I went to the movie today to see “Up in the Air.”  My friend had suggested that with my interest helping people transition, it would be a good movie to see.  Well, I’m glad I went to see it.  Of course, George Clooney in high definition and on the big screen was a great way to spend a few hours, but it was one of those movies that brought back some very painful moments in my life.

The movie centered around George who was  hatchet man–traveling from one company to another firing people.  My own experiences sitting on the “wrong side” of the desk came quickly back as I was watching the show.  But what really surprised me was feeling the feelings of being the “hatchet” person myself during my human resources career.  Although I did what I had to do, I could see how I buried my feelings in order to get through the many termination meetings I’ve been through in my 30 year career.

The movie came a few days after I attended a Job Fair to promote my new career club, BIZyBoomers.  During that day, I met many people who have been impacted by unemployment.  It was hard to hear and see the faces of so many people who have been devastated by the reality of today’s economy.  But now, instead of giving people the news of such terrible news, I am helping people get back on their feet via my career club. I’m excited about the possibility of making a positive difference in people’s lives.  It’s such a good feeling!

Being laid off was my wake-up call.  It was the kick that got me going to follow a career I had thought about for many years, but had let my fears stop me. Although there were many scary times, the end result is knowing the difference in working at a job that pays the bills and having your passion be your work.  My hope is that I can help many people facing their job loss to have their own chance to do work that builds on their old experiences and skills and makes a positive difference in the world.

Have you lost your job only to find work that you love?  I would love to hear your story and what you’ve learned.

I let my fears stop me for 10 years from becoming a Life Coach.  Once I was laid off in 2006, I knew it was now or never to go back to school for coaching.  Today, I have been able to do things I never thought were possible some 15 years ago.  Since that time, there seems to be an never-ending stream of comfort zone-busting opportunities.

I recently noticed a pattern–it usually starts this way.  I volunteer to do something that is right for my business or my own growth.  Then, panic sets in and my brain goes numb.   Despite acknowledging all I have been able to achieve and/or overcome, the same ol’ fears continue to bubble up–being afraid of making a mistake or being a failure.  It’s an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I can see why many people are not able to push through the fears, they run away or ignore such opportunities altogether.

But after a few hours or sometimes a few days, what do you know–I am able to rise to the occasion and come up with the next step or an answer–whatever is needed.  I wonder what it would take so that I can just skip that deep pit despair feeling and just move to action?  Maybe that will be improbable, but I can certainly shorten the time I spend in panic.  It’s worth a try.

It’s tempting to just keep truckin’ onward about the next thing you have to do. There’s always something more–isn’t there! But before I established what I want to accomplish next year, I took the time to look back over 2009.  I had forgotten a lot of what I did and was pleasantly surprised to see my list.  Starting a new business is certainly an opportunity to stretch and grow at every corner.

In addition to accomplishing a lot of “stuff,” it’s great to consider the behavioral and attitudinal changes that have come along with growth.  It’s become more comfortable to be out of my comfort zone.  Instead of panic, I am able to take more obstacles and challenges in my stride. I notice how achievements push up my confidence a notch, which helps to ready me for the next “opportunity.”

A far cry from just a few years ago when I let my fears stop me from pursuing coaching.  I had every excuse there was.  “Suppose I failed? I don’t have the right skills? What do I know about starting a business?” But I never stopped wishing I could be a coach.  Everytime I talked or heard about coaching, I noticed a butterfly feeling in my stomach.  Although I dismissed it regularly, I now know that’s my gut talking to me.

So, before you make your New Year’s Resolutions or goals, take the time to look back.  Be gentle with those that didn’t quite work out the way you had hoped or planned.  You are still learning.  And yes, I have to remind myself of this very thing too!

I found this in my files.  Seems appropriate for Thanksgiving.  The author is Unknown.

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.  If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times, during those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.  They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles and they can become your blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

When I was five years old, a piano arrived at my house.  My mom decided I was going to play it.  Within a short time, I started taking lessons from Mrs. Pierson. I guess I made my mom happy, because I liked playing and eventually, got pretty good at it.  Of course like most kids (and many adults), what I didn’t like–was practicing.  But I stuck with it and continued with Mrs. Pierson for more than 10 years.

