, because there are intangibles that help us make decisions. Go back regularly and check your personal and professional priorities; your level of satisfaction on your next job will increase exponentially if you keep these in mind. There’s no right or wrong way, just what’s best for you. Remember, we are looking to find the sweet spot in the Venn diagram where our interests, our skills, and our ability to make a living intersect.

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

Communicate Your Creds

The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of a résumé is short, or “a summary”. The origins of the word are French and date from the early 19th century. Humans have been creating résumés or “Curriculum Vitas” (CV) for hundreds of years. Like music, the notes have all been played before, but the way you put them together is key to how you build a powerful, useful tool for yourself.

If you Google to find rules, a format, or a sample of a résumé, you will get gobs of information. There are thousands of résumé writers, coaches, and books about the subject. There are lots of good resources out there, and if you ask four people, you will get four different opinions on what and how to present information. It’s one of the topics that I receive the most questions about during the process of identifying the next opportunity. The reality is that it’s a piece of paper that is supposed to summarize who we are. How is it even possible to sum up, in words, paper, or electronically, the essence of who we are?

Remember that the purpose of a résumé is to share a summary of your many talents with a potential employer, but the true goal is to make the person reading your resume WANT TO MEET YOU! We are not striving for a perfect résumé, but to translate or share enough of our essence to get an audience. I’d like to propose that we remind ourselves of why we create a résumé (to earn an interview) and then concentrate on how we create a résumé (best summary of our skills) that is focused on the basics.


I suggest creating a core resume that is all inclusive. Regularly add to this document; additional roles, increased responsibilities, ongoing training, publications, presentations, and extracurriculars. Keep it up-to-date. Think of a core resume as your portfolio. The next step is to tailor it. It’s your responsibility to craft a document for your specific audience. A résumé is the first item that introduces you to a potential employer, but along with it goes an email or cover letter.  The content matters as much as the presentation. Trust me… they are looking at your format, your ability to write and express ideas, and your attention to detail. Your resume is a tool to gain an interview so you can deliver a marketing presentation of yourself, face-to-face.

How creative you are, what format you choose, what information you share; all are personal choices. Be consistent whatever you choose. The core stays the same. You can customize your résumé for your audience each time you use it. This means selecting the items from the all inclusive résumé that are going to appeal the most to your potential employer. Don’t combine too many ideas or make the resume so busy that it detracts from the content.


Pick one style, keep it simple, and stick with it-check your entire document for consistency. Bold the same things, italicize the same things, layout the same format, but don’t use all the “bling” at one time because it can overwhelm. Remember, be consistent. I’m going to repeat this again and again. Be consistent. Neither of these examples below are wrong, but all the positions must be presented in the same way throughout the document.

Account Executive

RRLLC, McLean, Virginia

January 2010 – present


Account Executive Jan 2010 – present

RRLLC, Mclean, VA

Present the information in powerful ways, traditionally in third person. Boring doesn’t get you an interview. “Show, don’t tell” is key. Use a strong opening statement that shares skills, describes accomplishments, and translates how you add value to an organization.

20 year market research executive with a proven track record of successes


Innovative 20 year market research leader who’s deep industry knowledge has successfully attracted and retained clients.

Clearly present the facts with powerful details that express the depth and breadth of your experience – quantify and qualify any information you present. Pick a paragraph or use bullets (I prefer bullets).

Managed 7 staff members.


  • Hired, trained, and managed 7 professionals with a 80% retention rate over a five year period.

Proof your work.  Make sure to check grammar or for spelling errors and typos. If this isn’t your forté, find someone who can help. Content is important, but your presentation matters too. Most of your tasks on your resume were completed in the past, so make sure to use past tense. If you are presently in your job, that is the only description that will be in the present tense. Be specific and share details.

Lead teams on a variety of successful projects for a client.


Led teams of five on simultaneous business analytic projects that were delivered on time, within budget, and client requested additional work.  


Include pertinent information in the resume. The opening statement is important. Highlights or a showcase of special skills can be valuable. Descriptive powerful statements about your roles, responsibilities, and accomplishments is crucial. Skills, certificates, licenses, education, continued training, memberships, or extra curricular activities add impact. If the item adds depth or demonstrates an additional dimension to your candidacy, include it.

Another way to increase your chances of that in-person meeting are to allow the reader to connect with you. The prescreen person needs to be able to see you have the skills and abilities to do the tasks, and it’s a plus if they can relate to you too. The rule of thumb has been if you have under seven years of experience, stick to a one pager. After that, try and keep it short but you can have a two to three pager. Professionals in more research or academic worlds often use a longer style or the CV format. It will never be perfect, but good enough is what you want. The true test is if you get results: interviews. Do your best or get help from someone who can. Then get out there and start the conversations.

