Category: Career Advice


How to Be Realistic About Networking (Re-Post)

Networking is a necessary part of the career development process. It helps you discover opportunities you never knew existed.

This could include a career that is just the thing that fits nicely with your passions and strengths.

Or it could include opportunities in a field you’re already passionate about.

But most importantly, it helps you build long-lasting professional relationships.


Since 80% of the workforce found their opportunities (whether working for someone else or for themselves) through networking, it makes sense to spend 80% of your career development and job search on networking.

But before you dive into networking, you need to check your expectations about networking, and make sure they’re realistic.


Unrealistic Networking Expectations

When I used to work as a college career adviser at a local university, I had several students wanting to go into the music industry. While most of those students understood the need to network, some would put it off until graduation.

This was a huge mistake!

Especially since going into the music industry where getting to know the insiders is more challenging than in other industries.


I know this from personal experience when I used to do image consulting for recording artists. It took me three times longer to develop my network with music industry professionals than it did in my previous industry. In fact, it took about three years before people started saying, “Oh, yeah, I know you!”

If one of my seniors getting ready to graduate had waited until graduation to begin his or her networking efforts, he or she was about three years behind the competition who started their networking efforts their sophomore year.

Those who had already been fostering professional relationships were more likely to land a job upon graduation.


Even if your own chosen industry takes less time to get to know the insiders, it’s true the sooner you start developing relationships with appropriate contacts, the sooner you’ll see the fruits of your labor.

In other words, expecting it to happen overnight is unrealistic.


Realistic Networking Expectations

That’s also not to say it can’t happen quickly. I have two examples of each scenario from my own career.

First, I met the vice president of a Nashville-based company while attending an event downtown at the Entrepreneur Center. After an exchange of business cards and one brief conversation, he hired me a month later to do some contract work for him.

And I’ve been working with him for several years now. I didn’t expect this to happen so quickly. It just did.


This same gentleman introduced me to a wonderful small group of local business owners at the same time he had introduced another woman to the same group.

For two and a half years I got to know these business owners in a very close-knit way, including the other woman introduced to the group. In that time we shared our celebrations and concerns on a weekly basis.

After getting to know each other for two and a half years on such a level, she also hired me to do some contract work for her business.

Again, I didn’t expect this to happen, but with time, it did.


The “Organic” Approach

In both situations, I never asked them if they had a job for me.

Instead, after taking the time to establish a rapport with them, they approached me with the opportunity to work with them.

I never entered either relationship with the expectation of getting something from them.

This is what I call the “organic approach” to networking.

Anything that’s forced feels creepy!

In fact, one time there was a guy who was starting his own business doing similar work to my own. He called me to introduce himself to me and actually said,

“I’m calling to network with you.”

Eeww! That was an immediate turn-off and I chose not to engage in his approach.


The best approach to realistic networking is an organic one. It looks like this:

  • Be genuinely curious about other people. Ask them about their own career path and passions (without using the phrase “Can I pick your brain?“).
  • Listen to what they say! Don’t be the one dominating the conversation.
  • Share with them things they’ll find helpful or interesting based on what they’ve told you about themselves.
  • Lower your expectations of what they can do for you and raise your standards of how you can benefit them.

Start now. And be realistic!


7 Best Books That Will Make a Huge Impact on Your Life and Career

Last year I shared a post describing five books that will make a huge impact on your life and career. This year I want to share my latest reads guaranteed to also have a huge impact on your life and career.

I’ve read a lot books this past year. But, in an effort to save you some time, I’m only highlighting my top five (with a couple of honorable mentions) that provide tangible take-aways. These take-aways are guaranteed to produce results when you apply them to your life and career.

I’ve personally applied many of the principles from these books. And I’ve either seen immediate results, or the beginning growth of those sown seeds.

Top 5 Best Books

1. Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money by Pat Flynn

I have several clients considering starting their own business. This is a great book for them or anyone else thinking of starting their own business or side hustle. It guides readers through several litmus tests to help determine if their business idea is viable, prior to diving in with a huge time or money investment.

