Companies hire people to solve problems. Be open-minded and listen, the ask the right questions, says career consultant Lori Scherwin, founder of consultancy Strategize That. “Be strategic. Think: goals of the firm, success factors, leadership development and growth opportunities. Ask your prospective boss their near- and long-term priorities. Position yourself as a partner rather than just an executor.”
“All too often people rush to take a job offer, just to have one,” says Lori Scherwin, founder of New York-based career-coaching firm Strategize That. Bad move. “Not fully evaluating an offer, settling, and fear all get in the way.”
11. You don’t have cross-functional support. Lori Scherwin is founder of the consulting firm Strategize That. The more senior you get, the more support you need from all around the organization, says Scherwin. “Make sure you are always helpful to your colleagues around the firm. Actively build relationships and make that as important a part of your job as the tasks of your job. Seek out mentors and advocates who can help your progress.
Finding a boss you respect and who will respect you is critical for your career success. Otherwise, it can—and often will—lead to uncomfortable situations and toxic environments. Ultimately it just won't work,” says Lori Scherwin, founder of the New York City–based career coaching firm Strategize That. “You want someone who will actively develop you and cares about your career, not just what you will do for them.” When it comes time for evaluations and promotions, your boss’s input matters the most so you want someone who will advocate for you, give concrete feedback, and help you reach your goals.
You don't have to be best friends [with your co-workers], but being polite, respectful, engaging, and on the ball is critical to your ongoing success,” says Lori Scherwin, founder of the New York City–based career coaching firm Strategize That. “Your demeanor and relationships often count at least as much, if not more at times, than the work product itself. If people enjoy working with you, you are more likely to get additional opportunities.”
And one final piece of advice on how to ace an internal interview from Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That: make sure your behavior after the position has been filled, whether by you or someone else, remains professional. “If you get the job, it’s OK to be excited, but be mindful of other colleagues who may also have wanted the role and didn’t get it,” she says. “If you don’t get it, diplomatically ask why, and how you could improve to get there next time.” And, she recommends: “Know your Plan B is it doesn’t go your way. While it’s important to be optimistic, it’s smart to scenario plan just in case you don’t get the promotion.”
Focus on what you are grateful for (even if it’s just a paycheck) as you problem-solve or look for a new job.
Research has shown that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is beneficial for your mental and physical health. (And probably your ability to resist yelling at that guy from marketing for missing a critical deadline…again.)
“Make a list of all the reasons you are grateful for your job—whether it’s money, experience, friends, or even the free coffee,” suggests Lori Scherwin, founder of career coaching firm, Strategize That.
“Focus on what you enjoy and that is what you will see and appreciate. Find success in every failure and a lesson in every setback—it helps keep you moving forward,” Scherwin coaches.
There are myriad paths you can follow to success–but if you believe in some career myths, you’ll end up at the opposite end of successful: overworked, underpaid, and unhappy. What are these myths, and what should you believe instead? For the answers, we turned to two career experts who will blow the lid off what success really looks like in today’s workplace.
MYTH 1: IF YOU’RE GOOD AT YOUR JOB, YOU’LL GET PROMOTED
You work hard, and you deserve a promotion. But unfortunately, that’s not how the work world works, says Lori Scherwin, career coach and founder of Strategize That. “You need to promote yourself in order to stand out amongst a sea of talent and colleagues at your firm,” Scherwin says. “Being good at your job doesn’t mean you’re good at managing your career.”
To promote yourself–and therefore, snag a promotion–you must “actively manage your career and put as much effort behind building relationships and focusing on the next step as you do on executing your day-to-day tasks,” Scherwin explains. One easy way to focus on the next step is showing you can do the next job. “It is your responsibility to understand what you need to be capable of to execute in your next role, and demonstrate that ability,” says Scherwin. “Just because you’re a strong producer doesn’t mean you’ll be a successful manager. So, make sure you’re rounding your skill set to be functional at the next level.”
MYTH 3: YOU MUST KILL YOURSELF TO SUCCEED
“All too often successful professionals romanticize stress because they think that’s how a full life is supposed to feel,” Scherwin says. But the presence of stress doesn’t automatically mean you’re also successful, she warns. “People tolerate long cumbersome hours and last-minute requests as if it’s mandatory,” Scherwin says. “But it doesn’t have to be. Long hours and face-time don’t ensure you are doing anything constructive or delivering results.”