We have about 30 seconds to capture someone’s attention, use it wisely.

Careers, Networking, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Networking is a Necessity

In 1992 I moved, as a young mother and dependent spouse, to Guatemala City the capital of Guatemala in Central America. I tell you these details because I was asked a lot of questions before we relocated. Where is it? What language do they speak there? Why do you want to leave the US? I still remember the sound of the 3 year olds voices, and the reverberations of their feet as they jumped around the 40 foot container that pulled up in front of our apartment building about six weeks before departure. My son’s pre-school class took a field trip to see what our moving container looked like as a way to say good-bye and understand what moving meant. I’d taken seven years of French and studied for a semester in Brussels, so wasn’t quite prepared for a Spanish speaking country. Some days I’d pinch myself to see if this was really going to happen. Other days I wondered why we were doing this. Bottom line, I wanted to get out of the horrible economic situation of the late 90s, and I wanted my kids to have a cross cultural experience.

The five and half years we spent in Guatemala City were formative. I arrived with a 14 month old and a 2.5 year old. They mastered Spanish in about six months, I took quite a bit longer to adjust to my new home. I didn’t know enough to pack my toolbox with my career skills. I hadn’t given much thought to how my knowledge of talent acquisition might enable me to work in another country. Things started gradually. First, I had a crash language course. Next, our belongings finally arrived and then we moved from temporary housing. As we got settled, the kids entered school. Then I was able to pick my head up and consider my options.

With five years of headhunting under my belt and a four year degree, I wasn’t sure what I could do in a country where we didn’t have a bi-lateral work agreement. It turned out my years of playing soccer and attending a summer camp were my first skills to be used in the new place. I started a summer camp for American kids who were on the opposite school schedule to their peers. Eventually we started girls soccer teams in the middle and high school for the American school. It caught on in several of the major private schools. I coached and helped organize the first Central American girls soccer tournament amongst American Schools. This was contract work and my second taste of entrepreneurism.

It was a random call from a Peace Corps Volunteer while I visited my spouse’s office that changed everything. He wasn’t available to talk, so I took the call. This conversation led to several others. Eventually I was referred to the Deputy Director In-Country and we started to discuss a three day workshop for the volunteers. The goals of the workshop would be to bring closure to their 2.5 years of service and help them think about how to re-enter the workforce in the US. I leveraged my 5 years of experience as an executive recruiter to develop the various pieces of the three day workshop. Did I have any previous experience as a workshop facilitator? No. I had recruited and trained people to work on my teams, and trained to be a camp counselor. Plus, I had knowledge of the US business world, but formally I did not have direct experience.

I just did it.

Five years later, I had run 3 weekend workshops per year, plus started a full semester class at one of the private universities. These workshops became the back bone of my training and coaching in the US. One in particular struck a chord with the Peace Corps Volunteers, it was about building networks. They felt very cut off and back then the internet was just coming onto the scene.

Often I’d hear a volunteer say, I built effective wood burning stoves to stop deforestation of the Guatemalan forest, how does this have value in the US? 

Or another volunteer might share that they built latrines to reduce the contamination of the water supply and reduce water borne disease. Why would they care about this in the US?

Los Tres Anillos workshop was born. The Three Rings.

The term referred to the rings of influence that surround each of us. Some are more obvious and easy to tap, others are harder to build. Returning to the US, the volunteers had to revive their existing networks and needed to be taught how to do this. I had to teach them the skills to build a powerful story and to realize they had the responsibility to translate their experiences into terms others would understand.

The volunteers thought they had it tough, but I have seen other populations have even bigger obstacles to overcome. The refugee, immigrant and American born women-entrepreneurs-to-be that I delivered these workshops to for Empowered Women International, worried about the same thing. They weren’t sure how to translate what they had done elsewhere into something that would be valued or understood in the US economy. Plus, they didn’t have networks to revive or fall back on, they had to build from scratch.


Los Tres Anillos starts with you. Each person has family and friends in their inner circle. Each of these different members have different educations, different professions and different spheres of influence. It’s much easier to start these kinds of discussions with people we know and hopefully will want to help. Begin a conversation with family and friends by letting them know you are trying to learn about what kinds of professions, companies, and options exist. By creating this list you can then reach out to them for informational interviews or conversations.