The first half of the book is very similar to my program on personal branding. The author Pat Flynn (who’s known for teaching people how to create passive income streams) spends a big chunk of the book discussing the importance of having a personal mission statement and personal brand prior to starting any kind of business idea. It truly is the first step to starting anything new in your life or career.

Biggest take-away:

“Make sure you’re running to something instead of away from something.”

This is so true. I see many people who come to me wanting to start their own business for the sheer desire of leaving their current job.

Will It Fly? helps you determine both the right reasons and the wrong reasons for starting your own business. Because it is so important to know these reasons, I did an entire group coaching call on this very topic with this book as the basis for the discussion.

Related Blog Post:

2. The Rise of the Youpreneur: The Definitive Guide to Becoming the Go-To Leader in Your Industry and Building a Future-Proof Business by Chris Ducker

I read The Rise of the Youpreneur on the heels of Will It Fly? It’s a good follow-up after you’ve done all the exercises from Will It Fly? and determined which of your business ideas are most viable and best support your personal mission.

Like Flynn’s book, The Rise of the Youpreneur is chock-full of exercises and online resources to help you get your business off the ground.

Biggest Take-Away

While I’ve been doing a lot of what Ducker recommends to become a successful brand in my own coaching business, I hadn’t been doing all of it because it just seemed so overwhelming. Drucker’s book helped me to organize and prioritize all those things into manageable phases and steps.

I’m currently working through those phases to improve what I’ve been doing and to add in what I haven’t been doing.

Related Blog Posts:

3. Breaking Money Silence: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly About Finances, and Live a Richer Life by Kathleen Burns Kingsbury

I got a copy of Breaking Money Silence from the author when I heard her speak here in Nashville. It is BY FAR the best book on finances I’ve ever read.

Kingsbury delves into the emotional side of money. She talks about the various mindsets people have about money, explaining why money often creates unnecessary conflict between people. It dispels myths both men and women have about money. And it reveals the hidden costs of staying quiet about an often uncomfortable topic.

What I love most about it is it provides tangible ways to have uncomfortable but necessary conversations about money between couples, children and aging parents, siblings, and more. It also helps readers see their worth and the importance of negotiating a fair salary with their employer, something I often teach my clients how to do.

Not only is this a great book for anyone who feels insecure about their knowledge of finances (or thinks they already know everything about finances), it’s also recommended for financial advisers so they can learn how to address the emotional side of money when working with their clients. There are exercises at the end of each chapter for both the interested reader and their financial advisers.

Breaking Money Silence is also a nice prerequisite to one of my honorable mentions listed below, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover.

Of all the books on this list, this is the one I’d buy a copy for everyone if I could. I plan to keep my copy because I know I’ll refer back to it every time I need to.

Biggest Take-Aways

There are too many take-aways from this book to list here, but the big ones for me were:

  • Understanding my own personal money mindsets and where those came from.
  • How to broach difficult but necessary conversations about money.
  • How to best prevent or handle potential financial conflicts in the future, especially if I ever get married.
Related Blog Posts:

4. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller and his wife Kathy Keller

Speaking of marriage, I chose a book on marriage to include on this list, even though I’m not married. I initially read The Meaning of Marriage because it’s also a good read for singles. Plus, I’m always trying to best prepare myself for whatever God has in store for my future.

Keller, who is the founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, discusses the importance of purpose and vision in a marriage. Purpose is obviously important in helping my clients discover work they can be passionate about, so this concept of purpose in marriage really piqued my interest.

Biggest Take-Away:

A Christ-centered marriage can’t be merely about itself. It must be about something else, something both partners are committed to and passionate about besides one another.

A marriage based on attraction alone does not provide a common vision. Physical attraction and financial goals will bring unity for only a while. But such goals don’t create deep oneness, because eventually you reach those superficial goals (or you don’t), and then what? What is your marriage for? Where are you going?

Related Blog Posts:

5. Your God Is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control by Mark Buchanan

Last but certainly not least is Your God is Too Safe. The very first words of this book in the introduction are:

“I’m stuck.”

