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.

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:

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?



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!

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!

I was at a dinn…


I was at a dinner party with some boomer friends this weekend and we got to talking about returning veterans and their needs. I had heard a great segment on Dan Rodricks’ show (WYPR) ( Thurs  11/10/11 6th Branch) about a local Baltimore nonprofit called “the 6th Branch.” They help local veterans regain a sense of leadership and community by involving them in community projects –problems being solved with a team of other veterans. These projects give the vets a mission as they reintegrate into civilian life and start to create the relationships and networks they need to find community, jobs and friendships. One of the panelists was a psychologist who works with vets with PTSD and he confirmed the importance of finding a sense of purpose in recovery from their combat experience.
There was a silence at the table, before one of my dinner companions reflected “we all need a sense of purpose.”

Many of us close-to-retirement or recently retired folks are grappling with this “what will I do when i grow up” question. Some of us fear leaving our jobs, because we fear losing our purpose. Others of us rush out into the Oz of retirement and then feel a twinge of loss for the roles we played.
For younger folks, raising families, striving for advancement, purpose is defined by career or family. As our family responsibilities lighten and we leave our jobs, we’re free to define our purpose. How have you defined yours? What are the stumbling blocks that get in your way?

Finding Your Niche -Part 2

4.  Identify workplaces where your dream job might exist

Hopefully, you’ve started talking to people about what you dream of doing.   If so, you’ve figured out that they work in a variety of settings  and what you want to do is done in a variety of settings–maybe in government, nonprofits, small businesses, educational institutions.  Hopefully, your interviews have given you the flavor of how the job might be different, depending on the setting.  Although some settings may appeal more than others, based on what you’ve learned from your interviews, try to withhold judgement for now and get a sense of pro’s and cons’s of each setting.  You may be saying “I already know the two places in my area where I want to work,” and you may be absolutely on-target, but in this job market, and as someone who is shifting into a new career path, you may want to know not just the most hotly contested job arenas, but also the smaller, related arenas where you might have an easier time getting your foot in the door.

Action:  Here’s where you get to do some research.  You can start with the Occupational Outlook Handbook:     This will give you a national perspective on the growth in jobs in your interest area as well as some suggestions on where these jobs exist.  Next, you can look up those settings in your geographic area.   As you search websites, look at mission statements, annual reports, strategic objectives. Make files for youself of this kind of background information.  Next, look at organizational charts and find the names and contact information of the folks heading up the departments in which your dream job could exist.  Add this to your files.  Review this information for each organization and ask yourself,  what you might have to contribute.  What problem can your unique experience help them solve?  Write down those ideas as well.  Prioritize the places that most appeal to you and where you have a rock-solid idea of where you fit and what you offer.

5.  Network, network, network

This is where you ask everyone you know who they know.  You’re now looking for links to people in your prioritized organizations and to people in the specific organizational units where you’d like to work.   If your network leads to the executives there, great Hold that information for step 7.  If it leads to others within the organization, that’s your starting place.  What’s important is knowing who is who!  You want to be sure you understand what the organization needs to move forward so that you can demonstrate how you can meet that need. Most importantly, You want to establish rapport and try to start a relationship with someone within each organization.

Action:  Use your contacts as referrals to set up a round of informational interviews.   Ask for no more than 20 minutes and keep to that timeframe.   This time your questions should be specific to the organization.  You use this information to clarify what you learned in your web research, especially about goals, objectives and obstacles.    Try to identify an interest of your interviewee that gives you an excuse to follow up periodically–an article on team-building if they mentioned a challenging team situation or a website on ski conditions if that is an avocation of theirs.Be sure to send a thank you note to each interviewee immediately after each meeting.

6.  Identify a problem you can help the employer solve

This can be a double edged sword, so craft it carefully!  You need to demonstrate how your experience makes you the perfect person to help the organization move forward without coming across as a know-it-all who is insensitive to this unique organization’s needs and culture.  Especially if you are an older worker, you need to be sure you don’t feed the stereotype of some employers that you are vested in last decade’s solutions!

Action:  What you’re really selling is your experience with a wide range of approaches to a particular problem.  You need to craft 3-6 talking points that cover the following aspects:  State clearly the problem the organization is trying to address.  If you’re unsure, ask a question that helps clarify the issue from the organization’s perspective.   Next, describe briefly but specifically how your  experience with other organizations gives you a “20-thousand-foot perspective” which offers fresh strategies to the experts within the organization.    You should also be ready to describe your ability to follow through masterfully once the best approach is selected.

7.  Find out who has the power to hire you and talk to them

Use the rapport and relationship you’ve set up to leverage the next meeting with the person who could hire you.  A recommendation from staff or someone in your network can give you a real advantage over someone cold-calling the organization!!  Although it’s a scary prospect, in reality, it should be less scary than a job interview–you’ve skirted the competition by coming to the organization with your unique talent and the service you can provide before anyone else has been interviewed.  Maybe even before a job description has been written.  There are no set interview questions to respond to.  You have the opportunity to set the agenda for the meeting.  If you’re prepared, this is a wonderful opportunity to highlight your abilities.

