Grow in Your Career Through Self Reflection

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

With 2020 in full swing, now is the perfect time for self-evaluation and reflection. This is different from the standard employee evaluation that your boss probably gave you at the end of 2019. Think of this as your opportunity to think about your career development.

Two common pitfalls that everyone falls into is complacency and overinflating one’s skills. As humans, we seek out comfort and positive affirmation. This can be detrimental to your career. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to do a self-assessment and shake things up. This will help expose you to new challenges and opportunities for your career in the coming year.

Have the Right Attitude
This project isn’t about self-reassurance or ego inflation. You need to have the right attitude and be honest with yourself throughout your entire self-assessment. People tend to overestimate their skills, so keep this in mind when looking at your strengths and weaknesses.

Start With Quantifiable Data
Gather any hard data that can help you evaluate your work performance. This data doesn’t lie and can help you pinpoint weak areas. Think about your performance and look at your track record. This could be anything from getting to work on time, meeting sales goals, or meeting project deadlines.
Your employer will look at this data to evaluate your performance and potential for career growth, so you need to know this information. It can also help you create a more robust resume by showing potential employers actual performance metrics and not just fluffy positive-sounding language.

What Do You Enjoy?
People tend to put more effort into the things they enjoy. You’ll find that these are the areas you perform best in. Identify the areas of your job that you love the most and the skills required for those tasks. Ask yourself a few questions to get started:

1. What have others complimented me on?
2. What am I good at?
3. What are my hobbies, and why do I like them?
4. What have I spent hours on and not gotten tired?

Once you have a list of these skills, look at ways you can build on and improve them. Building on these skills will ensure you don’t become complacent in your comfort zone. You’ll also learn how to apply these strengths to other areas and expand your skillset.

What Do You Dread?
Why do you not enjoy specific tasks? Is it because you aren’t mentally engaged or because you lack the skills to make these tasks easier. Look for weak points in your performance based on the feedback you receive. Then figure out ways you can address these weaknesses. Ask yourself these questions:

1. What projects drain my energy?
2. What have others complained about?
3. What have others had to help me with?
4. Are there things I continually forget or get wrong?

What the Industry Requires
If you want to move up within your industry, what will it take? Compare your current skillset and performance to the position you want to move into. Addressing and improving on your skillset will show your employer you’re committed to growth. If your employer isn’t committed to your growth too, then you’re better prepared to find career growth elsewhere.

Set Achievable Goals
Now that you know what you need to work on, you need to set measurable and achievable goals. Create a timeline wherein the next month; you’ll research ways to build on your skills. You’ll then set a deadline for signing up for a course, conference, or anything else that will help you improve. Create a mid-year check-in where you hold yourself accountable for progress.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or

Should You Take the Promotion or the New Job?

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

You’ve worked hard at your current position. You’ve done everything you’re supposed to. You’ve put in the hours, volunteered for special projects, over-performed, and delivered above expectations.
Everything you’ve done has led to you receiving praise.. You’re long overdue for your company to offer you a promotion, but there’s no word on you moving up. So you start looking around and score an offer with a new title and a bigger salary at another company.
Now you’re ready to give your notice, and your current company wants to promote you. Do you accept the promotion, or do you take the new job offer? This fork in the road can completely change the course of your career, and the decision can be nerve-wracking.
To help you make the decision, ask yourself these questions.

Where Will I Feel Mentally Engaged and Challenged?
Take an assessment of how you feel about your current position. Decide whether or not you feel mentally engaged. Will you feel that way after your promotion? If you’re confident that you will, then it’s smart to stay put with your current company.
If you have any doubts or know that you won’t feel engaged, it’s time to move on. You should feel excited about going to work. No salary bump or new title will change how you feel about your new responsibilities.
You may feel good about more money temporarily, but that glow will wear off quickly. What you’ll be left with is a growing frustration for the things that drive you crazy. This will lead you to eventually finding a new position out of desperation. Address the problem now while you have an attractive offer.

Which Position Will Let Me Make a Difference?
Your career is a marathon, and you need to think about how your two opportunities will shape your career long term. The position that lets you make a difference will have more of a positive effect on your career. Not only will you feel more fulfilled, but you’ll also feel more motivated to take on new and bigger challenges.
The position that allows you to make more of a difference will give you a stronger resume. This will lead to bigger and better opportunities down the road.

Which Company Has the People That Will Inspire?
You spend 40 or more hours a week with your coworkers; you should enjoy your time with them. Work with people who help you to grow, learn, and be better. They should act with professionalism and respect.
Working in a diverse office fosters innovation and growth. You may feel comfortable and safe with your current coworkers, but a change is good for broadening your perspective and world view.

