Kids Need Goals Too

I sit staring a blank computer screen pondering…while a thousand things come to mind, those ideas don’t feel like the right thing to write about…my computer sits in a bright sunroom that looks out onto our street with sidewalks covered with what seems like six feet of snow. And even with all that snow, we get a lot of foot traffic… as I sit, looking out and continuing to ponder, a group of young people go by… even bundled up, you can tell it’s our next generation because they exude energy, laughing with their big, brightly colored pom-pom hats going down to the lake to skate in 13 degree weather.  And that got me inspired: our young people.

This past week I realized I was inspired by our young people and what our generation has too look forward to with the next generation.  Earlier this week, was the Alpine downhill state ski race. There were eight teams out of the entire state of Minnesota that made it to this grand finale so it is kind of a big deal.  And if you’ve ever watched Lindsey Vonn (congratulations on your beautiful career) it’s a sport of all or nothing. And the nothing comes in the form of painful crashes, slide outs and heartbreak.  These young people and their amazing coaches, spend two months, six days a week day in freezing cold temperatures practicing for this moment. The race consists of two runs. The final score is tabulated by the top four scores from the team of six skiers.  If you fall on either run, your pretty much done, and if two kids fall, it’s likely the team may not place. It’s unforgiving. And this is where I saw resilience. From schools all over Minnesota, these kids have a common bond and could cross over to console each other from whatever school when they didn’t go as fast as they wanted or the skid out and fell. I heard them congratulating and celebrate when others tore up that course and shredded it. At the end of that day,  when all the scores were tabulated, our boys’ team placed second and the girls third, nestled in between the powerhouse high schools of the sport. Our teams had never made the podium in the tens of years history of skiing for Minneapolis. One of the senior’s moms hugged me as the medals were being placed around the kids, she said with tears in her eyes, she was having a moment as this had been her sons goal since he started skiing alpine. All this time, effort and an amazing outcome in the Northwoods of Minnesota.  It was truly inspiring.

Kids need goals too, to realize what they need to work towards and persevere to attain them. I hope this helps shift your thinking about possibilities, gives you a little inspiration and if you have kiddos, have a conversation with them about what they want to achieve to get them thinking.  

Read More

The Benefits of Creativity

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou

We were lucky enough to be part of the Minnesota chapter of CreativeMornings recent chat with Chris Pennington. His words came along at just the right time: when we needed a little inspiration.  For those of you who don’t know Chris, he is the mastermind behind some pretty amazing experiences like CanCan Wonderland and the Soap Factory’s Haunted House.  He left teaching after 15 years to follow his dream of becoming an artist.  A scary proposition when you think about that stability of a weekly paycheck and health benefits vs. the unknown. He took that step and made his dream a reality.  Not easy… he worked his ass off to do it.

What we love most about his story is that he thought about this as a benefit to the community.  Art and creativity as a means build community and provide for that community. Through his endeavours (and the collaboration of others), he has helped artists get health care and developed the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota.  Meaning Can Can Wonderland is able to give back and economically support the Minneapolis-St. Paul artist community.

In our world today full of so much negativity and backlash, it reminded us just how beautiful and important creativity is in our lives. Without it, gol, would not have come to life. We wanted to share this story to encourage you all to bring a little creativity back into your life. Whether simply doodling or visiting a gallery or having a mood board party with friends to bring your dreams to life take some time to embrace your inner artist and open yourself up to allow time to think and reflect, unlock doors to your potential and jumpstart your new year.

Here’s to a great 2019.

Read More

What's your quote?

Linda’s son, a high school senior, had an assignment recently: what’s your favorite quote? This chosen quote will live in his yearbook and possibly define who he is in years to come.   There’s something about how a short phrase can transcend any situation to give hope and inspiration.  

That idea got us thinking what would our quote, what would your quote be? What makes you stop and think, laugh out loud, shed a tear? Share it here and we may feature it on Shift & Spark’s Instagram feed.   

And as we always say, write it down and keep a list of your favorites. They come in handy when you need a reminder or you can’t find the right words to get your point across.

Read More

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.


Read More

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.


Read More

November: gifts of gratitude

November: gifts of gratitude, celebrating your own thanks and giving as a gift to yourself

November kicks off the holiday season.  Thanksgiving is around the corner and plastic Christmas trees have sprouted in the big box retailers. We have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday to buy anything our hearts (or those of our loved ones) desire.   

In this day of Facebook, Instagram and every other social platform, when was the last time you sat down and wrote a thank you note, showering your recipient with gratitude.  

You don’t have time you say?  Really, you are not making the time.  Here’s a few ways to help you get it done and to give yourself the best gift of the season:

  1. Make a list of the special people in your life and why you are thankful for them.  Have fun with your list: do you have a bestie from college that you’ve been thinking of? Friends you don’t see as often? Your spouse? Parents, in-laws or who ever helped you grow into the person you are today.
  2. Now go find their addresses. Hopefully not too hard in this day and age. Then save them somewhere if you don’t already have a list of address going.
  3. Download stamps at  This one’s beautiful:
  4. Seek out stationery that makes you happy – think about how you would feel if you received this note…google “stationery shop” in your area and you might discover a new favorite store.