What’s more, when you overextend yourself, you risk achieving less, Scherwin warns, as well as “the propensity to take it out on others and ruin relationships in the process.”
Instead of gauging your success on how much you work, Scherwin recommends defining what success means to you –then finding balance at work based on that definition. That way, “you are more likely to be productive and less resentful,” Scherwin points out. What’s more, Scherwin encourages you to prioritize yourself. “Tactically, cut out the clutter, learn how to say ‘no’ and push back appropriately, and make time for ‘me-time,'” she suggests.
Mistake #1: You don’t know what you want
Hopefully, you’ve at least narrowed your search down to a job title (or three—we actually recommend using multiple job titles when searching for postings online).
But when it comes to your resume, cover letter or interview, are you able to articulate what types of responsibilities you’re hoping to have in a job? What about your ideal work environment? How about work schedule? These are all important aspects to consider before applying.
“Get specific—what does an ideal job look like to you?” asks Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That, a New York City–based career coaching company..“Envision it and write it down. Doing this can help spark new ideas about what you might want to do, and where to look for it.”
Come up with at least five responsibilities that align with your interests and experience, as well your ideal work schedule and work environment. Then, take that list and compare it with the jobs you’re applying to.
Does this mean tossing aside opportunities that don’t exactly match your list? Of course not, but it does help you hone in on jobs you’d more likely be satisfied with, so you don’t waste time applying to positions that aren’t a great fit.
Start With Your Network
One thing candidates often struggle with is who to ask for an informational interview. To put it simply, you should start with the people you know. “If you are in college or more junior in your career, ask your family and family friends to help connect you,” suggests Lori Scherwin, founder of StrategizeThat. “As you get more senior, leverage current colleagues, former colleagues and others up and down the value chain of the industry you are looking to get into.”
If you want to reach out to someone but don’t know them directly, try to have a mutual contact introduce you. “Cold emails are possible, but your ‘hit rate’ goes up if you get an introduction,” Scherwin says.
Lastly, don’t be shy. “All too often, people don’t reach out — when they have so many people who could help them — out of fear of looking uninformed, desperate or needy,” Scherwin notes. “But more often than not, these fears are unfounded. People actually enjoy helping others, and it’s likely that the person you want to talk to has used that approach in their career as well.”
Don’t Go in Cold
Just like a job interview, you need to do some prep work for an informational interview. “First and foremost, figure out what you are hoping to accomplish,” says Natalie Ledbetter, VP of People Operations at Stash. What do you want to learn in this meeting? “From there, come to the table with questions and a very solid understanding of the business, products and services that the company offers.” Your questions should be thoughtful and reference projects and news you’ve read about the company to show genuine interest, she says.
Make sure your questions are specific, too. “There is nothing worse than wasting someone’s time who is trying to help you,” Scherwin says. “Don’t show up and say ‘okay, tell me everything.’ Have targeted questions, and do your homework.”
Establish a Relationship
During the actual interview, don’t just ask questions and wait for responses. “Focus on more than just content; use the time to build a relationship,” Scherwin recommends. “While you are there asking questions, you still have the opportunity to make a great impression through your professionalism.” If you see an opportunity to contribute your expertise to the conversation, and you have the relevant experience to back up your comments, go for it.
That being said, don’t ask for a job right off the bat or treat the interview like a sales pitch. “If you establish a strong connection, an opportunity might unfold, but you are there to learn, not position yourself. That might be an end goal of yours, but be careful about turning an informational interview into a job referral or request.”
Remember: Relationships Go Two Ways
“As you are listening — particularly if you are more senior in your career — think about how you can give back,” Scherwin says. “Ask how you can help the person you are meeting with. Actively listen to what they tell you, and instead of just thinking about how the info affects you, think about how your background fits in with what they are saying, how you could be a valuable person for them to stay in touch with going forward or someone in your network you want to introduce them to.”
There’s no need to force it, but be mindful of the fact that the best relationships are two-way streets. “Bottom line: Treat this informational interview as relationship building rather than just information gathering. It’s both.”
