3 Essential Steps to Make Informed Career Decisions

3 Essential Steps to Make Informed Career Decisions

3 Essential Steps to Make Informed Career Decisions

Secrets to Career Success

Meet Mollie, she is a busy mid-career professional who holds a high-stress position with a large company and is struggling to define her professional identity and feel secure in her career decisions. 

She wishes she woke up feeling fulfilled and energized to tackle her goals, but there’s just one problem – she’s not entirely sure what her goals are for her future. Because of that, Mollie is often consumed by negative thoughts and worries about the uncertainty of her indecisions. She is lacking presence in her relationships and with herself and feels stuck sitting at hesitation station. 

What she really wants is to gain clarity and confidence so that she can move forward, let go of the past, and find more meaning along her career path, instead of making excuses. Ultimately Mollie wants to live her life to the fullest, get unstuck for good, and be happy and successful in her work-life.

You might be able to relate to ALL or parts of Mollie’s experience. You are not alone. Mollie took action by making the decision to invest in a career coach to help her gain clarity, confidence, and direction she needed to get unstuck and move forward. As a career coach, I wanted to share with you what I share with my career coaching clients, here are my top 3 Essential Steps to Making Informed Career Decisions!

1. Become Self-Aware

Searching for the right career path requires establishing a career plan. A critical part of the career planning process is becoming self-aware, before even identifying career options and making important career decisions. Finding a path for your career that is meaningful and satisfying requires self-assessment to gain the self-awareness you’ll need to make informed career decisions. This means exploring your true interests and passions, your values and personality preferences, as well as your strengths and transferable skills. 


Gaining clarity about WHO you are will naturally lead you in the right direction towards WHAT it is that you want to do. This holds true whether you are a recent graduate and just launching your career or if you are an early, mid or late-career professional who is looking for greater satisfaction in your current role or making a career change. There are several other factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to making important career decisions – Such as, what is your ideal work environment, what level of responsibility do you want and desire, and what are your salary requirements and preferences?

2. Career Planning 

Career planning helps you develop the “picture of your ideal job”. By exploring first WHO you are, followed by researching possible career and work options that fit your personality, you will be better equipped to consider economic realities and make important career decisions in a thoughtful way. 

The first step of career planning that will most certainly inform your career decisions, is to ask yourself a few questions that probably don’t initially seem very career-focused. By answering these 3 seemly simple questions, you will have more self-knowledge about your interests.

  • In your free time, what do you like to do
  • What are your hobbies? You may not have realized it until now, but many hobbies are also industries. Therefore, if you identify a favorite hobby, you may also have identified a favorite field. This applies whether you are just starting out or itching for a change. 
  • When friends come to you for help with problems or questions, what are the kinds of problems or questions for which they seek your advice?

Create The Life You Envision

It is possible to transform your interests into job targets. This is a process that I coach my career coaching clients through to help them create the kind of life that they envision for themselves. Especially those who feel like they are stuck in a rut and want to do something that feels more like they are truly making a difference at the end of the day. The focus is on both self-understanding and gaining knowledge about the job market. 

The second key step of the career planning process is to identify your strengths and transferable skills. What makes a transferable skill a strength is when you identify the skill as something you are highly proficient in and that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, and it’s not important to you, then it’s not a true strength. 

What Are Transferable Skills? 

They are the basic building blocks of a job that are not rooted in any particular field or content. A transferable skill is a developed aptitude or ability and is considered a functional skill. I help my clients identify their top 5 transferable skills through a combination of formal and informal assessments. This brings clarity, validation, and confidence to their strengths and ability to move to the next steps of career goal setting.

3. Develop An Action Plan

The third step is to know that career decision-making is a process that takes time. It involves retrieving comparative information about career options, testing assumptions and drawing conclusions, and looking at the pros and cons of the different job targets that have been identified. And finally, to develop a comprehensive action plan that showcases both your strengths and accomplishments so that you are following a career path that is meaningful and satisfying, and supports your lifestyle.

