The Challenge With Middle Managers

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Middle management is a hard place to be.

You have to manage up to a senior manager who expects you to handle projects and situations so they can simply give it the green light – but the senior manager USUALLY still has the final say.

At the same time, the middle manager is trying to manage down to his/her team, keeping things moving and leading effectively – but those team members also know that the senior manager has the final say! This can all lead to a lack of respect by team members, and oversight by the senior manager.

This Entrepreneur article suggests that middle managers are often set up to fail, especially when their senior manager isn’t leading effectively. It also calls out 4 ways to improve the effectiveness of middle management:

  1. Improve training.
  2. Relieve stress.
  3. Provide feedback.
  4. Better role models in senior leadership.

Read the whole article for better insight into this situation. If you are a senior manager, consider the position your middle managers are in and the environment you create. Likewise, if you report to a middle manager, try to understand the challenges they face daily and identify how you can find solutions.

And if you are a middle manager, hand in there!


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How Being Part of a Controversy Can Impact Your Career Long-Term

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It’s far too often that we see a story in the headlines about college-aged students doing something dumb on camera.

Most recently, it was a group of SAE fraternity students in Oklahoma.

This blog post is not intended to judge what these students did – obviously, any act of racism is terrible. But one question that has come up a lot is this: Will the act of theses students hold long-term consequences in terms of their careers?

In short, my answer is yes.

We live in a day and age when anything you put out there can and likely will be seen by coworkers and employers, current or future. I just spoke to someone today who is interviewing a candidate tomorrow and joked about a video they found online of the candidate rapping. My point is this: Assume what you publish online will be seen.

Will a hiring decision maker overlook a pic of you doing shots with your college friends? Probably. But an act of racism? Probably not.

This case study should be an example to everyone out there – making bad decisions in life and documenting them for the world to see has consequences.

I hope you’ll read more about this topic in this article where two other career experts give their takes on the impact of the SAE fraternity’s actions in terms of their future careers. It provokes a lot of thought, and I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts in the comments!





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The True Definition of Networking

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You hear so much about networking.

“It’s just faking relationships to get a job.”

“It’s all about making connections to get ahead.”

“It’s meeting as many people as possible so you have a wider net to cast in the future.”

Nobody ever seems to get it right. Networking IS essential to your career. It IS about making connections and relationships. But it’s so much more. It’s a two-way, mutually beneficial engagement. It’s about helping others as much as getting help.

I recently came across an article titled Networking For Career Development that I believe does a good job of summing up all that networking encompasses:

Networking is by no means ‘buttering others’. Networking for career development is connecting with people who can aid your growth. Ideally, networking is developing relations which can be mutually beneficial. Networking is about developing professional connections but it’s by no means an alternative to knowledge, skills or hard work. It’s in fact complementing your strengths and creating positive results for your professional growth.
Read that through a few times and ask yourself, “Am I REALLY networking?”
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How To Build Relationships With Recruiters

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As a Career Coach, my opinion on the use of recruiters is this: It’s not always right and it’s not always wrong.

Not too long I ago, I blogged on the topic of recruiters   – note that the “Schmitz” mentioned below is a sales and marketing recruiter and President of Twin Cities-based Blue Octopus LLC (

As for that recruiter, keep this story in mind: Schmitz had a friend who (against Schmitz’s expert advice) paid a recruiter $2,700 for what turned out to be a résumé, cover letter, interview tips and one interview for a job $25,000 below his expectations. And of course, they never found him a job. “Recruiters like me make money when we place people,” says Schmitz. And that fee is paid by the employer — not the job seeker. “We shouldn’t be charging job seekers and unemployed candidates who desperately need the money.”

So, while I am skeptical of recruiters, there are some things that are worth considering. I recently came across an article titled “Career Search: Building Relationships With Recruiters”, that identifies how to start and maintain a healthy relationship with a recruiter that can help you achieve success.

Read the article. Think about how you could, should or should not work with a recruiter.

