How to Write a Resume Like a Professional

How to Write a Resume Like a Professional

This article is a recipe for how to reach your ideal job goal in the shortest amount of time.

In this article we will cover:

  • What Goes in a Resume
  • Job Targeting
  • Performance Profiles
  • Writing to Bots
  • Formatting
  • Do I really *need* a resume?
  • Career Coaches & Resume Writers
  • Templates

What Goes in a Resume

You may be an expert in your field, newly graduated, full of amazing ideas or the top sales professional on your team, you know how to get your job done, but you still don’t know what to put in your resume.

If this is you — you are not alone. I get messages all the time: “Help me! I don’t know what to put in my resume! What should I write in my resume? How do I highlight my achievements? What should I put for my skills? What? What? What?

If you find yourself, panicked, and at a loss the first thing you might do is to write down a few lists:

List 1: Your Values — what do you value and how does this show up in your work? Are you timely? A stickler for details? Do you think out of the box? Do you listen deeply? What do you impact do you want to make in this world?

Write down your CORE Values and consider taking the VIA Character Survey.

I call the VIA (Values in Action) Survey answers “how you BE” in this world.

List 2: Your Strengths — what do you really rock? What do you do really well? What kinds of problems do people come to you with? What can you do that is easy for you and hard for other people? What are your STRENGTHS?

To learn more about your Strengths take the Strengths Finder 2.0

Amazon affiliate link: make sure to buy a new book/kindle for online test code.

List 3: Your Interests — what do you enjoy? What are you doing when you find that perfect mix of challenge and pleasure? What activities let you get caught in a state of flow? What kind of problems do you love to research, solve or explore? What are your INTERESTS?

Not sure about your interests or passions? Does your current job bore you? Did you study the wrong thing or end up in management, but hate management? Consider booking a single Career Coaching session to set your career on the right track before you start your next job search.

Book a coaching session.

List 4: Your Needs — these might be financial (your salary and benefits), they might be your work environment (office, flexible, remote, requires travel, etc.), they might be intellectual or physical. What do you NEED from your job?

Not sure about your needs? Consider booking a single Career Coaching session.

Book a coaching session.

List 5: Your Target Job — now find 3 to 5 ideal job postings on the Internet, go ahead and print them off and highlight all the skills, experiences, qualifications, tasks, job requirements, and benefits that show up in the job descriptions. Circle the ones that also show up on one of your lists above.

Sketch out Your Resume

Your resume will have approximately 5 different sections:

  • Performance Profile
  • Key Skills & Experiences/Key Accomplishments
  • Work Experience
  • Education/Certifications
  • Technologies/Interests/Coursework

Your Performance Profile (see below) will match your values, strengths, unique skills, achievements and needs/interests to that of the employer.

Your Key Skills & Experiences functions to confirm for the employer that you can do all the required tasks have the necessary knowledge, the soft skills, the hard skills, the language skills or the technologies to get the job done.

Your Work Experience will demonstrate what you enjoy, what you have done, where you’ve learned or accomplished something crucial; and how this has played out in your previous and current employment.

If you’ve only got volunteer work or school projects, go ahead and list those instead, figure out what ties into your job search and highlight those details. Name the section “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.”

Your Education/Certifications shows that you’ve got the technical requirements for the job. Often the “education” requirement can be replaced by “equivalent work experience.” Legal Certifications tend to be less flexible (licenses, etcetera), but you may get away with showing you are studying/preparing to get them by X date.

Recent graduates list education right after the performance profile, experienced employees list it at the end of the resume.

Technologies and Interests: some resumes list hobbies and interests, or additional technologies, which is technically a waste of space UNLESS your hobbies and interests, or technologies relate directly back to the job you seek.

A clever way to use this section is to incorporate technologies or subject matter areas listed in a job description that you are still earning or to show the breadth of your experience, but which you do not feel comfortable listing under your “key skills and experiences.”


When deciding which accomplishment stories, which metrics, which achievements, which skills and experiences to include on your resume, ask yourself: Is this relevant to the job I seek? Is this something that is required? Is this something that I enjoy doing and want to do more of? If the answer is yes, work it into your resume.

Just because you CAN or DID do something doesn’t mean it is relevant or wise to include it on your resume. Think of what an employer NEEDs to know to hire you: What kind of person do they need? What skills? What personality strengths? Make sure you answer these questions and don’t worry about leaving out details that are irrelevant.

Job Targeting

How to write a resume based on the job description:

Many job seekers want to cry when they learn that you most likely will not get hired by submitting the same resume to every job application.

Unfortunately, when 200+ resumes often get submitted to many job postings, the best way to ensure your resume gets pulled is not only to write a killer resume but then to also tailor it to each and every individual job description.

There are a few short-cuts that you can take to make this process easier and less painful.

Tip #1:

The first time you write your resume, write it so that it targets your top three job postings. This will help to ensure that you get the most important requirements, skills, and experiences in your resume and that it is well formatted for the work you seek. And you can use it to apply to each of these three jobs.

Tip #2:

Use my favorite resume scanning tool CVScan to re-match your resume to each job description. Your goal is to have a minimum 80% match; when I write resumes for clients I aim for greater than a 90% match.

When using CVScan take and copy both your current resume and the new job listing into the online application. Make note of the words and phrases CVScan highlights as red; when you update your resume to match the new job description, make sure to get these words into the first half of your resume. Rescan.

Tip #3:

When applying for jobs, write the job title EXACTLY as named in the job posting on the top of your resume above your performance profile. This will assure the bot and the hiring human that you actually want the job for which you’ve just submitted an application.

Note the difference in these titles:


PERFORMANCE PROFILE: Business Process Analyst

PERFORMANCE PROFILE: IS Business Analyst/Relationship Manager


Let’s say you submit an application for the Relationship Manager position above with a resume titled “Test Analyst,” maybe the skills required for these jobs are similar, but quality assurance tests are different from customer relationships and the hiring manager will immediately doubt your fit.

Take 30 seconds to update your resume and make sure the correct job title is on the resume header.

Tip #4

The first thing that often happens once you start applying to multiple jobs and customizing your resume to each one, is that you quickly lose track of which resume went where. This can result in an embarrassing conversation down the road.

To avoid this do two things: Save each resume using your Last Name or Initials plus the company name and the date you applied.

For example: Rakoto.HR Costco.15.04.2019

And then use a spreadsheet that tracks each job, resume title, date applied and any notes. Here is a link to an excellent online job tracking spreadsheet (no need to reinvent the wheel).

Performance Profiles

If you are looking to learn how to write a resume objective or how to write a resume professional summary, I recommend that you start thinking instead about your “performance profile.” Who are you as a professional, and what do you offer an employer? Objectives fail because they focus on your goals. The performance profile focuses on your ideal employers’ needs.

Your Performance Profile is easily the most important part of your resume. Your performance profile is a proactive and future-forward replacement of the “objective” and sometimes called a “professional” or “power” summary section.

Your “performance profile” tells an employer what you can do, it speaks to your values and your strengths, it aligns your goals with that of your employer and ties your past achievements into your future accomplishments. It shows how you will perform on the job.

Every kickass resume starts with a performance profile. Every. Single. One.

The performance profile is built upon a solid professional narrative. It is versatile, you can use it for your LinkedIn summary, as an elevator pitch, and when you are networking! Write it once, but then modify the language slightly to match the keywords and phrases that show up in each individual job posting.

Your performance profile should be uniquely yours. It should not sound like a job description; you can even write it in the first person. Resumes that incorporate the first person are what we call “human-voiced resumes” and when done well they are highly effective.

If you are new to the “human-voiced resume” consider writing your performance profile in first person and the remainder of your resume in the third person.

Some recruiters advise against human voiced resumes and prefer robotic-sounding text; my take on this is that if the recruiter wants to hire a robot, he should employ a robot; if he wants to hire a human, hire a human! I’ve used human-voiced resumes with clients since 2014 for clients and since 2004 for myself!

Digital Marketing Executive – Performance Profile Sample

With a growing passion for mission-driven technologies; I continue to value data inspired, and human-driven product design. In this, I anticipate working with a diverse set of high-level thinkers to collaborate and creatively solve business and user problems. Leveraging my experience to guide teams to generate brilliant and disruptive digital experiences around an organization’s core mission — the end goal — facilitating brands’ seamless and positive integration into people’s lives.

Software Developer – Performance Profile Sample

Personable Senior Developer with twenty plus years of progressive experience, I delight in stuff that works. Committed to continuous professional development and learning: the pleasure is in doing the work, and in seeing the results. I enjoy collaborating with end users and maintaining open lines of communication with all stakeholders. Adept with requirements, solutions, coding, and communicating meaningful results, I am particularly enjoy testing and quality assurance.

Customer Relationship & Sales Manager – Performance Profile Sample

As a charismatic and results-oriented sales professional, I delight in solving customer problems with the best product or service. An early adopter of anything tech,  I am on top of current trends and I anticipate continuing to deepen my knowledge. I understand the importance of listening skills and customer empathy in finding innovative solutions. I look forward to contributing to a positive team atmosphere.

How to write a resume that will impress a bot

This isn’t actually a joke. Nearly all resumes get scanned by ATS (Automatic Tracking Software) before going to an actual human being. You need to write a resume that impresses both the bot and the human.

One of the most important reasons NOT to use a cutesy or unique or stylish or trendy resume template is that many of these templates are NOT bot-friendly. For the same reason, avoid using your mad design skills to create image boxes and fixed tables or include another image on your resume.

These things cannot be read by the BOT!

To write a bot-friendly resume you should do the following:

  • Create your resume in a format that allows all of your text to be read in the order of appearance on your page and in a single cohesive text box; for this reason avoid putting your name and contact info in a Header, instead create your first-page header in the body of your document. Multiple text boxes on a single page can result in gibberish and missed text when scanned.
  • Print off or copy the text of 3 to 5 job listings; now highlight the keywords and phrases used in each description and make sure to use these in your resume. Your jargon should match the jargon the bot is scanning for! This is a crucial reason you need to modify your resume for EACH job.
  • The keywords, activities, and requirements listed in a specific job description should appear in the first half the resume. If you want to create interest with synonyms and other technical terms, do so in the second half of your resume. Bots weight the first part of your resume.
  • If specific certificates or educational requirements are a must in the job description, make sure you list your education using the same language in the job description.

If you don’t believe me or someone has told you otherwise (so many resume writers are PIMPING Canva resumes), here is another article that discusses how ATS software reads (or doesn’t read) your resume. If you want to get hired you gotta pay attention to these details!

How to format a resume and get noticed

Writing a resume is hard. It sucks to dive in and dig deep, recalling all the things in our past and figuring out what is the most important or crucial items to list on our resume.

Our biggest fear is that we will come across sounding boring, robotic and just not-good-enough. Selecting a sexy resume template seems like an easy and clever fix to the resume doldrums, but I assure it is NOT.

Writing a resume is uncomfortable, so it’s really easy to lost searching out the perfect format. All the online templates created by apps like CANVA make it easy to put too much emphasis on the formatting and forget that it’s the content that really counts.

Yes, your resume needs to be readable and easy on the eyes, but unless you work in graphic design, you are not being hired for your design skills, the content of your resume is more important than a sexy template. And, as we discussed in the previous section you need to address the BOT!

To get hired, spend most of your time working to ensure the content of your resume is relevant, interesting, and that it tells a positive story about what you can do. Use your words and your experiences to stand out, not some fancy type and trendy color combos.

Your resume should look good, but it is the story it tells that people will remember and that will get you hired.

If you’ve got six hours, but three of them into writing your Performance Profile, two into writing the resume content, and one into making sure the format looks good and that the grammar is correct.

If you hire a resume writer, consider that an expert resume writer will spend three to five hours researching, writing, and targeting your resume. If you hire a $50 rewrite that person is either making $10 an hour or they are only putting a lazy hour into modifying your resume.

When I work with clients I provide you a survey that may take YOU upwards of two hours to complete. Writing a GOOD resume is an investment in your future — invest the time, the brainpower, and if needed the money (aka professional support) you need to get ahead. Hire me to write your resume.

Hire me to give you a LIVE Resume Review — this is the best way to learn how to write your own winning resume.

Design DOES Matter: Top Formatting Mistakes to Avoid

The design of your resume does matter. A flashy design without compelling content is pointless, but your resume does need to look nice. For this reason, I’ve shared a few simple, clean templates that you can download and use or modify.

The easiest to make mistakes involve fonts, colors, spacing, borders and the use of image boxes, some tables, and columns (often used with skill ranking systems).

Let’s look at these in detail.

Type Font and Font Color:

If you use an application to create your resume, choose common fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman or Helvetica. These fonts are common because they can be read by all types and ages of computer systems.

Article on type fonts: If you don’t believe me, go to MIT for proof!

You and your hiring manager will likely NOT be using the same type of computer or software; so, to make sure your resume can be read use a common type font and save your resume as a PDF.

When you select your font color (and your backgrounds) take time to think about what it will look like printed in Greyscale. You might format your resume to be bright and cheery, but trust me, a recruiter who prints off 100s of resumes a day won’t be investing in using her color ink to print YOUR resume.

If you want to add variety to your resume, you can use shades of blue or grey fonts that won’t change a lot on different systems. Beware of greens and red or orange as what looks pretty on your screen might look like puke or poop on another. Trust me, I’ve seen it!

Lastly, make sure your resume still looks good and is readable if printed in black and white!

Click here to download my custom and FAVORITE minimalist template.

This is one page but can be easily extended to two pages.

Just remember to put your name and a page number on the second page!

Spacing & Borders

Resumes need to be readable and spacing issues can be awkward. Keep your borders reasonable (don’t go under ¾ inches (0.75) or 1.5 cm on the sides or ½ inch (0.5) or 0.5 cm on the top and bottom.

Double check that line spacing, period spacing (one), page pagination, and all that jazz is consistent and looks good. If you use block formatting make sure that awkward spaces don’t appear in your blocks.

If your resume goes onto two or three pages (for those of you in very technical fields or with 15+ years of experience) make sure your name and the page number are in the header of the additional pages.


In general, avoid using a border on your resume; different systems produce different results and it might be that your border gets off centered or moves over your header text or drops onto an additional unnecessary page.

Image Boxes, Tables & Columns

Image boxes cannot be read by the ATS systems period. Don’t use an image for any part of your resume from your name to any details in an image box or logo. The information will be lost. The only place you may wish to use an image is as a background block of color.


If you use MS Word, GoogleDocs or Pages you can create a hidden table to list skills. I like this as a tactic to this is a good way to get extra keywords in your resume and to make it easily modifiable for specific job targeting.

Warning: I’ll say it again. Do not create tables that are images. Do not use a design template like Canva to create a table. These usually cannot be scanned by ATS software.

Hitting Save As > PDF.

As with everything the best way to ensure your PDF lands in the format that you sent it in, is to save it as a PDF. All current versions of Word, Pages and GoogleDocs allow you to save your resume as a PDF.

The exception is that if you are working with a specific recruiter who may wish to reformat your resume to meet specific employer requests. In this case, share a PDF that you approved and an MS Word version that your recruiter can modify.

Linkedin: Are Resumes Still Important?

With the advent of online portfolios, LinkedIn and other forms of social proof, sometimes keeping an updated resume on hand, may seem like overkill; however, resumes ARE not DEAD.

Regardless of the sad number of dead trees involved, if I’ve got to compare 20 or 200 hundred candidates and share them with my colleagues, it’s a heck of a lot easier to share a stack of printed resumes than 200 links, which may all have different amounts of information and load time.

Write a resume that stands out and have it at the ready, ready to share if someone asks for it in both print and PDF form. And then have another version in Word, GoogleDocs or Pages that you can quickly modify to fit a particular job posting.

Luck comes from preparation, if you are not prepared, you’ll never be lucky!

Career Coaches & Resume Writers: Are they worth it?

The number one reason you might hire a resume writer who is a career coach is to reach your goal in the shortest amount of time. Invest in your future TODAY and it will pay off faster than you imagine! Note I wrote, “a resume writer WHO IS ALSO a Career Coach.” Not all resume writers were created equal. Hire a cheap resume rewrite and you may be wasting your money. Hiring a career coach? Now that is a wise investment.

Recently, working with a client who’d been in “career transition” for three years, my client got an interview and job offer BEFORE I even completed rewriting her resume. Why? Because in one coaching call and a conversation about her strengths, I’d taught her to talk about her work differently and with more confidence. All she had to do was tell a more compelling story.

If you simply hire a resume writer (not a career coach), keep in mind that their focus will be on what you tell them and on making your resume key-word ready or give it a fancy format. If your professional narrative is lacking, if you are targeting the wrong jobs, your average resume writer won’t be any help. One-third of my clients have ALREADY WORKED WITH A RESUME WRITER. They came to me because they realized they needed something MORE.

