Why I Hired A Coach, and What I Learned

I recently worked with a business coach. “Why would a coach need to hire their own coach?”, you may be asking. For the same reason a doctor can’t treat herself of course! I had come to a point where I was feeling stuck with some decisions I had to make in my business, and I knew I needed help.

A few of the reasons I knew it was time to hire a coach were:

  • I was feeling overwhelmed by the decisions I needed to make, yet stuck and unable to actually move forward with any of them
  • I needed to talk things out with someone objective who didn’t have a stake in the business (i.e. not my husband), and I wanted to get feedback and input from someone who had more experience in certain aspects of business growth
  • I wanted more accountability and structure – someone to help me set deadlines and make sure I would actually follow through on them so that I’d finally do the things I was procrastinating on

The process I went through to find my coach helped me empathize with what my clients go through when they are looking for career coaching support. It’s tricky, especially when you’re doing it for the first time. Below are few of the things I took away from my experience selecting a coach.

Understand the difference between coaching and consulting

While coaching and consulting sometimes get lumped together, they are actually quite different. In most cases, coaches will not give you specific advice or tell you what they think you should do; instead, they will ask you questions to help draw out your own ideas. However consultants have expertise in a certain area and will give you specific advice and tell you what they think you should do. While I call myself a career coach because that’s what’s standard in the industry, my approach is a blend of both coaching and consulting. I do focus on asking my clients good questions to help them get to answers about the things only they will know, like what they are best at and what they love to do. But for the specific job search topics that are in my area of expertise, such as resume development and interview strategy, I will tell clients what I think the best approach is and give them very specific and tangible feedback. That’s the same mix I looked for in my own coach, as it was important to me to get advice from someone with expertise in the areas I wanted to work on. As you consider who to work with, knowing whether they are a coach, consultant or mix of the two is important so that you have the right expectations about what the experience will be like.

Ask for recommendations and find a good fit

It turns out it’s hard to find a good coach! I relied on a combination of Google searching and asking trusted contacts who they would recommend to create a shortlist of potential coaches. Even within the same industry, coaches can have vastly different styles, methods, and structures, and it’s important to understand these differences before you jump into working with someone. The best way to do this is by thoroughly researching and speaking with several potential coaches before deciding who you want to work with. I met with three coaches before deciding on mine; while they all had valuable insights, they had very different styles and structures, and I went with the one who was the best fit for what I needed right now. I likely would have made a different choice if I was at a different point in my business. I encourage you to talk with several people to get a sense of their approach, philosophy, and the chemistry you have with them. It’s hard to define, but it’s one of those “know it when you feel it” sort of things. You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person and sharing important personal information and goals with them, so it’s important that you feel comfortable being open and honest with them.

Know your budget

Coaching is an investment in yourself, and whether you’re a job seeker uncertain about when you’ll be working again or a small business owner with variable income, spending money on something that feels intangible can be scary. I absolutely think it’s worthwhile (or I wouldn’t be doing it!), and I also know that financial stress is a very real barrier when you’re job searching. So think carefully about the investment you can make in coaching and create a budget for it. As you do that, consider the potential return: if you land a job months sooner or negotiate a salary that’s higher than you would have gotten without coaching, there’s a clear return on investment. And if finding a job you’re happier with is your goal, that return will absolutely be there in your life satisfaction. Talk with your coach about their pricing structure so you understand what you’ll get for the investment you put in, and if you’re on a tight budget, consider group coaching or classes. They can be a very affordable and effective way to receive job search support at a lower cost, and you can always supplement them with targeted one on one coaching.

Don’t underestimate the power of questions and accountability

A big part of the reason my clients hire me is because I give them homework and a deadline, and this was true for me as well in working with my coach. Yes, in theory I could have done all the work on my own, but I needed structure, meetings on the calendar, and someone to be accountable to, and my coach provided that. He also asked me great questions, which in retrospect were simple yet powerful. Getting my thoughts and fears out of my own head, saying them out loud, and being prompted to really think through topics I had been avoiding was incredibly helpful. Could a friend or family member do this for you? Yes, potentially. But they know you so well that it’s harder for them to really see the big picture and ask you those insightful questions that only an outsider can. As you think about the value of coaching and what you want to get from it, this accountability and objectivity is likely to be a big part of it.   

