Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to, Finally, Stop Self-sabotage

I have a friend who is bright, funny, kind, independent, hard-working, attractive.  She is also over-weight and that really bothers her. She says it causes negative self-talk, mean thoughts about others, and self-loathing. Over the years she has tried many, many different diet and exercise programs – and succeeded - for a time. Just when she’s thrilled with the way she looks and feels, she stops working out, starts overeating, and the cycle begins all over again.

I was concerned about my friend’s struggle, so I did some research about self-sabotage. Here’s what I learned:

People fail when they set long-term goals because, deep inside, they know reaching the goal is not going to make them happy. There is something else going on: the REAL problem.

Some people hate their jobs, some are lonely, some have deep, unresolved issues from the past. They think losing weight, getting that degree, completing that marathon, or buying that house will make them happy. They set goals, make an action plan, and go full steam ahead. At some point, the realization comes, often sub-consciously: reaching this goal is not going to make me happy. After remaining unhappy for a time, they set another goal and the cycle begins again.

The key is to identify the REAL problem. If I train hard for the marathon, but the real problem is I feel stuck in a job I hate because I need to support the family, training is just a temporary distraction. If I feel stuck in a loveless marriage, buying a new house won’t help. If I reach that goal weight, but am desperately lonely, I’ll soon find a way to fill the emptiness again.

Identifying the real problem requires, well, getting real with yourself. It requires shutting off devices, investing in some quiet time, and listening to the sound of your inner voice. Martha Beck suggests making a list of all the activities you do on a given day and asking yourself:

·         In a perfect world, would I do this at all?
·         What can I change to make it more enjoyable?
·         What would I rather do?

Having an honest conversation with a trusted mentor, coach, or mental health professional can be helpful.

An exercise I do with my own clients is creating a vision. I ask them not to hold back. Create a vision of the life you'd most like to live. Put everything on the table including the perfect job, partner, home, leisure, health/fitness level, etc. Very often, in doing this exercise, the real problem, is revealed. Rarely is there an easy fix, but at least we now know what we’re dealing with. We pull back and see what we can tweak in their current lives to create, baby-step by baby-step, something closer to their heart’s desire.

If you get real with yourself, keep making small adjustments, and working your way toward a life that is more enjoyable and in keeping with your deepest desires, you can finally put an end to self-sabotage.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Five Tips on Negotiating Salary

You've got this. You're well prepared for the interview. You researched the company. You have an idea about what questions they might ask and have practiced your answers. You have a list of powerful questions to ask when it's your turn. You're fairly certain an offer will be made. When you think about negotiating salary, however, your stomach still gets queasy. You don't want to be greedy, but you also don't want to leave any money on the table. Here are five tips on how to ace the negotiations:

·         Never bring up salary at the first interview - You need to know more about the scope of the job and if it’s a good fit for you. The hiring manager needs to figure out if your education, experience, skill set, and future value matches the company’s needs. Until that is determined there is no point in discussing compensation.

·         However, if the hiring manager mentions salary, you need to be prepared – Do your homework. Find out how much the company typically pays for this role. Sites like,, and can help you determine fair market value for the position. Have a $10,000 range in mind. (For jobs paying $50,000 or less, a $5,000 range is sufficient.)

·         What if they ask about salary history? – What you made at your previous job may not be relevant. Your experience, accomplishments, and what peers in similar roles are currently making is. If asked to disclose your salary history, simply say, “I’ve researched the fair market value for this job, and, at the appropriate time, I’m confident that we’ll be able to come to an agreement.”

·         Don’t accept the first offer – If the offer is made just at or below market value, don’t say anything more than Hmmm. Then wait a good thirty seconds. That will give both you and the hiring manager time to think. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll withdraw the offer if you ask for more money.  They may, however, state there’s no room for negotiation and you just need to decide yes or no. If it’s within fair market value, you can still choose to accept.