“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”



Read More

How to go from I can't to I can and achieve your goals

What’s stopping you from reaching (fill in the blank here)?

We talk to a lot of people exploring their goals and dreams and their why… They are realizing their need for “something” different. And that realization leads to curiosity (one of our favorite things). However, when the going gets tough it can also lead to “I can’t”:

  • look for a new job
  • follow my entrepreneurial spirit
  • bake that three-layer cake
  • (fill in the blank here)

“I can’t” can be full of excuses, lack of confidence and an inability to prioritize the things to do to start (or re-start) our journey to fulfillment.

When we get a stuck and need to get back on the road to curious, we try different things to get our tough going again and reach our (fill in the blank here). Here’s three of our favorites:

  1. Squash your inner bully: we can be really mean to ourselves saying hurtful things: “I look fat”, “This is way too hard, I can’t do it”.  Would your friends ever say this to you or vice versa? Next time your inner voice starts bullying, turn it around…indulge yourself with kindness instead.  Then keep saying nice things to yourself all day long.
  2. Volunteer: not only are you helping someone else, you are helping yourself. There is a ton of research around this topic, but who needs the research, you know how good it feels and it also helps put things in perspective.  Check out:
  3. Sing and dance: we like to call it a Dance-a-teria.  Put on your favorite music, close the curtains and have a dance party.  Or put on Wii Just Dance (the one in your basement that hasn’t been used in a while).  Or turn the volume up on your favorite tunes while doing the dishes. Just let yourself go. It is pure energy and just plain fun (especially with friends) and we all need a bit of that positive energy in our lives.


Read More

Big Audacious Goals

Recently, we had the pleasure of attending an amazing night that celebrated vibrant woman and their stories at the first ever, Work Hard for the Money event in Minneapolis.  We laughed, we cried and we embraced all the beauty that makes us who we are. Dr. Claudia May was the first storyteller…she talked about audacity. Interestingly, that word has two very different meanings. Until recently, in our language, we’ve been using the the form of “she had the audacity to do (insert a rude or disrespectful behavior here)”.  Instead, she lets audacity shine in its other definition of  “willingness to take bold risks”.

It got us thinking about the concept of bold risks… and Big Audacious Goals (BAG). BAG is different for everyone. For some it may be to ride a rollercoaster, others to start their own business, or like our friend Sally Vardaman Johnson, develop and produce a night to engage woman who work hard for their money.  Sally came to us back in March with a BAG: she wanted to create a night of storytelling. Fast forward to October 9th and she was doing it. That first night back in March, we talked about the efforts, time commitment, money and the unknowns of never having produced a show. We are here to say Sally rocked her BAG because she knew no matter what was thrown at her, she is a strong, smart woman and she could do this.

How can you take that spirit and BAG it for yourself?

  1. Describe what it is you really want to accomplish: visualize what your future holds then write it down.
  2. Make a plan: starting from that vision, what are the three things you need to do to get there?
    • Now, in all honesty, those three things may have some “to-dos” of their own, know you have to start somewhere and once you start on your journey, things will fall into place.
  3.  Put some timing to your action: Dates can keep you accountable to your action. As Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done”.

Shift your thinking to I. M. Possible and you will BAG it.

Read More

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?
Read More

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.



Read More

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

Read More

Setting goals to design your life

We love different perspectives and Chris Guillebeau has a way of sharing unconventional strategies. After traveling the world (literally every country) between 2002 and 2013, he’s gained a unique world perspective and some fantastic advice for setting your goals and designing your life. Check out his blog below (an oldie but a goodie) – it’s worth the read.

Read More
5 ways to be more productive | Job Search Blog | Shift & Spark

Five ways to be more productive (hint, it doesn’t include multitasking)

We have this misunderstanding in our society that to be successful you have to be doing ten things at a time. And if you can’t “multitask”, well, you just won’t prosper.  People wear it like a badge of honor. Interestingly, you can find study after study that disproves this fallacy. It’s actually anti-productive to multi-task.

Has this ever happen to you: you have a project you need to really think about and you’re on a deadline. You are making progress, when an email pops up.  Instead of letting it sit for five (or fifteen minutes) you stop what you are doing and go check the email.

A New York Times article written by Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine. She found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption. While it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Googling this subject brings up amazing amounts of information supporting this research, yet we keep putting on our multitasking badge everyday.  

Instead, this week dedicate yourself to the art of not multitasking see how different it feels to let yourself focus.  