Action:  Do some more research on the interests and responsibilities of the person you’re going to meet.  Review  what you want to say with your contact.  Remember, it’s in their interest for you to come across well!  Listen to their feedback about tone– formal/informal, key phrases, buzzwords, any hot issues you should avoid.  Tailor your resume to the job you’re shooting for.  Consider bringing an electronic or paper portfolio that demonstrates your past experience visually.

During your interview, although you have your talking points prepared, give your prospective employer time to speak (aim for 50-50 like a real conversation).  Note the terms that he/she uses and include them in your response. Try to listen for where his/her interest lies. Focus your comments there, even if it takes you off-script.

After you’ve made your most important points, you need to be prepared to say why you want to be a part of this specific organization.  Lastly, you must ask to be hired.  Crazy, huh?  Just something simple like, “Given all we’ve discussed today, can you offer me this position?”  Be prepared to wait for a response.  Ask when you can follow up. Send a thank-you note!

Getting to the Next Chapter —

Turning Down the Heat

It’s funny how fine-tuning the smallest routines in my new life brings insights. Maybe you’ve discovered this too? After several months of re-patterning when and where I pray and journal in the mornings, I’ve figured out I prefer the kitchen (until it’s warm enough to return to the porch). I harbor an image of making my French-press coffee and then praying and journaling with a hot cup of joe steaming next to me. But here’s the reality. When I’m really praying and journaling with focus, the coffee sits untouched and gets cold. Can’t deal with my first cup of the day being reheated! The morning escapes entirely when I don’t even start the coffee until I finish my morning pages, but if I start the water when I sit down to pray, the whistling kettle distracts me. I know how dumb this will sound to many of you smart people but I just figured out my stove will boil water even if I don’t set it on HIGH. It can take 30 minutes to boil water if I set it on low! Who knew?
Speed has always been the looming directive in my life—and productivity matters, especially now when I’m bombarded by messages about entertaining myself and being self-indulgent because I’ve earned it. Resisting these “raisons d’etre” in favor of shaping a new and meaningful career for myself has made me crabby and impatient. Holding onto rigid ideas about time and timing closes me off from the things that can make this new life richer and more satisfying.
Two ideas that converged with my singing kettle today are: reaching out to one or two people each day via phone or e-mail is the antidote to the isolation of working at home. Connections are part of the life I haven’t had enough time for—what am I doing researching and writing at the computer 6 hours a day—and no wonder I have to force myself to do it!! I read an interview with Steve Martin, whose new book was recently released. He mentioned that after 2-3 hours of writing a day, he needs to get out. Wow. It reminded me that Colleen Mc Cullough wrote Thorn Birds in short sessions before she went to work each day. How did I forget that?
What both of these bring me back to is boiling water slowly. Rather than re-create the fast, pressurized environment of my last careers, maybe I can create a work environment that allows time for friends, family and fruitful products. Turning down the heat may be an important concept to apply to more than coffee.
What little changes have you made that reflect bigger insights in your new life?
Have you found specific ways to turn down the heat or let water boil slowly?

Sandwich, anyone?

Just came back from visiting my grandbabies who live way too far away.  They’re 1 year old twins now and I get to see them about 4-5 times a year.  While I always stay for about a week, it takes 4-5 days for them to warm up to me enough that we can really play and snuggle.  Holding their hands for patty-cake was a biggy this visit.   I understand but it’s still hard.  Our daughter would love us to be closer.  While at times that sounds great to me, most of the time, I know we each need our friends, our activities, our communities and they happen to be 1000 miles apart.

We visited with my local daughter and her husband over the weekend.  She lives an hour away and I probably see her once a month.  I try to be considerate of them, and not demand a lot of their time.  When we were young, our folks were all nearby but we yearned for time with our friends; our parents were obligations, to an extent, even though we had good relationships with them.  Time is tight when you’re 26!

So we each make our way, and try to make our time together happy and rich and emphasize as we did when we were raising them that it’s quality, not quantity that matters.

We bobble along this way  until we can see over the horizon.  My dad is 92 and we’re moving him from his home in FL to a senior community in MD to be closer to us.  He and my stepmom moved there 30 years ago, intent upon living their lives with their friends, in their communitiy focusing on the activities and lifestyle Florida could offer them.  We saw each other once or twice a year.  The kids grew up knowing that Christmas vacation always began with 2 days in the car.  We made memories when we visited.  We talked late into the night.  We also suffered through a lot of Vaughn Monroe records.  It was quality not quantity of time that mattered.

Now he’s alone and I really want Dad back.  His friends have died or moved away.  He has fewer outside interests.  He’s amenable to being here instead of there and  I’m regretting that it’s taken so long to convince him to come.  Now the emphasis is on quantity of time.  Looking back, I realize it all has quality!

How does this track with career transition?  I think relationships hold a bigger place in our heads and hearts as we get older.  So we balance the scales differently than we did when we were younger and the weight of many decisions fell on the side of career advancement. I’ve always read that being the sandwich generation meant being pulled in too many directions, maybe the sides of the sandwich are the buffers that prevent me from taking the inevitable ups and downs of career change too seriously.  Maybe they give me a perspective I wouldn’t have if I only interacted with other seasoned professionals like myself.   I need to remember I was transitioning out of  chaos and busyness that I disliked.  I need to hold onto the value of patty-cake and listening to Vaughn Monroe along the way.