Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.


Using Emotional Intelligence and Non-Violent Communication to Recover from a Toxic Workplace


Do you feel trapped in a job where you are surrounded by people whose work ethic, management style, or poor communication is causing you stress? Have you been either laid off or fired under these circumstances? Over the past thirty years I have worked with hundreds of clients who have been burned by what is commonly called a “bad fit.” Although some of them express relief when their jobs have ended, they often have strong and sometimes crippling emotions: hurt, anger, fear of getting in to another toxic work place.

In her 3/10/2014 blog Your Toxic Workplace, my colleague Gail Nicholson aptly stated, “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” Maybe it’s not your boss that is driving you crazy, but rather co-workers who are chronically late or don’t do their share of the team’s work. In a perfect world these examples would be managers’ problems, solved by a manager. However, in the real world, the supervisor may be personal friends with your co-workers or fighting other battles with his/her own manager. You might actually get in trouble for complaining. In this type of toxic work environment, my clients may end up silently seething, applying unenforceable rules based on their own sense of justice, and feel more and more stressed out, with a noticeable bad attitude. So, what else can an employee do?

Whenever you are faced with a bad situation, you have three choices:

  • Try to put up with it.
  • Try to change it.
  • Move on.

Whichever way you choose, first you might start with yourself and your internal dialogue. This is where Emotional Intelligence comes in. “Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.”

In order to improve our emotional intelligence, this article suggests there are five key abilities to develop:

  • The ability to quickly reduce stress in the moment in a variety of settings
  • The ability to recognize your emotions and keep them from overwhelming you
  • The ability to connect emotionally with others by using nonverbal communication
  • The ability to use humor and play to stay connected in challenging situations
  • The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence

Although we can’t do much to change our IQ, we can always use what intelligence, imagination, and curiosity we have to continue to learn new skills. The good news about EQ is that it is based on learned and practiced skills and behaviors, so any one of us can increase our EQ. If these abilities are cultivated while you are in the midst of coping with a toxic work situation, regardless of how it resolves, you will be much less likely to carry emotional baggage with you in to your next job search or new job.

A key to improving how you handle your own stress and uncomfortable emotions, as well as how you handle conflict with others lies in Non-Violent Communication (NVC). According to the Center for Non-Violent Communication, founded by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., NVC is based on “the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart.” Having empathy for yourself as well as others is equally important. I have noticed that when my clients are struggling, there is often a very harsh, merciless tone to their self-talk. In the aftermath of a toxic workplace conflict, they may be full of self-recriminations as well as negative feelings towards others who behaved unprofessionally. My first clue is hearing “would have, could have, should have.” It is so difficult to move beyond a toxic event or bad ending of a job and muster enough hope and energy to pursue new career options when you can’t stop ruminating over what happened.

A gifted local therapist and certified NVC trainer, LaShelle Lowe-Chardé, offers both therapy and training for individuals, couples, and organizations by “helping people express their deepest values in their relationships and creating clarity and connection with self and others.” Her website and trainings help people recognize, accept, and name universal needs and feelings, both internally and in others. She teaches a new perspective on how to become more clear and compassionate and to bring that to all kinds of difficult situations, whether at work or in an intimate relationship. NVC offers kinder alternatives to aggressive, passive-aggressive, and/or withdrawing behaviors in attempts to resolve conflicts.

Sometimes either men or women may believe that empathy or compassion, which is a key component of emotional intelligence and at the heart of NVC, is essentially a feminine trait or characteristic. In a patriarchal society, some may hold a belief that demonstrating compassion is a sign of weakness, especially in a competitive work place. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, has this to say: “Compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, and money.” If you are feeling trapped in a toxic work situation or the aftermath of one, stuck with ruminations and recriminations, and/or find it hard to move forward, you may want to look for ways to enhance your emotional intelligence or experience NVC training.

Posted by: davegallison | March 26, 2014

Work-Life Balance: Making it Real

Dave GallisonDave Gallison, MS, LPC
Dave specializes in a short term, action-oriented approach to providing career management solutions to clients seeking to choose, change or advance their careers and reach their professional and personal potential. His unique strength as a career counselor is preparing you for informational interviews and directly assisting you in gaining access to employed contacts within desired organizations.


Work-Life Balance: Making it Real

When career counseling clients identify their work values, there is one value that invariably finds itself in everyone’s top 5 – Work-Life Balance. Makes sense, though lately I’ve begun to wonder if there is more to this “balance” than what meets the eye. Have you pondered what exactly does work-life balance mean and how is it even attainable?