This is a phrase most clients say to me when they first reach out to me. Many of them feel stuck in their life or career. My job is to get them unstuck by helping them discover and pursue their passions.

But it’s also common to get and feel stuck spiritually. Buchanan’s book addresses this feeling of being stuck spiritually and how to move to new levels of spiritual passion.

He sets out to diagnose why Christians get stuck in their faith and are unable to see God at work in their lives. He calls this “living in borderland” – the barren but crowded place between a Christian’s old life and their adventurous and abundant new life. It’s a place where doubt, disappointment, guilt, and wonderlessness can keep us in mediocrity.

Then Buchanan shares how to move beyond borderland to a place of excitement, boldness, and exhilaration by not putting our own limitations on God and allowing Him to do beyond all we can imagine for our lives.

Biggest Take-Away

“Christianity without a deep longing for Christ in your heart is no Christianity at all, just a cheap imitation of the real thing.”

This quote actually comes from another reader who reviewed Your God is Too Safe. I believe it’s very well-said.

While as humans we all want to remain safe and feel secure in our own comfort zone, this book reminds us that’s not what real Christianity is. It’s not what we’re called to as Christians. We’re called to live boldly in Christ’s name, even when it’s uncomfortable. Not to do so is to live an inauthentic life and to miss out on all God has planned for us.

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Honorable Mentions

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover is an oldie but goodie in overcoming debt and finding financial peace. It’s a good follow up to Breaking Money Silence mentioned above.

While I don’t listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, I did enjoy this book. I’ve been following the steps in it which has resulted in significant head-way in my finances this past year.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins

Another great read for those who need help understanding their worth. While this book is geared toward artists, the principles can be applied to anyone who’s working for themselves selling a product or service (their version of “art”).

Real Artists Don’t Starve doesn’t provide a step-by-step approach to setting your rates, but it does give you the confidence to ask for what you’re particular “art” is worth and gives you a sense of your art’s value to the world.

Many of the creative types here in Nashville will really appreciate what Goins has to say!

What I’m Reading Next

Right now I’m in the middle of reading two books:

I’m really enjoying Secrets of Six-Figure Women because it turns out it’s not just about money. And the strategies for career success can be applied to both genders.

I have several more books on hold at the library, and several I purchased during the Southern Book Festival here in Nashville.

So I have a long reading list and look forward to sharing another post next year about my best reads. Stay tuned!

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Why “Keep It Simple, Stupid” Is the Best Career Advice

You may remember my blog post on the lesson of mindfulness. It was a lesson I learned when I went to the new Adventure Park Nashville ropes course.

It was all about how important it is to focus on the moment instead of always thinking and planning ahead (something I’m guilty of).

Well, when I returned to the ropes course and took a friend with me, it was obvious there was another lesson I needed to share with my readers.

This one is based on the old adage,

“KISS: keep it simple, stupid.”

Keep It Simple, Stupid

This time around I did some courses that were higher off the ground and more challenging. But what I noticed is not every element was as challenging as they first appeared.

While applying the previous lesson of focusing on only one bridge element at a time, I’d arrive at a new element and would study its configuration to figure out the best way to maneuver across it.

Upon first glance, most of them looked very complicated.

But instead of thinking too much about how to get across, I would just take the first step onto the element.

Once I did, it suddenly became clear that what looked like a real obstacle requiring a lot of thought and energy to maneuver was really very simple to get around.

We as a society, myself and my clients included, often overthink things when instead we should keep it simple.

Start by Starting

I see this especially in my clients who are thinking about changing careers or starting their own business.

They view the challenge in front of them and immediately start asking a bazillion questions about how they should start.

My response:

“You start by starting.”

I usually get a funny look from them as soon as it comes out of my mouth.

I explain to them it doesn’t matter how or where you start, as long as you take one step to start. There is no certain order you have to follow.

For someone looking to start their own business, it could be something as simple as securing a domain for your future business’s web site for less than $10.

Or it could be first reading Pat Flynn’s book Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money.

For someone looking for a new job it could be as simple of a step as updating your LinkedIn profile.

Or it could be reaching out to one person in your network.