Own the process

The old “you get out what you put in” advice definitely holds true here. While it’s incredibly tempting to want someone else to solve your problems and provide all the answers (I definitely felt that!), that is not what your coach is for. That is up to you. Your coach is there to guide and support you, provide tools and resources, and help you think about things differently and identify options you may not have thought of on your own. But they are not the decision maker or the expert on who you are and what you want: that’s you, and ultimately you have to decide what course to take. The more you can take ownership and responsibility for what you want to get out of coaching by telling your coach up front what your goals are, ensuring you get what you need out of each meeting, asking about things that are unclear, and doing the homework they give you, the more effective your experience will be. And please tell your coach right away if you are not getting what you need or something is not working well for you. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’d rather know as soon as possible if you feel things aren’t on track so that we can adjust our approach, or help you find another coach who is a better fit for your needs.

So, how did my coaching journey end? While it didn’t magically solve my problems or give me all the answers to my questions, it did give me renewed energy and focus that helped me blast through the plateau I was stuck on, and new tools that I’ve already put to work in my business. I’m grateful for the partnership, support, and insights I gained, and I plan to continue working with a coach as often as I can and as my business needs me to.

I hope my experience helps give you a bit more insight into what it’s like to find and work with a coach. If you’d like to learn about what it would be like to work with me specifically, let’s talk! And if you’re looking for more resources on this topic, here are a few other articles I like:

Five Times a Career Coach is Well Worth the Splurge

Eight Tips for Hiring and Using a Career Coach

Find the Career Coach Who’s Right For You

Looking for support with your search this fall? Contact me for information about my one on one and group coaching programs for job seekers.

Why Dream Jobs Are a Myth: Using Design Thinking in Your Job Search

design thinking banner

I was fortunate to participate in a design thinking workshop last week at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (aka the d.school) with other consultants from around the country. While I’ve used and taught design thinking for years and it’s a central part of the job search approach I use with my career coaching clients, it was refreshing to be in the midst of it again as a practitioner and it reminded me why this approach can be so transformational when applied to your career.

1. It helps you think in new and creative ways: the core belief of the d.school is that “everyone has the capacity to be creative”. I don’t consider myself a particularly creative person in the traditional sense, but being together with a group of new people doing everything from improv exercises to brainstorming and prototyping was a great reminder for me that I, and all of us, do have creative ideas – we just need the right environment and structures to unlock them. Making time to get away from your day to day and engage in activities that turn on that creative part of your brain – whether pursuing a hobby like art or music, taking an improv class, or doing a brainstorming exercise with others – will get you thinking in a different way and unlock some new ideas about where you may want to go in your career, especially if you are feeling stuck.

2. It’s focused on learning about others’ needs first: the first stage in design thinking is Empathy, focused on understanding the needs of your end user and then designing a solution from there. By learning about the needs and problems of potential employers you can better understand what problems you want to help solve. The best way to do this is through conducting informational interviews with people in the industries and organizations you’re interested in. Bringing curiosity and a learner’s mindset will help you find out what is truly interesting and exciting to you, and helps you build relationships with organizations so that you’ll be seen as the person that can solve their problems. The best jobs are usually those that are not found on a job board, but through connecting with people and organizations that are doing work you want to be a part of.

3. It assumes there is no one right answer: this might be the most important takeaway from this approach. It frees you from the idea of perfection and helps you move forward in small steps. One of the biggest places people get stuck in the job search is thinking that there is one dream job out there for them and that they need to figure out what that is. The reality is that there are a number of paths that could make you happy, and if you are set on finding your dream job you may be waiting forever. Realizing that there is no one perfect job out there can be a big relief (at least it was for me), and through a process of learning and experimentation, you can find or even create opportunities you may never have thought of – in my case, becoming a career coach!

