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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!

4 Ways to Approach Negotiating…Without Relying on "Karma"

Kelly Studer

A few weeks ago we all heard about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s misguided comments at the Grace Hopper Conference when he was asked to give advice, to a room full of women, on the best way to negotiate for a raise. He said, “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.” He went on to say, "That might be one of the initial 'super powers,' that quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have. It’s good karma. It will come back.” Satya + Maria

Naturally, when this blew up in the media, it was in his best interest to apologize and recant what he said, which he did in a letter to Microsoft employees and via Twitter.

Satya Nadella Tweet

Ok, fine. Whatever.

This whole thing really got me thinking though and I couldn’t stop processing it. What frustrated me most about Mr. Nadella’s comment about women relying on karma is that it completely missed the mark in understanding women’s frustration and confusion around how to negotiate and ask for a raise in the first place.

How I heard his message was, “ladies, we don’t want you to ask for a raise, we will give you one, if and when we feel you deserve it. Be patient.” Research shows that most women buy into this philosophy anyway. Thanks, Mr. Nadella, for helping to perpetuate a message that doesn’t serve or inspire us, and in fact, takes us back 30 years! Grrrrrr.

Research shows that men ask for what they want four times as often as women do, which has led to them obtaining higher salaries, even if just by a small percentage, yet it adds up over time. I’m going to hazard a guess that karma didn’t get them higher salaries than women.

Several years ago, I’ll never forget when my boyfriend, at the time, told me that he made $50K over the top range of the role he was in. I was flabbergasted…and also very curious how he made that happen. He said it was simple…he didn’t want to be promoted to the next level (too much bureaucracy) but was a very high performer. He leveraged this by realizing that if they wanted to keep him, they would need to make it worth his while. He made $50K his target and kept fighting for it until they gave it to him. Truthfully, my reaction was “You can get paid over the top of the range?” It made me start to wonder how many times I put boundaries around what I thought was possible and then decided it wasn’t even worth asking.

Women are also reminded that asking for a raise (or something we want) can backfire on us and put us in a poor light. Apparently, it makes us appear greedy and ungrateful. Men don’t acquire the same stigma against them…they come across as confident and assertive. If that’s true, then for women, negotiating for what we want feels dangerous and scary. After hearing my boyfriend’s story, I was intrigued but also convinced that it wouldn’t go so well for me if I tried the same thing. I told myself that I have a great job, why rock the boat and risk being seen as greedy. I’m probably not as high of a performer as him. The list of things that would keep me from getting a raise added up until there was no desire to ask and take the chance in the first place. And so I didn’t. It makes me crazy now wondering what could have happened if I’d gone for it.

Sadly, for women, it becomes much safer to stay quiet and be grateful for what we already have. And so the gender salary gap continues…

In order for shifts to take place, it is required that we all play a part in modifying our behavior. We need to try something different. This is not just up to us women to fix. We need a movement, not the government to implement laws that solve the gender salary gap issue. Does it even feel right to be paid equally when we all bring something a little different to our job?

The point is to be paid what we’re worth regardless of gender.

With conscious effort and awareness, there are four super simple ways to start moving the needle.

Women: Start Asking More Often

All too frequently, we make assumptions that someone won’t give us something that we want. We play out the scenario in our head and all we hear is “NO”. We can hear all the objections. So we don’t bother to ask. We stay safe, carry on, and the resentment and frustration builds. It doesn’t bring out our best self or best work. There is a cost to not asking. And it’s not just being denied what we’d like to have. Bottom line, get into the practice of asking for what you want. Recognize the assumptions and potential objections you are bringing and ask anyway. You’ll learn some valuable information no matter what! Start small and then build up to a bigger ask.

Women: Help Other Women Negotiate

As much as I hate to say this, women aren’t always the best at encouraging and supporting each other. If we aren’t a confident negotiator ourselves, we can have a tendency to shoot other women down when they negotiate with us, or worse, suddenly see them as aggressive and unlikeable. Here is your chance to recognize her for taking the risk, even if you can’t give her what she’s asking for.

Men: We Need You To Support Women Too

Much like women need to support other women, men have an opportunity to encourage women to negotiate as well. If you notice that a female employee isn’t asking for what she wants, nudge her to take the chance. Remind her that she might not get what she wants but by swinging out, she’s letting others know that she doesn’t want to get cheated and deserves more. When she does negotiate, please try to empathize with how difficult it might be for her. Find ways to help her be at ease and let her know if you’re happy that she’s initiating the conversation.

Expect to Hear No

This might seem counter-intuitive but part of negotiating is expecting to hear “no”. The good news is that it’s only the starting point. Most people’s reaction to a request to change something is not usually “definitely…let’s do it!” It’s human nature to resist change. Expect the resistance and then stay. Stay through the resistance and get curious about it. Give the other person time to think about the request and come back to you with additional thoughts or a decision. A negotiation can go on for days, weeks, or even months. A negotiation is rarely complete in one conversation. I also believe it is in our nature to want to please other people. We don’t really enjoy saying no. By giving things time, you might be surprised by what opportunity can arise that wasn’t there before….all because you asked.