One Step at a Time

When a client asks,

“How do I make this big change?”

It’s just like the phrase of advice on how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time!

Of course the idea of changing careers or starting a business seems very overwhelming at first when looking at it as a whole.

But when you break it down into smaller steps, it’s not as complicated as it first appears. Each step is more simple than the process as a whole.

And once you take the first step, you gain the confidence you need to take the next step.

Before you know it, your steps have added up to a really big dent in your goal.

It’s as simple as that!

To learn more about how to break your goals and obstacles into more manageable steps so you’re not overthinking things, subscribe to my newsletter and receive a complimentary copy of the 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan.

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How to Make the Risk of Starting Your Own Business Doable

I used to have a full-time job with benefits with a very prestigious university. I later quit to pursue my own freelance business.

However, it wasn’t so cut and dry.

There were (and still are) a lot of layers to pursuing a dream of working for myself.

The process I went through looks a lot more realistic (and doable) than some of the mythical stories you hear these days about making the jump from working for a boss to becoming your own boss.

This process can also spark some ideas for you to realistically take the risk too.

It may even help ease some of your fears and concerns preventing you from taking the leap. Here’s my story that began about 10 years ago.


Don’t Quit Your Day Job

For the first time in my career as a college career adviser, my creativity was being stifled under new leadership. I was also experiencing a lot of micromanagement under this new leadership.

I couldn’t continue to work under both conditions and had to start planning an exit strategy.

At first, this strategy wasn’t to quit my day job.

I started where most people start, looking for another job working for someone else doing the same thing elsewhere. Of course I wouldn’t leave my current job until I found my next job.

But, I never found the right fit.

Instead, I found opportunities that only served as an escape from my current situation. Not opportunities I could truly thrive in.


Ask yourself:

Are you just running to something that could possibly be worse than your current day job?


Don’t Quit Your Daydream

Next, I started listening to what my friends were telling me.

They kept telling me I would be good at wardrobe styling. This was something I’d been daydreaming about for a long time. Wardrobe styling would definitely provide a creative outlet for me.

But I still wanted to use the skills I’d developed as a career adviser over the previous eight to ten years. Those skills included interview coaching.

After giving it much thought and doing some research, I decided to start branding myself as an image consultant since image isn’t just about how you dress, but also how you present yourself in an interview.

Specifically, I branded myself as an image consultant for up-and-coming recording artists here in Nashville. I knew there were a lot of young artists moving to town and taking the risk to pursue music.

I also knew they lacked the ability to properly present themselves to a label (which is basically a job interview) or in a media interview (I’d had some past experience in media coaching too).

I went and got a business license. This is when it became real for me. But I still didn’t quit my day job. Not yet anyway.


Ask yourself:

Is there something people tell you you’re good at? Is it something you enjoy? Do you see a potential market for it?


Making the Shift to Starting Your Own Business

I worked on my branding efforts part-time while still working my day job as a career adviser.

Following my own advice to my students, I also spent my spare hours networking with the few contacts I had in the music industry and growing my network.

I attended as many industry events as I could and conducted informational interviews with several people in the music business, always asking for the names of two or three other people I should talk to.

For nine months I did this and my efforts began to pay off.

I slowly began getting clients. I worked with those few clients on weekends, evenings, and any time I had off from my full-time job.

Then, one of my networking contacts approached me about a part-time temporary job at his small music label.

This opportunity reduced some of the risk and gave me a bit of a safety net to leave my full-time job and pursue my business full-time. (This is just one example of why networking is so important!)

However, I still wasn’t hasty in my exit from my day job.

Instead of giving two weeks’ notice, I gave 30 days’ notice because the policy was I could work for the university again in the future if I gave 30 days’ notice. But not if I’d only given two weeks’ notice.

I wanted to keep as many options open in case things didn’t work out.

I used the three months for the temp job to increase my networking efforts in the music industry and promote myself to potential clients. This way I would have more lined up once the contract was up.


