Personal Development

Is This The End? By Dr. Dawn Graham

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Fewer of us are staying at our jobs for decades like our parents. People are less likely to tolerate toxic work cultures, no advancement, poor leadership, and want more out of life than just work. Are you ready for a change? Pick up Dr. Dawn Graham's book Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers - and Seize Success. Here is some advice or perhaps the kick in the behind that you may have been needing to make changes in your own career. 

While it’s not unusual to have bad days at work (and some that even lead to dreams of quitting and retiring to a sunny island), deciding to actually resign is a big deal. How can you tell if you’re just going through a tough phase in your job or if it’s time to explore new opportunities? Consider these:

1.    Identify the root of the problem: Is the boss hindering your professional growth or maybe the culture isn’t a great match? Is your work environment toxic or maybe your daily commute or travel schedule is slowly killing you? Some things can be changed. Other problems will follow you. Either way, when you can pinpoint the major hurdle, you’ll be more equipped to overcome it.

2.    Craft an experiment: If the company is interested in retaining you and the root of your problem is boredom, they may be open to you taking on special projects or transitioning to a different department to learn a new function. Think about your longer-term career goals and identify skill gaps you’d like to close. Even if you plan to leave the company down the road, you can use your remaining time wisely by building up your resume and relationships.

3.    Know where you’re going:  You’ll always be more successful when you run TOWARD an exciting opportunity versus running AWAY from a bad situation. Once you identify the problem (see #1), next map out what your ideal situation looks like so that you can aim for that target. Even the least skilled interviewers can recognize the difference between motivation and desperation, so clarify your goal and communicate why you’re excited about it.

4.    Evaluate the landscape: If it’s been a while since you’ve changed roles, the market and skill sets may have shifted. Take time to understand your current value in the industry you’re targeting and be able to relay how the problems you solve contribute positively to a company’s bottom line. Reconnect with your network and get feedback on your candidacy. Also, get up to speed on the latest hiring trends. You don’t want to be blindsided by a request for a one-way video interview or miss a job opening because you’re not on social media.

5.    Look before you leap:  Unemployment bias is real, therefore, it’s easier to land a new role while still employed since you’ll seem more attractive as a candidate. Sometimes a workplace is so toxic that it’s not possible to stay a moment longer, but if that’s not the case, continue to deliver your best work while engaging in a stealth job search after hours.

6.    Get creative: If you’re not able to change jobs now or the job search is taking longer than anticipated, keep your energy and motivation high by finding career fulfillment in other ways. Join a nonprofit board, take on a mentee, or enroll in continuing education courses. A positive attitude will be your best friend in an interview, so avoid feeling “stuck” by taking action. Bonus: These actions are great for networking, which may ultimately lead to your next opportunity!

7.    Don’t look back. Trust your gut to tell you when it’s time to move on. Most jobs have difficult periods, but if you constantly feel stressed, are getting physically ill (e.g., headaches, etc.), or if your relationships are suffering, it’s time to go.

Happy hunting!

Dr. Dawn Graham, PhD is one of the nation's leading career coaches. She is the Career Director for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School, where she counsels business leaders on making strategic career choices. A licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter, she hosts SiriusXM Radio's popular weekly call-in show Career Talk and is a regular contributor to Forbes.

Her latest book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers - and Seize Success is written specifically for people thinking about changing career paths. Packed with psychological insights, practical exercises, and inspiring success stories, Switchers helps these individuals leap over obstacles and into a whole new field.


The Word? Fertilizer!

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles via

If you had the guts to even set some New Year’s resolutions then congratulations are in order. By now 92% of you that set goals have already flunked. Pretty depressing right? I learned long ago to forgo setting any wild vague resolutions as they consistently vanished into thin air by January 30th – or before.

This year, I decided to choose a single word for the year to focus on instead of any resolutions. I wanted a word that is unique, represents who I am, and will guide my course for 2017. My word? Fertilizer. Yes, you read it right. You see, I am a garden geek and I love designing and growing gardens. That passion flows into other areas of my life.

Even if you regularly kill plants you probably know the value of fertilizer. A feeding to your plants will boost growth, strengthen the roots, aid in preventing diseases, condition the soil for long term health, and give you an overabundance of veggies that 5 families can’t consume. In short, fertilizer is like magic in the garden.