4. It can feel messy and non-linear: while there are stages in the design thinking process, it’s often necessary to cycle back through them and it can feel somewhat chaotic and messy when you’re in the midst of it. Sound familiar? While the job search can feel like this too, in both cases it’s reassuring to know that it’s normal and that using a consistent process will yield results, just not always in the way or place that you might have expected. By paying attention to what you’re learning along the way and adjusting your approach based on the feedback you’re getting, you’ll consistently get closer and closer to your end goal: a role and organization where you can use your talents and strengths to solve problems you really care about.

How have you applied design thinking in your career? I’d love to hear in the comments. For more about using the design thinking process in your job search see Want a New Job? Why You’re Doing it Wrong and How to Do it Right and the book Designing Your Life. A few other helpful articles include:

The Secret to Job Search Success: Confidence

One of the biggest frustrations with job searching is that it can can feel like so much of the process is in someone else’s hands. What we often forget is that the biggest success factor is in our control: coming from a place of confidence. If you believe you can do the job, you will project that and help the employer believe it too. Conversely, if you have doubts about your abilities, are trying to figure out the “right” answers to their questions, or are trying to be someone you’re not, that will come through. The key is to be the best version of yourself by projecting your strengths and confidently sharing how your unique combination of skills and experience will solve their problems. Yes, there are other candidates and they bring different things than you, but no one else has your exact combination of knowledge, experience, and skills.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but here are three proven ways to build your confidence:

  1. Review your past accomplishments and know them inside and out. Remembering your past successes helps remind you what you’re capable of and builds your confidence about the value you bring to employers. If you start working on this early on in your job search it will help you on several fronts, including zeroing in on your top strengths and skills, identifying accomplishments to highlight on your resume and LinkedIn profile, and preparing for interviews. Not sure what accomplishments to highlight? Look at old performance evaluations and ask coworkers, friends, and others who know you well what they think you’re best at. Once you’ve gathered examples, write them out using the STAR framework and include as many details and metrics as you can. One of my clients refers to her list of examples as her “confidence database”, which is a great way to think about it. Once you’ve built this list, commit to keeping it up moving forward. Put a reminder on your calendar to add examples on a regular basis so that you don’t have to dig up your entire past next time you’re job hunting. And next time you leave a job, create a detailed transition document (a win for you and for your employer) and make copies of important files and documents with details about your work so you can refer back to them later.
  1. Practice and prepare. Then practice some more. In the job search the winner is not always necessarily the best qualified candidate, but the best prepared. There’s nothing worse than when you know you could be great for a job but you didn’t perform as well as you could have. While you can’t control the ultimate outcome, you can ensure you’ve given it your all by rigorously preparing. Start with the job description and any information you’ve gathered through networking conversations and map out the themes or questions you’re likely to be asked. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes: what do they care about most? What questions or concerns might they have about you as a candidate? Then review your accomplishment examples for stories that address those topics. Finally, practice. Practice with friends, with a career coach, in the mirror, by recording yourself. You can have the greatest response in the world on paper, but it doesn’t matter until you get comfortable actually saying it out loud. Of course you don’t want to be overly rehearsed in the interview, but in most cases practicing in advance actually allows you to be more flexible in the moment. The more you’ve practiced and built your confidence about what you want to say, the more brain space you’ve freed up to ad lib or adjust to any unexpected questions that come your way.  
  1. Have options. You’ve probably heard the job search compared to dating, and I think that’s pretty accurate. Success in dating is about having confidence, which is what makes you attractive to others. The same is true in the job search: the more confident you are, the more attractive you’ll be to employers. One thing that can help build confidence is pursuing enough options to ensure you don’t get so caught up in getting the one “perfect” job that you ruin your chances by being overly nervous. Of course there will be jobs that you’re really excited about (that’s good!), but knowing that you have other eggs in your basket will help you approach them from a place of confidence and not desperation. So what does this look like in practice? Pursue multiple job opportunities, keep actively networking and applying throughout the process and do not stop until you have signed an offer letter. Nothing is guaranteed, business needs change all the time, and even if there is one job that is clearly your front runner, you should always pursue all leads. If you end up with multiple offers to choose from, that is a great place to be and can give you a lot of leverage in a negotiation process.

