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In my first post of the month, I wrote about the importance of crafting a terrific LinkedIn profile. In this one, I am going to give tips on using LinkedIn for networking and for your job search.
Connect, Connect, Connect with everyone you know—colleagues, former colleagues, peers, former professors, etc. Any time you meet someone new, grab their business card and make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn with an inbox message saying “Nice to meet you” and remind them that you are looking for a position in their industry.
Use the Search Features. LinkedIn’s job postings not only list available jobs, but tell you who you are connected with at those companies. Use those connections to help you contact the decision makers directly or get appropriate introductions made through third-party connections.
Follow Companies you are interested in. Use the LinkedIn company pages to find companies within your field where you’d like to work. Click “Follow Company” and news about that organization will appear on your homepage to keep you posted on any new job listings or important events at the company.
Be an Expert. Use LinkedIn as a tool to brand yourself as an expert in your field. Share links to relevant articles in your field, news about seminars or workshops you are attending and news about your career or company.
Prepare for Job Interviews. Prior to any job interview, be sure to check out the profiles of any people you are scheduled to meet. Read about their background, groups they are affiliated with, even the college they attended. You can be sure they are looking at yours too!
Good luck, and don’t forget to connect with me on LinkedIn!
—Pamela Weinberg, Career Coach
Hi, I am Pamela Weinberg, a Founding Partner of Mind Your Own Business Moms, a business dedicated to helping women in various stages of career development. In addition to my work at MYOBmoms, I maintain a career coaching practice working with clients to help with job searches, career advancement, social media and more. I am also an adjunct instructor at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies in the field of Career Management, offering a variety of seminars and workshops there.
I speak frequently both to students and alumni at universities such as NYU and Columbia, as well as to corporate executives on “Personal Branding,” which is a passion of mine. I run workshops, seminars and lead webinars on topics such as “Personal Branding for Job Search” and “Redefining your Identity after Raising a Family”.
Through my work at the Wasserman Center for Career Development at New York University and the Office of Career Management at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, I have gained valuable experience counseling a diverse population from undergraduate students to career changers. At both institutions, I work with clients on résumé development, interview techniques, networking tips and job search strategies.
I am looking forward to being the featured career coach at WomenWorking for November. I look forward to your comments.
—Pamela Weinberg, Career Coach
I have a question, and I’d like a show of hands (even if they are virtual): How many of you would like to be a leader? And would you like to have all that goes with it—the title, prestige, increase in salary—and the perks? My guess is there are a lot of hands going up. Why is that?
When we think in terms of being a leader, we can’t help but to think in terms of ego satisfaction, money, influence, and more. Maybe that’s why we have so many companies struggling in a challenging economy. Leadership—or the lack of it—is exposed when things are tough. Companies announce layoffs, freeze raises, and wait to hire new employees. Everyone is upset and looking for answers. We know what the problems are—or do we? Take a look at these scenarios:
Don’t place blame. I spoke with a high school teacher yesterday who came out of an hour-long meeting where the department head unleashed his frustrations on them. His department wasn’t doing well, and he thought it was their problem. It wasn’t that he wasn’t leading—they just weren’t following. Excuse me, but that’s not leading—that’s making excuses.
Accept responsibility. A leader assumes responsibility when things aren’t going well because the buck stops with the leader—end of story. If a leader’s team isn’t performing to expectations, that’s ultimately on the leader—not the team. I’m a one-person company, and guess what? There is no one for me to point the finger at. There is no one for me to blame or to scapegoat.
Solve problems. The point of leadership is to lead, not to just articulate the problem at hand. To be a leader, you must innovate, solve problems, and exploit opportunities. Leaders accept responsibility when things go wrong, turn things around, and then share the credit. It’s not easy being a real leader—it’s just easy to call yourself one.
Now, who wants to be a leader? Can I have a show of hands?
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
I bet you are fascinated, as am I, with human behavior. You’ve probably wondered why some seem to make their mark at work, while others make friends wherever they go? Why are some so confident and others so consistently happy?
