Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral? by Scott Woodard – April 20, 2015

BricksClients often express frustration that they’re not finding meaning in their work. They may have at one time, but no longer. They may feel they have plateaued in their current role and there’s no place for them to go. They may have mastered their work and are no longer challenged. Their workplace may be disruptive or toxic and they have no power to change the environment. Work, for them, in a word…well it’s not good.

They come looking for help in finding their new work. Work that is meaningful, challenging, exciting, collaborative. However, when asked to define what that work might look like, many are at a loss. They have no idea other than it is not what they’re doing now.

So, we’ll do some exercises to help them focus on purpose and clarity — what drives them and what they’re good at doing. We may have them take the StrengthsFinder assessment. We may have them write an essay that describes their ideal work day — from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night.

For many, these exercises provide focus and help define what they want to do going forward. Others, however, find these tasks difficult. They struggle with how their StrengthsFinder themes help; they can’t define their ideal work day. They just know that they don’t want to continue what they’re doing.

Not to diminish their frustration with their current situation, these folks may need a reframe. I’m reminded of the story of a traveller who came upon three brick masons busy at their craft. He asked the first one, “what are you doing?” The mason looked up with a scowl and responded, “I’m laying bricks, what’s it look like? Now don’t bother me, I’ve got another hour before my shift ends.” The traveller went up to the second mason and asked the same question. “I’m helping build this wall, and we’re in a hurry; we need to lay another full row before end of shift.” The third brick mason got the same question from the traveller: “What are you doing?” He looked up at the traveller and responded, “I’m building a cathedral.”

A recent conversation with my son brought this home. He is in his first professional job at a national foundation that supports the educational advancement of promising students in financial need. When he was first hired, he was excited about the opportunity, believing strongly in the mission of the foundation. Almost a year in to his job, he’s discouraged that all he seems to do is manage budgets and manipulate spreadsheets. Trouble is, he’s not sure what he wants to do next.

Then he told a story of how he helped one of their students obtain internet service at her home. The student’s parents couldn’t afford cable in their inner city apartment. The foundation agreed to pay for the service so the student could access the internet for her studies. My son negotiated with the internet service provider to install service. It took nine months. Knowing that service would be paid by the foundation, the provider was willing to install the necessary cable and modem…between 1 and 3 PM…on a weekday. An adult would need to be present to sign for the installation. The major problem was that both parents worked at low wage jobs and could not afford to take time off to be available for the installation. My 23 year old son — the budget manager and spreadsheet manipulator — negotiated with the global internet service provider to install the necessary equipment. It took him nine months, but he was successful and the bright, young student now has access to internet to supplement her schooling.

I’d say he did more than just lay bricks.

Over to you. When you’re frustrated with your job, do you see yourself just laying bricks? Can you reframe and refocus your thoughts and your activities so that you’re building a cathedral? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When you’re having a bad day, keep this in mind – by Barbara Babkirk – April 13, 2015

Hot pink rose copyWhether you have recently lost your job, feel discouraged by the lack of developments in your job search or you’re just having a bad day, you may need something else to focus on instead of your bad luck or troubling circumstances.

In his book, Beauty, Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue explains the essential place beauty occupies in our lives.

O’Donohue, in a voice that is confident and inviting, states that beauty “stirs passion and urgency in us”, and “awakens the heart.”

When you feel down or even a bit hopeless, your heart may close as a way of protecting you. In this mode, you’re not available to opportunities that have the potential to shift your mood or circumstance.

What if you were to embrace the notion that noticing beauty in your life had the potential to transform your day or a difficult moment? How might that shift your attention?

Think simple or extravagant, go on a hunt or turn your head to notice the beauty that’s around you. See what new perspective this might stir in you.

“In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind.” – Blaise Pascal

The real power of Linkedin by Scott Woodard – April 6, 2015

linkedinOne of the first things we’ll ask our clients is if they are on LinkedIn or not. We’ll usually get one of three responses:

  1. “Yes, but just barely. I don’t have much of a profile;” or
  2. “No, I have never seen the need;” or
  3. “Yes I am! I have several hundred connections!”

To responses 1 and 2, we explain why LinkedIn is such an important tool for their career, and why a strong profile is so important.

To response 3 we say “That’s great! How are you using it?”

“Well,” they might say, “I connect with a lot of people.”

“Terrific,” we’ll reply, “but how are you using LinkedIn? How are you making those connections work for you?”

We believe so strongly in LinkedIn as a way to manage your career that we hold workshops twice a month so that our clients can learn how to make LinkedIn work for them. We teach them the real power of LinkedIn.

