Fearless Living

If your career is stalled, you might not need to enroll in

an MBA program, switch jobs, or take on more projects to

impress the boss. There’s a good chance that the problem

is not your company, your managers, or your lack of

advanced degrees.

"If you want to succeed in work, you might want to focus

on body image," says Rhonda Britten. "It’s the number one

reason that people are stuck. It’s the reason they don’t

ask for a raise." Research for her latest book, "Do I Look

Fat: Get Over Your Body and on with Your Life," also

indicates that poor body image is among the top reasons

that people who would like to be entrepreneurs never start

a business (U.S. 1, April 5, 2006).

Britten is a life coach (www.fearlessliving.org) and the

host of NBC’s Emmy award winning "Starting Over" daytime

reality show. The author of four books, her first was

"Fearless Living." There are survival stories, and then

there is Britten’s survival story. "Fearless Living"

recounts the event that held her hostage for 20 years. At

age 14 she was sitting on her mother’s bed chatting

happily when her father arrived home. One of her two

sisters yelled that he was carrying a shotgun.

Her father, an accountant with a genius IQ, used the gun

to kill her mother, who had just left him. He then pointed

it at her. Britten, who says she had always known that her

father hated her, was sure that she too would be shot.

But, instead, he knelt down, pointed the gun at his own

head and pulled the trigger.

She became a high-achieving person, but paid a price for

keeping her grief underground. After three suicide

attempts, she formally forgave her parents, and decided to

get on with her life. A public relations professional, she

stepped up to podium when one of her clients, a life

coach, succumbed to food poisoning five minutes into a

presentation. "Right away I knew I was home," she says.

Shortly thereafter she founded the Fearless Living

Institute, located in California. In addition to appearing

on television, she trains coaches and does corporate


Her new book is an outgrowth of her coaching philosophy,

which centers on concentrating on just a few important

challenges at a time – for a long time, at least a year.

Her number one challenge, becoming healthy, has been the

center of her life for longer than that, and, even after

running her first marathon last year, it is still her


Get unbalanced. Britten says that "balance" is a buzzword

– and a destructive one at that. "Everyone says `you just

need more balance,’ but what does it mean? People are

seeking internal balance, but are rushing around trying to

achieve it with external things." Trying to apportion

equal time for work, recreation, friends, family, and

exercise simply does not work, she says.

Take, for example, a person deciding to achieve balance by

starting a small business, expecting that doing so will

give him all the time he needs to attend to every area of


"People open businesses because they think they will be in

control of their lives," she says. "They do it to live a

balanced life. But if they never learned to take control

of their lives while working at the jobs they hated, how

can they do it in a start-up? It requires 12 to 15 hours a

day. That’s a start-up. At their jobs they didn’t know how

to say `yes,’ didn’t know how to say `no,’ didn’t know how

to prioritize, or to live by their values." These skills

will not automatically materialize in a start-up, she

warns. Far from it.

A person starting a business needs to understand that he

will be unbalanced for a while. It’s the same with a new

mother, or a marathon runner, or a Ph.D. candidate

finishing up a thesis. There will not be equal time for

every part of life – and that’s fine. In fact, says

Britten, embracing that truth is what brings internal

peace – and yes, internal balance.

Choose a commitment. When Britten first sees a coaching

client she lists the main areas of life in which many

people seek improvement, things like career, romantic

relationships, friendships, wealth, world influence, and

health. She asks the client to list three things under

each category that he would like to work on.

Everyone loves this. "They get right to work, and they’re

so proud," she says. No one has trouble setting dozens of

goals. "This is America and we think we can do everything

and be everything. They think I’ll say `let’s go for it!’"

But no. Britten makes her clients prioritize. Of all of

the things they have listed, they must pick one main area

on which to concentrate – and then one, but not more than

two, secondary goals.

The commitment will lead you. "We say, `I’m going to learn

how to say no,’" observes Britten, "but we have no context

for doing it. We end up saying `no’ inappropriately to the

boss and unnecessarily to the family."

Focusing on one commitment provides the context for this

and other skills that are essential for true balance and

for satisfaction with work and relationships.