The goal is to learn about the person, their role, but also more broadly about their field, and where they think the economy is strongest. Practice and share some of your experiences that you have translated into what you feel are valuable skills in today’s market. See if they agree or if you need to retool the statements. Ask if they can refer you to others who might be interested to speak with about what you have discussed. Sometimes, you have to make suggestions to help trigger ideas about who they might know; former colleagues, classmates, etc. Start recording who you have had conversations with and the outcomes in a tracking tool.

Take this exercise seriously. This doesn’t mean don’t be yourself, but do prepare for the meeting like it is an interview. Follow up with a thank you note, post conversation.  Make sure you add any suggested contacts to your tracking sheet. Keep notes and schedule follow up on whatever calendar you use regularly.


Once you’ve exhausted the inner family and friends circle, the next ring is still people you know. Colleagues, classmates, and people you know through professional channels. This ring should be easy enough as well. You have an existing relationship or connection with each person. Don’t be concerned if you haven’t been in touch for awhile, reach out and let people decide if they are willing to help. Remember, it takes several attempts to connect. Don’t be a pest, but you will need to be persistent.


The third ring is the one where you are building a relationship without a previous knowledge of the contact. Before the internet this was much harder. With the availability of information from Google or other engines, you can find almost anything with a keyword search.  Through professional networks like LinkedIn, association membership, reading business papers, you can gather information about almost anyone or any company. This requires a different kind of effort from the other circles, but with research you can create potential links to almost anyone. There are no cold calls anymore. I’d call them warm informed connections.

Networking is imperative to find the right opportunity. During these discussions, you will learn about opportunities or roles that you may not even know existed. It’s a wonderful time to gather information about requirements, skills, and education needed for an industry or specific role. You can start learning the jargon of a sector. Gather details about what industries are strong or skills that are in higher demand. A network can lead to many things, internships, jobs, referrals, and more. Even though you may think you don’t have one, don’t give up! You can build one-all it takes is effort.

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

Work got you down?

I’ve received several calls with requests for conversations lately. Once I scheduled the calls, there was a commonality to what was voiced. I recently participated in a series of interviews for a non profit (I’m on the board) where I heard similar stories. Each person voiced, in a slightly different way, a discontent or lack of connection to their work or a feeling that what they were doing lacked value or meaning.

Often the statement about, a feeling of emptiness or exhaustion at the thought of waking up and going to work in the morning, would be followed by,

“I work with really great people.”

“My company has taken great care of me.”

“I’m good at what I do and enjoy it.”

I recognized the pattern and the problem because I had faced it several years ago.

As a recruiter for over 25 years, my role has evolved but really not changed much. My title or responsibilities haven’t really shifted. Yes, I have been more involved with training and mentoring. Plus, I have been more of a rainmaker and brought in clients so other colleagues could work on my projects with me. In my business, it’s the depth of the relationships with clients and candidates, along with knowledge of the sector that deepen, rather than a ladder to climb.

About ten years ago I hit a wall. I was stuck. Getting motivated in the morning was tough, picking up the phone or opening my email, even harder. Big time doldrums. To keep myself focused I set a goal-six years till you have paid for your second child to be done with college, and then you can do something else. Six years seemed like a long time. In the scheme of things it was, but then again in a 25 year career it’s barely a fifth of my time as a headhunter.

Two things happened. First, I was able to put my head down and work through the rough spot. Then before I knew it I wasn’t hating my job any more. As I got closer to the deadline, I wondered why I had set it.

Why did this happen?

First, my job hadn’t changed, I had lived through two recessions and it wasn’t the economy that had put me in the doldrums. My clients evolved but were still in the research world. My daily activities were also similar.

When I focused I was able to realize that I did make some changes during those six years, and I believe these actions were crucial to shifting my situation.

I explored several other career options through informational interviews. Found out what other companies or positions would value my skills and what the compensation would be like. A friend suggested I volunteer with a few organizations to find one that caught my fancy. After I selected one that I was most passionate about, the friend suggested I get more involved, and potentially join a nonprofit board. I put more energy into participation at my children’s schools. Increased my exercise. Started writing blogs to share my career expertise from my work as an executive recruiter. Did more career workshops and took more career coaching calls.

Basically, I did things that fed my soul and expanded the activities I did to leverage my areas of expertise.

What I realized is that I was good at my job. That I had lots of flexibility to make my own hours, select what clients I worked with, and how I built my networks. That I was contributing to the success of my client’s businesses and my candidate’s careers.

The other suggestion about finding a non profit that I was passionate about was a piece of the puzzle. My search for a non profit resulted in a successful match with Empowered Women International. A group using entrepreneurial training to help immigrant, refugee and American born women gain economic stability. My work in the classroom with the students, as a Biz Pitch Judge, and on the board, was incredibly rewarding on so many levels.