To further unpack this term, one perspective is Wikipedia, which defines Work-Life Balance as, “a concept including proper prioritizing between ‘work’ (career and ambition) and ‘lifestyle’ (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).” It further says this concept was only first used in the US in 1986!

So, in the last few decades we have become increasingly aware that “proper prioritizing” can help us prevent an unhealthy, im-balance, where work takes over our lives. This may be evidenced both in time spent—more than 40 hours a week at the jobsite plus commuting, then added work “at home” such as checking work email and voicemail–and in the lingering symptoms of stress. The hallmark of such burnout that I hear as a counselor is the dread and depression that clients begin feeling on Sunday in anticipation of returning to work on Monday.

Sometimes images help:

The first Venn diagram shows there is some overlap, a healthy balance perhaps where work does not reach too far in and overtake one’s life and enjoyment of it. Likewise, the overlap suggests a healthy integration between you, your identity as a person, and your work life.

worklife.jpg worklife2.jpg

In contrast, the second image demonstrates how it appears when there’s too much overlap—our “life” becomes blurred by and seemingly taken over by our work demands. Quite simply, the more people work, the less time they have to spend on other activities that constitute overall well-being, such as personal care, leisure or time with others.

Symptoms of this imbalance besides Sunday dread include daily anxiety, fatigue, overwhelming pressure, depression, and stress-related physical symptoms—all interfering with the enjoyment of life. Near the apex of being stressed-out is when struggling employees may reach out to career counselors in desperation—Help, my work is not only not enjoyable any more, it is taking over my life! I need help getting out and finding something better ASAP!

As such, Work-Life Balance, and the tipping point where imbalance takes over, is highly individualized – coworkers in the same role and conditions that have different priorities and lives have different lines of balance. Further differences are evident through diverse upbringings, countries of origin, attitudes, coping strategies, physiological susceptibility to stress, etc. And, for everyone, the American culture of hard work is deeply ingrained (let alone our expectations of material attainment).

FACT: The US continues to be in the top 10 of the list of countries in hours worked and gives on average only half the number of vacation days (10 vs. 20 days a year) and is the only major country without a national paid parental leave policy.

What keeps us off balance? Let’s look at how these family and cultural influences are reflected in individual attitudes that tip the balance toward work. Like you, I know there are many pre-requisites that effectively put off keeping work in balance, and they include such conditions as:

  • once I complete this mega project at work
  • as soon as I get a promotion and raise I deserve
  • when I can pay off my credit card debt or retire my home mortgage
  • after I bank the mother lode of investments that I will need for retirement (or children’s college)
  • and so on

Perhaps these “priorities” raise a larger question of “Why?” As Anna Coote challenges us in Time on Our Side: Why We All Need a Shorter Working Week, “Why do we work? What do we do with the money we earn? Can we begin to think differently about how much we need—to get out of the fast lane and live life at a more sustainable pace, to do things that are better for the planet, better for ourselves?”

To answer Coote’s leading questions requires that one think and act counter culture, against the prevailing American over-work ethic. Is it any wonder we had to adopt the term Work-Life Balance!

Towards achieving balance, daily. I admit that I seem to be better at recognizing when I am stressed and out of balance than I am at consistently practicing the behaviors to keep in-balance. So the operative question may first be, how do you prevent work from overwhelming you? Then, swinging to the positive experience of balance, how do you engage in work in a way that energizes and feels fulfilling – complements your lifestyle in other ways besides monetary?

Clearly this is not a balance you attain once and for all, but must cultivate the ongoing practice of both self-protective and positive behaviors. Indeed, there is a fair amount of inner change involved. For instance, you must learn to focus on your priorities and execute them, and set boundaries for when you work.

And, balance also necessitates that we consistently build in lifestyle activities that bring pleasure and relaxation—I recharge through hiking and skiing in the mountains, watching and smelling the ocean surf, playing pickup basketball, reading, going to church occasionally, volunteering, and watching comedies.  What activities help you recharge your batteries?

Finally, reducing it down to essences, perhaps the term is superfluous:  “There is no life-work balance,” says Janis Marturano of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.  “We have one life.  What’s important is that you be awake for it.”  One delightful reminder to stay “awake” is this recently-spotted bumper sticker: “Enjoy Being.”