Ask yourself:

What are some small steps you can start taking toward your daydream? Are they things you can do around your day job? Who are some people you can start meeting and connecting with? Can you come up with some ideas for an eventual exit strategy from your day job? Do you have a potential safety net you hadn’t previously thought of?


Don’t Let Fear Overwhelm You

Once I was on my own, I was already getting used to working for myself and there wasn’t as much to fear as I would if I’d left my day job and then started a business.

This isn’t to say I had no fear at all. A few days before giving my notice at my day job, I experienced my first (and luckily my only) panic attack.

Then, when the economy tanked in October 2008, less than two months after I’d left my day job, I started to get nervous.

But, what I saw happening all around me was people being laid off and being forced into becoming their own boss with no real planning or preparation.

Luckily I was way ahead in that department because I’d already been preparing for nearly a year. And I already had some clients.

When I was short on image consulting clients, I supplemented my work with resume writing and career coaching services for those who’d been laid off during the recession and were looking for a new job.


Ask yourself:

Are you still having some fears about pursuing your daydream? Are these fears real or perceived? What are some ways you can calm your fears or put them into a different perspective? What would be the worst case scenario if those fears proved true? What’s the best case scenario?

Click here to read more about the myths of the common fears of leaving your job.

Rely on Connections to Supplement Your Income

Throughout my time as an image consultant I continually made connections through networking which turned into additional ways to supplement my income with my growing business.

While attending a fashion show, I met the president of a small design college who hired me to teach a class on image at the college for a semester.

He also ended up publishing the 2nd edition of my first bestselling book, Advance Your Image, through the school’s small publishing company.


While attending an event at the Entrepreneur Center here in Nashville, I met someone who needed a contract employee with career advising experience to do outplacement counseling for his clients.

I still do this work to this day because I get to make my own schedule and it’s the complete opposite of micromanaged work. I love it.


The connections I’d made through my original day job also led to a part-time (10 hours/week) temporary job at another university, which unexpectedly turned into a part-time permanent position.

I was hired to fill in for one semester while one of their employees was on maternity leave. But when she returned, they asked if I could stay on indefinitely. I got to make my own schedule so I could work it around my business.

Eventually they asked if I could work 20 hours a week. As much as I loved working at this university, I’d already put in so much blood, sweat and tears into my image consulting business that I couldn’t afford to risk that much time away from it to work for someone else.

So I decided to be fair to both myself and the university and leave so they could find someone who was able to give them the number of hours they needed.


Ask yourself:

Are there connections you have now in your current situation which could benefit you in the future? Are there connections you’d like to start making? What are some things you can fall back on to reduce financial risk when your daydream business is slow?


Be Willing to Shift Gears When Necessary

After leaving that part-time job, I realized I was burned out on seven years of image consulting and wanted to do something different.

But what? I had no idea.

I just knew I didn’t want to risk all the work I’d put into developing my brand.

Then a year and a half later I realized I still wanted to do career advising, but this time on my terms. (Click here for the story on how this realization came about.)

I still wanted to be my own boss. And I wanted to keep the same name from my image consulting business.

I was able to do both with a slight shift in my mission and an overhaul of my services.

Now, I offer unique career coaching services focusing on helping people discover and pursue their own passions.

This includes helping them either find a new day job they’ve been daydreaming about, or helping them take the steps (not the leap) to becoming an independent freelancer or business owner. Whichever they’re most passionate about.

My business became more successful once I was willing to make this change.

I was also able to see how the experience I gained and the tools I developed in my image consulting business fit nicely with my new mission and offerings.


Today, I don’t have to supplement my income anymore.

Now, I get to do it simply for the love of the variety in my schedule and the love of the creativity it brings me.

Unfortunately my time only lets me do one additional gig to my full-time daydream.

But I’ve never been happier in my work.

No one is micromanaging me or stifling my creativity.

I get to choose who I take on as clients and which projects I want to invest my free time into.


Ask yourself:

How can I start planning my exit strategy for my day job and my entry strategy to my daydream? How can I reduce unnecessary risk? How can I maneuver around inevitable risk?


How I Did It

I simply started setting goals and then taking small steps toward achieving those goals.