I’m amazed how the decision to buy a piano so many years ago would make such an impact on my life.  I was often asked to play for my class and was even asked to play for my eighth grade graduation.  Looking back, these opportunities gave me moments in the spotlight and helped my self esteem.  When I was in high school, being able to read music helped me in singing in the chorus.  I never had a solo-type voice, but was good enough to make a select chorus.  When I was in college, I sang at a coffee house with my friends and even learned to play the guitar.  Music became a good social entry for me.

When I first got married, it became difficult to find a place to put my piano and after having kids, couldn’t find time to practice when they weren’t sleeping.  Eventually, I gave the piano away and that chapter of my life was closed.

Well, maybe not.  I never really lost the dream of owning a piano again.  Some 25 years later I got my chance.  I received a lump sum bonus and decided to buy myself a baby grand piano.  I was so unsure that I would ever play again, that I bought a disklaver which is a modern day player piano.  I was certainly humbled  as I quickly realized I had to start right from the beginning.  I went to the music store and got myself one of those Thompson Piano Books that start you from square one.

After several weeks, I was able to progress and was able to get myself to a pretty good level.  But I wanted more.  I wanted to be able to play the same piece I played at my eight grade graduation.  If I was going to do that, I had to get a piano teacher and make a commitment. The first time I played for my new teacher, she saw potential.  Eventually, I was able to play that piece and many more.

I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s faces (now in their late 20’s) when I played for them for the first time.  Although they knew I had played–they were shocked to hear their “old mom” could  make some really good music.  It was a good day for sure!  I soon joined my church’s choir and I was again surrounding myself with music.

Since then, other than playing for friends and family, I hadn’t done much with the piano. Sure, there were times when I had thought perhaps if all else failed, I could play the piano at Nordstrom’s.   Who knows, maybe I will someday! But then in September, I played the piano for a memorial service for my good friends, Adele and Jack, who were killed in a car accident.  I figured if I could get through the emotion of that terrible time and get through my piece, I could get through anything!

So, now I’m signed up to play again at our church’s Healing Service and look forward to other piano gigs at church. I’ve just joined the choir here at my NC church–again, music surrounds me.

While I sometimes catch myself wondering how proficient I could have been if I had continued playing all my life, I am pleased I have renewed this passion again.  So often we put away our talents and gifts on a shelf focusing on more practical skills.  Maybe like me, you are able to light the spark again and bring some pure joy back to your life. Perhaps it’s art or writing poems.  It’s not too late–reignite that spark again!

It was a long way before we got to our next stop on my cross-country trip with my daughters.  I started to stir–“Mom, you were sleeping.”  I answered quickly, “No, I was just resting my eyes.” You’ve probably said the same thing–when you’re in that half awake/half asleep state.  It could be in the car or on the couch “watching” TV.  You’re there, but not fully present–not fully in gear.

Many of us go through our lives or parts of our lives like we are resting our eyes.  We’re going about doing what we need to do–eat, go to work or school, work out at the gym–you know, the daily routine.  But we’re not really conscious.

There were times in my life where I caught myself dozing–just so I could survive what I was going through.  I’ve heard others (including myself) describe it as being numb. I’m convinced being numb serves a purpose–for awhile.  Perhaps it’s the body’s way of protecting itself during times of crisis.  We are doing the best we can, but there’s not much energy left over to do much else.

Then one day, an opportunity presents itself that gets you excited or maybe you get to such a low point that you start crawling your way back up!  You realize something’s been missing.

When was the last time:

  • You felt the exhilaration of going outside of your comfort zone and learned something a little bit (or a lot) beyond your reach?
  • You felt happy to go to work on Monday morning?
  • You had a good belly laugh?

If you can’t remember, what are you going to do about it?  Discover the confidence you can get by achieving new goals.  Achieve a better balance to your life!  Find a job that doesn’t feel like work.  Isn’t it time you got back into the driver’s seat of your life?

In one short week, I received palpable reminders of what love is all about

  • attending a surprise celebration for my former church choir director and organist, Westminster Presbyterian, in West Chester, PA;
  • the launch of my signature speech and introduction of my“The 7 Keys for your Great Corporate Escape;”
  • and upon my return home to NC, learning of the tragic head-on collision which claimed the lives of two of my dearest friends and neighbors.

