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Welcome to Change Focus Coaching!
Change Focus is about re-envisioning who you are, what you have to offer the world and where your gifts will have the greatest impact, using your spirit as the center of the process. Whether secular or religious, we all tap into our spiritual center to know what’s meaningful to us, what “feels right” what instinctively attracts or repels us.

I began writing this blog thinking about what my most talented students have taught me about the journey to spirit-centered work. Satisfying and financially rewarding roles and positions are out there, for those willing to do both hard and smart work to find them.

If you’re aware of your gifts but can’t decide how to use them…
If you need to balance purpose and prosperity…
If you’re sure there’s more to work than a paycheck…
If you’ve been frustrated trying to move from your job to your calling… Come join me!

I can offer you tools and processes to help you pursue your perfect niche with effective and purposeful action. Whether your quest is for paid work or meaningful service, Change Focus is about belief, balance and bliss.

Let’s see if we can create a community of like-minded women who share experiences, resources and enthusiasm in the quest for purposeful living. You can read the posts, comment on what you see, join on-line seminars, check out free resources and contact me for a free strategy session!

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Ready to Go?

I had lunch with a young mentee the other day and she said something that hit a nerve. She was commenting on preparing for her baby’s upcoming first birthday party and she said “I ‘wanna wanna’ do crafty things, but I don’t really wanna do crafts.” I laughed and complemented her on knowing herself so well. The next day, I was working with a client who was knee-deep in excuses as to why she hadn’t (for the 3rd month running) completed the tasks we had agreed were her next steps. I found myself saying “sounds like you want to want to find a job, but you don’t want to find a job.” She was silent for a moment, then owned up to a real ambivalence about giving up her free time for financial relief. Despite two years without income, money alone wasn’t attractive enough to compensate for the loss of freedom she anticipated would come with a job.

I’m not judging here. There are lots of ways in which we all live different values than we espouse. I might want to lose weight, but I eat a whole pizza for dinner. I might want to save money for vacation but I binge-order at Amazon. I might want a new career, but I don’t want to do the networking and researching to find my niche. Sometimes the “should’s” -what we think we are “supposed” to want or do- aren’t compelling enough to make us own them or prioritize the work it takes to get them done.

This leads me to two questions worth asking before you decide to change careers or to work with a career coach. Forgive me for this first one. David Beckham’s recent retirement led to a flurry of replays of Victoria’s spicy prior life, replete with soundtrack. Maybe this will get it out of my head…

1. “Tell me what you want. What you REALLY, REALLY want.”
This is harder than it sounds. Because we all want lots of contradictory things, on different days of the week, dependent on how well our basic needs are being met, feedback we take in from the world, and how well other areas of our life are going. What we want – and are willing to work for – shifts. Here’s a litmus test you might use to sort out what really matters to you. If you were to write your own DREAM Resume and you could credit yourself with any achievement you wanted, what would you like it to say about your life accomplishments? What would really make you proud? You may be justifiably proud of many of the things you’ve already done, but looking at your life so far, is there an accomplishment you’ve always wanted to claim that you haven’t touched yet?

Now I know there are a fair number of Academy Awards and Nobel Peace Prizes that we all wish we’d buckled down and pushed for, but do any of these make your pulse race or make your stomach clench at the thought of NOT achieving them? Take some time to examine that feeling. What is the desire underneath that dream accomplishment? What are some of the ways you could fulfill that desire? Hopefully this will give you a “Gotta Try That” Goal.

2. What’s my motivation?
I recently attended a seminar on the topic of addiction and recovery that had at its heart a conversation about how we change behaviors. (This sounds harder than it really is, so bear with me for a moment!) We change if the weight of the perceived pay-off of the new behavior combined with the actual discomfort of the old behavior is greater than the perceived risk of the new behavior combined with the comfort of the old behavior. The equation looks like this:

PAYOFF of Attaining Goal + RISK of Status Quo >

RISK of Attaining Goal + PAYOFF of Status Quo

So the carrot AND the stick equals your motivation!