The BEST reason to hire a career coach is to build your self-awareness and improve your ability to talk about what you can do and want to do, while also gaining the confidence to know that you are on the right path for long-term career satisfaction and success.

Resume writing and job search skills are life-skills, the earlier you learn them, the better off you will be!

How to Pick a Career Coach or Resume Writer

First, I’d check out their LinkedIn profile and recommendations. Just because someone has a website and even testimonials doesn’t make them legit. In this day and age, it’s difficult to “hoax” your LinkedIn.

If your ideal coach or resume writer has nailed her LinkedIn, she can likely help you too. If she’s got reviews (and recent ones) that is also a good sign.

Referrals are another great way to find good writers and coaches, so if you’ve got friends that have just found new jobs, inquire if they got any help!

Writing a good resume takes time and thought. Any service that offers you a 24-hour resume return and for CHEAP is likely just going to play with your formatting and keywords. There is no way that anyone can get to know you and write an effective resume in that amount of time.

Career Coaching also takes time, so anyone promising you a quick fix, may not know what he or she is doing. Take the time and invest in your future. $200 or $500 spent today, is nothing when you consider how much it may increase your future income.

I recently coached a young man (a French ex-pat) for an interview with an American company. One of the subjects I coached him on was salary; thanks to my coaching he got more than double the salary he’d been thinking of asking for…which means my hourly fee of $125 had about a 320x return!

What about Templates?

Yes, I get that you want to take the guessing out of formatting your resume. A top resume search term is “Fast & Reliable Templates,” but the trick is that there is no simple formula.

Many resume templates are super attractive, but for the most part, they are difficult to manipulate and customize for specific jobs and many, such as templates created in CANVA often cannot be read by ATS bots.

If you REALLY want a pretty resume, then do a traditional resume for submitting to jobs online and a general “pretty” one to print off and keep on hand for in-person networking.

You can also use a pretty PDF template if you know for certain that your resume is going directly into a hiring manager’s inbox. Just remember to respect the content and narrative recommendations I discussed above.

Two Templates Just for YOU with built in instructions

Basic One Page Chronological Resume — modify as you see fit!

Functional Resume for a Career Pivot or to hide a GAP — modify as you see fit!


Some Tips for Specific Concerns:

  • How to write a resume as a freelancer: write a resume that supports targeting your ideal client and that highlights the skills you wish to focus on; if you’ve pivoted fields, make sure you’ve got a narrative that backs you up.
  • How to write a resume as a consultant: this will vary depending on your field, but focus on keeping it relevant and using accomplishment stories. Don’t just use action verbs or power words; show people what you do and what you are like to work with.
  • How to write a resume as a stay at home mom: Focus on your strengths and values; don’t discredit volunteer work, describe what you’ve done, learned, managed (going above and beyond titles) over the last few years. Use the language that shows up in job descriptions and show both your drive, your motivation and your understanding of what needs to get done. Your performance profile is your ticket to success — create an image of the professional you can be before they read the rest of the resume!
  • How to write a resume before graduation (and after): Make sure you align your values with those of your ideal employer. Instead of talking about “my goals” or what “I hope to get” show how your goals, skills, drive, ambition will allow you do succeed in a role and solve the employer’s problem — honor your goals but write to the employer’s.

In Conclusion

Your resume is one of the most important investments you can make in your future. You may feel uncomfortable and even annoyed that you’ve got to dig deep and do a good job, but if you want a job you love, you need to put some love into your resume!

Shortcuts and quick fixes, too much of a focus on design and not enough focus on your content will just send you barking up the wrong tree or getting ZERO call backs. Be intentional and thoughtful with your design, making sure that your resume is READABLE by all!

Why Moms Quit and What We Can Change Now

Why Moms Quit and What We Can Change Now

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on LinkedIn about “why mom’s quit,” based on my own story — a journey from languishing to mental wellness.

Another mom commented, “I appreciate your raw honesty. You are right. It is uncomfortable to talk about, but it is so critical that we do.”

And so, I decided I needed to share that story and the first steps towards a solution.

In 2007, as a smart and ambitious woman, I’d hoped to use the birth of my first son to pivot careers.

“Society,” said I could do it all, so I launched into a master’s program, working part-time and being an amazing mom.

By October 2008, when my son was only 15 months old, I quit.

My son had viral-induced asthma and spent more days at home than in his daycare.

We could afford it as his dad brought home a comfortable salary and, my son’s health came first.

While this choice felt good as a mom, I felt like a failure as a smart, professional woman.

Ultimately this situation meant my physical health and my mental wellness came last, and I languished.

During the day, I’d cry for no reason other than loneliness and a loss of direction.

At night I’d lay awake sleepless, feeling guilty for not being happier.

I told myself, you SHOULD be happy, grateful, and full of joy.

My gut told me there HAD to be another way.

The society we’ve built, in which stay-at-home parents are relegated to the home to care for children alone, is not made for flourishing.

I thought about how surprised I’d been when I visited the Gambia and saw women working in the fields with huge lathes and babies tied to their back.

I thought about other places I’d traveled in which I saw a woman running a small store or selling something on the side of the road, with kids running around.

I saw a picture of a blond woman from a royal family (Lichtenstein or Luxembourg maybe) nursing in an official meeting, which made me think that we really need to normalize nursing across all economic and cultural statuses.

For eons, women worked with community support caring for children. Or had choices in regards to who cared for their children without going broke themselves.

Some of the changes that we’ve made as a society are good for preventing child labor and safety.

Still, we’ve also created this situation in which paid work is not compatible with motherhood or parenthood. Offices are for work, not for kids.

We send adults off to skyscrapers and kids off to daycares.

What can we do differently?

The society we’ve built is unnatural.

It may make you uncomfortable to read that, but I know in my bones that it’s true.

We can do better. We can do differently. And we should.

I’ve spent the last decade reading, studying, and trying to figure out what to do differently.

Along the way, I’ve had hints and tastes of the answer.

Brene Brown and the concept of Shame opened my eyes to an emotion I didn’t know I had. And then she really changed my world with the idea that “imperfection is a gift.”

Thich Nhat Hanh and the concept of “washing the dishes to do the dishes” literally turned washing the dishes into a task I enjoy. However, much of what he taught went right over my head.

Studying positive psychology helped me understand the mechanisms behind habit building, habit change, the difference between authentic self-care and “a massage.” And the need to actually work on building mental wellness.

We can build different institutions. We can change how we see childcare and working families.

We can pay teachers and childcare workers better while also giving parents the time they need with their kids.

I am confident that everyone in society will benefit in the long run, even those who choose to our who cannot have children.

I know that change takes time. And lasting change needs to be led by strong and resilient people.

To start this process of systems change, the first thing we as women need to do is start by reclaiming our mental wellness to stand and speak up for that which we value.

My Journey to Resilience

Since I first started working with the theory of Positive Intelligence or PQ in February of this year, my life experience as a working mom has changed.

I feel more love for myself and the world. Less guilt.
I can let go of the little things that used to poke me.
I can BE in the moment with my kids.
I can BE in the moment with my work.

I’ve not accepted what’s wrong with society, but I am now ready to work on changing it, one woman, one mom, at a time.

I’ve finally understood what it means to say, “I’ve arrived, I am home,” the theme to Thich Nhat Han’s 2004 Mindfulness retreat in Colorado, which I attended, but clearly didn’t integrate over the last 17 years.

I have arrived, I am home, I am right where I need to be.

And it is so peaceful.

I invite you to join me.
Read About the 6-Week PQ Coaching Program

My first PQ Coaching Group starts this Saturday, May 22nd, and registration is closed (full).

The next one starts the first week of June.

I’d be thrilled if you want to join me.
How I learned to embrace fear and started to live.

How I learned to embrace fear and started to live.

In 2009, as my first son neared his 2nd birthday, I came out of the fog of early motherhood to ask, “what now?”

Up to this point in my life, I’d been really hard on myself. 

I had a very strong inner critic and so I always went the extra mile to please anyone and everyone. 

I felt guilty when I said no, and I always had FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). 

I knew lots of people and yet felt very alone in the world and wasn’t quite sure what I needed to do to find deeper or more meaningful connections.

I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. 

Depression crossed my mind, but I also thought perhaps I just needed a different community and to do more. 

And so I tossed myself into a period of DOING. 

I became politically active, campaigning for Obama and then working with a friend to write, influence, and pass an ordinance allowing backyard chickens. I joined a babysitting cooperative. I baked, I canned, I gardened, I volunteered with Meals-on-Wheels and I laughed at the antics of my amazing son. 

I blogged about all of these things on a site called GreenMe.vg, and yet, I couldn’t shake this feeling of lethargy or limbo, and I couldn’t see my future. 

My inner critic told me that nothing I did was of real importance or value. 

And so, I thought if I could just figure out what I needed to do differently, I could be happy. 

I convinced my husband we should to move closer to his office into a thriving little walkable community. We left our “perfect” house and my dear strawberry patch for a “pretty nice” place and a big yard.

Our new neighborhood burst with life, and like-minded neighbors, young kids, and even my babysitting co-op moved and grew. We had Friday afternoon cocktails on sunny backyard porches, and for the most part, it was divine, except I just couldn’t shake the “meh.”

I still couldn’t envision my future. 

No one knew my inner turmoil, because I didn’t know how to talk about it and I don’t think I really let myself feel anything. As far as my friends and extended family could see, we were a happy, thriving little family unit and I was a happy, active young mother.

And then, the boy who’d struck my heart with a bolt of lightning at age 20, when I studied abroad in Madagascar, came to visit. In the numb state that I’d learned to live, it never crossed my mind that feelings from over 12-years before could be so strong, but they were.

My world cracked open, and I realized where I’d gone wrong. I’d forgotten how to live, to set goals, and dream. In fact, I’d taken all the dreams of my youth and packed them in a suitcase, and stashed them in the darkest corners of my soul. No wonder I was languishing.

I’d always been a value-driven visionary fascinated by what makes humans tick. I’d been a collector of information and knowledge, and I had a view about the way the “world could be.” I’d spent hours as a younger person philosophizing and discussing the meaning of life, altruism, and just about anything you tossed my way.

And yet, somewhere along the way, I’d decided that I wasn’t worthy to dream, or if that I chased my dreams I might fail and the world would laugh. I decided that stories of inspiration and purpose were for a lucky few, and fictional characters, but not for boring old me. Other people did cool things, but not me.

I took Yves, our house guest on a hike up the Fourth of July Trail, one of my favorite places, and all my forgotten hopes and dreams of my late teens and early twenties started rushing back.

On our drive back into Boulder, I sobbed. Hit with waves of emotion that I think had been building for a good decade — perhaps since 9/11. Embarrassingly, I also felt intense passion towards this man, and I was ashamed to have brought him into our lives.

It was frankly shocking that I suddenly felt a passion that I’d forgotten could exist. He too was surpised.

And so he left.

He went away, and my husband and I went to marriage counseling.

We talked a lot. We tried to realign our vision, and I pushed him to dream big. To ask him “what if?” I asked him to commit to traveling and living overseas, taking some risks, and trying new things.

He said no. I’m good right here with what I have.

Of course, it was a bit more complicated than that, but we both realized that we had a completely different idea of “life.”

And so, I moved out. It was an odd feeling to be both free, and lost, at the same time. I still had a sinking suspicion that something was wrong with me.

Divorce is hard and terrifying. And oh so filled with judgment.

My community shamed me, several of my relatives told me straight to my face that I was going to Hell and requested that I not dirty their lives with my presence.

And then I had a beautifully metaphorical dream. I washed away in a Tsunami. Twice. It was a terrifying dream until I found myself safe — standing in a wooden house face-to-face with the man who had cracked me open and let the light in.

We were both dressed in white cotton clothes, like Indian gurus. I put my hand on his chest, and I could feel his heart, his warmth. My own heart skipped a beat, and he said, “I am right here, waiting for you.’

I let the dream settle, but it kept coming back. And so I found Yves (we’d previously cut all ties) with periodic access to Facebook Messenger staked out on a cold and lonely military post in the mountains of Afghanistan.

He confirmed that he was waiting for me. And he invited me to join him and his daughter that summer at his sister’s house in Seychelles.

And so, that July, my son (now 4) and I left on the first of many worldly adventures together. We spent 5 weeks with the man who is now my husband and the young girl who is now my step-daughter.

I was scared out of my wits. And at the same time, I felt alive. I felt certain. And I could suddenly start to envision a future — a life worth living.

At this moment, I started to learn that to be alive, I must be as willing to feel and acknowledge my fears, as I am to embrace what I love. 

Courage and inspiration come from that which we most fear. 

When I got back from this trip, the first thing I had to do was find a job that exchanged money for energy (my work for the last few years had all been voluntary).

I knew that I wanted to be more than a mom — I wanted to find my calling. I enjoyed taking care of my son, but I was desperate to connect my work to something bigger.  

I started a master’s program in International Non-profit Management, and I got my dream job as Executive Director (ED) of an International Nonprofit. I got to fly to Haiti and do things that scared me, that filled me with passion and purpose.

I started to live. 

Along the way, I was very scared. 

As ED I had constant imposter syndrome, and I learned to experience a different kind of mom guilt — the kind moms have when they spend more time at work than with their kids — but I also started to take close accounting of my values. 

I began to realign my goals and my life with what I wanted to be and create. And I found in my Malagasy host-brother (now my long-distance boyfriend) a similar vision for the world. 

In 2000 he had joined the French Military and had spent the last decade-plus in hot spots around the Middle East and Africa. I’d always considered soldiers to be fearless. 

One day he said to me, of course, I am scared Alison, fear is normal. It’s more worrisome to NOT feel fear than to feel it, it’s what you do next, what you do with the fear that matters. 

Mind blown. 

And so, by the time I turned 33 I’d committed to doing things that I feared and to stepping into my fear to find my courage. 

And at that moment, I suppose you could say, I set down the path to be my own wise woman — slowly transitioning from someone who denies her fears, but rather embraces them, explores them, gets’ curious about them and then convert them into something useful.

In owning my fears, I learned to live. 

Think you need a new job? Read this.

Think you need a new job? Read this.

Before you quit, learn to Job Craft

Job crafting is the process of figuring out what you do best, what you enjoy, where you want to go, and how to bring these together to be a better employee or to find a new job.

As a career and life crafting coach, my business name is “Life Work Purpose.” Why? Because our Work generally defines our Life, and we tend to be happier when we orient our life and our Work in a particular direction. This direction might be considered a long-term goal, a calling, your Purpose, or merely the impact you want to make on a community.

University of Melbourne researchers found conclusive data that purpose — or rather meaning — is a crucial aspect of job crafting. Indeed, a crucial reason that individuals are drawn to “job craft” is to seek to find meaning in one’s work, to work in an environment in which your worldview and values are evident, increasing your identity and connection to your community, while meeting your needs, from self-image to impact, agency, to relationships, finance, and even geographic location.

“Job crafting consists of employees’ self-oriented proactive behaviours that change their jobs in personally meaningful ways, altering social and structural job resources and the degree of challenge in the job.”

From Workplace Wellbeing the role of Job Crafting, in the Psychology of Wellbeing

While, my initial work as a career coach, led me to the theory of job crafting, over time I’ve expanded these concepts to meet my clients at different points. This article primarily focuses on “job crafting” however in smaller and bigger doses, these same concepts can be found in Resume Crafting, Career Crafting, and Life Crafting, which you may know better as long-term goal-setting or Designing your Life.

  1. Resume Crafting: This is often called resume (CV) writing, professional narrative, or story-crafting which entails creating a compelling narrative to show an employer your unique fit for the job or the problem that they need to solve.
  2. Job Crafting: Working with a coach, consultant, HR, or management to identify your strengths, weaknesses, interests, accomplishments, and goals to assure that you are engaged, happy and productive at work. This process is shown to improve employment outcomes, increase opportunities for employee growth and professional development, and reduce turnover. Even if you decide to leave your current job or company this process positions you for a stronger move or pivot.
  3. Career Crafting: Working with a long-term vision in mind, orienting yourself in your values, interests, strengths, skills, experiences, needs, weaknesses, and goals to plot multiple steps in your career over a period of time with the end goal of 10 to 20 years down the road. The steps in a career crafting process usually start with the “now” or job crafting then move into the 1 year, 3 to 5 year, and 7+ year phases.
  4. Life Crafting: This work is similar to the previous steps; however, it acknowledges that your life is inextricably caught up in your career. This step is the ultimate step in self-care or self-actualization. Looking at how your relationships, finances, health, spirituality, and more play into where you live, what you do for work when you get up, and all that jazz. Taking the leap to design a life you love, building resilience, and learning to bounce-back-better can be a big decision; however, the rewards are priceless.

Why Haven’t I heard of this before?

