Celebrating Milestones

June 18th, 2013

Reflection on Milestones
June is Milestone month for the career success network. It’s important to keep track of your career milestones and write them down and store them in your career milestones folder for future reference.
Age is another milestone we pay tribute to in our society. Remember when you turned 16, 21? These ages represent freedom to drive and reaching the age of adult consent in the US. We celebrate the 40, 50, 60 milestones and beyond.
I get weary when I see resumes that start with 10, 15, 20 and beyond years of experience. Why do we do this? I wouldn’t think of introducing myself to a stranger and stating I’m Mary and I’m 60 years old. Yikes – no I don’t think so.
When you meet someone what is one of the first questions you typically ask or are asked? Tell me what you do? We ask this question to discover who you are and where you fit in the world. What is this person’s status, do we have anything in common and do I want to know more about them?
On your resume and linked in profile you should be answering the same questions:

  • What are your areas of expertise?
  •  What have you accomplished in the last 3-5 years? (If you hear yourself saying, I use to do X, you need to create some current experience.)
  • How will you help a company or team accomplish their goals?
  • What specific skills and knowledge do you have that will leverage the success of a team?

What exactly do “years” of experience communicate?

  • I have wisdom. How can you tell others what you “know”? Your summary statement is a place you can describe your expertise and what you have learned and consistently applied throughout your career.
  •  What do you know for sure? (Example: When someone in leadership tells me they need communication training, I know they are communicating and what’s not happening that is the issue.)
  •  Legacy – at some point along your career trajectory you discover you’re the “senior” voice: you can mentor and coach the younger. (Only if asked, of course.)

Mentoring and Coaching
This is NOT telling people what to do. New or future leaders may need knowledge, how-to’s but what they need more than that is:

  •  Reflecting back to someone the truth of his brilliance.
  • Helping through powerful questions. This allows your client to access her well spring of knowledge
  •  Allowing a protégée to authentically express and clarify his/her thoughts. A safe place to test and get feedback.

Remember people want to know who you are, what you have accomplished, what you bring to an organization. Years of experience can bring knowledge and a knowing as long as it’s  one year of experience for 20 years.
June assignment: Write down in your career log 2-3 key accomplishments from the last 6 months and update your resume and linkedin profile. If you have a big project use the project area in linkedin to highlight you work.
July’s Theme is Decisions-Making Wise Career Moves; Book Discussion on Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. Meeting is scheduled for July 9th at 6 PM. More information at this link: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=fynjsbhab&oeidk=a07e7hmypszba57481c
Oh and by the way I’m celebrating my 60th milestone June 20. Have a great month! I look forward to connecting with you soon.

Client Note – Quitting a Bad Job is Easy

April 24th, 2013

I’m working on a new web site and recently asked some clients to share how they experienced our work together.  This note was so beautifully written I decided to share it here in my blog.    It clearly shows the “process” of coaching the outcomes my clients get are all radically different. And you dear reader will have a different journey.

Quitting a bad job is easy. To quit a good job, is hard. By most standards, my career and my life were going very well. I was 31 and had been on the job for 7-years. In that time I had received two title changes and was making good money. In 2011 I made $20,000 more than I did in 2010. In 2012 I made $45,000 more than I did in 2011. My income was comfortably in 6 figures and going up. My wife: brilliant and supportive. Our baby: fat and happy. The house was big and freshly painted, and the car was German and shiny. I had good employees, a great lunch friend, and a boss I admired.

The trouble was that the career I had built was not the career that I wanted. Of course I didn’t know what I wanted, I just knew it wasn’t that. I was a good saver, on the path to early retirement and great wealth.  And I was sick. I had tried and failed to make changes. Who could I even talk to? I had seemingly nothing to complain about! My life, the one I was failing to miserably to change, was the life so many others were scraping to achieve.

So I thought I would try a career coach, not knowing what that was. I found Mary on the Internet. In my first conversation with Mary I questioned whether she could really help me. To her credit, Mary just laughed and said, “You probably are smarter than me Gerard…. I’m not going to give you any answers, you have to get those yourself, but I’ll show you where to start looking. And I’ll show you what to do with the answers you find.”