You can get a sense of whether you’re ready to work on your goal by using this process. Look at the What’s My Motivation Exercise under the Resources tab. There is a separate Sample document to give you the flavor. If you work through this process, some items come up more than once in different words—probably things you feel strongly about — and that’s good to know.

After making your lists under each heading, give a value to each item (5= very important to me, 3=neutral, 1=not very important). Add together Goal Payoff and Status Quo Risk.

Add together Goal Risk and Status Quo Payoff. If you’re motivated to make a change, the total for Goal Payoff/Status Quo Risk will be greater. Hopefully, a lot greater. Hang the exercise in a prominent place to remind yourself of why you’re ready to work hard to achieve that goal. You’re ready to go –

If not, maybe it’s a “wanna wanna”! Stop beating yourself up. Maybe it’s better to re-assess that goal and find one that really motivates you to act! If you’re stuck, there are lots of ways to stimulate your imagination and help you find a path that really does motivate you to make a change!

If you need help with either developing a targeted plan or finding a new direction, contact me for a complementary strategy session.

What Real Estate Can Teach Older Workers about Finding Great Jobs

Are you over fifty and worried about your chances of finding a good job is a bad economy?  While it’s challenging for anyone to job search these days, my observation is that your chances are as good as your younger competition if you position yourself strategically.

I like to compare the process to selling your older house in a down market.  While there is always a market for new construction, there are also buyers looking for – and willing to pay more for — well-preserved houses with character and curb appeal in established neighborhoods. 

Let’s look at the home-to-person comparison for each of these characteristics:

Well-preserved

Older houses that command top dollar have been consistently maintained; key systems have been updated or restored.  Everything works. Prospective buyers don’t have to wonder if they will need to replace the roof or plumbing systems after they stretch to afford the home price.  They can picture themselves opening the door and being comfortable living there right away.

As a prospective employee, you bring a package of skills to the table.  Are they current?  Have you kept up as your field evolves?  Can you apply your skills with all the new technological skills available?  Can you use LinkedIn and other professional bulletin boards to network and apply for jobs?  Have you kept up with the kinds of communications software used in your field?  All of these add up to make a prospective employer feel you’d be a great fit for their organization.

Character

Buyers remember and return to re-view(and bid on!) the hand-turned banisters, built-in book cases, cozy window seats, well-tended perennial garden; the things that set one house apart from the dozens of others they’ve seen.  If those things that the owner has customized speak to the prospective buyer, the property sells itself.

For a job candidate, it’s the “Wow” factor.  What sets you apart from the dozens of other candidates she’ll review this week is: how much care have you taken in applying for THIS position?  Do you know what your prospective employer does?  Are you up-to-date on the issues facing the field you are entering?  Can you describe succinctly how your skills and experience can help this employer solve his biggest problems or achieve her mission-driven goals.  If you’re changing fields, does your cover letter connect the dots between what the position requires and your unique skills and experience?  This is where your experience gives you the edge over less seasoned candidates IF you can prove how you can use it to help your new employer succeed.

Curb Appeal

Home sellers have learned from the design folks on HG TV the importance of the first impression.  Home stylists now advise desperate sellers on everything from their house’s color and front door style to the eliminating the clutter in their kitchen cabinets and softening the color of their drapes.  Staging has become big business because marketing gurus have demonstrated that prospective buyers have little imagination to see through to a home’s “great bones” if they’re obscured by personal clutter.  The singular message of these designers is you want no obstacles that prevent a would-be buyer from seeing that their stuff fits in your house.

