Feeling stuck in your career? Try these steps. – by Barbara Babkirk – October 25, 2016

I can do it

What’s on your career “to do” list that you keep putting off?

Is it updating a resume that’s ten years old? Sending an email to a colleague to ask for introductions? Attending a professional meeting and risk having to tell someone you’re not working or unhappy with your current job?

While it may seem that these tasks are benignly hanging out on a list, they are, in fact, zapping your energy just by being in queue along with other obligations.

When you postpone some action you need to take, you’re not really free from it because it will occupy your thoughts until you act on it.

Completing the task may be simpler than you imagine.

Typically, procrastination is not rooted in poor time management or lack of discipline, but rather, in how we’re framing the action we need to take.

For example, if you need to tap contacts in your career field, but aren’t sure what to say, you might convince yourself that no one will want to help you. With that mindset, there’s no use in making the effort—and so you don’t.

Or, you might need to update your resume or improve your a LinkedIn profile, but you’re unaware of current best practice or how to convey your professional value. So, you make up a story that you’re not really employable which zaps any motivation to move forward.

The following five steps can help you shift from inaction to action and empower you to take charge of your career:

  1. Recognize the career-related task/s you are delaying.
  2. Be honest with yourself about what’s behind your inaction. Is it fear or a lack of knowledge that is keeping you stalled?
  3. Sort out the facts from what you’ve assumed or made up. Do a reality check and/or ask for some help about how to proceed.
  4. Break the task down into manageable steps with adequate timeframes for completion.
  5. Seek help from a professional if you need facts and help getting started and moving forward.



Negotiate well. – by Barbara Babkirk – October 6, 2016

win-win banner - negotiation or conflict resolution strategy  -I was recently invited to participate on a panel based on the book Women Dont Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

In preparing, I found some interesting statistics: 49% of Americans never ask for more than what is offered, despite the fact that 79% of employers expect to negotiate a job offer (and more women than men accept what’s initially offered without negotiating).

Compensation is often an important topic of conversation with clients since most arrive at the offer stage in the process of working with my team.

We often encourage clients to negotiate an offer, if the circumstances are right. This is often based on two factors: the value the applicant brings to the organization and how the marketplace is compensating for similar positions.

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

Your attitude has an impact on the end result. 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 an offer that is fair and thoughtful:

  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 clearly as a rationale for your request.
  3. Know what the marketplace pays for your position by doing research online and locally (com, indeed.com, rileyguide.com) as further justification for negotiating.
  4. Express appreciation and interest in working for the company before you present your counter-offer. Keep in mind that your negotiation can include benefits beyond compensation such as: vacation time, a flexible work schedule, additional time without pay, professional development support and other benefits.

How to manage your next career move – by Barbara Babkirk – September 20, 2016

New Job words on board game as you land a new career or move intWe’ve heard it before: the marketplace is constantly in flux and so are the ways that people successfully navigate a career change.

Long gone are the days of the “one employer career path” or finding your dream job in the classifieds.

With the average job tenure at 3 years, we all need to manage our careers, or we’ll find ourselves reacting, rather than responding, to the inevitable changes.

The most recent issue of HR Magazine featured a provocative article on “career pivoting”. Former Google exec, Jenny Blake, offered this advice to those considering a career change:

Test the waters of your next move by assessing how it meets the “three E’s” of job satisfaction:

  • Enjoyment: Would I like working in this new focus area?
  • Expertise: Could I become an expert in this area? Would I want to?
  • Expansion: Will there be further opportunity in the marketplace for this new direction?

I thought Jenny’s advice conveyed a succinct and useful way to evaluate job prospects.

Her “three E’s” also provide a way to be proactive and look for options that are aligned with what you want and are likely to have a promising future.


The key element in a successful job search – by Barbara Babkirk – August 24, 2016

key_to_success_banner1Stop winging it with random networking emails or calls and posting and praying (your resume that is).

Start creating your strategy– and the practice of communicating your professional value – verbally, virtually and in writing.

I’ve found that many job seekers can pull off one of the above, but it’s rare that someone has their act together in all three ways of being strategic in their job search.

Here are tips for creating a winning strategy:

Verbally – Use talking points to practice conveying the following:

  • Your current status (keep it short and sweet—no lengthy explanation of why you’re leaving your job or much less about why you lost your job because you did not see eye to eye with the new leadership).
  • The skills and competencies you want to put to use in your next opportunity
  • An interest in the challenges your contact faces that require those skills and competencies
  • Advice about others with whom you should be meeting and a request for an introduction to someone

Virtually – You must be present in an effective way on Linkedin (90+% of people sourcing talent look there first)

  • Populate the key areas of your profile that pull on searches: your headline (which most people underuse with a job title rather than who you are in the marketplace and the impact you have) and a summary that tells a short story about who you are, what you do and why you do it.
  • Bring your profile to “expert” or “all star” status by making sure your profile is complete with recommendations, a photo, summary, a few groups and an appropriate headline next to your photo.

In Writing – People fret over cover letters, but it’s not necessary!