You have, but for marketing purposes, everyone tries to brand their technique as unique.

If you compile the advice and lessons of the books like “What Color is Your Parachute” or “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” or “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, you will find at the core a handful of core concepts that are repeated and built upon. Different people call them different things, but in simple language, they are your values, strengths, interests, needs, and goals. What varies is the behaviors, beliefs, context, and experiences within which different people leverage these items.

More and more, many of these concepts are backed up by evidence — evidence in particular obtained by those who study job crafting and organizations, such the US Bureau of Labor, the University of Michigan, the Erasmus University (Netherlands), the University of Melbourne and LinkedIn, who both invest in the study employee satisfaction and employee loyalty. Employers that understand each employee is an investment also leverage these tools and practices, because a well-cared-for and engaged employee is valuable.

Career and life crafting combine the way that you think about things with your experiences and your behaviors or beliefs. Together we use these things to build out each stage of “crafting.” Many career and life coaches, like me, leverage these same themes in our work; however, not everyone is aware of what she is doing or why it works. And too many coaches make the mistake of “diagnosing” or advising you as to what clients SHOULD do instead of letting you determine your own answers.

A simple way to see this process is the act of orienting your “career compass.” When done in tandem with a coach or another impartial peer, it can be a powerful process.

You can use this article to start the process of job or career crafting, which may ultimately lead you to the work of life crafting.

If you feel stuck, frustrated, unfilled or even point-blank unhappy in your work or simply in your everyday life, read this article, do the exercises, and see what you uncover.

The key however, is that you DO the stuff in this article. Don’t just read it do it.


DO this process BEFORE you get to the point where you *need* to write your resume or update your LinkedIn profile. Give yourself time to assimilate your learnings, grow your self-awareness, effectively orient your career direction (compass).

Then, launch your pivot or job search with a fresh resume, updated LinkedIn profile and a compelling professional narrative.

Job Crafting in a Nutshell

The term “job crafting” is most well known as something that one does within an existing employment situation. A group of academics out of the University of Michigan created the concept of “job crafting” and have been studying it for 20-odd years (you can even buy a workbook on it – no affiliation), although, my process outlined below is more complete.

Most people who write about job crafting are professors, not marketing gurus, so if you are not familiar with “job crafting” don’t feel bad. Still, they’ve got mountains of research to back up the methods, and they do consult with companies like Google and ADP (which is why these companies have adequate internal career development).

Initially, researchers came up with the concept to address the consistent lack of engagement found across the board when surveying American employees. In this sense, job crafting is something that your employer would do with employees from the start to ensure that each employee is able to give her best and also enjoy her work, thus remaining engaged and growing in value as a human resource.

Some companies do this better than others. Many don’t do it all. The companies that do “job crafting” best tend to be led by empowered and transformational leaders, by servant leaders — individuals who understand that investing in their human capital is as important as physical and financial capital.

If you would like to know more about job crafting origins and function from a technical sense you can read this nice and compact (less than 10 page) paper: What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter.

For you, my reader, the most important thing to understand is that ANYONE can do the work of job crafting, with or without the support of your existing company.

Interestingly, even in situations where a client comes to me to lead her own job crafting process, a common outcome is that the client becomes more engaged and committed to her current role. If only companies would pay me a bonus for every employee I keep on their payroll following a single 60-minute coaching call!

It happens A LOT. In fact, of my clients that come to me for coaching to plan a pivot, I’d say that 2/3 end up NOT quitting their job for 1 to 2 years. Instead, they enjoy learning to leverage their strengths and EQ in their current role, so that their next job becomes their DREAM JOB. Not just more of the same.

This may seem counterintuitive, and it’s not something that I see many people do. In fact, when ever anyone complains about their job on Facebook, for example, I’d say the majority of the advice is to GET OUT. The thing is, just because you move jobs, doesn’t mean you will be happier, espeically, if your own thoughts and behavior pattersn contribute to your stress.

One of the hardest parts of “growing up” or maturing in our careers, is that behavior that served us when we were twenty or twenty-five, might actually shoot us in the foot at age forty. At a certain point, we need to stop compromising our values and dreams and standup for ourselves.

The problem is that being authentic and going after our dream job is scary. It makes us vulnerable. And yet, I guaranty you, the clients that I see get hired the FASTEST are the clients that are the most unique, who own their story, who understand what they want, what they can do well, and how that connects to company X, Y or Z.

In the realm of work (and human relationships, it’s better to cast the right net, than a wide net.


The work place is dynamic. Bosses get hired and fired. Companies get acquired. We move, we have kids. We get promoted. COVID happens and we all end up working remote. The habits, the behaviors, the expectations that worked for us last week, suddenly don’t work.

When what we did before doesn’t work, we start to think something is wrong with US. We might start to anticipate negative responses, assume things and misinterpret situations. In an effort to be kind or avoid conflict, we might accidentally come off as passive aggressive or as a pushover.

Job crafting is like pushing our “reset” button.

Job crafting is taking time to understand what does and doesn’t work for us. Job crafting is about figuring out what is workable for the reality we are living versus what we think we “should” be doing. When we focus on “should” we get stuck in the muck.

Case 1:

If I value, being kind then I should also value being direct with my co-workers. But, what often happens is that in the name of being kind, I don’t tell my co-workers when something they do negatively impacts me. The behavior continues and eventually, my co-workers start to drive me nuts and so I start to treat them badly and suddenly, no one is being kind.

Case 2:

If I need to attend to a family situation, I should be honest with my boss instead of not telling anyone, feeling guilty towards my family, and resentful towards my job. What often happens, however, is that a woman thinks she is supposed to do it all and so she agrees to bake 50 cupcakes and turn in a report on Friday. The result is that she stays up late, bakes the cupcakes, writes the report, and doesn’t get any sleep. In the morning she snaps at her husband, yells at her kids, and shows up late to her meeting. She opens her report to find a typo on the first page and all she wants to do is quit and cry.

What would have happened if she’d talked to her boss or her team about this situation ahead of time? What if she’d asked for help, a later meeting, pushed back a deadline or _________? In trying to do her best, she in fact showed up as her worst, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It really doesn’t.

Self-Awareness and Clear Communication Grounded in what we VALUE

If we don’t talk about what is important to us, no one else is going to guess! If we don’t ask for help, there is a good chance no one will offer it. If we don’t check-in with ourselves to see what we value when we make choices, we can end up shoulding all over ourselves.

In 9 out 10 situations my clients who build awareness about what they value in their workplace, who get clear on their interests, strengths, and goals, who start to understand how a strength over-expressed might become a weakness, start to like their jobs more, AND enjoy their free time more. In many cases, simply changing how you see yourself, results in you showing up at work differently, and your co-workers respond accordingly.

Occasionally, the process of self-awareness building and checking in with your values, simply highlights that you are not crazy. Some companies, bosses and co-workers are TOXIC. You cannot be direct with a narcisist, so if you’ve got a toxic boss or a company that talks big but doesn’t walk the walk, this process will simply free you from their grips.

The process of job crafting helps you to identify what you are doing right, and what your company is doing wrong, so that you can grow in your existing role OR find a new job with confidence. The point is that you grow your resilience and that you feel more emotionally balanced, less tired, and more excited about life.

Why Job [Life Crafting] Works

From the perspective of a life crafting coach, one reason that companies are challenged to leverage this process for employees effectively is that YOU and the COMPANY may have different agendas. As a coach, if MY ego is committed to YOUR outcome, it will interfere with the coaching process.

In a company that has built good trust and employee engagement, in a company that empowers their employees to grow, and that supports them in moving up, across or out, this process works like a charm. Investing in a good employee may mean that eventually, their employee moves on, up or out of the company, but usually, what the data shows, is that it encourages the employee to STAY.

The data is pretty clear. Engaged and valued employees are loyal. Underappreciated employees who don’t see their place in an organization or who are micromanaged or not supported in their professional development, leave.

Unfortunately, most companies lack the trust, reliability, sincerity and so on to effectively engage an employee in a fully open and honest job crafting process. Indeed, if done well, job crafting with your employees may have the intended outcome of keeping some excellent employees, while also showing others that they’d prefer a different career or company!

The perfect person to lead your job crafting endeavors is in fact YOU! You can also do it with the support of a cohort of peers or you can do it with a career (or life) coach.

So for anyone thinking about new job — or even at the start of your career — I’ve broken this down into a 5-step process that you can use to start your own “job crafting.”

You can use this to make your current job better, to plan a pivot, or to figure out how to turn a good job into a long-term career and possibly even a calling.

1 – Clarify Your Core Values & Your Values in Action

Get clear on your values.

Often when we feel stuck, frustrated or anxious, this is a sign that there is a misalignment between our expectations of life and what is happening in our life. The root cause of this may indicate a problem with “expectations” and not understanding our what we value impacts how we experience life.

Clarity in our values is the equivalent of orienting your compass to find a path out of the forest. You’ll note here that I make a distinction between Core Values and Values in Action.

Core Values = what you feel in your gut + the impact you want to make.

Values in Action = What you are like and what you look for in people, relationships, work situations.

If your current work is not in sync with either type of values there is a good chance that when you wake up in the morning, your gut is not happy to go to work.

Assignment 1: Print off this PDF created by Brene Brown.

Grab a highlighter or pen and identify 10 to 20 core values that resonate with you. Now make three columns labelled: Family, Society, and Me. Write each value from this list in the column where the value belongs. It’s okay to put the same value in more than one column. When you finish — cross off any values that only show up under “society” or “family.”

When you do this exercise carefully distinguish between “I should value” also known as — what your mom, your boss, your neighbour, or society says you should value — versus what you really personally appreciate at your core.

The values under “Me” are keepers — these are YOUR core values. You might also be able to see how these values align with the “impact” you hope to have on the world.

Assignment 2: Take the VIA Character Strengths Test (free)

VIA stands for Values in Action. You might see these as character strengths or you might see them as how you show up in your life. How you BE.

For this exercise the free report is adequate, you can always pay up for the full report if you wish. The top six values you can use to orient your compass a bit further. Think of these in relation to your work life, home life, and social life. If you are not able to achieve or access these values in any part of your life you may experience friction.

When you are looking for a new job, keep an eye out for work and companies whose culture aligns with your Top 5.

Now that you’ve done these two exercises, consider what you might do differently today and over the next two weeks, to better honor your values in your life and in your work. If your current work is or is not aligned with your values, consider making mindmap what you’d like your next job to look like based on your Core Values (impact) and your Values-In-Action.

Step 2 – Celebrate Your Strengths

Get clear on your strengths and stand tall in what you do well.

Understanding your strengths is crucial to flourishing in life and in work. If you values are “how you BE” then your strengths are “how you DO.”

Be Do Be Do Be.

Assignment 1: Strengths Finder

To give you the language to describe your strengths and also to see what you do “easily” as a strength, I prefer the Gallup Strengths Finder. Many people think of certain things they do as easy because for YOU they are easy, but for others they are hard. Sometimes the people of influence in your life may have led you to believe that your strength(s) is a weakness.

For example, people who like repetitive and predictable tasks, don’t always appreciate or understand entrepreneurs and vice versa. Just because someone is analytical doesn’t mean she is strategic. Implementation and planning are not the same.

Knowing and understanding your strengths lets you, do you.

Think of it this way — leveraging your strengths is like putting up a sail on your sailboat. Working on your weaknesses is filling in any leaks in the boat — you can patch leaks all you want, but if you don’t put your sail, you have no control where you will go. 

Link to take the test directly on Gallup’s site (the test is $19.99 USD (Not an affiliate link, no gain for me, just for you!) 

Assignment 2: 360 Review

If you don’t feel like you have a good handle on how other people perceive you, I also recommend doing your own “360 Strengths Assessment” by asking three to five people from your inner circle (family, friends and peers) the following questions:

  • What are my top 5 strengths?
  • What are five words you’d use to describe me?
  • What do you think I do at work?
  • What problems would you come to me to solve?

Assignment 3: Finding Your Flow

Start with a few strength-stories. Think of two or three times in your past in which you lost yourself in whatever you were doing. What did you achieve? How did you feel while you were doing it? What strengths were you using?

Sometimes our moments of flow are not found in our work, but perhaps when we were outside or doing something creative. Think about this and let it inform what you might change about your work. Maybe this knowledge will be fuel for a career pivot or maybe it will give you insight into how you learn, move or think.

Step 3 – Define Your Needs & Wants

There is a cycle of self-care that revolves around what you need and what you enjoy in life. If you ignore this cycle, you may end up burned out, bitter, ill or generally grumpy. The formula for this cycle is Self-Compassion + Self-Awareness = Self-Care, and if you practice one, you naturally cycle into the next.

The outcome of this self-awareness usually helps you to say “no” to things that do not align with your values or strengths and say “yes” to the things that do, even if they scare you. Another way to describe self-care is self-awareness plus direct communication.

Assignment: Your Needs and Your Wants

Flourishing really requires that you own your needs and wants.

Before you ever launch a new job search, it is vital that you are clear on what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.

  • Think about the type of tasks you are responsible for day-to-day — some people like repetitive and predictable jobs and others crave change — don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole to make money.
  • Define what you need for your salary, benefits, hours, commute, and work situation.
  • Be honest about what you want from your work relationships, potential impact, and room for growth.
  • Think about how you would like your work to interface with your life — if there are points of tension — what might you do differently?

Don’t think of these questions and answers as optional — understanding what you need and want will empower you to make choices. You might choose to make trade-offs, but when you know the “why” behind your choices, it’s so much easier than simply feeling like you are at the mercy of the universe.

Step 4 – Pick a Direction

Don’t diminish your experiences, interests and ability to learn — who you are is pointing you somewhere.

What are you interested in? What are your experiences? How can what you’ve done in the past translate to something else tomorrow? If you could wave a magic wand and be assured success, what would you do?

Assignment 1 – Answer the following questions:

What do I want to learn?

Where do I want to be known for?

What have I always wanted to do/travel/learn? What is stopping me?

Where am I going?

Where do I want to be in 20 years?

Where do I want to be in 10-years?

Where do I want to be in 3-years?

What do I need to do NEXT to move in this direction?

What do I NOT want to do?

What can I do, but that I don’t enjoy?

Will my current work move me towards where I want to be in 10 or 20 years?

What do I need to resolve or get over?

What I am I afraid of?

Assignment 2: Pick a Direction

Pick a possible longterm career goal or a direction — where do you want to be in 20-years? If that time frame makes you uncomfortable, you can start with say, three years. Now think of what you can do today, in the next two weeks, and in the next six months to move you in that direction.

Based on your values and your strengths, and the answers to the questions in the last section — what would you do if you could be assured success? What job would bring you both joy and meet your needs?

Do you want the same job in a different company or situation? Do you want a totally different job? An educational program? Do you need to compile your skills and experiences to figure out what is transferable to this new role? Maybe you want to start a side hustle?

Pick a direction and then turn it into a SMART goal. Then build in some accountability. Who can help you? Who can keep you on track? Do you need a mentor? A coach? Can you be your own mentor?

In my positive psychology studies we were presented with a definition for HOPE that went something like this:

Hope is your ability to articulate your vision for you future and your plan to get there.

What is your goal? What is your vision? And how will you get there?

Step 5 – Appreciative Inquiry & the Role of Gratitude

Humans display a negativity bias. What this means is that we easily get “used” to the good in our lives and focus on the negative. From an evolutionary perspective — this is good — pay attention to what might kill you — so you don’t die.

In modern society? It can result in anxiety, stress, negativity and a lack of appreciation for what is right. Think of the kid who has an amazing day at the zoo and then has a tantrum to rule them all because she got the wrong flavor of ice cream or you didn’t buy her the doohickey at the gift shop. Nine-hundred and ninety nine moments of joy ruined by one negative.

I hate to break it to you, but grown-ups do this too. Think about your place of work, your boss. What are all the GOOD things that go down every day? How have your boss or your company or your peers supported you?

What is RIGHT about your work?

What could you LISTEN to differently?

In a work setting, we talk about things such as “constructive criticism” and “honest feedback.” These phrases are often excuses for people to sugar coat negativity.

Appreciative inquiry (AI) tends to be more productive. What if your boss really just wants what’s best for you? What if you could rephrase his or her feedback or criticism in the form of AI?

The practice of appreciative inquiry is to ask yourself — what is going right?

What am I doing well? What is good about my current situation and work?

Why did I take this job or work to start? What did I love about it then?

What is right about my relationships?

What do I want more of?

What do I want to stay the same?

What happens when you focus on what is right about your job or your life?

What might you do more of or less of to relieve stress?

What is an underlying belief or expectation that you might see differently?

If you are in a position of management or work with people, you may wish to read a book on Appreciative Inquiry called Conversations Worth Having (affiliate link to Amazon).