Britten’s focus on health, for example, has led her to

risk becoming known as a diva on the set of her TV show.

She doesn’t care because the commitment is more important

than any worry about what people will think of her. "I

used to eat whatever was around," she says, "but now I

call and ask for salmon, for veggies. There’s this big

buffet, all the food in the world, but still I ask for

salmon. I’ve learned how to ask for what I want."

Her commitment to health has also led her to prioritize.

She does her hair and make-up upon arriving at the set not

too long after dawn. That used to mean that she would not

exercise on production days because she didn’t want to

appear "sweaty and icky in front of 2 million people."

After she started preparing for the marathon, however, she

used breaks for training runs. "That was really, really

hard for me," she says.

Look for the spill-over. Britten finds that skills

developed during the course of focusing on one big

commitment carry over into every area of life. All of a

sudden, there is a real reason to say "no." There is a

clearly understood need to prioritize. Training for a

marathon, or coaching a child’s team, or running for

political office makes it easy to say "no" to anything

that gets in the way.

Coaching Myths Debunked

Businesses don’t like to spend money on something unless

they get a return on their investment. But sometimes if

the monetary value is not immediately obvious, corporate

managers may nix an initiative that could substantially

improve their businesses. Although research has shown that

executive coaching can yield a 5:1 or 6:1 return,

according to executive coach Susan Battley, many business

people are just not interested – but usually for the wrong

reasons (U.S. 1, May 10, 2006).

Battley, a New York-based author whose training is in

psychology, says that a number of myths surround coaching


Many decision-makers have never been coached themselves,

and they are often leery of new management fads. "They are

`prove-it-to-me’ people," says Battley, "and that

skepticism is healthy." Others – the high achievers of

Generations X and Y – are more receptive to coaching

because they’ve seen their supervisors coached and because

they’re interested in any tools that will help them

advance their careers.

Because Battley believes in executive coaching and its

ability to help many people to perform more effectively,

she opens up her marketing to executives with what she

calls "myth-busting." The author of "Coaching Power: Ten

Myths and New Realities; Is Executive Coaching Right For

You" has found misconceptions about executive coaching to

be widespread among organizational decision-makers.

Myth of the individual. Business people are, after all,

self-made, or at least they like to view themselves that

way. Many glorify individual achievement and have the

attitude that "successful people don’t need coaches."

Battley counters with examples from sports and the

performing arts. Golf pro Phil Mickelson, for example, has

two swing coaches, one for his short swing and another for

his long one. "The more successful people are, the more

incremental gains can make a big difference," she says.

Dependency myth. The same guys who believe that they’ve

done it all themselves and will continue to do so also

harbor some fear that coaching fosters unhealthy

dependency on others. Research tells us, says Battley,

that today the greatest users of coaching are senior

executives, and the more successful, the more likely that

a leader will use a coach and use one for a longer period

of time. "Would the Yankees say, `We’ve won the World

Series several times, so we don’t need Joe Torre

anymore?’" she asks. "That’s faulty thinking. You need

support to keep performing at a high level."

Jaded myth. Sometimes people feel that they already have

all the feedback they can handle, especially in large

companies with performance management systems. True,

executives get a lot of advice, but, says Battley, "often

they don’t know how to use it." A coach can help identify

what changes will make the biggest difference going


"Many CEOs and senior leaders don’t get as much accurate

feedback as they think," Battley says. Direct reports

often don’t communicate directly, thinking that they are

protecting the leader from bad news. As people rise in an

organization, the information they get becomes more


"A coach is an independent, objective, neutral party who

can get beyond the protective layer and provide valuable

information they need to hear," says Battley. Today’s

leaders need not only to be able to hear bad news, but to

ask for it. "If you don’t know what’s going on with your

customers, employees, and investors, you’re at a

disadvantage compared to the competition," says Battley.

"Shrink" myth. Because so many coaches come from the

helping professions, many executives believe that coaching

is the same as psychotherapy or counseling. "It is not the

same, because we have different goals and orientations,"

says Battley. Coaching focuses primarily on a person’s

workplace and professional performance, not on lifestyle

or mental health issues. Coaching focuses on the present

and future, while therapy can spend a lot of time looking

to the past to make sense of present.