Here are a few of those reminders: (or, should we call them lessons?)

Now is all there is

Several months ago when I learned that the choir was going to surprise Bob Morris and Glenn Kinckner by commissioning a piece of music dedicated to them in honor of their exceptional dedication and service to the church, my first inclination was to say, “I would love to go, but I can’t really afford to make a trip up there.” I could hear Suze Orman’s voice in my ear asking, “Is it a need or a want?”

I knew this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events, and what better way to show them how much they and the choir has meant to me over the years. Knowing that I had several open invitations for a place to stay, I decided to somehow find the funds.

It was a glorious day I will never forget. Typical of Bob—when he saw me in the congregation, he mouthed the words, “Why aren’t you singing with us?” A few minutes later—he found out why. As Bob got up to direct the 100 choir members (no surprise, everyone made a point to be there that Sunday), he was told to sit down by the pastor. Not only was Bob and Glenn truly surprised, but was blown away when the composer, K. Lee Scott appeared to direct the choir in his new original work dedicated to them “O Send Out Your Light.”

Any doubt I made the right decision dramatically vanished the very next day as I arrived home to learn of my friends Adele and Jack Kightlinger’s death. (By the way, Suze does say, “People first…”)

Cards, calls, hugs and other acts of kindness

I am struck how seemingly inconsequential gestures of caring add up. As we shared memories of Adele and Jack this week, we realized they often were the ones knocking on the door of a brand new resident. Sure, I knew they did that for me, but I didn’t realize they did it for everyone. This simple act went a long way in helping so us feel welcome in our new home.

Adele was known for spontaneously sharing special goodies with the people around her. If someone had just come out of the hospital or was feeling under the weather—Adele was right there with a plate of something. (And, she was a terrific cook and baker to boot!)

One of the things I loved about the Westminster Choir was the way you always felt special. On any given Sunday, there could be between 50 and 80 singing. But you never felt like a small fish swimming in a big pond. If you weren’t there, you were missed. When Bob would see you the next week, “Where have you been—missed you.” or, “Look who’s back!” And at choir rehearsal, we would regularly share prayer requests and sing Happy Birthday to those with a birthday that week (in 4 part harmony, of course).

Gone too soon

Many times this week I heard myself thinking, “I only knew Adele and Jack two years; it wasn’t long enough.” Then I realized, suppose I didn’t move here and didn’t become friends with them? As I mentioned in my eulogy, I am choosing to focus on the two years I did have with them. I guess when we allow ourselves to feel love it means we risk grieving if we lose them. But for me, the trade-off is worth it. I am honored to have known them for whatever time I had with them.

Recognize when love is given back to you

When you start a new business, there are a lot of firsts. When I decided to go out of my comfort zone and present my signature speech in front of a live audience, a fear quickly cropped up—suppose no one shows up?

Not only did I have 8 people attend my dress rehearsal here in Asheville, but I had 22 people take the time to attend my program in Delaware. When I think back to who attended, they were people who know me or knew of me through others. I felt the love and the caring they showed me by their presence. Thank you all again.

The folks here in our townhome community know that Adele was a special friend to me. I can’t tell you the number of people who have called or stopped in to ask how I’m doing. We have learned that our community means more than just doing activities together—it means caring and being here for each other.

Of all people

Upon hearing about Adele and Jack’s death, I heard someone comment, “…of all people.” I knew what they meant. They were role models of how to live life. They showed love to their family, were thoughtful and giving to their friends and were of service to those in need.

Somehow we want to believe that such good and wonderful people don’t die early or don’t suffer any difficulties. We know that is not true–we all have had pain in our lives, the good sometimes die young and there seems to be many imbalances of fairness in the world. But I can’t help but want others to say the same about me when I die, “…of all people.”

***

Lessons and reminders are one thing—but what will I do differently?

I will pick up the phone, send a card or email when a friend comes to my mind. How many times I have thought about a friend or someone in my family and failed to write that note or call them. I am reminded of the importance not to put it off.

I will continue to offer little acts of care to those around me while they are alive. I will say thank you more often. (See below for some of my first efforts.)

I will allow others to show their gift of love to me. I would much rather be the one to appreciate other people than to accept when those acts are sent back to me. If we all did that, however, we prevent others from giving their precious gift of love. It needs to be a complete cycle.