Job Crafting In Action


Review your work from steps 1 to 5 — what tasks or activities define the work that you enjoy, that you value, that leverages your strengths and that supports you in making an impact?


Review your work from steps 1 to 5 — How do you want your work to be in terms of relationships? With whom and where do you want to work? How do you see your work interfacing with your personal life and relationships? What do you want more or less of?


How do you view your work? What is that impact you make? How can you see your work in terms of what you value and your personal choice? What do you need more of? Less of? What could you do but that you choose not to? What scares you, but could be insanely rewarding or fulfilling? What is holding you back?

Reassess your Direction:

Don’t be afraid to reassess and recalibrate. In the previous steps you may have picked a direction that you then modified because of the awareness raised by doing Step 5 – Appreciative Inquiry. That’s okay!

Goal setting works, because it lets you know what you need to do and it helps inform your decision making when you choose to adjust your goals. Picking a direction and setting a goal actually empowers you and gives you the freedom of choice. based on self-awareness.

The biggest excuse I’ve seen against goal setting is that folks are afraid to be “locked-in.” What they don’t realize is that not picking a goal actual makes life harder — you are more likely to get lost at sea — or sunk — if you don’t have a clear route. If you’ve got a map, tools, and a compass, even if you get off track, it’s easier to get back on track or to pick a new path than if you find yourself totally lost without any anchor or map!

Outcomes of Job Crafting

In many cases, I’ve worked with clients who after we go through this five-step process, they see themselves and their job in a different light, and they decide to stay. Of course, now they see their job differently, and they likely delegate or rework their tasks, cultivate new relationships and or introduce a new project or way of doing things.

Sometimes, my clients realize they are the utterly wrong field, and so they plan a pivot.

Occasionally, it turns out the client loves her work but has a truly toxic work environment, and she needs a new job in a new company.

Often, when it comes to high achieving women, my client has been complicit in creating her own silent misery. When she finally gets her ducks in a row and speaks up, asks for a raise, slightly different tasks, her boss is at first surprised, and then thrilled to comply. Sometimes this results in a 360 within the same job or company.

Are you a high achiever who is striving for perfection, and only disappointing yourself?

Responses I’ve seen to the high achiever speaking up:

  • A raise higher than asked for because the boss suddenly realizes you really were UNDERPAID. Sometimes the raise is even RETROACTIVE.
  • An invitation to create her own program.
  • An invitation to sit in on meetings and be mentored into a different role.
  • The guy in charge says “Oh, I didn’t know you were interested in that — well sure — let’s do it!”
  • No need to look for a new job, because everyone sees you in a new light and you can hire the team you want!

Mindset or the “cognitive” component of your job is not to be taken lightly.

What is the impact that you make at your job — do you appreciate it — could you see it differently?

How you see the relationship between who you are and your work is crucial to your well-being and your success. It is a mindset that lets the guy writing a novel work a mindless job bagging groceries with a smile on his face. It’s a mindset that allows the head custodian at a hospital to see her job as necessary as the surgeons (what use is a filthy hospital)?

So, to recap in terms of job crafting:

What are your Values, Strengths and Interests? What is the Impact you wish to make?

How do these then relate to the Tasks you do at work, the Relationships you have at work (and that affect your work) and your Cognitive situation (impact, mindset)?

If you do this and you decide to go after a new job–don’t be a career chameleon–write a resume that is precisely relevant to the work you seek. Chameleons show they can do any job, but they don’t convince you they are the best for THIS job.

If you do this and decide to negotiate a new job or a new salary or anything, speak with confidence, knowing what you offer, knowing what you need and don’t be afraid to ask.

In my experience — this is a crucial reason women are often underpaid — we are afraid to negotiate, to ask or to speak up.

So you go through this process and decide to get a new job, before you get that interview please know that:

  • The best time to ask about salary and benefits is at the start. As in the very first interview or chat with a recruiter, not when you are negotiating an offer.
  • If you want remote work or a flexible schedule, ask about this from the start, not when you are negotiating an offer.
  • Ask in your interview about opportunities for advancement is at the start, not when you are negotiating an offer.
  • If the recruiter doesn’t seem to know his or her job? Ask in detail questions of the actual hiring manager or interviewer.
  • Read between the lines of the job description and what the recruiter says. Read LinkedIn profiles and company websites.
  • If you have trouble with direct communication, Google NVC Communication. NVC is a 4 step process that will help you to practice asking for what you need.
  • Hiring is hard. Just because someone is interviewing you and hiring you, doesn’t mean that hiring is in their particular wheelhouse. It just means they got the job of interviewing you. Assumptions are the death of a healthy interview or hiring process — if you are unclear — ask — politely.

Once you do the above process, informational interviews are great if you want to explore a new field, a new role or a new job. Ask people what they like or love about their work. Ask about the advice they’d give or what they might do differently if they could go back in time. Avoid digging for dirt; no one wants to dish on their current company or role (and if they do, well).

If you want to get to have a job you enjoy that pays you what you need, you can. Don’t kill yourself working a dead end. Don’t care more about your job than your job cares about you. You can craft your job, your career, your mindset to bring you joy at work, at home and in your 401k.

Right NOW is always the perfect time to plan your future — be smart — know what you want and go get it!

Want to Craft Your Job and your Life?

Over the last 6+ years, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients, not only coaching but also writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles. The process outlined in this article is the core of what you will find in any self-help book, and it is what I do with my individual job, career, and life crafting clients.

Wherever you are on this path, I can meet you where you are and help you to orient the next leg of your journey.

Curious about coaching? Have some questions?

Book a Curiosity Call

Alison and Your Family

I am Alison, Your Career & Life Crafting Coach.

I am a career crafting coach and a life crafting coach because there is a growing body of evidence that specific actions, from understanding your values and strengths to setting SMART goals, really do deliver satisfaction and success. Before I started down this path, I worked as a manager and mentor, as an executive and a trusted adviser, both community development and hospitality. I’ve always been the person that champions following one’s passion while working within realistic boundaries.

On my journey to perfecting my craft. I’ve studied and earned a certificate in applied positive psychology and completed a 125 hour Life Coaching Program and Certification. I’ve written resumes for over five-years (professionally), and I’ve discovered each resume is like opening the window to my client’s soul. Too many resumes sound like robotic regurgitation of job descriptions. The resumes that get hiring managers excited and that get people hired are unique narratives. They show little glimpses into your unique personality. They highlight how you leverage your strengths, point to your goals and aspirations, call out your values, and show your impact.

Over the period of my career leading up to my work as a resume writer and my studies in career coaching, I read pretty much every popular self-help book, I participated in Landmark Seminars, and Buddhist retreats, I even read books on resume writing (BORING). And what I found, is all these books say the same thing, different verse.

One thing that many of them however miss or that they fail to CALL OUT is that modern society likes to separate LIFE from WORK — even that entire concept of WORK-LIFE BALANCE is nonsense. Of course, you think about your husband at work. And you remember that thing you forgot to do at work…while you are with your husband! That’s normal.

What’s not normal is the tug and pull — the anxiety — that comes from a lack of balance. When we feel out of control or like a boat lost at sea.

When you study life coaching you begin to understand that everything we do is touched by LIFE. I cannot have a career coaching session with a client without encountering the client’s unique limiting beliefs about their intelligence, preparedness, past experiences, pressure from family members and or their own doubts.

Pretty much everyone has an inner critic sitting on her shoulder saying “You are not good enough.” Or, “If you do that you’ll fail and they’ll laugh!”

Indeed, job crafting is the core of what I do. Whether you are starting from scratch or simply looking for support to put your professional narrative to words (story-crafting) my work as a career coach is to support you to craft your job into a career, a calling, and as part of a life of flourishing.

I firmly believe that we can all craft work that we enjoy that meets our needs and that supports us in flourishing in Life.




The first time that I recall being conscious of Juneteenth was two years ago today. Sitting in my office (a corner in our unused dining room), finishing up some work before packing our house to move, I saw something flash on my screen about “Juneteenth.”

What’s this, I thought?

I clicked through and read about a Juneteenth celebration in New Orleans. I was a bit ashamed I’d not heard of it before, wondering if it was a “new thing” and so I Googled–only to discover that in certain circles, you know, those of Black Americans, Juneteenth had been a thing for quite some time.

Huh. I thought. I felt an uncomfortable sensation in my chest, but I had things to do.

And so, in my privileged white skin, I went back to the business of packing and moving, loading my physical life into a container headed for Madagascar. And sorting my humans of Malagasy French American origin for a road-trip around the USA.

Two months later after our road-trip we landed in Madagascar.

Living in Madagascar is like getting out a giant Fuschia highlighter and marking my life daily with YOU ARE PRIVILEGED. I recall the first day I started to see the distinction between the poverty that I saw and my life as privilege vs pitty. Unfortunately, so many white foreigners who visit African nations experience “pitty” without ever recognizing their immense privilege. (The concept of pitty is a discussion for another day, but I’d argue that if you see your privilege, you lose the pitty and start to instead see that there is so much more we could accomplish if we recognized our privilege.)

The day I felt my privilege to the bone was an average day.

I’d just gone to buy fresh bread, and for some reason, I’d grabbed a Credit Card and Cash. I’d brought exact change and so when a young child came up to me to ask for money, I had none. All that was left in my pocket was a piece of hard plastic. I had access to $35,000 in credit, but not a penny for him. Privilege.

In Madagascar, you cannot use a Credit Card for 99.9% of your purchases. Most people (as in 90% of the population) do not have a credit card let alone a bank account. Walking down the street that morning, I realized that I was likely the only person I passed who had access to INSANE credit. Access to credit because I was (a) American and (b) deemed worthy of credit way beyond my actual means to pay it off.

At first, I was impressed by the privilege of credit and then shocked by the fact that my credit meant nothing here in Madagascar. This train of thought caused me to start considering other ways I might be privileged.

Sure, I come from a hardworking family. My relatives are the types that will fight over who gets to do something. And we are privileged because we’ve had access to education and freedom of movement. Even my great grandmother who travelled the Oregon trail on a wagon train, could speak three languages and play the piano. She and her family were free to move and settle when and where they wished. We know our family history back 400 odd years, our family identity is stable, and we’ve benefited not only from education but also land ownership and the freedom to travel. (Got an American passport? Privilege!)

Americans, and in particular White Americans, have so much privilege it’s hard to even describe. This doesn’t mean that we haven’t suffered or lost people or even farms. My grandfather’s family lost their potato farm in the great depression. My grandfather had to quit school and go to work at age 13. This tale is told in my family to demonstrate that if you are smart and work hard, you don’t necessarily need to go to school (but you probably should.)

15 years after the Great Depression in the USA, my husband’s grandfather was beheaded in the Malagasy uprising against the French in 1949. My father-in-law had to hide in a cave for 6-months with his mother and brother, hoping the French wouldn’t kill them too. When he grew up, he was a teacher by trade but didn’t get to go to university until his 30s, because under French rule it had been illegal.

One grandfather didn’t need an education — the other grandfather — was forbidden an education. Big distinction.

The Malagasy, similar to many American blacks, were prevented from accessing education until Independence, which was finally granted three years before the Civil Rights Declaration in the USA. My mother-in-law got around this rule because she is half-French, so she went to France to study, but when she finished, she came back, as she never felt welcome in France.

My mother-in-law was also a teacher by trade. She worked for many years at a French School in Madagascar. At this school, the French French (read White) teachers get paid a European salary. The Malagasy staff get paid Malagasy salaries (this was true 30 years ago and is STILL true today). My MIL, being Malagasy French, got the Malagasy wage, of which her pension is based on today, in 2020. If she’d been “white-er” she’d be getting a bigger pension.

My point here is not to create a battle of “who has” got it worse, but to highlight that white privilege is going strong in the USA and abroad. Black Americans, Black French, citizens of former colonies continue to feel the effects of racism, slavery, colonization TODAY.

If you as a White person do not see it or experience it that doesn’t make it NOT real, it means that YOUR privilege protects you from seeing it. Acknowledging your privilege is not an admission of guilt. It is an acknowledgement of your humanity and your willingness to take responsibility for your own life and your actions.

We all need to grieve the wrongs of the past. This act may hurt, as anyone who watched 10 Years A Slave likely experienced, coming to terms with our reality may result in full-on sobbing, grief, and pain. I recognize today, that the ability to ignore Juneteenth is a mark of my privilege as a White American. And the only one who can change that is me.

And so today, I am taking responsibility for my part, by inviting you, to acknowledge the pain and suffering that slavery, racism, colonialism have caused around the world and the pains and inequities that continue to persist. We can do this and be grateful for all we do have.

And then, I invite you to take responsibility for building a different future, because we can. If you are American, like me, let’s commit to celebrating Juneteenth, not just this year, but every year.

Let us celebrate Juneteenth, because I am not free if you are not free.

How to Launch a Successful Job Search

How to Launch a Successful Job Search

What makes for a successful job search?

Let’s start with what not to do.

Why? Because this is the biggest mistake I see job applicants of all ages and experiences levels make.

The Everything and the Kitchen Sink Job Search.

The most common and most de-motivating mistake I see job seekers make is to cast their net as wide as possible in the hopes of catching as many fish as possible.

You only *need* one job.

Just because you CAN do a job, doesn’t mean you should apply.

This means that before you even write your resume, your best bet is to dig deep, get clear and choose a specific direction.

I like to call this the “ideal job.”

This clarity will help you with every aspect of your job search, from writing your resume to completing the application through to the interview.

It will even help with your salary and onboarding negotiations.

Interview strategy

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

― Kofi Annan

Going after the job you want is SCARY.

And yet, if you go after any job, at some point in the future, you will end up burned out, unhappy, or otherwise in a bad spot.

If you don’t know your ideal job, then before you start your job search, take some time to build your self-awareness. Your job search will benefit from you taking the time to re-visit your experiences, values, and strengths. This information gives you clarity and confidence to use those to launch a targeted and narrow job search.

Your future hiring manager wants to know what makes you stand out and how you will contribute to making her team better.

She wants to hear what you can do with confidence and joy.

Leverage Your Values

How do you show up at work?

What Values do you put In Action? What kind of company and or people do you want to work with?

These are always good questions to have an answer to, but particularly so when you are looking for a new job. The answers to these questions crucial to connecting with the right employer.

For the last twenty years or so various entities have been tracking employee engagement and most companies find that only about 20% of employees are fully engaged.

This statistic is easy to blame on the company. It also stems from folks who think of their job as simply a paycheck or who are afraid to seek out the job they REALLY want.

If you want more than a “job” if you want to be the one that is hired, then check-in with and proudly clarify your values.

You can do this simply by making a list of your top values or you can take the VIA Character Strengths Survey (free).

If you want to dig deeper into your values to help you connect your work to your purpose you might consider working with a coach or reading The Values Factor by Dr. DeMartini.

Understand Your Strengths

Talking about what you do well is intimidating to many folks. It’s perfectly natural to fear rejection or judgment.

And, to get the job you want you must find the courage and learn to talk about your strengths with confidence.

In a runoff of two candidates — the positive, optimistic candidate that says “Yes! I can do that!” is the one that will get hired.

The job search is not the time to get humble. It’s not the time to say “If you give me a chance, I’ll do my best.” No, it’s the time to say “YES! I can do it.”

The person hiring you will know they are giving you a chance.

Your confidence is what makes them believe that they SHOULD.

How to Build Confidence?

After all that, how do you build your confidence? My favorite confidence-building tool is the Gallup StrengthsFinder (amazon affiliate link). The reason I love this survey is two-fold.

First, it helps my clients to embrace what they do well, giving them the language and catchphrases to talk about their natural talents, boosting their confidence.

If you’ve fallen into letting folks confuse your humility for mediocrity in the past, you *need* to do the StrengthsFinder and work on identifying and talking about what you do well.

For example, maybe you always know exactly what a client needs, which makes you the go-to person for solving client problems, making them feel better and then selling them the perfect marketing campaign.

You find out that you’ve got strengths in Empathy, Individualization, and Woo.

Suddenly you understand that this ability of your is not an accident, but something that you truly, naturally do well.

Shout it from the mountaintops — or at the least — say it upfront in your resume!

Second, often my clients get a miraculous “ah-ha!” when working with the Strengths Finder. These “ah-has” generally come from the client learning to see something that they’d thought was a weakness as a strength! This can be life-changing.

For example, many people who have both Learner and Input as strengths have been told they lack focus.

In fact, these people gather and collect information and can figure out just about anything.

They are driven to learn and understand how things work — it’s quite possible that such a person can be very much focused when needed — even laser-focused on learning a new skill.

And, these folks will not be happy in long-term maintenance jobs, say, staff accountant, because if they are not learning or experiencing new events, they’ll get bored.

In the wrong job, your strength will become your weakness. Therefore, you need to know your strengths and celebrate them and leverage them to get a job that allows you to be yourself.