I didn’t realize that a void had been filled in my life. Teaching the workshops, coaching, and my continued blogging on LinkedIn gave me intellectual stimulation I had been missing. These changes for me personally shifted the way I looked at my job. I no longer hated it and was counting down till my daughter graduated.

I discovered that sometimes we need to make a career change, but sometimes we need to shift our attitude or perspective.

I’d take these ideas a step further. What if you approach your supervisor or mentor and make suggestions about ways to improve your situation or the way things are done in the company? What if we like most of what are doing at work, but there are some things that bug us, why not work to change them first? Is looking for a new job the solution? Why not suggest a mentoring program? Maybe consider additional training or education, does your company have an education reimbursement program? What about lobbying to create a committee to work on an issue that you see as needing attention?

Most of all realize that while some people get to do what they love for a living, many of us do interesting work or have solid jobs, but need to do other things to gain fulfillment. Not one thing can provide all.

Education, Uncategorized, Work Strategies, Working Parents, Working Professionals

A researcher I know said companies must evolve or go extinct…education is a big part of the equation

Despite the gray thick sky, our hike across campus filled me with interest as I noted the old mixed with new-sometimes even within a single building. My guide was a recent graduate who supported the Georgetown University Graduate Student Career Symposium. Upon entering the mod Healy Student Center, we walked through an airy high ceilinged hall where students sat at banquettes with computers in front of them, and buds plugged into their ears. The large social room was arranged for the Employee Advisory Committee Panel with four seats equipped with water and microphones. Tables surrounded the seats for the multidisciplinary gathering of deans, assistant deans, department chairs, and other administrative leaders poised to engage in our lunch discussion. This was the first meeting on the topic at Georgetown University, and founding chair, Caleb McKinney and co-chair Owen Agho were excited to see how the panel would be received.

A conversation about how to train students to be better prepared for the workplace is timely.

During my daily work as a recruiter, I speak with lots of education and labor researchers. Recently, I had a discussion with a researcher who works on both education and workforce topics. The researcher felt that the educational system wasn’t broken as many claimed, but needed to evolve to meet the demands of our 21st century economy. She added that we needed to rethink what our goals are for continued education post high school. Most students, she stated, don’t have the luxury to earn a liberal arts degree because they need skills to become gainfully employed. This discussion about the value of liberal arts education versus earning a technical degree is not new, but when she presented it this way, I had to pause and think.

Throughout the day, my conversation with the researcher stuck in my mind. When the panelists shared similar thoughts with the administrators, I knew we needed to give this idea more attention. Later in the day it was confirmed again, when I interacted with the grad students in my session on interview prep, the students shared similar worries about their ability to land that first job. Educators, researchers, students, and business people all had the same concerns. I realized the gap between education and jobs needed to be bridged.

It seems to me, we need to consider a better collaboration between our educational systems and our evolving economies so we can prepare workers to have the skills for the jobs that exist today and in the future. An evolution of the entire ecosystem might be just what we need.


My fellow panelists included, CEO and Founder of Benevir Biopharm, Matthew Mulvey, PhD and Georgetown grad; Senior Specialist from Cadmus, Scott Teper, MPH, doing consulting in biomedical surveillance; and Director, Talent Acquisition and Planning, Celeste Chatman with the think tank, The Urban Institute. We tackled several questions from the administrative group. The goal of the discussion was to share insights from the business world on what we needed/wanted to see from recent graduates. Basically, the educators/university wanted to make sure their students were prepared to meet the needs of their future employers. Here is a sampling of the conversation.

How do we know if our students skills are meeting the needs of organizations like yours?

Celeste described a new program Urban recently launched that let students see inside an organization by visiting and shadowing a professional. Georgetown was one of the institutions who had been invited because their graduates demonstrated exceptional skills. She said it was a win-win. Urban got to meet students and evaluate if they are a good fit for them in the future, and the students got to gain insights into what research jobs are like.

Matt added that his organization looks for PhDs who have specific skills related to the development of pharmaceuticals. They hope to hire other professionals for more diversified roles once they expand.

Where can students go to find out more about positions and companies that might have options for them?

I responded that the best way I knew how to do this was through internships or informational interviews. These opportunities allow students to see what a job is really like through experience or with contact by a real professional who can share their insights. When you network in the field, students are able to ask questions about a role, ask about what skills are most important, and find out what credentials they need to be successful. Networking is the best way to find the right position.

Celeste added that this is a major reason why they created their shadow program.

What are some of the biggest mistakes students make when looking for jobs?

