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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


Overcoming the Barriers to Your Success

August 29th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

In this crazy world where we are so busy trying to get things done (due yesterday!) and, frankly, a tad stressed by the mostly bad news assaulting our eyes and ears via the media, it’s rare that we get a chance to sit down and assess where we are in our career and our life. I mean, does that even cross your mind these days? Well, let it. Take a deep breath, grab an ice tea, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or whatever your fancy, find a quiet spot, and just think for a bit. Are you where you want to be, and if not, why not?

When we are able take time to do a self-assessment, we often attribute the “why nots” to external reasons – not enough or the right kind of education or training, lack of opportunities, too much competition, family or other responsibilities preventing us from daring to dream. But if we get really honest with ourselves, often the biggest hurdle to our success is inside, not outside. It’s those internal barriers, or as I like to call them “show stoppers” that plague our ability to get to where we want to be.

So here’s an exercise for you. Look at the abbreviated list of “show stoppers” below. Add any that you know about yourself. (Be brutally honest!). Pick 3 that you think have gotten in the way of your achieving the career and/or life you want.

o I have difficulty managing time
o I have difficulty selling myself
o I tend to be resistant to new ideas/people
o I’m easily distracted
o I have a fear of change
o I have a fear of failure
o I’m a perfectionist
o I’m not good at follow-through
o I can be controlling
o I have difficulty setting priorities
o I’m afraid my age will hold me back
o I have a fear of financial insecurity
o I tend to take a negative view of things
o I have difficulty making decisions
o I’m often disorganized
o I lack self-confidence
o I tend to act first, think later
o I procrastinate

Now rank the 3 you selected from 1 to 3, with 1 being the show stopper you most want to reduce. Recognizing your show stoppers is the first step. Now make a plan, including “strategy to overcome” and “by when” date. Enlist a close friend, colleague or loved one to keep you honest and on track.

And remember, don’t stop believin’.

For more tips on achieving the career you want, check out my no-nonsense plan for finding the work you want. The Get Real Guide to Your Career.

Till next time,

Career planning, Learning, Life, The Get Real Guide to Your Career

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Creating the Most Important Brand: Brand YOU

June 21st, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Creating YouIn my last blog I talked about STEP 1 in your search for a new opportunity: Taking Inventory. Now that you’ve done that (and I hope you have…if not, what are you waiting for??) let’s talk about how to use that information to create the YOU that’s going to attract a new and wonderful opportunity.
STEP 2 in your search involves transforming what you learned about yourself in the Inventory step into a distinct vision and compelling messaging that clearly articulates your unique value.

There are four sub-steps to Creating You:
1. Define your vision. What do you want to be doing 1 year from now, 3 years from now, 7 years from now? Put yourself in an imaginary time machine to some point in the future. Where are you living? What sort of work do you do? What are you known for? What challenges have you overcome to get where you are? Putting yourself there and “looking back” will help you create your journey.
2. Identify your objectives. Both long term and short term. What are the work experiences you need in order to achieve your vision? What are the opportunities right now that you can pursue? Do some research and write down 3-5 opportunities that align with your skills, values, interests and experience, and that map to your vision.
3. Develop a communication strategy. Your communication strategy defines how you are going to position yourself in networking conversations, informational interviews and job interviews. It’s your “elevator pitch.” It needs to be concise and compelling. It needs to tell the listener, very quickly and very succinctly, who you are and what you are looking for. Your elevator pitch might change based on your audience, so practice multiple ways of presenting “who you are.”
4. Build a resume that reflects your unique talents. Your resume may be one of the most important documents you ever put together. If done effectively, it can attract an interview opportunity that may launch you on the path to your dream job. If not, it may end up in the proverbial “round file.” Make sure that your resume stands out from the rest by ensuring that it is focused, attractive, correct (no spelling or grammar errors), concise and achievement-oriented. Remember that it should be forward-looking, highlighting skills and accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to perform your target position.
You can find more information and helpful worksheets for your job search in The Get Real Guide to Your Career available in both hard copy and online formats.
Isn’t it time for you to TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CAREER?
Till next time,

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

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Taking InventoryStatistics show that a lot more of us are beginning to think about moving on - to a new job, a new company or even a totally new career.  Let me just say: Hold on a minute.
Before you begin your search for that next opportunity, set aside some time to TAKE INVENTORY. Get clear about who you are and what you want so YOU control your career rather than it controlling you. Think about what you bring to the table, what you like and don’t like, and what would be a fulfilling "next step."

Here are some areas to consider:
Skills. What are the skills and competencies that have helped you succeed in your career so far? Which of them are transferable skills that will help you contribute regardless of industry or position? Write them all down.
Values. What are the things you MUST have in a company, a position, a leader to be happy and do your best? What motivates you?
Natural talents. What are those innate abilities that keep coming up in compliments and performance reviews? “You’re a natural at…” Fill in the blank.
Interests. What do you like to do? Think large on this one. You never know when an interest you haven’t really focused on so far may lead to a new opportunity…
Job Satisfiers. Or, as I like to call them, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” What are the factors that have made your past work situations rewarding (the good), boring or frustrating (the bad) or something you never want to repeat (the ugly)?
Barriers. Here’s where you really need to “get real.” What are those internal blocks that have kept you from being all you want to be? Write ‘em down. Recognizing them is the first step in eliminating them.
Key accomplishments. Think back over your career and other areas of your life. What have you done that made a difference for your team, your department, your company, your community?
Salary requirements. In today’s job market, this is often one of the first questions asked, so it’s good to start thinking about this early. Consider what your basic expectations are and then, when you’ve determined your target market, do some research to validate your expectations.
Completing these inventories will take some time. However, you will be amazed at how much you’ll learn about yourself, and how the resulting personal career snapshot will guide you to “what’s next.”
Want to know more about how to “Get Real” about your career? Check out our online guide.
Whatever you do, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,

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

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Career Stalled? Spiff Up Your Skills!

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

This whether you are currently employed or among the many who are “between opportunities,” keeping your skills and knowledge current and relevant can mean the difference between moving ahead and lagging behind.

What’s next for you? Is there a promotion you’ve set your sights on, or a job that’s just slightly out of reach? Now is the time to “get real” and put a plan in place to increase your skills and knowledge, improve your marketability, and build your confidence. Here’s a 5-Step Plan to get you going.

1. Take inventory. Get a piece of paper and make a list of your strengths and your development areas. Think about what you want to do next. Do some research to determine the skills and knowledge required to get you there. Is there anything you’re currently lacking? Add it to the list. Is there a certification or license required that you haven’t earned yet? Add it to the list.
2. Create a personal development plan. Determine which of the skills/knowledge you’ve identified in step one will most contribute to you successfully attaining your next career goal. Select one or two you will focus on in the next three months. Seek out resources that will help you develop in those areas – classes, a coach, book learning, volunteer opportunities. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Commit to paper a plan that includes:

1. Skill/knowledge to develop/enhance
2. Resource
3. Target completion date

3. Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your desk, your refrigerator. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. Take a “melting pot” approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc., related to your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.

4. Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you’ve gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”

5. Review, revisit and revise the plan. How did your plan work? Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional or alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and goals.

Too often when we’ve “got the job” we become complacent and/or too busy to think about what’s next and prepare for it. Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge will keep your market value on an upward trend.

And remember: Don’t stop believing!!

Till next time,


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

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