·         What about money for relocating? – If the company you are going to work for does not have a policy for providing money for relocation, or, if the location of the company is technically within commuting distance, but you just want to live closer to reduce time spent commuting, try to negotiate a sign-on bonus to cover the costs of relocating. Be sure to tell them your goal is to spend more time/energy working, and less time/energy commuting.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Five Tips for Landing the Job Even if You Aren’t a Perfect Fit

Once you get clear about what kind of job would be in alignment with your passions and abilities, don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that aren’t a perfect match for your education and skill set. Identify a list of ten companies you’d like to work for. Research them thoroughly. Then use these tips to attract the right kind of attention:

It’s tough to stand out using just a resume. Use your LinkedIn profile to express who you really are and what you’re looking for. Here are some examples:

·         Retail manager with passion for luxury goods seeking an entry level position in advertising
·         Operations manager with a passion for engineering looking for an opportunity in the fields of energy or defense
·         Financial adviser with a passion for environmental protection looking for a position in sustainable investing

Use a skills-based resume

·         Create a powerful profile statement of no more than two lines describing the experience, skills, and proven achievements that make you a great candidate.
·         Follow that with a bullet list of  your transferable skills
·         Include interesting jobs/experiences you’ve had on the resume. Recently, a graduate with a finance degree landed a job as a rep with a major financial services company. He beat his competitors, many with higher GPA's from more prestigious schools, because the hiring manager was impressed after discussing his experience as a waiter: it spoke to his ability to produce a great customer experience, essential for this entry level role.

Write a one-page job proposal

·         Your proposal should demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the company, what you have to offer, and why you’d be a great hire.
·         Identify a current challenge the company is facing and discuss how you would use your passion, skill, and experience to address the issue.
·         Give examples of past accomplishments that prove you can deliver results.

Create a web-page that showcases special projects or displays portfolio items, or create a high-quality video resume. (Note: If you are camera-shy, or if you don’t have the resources to create a high-quality video, it’s best to skip this option).

Offer to take the job on a temp-to-permanent hire basis

Thursday, January 29, 2015

LinkedIn Matters

In case you’re still procrastinating about creating (or completing) your LinkedIn profile:

According to a recent Forbes article, being in an open network (composed of people who don’t all know one another) instead of a closed network (composed of people who all know each other) is the single best predictor of career success. No wonder LinkedIn has 332 million users in 200 countries and territories (as of Nov. 2014).

Whether you are a candidate for a new job, or perfectly happy in your current job, LinkedIn matters. According to a recent blog post by Craig Smith, 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates. Recruiters also use LinkedIn to find passive candidates, candidates who are currently employed, to fill positions. In addition to recruiters and hiring managers, others who are considering doing business with you are sure to take a look at your LinkedIn profile. Lastly, as of January 2014, hiring managers recommended putting a link to your LinkedIn profile, instead of the passé references will be furnished upon request, on your resume.

Think of LinkedIn as your own web page. It’s where you get to display information about who you are and what you do as a professional so that you can grow your network. Why? Because most employment these days is “at will” meaning an employer can let you go at any time for any reason.* Also, depending on which study you look at, somewhere between 80 – 97% of jobs are landed via networking, not via job postings. Be prepared.

Some tips on how to create an attractive profile:
  • ·         Make sure your profile is complete. An incomplete profile sends a message that you don’t care. Potential employers and valuable network connections will pass you up for others with a more powerful online presence.
  • ·         Make sure you have a professional photo. According to Smith’s blog post, profiles with a photo are 11X more likely to be viewed as those without a photo. The best photos are taken by a professional photographer. They are head shots of smiling, well-dressed, warm and sincere-looking people with whom one would like to have a conversation.
  • ·         Make sure your profile summary is succinct. Potential employers and connections will probably only look at your profile for a few seconds before deciding to read more or move on. Craft your summary for maximum impact.
  • ·         Make sure you have some recommendations. Endorsements and recommendations are not the same thing. Anyone can give you an endorsement with one click. Recommendations are written by your connections in order to endorse your work. They should be brief and mention specific results.
  • ·         Don’t list more than 15 years of employment history. Unless you’re a recent graduate, it’s a mistake to go all the way back to your first job out of college. Stick to the most recent, most relevant positions.

In today’s competitive job market, LinkedIn matters.

*This varies by state and does not apply for most union workers.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Planning to Grow Your Small Business in 2015?

Mission matters: What’s your why?  Employees need to know why your company does what it does in order to engage effectively. Do you have a mission statement and do your employees know what it is? The mission should be prominently posted, (multi-lingual, if necessary), simply stated, and easy to memorize, like this one from Starbucks: 

To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
People need to feel connected to the bigger picture of why they come to work each day. They need to feel like their individual contribution matters. 

Technology matters: Don’t take things for granted. What's been working for years may not work anymore.Technology is a game-changer. If you don’t progress, you are regressing. If another company can do it better and faster for less, you will be out of business. Make sure you have the most current system you can afford.