There certainly isn’t just one answer, and many books have been written exploring all these questions. My latest read—Be Happy!: Release the Power of Happiness in YOU by Robert Holden—reminded me that to excel at anything we have to keep learning.
Be the student. Today I read the forward and discovered it was written by one of my favorite authors, Louise L. Hay. In it, Ms. Hay says, “It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. We are all students and life always has another lesson to teach us…I thought I was a happy person and I was. Now…I am happier on a deeper, quieter level. I also notice that I am happiest when I am being grateful. Thank you Robert. This student was definitely ready for you, my latest teacher. I love learning.”
Take the next step. Ms. Hay has lived an extraordinary life, but has dealt with the kind of life pain that many decide to ignore or succumb to. How did she not only survive some horrendous life experiences, but go on to thrive and become an author, speaker and teacher to so many? She did so by changing and growing—selling 40 million copies of her first book You Can Heal Your Life as of 2011—well into her eighties.
Believe in more. Ms. Hay is a leader who has never stopped learning and transforming. And to keep learning, we have to believe that there is more for us to learn and more for us to become.
As we approach the end of another year and look forward to 2013, we would do well to remember that if we want to be a leader of any kind—and who doesn’t—we have to keep learning. May we all have the attitude of “I love learning” no matter our age, status or level of achievements.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
For the past couple of years I’ve seen polls indicating that when the economy improves, there will be a significant number of employees jumping ship to find better opportunities. One poll even talked about the upcoming “résumé tsunami” when the economy turns the corner. I find it hard to take such polls seriously, and here’s why: most employees hate the job search process, and changing jobs takes a great deal of initiative, self-confidence and perseverance—especially if you’re not a top performer in your industry.
But polls are like any other set of statistics; what do they really mean when it comes down to one person—to you? You might be fantasizing about greener pastures and companies courting your talent; the question is, will you take action or is it just wishful thinking? Regardless of your answer, here are three things for you to consider:
Will you be ready when the time comes? Do you invest in building your network now? Do you keep in touch with colleagues, new contacts and recruiters? Are you forging relationships with others long before you go to them for assistance? If you don’t, you will be in for a rude awakening. Author and entrepreneur Harvey Mackay wrote a book with a provocative title that is worth remembering: Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. You are more likely to receive assistance from an acquaintance later if you connect with him or her now.
What kind of reference will your boss or company give you? Forget what you are told about companies not giving bad references for fear of lawsuits. You might get lucky and have an HR person toe the line and not say anything that would reflect poorly on you—but do you really want to leave your career up to luck? And what if you are one of millions who work for a small company that isn’t so experienced and careful? The person being asked about you doesn’t have to say anything overtly negative about you—their tone of voice, or what they don’t say, might say it all. For that reason, it is important to remain a key player at your current job—even if your mind is already venturing further down the road.
Is it your company—or is it you? If you’re not happy where you are, are you sure you will be happy somewhere else? It’s easy to think that another company’s grass will be greener. Why not do your very best to water and fertilize the lawn you are on now? And don’t be too quick to think you’ve done everything you can—that’s rarely the case. Now is the time to improve your skills, unleash your passion and do your best work—even when things are far from optimal.
Maybe I’m wrong and when the economy does improve, there will be a significant exodus of employees looking for the next boss who will show more appreciation and be a partner in your career advancement. What I do know is that it’s smart to make sure you are capitalizing on the opportunity you have now before you go off looking for a better one. Whatever you do, and whatever is best for you, I wish you much success!
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
If I were to ask you who is responsible for the current state of your life and career, most of you would automatically respond, “I am responsible—no one else.” Good for you, because you would be right! However, I don't mean to imply that any lack of success thus far is your "fault." Instead, I want to look at the idea of taking full responsibility from an entirely different angle.
We all receive help along the way - from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, bosses, and more - but ultimately, they don’t do the work that moves us along. Whatever level of success you have achieved, both at work and outside of it, is yours. You are responsible. You have worked hard to achieve your goals. You did that—not anyone else. Allow that realization to sink in for a moment.