Even if you do all these things, there will probably be days when your confidence is low and you feel like giving up, and that’s completely normal. This process requires resilience, and it’s tough to maintain your confidence in the face of rejection. However, I often see that the time after these low points brings the biggest successes – the connection that will change everything, the interview you’ve been waiting for.  So take a break if you need to, but stick with it.  If you need a little confidence boost, read back through the accomplishments you’ve documented and spend time with the people who know and appreciate you, so they can remind you just how great you are. Then get back in the game.  

What else have you done to build your confidence in the job search? I’d love to hear your strategies!

LinkedIn Update: 3 Things You Need To Know


As you may have seen by now, LinkedIn has recently undergone a pretty major facelift. If you haven’t gotten the new interface yet you will soon, since they are releasing it to users in waves. If you’ve already been using the mobile app you’ll find that the new site has a similar look and feel to what you’re used to there.

In addition to the cosmetic upgrades, there are a number of changes that are likely to impact your experience on the site. Much has been written online about these changes, including summaries here and here, so I won’t rehash them all, but I do want to share several important implications and updates I’m recommending that my clients make:

1. Make sure your summary has a strong “hook”: in the new LinkedIn interface, only the first two lines of your summary will show automatically. This makes it even more important that you start off strong and hook your audience with something interesting and unique. Avoid generic or overused language and use short, impactful sentences to start off your summary. Looking for ideas or inspiration? This article has some great summary examples.

2. Revise your experience section: visitors to your profile will now see only your five most recent positions under Experience, and will only see the summary for the first position without having to click “more”.  Make sure those top five positions are the most relevant and interesting ones you have. Think carefully about the titles you use (are they easy to quickly scan and understand, and do they contain keywords relevant to your desired role?), and combine or eliminate any positions that are taking up extra real estate in that section. You should still have a short, 2-3 sentence summary for each position including a brief overview of your role and a few key accomplishments, but now you’ll want to pay extra attention to the summary for your most recent role, since that may be the only one that people read.

3. Be more active: your activity on LinkedIn (content you create as well as likes, posts, comments, and shares on other posts) has always been important from a personal branding perspective, however with the new platform it’s become even more important to maintain an active presence. Your activity is now featured prominently at the very top of your profile, so if you haven’t liked a post since 2012 that will be obvious to anyone who visits your profile. Try to get into the habit of taking a few actions on LinkedIn several times a week: share an interesting article with your thoughts on what resonated, comment one someone else’s post, or if you’re feeling brave write a post of your own. Just make sure the content is  relevant to the type of work you’re targeting.

The recruiting world is still processing these changes and there will be more implications to share in the weeks ahead. One major and perhaps unsurprising trend is that more of the most desirable features of LinkedIn are now restricted to premium memberships. Remember, you can do a 30 day trial of those memberships, so check them out before you buy!

Drop me a line or comment below with any other changes you’ve noticed or questions you have about the new LinkedIn, and I’ll address them in a future post.

Have questions or need help navigating LinkedIn or with other aspects of your job search? Contact me for more information on individual and group job search coaching.

My Five Favorite Job Search Books


Are you determined to start 2017 off right and find a new job? Or do you know someone who is, and want to support them with a gift?

The holidays are the perfect time to catch up on some reading and get inspired for the new year, so here are five of my favorite books to help you navigate the job search:

1. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life – this book summarizing the most popular course taught at Stanford was released in September and quickly rose to #1 on Amazon and The New York Times Bestseller List. Why is it so popular? Because it contains tools and exercises that help you design and move toward goals using small, concrete actions. While it’s not strictly a job search book, there is a big focus on how to improve your career and how your happiness and satisfaction at work ties to the other dimensions of your life. I love how the authors apply design thinking principles to the job search, as I firmly believe there is no way to find out what you want to do without trying different things. One of my favorite reads this year.

