It’s Not You; It’s Me Resignation Letter

A resignation letter is meant to achieve two objectives:
1 – Provide HR with the details they need to complete their paperwork.  Namely, identify your last day.
2 – A thank you letter to the company that you are resigning from.

As you prepare to leave your current company, take some time to reflect on what your current company has done for you: What skills did you build?  In which areas has your confidence grown?  What experience did you get?  How did your professional network expand?

As tough as the end of your time at a company can be, there have been positive moments.  Focus on those when writing your resignation letter.

It’s okay to leave a company and for neither party to bad or wrong.  You may have outgrown your potential growth, want to take a turn in your path, learn new skills, make more or work with people with a new perspective.  Growth is good!  Who knows, maybe you’ll go get experience somewhere else and come back to your current company to contribute more value?

Use this opportunity to craft a resignation letter to celebrate the good times, thank your company for their investment in you, and maintain relationships with your coworkers.

Spare 5 Minutes to Achieve Your Goal

With two and a half months left in the year; identify that 2018 goal you still want to achieve. It may be a written goal at your company or a personal goal you’ve been procrastinating about moving forward.

Assign five minutes at the start or end of every day on your calendar. Write down three things you did yesterday or today which help move you towards your goal. And one missed opportunity where you could have worked towards your goal.

It’s best if you can have a SMART goal; see this blog article about SMART goals. Here are some ideas for SMART goals.

– By the end of the year, I want my contributions at work to be more strategic thinking vs. tactical thinking.

– I will reduce my daily sugar intake to 20g for the next two weeks.

– I will find a new job in the next six months by focusing on expanding my network, updating my resume and cover letter, and applying for three jobs per week.

Common Sense Always Wins

There are so many ways to say it…
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Control Your Controllable

It all goes back to… common sense always wins.  When we can keep it simple and focus, we have a direction to move in.  When we focus on what makes sense, the challenges seem easier to tackle, and the opportunities seem more attainable.

Often times we overcomplicate things that are happening to or around us.  We try to look at every possible outcome or factor, take in all the advice people are given us and all the emotions we have.  We get stuck, we can’t make a decision, we can’t move forward.

Think about a challenge or problem you currently have.  Take yourself out of the situation and imagine a stranger is there instead.  What would common sense tell you about this situation? What advice would you give to the stranger?  What relevant insight or information would you share?  What information would you omit (no need to overshare)?  How can you simplify this situation?  If it helps, write it out on a piece of paper.  Think about a few realistic outcomes and make a decision to move forward.

If it’s the right decision, you’re one step closer.  If the outcome was less than desirable, you have the opportunity to change directions and can review and edit the document you already created.

The S.T.A.R. Method is Everywhere – Especially in Interviews

The hot new approach in business is to share stories via the S.T.A.R. method.  Whether you are applying for a job or up for your annual review, the S.T.A.R. method can help you shine like a star (I really couldn’t help myself there).

The S.T.A.R. method focuses on:

Situation.  Think big picture here.  What’s the current environment? If you were doing a SWOT analysis of the business opportunity, you could include some of those details in your Situation.

Task.  Here we get more specific of what problem you are going to solve or the business opportunity.

Action. Teamwork is vital (especially if it’s a position on a team) and so are individual contributions towards a collective goal.  Share the specific steps you took and how your actions integrated with other’s efforts.

Result.  What are the specifics of the results?  When on the job hunt, percentages may be more meaningful than a number.  Or if you’re applying for a sales position, use numbers.  Results can also be qualitative and quantitative.  Be confident that your contributions matter and take credit for your work.

Here’s an example of how it could look.

My company wanted to expand their digital offering.  All of our competitors were competing in this space and impacting our core business.  (situation)

My team was challenged with identifying the value proposition of our digital offering and demonstrating how it can enhance our core business.  (task)

We worked together to develop our plan.  I lead the competitive research phase creating SWOT analysis which was the foundation for the brainstorms around messaging.  After the brainstorms, I synthesized the information and our team presented to the executive team.

I’m proud to say that our digital offering is growing by 135% YOY to contribute to the overall growth of the company by 105%.  The executive team is very pleased with how this project expanded our digital offering and overall business.  And we are getting fantastic feedback from customers about how easy the digital offering is to use.  They are repeating our value prop and messaging back to us.