Which Company Aligns With My Values and Goals?
You could have the opportunity to work on cutting edge projects and work with some of the smartest people around, but if you don’t agree with the company’s values, you won’t be happy. It will be tough to work hard, furthering the goals of the company when you don’t agree with how the company contributes to society. No job is worth losing sleep at night because you don’t feel good about the overall cause you’re a part of.

Did Your Current Company Only Offer the Position Because You’re Leaving?
If your current company is only offering the promotion because you’ve given your notice, is it worth taking? You shouldn’t have to threaten to leave for your company to recognize and reward your hard work and accomplishments.
Asses whether or not the position allows for growth. A new vanity title won’t provide you with new opportunities or responsibilities.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or

Balancing Your Professional Reputation

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

Sometimes it feels like you’re getting pulled in a million different directions at work. Your boss is demanding you get projects done on tight deadlines. Your team is coming to you with several problems that threaten to delay project completion.
Who do you focus on pleasing first? Is your boss or your team more important? The reality is, both opinions are equally important. But the good news is that you can manage everyone’s opinion of you by doing a few simple things.

Always Strive to do the Right Thing
When it comes to managing other people, you’ll earn respect when you try to do the right thing. Be considerate of everyone and don’t try to “pull one over” on someone. Both your team and your boss will appreciate that you don’t shrink away from your responsibilities, no matter how tough they might be.
Your team will have trust in you to act with integrity. Your boss will trust you to get things done. Through your actions they’ll know they can depend on you.

Own and Apologize for Your Mistakes
You’re a human, not a robot. It’s ok that you made a mistake, and both your boss and your team will appreciate your integrity in owning it. It takes maturity and confidence to acknowledge your errors and focus on correcting the mistake.
When managing a team, you set a positive example by admitting your errors. It makes you a relatable leader instead of a distant manager.
For your boss, they’ll appreciate your ability to focus on the solution. This ability to problem solve is invaluable.

Go Above and Beyond
Lead by example and make a habit of going above and beyond. This extra effort shows that you care about your job and your team. Those below you will follow your example, which will make your team perform better.
Your boss will appreciate the extra effort you and your team put in. This higher level of performance will translate to a positive reputation for your team, you, and your boss.

Avoid Complaining
No one wants to listen to someone who continually complains about situations that make them unhappy. Your boss and your team will eventually tune you out. It also gives you the reputation of focusing on the problems and not on the solutions.
Instead of complaining to your boss, bring them solutions to the problems. Your boss will begin to turn to you when they have issues they need resolving.
Complaining to your team creates a toxic environment. This will paint you as a negative manager. Instead, empower your team to come up with their solutions. Your team will appreciate the sense of responsibility you’re entrusting them with.

Have Patience
It takes time to build a positive reputation. You need to have a pattern of behavior that your team and boss can depend on. It can easily take months to show people who you are and what you stand for.
You also need to have patience in your day to day dealings. This could be having patience with your team. You may have one team member that’s struggling to understand a concept or complete a project.
They will appreciate you taking a pause and helping them rather than getting frustrated.
When it comes to your boss, sometimes the things we want take more time than we would like. Your boss will appreciate your understanding of this. Remember, they are in the same position as you with their own boss and team balance to contend with.

Manage Your Professional Reputation
Instead of focusing on who to please first, focus on being the best employee you can be. Always strive to do the right thing, go above and beyond, and focus on the solution instead of the problem. By embodying these qualities you will garner a positive reputation from everyone you work with.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or

Climb the Corporate Ladder by Debunking Myths

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

You work hard. You show up to work on time. You volunteer for special projects. You offer assistance to others on your team. You do all of these things and yet you still get passed over for the promotion.
Despite being qualified for the leadership position, you may be allowing common myths to stagnate your climb up the corporate ladder. If this has happened to you, then it’s time to face the myths head-on.
Tackle these common myths and open the door to the future of your career as a leader.
Myth: You Can’t be Vulnerable
All too often, those in leadership positions think that they must stand firm and hold their ground. If they change direction, accept fault, or follow the ideas of others, then they are showing weakness.
The true sign of an effective leader is someone who can acknowledge that they don’t have all of the answers. They’re receptive to their team and have confidence that they have a group of capable people around them.
By showing that you can recognize good ideas and work well with others, you’ll prove that you’re ready to move up the corporate ladder. Being a leader isn’t about having all of the answers. It’s about recognizing them in others and implementing them.
Myth: Leaders Need to be Fierce, Distant, and Omnipotent
Think about your previous leaders and management. Have you enjoyed working with a leader who was distant and cold?
When someone becomes a leader, they feel the need to separate themselves from those they manage. If they aren’t careful, they distance themselves too far and become distant and unapproachable.
If you want to climb the corporate ladder you need to show that you’re productive and that people want to work with you. Do this by remaining approachable and friendly. You don’t need to go for drinks at happy hour, but you can take a moment to show interest in your team’s lives.
Myth: You Need to Be an Extrovert
Most of us think of extroverts as someone confident and social. Introverts are thought of as shy and less willing to talk with others. This isn’t quite correct, despite how common this way of thinking is.
In reality, extroverted leaders reach out and communicate with others when it comes to working through ideas. Introverts tend to be more introspective and work through problems and ideas on their own. You can be a good leader either way, even though most assume that extroverts will perform better.
If you consider yourself an introvert, you can overcome this myth by using an extrovert’s tactics. Once you do your independent thinking, reach out to your fellow team members to discuss and collaborate. This will encourage others to think of you as an extrovert.
Myth: Great Leaders are Born, Not Made
This myth is just plain wrong. No one is born with the skills necessary to effectively lead a team.
You can overcome this myth by focusing on the qualities that make someone a great leader. Put in the hard work that’s required to develop the skills needed. Then showcase these skills in your current position.
People will assume you’ve always had leadership qualities. You don’t need to correct them in their assumption.
Myth: There Is Only One Leadership Style
Early on in your career, you probably learned a few managerial techniques that worked. They’ve stuck with you through the years, and you’ve always depended on them. The problem is those few techniques won’t work in all situations.
Find a management style that works for your personality, blends well with your team, and creates a culture of positivity and productivity. Keep in mind that the leadership style you use for a group of 10 may not be the style you can use for a team of 100.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or