2. The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster – almost every job seeker struggles with networking at some point. After coaching hundreds of MBA students trying to land jobs, this book’s author Steve Dalton came up with a system to make the process of networking clearer and easier to execute. I appreciate his explanation about why a networking approach to your job search is so critical and how he breaks the process into very precise, actionable steps. I don’t agree with all of his advice, as I think networking inherently has some grey areas and judgement calls and following a prescriptive process like the one he outlines doesn’t allow for that. But as long as you take that part with a grain of salt, I think he shares some great advice and the book is a revealing look at how the hiring process has changed, why the current system is broken, and what you can do about it.

3. StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Anyone who’s worked with me knows I am a big fan of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. This is the companion book, and is a great resource in addition to the materials you receive through the online assessment (the book includes a code that allows you to take the assessment). It includes descriptions of all 34 strengths as well as action steps you can take to better utilize yours. Knowing your core strengths is the foundation of any job search, so if you don’t yet feel solid on that, this is a great place to start.

4. Pivot – I actually haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my list for the holiday break. I follow Jenny Blake’s blog and I like her advice, so I’m interested to see how she pulls it together in book form. I’m an especially big fan of the philosophy she shares that change happens through small steps, not through big leaps, and that taking some action is the key to avoid getting stuck. She’s known for working with millennials and is one herself, so if you fall into that category you may especially appreciate this one.

5. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success – understanding what motivates people is important as you navigate the job search process: today more than ever, to get a job you are fundamentally reliant on people’s willingness to help you. Adam Grant, a Wharton Professor and researcher, explains how we all fall into one of three categories: “givers”, who help others without regard to their own benefit; “takers”, who take from others without feeling obligated to give something in return, and “matchers”, who give only if they anticipate the favor will be returned. If you’ve ever thought about karma in the job search and networking process or wondered why some people are so helpful to you while others can’t seem to be bothered, I highly recommend this book. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is another classic book about human behavior if you want more on this topic.

There are so many books out there about career and job searching; some are great, some not so much. I like these because I find them both helpful and interesting to read, and I’d love to hear what you think of them and which others have had an impact on you.

Happy holidays, and happy reading!

Are you thinking about making a change in 2017? My next Job Search Bootcamp group coaching program kicks off in mid-January! Get everything you need to launch a strong search, with accountability and support built in.  Contact me for more details and to sign up.

Your Holiday Job Search Checklist


How to use your time off to boost your job search

The holidays are here! After a busy and tumultuous few months, it’s finally time for a break. You may be dreaming about a schedule that doesn’t involve much more than eating and drinking, football watching, and general relaxing.

But if you’re thinking about a career transition, I encourage you to spend some of this time on your job search. I can imagine the eye rolls as you read that, but hear me out! I’m not suggesting that you dredge up the resume from six years ago that you still haven’t updated or spend your break writing cover letters. Because who wants to do that on vacation?!  But there are a few things you’ll be uniquely positioned to do during time away from your usual routine:

