Avoid blind spots with either/or choices
Careers, Mentoring


How to avoid blind spots with either/or choices 

When I want to accomplish something, I get to work researching and consulting my gut instinct before I make a choice. Most of the time things work out, sometimes they really don’t. When bright ideas fail, it’s because I overlooked a blind spot in the planning.

Read on for thoughts on avoiding the blind spots in your career path by using either/or choices. 

“Either-Or” Logic

As kids, my siblings and I knew that if we wanted to go to a movie or get Thai food for dinner, we had an “either-or” choice. Either we could ask our father, whose knee-jerk reaction was typical “No”, or we could appeal to our mother who usually responded more positively. 

My father wasn’t always inflexible and stern, but he often wasn’t willing to listen either. My mom on the other hand usually had an ear for her kids, was used to fielding requests, and adapting to change.

Managing Expectations

In high school, I managed my social calendar using either-or logic too. Knowing that if my friends failed to make plans for a weekend outing, I would end up babysitting. So, either I took initiative to suggest using my car and fake IDs to sneak into bars in Georgetown, or I resolved to another Friday night sitting on the couch watching kids, and earning money.

As a teenager, I learned to deal w

ith my less-than-motivated friends by managing expectations. Still, it took a lot of eye-rolling for me to arrive at the question of why they couldn’t just make plans on their own.  

Status Quo or A New Menu

The case of either-or turns to Friday evenings with my husband.

We like to cook: a spicy chili, finger-linking-good fried buttermilk chicken, or grill some mean steaks at home. It can be exhausting catering to all of our kids’ likes and dislikes, so we have regular places to order take-out from. Moby Dick’s Kebabs, Pasa Thai’s Pad Thai, and Pad Won Sen…I like to try new things and if I waited for my husband to think of a place, we would end up at the same few places that have a good beer tap list. Sometimes playing Star Wars trivia or the Dogfish 90 minutes shakes up the evening too. 

Locating my husband in his office, I suggest that either we suffer through a repeat performance of overcooked noodles … or we throw standards out the window for a dinner of beer and Star Wars Trivia. Of course, he couldn’t resist an IPA-sponsored game night.

As much fun as it is to come up with plans and alternatives, I’m often the one taking initiative. Why isn’t anyone else motivated to find solutions that work for all?

It Won’t Work … Nothing Will Change

Most people don’t like to voice suggestions or take leadership because it involves risk. If the plan doesn’t work, if the solution fails, risking embarrassment (or worse) stops most people from ideation. 

It’s safer to wait until someone else speaks up, takes the lead, or hedges the bet. But the cost of playing safe is the chance of having a life-changing experience or even just better food. 

Yes, it takes effort to live the life you want! And yes, it’s risky. Bad things might happen.  Good things might happen too. Either you keep blinders on and accept what is in front of your face, or risk taking a different career path, dating a new type of person, or ordering from a restaurant that isn’t appealing (even though your spouse loves the food!)

The Blind Spot in Your Career 

How does this all relate to careers and jobs? 

The evolution of a great career is governed by your threshold for risk and the manner in that you engage (or don’t) in relationships and networks. Networking proactively and putting effort into relationships with people usually have a positive outcome. 

You can either learn new skills to stay competitive or you can move to a new industry entirely. Upskilling has less risk, but maybe adapting to a new sector will lead to a more exciting benefit.

People sometimes get stuck when faced with a choice like the one above. The possibility of failure in a new industry is too much, but the thought of staying in the same or similar job is not encouraging. They manage expectations by not deciding until they are forced to by a blind spot.

You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

No one is all-knowing or (except a mom) has eyes in the back of their head. So how can you learn to avoid blind spots in different areas of life? 

Is it most important to be proactive and to think strategically? Or is having the flexibility to roll with punches more aligned to your risk profile? What if you could be coached into changing your perception of situations and the choices they present? 

Avoid blind spots with either/or choices

Coachable people are open to new information – and to making changes as situations shift around them. Being coachable also requires trust; to be receptive and willing when blind spots are pointed out. 

The only guarantee in life is that it will change, and choices will follow, whether you can see them or not. I believe that making the effort to learn what they are and take a position is at least a better strategy than doing nothing. Transitions are intrinsic to every area of life. Our career journeys are shaped by how we choose to experience life as it shapeshifts around us. 

A successful career, and a great life, are often decided by “either-or” moments. Each time you encounter one, take a breath and call a coach, or someone else you trust to check your blind spots. 

Careers, Communication, Jobs, Work Strategies, Working Professionals

Under a Microscope, First Days on the New Job!

