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Are You Steering Your Career Ship?

sailboat for blog

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

The wife of a prospective client called me this week. Her husband, she said, is winding up two of the most successful years of his career. Monetarily-speaking, he is ecstatic; as well, he has forged a strong reputation in his industry.

Culturally, though, he is in a funk, as the fast-paced, high-risk and competitive nature of his job has him stressed and often unavailable, even when he is at home with his growing family. He (and his family) are not buying into the 24/7 work culture lifestyle. Always plugged in amounts to never being fully present, personally.

His wife wants him to be happy. He wants to be happy. The idea of a career move, though, is unsettling. Will he have to endure a pay cut? Can he afford to do that and still take care of his young family? He feels he must stay put for a while longer before initiating a move.

Potential career influencers and hiring decision makers seek him out; the conversations stall when he has no resume to share with them. He continues to plod to work every day, frustrated, but dutiful.

His wife calls me to start hatching a plan to help her husband, and family, get unstuck. It is clear she has a finger on the pulse of her husband’s value that extends beyond his current company situation. We brainstorm. I encourage her regarding ways to motivate him and describe the first step: getting traction through introspective resume story-building.

How liberating it is to begin steering your own career ship. It is powerful to own your career.

Shortly after speaking with this woman, I read my friend and Career Strategist, Dawn Lennon’s, blog post on “driving your career.” I forwarded the article to the wife.

One line from Dawn’s post particularly struck me: “Career problems arise when we forget that we’re doing the driving.”

Here is a link to the full article. It’s well worth the read: Finding Yourself in Your Work, or Losing Yourself in It? | Pursuing Growth.

Are you currently feeling rudderless in your career? Give me a call (903.523.5952) or email me at jacqui@careertrend, when you get a moment. I may be able to help.

In the meantime, perhaps you will enjoy this tiny, 5-second video of me, “steering a ship.” I don’t believe there is a much more emancipating experience.




3 Remedies for the Long-Term, Unhappily EMPLOYED


By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

International Talent Management Strategist Dorothy Dalton inspired me with her recent post on surviving long-term unemployment. Her pithy, content-rich article articulated real-life examples of professionals and executives battling extended job loss as well as strategies to stimulate career traction.

Her article spurred me to think about the other side of the job-search coin, the long-term ’employed’ who feel stuck and unable to move up and out of a currently untenable job situation.

Several reasons that the unhappily employed stay stuck come to mind, based on my 16 years’ experience consulting with, coaching and writing resume portfolio strategies for professionals and executives. As such, following are three of the top reasons people remain entrenched at an unsatisfying job along with tips for pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and out of your misery.

Reason #1: Your Plate Is Too Full. Your work schedule is onerous: instead of 8-hour days, you toil through 10- and 12-hour shifts plus some weekends. Ironically, you use this as an excuse to not get traction on a proper job search. Your slivers of unfettered time are reserved for activities with your spouse or kids or friends, and there simply is no time left over to manage this important career-propelling project.

Remedy: Find a way to reprioritize how you invest your time. While you cannot magically create more hours in the day, you can assess and reconfigure your schedule.

It may simply begin by asking your spouse to take over dinner preparation duties for a few weeks, liberating time for you to equip your resume portfolio and netweaving plan. It may also involve bowing out of other regularly planned commitments; e.g., volunteer roles outside your normal working hours, time spent working on a personal project that can wait, and such, for a few weeks or month or more.

It may even require exercising your ‘no’ muscle responding to friends and family invitations. Instead, use that time (and energy) to focus inward on your career introspection and planning.

For business travelers, it may equate to working on your resume brainstorming by plane, by airport lobby and by hotel room.

It may be as simple as turning off your television and reallocating that one-hour of nightly programming to your job search planning.

Whatever it is, you must take existing committed time and transfer your energies away from some of it and apply toward your career planning and movement.

Reason #2. You Don’t Have the Money. How much did you recently invest in that new bedroom set, that resort weekend away, a round of golf, your last visit to the hair salon or the new outfit to wear to your best friend’s daughter’s wedding? What is the cost to your career health when you don’t feed it? A malnourished career does not exude the energy to compete in today’s challenging job-search race.

