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  • Positive Polarity Podcast

Feeling Stuck? Here’s How You Can Take Your Career to the Next Level

I am honored today to be hanging out with somebody. That's going to answer a ton of super great questions for us that are such a time where unemployment is rising. Hopefully, now it's dropping down a little bit, but I am honored to hang out with Sarah Reed from moonstone coaching and consulting. How are you today, Sarah?

Great, Dave, thanks so much for having me today. I appreciate it.

Absolutely. So, coaching and consulting can mean so much. I share some of those titles as well. Where do you focus your day to day activity with you with your company?

So, I work with folks in two different categories. First, people who are typically in corporate America who are trying to figure out what to do next. They're feeling a little stuck, a little lost, maybe lacking some confidence, need some clarity around how to move forward. So, they need help on the emotional side of the job search and the tactical side. So, I help them move through that in a number of different ways. And then the other side of my business is helping people navigate corporate America. They're not necessarily looking to make a job change. They want some external support outside of their organization that can help them navigate their career. Typically, within the organization, like moving up, they might be a little younger in their career or on a leadership track and want some external support to help them work through.

So, you have those four words that I hear all the time, "what to do next." I mean, it's so hard. It's a huge question. So, I try and help people find and discover what it is that they're great at. Whether through assessments or coaching, things like that. How do you answer that question? If I come to you or we have a listener right now, that's going, oh my gosh, this is exactly what I need. I don't know what to do next. I, whether I don't like where I'm at, or I'm not anywhere, but I don't want to go back to what I did. So, are there some simple. Starting points for you, Sarah, that you feel comfortable sharing with that person listening right now?

It goes back to why I started doing this work. So, I'm going to back up a little bit if you're okay with that, Dave. I was in recruiting for a long time in HR and staffing business. I interviewed a lot of people over my career. I could tell people would come to the desk, and I could tell, I'm not sure this is the job they want. I know they can do it. And it's what they have done, but I'm not sure it's really what they want. So, this has always been in the back of my mind before I launched my business. I kept seeing this gap right of people coming, and it's almost like they look at a job posting, for example, and say, I can do that. I can do that. I can do that like just line by line. Like, let me look at my resume. Let me look at my job description to match with this one.

And I think the crucial step that many people are missing, especially as they move on in their career and their life and their beliefs and their things shift in their minds and environments, and they don't look at their foundation. They skip the crucial part of saying, who am I right now? What do I want? What do I want for my work and my life so that it all works together? And they just go straight to the job search process. Let me get my resume in order. And because they want to run away from their current gate right there. So, they're so anxious to get out. They miss that crucial step. So that's a lot of the piece that I do with my clients that someone can do on their own. Like sometimes, people need help, but looking at those key pieces of what they want through their life, that foundational pieces and facets of themselves before they start applying for jobs and saying, I can do that. I can do that. Doing some of that kind of self-examination.

And that's interesting because we spend a lot of time when I'm coaching my business clients on self-awareness. So often, as you said, we want to skip that. And I've been helping a couple of friends here and there, and I look at their resume, and it's like, man, boom, boom, boom, boom. All the things they can do, not who you are. It's not a reflection of them.

I think that's probably the biggest thing I see on resumes that's lacking is there is no vision or idea of who they are.

So, you start and help people, and you go back to, Hey, here's what you got resume wise. And then let's, unpack that a little bit.

That's the last thing we do together. So that is part of how I work with my clients. So, I always say I work in three different buckets: confidence, clarity tools, and resources. So, confidence and clarity are the coaching side of my business. Where I'm helping them uncover and asking questions and doing some exercises or assessments with them and then the tools and resources, the tactical stuff. You got to figure out what you want to do and who you are first before adding it on paper. So, I feel people are, that's always what they're so anxious to get to. I'm like, hold on, timeout, need a little patience. Let's get to get to because all of that feeds into your resume. That's how you make your resume a little more alive and a little more reflective of you, the human. But you have to answer those questions first and do a little bit of that work first before we can get to that tactical side of things.

So, you talk about confidence. It's tough to start and grow a business, are there some simple things for anybody that might be listening that you could offer from a confidence perspective to just kind of boost their confidence a little bit?