You might protest, saying, “But I got my promotion because my boss saw something in me. I got a break.” I’m not buying that, and neither should you. Yes, your boss saw your potential and maybe even took a slight chance by acting on it. But your boss is no dummy. He or she promoted you for good reason, and you can take credit for that as well.
Whether you are just beginning your career or have a couple of decades behind you, say these words aloud to yourself: “I am responsible for my success.” This time, however, say them in a way acknowledges the fact that you have gotten yourself to where you are now. You probably didn't do it alone, but you did do it. Congratulate yourself!
You can be grateful and acknowledge the help you receive without giving your power away. Opportunities may come from outside sources, but what you do with it them is up to you. Own that. Believe it. Feel it. To do otherwise is not humility, it’s false modesty—and even worse, it’s a lie. We've all heard that “success begets success,” but that’s only partially true. Success begets success if you own it—if you embrace the idea that you, and you alone, are responsible.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
If I were to ask you when you last reached out to someone via text, tweet, email or Facebook, you probably wouldn't have to think long. We live in an age of instant communication—but while technology rocks, sometimes it just isn’t enough. If you want to send someone the message that you've made a sincere effort on their behalf, you're going to have to get a little old-school.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly outdated, whatever happened to the art of the handwritten note? When is the last time you sent (or received) a message on paper? I bet you have to think a little harder about about that! In a way, the scarcity of handwritten communication actually offers an advantage—if you do choose to go old-school, the gesture will carry more of an impact.
Picture the scene: The mild shock on the face of the lucky person receiving your note quickly transforms into a smile upon seeing that it was you who reached out in such an antiquated way. That smile registers the fact that you went out of your way to make him or her feel special. When curiosity prompts the recipient to open your note, he or she will feel touched on an emotional level, even if the contents of your note are simple and straightforward.
If you were to send that same person a text, tweet or email, of course the gesture would be appreciated. But your words would quickly become buried in an email folder or lost in cyberspace. That old-school handwritten note, on the other hand, would likely be displayed prominently on a desk or stashed in a drawer with other sentimental objects. Even your grumpy co-worker or distant relative is likely to react this way—while most inboxes are overloaded, most drawers have plenty of space.
Think about that the next time you want to say "thank you" (or anything else important) to your boss, team member, friends or family. Set aside your keypad, smartphone or iPad, and get out your pen and paper. Let old-school "technology" work its magic. While technology rocks, sometimes it's the old-school methods that will put you on a roll.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
Jack* is in the IT field. He likes his work, his colleagues and even his boss. What more could an employee ask for? How about a performance review? It’s been two and a half years, and Jack has yet to receive any formal feedback on his work. While this may seem fishy, the company's record indicates that performance reviews have consistently been given low priority.
Barbara* is in the healthcare field. She received a promotion six months ago, and her boss recently told her she is exceeding expectations. Naturally, Barbara was pretty thrilled—until she discovered that another employee (also female) had just been hired for the same position and offered $5000 more than Barbara is currently earning. Ouch! Barbara’s manager, who had nothing to do with the decision, agreed the salary imbalance was unjustified.
Both Jack and Barbara asked me if they should take their cases to human resources. After all, isn’t HR supposed to ensure that all employees are treated fairly? Doesn't HR exist to advocate on behalf of employees who feel slighted? Well, yes and no! HR’s real job is to balance the needs of the company with those of its employees. They want everyone to feel valued and satisfied, but they also have to look out for the bottom line.
HR professionals typically work hard, care deeply and do their best to champion those who seek their help. They strive to create an environment in which everyone can thrive. But the HR department doesn’t craft the company’s policies or determine its culture and values—senior leadership does that, and the role of HR is to carry out that direction. Imagine HR as an external recruiter and yourself as an interviewing candidate. While both HR and the recruiter want to satisfy the needs of both parties, the highest obligation is to the hiring company. (Ethical breaches are another story. We won't discuss those here.)