Here’s five things you can do to help reach this goal:

  1. First thing Monday morning, spend 10 minutes perusing your calendar and start to manage your time.  Don’t forget it is YOUR time.
    • Decline or ask for the host to reschedule double-booked meetings.
    • If you’ve been invited to a meeting and there’s no information about the subject matter, contact the host and ask about your role and if you need to prepare anything.  You may find out you don’t actually need to attend and get an hour back.
    • If you see a big meeting on Thursday, put time on your calendar the day or two before to specifically prepare for that meeting.
  2. Schedule YOUR time during the day.
    • The first and last hour of the day are great times to put “work time” on your calendar. This will allow you to truly focus on the work you need to get done.
  3. Make your daily to-do list.  Put it down on paper, in your phone, on your computer – whatever works for you AND prioritize it.  Keep space on that list as other things will certainly get added throughout the day. This allows you to capture all in one place, instead of twenty.  
  4. Make a plan for email time. We had a friend who only checked email three times a day. He’d use 15 – 30 minutes at 8:30, 11:30 and 4:30 to correspond. That might not work for you but maybe try 10 minutes every hour instead. Whatever your preference, just allocate that time instead of letting the email allocate it for you (as in: whenever one pops up).
  5. Get outside and take a walk.
    • This sounds crazy during a busy day yet you will be amazed at how a little fresh air can add perspective.

Give this a try for a week, and let us know how it went… and please share any other ideas as well.



Read More
Serendipity | Shift & Spark | Job Search & Career Advice


A favorite quote of ours is from author Tom Robbins in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues:

“Plans are one thing and fate another. When they coincide success results.”

It goes hand in hand with Serendipity, the chance occurrence and development of events in a happy or beneficial way.  We love this word as it speaks to possibilities: bumping into an old friend you haven’t seen for years, meeting someone completely new and hitting it off, then finding out they work at the company you’ve been trying to get into, taking a wrong turn and discovering a cool new restaurant. These signs are always around us and too often in our busy lives, we don’t stop to pay any attention to them…

We encourage you to take a moment to bathe in coincidence and serendipity – see where it may lead you and what amazing things you may discover about yourself and your world.

Read More
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.

Read More
Rining in 2018 and year two as entrepreneurs | Shift & Spark Blog

Ringing in 2018 and YEAR TWO as entrepreneurs.

2018 is going to be a great year. It’s year two of our journey as entrepreneurs and to say we learned a thing or two our first year would be a bit of an understatement. A huge thanks to all of you who’ve liked us on Facebook, followed us on Instagram, bought our book (or more than one) for you or a friend and everyone in between.

We hope we’ve helped you Think,Transform and Takeoff.

We’ll leave you with this, to contemplate the year ahead:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ― Gilda Radner

Here’s to a delicious year ahead from Shift & Spark.


Read More

The gift of pause

“How to stop time: kiss

How to travel in time: read

How to escape time: music

How to feel time: write

How to release time: breathe…”


The gift of pause

Every holiday season, my mother-in-law has a friend who hosts a pause party.  A pause party?  Turns out it’s her gift to her friends to take a night off of all their responsibilities, from shopping for the perfect gift, cooking or cleaning the house to sit down for the night with friends, share a meal and a moment during the busiest of seasons.  Everyone who is invited makes the time to attend, it’s become an annual tradition.  

What a great reminder this holiday season, in the midst of it all, take a moment for yourself to pause. And reflect. And enjoy the moment.

Read More
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.

Read More
Happy Thanksgiving from Shift & Spark

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! As we gather with friends and family and enjoy the yummy food and the delicious cocktails we’re reminded to give thanks for all we have, to practice gratitude in a world of plenty. We’re fortunate to have so many things to be thankful for and we know, we really don’t tell you enough, so today just know that we do appreciate each and every one of you.

  • Our families, we would be lost without your love and support.
  • Our friends, old and new.
  • A delicious cocktail and a glass of red wine.
  • To everyone who has purchased a copy of our book; gol: a curated guide for the modern day job search.
  • To everyone who has liked a post, on Facebook or Instagram, shared our story or referred our book to your friends and family, it means so much to us, you really have no idea.
  • To the partnerships we have formed, from the people who helped us get published to the people who sell our book online and everyone we forgot in between.
  • To our fellow entrepreneurs and authors for your inspiration and advice.

From the bottom of our hearts and glasses, cheers and thank you!

#shiftandspark #thankful #thanksgiving #cheers

Read More

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.

Read More

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!  
Read More

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.


Read More
Graduation Advice | Shift & Spark

Great advice for the graduate (and their parents too)

It’s the time of year again.  After 13 years of school it’s time for the next chapter. In the Midwest, we have a phenomenon called the graduation party.  These can be elaborate shindigs planned for years in advance with house and landscaping projects revolving around this celebration or a simple gathering of family and friends. Either way, these parties are a great way to rekindle your own friendships and check in with people you may not have seen for years.  It’s also a time when you or your child will be getting a ton of advice from all the well-wishers. 

Yep, there’s no shortage of advice out there.  So we’re going to join in on the fun and pass on this great article from the Wichita Eagle. It pretty much covers it all, makes us smile and nod in agreement. After the hats have flown high in the sky and the grad parties have come to an end – make sure you take the time to read these tidbits, we promise you’ll find something you like.  Tell us your favorite in the comments below.

Here’s to all you special graduates out there. Tomorrow starts today.  

Read More