Emergency room myth. Then there are those people who

believe that executive coaching should be reserved only

for last-ditch efforts to fix a problem. Battley believes

a wellness model is more appropriate, with coaching

helping to overcome a performance gap or improve a

situation before it reaches a crisis. Otherwise, she says,

"it may be too late for a coach to help the person. If

relations with the team are adversely impacted, it may be

too late to resolve."

"Walk in my shoes" myth. Some executives believe that a

coach must share their background and experience to be

useful. But that can be problematic. First of all, such a

person may not have the skills necessary to help another

person achieve. They may also have the same blind spots

because of the shared experience. Although coaches

certainly need to understand what constitutes success in a

particular field, their expertise is in teaching skills

like team building, effective communication, motivation,

conflict resolution, and time and priority management.

Battley also dispels other confusions. She emphasizes that

a coach is not a mentor, because the coaching relationship

is formal, fee-based, and focuses on very specific goals –

either acquiring new skills or changing certain behaviors.

Although mentors also help with career building, the

relationship is informal and open ended, involving sharing

networks and contacts, and opening doors for people. And,

finally, she says coaching is not necessarily for

everyone. A good coaching candidate is a motivated person

who is looking for an important benefit from coaching.

How to Succeed – On Your Own Terms

Success has been on Herb Greenberg’s mind for years. It

all started when he was teaching at Rutgers and a

colleague stopped by to ask him how much he knew about

psychological testing. A large life insurance company was

looking for help locating a test that would help predict

sales success more effectively. After poring over a couple

of thousand tests, Greenberg and his colleague had to tell

their client they could find no test that could predict

sales success.

But they didn’t leave it at that. Realizing that a huge

need existed, they decided, "Let’s build a better

mousetrap," and they spent the next four years doing just

that. In 1961, when they had in hand a tool that could

predict sales success, Greenberg took a leap of faith. He

quit not only his teaching job, then at Long Island

University, but also his side jobs selling insurance and

mutual funds. He borrowed $15,000, which he had no way to

pay back, and he started Caliper, now a multi-national

corporation based at 506 Carnegie Center (U.S. 1, May 24,


Greenberg, along with Patrick Sweeney, had written

"Succeed on Your Own Terms," a book on just what success

is, and how to achieve it. In preparation for writing this

book, he conducted in-depth interviews, psychological

testing, and assessments with the Caliper Profile of a

wide range of successful individuals in the fields of

politics, business, entertainment, and sports. He and

Sweeney brainstormed about potential interviewees, and

then pursued them, through connections, if they had them,

or sometimes just by sending a letter. "A few people

turned us down," says Greenberg, "but most people

accepted." The first to accept an interview was Senator

Barbara Boxer, who, he says, responded to a "cold letter."

Interviewees from 12 countries included not only obvious

public figures like Boxer, but also people with more

unusual achievements: the first British woman to climb

Mount Everest, a woman who lost her eyesight at 28 and

started a multimillion dollar company, and the female CEOs

of Lloyd’s of Scotland and Home Depot of Canada.

Successful people have their own personal definitions of

success. But definitions of success are idiosyncratic.

Take Samuel Pisar, originally from Bialystok, Poland, and

now a renowned international lawyer who served as a

consultant to the U.S. State Department and to President

Kennedy, as an advisor to President Nixon’s special

commission on international trade, and as a participant in

important international conferences in Moscow and Kiev.

Pisar saw his father, mother, and sister shot during World

War II, and his definition of success is also a humble

one: starting over and building a new family, with a wife

and two children. Greenberg observes that another way to

state Pisar’s definition of success is simply "being


For actor Ben Vereen, says Greenberg, the definition of

success is "the notion that wherever you are, you have to

go further. However far down the path you are, you have to

ask, `What is the next goal?’"

One item that is typically associated with success was not

mentioned by a single one of the 50 people interviewed for

Greenberg’s book. "I would swear that none of the 50 would

say that money is the reason," he says. "Money is a little

symbol of success. Money is nice, you want it, but it

isn’t the definition of success."