One thing, my, all my friends, all my clients, all my colleagues, my network know what I'm known for is to watch your words. And what I mean by that is watch your words is your internal dialogue. What I often called gremlins. The negative thoughts that go through our minds, the ones we would never say to other humans, but we say to ourselves all the time. So really paying attention to what you're saying to yourself. And kind of you was saying about the client that you turned down. That you had the business owner. And instead of saying like, Oh, well, I did that. It's more thinking like, Hey, I did that for the best reasons. And I know in my gut, that's the right thing for me to do. And I am confident that I'm going to move forward in the right way. Because if I had gone down that path, it probably would have led in the wrong direction.

I'm all about like quick tips. How can we make life easier for ourselves? Replacing "should" with "get." So, I get to do this instead of "shouldng" all over yourself. Like everybody knows somebody who's like, oh, I should do that. I shouldn't do that. That word "should" has such bad energy. It's just kind of heavy. And it's kind of like a wet noodle or a red brick.

It's just a little bit of a shift for your mind. It can make a big difference. Those are two of the big things that I'm on my clients all the time because I find that we are much kinder to enemies and strangers than we are to ourselves sometimes.

And I love that. You said, watch your words, those internal words because what we think inside ends up what we believe. It's so funny when we do DISC training, with personality profiles and we're in a room, we just did this Wednesday with a group, and there was nine of us in the room, and we go around the room and we on the DISC, it says, what value you bring to the organization? So, it's so much easier for people to point out what they do bad rather than for them to point out what they do. And once you build that confidence, then how does the help us with the clarity piece?

It's usually a combination of those two things: confidence and clarity, they kind of go together. As you become a little more confident, it's easier to get clear in your mind. Because that negativity is not weighing it down, you've got going for yourself. So, it's a combination of conversation and back and forth with the client, as well as doing things like values and getting to the root of really examining what they're saying to themselves. Like digging far in more than just watch your words, but digging into that conversation about what are they're saying themselves. I often give us homework to my clients, write down or keep track in your head, and feel comfortable with before we meet again. What are the things you're saying? Because usually, when we sit down and talk about that together, you can see this theme and this pattern as you're going through your day. You don't realize it. But once you put it down on paper and you start talking about it with another human, you're like, oh crap, I see it right there.

That's a great point. So, I love the journaling piece because so often in today's world, the last thing we want to do is journal. We don't want to write things down. And so, it's interesting because I'm starting my second book on business blind spots, and writing it in. I have a binder or a notebook, and I'm writing rather than typing. It is just easier for me. Do you find many people are journaling, or is that part of this discovery for you is to journal and invest some time and, and prioritize the thoughts and things like that?

It usually depends on the client. So, I cater to my work, depending on my client. So, it's also goes along with what they're most comfortable with. Where they feel like they're going to get the most value, and I'm fairly intuitive. So, I can tell what will work for them because I don't want to push them into something that they're not going to do because they just don't feel right. So sometimes it's full-blown journaling. Sometimes it's like take this week to write these things down. Like, so I agree. I'm a big believer in writing things down and doing those exercises. Sometimes I have people do an exercise to write down some negativity they've got going on in their workplace or their life is free writing. It's a really good exercise for anybody out there struggling with something you take some time; you have to write it.

Because there's some science, I think it's 14 more neural pathways get connected when you write something versus typing. So, it's really important. You do some freewriting about whatever the situation was at work. That's bothering you, write it all down. It doesn't have to be coherent. Doesn't have to be complete sentences. It's just to pull it out of your brain. And then I recommend that you burn it safely or like rip it up and put it down the river. The whole thought process is to release it from your brain. Because often, part of what's contributing to people's confidence issues. Or lack of clarity is they've got too much spin in their brain and its often-negative spin. So literally, the act of writing it all down until you've got nothing else to say about that particular situation is an effective tool to release some of that bad Juju, for lack of a better word. All that gunk going on in there.

Yeah. So does that mean that if I'm understanding it, so let's say we're spinning in a negative direction to spin in a positive direction, we have to kind of stop and then make that transition into positive while that stop is really that in your way, writing that down and then releasing that into wherever burning it or whatever you end up doing with it? So, is that hard for people to take seriously?

