Informational Interviews: The Link Between Where You Are & Where You Want To Be

When you’re looking to create new opportunities and meet influential people, it’s easy to forget that there are many ways of achieving this end. With the right tactics, these two goals are actually one in the same.

An exploratory interview is this opportunity.

In practice, it doesn’t differ from a job interview that much. The main difference is that there may be no openings for you to fill, so the pressure is off!

Decision-makers generally welcome the chance to speak with high level talent. And, if they think you would be a good fit for their company, your name will come up when there’s an opening before they even post the job.

Exploratory interviews give you the opportunity to network, gather information, and expand your career options.

Informational Interviews: The Link Between Where You Are & Where You Want To Be

Are there any skills you need to gain as you look to take on a high-level leadership role?

Do you need to develop new processes, have more experience, or build new connections?

All these factors are important, but oftentimes the key to opening the door that leads to new career options is connections.

As you look to transition into a new position, informational interviews will prove an essential way in the door. Executive positions aren’t always promoted, and even if they are, it may only be a formality, as the company in question may already have several people in mind.

In an exploratory interview, you can connect with important stakeholders in the company without all the pressure that comes along with a formal interview. Asking and answering questions in a casual setting allows you to build relationships that will help you land your next job.

An Opportunity To Learn More About A Company You’re Interested In

Companies tend not to reveal every detail concerning a position or its accompanying requirements. Though it is valuable to dig into publicly available information, this will only take you so far. What you need is an insider’s perspective.

Scheduling an informational interview is a good way to learn what the needs of the company are as well as the challenges they’re facing in their corporation. You can gather information around what they require in an executive and what their industry is lacking.

There is a great deal you can uncover about a company’s needs and what you can bring to the table. Essentially, you will gain access to information you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

A Way To Identify Critical Next Steps

You may not be looking for a position right now. But an informal interview is nevertheless an effective tool for your ongoing job search efforts.

Sometimes, the need to find our next career is unexpected. Working out your next moves now will yield wonderful options, even if you don’t expect them soon! Exploratory interviews can help you stabilize and mitigate against potential risk.

Final Thoughts

Exploratory interviews will help you:

  • Reaffirm the path you’re on and what you’re doing to uncover next steps.
  • Take a close look at your skill set and identify any gaps that need to be filled in.
  • Find new ways of looking at your career path. You may discover that you’d prefer to work in a different industry!

Be courteous when booking and participating in exploratory interviews. Your questions should be guided by your interest in the company, industry, or position and not by a desire to “spy” on the competition or uncover some juicy tidbits that could help you in your current job.

Do your research, delve into your findings, keep it short, and follow up with the people you connect with.


6 Tips to Boost Your Productivity!

Productivity always begins with self.

As you are leading others, it will prove difficult, if not impossible, to show them how to be more productive if you aren’t efficient yourself.

This isn’t to suggest the methods you learn will always prove beneficial to others. But as you test out different strategies for yourself, you will gain access to more resources and insights you can share with your team.

1. Turn Off The Notifications On Your Phone

We take our smartphones with us everywhere we go. And, they tend to provide a rather constant source of distraction. From a productivity standpoint, that’s a problem.

Take a moment to turn off all notifications on your phone. Then, try not to look at your phone while working, especially if you’re engaging in high-level work.

Unless your work requires you to constantly be on your phone, turning off notifications will instantly make you more focused and productive. Most messages you receive are not urgent and can wait until you are ready to deal with them.

2. Track How You’re Spending Your Time

You might be working 12-hour days, but do you know exactly how your time is being spent? Unless you can create a complete breakdown for your day, you aren’t fully aware of how effective you are (or aren’t).

Track your time and figure out how you’re spending it. Use an app like RescueTime to see how you’re spending time on your computer too.

3. Restructure Or Eliminate Meetings

Meetings can actually be the worst contributor to suffering productivity in practically everyone’s schedule! Unless your meetings are particularly well organized, they can end up wasting everyone’s time. You shouldn’t spend an hour talking about something that can be addressed in an email.