Use the job description as your guide and select the most pertinent (according to your skills and prospective employer needs) requirements. Then clearly state when you’ve demonstrated those requirements. Keep in mind that most employers have a check list that they use to screen applicants. Save them time by addressing the criteria clearly with good examples.

What’s your purpose? by Barbara Babkirk – February 22, 2016

Bee on flowerResearch shows that it increases with age—your desire for a sense of purpose, that is.

I see this desire unfolding with my boomer clients who, after 25+ years in a particular profession, want to explore a different path—one with a focus on making a contribution to their community, whether local or global, paid or unpaid.

They seek my help with defining what they have to offer and identifying a meaningful match in the world.

It’s often a particular cause that anchors their quest—something to which they devoted time as a volunteer, one that touched their lives or a loved one’s in a significant way, or even an inexplicable curiosity that persisted through the years.

Take Janice for example. After 28 years in the insurance industry, she longed for an adventure that would take her far from her native New England. But what would she do and how could she make it happen?

I encouraged her to focus on “what”, rather than “how” since the latter often derails a quest if considered too early in the discovery process.

Janice had a longstanding curiosity with orphanages. Her interest seemed out of the blue since she was not an orphan, nor did she know any children who had lost both parents. Yet, she literally had reoccurring dreams of visiting orphanages in some remote part of the world.

Janice decided to finally give this interest some attention. The more she explored, the more she was drawn into the world of foreign orphanages. Eventually, she settled on one in Southeast Asia that accepted volunteers and she made a plan to pursue her calling.

Of course, not all quests for purpose take people to far ends of the Earth.

What’s important is to know that your “purpose quest” is both an inner discovery that addresses the question “What do I have/want to offer?” and an outer exploration that results in an opportunity that meets a need and adds meaning to your life.







How to maximize outplacement services during a layoff by Barbara Babkirk – February 8, 2016

Ancient fortifications of TuscanyLayoffs peaked in our country in 2009, but employers continue to use layoffs to address a negative bottom line, cut costs by outsourcing services, or restructure departments or services based on the changing marketplace.

When a layoff is necessary, whether it involves one person or many, employers may offer outplacement services outsourced to professionals skilled in career transitions to help those who have lost their jobs transition to new ones. While employers are under no legal obligation to offer this assistance, many see it as an ethical decision. It’s estimated that 70% of employers offer outplacement services.

Outplacement services not only help the employee set a positive focus and establish a new career direction after a difficult departure, but they have also been proven to shift a negative backlash or mitigate the risk of a lawsuit.

Requests for outplacement services from Heart At Work Associates have increased dramatically in the past three years. You might think that this is a negative sign for Maine’s workforce, but actually, Maine’s unemployment rate is low at 4.7% and with our rapidly aging population, employers are facing a talent shortage in the years ahead.

Thankfully, best practices in outplacement services have evolved and become more compassionate and effective than in years past. They no longer involve rows of temporary offices where laid off workers somberly conduct job searches under the guidance of job coaches, or worse yet, feature professionals who travel the country callously firing people from firm to firm, as portrayed by George Clooney in the popular movie “Up in the Air”.

In order for outplacement services (OP) to serve their intended purpose to expedite a successful transition for employees leaving the organization, employers are encouraged to incorporate current best practices in OP that we’ve found to be beneficial for all:

  1. Involve the OP professionals in conversations with senior leadership early on in the process of planning the layoff. Often we hear from clients that they felt the leadership was out of touch with how the layoff was executed—and in some cases, this is accurate. Avoid contacting the OP provider at the “last minute” before the layoff is announced. It’s difficult to plan a meaningful program that meets everyone’s needs under a time pressure.
  2. Encourage awareness of and participation in OP services by inviting the OP professionals to be on site the day of the layoff announcement. While it is true that people who have just lost their jobs may not have the capacity to take in much information, they would benefit, nonetheless, from meeting their OP providers in person for reassurance.
  3. Consider a range of OP services from group workshops to individual career counseling sessions. It can be cost effective if the layoff involves several people, to include small group interactive workshops on key job search strategies as part of the offering.
  4. Carefully consider how OP services are explained to employees. Only 40% of people offered OP actually take advantage of it. This is because they either don’t understand the service or its benefits, are not encouraged by their employer to participate, or they do not receive any follow up communication from the OP provider and lose interest.
  5. Clearly identify and communicate verbally and in writing the specifics (how and by what date to make contact) and the benefits of the outplacement services offered. Include a personalized letter from the OP provider.
  6. Stay current with your OP providers and ask about their new offerings as well as who on the team actually provides the services. Just as you bring innovation and best practices to your organization, OP providers should be keeping up with marketplace changes and adding value to the OP services they offer.

How to maximize your job search success during the holidays by Barbara Babkirk – November 30, 2015

Businessman Wearing Santa Hat Using ComputerConventional wisdom may tell you to put your job search on hold until the New Year once the Holiday season hits, but the team at Heart At Work Associates disagrees.

Think about all the people you see only once a year at Holiday events, plus the new people you might meet. You never know how one of these chance meetings might benefit you.

But, if you cringe at the thought of people asking what you’re up to, or worse still, what you want to do, you are likely to avoid these opportunities that have the potential to move your job search forward.