  1. “Network” without really trying. Traveling to see family or friends? Or getting together locally? Either way, you’ll be spending time with people you don’t see every day, which is a great chance to make sure everyone knows that you’re in the market for something new, and what that new thing is. Don’t think Aunt Helen could possibly have any ideas or connections for you? Maybe not, but don’t be so sure – I’ve seen people find job leads in some of the most random ways possible, so you never know who might be able to help you out. And either way, she’ll be glad to know what you’re up to!
  1. Get the real scoop on your strengths. Getting clear on what you’re best at is a foundation for your job search. Those who know you well, likely the people you’ll be seeing over the holidays, usually have the clearest read on what those things are. One of the best indicators of your true talents is that they show up when you’re very young. So ask your family and friends what they think you’re best at, and what you loved to do growing up. Listen to the examples they share and the words they use to describe you, and use these new insights to inform your search and the types of roles you’re targeting. Looking for more? Try taking an online assessment like StrengthsFinder to get additional data about your core strengths.
  1. Read and reflect. Holiday travel often means hours on trains, planes, buses or even lounging on the couch. What better time to catch up on some career related reading? Pack that business book you’ve been meaning to read for months or those articles you’ve been bookmarking to read “sometime” and get caught up on what’s happening in your current or future industry. In addition, pay attention to how you choose to spend your time during this break from routine: are you the head organizer in the kitchen, directing everyone else on what to do? Do you gravitate toward spending time with the kids? Do you take on craft projects, or have crazy outdoor adventures? Take note of what you choose to do and when you feel the most “you”, and reflect on why that is and how it might translate to a new job or work environment.
  1. Build your portfolio. One of the most important aspects of a job search is being able to summarize your previous accomplishments. In the hecticness of the day to day, we often miss opportunities to document our achievements, so taking a few minutes during a break to do this can be incredibly helpful. Even if you never show it to anyone else, consider building yourself an online or paper “portfolio” of project examples, kudos emails and feedback, performance reviews, and other tangible examples of the great work you’ve done. Not only will this serve as the basis for updating your resume and preparing for interviews, it will build your confidence as you remind yourself of all the successes you’ve had in previous roles.

That’s it! No cover letters in sight. Taking time to relax and recharge is a critical part of the job search, so make sure you take plenty of time to do that too. Enjoy, and happy holidays.

Are you planning to launch or recharge your job search in 2017? Join my email list to get monthly tips and resources, and learn more about my next Job Search Bootcamp program starting in January.

What to Do When You Don’t Hear Back


After weeks or months of devoted networking, you’ve finally gotten an introduction to the perfect person at the place you’re dying to work. You dash off a thoughtful yet brief request to meet, and wait eagerly for a response. Days go by, then a week, and nothing. Your excitement and hope are fading fast, and your vision of an entry point to your chosen organization seems to be dashed. Now what?

We’ve all been in this situation (yes, me too!). Sometimes, despite your diligent research and perfectly crafted emails, you don’t hear back. I often get questions about what to do in this scenario, so here are some tips:

1. Always follow up – people are busy and we all get too many emails. Not a great excuse, but that’s reality. We’ve all missed emails we meant to respond to, so assume that’s the case and send a quick follow up if you haven’t heard back in about a week (set a reminder for yourself so you’ll remember to do this). You may want to wait a few days longer if you know they are especially busy or have been out of the office. Keep the follow up short and sweet, and reiterate why you are hoping to meet and when you are available. Some people only respond to the second email they receive, so if nothing else you will demonstrate your persistence and ability to follow through.  

2. Think about timing – aim to send the follow up message when it’s likely to actually be seen (read: not in the middle of a busy week). Fridays are often a good day to follow up, since people tend to have fewer meetings and may be catching up on email. Or you might try Sunday evening or early Monday morning, so that it will be at the top of their inbox when they are prepping for the week. Gmail and other email services let you schedule emails to send at a future time, so you don’t have to wait to hit “send” at the perfect moment.

3. Offer an alternative option – if you’re getting the sense that your contact may be too busy to meet, offer to talk with someone else on their team. This gives them a graceful out, and ensures you still have a connection who can give you advice about the organization and potential job leads, and probably more quickly than your original contact. While of course it’s great to meet with someone senior, the reality is they are much harder to schedule with. If you end up talking to a member of the team who’s closer to your level first, they may actually give you more relevant information and can vouch for your to their manager and make additional connections for you.  

4. Go back to the person who introduced you – if you have sent at least one follow up and still haven’t heard back, try asking the person who initially introduced you to the contact if they have any advice for getting in touch. Sometimes they will offer to follow up with the person on your behalf, or let you know the best way to get in touch (“oh, I know he can be really slow to respond to emails – I’d recommend calling his assistant directly to schedule time”).