Many older workers fixate on the image issue.  I’ve heard many folks obsessing on whether they look young and “with it” enough; whether their wardrobe is job hunt-worthy—even whether they need to invest in cosmetic surgery to look like they’ll fit in.  While it does matter that you make a great first impression if you interview, it’s important to remember you make several first impressions before you walk in the door, and you may not get to walk in the door if you blow them.  Here are a few tips with remedies you may not have considered:

  • Your resume needs to be impeccable—formatted perfectly: lots of white space, well-organized, no typos, no grammar glitches.  If you can’t do it yourself, find someone to help you.  Remember that there is so much competition right now that this is an easy disqualifier.
  • Do take the time to write a cover letter that specifically makes the connections between your experience and the skills that the employer is seeking.  Because not everyone does this, it helps your application stand out in the crowd.
  • Remember that there’s the impression you’re trying to make and the electronic image that’s in cyberspace already.  Employers can research you as well as you can research them. More and more companies are checking out job applicants on the internet before meeting them face to face.   Google yourself.  What comes up?  Is your professional profile current?  Not having one is not an advantage either, since it DOES date you!  At least, establish a LinkedIn page and get a few endorsements.   Is your Facebook presence something you’d be comfortable having the HR department review?    Younger candidates may worry more about indiscretions surfacing, but mature applicants need to pay attention as well.  Is there a vital, interesting adult there, or is your site a repository for grandchildren pictures and kitty videos? If it all seems pretty trite, change the privacy settings to restrict access.
  • Many employers use phone interviews prior to bringing in candidates for face-to-face interviews.  If you’re invited for a phone interview, make sure the time you set allows you quiet and privacy.  Your first impression phone-wise needs to be calm, focused and articulate.  Review the ad you responded to and any research you may have done on the company before you get on the phone. Have a copy of the resume and cover letter you sent in case there are specific questions about something you wrote.  Be sure to have one or two questions ready to ask your interviewer.

If you successfully jump these first impression hurdles, you’ve already provided two-thirds of your “curb appeal” test, without investing in Botox or a new wardrobe!

In deciding how to dress for an interview, the key criteria should be well-groomed, fitting and professional.  These never go out of style.  If an outfit fits well and feels comfortable you’re going to come across as relaxed and confident; timeless characteristics!  “Professional” means something different in different fields, but in general, you should dress slightly more formally for an interview than you would expect to dress on the job.  Unless you’re interviewing in the fashion industry, it shouldn’t be your outfit that sets you apart from other candidates.  Your clothes should be the neutral backdrop that allows your poise, personality and skills to shine through!

Established Neighborhood

We frequently hear “location, location, location” is key to real estate sales.  When folks buy a home, they want to know how it will help them fit into the community fabric.  A savvy real estate agent drives the prospective buyer through the neighborhood to highlight certain elements.  The families the kids will go to school with, the playgrounds and coffee shops and walking paths all add to the value of the property.  Community history, values and amenities can change the story buyers tell themselves about their potential to live “happily ever after” in a particular home.

As a mature worker, you too exist within a context that tells a story about how “happily ever after” you will make your employer.  The story you tell is through your work experience.  Unlike your less experienced competition, you have different ways you can tell your story beyond a straight chronological sequence.  You can tell the last 15 years of your history, if that’s where your most significant professional experience lies.  You can highlight those positions that relate directly to the job for which you are applying.

Knowing your resume only has a reviewer’s attention for 30-60 seconds, you want to focus on those elements that best qualify you for the job and paint that picture of your experience, so it can be quickly and easily grasped.  What you say about what you did and the roles you played will enhance your desirability or detract from it.  It isn’t enough to say, for instance, that you worked as a project manager at NASA—how did you contribute to the Mars landing?  Like Zelig, you want to show that you were “located” in the middle of the action and played a key role in achieving the success of the institution you served.  You want the skills you highlight to show the timeliness of your accomplishments and the perspective provided by your experience.

In summary:

Well-preserved = up-to-date skills maintained

Character = demonstrating how skills are custom-fit for this position

Curb appeal = crisp resume/cover letter appearance + professional web presence + calm, professional phone presence + well-groomed, fitting, professional appearance

Well-established neighborhood = making your experience tell your story in a way that makes the reviewer feel you’re accomplished and seasoned.

If you present yourself as the valuable property that you are—you might not just get a great job—you might set off a bidding war!