With that in mind, what should Jack and Barbara (and you!) do? Start by asking yourself who has the power to change your situation. Is it your manager? A senior executive? While HR can advocate for you in either situation, they may not be able to resolve the problem. You need to manage your expectations and consider how you can align your interests with those of the company. Even the best HR professional can only do what is authorized by those at the helm of the ship.
By all means, go to HR with your problems and ideas. Collaborate with them. Partner with them. That's what they're there for! Just know that HR's abilities are limited—and that’s not a criticism, it's just a fact of organizational life. Ultimately, you are the only one who can protect and advocate for yourself. Your company may own your job, but you own your career. And if the rules don't work for you, you can choose not to work for them.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
* Names have been changed.
Many families have special recipes that are passed down from generation to generation, but what about a tradition of writing ten-year plans? Amy Scherber (of popular NYC bakery Amy's Bread) reflects on starting her own business and building her dream...from scratch.
Always follow what your heart is telling you to do. Thanks for the sweet advice, Amy!
—Video by Nina Giordano
In today's economy, where everyone needs to think out of the box, playing it safe won't cut it. But there's a tendency to do that anyway. What's needed is innovation—new ways of thinking and acting.
How do we get ourselves to think in an innovative way—to think bigger? By acknowledging our talent and our intuitive sense of knowing what's right. Yes, you have the answers to solve tough challenges. You have the ability to change the conversation and get a group of people excited about a potential solution.
Believe in yourself. Have confidence in your ability to turn things around. Even if you are not feeling particularly confident at the moment, "act as if" you feel that way and take the next right action.
The real shame is when we hold ourselves back because of a false belief we have about ourselves or the situation we are in, or the people around us.
What false belief about yourself are you buying into? Become aware of it, and ask yourself, is that really true?
No, it isn't. So replace this thought with a positive one. It is the nature of the mind to keep churning out thoughts, some positive, some negative. What counts is what you pay attention to. If you focus on a thought about yourself that is negative, it will stop you from taking action. Take on an affirmative thought.
You have the power to make a difference, at this very moment. Think Bigger about your abilities and don't be afraid of taking a Smart Risk.
What is success? I know it's a broad question, but what was your automatic, unfiltered response when you saw it? You don’t have to share your answer with anyone, but you should figure it out for yourself. If you've never stopped to deeply consider how you, personally, define success, here are a few definitions to get your thoughts flowing:
Maybe Ms. Roddick is right—maybe we can’t define success. But it's a question worth considering nonetheless. I’m not suggesting that you write your definition in stone, just that you give it a few minutes' thought. I bet your opinions on the matter will surprise you!
To all of our past and continued success. Have a great weekend!
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
On November 6, many of us will cast our votes to decide who will spend the next four years in the White House. Politics aside, what can we learn from the two candidates running for the highest elected office in the United States? Quite a bit, actually—but here are three things that are particularly worth of your consideration.
Every job is temporary. The President of the United States is, presumably, the most powerful government official in the world. But all that power will only buy him eight years, tops—that is to say, even the President has a “temp” job! The presidential race reminds us that we ought to be be continually selling ourselves, improving our skills, and working with purpose and passion. No position is truly permanent.
Communication is everything. Elections are won or lost based on a candidate’s ability to connect with and influence others. Most voters are not fully informed on every important issue, but they know who they like and trust, and that's who they vote into office. The presidential race is a stark reminder that your success will rise or fall in sync with your communication skills, whether you exercise them within your company or with a potential employer at an interview.
You are not what you do. I don’t ever plan to “retire” in the traditional sense, but I don’t want to wake up one day and feel lost because I don’t have a title or a paycheck. We are more than what we do, and we can find our identities and establish our self-worth in far better places than at work—after all, even the President will lose his job one day! If you were to wake up without a job tomorrow, the true tragedy would be to confuse what you do with who you are.
My challenge to you? Always be thinking about what’s “next” for your career, keep improving your communication skills, and continue reminding yourself that work isn't everything. You may not be gunning for the highest office in the land, but working with these three pieces of advice in mind will serve you well in any career.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
Last week, a coaching colleague of mine slipped this into a conversation we were having about life: “Success doesn’t buy you happiness.” True enough. I’ve had clients who had jobs they loved and who were paid quite well, clients who had power and influence and clients who were successful in other ways—and they were burned out, confused and definitely not happy. So my friend was right about success not buying happiness.