All successful individuals recall a defining moment,

something that happened in their lives to get them where

they are today. For Greenberg, what defined his life path

was losing his sight at age 10, and the choices he and his

parents made in its wake.

"At that point the whole world was pressing to send me to

a school for the blind," he says. Acquaintances envisioned

for him a future livelihood of weaving baskets or running

a newspaper stand. But he and his parents stood their

ground and pressed for Greenberg to be a part of the

sighted world. "I stayed out of school for a year," he

says (and the police even made a visit), "until they found

ways to get me into schools without shoving me behind

stone walls."

Eventually he skipped grades, graduated cum laude and Phi

Beta Kappa from college, and summa cum laude from his

doctoral program.

For Paul Schulte, who represented the United States as a

college junior at the 2000 Para-Olympics in Sydney and led

his team to a 57-54 victory over Great Britain in the

bronze medal game, the moment was physical. A triple-sport

athlete as a kid, playing baseball, basketball, and

football, he was in a terrible automobile accident at age

10 and was left a paraplegic. Instead of giving up, he

became an Olympic wheelchair basketball star.

Angelo Chianese remembers one hot, sunny, July day when,

as a roofer, he sat on a roof and thought to himself,

"What the hell am I doing here? I don’t want to do this."

He slid off the roof, told his boss he was quitting, and

decided he wanted to be in the singing telegram business.

Signing up his now former boss as his first customer, he

started a successful company, the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

Singing Telegram Company.

All successful people must have the courage to grasp the

brass ring. They have to seize the defining moment and do

something about their lives.

For Barbara Boxer, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn who grew up

without a lot of money, it was the decision to keep her

safe Congressional seat or run for the Senate against a

Republican who had lots of money. She ran, and the rest is


Every successful person loves what they are doing and

would do it for nothing. Greenberg shares his own feelings

about the work he does at Caliper. "While I love earning a

good living and being astride a successful global company,

and I have the ego satisfaction of seeing it evolve from a

borrowed $15,000 to a multimillion dollar company – all

that is fun – what I enjoy most is that what we as a

company do makes a difference."

When Greenberg asked Barbara Boxer, "What would you be

doing now if you had lost the Senate seat?" she responded,

"I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now – picketing

stores, checking labels, and fighting for consumers, but

I’d have a little less power than I have now in the

Senate." About her Senatorial efforts, she said to

Greenberg, "I view it as the same work."

Lose Your Job, Change Your Life

Losing a job can be an opportunity to change your entire life and

discover what you really want to do – and who you want to be, says

Helen Burton, a lifestyle empowerment coach. While Burton does not

deny the trauma and stress of losing a

job, she believes it can become a golden opportunity and a great time

to "turn your ideas into action."

Burton, whose coaching business, Love Yourself Coaching, is located at

2 Phylet Drive in East Windsor, understands firsthand what changing a

career means. She began her coaching business four years ago, after

"several years on a path of

self-discovery" (U.S. 1, March 15, 2006).

She had spent most of her working life with the state Environmental

Protection Agency. "I knew there had to be more to life than contract

management," she says. "I heard about coaching and I wanted to work

with people to help them make

changes in their lives." She started her business while still working

full time for the state, but retired from that position last year and

now coaches full time.

"When a person loses their job they often feel that they have lost who

they are," she says. "They feel they are their job. They no longer

understand how they fit into life" says Burton. Instead, a healthier

way to look at a job loss is as

"a time to rediscover who we are, and what we want to do in life."

Taking action is the best way to feel better, says Burton. "When you

take action, even a small step, you feel 100 percent better about your

situation, because you are doing something." Burton suggests these


Take a mini-vacation. It may seem contrary to Burton’s first advice,

but taking time out to refocus and think about things is the first

step in any action plan. The mini-vacation doesn’t have to take a long

time or cost any money, she says,

but it must be long enough to get ready to focus on the next step.

"Take a walk with your dog. Go to a coffee shop or bookstore for

awhile. Turn on the stereo and sit with your eyes closed for 10

minutes." The point, she says, is to take some time to "relax,

regroup, and refocus."