Why Play Is Serious Work

I’m so impressed each time I see the intensity with which little kids play. Developmental psychologists have said that play is their work– their way of mastering new tasks. It makes me wonder what we adults don’t master by not allowing time for play. We’ve all learned to prioritize so well that we frequently prioritize pastimes we enjoy right out of our busy schedules. We might convince ourselves those pursuits will come back later– and they may, but what parts of ourselves are atrophying by prioritizing the “musts” and “shoulds” ahead of the things that bring us delight– and probably use muscles or parts of our brain that our work-a-day lives don’t engage at all?

An example– the discipline of “putting butt in chair” consistently day after day is key to being a successful writer, so I discipline myself to sit and write for a few hours every day. I haven’t seriously tended my garden in several years, until this spring. I needed the physical exercise of bending and stretching that gardening provides but I also found my writing improved when I took an hour or two to garden. I went back with ideas to create setting details I’d never considered before. I created background for characters that I hadn’t consciously been pondering while I gardened, but it just flowed after my outside breaks.

It seems worth considering that we may be sacrificing an avocation for focused effort in our careers when in reality, our avocations might round us out in ways that would advance our careers even more. And we may not be able to predict that particular alchemy until we try it!

As a career transitions coach, it makes me wonder what my clients aren’t “counting” when we inventory their skills. When I present my workshops on career change, I frequently refer to Richard Bolles’ 3 paths to career change. Two of the three require we use something that we have–familiarity and networks in a particular topical arena or a strong skill that’s transferable to many arenas to make our first “jump” and then to segue into either a new skill set in the former case or a new arena in the latter. There’s no reason that an avocation, such as photography or cooking or love of theater couldn’t provide either knowledge of a field and network contacts or a deep skill set that could be transferred, but we tend to get stuck thinking about only the things we know and do “professionally.”

How often do we fail to consider something that we truly know and love as offering potential career options?

What about you? How have you found ways to incorporate what you love to do into your daily life– and even into your career path? Are you taking your play seriously?

One, Two, Three – JUMP

Changing jobs is tough.  Leaving the devil you know for a devil you don’t know has always been stressful.  In these uncertain times, most folks won’t jump unless pushed.  Whether you’ve been forced to job-hunt or do it (bravely) of your own accord, you want your job search to be as quick and foolproof as possible. You want it to result in a job offer for a position that you can prosper in for a long time.

For many folks in this employment market, changing jobs has morphed into changing careers.  Broadening the kinds of work you’re open to doing, identifying transferable skills to meet the demands of a changing marketplace, searching for a more satisfying way to earn a living all require more than just dusting off your old resume or vitae and mailing out a hundred copies.

They all start with a thorough assessment of what you have to offer that sets you apart from the competition.  If you’ve been sending out resumes and not getting any nibbles, try re-tracing your steps. Create an assessment of your unique qualifications.  It may feel like a difficult task if extended time out of work has lowered your morale, but all the more necessary because you need to rev up feel good about yourself before you can convince anyone else to have confidence in you. One way to start is to take a skills inventory.  Here are 2 free online examples:

http://readyaimhired.com/demo/chap3/exercise/ex3-2.html

http://www.stewartcoopercoon.com/jobsearch/freejobsearchtests.phtml

Another way that tends to build self esteem a little more is to write 5 stories about distinct experiences in your life where you felt a sense of achievement.  Spend 2-3 paragraphs describing step by step what you did.  Review each story and in the margin and identify the skills you think you used.  Sit down with 2 friends and ask them to listen to you read each story and ask them to list the skills they think you used.  Ask them to identify where in each story they heard each skill occurring.  Share with each other the skills each identified.  Write down the ones that they added to your list.  Read the skills over and try to take them to heart.

Once you’ve assembled a list of skills you feel good about, check it against your resume.  Does your resume highlight those skills you have deep experience in and want to use most in a new position?