But what does that really mean? Many have been suggesting for a long time that we redefine success—to take measurable success out of the equation (money, job title, etc.) and instead replace it with personal joy and professional fulfillment—and I’m sure most of us would agree that that would be a good thing. But in the process, may I suggest that we don’t make excuses for giving up on becoming more than we are today. Here are some helpful tips to get you back on track toward happiness.
Think like your childhood self. As children, we start out in life with audacious thoughts and outlandish dreams. Then we grow up, and it dawns on us that it’s not so easy. We get bruised—or even beaten up—by life, and we begin to question ourselves and we start to wonder what we can do that might be more "reasonable." Like having a steady job, paying off the mortgage or taking a well-deserved vacation. Achieving reasonable goals will not provide the same satisfaction as achieving those higher standards you set for yourself way back when.
Do not adjust your expectations. I don’t know of anyone who has ever consciously made a decision to live an average life or has ever aspired to only go so far and say, “I guess I should just be happy with where I am, what I have and who I appear to be.” While success may not buy happiness, let me turn the coin over and ask, “Does failure buy us happiness?” “Does ‘adjusting our expectations’ buy us happiness?” “Does giving up on our dreams buy us happiness?” I’ve never met a person who felt like they were failing in some way who was happy. As long as you are working toward a goal, you are not failing at it.
Be honest with yourself. Though success may not buy us happiness, neither does lying to ourselves and saying that we are happy while living smaller lives than we know we are capable of. Let’s be honest with ourselves and ask who we really want to be and what we really want to do. Then, let’s commit to taking a step, however small and “insignificant” it may be, in that direction. This isn’t about beating up on ourselves; it’s about looking within and seeing how powerful, creative and capable we really are.
The bottom line is that however we define “success,” we will never be happy if we think small, give in to our fears or settle for less than what we truly want and deserve in life. We are more than that, and our happiness depends upon our recognizing that truth—and then doing something about it.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
Are you a temporary or a permanent employee? Most of us, if asked, would proudly say, “My position isn’t a temp job—I am a permanent, full-time employee.” Well, I hope you will forgive me, but it's actually a trick question. However, I ask it with the best of intentions!
The truth is, that kind of thinking can get you into trouble. In today's marketplace, companies and organizations don’t think in terms of permanence, and neither should you. I’m not advocating that you should stop being loyal to your employer, but rather that you should think like a free agent. Do your best work during your time with any given company...but keep your options open. Your first responsibility must be to yourself.
To clarify, a "free agent" is not subject to commitments that restrict his or her actions. By all means, make and keep commitments to your employer—just not ones that restrict your options in the long run. The only real security you have is your skill set, your work ethic, your interpersonal skills and your emotional intelligence...as well as your ability to navigate the marketplace with agility.
Top companies want top talent, and they know that shrinking opportunity is no way to keep these people on board. Instead, they court them with mutually rewarding contracts that allow both parties to continually monitor and negotiate the terms of employment. Companies and free agents alike should never take one another for granted. As with any relationship, the moment one party begins to lean too excessively on the other could be the moment the latter half wants out.
Is it time to update your strategy, your way of thinking and even your identity to this end? Food for thought this weekend. Have a good one!
—Alan Allard, Career Coach (and free agent!)
Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People 76 years ago. While terms like “soft skills” and “emotional intelligence” were not yet part of the conversation, the associated concepts certainly were. Then and now, we are told that in order to be successful, we must develop an ability to play well with others.
That's sound advice (don’t you wish everyone thought so!), but some people confuse being nice with being agreeable—too quick to say "yes" and too quick to concede. To have influence and impact, you must also set boundaries, speak with confidence, and be willing to risk rejection for your beliefs. You can start by implementing these two practices:
Serve yourself. If you are quick to notice the needs of others and always say “yes” to their requests, take note of how doing so may be affecting your life. Practice saying, “I wish I could help you, but it’s not possible right now.” It’s fine to be nice to others—just not at your own expense.