Make an action plan. The next step, says Burton, is to come up with a

plan. It can be as simple as making a few phone calls or something

much more elaborate. But an important point, she adds, is to break the

plan into small, easy to

complete steps.

Once you have a plan, begin to put it into action by writing down and

making a commitment to complete certain steps each day. "Don’t plan on

doing 20 steps in a day," she warns. If you can’t accomplish them all

you will feel a sense of

failure. Instead, plan on two or three steps in a day. "If you feel

like accomplishing more, that’s great."

Make a list. This applies both to those who have jobs they hate and to

those without jobs. If you are unemployed, make a list of the things

you disliked about your last job and the things you loved. This list

will help you frame your job

search. If you loved the work, perhaps litigation, but hated the large

law firm politics, you might hang on to your profession, but

concentrate on finding work with a smaller firm, or perhaps with a


If you currently have a job, list the elements of the job that you

enjoy. Then try to isolate the things about the job that you hate.

Sometimes it’s as simple as the commute. If everything else is

positive, consider drawing up a

telecommuting proposal, or try something even simpler. Maybe switch

from a solitary drive to a car pool, or from a car pool to the train.

Sometimes simple changes can give you a whole new outlook.

If you hate making cold calls, maybe sales is not for you. Or maybe

you need to try to figure out a way to make them easier. Maybe a few

coaching sessions from someone who excels at cold calling, and enjoys

it, could make a major


Look at past jobs. Think about jobs you’ve had in the past. What did

you like about them? What part of those jobs would you like to do

again? What did you really love? Can you find a way to incorporate

those passions into a new job or your

current position?

Understanding and acknowledging your passions will help you to find a

way to fulfill them, says Burton. "Maybe your passion is teaching, but

you don’t have a teaching certificate, or you don’t really want to

teach in a traditional school

setting. Is there another way to fulfill your passion for teaching?

Maybe you can mentor someone in your profession."

Talk to others. Once you’ve decided what your passion is, you need to

learn how you can fulfill it. The next step, says Burton, is to set up

interviews to learn more. These can be informational interviews, she

says, not specifically job

interviews. "Call someone who is doing what you want to do. Ask them

for coffee and learn about their work." People love to talk about

their work and themselves and are usually very willing to take

sometime to help someone else.

Switch To A New Career

When Jim Deak’s job vanished with the collapse of the

telecommunications industry he had no idea of what he wanted to do.

Soon thereafter an article in the New York Times about coaching caught

his interest. He thought that the career might

suit his personality and his interests, so he hired his own coach to

clarify how to reach his goal and, after 18 months, had a diploma in

hand from Coach U (www.coachinc.com), a distance learning school with

headquarters in Andover, Kansas

(U.S. 1, October 4, 2006).

As part of his practice, the Morristown-based coach helps job seekers

to put together resumes which will help them to land fulfilling jobs


Resumes are something that should always be at one’s fingertips: a

recruiter may call, a job may end, a new internal position may come

up. "As things change in your career, new responsibilities, new

accomplishments, you want to make sure

your resume is ready," says Deak. And that resume should always be the

most recent reflection of your experience and qualifications.

The engine that feeds the resume-building process is a list of

achievements, but it’s not so easy to pull together. "Specifying

accomplishments is where people need the most help," says Deak. "Most

folks feel when they are working in a big

company that they didn’t do anything, that they were part of a blob.

But in fact, they’ve accomplished a lot."

A good way to unearth achievements that have slipped from memory is to

develop a PAR, which stands for problem-action-result. To explain,

Deak offers an accomplishment he is proud of from his corporate


The problem: the department was faxing documents to 3,000 people about

three times a week. Using a fax was inefficient: it meant lots of

wasted paper and lost time. Furthermore, the documents were not

getting out on deadline and not getting

to the right people, and the lists were not being updated accurately

as people changed jobs.

Deak’s action: He hired a software developer to come up with a

web-based solution. When it was implemented, people could get their

documents electronically, anywhere in the world, and could easily

update their E-mail addresses. It took just

six months to get the new system up and running.

