job search strategies

5 Winning Qualities That Make You Irresistibly Referable

What makes someone “referable?” With 80% of jobs filled by referral – aren’t you curious to know the answer?

By referable, I mean you are that person a colleague will rave about to an employer, saying “I’ve got someone you’ve gotta meet.

The colleague sees your gifts clearly.

She wants to champion you.

She wants credit for introducing you!

If your job search has stalled maybe you’re not passing the refer-ability test. No worries! Embrace the following 6 qualities to help you pass the test with flying colors and get referred.

1.    Be specific about what business problems you solve

Conduct a self-assessment before you begin your job search. What do you do best? For example,

·        Does your team always send you the most difficult clients? (Customer Success Expert)

·        Do you ease employees through a rapid growth phase? (Change Management Leader)

·        Do you notice problems others fail to anticipate? (Risk Disruptor)

Knowing what problems you solve helps differentiate you from everyone else. Think of it as your highlight reel which helps your network understand your value.

For example, my client Rachel knew she was good at streamlining administrative processes which boosted efficiency and morale.  She shared her “highlight reel” while networking and within 5 weeks of launching her search, she landed a job.

People who know what specific business problems they solve are much likelier to be referred.

Consider this:

  • Why were you hired at your last job? What gave you the edge? How did your edge impact the company positively?
  • Think of an accomplishment you’re proudest of. What personal qualities or skills did you use to complete it and what was the impact of the accomplishment?
  • If you were hired today, what would set you apart from everyone else a year from now, and how will it affect the bottom line?

2.    Be clear about the role you want and companies you’re targeting

Too many job seekers say, “I’m keeping my options open.” This approach may be convenient for you, but boy it’s tough on everyone else.

Here’s an analogy: You would never say to a friend, “I want any old spouse.”

It’s silly, right? Because

  1. You DON’T want any old spouse. You’d be miserable with any old spouse.
  2. As your friend, I want to help you. But you don’t “help me help you” if you don’t know what you want.

Instead, if you tell me “I’m looking for someone mid 30’s, open-minded, who’s mad about Harry Potter” you give me easy markers to make a mental inventory AND someone to look out for if this person ever crosses my path.

Consider this:

  • Using keywords and skills you generated from #1 above, do a search on LinkedIn to discover what roles match your skillset. Course correct as you go, refining the role you’re seeking.
  • What industries are you interested in working/breaking into? You can get a list here, from LinkedIn. Narrow the list down to 3-4 and announce these to your network.
  • What companies would you love to work at? Not sure? Check:

·        Local “best of” lists in your city

·        Glassdoor to see who is favored

·        Your city’s local business journal to research and learn about local companies

Being knowledgeable about specific companies makes you look like a million bucks, like a top-notch candidate your connections will chomp at the bit to refer.

3.    Be concise

Can you answer a question crisply with focus and specificity?

If you can, you will leave an excellent impression on your audience. If you struggle with this, take heart.

Consider this:

  • Join Toastmasters. The weekly structure and built-in feedback system is ideal training ground for strengthening your verbal skills in a safe, upbeat environment. It helped me tremendously.
  • Be considerate of your listener by avoiding the typical “verbal dump” of ideas:

·        Slow down when speaking.

·        Remember to punctuate your phrasing (use periods, commas, question marks).

·        Avoid digressions – particularly in professional situations where people are forming impressions of you.

4.    Listen

Employers want someone with ears. I meet many job seekers so filled with anxiousness they forget I’m there. The conversation is disappointingly one-sided and doesn’t reflect well on them. I don’t feel comfortable referring them to colleagues.

In contrast, according to Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman “good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking.” When I meet a great listener, I instantly run through my mental Rolodex thinking, who can I connect her with?

Consider this:

  • During a conversation, beyond 1 minute, do you know most people tune you out? Flip the conversation back to your listener after 1 minute.
  • Be curious about others. A good rule of thumb for job-referability: If there are 2 of you, talk less than 50%. How can you deepen the conversation and offer value?

5.    Remove Chip on shoulder (if it’s there)

You may not have a chip on your shoulder. If you do, you may not know you do.

Tell-tale sign: You catch yourself complaining to others about how hard job search is:

·        “Job search shouldn’t be this hard.”

·        “Hard working people deserve good jobs.”

·        “HR sabotages the job search process, making it impossible for job seekers to meet the hiring manager.”

I’ve heard these complaints recently from job seekers and while I feel sympathetic, they don’t endear me to the person who said them. The attitude smacks of “I’m a victim” which makes you –I’m sorry to say – resistible.

Consider this:

  • Be impactful somewhere (see Toastmasters, above). If you feel your influence in other arenas, you’ll easily shrug that chip off your shoulder.
  • Assume an officer role at some organization. During my last job search I recruited Guest Speakers for our job search club. I interviewed each one and always wrote an exuberant introduction for them. One of them hired me.

The shortest distance to a job is measured by the number of people thrilled to refer you. The key to refer-ability?