Bottom Line:

You may want to pursue your daydream of starting your own business but think it’s impossible.

And it may be impossible for you if you simply quit your day job to follow your daydream.

I want to serve as one of several examples of how doing it with an alternative, less-risky strategy can make it possible even for you.

Probably more so than you ever imagined.


Biggest Lessons Learned

Want to know the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past 10 years working for myself as a freelancer (so you don’t have to learn them the hard way)?

Check out my post 10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing.

Related Posts:

Click here for more resources and posts on the topic of working for yourself.

starting your own business

Did You Get Ghosted After Your Interview? What to Do Now

Have you ever been ghosted? You know what I’m talking about, when someone unexpectedly ceases all communication with you with no explanation. It’s almost like they dropped off the face of the earth.

This phenomenon typically happens in personal relationships such as romantic liaisons or fledgling friendships.

But it now also exists in working relationships, including the job search. While it’s extremely unprofessional, it does happen.

Job interview ghosting

Most of the time it happens following an interview process. A candidate spends time going through a cumbersome online application process, researching the company, preparing for the interview, traveling to the interview, and sweating through the interview.

The candidate is told at the end of the interview they’ll hear something soon. Then they hear nothing but crickets.

They follow up first with a thank you letter like every good candidate should after an interview.

Still nothing but crickets.

The next week they email to find out if a decision has been made.

Still more crickets.

Another week later they call, only for that call to go unanswered.

This has probably happened to you at one point in your career or another.

It’s happened to me before too, both after a job interview and with a couple of potential clients.

There’s no way to know the reason for the ghosting. All you can do is follow up one more time and then move on.

Console yourself by realizing you probably dodged a bullet since you likely wouldn’t want to work for someone who treats people this way.

What to do next time: a preemptive strike

In your next interview, there are some things you can do to try to protect yourself from ghosting, or at least reduce the chances of being ghosted.

This begins in the very first interview. When it’s your turn to ask questions, one of your questions should be about the timeline for the hiring process.

You want to be as specific as possible in your question in order to receive a specific answer. For instance, instead of asking “When do you plan to conduct second-round interviews?” you should ask,

“What is your deadline for scheduling second-round interviews?”

“Is that deadline firm?” and

“Are you going to let those who didn’t make it to the second round know they won’t be moving forward?”

In the final round of interviews, instead of asking “When do you plan to make a hiring decision?” you should ask,

“What is your deadline for making an offer?”

“How firm is that deadline?” and

“Are you  going to notify each person being interviewed of the final decision as a courtesy or just the person receiving the offer?”

These questions are for your own sanity so you can know what to expect and so you’re not sitting around wondering why you haven’t heard anything back.

Click here to find out what other questions you should ask in an interview.

Know when to move on

Keep in mind however that sometimes companies tend to underestimate how long the interview process might take them. Or, deadlines might get pushed back due to other priorities in the company.

Continue to follow up 1–2 weeks after their original deadline.

If after that you still haven’t heard anything, assume they either hired someone else or put a freeze on the hiring process. 

Then move on.

And try not to take it personally so you can maintain your confidence. You have to keep your confidence in tact as best you can for your next interview.

Other things you can do:

There are several other things you can do to reduce your chances of being ghosted.

First, avoid doing the things that irritate hiring managers and recruiters. For instance, don’t be late for your interview and don’t be dishonest in your answers or give canned answers.

More importantly, don’t interview for a job you don’t intend to take just to get interview practice. This is unethical and word could easily get around in your industry about you doing such a thing.

Also, indicate at the end of the interview you want the job. So many people fail to say they want the job. Those who do increase their chances of getting the call with the offer.

Next, send a thank you letter to each person you interviewed with, reiterating your interest and what you have to offer the company.

Finally, even if you’ve been ghosted by a company, don’t do the same thing to another company. Just because unemployment is at an all-time low and you may have your pick of offers, this doesn’t give you an excuse to ghost recruiters or hiring managers.

Conclusion

While you can’t completely prevent a company from ghosting you after your interview, using some of the strategies above can help reduce your chances of it happening.

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