If you must have meetings, restructure them to be a better use of everyone’s time, including yours.

4. One Task At A Time

If you are multitasking, your productivity may be suffering.

Sure, you may be good at it, but multitaskers tend to miss important stimuli and take a lot longer to switch from one task to another. That’s a big problem if your work requires you to be detail-oriented.

Create a priority list, choose which task to engage in now, and give your full attention to it (until completion).

5. Take Breaks

Take regular breaks at intervals that make the most sense to you. Some studies show the optimal amount of time to work before breaking is 90 minutes. But this doesn’t work for everyone. So, find what works for you. Get up and walk around. Drink some water. Go to the washroom. Snack.

6. Meditate

Yes, you read that correctly! This practice was adopted by corporations like Apple, Google, and Yahoo. “91 percent of participants reported it positively impacted the culture and 60 percent reported increased focus and better decision-making skills.”

Meditating calms the mind and allows you to function at a higher level for longer. Meditation can also put you in an alpha state (which occurs when you are daydreaming or practicing mindfulness) and even a theta state (which occurs during the deepest states of Zen meditation). This, in effect, is equivalent to sleeping and most people are not sleeping enough.

Approaching your work with clarity and a sense of peace allows you to mitigate stress and unnecessary mind chatter.


Put yourself in an environment where you can work and remain inspired. Oftentimes, we aren’t even aware of how our surroundings are affecting us.

Place plants in your office, hang attractive photos or paintings, and keep your workspace organized. This will have a positive impact on your mind and your productivity.

When You Should Stop Planning and be in the Moment During a Career Search

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

There is quite a bit of planning involved in the process of a career search. You need to tap into your network, spend time optimizing your social media profiles and your resume, researching relevant companies, preparing for upcoming interviews, and much more.

Sometimes getting caught up in the rigmarole of a career search can cause you to miss opportunities.

Today, many positions are being filled without ever being advertised. If your head is always down and you cannot spare a moment to look up, you could end up letting some on some great opportunities pass you by.

So, when should you stop planning? How can you stay in the moment? What can you do to capture opportunities that come your way? Here are some moments to consider.

You Have Completed All the Homework

Your resume is on point. Your social media presence is impeccable. You have done your homework and you are ready to move into a new position. You might even be getting a few calls for interviews at this point.

Finding a job today can be a long process – especially when both parties are looking for the right fit. Even if you are getting calls back, there are no guarantees. The interview process could go on much longer than you might expect.

Clearly, you are doing something right if you are getting calls for interviews. After some time of waiting with no job offer, you may begin to think you need to revisit your resume and social media profiles for another round of editing, but you don’t! All you need to do is keep doing what you are doing.

Keep an open mind and allow yourself to go down a few rabbit trails when they present themselves. You never know where they might lead.

Allow Space for Synchronicities to Happen

It is common for highly driven people to think “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” It is good to have that attitude, as it puts you in the driver’s seat. You are in control of your destiny, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to make your dreams a reality.

Although there is a time to put your blinders on and get to work, you might be surprised by the synchronicities that can occur if you just allow them to happen.

You might bump into an executive or decision-maker while you are out having lunch. You might get an email from an old friend who tells you they have found the perfect job for you. You may randomly come across a company on LinkedIn that is engaged in work you would love to be a part of.

The perfect opportunity can land in your lap. This is not to suggest that it will, but if you keep doing the work and remember to stay in the moment, you could see some amazing things happen.

Keep Asking Questions

What many people are looking for is a listening ear. If you make it a point to ask more questions as you go about your day to day, you might be surprised at the connections you make.

You cannot be fully engaged in a conversation if you are not in the moment. You will miss important details and potential opportunities if you are not actively listening.

Great networking moments can happen if you are willing to engage in conversation. Your passion and knowledge will come across in the questions you ask, which could end up impressing the right people.

Keep asking questions. You will be surprised by how much more charisma you will emanate if you are the person that cares for and listens to those around you.