This is what I liked about Mary. I wasn’t looking to be bossed around. If she had told me what to do, I’d have rebuffed her. She didn’t. She let me figure it out, guided me toward where I see now I was inevitably headed, but there was one thing more that she did that made all the difference. When I was scared and wanted to bail on my plan, she didn’t dismiss my fear but helped me understand it.

I learned through this process that an absence of fear isn’t the same as bravery. The ignorant aren’t scared either! And the presence of fear isn’t cowardice, sometimes it is just awareness. I picked my path, and I was scared as hell to walk it. Who quits a life like mine?

I read Walden for courage, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” So I let my things alone! I sold the cars, sold my stuff. When someone came for my TV, I gave them a rug, some toys…everything must go!

I packed some things that we thought would rot well, and we moved our family to the tropics. I now live on Saipan, an island where at this instant the geckos are singing to me over the crash of the not too distant waves as I write. I smell like coconut oil and my baby is often salty when I kiss her.

Early in my sessions with Mary she pointed out that the parts of my professional life that I really enjoy are those when I am teaching and being of service to others. I scoffed, “teachers make like $40,000 a year!” Actually, here it’s less. At the job I left, I made as much in some months as I will make in a year here.

Now Mary may not post this letter, and I wouldn’t blame her if she doesn’t. I don’t think all her clients quit their jobs and move 5000 miles away. Like I said, I have simply gone the way that I was inevitably headed, she just helped me be all right with my decisions rather than fighting them.  She’s not weird, I am. I left a job most people would love, to take a job that pays a slim fraction. Not only that, I now contentedly hammock in a place where most the locals are trying to leave!

But least you dismiss me as mental, hear me say this. I know how to climb a coconut tree and I know when a papaya is ready. I’m thinner, I swim in the ocean, I read to my daughter, and my wife and I are closer than we have been in 10-years. All those things bring me more joy than staring at my check stubs.

Now, to the business at hand! I’m not brief by nature, and living on a tiny spec of limestone in the Pacific has made me even less hurried, so I apologize for the delay. Mary asked me for a recommendation that she could share with clients and prospective clients. I shared my story to share my fear, past and occasionally still present. Thanks to Mary I am no longer directed by my insecurities, but I instead try to understand and progress in spite.

The other night I was scuba diving in a massive cave and I saw a large shark. A moment later I was within arm’s length of a turtle the size of a Korean car. I was afraid, but I just kept calmly kicking forward. Bravery or ignorance, I don’t particularly care which; the people who don’t leave the beach never even get the chance to wonder. Mary helped me get where I wanted to be.

Or more simply, I enjoyed my time with Mary, I’ll likely enjoy more time with her. I would happily recommend you do the same.


Gerard van Gils 4/2013


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden




Creating Space – 3 steps to Evaluating Space

April 3rd, 2013

In my last post I shared thoughts on Space and gave you an exercise to help you discover your inner knowing space.  What insights did you gain from that exercise?

Moving away from a pain point in life without purpose will often result in replacing that space with another pain point.  For example, a woman who became her own worst boss after leaving a corporate position to start her own company.  You want to make sure you’re moving towards something not away from.

Three steps to evaluate and create your SPACE.

  1. Clarify your top 3-4 values. Values are hierarchical and if they are not clear to you, they will keep you stuck; you will continue to feel confused, conflicted and unable to decide.
  2. Once values are clarified, examine your life and when decisions are required ask yourself, “Is this in support of my highest values of X,Y, Z?”  For example:  If time alone is a high value, perhaps going out to a party tonight will only lead to frustration. Your activity is not aligning with your highest value.  You may have a value of cultivating friends and it may be #5 on your list and another time would better for hanging out with your friends.
  3. Do you feel the need to fill an empty space?  Hoarders are extreme examples of this.  Sometimes it’s simply years of routine.  Recently my cat of 18 years passed away and my first inclination was to replace her.  I was uncomfortable with the vacuum of time and physical space her passing had left in my life.  I’ve allowed myself time to examine the routine that I had around cleaning, feeding and supporting my furry companion.  Do I have space for something new and different?


