How to Stay Present and Positive as a Leader to Effect Positive Change

Think positive message concept for optimistic thinking and self belief

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

Leadership is both challenging and exciting.

Being assigned a C-level title does not make you a leader. What makes you a true leader is your ability to lead others by example.

If you want your team to have a positive attitude, then you need to show them what a positive attitude looks like. If you want them to focus on their work and improve their performance, you should show them how to hit their targets.

Thinking too much about the past or the future can steal you away from the present moment. When you are not entertaining fear-based thoughts, you are better able to concentrate on what matters right now.

Here are some tips on how to manage your attitude, stay present, and remain positive.

Choose To Look At Everything Differently

It is surprising the things that happen when you begin to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of your work or your team. Relationships and moods tend to improve, leading to more openness and willingness.

If you have been spending a lot of time looking at the downsides of your employees or their capabilities, it is time instead to focus on the value they bring to the organization.

Everyone makes mistakes. Try not to focus on that. Let the past be the past and determine what you can do today to be more conscious of what is going right in your career.

Create A Culture Of “Shipping”

Shipping means to bring a project to completion. Marketing expert Seth Godin encourages entrepreneurs and businesses everywhere to “just ship”, because it is too easy to fall into the habit of perfecting an offer before presenting it to the marketplace.

When a project is completed, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment. Employees can eliminate mental clutter and start fresh on a new project.

When there are too many projects hanging in the air, anxiety can build up fast. Staying present becomes difficult.

If necessary, try breaking projects down into more manageable, bite-sized chunks. When you and your team see progress, you will feel encouraged to keep pressing on.

Keep Learning & Growing

Many business owners and executives tend to rush the process of systematization.

For your business to run like a machine, it will be necessary to put robust systems and skilled personnel in place. If you expect everything to work perfectly before even testing it, you are going to be disappointed and frustrated.

Developing a culture where mistakes and learning are encouraged is one where you will see innovation and growth. Your team members will come up with unexpected and eloquent solutions to problems. They will be invested in the organization’s success.

Set the example by continually learning and growing yourself.

Recognize & Engage Your Team

Confidence and high self-esteem positively impacts your entire team. It allows them to take chances without feeling like they are going to be chastised for making a mistake. You will also see productivity go up, and relationships improve.

If you want to encourage collaboration, then take the time necessary to build up your team. Recognize excellent work. Engage them to keep morale high.

Final Thoughts

Positivity is a matter of perspective.

It is easy to feel optimistic about your day when everything is going well. But, what if things do not go well?

The true mark of a leader is someone that can see the good in a situation that may appear to be negative. After all, there will always be some mistakes, challenges, obstacles, and setbacks in any career or workplace. If you are experiencing some difficulty, it just means you are human. So, it is not a matter of how you feel about these situations, but how you deal with them.

Do not allow your past to dictate your present or your future. Do not let your fear of the future distract you from what matters in the present.

Let’s get to work!

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


Four Top Qualities Companies Look for in Executive Candidates

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

As you work to achieve your career goals and seek better opportunities, you will find it valuable to consider how to promote yourself.

Promoting the right aspects of your skills, talent, experience, knowledge, and results could be the difference between getting to where you want to go and spinning your wheels.

So, what constitutes the right aspects of your value? What should you emphasize on your resume and in interviews? How can you continually move forward in your career?

Here are several ideas of how to promote yourself and progress towards your career goals.

Demonstrate Your Understanding of the Business

You must be an expert of your industry if you wish to be an executive, or prove yourself worthy of an executive position.

Whether they are reviewing your resume or asking interview questions, your employer wants to know they can trust you with their business. If you do not know how many employees they have, whether the company is publicly traded, who its main competitors are, and so on, then it may be time to do your homework.

An in-depth knowledge of the business is an absolute requirement for any leader. Promoting your extensive knowledge of the company or industry is a good way to move towards your career goals. This will mostly come down to how you answer questions pointed in your direction.