Or a client with the “context” strength will now have the tools and understanding to take what is often seen as a “negative nelly attitude” and turn it into a valuable “risk assessment” attitude.

You need to make sure that you buy a new book (or the Kindle version) to get an Access Code to take the test online.

You can take the test directly online without buying the book (no affiliation on my part).

Personally, I like having the book so that I can go back and read up on my own profile and learn about other people’s profiles.

What if I already have my Strengths Profile?

If you took the test more than 5 to 10 years ago or you’ve had a major life event (graduated, became a parent, pivoted careers, divorced, lived through a pandemic, etcetera), I’d retake the test. Your top few strengths will likely stay the same, but you might have built out or embraced a few different strengths.

If you don’t *like* your StrengthsFinder Results that’s a sure sign to have a conversation with a coach!

Identify THE Job You Want

At about this point you may have forgotten how we started — that a successful job search is a focused job search.

Now that you’ve worked on your values and your strengths get really specific about what kind of work place will eltyou live your values and leverage yoru strengths.

You may have the hard learned skills to do certain types of work, but is this the work you want to be doing?

You may love helping others and be drawn to certain types of organizations, but will they pay you what you are worth?

What does not just one slice of your “job pie” look like, but what is the entire pie — or picture? What do you need in terms of environment and culture, salary and relationships, opportunities to learn and develop?

What is the job that you want? And what story do you need to tell to get hired into the job?

This is the ingredients and the recipe for a successful job search.

When I first came to Alison for coaching, I was lacking any real results in my job search. In a couple of short months Alison coached me through clarifying my career goals, diving deeper into my past experience, vastly improving my resume, and learning to sell myself better in the interview. The results speak for themselves. I am happy to say that I began receiving a lot more interest from employers from application to interview. I have accepted a very generous offer as a result of Alison's guidance.

Write Accomplishment Stories

As you may now understand, too many resumes sound like regurgitated job descriptions. Other resumes lack any measure of your specific successes (metrics). A successful resume will do a bit of both.

Before you write your resume take some time to go over your most recent job and then go back ten to fifteen years.

Answer the following questions for each job in your work history:

“What was I hired to do?” is not enough. Most people talk about this on their resume — often simply by regurgitating their job description.

Don’t stop there — to get your ideal job — to have a successful job search — you need to go farther.

Also, don’t get lulled into a feeling of security by simply adding in a few metrics to show your economic or other impacts on the business.


What makes a resume unique and interesting is finding a way to also talk about your unique experiences and really show how you learned and changed yourself and/or impacted the organization.

Uncover these by answer the following questions.

  • Where in my work did I get to do something unexpected?
  • What did I learn?
  • How is/was the best part of this job? What did I enjoy most?
  • What were my biggest accomplishments?
  • Why did I love (or hate) this work?
  • Did anything happen that caused me to change my course or do something differently? (Problem, failure, success?)

Now you can take the information from these questions to write mini-accomplishment stories, weaving together your learnings and successes with the metrics to show your full capacity and what you like to work with.

Create a Professional Narrative

Once you’ve gone over your values, your strengths, your accomplishments, and your needs, you should be clear about the direction you are going. Please write it down.

This is YOUR story. Some people might call this an elevator pitch. Others your personal branding story.

What you call it doesn’t really matter, but it should roll off your tongue and feel authentic to you. Your narrative should have a bit of color, and it should sound like you; it should be memorable. It should help that you do your work with confidence and joy.

Are you a software engineer with attention to detail? Or are you a software engineer that delights in stuff that works?

In his book Knock’em Dead Resumes, New York Times Award-Winning Resume Writer Martin Yates calls this narrative paragraph your Performance Profile. He compares this to a “performance profile” for your favorite car — what are your features, your values, your unique add-ons?

Once you nail your narrative, you can use it as the first paragraph on your resume and your LinkedIn profile, and in any networking emails, messages, or calls that you make. Own your story and use it to get hired!

Write That Resume

Now that you’ve done the deep work, it’s time to sit down and write your resume. If you feel like this is a huge or overwhelming chore, break down your resume into sections and do each one in a specified chunk of time.

You should already have your Professional Summary written, and you’ve written out your accomplishment stories. What you might be missing is a list of core competencies or skills and technologies/frameworks.

I’ve included an image of a simple resume template for you to follow. If you get stuck — I invite you to reach out to me for a resume review — I do live reviews over zoom video — schedule one here!

A simple yet effective format for any resume — if you’ve got more work experience or more detailed experience — that’s okay.
Folks with 10 or more years of experience can have a two-page resume.

Know Thyself!

Ultimately, a successful job search relies on you knowing yourself, knowing your values, knowing what you can do, what kind of environment you want to work in, and where you want to go.

If you cannot figure this out independently, you might want to work with a coach. People hire me to seek out the career they really want — not just any job — but a calling.

Curious? Read more about what I do on my site.

WHY Successful People Work with A Career Coach

WHY Successful People Work with A Career Coach

Whether you need to optimize your resume, get help with your job search, re-enter the job market or plan a career pivot this article will help you to understand how to be your own coach, while showing you what a modern career and resume coach can do for you. 

Google and many of your friends and professional contacts can potentially advise you on what to put on your resume. You may receive contradictory advice and or find unhelpful folks that will tell you that you are already doing everything right. And some that will assure you that everything you are doing is wrong! 

The challenge with a good amount of this advice is that it tends to focus on how to format your resume or it’s based on what one person did once with success. 

In the case of traditional career counselors or resume writers, you may get folks who rely too heavily on beliefs that put you the client in a box. Or who write resumes based on a formula that may have worked in 1990, but is not relevant in the current market or workplace. 

You know you best.

The most important part of writing a resume actually has nothing to do with writing [or formatting] the document. It has to do with putting YOU onto the paper.

What this means, is that before you write your resume, your best time investment will be spent in clarifying your career goals and putting together a compelling professional narrative that tells who you are as a professional. 

These goals and your narrative will set the foundation for an effective job search process from the time you submit your resume through to your interview. 

Why? Because inconsistency and humility are the kiss of death on the job search. 

What your resume NEEDs

Don’t let others confuse your humility for mediocrity. 

You can have the most beautiful, formatted and tightly written resume in the city, but if it reads like a robot, boring, bland, and or totally lacking your unique motivations and personality, what is the point? 

To get hired you need a resume (and a LinkedIn profile) that demonstrates what you can do with confidence and joy. This document also needs to highlight your unique combination of strengths, interests, experiences, while showing what motivates and inspires you. 

This includes owning your story, flipping negatives to be positives with authenticity, and the ability to show what you’ve learned and how you approach problems. Together this information will go above and beyond your classic robotic resume that merely hints at your capacity for performing in the future. 

A robotic-sounding resume that might very well be a copy and paste of your various job descriptions. With a little color at the very end under “activities.” Blah. Nope. No. 

A unique document that clearly demonstrates throughout the document your hunger to work, your interests and your unique capacity. Plus a very important insight into your work personality.

Coaching Outcomes

Resume Reboot + Job Search Success:

A woman in her mid-thirties completes a master’s degree in a big city, due to some extenuating circumstances, following her degree she moves back to her small rural home town. She takes the first job she can get and ends up working primarily in sales. Five years later she wakes up one day and says “enough, I want to use my degree. I need to reconnect to my purpose!”

First, we seek out ideal jobs available in her region (not many, but we find a few). 

Next, we look at all her experiences, do her values and strengths assessments and build a resume that leverages her not only her experience and education but also her natural strengths and passions. 

Then we build out her resume and work up a networking strategy. 

Three months from start to finish, she is in her dream job and using her degree! 



Coaching Outcomes

Career + Life Coaching:


A woman in her early thirties has taken the last few years off from work as a new mom. The first decade or so of her career saw rapid and powerful growth, but overseas. Upon the birth of her kids (her husband can work from anywhere) they moved to be close to her parents. Three years in she is bored and hungry to reclaim her career. 

When she came to me she’d been working, but it was unsatisfying work that took up too much time and she felt stifled. 

First, we reviewed her past and determined what she loved about her past work. 

Next, we clarified her dream job and what she and her family wanted (this took a few sessions). 

After we did our values, strengths, needs and goals assessments we set out to find ideal jobs and she reached out to her network. 

Six months after our initial work + a summer vacation and move she got an offer from a dream job, moved across the country and hit the road running! 



Coaching Outcomes

Job Search Success + Resume:

A software engineer in his mid-twenties on the autistic spectrum has recently finished his bachelor’s; almost all of his work experience in customer service or behind the scenes manual process improvement, such as in a warehouse. He can show problem-solving and career progression but has zero experience in his chosen field. 

First, we get really clear on his goals and how his values and strengths are interwoven with his goals. 

Second, we identify target employers and specific job descriptions. 

Third, we write the resume and LinkedIn profile, we start to network. 

Within 4 months he goes from 8 to 85 LinkedIn connections, has several interviews and gets hired at his first choice. 



Before you start a job search:

Values, Strengths, Needs, Goals


Why values? This is what keeps you happy at work and assures that you’ve found work and a company culture that is aligned with your worldview. 

Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. When you look at what you’ve done, what you enjoy and what you’d like to do, you’ll likely find an overlap with your natural talents. Don’t be humble. Talk about what you do well — this is what an employer NEEDS to know to hire you. 

Why needs? Unless you are independently wealthy, the main reason you work is to get a paycheck. You’ve got needs and to be happy you need to own them and keep them at the forefront during your job search. Needs might be your salary and benefits or they might be your work schedule, location, flextime versus remote. Your needs might also be your social relationships and the possibility of growth or upward movement. What do you *need* at work to be happy? Your work life is a relationship that needs to be workable. 

Why goals? Obviously you’ve got the goal to “get hired.” However, to get hired you need to be more specific. This is where the quality of the job search comes into play. If you apply to 100 jobs a week there is no way that you’ve got the time or clarity to connect yourself to the goal of each specific employer. If you want to get hired and get a job that meets your values, strengths, and needs, you need a clear goal or target job.


Where to go to find clarity?

To clarify your values and strengths you can think about what motivates you to achieve. You can recall times in your life that you’ve been lost in your work — when you’ve hit those moments of flow — what were you doing? How were you doing it? 

You can also take a handful of surveys that can reflect back to you what makes you unique.  Sometimes people take these surveys as just fun things to do, without recognizing their importance to our life. 

This happens because it’s easy to assume that everyone thinks and works like us. We may incorrectly assume that what you value is important to others. Or we may assume that certain skills that come to us naturally are easy for everyone. In fact, when we make these assumptions we often undercut ourselves and at the same time get ourselves into situations that are not a good fit for us.


The following are the go-to surveys that I leverage to support my clients to clarify their values and strengths:

VIA Character Strengths (Values in Action —  link to free survey)

If you want to get out of a toxic work environment or are looking to pivot this survey can help you to understand how you work and the type of people who want to work with. 

Core Values (Link to free PDF list of core values)

If you are a manager or in a position of responsibility, in a role where you want to make an impact I recommend also identifying your top 5 to 7 motivating core values. (When working with clients one-on-one we discuss this in more detail.)

Clifton: Your Talents & Strengths (This is an affiliate link for the book (or Kindle) on Amazon – make sure you buy a new copy to get the code for the online test.)

Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. The StrengthsFinder is extremely useful to help you own your natural talents while giving you the framework to talk about it and tie these strengths back into what you’ve already done, as well as, what you hope to accomplish. 

Now what?

Use the self-awareness, list of values and your strengths from these surveys to build out your work history.  Go back as far as 15 to 20 years, taking the time to focus on jobs that are the most relevant or that have given you the most learning. Use these findings from your previous exercise to write out short accomplishment stories. 

Ideas for what you might put in an accomplishment story:

  • Actual achievements. Describe what it was like, what motivated you, what you loved. 
  • Describe failures as learnings. How did what happened to motivate you to work or learn differently in the future?
  • Stories of how you did something outside of your defined job description. 
  • Assessments of things you solved or achieved (the metrics everyone talks about) tied to your values, natural strengths and or learnings. 

Use these stories to build a master resume that covers all the things that you’ve done with the most emphasis on the last 10 years and anything over your career that specifically relates to the work you currently seek. 

When I work with clients I leverage a career questionnaire and work history forms for each specific past role, which I then compare to 3 to 5 live (active) ideal job descriptions. 

I use these live job descriptions to identify the key accomplishments from a client’s past to really make sure the most relevant and appropriate skills, experiences and capacities rise to the top. 

I don’t really believe in “failures” and my experience has shown me that anything from being fired to a three-year job gap can be leveraged as a strength, as long as, your resume authentically represents you and effectively targets the work you seek.


Hire Me to Write Your Resume

Formatting a Memorable Resume.

Once you’ve organized the content that should go into your final resume, your priority should be creating a document that is accessible and readable by both humans and applicant tracking software (ATS).  Why? 

You won’t get hired for having a stylish resume; you’ll get hired for having engaging and memorable content IN a readable and relevant resume. Formatting is important, but it’s not the most important.


Your name, phone, professional email, LinkedIn URL (personalized) and geographic area (your city will suffice, as does “remote” and open to relocation). If you’ve got a portfolio or professional website that is relevant to your job search list that too. 


Alison Rakotonirina

000-000-0000 | alison@yourname.com | www.alisonrakoto.com

linkedin.com/in/alisonrakoto | Remote | Boulder, CO


Professional Summary + Job Title That You Seek

Note I did not write OBJECTIVE. The summary speaks to what you can do, what you enjoy doing, what you want to do, what you do well and how you do it. It should be 3 to 5 lines long for someone who is early to mid-career and can be two paragraphs for a more experienced employee. 

Your summary is better described as a performance profile that tells potential employers your capacity to perform, how you work, why you work and so on. This paragraph should be the same or similar to the content you’d put in an elevator pitch or a networking message. It sets the tone for your resume and your job search. 

Core Skills & Experiences

You may wish to include a table after your Summary section that lists your core technical skills or core experiences. If you are in software or mechanical engineering you might list one table upfront that covers core skills & experiences for your job at hand, and then add additional tables at the end of your resume that address your diverse experiences. 

These tables are best created in alphabetical order because it makes it easy to adapt them to specific job descriptions and update them over time. 

Core Experiences - Sample 1

Core Experiences - Sample 2

Core Experiences - Sample 3


Work Experience: 

The first best practice for work experience is to list in chronological order with your most recent job first. Occasionally you will have a functional resume, but after six years of professional resume writing, I’ve used a semi-functional resume ONCE. If you think you need one, I’d talk to a resume writer first. 

The second best practice is to make sure that you do not write more than five lines of text without breaking up the formatting. So you could have a three-line paragraph followed by bullet points. Bullet points should be maxed at three lines per bullet, ideally one line.  

The third best practice is to call out and highlight promotions with titles and dates. If a job in your work history is not at all relevant you should spend less time on it. Maybe two or three lines of text that say what you learned or took away from the role. 


If you’ve got more than 5 years of work experience, put your education at the end. 


You don’t need to list hobbies or interests. If you’ve written an effective resume the reader will know your personality without needing these reminders at the end that you are a cool human.  

You should list relevant volunteer work. You should list work with associations and certifications. If deciding whether to include it or not — ask if it is relevant to the job at hand — if there is no connection then leave it off. Even certifications. 


Final Checks

Keywords & Targeting

Once you’ve completed your resume you can run it through a free application that will check it for keywords. Several resume writing and job search sites offer these — I won’t name names — but don’t use these. My experience and my gut tell me that these sites are inaccurate. They will tell you what they want to get you to either (a) hire their service or (b) use their job search tool.  

Cvscan.uk, on the other hand, is independent (it has ads on it) but it does a lovely job of highlighting keywords in your resume and your ideal job description. If you get an 80 or 90% match your resume is on target. 

If you get 50% to 80% you need to take a look at your language and figure out how to mirror the language in job descriptions better.  

If you get less than 50% then you might need to consider whether it’s the writing of your resume or if you are targeting jobs that don’t fit your skillset. 

You should be applying to jobs that you can do about 2/3rds of the job description quite well. More than that you may be overqualified. Less than that it may be a bit of a stretch. 

Peer Review

Once you’ve got a solid resume put together, it is great to ask folks working in your field fi they can give constructive criticism. Did you leave something crucial out? Does something not make sense? What do they wish they’d seen in your resume? 


Print off your resume and read it backwards. Ask a friend. And double-check for silly typos. Do this EVERY TIME you apply for a job. I think this is a crucial reason people who apply for 20 jobs a day don’t get callbacks — it’s way to easy to make dumb typos when you over apply. Take the time to focus and customize. 

Why might you work with a career coach or resume writer? 

Reason number one? Reading this article made you want to take a nap. A resume writer can be a creative accountability partner. I don’t want to spend three years on your resume, so I will push you to get it done!