Recently, I worked with several women with stellar skills and proven experience who had lost their jobs due to market forces.  They were so shell-shocked by the loss and their subsequent months of unemployment that they had no energy to market themselves –and it came through in their resumes!  Their resumes fairly shouted “I’m a lost soul.  I have no idea how to recover.  Rescue me.”

They needed to say “I know what I can do better than anybody.  Let me tell you what I can do for you and your business.”

That mindset, communicated clearly through your resume, networking contacts and in-person meetings, is irresistible to prospective employers and will give you the edge you need to be hired.

What’s been your experience in your job hunt?  Have you asked for or received any feedback to help you improve your pitch to employers?

The luxury of being myself

One of the benefits of working for myself has been realizing that I no longer have to socialize with people because they’re good for business.  I love being able to spend a whole afternoon catching up with someone I haven’t seen for years without positioning myself to “make the ask” or hit all the intelligence gathering marks I’ve strategically selected.  I’ve also stopped wondering if they’re there because they think I can bring business their way.   I love being back to basics;  networking and visiting feel integrated and genuine.  And sometimes there are natural, unforced connections that get made.  I feel more open to pure serendipity and it seems to happen more often because I’ve allowed time for it.  I’m surprised by the names that float into my mind unbidden.  People I’ve had dealings with in prior work settings, old friends I’ve allowed myself to drift away from, now seem important to contact and connect with in new ways.  Sometimes the “why’s” become clear immediately, sometimes the outreach feels good, but the connect is tenuous.  In the end, they’re all sources for reflection.  if you’ve been part of this exploration, thanks!  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. 

I’m learning this is what it feels like when I’m on the right path!

Why Staring at the Sky Isn’t Just for Wise Men

I’ve been staring at the sky a lot this month.  I think it’s because it’s been unseasonably warm, and I am usually way too cold when I’m outside in Dec. to amble and look up.  It’s not only the stars that inspire.  The cloud formations, the bluish light of the winter sun, the oversized pearly moon lurking above the horizon at 4 in the afternoon have all been sources of wonder this month.

Did you ever learn in music class to look up when you sang in order to amplify your voice?  I think looking up when I think elevates my thoughts.  Makes me rise above my petty little obsessions:

“why is the supermarket out of pine nuts?”

“when is that publisher going to get back to me?”

“did that waiter really call me M’am last night?  What’s the good of that wrinkle cream?”

When I look at the sky more, I obsess less.  I remember that these aren’t the live-or-die issues; that there a lot of us living under this sky who’d give a ransom to be concerned with the inavailability of pine nuts.  Or actually, they’d be singing hosannahs if pine nuts were their only worry.

I volunteer in a nonprofit that helps folks in our community avoid eviction and keep the power on.  We don’t have a lot of money, can’t do much more than that, can’t even do just that for everyone who asks.  Yesterday I worked with 2 women, equally worthy, equally desperate.  I was able to help one and not the other.  I took the applications and told each what was needed to push their request through.  One complied and was able to provide all the info I needed within the 90 minutes before my shift ended, the other couldn’t.  For at least the rest of this month, I know when I look at the sky, I’ll be wondering about the woman I couldn’t help; wondering if she still has shelter, wondering if she’s safe.  Praying that someone could help her when I couldn’t.

I’ve provided services to people in poverty on the behalf of non-profits and government agencies for about a third of my career.  I am both hardened and softened by the experience.  The hardened part allows me to cut through the complicated presentations of chaotic lives and find the match points for the help that’s available.  It allows me to summarize these stories so that whover needs to approve their benefits can say yes.  It also allows me to let go when we can’t help.  Usually.  Unless the softened part is saying “there but for fortune…” or “she sounds like my daughter” or “we’ve all made these mistakes and he’s really trying to set things right.”

It’s when the hardened and softened parts of me collide that I am reminded for the thousandth time how many crying needs the world has and how many roles are open.  I find myself looking at the sky a lot.  Feeling small and insignificant, searching for clues, as men always have, but also wondering how many others are staring at the sky.