I am passionate about digging for the gifts of others and nourishing them so that they can bring out their best and grow to have an impact. I aim to be the fertilizer to those around me this year. This simple word will drive me to:

  1. Look for the beauty in those that I meet and learn how I can help them to grow their inner beauty to the surface
  2. Strengthen the roots of others through opportunities, learning, and forming strong relationships
  3. Discover ways to protect friends from “diseases” such as lack of confidence, low self esteem, or uncertainty
  4. Uplift others and help them to “weed” out those people from their lives that are unsupportive or mock dreams or aspirations
  5. Impact one “plant” at a time growing him/her into a colony of incredible people with positive attitudes and purpose to support growth
  6. Support the health of others so that they are resilient and strong in chasing their uniqueness and bold ideas

If I focus on being a fertilizer this year my hope is that I can feed others so that they will grow and glow. My word will remind me what is important and how I can have an impact. In turn, my own growth and sense of giving to others will be accelerated. It is the year of fertilizer.

What will YOUR word be in 2017?

What's in Your Stuffing?

Photo courtesy of Slice Of Chic via Flickr

"The thankful receiver bears a plentiful  harvest " - William Blake

Don’t tell a turkey, but I really don’t like them. We have some that travel in our woods and it’s a bit creepy how these humongous chunky birds roost in trees. They aren’t particularly good looking and they can be very violent and will happily charge at you without notice. They will be pleased to learn that I really don’t enjoy eating them either. To me, turkey tastes bland and dry and perhaps it can be chalked up to the lack of cooking skills in our family tree. I just haven’t met a turkey that I like.

On Thanksgiving Day I am definitely more of a stuffing kind of gal. The taste of moist stuffing that has aged and been nourished by the cooking turkey is a treat. There are so many tasty and unique stuffing recipes and I’m willing to try them all. Meats, veggies, nuts, spices, herbs, berries, breads are all options for personalizing your stuffing. These ingredients mimic the paints that an artist uses to create a unique picture. Cooks create their own work of art that really brings out the best from within the turkey and brings the meal together.

Stay with me for a minute and imagine yourself as a turkey – pretend that it’s not Thanksgiving. We have all been one at one time or another. Our kids probably think it every day! What kind of stuffing would you have inside you? Don’t just reflect on the ingredients, texture, and smell. Really think of what is inside. Does your “stuffing” reflect who you really are? If you have strong values are they truly being reflected outside in your day to day activities? Are you growing and nourishing your “stuffing” so that it is served as the best part of you?

If you are a stuffing lover like me, you want to add the ingredients that really reflect your tastes and that you enjoy. You want your stuffing to reflect who you are and really “wow” others. So I ask you, what are your most effective “stuffing” ingredients?

  • Garbage in, garbage out. Strive for adding optimum ingredients and you will be rewarded. Surrounding yourself with people who challenge you will bring out your best
  • Join local Meet Up groups to add some spice and companionship with like minds
  • Read 30 minutes every day. Ingesting words will impact your written and verbal communication
  • Meditate daily. Relax and look within to bring out your best in the form of gratitude, serenity, and calmness in confronting issues and openness
  • Volunteer. Appreciate what you have by giving back and adding to others
  • Set goals and follow them. Set goals weekly so that you focus on them
  • Seek out new learning. There is a plethora of online learning opportunities or TED talk to beef up your mind
  • Find a coach to guide you. Cooking the best stuffing is achieved by lessons and practice. Find someone to teach you how to make and bake the best in you
  • Change is good. Why not change up your recipe for success? Try something new. Allow yourself to add new or different ingredients
  • Be willing to try the recipes of others. Watch and listen to what other people are doing to perform or achieve and mimic some of the best
  • Don’t hoard your recipe for success. Share it will others and be willing to guide them through the “stuffing” process

You really are what you learn, do, and give back every day. The best is always inside you as is the stuffing is in our Thanksgiving turkey. Take the time to add premium ingredients throughout the cooking process, allow it to simmer and reach its potential, and take that “stuffing” out this week to allow others to enjoy.

What ingredients will you be adding to your “stuffing” for the remainder of the year? Hopefully you will look at stuffing in a whole new way and Happy Thanksgiving!

Do You Need to be Clipped For Growth?