It comes down to this: at work it’s possible to create your own healthiest Work-Life Balance by making sure you not only have meaningful achievements (you add value) but also experience value as you enjoy the job, enjoy life, every day.

Posted by: Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC | March 10, 2014

Your Toxic Workplace

Gail Nicholson Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
Gail is passionate about working with individuals who want to explore and connect with a more authentic sense of self as a basis for defining their lives, work lives and roles in the larger community. She offers a blend of personal and career counseling, as she has found that attending to personal issues or mental health concerns can reduce barriers to moving forward. Gail works with clients on defining purpose and direction, handling stress and tackling career exploration, job search and small business start-up.

Your Toxic Workplace

Executives at a company decided to outsource a technical department, but didn’t want to incur the cost of severance pay.  Managers were instructed to give their staff poor performance reviews in the hope that they would resign.  Several people did leave their jobs, some in tears, immediately after their annual review.

Other toxic workplace experiences are subtler but equally powerful, like your boss marking you down for a lack of teamwork because you didn’t participate in after work get-togethers.  Being denied time off when you’ve earned a break, and not being given the full responsibility of your job because your boss is threatened by your talent are other examples.

If you yourself are currently experiencing workplace toxicity, how would you define your version?  How is your ability to do your job and do it well interfered with by the cultural dynamic in your workplace? The goal of this blog is to raise awareness of this problem and hopefully begin a dialogue as readers – you? – write in about your own experiences and post them with us.

In my experience as a personal and career counselor for over 30 years I have heard a variety of stories.  As I’ve listened and reflected, several themes have emerged that also reveal trends in a changing workplace:

  • The company no longer feels like a family.
  • Managers are increasingly farther apart and more detached from those they supervise.
  • Bad managers can inflict emotional harm and lead to attrition.

A common theme is that of the company that used to feel like a family and then, sometimes quickly, the feeling faded as people became numbers and were now responsible for other numbers.  Enter the bean counters. Beginning in the late 70’s and early 80’s, MBA’s began to infiltrate the business scene in unprecedented numbers, counting and measuring things they thought related to generating short-term profits for corporate stockholders.

The mantra became, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This trend marched across health care, manufacturing, the music industry and all sectors of corporate America.  While wide gains in productivity are a clear result, employees in every industry now express feeling pushed, harried, stressed and not sleeping along with out-right anxiety, hopelessness and depression over some aspect of their job.

Another theme – now that everything important is defined by a number – is the distance between managers and workers on the ground.  Top management may be located across the country without being able to put a face to the names of many of their employees, including supervisors and low-level managers.  A higher level of detachment or objectification is now possible, even inevitable, given that everyone is so far apart.

Management jobs on the ground have become highly demanding, complex and potentially stressful, as a response to the demand for leaner local management structures.  Management styles and attitudes have become more objectified than in my grandfather’s time (remember those numbers). They now tend to be promoted to their positions because of their technical ability and business savvy, not necessarily their people skills.

As a result, corporate America is losing its way, says Daniel Goleman in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence.  My clients agree that the best managers are those that can effectively balance people skills and the technical portion of their job.  They do come along once in a while and when they do, a good manager and management is often a major factor in a person deciding to stay in their job.

Back to our toxic workplace, another top narrative is the story of the bad manager.  People don’t leave bad jobs they leave bad bosses.  Technical folks that get promoted, without training in how to manage people, (bless your heart if you are one) can create messes. This perpetuates the growing frustration and alienation of their peers and those they are responsible for managing.

Poor decision-making, communication and disorganization, extreme rudeness and hostility – does this sound like your work environment?  If so, let us hear your story.  The first step toward healthy change is building awareness; then it’s time to decide if you want to and can adapt, or need to get out.

Across the spectrum, people tolerating toxic workplace experiences from workplace bullying to eating alone in the lunchroom for some weird reason, number in the hundreds of thousands in the US and globally.  Where are the healthy places to work?

There are alternatives, healthier corporations, small and medium sized businesses, non-profits, individual and social entrepreneurs looking to grow and measure multiple lines of business including profit, although adding an emphasis on measuring long-term profits. Other measures seen today show organizations interested not only in their clients and customers, but also in their employees and facilities, the broader community and our natural world.  Family friendly and flextime policies as well as work from home options are a growing trend.  An increasing number of people working in the US now work from home and report getting more done due to fewer workplace disruptions.

Toxic workplaces have our attention and are being monitored. Check out somebody you’re thinking of working for at, a website with the inside scoop on a company’s culture from employees who’ve worked there.  And send us your story; we’d love to hear from you.