Be clear about your value. Be concise. Listen well. Stay positive.

Stay connected to your highlight reel and not only will you own your job search, you will leave an indelible impression.

Have I left anything out? What qualities make you refer someone?

Photo by Asher Lapham

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer, LinkedIn trainer, Career Transition Coach and Forbes Contributor. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Ways Successful Job Seekers Think like Entrepreneurs

While driving to the gym this weekend I spotted a young girl in the neighborhood selling lemonade, sitting comfortably in the shade. I thought, stuck in one place, she won’t get much traffic. Still, I saluted her efforts: She’s launching her business woman identity!

A lot of people view LinkedIn like a Lemonade Stand, thinking I’ll create a decent product – park my Profile – and hope people ‘drive by’ and find me. The problem is this strategy doesn’t work and after awhile of not getting found, they say:

  • LinkedIn is a waste of time and energy!
  • Clearly no one’s hiring these days
  • No one’s looking for someone with my skill set
  • There must be something wrong with me

Now compare the Lemonade Stand with the Food Truck. Successful food trucks thrive because they know they have to differentiate themselves. Their product has to be unique and delicious. They bend over backwards to connect with their ideal audience. They go where the crowds are. They develop relationships with fans who develop a taste for their food.

My nephew-in-law Tim Meador and his partner Brandon Spain own a food truck in Ft. Collins, CO called The Tramp About. With a 5 star rating on Yelp, their business is thriving. They have an active Facebook page and post astonishing food photos weekly. (If I lived there, I would be his Food Truck Stalker). They communicate with their audience consistently and are always creating new mouth-watering, gorgeous sandwiches. Behold:

I rest my case.

As a job seeker, are you the lemonade stand or the food truck? I’ve found the job seekers who think like food truck entrepreneurs land a job faster. Here’s what they do differently:

They relish what they do

Many job seekers obsess over “doing the right thing,” and following the rules. While there are gobs of important rules in job search, giving up your personality, passion and joy will sink your job search efforts.

What are your skills and superpowers? What have you learned about your role or industry that you wish other people knew? What gets you fired up professionally? Share it. Teach us about it! Sincerity is palpable.


  • Set up several Google Alerts about topics you care about. Articles will arrive in your inbox several times a day. Sift through them and select the best, sharing them with your network.
  • Create memes of your favorite quotes.
  • Blog

They engage regularly online

It’s so tempting to remain undercover as a job seeker. You fall under the toxic spell of “I’ve got no credibility, I’m unemployed!” or “What do I know that hasn’t already been said?” Non-engagement actually sends unwanted signals: That you don’t care, that you’re not current and that you’re not confident.

When you engage regularly you send the opposite signal: That you are confident, relevant, and care about contributing value. You also create a digital footprint many hiring managers seek. When people learn about you they will Google you. What does your digital trail say about you? Engaging regularly, especially on your target company’s website and social channels, shows energy and relevance, qualities recruiters and hiring managers look for.


  • Follow companies on LinkedIn and their Facebook pages. Share your opinions, support, enthusiasm, curiosity.
  • Comment on others’ status updates, blogs, in Groups. Be positive and supportive, yet don’t be afraid to share your differing perspective. We all learn from varying perspectives. It’s juicy. Teach us your hard-won wisdom. I have gained followers and clients by commenting. Teach us the way you think.

They take risks to set themselves apart

My colleague Jean recently shared her son’s job search success story. Unhappy with his starter finance job out of college, he decided, “That’s it. I’m going for the mountain top.” He targeted the 5 best finance firms in the Chicago area, and reached out directly to the recruiter at each firm, requesting a brief exploratory conversation. Within 5 weeks, Jean’s son landed a new position at a significantly higher salary.

What would be a risk for you? For some it’s attending a networking event. For others it’s asking for help. In job search, differentiating yourself is vital in order to stand out from the crowd and become known. The key is stretching yourself to meet new people who can open doors for you.


  • Connect with people in your industry whom you admire. Write them a customized LinkedIn connection request telling them why you admire their work. Be sincere. I reached out – okay, gushed – over someone who writes for a respected journal. We stayed in touch, and now she refers clients to me.
  • Talk to new people who do what you want to do. Interview them for an article. Ask for advice. Ask them to refer you and definitely ask them how you can help them. Remember your networking etiquette!

I encourage you to share the best of you, both online and in person. People are hungry for content, so share what you know: Regularly, with enthusiasm, and in new ways that stretch you. Dazzle us with your delicious and unique energy. The days of sitting in the corner and hoping you’ll get found is for beginners – not a pro like you. Ditch the lemonade stand. The mountain top awaits you.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer,  LinkedIn trainer, Career Transition Coach and Forbes Contributor. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

What Joan Lunden Can Teach Us about Busting Through Career Barriers

How is your mindset affecting your job search?

While it’s important to master the mechanics of job search – networking, relationship building, personal branding – what you tell yourself can make or break your search.