And if you’ve ever had a successful experience with a recruiter, please share your story in the comments!

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How To Find The Right Career Coach

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I recently was sent a New York Times article that began with this letter to a career columnist who goes by “The Workologist”:

My husband lost his high-level, overseas position after the company sold off his division. He has always been an ambitious, successful executive. But in the year since this job ended and we moved back to the United States, he has become depressed. His efforts to find new work, while sincere, have not been consistent. I am trying to be supportive and have never nagged him. I would like to find an executive coach for him to work with on his job search — someone who would help him strategize and hold him accountable. A friend recommended someone, but that person seemed like a waste of time and money: She suggested I start a children’s party service to tide us over, even though I have zero experience in that area.I think my husband would be open to working with a good coach who has experience working with C-level professionals, but he lacks the motivation and energy to find one himself. What is your advice?

The Workologist does a fine job breaking down this person’s scenario, and I recommend you read the article.

But one thing specifically stood out to me was this comment by the Workologist:

Whether you are asking for yourself or on behalf of someone else, be aware that lots of people are calling themselves coaches these days… Some have experience dealing with high-level executives, and backgrounds that include therapeutic training. Others may be brand new to the profession, or specialize in practical tactics like sprucing up a résumé.

As an experienced Career Coach, this is a very important topic to me. I recently wrote about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an article titled 3 Keys To Finding a Career Coach, and I blogged about it in a post titled Comparing Resume Writers, Recruiters and Career Coaches.

The point is this: There are ways to differentiate between the pro’s and the amateurs of Career Coaching.

I hope you will encourage your friends and family to do their homework before hiring someone.


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Monday Inspiration: How We Spend Our Time


This video is a couple years old, but may be new to you. It is a great illustration of how we are spending our lives, day by day.

For some, it may be a wake up call. It begs you to ask, “Am I doing what I love?” And to me, that’s an inspiration.

So take a couple minutes of your lunch break to watch. Ask yourself, “How will I spend the jellybeans I have left?”


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5 Career Ruts – And How To Dig Out

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This blog post originally appeared at Webster University’s School of Business and Technology blog, to which I am a frequent contributor. Check out their blog for more insight on developing your career. ____________________________________

So often I talk with people that tell me they have not been happy in their career for many years. They have learned to cope with a job that doesn’t excite them. It’s great to have developed a skill that enables you to manage difficulties in job duties or to cope with poor leaderships. However, if this has become a way of job survival, then you may be caught in web that you have created. You may be searching on company websites for openings, but the thought of leaving your current position can sometimes be overwhelming!

At times, we can get stuck in a rut.  It’s like being on a road trip that will take you days to get to your dream destination. You stop at a small country town to grab a quick bite, but while you are there, an unexpected snowstorm comes along and you are paralyzed and can go no farther.  In fact, a day later as the weather breaks, you are tempted to stay and make the best of it.  But, you decide to give it a try one more time, only to find that you have followed the storm and find yourself stuck again. Little did you know that if you had driven North you would have gotten to your dream destination!

As you are driving your career, you may find that you run into what I call “career ruts.” Here are five career ruts that many of us have had to overcome.

The 5 career ruts to avoid at all costs:

“I have no other choice.” Believe it or not, you often have other choices about what your career can become. “What else can I do?” It’s a question that deserves an answer.  It could be that you are in the right career market but you need to change your focus or find a compatible culture.  Remember to say in an interview, “I have transferable skills.” It’s important that you understand what they are and how to market them. Talking with others in the market you would like to focus on is a sure way of helping you understand what skills you have or what skills you should develop.

“I can’t change…not really.” Believe it or not, people can reinvent themselves. Learning to articulate your strengths as a person and not talk so much about your past jobs can open up other doors you never knew existed. Get friends to help you brainstorm. Focus on personal strengths. You might discover a new job possibility you never knew existed.