Final Thoughts

It is important to maintain balance during a career search. You need to do the work. But you also need to remain mindful and present.

Sometimes, the answers come to us when we are not thinking so hard about them. In the same way, sometimes the best opportunities come to us when we are busy doing something else.

Let’s get to work!

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

5 Steps You Must Take to Prepare for Career Change Success

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Planning a career change soon?

Making the decision is hard enough, but this can be tricky business unless you are well prepared.

Many people leap before looking because they are excited about a change. Unfortunately, they are often met with disappointment because they did not take the right steps to prepare.

That will not be you! Here are five steps you can take to prepare for career change success:

  1. Review Your Goals & Determine if You are Still On Track

Though a skilled coach can help you home in on your goals, your goals ultimately belong to you. Nobody understands your aims as comprehensively as you do.

If you are thinking about a career change, it is time to review your targets. Consider whether you are on track to reaching them. Also think about whether these goals still motivate you and apply to your situation.

There is no shame in rethinking your career objectives. What you once thought was important may no longer be important to you. So, if you want to course correct and get moving in the right direction, you will want to give careful consideration to your goals.

  1. Plan Well & Determine How To Set Yourself Apart

Trying to make a career change without considering your next steps will hinder your progress.

You need to be thinking strategically. Though you can post your resume and apply online, recognize that this is what everyone else is doing because it is easy. How will you stand out from the crowd? You need both an online and offline strategy.

You will want to start building connections and researching the companies you are planning to apply to. (More on this in a further along).

  1. Build Connections Purposefully

Hopefully, this is something you have been doing all along, whether in-person or on social media.

Per The Muse, you’ll be 15 times more likely to get hired if you are a referred applicant. It is not just what you know – it is who you know that could be the deciding factor.

The decisionmakers may not be a second or even third-degree connection of yours. So, determine how you can get in touch with the people you need to know. This is a good step to take well in advance of making a career change.

  1. Update Your Resume

Customize your resume and cover letter for every position you are planning to apply to.

These days, resumes are not always being looked at by people. It is common for machines (specifically, Applicant Tracking Software) to be scanning them for specific keywords. So, if your resume does not contain the right content, it might be ignored completely, even if you possess the right skills and experience for the job.

Research the company and position, as well as what they are looking for in a candidate, and customize your resume to reflect your findings.

  1. Research The Companies You Are Planning to Apply to

If you want to be prepared for interviews, you should find out everything you can about the companies you are planning to apply to.

It will be obvious to decision makers whether you have done your homework or not. Even if you do not understand all the details, if you demonstrate interest in the business, there is a better chance you will make a good impression.

The more genuine the interest, the better. In other words, if you care about the job you are applying for, it should come across in your actions and demeanor.

Final Thoughts

Your career has led you to this point. Whatever disappointments you may have experienced, it is time to leave your baggage in the past. It is time to get excited about your future.

More than anything, what many companies are looking for is passion. If you are passionate about the position you are applying to, it will show in your voice and your body language.

Believe in yourself. There is a company out there that needs a person like you.

Let’s get to work!

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

LinkedIn Series Part TWO- How to use LinkedIn for Professional Development – Tips and Tricks

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

LinkedIn is a goldmine of opportunities for those who choose to utilize the features to their best advantage.

We have already looked at several ways to manage your LinkedIn profile to work toward advancing your career – fleshing out your profile, following Network Updates, keeping an eye on LinkedIn Jobs, upgrading to a premium account, connecting with people who have viewed your profile, growing your connections, and more.

There are so many other features and tips to cover!

Continue reading to learn more:

Customize Your Public Profile URL

Make your profile easier to find by creating a customized profile URL.

By default, your profile URL has various random alphanumerical characters in it. As you can imagine, this URL is difficult for anyone to manually enter into a web search bar.

When you clean it up your profile URL, it will look more like this:

This personalized URL is easy to add to a resume, business card, pamphlet, or other networking, promotional item.

Use Saved Searches for Efficiency

Do you regularly find yourself frequently searching for the same types of jobs and people on LinkedIn? Many other LinkedIn users do the same thing.

