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I help seasoned professionals leave their ill-fitting work lives behind in order to find more aliveness, fulfillment, and ultimately, success that truly feels good. 

 

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What To Do When You Feel Stagnant or Restless In Your Career

Kelly Studer

I have a confession to make.

Several weeks ago, it dawned on me that I was in a career rut.

Truthfully, I’d been in it for quite a while, I just wasn’t willing to admit it. Yep, the person who is supposed to help people get out of their career rut, had fallen into her own.

Everything was going extremely well in my business and at the same time, I felt restless and unmotivated. From the outside, it might have looked like I was doing fine but on the inside, I felt incredibly frustrated, confused, and aimless.

Turns out, this “rut” was exactly what I needed to reconnect with my work, with myself, and the people I love serving. I had to take a step back and diagnose what was going on. And then it hit me!

I’d reached a level of mastery.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I’ve mastered helping people find career fulfillment (ha…that would be like saying I’d cured cancer) but rather I was seeing great success with my approach with clients but began relying on it so much that I stopped pushing outside my comfort zone and trying out new things. I let the confidence in my abilities create stagnation.

It’s human nature to want to reach mastery in the things we’re passionate about and intrigued by. Nothing feels better than to reach that state of supreme competence. It takes hard work and the payoff feels fantastic!

Or at least it does for a while… and then it wears off.

In the “knowing” (AKA mastery), there is little room for learning or growth.

What if becoming an expert isn’t the point; rather it’s the journey to mastery that enables growth, an energized state, and a heightened sense of possibility and success?

Maslow’s “Stages for Learning” is what made it all click for me.  You're probably already familiar with it but here it is for reference:

This is how it played out for me.

Consciously Incompetent

When I first started my business, I was scared shitless. Simultaneously, it was terrifying and exhilarating and I busted my hump trying to figure it all out as quickly as possible. There was so much to do. I had to learn how to put a website together, market and brand myself, create service offerings, determine pricing, and the list goes on. Lots of work, not tons of payoff initially.

Consciously Competent

Once I got those pieces in place and was in my second year of business, I still felt like a novice but the more clients I worked with, the more creative and resourceful I became. I took classes to bolster my coaching abilities, launched a workshop on a topic I was passionate about, began doing more public speaking, and actually began to enjoy marketing. I hadn’t had this much fun in a long time!

Unconsciously Competent

By year three, I felt proud of the progress I made, the foundation I’d built, and my solid track record. Everything was going so well, it seemed crazy to change it, so I didn’t. I was still enjoying working with all of my clients, but before long, it felt like my internal fire had been snuffed out. To a certain degree, I had reached mastery in what I was currently doing. I fell into “autopilot” mode.

Having no internal fire is a serious bummer. It’s a sure sign there’s a yearning that isn’t being attended to. The comfort zone of mastery can be a great place to hide.

Now, let’s focus on you for a minute. Think back to a time when you were not exactly sure how to do something and you were excited about figuring it out. Perhaps, you were given a stretch assignment, you took a new job that was bit over your head, or switched to a completely different role or industry?  It could even be something you wanted to master for yourself personally.

What did it feel like when you were first starting out?

What about once you began to get a handle on it?

What did it stimulate and bring out in you? How would you describe your motivation level?

Take a few moments to sink into that experience.

Was there a point where you stopped learning and were simply doing? How long did it take to get there? How did it feel then?

Continuously, throughout our career, the key is to notice when the enjoyment of mastery has worn off and you’ve gone into autopilot mode. This is the time to ask yourself what you’re yearning to stretch into and then begin seeking out ways to make that happen. It could be reading a book, taking a class, hiring a coach, asking for a new project or role, or something as liberating as switching careers.

Take action by expanding into something unknown. Start a new journey towards something that will stretch you to the next level. You know you can do it. You’ve done it before and you can do it again!

Whether you’re feeling stagnant or restless now or think it’s right around the bend, I encourage you to be selfish in deciding what you want to master next. Make it all about what turns you on and sparks your imagination, creativity, and curiosity. Inevitably, your thirst for learning and growth will open up alternative pathways with new possibilities.

What’s one thing you could get the ball rolling in learning tomorrow? What’s calling to you? What are you so darn curious about?

If you hear yourself saying, “I should learn X or I should gain more expertise in Y”, then don’t do it. Let’s go for a thought that begins with “I really want to learn X.”

Seek out something that you are consciously incompetent in and enjoy the ride to mastery. Then, do it all over again once the afterglow of mastery has worn off.  Keep this up and you’ll never be bored again and will keep raising your game.

P.S. I’m going to practice what I preach. You can expect to see new offerings from me in 2015. I’ve begun developing new ideas and plunging into the discomfort of not knowing exactly how to do them. The autopilot button has definitely been switched off. Yay!

