Sweats to Suits Your transition from campus to the workplace


When I GROW Up

I had started writing this blog entry yesterday by expressing my true feelings about the textbook we are using in my coaching class.  My husband happened to notice original paragraph number one and astutely advised me to avoid publishing said paragraph for two reasons – 1.) The author happens to be from the U.K. (where I hope to live and work someday) and 2.) his name is preceded by “Sir” thus making him critically important on the other side of the pond.  In spite of my skepticism about the parallels he tries to draw between athletics and business, he introduces a particularly useful framework to approach a coaching assignment called the GROW model (Goals, Reality, Options, and Will).  Our instructor even gave us a handy little card to keep it top of mind.  Try it out the next time a friend, family member, colleague, or client asks you for advice or guidance.  I hope you find it helpful!

   What are your GOALS?

The first step is to help the client (I’m using this this term loosely) identify his or her short and long-term goals.  For sake of time in class, we usually encourage the client to think of one goal he or she needs targeted and focused assistance with achieving and we set realistic expectations around what is feasible to accomplish in the time provided.  I like to ask the question, “Holding everything else constant, what would the ideal future scenario look like once you’ve achieved this goal?” Hypothetically, let’s say that the client decided her goal was to transition out of a role in event coordination to a role in creative marketing.  She might describe her desired future state as one in which she is responsible for designing the social media strategy for a cutting edge organization.

    What is the REALITY?

Next, it’s important to get a sense of where the client is currently with regard to the progress he or she has already made toward achieving the goal.  As her coach I would need to know what tangible action steps she has already taken to move herself in the direction of a marketing opportunity – and what her skills and qualifications are.  I would ask probing questions like “how has your education prepared you to take on a role like this?” and “What informal and formal training have you already had in your previous experience related to social networking?” and perhaps “Could you describe your existing network of contacts who either work in this capacity now or can connect you to others who do?” Notice how all were open-ended questions to get the client thinking about where she is now and to start to think about where to go next.  This is also the time to intervene if the client needs a serious reality check.  For instance, if my client told me she didn’t know what Twitter was, I would ask her for permission to share some specific advice – namely that she might want to consider another vocational direction or get up to speed on social media in a hurry.

   What are your OPTIONS?

One of the primary objectives of coaching is to help the client understand that he or she has the answers within him or herself.  The coach should be the enabler – helping the client to uncover numerous possible options/next steps he or she could consider with regard to achieving their goal.  The text advised us to let the client brainstorm as many options as possible (probing when necessary) and when he or she has provided the “last” option, the coach should ask the client to think of one more.  Twice, during my coaching sessions in class – this new option turned out to be the best (and most realistic) option for my classmate.  In the case with my hypothetical client, she might offer options including: joining relevant professional associations, pursuing a Marketing certification, and researching related opportunities at her current organization.

   What WILL you do?

In this stage, the client should choose the best and most realistic options and commit to action, i.e. what WILL they do?  Each action item should be structured like a S.M.A.R.T. goal (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-sensitive) – the same goes for the actual goal itself.  The client should also identify any obstacles that could stand in the way and any resources he or she might need, as this could lead to a better defined goal and new action items.  As with the students I see, I would ask this client what she thought she could realistically commit to before we meet again, and she might say, “return next week with a list of at least five local professional marketing organizations/on-line social networking communities and ten job postings for social media roles.”  These action items meet the S.M.A.R.T. objective and they get her in both a networking and job search mindset.  Before the conversation concludes it is important to provide a recap of the discussion, action items, and any follow-up required on the part of the coach or client.


Does this work? you may be asking.  Well, it worked splendidly in class, but not so well when I tried to coach a friend who called me for advice this week.  We got to the option stage and I flat out said, “friend, I was trying to be a good coach by asking you good probing questions, but now I have to intervene.  Do you really think [insert client option] is a good idea? I made three mistakes according to what I’ve learned in class and from our readings, a.) I asked a closed question with a Yes/No response b.) I expressed judgment, which contradicts the perspective that the coach should “hold the coachee as naturally creative, resourceful, and whole” (kumbaya, I know), and c.) I veered us away from her coaching agenda.  When coaching, it’s all about the client and not about the coach – not something easy for a talker like me!  Moral of the Story: Keep trying…as with anything else, practice makes you better.