Is there something you’ve been wanting or needing for a while but convinced yourself that you’ll never get it? This is the time to ask. Step up to the plate and swing. If you rely on karma, the best you can hope for is getting walked to first base. So swing that bat, swing for the fences. You might strike out once in a while but keep stepping up and swinging. That’s what negotiating is all about. Keep swinging for the home run.

Doing This One Thing Will Help You Advance Your Career Instantly

Kelly Studer

Wouldn’t it be valuable to know how others perceive you and whether you’re having the impact you intend? We all want this! We want to know what’s working and what’s not, so we can make intelligent choices and be more successful, confident, and influential in our careers.  We need to know what makes us special as well as what’s getting in our way, so that we can have maximum impact and make a difference.

You have skills and experience that people rely on but that’s not what gets you ahead in your career or noticed in a bigger way.  Being clear on your impact (positive and negative) and then adjusting accordingly is crucial to advancing your career.

You want to know the secret for how to get this valuable information and insight?

There’s one thing you have to do and it’s easier than you can possibly imagine and yet most people don’t do it.

Demand Feedback…All The Time  

In late April, I was blessed with the good fortune of attending a 5-day workshop in Lyme Regis, England, which was centered on how to inject creative mastery into any business situation. It was lead by two genius guys, Chris Barez-Brown and Matt Bolton-Alarcon, from Upping Your Elvis 

That's Chris on the left, Matt on the right.

The results were shocking.  Nearly everyone discovered that their most authentic self was their most powerful and compelling version but they needed the feedback to really “get it” and understand its impact. It was as if they were finally given permission to be themselves. “More of that!,” they declared to each other every day. They also became acutely aware of their gaps and behaviors that reduced their effectiveness. Excellent!  They knew what to turn the volume up on and what to turn it down on.

For most of us, we wait to ask for feedback until the end of a project, after a big presentation, or during a performance review cycle.  We hope for unsolicited feedback, which doesn’t come as often as we like.  Becoming skillful at asking for feedback regularly, gives you the opportunity to pivot and make a bigger impact NOW!

The Secret Sauce

I’m going to share with you the exact script you should use to demand feedback.  It’s so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before.

Step #1:  Identify one person or a small group to demand feedback from with whom you’ve had any kind of substantial interaction (e.g. brainstorm discussion, leading a meeting, 1:1 strategy session).  As soon as the interaction has concluded, ask this question: “Hey, do you have 2-3 minutes to spare?  I’d love to get some quick feedback.”

Step #2: Once they’ve said yes, you say, “Ok, I’d like know one thing that I did BRILLIANTLY and one thing that I could do EVEN BETTER.” Use those exact words.  Do not replace them with anything else.

Step #3: Listen intently to their answer and say, “Thank you.”  There’s no need to agree, defend, or validate anything they are sharing with you. Of course, if you need more clarification, ask for it.

Objections and Pitfalls

Sometimes people have a hard time sharing feedback on the fly.  They might find it easy to tell you what you did brilliantly and shy away from helping you learn what you could do even better, especially face to face.

If this happens, give them time to think of something (I mean it - silence is an amazing tool - let them fill the space).  Try not to let them off the hook if they say, “Hmmm. I can’t think of anything you could do better.”  Remind them that feedback is really important to you and you’d appreciate any insight, big or small. They will come up with something if you are willing to wait a moment for it.

Collecting feedback only from certain categories of people is also short-sighted.  Demand feedback from everyone...upper management, direct reports, peers, clients, etc.  You want feedback from all levels and directions.  You even want it from people whom you don’t particularly like.  Don’t be picky or particular about who you demand it from.

The Incredible Benefits

The feedback you receive tells you as much about the other person as it does about you.  Demanding feedback helps you better connect with others because it sheds light on what is important to them.  It is colored by their own experiences, biases, and opinions, which provides a window into what they care about and value.

Since each person who gives you feedback is basing it on what matters most to them, it goes to show that you need to demand feedback regularly from lots of people and collect themes, not specific dos and don’ts. (Example themes: ability to boldly state what no one else is willing to say, easily shift the mood in the room to create more engagement and participation, put others at ease, ability to gain instant trust and credibility, etc.)

Once you take stock of your themes, you’ll be able to determine what to turn the volume up on and what to modify or eliminate.  The feedback is for your benefit so don’t ignore what you’re hearing.  Integrate your discoveries as much as possible and experiment.

Most importantly, keep asking for feedback to see if your adjustments are working.

The more you practice, the better you get at it...and it will become one of the best career development tools in your toolbox.

Pretty soon, performance reviews will seem completely unnecessary (there’s nothing new or surprising to learn!) and promotion becomes more likely and frequent.  Your brand will resonate in a clear and powerful way.

The answers you are looking for are available to you any time and from anyone.  You just have to ask.

My challenge to you is to demand feedback 3 times in the next week.

Will you take on this challenge?  What is the one thing that might hold you back from demanding feedback and what would you need to overcome it?  Share with me in the comments.


P.S. If you’d like to learn more about my experience with the workshop and a few of the totally amazing tools I learned, you can check it out over on the Upping Your Elvis blog.