Your Best Interview Yet!

Do your homework. Interview preparation starts the minute you apply for the job and continues from there. You should spend as much time as you can leading up to the interview learning as much as you can about the company and the people interview you.

Dress for the job. When it comes to the interview dressing for the job and being comfortable in what you are wearing is key to your success. If your pants are too tight, you will fidget and people will notice.

Plan your route. You do not want to make a wrong turn, stress out and be late for the interview. Not a good start.

Practice properly announcing your arrival. Be sure to introduce yourself confidently, include your name, tell the person why you’re here and who you are meeting.

Be prepared for small talk. You never know who you’ll meet or who you will have to talk too so be prepared to fill 10 to 15 minutes with the person next to you or the receptionist.

Practice your interview responses. Even the generic ones because even those will help you get to know yourself and they’re generic for a reason, they get asked.

Make sure you have at least 3 solid questions for them. Please make sure these are not generic questions you could find on their website. 
Have a solid ending. A strong handshake a graceful exit and a polite and positive note.

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There is No Elevator to Success

As the holidays are upon us, we often see friends we haven’t gotten a chance to connect with over the year. Inevitably, we get the question, how’s the book and Shift & Spark?  And every once in a while, we get the question: “do you have any advice? I’m thinking of starting my own gig.” And while we love to hear of anyone flexing their entrepreneurial spirit it’s important they go in with their eyes wide open.  There are so many misconceptions about what ‘it’ really is. Usually with the assumption that there is only success on the other side without really understanding what’s behind the scenes. So for any of you thinking about that next thing being your own thing, here’s a little advice:

  1. Be prepared for the hard work. The truth is, it’s long hours, its sacrifice and you constantly need to be working ‘it’.  When you don’t, any momentum you’ve had stops. Consistency is key – set goals and make an annual plan, a monthly plan and a weekly plan to keep that momentum moving forward.
  2. Embrace all your successes, no matter how small. For us, it’s an email from a friend saying our book is exactly what she needed or partnering with other woman-owned business to highlight what we do and further the conversation. We may not have a big bank account but our business pays us in other ways.
  3. Be courageous enough to take the first step even if you can’t see the path ahead.  It’s okay if you keep your day job to give you income, health insurance, etc. If you’re serious about starting a business, do your research on what it is you think you want to do, make a business plan (including the financials) then if it still seems feasible,  go for it. In ten years, you can look back and realized all you’ve learned instead of regretting the fact you never started.

For a little more inspiration, you can check out some success really great stories (including ours) at My Founders Story.


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Job Search Advice

Once you announce you’re looking for a new job the job search advice starts to roll in, seriously it will come from everywhere and it will come from every one. And although they mean well, they really do, OK, let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt, it can start to get a little overwhelming. To help you stay focused and moving forward take the time at the beginning of your journey to put a few key pieces in place.

1.) Figure out who has a seat at your table. Who are your trusted advisors? These people have your best interest in mind. They can be close friends, trusted work peers, your first boss or your brothers girlfriend who happens to be in HR. The key is to have a trusted variety, we don’t want to get tunnel vision. These are the people you are going to turn to when you need advice.

2.) Get crystal clear on what you want to do and where you want to do it so when they ask how they can help, because as I mentioned earlier they will,  you can tell them. I am looking to secure a position at (such and such company) do you know anyone who works there? And this request can and most likely will change as you move through your search and that’s OK. The important piece is knowing that if you’re not direct in telling people how they can help they won’t help.

3.) Get your resume and Linkedin Profile ready and in order. You may think they’re the same but they’re not. They should complement each other and the dates should match up but Linkedin gives the reader an opportunity to get to know you on a more personal level, and let’s not forget the endorsements and recommendations.

4.) Set yourself a schedule. And don’t forget to include self care. Seriously it’s so important to take care of yourself during the job search it reduces stress and burn out.