Prove Your Ability to Solve Problems

Are you confident in your ability to solve any problem? How do you cope with unexpected situations? Are you capable of taking charge and handling issues, even if they are outside your area of understanding or expertise?

Leaders always have greater responsibilities, but the rewards are also proportionate. You may find yourself in territory you have never navigated before, but the mark of a true leader is someone who can find solutions, even when they are met with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

As an aspiring or existing executive, you must prove your ability to solve problems. You should be armed with stats and stories that illustrate challenges you have overcome if you want to prove your worth as a problem-solver.

Build Your Credibility

Employers look for many things in an executive-level candidate. Your demeanor, confidence, body language, how likable you are, and any subtle cues that communicate your level of competency may be evaluated as you seek to reach your career goals.

Most of all, employers want to know that you can be trusted to deliver results. Are you accountable? Can you carry out the tasks you have been assigned? Will you go beyond the call of duty?

Working on your body language and appearance can help. But confidence is typically developed at a deeper level, and often comes from a record of accomplishments in your career. Begin building on your successes today, no matter how small, and keep stacking the wins. There is no short cut to get to where you want to go.

Show How You Can Contribute to the Bottom Line Of The Company

How will the company benefit from your work?

When it comes to hiring executives, most employers want to know how you can improve their bottom line. Your confidence and leadership ability will also be valued, but not as much as the revenue you generate for the company.

Again, the best way to demonstrate to the company you are looking to work for how you can benefit the company is by illustrating your work through stats and story

Final Thoughts

Reaching your career goals may take significant time and effort. Know this work is worth the time because it is helping you towards your dreams.

Rome was not built in a day, and your dream job will not land in your lap either. But as you gain more experience and show yourself capable, your achievements will grow, and employers will look upon you more favorably.

Let’s get to work!

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

Top 5 Things To Have On Your Resume

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

Everyone needs to submit a resume when applying for a job.

A resume may be one factor among many other factors considered when screening applicants for possible employment. If your resume does not contain the right keywords or accurately demonstrate your value and experience as an executive there is a good chance you are going to miss opportunities.

What should you include in your resume? Here are several suggestions.

  1. Keywords

Today, resumes are often machine-read before a human ever looks at them. If your resume does not contain keywords pertaining to the job, you may not get past the initial screening process to obtain an interview.

Be strategic with your resume. Emphasize why you would be right for the job. Research the job posting and include any keywords that appear frequently in the description in your resume.

  1. Contact Info with some twists.

Your name – Right up top – not in a header (ATS Systems do not necessarily like headers!)

City / State – I don’t think street addresses are necessary here.

Cell number – Only!  Giving both numbers on your resume and thereby a choice to the reader may mean you could miss an important call.  All calls should go directly to you on your cell.  A home number might be answered by one of the children, stay in voice mail, or someone forgets to write down the message.

Email – but Hyperlinked – so the recruiter can “touch and write”

LinkedIn – Vanity URL – not the default URL given when you first join.  Also as a hyperlink – so the recruiter can “touch and go” to your profile.  If you write an email to me – I will be happy to send you an instruction sheet on how to create your Vanity URL.  If you leave the URL as the default address with the letters and numerals after your name – you will show you are not tech savvy in this very competitive environment.

  1. Title and Personal Brand Statement/Executive Summary

Recruiters do not have much time to look through resumes. If they are not impressed or at least intrigued in the first 10 seconds or so, it is unlikely they are going to spend more time looking through yours.

Be sure to include a specific title at the very top of your resume. This title will concisely convey to a recruiter what it is you do and the job you intend to acquire.

Your personal brand statement or executive summary should be just below your title. It will serve to grab the attention of the recruiter. Relevant keywords, quotes from performance reviews, and value-based metrics are all worth including at this stage.

Your executive summary should establish your credentials as a leader. What difference have you made as a boss? How did you manage team members? What steps did you take to oversee the expedient completion of projects and attainment of business objectives?

Use this section to prove your value as a leader. Avoid generic statements filled with adjectives that are meant to cast you in a positive light. These types of statements could be true of anyone. Instead, craft a value proposition that showcases what makes you unique, and what your specialties are.