Forget the pressure of having to identify a job title or even a career direction. Instead, be prepared for the inevitable question, by stating your current status (in transition, job was just eliminated…) quickly followed by “and I’m looking for my next challenge where I can use my skills in …Is there anyone you know with whom I should meet?”

If you are prepared with this type of response, you’ll be set to welcome informal conversations and offers of help at event where friends and colleagues gather.

If someone suggests a contact and says, “use my name”, know that this approach rarely works. You’ll need to respond with “Thanks! Would you please make an email introduction for me and I’ll take it from there?” Then you can be certain that the email will not end up in spam or the trash since it came from someone the recipient knows.

The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to expand your network. With many professionals curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

While some organizations have exhausted budgets by year-end, this is not always the case. Be open to the possibility that a new hire would help spend down a budget or assist hiring managers get a jump-start on goals for the new fiscal year.

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity that could lead to a new job to celebrate the season.


How to keep your skills sharp when you’re unemployed by Barbara Babkirk – November 9, 2015

imagesThe national average for landing a new job is about eight months. How do you keep your momentum going and your skills fresh during this time of transition?

The first step is to identify the skills that are currently in demand for your target job(s) and determine the best way to build on or refine the competencies you already have. Don’t rely on your assumptions about what is required—find out the facts from those who are hiring.

Beyond the options of enrolling in classes at a local adult education program or university, there are other ways to stay on top of your game. Here are some examples:

  • Enroll in a certificate-yielding program in a university or college’s continuing education program
  • Explore seminars and workshops offered by your professional association, (they may offer a reduced rate or waive the registration fee altogether for unemployed individuals).
  • Hire a tutor to help you refine your second language skills or learn the in-demand software to update your computer skills.
  • Check out the local Career Center to determine what relevant workshops they offer.
  • Determine if you are eligible for “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” (WIOA) funding for skills training through the Career Center for laid off workers
  • Regularly review events calendars for the Chambers of Commerce and local community organizations to see what they might be featuring for training.

Stay in touch with professionals in the fields you have targeted. They are the best source of current and accurate information about the skills and competencies needed to get the job done and, therefore, which ones to focus on in networking and during a job interview.




What do you do? by Scott Woodard – October 23, 2015

valuepropWhat do you do?

 How do you answer this question? Do you provide your job title or occupation: Car sales, plumber, housewife, career coach? Or do you respond with WHAT YOU DO? Do you give what you do meaning and value?

 I can’t recall where I read this, but it had an impact on me. In essence, the idea was to give meaning to our work rather than respond with a job title. In this way we show the value of our work.

 Instead of responding with an occupation: Car salesman, plumber, housewife or career coach; respond with meaning.

 “I facilitate the process, from selection to acquisition, of customers choosing an automobile that best fits their transportation needs” … or …

 ” I keep people above water” … or …

 “I make sure that the most important people in my life get out the door every morning with what they need to be successful in that day” … or …

 “I help people figure out what they want to do next in their lives and how they can achieve their goals.”

 Can you give what you do meaning? Can you see that by making what you do meaningful you provide value?

 So, over to you. What do YOU do?

Over 50, looking for a job, and concerned about your age? Don’t be. by Barbara Babkirk – October 11, 2015

Ageism Gets OldMy career counseling specialty is the boomer demographic and most of my clients have two things in common: they have worked for decades in a primary career and they are afraid that their age will hinder their search for new work.

My job is to help them get to the heart of the matter: identify what they want to do, what they have to offer and how to land a job. In order to begin that work, I often have to give them a reality check about their fears.

So I ask: Have you heard that 30% of Maine’s population is between 50 and 70 and that a third of that group is poised to retire?

The “older boomers” nearing 70, will create a significant gap in the marketplace as they officially disengage from paid work. It’s clear that employers will need to think creatively and inclusively about how to fill positions and get the jobs done. It will be the naïve hiring manager who lets age discrimination get in the way of a good hire.

So, avoid second-guessing any prospective employer about how they’ll view your age, and focus on what’s sure to be an asset: your cadre of pertinent skills, experience, and relevant education and training.

The initial way to present this information is via Linked in and a professional résumé. As you put your best foot forward virtually and in writing, avoid any indicators that will hint that you are not current in your skills or knowledge of the marketplace.

Here are tips for conveying your knowledge about current best practices in the job search:

  • More than 90% of people seeking to hire use Linkedin as a key resource to identify talent. Create a winning Linkedin profile that includes a summary “story” about your background and skills. Be sure to customize and include your LinkedIn URL on your resume. (We have a LinkedIn specialist on our team who offers LI workshops three times a month.)
  • Avoid unnecessary, extraneous information on your resume like “references furnished upon request”, personal data such as “married, 2 kids” or a list of your hobbies.
  • Include only the years of past employment and not the months that detract from more important information.
  • Provide concise information about your experience; show results whenever possible and use strong and descriptive verbs to delineate your experience.
  • Avoid including the year you graduated from college or graduate school. Keep them guessing about your exact age.

With a pro-active approach and positive mindset, you will shift from fears about your age to focus on finding a great match between your skills and job target and marketplace options.

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