Finding the Balance: Your Career and Family

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

How many hours a week do you spend working? Don’t forget to include the time you spend answering phone calls, texts, and emails when you are at home. Almost half of American workers routinely work 50 hours or more every week.
Working all of those hours can start to negatively affect both your health and family life. But how do you balance your personal life with your desire to excel in your career?
We have a few tips to help you achieve the perfect work and home life balance.

Unplug from Technology
Advancements in technology have done impressive things for collaboration and connectivity. Except that it also has brought an expectation of constant availability. Unfortunately, this means that the workday never ends.
Turn off work notifications while spending time with your family. Constant notifications from work will fuel an underlying feeling of stress and take your attention away from your family. It prevents you from being in the moment and mentally present.
If you can’t completely turn off, set hard rules for when you spend time with family and when you work from home. Then dedicate 100% of your attention during that time. Your work product and family relationships will improve thanks to your mental focus.

Let go of Being Perfect
You may feel pressured to be perfect in everything you do. Do not give in to this pressure. You are human, and you will make mistakes. The key to success isn’t being perfect; it’s identifying a problem or failure, presenting a solution, and moving forward with the issue corrected.
If you continue to hold on to perfectionist tendencies, they will become unhealthy. You will eventually experience burnout. So let go of being perfect and instead focus on excellence.

Limit Time Wasters
You may feel that you need to work the extra hours to get everything required of you done. Address this by taking a look at your day to day activities in the office. Eliminate negative influences that take time away from your important tasks.
If emails or surfing the internet tend to be your downfall, then establish rules. This could be an app on your laptop that tracks your time and limits your usage.
By limiting the time you waste at work, you’ll become more productive and produce better quality work. Not only will this reduce your at-home work time, but it will get you noticed at work. This will help you advance your career by developing a reputation as someone who gets things done.

Change Your Home Routine
Sometimes we fall into a routine that doesn’t work, but we don’t realize it until we take a moment to evaluate things. You may find that specific tasks and duties that you have at home are causing you stress. Work with your family to change your routine to reduce this stress.
By not worrying about what you have to do at home, you can focus on your work tasks better. This helps separate your thoughts and allow you to excel at work.

Consider Different Avenues for Growth
Sometimes the future we thought we wanted doesn’t work with our current life situation. This doesn’t mean our dreams of advancing our career are over. Instead, it means that it’s time to get creative. Don’t allow yourself to develop tunnel vision where you chase the next promotion at your current company.
Consider instead obtaining higher profile clients or more visible projects. Think about ways you can advance your career in a nontraditional way. You may find that by prioritizing family from the start, you find a company that agrees with the valuation. Now you can advance your career with a company that supports your desire for a balanced life between work and home.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or

From the Home to the Office, You Have Skills

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

After taking a break from your professional career to raise your children, you are ready to re-enter the workforce. You aren’t alone; 63% of married mothers would prefer to work part-time or not at all.
Re-entering the workforce is a major life change and will be a challenge. A positive attitude and confidence will go a long way in convincing hiring managers to give you a chance.
There are a few other things you can do to increase your attractiveness. Before you know it, you’ll be mastering the board room again.

Prepare to Answer Questions
There is no getting around it. Hiring managers will want to know about the break in your employment. They will also have a few questions for you.
Know why you want to go back to work. This needs to go beyond financial. Having a solid reason will motivate you and instill confidence in potential employers that you are serious. Here are some reasons other than financial to help you get started.