You probably know that LinkedIn is the professional network; that you can find people of interest, organizations of interest and jobs. You may know that over 90% of recruiters — both retained recruiters and in-house, corporate recruiters — use LinkedIn to search for the talent their company is seeking. So it’s important to have a strong and complete profile on LinkedIn.

However, you may not know that just having a profile on LinkedIn is only part of the issue. The real power of LinkedIn is in leveraging the network you build.

Those connections you have in your network — whether it’s a few dozen or several hundred — link you to many, many other people who can help you gain entree to organizations of interest to you. It’s the connections of your connections that provides power.

Let’s say for example, that you’re interested in working for Acme Technologies, a growing tech firm, as a software developer. You discover that the Vice President of Product Development is on LinkedIn. In fact, she is a 2nd level connection to you. That means, that you and the VP share a connection — a 1st level, or direct, connection to both of you.

You can now reach out (preferably by phone) to the mutual connection and ask for an introduction to the VP of Acme who is more likely to want to talk with you if someone she knows has referred you…People hire people they know, or people they know know.

You should never have to make a cold call again. Get someone you know to reach out on your behalf to someone you are both connected to.

So, how about you? How are you using LinkedIn? Are you making your connections work for you?


Do you negotiate a job offer? by Barbara Babkirk – March 31, 2015

Woman handshakeAre you among the 49% of Americans who never ask for more than what is offered, despite the fact that 45% of employers fully expect to negotiate a job offer? (By the way, more women than men accept what’s initially offered without any negotiation.)

Compensation has been a lively topic of conversation with clients recently—some of whom have received multiple job offers. That’s a good sign for the Maine economy, as well as a statement about how well prepared our clients are for the marketplace.

We often encourage our clients to negotiate an offer and request additional compensation and/or benefits. This is always based on two factors: the value they bring to the organization and what the marketplace is paying for similar positions.

When done well, the negotiation results in a win-win for the candidate and the employer.

Take Janice for example–a Pharmacist with a recent Doctoral degree and considerable experience. Her colleague encouraged her to apply for a position at a progressive pharmacy that stressed consultative services to customers—right in line with her preference and skill set. But, the new salary offer came in lower than what she had been earning, and she was told that the base salary was the maximum for this position.

After communicating the value she would bring to this new position and her disappointment with the compensation, Janice was offered a generous sign-on bonus and an increase in her bonus structure over time. Janice accepted and the company was thrilled to have her join the team.

Research shows that if you feel in control of your life and believe you can make things happen, (as opposed to believing that others control your circumstances) you are more likely to ask for what you want, and, therefore, influence the outcome.

However, if you believe your fate is in someone else’s hands, you may not even imagine there are options other than those presented to you.

Follow these tips and negotiate the compensation you deserve:

1: Think about what you really want and the value you’ll deliver, not just what you assume is possible.

2: Articulate your professional value as a rationale for your request.

3:   Know what the marketplace pays for your position by doing research online and locally (,, as further justification for any increase.

4:   Request a meeting to review your job offer. Express appreciation for and interest in the offer before you present your counter-offer. Keep in mind that vacation time, a flexible work schedule, additional time without pay, and other benefits, can all be part of your final negotiation.





Networking made easy by Scott Woodard – March 23, 2015

NetworkingWhen people are asked about the hardest part of the job search process, most say, without hesitation, “networking.”

We know that we need to connect with others in the job search. We’ve heard that “people hire people they know, or people they know know — referrals.” Yet we break out in a sweat when we think of reaching out to people we don’t know and ask them for help.

Networking just seems such a huge barrier to success. We can’t imagine going to networking events, meeting strangers and asking them for help in our search. We’d rather stick pins in our eyes.

That’s why Heart At Work Associates created Networking Made Easy for our clients and their guests. Each month, we host an invitation only event in our office and facilitate connections among the participants. At our last event, the 10 participants shared over 50 connections and offers for introductions. The energy in the room was electric, and it wasn’t fueled by the homemade chocolate chip cookies we provided.

My colleagues — Barbara Babkirk and Amy Jaffe — and I facilitated the event. We talked briefly about the importance of a statement of professional value that you can articulate verbally, virtually and in writing. We gave everyone time to draft their initial statement, focusing on their current situation, what they brought in terms of skills and value, and what they were looking for. We worked with participants to help them craft their statements; and we had everyone write their name and contact information on six index cards.

Amy then led the group in an exercise where each participant introduced themselves and presented their statement. Some of us asked a few clarifying questions, then if we had a lead, we wrote it on one of the index cards and gave it to the presenter. After everyone had presented their statement and collected their cards, they had the opportunity to talk with the participants who had provided the information. A number of folks collected several cards with several names as potential leads. And often, they had the commitment of an introduction from the source of the lead.