Summer is far from ended but perhaps some of your flowers don’t quite agree. This is frequently the time of year where pots and window boxes look sad with browning leaves and flowers. Your flower beds are likely looking the same and sympathetic to those planted around them. As hard as it is, the best tactic that you can use is to clip them and you don’t necessarily need to be gentle.

For most flowers, especially annuals, their goal is to sprout new life and ultimately set seed (or throw seeds!) before dying. Like all species, they aim to maintain the existence of their species by reproducing. When your flowers, and even some shrubs, look haggard and seem to be drying up you need to deadhead them to give them new life. Deadheading sounds like a drastic measure and it doesn’t mean that you yank them out of the ground. Deadheading entails clipping off the dead or browning flowers and often a sizable chunk of the leaves to jump start your garden into growing profusely and flowering again.

There are numerous benefits to deadheading the flowers and some shrubs in your garden. As tough as it is you are doing them, and yourself, a favor by encouraging growth.

  • Deadheading refreshes the look and lushness of your flowers. Plants improve their health and beauty.
  • When you clip off dead flowers it halts the production of seeds because plants redirect their energy from seed production to root, leaf, and flower growth
  • Clipping plants triggers chemical processes in plants or shrubs that tell them to produce flowers not set seeds.
  • Some plants are notorious self- seeders and clipping off the dead flowers, the vessel for seeds, prevents a mass of baby sprouts the next year
Clearly, you need to be strong, pickup your garden clippers, and cut away. It can be very rewarding as you clip your frustrations away and even more so when your garden springs back to life.

I always say that humans aren’t all that different than the plant and animal life around us. That’s why I started this blog. Sure, we are more complex but we are so similar in many ways. As professionals there are times that we feel like a browning flower in late August. We may feel like we are mentally shriveling up and not producing like we once did. We may lose our purpose or reason to bloom. We aren’t as strong or committed as we once were. We long for the days where each morning we jumped up out of bed fresh and ready to blossom with growth. We may no longer bloom for others or even care about their growth. In short, you feel and maybe even look, like a dead flower head. Sound familiar?

When you feel like this there is only one solution – you need some clipping in order to grow and bloom again. You need to acknowledge that you are in a rut and need a restart. Your mind must change focus from spewing out seeds to growing from the roots and flowering again. So how do you do this?

  • Make a list of what attracted you to your career/job in the first place. Are you doing those things or has your role changed over time without you realizing how far you have drifted from what drew you to it in the first place?
  • What factors with your job, team, or boss have stunted your growth? Is it time to ask for new responsibilities or a change to a new area?
  • Sometimes you just need to admit that it’s you, not “them” or vise-versa. If so, what changes can be made or is it time to clip yourself out of your current job?
  • It may not be your job that is the problem. Maybe you need some growth and to take a class to put some spark back into your field. You may even meet some new people and grow your circle of friends.
  • Teach a class in your field to empower others to grow. You can impact young leaders and I guarantee that you will feel renewed again just helping others learn and flourish.
  • Join a Meetup group in your field or better yet, in a different field. Likewise you can jump back into various associations in your area. You will meet like minded people and you may find that you have something to offer. This may be the new start that you need.
  • Sometimes we get planted in the wrong spot. You can’t grow cactus in the shade and perhaps you do need a change before you shrivel up from being in the wrong place or from a lack of growth. Find a trusted mentor or look into a career coach to guide you to give you a little fertilizer.

I know that there have been times where I have over identified myself with my job. That’s not healthy and there is more to you than a job. Have you noticed that the first thing people ask is what you do or where you work? I found that by volunteering or lifting others up I felt a renewed sense of being and growth. Focusing on the growth of others and trying to have an impact have grown me far more than I could have ever imagined.

As drastic as it sounds you have one life and sometimes you need to either clip yourself or wait for someone else to do it - which may not be pleasant. Many people need to hit bottom first before we take steps to cut off the old in order to grow again. Do you need to be clipped for growth?

Where Is Your Support?

You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support - Sabrina Bryan

My living conifer arch thanks to the right support!

If you visit my garden and look at some of my weeping conifers you may think that there is something amiss. I love weeping trees for their uniqueness and character. Most of my trees look odd with stakes poking out of them. There may be several support stakes poised in curious directions. My garden is a like a paint canvass and I love to unleash my creativity which includes creating the unusual and funky. Weeping trees are like that odd flashy relative at a family reunion – you are mesmerized and just keep staring at them.