If written it out, keep it short but specific.  About 250 words.  It could fit nicely within your cover letter or online performance review form.  Then during your actual review or interview, you should have notes about how you can go deeper.

The S.T.A.R. method is an evolution of the Challenge/Solution approach.  It allows you to dig deeper and tell a stronger, more specific story.   Shine like the star that you are!  You are perfect for that new job, and you’ve earned that promotion!  Let the S.T.A.R. method help you receive everything you’re worth!

How will you pay it forward for someone else’s career?

Who do you wish you had in your career – a mentor, an influencer, a teacher, a networker, a challenger? Be that person for someone else!

Consider a few points in your career where some gave you advice or took a risk on you. Who were they? What did the do for you? Are there people you see in your professional circles that could benefit from something similar?

Professional Women: This is a particular call out to you. How are you going to help another professional woman break the glass ceiling or get off the sticky floor?

For Those Who Are Approaching A Different Commencement: Retirement

In May, I talked about recent college graduates commencing and taking on their first job post-college. There is also another group commencing; those commencing to retirement. Congratulations to those approaching retirement! How do you want to spend the last year or months of your career? How can you contribute the most value? Here are some things to consider when approaching commencement to retirement.

You are at the point in your career where you will have the most skills and knowledge. Focus on ways you can add the most value to your company, peers, and mentees.

Here are some thought starters to help you clarify the objectives/goals for your time before retirement.

1 – Have you achieved the work persona you desire?
Here are some personas you may have aspired to your career:
– the successful individual contributor
– the mentor that people find for career advice
– the knowledgeable person who has valuable information or perspective to help make decisions
– the collaborative person with ideas to improve the company
Identify who you want to be and walk the walk. Be the best person you want to be. Especially with the finite time left, you can commit to being your best for one more year. When you feel that you are giving any less than your best, take a pause point: reflection on the situation, put it in perspective, be your best.

2 – How do you leave the company set up for success?
Transitioning Workload: Use the time you have to successfully transfer your workload to the next person(s). Set your successor up for success. Have a clear transition plan and be comfortable playing support through the transition as they get the opportunity to lead. Even if they have the confidence to fully take the responsibility or task before your last day, great, let them run with it. It will give you more time for people and wrapping up projects. Transitioning Knowledge: What information do you solely have? Who can share that information to ensure continued success?

3 – How do you plan for success in retirement?
You’ve conquered successful transition before in your life. College to Professional, Single to Married, or added to your life with kids, pets, or commitments. Each of those transitions required planning and flexibility. Retirement will be the same way.
– Consider what routines and activities you value currently. What will you keep? Where will you invest more time? What will stop with your full-time work?
– Set up some pause points. Identify some timelines where you will pause to evaluate how you are spending your time, energy, and month. This pause point allows you to live in the moment for a defined period. For example, you could say, “I don’t want to do anything for the first three months.” Great. Enjoy that freedom and flexibility for three months. And be fully present in that timeline knowing you’ll review and reevaluate in 3 months.
– Plan a bucket list item. Have you wanted to travel somewhere? Or pick up a new hobby. Plan to start this upon retirement. This activity/event will be something to look forward to and to plan for. It will also give you a strong answer when people ask, “You’re retiring….what are you going to do?” It’s a question with great intentions but can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan.

Congratulations on approaching this career and life milestone. Enjoy your final year of work and focus on what you value: people, sharing value, specific contributions.

Congratulations Graduates! 5 Tips to Make the Most of Your First Job

Congratulations on the fantastic achievement of graduating college!  You are eager to start that first job to set the course of your career trajectory!  This job will be a great opportunity to learn the industry that you want to work in, begin to develop the skills you want to master, and build the relationships that will be a catalyst for your career growth.

Here are five ways you can make the most of being new!

1 – Be a sponge in every meeting.  Whether it’s a 1:1, an all-employee meeting, or a meeting you are observing, you should be focused on two things: the content and the people.  Your content notes can be valuable to your peers if they are trying to remember decisions that were made, the rationale behind the decision, or key statements and questions.  After the meeting, ask your manager or peers about their notes from the meeting.  Did you catch the most important information?  Did they see or hear something different?  Continually develop your content note-taking skills as you’ll need them your entire career.  Also, observe the people in the room.  Can you identify the decision-maker?  Who is contributing the most value to the meeting and why?  Ask your manager after the meeting for their take on the same questions.  Build relationships with those who contribute the most value and emulate their best habits as you begin to add value to meetings.