Celeste commented that students want to be the president instantly.

I added they don’t understand that they have to learn and do what is required by the most junior person in an organization.

Scott said his concern was that new graduates don’t understand the connection between compensation and business finances. He said there are sometimes disparities in salary within government contract firms despite equal skills (not bias). This happens because a particular contract can only be charged at a certain rate. Newbies often compare salaries and get upset without a good understanding of the business aspects that shape compensation.

There were nods of agreement from the attendees. There were many follow up questions, and we shared valuable insights into how a business might look at new grads. If the students could learn to not focus on themselves, and think more about how they could add value to an organization, all the panelists agreed it would be invaluable in their job searches.


If we take these ideas a step further, maybe we need to think more about how to change the education and workforce paradigm.

What if we consider different ways to gain skills based on what opportunities exist in the marketplace and balance them with individual interests…

  • Post high school training could be a certificate program learning mechanical skills, or health technician skills, or financial skills. Any of these skills would increase an individual’s value and earning potential in less time and cost (than a 2 or 4 year program), but would still elevate earnings and provide a career path.
  • An Apprenticeship could be another option with a cabinet maker or fine jeweler, and the results could lead to a well trained and productive artisan.
  • Consider if a two year nursing program is better for an individual than a four year program. Both programs are required to pass the same licensure exam, but require different amounts of time and cost. (please note there is an earning potential difference)
  • Examine a four year program and make sure it has a strong core curriculum that requires solid writing skills, technology, analytic skills and math, regardless of major. These core skills prepare each future employee to have the basic work skills needed across any organization.
  • Earn an advanced degree to specialize (MS or PhD), but consider what you want to do, what are the loans you can bear based on future earnings, and the skills you need to perform the role you want to be in.
  • Delay further education….volunteer in the field for a 1-3 years. Military service, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, etc., there are many ways to gain experience and learn more about what you want to do.


When you are exposed to the world, and see the challenges plus the skills required, you gain a better understanding of what you need to know to be employed. With more maturity, we may find our post high school students looking at their educational opportunities in a different way.

I’ve often advised young adults or professionals in mid career, who want to make a change, to go talk to someone in a job that is appealing. Learn about how they earned their position, what they studied, and how they might do things differently. In other words, go out and experience a real job, internship or informational interview. Talk to professionals and work backwards. Find out what skills you need to succeed, and then go get them.

Googling or taking profiling tests to identify skills/interests, can only get you so far. Why invest time and money into a short term training program, a certification series, or an advanced education program, to find you can’t get the job you thought you wanted or even pay back your student loans?! Do your homework. Be an active participant in your future.

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

What’s Professionalism Got to Do With It?

Recently, someone I placed in a new position asked me to write a blog about how to start a new job and be successful. Through my years of recruiting, I’ve seen some interesting scenarios. It made me think about matches that worked and others that were less successful. A position description or mission statement can describe technical skills or organizational capabilities. The cultural fit isn’t often described, but I’d say it’s just as crucial as any skill set.

I believe, greater consideration needs to be given to the “hidden codes” that have developed within a corporate culture and how they align with the personal style of a professional. Basically, success in a new role isn’t always determined by your performance in the first 6-12 months. Your orientation period is important, but your success is determined during the selection process when all parties involved are honest and diligent about the fit. Here are some scenarios that help both companies and professionals discuss the components that need to be considered when identifying the best match.

Interpreting the Hidden Messages

Guided or Self-Directed Tasks

“We prefer people who follow directions well, and can deliver exactly what we requested within budget, with high quality results and on time.”

“Our best performers point out another or better way to accomplish a task or even question the direction of an assignment.”

These two goals are not mutually exclusive but they describe different kinds of thinkers and people with different styles. Typically, the person in the first scenario will do better with a firm that prefers task oriented professionals who embrace an organizational system. The second style is someone who thrives in an environment where there’s more ambiguity and how the goal is obtained is left to the creativity of the individual.

Open-ended or Specific Functions

“In our organization a professional must promote their talents and meet people to learn their areas of expertise and get on projects. It’s a proactive process and with guidance anyone can be successful here.”

“When we hire someone on the statistical team, they are based here with us. Various parts of the company come to us with their statistical problems and we solve them. There’s lots of variety and we don’t have to actively seek projects.”

In these scenarios a professional’s style will play a huge role. The first description requires a proactive person who is participatory in building relationships within their firm. They need to earn respect and lobby to be on projects. To someone who enjoys determining their trajectory, this is really appealing. To others, this is daunting and exhausting.