Your hierarchy of values through adulthood will change. Space is important at all stages of life; however, what that space looks like will change.  Examine your space.  Does it serve the goals you have today to:

  • Expand your career,
  • Hold a growing family,
  • Support your passions, hobbies, and interests,
  • Reflect, contemplate, and refresh,
  • Reconnect with your community?

What’s your dream?  Remember space can confine you, define you and support you. If you want to explore your SPACE, a Career Coach can help you see it from a fresh perspective.

Examining the Value of SPACE – SPACE the stealth value

March 26th, 2013

I picked up the phone: Hello?
Caller: I’m calling because

I’m frustrated or angry and I’m not sure why.
I didn’t think my life would turn out like this.
Is this all there is, for my work/my life?
If only I had the time to…

  • Work out, go to college, look for a new job.
  • If my house, desk, office was better organized I would…

  • Work out, look for a new job, start writing, painting.
  • People don’t call a career coach when they are happy. Often after an initial coaching session it’s clear the client needs space to change. He will often insist on listing all the evidence about why he can’t possibly change (see above list). What he hasn’t grasped yet is that once he has taken a few transformational steps it’s impossible to go back.

    Change can be aborted. Creativity can be aborted. However, restoring ignorant bliss is not going to happen. The frustration that led her to embark into a coaching relationship is from an inner-knowing that is encouraging her to seek answers. Or an outer force of “circumstances” has forced her to move from her current life situation.

    This is the point at which the value of SPACE becomes crucial. Your relationship to SPACE can take on many forms, some are known and some are not. Some are pleasant and some not pleasant.
    Here are some examples:


  • Holding on to a job as an “excuse” to create a buffer from overwhelming family requirements.
  • Postponing looking for a job or changing your life until:
  • You remodel the laundry room
    Your kids move out and you can create your own office
    You get more organized

  • Moving to the countryside, abandoning the pace of city life, when I’m retired.

  • Mental

  • Connecting 24/7 to avoid your “fear” of not knowing something.
  • Being available and at work even when you’re not mentally available.
  • Taking time for dreaming, thinking, reading, or writing
  • Disconnecting on vacation –stepping off the grid
  • Spending time in nature – clinically proven to improve cognitive creative functions in the brain.

  • Emotional

  • Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.
  • Listening to endless internal chatter, losing sleep at night.
  • Thinking about family at work and work when you are with family.

  • Spiritual

  • Praying, breathing and meditating.
  • Maintaining daily or weekly rituals that promote space to be with your source.
  • Asking, “What went well today? What do I intend to create today?”
  • Space confines also. Holding on to space that no longer serves your highest potential.

    A house of memories or failed possibilities
    Staying with a bully boss or an abusive corporate culture for fear there is nothing better or I will lose it all. (Golden Handcuffs)
    Know it’s time to leave a relationship and not for a myriad of excuses
    We have always done X and will regardless of the physical and emotional strain it creates.

    Ask yourself these questions. What am I frustrated with right now? What was I expecting to happen? Be as specific as possible.

    Now give yourself some space. Listen to the background noise, feel gravity on your body even say to yourself I’m allowing space for this to be. Go for a walk, spend time in nature. Ask for the answer to come into your conscious mind. The answer is within; pay attention; the answer will come.

    Here is a blog post from Kinde Nebeker that I found valuable for exploring space.

    Check back for my next post on the 3 steps to evaluating and creating space for good decision making.

    Mystery Guests – Discovering Authentic Connections

    December 3rd, 2012

    When teaching customer service skills, we invited mystery guests to test and evaluate the service delivery of our employees.  These tests came any time, from any customer. Employees were on their toes not knowing when they were being tested. With each customer experience, the uncertainty heightened the employees’ awareness and reinforced their skills.

    You can apply the mystery guest approach to discover authentic connections this holiday season and enhance your professional network. It’s a wonderful time of the year to meet new people, to refine your networking skills.  Do you have a pile of business cards; people you were going to follow-up with and didn’t?  Have you met someone you admire, someone you would love to work with? Take a few hours in December and call, email or meet that person for coffee.