I recently saw Joan Lunden – morning show host pioneer and intrepid journalist — deliver the keynote speech at a TrueU conference. She shared how she busted through thick-as-brick walls to reach her goals, demonstrating it’s how you champion yourself that matters.

Here are the mantras she used that cleared the path. Adopt them. They are free for the taking:

“If you want to play the game, find a way to get on the playing field.”

After Lunden graduated college, a family friend in TV suggested Joan apply for a job at a local TV station. In spite of the fact there was no actual job opening and she lacked relevant experience, she showed up at the TV station the following day and requested an interview and an audition.

Afterwards, they told her, “Nice job. Except we don’t actually have an opening.”

The weatherman there noticed her audition, and was impressed. He recommended her to another station, where she became the first female “weather girl” ever hired in Southern California.

Lunden was not thrilled being a “weather girl” because:

a) She knew nothing about weather

b) She had to wear a tight, white mini-dress and white lace-up boots (this was the early 70’s). Nevertheless she was determined to break into TV. Intuitively she knew this role was her ticket to landing a job she could eventually sink her teeth into.

As a job seeker, aim toward your future, as you chart your career. When less-than-ideal opportunities land in your lap, ask yourself: Will this opportunity provide either skills or connections to others which will move me forward? Lunden reasoned the “weather  girl” role was her ticket. It gave her exposure in front of a camera, strengthened her poise, and taught her to think on her feet.

Lunden landed on the right playing field, then bolted to 2nd base, but she had to embrace the idea that . . .

“Sometimes you have to take the risk of not being great in order to learn how to be great.”

Lunden’s popularity grew quickly after taking the weather girl job. Within 6 months, 6 stations across the country offered her a job. Not sure what to do next, she asked the same family friend for advice. He recommended she speak to his network executive friend in New York. When the executive found out she had 6 offers, he offered her a job, as a journalist. Something she’d never done before.

Fortunately, Joan had a nurturing “inner champion” who said, Say yes, then figure it out. Many of us lack an audible “inner champion,” and instead listen to our (really loud) “inner thwarter,” who says, I can’t do this job because I’m not qualified! or,  I have no experience doing that, or I’ll fail! Sound familiar?

What would be possible if you let yourself be a beginner at something you’re excited about? Imagine this: Decca records rejected the Beatles, telling them “We don’t like your sound. You have no future in show business.” It’s helpful to remember The Beatles weren’t always The Beatles.

Lunden accepted the journalism job. On the first day, a cameraman asked Lunden, “How many magazines will you need?,” referring to the film reel holder. She said, “Oh, I probably won’t have time to read magazines today.” They burst out laughing,  and took her under their wing. And thanks to them, she learned about journalism.


“Take every small assignment and make it shine. And then you will grow.”

After Lunden landed the coveted morning host spot on Good Morning America, Barbara Walters took her aside and gave her the advice above. Walters  chose not to fight the male-dominant TV culture (Lunden’s 2 predecessors fought it and were let go). Sure enough, Lunden’s initial assignments were about home-improvement, parenting, and consumer products, all topics she actually loved. She researched like a fiend, adding her own unique spin, and her work gained attention. Eventually she landed interviews on par with her male counterparts, reporting from 16 countries, interviewing 5 U.S. presidents, and covering 5 Olympic Games.

While Lunden clearly had good mentors who helped her along, she hit roadblocks that might intimidate the best of us. She hurdled the roadblocks because she followed the wisdom of her positive, inner champion.  Lunden models for us, be mindful of what you tell yourself. It may just come true.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.


6 Steps for Pivoting Into Your Next Job Breathlessly Insanely Fast

My friend Amy just nabbed her ideal job, after a 6 month search. While she’s thrilled where she landed, she knows this won’t be the last company she ever works for.

“Next time, I don’t want the job search to take so long. I’m dreaming, aren’t I?” she asked me.

Not at all. In fact, I wish more people thought like Amy.

No job is permanent. All it takes is one little change of command to get hauled into HR on a dime. No one expects to be laid off or stuck in a dead-end job, but that’s life these days. Here are 5 steps you can take to pivot into your next job breathlessly, insanely fast.

1. Engage on LinkedIn enthusiastically

First, your LinkedIn profile is optimized, current and engaging, right?

Second, if you’re not active on LinkedIn now, today is a great day to start. William Arruda suggests all you need is 9 minutes a day:

  • share a status update on something you’re an expert on
  • request to connect with someone you admire
  • join a Group, comment and provide insights
  • share an accomplishment

Worried your boss will think you’re passively job searching as a result of your activity on LinkedIn? Choose one of these responses:

  • “You’re not interested in massive brand reach and lead generation? Oh my, we need to talk!”
  •  “By highlighting my accomplishments, it makes YOU look good. Other companies enjoy doing business with winners.”

I have a lot of clients who love their jobs, who actively work the LinkedIn ecosystem. They understand this platform is much more than a job search tool: It’s a vibrant way to provide value, serve others, and learn.