Oh yeah. Oh, I get that all the time. In fact, I vividly remember one client. She's like, okay, Sarah, we've been working together for a while. I trust you. I'm going to do this. And her situation, she was in her position for 25 years. She got laid off, and she, it was a really big, devastating blow to her. Both emotionally and professionally, it just hurt. And we were talking through things, and we were doing some work, and it was still, I could feel like I could feel that weight in the way. It was going to get in the way of her interviewing. It was going to get the way of her networking. And so that's when I suggested this, I'm like, just trust me, give it a shot. And she's like, okay, I do trust you. And she came back to the next session, she's like, Oh, it was really helpful.

She said, I cried. It was a good release. And I think the difference you'd mentioned journaling before. I'm a believer in, and I like to keep things that are more positive in a journal because you're holding onto what you want versus the negative stuff. I don't love holding onto that. I'm a believer in, I think it's a good practice to write it down, but then I want you to let it go. That's why, in this example, it's about not in a journal, it's on paper, and it goes away. So that you mentally see the activity of it going away as opposed to holding onto it. Because if you think about it, a journal, you kind of carry with you. It might be nice and pretty. So, I'm a believer that you won't want to be careful about what you put in something as permanent as a journal versus what you just write down so that you can lose and let it go.

I've experienced that before where there was like a thought in my head that I just, for whatever reason, I couldn't get out of there. And it was crazy how there's opportunities in psychology to kind of rewrite those tapes. So, I don't know if those are the right words, but those that's kind of how it resonates with me. It gets interesting because in that process of getting a job and I've interviewed enough people for various clients, companies, I mean, I've been hundreds of interviews. Like you have. I can tell you kind of get that sense of the confident person versus the person that's scared to death. So, for somebody that is maybe not a good interviewer, do you have any simple tips for them that might help them the next time they have to interview at least to get some thought around that?

Yeah. That goes back to why the resume is the last thing I do. It could be just going on Google and looking up a values exercise and reminding yourself of what's important to you—and being clear. As a tip to get more comfortable and grounded in an interview, I like that to make sure you get a chance to say, Hey, I value knowledge. So, I love the fact that your organization emphasizes employee development. So, make sure you have those values. So, it's truth or knowledge, whatever your values are, getting clear on those. Because for one, I think it serves as this grounding purpose. Like this is me, it's a reminder of, this is me. And I feel like, so often people go into an interview and they're so focused on what have I done? Where have I gone? Like, what do I need to do for this company?

I'm a big believer in remembering to breathe, and infuse a bit of that can calm you down. Because in the end, I've interviewed since I was 17 years old. I started recruiting when I was 17. I've done it a lot. But really, if you can just be calm. And even if you don't answer my question exactly, if you give me pertinent information, I'm like, okay, I'm good. If you're giving me valuable information, remember that an interview's whole purpose is to get to know the human right? It's about skills, but it's also, are you going to be a culture match for here? Are you going to like working here? Are we going to be like working with you? So, the more you can remember to be you and show that a bit, the better off you are. And I find just remembering that can calm people down through the process instead of getting so worked up. But I got to make sure I answer this question, this question, this question, it can get mind-numbing. It's very stressful.

Yeah. That's so interesting. And I think the reality is as you're interviewing them, as much as they're interviewing you. So, the whole point is to kind of find out and see if there's a connection. So, I've interviewed some people, and they've interviewed fantastic. And I always love when people used to see when I'd say, Hey, so tell me about a weakness that you have, they'd be like, Oh, I care too much. I work too much; it was just one of those like really funny things. But I think that what you just said right now about culture, we have to determine if it's a fit. I mean, when we use the DISC assessment, and there's a page that says what your ideal environment is, and where you're going to thrive the most?

And so, I think of if I take a rose and I plant it in sand, and I water it once a month, it isn't going to do good, just like if I take a cactus and put it in dirt and water it every single day. So, neither the dirt is bad nor is the sand bad. It's just the person or, in this case, the plant, and it wasn't in the right spot. So how do you work through that? How are you telling people upfront to ask like culture related questions?

Yeah. It's funny when you're talking about your cactus example; I am a good friend who I worked for several years together. Her favorite phrase was there's a hat for every head. And it's the same kind of thing. That it's really about making sure you're clear about what you want in an organization. And then either through a combination of research. I believe it's a couple of different strategies. It's a combination of your own research. It's a combination of having some conversations with people that have worked there or know somebody that works there and you, whatever you can get access to. And then asking some actual questions in the interview, you can't just rely on the interview itself to get that kind of data and information. I think it's important to look at it from a couple of different angles.