Posted by: Aly Anliker, EdM | February 26, 2014

Covering the Cover Letter

Aly AnlikerAly Anliker, Ed.M

Aly is a creative organizational and career consultant with over fifteen years of experience in Training Management, Executive Coaching and Instructional Design. She has a background in Human Resources and Marketing and has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, high technology, manufacturing and non-profit.


Covering the Cover Letter

Of all the things you will do when looking for a job, writing the Cover Letter should be one of the easiest. Even so, it ends up being very stressful for many people. I’ve been writing cover letters since the late 70’s and as a career coach, I know these tips will help you reduce the stress. 

It’s true that many employers and resume reviewers do not read the Cover Letter.  If they do look at it, they may simply scan it rather than read it.  However, there is a smaller percentage of people who will actually take the time to read your cover letter.  If they read it, they are doing so to find out more about you and check for grammar and spelling errors.

Cover Letter Basics

The Cover Letter contains parts and should be no more than four paragraphs in length.

  1. The first section contains the title of the job you are interested in and a brief statement about why you are applying. You could also mention in this paragraph something which demonstrates that you have researched the company, or you have done your homework.
  2. The second section contains highlights of your background as it pertains to the requirements of the position, how you are a good fit for the position.  This can be in the form of bulleted accomplishment statements, though watch the length. More than 4 and it can get too long.
  3. The third paragraph, if you choose to include it, can contain more information about you and why you are interested in the company, the industry and the position.  Companies like to hear why you are interested in them.
  4. Finally, your closing paragraph should state your availability; include the number to reach you and a statement that leaves the door open for further contact.  Something like, “I will call in a week to make sure you have received my resume and see if you have any questions about my background”. 

Questions to Ask Yourself

What experiences have you had with writing Cover Letters?  If you are an employer, do you read them?  If so, what helps them stand out?

Remember; always include a Cover Letter with your resume. You won’t necessarily know if it will be read or not.  Why lose out on the opportunity to make your case?


Posted by: Aubrie De Clerck, CPC | February 4, 2014

I Should Be Grateful I Have a Job

Aubrie De Clerck, CPC,, 503-810-2907

Aubrie is a Career Development and Transition Coach, with her own private practice in Portland. Her career history spans corporate, non-profit and self employment, giving her wide perspective on the world of work. Aubrie is known for being highly inspirational and deeply practical, and loves bringing these qualities to sessions with groups and individuals. Most of all, she is passionate about helping people of all ages and phases of life get the most out of their work life.

I Should Be Grateful I Have a Job

When working with people who are unhappily employed, many times they come to a point where they say “I guess I should just be grateful I have a job.”

Absolutely! It is healthy to be grateful for what we have.  Having income, structure to our days and participating in the world of work are things to be thankful for.  My concern with this statement is that there is a hopeless feeling underneath, a feeling that the person is giving up on ever experiencing job satisfaction.

Gratitude Adjust AubrieThe desire for different/better work can coexist with gratitude for what is true in the present.  What helps move us out of hopelessness and into motivation is having something specific that we really want. As Mark Manson so beautifully inquires in his article, The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today,  “What’s more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for?”  If there is something you want enough to sacrifice other things to obtain it, then you have a gold mine of energy and resourcefulness. Let’s try to connect what you want in the future to what you are doing now through this exercise:

What do you want?  Write a statement about what you want to have – it can be totally new and different from what you have now, or more of what already exists.  Don’t forget the “so I can…” and “I will feel…”  Get specific!

  • Example:  I want to make more money so I can pay off debt.  When I pay off my debt, I will feel freer and more peaceful.
  • Example:  I want to have flexibility with my work hours so I can attend my children’s school events.  If I have that, I will feel more ease and in line with my value of spending more time with family.
  • Example:  I want to have a job in the health care industry and do meaningful work.  When I do that, I will feel more fulfilled and will be happier waking up each morning and going to work.

What are you grateful for about your current work that supports this? Now write what you appreciate about what you have now that helps make what you want possible.  Check to ensure you can genuinely get behind this feeling of gratitude.  Forcing yourself will not help access the gold mine of motivation and inspiration.  

  • Example: I am grateful that I make enough money to stay out of further debt, which helps me feel like I am on solid ground in the present.
  • Example:  I am grateful I can use vacation time to attend my children’s events so this value is met.
  • Example: I am thankful I am gaining transferable skills in this job that will help me make a shift to health care.