  • Looking for increased responsibility
  • A need to interact with and help others
  • A desire to learn more and share your knowledge
  • Apply and develop your skillset
  • Contribute to society

You also need to know what you want to do. This will help you find and target the right opportunities. It will also help you tailor your resume to suit your goal position.

Update Your Resume
Just because you haven’t been in the workforce for the past few years doesn’t mean that you haven’t gained or developed skills. It is now your job to identify those skills and show how they can translate to your future position. Don’t leave it up to hiring managers to make these connections for you.
When writing your resume, structure it to focus on your skills. Use a combination format where you focus on your skills at the top and list your professional experience at the bottom. This way, you aren’t hiding anything but also staying focused on what is important.

Identify Transferable Skills
Accentuate your transferable skills. The skills you have to be a successful mom are similar to the skills you need to be successful in a professional setting. 95% of professional females think raising children has provided them with skills they now use in the workplace.
This could include communication, multitasking, or logistics. Show employers that you can effectively communicate by attentively listening and expressing yourself clearly and concisely.
Demonstrate that you can multitask by providing specific examples in a professional manner. This does not mean giving your mom duties a professional sounding title.

Beef up Your Skillset
If you are finding that your resume is still a bit light, then it is time to start taking extra steps. This way you can shore up your skills and make yourself competitive in the job applicant market.

This is the easiest way to gain skills outside of the home that can easily translate to a professional career. Consider the skills that are needed for your desired position and volunteer somewhere that also uses them.
For instance, if you are interested in a career in the medical industry, then volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. You could volunteer at your child’s school, or your church may have opportunities.

Take a Class
Some skills won’t translate. If your goal position requires proficiency in particular software, then it may help to take a class. This will allow you to become familiar and reduce the amount of on the job training you require.

Attend a Conference
How can you hit the ground running in a career if you aren’t familiar with the current industry? Attending a professional conference can help you learn about current industry events. It can also help you network and increase your professional connections.
By remaining confident and showcasing your skills, you will be able to re-enter the workforce.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or

Be the Person Everyone Wants to Work With

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

Think about the best boss you’ve worked for in your career. What made them so great? This person likely created a positive and supportive working environment that encouraged you to learn and grow.
While this sounds like it should be easy to accomplish, only 33% of employees feel engaged and happy with their work. You can change this statistic at your company by changing the culture.
Be someone that others want to work with. Your positive attitude and example will make others want to work with you.

Master the BLT
No, we aren’t referring to the delicious sandwich. The BLT factor stands for believability, likability, and trustworthiness. Your professional reputation should embody these three traits. That way, when people think of whom they want to trust to get the job done, your name is at the front of their mind.
While the ability to get the job done is important, people are more likely to pick the friendly person over the less cordial. So give yourself the edge by not only having the skills but also the personality.

Have Empathy
You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion to empathize with them. You can thoughtfully consider their feelings while politely disagreeing with their stance. By respecting others and trying to find common ground, you create a positive and proactive work environment.

Be Reliable
When people prove to be dependable, they become the first call when an important project comes up. To further your career, you want to be the first name people think of. This way, you get the most important projects that arise in the future.

Be Honest
Integrity is a rare commodity in the business world today. All successful relationships require a certain amount of honesty, though.
Use your best judgment to determine when transparency is appropriate. Sometimes, owning a mistake or missed deadline will garner more respect and understanding than trying to deceive.

Engage with Others
Pay attention to your body language when you communicate. Your crossed arms or hands in your pockets indicate that you are mentally shut off. Instead, make eye contact, nod in understanding, and mirror the other person’s body language.
Show that you are engaged by asking sincere and relevant questions. Make the questions open-ended so that they require more than one word to answer. Then actively listen to the answer. By showing genuine interest, you’ll earn appreciation and respect from those around you.

Be Openminded
Everyone is afraid of rejection. If you exhibit open-mindedness, people will be more likely to want to work with you. Your accepting nature and kindness will put them at ease.
Don’t immediately judge other’s ideas based on your preconceived notions. Consider where the other person is coming from before you react and respond.

Ace Your First Impression
We all make immediate judgments when we first meet people. Chances are you’ve made a few bad first impressions in your career. While they can be tough to overcome, you can breathe easy.
According to a Yale study, humans want to forgive. That means you can get a second chance at a first impression.
The first thing to do is self-evaluate. Acknowledge the misstep the next time you are around that person. Don’t try too hard, just honestly address the issue and demonstrate your true intentions moving forward.
You can also use this misstep to learn for future first impressions. This way, you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Follow the Golden Rule
All of these tips can be summed up in one simple rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. By doing this, you earn the respect of those around you as someone they can trust, respect, and depend on.
These are all qualities that people want to be around during work or otherwise.

Let’s get to work!
If you are ready to move your executive career forward contact me today at 203-323-9977 or