So, you feel comfortable that like, okay, what they're saying is really what I'm seeing. Because oftentimes, I think I've had clients that went into an organization and thought it was the right fit. And then come to find out later, after doing some more digging after they took the job that they realized like, Oh yeah, not a great culture. That's not a great fit for you. And so, you got to make sure you do your diligence, on both sides, both during the interview, as well as kind of on the outside, in that research phase.

So, as you were painting that picture, I'm thinking in my head, how do you not be like egotistical? How do you not make it all about you? Because it's so easy for us as somebody that's trying to get a job somewhere to like to take over the interview, dominate the discussion, make it all about me. There's such a fine line of, I want to learn more about your culture because I want to make sure that I fit in there, but it's not, how do you make it not about me?

I always remind people that let the interviewer, like that HR person and hiring manager, drive. I tell that to clients, remember they're driving, let them drive. So that works both ways because I have a lot of clients that they're struggling with that boasting part. Because their confidence is a little bit hard. So, I always tell clients that if you are struggling, answer the question, let the interviewer say, Hey, can you tell me more about that? Because what I see, it's not even from ego, from a nervous standpoint, they ramble too much. They like, and they can't stop. And I coach people a lot on that. Let them ask a follow-up question. Let the interviewer do their thing. And you do your thing because I think sometimes people try to do both sides when they come into that interview and, and it's remembered your place. And I don't mean that in a bad way, just like it more from a this helps you relax. Do your thing, have your questions, let it be more conversational. And that's going to be a better outcome for you. The interviewer in that job, in that job interview.

So, when we do our listening skills training and do the art of questioning for me, one of my props is a chip clip. And I'm like. Take that and put it on your mouth because you talk too much. I don't care who you are. The vast majority of people tend not to listen, but they're formulating their responses to the question. And I think interviews, they're so hard. I mean, that's tough. You've got this little bit of information time to make a huge difference. And then you have to remember that there's probably four more people after you, or before you, that are in the same boat and you're trying to make this huge impression.

And so, I think, especially if it's anything to do with a sales role, Oh my gosh. And we have to talk way more. So, I try and encourage people in business, in general, to just listen to people and have these killer questions that draw out that information. I mean, you just brought one up. I mean, my favorite three words are "tell me more" as it puts it back on them. And so, I feel comfortable sharing that with people because we want to open up and especially in an interview. You get one chance at this. So, I'm just curious, have you guys practiced at all that kind of stuff? I mean, people do videotape that's even worse.

We don't videotape. I haven't had any video requests. Because I will typically be very kindly blunt if I think that visually they are doing something wrong, I can just think of a client. I was helping him do some interview prep, and like, I'm just confirming that the face I'm seeing now with the baseball hat on is not the video interview you're going to go to like just confirming. So, I think my nickname is truth-teller because I believe that if I'm not telling you the truth, why should we be working together? Like I'm doing you a disservice if I'm not being honest with you. But so, I typically do that sometimes it's via video when I used to work in person. During the phone call, I can hear a lot in the phone call, even if it's not a video of being able to give them some thoughts and some comments.

Yeah. And I'll never forget one of the window manufacturers that we had to be involved with. We took a tour, and they, in one of their level two or level three sales training, videotaped our presentation. Sarah, I never thought that I would ever recover from that as I looked at it. And I thought, I've been doing this forever, I know what I'm talking about. And boy, I tell you what, I had ticks. And I had eye contact issues. I wasn't listening. I mean, it was just painful to watch, but it makes you get ahold of yourself. If you're serious about your personal and business development, which again, that's up to whoever's listening. But if you're up for it, that's a huge way of really making a solid change in your life.

Absolutely. And I'm always a little careful about that because my client may have an interview in a day, depending on the circumstances. And then to watch a video, it'll take them weeks to recover from that. I'm like, and we don't have that kind of time. So, it depends on the person, right? I agree with you, oftentimes the timing in which I'm dealing with people, the best thing I can do for them is to give them that feedback that takes things like that so that they don't have to take it and see it emotionally. Cause I agree it's effective. But if I know they're going to an interview in two days, I'm like, they're not going to be ready by then. It's going to take them for too long.