I will admit when I need some support instead of suffering in silence. This is a tough one for many people—including me. Just the other day as I was grieving and feeling close to tears all day, my friend Kathy called. Luckily, she didn’t accept my weak, “I’m fine” and challenged me by saying, “No, you’re not–let’s get together.” We did and I felt much better after a few minutes of sharing.

I will live a life the way I want to be remembered. Bob, Glenn, Adele and Jack are examples of people who live their passion and values every day. You don’t have to be a Mother Theresa to make a difference. We all have unique gifts, how can you share them with others? How will you let people know you care about them? What is the legacy you want to leave?

I will drive more carefully. We know that speed was a factor with the other driver and perhaps she took her eyes off the road for just a split second. We’ve all done it—I know I have. It only takes a second to change our lives forever.

My wish is that this serves as a reminder for you for what is important in yourlife. I would love to hear what you have taken away after reading this and/or your own intentions. Please make your comments on my blog.

A special thank you to Bob and Glenn

I remember walking into the choir room for my very first rehearsal that first Thursday. Even though the room was filled with people, I felt welcomed. You took the time to introduce me to others and immediately I felt apart of something special.

The choir continues to grow and attract new members—it is obvious why. Not only is it because they want to sing with such exceptionally talented leaders, your passion is contagious, you demonstrate your love for everyone and God in everything you do.

Whether it is singing in a Christmas concert, a memorial service, the Choir trip to Europe—the many memories and friendships will always be a special place in my heart.

In Memory of Adele and Jack Kightlinger

Many of my friends thought I was crazy to move to a new location without knowing anyone. Adele and Jack quickly became special friends, not only in the neighborhood, but attending the same church.

Adele was one of my biggest fans. She was the one who encouraged me to hold regular Group Coaching sessions for the neighbors and she often reminded me how much she has learned from me. In turn, she was my role model for living with grace and loving life.

Before we met them, Jack was the official White House Photographer from President Johnson through President Reagan and Adele spent many years as an RN. Jack was smitten with Adele ever since they were 13 in grade school—surely soul mates for their entire lives. You couldn’t meet any more unassuming, warm and caring people who were proud of what they have achieved, but lived for the people they loved, including their three children and four grandchildren.

I continue to be amazed how much we under-estimate what we are capable of.  Back to the late 90’s, there were several events that resulted in a serious decline in my self esteem. Being laid off three years ago was the push I needed to fly or crawl.  I flew.

Well, actually, I didn’t think of it as flying, I just took one step in the direction of my dream–hoping that I wasn’t off my rocker.  Could I really become a life coach?  I wasn’t sure, but after thinking about it for ten years, and no job to hold me back, I was at least going to give it a “go.”

So here I am now, continuing to stretch my wings.  Now–going outside my comfort zone is my new normal. Once I accomplished a few of the goals I had established, I knew I was capable of more.  I know when I approach something new, while it may seem over-whelming, I just do something fairly small and it raises my confidence enough to take another step.

Unfortunately, many people remain frozen in place.  The comfort of their box is too cozy.  Cheri Britton, local speaker and coach, calls it our velvet rut.  Sometimes we have to be pushed like I was with being fired; sometimes it’s another low point that throws you to your knees.  Our biggest growth often comes from those events that are negative, stressful or unpleasant.

There has never been a want for something new to learn when starting a business.  As my coach tells me, there is no “there.”  There is always a continuing list of things to aim for and strive for.

How do you handle your stretch goals?

Like many people, I spent most of my life focused on making other people happy. Although I didn’t do it consciously, I tried to change myself so they would like me. I was basically a human chameleon–matching whatever expectation I thought was needed or wanted.  After many years of trying to be the perfect kid for my parents, I tried to be the perfect wife, the perfect housekeeper, the perfect mom and of course, the perfect employee.

I would be crushed if someone criticized me.  My internal interpretation (not consciously) was that translated to they didn’t like me–meaning–I was a failure. I’m no good.  If I said something that my boss disagreed with, I would quickly think, “Why did I say that, what a stupid thing to say.” I often found myself reviewing my words before I would speak–I must say the perfect thing so “they” will like me.