2. Keep a running list of the ongoing impact you’re having, quantifying results.

I’ve created LinkedIn profiles and resumes for CFOs, Lean Six Sigma experts and Sales Managers who scratched their heads when I asked them how they contributed to revenue, sales and bottom line – the very information hiring managers care about most.

You will make your life so much easier at the next go-round by tracking your accomplishments along the way. While your job isn’t only about numbers, you will forget the results you created during that product launch 2 years ago. Record your successes!

3. Have productive conversations at least twice a month with people who work at interesting companies

Really. You can do 2 a month. Over a year, that’s 24 people you’ve developed relationships with whom you can help, who may be able to help/refer yousomeday.

I get it. It’s so easy to say, I haven’t got time to meet new people. Consider this: People are much more open to meeting with a stranger who is employed than one who isn’t. (Though you meet with and help job seekers, right?)

To find both interesting companies and the people who work there: Google

  • Top Workplaces 2016 in [your city]
  • [your state] chamber best places to work
  • Top companies for work-life balance
  • Contact thought leaders in your industry and ask them

Once you’ve discovered which companies to pursue, find insiders and hiring managers who work there using LinkedIn, and write a glowing, personalized connection request.

And at the end of every productive conversation please always ask, “How can I help you?”

4. Grow your number of LinkedIn connections

The greater number of connections you have, the greater your reach. The more genuine, legitimate 1st degree connections you have, the more people you have in your corner who can refer you to people in their network.

It’s to your advantage to be a genuine connector, not a people collector.

5. Grow your number of LinkedIn Recommendations

Recommendations are like stars on Yelp – and you can never have too many. Make sure recommendations written by colleagues, mentors and managers are specific and reflect the superpowers you most enjoy using.

I really like this recommendation template by Adrian Granzella Larssen. It’s not rude or over-stepping by inserting it into your LinkedIn recommendation request. On the contrary! Do you enjoy writing a recommendation from scratch? Didn’t think so. Help out your reference by providing a guideline. They will appreciate you.

6. Do you pass the “ layoff test ?”

I learned the phrase, “pass the layoff test” from Alan Henry. Here’s the test: If you were laid off today, do you have 10 people in your network you can reach out to, for support and to troubleshoot next-steps? If not, that’s a sign you’ve let your network languish. Time then to get to work and rebuild relationships.

John Maxwell says, “Your network is your net worth.” In other words, your best asset is the people you know. Take good care of your future while you’re still employed by following the steps above, and remember: The shortest distance to a job is measured by the number of people who are thrilled to refer you.

Stay in touch, build new relationships and keep thrilling others by serving well.


Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

How to Take Charge of Your Dead-End Job Search

Last weekend the power went out while sitting at the movie theatre watching Wild.  After awhile, I struck up a conversation with the young woman sitting next to me, a bubbly, recent college grad named Rachel. I asked her about her life, and within minutes her sparkle dulled as she expressed her frustration with her dead-end  job selling shoes. With further probing, I learned 3 things she’s not doing in her job search that are keeping her stuck.

Her frustrations are universal. By adopting  the following remedies, she can pull her job search forward and kiss her retail job goodbye.Breakthrough dead end job search1

Here’s what she told me:

1) Her job search is isolated.

“I do it by myself,” she said.

In today’s market, that approach will prolong her search and keep her knee-deep in shoe boxes. According to career expert Orville Pierson, those who join fellow job-seekers in community shorten their search by 20%. In other words, a 5 month search becomes 4. Job searching with others will boost your morale, hold you accountable, provide networking opportunities, and give you up-to-the-minute information about job search strategies.

In the U.S., I suggest  connecting to free, state-funded job search centers  here, by entering your zip code in the Get Help Near You section. These centers offer workshops on  all aspects of job search.

In 2006 when I was between jobs, I credit my job search community for landing my job in the hidden job market. At a job search club I belonged to, I recruited guest speakers each week. One of the speakers I interviewed liked me so much he hired me. Joining community is vital in your job search.

2) Her LinkedIn Profile is “meh.” 

“I’m not a good writer, plus I’m not good at bragging about myself!” she said.

I hear these two complaints a lot from job seekers; however, clinging to them may hold you back, and here’s why.

A well-written LinkedIn profile is the linchpin of your career search, which I wrote about here. Let’s pretend you start chatting with a hiring manager at a movie theater when the power goes out–could happen right? You exchange business cards. The first thing she will do when she gets to the office is Google  you. The top result of her search in most cases will be your LinkedIn profile. While chatting with Rachel during the power outtage, I peeked at her Profile on my Smart phone. Her Summary section is a desultory list of keywords, reflecting none of her dazzle.

Now back to her bragging concern. Instead, I suggest you reframe “bragging” as educating others quickly about how you offer value. You know how the app Shazam detects an unknown song in an instant? Your well-branded, results-driven,  and engaging profile works just like Shazam. Showcase your value in an irresistible way on LinkedIn, and you will get found.