Do you use any type of assessment at all? Do you have any tools like that?

I have some things that I use as part of when I was certified as a career coach a number of years ago. Part of that certification was given some exercises and assessments. So, I use those, and I use some things that I divide up devised on my own. They're much more tactically based. So, many of my clients come with assessments, and they're like for the niche that I'm in, they come, and they're like, yeah, I know this is me, but it still doesn't tell me what I want to do next to my career. So, the things that I do are much more exercise-based to serve as brainstorming and uncover and dig into some possibilities. So, a little different than I find that a hardcore assessment is great for an organization for me in my space and niche and helps them figure that out. But you, the being right now trying to figure out what you do next.

Do you use like EEQ at all get involved in emotional intelligence at all to try and help them?

I talk about that all the time. The awareness piece, but all those things, a lot of what I'm like, if you think about doing the values exercises is a key to thinking like, okay, that's right. Who am I? And let me get more introspective about what I'm about. Like that alone is a really valuable thing that you can do to say like, Oh, that's right, this is important. And if I value this, am I behaving in that way? That is in alignment with that or is the organization I work at aligning enough with my values that this is a good fit because that's often how people come to me. We do their values, and it's so clear. They value knowledge. The company doesn't value that, or they're not flexible. And they value flexibility. And you see where the unhappiness came from and where the misalignment is.

Cool. So, what's career SmackDown?

It goes along with that whole truth-teller thing. So, I'm honest with people, like, I'm not going to tell you things that feel great. Like, because again, I want to help you in the fastest way possible. And sometimes, doing that in several sessions over a long period of time is not going to get you where you need to go faster. So, I am kind in my smackdowns, but I will tell it like it is, and it'll hit you in the middle of your eyes. Like right here. But I will do it with a kind open heart so that you can take it in, but that's really what that's all about. I

It's really easy when you're smiling at me to hit me in the face.

Totally. That's my strategy.

So, when I started a relationship with the client, I tend to ask, especially when I'm in a coaching role, I asked how real you want to get here? I mean, my words are a little different, and it's a little longer discussion, but the reality is it's like, okay, how brutally honest, how open do you want this to be? Because, if I come in as a coach and I see something, what do you want me to do? I mean, there's plenty of things I can do. I can offer suggestions. I tell you exactly what's wrong. I mean, how do you want that? Do you find that you ask something similar, or how do you address that early as trust is being built between your new prospect or a new client?

Well, it's, to be honest, it starts with my initial conversation with a prospect. In that consult conversation. I'm clear about, Hey, I'm a truth-teller. I tend to be honest because I want to make sure you get where you want to go. So, I kind of lay the groundwork for that. And then in our initial conversations, part of it is just me gauging their comfort level with transparent communication. And typically for me, it's like, Hey, I remember you say, you want to move forward and move on to this organization. So, for one of those clients, and that's still really important to you. So that's typically what I start with when I give them some of that smack between the eyes. To do that, you need to do X, Y, or Z. And that's where the hard feedback comes in.

So, it's usually me a combination of, Hey, I've reminded you that this is how I operate. And you got to be comfortable with that because this is the only way I know how to do this. Well, because I'm trying to get them to move somewhere different than when they're in an organization. I think that's some different dynamics. So, it's then telling them like, Hey, I'm reminding you, this is what you said you wanted. If this is what you want, I need to give you this feedback. And that's typically how I lay the groundwork for that. And then as time goes on, they know it's more of like a look for me. And then they're like, oh yeah, okay, it's coming.

So, I want to touch base quickly on the currently employed people you're working with. I've read that like three out of four people are currently leaving their job because of their boss. I mean, are you hearing a lot of this disgruntlement? And again, obviously, with the COVID, it's a little bit unique.

How did they kind of create a pathway for people to find how to strengthen their team? Well, part of the strengthening that team is that two-way communication. And quite frankly, if I have a team and somebody who's not able to be forthright with me, there's already a gap where there's already something going on. So, do you coach people? I mean, when someone comes to you for the first time, and says, I don't want to work here anymore, I'm assuming you kind of unpack why they want to leave or are they coming with authenticity going it's me?