Remedy: If you feel a career strategist (resume and portfolio writer and/or career coach) is essential to help you gain traction and direction, then allocate financial resources, making your career a priority.  If you are out of money and up against a fiscal cliff in you career and life, then consider all of the available resources online, at the library and beyond where you can read and concentrate your efforts on learning how to steer your career ship to the right port. This takes conscientiously investing toward that goal, whether it is time or money. See Tip #1 for how to allocate time for that investment.

Reason #3. You Don’t Have a Clue How to Market Your Value. You feel that your reputation should precede you—marketing is beneath you. Wake up. The old days of quietly doing your job and then being pulled up the career ladder through hard-work initiative are over. It’s certainly more of a latticework, free agent business environment now, and you must continually and creatively be navigating. The job boards are full of inane, bland and copycat resumes that don’t compel the hiring decision makers to call you.

If you are lucky enough to have someone request your resume, providing a worn out document will not impress. In fact, it may even repeal some of the qualifications they had envisioned you offered.

Remedy: If you truly want to pilot your career ship, you must be proactive and differentiating. This means having a contemporary, focused and interesting resume story, cover letter, biography and LinkedIn profile already on hand versus waiting until someone requests them. By then, it’s too late, and whatever documents or profiles you whip together will pale in comparison to your competitors’.

As well, you must continually be engaging with, offering support to and providing overall value to others to ensure you have people you can call upon to support your initiatives when needed. In addition to offline activities, this means identifying a couple of social networks that you have an affinity with and being vigilant about adding value now, before you begin job searching. Pragmatically weave in who you are, and make it easy for folks to connect with you.

While job searching sounds rigorous and painful, career management is lifelong and empowering. You can get unstuck, beginning today with one simple step: Join Twitter or begin refreshing your LinkedIn profile. Dust off your resume and start brainstorming your achievements. Research and write out your target goals. Tell someone you know that you are actively job searching.

Just get started.

Climbing That Career Mountain

Image via cryany (flickr)

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Goodbye sugary treats, hello fitness.

This Friday, June 1, Rob and I begin phase 2 of our fitness initiative. We launched phase 1 on Jan. 2, after the Christmas and New Year’s festivities. I wrote about that here: “Weighing in: 3 Job Search Fitness Tips.”

As five targeted months wrap up, and after shedding 21 pesky pounds, I feel great: more energy, increased focus, boosted optimism and, well, decreased angst when viewing a full-length reflection in the mirror. My wardrobe is renewed as I slip into previously outgrown sundresses that had been hanging dejectedly in my closet.

But I’m not done – “we’re” not done. (SHUCKS!)

While January’s hit-it-hard, focused eating plan continued for several months, and led to new habits that now guide us through our day-to-day, and while we now have accepted – embraced even – that working out five days per week is our new norm, we haven’t climbed to the pinnacle of our mountainous fitness goals.

In fact, we may never reach our pinnacle, as our bodies and minds are dynamic, ever evolving.


That said, for well over a month, we’ve been in maintenance mode, and it’s been fun – wine and treats on the weekends; evening snacks that tickle our taste buds. Perhaps we needed the break from the scale and the measuring tapes and the caloric strictness (and I use the word ‘strictness’ with affection, as I think we were craving the discipline required to better our physical and psychological well-being).

Now, with Robert’s prodding and encouragement, we embark on phase 2. I must admit to being a little slow to adopt his enthusiasm, but a couple of days after his suggestion, I’m all-in, with both feet, as they say. This fitness thing is a marathon, it seems.

We’ll use the next several days to reinforce the idea and to map out our transition, which will include a stricter food, libation and exercise plan over the next 30 days.


We’re resolute that the next tip of the scale will show desired results. For me, the plan means casting off another 12 pounds and weaving in a new toning/sculpting routine. While it’s not all about the pounds lost, I know that while I’m building muscle, I also need to trim weight. It is what it is, and I’m carrying more weight than my frame needs. At some point, I’ll be in weight loss maintenance mode; I just want to get there, and I’m not there yet!

Once we’ve hit the 30-day timeline and results milestone, we’ll celebrate! And not just with food, but with some already planned tangible rewards to help mark our success.