In the second scenario, a strong professional will have lots of work coming to them. There will be many different kinds of projects that will keep them learning and busy. Again, they have to earn respect, but it’s a different kind of responsibility. The role is clearly defined and more specific. There is less ability to select projects of personal interest, but no lobbying required.

Structured or Unstructured Management Styles

“I like to give a project and a deadline and let my staff decide on the approach. I like to have updates on status and am willing to answer questions when needed. Delivery of a solid piece of work on time and in budget will increase my level of trust. I am willing to give greater and greater amounts of responsibility to a subordinate based on the outcomes of a project.”

“When we have a task from a client, I like to break it down and delegate specific pieces to my talented team members. I hold regular status meetings with each person on the project. My preference is for them to leverage our traditional approaches, I find it produces a consistent level of high quality deliverables.”

Someone might be totally lost in the first organization but thrive in the second one where there are specific directions on each task. Another person might find the room to be creative and run a project anyway they think is appropriate incredibly exciting. That same person could find a strong structured manager suffocating.

Value of Due Diligence

These are just some examples of different aspects of corporate culture that either attract or repel different talent. The management of an organization are the professionals that embrace the culture and have succeeded within the firm. During the hiring process, it’s really important to acknowledge that we can’t just look for skills and mission alignment we have to be proactive and dig deeper to see the hidden code. Both parties must be involved in the decision.

When we select the right people to hire or we select the right company to join, it’s incredible. We will see greater longevity, higher productivity, more loyalty, increased career progression, and improved corporate success. If it’s a mismatch, it can feel uncomfortable like a handsome pair of shoes that just don’t ever break in right, and this can be downright uncomfortable.  Stress or anxiety increase, work satisfaction decreases, often there’s a loss of confidence, miscommunication about tasks and objectives can result. This negatively impacts both the professional and the company.


Thoughtful Tips to Consider First 6-12 Months 

Learn the rules of your new organization, and what’s expected. Are there core set of hours? Do they accept telecommuting or prefer you in the office? How do they look at leave, sick or personal? Ideally you have learned most of this during the interview process, because this will impact the success of the match.

Too often I have seen a failed match because expectations were different, not fully discussed, or misunderstood during the interview process or upon hire.

Figure out the best modes of communication with the various people you come into contact with in the new position. We have three generations of people in the workplace right now, something very unusual. Baby Boomers may prefer a face to face meeting, or phone call. Millennials are probably better on email or text. When you have to interact with several generations, the onus falls on you to figure out how to get the same message across to the various audiences.

If you aren’t clear on how it all works or what to do, ask your supervisor for support or guidance. 

Management is personal, but the responsibility of a good leader is to get everyone on their team to the same objective. Just like communication, directions and work style vary among professionals. Some is influenced by generation, but much is genetic and pre-determined by learning style. If you are managing someone who’s not performing well, think about how you are directing them or communicating with them. Are they understanding the directions? Can you motivate them in different ways? Is there too much of a style mismatch or can you tweak instructions to get better results?

By selecting a professional to hire and investing in their success, it’s important to be objective and problem solving oriented when we hit a bump.

Dress can be a point of contention. One of my clients said a fresh college graduate came to work with no shoes on because the dress code was “business casual”. Granted it was California, but not acceptable. Again, the multi-generations make this harder to gauge. A good rule of thumb on the interview or when you get hired is to always dress better than everyone, a suit, or something close to it is important. Even if the organization says they are business casual, stray on the side of more formal for the interview or when you first start.

Look at the senior leader and their senior management team and emulate them. Now, I know some CEOs might be in torn jeans and Converse, but you aren’t the “top dog”, so look at the next layer.  If you hope to be promoted or have a seat at the leadership table, you make your first impressions based on how you are perceived. Then you build respect based on your output. It’d be a lie if I didn’t say it mattered how you present your physical self. Take that deterrent out of the equation by making it neutral.

There’s a time and place to make a style statement. It’s hard to change that first impression.

Some random other thoughts:

  • Be aware of hours worked and deliverable deadlines, does this work with your style and can you meet the expectations?
  • Ask for feedback, and review people with clear information, opening communication lines and sharing honest constructive feedback from the get go can set things up for success.
  • Remember how the lines of authority work, you are not in charge when you start a new job so be respectful and earn respect, it does go both ways.
  • Don’t make best friends, learn the lay of the land before befriending people. Work is not for finding bosom buddies to share your social life with or to hit happy hour. Mixing the two can be dangerous, that includes use of social media.
  • Whatever task you do, do it to the best of your ability. My father said, “if it’s sharpening pencils, or keeping the conference room clean, do it”.