Coaching for Performance, GROWing Human Potential and Purpose , John Whitmore

Performance Consultants International - The GROW Model





People Who Need People

Blog Post #8: People Who Need People

For those of you who are show tune savvy, I’m sure you imagined that it would not be long before Barbra Streisand made her way into a blog entry title.  People who Need People is a track from Funny Girl, a musical about an actress named Fanny Brice who falls hard and engages in a codependent relationship with a handsome gambler.  I must admit that I never actually saw the musical and only excerpts from the movie, but the song title stuck with me and immediately came to mind during an event I attended this week.  For purposes of the blog, perhaps we can all agree to focus on attributing a positive meaning to the last two lines of the song’s refrain, “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”

Some of you may have seen my LinkedIn or Twitter posts about the Women for Hire Career Fair and Networking event (http://www.womenforhire.com/career_expos/spring_2010/dallas) that took place in Dallas this past Tuesday.  Women for Hire is an organization (but perhaps empire would be more appropriate) founded by women empowerment expert, Tory Johnson (http://www.womenforhire.com/).  The event mostly catered to women looking for re-enter the workforce after having been out of it for a while, but also attracted an audience of women looking to reinvent themselves.  I was out of Sweats to Suits business cards in the first 20 minutes!  The People Who Need People theme entered my mind a number of times during the speaking engagements I attended, but most prominently before the event even started when my new friend and entrepreneurial inspiration, Jasmin Brand, invited me to the event AND provided me with free VIP access to Tory’s speech, i.e. I did not have to pay the $20 for Starbucks nor pre-register via the website.

My most favorite part of the day occurred when I serendipitously sat down next to Jasmine’s sister for Jasmin’s spiel on utilizing social media to make the most of your job search.  Upon introducing myself, she said, “oh girl, we love you and we need to have a party to watch Working Girl.” We became fast friends as well!  I should also share that additional positives coming out of the event were that I was able to get myself on a list to speak or serve as a resume reviewer for next fall’s event AND…Tory Johnson (HERSELF!) replied to an email that I sent to her organization requesting information on her retreats for small business owners.  I’m not sure that I’m her target audience, but I certainly hope she keeps my name on her radar!

At this point, I’d like to share most of the pearls of wisdom I gleaned from Tory and Jasmin’s wise words. This is a LONG entry, but I was hesitant to be too particular about what I share given that I have a mixed audience of readers.  I hope you find some of these thoughts useful regardless of where you are in your own career path (and that you’ll forgive me for using recycled material rather than Joy original work!).

Highlights from Tory Johnson’s Key Note Address

  • The bitterness of your unemployment situation can keep you from succeeding in your search.  Embrace the reality and use it to move in a new direction by starting with a blank slate.
  • Treat your job search process with the same degree of precision as you would if you were ordering food in a nice restaurant, e.g. you would not just ask the server to bring you any food and therefore you should not just accept any job because it is gainful employment.
  • Think back on your experiences (work, personal, etc.) to try to get a sense of when you felt most happy and passionate about what you were doing and use that to drive your job search.
  • Author Daniel Pink encourages his followers to ask themselves two questions.  He shares that if you want to find your true motivation you should first ask yourself, “What’s my sentence?” He goes on to say that you should think about your sentence and use it to navigate your life.  The second question to ask yourself is, “Was I better today than yesterday?” suggesting that incremental progress contributes to improvement over time.  Check out this video on Daniel’s website to see where the inspiration for these questions originated: http://www.danpink.com/archives/2010/01/2questionsvideo.  Tory suggests focusing on what you can build on and on what you can learn from the mistakes you made from the previous day to be better the next day.  By the way…Tory’s sentence is related to women’s career empowerment.  I am still working on mine J
  • When embarking on your job search you should pack your schedule full of activity and work toward specific, deliberate goals so as not to lose yourself in errands and other competing priorities.
  • Most people use the internet to search for jobs, but they take the “spraying and praying approach”, meaning that they simply post their resumes for jobs of interest and wait (and pray) for a call from a hiring manager.  Job seekers should allocate 40% of their time to internet, but to spend the vast majority of that time utilizing social media rather than relying solely on job search engines. Internet job searching and posting gives us a false sense of security because we can quantify what we’ve done.
  • Use the company profiles on Facebook and Twitter to conduct organization research and to source potential contacts.  Check out Tory’s tutorials on utilizing Twitter and LinkedIn for your job search: http://abcnews.go.com/gma/jobclub.
  • Connecting with like-minded people via social media can help you get your foot in the door.  Check to see if the companies you’re interested in have a Twitter following.  Find people talking about what you’re interested in and share ideas, tactics, and advice from your experience.  Start building your brand and your on-line presence if you haven’t done so already.  Reconnect with old friends and colleagues via LinkedIn to broaden your network and then make a list of people you should connect with based on the direction of your job search.
  • Join a local job club to garner support from others in a similar vocational mindset.  Check out this story on the Collin County (north of Dallas) job club: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/JobClub/story?id=6150326.  You need support and comradery when circumnavigating the job search.  The AA and Weight Watchers nature of these clubs can provide much needed motivation.  As an aside, this topic provided additional inspiration for the People Who Need People blog entry title.  I am thinking about leading a job club in the Dallas area.  I just hope it’s not required to be weird and quirkly like every other Weight Watchers leader I’ve ever met.
  • Temporary jobs are the #1 source of new work in today’s job market.  Temporary employment is great for filling a gap in your resume and earning an income while searching for a job. It should be a part of your strategy while seeking permanent employment.
  • Volunteer strategically and join associations related to your industry or field of interest
  • Temporary employment, strategic volunteering, and involvement in related associations allow you to position yourself as someone in control of his/her job search and it allow you to focus potentially uncomfortable conversations around what you are “doing” rather than just speaking to the fact that you are looking for a job.
  • If you are not a natural networker, strongly encourage yourself to introduce yourself to three people at the next networking event you attend (and they should not be part of the staff or crew).  Many women find it challenging to sell themselves and to self-promote, but it does get easier with practice.
  • It is hard for women to ask for something and much more likely for us to give.  The moment will never be perfect, so ask when the moment is “good enough”.  Most people (women especially) like to help others.  Keep this in mind when you have reservations about asking for guidance and support.
  • If you are “overqualified” be prepared to respond and to probe into why the hiring manager may be concerned.  Be ready to share experience you have working for people younger than you and address experience you have which highlights your sense of loyalty.  Anticipate, rehearse, play devil’s advocate, but DO NOT ignore the fact that you could be perceived as overqualified.
  • Train yourself to become a strong negotiator.  Check out the statistics and advice from the authors of “Women Don’t Ask”, Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever, on this website: http://www.womendontask.com/stats.html