How to Ace Your First Interview

Kelly Studer

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Most job seekers prepare for less than 10 minutes before their first interview with a recruiter – yet on average, only 1 in 4 candidates (25%) are passed onto the next round.  When I was a recruiter, my pass-through rate was more like 1 in 8…I was tough!  

Nothing is worse than regretting that you didn’t take the interview seriously and get shut down before you barely even got your foot in the door. 

The trick is to understand that a recruiter’s questions may seem basic or simple but the way you answer them can mean the difference between moving onto the next round and being sent a polite but painful rejection email three days later.  

I’m going to share the three most commonly asked questions by recruiters and clearly outline the best and worst ways to answer each one.   

I reached out to over a dozen top recruiters to ask for their insight on this, plus have combined my own recruiting experience, to give you the skinny on how to make or break your first interview. 

QUESTION #1: What makes you want to leave your current job?  / What made you want to leave your last job? 

BEST ANSWER: Recruiters are looking for people who want to improve their careers, continue growing and learning, and make a bigger impact.  Focus your answer on what motivates and excites you about the prospect of both the role and the company.  Talk about the contributions you want to make and how you want to stretch yourself.  Spend 10% of your answer talking about what’s not working in your current/most recent role and 90% on where you want to head in your career.

If you were laid off, be honest about it.  There’s no shame in being laid off as it has nothing to do with performance.  Even high performers get laid off. 

WORST ANSWER: Avoid indicating that you’re only interested in how “hot” or high profile the company is, that your last job bored you, or that you’re looking to escape from your awful manager.  These responses will give the impression that you’re more interested in fleeing your current employer or are not very thoughtful about your next career step. 

QUESTION #2:  Why do you want to work for us? 

BEST ANSWER: The recruiter wants to hear you sell back to them the company’s value proposition in a genuinely excited way.  Make sure you can clearly articulate how they are positioned in the marketplace, what you like about them that has them stand out from the competition, and why you want to be a part of it.  

WORST ANSWER: Anything that indicates you have very little clue as to who they are and what they do.  Also, focusing too much on how awesome the perks are is a sure sign that you don’t really care about the company or how you can make impact and more interested in the direct benefits to you.  Total turnoff! 

QUESTION #3: If I ran into your current boss, what would they say about you?

BEST ANSWER: Recruiters are looking to see how acutely aware you are of your strengths and areas of professional development in addition to how you think you are perceived by others, especially your manager.  Lead in with your top 2-3 strongest attributes and also include one area for development.  Make sure the development area is something real, not a strength in disguise.  For example, “my boss would say that I could do a better job of empathizing with other team members and to ask more clarifying questions when I’m unsure of what’s being asked of me.” Authenticity is powerful. 

WORST ANSWER: I was constantly shocked by how many candidates would share strengths that were not applicable to the role for which they were interviewing.  What’s the point of learning about strengths that won’t make you successful in the role? Conversely, bringing up a development area that would be detrimental to your success in the role will raise a red flag.  However, hiding development areas shows a lack of self-awareness and will reduce your credibility in the eyes of the recruiter, so make sure you’ve thought this through in advance and can articulate something insightful but not damaging. 

Overall, the recruiter’s goal in this first interview is to unearth the “real” you, determine if you are worth taking a chance on in terms of presenting you to the hiring manager, and whether you’d be a good culture fit for the company.   The more articulate, authentic, positive, and well prepared you are, the greater your chances of moving onto the next round.  Above all else, BE YOURSELF! 

If you’re not spending 1-2 hours doing your research, teasing out your answers to these questions, and rehearsing them a few times in the mirror, then you aren’t doing everything you can to win the advocacy of the recruiter. 

The Most Important Relationship in Your Job Search

Kelly Studer

During my corporate career, I spent many years as an in-house recruiter.  What blew my mind was how many candidates didn’t take their first interview with me very seriously.  Many were ill-prepared and underestimated the importance of our conversation.  I got the distinct feeling that I was seen as an impediment, just someone to bypass. 

 

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The NEW Elevator Pitch

Kelly Studer

You meet someone for the first time.  Maybe it’s at the coffee shop on the corner, at a cocktail party, a seminar, or a networking event.  After exchanging names and commenting on the scene, this new acquaintance asks, “So, what do you do?”  

Now is the moment for your elevator pitch!  And yes, it’s the one thing you have totally NOT been working on but always plan to…someday.

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Ladies, Are You Ready To Play Bigger? My Q&A with Tara Sophia Mohr

Kelly Studer

Have you ever had an experience of meeting someone for the first time and realizing instantly that your life is about to change? Well, that’s what happened when I met Tara Mohr last August.  Since we’re both solopreneurs and have a shared mission to help as many people flourish in their careers (and life) as possible, it created a wonderful bond.  Every single interaction I’ve had with her since has been full of learning, growing, and laughing (she’s very funny).  Basically, she’s a rad chick. 