Keep your lists of what you want and what you are grateful for someplace where you can see them. It is natural to sometimes get lost in what isn’t working.  If you can make the connection from where you are to where you would like to be, that thread can pull you through.

Posted by: Bruce Hazen, MS | January 27, 2014

Design Your Focus of Inquiry for Lower-Stress Networking

BruceHazenheadshotsmBruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:

1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?

Design Your Focus of Inquiry for Lower-Stress Networking

Networking can be an indoor sport for some and a stressful mystery for others. No matter where you are along that spectrum, there is a new way to approach networking. It’s more than “informational interviewing” – it’s called Focus of Inquiry. It pre-focuses and then guides you when you enter a networking situation so that you can conduct a meaningful conversation.

Focus of Inquiry is a set of key questions that you use to focus yourself and your networking partners on a conversation about:

1. Things that are of genuine interest to you

2. Related to things you can do (and have done)

To develop good questions for your networking, they must meet those two requirements. If you are not genuinely interested in the software industry, asking a bunch of questions about software will soon start to sound mechanical and stiff. And you’ll wish you’d never let your geeky conversation partner get started talking about agile programming.

Similarly, starting a conversation about an area of interest that doesn’t relate to your key insights, abilities and experiences as a professional is a real time waster when you’re networking. It will enable the conversation to wander off in ways that are entertaining but add nothing to the other person’s insights as to how you create impact and results with your talent. At that point you have offered him or her few clues to help them accurately refer you to work or another (more) helpful networking partner to aid your market research.

Example of Focus of Inquiry vs. Unfocused Networking:

Chris is a corporate training and development professional with an interest in moving her skills from high tech to healthcare. She is introduced to a brain surgeon at a cocktail party and opens the conversation.  First we’ll see the inept way. Second, the focused, strategic way.


Host:   Chris, I’d like you to meet Jose, a colleague of mine from OHSU. He’s a neurosurgeon up  on the Hill.

Chris:  Jose, it’s great to meet you. (deep breath) You know I’ve always been fascinated by brain surgery. Have you been doing any new and innovative procedures recently.

Jose: Well, ah yes, we’ve recently done some cryogenic techniques for the first time at OHSU and blah, blah, blah…details about brain anatomy…blah blah…. Why do you ask? Are you in the field?

Chris: Ah, no. Well I was just curious……blah, blah


Host: introduces….

Chris: Jose, it’s great to meet you. Do you mind if I ask you a sort of unique question about your work as a neurosurgeon?

Jose: No, go ahead. I’m curious to know your question now.

Chris: You’re in such a rare specialty area of medicine. I’m interested in knowing the process you go through to access training and to get your surgical team trained in new techniques in your field.

Jose: Oh what an ordeal. I really find the process of documenting development plans for my team and making the case for training funds to be tedious and somewhat mysterious. The process for training requests and scheduling is really a complex mess up here. Why do you ask? What do you do?

Chris: I help managers design training processes that expedite learning and minimize complexity. For example, I’ve streamlined development planning in a way that makes training plans and budgets a snap for department managers.

Jose: Hmmm, Do you have a business card on you?

(If only it was this easy, right.)

Chris focused her conversation in an area that enhanced her knowledge about a genuine interest of hers while also giving her a chance to exchange insights or information that could help her conversation partner because it was relevant to her talent and experience.

Your Focus of Inquiry. While you’re searching for meaningful work you should never go to a meeting, party, gathering-of-any-kind without it.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss why you need a P.I.N.T. to help you build a good networking strategy and focus your inquiry.

Posted by: Andrea King, MS, NCC, MCC | January 13, 2014

No Response to Your Job Application? Five Potential Reasons Why…

Andrea KingAndrea King, MS, NCC, MCC
Careerful Counseling Services
Andrea specializes in assisting clients achieve rewarding employment. She works with adult clients from all industries and stages who are either unemployed or employed (or somewhere in between). Whether you are looking for work, trying to figure out what career to pursue, or unsure whether to stay in your current position, Andrea can assist you with these issues and more.

No Response to Your Job Application? Five Potential Reasons Why…


Job seeking clients often ask me why they have not heard back from various employers after they have submitted their applications.  Although there is no “one size fits all” answer, in talking with hiring managers and human resource professionals, I have discovered some reasons.