Did you know that you can use LinkedIn’s built-in “Save Search” option to run the same searches again in the future? This will help you save time and stay current with update search results.

Plus, you can also receive weekly or monthly email reminders with the search results.

LinkedIn allows you to save up to three people and 10 job searches.

Get Involved In LinkedIn Groups

Find relevant industry Groups and participate in the discussions, or start your own.

There are many benefits to actively participating in Groups.

For one, you can establish your authority in the industry by sharing news updates and replying to questions that come your way.

You can also connect with other people in the group who share like interests to your own, even if they are not a first-degree connection of yours.

Note that you can email members of your group once per week to keep them engaged and updated.

Whether you are looking to build traffic to your articles or blog, create relevant industry connections, or increase your authority in the industry, the benefits of joining and being a part of groups should not be ignored.

Connect Your LinkedIn Profile to Twitter

Twitter may not be the most popular social network out there right now. That does not mean it does not hold any value.

Your LinkedIn updates can be automatically shared to your Twitter profile, helping you extend the reach of your posts.

When posting something new, simply click “Post Settings”, and “Public + Twitter” in the dropdown. This should help increase the visibility of your LinkedIn posts and draw more attention to your LinkedIn profile.

Use @mentions In Your Updates

Do you want to ensure certain people see your updates on LinkedIn?

@mentions on LinkedIn work just like they do on Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to draw people in and start a conversation with them.

This can be a great way to connect with others, if done in a respectful way. Beware of overusing or abusing this feature.

Publish Content on LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform

Do you have a blog? Are you using content to connect with an audience? Are you building your credibility and expertise through regular publishing?

LinkedIn’s publishing platform is one of the most powerful of any on the web, and can be leveraged to help you build better connections and find career opportunities.

Create an editorial calendar for yourself and begin developing content that establishes you as someone to watch in your industry.

Final Thoughts

Set goals for yourself and your LinkedIn productivity.

If you do not have a clearly defined plan and objectives for what you hope to accomplish on LinkedIn, you will never know when you have reached your goals.

Tips and tricks can help, but only if you know what you are after. Ultimately, only you know what you are trying to achieve. These tips will help you get there!

Let’s get to work!

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or


How to Network on LinkedIn – Use These Tips & Tricks to Boost Your Opportunities

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

LinkedIn is one of the most popular social networks for professionals.

Networking plays an important role in finding new career opportunities, connecting with industry influencers, uncovering future partners and vendors, and more.

How should one go about using this powerful platform to network? How can you make valuable connections inside and outside your industry?

Complete Your Profile

One of the first things you will want to do is fill out all the details of your profile.

A profile that is not fully filled-out is often overlooked or ignored, because it appears to be underutilized or neglected entirely.

This means adding a profile and background picture, summary, experience, and so forth. You can also add links to your website, social profiles, portfolio, and other relevant sites, so take advantage of this feature.

It can be worthwhile to optimize your profile for SEO as well, including relevant keywords and terms you want to be found for.

With this information in place, you will have an easier time getting a response from those you connect with.

Keep An Eye On Network Updates

Network Updates is essentially LinkedIn’s version of the Facebook News Feed.

Checking these updates allows you to see what your connections have shared and to engage with them.

You can also share your own updates to interact with your connections.

If you would like to keep a closer eye on everything that is happening in your Network Updates, you can also sign up to receive email notifications.

Take Advantage Of LinkedIn’s Job Postings

If you are looking for a job, take advantage of LinkedIn Jobs. You can use its advanced search feature to find jobs by title, keywords, industry, location, company, and more.

As you apply to more jobs and save your searches, LinkedIn will also begin sending you recommendations for jobs you might be interested in.

Get A Premium Account

By default, LinkedIn does not allow you to connect with anyone but first-degree connections. Does this mean you cannot send messages to people you are not connected with?

If you get a premium account, you can take advantage of Open Profile to message any LinkedIn member.