So you landed the dream job, what’s next? Did you know the first 6-12 months are the most important in any new job or relationship for that matter. Everything is new, people are the most open, and no bad habits have been established, yet. Many companies have a formal review system and new employees have a probationary period for 30-90 days. It varies company to company. But we all can recognize that the orientation period is critical to success.

Each time I place someone in a job, we get to have a celebratory lunch. It’s one of the best parts of my role as a headhunter. Often I’m asked what kinds of suggestions I have for someone to set themselves up successfully on their new gig.

“That’s a great place to start,” I like to say, “Because being aware that this is the time to dedicate yourself to being successful is the first step.”

Here’s some ideas that I think are worth considering, some seem like no brainers but you’d be surprised. Plus, there are few my dad gave me when I first graduated from college, just a few years ago 😉

Be on time or early. There’s all sorts of subliminal messages about punctuality. It may be OK to show up to a party 30 minutes late, almost considered a norm, but it’s not OK at work. Those first few months will allow you to see what acceptable at the company. You can ask your boss to find out what their expectations are for you. Others may come dragging in later, but not you. It’s time to earn your stripes and gain the respect of your new organization.

What you wear matters. Most people make judgements about who you are within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. I’m a believer in wearing a suit for the interview even if a company is business casual. First day of work you don’t have to put the suit back on, but do wear something nicer than the lowest common denominator. Business casual can run the gamut, be the nicest dressed for awhile till you have settled in.

Don’t make best friends. This is from my father’s advice list. I have to agree with him here because you don’t know the political landscape, yet. You don’t really know the lines of command, the pecking order, or who’s respected or not. You don’t want to ally yourself with anyone at the beginning. Be nice to everyone. Collaborative environments are more productive. Learning to be part of a team and get along with everyone is an important skill to master.

Ask Questions, be thoughtful. It’s good to get feedback but do you remember the kid who always asked “Why?” That kid was smart but also annoying. It’s important to show initiative and to explore to find answers on your own, first. If you have a question or need feedback, do talk to your boss, but also bring some possible answers with you.

Be a problem solver. Along with asking questions goes innovative thinking and problem solving. Lots of people throw up their hands and bring problems to others. I was reminded by a friend that her daddy always told her, don’t just bring the problem, do some thinking first and bring ideas about possible solutions too.

Take initiative. Even if you don’t have something to do, ask others if you can help. When I was a substitute teacher while living in Guatemala, I didn’t have much planning to do. Rather than be idle, I offered to help. Now some people can take this wrong and feel threatened, but the majority will know you just want to learn and be helpful. Who knows what you will absorb and who you will meet?

Watch your electronic use. Don’t be on your phone or surfing the internet, especially on the first days even if you have nothing to do. Yes, we all stare at our screens but we learn much more from social cues and face-to-face contact. There’s no substitute. Engage with others as you start your new job. The bonds you build will be imperative to your continued success.

Feedback helps focus. Do your work, ask for new tasks, and don’t forget to get feedback. Each organization has it’s own ways of doing things. Ask and check to see if you are meeting expectations, and the deliveries are in the form that your new company prefers. Time is money.

Listen more than talk. Sort of stole this from Burr in Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.” A good skill to develop in any organization is the ability to be quiet, listen and focus on the person rather than on formulating your response. You will find your ability to converse and absorb information increases as well as the respect you garner as a strong consultant or listener.

Share best practices in respectful ways. We’ve all met the person who comes in new and tells us we are doing things all wrong. Or the one who always has a better way to do things. I used to be that person. I annoyed people. They weren’t very receptive. What I learned is that after you have been exposed to the ways of the new organization, if you ask if they’d like other ideas you can present them as alternative approaches with different outcomes. People are much more receptive.

Be willing to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to get done. My father told me whatever I am asked to do, be it answer the phone, prepare a memo, regardless of the complexity, do it well. A can-do attitude goes a long way. Learning all the tasks in a firm, regardless of how mundane can help you appreciate everyone and show you are a team player.

Review and remember. Do homework at night to review and master what you learned during the day. If your homework was worth anything while you were in school, it was because it helped reinforce what you learned in the classroom. Hopefully you have taken a new role because it will help you grow as a professional. This means you want to learn and will need to master new skills or knowledge to stretch your capabilities.

Communication is key.  With three generations in the workplace, it’s crucial to figure out how to best communicate with all your colleagues. Starting with your boss and closest team members is important. Then learn the communication styles of others. Some people like face-to-face conversations, others prefer a phone call or an email. Some organizations have internal chat systems, some text…with social media there are so many options. Stay professional and remember whatever you put out there into the ether, it’s pretty darn permanent.

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.

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 (ewint.org) 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.