Another primary reason that folks hire a resume writer is that while you may know you best, it can be hard to talk about yourself. An excellent resume writer will use surveys such as the StrengthsFinder, as well as, detailed questionnaires about your work history and experiences to pull out your story and reflect it back at you.

Professional resume writing is in fact an art — it is ghostwriting and storytelling wrapped up into one continually changing package. As a resume writer, it is a thrill to connect with clients and learn their dreams, listen to their challenges and their accomplishments, to call out what they do well and help a client celebrate her unique value.  

As a resume writer, it makes me dance with joy when a client says “I’ve got to tell you, reading my resume is like looking in the mirror. Thank you.” 

Career Coach

A career or leadership development coach can be beneficial at various stages during your career. If you’ve been job seeking for a time without any luck, you are working in a toxic environment or you are launching a pivot, a career coach can help you talk and work through everything outlined above. 

She can help you set goals. She will also help you to identify ideal job postings, network and stay accountable. She can help you to see your past differently, to reframe bad experiences and to build your narrative and goals out so that you can be your best self. 

One of the crucial components of career coaching, life coaching, and longterm success or change is that they are all iterative processes, sometimes you will feel like you are moving in a circle, sometimes you will plateau, but overall the small steps you take today will suddenly add up to big leaps in the future! 

Best Books for Self-Coaching

These are affiliate links to Amazon and if you make a purchase I will earn a commission. 

Pivot Planning

Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is Your Next!

Audience: anyone who has 5 to 10 + years of career but feels they’ve headed the wrong direction and is ready to pivot. 

Comparable to: Strengths-Based coaching and human design — my coaching is heavily influenced by Jenny Blake. 

Time Frame: You can read it in a weekend but you’ll need a few months to trial your initial ideas and then 6 months to 2 years to carry out the plan you make!

Your First Job/career

What Color is My Parachute

Audience: Anyone really, often recommended to new grads and veterans

Comparable to: Traditional career coaching that guides you to identify a traditional career. 

Outcome: Sefl-awareness — what do you like dislike, what color *is* your parachute? 

Time Frame: You can read it in a weekend.

Successful People Do Hire a Coach! 

In general, you hire a coach or a resume writer to get where you want to be faster and with more ease. The purpose of the coaching relationship is for your coach or your resume writer to help you shine, to help you highlight your best you so that you can get the work or job you desire. 

Working with a coach or resume writer is not easy — it does require a time commitment from you and the willingness to listen and to answer powerful questions. Be open to seeing your won limiting beliefs and maybe trying some new things. Leverage the opportunity for extra accountability and the rare opportunity to have a non-judgemental champion on your sidelines! 

Most importantly, a coach provides you a safe space to work through your thoughts and ideas in a nonjudgmental way. We will listen to your job search concerns and help you to discern what you should put in your resume or LinkedIn profile, how you should address an interview or salary negotiation, and build the confidence to network effectively. 

You Are Enough: How To Stop Feeling Less Than The Masterpiece You Are

You Are Enough: How To Stop Feeling Less Than The Masterpiece You Are

You are enough. 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’ve heard this expression used in the last few years, but did you believe it? Do you believe it? 

Shakespeare got the idea as evidenced in his line, “To thine own self be true.” And, then in the late 1800s, Oscar Wilde coined the term “Be yourself everyone else is taken.” 

These famed poets got it, but clearly it’s an idea we’ve been fighting for centuries. 

And so the question remains, how do you and I overcome the limiting belief that thine own self is not enough?

From Perfection to Scarcity 

As an infant, despite being the cute button that you were, you probably didn’t showcase any star-quality abilities. For months, your roster of extraordinary talents consisted of crying, pooping, sleeping, and making your momma laugh. Yet, passersby awed over your angelic bundle of pudgy flesh and you were your parents’ pride and joy. You’d not done anything yet, you were celebrated simply for existing. You were perfect just because you were born.

Babies are delightfully perfect examples of a human being, we love them for being fat. For crying. For being angry. For voicing what they want and need. We are born knowing what we need…and being appreciated for that intuition.

So what exactly happens to chip away at our self-worth? Do you remember the day that you officially decided that you weren’t affluent enough, tall enough, plump-lipped enough, light-skinned enough, dark-skinned enough, pointy-nosed enough, funny enough, or intellectual enough or clever enough to be worthy of a joy-FULL human experience?

I don’t remember that day, but I do remember some painful moments along the path. My guess is you do too…

The Subliminal Scale Of Self-Worth 

It’s something everyone does, but you’re probably unaware of how often you do it. You’ve been pressing the figurative record button since childhood. Messages or your interpretations of circumstances that have occurred in your life are used to determine your level of worthiness.

Broken hearts, failed exams, supermodels, missed promotions, and the number of likes on your latest post all takes their toll. One day you feel like you’ve made it, and can live on your mountaintop forever. The next day, one comment or one misstep hurls you back down to the base. Your mind is a constant battlefield – one minute you are enough and the next your insecurities get the best of you.

Each failure you’ve encountered, each accomplishment you’ve achieved is used as ammunition to affirm your self-worth or knock it back. It’s a constant back-and-forth from the You Are Enough column to Something Is Wrong with Me columns. 

Just stepping out of the shower and facing a mirror every day, you are confronted by that nagging voice of judgment. It’s as though a sly, little troll lurks behind the toilet, eager to analyze your reflection. With his clipboard and checklist, he notes the tone of your arms and belly. He pulls a magnifying glass out of his trousers’ pocket to check for new wrinkles and stray grey hairs.

Once the thorough scan is complete, you are declared fit, or (on most days, ugggh) not fit. Outcomes the red stamp of disapproval –  NOT ENOUGH. You vow to make better choices around the sweets in the office lunchroom and to stop by the drug store to pick up an anti-wrinkle serum (or a bottle of hair dye) on the way home

Or maybe you scroll the internet and talk to your boss to see if maybe you should get another certificate, an MBP or a Ph.D., because, despite 20 years of experience, you just don’t know enough. Or do you?

Comparisons: The Root of Self-Doubt and The Enemy of Self-Worth

A substantial list of outside circumstances may have culminated to form your negative self-worth image. However, it’s important to recognize the dominating role your own ego plays in determining how you feel about yourself. 

Your ego, a.k.a. “The Queen of Comparisons” is continually on the lookout for opportunities to make you feel inferior or superior to others. Either way, you’ll want to learn how to silence this beast. She serves no positive purpose. Moreover, each time you fall prey to the need to judge yourself or others, you are drawn farther away from your ability to share peace and joy with not only yourself but with those you love.

Conducting Appraisals Has Consequences

In today’s world, society has created so many parameters by which to measure our importance. Women feel a massive amount of pressure to conform to a certain profile in order to worthy and accepted. You are successful and enough only when you can afford a Louis Vuitton before thirty, be married to the perfect partner who does his share of the housework, all while raising exceptionally gifted kids (who sleep through the night) by your forties and working a job, and be fit like Jennifer Aniston in your fifties.

Sizing yourself and others up to the world’s standards does not leave much room for being human. Basing your values on idealisms meant for romance novels and Hollywood movies, stunts our personal, spiritual, and even professional growth. The consequences of assessing your own value or the significance of others based upon society’s appraisal system are toxic.

You may not realize it, but every time you judge yourself it gets worse: 

  • You come off in a negative light, whether your feelings are of superiority or inferiority
  • You resent others and jealousy surfaces
  • Conversations revolve around gossip
  • You crawl out of bed unmotivated which only reinforces feelings of not being good enough
  • You become the prosecutor and judge of random innocent strangers (and even your real-life Facebook friends) based on exterior qualities or material possessions without knowing the real story behind the person

The ego gains more power and influence each time you let these thoughts and judgments compete for your attention on a daily basis. The signs of an ego in total control may not be obvious. Sometimes they show up as the tendency to shift the responsibility or blame on others, other times to carryout excessive acts to gain notoriety and recognition. The ego can also resort to bitter jealousy when others succeed, a voracious hunger for more or even a resigned form of depression — I should have, could have, if only I’d ______ fill in the blanks. 

As an Amazon affiliate, I make a small commission from any purchases made through affiliate links as found in this blog post.

How to Conquer the Ego’s Urge to Compare

First focus on your own journey. There is always someone smarter and someone less smart that you. Every person has her own unique path, but in the end, all roads lead to the same place.To be blunt we all die.

To be kind, each fellow earthling, no matter how flawless his or her persona appears to be, experiences insecurity, fear, and criticism as you do. Peace comes from letting go of expectations, appreciating others’ talents, nurturing yourself, and living on your terms. 

Elaine Welteroth describes in her New York Times Bestseller, More Than Enough, her arduous pursuit in overcoming self-doubt and breaking traditional barriers. Her inspiring story of an ambitious bi-racial woman climbing the corporate ladder demonstrates how important it is to give yourself space and permission to chart your own course. An example of remaining true to oneself, the author discovers her best life by standing firm on what is right.

Accept imperfections.  As Brene Brown teaches us in the Gifts of Imperfection, seeking out perfection, in fact, holds us back. In spite of our vices, shortcomings, chin whiskers and all (I pulled mine out just last week), you are enough. You have an important gift to offer the world. Don’t let the things you cannot do distract you from the one thing you were born to do. Direct your attention to your strengths and ask for help, or hire a team to compensate in the areas you may be lacking.

Reacquaint yourself with your core values. Regularly reviewing what you value most is a good strategy to keep you centered and on track. This process helps you to recognize and serves as a reminder that all you need, you already have. Remembering this smothers the insatiable desire for more.

Practice being grateful and gracious – avoid gossip. Finding one thing to praise another for cancels the impulse to gossip. Building others up rather than tearing them down triggers a wonderful sense of wellbeing within the soul. Plus, you are a magnet and will always receive back what you’re sending out into the world.

Leave the past in the past. What good comes from holding onto the shame of failed relationships, embarrassing moments, or deferred dreams? Every event and outcome is a chance to learn – a refinement. The situations and conditions that you endure and believe to be setbacks, actually set you up and prepare you for a whole new level. At each stage, you become stronger, wiser, and more of your authentic character emerges. 

What It Means To Be Enough

There is no magical formula for achieving enoughness. You don’t have to lose twenty more pounds or learn to ice a Frozen-themed cake like Suzie’s mom. It’s not about being the founder of a successful business, or the post-nominal initials you grinded for years to earn. The titles, size six jeans, and thriving business are valid goals if they are YOUR goals. However, they do not give you more value as a human being. You are enough simply because you are.

That being said, knowing this truth does not mean you should exempt yourself from ever setting another goal. You do not have to resign from your quest for success, whatever your dream entails. Your journey will continue to shape you and cause you to evolve as a person. But you are now set free from the need to prove to yourself or others that you are worthy. 

Goals are important, but what is most important is what you learn about yourself on the journey.

You can make a mistake, be wounded by someone, or become the wealthiest woman on the planet. Yet not one of these circumstances can reduce or expand your self-worth. Take a moment to let these words sink in – nothing you do or that is done to you can increase or decrease your self-worth. You are enough now and nothing will change that fact.

You ARE enough.

Breathe, Trust, and Most Importantly, Be Kind

As sure as you are alive at this moment, sitting, breathing, and reading this, you are enough. From the moment you were conceived, an intricately crafted seed within your mother’s womb, you were a masterpiece. You are a one-of-a-kind specimen, created with distinctive features, talents, and attributes only you can offer this world. If this is hard to believe, start by understanding that the universe does not make mistakes. 

Just as the law of attraction and the law of gravity are irrefutable, your reason for existence is undeniable. You are a crucial part of the universal equation. Hence, if you believe gravity exists, you must also believe that the universe created you with precision and purpose. 

Next time you hear the familiar soul-sucking voice of condemnation, take a breath, choose to be kind to yourself, and trust the absolute truth that you are enough

You will feel freer, lighter, happier, and when the shit hits the fan, you will bounce back faster and brighter, because you are enough. 

And if you are ready to change careers, go back to work or start your own business, don’t hesitate, because you are enough. Indeed as this article at Power to Fly highlights, you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, even change your career at any age!

How A Happiness Planner can be Your Key to Unlocking More Joy

How A Happiness Planner can be Your Key to Unlocking More Joy

Life happens, which means that to find more joy, to experience greater happiness, we need to be intentional.  Whether you are a seasoned goal-setter or are new to the arena of setting targets and objectives for your life, a Happiness Planner is an essential tool for getting the most out of every day. By utilizing the inspirational journal and time management planner for just a few minutes a day, you will begin to notice significant enhancements in all areas of your life.

This article includes Amazon affiliate links. When you buy I make a small commission!

What Is A Happiness Planner and How Is It Different?

A Happiness Planner is more than your average journal or day-planner, it is a guidebook to the soul that encourages you to engage and grow your self-awareness. You likely feel like you are always chasing time, whether it’s an eighty-hour workweek, two kids in soccer, piano lessons, and dance OR all this and more. It’s likely you rarely find the time to stop and reflect. 

If you feel stuck, unfilled or wonder what you could be doing to find more joy, you are not alone.

In the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, a Happiness Journal will guide you to plan your day and set yourself up to live with more intention and experience the success you crave. Motivational quotes beautifully inscribed on each page act as cheerleaders, reminding you that you are worthy and already have what it takes to achieve your dreams.

In addition, a precise system of checkpoints and self-awareness building questions can help you clarify your core values so you can keep in alignment with the path you choose to walk. As well, you’ll gain a better understanding of your weaknesses and learn to recognize and leverage your talents.

Gratitude exercises help to cultivate an appreciation for the past and focus on the present moment; revealing the positive, even in many challenging situations. With a daily task calendar built-in, the planner will enable you to finally find the balance you seek, making sure you can comfortably keep tabs on each piece of your life’s pie, while also facilitating the creation of life-changing habits. 

From struggling to heal past hurts to feeling overwhelmed by a financial mess or a crossroads in your life, a Happiness Planner incites answers from deep within, treasures that will cultivate self-awareness and dispel old fears that up until now, may be responsible for stunting your personal growth or your satisfaction with your life.

This thought-provoking agenda ‘formula’ will unveil insights, which you can use to face and overcome your demons and achieve your heart’s desires. There is something magical about a daily journal that ties your goals, tasks, gratitude, and hope into one little bundle.

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

Another added perk that is unique to a Happiness Planner versus a regular agenda is the element of reflection at the end of the day. This journaling process encourages you to take stock of all of the things that went well throughout your day, along with those that didn’t have a positive outcome. 

As you take a moment to analyze each situation (the good, the bad, and the ugly) you are able to see what role you played in the end result. In this way, recurring themes or repetitive behaviors and patterns become clear. From this point, you can see what habits lead to your overall happiness and those that cause suffering. Over time you start to notice even the small things you accomplish each day that you previously took for granted.

Take Responsibility, Take Back Your Power

One of the most imperative habits to observe in the reflection process is your reaction to circumstances. Often we think “responsibility” is just another obligation, but in reality, it is the key to resuming personal power.

People experience a diverse range of experiences from small and annoying up to devastating things every day around the world. There is not always a clear answer or explanation that justifies these painful occurrences or actions, even the fact that what to one person may be small, may have a huge impact on a different person. 

It’s not uncommon to experience an underlying turmoil, which rages through your being for years, due to fruitless attempts to make sense of it all. We all to easily hold on pain, anger or regret, but when we do so, we become victims who feel stuck or like failures. 

If you allow it, these defining events can drain your hope and your passion. To escape this trap we need to see that we indeed have a choice. Although in the midst of despair or frustration over life’s injustices, it may seem preposterous, I ask you to consider the possibility that various events do not happen to you, but for you. Reframing your circumstances can be immensely freeing. 

By seeing things from a new or different viewpoint, your entire life to shift. A Happiness Planner (or gratitude journal) actively support us in seeing life events differently. 

If this concept is curious to you, you might enjoy the book, Change Your Mind And Your Life Will Follow: 12 Simple Principles, by best-selling author Karen Casey. In this book, she offers some of the best practical tools available for managing your responses to obstacles. Her pragmatic advice will open your mind and affirm that you can thrive, no matter what your environment. 

Where Your Mind Goes, Your Energy Flows

Indeed, something magical and transformative happens when you actively build self-awareness of your life journey within the pages of a Happiness Planner. As you consciously direct your concentration towards the silver linings in the clouds and to the celebration of small victories, you’ll realize that there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your best life. 

That which once seemed a distant dream or totally unrealistic becomes possible.  

As you learn how to own and manage the idea that everything happens for you, you acquire freedom. No longer in bondage or a victim of your circumstances, you will experience more peace, seeing that instead of obstacles, your life is now filled with opportunities that deliver a greater sense of satisfaction to your life experience. 