As a professional career storyteller who works with clients experiencing career and life change anxiety every single day, I can tell you that the excuses for not wanting to move forward and the feelings I’m undergoing to morph my lifestyle and my physicality mimic many of those my clients must feel. Here are just a few takeaways:

  1. Excuse: I Don’t Have the Energy. I want to be healthier, slimmer, leaner, more energetic and sharper of mind. I want MORE. However,  I don’t have energy to focus on a health and weight loss plan, or in this case, to KEEP focusing on it to the degree to move to a whole new level. It will mean feeling hungry and weak when I’m hunkered down and needing my strength to focus in on a marathon writing project. I can’t afford to slow down my work productivity. As such, I can’t afford to focus in on me, right now.
    • Debunking This Excuse: Done well, a health and weight-loss initiative will actually skyrocket your energy and boost your focus. It did for me. Cutting out processed sugars, increasing fruits and vegetables, ingesting appropriate amounts of lean protein, fish and other foods and supplements is amazingly transformative to one’s psyche and energy. As well, daily, sweaty exercise routines add value and energy each and every day. Hands down, this is one of the best changes I’ve made to my 48-year life. I never, EVER regret executing on this plan. There’s always an immediate return. I know this, and I know deep down that going to this next level will only enhance my already solid results.
    • How This Applies to Careerists and Job Seekers: The intellectual exercise that focusing on your next career move requires will drive near instant results, so don’t wait! By this, I mean apply a process-focused, disciplined approach to vetting out your next career steps (researching companies, cutting out unfocused efforts and zeroing in on the right position opportunities), and you’ll net results, some of which will include less spinning of your wheels and wasted time/energy. And don’t stop there. Once you’ve reached one goal, keep climbing! Your career is dynamic; it’s not a one-and-done deal!
  2. Excuse: I Don’t Have the Time. I really wish I could spend an hour a day focusing on my body and fitness. However, I don’t have time to focus in on this type of effort. An hour of exercise EVERY day when I should be working 24/7 to take care of my clients’ needs and deadlines is not feasible. Not only will my clients be disappointed, but I also will lose financial ground, and my business will suffer.
    • Debunking This Excuse: For every hour of exercise, I am now convinced that I gain a couple of hours (if not more) productivity in a given day. I’m so much more clear-minded and sharp in my decision-making after having moved my muscles and cleared the morning cobwebs from my head. My writing creativity often explodes, and my interactions with clients and prospective clients are more vivid, more supercharged. I actually am providing increased value and service to my clients and gaining more financial ground in my business.
    • How This Applies to Careerists and Job Seekers: So many careerists drag their feet when considering investing time and resources in a career portfolio and job search strategy. While I wish I had embarked on this health initiative 10 years ago, it’s never too late to start. Today is the day! By doing so, you won’t spend another day wallowing in career stagnation; in fact, the gains you will feel immediately will prove the value of continual career management. The initial introspection you undergo (if conducting career change methodically and purposefully, perhaps even by employing a career resume story writer / strategist) will uncover a-ha results as well as help you clarify and act upon your next steps and hopes and dreams. It will help you quit winding around in career search circles, directing you on a more focused path.
  3. Excuse: I Simply Don’t Want to Do It. (I work hard enough already.) But I just want to go on living my life this way. I enjoy my long mornings, stepping up to my TweetDeck with a cup of coffee and planning the day the way “I” want; after all, I work hard enough already. Adding another layer of discipline sounds really unfair.
    • Debunking this excuse: Before embarking on this fitness journey, I wasn’t enjoying my life as fully as I thought. I was tired more, and I endured more headaches and unfocused thinking. My sleep was more fitful, and my optimism waned from time to time. Weeding out the food comas induced by mac’n’cheese or tuna helper dinners, and replacing with food and nutrition fuel as well as rigorous exercise, I reclaimed a stronger body, and I am essentially a more optimistic, forward-looking individual.
    • How This Applies to Careerists and Job Seekers:  Career management is so much more than just going to work every day and doing a good job. It is about working out your career muscles; creating a plan of action to move to that next level within your current organization or transitioning your talents into a new company. You will find that once you add career propulsion planning to your routine that it will be rewarding and an energizing way of your career life.

Take charge of your career health today. It starts with your decision to get career fit and take the first step. Consider hiring a career strategist to help steer you through the maze. Write down your ultimate goal or goals and then work backward to create an action list. Like eating an elephant, execute this initiative one bite at a time! Just ‘do it!’

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