Know Your Audience

“Know your audience” is sage advice for anyone, in anything you do. Whether asking for a promotion, a job, upgrade your seat on a flight or having a conversation with your teenager.  And an important part of that is understanding the difference in our communication styles.

When we were writing our book, we knew it was important to get different perspectives. We picked the most analytical person we knew, who thinks in more definitive terms. And the most creative-minded, who’s free flowing thoughts are not harnessed by typical constraints. As you would imagine, each of these amazing women gave us meaningful feedback, very different feedback, which made it all the more meaningful.  

The next time you are meeting a new connection for coffee, or walking into a job interview or talking with a friend, consider how your communications style might influence your conversations.

There’s a great article on Forbes, by Mark Murphy, with a  link to an assessment. Check it out and have fun.


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15 Fantastic Conversation Starters

Networking is so important. But honestly not enough of us do it unless we find ourselves without a job and we have no choice. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and the reason it’s uncomfortable and awkward is because we’re not good at small talk. It’s hard and aside from commenting on the weather we don’t have much to say. But don’t worry we’ve got you covered. We just put together this list for an event we did with Girl Creative and we have to admit they’re pretty good so we’re sharing them with you here. So read on, pick your favorites and Happy Networking!
Is there someone who has been instrumental in helping you on your career journey? 
What does your dream job look like?
Do you have a mentor?
What do you love most about your current job?
If you could go back and give yourself any career advice, what would that be?
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about your career that you wish you would have known?
If you could spend a day talking to any expert in your industry, who would that be?
Whats the last new skill you’ve learned?
What’s the last industry/career book you’ve read and would you recommend it?
If you weren’t in your current profession what would you be doing?
What’s the last thing you learned outside of work?
When you look back at your career what are you most proud of?
What activities in your job do you find most rewarding?
When you think of your favorite boss what make them stand out?
When you think of your favorite job what makes it stand out?
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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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Who should you invite to your table? | Shift & Spark Blog

Who sits at your table?


She said: “In my head, I just haven’t quite figured out what I want to do”

We said: “Maybe you should talk to someone not in your head”

It’s that time of year, the look back to look forward. Did you set out with a goal and accomplish it?  Then celebrate.  Or is that goal going onto this year’s list?  That’s okay too… sometimes it takes a little more discovery before you can actually make it happen. The important thing is not to go it alone.

To put this in perspective think of an everyday task – like washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen. When you go it alone, it can take a while, but get your significant other, kids or even dinner guests (I know can you imagine) to help, the time flies by and it’s done. Why would or should decision-making be any different?  If you do it in a vacuum (aka solo) sometimes the outcome might just suck (yes, pun intended)… but add others’ perspectives and you’ve created potential. We like to think of this as a kitchen table – where lots of important conversations take place – who sits at yours to help you through?

As you look to this new year and consider what makes your 2018 list, start by inviting your team to your table, a group of people who will hold you accountable and cheer you on to greatness.  To give you a well-rounded approach, your team, your board of directors should be diverse – if you have all the likeminded thinkers, you may end up right back here next year.

Challenge yourself to find different sets of skills like:

  • Cheerleader – they offer their undying support and enthusiasm, they don’t need to know your skill set to know that you are awesome!
  • Good Listener -This person creates a safe environment for you to speak they give you the confidence to answer the questions and sort it all out.
  • Creative Problem Solver – they look at everything with a different perspective. They don’t get overly emotional; they use logic and some intuition to solve your problems.
  • Savvy Politician – They get the politics of the business/situation you’re in. They are amazing at navigating difficult situations.
  • The Straight Shooter – They tell it like it is…and they force you to be real with yourself.
  • Champion – They know your capabilities, inside and out, personally and professionally, could be a former boss or your “work” wife.

Who will hold you accountable for your 2018 goals? Who’s going to coach you, guide you or cheer you on to greatness?  You have that answer, now go and ask them for their help.

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Update Your Resume Month

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

–Chinese Proverb

For a little motivation, National Update Your Resume month is fast coming to a close and it’s time to stop putting it off… Here’s a few tips to help you get moving:

First, make an hour appointment with yourself – five in a row, daily, weekly or monthly, if that’s what it takes. Building your resume is a commitment. Making an appointment with yourself is not only a reminder to focus on your resume but also makes updating your resume as important as other “appointments” in your life and let’s you bite it off in digestible chunks.

Then build a “to do” list with goals for each of those hours.  It can be so easy to take that sacred hour and check social media, read emails or simply fill it with all the “other things” instead of focusing on making this change.  Creating to dos for your resume building time gives you a starting place when you sit down and it can also help keep you tracking on what you need to get done.

Use these ideas as a starting point:

Hour 1: Get organized and get ready to go.


  • Your most recent resume
  • All your former annual reviews from your current and previous jobs – you’ll use these to remind yourself of all the amazing things you’ve accomplished and need to bring forward

Google action verbs and print them out:

  • These will help you describe your experiences and accomplishments to give you alternative options to using Coordinated, Participated, etc. at the start of every sentence

Look online at resume formats:

  • Having a resume design can help you organize your resume and gets you noticed

Hour 2: Start your draft

Review your existing resume:

  • Review your previous jobs on your resume and ask yourself: if you were a recruiter that knew nothing about the organization or job, does your description tell that story? If not, start to make notes on what needs to change.

Add what you do today:

  • Start to jot down what you’ve been doing at your current job and any that haven’t been added
  • Pull it all together in a draft: using the new design you’ve found, create your first draft

Hour 3:  Print out your draft, grab a pencil (with a good eraser) and revise

  • Print it out the draft you’ve created and re-read it.
  • What do you think?  It’s hard to nail it right out of the gate so expect to be making  adjustments, finding grammatical errors and rewording sections.
  • Let it sit and then re-read one last time for any other changes.

Hour 4: Send your resume to a friend or two to get their opinion

  • Do you have a friend who’s a really good proof-reader, savvy copywriter, or really good at being honest with you?  Send. It.
  • Ask your friends to get it back to you by a certain (within a week to keep you moving)

Hour 5: Get all your friend’s feedback and revise

  • By now, you should have a solid resume, a living, breathing document that can get you started
  • Congratulations!  
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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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