The results: "There was overwhelming customer satisfaction," says

Deak, "and we probably saved $200,000 a year."

The translation to Deak’s resume: "Designed a unique web-based

document distribution system that replaced an antiquated fax system

and in the process saved $200,000 a year, to the overwhelming delight

of our customers."

Advises Deak: "Create as long a list as you can of all your

accomplishments, big and small. You can prioritize later."

Putting together this list not only provides critical ingredients for

your resume, but later, once you’ve clinched an interview, it will

help you convince the hiring manager that you are the right person for

the job. One more advantage of

the PARs: "They help people to believe in themselves a lot more."

The PARs come in handy mostly for the second of the three sections of

your resume, which include:

An executive summary. This should be short, no more than five or six

lines. It is a condensation of who you are and what you have to offer

a potential employer.

A chronological picture of assignments, general responsibilities, and

accomplishments. Although Deak says a functional resume may be useful

for someone like a homemaker who has a big block of time where he or

she did nothing professionally,

he still recommends a chronological format. "A chronological resume is

the most accepted, understood, and expected."

Education and special awards and skills.

A resume’s content is paramount, but it’s presentation is vital too.

Use high-quality paper, and leave lots of white space to make the

resume easy to read. Make sure that there are no misspelled words or

grammatical errors, and "nothing to

draw the attention of the reader in a negative way."

Packaging Yourself

It has been a no-brainer for Marion Reinson, a Princeton-based

marketing strategy and web development consultant

(www.tothepointconsulting.com), to help out friends who have lost

their jobs. She figures that marketing a company and

marketing a person are based on pretty much the same principles (U.S.

1, May 3, 2006).

When you’re looking for a job, she says, "you’re the product. You’re

packaging yourself for sale." This means differentiating yourself, not

by a list of the last 20 years’ worth of jobs, but by highlighting the

characteristics and skills

you have that a company needs.

Because she finds the process to be much the same for job seekers who

have to market themselves, she likes to apply what she’s learned in

marketing small to medium-sized businesses to the process of looking

for a job:

Tell them what you can do for them. When Reinson talks to the owners

of small and mid-sized businesses she first asks: Who is your audience

and what do they want to hear? "Make sure you are developing a message

to engage that audience," she

advises. Businesses often don’t think about the audience because they

are so concerned with selling the product, and job seekers often think

about the audience because they are so eager to land a job.

Reinson recommends focusing on the qualities that a company is likely

to need – what you can do for the company, not what the company can do

for you – to modify a line from John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech.

Stress your strengths. Are you a great leader? Analytical? Fantastic

with research? Not so good with people, but a whiz with Excel? Many

jobs also require people who are collaborators, communicators, and

integrators, as well as people who

can meet deadlines and attend to the budget. "These are things that

shouldn’t be left unsaid," says Reinson.

Push the added value you bring. Reinson says that IT people often keep

talking about their technical skills – skills that every one of the

people competing for a job has. But what they should be saying are

things like: "I have technical

skills, but I can talk to nontechnical people."

Reveal a lot about yourself, but not everything. For individuals as

for businesses, the "customer" may not need to know everything.

Reinson likes to use a lemonade company as an example. "The customer

doesn’t care if the company has acres

of lemon trees if it doesn’t tell them the lemonade will quench their

thirst," she says.

Be willing to take risks. Ask questions that will uncover the

potential employer’s real needs. Sometimes a job seeker needs to say

something like: "I have X years of experience in this – how do you

think I can help your business?" She urges

individuals to step out of the responsive mode and into the proactive


Don’t interview for a firm you will hate. Reinson explains that part

of her job is to help her clients learn how to get the customers they

want to get – and stay away from the customers they don’t want.

Similarly when looking for a job, not every organization is


They may be poor prospects for a variety of reasons: because margins

are minimal, because a potential client is out of region, because a

client doesn’t see the value of what the business does, or because a

potential client has regulatory


Similarly when looking for a job, not every organization is

appropriate. "You need to get up and be O.K. about going to work," she

says, "but when the door keeps closing, people may accept a job they

know is not the best thing." She says

she advised a friend who had just started his own business not to take

clients he didn’t like, and he later thanked her for the advice, even

though his first year was lean as a result.

