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Soft Skills Win in the Race for Job Success!

August 28th, 2019

By: Karen Colligan

Think about this: 85% of job success is due to having well-developed soft skills, and only 15% is due to technical, or hard skills.  This is from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Center.

It amazes me that despite this research, organizations (and individuals) still tend to focus on developing hard skills. In 2010, employers spent $171.5 billion on employee training and only 27.6% of those training dollars went toward soft skills, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

It’s time to put more of our dollars and development efforts where they really count. In our increasingly global, dynamic and service-oriented way of working, organizations need leaders, teams and individual contributors who have the personal behaviors and interpersonal skills that will help them grow and thrive.

So what are those skills?  In my work with organizations to create leadership and employee development initiatives, these are the 10 soft skills/behaviors (in alpha order) that leaders most often tell me they need in their people.

Collaboration – the ability to meld ideas and share credit with others.

Creativity – initiating new approaches to projects, solving problems, etc.

Effective communication – clear and concise speaking and writing paired with active listening.

Emotional intelligence – self-aware and sensitive to others, empathetic.

Flexibility – adaptable to change.

Growth mindset – recognizing they don’t know it all. Being willing to learn.

Leadership – the ability to lead, even without the title.

Reliability – do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.

Resilience – the ability to continue pursuing the goal despite roadblocks and challenges.

Teamwork – sharing the work and supporting others toward a common goal.

Organizations who want to remain competitive and individuals who want to increase their marketability would do well to put more emphasis on identifying gaps in these skills and then creating a comprehensive development plan to close those gaps.

One of the best ways to identify gaps is through a behavioral assessment. The one I use with leaders, teams and individuals is Lumina Spark.  Lumina Spark is a state-of-the-art psychometric assessment that provides a framework to help people achieve better self-awareness and learn how to improve their working relationships with others.

Check out the Lumina Spark fact sheet and then contact me to learn how PeopleThink can help your organization build its people capability.

Till next time,


Career, learning and development, Professional development


Women Supporting Women – Getting Real About Your Career

March 27th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

One of the most satisfying aspects of the work I do is helping other women create a strategy to achieve their business or career goals, keeping them accountable, and then seeing them attain those goals. As I like to say, women supporting other women – just as it oughta be.

In my last blog on this topic I talked about tips for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. This time I’d like to share some tips for women who want to grow their careers in the corporate environment. (Men, these tips will work for you, too!)

First of all, it’s important to understand that you are in charge of your own destiny.  You need to keep an open mind, be curious, and get really clear about what YOU want for your life and career, and stop listening to those voices telling what you “should want.” Remember the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”

Assess where you are. When you’ve decided what you want, take inventory. What skills do you have, what skills do you need? How will you attain those skills? What are your values and interests? What are some internal blocks or other obstacles that have held you back so far in your career?

Understand trends. Bersin by Deloitte recently published a research report about HR and talent in 2017. Here are a few of their predictions based on trends they saw.

-Organizational design will be challenged everywhere. Organizations have to be able to “focus on customer-centric learning, experimentation, and time to market.” Functional groups should be organized into teams that are “smaller, flatter, and more empowered. Leaders should focus more on hands-on leadership, and less on leadership from behind a desk.”

-Culture and engagement will remain top priorities. Deloitte research shows that “86% of business leaders rate “culture” as one of the more urgent talent issues, yet only 14% understand what the right culture is.”

-Human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. Employee engagement levels have not improved in the past 10 years, productivity is down, and U.S. workers take 4 to 5 fewer vacation days today than they did in 1998.

What opportunities do you see in these predictions based on your skills, experience and competencies?

Assemble your supporters. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, talks about 3 important people you need to cultivate to help advance your career: an advisor, a mentor, and a sponsor. Their roles are different.

Your advisor is there to help you understand who’s who in the organization, provide context about the way things are done, and answer the “dumb questions” you think you should already know the answer to. Your mentor is the one you share your hopes and dreams with. Maybe they’re already doing what you want to do and can share how they got there. Or maybe they’re in a different organization, but know you well and can give you honest feedback and advice. You can tell your mentor both the good and the bad stuff. The sponsor plays a different role altogether. This is the person – maybe someone on the senior management team – who advocates for you when you are not in the room. This is the person you share only the good stuff with.

Learn continuously. Not just to attain the skills to achieve your current goal, but also so that you are always ready for the next opportunity. As we all know, the world changes at a rapid pace. The job or skill “de jour” may not be needed in a year or two. Keep up to date on technology, pursue new interests, read, network, stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you. Many have watched their careers go adrift because they failed to do this.

Give back.  As you move ahead in your career, never forget how you got there. Be willing to be a mentor or advocate for those in whom you see potential. Give honest productive feedback. Help others avoid the bumps you had along the road. Be willing to give informational interviews.