Learn what you can. Contribute the most possible to a project. Find balance in your work-life by setting clear acceptable boundaries. We won’t always make the perfect hire or find the perfect job, but if you do your homework and are patient with a bit of introspection thrown in-we can all make better choices that results in greater success stories.

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Careers, Uncategorized, Volunteering, Working Parents, Working Professionals

Value of Volunteering-Professionally & Personally

I’ve never paused to think why it’s important to volunteer, I have always known it’s a necessary activity to give my life more meaning. Some people are lucky and get paid to do what they love; act, sing, write, invent, build, or argue. Others have to keep their passions in the area of their lives we call, hobbies. Writing is one of my hobbies. My first short story royalty check was $5.47, not enough to buy lunch. My theory is that we have lots of interests, several skills, and finding a way to weave them altogether so we can support ourselves plus feel like we matter or have value is the goal.

Professionally, I talk for a living. I interview and spin stories. I promote opportunities. I prep professionals for jobs or prepare clients for wooing candidates. People who know me well, recognize that I do like to talk, but it’s not talking for the sake of talking. It’s a powerful thing to listen well and be a wordsmith. Communication is how people connect. I’m a headhunter, a talent acquistion, marketing and sales professional. Being a connector or networker is innate to me, because I really enjoy people and connecting them to what they love. It’s like putting together a big puzzle.

What’s my point?! I’ve had several conversations with people recently, who were searching for meaning. To find the balance between life and work (where you want to get up each morning) and also can afford to pay to keep a roof over your head is a tough place to find. That’s where volunteering comes in. You may feel you don’t even have time to read that bestseller sitting on your nightstand. Or your partner has been asking you to mow the lawn or take out the garbage, and all you want to do is play a video game or take a run to de-stress. I would argue, find the time because it will enrich your life, enlarge your perspective on the world, expand your personal and professional horizons, and who knows where that interaction might take you.

I challenge you to explore an opportunity to volunteer.

  • Find something you are really passionate about or know a lot about, often the two are related; literacy, music, cooking, exercise, entrepreneurism, or science?
  • Think about the population you feel drawn to working with most what moves you; kids, adults, elderly? Does the religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identification, nationality, or status like military, vulnerable populations, or mentally impaired, etc. matter to you?
  • Review your skills that you have to offer; good with numbers, accounting or finance, strong marketing & communications experiences, great networking and fundraising, community organizer, strong operations skills, ability to mentor about a topic, and or just energy to lend a hand.
  • Be realistic about the time you can devote, best hours of the day, best days of the week. Volunteering is a commitment and canceling isn’t cool.
  • Research various non profits, non governmental organizations (NGOs), religious charities, retirement communities, schools, or hospitals to see what they look for in volunteers, or what skills of yours might be valuable to them, and align with your interests.
  • Volunteer on short term finite projects, a clean up of the park, a book sale at the school, a bring your dog to visit the elderly afternoon, and see what speaks to you.
  • Narrow the field, and get more involved to see what you think of the leadership team, the mission, and the operations of the organization.

Organically it will happen. You will find yourself taking on more activities and responsibilities with an organization that resonates with you. Like me, you may find yourself on the board of an organization. I’ve been with Empowered Women International ( for over four years now. Raising funds, working on projects, and volunteering in the workshops are several of the experiences I’ve enjoyed. I found my passion for sharing my knowledge about business and careers was a great match for EWI. They give entrepreneurial training and mentoring to immigrant, refugee, and American born women as a tool to gain economic stability.

Some days I wonder which is my real job and which is my volunteer work. Both my work and my volunteering seem to compliment each other and I find that they often mix and mingle. Volunteering makes me a better professional, and my professional skills make me a better volunteer. My entire life is enriched. With the world in turmoil, all I can do is work locally to make things better one person at a time. It’s a good way to keep your sanity and feed your soul.

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

Demonstrating Value on an Interview

One of my favorite activities is to present my workshop on preparing and securing a job offer. Recently, I did my regular guest visit to Empowered Women International’s (EWI) Entrepreneur Training for Success course being offered at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia. I was excited to have the opportunity to discuss career topics with the women, their mentors (and hopefully our future supporters) the Gupta Family Foundation. An added bonus, my daughter attended plus a friend.

It was a full room, with over twenty of us, and it started out slowly. As we went around the room, introducing ourselves and sharing a few facts about who we were, I slowly saw each woman in a different way. Initially their head coverings made them hard to differentiate from each other. Soon, I noticed different colors and patterns that reflected how truly different each woman was. First, they shared their name and then three facts about themselves. A mother. A maker of family recipes. A model and artist. An accountant. A businesswoman. When we broke out into small groups and regathered to share our results, the room was heating up.