Productivity matters: Most companies hire too quickly and fire too slowly. Which employees would you hire again today knowing what you know now? Mediocre employees make everyone else’s job more difficult and, as a result, may actually drive your top producers away. Your best employees will actually be relieved when ineffective employees are let go, and those on the borderline will take notice.

Networking matters: Networking is not like speed-dating. It's about carefully building solid relationships. Identify a half-dozen relationships you need to nurture in 2015 in order to grow your business.  The conversation should begin with what you can do for them. It can be as simple as making an introduction for them. If you take action to help someone grow their business, most likely, they will return the favor.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What to do When the Boss is a Bully

A Harvard University study shows that 15% of the reason a person gets a job, keeps a job, or advances in a job is related to technical skills and job knowledge -  85% has to do with people skills. Even the most congenial among us can find ourselves facing a workplace bully. If that bully is our boss, things become even more complicated. Seeing oneself as a victim is never empowering . It’s important to remember that bullies can only bully those who allow themselves to be bullied.

From the very beginning of a situation like this, it’s important for an employee to take charge. Document everything. First, have a conversation with the manager to get clear about the nature of her problem with you. Is it about  job performance? attitude? something else? The employee should ask for whatever she needs to correct the situation: more training, better tools, coaching. 

If the manager continues to berate the employee, the employee needs to go through the proper channels to report the manager. If that does not produce a change in the manager’s behavior, the employee is left with a decision: do I allow myself to continue to be treated this way, do I put even more time/energy into seeking justice, or do I look for another job? It’s important to get out before the situation takes a toll on one’s physical and mental health.

There will be many feelings to sort through, including the horrible feeling that the manager, and others involved, have gotten away with the mistreatment. Working through this with a competent therapist, or clergy member, will help the employee understand why he allowed himself to be treated this way, and offer an opportunity to explore alternative ways of handling mistreatment in the future. Most importantly, it will help the individual heal.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day Story (as published in Newsday, May 10, 2014)

“Joey got an earring, Mom. Can I get one, too?” my firstborn asked at age 6.
Trying not to sound judgmental, I said, “That’s a pretty grown-up thing for a first-grader. Do you know how they do that?”
Jason shook his head.
“They take a needle,” I said, gesturing with my two index fingers about eight inches apart.
“Ohhh,” Jason said, his wide eyes on my extended fingers. “Maybe I’ll wait until middle-school.”
“OK,” I said, glad it was that easy.
“Mom, do you promise I can have an earring in when I get to middle-school?”
“Absolutely,” I said, and didn’t give it another thought.
That was 1995. Five years later, Jason and I were having our “day together.” Each year, I would spend one entire day with each of the kids and let them choose what they wanted to do. The year before, Jason and I went to Yankee Stadium. We wore Yankees jerseys and baseball caps. We sat in the sunshine, inhaling the delectable smell of stadium hot dogs while eating Carvel ice cream out of miniature baseball helmets. I couldn’t wait to hear what he wanted to do this year.

“Let’s go to the Broadway Mall,” he said.

“OK,” I said, trying not to show my disappointment. I’d rather get my teeth cleaned than go shopping.
My loquacious son was unusually quiet. Would this be the new normal now that he was in middle school? The thought put a lump in my throat.
After visiting the mall in Hicksville, we stopped at Carvel. I watched my 11-year-old as he held the cone and licked the vanilla ice cream, amazed at how much one can love a child.
I felt, as I had all day, something wedged between us. I couldn’t identify what it was. I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to risk making him uncomfortable and perhaps even more distant. I blinked away the tears.
“Mom, can I tell you something?”
“Of course, Love,” I said, turning toward him.
“Remember when you promised I could get my ear pierced when I got to middle school?”
“Of course, I remember,” I said.
“I really wanted to get my ear pierced today.”
Relieved this was what had caused his silence, I said, “Why didn’t you say something?”
“I was afraid you wouldn’t remember.”
“Do you want to go back to the mall now?”

“You would take me back to get my ear pierced?” he asked incredulously.
“A promise is a promise,” I said.
And off we went. Afterward, we took pictures in a photo booth with him grinning broadly, pointing to the cubic zirconium stud in his ear, and me looking shocked in the background.
I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my sixth-grader having a pierced ear. I knew some people would view it as trashy, but demonstrating to my son that I would always keep my word was what was most important to me.

The earring had to be removed for baseball and ice hockey, league rules. Jason soon tired of putting it in and taking it out, and cleaning the piercing with alcohol and bacitracin  ointment.

He eventually stopped wearing the earring, but I hope his memory of the promise kept will last a lifetime.

-Rita Maniscalco