Set Yourself Up For Success

If you truly want to get a head start in your career, whether you are just starting out or making a significant career change, first you have to be willing to explore who you are on a deeper level. What you are choosing to do for a living is not just a job that provides a paycheck, it is something that inspires you and motivates you to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life

The career planning and decision-making process is not a fast-track to success; however, if you take the time to gain clarity about your requirements and preferences you will set yourself up for long-term success, not just short-term gratification. 

And lastly, feeling confident in the decisions you make about your life and your future is empowering. When you feel empowered it shows in your actions and success is accelerated along your chosen career path because you are more focused, strategic, and values-driven. 

Once Mollie was able to identify and acknowledge her true strengths and values, her confidence in herself grew and her motivation for creating positive change in her life became unstoppable. She began to advocate for herself more at work and received a promotion that provided her with the level of responsibility and support that she desired. She also gained greater clarity about the skill areas that she wants to further develop and as a result, she created a short term and long-term plan for her success.

Mollie is happy in her new role and trusts that her career planning will keep her from feeling stuck. She has a renewed sense of purpose at work that has positively influenced other important areas of her life. 

You can find this level of support and success in your own career journey!

We believe in you and your success!




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How to Build Positive Coworker Relationships

How to Build Positive Coworker Relationships

How to Build Positive Coworker Relationships

Developing Your Soft Skills

Fewer things impact your overall satisfaction with your job than the quality of the coworker relationships you have with your peers and leadership. Research into workplace satisfaction reported by MIT’s Sloan Management Review indicates that having positive coworker relationships can increase your creativity, make you more resilient emotionally, and enjoy your work more. All of these help you feel more connected to your career, your workplace and enjoy your job. 

In contrast, feeling disconnected (or worse, in conflict) with your coworkers leads to disengagement from your work, reduced sense of satisfaction with or loyalty to your organization, lower productivity, more stress, and even a toxic workplace environment.

Having positive coworker relationships is vitally important. Playing well with others matters. Here are some tips to developing soft skills that I share with my career coaching clients on how to strengthen coworker relationships– no matter where your work takes place!

Prioritize Positive Interactions

It’s true, technology has interfered with building these important relationships at work. Messaging, email, and virtual meetings often replace chatting together in the breakroom or casual conversations in the hallway. This can create an absence of friendly small talk that leads to closer connections. Particularly if you work at home, you may feel that your interactions with your coworkers are limited to “all business, all the time.”

But even those working in a traditional workplace setting find building effective relationships to be difficult to create and navigate. Particularly when your day is packed with meetings and deliverables, it can be hard to find the time to connect with a coworker on a human-to-human level.

Thankfully, the simplest, most effective relationship-building tools take almost no time at all. Smiling (emojis count), friendly greetings, expressions of empathy, words of appreciation, and questions that convey your interest in the other person as a human being will go a long way in building trust and rapport with your coworkers.

Respect Differences

Not everyone views a work project the same as you do. It’s OK to disagree. Be sure you use a respectful tone and if you are angry, slow down. Consider the best time and approach for voicing your opinion.

Think Positive

Have you ever worked with someone who pretty much killed every idea you’ve ever presented? If so, you know how tough working on their team can be and how little engagement you’ll want with this coworker. Bring good questions and bring solutions to the table for your concerns.

Acknowledge Your Coworkers

A simple “good morning” or “how was your weekend?” is often all it takes. Planning a breaktime walk or coffee together can be a great way to get to know the people you work with everyday.

Practice Listening

Hear your coworkers out, don’t interrupt in meetings, ask for clarification of ideas and let your coworkers know you’re listening. Learning to effectively listen will open conversation up organically. 

Keep Your Commitments

Your work affects everyone on the team. If you commit to a timeline for completing a project, make it happen. Coworkers quickly learn who can be trusted to get their work finished on time.

Share Credit Where Credit is Due

Nothing kills trust like stealing coworkers’ ideas and presenting them as your own. It will be tough to rebuild trust, and your teammates may begin to withhold important ideas and information from you as a result. If it’s your idea, shine. If it’s not, let someone else shine.

What skill will you practice this week? Share with us in the comments section below!