1.     Staff reductions in human resource departments

Along with other industries, human resource departments have suffered staff reductions.  Many companies have not yet hired back staff to the levels that existed pre-recession.  This has led to a steady decline in the number of employers who respond to applications.

2.     Large response to job postings

The number of applicants for every position posted is still higher than what it likely was pre-recession.  Although the economy is steadily improving, it will take time to return to pre-recession figures.  It is not realistic to expect a generic, potentially auto-generated reply.

3.     Not yet reviewed

It is quite possible your application has not yet been reviewed.  For a variety of reasons, some positions take longer than others to fill.  Hearing back from one employer vs. another or from one position vs. another, even if you applied around the same time, should not cause concern.  Positions advertised may be placed on hold.  For instance, the interviewer may be out of the office for an extended period of time, or the department may be waiting for final approval to fund the opening.  Unfortunately there is no way of knowing what may be taking place.  Employers will seldom explain the issue.

4.     Your application did not make the cut

Are you underqualified or overqualified?  Do you meet the minimum requirements posted?  Did you tailor it to a specific position posted?  Does your application contain errors?  Were all directions followed?  Blank fields?  Spelling and/or grammatical errors?  Any significant gaps in employment not explained for?  Proofread the entire application  two times before submission.  Ask someone you trust to read the requirements and application procedure and then look over what you are planning to submit to make sure nothing was overlooked.

5.     Poor use of keywords

At most companies, applicant tracking system (ATS) software uses keywords to filter applications and/or resumes before they’re ever reviewed by human eyes.  In fact, approximately 100% of large companies scan for keywords, 80% of mid-size companies, and approximately 10% of small companies.  See my blog on keywords here for important tips on utilizing the right keywords.

As a job applicant in an economy that is still recovering from the recession, be mindful of the limited amount of time reviewers have.  Talk to other job seekers and learn about their experiences.  Likely you will be able to relate.  Continue your job search instead of waiting to hear back from an employer(s).  “Forget” about what you applied for.  Simply put it behind you.  If the job description does not state “no phone calls/emails”, you may consider contacting the hiring department no earlier than three weeks after submission to find out the status of your application. In conclusion, do your best not to take it personally if you haven’t heard back from an employer.

Posted by: Anne W. Bryant, MA, LPC | December 30, 2013

Four Steps toward Making 2014 Your Best Year Ever

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.


Four Steps toward Making 2014 Your Best Year Ever    

No doubt you’ve heard the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I believe the road to failure is paved with unrealistic New Year’s resolutions.  Without a strategy, it is difficult to sustain the behavior it takes to achieve our goals. Have you ever promised yourself that this will be the year that you quit smoking, lose weight, start working out, stop wasting time on your electronic devices, or start flossing? If you have already quit making resolutions because you were not able to keep up your efforts long enough for to experience rewards, you are not alone. According to the results of a recent study, the number of us who do succeed with making New Year’s resolutions stick is a whopping 8%.

Webster’s dictionary defines a resolution as “a promise to yourself that you will make a serious effort to do something that you should do.” Maybe the problem lies with the “should”, not with the promise. When we tell ourselves “should”, and perceive the action to be not much fun, we set ourselves up for procrastination and guilt.

At the end of this year, if you find yourself either unemployed, nervously employed, or in the wrong job (low pay, bad management, stressful, unsatisfying), make a commitment that 2014 will be your year to make a change for the better. But rather than making a resolution a promise that is something you should do, consider a different approach by setting an intention. The Webster definition for this is the thing that you plan to do or achieve: an aim or purpose.” Let’s call your desire for the right job in 2014 your “goal intention.” It’s the starting place, but it’s not enough to achieve the change you long for.

Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., writes a blog for Psychology Today called “Don’t Delay”, strategies for overcoming procrastination. He writes that what’ your goal intention needs is an “implementation intention.” “An implementation intention supports this goal intention by setting out in advance when/where and how” you will achieve this goal. Dr. Pychyl outlines four steps to make this work for you.

Getting Started: First you make a conscious decision ahead of time, a commitment to yourself, to implement a specific action step every time you do something that you frequently do out of habit. This is called the “if….then” strategy. For example, let’s take flossing. If you habitually brush your teeth, then every time you reach for your toothbrush, you decide ahead of time that you will also use floss. When it comes to job search, maybe you put off networking, either by reaching out to set up a face-to-face conversation with a key person in your field, or by using LinkedIn. If…then might look like this: every time you sit at your computer to read your emails, before you get lost in cyber space or check Facebook, your commitment  (on a sticky note) is there to FIRST make one contact that might have a high impact.