3) She avoids networking events.

“Who knows who will show up at those things?!” she said.

Since 80% of jobs are filled through referral, networking is key to job search.  If you’re anxious about networking, start with less overtly “networky” events. Rachel loves ping pong and is passionate about homelessness. She can join a local table-tennis club and volunteer at local homeless shelters. She can also bring a friend to feel safer.

During job search, it’s important  to “bump up” against new people to befriend. As Susan Cain says, you don’t have to be opportunistic when networking. Instead,  “Find someone in the room who’s a kindred spirit.” Creating a genuine connection will create goodwill, a friend in the world who will say great things about you.

In an interesting parallel, when the movie re-starts, the main character Cheryl Strayed quotes Emily Dickenson and says, “If your Nerve deny you – Go above your Nerve.” To break out of her dead-end job, Rachel will need to go above her nerve. When she does, she will find a job she loves.

image: ©

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a  LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer  She is the founder of  Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at  You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.  

I hope you found some helpful information on this list. If you did, be sure to share this article with your connections. They will definitely appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Six Steps for Landing a New Job After Declaring You’ve Had Enough

Step 1: Let yourself grieve.  You need to grieve the very real loss of things that you like about your current job: Your lunch buddies, your cubicle mate with whom you exchange cute dog memes, the short commute, the feeling of job security you have. A friend recently confided that she hates the idea of leaving her secure job where she is liked, even though she hasn’t learned anything new in years and is hungry for a new challenge. I said, “Grow your flame. Feed your potential. There’s more security in that.”

6 steps finding new job_Coming Alive1It is really hard to leave what’s familiar, even if it doesn’t serve us. As career development expert Liz Ryan says, “Work should be a joyful human activity,” not a drudge or a drain. (“Grow your flame” is Liz’s trademark phrase, by the way).

Step 2: Give yourself permission to figure it out in whatever time it takes. Before starting your job search, print out this quote by Albert Einstein and put it on your bathroom mirror:

 “Perhaps the fundamental freedom that anyone possesses is the choice of where we place our attention.”

 During your search, your attention will go south at times. You will feel tempted to quit, and slink back to your current job where you “shrink to fit” because shrinking will seem easier  than finding a new job. Instead, remember that any major change requires two ingredients:  Grace and grit.  Imbue your job search with those two qualities, and you will find a better job. I promise.

By grace, I mean give yourself a “grace period” that lasts throughout your whole search. Be kind to yourself when you blunder a follow up phone call at a new company you’ve targeted.  Grant yourself a reprieve. Know that job searching is clumsy and awkward, because you’re seeking out a lot of new information from people who seem to have it all. Except they don’t. Remember they were job seekers once, and may be secret job seekers right now. You don’t know.  As a job seeker, you’re rusty, so grant yourself grace as you build up your job seeker muscles again. Treat yourself to a cheap caramel iced coffee somewhere, or sit on a park bench and bask in the glow of each little success.

By grit, I mean, stick with your goal of making a change. If you tried to connect with someone and they didn’t get back to you, contact someone else at that company.  Don’t take it personally, don’t take it as a sign it’s not worth it.  As I said in an earlier piece, keep pressing buttons until you get a result. I spent a year taking an intensive Life Coaching course, and then realized I didn’t want to be a life coach! I liked it, but it wasn’t quite right. Those skills lay dormant for years until I realized I really wanted to be a Career Coach. The life coaching skills are a vital part of my services. That’s what I mean by grit—hanging in there even when it seems like you’re yielding nothing.

Step 3: Try new things. This is the step most people in job search avoid. Instead, what people often do is spend a lot of angry energy creating a new resume (I did that—I’d take a day off I was so mad, rewrite my resume, and it just sat in my secret file, all dolled up with no place to go). Beginning your job search by re-writing your resume is a waste of your time and here’s why: In today’s job market, 80% of jobs are filled by referral, 20% through an applicant pool. This means you need to go network, and try new activities, to meet new people. There are two reasons for experimenting: First, you build a referral base of people who might refer you to a job, but second, to learn your preferences. The more you know about yourself, the higher likelihood you’ll find a job that fits like a glove.

If you don’t try new things, you may end up in the same jam as a professional acquaintance of mine, “Amy.” Every few months she contacts me, at the end of her rope with her job. She says, “That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had enough pettiness, I’m bored out of my mind. I’m through!” I ask if she’s taken any new classes in the direction she’d like to go, or sat down for informational interviews with “insiders” at companies she’s targeting, or attended free Webinars on something exciting to her.  No, no, and no, is her reply. She’s in a tailspin. She doesn’t feel she can leave her job, because she hasn’t opened up any new doors, or gained new insights about a new career direction. These two things are vital to your job search! Letting new information in alters your DNA, and gives your job search momentum. When I did informational interviews to learn more about career coaching, I visited several Career Services offices at local universities. I asked career advisors, “What’s the one thing college students most want to know about?” and they all said, “LinkedIn.” That information set my career trajectory on fire.  As a former software trainer, learning LinkedIn has been a natural for me. I began gobbling up everything about LinkedIn, and now optimize my clients’ profiles.