  1. Education

It is important to include your education in your resume. This section, however, should appear towards the end and not at the beginning. Your work history, experience as a leader, and value-based metrics will be valued more highly than which schools you went to and the degrees you completed. It is unlikely that you will grab the attention of a potential employer based on the school you went to.

  1. Relevant Highlights

Beware of filling your resume to the brim with data and information. You may have many accomplishments you’d like to share with recruiters and decision-makers, but they may not all help you land the job. Your resume should help to promote you to your target audience. Think carefully about the audience and what they may want to know to come to a decision. Edit until you feel the most important points have been covered thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

The most important variable to landing a job is you. It all comes down to what you know, what you’ve achieved so far, and what you can do for a company.

While your resume is unlikely to be the single deciding factor as to whether you land a job, it should at least get you passed the gatekeepers. In that sense, it is still an important document. If it is not well-crafted, you may have trouble getting an interview.

Let’s get to work!

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

Use These 4 Tips to Boost Your Event Networking Efforts

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

Networking is an important part of every person’s career. Whether you are looking for a new job or keeping your career options open, the strength of your network can have a significant impact on future opportunities.

Even if you are happy with where you are right now, there is no harm in growing your network of personal contacts. As the cliché goes, “better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it.”

Here are several event networking tips that will help you make the most of the next event you attend.

  1. Prepare For The Event

Who would you like to meet? Are there specific people you would like to talk to at the event? What are your goals, and what do you hope to achieve as result of attending this event? Take some time to strategize before you attend.

Contact the facilitator – especially if it is your first time attending.  Ask if there are others in your area or industry that are planning to be there and will he / she make an introduction when you arrive.  This way you are maximizing the event, adding to your network and enhancing someone else’s network.

Research the event online. Look up key people on social media. Learn something about them so you are prepared to make conversation with them. If it makes you feel more at ease, also prepare a list of questions you want to ask the people you will be meeting.

Though the business world is increasingly becoming more casual, preparing your formal wear is still a good idea, and will help you make a good impression.

  1. Show Up Early

Showing up early can make you feel more confident and less hurried. It may prove difficult to get in front of key people if you show up later. If you are one of the first to arrive, you may have the opportunity to meet organizers, decision-makers and influencers before they are inundated with questions and requests.

If these key people know what you are after, they may be able to make introductions or suggestions in terms of who you should meet. This is an added benefit of being first to arrive.

Staying late can also offer some of the same benefits, and may even help establish the reputation that you are a go-getter.

  1. Add Value To Others

Your number one priority at networking events should be to add value to others. Handing out business cards and sharing about yourself may be of some value, but best practice is to demonstrate interest in the people you are talking to first.

People enjoy sharing about themselves. By learning something about fellow networkers, you will become clearer on how you can help and add value to them. In some cases, you may not be able to do anything for them right now. Be sure to take their contact information and follow up with them later when you have something to offer.

  1. Follow Up

Networking begins with meeting people. If you do not follow up with them, you could be missing opportunities.

Take time to craft personalized emails for each of the new contacts you make. Remind them of who you are and how you met. If you referenced any resources in your conversation that you felt might benefit them – such as articles, webinars, podcasts, etc. – include a link to where they can learn more about them.

Following up within 24 hours is best practice.


Networking online has grown in popularity. Social media allows you to connect with just about anyone local or global. This can be immensely helpful when you are looking to connect with people in any capacity.

But, there is nothing quite like face-to-face interaction. You can create a stronger bond with the people you are talking to. They can put a face to a name and get a better sense of who you are and how you handle yourself.

So, if your networking efforts are primarily on social media right now, you should also begin incorporating offline activities into your calendar to build more worthwhile connections.

Let’s get to work!


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

Career Development: 6 Tips That Really Make a Difference

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

A traveler rarely goes on a journey without a destination in mind.

But in developing our careers, we can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we don’t need a vision to follow.