Tried all of this, and still not hearing back? Move on, and as hard as it is, try to shake it off and don’t take it personally. The reality is that some people will never get back to you, and that part is out of your control. While it’s incredibly frustrating, odds are that it really is not about you, it’s about them not having time or not prioritizing their time to share with you. Which is too bad, because they are missing out on a great thing!

But even if you are moving on from this contact, there’s no need to give up completely on the organization – you need to look for another avenue. You sometimes need to approach an organization from multiple directions before finding the right person, so if you aren’t getting traction with contact #1, see who else you’re connected to there; even if they aren’t in the department you’re interested in, they can help you navigate the organization and put you in touch with someone who is.

Finally, remember that taking a networking approach to your job search requires a tremendous amount of persistence and the ability to weather disappointments and downturns with positivity and without losing sight of your end goal: finding the job that’s right for you. Your work will pay off, so focus on the people who do get back to you (there will be many), and don’t let a few unreturned emails distract you from your mission.  

Are there other tips or strategies you’ve found successful in following up? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Feeling Stuck in Your Search? 3 Ways to Get Going Again.

Does it feel like your job search is stalled? Here’s how to move forward.

We’ve all been there at some point: you’ve been job searching for a while and nothing has panned out. You’ve shared your story more times than you can count, you’ve memorized every word on your resume, and you’ve networked with everyone you can think of.

Let’s face it, the job search can be hard. It’s tough on your confidence. It saps your motivation. It’s really hard to keep going in the face of rejection, and some days you just don’t want to do it. And that’s ok. Give yourself a day off to clear your mind, and then come back and get ready to jump back in. You may feel like you’ve come to the end of the road, but there is always another road.

In addition to taking a quick breather, there are 3 important things to do when you’ve come to a crossroads in your search:

1. Take an honest look at what’s been going well and what hasn’t
If it’s been about 90 days and you’re not seeing the results you want, it’s time to revisit your strategy (or create one) based on what you’ve learned so far. Some questions to reflect on:

  • What organizations and people have been most interesting and helpful so far in your search? What’s gotten you most excited? This is where you should be focusing your time and energy moving forward.  
  • Are your criteria and “must-haves” in a new role realistic based on what you’ve learned so far? If not, it’s time to rethink the types of roles you’re targeting.  
  • Are you working smart and using your time effectively? Putting yourself out there to network and taking some risks? If not, you should revisit your process and approach and make sure you have specific and attainable goals for your search.
  • Where in the process do you feel like you’re getting stuck? Is it figuring out what you want to do? Getting invited to interviews? Making it through the interview process? Identifying the specific point where you’re struggling will help you focus.

2. Find sources of feedback and accountability
Accountability is a critical factor in achieving your goals, and it’s very hard to achieve solo. And job searching can be a very lonely and isolating process if you don’t find others who are going through the same experience. Other people can also give you extremely valuable feedback and an objective perspective about your strengths and your search that you can’t see for yourself. There are a variety of ways to team up with others who will keep you accountable:  

  • Join or start an informal job search group: recruit friends who are also job searching to start a group together, or search Meetup or Facebook to find existing groups – you’ll be surprised to see how many already exist!
  • Attend job search classes or workshops: many community organizations including state and local government, public libraries, and nonprofits such as Goodwill offer free or low cost job search workshops, and you can also try your university’s career center or local alumni club. In addition to learning some new tips, you’ll meet other job searchers and expand your network.
  • Work with a coach: even one or two sessions with a coach can sometimes be enough to help you identify what’s tripping you up and how to fix it. While it is an investment to hire a coach, it will be well worth it if it helps you get a job months faster than you would on your own. Many career coaches also run group coaching programs which are more accessible to job searchers on a budget.