And, of course, don’t stop believin’.

Till next time,


Career, Career planning, Development, Learning, The Get Real Guide to Your Career, Women


Putting Your Job Search Plan Into Action

September 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

In my last blog, I gave you some tips to get started on your job search – commit to a plan, take inventory, create and practice your infomercial, keep your resume up to date, tell everyone you know that you’re looking and what you’re looking for!

Now that you’ve done all that (you have, haven’t you!?) let’s talk about putting your plan into action.

First of all – get out there! Most people spend 80% of their job search time on the computer and only 20% (or less) networking and meeting people. It should be the opposite. Those rumors you heard about the Internet being a job-search “black hole” are true. Think about where you can go to make professional contacts. Where are other people in your industry going? Find professional organizations in your field and become an active part of them. Volunteer. Seek opportunities to meet new people and reconnect with old friends and colleagues. There are a number of job search networking groups in the Bay Area. Their meetings often include panel discussions with corporate HR representatives who can give you the latest information on who’s hiring.

Maintain an online presence. This doesn’t mean posting your resume on every job site. It means being active on social networking sites, in particular, LinkedIn. Develop a strong LinkedIn summary and be sure your work experience is up-to-date and achievement oriented. Make sure you have at least three recommendations that speak to your abilities. Build your credibility and presence by posting articles and commenting on topics related to your areas of expertise. And, of course, join online groups in your field.

Be open and flexible. You have your career ideas in play. With that said, be sure you are listening to ideas and expertise from others as well. Don’t be a “yes, but…” person, be a “yes, and…” person.

Always be thinking “what’s next?” When you land an opportunity, don’t allow yourself to become complacent. What additional skills and competencies do you need to grow in that position and to prepare for the one after that? Stay current!

Most of all, be certain you are living a full life. Career is obviously important, and…it is not everything. What are you doing to have fun? Are you healthy? Are you in a good place with your significant other, family and friends? Are you really living your life based on what success looks like for you?

Don’t stop believin’!

Till next time,


Career, Career planning, Job search, The Get Real Guide to Your Career


5 Tips to Jump Start Your Job Search

September 19th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

If you’ve been putting off looking for a new opportunity because of summer play and the kids being out of school…well, time’s up. If you are ready to move on, the best time to get started is NOW before the next wave of potential excuses (officially known as “the holidays”) are upon us.

Yes, looking for work takes time and effort. Start by getting focused and developing a plan. Take that first step. Keep a journal of your research notes, your thoughts and feelings and your personal roadmap to career success. Whatever you do, stay positive. Your positive energy will show as you network and interview and will bring you more positive results. Be kind to yourself. Every single day.

Tip #1 Make a Plan and Commit to It
What is your timeframe for landing a new opportunity? Be realistic about your expectations. Everything takes longer than you think. Be patient and stay focused on your goals. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself (remember what I said about being kind?) How many hours per week are you going to spend looking for work?  Based on that number, make a weekly plan. Be as specific as possible.

Tip #2 Take Inventory to Remind Yourself about You
What are your skills? Really think about this. Don’t sell yourself short. What are your values? What is most important to you personally and professionally? What are your barriers (things that have stopped you in the past from being where you want to be)? What accomplishments are you most proud of? Where have you had the most success and why?

Tip #3 Create and Practice a Personal “Infomercial”
Practice communicating your unique professional identity clearly and concisely. What makes you special? What type of work are you looking for? Tell people what you want. “Help them help you.” What does success look like for you? If, based on your inventory, there might be multiple job options available to you, create a clear message for each.

Tip #4 Keep Your Resume Up to Date
When was the last time you updated your resume? Without an up-to-date resume, you may miss a golden opportunity! Review your resume at least every 6 months. Keep a “kudos” file with complimentary emails, project successes, and other accomplishments so you don’t have to strain your brain trying to remember what you’ve done. Make sure your resume is focused, concise, achievement-oriented and error free.

Tip #5 – Tell Everyone You Know What You’re Looking For
Most people who land new opportunities do so through people they know. Make a list of everyone you know – colleagues, friends, relatives, fellow members of professional organizations, people you used to work with, vendors, etc. – and then contact them to let them know you’re looking, and exactly what you’re looking for. You never know who might know someone who is looking for someone like you!!

OK. That should get you started. Next time I’ll have some more tips for putting your plan into action.

Till then,


Career, Career planning, Job search

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Preparing for an Interview? Avoid These “No-No’s”

June 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

You would think that a person would strive to be sensible when they are in job interview mode. Sorry to say that’s not always the case. I have heard some hilarious stories from hiring managers and recruiters.  Although I have complete faith in mankind, I feel compelled to remind people of some No-No’s as they are out interviewing. Yes, they seem like common sense. And yet I’ve heard real-life examples of each of these. Don’t let that be you! Here are my Top 10.