When you know where you want to go, you can chart a course for how to get there. The journey will present some challenges, but you’ll have an easier time staying on course if you have a plan.

As you look to develop your executive career, here are six tips that will help you reach your goals. 

  1. Determine How You Want To Be Known

Set goals and build your technical expertise. There are many types of executives. Chief Financial Officer,

EVP Supply Chain, Managing Director of Risk Management, … the list goes on.  You need to gain experience in areas that are pertinent to the position you want to land. Employers should be able to look at your resume and see that you’ve developed proficiency in relevant disciplines.  Build your reputation as the go-to person in your field. 

  1. Build Your Connections

Working your way up to an executive role can take time. Find the opportunities along the way.

If you want to become influential, you must develop connections. Your network can open doors for you. Be humble, ask questions, and learn from others.  I believe in a give before you get mind set.  While building your connections – always think of it as a two-way street so you are building a sincere and solid relationship.

  1. Follow Your Passion

If you were to talk to successful executives, many would tell you to “find your passion”.

If you work at something you love, you’re more likely to succeed. You’re more likely to push through the challenges and stick with the process. Additionally, you’ll put in the effort and study required to succeed, because it’s something you enjoy doing. Finding your passion may not be easy, but it will prove helpful for you on your path towards achievement. You’re going to be spending 40+ hours per week at your job – you should be doing something you love. 

  1. Go Above & Beyond

Some only do what’s required of them. To be an executive, you need to be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and demonstrate your value. How can you exceed expectations? How can you bring more value to a project? What can you do to stand out from the crowd? 

  1. Move Towards Challenges

Instead of doing what’s easy or expected, dare to take on difficult assignments. Executives are problem-solvers. The only way to build your problem-solving skills is with practical experience. Jump in when an opportunity comes up. If you can demonstrate that you can create solutions where none previously existed, others will begin to trust you and see you as a leader. 

  1. Remain On A Path Of Growth

Keep learning. This is something we all know we should do, but a reminder never hurt anyone. Study the industry you are in. Learn about your internal and external customer. And, if you have the opportunity, learn about businesses you know nothing about or are tangential. This can offer inspiration for worthwhile changes that could be made in your company. Commit to being a lifelong student. This will increase your value as an individual. 


Your career is important, and it must be managed if you have big goals in mind. Becoming a trusted and inspirational executive will require work on your part. The rewards can can make a difference to you and so many others within your sphere and beyond.

Let’s get to work!


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

5 Benefits of Working with a Career Coach

Successful business man on blackboard

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

Perhaps you feel as though you are capable of more. Maybe you have not quite found the perfect job.

You are a hard worker, you are passionate, and you know you are capable of going after your dream. But, something is missing.

It is natural for fear to take over when you are thinking about taking a risk such as changing your career path. In addition, finding another job is not always easy – it depends on the job market and the position you hope to land.

This is where career coaches come in. They can guide you on your path of change, and even help you improve your performance in your current role. Here are several ways in which a career coach can help.

  1. Your Career Coach will help you recognize your value.

No one knows you better than you. However, you may not be completely aware of all your strengths and weaknesses as an individual. A  Career Coach will help you uncover exactly where you can add the most value to a business.

Your self-image plays heavily into the jobs you choose to apply for, as well as the salary you command. A skilled Career Coach will help you identify what your worth is. As a result, your confidence will also begin to increase.

  1. Your Coach will help you uncover a career path that is right for you.

Do you know how you have chosen jobs in the past? Many people focus on earning potential, their experience, or how difficult a job might be. It is a rare individual that thinks about fulfilment and challenge.

Spending all your time in a job that does not fulfill you will ultimately make you unhappy. Your Career Coach will help you uncover a career path that is better suited to you personally.

  1. Your Coach will help you navigate change.

You may be ready to move on to your next career. Change can be exciting, but it can also make you feel uneasy. Uncertainty is part and parcel of taking your career in a new direction.