As immigrants to a new country, with a new language, new culture, it’s even more challenging to market yourself. It’s one thing to list skills and talents, but the burden to translate how you add value to an organization falls on each of us. I was amazed at how animated the women became as they shared. I shared the ingredients that make a good interview; preparation, questions, compensation, and closing questions that overcome objections.

Next, I taught a technique called a FAB Presentation-Features, Accomplishments, and Benefits. With these two exercises, you will be able to present yourself in the most powerful way during any conversation. Key components to note are my “Closing Questions”, “Salary”, and the “FAB”. Walk through the anatomy of an interview (below) and then practice the FAB exercise (below) to prepare for any type of interview. Go out and grab that next opportunity!


First there are several types of interviews. While they have much in common, they do have slight differences.

  • Scholarship/Honor Society
  • Entrance/College
  • Informational
  • Internship/Permanent Position

Prep for Positive Results

You wouldn’t just show up to a client presentation and wing it. So don’t do this when you are interviewing. An interview is a marketing presentation of yourself, and it’s important to do the prep work so you can have the best possible outcome, an offer. When you get an offer, you have the power to decide if you want the job, otherwise, you have nothing.

Homework for an interview

  • Learn about the company
  • Read about the people meeting with you
  • Search the internet for articles about the organization
  • Review the company website to understand their business

“Package yourself”

  • Bring an updated version of your resume
  • Dress appropriately (Even if they are business casual, you have to impress with your interview “suit”)
  • Review the position and anticipate areas of interest (FABS- see exercise)
  • Ask insightful questions to learn about culture, training, career path (see exercise)

Closing Questions

There are many ways to close an interview. I believe there are two types of key closing questions that you should focus on. It’s perfectly legit to ask these.

  • Objections – Ask if the interviewer has any concerns or if anything is unclear. By exposing any objections, you have a chance to overcome them while you are still there. This increases your chances of moving to the next step.
  • Process – Ask about what the next steps are in the process. Gain clarity on your competition. Find out what the time frame is on a decision. By asking for more information, you will be able to better manage your own expectations.

Thank you Note – Get business card(s) to ease writing a “Thank You” note (Email or Snail Mail). MAKE SURE THIS IS NOT GENERIC! A thank you is an opportunity for another contact. Make it count. Add additional information, share a relevant article, or make a suggestion based on the earlier conversation.

Salary – Is probably the conversation people most dislike.  Typically it doesn’t come up on the first round, let the company raise the issue. Here’s an easy approach to demystifying the process. Be direct and honest.

  • Share your present base plus bonus
  • State you are open for a fair offer
  • If they push again, you can use a “redirect”
  • You can ask what the range of salary is for the position
  • Ideally, don’t state a figure, you have a 50% chance of being high or low
  • Receive an offer and then you can counter

You have shared, now it’s their turn to share. If the range is what you would consider, confirm it. Typically, to make a move, a professional likes to see a 10% increase of the base. There are other nuances to this conversation, but these are the basics.


Below is a tool that I would suggest you use to field questions you will be asked on an interview. Most questions fall into three categories. I suggest you prepare 3-4 FAB statements for each category. This way you will be prepared to field any questions in a succinct powerful way. It will give you more confidence. You will not forget a detail or tell a long drawn out story.

Questions you receive will be focused on:

  • Skills/talents/subject matter expertise
  • Ability to manage people and projects
  • Client Services and Business Development

FAB Presentation Exercise

Features, Accomplishments, and Benefits (FAB)

A FEATURE is a fact about you. This is a point where you begin self-analysis. Focus on the features that describe your abilities, skills, & experience. Remember features are factual and objective. They describe “WHAT. . . “

An ACCOMPLISHMENT is a significant achievement accomplished during education or employment (high grades, publications, promotions, projects that stand the test of time) Accomplishments are stated in a very specific language and should include quantitative measures. They describe “HOW WELL. . .”

A BENEFIT is an example of what you can do for a future employer. The benefit takes into account your previously stated features and accomplishments. A benefit translates the facts for a future employer in terms of what you can do for them. They describe “HOW YOU ADD VALUE. . . ”

Before an interview create at least 10 FAB statements. Write them down, and review them. Focus on three categories you know you will be asked about, skills, management and client services. FABs will help you field difficult questions. They will help you to gain confidence by recognizing that you have concrete skills/abilities to share. FAB statements are powerful ways to translate skills from your resume to actual benefits for future employers.

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.