    Have you been invited to a holiday networking event?  Go with the intention of discovering something new and amazing from the people you meet. 

      Keep these questions in mind for yourself.

  • How can I serve?

  • Who can I serve?
  • Where can I serve?
  • Here are some ideas to discover your mystery guest. What are you curious about?  Are you testing a hypothesis statement about a possible career move, industry or company?  As a career strategist, I rely on my curiosity; wondering how people end up in the careers they have.

      Explore these topics to create fresh insights and new friendships.

  • What do you like about your career?

  • What do you want to do more often?
  • What do you want to do less often?
  • What topics would someone interested in your field explore?
  • How did you find your passion?
  • Did a person or unexpected event change the course of your career?
    • Here are other ideas to help you connect to a mystery guest.

  • What went well for you today/this week?

  • What holiday traditions do you enjoy?
  • Tell me about your most memorable holiday.
  • Enjoy the season – remember to rest, breath and search for the “mystery” guest.  Embrace the mystery of networking and connect authentically.

    The Art of the Ask – Salary Negotiations, MORE PLEASE!

    October 28th, 2012

    Yesterday’s employment news reinforced what I’ve been experiencing with my clients in recent months. Utah’s unemployment rate for September 2012 has dropped to 5.4%. Clients are interviewing and negotiating job offers!

    When you get a job offer this is one of the few times you have the upper hand in the employment relationship. When you are ready to negotiate a salary package, a career strategist can make a huge difference. Here are two recent cases that illustrate the importance of asking for more.

    Client Bob: A highly specialized engineer who had been out of work for 7 months.

    When he was offered a position at a company for $65,000, Bob approached the negotiation process from a sense of diminished value because of his protracted job search. As his career strategist, I analyzed the local market data and determined that his salary offer was based on project management expertise and did not include additional compensation for his engineering background or his international experience. Together Bob and I developed strategic dialogues for his counter offer and practiced them as he prepared for his upcoming salary negotiation.

    Prepared to negotiate, Bob got a $10,000 salary increase to start, an extra week of vacation and the promise of another $10,000 increase in 6 months. Bob paid me $125 to help him prepare for his counter offer. He was thrilled! Moreover, he realized that the most impactful decision of his offer negotiations was to include a career strategist in that process at the most critical moment. For Bob’s small investment the value of his return was both significant and measurable.

    ($125 investment in a career strategist = $20,000 in compensation plus an extra week of vacation)

    Client Sue: A highly skilled specialized computer programmer laid-off in July and looking for a few months.

    Sue asked for career coaching as she prepared for a few upcoming interviews. Within a few days of each other, she had two offers.

    The first offer is known as a black hole (low ball) offer: $7,000 below her last salary and a $2,500 relocation package to move to Alaska. Of course, Sue was thrilled to finally have an offer and giddy when discussing how to counter this. “Whoa, do you really want this position?” She admitted – “no”, but out of work for several months she felt she had no choice but to pursue it. As her career strategist, I pointed out she didn’t have enough information to make a decision. She had interviewed by phone and hadn’t met anyone in person at the prospective employer’s company. Her family, a husband and two kids would be following her and $2,500 wouldn’t even buy air plane tickets for them. To buy some time, I suggested she negotiate an on-site visit to check the place out. Would she really consider uprooting her family to Alaska without seeing if she even liked the people there? All the while she was actively interviewing for five other positions.

    In a few days she had an offer for a manager position with a company in CA. The hiring manager offered her relocation and a rich benefit package. When I analyzed the metropolitan salary data, I discovered that the company’s offer only compensated Sally for her programming expertise not for her management experience. With my guidance she learned about the true impact of relocation. She didn’t know that relocation is a taxable employee benefit and would be included as income on her W-2. This oversight would increase her taxable income creating a greater personal tax liability. We put together a negotiation strategy and she renegotiated $15,000 more to her base. She agreed to manage her relocation herself and now will be able to deduct the expenses from her taxes. She’s thrilled to be joining a company where she likes her colleagues and where she can build her career expertise.