Step 4: Optimize your LinkedIn profile. (I know. It sounds like I’m plugging my services here, but really. You need to do this). I have received several consulting offers as a result of my optimized LinkedIn profile and my LinkedIn posts. As personal branding expert William Arruda says, “There are literally thousands of personal branding activities you can engage in every day that will help your career thrive. . . Almost all of them can be accomplished through LinkedIn.” It’s a powerful tool. Spending money for an optimized profile will be money well spent (if you apply grit. Once you’re optimized, you’ll need to work its features)! If you’d rather not pay someone, see Arruda’s article here, on how to optimize your own profile.

Step 5. Make new connections. Whether you are simply switching companies and staying in your industry, or switching industries altogether, like I did, it’s vital to make new connections, out there in the world, and on social media. Every time I’d read an article I really liked or found helpful, I’d reach out to the author on LinkedIn. I told her/him specifically what I liked about the article, and requested a connection. Ninety percent of the time, people accepted my request. Then if I thought they might have information that would be helpful, I requested informational interviews, and built relationships in the industry.  I’m there for them too, which is crucial to the process of  relationship building.

Step 6: Retell your new professional story to your friends and family and new people you meet. Share your excitement about your new direction with people. Tell them what you’re learning. It’s a necessary part of your re-invention and it will feed your conviction that change is a comin’. Telling it will make it real. You’ll also be amazed at how many people know people who can help you, once they learn what you want to do.  “Oh, you need to talk to my friend Sarah! She’s an admissions advisor at so and so.” It will work like that.

More importantly, you are stepping into a new, stronger identity by talking about the new things you’re doing. “Amy” above isn’t yet carving out a new identity. She’s so focused on being angry about her situation that she’s paralyzed.

Don’t let that be you. As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Here I’ve provided you with a step-by-step list that will help you find work that makes you come alive. Go do it!

image: © /muamu

Thanks and gratitude go to Herminia Ibarra and her excellent book Working Identity for articulating  steps 3, 5 and 6 with such clarity. She captured my own long and winding reinvention process, before I knew that’s what I was doing.


Are You a Job Snob?

I told my son in May to go to the mall and not come home until he’d filled out 20 job applications. He came home that night, elated that he had an interview scheduled at Subway the following day. Three days later he landed the job. You would think I’d be thrilled, right? Not so much, because the mom and the career coach in me were at odds. The mom in me was thrilled my son landed his first job. The career coach fretted about my computer engineering son, with his mad computer skills, becoming a Sandwich Artist.Hamburger with ingredient.

Job Snob, that was me.

Two months later, I now realize I fretted for nothing.  In fact, I am giddy over his transformation. Here are skills he picked up:

1)      Leadership & initiative:

  • On his own, he took initiative and asked his boss if he’d like him to stay late and close for him. He has done this several times now.
  • When a fellow co-worker felt too scared to make sandwiches after her fourth day on the job, he gently coaxed her into making her first sandwich, and now she’s off and running.

2)      Curiosity & outer-directedness:

  • He asks more questions now, when he’s around people. He no longer has to be coaxed into talking. He asks my husband about his clients, and he volunteers information about his day, which he never used to do.

3)      Confidence:

  • When I asked what he learned from working at Subway, he said, “I feel better about going to look for another job now.” This fall when he returns to college, he feels much more confident about finding a campus job.
  • Early on at Subway, he said customers blew up at him about  confusion over Groupons, and he asked his boss to handle it. This week, a customer yelled at him because she failed to see him change his gloves. He acted differently this time:  “When someone blows up at you mistakenly, you speak with authority and act like you know what you’re doing.” What a shift!

4)      Being a good boss:

  • Luc has a great boss,  which will bode well for every person Luc ever manages for the rest of his life. During a recent lunch rush, Luc burned his hand. His boss left to go to a pharmacy to get him burn cream. (Luc told me I have to mention this story if I write about his experience. He is eternally grateful for his boss’s kindness that day).  His boss taught Luc the importance of being human first.

My son’s experience at Subway taught me two vital things: One, we can’t afford to be snobs about the work our kids choose. Jobs that seem irrelevant can actually be stepping stones to better jobs, and provide us clarity. Speaking for myself, I have put on a Big Bird costume for 8 hours in 100 degree weather, been a short-order cook, a dishwasher, a baker, and a cocktail waitress. All these jobs helped me develop and hone  my career identity. The beauty of jobs we don’t love is all the information they give, even if it’s, I’ll never do that again. From the jobs I’ll never do again, I learned the value of grit and hard-work, which serves me as I build my consulting business today.