Stand your ground. If you have reason to believe that a doomed project can be turned around, speak up with conviction. You may not be the most experienced person in the room, but if you're the one with a viable plan, you can still be the one who saves the day.
The bottom line? When you stand up for yourself and your ideas in an appropriate manner, you will likely find that others listen with respect. Being nice to others is well and good—just be sure to put yourself on the list as well.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
All other things being equal, happy employees make for higher productivity. When leaders help their employees in the happiness department, they reap the investment in the bottom line. Employees who are happy with their environments and the nature of their work have less conflict and are willing to give more without being asked—not to mention that when it comes to customer service, happy employees make for happy customers.
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos and the author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, would agree. Hsieh built his company on employee culture rather than customer service, because he knew that happy employees beget happy customers. His theory has since proven to be true. However, you’re not Tony Hsieh, and there's a good chance you don’t run your company. So what can you do to improve your happiness at work?
Look beyond the office walls. Wherever you fall on the happiness scale in your overall life, pick an area (health, fitness, finances, relationships) that you can improve. When you come to work, you bring not only your body, but also your sense of well-being and contentment. If you want to be happier at work, increase your happiness in other areas. Doing so will have a ripple effect.
Embrace a new challenge. Happiness has a lot to do with breaking through limits and achieving goals. I don’t know of anyone who can be both bored and happy at the same time. Don’t wait for your manager to recognize your underused talent; instead, ask for him or her to let you head up a project you’ve been thinking about.
Make a gratitude adjustment. Happiness and gratitude go hand-in-hand. To quickly and easily boost them both, begin or end your day by writing out three things that you are thankful for. These could include a means of transportation to and from the office, a colleague's acknowledgment of your work, or even just the fact that you have a job! (If you are unemployed, you can especially benefit from this simple exercise.)
Happiness doesn't happen by accident. We have to create it ourselves. Don’t wait for your company to take the lead—your life and your happiness are your reponsibility. Go for it!
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
Yesterday, I received an email from someone I’ve known and respected for over a decade. Kathy* has been in middle management at a large company for the past five years, but for the past two, she's been feeling less than passionate about her work. She is contemplating a career change. When we last spoke on the phone, she said, “I’ve only told you, my husband and one other person about this. Frankly, you’re the only one who hasn’t told me I’m nuts.”
I wasn’t surprised, but I felt for her. Most people would say that the last thing one should do in these challenging economic times is take a risk. “Hold on to what you’ve got” seems to be the popular wisdom. But guess what? Staying in a position that doesn’t challenge or fulfill you carries risks of its own. Doing so is a sure path to boredom or burnout—not to mention a missed opportunity to pursue the next grand adventure!
If you’re considering a change of direction but unsure as to what that might look like, author and career coach JoAnn Corley recommends doing three things:
Of course, there's more to changing careers than these three bullet points, but that's plenty to mull over for now. If you have a specific question about reinventing yourself or your career, leave a comment. I'll be happy to explore the issue further.
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
* Name has been changed.
Hello! I’m Alan Allard, and I'll be your career coach for the month of October. This month will be all about you—but before we get started, you might want to know a few things about me as well.
For the past eight years, I have worked as a consultant, executive coach, speaker, trainer, and life coach. My current work deals with helping companies, teams, and individuals thrive in challenging times by improving performance and building resilience. I have a master’s and a doctorate in Counseling, and I spent 12 years working in private practice as a psychotherapist. I also wrote a book called Seven Secrets to Happiness!, which can be purchased here. On a personal note, I am married to my high school sweetheart, and we have two incredible daughters (as well as two equally incredible son-in-laws).
Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at what you can do to increase your success, fulfillment, and happiness—both in your career and in your overall life. Please let me know in the comments if if there are any specific topics you'd like me to address. Thanks, and I look forward to another great month!
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
Each of us has a powerful magic within. This magic is called appreciation, and while we've all experienced the sensation, few of us understand just how powerful it can be. A natural gift that we can call on at any time, appreciation benefits us on so many levels.