Staying on Track: Studies suggest that people who have made implementation intentions have an easier time resisting temptations and distractions. Is something calling  you that might distract you from working on a step toward your goal? Try timing yourself, with the notion that if you just get started and stay on track for 10 minutes, then you can reward yourself with the distraction. Often less than 10 minutes is long enough to engage your interest and keep you working longer.

Review and Disengage from Ineffective Strategies: Talk with a wise friend or career professional.  Review the strategies you’ve tried so far in order to change your work life. Rate the effectiveness of each kind of effort. If your job search consists mainly of applying for jobs on-line while you  stay at home in your bunny slippers, time for Plan B. Dr. Pychyl notes that receiving disappointing (or no) feedback leads to uncertainty, which feeds procrastination. Forming a very clear implementation intention to plan ahead for what else you might try can keep you from getting bogged down.

Plan for Preventing Will-Power Burnout: There is not much about job search that is inherently rewarding for most people. It takes discipline to keep at it in spite of risking either indifference or rejection by potential employers. I believe it is essential for job seekers/ career changers to develop an intentional self-care plan to manage stress; renew physical, mental, and emotional energy; and recharge commitment. The “if…then” approach has many uses for keeping up your will-power. If you notice you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired (borrowed from AA wisdom), then you will stop and take care of yourself. If you have an exciting job lead, then you will go on to develop more new leads. Give yourself an intention goal of always having more than one iron in the fire so that you are not setting yourself up for disappointment.

Experiment with these four steps and may 2014 be your year to thrive!

Posted by: Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC | December 15, 2013

Got Feedback? Part II

Gail Nicholson Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
Gail is passionate about working with individuals who want to explore and connect with a more authentic sense of self as a basis for defining their lives, work lives and roles in the larger community. She offers a blend of personal and career counseling, as she has found that attending to personal issues or mental health concerns can reduce barriers to moving forward. Gail works with clients on defining purpose and direction, handling stress and tackling career exploration, job search and small business start-up.

Got Feedback? Part II

Back to our question in “Got Feedback? Part I;” posted on this blog site September 2, 2013.  Are you getting enough positive, encouraging or clarifying feedback about your efforts in the workplace?  For more on the impact of valuable feedback on career development and how to get it at virtually any professional level or stage read “Got Feedback? Part I.”

Part II addresses the benefits of meaningful, positive, professional and personal feedback for several individuals recently laid-off and in some incidents after multiple lay-offs or firings.  Take notes and create a list of next steps for receiving positive feedback yourself, if you’re interested.

What’s the catch?  None really, these were all qualified employees.  All had other prior, good work experience, and were respected and supported by co-workers and supervisors in their place of employment before the lay-off.

But you know what they say, “People don’t leave bad jobs or bad companies, they leave bad bosses.”  Situations at work can get very political, with all that company/departmental history, empire building, and a few ol’ smoldering conflicts only partially buried.  Add a few missteps with higher-ups (been there.)

We don’t always share the views of our superiors, (better communication next time.) It’s easy to be blindsided by the manipulations of a boss who is a deranged, crazy mismanager and easily threatened. How to dodge that bullet waiting to happen?

The point is you can be a good employee who falls into a gray area and makes a perceived mistake.  Not to say that you shouldn’t reflect on your record, there’s always room for improvement.  Beyond that, my very brave clients, who were able to see the value in contacting old co-workers and supervisors were able to put things into better perspective in short order.

They selected people who they thought would be helpful and supportive in further sorting out what happened and why they were let go.  Over lunch or tea, they heard about how things were going, how they were missed by some.  Given a little prompting for specific feedback on strengths, contributions or something to work on, these former co-workers had much to say.

When a lay-off has the effect of lowering confidence in your abilities, (and when doesn’t it?), put your bad dreams away.  Talk with people who knew you well and respected what you offered.  Remember what they say.  And ideally you’ll take notes at some point and capture great additions for your next resume.  (P.S.  Don’t forget to send them a thank you note or email.)

Today many of the folks I mentioned are happily transitioned.  The most dramatic affect seems to have come from having these particular conversations and scheduling them once or twice a week after the layoff. The former still employed ex-co-workers were most desirous of the opportunity to give my clients supportive feedback and had been hoping they would be contacted.