After years of attempting to please everyone else, I realized I didn’t know what pleased me.  Although my friends probably never noticed, I didn’t have opinions about controversial topics and more often than not, I would simply go with the flow. I was actually pretty successful at people pleasing, but eventually, I met my match–someone I felt just didn’t like me. Unfortunately, it was a person I reported to, so it put me in a downward spiral.

Eventually I got low enough to start my climb back up.  One of the first things I did was simply watch and listen to others around me.  I became an observer–paying attention to what was happening while withholding judgment.  I gradually started listening to my own voice–even though at first, I may not have said the words out loud, I was aware of what I wanted– “What movie did I want to see?” “What do I think the answer is?”

I became aware that the question I was afraid to ask was THE question everyone in the room wanted to know (when someone else asked that very question).  Eventually, I got brave and spoke up.  Sometimes what I said or asked changed the whole decision or discussion and I got more courage to try it again.

I learned to share the compliment or thank a person–instead of just thinking it.  Many times the individual would comment how much they appreciated what I said and I was so grateful that I didn’t keep that compliment to myself.

I admit I sometimes slip and get back into my people pleasing mode.  But I’m kinder to myself because I realize I’m doing the best I can at this moment.  And when decisions need to be made, I am aware of my preferences and can make a choice how to proceed from there.

So for the latter part of my life, I am perfecting being the most real, authentic me I can be.

“Be yourself.  Everyone else is taken.”  Author Unknown

When I considered a move to Asheville, my mind quickly went to leaving the wonderful friends I would be leaving where I lived for the past 8 years.  My heart sank; boy, I would sure miss them.

But then I realized if I hadn’t taken the chance to relocate with my company and move to Delaware, I wouldn’t have met them in the first place.  I then found it fascinating to go back over my life and think about all the changes in my life that have lead me to find so many wonderful people.  I stopped when I got to Madeline whom I’ve known since I was three.

At a recent relocation workshop I facilitated, several people confessed their biggest concern about moving was making new friends.  One participant repeated a saying I remembered my mother telling me years ago, “It’s hard to make friends when you’re old.”  I’ll admit I even said it myself–but now I realize it is a limiting belief.

I’ve been trying to figure out how this cultural belief evolved.  My friend Marie is 81 and she continues to make friends.  Alice, age 90 who recently moved here to be near her daughter, plays bridge every week with her new friends in the assisted living facility where she lives.

Friendships blossom with a common bond.  Certainly work is a natural breeding ground for friendships since so much time is spent there.  But other places could be church organizations, volunteering, life-long learning classes, etc.  You need to be willing to take a chance and invite them to coffee, lunch or another activity.

As I write this, the girl scout song I learned in my childhood, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold” is playing in my head.  How wonderful that along the way some of my silver friends have turned to gold.  I celebrate and value my golden friends and look forward to getting to know my silver friends better.

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Although I had your business card for a few weeks, I hesitated calling you until one day, I just felt inspired to contact you. Am I glad I did! After applying for literally hundreds of jobs this past year with not even one interview…after sending the résumé you created for me, not only did I get the interview, but I got the job! I feel that God inspired me to move forward and sent you into my life when I needed it the most. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
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So, thought I'd brighten your day!  My new supervisor complimented my resume. She said she liked the summary at the top. She also commented that she wasn't positive that my background would've jumped out as a perfect match, but it was written in a way that highlighted my skills as a match for her needs. The resume you wrote for me did much more than any of those things, however. It changed the way I view myself.  It supported me, and gave me a confidence that I was lacking at that time. When I first saw your draft, I didn't immediately connect with it, yet I knew it was all truth. It grew on me, or I grew into it. By the time I walked into those last 2 interviews, I had a new confidence. Something deeper than just knowing I could do the job. I knew I was the right choice. That confidence, that knowing, attracted those jobs to me as surely as my credentials well presented.  It was both, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
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I have built my business through satisfied clients so I cherish testimonials. One of the most stand-out testimonials that was given to me was shared by a client I coached to help her with an upcoming interview.

This client told me later, that she had met a woman at a community event. Jen shared about looking for a position and was telling her about the "biz coach" who prepped her for the interview. The other woman mentioned how she found this excellent person to do her resume and that the résumé itself was highly complemented on in her interview. And best yet, she got the job in the end! In a few minutes, they deducted they were both talking about the same person…ME!

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