Your Road To Happiness Begins With a Journal

Journaling and reflection exercises help you pinpoint what thoughts, actions, and habits serve you and which ones you need to let go of. What fills you up and gives you a zest for life is unique to you. You may not experience the same exhilarating sensation from a dripping hot and sweaty yoga class that I do. You may find yourself crawling through the steam to the door two minutes in, and that is okay. Each of us is unique and your experience of joy will be different than mine, or than that of your best friend, your mom or even your daughter. 

Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages journals and practice have been used for over 20 years and are still a best seller on Amazon, precisely because journaling is so important, not only to artists but for all of us. 

Selfcare is not about dedicating hours a week to facials and massages. It’s about taking notice of the little things that make YOU tick. You may feel energized by baking a batch of [healthy or unhealthy] breakfast muffins or listening to a classical playlist at the office. You may feel fully recharged after a chat with your mom, or a wine night out with the girls. If you don’t know what brings you joy, then experiment with the new; join a book club, take a photography class, or travel somewhere you’ve never been.

Adding varied activities into your planner will prove highly beneficial when it comes to outlining your happiness roadmap. If you encounter a twinge of joy, make a note, and before you know it, you will start to understand why and how you are wonderfully unique. This process of reflection can take time, so don’t give up if you don’t have answers overnight, but rest assured that it is through self-awareness that self-compassion and real, solid, self-care develop. 

As you continue on the journey with your journal or day planner in hand, one almost perfect day rolls into an awesome week, which merges into your best year yet. Be patient with yourself and celebrate you, celebrate the journey, and celebrate even the tiniest hint of progress.

Core Values, Beliefs, and Goals  

Even if you’ve never set a goal in your life or your good intentions typically remain in the idea phase, setting goals is an imperative part of your happiness journey. Whether you realize or not, you’ve already accomplished things to be proud of. Have you quit smoking, or switched from sugary soda to bubbly water? Did you finally muster up the courage to say ‘No’ when you were asked to volunteer for the fifth consecutive year as Treasurer of the Board? Those decisions honor self and develop integrity. You learn to trust that guiding voice within.

Before you contemplate your goals, it is crucial that you decide what is important to you. Take the time to identify your core values and definition of success. Would you like to be heart-healthy for your family, or would you like a six-pack? Does making three million dollars in profits next year stir your excitement, or does the idea of publishing a short story light you up? 

Forget society’s ideals and the ‘I shoulds’. Those standards are not always in alignment with what you seek and you will set yourself up for failure. Determine your own vision of happiness and compose your list from this point.

Are Goals Really Necessary?

You’ve got this far in life without goals, so why bother with the list? The wide range of benefits that accompany the process of goal setting will surprise you. 

Regularly reviewing taking daily action towards your goals focuses your attention on what you are passionate about. When your thoughts are on the things that ignite your soul, you tend to be a happier person. With each milestone that is achieved, your confidence receives a boost. As you encounter setbacks and hardships, but continue to strive for success, you stay motivated and positive during the trials that will undoubtedly arise. This creates the assurance that you have what it takes to push through. 

Goals help you to hone your inner compass and to achieve what matters most to you. In a world that is inundated with distractions, dazzling opportunities in the form of a new position or project can take your eye off the prize. When you have a concrete goal on paper, you can ask yourself, ‘Is this opportunity going to take me closer or farther away from goal?’

Most importantly, having a purpose in life, a burning desire within your heart, gives you the inspiration to live purposefully, ultimately leading to your best life. Research has shown that a brain that is continually stimulated and challenged results in a more enlivened, dynamic lifestyle.

Setting SMART+ Goals

When sitting down to write what your aspirations for each area of your life, the acronym SMART offers a helpful guideline to follow. 

S – Specific. If the goal is too general – I want to be healthy – it will not be clear enough to motivate you to continue. Add defined actions and even a picture of your ideal outcome. For example, you might write down, I will work out three times a week for forty-five minutes and drink eight glasses of water a day for ninety days. Your mind has conceived a clear plan and you know exactly what you have to do to work towards your health objectives. 

M – Measurable. By including a definite target, you give yourself measurable steps so that you can celebrate milestones and small achievements along the way. If your goal is to open a wellness center, start with your business plan. Then come the location and interior design. Next, you would hire staff and finally your inauguration date. It is a timeline of tangible deliverables. 

A – Attainable. Are you truly willing to do what it takes to achieve your goal? If running a marathon is on your list, decide and commit to a training schedule that is required to be able to complete it.

R – Relevant. Take into account an appropriate timeline and consider if the goal is realistic. You may have to analyze and reshape your goal along the way based on the resources and the experience you have. You may have miscalculated a reasonable timeline because of a misstep or a problem you could not foresee. Adjust, but don’t give up!

T – Time-bound. Goals are not meant to be comfortable but push the boundaries of your comfort zone. They test and refine your true character. Be realistic, but put a date on your goal that will require you to rise up. If you recall, diamonds are created under pressure. The longer you wait, the less chance you have at succeeding. There is never a perfect time to start. Take time to map it out, but don’t be afraid to dive in. Your future self will thank you for it!

+ Accountable. What is your accountability plan? A friend? Your partner? A bullet-journal? A life coach? An accountability partner? Personally, I use a mix of all three. In fact, my accountability partner and I just celebrated our 2 year anniversary! We’ve never even met in person, but we message nearly every day via Whatsapp and this relationship has certainly helped me stay accountable to myself. I also leverage a personal coach and my planner.

These are real life pictures of my 2019 and 2020 planners. The pre-made one didn’t suit me perfectly as it restricted my creativity. I love the freedom of the dotted bullet journals. Whatever fits your style, use it! 

Choosing The Right Happiness Planner

With dozens of attractive Happiness Planners on Amazon alone, how do you know which one is right for you? Some are simple happiness diaries, while others are all-encompassing workbook-type agendas. In addition to happiness journals, there are 100-day planners, which aim to establish positive habits and lifestyles. Perhaps you would like to begin with the basics and work your way up to an immersive experience. 

For 2019 I used a premade planner called the Day Designer

For 2020 I’ve decided to design my own with a simple dotted bullet journal. 

Like any other product, it is important to read the happiness planner reviews to evaluate which features and added bonuses you think will generate the best results for you. If you are totally new to the idea, you might best go for a premade happiness and task planner like a Panda Planner (even the name makes you happy). 

Of course, you can create your own happiness journal. Simply getting your words on paper, setting goals and reflecting on your day is a healthy step towards becoming better acquainted with your highest self. However, if you want to take this journey one step further, each page of a Happiness Planner has been carefully curated to propel you beyond your limiting beliefs and your emotional safe zones. 

Think of it as using a personal trainer versus going to a gym and working out on your own. Most of us won’t push through an extra five reps when our arms are on fire, without someone nudging us on. Plus, a personal trainer is an expert at mixing up the workouts, which keeps things fresh and interesting. Unlike the mundane gym regimes, we fall into when we endeavor to get fit on our own. 

This is also one reason you might also want to hire a coach — we help you to stay accountable, build your self-awareness and get you to where you want to be faster. Curious to know more? Schedule a free “curiosity call” with me today. 

One thing is for certain, no matter which planner you choose, you are on the right track to unlocking the secrets to your potential and to your ultimate fulfillment. Change is never easy, but a Happiness Planner makes the process a joyful one. By planning your life one journal entry at a time, you plan for success and happiness. 

The life of your dreams may be just one-page turn and a colorful doodle away.

Can Knowing my Strengths Really Help me to live a better life?

Can Knowing my Strengths Really Help me to live a better life?

Can Knowing my Strengths Really Help me to live a better life?

Knowing your strengths gives you insight into how you work and certain tasks come easy, while others rub you the wrong way.

From the perspective of a job search, career planning or even mapping out a career calling, the greatest gift strengths spotting gives you is self-awareness and the ability to craft a value proposition that is attractive to your ideal employer or client.

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Often times we think of our strengths only from the point of view of our concrete education, skills and experiences. However, our most powerful strengths tend to relate directly back to our natural talents; you may not need a significant amount of skill or training to excel at something that is a natural talent. [Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put in the effort!]

Your natural strengths illuminate why you end up enjoying certain tasks more than others or why a certain activity might be supper easy whereas it’s a real headache for other folks. Understanding your strengths allows you to leverage them to create a career you love. 

When I leverage my knowledge of strengths to write a resume or LinkedIn profile, my clients often tell me things like: “Reading this is like looking in the mirror!” or “I feel like a new person, confident in what I can do!” 

Insert Awareness Image

Building Awareness from Strengths

In general, knowledge of our natural talents or strengths creates three crucial areas of awareness critical to career success.


The first is the perspective. Sometimes we have a strength that someone around us sees as a weakness or that they simply don’t understand. From this person’s perspective, often a parent or teacher, you are weird or your “strength” is an anomaly that needs fixing. 

For example, I worked with a client on the autistic spectrum with a strengths in deliberation, analytical and intellection. He’d been underemployed from age 18 to 25 and some people in his past had perceived his ability to focus on solving a problem as extreme — however his dream job was in cybersecurity and he turned out to be the perfect candidate. 

When he got the job, I as the coach got a lot of praise, but the reality is that the client was the perfect fit for his ideal job. What I did is provide him the opportunity to see his personality and interests as strengths and from a new perspective, which gave him the confidence to go after the job he wanted. He went from really feeling down on himself and his potential, to finding a dream career, simply by seeing his talents in a new light. 

Another common mistake that I see clients make is to assume that because a particular strength comes to them so easily — they assume is meaningless or not important. For example, a software engineer that excels at understanding abstract concepts and connecting the dots to create a new solution might not appreciate her skill; however, her peers may have to take multiple steps to grasp an idea she grasped instantaneously. Just because YOU think something is easy, doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. And if it is easy for you and you enjoy it — then you need to make this known to your ideal employer! 

Once you know your strengths you can appreciate your uniques combination of talents as a gift, which empowers you to intentionally leverage these to create a life and a career you love!


The ultimate result of seeing our natural talents in a new perspective is the gift of confidence. 

Say you have a strength in strategy. You always see the big picture and come up with solutions, but you doubt your abilities because you think you don’t have enough “experience” or “education” or something else. 

When you read the profile for “strategic” you suddenly see that you’ve got something other people don’t have; this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on becoming an expert in your field, but it can give you the confidence to speak up for the patterns and the solutions that you see today. 

Recognizing that you are good at something and that you enjoy it is crucial to finding work you love — if you can demonstrate both confidence and joy in what you do — your ideal employer or clients will be knocking down your door to get you. 

Sharing your talents with the world is generous. Keeping it hidden is stingy. 


Yes. I believe you should enjoy your work. Perspective and confidence work together to deliver you work that you enjoy. And when you enjoy your work you feel joy. Why? Because when you find work that is both appealing to you and that you are good at you can find work that gives you the right mix of “challenge + skill” and this leads to experiencing flow. 

Think about times in your life that you’ve gotten lost in your work or another activity. When you get so engrossed in an activity (not sleep, or Netflix, mind you) that you forget time — this is called flow. And periodic experiences of flow lead to higher rates of satisfaction at work. 

Which brings us back to perspective — sometimes when we have a skilled at a particular line of work it results in promotion after promotion until one day you find yourself in a leadership-seat. 

For some people, this is great, because although they are good engineers or teachers or whatever, they also love to lead, to manage communication and to look at the big picture. 

But for others, it’s awful. 

Earlier this year I worked with a mechanical engineer who’d spent the last three years in management. He was drained and bored. He wanted his old job back and yet every time he applied for a job, he’d get told by the recruiters and hiring managers kept telling him he was “overqualified.” 

My solution? Together we went over his strengths and his goals and we constructed a new professional narrative. His new resume emphasized that he understands how to communicate with and support management, but that he is an engineer at heart. He got a successful bite on his first application with this new resume and in a few months found himself able to move back into a hands-on engineering position that brings him JOY and the opportunity to experience flow. 

He also understands himself better now and so the next time a management position comes knocking, he won’t necessarily feel obliged to take it. He will be prepared to negotiate for a position that fits his strengths and needs. 


There are a few different ways to uncover your strengths. I like to use a few different methods with my clients. 

  • Strengths Spotting
  • Strengths Story
  • GallupStrengths 2.0

When used together these three exercises provide a 360 vision of what you are naturally good at, what you enjoy, and what your peers and managers see as your strengths. Together they give you a platform to cultivate the perspective, confidence, and joy discussed in the previous section. 

Strengths 2.0

On the Gallups Strengths Center website they say this: 

“Each CliftonStrengths theme sorts into one of four domains. These domains describe how people and teams use their talents to work with information, make things happen, influence others and build relationships.”

If you’ve taken the [Gallup] CliftonStrengths test before, there is a good chance that you did it at work, because knowing an employee’s strengths has shown to lead to increased workplace engagement.

As an employee, if you know and understand your strengths, you can direct yourself to work in which you readily engage, maintain your motivation, and grow. If your boss or co-workers know your strengths (and their own) you can work together to optimize everyone’s contributions, increase engagement, collaboration and teamwork.

Why is this important:

Positive self-awareness through focusing on our strengths — what we do well — is a huge boost for our self-confidence. We naturally tend to focus on our weaknesses as a guide to what we cannot do or what we should do better. Knowing our natural talents gives us the vocabulary to describe what we do and the inner strength to embrace it.

Let’s use a sailboat analogy: If your professional self as a sailboat, your weaknesses might be compared to small leaks. You need to be aware of fill the leak(s), but if you put all your focus on the leaks, if you forget to put up your sail (your strengths) you’ll never get anywhere!

As is true with our character strengths, needs, and values, skill strengths and values also often overlap. If we value the skill of judgment and consideration, we may very well have strengths in intellection, analytical or strategic. You can think of your Strengths as your way of “doing” and your values as reflective of your way of “being.”

The best way to find our way of “Doing” is to take the Gallup Strengths Finder.

If you can find a hard copy (new) locally, I recommend doing so, as it’s fun and informative to flip through and read the book now and in the future.

You can also order a hard copy or Kindle* edition of Strengths 2.0 on Amazon or at your local book store; don’t buy a used copy as you will want the one-time ACCESS code include in the book to access the test. 

*If you order the Kindle version they will email your access code to the email associated with your Kindle. Make sure to watch your email and request a refund if you don’t receive it in 24-hours or less — it should be sent within a few minutes of your purchase! 

The standard report that comes with your book purchase is all you need to learn from your results. I do not recommend purchasing the more expensive reports as they can be a challenge to interpret without a full coaching session dedicated to the Strengths-Finder. For your purpose and mine, the standard results provide exactly the insight and information we need to tell your story! 

Disclaimer: The above Amazon link is an affiliate link, which means that I will get a portion of the sale. I do not have any other affiliation with Gallup. I use this test because it is informative and highly useful.  

Finding Your Purpose

My Story

My strengths combine together to create an entrepreneurial profile and a mentor or coach profile (surprise!). I am strong on strategy and easily connect the dots, find solutions and understand how to make things better. I am an individualizer and a maximizer. I naturally see what is right and what might be done better. I am strong in communication and discovering a clear understanding of how each individual works. 

In my twenties, I tended to “hop” jobs every 9 to 18 months as I got bored quickly. I’d start out loving a job, but once I’d learned all there was to know, improved a few systems, hired new and better employees, updated training manuals and had everything running smoothly I found myself bored and ready for a new challenge. 

I thought there was something wrong with me. My parents thought I was wishy-washy. 

My parents just wanted me to get a job and stick with it, so they could be confident that I was financially safe and secure. And then I did the Strengths Finder and I realized I needed a job that continued to present me with challenges. I went back to school to work on a master’s degree and got a job as the Executive Director of an International Nonprofit. 


That job was amazing. From the day I walked in the door, there were problems to solve, relationships to cultivate and nurture. Every day was new and different. I could have stayed in that job for years, had I not had to make a value-based decision to follow my husband to Europe (I couldn’t take my job with me). 


Knowing my strengths and understanding my values has been incredibly powerful because together they give me purpose. Whether it’s working with an NGO or as a career coach, I thrive when I get to help others succeed. Connecting the dots, asking powerful questions, supporting people to find confidence and joy in what they do thrills me. 

In the end, combining my strengths and my values, I am purpose-driven. 

How Can Strengths Help You Tell YOUR Story?


Whether you find your life purpose on your own or with the help of a career coach — you will find a deeper meaning in your work. You will feel empowered to choose your path and you will find that many responsibilities in your life now bring you either a greater sense of joy or you find it easier to say “no” to things that do not serve your purpose. 


The US Department of Labor has been tracking employee engagement for nearly 20 years and for the last 5 or so, LinkedIn has gotten involved. I won’t bore you with the precise numbers, but what they’ve found is that a good 60 to 80% of employees are not engaged at work. Worldwide Gallup makes the claim that only 13% of employees are engaged — as in 87% might jump ship at any moment for a better opportunity. 