Wishing you success,
Linda Pounds, M.A., LMFT

Linda Pounds, M.A, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage/Family Therapist (LMFT) and Certified Emotional Intelligence Leadership Coach at Growing Self. She works with individuals and couples who face the challenge of merging their work lives with personal lives and the impact each has on the other. Her work with leaders and leadership teams includes Emotional Intelligence (EI) Coaching and assessments, leading to a positive impact on individuals and organizations.

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Finding a Career You Love: Career Change Advice

Finding a Career You Love: Career Change Advice

Finding a Career You Love: Career Change Advice

Career Change Advice to Move You Forward

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
— Mary Oliver

Finding a Career You Love

Have you been considering a career change? Sometimes, the first, hardest step is getting clear about what it is that you want to do. But even with that clarity, there can be other obstacles that need to be worked through before you can find a career that you love. Questions like:

  • Should I go back to school?
  • How will changing careers impact my family?
  • What career is congruent with who I really am?
  • What am I truly capable of?
  • Should I take a leap, or should I make an incremental change?
  • Should I just focus on improving the career I’m currently in?

How — Or If — To Change Careers

Expert Advice From a Master Career Coach

On today’s show, we’re discussing:

  • How to figure out if you’re having “escape fantasies” and if so, how to avoid making mistakes in your career.
  • The myth of the perfect career, vs what a realistic “career experience” should be.
  • Escape fantasies vs making slight shifts
  • Differences around career changes between men and women
  • The utility of taking a career assessment test, or career placement test
  • How to use your dark emotions to illuminate your career truth
  • How to manage career challenges unique to different stages of life

No matter if you’re a recent graduate looking to get clarity about what you want to do with your life, if you’re in an established career that you’re feeling dissatisfied and discouraged with, or if you’re getting back into the workforce after taking a break, or dealing with a layoff, you’ll definitely want to hear this great career advice.

Here are a few of the career resources we discussed on today’s show:


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Got Laid Off? Here’s How to Deal.

Got Laid Off? Here’s How to Deal.

It’s Not Your Fault: Recovering from a Layoff

After many years of experience as a career coach, and executive coach, and after working with hundreds of career coaching clients who have experienced a layoff, I’ve noticed a pattern. At the beginning of our first conversation, we talk about resumes because it seems like an important step (and it is) in the process of moving through this painful quagmire. It’s only after we’ve covered applicant tracking systems, branding, LinkedIn, and other practical, tactical topics that people trust me enough to pose the questions that whisper to them at night, the ones they’re afraid to say out loud:

  • Where did I go wrong?
  • Is there hope for me?
  • How will I get through this?
  • How do I talk to people about this?

There’s more: tension with their spouse, embarrassment in casual social interactions like the carpool for their kids’ school, loss, and loneliness because their community is suddenly gone, an aimlessness – or at the opposite end of the spectrum – an obsession and fierce dedication to using every minute of every day for their job search.

It’s hard.

And there’s hope. You WILL get through a layoff, or job loss. Here’s how:

1. Find a safe listening ear. It’s vital that you create the opportunity to explore these and other questions that haunt you. If you get stuck on the gerbil wheel in your head, there’s a good chance you’ll keep spinning there.

Look, here’s the truth: most of the time a layoff has nothing to do with you. I liken it to being in a car accident. The road conditions weren’t good, and you ended up in a ditch. Or, to continue the driving metaphor, another driver (your company’s overly ambitious strategic plan, for example) smacked into you like a careless texter behind the wheel. We reflexively search for things we could have done to steer past this collision (“I should have seen it coming and found another job last spring when there were signs,” or “If I’d had that extra credential, I would have been more valuable”).

It’s important to ask these questions about where you might have shifted gears and done something different because if you can harvest these insights while they’re fresh, you’ll be less likely to repeat whatever misstep brought you here. But I have a significant database of clients who have been through a layoff, and it’s almost always not their fault. It’s just like an unfortunate car accident. Wrong place, wrong time.