Granted, this feature will not do you much good if you are not effective in connecting with others. Learning to write professional messages should be one of your top priorities when networking on LinkedIn.

Keep An Eye On Those Who Have View Your Profile

Wouldn’t it be great if you could see exactly who has viewed your profile? After all, if there is anyone worth connecting with, it is probably those who came across your profile.

Fortunately, LinkedIn has built-in functionality that allows you to do this very thing. All you need to do is navigate to Who’s Viewed Your Profile under your Profile dropdown menu.

As with sending messages to people who are not first-degree connections, however, you will require a premium account to unlock this feature.

Grow Your Connections

When sharing updates on LinkedIn, the updates you are sharing will only go out to those who are connected to you. So, why not grow your list of connections?

LinkedIn now has several tools that allow you to grow your network. For instance, you can “Manage Your Synced and Imported Contacts” and sync up with your email contacts to see who else you know and you have not connected with on LinkedIn yet.

Final Thoughts

It is now easier than ever to connect with people on LinkedIn. You could be missing out on a lot of great opportunities if you are not taking advantage of it already.

Use the above tips as a starting point and spend a little bit of time growing your LinkedIn presence daily. You will begin to see results from a concentrated effort.

Let’s get to work!

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

How To Create Powerful Goals And Stick To Them

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

As an ambitious executive, it is important to set goals.

But do you find your goals motivate you to action?

Many people set new goals as another year rolls around and soon forget what they were planning to achieve.

Goals can be hard to stick with. But they are much easier to track with if they are powerful goals that mean something to you.

Not sure how to set goals that connect with you on a deeper level? Read on.

Set Big, Ambitious Goals

One of the reasons your goals may not be motivating you is because they are too small.

If the goals are too easy to reach, they will not require a lot of time and effort on your part. That makes it easy to procrastinate. Moreover, smaller goals do not require the help of others.

As a leader, one of your jobs is to inspire others. When you have big goals, it is much easier for your team to catch your vision and get on the same page to help you reach your objectives.

Accountability plays a significant part in sticking to your goals.

Break Your Goals Down Into Smaller Action Steps

A goal is just wishful thinking unless you have a plan detailing how you are going to achieve it.

Can you break your goals down into smaller action steps? If not, it means you do not know how to achieve those goals. Either you need to revise that goal or research the steps involved in making it a reality.

We are all crunched for time, but it is easy to spend 10, 20, or 30 minutes daily on meaningful action steps. If that is all the time you have, you need to know exactly how to spend it to reach your goals.

Think Long-Term, but Be Willing To Adjust

It is important for leaders to be thinking five to 10 years ahead.

The challenge today is that in this fast-paced world, it is harder than ever to keep up with changes in customer demands, the market, technology, and so on.

So, it is more important than ever for executives to recognize the importance of adjusting as they move closer to their goals.

Your goal may be relevant today but could mean very little to you a year or two down the line. Tweak your goals based on the changes and shifts you see taking place.

Ensure Your Goals Are In Alignment With You & Your Career

As a leader, you must be thinking big picture.

It is fine to have personal goals, but if they are not in alignment with your values, you are not going to be motivated to achieve them.

Likewise, you will need to set career goals, but if they are not aligned with business objectives that have already been identified, there could be some dissonance between what you want to accomplish and what needs to be accomplished.

You will have a much better chance at sticking to goals that matter to you and the people around you if they are well matched.

Revisit Your Goals Regularly & Track Progress

It is all too easy to write goals down in a notebook you never look at again.

It is much more effective to keep your goals out in front of you, whether it is on a blackboard, whiteboard, a piece of paper pinned to a corkboard, or otherwise.

If you track your progress, you will get to review the steps you have taken so far and will be more likely to stay on course. You will be encouraged by the steps you have taken.

Final Thoughts

Goal setting does work. But oftentimes, you will require the help of others to make them a reality, even if it is just in the form of accountability. It helps to check in with your coach or mentor on a regular basis, as they can steer you in the right direction when you feel off track.

Let’s get to work!

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or