And they are not particularly happy — they live for the weekends — and for their life outside work. As someone who has connected my life purpose to my work as a career coach, these results make me sad. However, they also inspire me to help people like you understand how to find and negotiate for a work situation that you love. 


Indeed, I find hope in their findings that employers who support employees in leveraging their strengths and job seekers who seek jobs aligned with their strengths fall into the category of ENGAGED and HAPPY employees. 


And so, the biggest gift you can give yourself in learning and understanding your strengths is that it can help you turn your job into a career you love and possibly even a calling. If we spend most of our waking hours at work, then we should enjoy and even love our work. 

Life Purpose and Career Coach


The connection between knowing our values (read this) and leveraging them alongside our strengths, is a foundational part of why I am a career coach. If you’d asked me at age 20 if I’d be a Career Coach at age 40, I would have laughed. This is because old school career counseling tried to put people in boxes. 


For example, it’s possible that towards the end of high school someone asked you to take a career survey that gave you report about possible fields fo work that you might enjoy. 


 RIASEC codes or Holland codes were created by a psychologist named John Holland. Supposedly these codes use your personality or psychological profile to tell you what type of job you might enjoy. What they fail to do is to address your values or your strengths. They try to put people in boxes and as a teen, they confused me terribly.


My RIASEC is Social Enterprising Investigative (SEI) and I’ve got my old tests in which they said I’d be a good Forest Ranger, Nurse or Attorney.  What? Sure, I love camping and nature, I like to help people and I love a good argument, but every time I tried to throw myself into one of these careers, I came up short. I had ZERO desire.


I was also confused by these tests, because the careers that did drive me, didn’t show up on my test (anthropologist, aerospace engineer or urban planner). I ended up studying anthropology and urban planning remains a hobby (in my dream world). 


Long story short — if you went to university to study one subject, but ended up in a totally different career or ended up bored, frustrated or un-engaged, don’t give up on career coaching. It’s just likely that you got a career coach who tried to label you. 


What I do as a career coach is to help you to understand what makes you tick, so that you can align your goals and career with work that inspires you and then I give you the skills to ask for the salary and benefits you need. 

Career of Life


Many career coaches, such as myself, say that we do ‘purpose coaching’ or ‘strengths-coaching.” As you can likely guess by now, this means we use surveys of values, strengths, needs, and interests to help you answer your own career goals. We won’t put you in a box. Frankly, each profession can have a wide variety of psychological profiles, and in fact, it is your strengths profile that dictates your success sometimes more than your “social” profile. 


Extroverts and introverts can excel in the same jobs for totally different reasons. The crucial component of your success at work is that what you do brings you personally a sense of meaning and purpose. We are happy at work when we feel useful. When we see that we accomplished something. When we get the opportunity to get lost in the “flow” of the moment. 


So, don’t let an old test like the MBTI or the Strong Inventory or your Holland Codes, put you in a BOX. Your life work potential is in your hands and knowing your strengths and your values, what you want and need from your work and your life, is what can bring you confidence and feelings of success. 


And so, if you are ready to ditch your fear of failure at work. Or overcome a fear of success (yes, that is a thing) then I invite you to find out about your values and your strengths. To even create a vision board for your ideal life and career. 


Insert becoming ou image

BECOMING YOU: Frame it and Claim It


As a purpose coach, as a life coach, as a career coach, I invite you to BECOME YOU. Liz Ryan, one of my mentors in the career coaching world says of your work history and your professional narrative “Frame it and claim it.” 


What she means is that you are uniquely you and that is what makes you an awesome employee. If you know your strengths and you are confident in your skills, then you can do whatever it is you believe you can do. And when we do things with confidence and joy, when our values are aligned with those of our company or our clients we feel alive. 


When we feel alive at work, we do good work. When we love our work, we are motivated to set goals, to achieve, to do more, and to recognize our own success. When this happens we’ve mastered the art of self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-care. We know what we need, what we want and what we can do. 


When we make a mistake or fail, we know that at least we tried, and we treat it as a learning experience. All this is part of becoming you. And you are the only person that YOU need to be!


Did this article you answers or did it raise questions?


Perhaps you are now wondering if you should quit your job or find a new career? 


If that’s the case you can take this quiz on Power to Fly. Should I quit my Job? 


Or you might read the book “What Color is My Parachute.”


Additional Recommended Reading


If this article has raised questions that you cannot answer simply by knowing your strengths you may wish to engage a career and human potential coach. Or you might benefit from doing some self-guided coaching and exploration. 

The classic book What Color is Your Parachute is useful for folks at the start of their career and those doing career pivots. It’s recommended reading from many retired military veterans and to those who simply feel “blah” about their current work situation. If you’ve done the work on clarifying your values and your strengths, but you are still unsure what career is right for you, check out this book.

Do you understand the magic in knowing and living your values?

Do you understand the magic in knowing and living your values?

If you cringe or wonder what’s up when you hear phrases like “value-driven”  or “live your values” you are not alone. 

For many years I ran away from the term “values” because I associated it with a political group from my childhood. That group used values to judge and condemn. They attempted to use their proclaimed values to disempower individuals with a different worldview. 

Today my skin still crawls a bit when I *ask* people about their values because I am afraid they might think I am going to judge. But I ask anyway because as I career coach I know that understanding and living our values is a highly personal endeavor that gives individuals agency and helps them to live a life they love. 

Knowing your values means that instead of forcing your worldview on anyone else you live your own values. Knowing your values means that instead of living someone else’s values, you live your own. 

Why is this important? Because when we let outside influences dictate our values we get stuck. We feel yucky, we lose our motivation and most of all, we lose our power to act according to our own internal compass. This increases feelings of discontent, stress, and anxiety. Values hit us at our core. This is why they are often called CORE values. And knowing them makes it easier to live our lives and make choices that work for us.

Values guide us and diminish our fear of deciding what needs to be done.

The Importance of Core Values

Core values drive our decision making and are intrinsically tied to the so-called “gut feeling.” When take an action or make a choice that is not aligned with our values, we get that dreaded sinking feeling, which over time can build into stress and anxiety. 

Working against our core values leads to problems at home and at work. Finding clarity about our values is so important because when we understand what we value and why it suddenly empowers our decision-making process. 

Values-based decisions are choices that empower us to do what we believe is best. The greatest personal achievements, the most wonderful feelings of accomplishment, and the best intrinsic motivation come from intrinsically motivated actions. 

Sometimes making values-based choices, even if they are not our “first” choice so to say, makes it totally possible to embrace the choice, because we understand why we are doing it. Values-based choices take us from feeling like we are “sacrificing” or being a “martyr” to understanding that we are in control and falling our chosen path because we value the outcome.

Core values drive our decision making. If we know what we value making a decision becomes a choice and we are empowered to do what we believe is best. The greatest personal achievements, the most wonderful feelings of accomplishment, and the best intrinsic motivation come from intrinsically motivated actions. 

The Oxford Online Dictionary gives the following definitions of intrinsic and extrinsic:


Belonging naturally; essential.


Not part of the essential nature of someone or something; coming or operating from outside.

Values for our purpose refers to principles and standards of behavior — what is important to you in your life. How you show up for others and how you hope they will show up for you. You can see with the definition of intrinsic and extrinsic, that if we want to feel and live authentically, our values should ideally be intrinsically motivated. 

As a career coach, I call these our CORE values. There are several exercises that we use in the coaching world to help people identify their core values. I like to use this Values PDF from Brene Brown’s Book Dare to Lead. If you’ve never done a values survey, I’d suggest setting aside 10 or 20 minutes to do so right now or when you finish this article.

Instructions: Complete your own Values Survey using Brene Brown’s PDF with this exercise. 

Stop “Shoulding” on yourself. 

Once you’ve completed the values exercise you can continue to use this process in your life. If you feel overcommitted and stuck or if you are having trouble with a particular decision or task try reframing it by switching up your language.

Which is more empowering?

I must bake a hundred cookies for the bake sale because as a good mom I should show that I care about the school. I have to bake these cookies tonight or I will look bad. I won’t get enough sleep, which stresses me out and I might wake up late and be rushed in the morning. I am already frazzled because when I wake up late I yell at the kids and we are all late.


I need to say no to baking a hundred cookies for the bake sale because as a good mom I value the time that I have and so I chose to go to bed early tonight so I can get a good night’s rest and wake-up on time to get my kids to school and me to work in the morning without being stressed, rushed or yelling at my kids.


I love to bake cookies and so I choose to stay up late tonight because I enjoy participating in my kids’ bake sale and I value making this kind of contribution. I know that this is my choice and so even though I may not get all the sleep I need, I will not be stressed in the morning, because I’ve already let my boss know that I’ll be 20 or 30 minutes late. This means that I can take the time I need to get the kids and cookies to school without being stressed or angry.

I must versus I need

I should versus I value

I have to versus I choose to 

Here is another example — I want to improve my health by exercising more. 

I must get up at 6 AM to exercise because my doctor told me I should. Remind me to set my alarm because I have to get up at 6 AM! And, then I feel like a sloth because I sleep in. 


I need to get up at 6 AM to exercise because my health is important to me. I value my health, therefore, I chose to get up at 6 AM to exercise. And, I do. 

 See the difference? Feel the difference? 

In positive psychology, we call this “stop shoulding” on yourself, because when you should all over you tend to end up feeling pretty shitty. When we feel shitty it tends to build and then we feel bad all around for not living up to our own expectations and also our perceived expectations of those around us. We think we let ourselves and everyone else down all the time when we “should on ourselves.”

Getting clear on your values and then using this to reframe the actions and activities that you take in your life allows you to be authentic to yourself and to the people that mean the most to you. Knowing your values alters your worldview and frees you up to love more and live better.


Humans are meaning-making machines. 

Wherever we grow up; however, we grow up, we attribute meaning to the language and actions of those around us. We grow with the rules and expectations of our local culture. Sometimes the culture and rules we experience at home are different from what we get when we leave the house; sometimes we move regions and have to adapt to new rules and ways of doing things. 

One of the things you will notice about most publicly successful people and even privately successful people is that as they grow up they tend to exude confidence. Where does that confidence come from?

A big part is having a clear values system backed up by an active and conscious worldview. Conscious is crucial, because you already live your life with a worldview, it’s the being intentional about it that empowers us to live a life aligned with our values.

Your worldviews is a mix of what you’ve learned and what your mind, heart, and gut tell you is right. It’s the foundation for how you make choices and what lets your mind play mental gymnastics without anxiety or guilt. 

A strong worldview will let you know when you need to do the right thing for the wrong reason; or when maybe you should actually do the wrong thing for the right reason. For example, sometimes the best thing we can do is to tell someone “no.” Saying no can be a gift, in the same way, that discipline is love. 

Your core values are the foundation of your worldview. But there is another important component that varies for each of us and that even changes over our life. These are our character strengths — what we value in ourselves and others. Things like gratitude and an appreciation of beauty, or spirituality or honesty. 

When I work with coaching clients one of the first things I ask them to do is to take the VIA Character Strengths survey. 

VIA Characters Strengths

The survey and the basic results are free, so this test is accessible to anyone reading this article online. You can pay for a more detailed report, but for our purposes today, I don’t find that to be necessary. 

Here is the link to the VIA Character Strengths Survey and my career coaching exercises.

Once you have your results you can put them to use two different ways. 

Your Unique Values

This is how you show up in the world. If you are someone who always notices and fights against the inequities in the world then “Fairness” may be a top strength for you. The VIA report will highlight your top 6 strengths, but give you a list of all 24 in descending order. 

The last strength on your list is not necessarily an indicator that you don’t value or are “bad” at this strength. What it indicates is that it is not as important to you in how you live your life as your top strength. 

For example, I admire and value spirituality, but I’ve not been raised with a strong spiritual practice and I have never made it a priority in my life. Spirituality is one of my “last” strengths. 

On the flip side, my life has been defined by a search for beauty and excellence. I’ve had to “recover” from perfectionism and I am truly bothered by ugly things and places. My number one top strength? “Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence.” This is why my office is my personal oasis, why I always keep houseplants and adore flowers. If I could live in a Japanese botanical garden, I would! 

What you look for in others and the world

Your VIA strengths are also useful for you in looking out for what you value in a place of work or in a company that you do business with. If your workplace is in conflict with what you value, you will always fill at a disadvantage. 

If our CORE values as discussed in part one are our principles and standards. Our Character Strengths reflect our ideals and requirements for the world in which we live. If we do not recognize the importance of both types of values in our life, if we do not own what is important to us by creating and defining our worldview, we will always be wondering why something doesn’t feel right. 

This right here is one of the reasons that journaling and meditation can be such powerful tools. 

When we write in a journal we are safe from the influence and judgment of others and we can work through things like our values. The following questions are things that you might wish to journal about or think of during a time of meditation or quiet reflection. 

I recommend journaling for two reasons. The first is the physical act of writing with a pen on paper activates areas of the brain that deal with healing and processing. Writing is more than thinking — it can actually help you work through ideas and formulate or reformulate your world view. 

Maybe we need to change the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine” to “Laughter and handwriting are the best medicine!” 

Journaling Prompts

Given my top 6 VIA strengths — am I surprised? How do they align with my current priorities in life? Do I want to change anything? If so, why or what?

What brings me feelings of peacefulness?

What causes me to feel joy? 

How do I feel right at this moment?

What is causing me stress right now?

What makes me feel alive?

If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing, what would it be?

What do I need to feel safe or secure?

Why do I worry about _________? What about this is important to me?

Over a single sitting or several weeks try journaling and meditating on your character strengths and core values. Write them down and think about how they show up in your life. 

Notice during your daily activities how and when you experience different emotions, such as anger, joy or guilt dependent on the interplay of your values and what happens in life. 

Notice if certain activities, people or places particularly energize you or drain you. Then take some time to think about the world view you’ve been living with and maybe how you’d like to adapt it to match your core values and strengths. Doing so should be intrinsically motivating and may even cause you to feel elated and or deep joy and gratitude. 

Notice how clarifying your worldview simplifies your life and makes taking choices easier. 

How Values Show up in our Work

In the workplace, real equality means valuing family just as much as work, and understanding that the two reinforce each other. As a leader and as a manager, I have always acted on the mantra, if family comes first, work does not come second — life comes together. If you work for me, and you have a family issue, I expect you to attend to it, and I am confident, and my confidence has always been borne out, that the work will get done, and done better.

Anne-Marie Slaughter

When looking for work we need to live our values. We also need companies that value what we value. When it comes to men and women in the workplace, equality doesn’t mean valuing women on male terms, it means valuing each person’s unique life choices.

Families are important. Parents are important. Partners are important. Life. Work. Purpose. Everything is interconnected.

Meaningful work is important. Demeaning and soulless workplaces literally kill us. They increase our stress and cortisone levels. They create apathy and reduce engagement.

If you are unhappy in your current job you can do two things. You can try to reframe your current work and position so that you enjoy it more. You might do this by talking openly with your manager about what is working and what is not. You might ask for a special project or a promotion, you might ask to move laterally or even go back to a previous position.

If that doesn’t work then you might need to create a plan to find a new job. Maybe you need to pivot. Maybe you need to completely switch gears. Maybe you want to upskill and go back to school or get a certificate.

Whatever you do, first get clear about your values, your strengths, and your interests. Make sure that if you invest the time in creating a new future that it’s a future aligned with the direction you want to go. Make your move a choice and you will be empowered to create your own success.

Once you are clear about your values, make sure the companies you target also have clear values. If you are going to walk your walk; the expect the same from your employer. This article on Power to Fly about Zapier’s company values is a great example of two companies that have clear values and that live their values.

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it's choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
Be a SuperWoman: Live Your Values

Be a SuperWoman: Live your Values

See the difference? Knowing your values empowers you to live the life of your choosing. It simplifies your decision-making process and facilitates intrinsic motivation. Pushing your values on someone else is also likely to fail, so understanding the values of those around you is an important step to building empathy and direct communication.

I start nearly all my coaching relationships with a values survey because self-awareness is the foundation for building a life you love. 

If you can only do one thing today towards building yourself a more satisfying and resilient future — that thing should be thinking about and identifying your core values. 

You might even call your Core Values your personal Holy Grail. 

Recommended Reading

One of my first ventures into values and how they apply to our daily life is the book the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

The book discusses essentially “four agreements” we make with ourselves to live happier, fuller and more authentic lives.

In a nutshell, you might say that Ruiz teaches us to know ourselves and our values. This self-awareness facilitates action and clarity in regards to what you want. Speaking with authenticity and truth, not doing harm with your language, including avoiding gossip or making assumptions becomes easier.

The result is that you have more respect for yourself and for others — you engage in less argument for the sake of argument. And you find more success in all you do, more satisfaction and happiness in your life and your relationships. 

The Four Agreements. Read it. 

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