Here’s another reason not to be a job snob: They can be a stepping stone to an unexpected opportunity. A friend told me that while he was in between jobs, he took a part-time job in IT support, even though it wasn’t in his sweet spot at all and he didn’t know much about IT. Several months later a full time opportunity came along that WAS in his sweet spot, and they told him, the reason we hired you was because of your IT experience.

Engagement with the world pulls us forward in our development. And in this development we discover that it’s about so much more than making sandwiches.

image: © /poznyakov

Thanks to my brother Bruce Bondy who gave me the idea to send Luc to the mall and not come back until he filled out 20 applications. 



5 Reasons to Befriend the Practice of Informational Interviewing

Two Businesswomen Shaking Hands In Modern Office

© /Monkeybusiness

You’ve decided to re-invent yourself, and look for a new job. You call me and say, I’m ready, let’s do this. When I mention the necessity of “informational interviewing” though, your nose scrunches up as if you just smelled a dirty diaper. You say, “No way, I can’t do those, I’m an introvert,” or “Pah! They don’t work,” or “I don’t know how to do them.”  I so understand this fear.  At the heart of every job search is a desire to give birth to a new self, and as we all know, birth is a messy, awkward process.

Perhaps your reluctance to do informational interviews stems from this:  If you’ve held a job for awhile, you’re no longer a rookie. You’re the Subject Matter Expert in your office, the top dog. You have the respect of your colleagues, and people come to you to solve problems. Then I step in, and ask you to let go of that, and go out and speak to people, using your beginner’s mind. That’s hard for the ego to take. Soon you abandon your job search because you can’t bear the discomfort of starting from scratch, of initiating conversations with strangers. I feel foolish doing these, you say. So you give up, and shrink back into your familiar, yet unsatisfying job that doesn’t fit you.

What if there is a friendlier way to look at informational interviewing? What if, instead of feeling bad about being a rookie again, you saw the process as a necessary path to wisdom? What if you saw these information-gathering interviews as a catalyst for your ever-evolving professional self?

Because that’s exactly what I’m asking you to do.

Embrace and befriend informational interviews, and let yourself be a learner again.  As Shunryu Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” You will not only shorten your job search, but gain insights into your profession and vital connections to your community that will serve you throughout your career. Consider the following facts and assertions:

1)      At least 70% of jobs are filled by a KNOWN candidate. This means someone at the company knew the candidate before the job was available. This also means, if you are part of an applicant pool, you stand a significantly lower chance of landing the job. In the “known candidate” scenario, the employee referred a friend, or met her at a networking event, or she came in for an informational interview. The odds are definitely in your favor to meet employees and hiring managers before a job becomes available.

2)      You gain insights into trends and industry needs you wouldn’t have by simply reading status updates, or scanning job boards. After a week of conducting interviews with career advisors at several local colleges and universities, I learned about their needs and pain points. In particular, I learned how much college students want to know how to use LinkedIn to their advantage.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to become an SME on LinkedIn: I love this medium , and as a former software trainer, learning LinkedIn was a snap. I now optimize LinkedIn profiles for clients, and  give presentations on LinkedIn.

3)      You build relationships with colleagues in your field. Whether I am eventually hired at a company or not, my goal with each informational interview is to make a professional friend. Twenty to thirty minutes is plenty of time to create a powerful, exciting connection if you are sincere and prepared.

 Here are questions I ask, though they change, depending on context:

  • How is your day going so far?
  • How did you get this job?
  • What attracted you to this profession or this company?
  • What do you love about this profession the most?
  • What trends do you see that concern you?
  • What are challenges or pain points you’re currently facing?
  • Whom do you admire in the field? Who has influenced your work?
  • What have you learned in the last few years at your job that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you still want to learn?
  • Who do you know that I might speak with? May I use your name as a referral?
  • What can I do for you? 

4)      Because you are already, TODAY, a valuable resource.  It’s important to go into every informational interview with the knowledge that you have a lot to offer.  As a skillful informational interviewer, you know to always ask “What can I do for you?”

 Here are things you can offer if they can’t think of something they need:

  • Since you already noted and wrote down what aspect of their profession they’re particularly interested in, you can look for articles to send them about this.
  • Ask them what their hobbies are, and look for articles you can send them
  • Ask them if they’re looking to meet someone in their profession, or needing a connection. If you don’t know someone now, keep an eye out for future.
  • Ask them if they need help with something you’re good at.  For me, I offer help with people’s LinkedIn profile, if they’d like that.  Usually they say yes, which might turn into a recommendation. Show them both your value and kindness.

5)      Because if you keep doing them, you won’t keep feeling foolish. In the late-80s, I enrolled in a Spanish immersion program in Guanajuato, Mexico for a month. I forced myself to speak Spanish every day, all day, even though I stumbled, misspoke and felt I sounded foolish.  I called my boyfriend-at-the-time in tears who said, “What if you’re just a beginner, and not a fool?” My Spanish steadily improved, and by the end of the month, I could converse.