    The slack in the labor market has tightened. Companies are still hoping to find a bargain employee. It’s very important to know how to approach negotiations; you get one shot at something that can impact you for the rest of your career. The company making the offer wants you. They have spent considerable time and energy to get to the offer stage. The last thing they want is to keep looking. So remember even if they say NO, asking for what you want doesn’t hurt.

    Join me at the Career Success Network on November 13, 2012 at 6 p.m. to explore more about the Art of the Ask. Register now.


    October 3rd, 2012

    As a career strategist I’m curious about what works to keep people focused and engaged at work. This becomes increasingly challenging as professional stress levels rise and uncertainty looms large.

    In Zolli and Healy’s book, “Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back”, resilience is defined as

    “the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.”

    Bad things happen in life – good things happen in life.

    Everyone has lost a loved one and most of the population has experienced violence and distress at some time in their lives. How people react is different. You might be surprised to learn that even in war and traumatic injury, 60-80% of those studied (these are large longitudinal studies) demonstrated little change in life satisfaction. Less than 4% of the population shows chronic PTSD symptoms long term.    George Bonanno, PhD

    What is promising is that building resilience and learning how to manage stress can be taught and practiced. Mindfulness meditation emerges as a particularly effective tool and simply requires a simple training of the mind. Among a number of proven techniques Dr. Stanley H. Block’s Mind-Body Bridging is easy and can be applied any time during the day. All you need is 2-3 minutes and it can be done in any setting even while driving or sitting in a meeting. Bridging and thought map techniques diffuse tension and anxiety enabling you to efficiently engage the fully functioning executive parts of your brain.

    Another useful tool is Dan Howard’s Intentional Resting. With this technique, you are taught to direct your awareness enabling you to access your body’s natural ability to rest and heal.

    Here are a few things others have recently shared about what works well in developing their resilience.

  • Faith – Belief that things happen for a reason
  • Clear sense of purpose
  • Prayer and meditation (spiritual practice)
  • Physical routine – running, swimming and working out.
  • Sense of belonging – community (church, neighborhood, clubs, networking)
  • Emotional support – close friends, family and trained professionals who can listen and counsel

    Career viability requires that you continue to reexamine and to redefine your skills, knowledge and abilities. This can be stressful and yet through this process, your core self and beliefs remain your structural foundation, the cornerstone of your resilience in a dynamic environment. You know who you are and if your purpose is to teach for example, you will teach regardless of changes in your organization or career role.

    Do you know your core purpose? You do have one. Have you forgotten what it is or think it should be different? Having a definitive “I AM” statement helps. “I am” is not necessarily a job title. For example, you may think of me as a career strategist. Yet on a deeper level, “I am a transformer “who accesses truth to create work that works. “I am a pilgrim who seeks experiences that transform my spirit and thoughts” so I can assist myself and others to create work that works.

    Come and share your thoughts on resiliency at our next Career Success Network meeting on October 9th at 6 p.m. and join in our lively discussion. We’ll try out a few of these techniques for building resilience.

  • How Authenticity and Gratitude create Career Synchronicities

    September 18th, 2012

    During my recent vacation to Aspen I visited my favorite bookstore Explore. It’s a must stop from the many years I’ve been visiting. While sitting on the floor exploring the poetry section, an “older” gentleman walked in and asked for the job search section. I couldn’t help wonder or hope he was buying a book for a grandchild or friend. Would there even be any job search books at the Aspen book store?

    I resisted following him into the business book section as I questioned, “What if the store didn’t have any books on that topic?” Suddenly I remembered that I had Bill Humbert’s Guide to Finding a Job back in my room. If the store didn’t have any books, I could offer to go and get it for him. Sitting there on the floor in the poetry section, I conversed with myself unyielding to that inner nudge. But wait!

    As I was walked up to the register to pay for my book the job search gentleman approached at the same time. “What book did you get?” I asked. He showed me two copies of What Color is your Parachute? I was surprised, as I consider the parachute book more of a find yourself book rather than one for job search techniques. The gentleman held the book up to his face and in a flash I recognized that he was the author of the book, Dick Bolles.