2 – Ask questions.  In meetings, write down any questions you may have.  It may not be appropriate to ask the question at the moment.  But your manager, peers, or mentor can answer them for you in your next 1:1.  Not only will you learn key information by getting answers to your questions but you will also demonstrate to your manager that you are listening, learning, and engaged.  Create a cheat sheet of acronyms or draw up org charts as a quick reference until you have a solid grasp of the information.  I recommend putting this reference guide in the back of your notebook for easy access.

3 – Build your tribe.  Identify who you want to build relationships with and the value you can get from these relationships.  There will be your go-to people who can help teach you the company culture and information you need to be successful in your role.  There are also mentors that can give you tips and advice on how to add the most value to the company and how to quickly grow within the organization.  Invest in seeking advice from others: what was the biggest factor in their success, what was the best career advice they have received, how did they know they wanted to work in this industry?

4 – Have the right mindset. Your attitude is magnetic; it can attract or detract the right people to you.  I have found the most success when I have had the service mindset and worked to make everyone’s tasks easier.  That can be volunteering to schedule the follow-up meeting, sending your notes post-meeting, or offering to grab a coffee to someone who has been stuck in meetings all day.  These little acts of service earn more responsibility for yourself and add value to your co-workers.  Don’t be too good to do anything or be worried that it’s not within the scope of your job description.

5 – Own your development.  Lastly, remember that your career is yours alone!  Gain advice, leverage company provided growth opportunities, and plan your career path.  Find the right mix of what your company will provide and what you will do on your own.  Identify that dream job, develop skills that you want to have, and build your network outside of your current company.

Enjoy every step of your career journey!  I came out college and landed my “dream job!”  I soon learned I need to keep dreaming bigger and moving forward.  Cheers to commencement and best wishes in an amazing career!

Moms, you can have it all!

In honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I wanted to repost this blog and give some love to moms – in all their amazingness.  The dichotomy of raising a family vs. career growth is shifting.  Yes, moms, you can have it all and you should have that opportunity!

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed multiple moms who had taken 5+ years off to raise a family and were ready to jump back into their career path.  Some candidates told their career story very well, had strong responses to questions about filling the skills/tools gap, and others….did not.  It was enlightening to discuss the evolution of teamwork (hello Slack, Dropbox, and Office 365).

Here are some tips on how to remain a competitive candidate for future jobs while leaving the traditional career path to focus on your family.

1 – Have a strong career story.  You should be proud of taking time off.  Integrate your time off as part of your career story; it was a step in your career, not an abandonment of the value of your career.  With work-life balance being top of mind for companies, use that corporate speak in your story.

2 – Share your growth in your role as Mom.  As we age, we experience personal growth, and that may even be accelerated by becoming a parent.  You may be up against candidates with the same level of professional experience but less life experience; what skills can you demonstrate as your strengths over your competition?  For example, “over the past 5 years, I’ve grown in my self-awareness, emotional intelligence, or ability to negotiate…by…”

3 – Stay current in your industry.  There are many opportunities to engage with thought leadership and develop your skills:
– attending continuing education classes, seminars, or events
– developing new skills: there are multiple online and local courses available like LinkedIn Learning or at your local library
– participating in industry networking groups
actively posting on LinkedIn or starting a blog to demonstrate you’re POV
– taking a freelancing gig: there are opportunities posted on freelance sites and companies like The Mom Project
volunteering: most volunteers experiences will keep you connected to your network and grow your skills.  Check out Taproot or local organizations where you can leverage your professional expertise!

All of this effort demonstrates your ability to prioritize, your growth mindset, and maintain a work-life balance.

4 – Keep in touch with mentors and peers.  Asking advice is one of the most powerful leadership skills.  By staying in touch with your mentors and peers, they can give you insight into how the workplace is evolving and give you advice.  Also, when you’re ready to take on your next career position, they may be your best connection to land that dream job.