Leave the Interview With Next Steps in Place
This is the key to making your informational interview useful. “Set yourself up for success by ensuring you leave that meeting with a next step already in place so you have a reason to follow up. Create it,” Scherwin says. Maybe it’s an introduction to someone else based on something from your conversation that you want to learn more about, or perhaps it’s talking to someone else on their team about their role. Maybe it’s even asking for their advice about what skills to develop to land a role at their company.
However you do it, the takeaway is the same: “Do not leave that meeting without a follow-up in place, already knowing the next reason for you to reach out.” As an added bonus, it creates a reason to write a thank-you note or email that doesn’t feel forced, which can then naturally turn into a longer, ongoing conversation.
Remind yourself how great you are. Make a list of your recent accomplishments. “It’s easy to let the day to day go on without reflecting on your successes, both personal and professional,” says Lori Scherwin, an executive coach and founder of New York City-based firm Strategize That. “What are you most proud of? What do you do well? You’ll realize there’s more ammo than you initially thought to help bring out your best traits and quiet or combat the negative inner voice about the process.”
One of the best ways to make your resume stand out is to talk about your work accomplishments. But too many people focus on their responsibilities or daily tasks instead, making their resumes look like a to-do list instead of a history of outcomes and results.
When you quantify your accomplishments on your resume, you make it easy for a hiring manager to see the kind of work you can do for their organization. “It makes it more tangible. It gives you credibility and a propensity for a more robust dialogue during the interview itself,” says Lori Scherwin, founder of career coaching firm Strategize That.
Here’s how to quantify your accomplishments at work.
Identify Your Outcomes
Think about the work you do daily and the kinds of results you’re seeking. Any improvements you’ve achieved in the course of your work are a good place to start. That may include lowering costs, raising output or sales, streamlining a process or improving a filing system. “ ‘Developed cost-containment strategy’ sounds nice, but ‘developed cost-containment strategy that led to 20 percent savings’ is better,” Scherwin says.
If there aren’t hard-and-fast improvements you can put a number to, look for other ways to quantify your achievements by adding context, Scherwin says, such as by saying you were the “top seller” on your team or that you managed a team to finish a project. The more information about the scope of your work you can provide, the better, she says.
List What’s Relevant
Don’t overload your resume with too many details — it can be overwhelming if it’s too long, Scherwin says. Instead, tailor your resume to the jobs and companies you’re applying for. Use the mission of the organization you’re applying to decide which achievements to highlight, she says.
This is especially important if you’re applying for a position that’s a little different than what you’ve worked on in the past, Scherwin says. Look for achievements that speak to how you will be successful in the job you’re applying for, not just the job you had. Provide a little information about how you drove the success so the hiring manager can see the unique value you bring, she says.
Pick a Format That Highlights Your Achievements
Once you’ve decided on the key achievements to include, list them as bullet points near the top of your resume. “Some people will try to force a number into every bullet point, but it’s OK if some don’t have numbers,” she says. Provide enough detail to give the hiring manager an idea of your skills and approach to work, but keep the bullet points brief.
It all comes down to painting a picture of what you could do for an employer, Scherwin says. When you highlight your value, you make it easy for the hiring manager to see why you’re a good fit.
Unfortunately, sometimes you can just feel stuck at work. You don’t feel like you’re moving forward, and you just feel blah about the whole thing. First, know this: It’s easy to feel like you’re stuck at work, especially if you’ve been in the same role for a while or keep facing seemingly tough work projects, says executive coach Lori Scherwin, founder of the New York City-based career consulting firm Strategize That.
Take a Breather: “Often people get stressed because they feel they have too much to do with increasing demands, which in turn leads them to work harder and do more, adding even more stress in the process,” Scherwin says. So take a moment to make sure things are done right—not ASAP—if you’re feeling overloaded, or just give yourself a timeout to make sure you’re able to recharge your batteries. That might mean going for a quick walk around the block or actually taking a vacation from work. “It’s possible you will feel differently after time away,” Scherwin says. “You’ll come back with a clearer mind about what you want to do next.”
Consider Your Awesomeness: You can also make a list of all of your recent accomplishments if you need a reminder. “You’ll realize there’s more ammo than you initially thought to help bring out your best traits and quiet or combat the negative inner voice about the process,” Scherwin says.
Reflect on the Last Time You Felt This Way: Everybody has had some moment where they felt meh about something, whether it was school or life in general. That’s why it’s important to reflect on what you did to improve things last time you were in this situation, Scherwin says. Maybe a little tweak made a huge difference or you needed to do something drastic to mix things up. Either way, your past can help clue you in to what can help now.