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Start to be Great

“You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great”

Apparently, in the spring of 2017, I was one of the few people who did not utterly consume S-Town, a podcast  from Serial and This American Life, that was downloaded more than 40 million times in its first two months. It tells the story of John B. McLemore, resident of Woodstock, Alabama, a complex genius, clockmaker and tinkerer. When I finish the seventh and last episode, I was yearning for more… I was left with more questions than answers. The story was not wrapped up in a nice little bow where all the mysteries were solved. Instead, it left me thinking and wishing I could know more. It reminded me that life is not a series of pretty little bows, it’s tangled, sometimes gnarly and sometimes calm.  While we yearn for the calm, it is in the chaos that change happens, as i realized in this podcast.

Change: you’ve been talking about getting a new job for a year now, eating healthier, saving money… If you were able to achieve these goals – great… but if not, are you stopping to ask yourself why?  Goals can be lofty OR you can start smaller and build from there. This is a very digestible article from Nicolas Cole to give you some ideas to get changing:

#shiftandspark #changeyourlife #findyourhappiness #jobsearch #careerchange

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Shift & Spark | Blog

Three ways to develop your grateful quotient

“When asked if my cup is half empty or half full my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.”


We’ve been spending a lot of time in airports lately…  and on one particular trip we noticed a young woman walking along with a big smile across her face, a swagger that was not arrogant but approachable and a t-shirt with the word grateful sprawled across it.  We stopped to contemplate how such a word has the power to shift the way you approach life.

Our philosophy of think, transform and takeoff comes from a place of gratitude… and we thought we’d share three things that have helped us move from being our own worst enemies to empowering ourselves to realize we can be change-agents. If you happen to google this topic, there’s a ton of advice out there. Here’s ours:

  1. Gain perspective: if you are only looking at the leaf on a tree, you will fail to see the beautiful forest.  It is hard to see the big picture when you may be suffering – you may have just lost your job, going through a divorce or lost a family member – if you can search and find that silver lining, the positivity and perspective will help to keep you going and realize even in your current situation, you have so much to be thankful for.
  2. Write it down: We are big fans of taking time to write things down… why not what you are thankful and grateful for… it is always a good reminder of how much we really have.  When you are feeling up or a little down, take a five minute break and jot a few things down – it could be waking up to your first cup of coffee, your boss, your friends, the 6:00 am hot yoga class, whatever it is – you will find yourself smiling and uplifted.
  3. Everyday is a new day: a Weight Watcher mantra…don’t beat yourself up, tomorrow is a new day – be thankful we get another sunrise, sunset and everything in between.

We’d love to hear how you embrace gratefulness… Leave us a comment below.

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Personal and Professional Goals

Why two sets of goals? Here’s why: We’re typically so focused on our career goals that we forget the me part and that can lead to unhappiness at work and at home. When our accomplishments are out of whack as to where we want to go as women, wife, mom, friend we can be left feeling empty or unfulfilled. Ask yourself, what do you need in your personal life to make you feel good about your professional life or vice versa. And then write them down. You may notice that your worlds may be competing with each other, for example you may want to spend more time with your kids, but you also want that promotion at work, but the stress of trying to achieve both is killing you. So maybe a good goal for you would be to spend more uninterrupted time with your kids, you know without checking your phone, or maybe it’s simply to adjust when you go in and when you go home. Personal and professional goals can coexist and they don’t have to be monumental to feel good, achieving the goal no matter how big will help you feel great and accomplished.

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Sally’s Job Hunt

The following was written by our dear friend Sally Vardaman Johnson.

Sally Vardaman Johnson is a health insurance professional and writer. She recently added standup comedy to her endeavors to stretch her creative muscles and show her kids you’re never too old to try something new.  You can read her occasional ponderings at, and follow her on Twitter at @vardaman_sally. 

Kathy Engen and I met years ago when our boys attended kindergarten together.  Those boys will soon start their last year of middle school.

At the time Kathy worked with an outplacement service helping recently laid off professionals find a new job – resume drafting, interview coaching and the like.  I barely knew her, but she said something back then that stuck with me.  She really believed there was a job for everyone.  Each person just needed to find it, and sometimes they need help doing so.  When I heard her say it, I immediately believed her.