Posted by: davegallison | December 2, 2013

Five Guidelines for Finding Your Life’s Work

Dave GallisonDave Gallison, MS, LPC
Dave specializes in a short term, action-oriented approach to providing career management solutions to clients seeking to choose, change or advance their careers and reach their professional and personal potential. His unique strength as a career counselor is preparing you for informational interviews and directly assisting you in gaining access to employed contacts within desired organizations.

Five Guidelines for Finding Your Life’s Work

Did you know that 55% of us desire a new career (Harris poll)?  If you, too, have thought of jumping ship, then chances are you are already wondering about the phrase, “life’s work.”  Taking a little liberty, life’s work could represent the contraction “life is work.” Or, it could mean the testament to one’s whole life on earth, “life’s work.”  Perhaps it is not overly simplistic to use this phrase as a choice point or wake-up-call:  is our work just a job or career? Or, could we go so far as to say it is a special calling infused with passion and meaning?  After all, our work and how we view it, at best or worst, can critically shape who we become over our lifetimes.

The trap.  The first all-too-common outlook, life is work, connotes a trap mentality.  It suggests “first you work then you die,” work is merely a means to our survival, or you find an occupation and stick with it until you are hopefully lucky enough to retire for a handful of years.  At social gatherings it is that hollow feeling that comes after you are asked, “What do you do?” or “How do you earn your living?”  While our culture necessitates you work to “earn a living,” you may find that for too long you have settled for work that pays the bills but does not begin to tap your inner talents and the fulfillment possible by giving your unique gifts.

Freeing yourself.  The second outlook, life’s work, typically connotes work that is most important to a person, their main purpose or activity in life, even what they are most known for—perhaps it represents a calling or life mission.  It can take some time to figure out one’s calling and how to apply your greatest gift or most enjoyable talent.  It took this author decades to find his natural work, and a stint or two of unemployment, to discover the best setting to practice it.

Besides using our greatest talents, life’s work entails a shift in perspective:  instead of focusing solely on the physical aspects of our humanness, we focus on how we live if we are aware of a larger connectedness to all of life, our beingness.  Evidence of this shift shows up immediately—do we feel short-changed or fulfilled in our work?  That outlook can affect our physical and emotional health, our self-esteem, our relationships, and our entire experience of life.  So, there is the awareness of life’s work, the something more in life, and the conscious practice of that awareness.

How the trade-off begins.  People who come to me as a career counselor in their twenties are frequently most focused on getting a job to transition from a liberal arts degree and stave off unemployment, or as a means of escape from living in their parent’s basement.  They say, all too often, life is work and I want to get on with it, or, tell me what job I should choose with the best chance of success.  As a counselor, I engage them around practical considerations such as how their transferable skills relate to various fields and occupations, or how various work cultures may offer the best personality fit.  Yet I also want to widen the scope beyond the usual monetary gains and extrinsic rewards to passions and values and ask:  What turns you on in this life?  What is your special gift to give to the world?

dowhatyouloveWaking up at mid-career.  Alternatively, people who come to me mid-career–forties and fifties–may have been laid off, fired, or have totally lost interest in a career trajectory that was seemingly going nowhere.  All may have begun to sadly speculate, is this all there is for me?  Or, more hopefully, is there a job or profession out there that calls to me, that I would enjoy doing, which is more naturally-aligned with my talents, interests, and sense of purpose in life?

Mid-life is the time when people more readily consider their mortality, and it often takes little prompting from me to bring out their inner uncertainties:  Why am I living?  What can I best do with the great gift of life?  What is really most important to me?   If this disquieting intersection of work and life has come up for you, consulting a career counselor might help you gain perspective.  We can use all the help we can get to accurately understand reality and create lives of greater truth, happiness, and even beauty.

Lessons for Life’s work from the near-end.  With a nod to 30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer, here are five guidelines for realizing the most from your life’s work, which Pillemer distilled from interviewing hundreds of older Americans:

  1. Choose a career for the inherent rewards, not just the financial ones
  2. Don’t give up looking for a job that makes you happy
  3. Make the most of a mediocre job (many elders learned invaluable lessons from less-than-ideal work situations)
  4. Emotional intelligence outplays every other kind (understand your emotions and learn to relate well to others if you want to succeed in the workplace)
  5. Everyone needs some independence-freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you without too much control from the top.

Do two or more of the five lessons above come up negative for you?  On Sunday evenings do you start dreading the work week ahead?  If so, it may be time to look inside yourself, explore how you view your life’s work, and possibly seek the help of a counselor to raise your sights.

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