Job Hunt: You know your situation best and, if you feel like nothing is going to improve at your current gig, you can start looking for something new. A good way to figure out if this the right move for you, per Zimmerman: If you find yourself getting excited by the idea of something new. Just make sure you know what you want out of a new job, and how to actually achieve it. “You up your chances of finding a great new role if you can be specific in articulating what it is you are looking for,” Scherwin says.
Lack of Communication
Lori Scherwin, Founder of Strategize That, said:
"A huge and all too common complaint by prospective employees who are interviewing is the lack of follow-up, and or the length of time in between communications. Sometimes hiring managers are held back from being in touch because of HR processes - but either way, a communication plan should be in place."
(Don't) Return without a plan
Getting back to your desk after a week off can put you in panic mode when you remember everything you need to accomplish. While you’re away for the holiday, plan the first three things you’ll do the morning you get back, suggests executive coach Lori Scherwin, founder of career fulfillment firm Strategize That. “Knowing what is next can make it easier to disconnect and find peace when away as you will already know what you are coming back to,” she says.
The first day back from holiday break can be overwhelming: there are dozens (sometimes hundreds) of emails to read and reply to, projects to resume, and coworkers to check in with. As much as you can, plan for this melee by blocking off catch-up time in your calendar.
“Set expectations that you are back and available after that catch-up time,” says Scherwin. “This strategy doubles as a helpful way to give you breathing room while you’re on vacation so you feel less compelled to keep up every second of the day.”
Be clear about what you want
The most fundamental step needed to edge towards your dream career is “to be clear on what you want.” That’s the key recommendation given by Lori Scherwin, the founder of NYC-based Strategize That, a firm that works with successful professionals to find happiness in and outside their careers.
“Be patient, confident and open to the unexpected. Your dream job will fall in the intersection of what you are good at, what you enjoy doing and what someone will pay you for,” she says.
There are a few ways to uncover what exactly it is you want from your “dream job.” Scherwin suggests to ask yourself questions which allow you to gauge what’s really important to you professionally. Some key questions to yourself include: “What are my strengths and what comes effortlessly? What do I love and hate to do? When I retire, what do I want my sendoff speech to say? What do I want to be remembered for?”
She also presses job seekers to get clear on the trade-offs of what they’re looking for. “Work out what really matters to you – tangible and intangible. It’s not just about a title and responsibilities and the big picture.”
“Relationship-building should be your number one priority” when you first start a job, says Lori Scherwin, founder of career firm Strategize That. “Perception shapes reality and your first few days — if not hours — on a job can inform your success.”
“Listen and learn more than you act and advise. Specifically, conduct a ‘listening tour’ in your first few weeks where you can observe and ask before you jump in and unintentionally cross any lines,” Scherwin suggests. “Even if you were brought in to inspire change, you’ll need buy-in. Gain trust and advocates first and use new insight to inform your plan.”
It is important to put every job you have on your resume, regardless of your tenure,” Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That, says. “Whether it’s 20 years, or 20 minutes, you have an obligation to disclose your entire work history to potential employers. Omitting any experience can leave you at risk of being found out and outed as a liar.
- Be prepared. Whether you were laid off, terminated or quit because you just couldn’t take it anymore, a hiring manager is likely to ask about what happened. In fact, hiring managers generally ask why you’re looking to leave your old job, even when you were there for ages. Whatever the case, put some thought into the story you want to tell, “whether it was you leaving out of strength, or a learning opportunity which leaves you more able to spot a better fit in the future,” Scherwin says.
- Don’t despair. Listen, nobody’s perfect … including the person on the receiving end of your resume. “Your next boss wants to know what you can do for him/her, not what you couldn't for your former,” Scherwin says. “And besides, if someone chooses not to interview you because they see a short stint, [it’s] their loss for not even asking the question.”
“It’s absolutely possible to get hired at a company even if they’ve previously rejected you. There are many many proven success stories,” says Lori Scherwin, executive coach and the Founder of Strategize That. “First off, especially in large organizations, there are various divisions, functions, teams, managers, all with a different culture, requirements, and fit. So perhaps you won’t be considered for the same exact position you initially applied for, but your skills are quite likely useful elsewhere in the organization.”