“What I want isn’t the point…it’s all about what they want.” Believe it or not, what you really want in a career is important. Here is an example of someone caught in what I call a “broken career cycle.” An applicant whom I will call “Sally” takes a job just to pay bills, but instead of continuing her career search, she tries to make the job tolerable.  She soon finds herself arriving late at work, failing to cover the details of the job, and soon finds management at the door because of her poor performance.  Soon she’s let go. Her career “red flag” finally goes up and Sally frantically seeks another job…any job. In this story, Sally is reacting instead of responding and as a result she finds herself running away, jumping into just another job, and not giving any thought to what could be her career dream.

“Finding my dream job is just a matter of luck…and I’ve never been lucky.” Believe it or not, a systematic exploration of career choices can open up other options, including truly unexpected ones.  You will be surprised to find that others will help you along the way. Don’t stop with talking to one or two individuals and think that you have enough information about a particular job market.  Be systematic in your approach and allow the information to intrigue and inspire you by asking for and getting clarifying answers. Remember that knowledge will empower you.

“I’m too old and I’ve been in this line of work too long to think about changing now.” Believe it or not, you are not too old and it’s not too late to change.  This rut can lead you to permanent paralysis. There is life after 55 and even 65!  So many people are now finding fulfillment in their careers as they reach retirement age. Many find careers that give them chances to continue to make a little money while still giving back to others and their communities. I know of one individual who finished up her education at age 57 and now has a new lease on life.  She is excited about what she can do with the second chapter of her life! As long as you have a career, it’s never too late to change the direction of it.

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3 Keys To Finding a Career Coach

St. Louis Post Dispatch career column

Below is an excerpt from my latest St. Louis Post-Dispatch career column about finding a Career Coach. Read the whole article here.


When the economy was hit hard around 2008 and jobs were scarce, it was very common to find 200-plus job seekers crowd into a room hoping to gain insight that would give them a leg up in their job search. They would attend seminars that promised “secret resume tips” or information on “how to interview like a star performer and get hired on the spot!” Many of these lectures led to helpful, tangible steps one can take toward a new job, but some did not — and that can be traced back to who was speaking.

I can tell you from experience the market has been flooded with so-called “experts,” and there are indeed measureable factors you can rely upon to realize whether or not you will get relevant, actionable advice.

So how do you choose the right coach/counselor for you without becoming disappointed later on in the process? I would suggest you look at three key areas…


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Understanding Patricia Arquette’s “Equal Wages” Oscar Speech

If you watched the Oscars last night, one of the most memorable moments was clearly when Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette ended her speech by making a plea for equal wages for women (in Hollywood and elsewhere).

So what exactly is the context behind her strong comments? This article nicely sums it up below:

There is a particular context for Arquette’s speech: the email leak at Sony Pictures revealed a stark pay gap between male and female execs at the studio, as well as lower pay for female actresses. On American Hustle for instance, a film with an ensemble cast of equal importance, male stars received 9% of profits, female stars only 7%. And Sony’s Columbia Pictures division has two co-presidents – one a man, one a woman – with the same job descriptions and a million-dollar pay gap between them. (“People should know what they’re worth” and not accept less, was former studio head Amy Pascale’s response.) And it’s not just Hollywood of course.

So what do you think? Have you seen wage inequality based on gender in your workplace? What do you think needs to happen next?

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Executive Career Mistakes You Can Avoid

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Making a career move is a tricky thing at any level of experience.

But I can tell you that those at the executive level do indeed face a unique set of challenges, and this often leads to mistakes that one may not see coming at other levels.

For example, executives often have to know how to negotiate executive bonuses. Understanding how to wade in these waters is essential, as handling it poorly can cost an exec two- and even three-figure bonuses.

I have worked with several executives through major career moves, alerting them to unique situations that may arise, and collaborating with them on how to get what they want.

I came across this article recently that does a good job raising awareness about 5 such executive-specific career hurdles. If you are an executive (or want to be one someday), I highly recommend you read it to get a taste of this unique professional career change.

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