So, extroverts: find someone to listen to you. You have to get it out of your head, so you can make sense of it. Introverts: write about it and then share your reflections because you have to be witnessed through this process. Bring it to me or any other coach here on Growing Self. Other possible safe spots to find a listening ear:

  • A job search group (this really helps because you realize that you’re not alone)
  • Your place of faith (there are often groups in churches and synagogues and temples focused around job search, and if there isn’t, the person who leads your congregation hears from people just like you all the time)
  • A trusted friend (someone who knows how to listen – you might even design something with them so that they know that you want to be heard, not to get advice)

It’s tough to have these vulnerable conversations with your spouse or romantic partner, your parents, or others you live with because they are so closely aligned with you and it’s really hard for them to separate their own worries from yours. They’re concerned about money, what they’ll say to people close to them, or they may not know how to manage their own strong emotions. So, the people closest to you tend to the ones you consider seeking out for these conversations, and they can also surprise you at how awkward the conversation can become.

2. Focus on your self-care. Attend to the basics:

  • Regular workouts (it’s actually very helpful to many people to be outside regularly – there’s something replenishing about the natural world for these folks)
  • Eating nourishing foods (rather than comfort foods, as enticing as these seem)
  • Getting adequate sleep (when you’re out of a regular routine, you may have difficulty when it comes to getting up in the morning and that can slide into an erratic sleep schedule, and when it comes to an interview date, if you’re off kilter with your sleep, that can throw off your game).
  • Monitor your screen time (spending time online for networking, establishing your presence on LinkedIn, and viewing job postings is important, and it can quickly become your singular focus – and it’s so easy to fall into the black hole of distraction that the online world offers)

Many of us benefit from a structure during times when we’re out of routine. It’s tough to create your own structure, especially when you’re depleted and your worries are elevated, so be kind to yourself during this phase of your life and recognize that you don’t need to overhaul your whole life. Your financial, energetic, and inspirational reserves are likely to be low right now. Do the best that you can and ask for help before you think you need it. Specific suggestions include:

  • Can you ask a former work colleague to meet you for walk (so that you reconnect and also get in some exercise)?
  • If you notice that sugar and familiar comfort foods are dominating your diet, consider scheduling one or two comfort meals intentionally during the week so that you have specific times that you offer them to yourself – that can make it easier to eat nourishing foods at other times during the week.
  • Schedule networking meetings in the morning so that you have an external motivation to get up early and be ready for those connection opportunities. Meet other job seekers at a coffee shop in the morning to get your day jump started.
  • Set some parameters around your screen time so that you have some downtime from your search and from input that may undermine your confidence and energy.

3. Rehearse predictable social interactions. “I don’t want to tell anyone about my layoff,” one of my clients told my recently. He was embarrassed about it, worried that he’d been targeted in the wave of layoffs, and he wasn’t sure what people in his life would think of him.

Take control of this narrative,” I told him. Former colleagues and other professional contacts will find out eventually. It’s best if they hear it from you in a way that handily dismisses concerns. Even loose connections, people you see at the gym or your neighbors, will become advocates for you if you intentionally loop them in to what you’re experiencing. There’s no need to overshare, and there’s no need to hide.

If you consider what you’ll say in advance of these casual and chance encounters, your words will flow easily. Some tips for this process include:

  • Keep it short.
  • Put things in context. Remember my client who was worried that he was targeted in the round of layoffs at his company? That layoff included >10,000 people worldwide. It’s hard to see the decision as personal when it’s clear that the resource reallocation was widespread. Even if just a few people were affected, let people know you weren’t the only person. If you were the only person, don’t worry, it happens. Simply offer some context for the decision that’s neutral (such as a budget shortfall).
  • End on what’s next for you. The more specific you can be, the better.
  • Example: “I was one of several people let go last week due to restructuring at my company. I’ve already started applying to companies in X industry for Y roles. Will you keep your ears open and let me know if you hear of anything that might fit me?”

While I’ve had a handful of clients who cheered when they were laid off (either because they wanted to pursue their own consulting work and they had a severance package that seeded their next chapter or because the environment at their former company was so toxic that they could finally breathe), most people go through significant emotional turmoil because of their layoff. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to go through this process alone. I hope that these tips help you find your way through.


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