    What color is your parachute? is a book I used in the late 70’s. Dick told me he had spent the last three years reworking it. The world of work and the way to stay employed has change dramatically in the last 4 years and it appears his book has too. I’ve ordered my copy.

    I asked Mr. Bolles to sign a book for me. He was buying the only two books left in the store for a workshop he was conducting. We exchanged cards and this short encounter was a high point of my vacation. How often do you get a chance to thank someone who influenced you early in your career? Think of the teacher, mentor or co-worker who really made a difference in your life. Even though I had never met Mr. Bolles he had a big impact on my life. As I’ve shared this story over the last week I’m pleased to discover there are many people who have fond memories of doing the work of discovering a life’s path through his parachute book. So here is my shout out and thank you to a pioneer and visionary who impacted my life in a big way.

    For more information about Dick check out: http://www.jobhuntersbible.com

    Breathe Easy

    July 9th, 2012

    The theme of my life over the last month has been to focus on breathing. I attended a spiritual retreat the week of my birthday. There were opportunities for group meditations and we were often reminded to pay attention to our breathing, inhale and exhale. While in Colorado there were many large forest fires burning. As we drove back though Wyoming billowing clouds of smoke filled the sky. Focus on breathing clean air. Shortly after I returned home I came down with pertussis – aka. Whooping cough; to breathe in and to breathe out was extremely difficult and accompanied with coughing spasms.
    As I write this I’m recovering, with gratitude for my Mind Body bridging. These are skills I teach in the Managing Stress at Work and in Life class. Listening to the back ground noise, noticing tension in my body, resting into my breath, feeling gravity on my body, managing my breathing: I practice, practice, practice. I’m amazed at how helpful this practice has been in managing and transforming my body’s stress.
    Join me starting on Wednesday, July 18th for Managing Stress at Work and in Life, a four-week small group coaching program practicing Mind/Body Bridging.  It works.

    I Can SEE Clearly NOW!

    May 21st, 2012

    I can see clearly now…the clouds have gone.
    I love clean windows and this weekend I cleaned my windows inside and out. It was a lovely day on Saturday in Salt Lake City. (I get inspired when I clean.)

    I started to sing the song I can see clearly now:
    I can see clearly now the rain has gone
    I can see all obstacles in my way
    Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
    It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day

    I think I can make it now the pain has gone
    And all of the bad feelings have disappeared
    Here is the rainbow I’ve been praying for
    It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

    Look all around there’s nothing but blue skies
    Look straight ahead nothing but blue skies

    Johnny Nash – 1972

    Wow what inspiring words. A few weeks ago at the Career Success Network, participants were asked to remember who they are and their purpose. They were reminded that you don’t need to find it – it’s there and has been all along. Everyone felt inspired by the amazing statements some came up with during our short time together. Others left that night to ponder their intentions, their outcomes – to report in on June 5th when we meet again.

    My partner commented on the way home, “You should have told them about the tests.” These sessions are so uplifting and energizing and I suspect too much information dampens the lightness in that moment when you remember and profess your authentic self. In June we will confront the universal tests by asking that time-honored question; “Are you sure?”

    Back to the windows. It’s brilliantly clear looking out the windows right after they are washed. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see out but I realize now that they were covered with a thin layer of grime; and what I could see was a bit fuzzy and unclear. And it’s true that I know the windows won’t stay clean for long. Just like those windows, life can become a bit unclear; and isn’t this true of our career life as well?

    My younger twenty-something clients are often very clear on what they want, where they are going and how it’s going to be. Those in their forties and beyond feel lost, unclear and exhausted. The sparkle of who they are can no longer be seen through that layer of grime.

    Getting back in touch with your life purpose and creating a compelling intention and outcome for yourself can help you clear that layer away. Checking in with a trusted career consultant is something you should consider as part of your spring career cleaning. Like washing windows it helps you to see clearly.

    I can help you bring the sparkle back to your career path. Join me and Susan Waldron on June 5th at the Career Success Network and I will explain the universal tests and the importance of revisiting your vision and setting clear intention.

    Until then,
    It’s a bright, bright, sunshiny day!