Informational interviews are just like learning a new language.  With each interview you will find better footing, learn more about your industry, and  profession. You will also relax, become more yourself and before long, will look like someone a company wants to hire.

Every informational interview I’ve had has pulled me forward.  One gave me the courage to launch my own business. A few more taught me where I can provide real value in my profession. Others have eventually led to a job offer.  John C. Maxwell said, “If we are growing, we will always be out of our comfort zone.” Our professional growth then depends on giving ourselves permission to feel uncomfortable–to be willing to be learners. You will be astonished at where it takes you.



The Number One Way to Jump Start Your Job Search

You’ve had it!  Your boss  hijacked the last two team meetings you assembled, or you’re stuck beneath the glass ceiling with no hope of a  promotion.  Whatever your reasons, you’ve decided to commit to finding a new job.   The next step, you decide, is to update your resume. That’s an option, except . . .



Don’t do it!  At least not quite yet. Resist that urge to focus on skills and accomplishments, and look inward, instead.  The best thing you can do to jump start your job search is to clarify your personal brand first.

The Kelley School of Business so understands the necessity of personal branding that it’s a required class for freshmen. Personal branding requires you to convey the following:  Who you are, what you can uniquely offer and how you provide value.  If you succeed in addressing the who, the what and the how in a way that fits an employer’s needs,  you’ll get hired. Therefore, I suggest developing these three aspects of your personal brand before launching a job search campaign.

1) Craft your “elevator pitch:”

I like this formula for nailing down your elevator pitch:

 verb + your target audience + your unique value + result

Think of your elevator pitch as the beating heart of your professional mission.  It should pack a wallop; it should make people curious to hear more about you; it should be delivered with confidence.  For me, when I’m helping a client with her pitch and it gives me goosebumps, I know we’re onto something!  Here is a sampling of elevator pitches I really like:

  • “I help business owners and entrepreneurs achieve their personal and business goals faster”  (Brian Tracy, LinkedIn)
  • “I help academics with limited practical business knowledge to take their research and get it applied in the private sector” (Andrew Neitlich)
  • “I facilitate growth and healing by making a safe space for people to sing, express, and create.” (Laura Sandage, LinkedIn)

2) What 4 or 5 things can you do remarkably well, that you enjoy doing?

It’s easy to take for granted the things you do well or easily.  Consider this though: Glossing over your unique strengths can stall your career development.  Thriving in your career requires a healthy self-awareness of your strengths.  It’s vital that you can articulate them so decision makers and hiring authorities can see how you fill the gap on their team.

Once you’ve identified 4 or 5 skills, organize them into “Show, don’t tell” stories:  Rather than describe yourself as an organized team-player, describe how you implemented an online tracking program for your team that created so much efficiency you all completed the project a week ahead of schedule.  Here is a formula for compelling stories that demonstrate your value:

Task + Action + Result

When considering the result, consider what positive, quantifiable impact you had. Was there a profit or cost-savings? Were others’ jobs simplified? Were you recognized for what you did? What problems did you solve?

Then, take these stories and practice them. Be concise.  Record them. Listen back. Make adjustments. Each story should have energy and describe your unique talents.

3) What aspects of you absolutely need expression in your next job?

Your job satisfaction depends on a fit between who you are–your work values–and what you do daily.  You may not love every aspect of your next job, but be sure to consider what aspects of you–what you value most–must be expressed in your next job. Another way to discern this is to note what’s missing in your current job.

Is creativity vital to your happiness at work? Getting the chance to mentor others?  Employee development? Make decisions without someone checking over your shoulder? A supportive boss? Be very clear about all the “must haves” at your next job, so that you know what to look for next time, and what opportunities you will rule out.

Logging the time in to gain self-awareness about your branding will energize every  phase of your job search. Because you know who you are, and understand your value and impact, it will give you confidence, clarity and purpose.

Celebrating Mistakes in Your Job Search



As I grow my business, I keep making mistakes.  I spend too much time trying to expand my network, and not enough time blogging, and crafting my presentations.  When I caught this imbalance, I regrouped, and gently pulled myself back into balance.

As a job seeker, mistakes are invaluable.  Instead of  browbeating yourself when you blow an interview–as in wow, I was way too long winded during that interview. What was I thinking??,  you can roll up your sleeves and fix the problem. I tell my clients, “Call me when you make a mistake, so we can make a toast to celebrate it. That mistake you made just shaved a day–a week,  a month, off of your job search.”

Why?  Because mistakes are valuable information.  If you don’t make them, if you don’t risk–you actually prolong your job search. During my last job search 7 years ago, I made one big mistake during the first three months of my search, and it cost me that job. I also only had one interview in those three months.  At the time, I was in the dark about how to land interviews.  When I finally got serious about my job search, I made lots of mistakes, but I also tripled the number of interviews each week. I knew I was doing something right.

Part of how I coach clients is to help them become mistake-friendly.  I encourage you to welcome them into your home like an uninvited guest, and receive the gifts they offer.