5 – Hire a coach.  When you’re ready for your next career move, hire a career coach that can be an unbiased guide to the current job search and interview process.

This is your life.  Make the best choices for you, your family, and your career.  You can have it all!

We’re All In the Customer Service Business

All of us are in the customer service business. Your customers may be your boss, co-workers, clients, or vendors. When you take a customer service approach with everyone you work with, the results can be transformational.

Some benefits of using a customer service approach:
– Better relationships. When you can demonstrate empathy for others, the favor may be returned. You’ll find more people want to be a part of the solution vs territorial blame.
– Improved reputation. You’ll be recognized for being positive and part of the solution. People will want to work with you.
– Increased happiness. When you choose to acknowledge and focus on the positive in the situation, you’ll begin to find there is more positive than negative in your world.

Tips for the customer service approach with a co-worker:
– “The customer is always right.” Start with the assumption that your co-worker is sharing the truth with you. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
– Be understanding. Did they put a lot of effort into their part of the project? If they worked on something for a week straight and you found one typo. First, demonstrate that you know all the work that they did. Secondly, reinforce that you’re a team and everyone shares the same goal. Thirdly, correct the error.
– “Thank you. Come again!” Demonstrate your gratitude for the work that they do. A simple thank you and acknowledgment for their effort, collaboration, and partnership. When you can all our specific positive behaviors that you notice, you will see more of those positive behaviors.

What does the customer service approach look for you?

Man, I Wish I Could Do​ That

I’ve taken a few risks in my career. Well, I don’t see them as risks but more as twists and turns. About every 5-7 years, I have taken a sabbatical. One time I spent 7 months volunteering in Peru. And just recently my husband and I traveled extensively in our Airstream. Over the years (and adventures), people have said, “Man, I wish I could do that.” And the reply is simple, “You can.”

Sometimes people put these arbitrary boundaries on their career and life.

  • They need to keep climbing a ladder and can’t hit pause.
  • They live paycheck to paycheck and need a certain amount of money to live.
  • Everyone always works a full-time 40 hour/week job; it’s what you’re supposed to do.
  • Credit card debt, student loans, a mortgage, kids, pets, family, anything

However, all you need to do is prioritize and make some sacrifices. If you want to take a sabbatical, start planning it out.

1 – Sabbatical Budget.  There are three things to focus on with your budget: Save Money, Reduce Expenses and (possibly) Identify Alternative Income. What are those things you are currently spending money on where you can stop or put on pause?  Easy ones: stop buying clothes, stop shopping the aisles of Target, reduce your subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BirchBox, StitchFix, Gym), reduce eating out or bar tabs.  Even if you don’t get to your sabbatical quickly, it’s powerful to have a Freedom Fund stashed away in an investment account or high-interest savings account.  Research some Alternative Income Ideas.  Are there ideas for passive income (rent out your condo/home on Airbnb or a long-term rental, rent out your car on Turo)?  Is there some Extra income you can develop while you’re saving up for your sabbatical (drive for Lyft, dogsit on Rover, freelance)?

2 – Sabbatical Goals.  Write down what you want to achieve by taking a sabbatical.  Anything from learning something new, furthering your education, traveling, giving back, spending time with family and friends or caring for a loved one.  Why do you want to do this?  Print this goal out, write it in your planner, hang it on the wall.  Keep your goal front of mind because this will be the guide to make the most of your planning and your sabbatical.  With every decision, you should ask yourself, “Is this decision in line with my goal?

3 – Sabbatical Ideas.  Once you’ve established your goals, then narrow it down to 2-3 ideas for how you want to make the most of your time.  If your goal is furthering your education, that may be getting your MBA.  YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest are full of inspiration.

4 – Sabbatical Plan.  Here’s where you add a Timeline and Action Plan – make it real.  When do you want your sabbatical to start: will that be when you hit a savings goal or a certain time period?  What are the Action Items you need to complete to make it real?

Develop your plan and find an accountability partner to help you achieve your Sabbatical Goal!  Be flexible and pivot when it makes sense to pivot.  Commit to making this a reality.  In the end, you either take a Sabbatical and have the experience of a lifetime or you’ve saved up that Freedom Money to use in the future.