For years I have been training my conifers to grow in crazy directions. I even have a few that look like tall, wise old gents overseeing the garden with outstretched arms. In some of these pictures you can see where trees are being trained to weep where I want them too.  I have coaxed a few of them to create living arches over some of my paths. It’s incredible to walk through the garden under lush green arches that gently sway in the breeze. The key is providing the weepers with the right kind of support.

To grow into magnificent living sculptures, weeping trees need support. They can’t flourish into what is in your imagination alone. They also need patience and for you to carry out the vision of what they can be in your mind. In short, they need you because you provide the structure that they seek when they need it most.

 Creating living weeping sculptures is simple. Start with a weeping conifer with pliable branches and simply drive a support stake from a garden center into the ground until its sturdy.  The size of the stake should be taller than the branch that you will be supporting. Simply tie the branch(s) in the direction that you want them to grow onto the post with garden twine or tape. Don’t tie them too tight because the circumference of a tree branch grows more quickly than you may think and you don’t want to choke it by tying too tightly. Tie it enough so the branch remains supported yet, the branch or trunk has some slight wiggle room.

You will probably need to practise tying the branches a few times but its simple once you have the hang of it. That’s all you need to do! Within a year or two you can remove the stake and you will have a living art piece. Here are some of my favorite weeping conifers to use in the garden:

Weeping White Pine
Weeping Alaska Cedar
Weeping Norway Spruce
Weeping Larch
Weeping Serbian Spruce
Weeping Japanese Red Pine
Weeping Bald cypress
Weeping Hemlock
Weeping Blue Spruce

There are literally hundreds of weeping conifers for homeowners to start growing living art in the yard.  There are several excellent online garden sites where you can curate some unusual weepers for your yard. The best part? Staking and occasionally watering conifers are the hardest part about growing them into something where people say “Wow!”

Not surprisingly, we aren’t so different from plant life. There are times when we all need support  in order to spread out and grow into magnificent “living art”. The tree stake  that so many of us use to stake trees in our yards represents the many forms of support that enable us all to become the best that we can be in both our personal and professional lives. Our society is fast paced and we have become a world where we shoulder too much and feel like we need to do it all. Asking for help or admitting that we can’t handle a project or problem on our own leaves us feeling weak or ineffective. I have a hard time asking for assistance because I don’t like bothering others and I tell myself that I can handle what is thrown at me. Wrong!

Slowly, I feel that there is more societal acceptance brewing where people admit that we all need a little help or support – and it’s OK. The complexities of work and family have pushed many of us to pull back to try to find a better balance. Even business is pushing employees to take vacations and several have implemented programs to help create balance. Moreover, we have more choices available for support or group understanding. The Internet enables us to reach out to others anywhere in the world who may share our same concerns and frustrations.

Need some support? There are a lot of “stakes” out there to support your growth!

  1. Career and life coaches have become the norm and many companies even subsidize the cost.
  2. Group coaching for people experiencing the same issues or concerns.
  3. Certified career counselors can be very beneficial to supporting change and for encouragement.
  4. Networking groups. I have twins and when my kids were young our local Mother of Twins club kept me sane!
  5. Meetup groups are fantastic and ongoing all over the country. You can find any group to fuel a passion or be with like minds.
  6. Find a mentor. Numerous organizations have in-house programs as part of career development programs.
  7. Facebook can actually be a great resource for support. I was a member of a closed online mentoring group for a year and it was phenomenal. I met some great ladies.
  8. How about joining career groups like the AMA, Professional Speakers Association or other industry specific groups. I belong to our local Lean In group as well a local women’s group and it really helps me stay grounded. It is a safe haven to share my work balance concerns.
  9. Jump into some volunteering with a local chamber or diversity groups.You will grow professionally and support your personal enrichment.
  10. Join coworkers after work just to chat and get to know each other. You may find some new support or make a new confidant. My husband attends “beer league” at least twice a month with some coworkers and has really deepened some relationships.

Support and feeling like we are not alone is so critical in our fast paced society. Don’t try to grow alone, welcome a helping hand. When the going gets tough, find a “stake” to support you. At times I liken myself to the conifers that I support with stakes….The more support I have , the more likely I will be strengthened and become the living art that I was placed on earth to be!