Appreciation provides energy and alters perspective. Think about how different life appears when viewed through a lens of appreciation! When you consider blessings like friends and loved ones, life’s inconveniences don’t seem as significant. When a manager or co-worker offers a gesture of acknowledgement or thanks, an ordinary workday can take on a new excitement. When you’re on vacation, looking out from the top of a mountain over a magnificent view, problems seem to melt away.
Appreciation means cultivating feelings of admiration, approval, or gratitude. Appreciation also indicates an increase in value. Material possessions such as art, property, and collectibles are said to “appreciate” when their market value rises, and you can do the same with your experiences and your life. Each time you purposefully appreciate your friends, your loved ones, or even the kindness of strangers, the value you perceive in them grows. When you appreciate the wonderful bounty of your life, your own value increases—to yourself as well as others.
When applied with sincerity, appreciation rapidly brings about an attitude adjustment and perception shift. It gives a high-voltage boost to your whole system, releasing soothing yet invigorating hormones into your bloodstream that nourish every cell in your body. The result is an immediate improvement on every level—mental, physical, and emotional.
Try this exercise from Heart Math to purposefully apply the magic of appreciation:
Pick a situation in your life that challenges you. Focus on the area surrounding your heart. Pretend your breath is flowing in and out through this zone in your chest. Next, try to feel appreciation for something good in your life—a special person, an exciting opportunity, the whole picture. Once you have a solid grip on that feeling of appreciation, redirect it toward the challenge you are facing. If you can, find three things about that difficult situation that you can appreciate. If you'r stumped, start with the fact that no matter what your problem is, it could have been worse. Once you can appreciate that, you can release some of the energy that has been locked up inside the problem.
Even a brief moment of conscious appreciation can bring about a more sensitive understanding of your situation (not to mention a literal change in your physiology!). That’s because appreciation connects you with your intuition. As you begin to apply appreciation more often, you will gain new insights. When you imagine your heart rhythms sending powerful healing commands to your brain and body, your mental faculties are ignited, your regenerative hormones are triggered, and your immune system even sees a boost.
Of all the positive emotions we can feel, appreciation is the fastest to act. As you practice appreciation, you come into dialogue with your heart—your fundamental source of power and intuition. Like magic, you step into your own authenticity.
Thank you for a wonderful month!
—Andrea Zintz, Career Coach
Heather was feeling prepared for her upcoming presentation. She also had butterflies in her stomach at the thought of standing in front of the intimidating management board. During past presentations, Heather had been at the mercy of these feelings, facing a blank mind and uncontrollably shaking knees.
What is fear, really? According to Charles Jones, a well-known emotion theorist and the president of the Institute for Adaptive Mastery, fear arises when the subconscious cannot neutralize a threat. Even if the conscious mind uses logic to quell the fears, the subconscious makes its own assessment and determines the existence of a viable strategy. In other words, the subconscious rules.
In order for fear to arise, both of these conditions must be true. For example, if Heather were to make a presentation to her family, her subconscious would not perceive a threat and fear would not arise. But while an outside threat is a necessary condition for fear, it is not a sufficient cause in itself. If Heather were to feel comfortable with her expertise regarding her subject matter, her subconscious might send those same bold feelings to her conscious mind, even in a room full of executives.
Consider another familiar example: learning to ride a bike. The first time I hopped on a bicycle, my subconscious did not perceive a threat. My fearlessness dissolved, however, the first time I lost control and scraped my knees on the pavement. It wasn't until I had mastered the art of stabilizing the bicycle that fear ceased to arise the moment the bike began to wobble.
These examples illustrate two key points about fear:
So how did Heather use this information to help her give a great presentation? As part of her preparation, she met with three key executive board members to gauge their reactions and obtain some helpful input. Once she felt that she was supported by these three people, she was able to reduce the subconscious threat and increase her confidence. In fact, if Heather continues to create strategies that will effectively neutralize perceived threats, her butterflies just might disappear for good!
—Andrea Zintz, Career Coach