Stop being a pushover! “I need to stop being such a pushover,” my coaching client said. I looked at the soft-spoken, whip-smart young woman in my office and sighed to myself. I think she’s crazy impressive, and I want her to see that in herself. “Tell me about a time you were a pushover,” I said. She described not challenging the talking heads in meetings, not correcting or contradicting her colleagues when their interpretation of the facts was slightly off. “Do you want to correct people,…
Apples to oranges Deciding between two job offers, each with lots of pros and cons, can be like comparing apples to oranges. Try plotting the different factors on a grid to help simplify the decision. Here’s an example that illustrates how to do this. A coaching client had a tough choice: two very, very different job offers and no gut sense of which one she wanted. One of the opportunities was at a large, renowned company. “It’d be a feather in my cap…
Write like a girl “Write like a girl,” I told my career coaching client. My client, a scientist with several years of postdoctoral research experience, was applying for a faculty position at a prestigious university. We were working through drafts of her cover letter. The first draft of her letter was good: well written, well organized, coherent and clear. But there was a tone. “Your letter reads very humble,” I told her as I marked up the document. “I think you have a lot…
What's your 2020 word? As 2019 comes to a close, have you decided on your Word of the Year for 2020? Instead of a New Year’s resolution (which is generally a setup for failure), I like to ask my career coaching clients to think about a single word that will guide the upcoming year. My 2019 word was “relax.” In 2018, it was “rest.” See? Much nicer than a New Year’s resolution to lose 20 pounds. For 2020, I choose “learn.” I stumbled across…
When to quit Quit or persevere? As a career coach, that’s one of the hardest questions I work on with my clients: Should they walk away from a difficult situation or grit it out? A coaching client called me, outrage in her voice. She had been passed over for a promotion. Another client described a belittling work environment, his shoulders slumping as he described losing confidence in his abilities. Stay or go? Walk away or double down? Business writer Seth Godin’s 2007 book, “The…
The wisdom of jealousy I was jealous of my son and it changed my life. That sounds worrying, but let me explain. As a career coach, I often ask my clients whom they’re jealous of. Jealousy can be a useful emotion: It can be a signpost pointing toward what you actually want, cutting through the noise of what you’ve been telling yourself — or what other people may be telling you — that you should want in your career. I like the emotional honesty of the…
Don't wing it Jack Reacher has some good career advice. He’s the formidable, former military police investigator who wanders around causing — and solving — all kinds of trouble in a reassuringly formulaic fiction series by Lee Child. In the latest book, “Blue Moon,” Reacher starts a turf war between rival gangs, among other plot complexities. “Suppose what you learn is that it’s hopeless?” a friend asks Reacher. “Not an acceptable outcome. Can only be a failure of planning,” says Reacher. That’s more or…
Where's your old mojo? A coaching client wanted to talk about confidence. A senior vice president, she wonders where the younger, tougher version of herself has gone. “I used to be so badass,” she told me. “I need to regain my confidence.” This is a common theme in my office: accomplished middle-aged professionals talking about an ebbing of confidence. And in the funny way of things, I was driving home after meeting with this particular client and heard singer-songwriter Liz Phair interviewed on the radio.…
The worry list A coaching client walked into my office and started down a rabbit hole of worries. He had just been promoted to a vice president role at a large company and was a little, well, freaked out. “Hang on,” I interrupted, overwhelmed myself by his stress and worry. “You keep a worry list, right?” He looked at me quizzically. “You need to write down everything that’s on your mind, always, consistently, so you brain doesn’t have to try to keep track…
Words matter “Words matter,” I tell my career coaching clients. Case in point: the networking conversation. Ideally, you want to transform that nice, friendly chat into a career opportunity. “You need two things from the person you’re networking with,” I tell my clients. “You need ideas, and you need introductions to people you don’t know.” (I wrote about stumbling onto ideas in last week’s column.) How you ask for those introductions could make a difference in your career/job transition. Imagine you’re in the middle…
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