Your Career Coach can help you determine how to proceed with a career transition. They can also identify alternatives or backup plans in case the transition does not go exactly as planned. They will map out a career path that will take you in the direction of your goals.

  1. Your Coach will keep you accountable.

Change is often much harder when it is self-directed. When there is someone partnering up with you to make it happen, you will be more motivated to keep going.

Your coach will help you stay on track with your goals and guide you in the right direction. They will keep in close contact with you to ensure you are doing the right things to move forward in your career.

  1. Working with a Career Coach can make you happier.

This may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of working with a coach. Your Career Coach has a definite objective to see you succeed in your career.

At the same time, a Career Coach can also help you achieve better balance in your life. They can offer an outside perspective and identify stressors and imbalances in your life to help you focus and ultimately live happier.

Being well-adjusted, happy and optimistic will help you put your best foot forward while taking steps to make career and life changes.


Your Career Coach can serve as a mirror, reflecting to you your strengths and worth as an individual. They will help you find your confidence, and find a career that is better matched to your personality, ability, and goals.

Many people who work with a Career Coach often say they wish they had started sooner. Career Coaches have a great deal to offer, and can help you clarify your next steps and things about your tendencies and nature you may not have even been aware of.

Let’s get to work!


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

4 Tips To Help You Become More Productive While Being Less Busy

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

The busyness trap is easy to fall into.

When you are in the busyness trap, it can give you the illusion of getting a lot done when in fact you are accomplishing little.

From processing dozens of emails to running from one meeting to the next, you might become convinced you are doing the right things, even if the most important projects are waiting for you back at your desk.

Because you have little time to stop and reflect, you may not realize how your time is being spent.

Fortunately, there are strategic ways of coping with the busyness trap. Here are tips on how to avoid it.

  1. Set Your Priorities At The Beginning Of The Day

Before you start your day, spend some time prioritizing your to-do list or project list. Consider what tasks are most important.

Keep it simple. Set three goals for the day, and put your full focus and energy into reaching them.

Tasks that are most important are often not what are most urgent. Though urgent tasks may come with a looming deadline, they can wait until you have made progress with your top priorities. There will always be time for quick phone calls or emails when you keep first things first. It does not always work the other way around.

  1. Make A Commitment To Productivity Instead Of Efficiency

Are you trying to keep up appearances?

Some executives feel like they should be putting their full attention on their work, and feel guilty when they are not.

What is more important than appearing busy? Getting the right things done.

True productivity cannot be achieved without prolonged periods of focus on key projects.

If you find yourself counting how many emails you have responded to, how long you stayed at work last night, what you have sacrificed to help the company, or anything of the sort, it is time to re-think your approach to work.

  1. Turn Off Alerts & Notifications

Many people get hooked on their mobile devices.

There is nothing wrong with staying in touch with your team or strategic partners, but you should not let your smartphone drive your behavior.

Most messages do not need to be responded to the moment they hit your inbox.

In addition to emails, you should also look at: Social media notifications, text messages, instant messaging apps, or anything else that pings or buzzes. It is easy enough to turn these alerts and notifications off.

Set some time aside in your day to process messages, whether it is two or three times per day. You will get through them much quicker than you think if you batch process them.

  1. Leverage Your Team

Where is your time going?

Try tracking it for a day, or even for a week. Document everything you are doing.

Look carefully at your time log. Are you doing anything that could be handled by someone else? Is there anything you do not enjoy doing? Are you trying to take responsibility for low level tasks you are not even good at?

Remember, there are multiple ways to process any task. Unless you need to be handling the task, you can automate, delegate, or eliminate. Carefully consider what items on your list could be streamlined using one of these strategies.

There are people around you that can help. Ask them and find out if they are willing to take on tasks you do not particularly enjoy.


Even after you streamline your work life, you will likely feel the need to stay busy.

This is perfectly normal. However, you should evaluate what you are working on regularly.

To be as productive as possible, you will need to eliminate fluff from your schedule.

Prioritizing your to do list will allow you to put your time and energy into tasks that challenge you and give you more fulfillment.

Let’s get to work!


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