She knows that it’s hard to turn down an offer, but urges job hunters

to be alert for signs that the company’s culture is a poor fit, that

the work it offers appears not to lead to higher responsibilities, or

even that the commute would be

a burden.

Three Keys To Landing A Job

"It’s all about networking, selling yourself through your resume, as

well as presenting yourself well during the interview," says Ruth

Scott, a marketing veteran who now works as a volunteer for the

Princeton Area Community Foundation on

Princess Road (U.S. 1, July 19, 2006).

Scott knows what employers look for in a job candidate. "Working with

Prudential, basically, I was charged with selling, marketing, and

servicing financial products to the consumer," she says. "As a part of

my job I’ve had deep experience

in selecting, developing, and sometimes terminating staff. My

experience really comes from the employer’s side. I know what to look

for in an employee, how to match up skill sets, strengths, and

opportunities to meet our needs."

While some may bristle at the idea of presenting oneself to potential

employers in the same way that, say, Budweiser is peddled to sports

fans, Scott says that in a consumer society such as ours, it is

important to show yourself to

employers in the best light, as the best person for the position – and

to do so quickly. "There isn’t anything really new about this," says

Scott. "In an environment where there are many skilled applicants for

each position in the

marketplace, you must learn to distinguish yourself from the rest of


While for many jobseekers, time is of the essence, it is important to

take the time to do things to your best advantage. Rather than sending

out (or E-mailing) a blanket, all-purposes resume to a variety of

potential employers (still a

surprisingly common practice), Scott says that jobseekers up their

chances for success by doing research on companies, corporations,

market-trends, competitors, and business history, and customizing each

resume to each employer.

"In a competitive job market, applicants need to be savvy," she says.

"When your competitors have similar backgrounds, skills, and

experiences as you, then it is up to you to make the sale, so to

speak, and fit yourself to what the employer

is looking for."

Of course, gaining an interview is the goal in creating a cover letter

and resume. While it is no secret that making a positive impression is

an important part of the interview process, Scott says that she has

noticed a general tendency for

interviewees to take a too casual approach to these vital documents.

"I suppose it is due to the idea of business casual and the general

casualness that corporate America operates today on some level," she

says. "But I have noticed a

certain erosion of that kind of professionalism when compared to the

1980s and 1990s."

She says that jobseekers can take advantage of this general trend by

being more formal and professional looking than their competitors. She

recommends that jobseekers set aside the concept of business casual

and present themselves a bit

more formally until after they have been hired for the job. "While it

depends a bit on the kind of company you are interviewing with, it is

better to err on the side of too formal than too casual," she says.

"Then you can adjust yourself to

the general manner of doing things after you have been working there


While a job search is rarely easy, it can be successful sooner if job

seekers are smart about the process. Scott offers these tips:

Leave home. While some jobseekers are hesitant to get out of the

house, staying at home won’t get you anywhere. Scott advises that

networking can be a major part of the successful job search. "It is

hard work, but you have to be vigilant

about making contacts, as well as follow-ups and follow-throughs," she

says. "You never know who you are going to meet who may help you out.

If you are perceived as a `do-er’ by people around you, that can lead

to opportunities you would

not have found any other way."

Accentuate the positive. The resume and cover letter are your first

tools to presenting yourself as the right person for the position. Be

careful not to offer anything that will not present you in the most

favorable light. View these tools

as a kind of advertising technique similar to a car commercial or a

soft drink ad.

Sports car commercials talk about the sleek ride you’ll have, but not

about the miserable mileage you’ll get. Soda ads talk about how

refreshing the drinks are on a hot summer day, not about how there is

enough acid inside the bottle to

disintegrate a nail.

Come across as a star. According to Scott, personal presence,

displayed during an initial interview, can easily carry the day. "You

only have one opportunity to make a good impression," she says. "There

are a lot of other things that you

can get a second chance at, but that first interview isn’t one of

them. Having confidence and the ability to communicate the qualities

that a potential employer wants is the key to success."