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Is Your Brand Standing In The Way Of A Promotion?

Kelly Studer

Have you ever been passed over for promotion, time and again, despite being a top performer?  It’s frustrating beyond belief, isn’t it?  Believe me, I know.  I went through it myself at Google.  I kept taking on more and more but there was no promotion in sight.  It was baffling to me at the time.  I kept telling myself that I was terrible at managing upwards but I’m not totally sure that was the cause of my stagnation. I had a brand issue.

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The Shocking Truth About Job Postings

Kelly Studer

You are talented, successful, and have amazing talents, skills, and experience, yet you find yourself looking at job postings and saying to yourself, “Oh, I don’t have the experience they are looking for.  I’m not qualified for this job. I shouldn’t even bother to go after it.  I’d never get hired for this job anyway.” 

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How to Radically (and Easily) Shift the Way You Approach Networking

Kelly Studer

Whenever I bring up networking with my clients, I usually hear a loud sigh followed by, "I know...I need to get out there."  There seems to be a stigma around networking that it is slimy or self-serving and it certainly isn't fun.  It suggests that we’re falsely attempting to build a professional relationship in order to gain something from it.  In reality, that’s not really true.  When done thoughtfully, networking is the give and take of helping one another out within the context of our careers over time.

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Building Your Personal Brand: My Interview with Christy Turlington Burns (Part I)

Kelly Studer

I traveled to New York City to sit down and interview my long-time friend, Christy Turlington Burns.  We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, so it was fun to hang out and chat about what we’re both doing in our careers and lives.  I had so many questions for her on career development and personal brand that we talked for over an hour.  It wasn’t easy paring it down but ultimately, it resulted in two fantastic videos.  This first one, which I’m sharing here, is dedicated to our chat about personal brand – how to define it, develop it, and put it out in the world, Christy style.

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Why “You Can Be Anything You Want To Be” is the Biggest Lie of All

Kelly Studer

Have you ever been told that you can do anything you set your mind to or with enough effort and focus, you can make your dreams come true?  I was given that advice from so many different people throughout my life and found it so inspiring. To think that I could make anything a reality if I worked hard enough was awesome!

Unfortunately, it was also a big fat lie. I know what you’re thinking.  Well that sucks, Kelly.  Thanks for bursting my bubble. 

But wait, there’s good news.

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Don't Let Negative Feedback Derail Your Job Search (Guest Post)

Kelly Studer

We all love to get positive feedback when we do something well. It makes us feel great about ourselves. But when it comes to looking for a job, you sometimes get more than your fair share of negative feedback.  And that can be hard to deal with. We often tend to hone in on the criticisms others offer.  These criticisms can seem to outweigh and overshadow the many positive things people have said with virtually the same breath.

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The Most Important Job Search Strategy You’re Not Using

Kelly Studer

Many of my clients find networking scary, simply because it requires invading someone else’s very busy day.  When these feelings crop up, procrastination, avoidance, and resistance set in and their job search stalls.  They start applying online to jobs and wait patiently for a response that never comes. They mistakenly think this means they aren’t desirable and want to resort back to doing the same job they did before (the unfulfilling one) just so someone will hire them.

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Do You Sabotage Your Own Success?

Kelly Studer

For many of us, self-sabotage plays out regularly in our careers and daily lives.  We don’t give ourselves enough credit for our talents and potential, and we give up before we have even had a chance to try. 

Even when we manage some margin of success, we feel the praise we receive is false and undeserved, and instead focus on the criticisms that justify our self-sabotage.

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How to Exhibit the Right Amount of Confidence (Guest Post)

Kelly Studer

I believe everyone should have a favorite quote from a famous person. My favorite quote is "Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve". (Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1502).

I think you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite quote. What is yours? 

In addition to having favorite quotes, I think that everyone should have the opportunity to contribute an original quote or to coin a phrase. Maybe it will inspire or amuse someone else. Famous people don't have a monopoly on quotes.

My contribution is this: "Attitude = Everything." (Mike Hulse c. 2008)

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Job Networking: 5 Tips for Getting Your Foot in the Door

Kelly Studer

Many of my clients ask me for the best way to get their foot in the door at a company, since I’m constantly reminding them that applying to jobs online should be their last resort. For most people, networking with people they don’t personally know and asking for job hunting help can be incredibly anxiety producing, but it’s not as hard as you think if you take the right approach.

I recently surveyed 20+ hiring managers across a range of industries to find out what made them most likely to help out a job seeker.  Based on their feedback and my own experience, I discovered that the most successful job networkers were the ones who followed these 5 simple rules

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