3. Brainstorm new pathways to the job you want
When you’re feeling stuck, it often takes just a few small wins to create the momentum you need to get going again. If you’re clear on what you want to do but it hasn’t worked out so far, it’s time to think about new ways to reach your goal. A few things to try:

  • Extend your network: even if you’ve been networking like crazy, there are always more people to talk to, and one of them will be the key to landing your next role. If you feel like you’ve run out of ideas, try a network mapping activity to brainstorm new people to talk to. Go back to your notes from old conversations and follow up with any suggested contacts you haven’t gotten in touch with yet. Search LinkedIn for people with the job titles or experience you want, and ask them to meet with you.
  • Explore projects or short-term work in your field: pitch a project idea to an organization you’re interested in, offer to volunteer on a short-term basis, or search for relevant projects through sites like LinkedIn or VolunteerMatch. Investing in some part-time work will build your skills and network and give you some great conversation topics for those interviews you’ll be landing soon. It also helps build your confidence and forces you to manage your time more effectively.

Finally, remember that job searching is hard, and give yourself credit for all the work and effort you’re putting in. Try some of the strategies above and keep at it – it will pay off!

Ready to jumpstart your job search this fall? I’ll be offering a Job Search Bootcamp group coaching program and fall workshop series starting in September. Click here to learn more!

4 Ways to Keep Your Search on Track This Summer

Summer is finally here! As you prep for beach and barbecue season, it can be tempting to let your job search slide. Everyone else is on vacation, so why shouldn’t you be? But here are 4 reasons that summer is actually a great time for your job search.

summer-011. You can take advantage of downtime. Summer tends to be a slower time in the workplace overall, so people have more time to do things they may not otherwise be able to fit in – like meet with you! Networking is the foundation of your job search, so double down on your efforts and talk to as many people as you can. Set goals for yourself and track your progress to keep your motivation and accountability high. Been meeting with 1 person a week? Try to make it 2 or 3. Feeling stuck about who to reach out to? Try mapping your network and you’ll come up with some new leads.

2. You have a calendar full of events. Happy hours! Weddings! Cookouts! Every event you attend, even casual get togethers of friends, is a chance to meet new people and tell them about your search. You never know who might be able to help you, so don’t be shy about telling everyone you meet about what you’re looking for. In addition to social events, you can find more targeted networking events in your city through professional associations and sites like Meetup, Eventbrite, and your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re having trouble getting motivated, tell yourself that you only have to go for 30 minutes and talk to one person, and you’ll probably find that you end up staying longer. Make sure to follow up with anyone you make a meaningful connection with to set up a longer conversation.

3. It’s the perfect time to get your foot in the door. While your summer intern days may be behind you, doing project work is a great way to “try out” an organization while building your experience, credibility, and reputation. This is especially true in the summer, when organizations bring on short-term help and will have more time to show you the ropes. Not sure how to find projects? As you’re networking, mention that you are open to project work and ask your connections if there are any ways you could be helpful at their companies. Once you’ve identified a problem you could solve for an organization, pitch them a short-term project idea. Especially if you’re open to working for free or low-cost to begin with, there’s a good chance they’ll say yes. It’s a win for them and for you, since you’ll build valuable experience and connections that may lead to a full-time job and you’ll gain references and experience that you can talk about in your search. Pro-tip: make sure you clearly define the scope and length of the project before diving in, and ensure you will have enough time to keep your other search activities going on the side.

4. You’re building a foundation for the fall. September will be here before you know it, and with “back to school” comes “back to hiring.” You want to be ready for that wave, and the best way to do that is by preparing now. This means making sure your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are as strong as they can possibly be and ensuring that you are top of mind with the organizations you’re most interested in (see #1 above). Even if they aren’t hiring now, continuing to network will ensure that you are the first person they think about when they are ready to move forward.

To sum up, don’t use the fact that hiring is a bit slower during the summer as an excuse to slack off on your search. Put your energy in the right places and you’ll make the most out of this time while still having plenty of summer fun on the side.  

Want to take advantage of the summer months to get a head start on your search? Contact me to learn more about my summer workshops and Job Search Bootcamp program coming this August!