The final part of the evening stressed follow through and accountability. Once again, we went around the room and each participant stated specific actions they would take in the next week with the information they received that evening.

At the end of the evening, people were excited to get started. In a supported, dynamic, two hour session they met people just like them; they were able to provide leads for their new contacts; receive leads themselves; and have an action plan to take advantage of those leads.

Networking doesn’t get much easier. And there were cookies.



The right way to network by Barbara Babkirk & Scott Woodard – March 21, 2015

bigstock-Social-Collaboration-73758367“Networking”—it’s an overused and widely misunderstood “must do” job search strategy these days.

Anyone who is looking for a job has probably heard that most open positions are not advertised in traditional ways and the key to any successful job search is “networking”. After all, we’re told, “people hire people they know, or people who are referred to them by people they know.” So networking carries a lot of weight in today’s job search strategies.

But, what does that really mean? I’ll bet that everyone has their own assumptions about it, but I’m also sure that most versions come up short in their ultimate impact and effectiveness. At Heart At Work Associates, we encourage our clients to “network” in the best way that suits their personalities. We do stress that networking is a process, not an event; and that there are some critical factors you must follow however you decide to network.

First you must build relationships. Relationships need to be reciprocal. That is, you need to be prepared to give as well as take. In fact, giving assistance is more important than receiving it. Be prepared to help new people you meet in your networking, rather than ask for help from the start.

Second, relationships need to be nurtured. That means that you don’t just connect with someone new, obtain their business card, and move on. You need to engage them and follow up. Check in with your new contact on a regular basis. Send out an personal email once a quarter or so, checking in on their progress and offer any help you can provide.

Third, don’t just “network” when you need a job or when you need help from your contacts. If you do, your effort will be viewed as entirely one-sided.

In the “what not to do when you’re networking” category, I’ll recount a recent experience at a professional gathering.

The first person I met was a young woman who introduced herself as a life coach (but it could have been any occupation). When I asked her to explain (hoping for a description of her target client or how she approached her work), her response was a rote sounding “elevator speech”. Her lack of strategy was evident when she didn’t even ask about my work!

I came away from the one-way interaction unclear about what she actually offered and was turned off by her lack of spontaneity and interest in me.

Whether the person across from you is a stranger or a longtime colleague, effective networking involves a two-way conversation. When done well, networking blends attentive listening with appropriate questions.

When you make the conversation more about the other person than about you, you’re more apt to engage the person you’ve just met.

We’ve all been “taken hostage” by someone who drones on about himself or laments about the difficult time they’re having finding a job. Don’t follow their example.

Be aware of what you’re doing and saying and notice the body language of the person with whom you’re speaking. You’ll see if you are boring them and if so, move on or shift the topic back to them.

Be strategic when you network! Think about the particular networking opportunity beforehand—imagine why others are attending and create relevant questions that will engage people in a conversation.

Meaningful connections are memorable in a positive way—just the impression you want to cultivate in your job search.

Do you think it’s too late to…? by Barbara Babkirk – March 17, 2015

Open Your Mind Torn PaperHave you imagined things you would like to do in your life and then talk yourself out of them because you think it’s too late or you’re too old? Perhaps you might want to reconsider.

It’s common for people to dismiss satisfying ideas and interesting options because of inaccurate or unfounded assumptions.

When my clients express resignation or regret about something they think they cannot do because of their age, I often challenge them by asking: What if your age was not a factor? How would you feel about the idea then? Would you be motivated to take a step closer to it?

Eliminating what appears to be a hurdle can allow you to zero in on the real issue, which might be fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or even fear of success!

Whether you are a 30 year old contemplating graduate school, or a 58 year old fantasizing a totally new career, it is important to get close enough to the idea to figure out whether or not it reflects what you truly desire as well as what is truly necessary to make it a reality. In other words, initially focus on the “what” of it, not the “how”.

Perceived hurdles often occur when a person is not clear about what they want.

For example, age is often a handy excuse not to take the risk. But, the “safe” path can come with a sense of regret.

Review your dreams and reconsider your assumptions. Perhaps a new path might emerge that you thought impossible.

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov

Are you remarkable? by Scott Woodard – March 12, 2015

be_remarkable-300x109Are you a fan of TED Talks, the videos that showcase “Ideas Worth Spreading”? I love them. In under 20 minutes you can watch some really smart people talk about key ideas.

One of my favorite TED Talks is by marketing guru, Seth Godin speaking about “Sliced Bread and Other Marketing Delights.” In this video, Godin notes how marketing has changed: Interrupting people to get their attention doesn’t work any longer, because we just don’t care. We have too many choices, too little time. What worked for the “TV Industrial Complex” — mass marketing that brought average products to average people — is no longer viable. The key is to reach people who care with things that are remarkable.