Leave money talk on the back burner. Many interviewees are simply

confounded about the proper time to ask about salary and benefits.

Scott recommends that jobseekers take a wait and see approach.

"If the salary range is not communicated upfront, and you feel that

you are getting to the end of the interview and are feeling good about

your prospects, it is appropriate to ask about salary," she says.

"Just make sure not to ask too

early, before you have made a real connection and feel that a

potential offer may be made." Also, when discussing salary, it is

better to refer to a general range rather than trying to lock down a

specific number. "Almost everything is

negotiable," says Scott.

Always follow through. "I encourage jobseekers to make follow-up calls

after sending in a resume or after an interview," says Scott. "They

will probably tell you to go away, that they are still in the

interview process, and they are not

prepared to speak to you. But it is still a good thing. I don’t think

that you can be too assertive when you are trying to land that next

job opportunity."

Scott stresses that taking getting into a mindset of "selling

yourself" to potential employers is the best way to mentally prepare

for success.

"If you can put yourself in the employers’ shoes and see the needs

that they have, then you can present yourself as the person who can

fill their needs," she says. It is as important now in 2006 as it was

in 1968, even if you are not

running for president.

Repackage Yourself To Re-enter The Job Market

How do you find a job when you’ve been out of the job market for five

years, ten years – or more? Many women face exactly that situation

each year, says Denise Brown-Kahney, director of the Career and Life

Planning Center in Flemington. The

center works with displaced homemakers from Mercer, Hunterdon,

Somerset, and Union counties (U.S. 1, May 31, 2006).

Funding for the center comes from the New Jersey Department of

Commercial Affairs, Division on Women. The only requirement for

service is to be a "displaced homemaker" – a woman who has lost her

income due to separation, divorce, the death

of her spouse, or because her spouse is unable to work due to illness

or disability.

The center offers a wide variety of services including one-on-one

career counseling, career interest and abilities testing, computer

training, and seminars on a variety of personal and career growth

topics such as self-esteem and legal and

financial issues.

A job readiness series, aimed at helping women re-enter the job market

includes several topics, including writing a resume and cover letter,

job interview skills, business ethics, and time management. The series

ends with the most popular

session – a make-over workshop for all of the participants.

"We have someone from Mary Kay come in and help them with their

make-up and a fashion consultant talks to them about business

clothing," says Brown-Kahney. The center also has a "Working Woman’s

Wardrobe," which accepts donations of used

business clothing for women who need to quickly upgrade their

wardrobes for their new careers. Clothing donations should be clean

and in good condition.

Women who have been out of the work force for many years need a

variety of services to help them return. "Some of our clients have

specific needs," says Brown-Kahney. "They just want a little bit of

advice. Others stay with us for six

months to a year." Writing a resume is one of the most important tools

in finding a job, but for someone who has been out of the job market

for several years it can be difficult. Brown-Kahney suggests these


Emphasize skills. "For many of our clients job history is old enough

that it is not really relevant," says Brown-Kahney. Jobs held decades

ago may be irrelevant to the hunt for employment. She asks instead

that her clients look at the

skills they have used while they are out of the work force.

"Many of them have been very active with their children’s schools or

scouts or their church. They’ve held positions as treasurer or

secretary. We have them emphasize these accomplishments in their

resume," she says.

Don’t give too much information. While most employers are aware that

asking specific questions about age or marital status is illegal, that

doesn’t mean that they aren’t eager to find out, and many people still

tip their hands by putting

unnecessary information on their resumes.

"Listing the year you graduated from high school or college is a clue

to your age," says Brown-Kahney. "Listing exactly what years you

worked at each job is another give-away." She suggests leaving exact

dates off the resume.

Interview skills. Once the resume has gotten you in the door, the next

step is the interview. But an interview is not a one-way street. "The

person being interviewed should ask questions as well as answer them,"

Brown-Kahney says. "Ask the

interviewer what skills he or she thinks are needed for the job." This

gives you a clue as to what to emphasize in your answer. Even if you

feel that you are not strong in certain areas, showing enthusiasm and

a willingness to learn makes a good impression.

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