Many years later, Kathy and Linda Heath published a book, gol: a curated guide to the modern day job hunt.  These women are kind, strong and generous contributors to our community.  Of course I was going to buy a copy to support them.  But I didn’t really need it.  Nope.  I am not the workbook type.

Not long after their publication date, however, my workplace changed rapidly.  Suddenly my own job seemed in jeopardy.  I am a self-supporting, single mother, and I was terrified.

You know what is really hard to do when you are scared?  Feel good about yourself and promote yourself.  Fear fans the flame of economic vulnerability.  I knew better than to panic, but I was not sure what to do instead.

Around that time Kathy and Linda appeared on a local news show promoting their new book.  They talked about returning to the workforce after a long hiatus to care for young children, which I had done a few years back.  It’s hard returning at first, and easy to get caught up doing work that draws praise.  You can find yourself following what other people think you should do, instead of discovering what you want to be doing.

I heard that description and instantly identified.  I did not even like my job, and already felt the environment did not fit me.  But the absence of my paycheck would be an immediate crisis for me.

On a quiet, cold Minnesota evening, I sat in front of a fire with my new copy of gol.  I shelved a swirl of negative thinking and excuses, and made myself work through the pages until I ran out of answers.  I was sad.  I felt I was on the wrong path and it was too late to fix it.

But gol, and my rising anxiety, pushed me into action.    I wrote down things I wanted professionally and personally, and stared at them side by side.  I thought I had considered such things in tandem, but seeing them on paper was powerful.  It grounded my thinking and helped me brainstorm what changes to my existing job would nudge me closer to a different path.    In 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech to the University of the Arts.  In it he describes imaging your big goal as a mountain, and assessing opportunities by whether they move you toward or away from your mountain.

Over the next week I polished my resume and forced myself to send it out without overthinking it.  I broke from gol’s advice here and rushed it out the door.  I later discovered a horrifying typo on the cover letter of my first submission.  But hey, I got it out there.  That submission was to a company I had admired for a long time.  It won’t matter, I assured myself.  I don’t know anyone there.  I won’t get an interview.

Turns out I interviewed for two companies, one through a strong professional connection, and the one with my typo memorialized in its system.  Fortunately the algorithm gods plucked me from their database anyway.   These opportunities were both a better fit than my current job.  They required my strongest skill sets, ones not being utilized in my current role.

Here is where my list of personal and professional priorities mattered most.  I work in health insurance.  This is no childhood dream career.   In my list, my long term goals (ahem, dreams) simply could not be executed in the near term.  The most realistic incremental change I identified was to consider my vantage point – what parts of this complex and challenging industry would I be excited to see every day?  My current job was too far from the big solutions being developed.

As I moved through the interview process at each company, I hung my hat on this idea of vantage point.  It gave me something to work toward that mattered to me, rather than escaping a frightening situation.  I asked better questions and had more robust discussions with potential managers and coworkers.  This focus made me a better candidate.  By the way, both companies asked me almost the exact interview questions listed in gol.

Ultimately, I got the job at the company where I sent my typo, where I knew no one.  It was the one I wanted.  Two months in, I am finding my way and am so grateful for the change.  Fear and panic, however uncomfortable, spurred the change I needed.

As I settle into my new role, I think about those dreams I listed – the ones so far from where I am now.  In my mind I have built my mountain, as Gaiman said.  Change will come again, whether I initiate it or not.  My mountain is on paper, and it stares back at me.  I have taken a tiny step in its direction, and now I can begin to imagine the next one.


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Before you start your job search, ask yourself these 3 questions

Spring Forward: three questions may help you figure out “what do you want to do with your life.” It’s official, the first day of spring has arrived. Spring gets us thinking about spring cleaning -- out with the old and into something new. We’re not talking about closets, nope.  We’re talking about you - it’s time to step into that...
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