    1. Women – stop with the cleavage already. I don’t care what your age, I don’t care what type of job you are interviewing for, do not show cleavage. It is as simple as that.  Cover up!

    2. Gentlemen – is it really necessary to unbutton that third button? Really? No, the interviewer does not need to see your hairy chest.

    3. Be careful of your aroma. Go easy on the deodorant, cologne, perfume, hair spray, make-up.

    4. Don’t eat before your interview. You don’t want bad breath or something stuck between your teeth. Now THAT would be a distraction.

    5. Do NOT wear blue jeans to the interview. It does not matter how casual the environment. Dress smart. You can show you have style and will fit into the environment wearing something other than blue jeans. Wait until you have the job, then knock your socks off. (And oh by the way, even if you do have the nicest loafers in town and are into the preppy look, DO wear socks!)

    6. Do not check your phone while waiting in the lobby. What could possibly be as important as making a good first impression? What you need to do is pay attention to the employees walking through the lobby and try to get a feel for the culture of the organization.The last thing you need is to have someone walk up to you while you are engrossed in texting. And don’t forget to turn your phone off! Can you imagine having to dig through your purse or pocket to find it, and then shut it off with all the associated apologies and distractions?

    7. Do not slouch, slump back in the chair, or lean on the interviewer’s desk. No one hires a wet noodle. Sit up straight, smile, and make good eye contact.

    8. Do not show up with scuffed shoes. As cool and hip as you might think it is to have scuffed shoes – polish them before your interview. It is a small detail that an interviewer might notice. If you don’t notice that your shoes need polishing, what other detail might you overlook?

    9. Do not ask questions that are answered by the company’s website. Yes, be prepared with questions and be certain they are smart questions.

    10. Do not under any circumstances badmouth your previous boss, your horrible last company, your nightmare teammate. Rise above it. Find something nice to say, or, as my Dad used to say “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

    Yes, these are actually hysterical. Yes, they happen. Startling, I know.

    While on your interview, be yourself, stay positive, smile, say good things, be smart and think before you speak.

    Till next time,


    Career, Interviewing, Job search

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Dare to Dream – About YOUR Possibilities!

June 17th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

When was the last time you allowed yourself to just sit still, let your mind run wild, and dream about the possibilities – for YOU? Dreaming is one of the most underrated pastimes there is. “Sure,” you say, “but who has time?” Let’s Get Real. If you want to carve out the future YOU want, it’s in your best interest to MAKE time! Let’s look at a path to dreaming and focusing on what you want for your future. Here are 5 Tips for Daring to Dream…

Take inventory. Ask yourself: Who am I today? What do I stand for, and how do I show up in the world? Think about your values and really pay attention to where you are with them today. Are your career and your life aligned with your values? Take stock of your natural talents. Those are the innate skills that evoke such comments as “you make that look so easy,” or “you’re a natural.” Once you combine your values with your natural talents and recognize who you are right now, you can begin dreaming about the possibilities for what’s next. It’s no longer about what you “should” do, it’s about what you “want” to do. It’s about having a clear sense of self. Dare to create a life without asking for anyone’s approval.

Create YOU. You are a different person today than you were 5, 10, 20 years ago. Bask in your journey so far, and continue to think about the road ahead. When describing yourself and dreaming about the future, rework how you portray yourself. Start speaking in the future tone of “I want…” Keep the possibilities ahead of you. Don’t allow “no” to creep into your vocabulary. Keep the naysayers away!

Design Your Future.
Write down all the possibilities. Keep a Dream Journal and continue to add to it. What are the things you want to do and accomplish? Rank them. Take the Number 1 dream and begin to imagine it coming true. Make a list of ways to attain it. Keep adding to it. Keep imagining it. It’s essential to have clarity and focus, and to stay on target. Don’t lose sight of your dream.

Tell Everyone. Don’t be shy. Share your dream with people who will support you in your quest to attain it. Imagine it…picture it…draw it…feel it. The more you talk about and visualize your dream, the more likely it will become a reality. Start a Dream Club. Meet once a month to share and encourage each other to strive and move toward your respective dreams. There is power and momentum in having a support structure.

Don’t Stop Now. Think about how fantastic it is to be creating the life that is right for who you are today – not yesterday, today. You need to believe that your dream can truly become a reality. Continue to add to your Dream Journal. Be bold, and you will discover your own genius.

Remember…if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Dream about YOUR possibilities and then take action to make them a reality.

Till next time,


Career, Life

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