No, I think that's an excellent point. And that was one thing that surprised me when I launched my business that not everyone ended up leaving. Because part of the work I do, I believe you need to get clear. You need to get in a better spot in your current environment before you can go out and interview and figure out what's next. If you don't get your head on straight at your current place, it doesn't work. Cause you're bringing all that with you. Or that baggage or that cover is preventing you from getting clear. So, I had several clients and still do this to this day. Most of them do come to me and say, Hey, I think it might be me. Cause I think they're coming for coaching. Cause I think like there's something wrong here.

So, they're coming to me with that lens a little bit. It is often about shifting their perspective, knowing that some wells don't have water, some wells have soda. Like that's what I find with leaders oftentimes, that person is going to that leader for something they can't provide, and they get mad about it. I'm like you got to just deal with the fact they don't have that kind of water in their well. So, find it somewhere else in the organization, or then it is time to move on. So, it is often a lot of conversation about them getting clear on, do I want to leave? And is this about me? And what do I need to shift and what some perspectives I need to take. A lot of it, you mentioned, is driven by manager relationships. But I've, I've had a number of clients that have turned that around by doing their own work and decided to stay for a while and haven't left because they realized they needed to shift their perspective and their view on things and watch their words to make sure that they were doing the right thing for themselves.

That's so cool. And we actually, it's funny because I use a stress assessment for people and it's kind of, it shows seven different areas in the workplace where stress can rise up, and it gives you some tips and stuff to work through that. One of them is your manager or whatever supervisor, whatever your words are, leader. I mean, there's so many other stress points in a day. So, when I talk with people, whether I'm talking to the business owner or someone on the team and that stuff comes up, my first thought is what blind spots do we have? What are we not seeing? And what are we making decisions on? There's nothing worse than deciding on half the information.

I do a ton of conflict resolution training and actual conflict resolution between two people. And if I only heard one side and then I said, okay, we're going to make a decision based on that. But that's how we as humans. A lot of times, make decisions based on like half of the information. That's where I think it's interesting. So, on your end, if I would come to you and I had that blind spot, I couldn't see what you see, because that's what a coach does. How do you coach them into being able to understand better or better see that situation?

Probably the biggest thing is helping them get curious instead of reacting getting curious. So, I'm a big fan of the question. What if, what if your boss meant this? What if he or she has this going on? And throwing out a number of different scenarios. I start to help them think about that. Like it could be, their mother got sick yesterday? Like all of the scenarios of why someone might behave badly. So that you can get curious about it first and then have more empathy and then re react. Get analytical about it. And thoughtful about it instead of just because I find so many people just react. And that's not always beneficial to them, behaving well at work, quite frankly. So that's typically my process in how I help them work through that.

When you think about the empathy thing, I mean, that's a whole other topic, to unpack that a different time. But I remember listening to a story about a guy on the subway. I don't know if it was a true story or if it was just to make sure, but there was a guy in the subway, and he had two kids with them, and he was sitting there just kind of in a, in a daze and his kids were just running around the subway, in that car. And they were just like they didn't even have a parent. Sure. And somebody came up to the father finally and said, Hey, seriously, man, control your kids, which isn't acceptable. This is, blah, blah, blah. And the guy looks at this guy and says. I'm sorry. I know I just left the hospital, and we just lost our wife, and I'm just like lost. I could see myself. Like in my mind, I'm thinking, man, give control of your kids. But hopefully, I'm not, I'm reacting to that right away.

My emotional intelligence is enough to where it's like, maybe something's going on to your point. What if something was going on? And I think it just really brings home that point of asking that what if, and quite frankly, give people the benefit of the doubt. My gosh, now more than ever in our society, how cool would it be to get the benefit of the doubt before you make a quick judgment.

What's one tip for somebody listening that you think would be helpful for them?

To be honest, I think it's be kinder to yourself. Because I think that we're all in a tough spot right now, whether it's in business or looking for a job or dealing with your family, that if we could be kinder to ourselves, it's easier for us to be more patient, more curious, more empathetic. If we can put that kindness in word, it's a lot easier for us to behave better outwardly. Because I just see that as a theme lately. So again, and that goes along with watching your words right behind, watch your words, don't say something to yourself that you wouldn't say to your friend, your best friend. Like, don't do it.

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