This concept applies to one’s job search as well. Broadcasting (mass mailing) our resumes to potential employers is ineffective. Employers don’t care. They have too many choices, not enough time.

We need to be remarkable to those that care.

We need to figure out what people (employers) want and give it to them. And we need to be remarkable, because being very good is just average.

Are you remarkable? Can you identify your professional value and articulate it in such a way as to be remarkable for an employer who cares?

Often, when our clients get frustrated with their job search, one of the first things they want to do is develop a resume like the one they had before. One that looks like everyone else’s. One that is average. The second thing they do is to quit networking — quit looking for people who care. Instead, they only apply to posted positions on job boards or company websites. This is not being remarkable. It’s being average. Employers don’t care about average; they don’t have time for average.

Remarkable is getting in front of the people who make decisions in the companies you’re interested in working for. Remarkable is listening to what their problems are and developing solutions for them. Remarkable is that you are the solution.

Is being remarkable easy? Of course not. If it was is wouldn’t be remarkable, it would be average. So this is hard work. It requires clarity and focus: How am I remarkable? Why am I remarkable? It requires diligence and strategy: Who cares that I’m remarkable? How do I reach them?

So be remarkable. Find out who cares. Figure out what they want and give it to them.

Over to you: How are you remarkable? Can you tell how to those people who care?


Are you prepared to promote yourself? by Barbara Babkirk – February 16, 2015

At some point in your career you’ll need to promote yourself—be ready.


When you’re looking for a job, contemplating a career change, or vying for a promotion, you need to articulate the skills, talents and personality traits that make you stand out. While this is key to moving to the next level in your career, it’s difficult for most people.

One of the reasons is rooted in our cultural conditioning that has us downplay what we do well, ostensibly to keep us from appearing arrogant or self-centered.

I’m not sure how many people are saved from inflated egos as a result of damping down how they view themselves, but I do know that the idea of keeping a lid on our best traits can backfire when it comes to the job search, a career transition, or a raise.

Each of these goals requires you to put your best foot forward in a confident and believable way—verbally, virtually and in writing. An inability to communicate your value is likely to cost you what you want.

I’ve met with many capable and experienced clients who are unable to articulate their marketable skills. While they can detail the job responsibilities they’ve assumed over the years, they fall short of translating them into skills and a professional statement of value.

In these cases, I suggest the following exercise as a way to increase awareness:

–       Select three of four individuals who know you well in any of a variety of contexts (volunteer, work, personal) and ask them for a favor.

–       Tell them you are assessing your marketable skills and need their objective opinion and feedback.

–       Ask them to email you three to five skills that they have clearly seen you demonstrate and describe the context(s) in which they have seen you

use each one.

–       Then review the feedback and note any themes or patterns in the responses.

–       Evaluate your career and work history and determine where and when you used any or all of the skills identified in the feedback.

Another tool to help you assess your skills is the book Strengths Finder 2.0. After completing an online assessment provided by the book, you’ll be given a list of your top five strengths and descriptions of each.

These two exercises should help you find the words to articulate your value through your experience and associated skills.

Know that there are times when it is appropriate and important to speak confidently about yourself. Shift the notion that this is bragging and replace it with the idea that you’re telling the truth and helping someone select the best person for the job—you!

Stay engaged in your job search after an interview by Barbara Babkirk – February 2, 2015

I know it’s tempting…you’ve had a great interview and so you decide to wait on pursuing other job prospects until you receive word (of an expected job offer).

Even though that may seem to be a reasonable thing to do, it’s a bad idea and here are three reasons why:

  1. Waiting is deflating. If you put your search on hold, you’re likely to lose positive momentum, which is key to a successful outcome.
  2. You could lose a sense of control over your process if you count on someone else’s response to trigger next steps in your job search strategy.
  3. You may not be the top candidate. Even with an outstanding interview, you may lose out to another applicant and then you’ll feel like you’re back at square one.

So, move ahead with your job search strategy, in spite of great feedback and what seemed like a winning interview.

If you don’t hear back from your interviewer in the timeframe that was mentioned, check back in ten days or so.

Any hiring process can be delayed for dozens of reasons you can’t even imagine. So, don’t jump to conclusions about what’s actually going on as to why the search is delayed. It’s common to make up stories, but they are often negative ones and not in your best interest. Stick with the facts and keep your fears at bay.

Return to your contact list and make a few phone calls to arrange “strategic conversations” to stay in job search mode.

There’s a reason why the adage “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” has withstood the test of time. It particularly holds true when you’re in the job market.

Heart At Work Associates offers career counseling and outplacement services for your life stage in Portland, Maine and globally.

career counseling • outplacement & career transition services • relocation services • retention programs