Leaders Are Readers And Social Media Counts

"Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers" - Harry S Trueman

Knowledge at your fingertips!

Trueman's quote is one of my all time favorites! I've said it before, but I choke when people state that they read maybe 1-2 books a year!  I read that number or more in a week.  There is so much in the world to learn  and so little time to absorb it all. Reading opens up your mind and makes it so easy to share and learn from  others. The internet has really placed the world at our feet and we have a virtual library in the phones that are attached to our bodies.

There's a lot of chatter out in the cyber world about how social media is rotting all of our brains. People are too absorbed in social media on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. Guess what? I don't agree. Social media is like your education - it's what you do with it. You can be a genius but if you don't put it to use, what good is it? Social media can educate you, help you engage, and open up your mind. However, you won't get these benefits if you use your time stalking people all day on Facebook or tweeting mindless thoughts to your friends on Twitter. Use social media to your advantage - to learn.

I'm active on most of the top social networks. I follow thought leaders and numerous business channels. In the past 6 months I've become very active on channels such as Facebook but not for the reasons that you think. I don't have 5000 friends nor do I want to! I have joined a lot of groups focusing on my favorite business issues and gardening. Wow! There is a lot information to be gleaned from others!

We all love to share our passion with those who understand us. I have found some great communities within social media on gardening. I learn something new every day and can swap ideas or even plants. I have connected with gardeners in England and admire the gardening craft there. I have an outdoor cactus garden and connect with groups about cactus and succulents. Some of the groups that I follow include: Pruning Tips, Gardenaholics Anonymous, Miniature Conifers, The Plant Exchange, The Garden Club. The list is endless. I literally have experts on call that I can interact and share with - for free! I have even joined gardening groups on LinkedIn such as Horticulture, Master Gardeners, Garden Design, and Healing Garden. Some of the top thought leaders in gardening are a part of these groups. I learn  more about the industry and new plant introductions. Don't even get me started on Twitter. There is a wealth of sharing and great pics as well.

Put social media to work for you as a learning and connection tool and you can quickly become overwhelmed. Start with sites such as Facebook and grow from there. I have found that so many of the leaders I follow and interact with are on several channels and it's such a blessing to be able to join them.

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader" - Margaret Fuller"

Photo courtesy of mgysler via Compfight

We have become an on demand "give it to me now" society and technology continues to accelerate at a dizzy pace. Every day we have new tools at our command to literally bring the world to us. Don't let the world fly by. Jump into reading and learning every chance that you can. We all have some spare time and you need to make it a priority to invest in yourself. If you really can't make time for books (you do know that you can get them online these days right? You can have 50 books in your pocket) then use social media to grow. There are a lot of options out there to pull in new ideas and knowledge. Seek them out and get started.

I was just lamenting this week how frustrating it is to have the ability to only follow 50 groups on LinkedIn. Too many options and too little space. I have found myself making tough choices about which groups to unfollow so that I can join another group, depending on interests. Other platforms are more generous. Do I interact with all of them? Of course not. What I do is soak up articles and thoughts that appeal to me or my work. For instance,  I'm working on improving my speaking skills so what better way to find some tips then joining groups that discuss strategy and share what's worked for them? I have also had the privilege of  interacting with leaders via Google Hangouts and Twitter chats.

Jump in and dabble in some groups where your interests lie. Start small and start the learning curve somewhere. For instance, I love my feeds from Facebook. I follow brands like Fast Co, Inc, Forbes Women, Lead With Giants, Social Media Examiner, Entrepreneur, the list goes on. On LinkedIn I am privileged to be a part of Leadership Hub, Forbes Leadership, Mobile Marketing, Connect Professional Women, and Social Media Today. Imagine the knowledge and ideas that I soak in daily! Twitter offers an untold amount of articles and the ability to share directly with authors and thought leaders. You need to get yourself "out there" and share what you know. If you are hesitant, here's a great article from Fast Company to convince you and get you going Fast Company 15 minutes a day

To be an effective leader you really need to take control of your learning today. Read read read. Share your experiences with others as well. You too have so much to contribute. We are all experts on something and the world awaits your ideas and thoughts.  If books are not for you, make social media your library. Quit wasting your time just flipping through your friend's posts - join groups that invite you to learn and share.

I would love to hear which social platforms are your favorites and how you use them to grow!