Highlights from Jasmin Brand’s Seminar: How to Make Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook Work for You in Your Job Search

  • Check out these social media stats:
    • 400 million people are on Facebook each day
    • 60 million people are registered on LinkedIn
    • 18 million people access Twitter at least once a month and most companies have a Twitter feed as well
  • Social Media Action Items
    • Best Practices by Social Media Site
      • Twitter:
        • Use the search function in Twitter to identify jobs, news, and associations relevant to your job search.
        • Visit www.search.twitter.com for industry specific key words and phrases.
        • Add people and companies of interest to your following then tweet away (no more than 140 characters at a time).
        • Set your email preferences so that you are notified when someone is following you or replying to one of your posts.
        • Update your status to let people know you’re looking for work.

        • Linked In (I added a few of my own here):
          • Complete your full profile, which is made incrementally easier if you upload your resume to the site.
          • Build your network – start with 10-15 people you know well and then “invite others to the party”.
          • Hiring managers use LinkedIn to search for candidates and to get a preview of their background.  Ask for recommendations and offer to recommend others with whom you have worked.
          • Use the search function to learn about companies and the employees within them.
          • If you are eventually selected for an interview, search for your interviewers’ profile(s) to help prepare specific questions you can ask when you meet in person or over the phone.
          • Join as many relevant LinkedIn groups as you possibly can to broaden your network of connections.
          • Don’t be afraid to connect to people you haven’t spoken to in years.  LinkedIn can bridge long gaps in contact without the awkwardness of making a re-introduction.
          • Add your LinkedIn site to your email signature.  It is the last line in the blue box of important information called Public Profile within your profile screen.
          • Facebook
            • It is better to use Facebook strictly for business or strictly for social purposes (i.e. make the tough choice if you are on the job market).  If you must keep your social profile, adjust your privacy settings.
            • Limit your posted photos and consider asking friends not to post photos of you without your permission.
            • Be selective about accepting friend requests.
            • Add Facebook Marketplace to your list of search engines for job-seeking: http://apps.facebook.com/marketplace/
            • Post an ad for yourself to increase your chances of getting noticed.

Brief Career Blunder for this Week: “There’s No Crying in Job Hunting”

Several years ago, I attended an all-university career fair at one of the campuses where I recruited students.  At one point during the fair, I was approached by a woman who introduced herself and shared her entire life story, concluding by telling me about the completely unrelated Masters degree she was in the process of earning.  Mind you, this happened before I moved to Texas and before I absorbed some of my husband’s excellent active listening skills (e.g. before I developed the mental fortitude to listen to anyone for long periods of time), so my patience was growing very thin at this point.  I finally was able to interrupt her to explain that her degree and experience were in no way related to the type of positions we were recruiting for.  Even though I tried to be as polite (yet direct) as possible, my words somehow triggered an eruption of emotion and a waterfall of tears came streaming down her face.  I don’t think I realized it then, but perhaps this was what started me down the path of career counseling.  I took this woman (who was easily twice my age, by the way) aside and tried to advise her as best as a 23-year-old with limited work experience could and then I sent her on her way.  I’d like to think that she is now working in a tranquil environment like a nature preserve or ashram.

Moral of the Story:

Job hunting can be a challenging and emotional process.  Keeping a positive attitude and finding healthy ways to relieve stress during this time are absolutely critical to maintaining one’s mental sanity.  Exercise, pleasure reading, and spending social time with others can help give your mind a break from the mentally taxing act of looking for a job.  Perhaps most importantly, however, you need to find a strong support network so that when rejection happens (and it will) you will be prepared and can address it head on instead of experiencing an avalanche of emotion akin to Old Faithful.