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.

Conclusion

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!

Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com

5 Summer Networking Tips For Executives

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

Summer is almost here. While many people tend to mentally relax as vacation season approaches, it can be a good time for you to get a leg up on the competition if you use your time wisely.

BBQs, pool parties, outings to the lake, and other activities can all prove to be valuable networking opportunities with the right mindset.

If you are proactive in organizing and finding gatherings you can attend, you will have the chance to meet many new people, possible some who could have an influence on the future of your career.

Use these five tips to establish and build meaningful career connections.

  1. Hold Lunch Meetings On The Patio Or At An Outdoor Restaurant

You are going to eat anyway. It is best to eat with someone who may be able to introduce you to a new contact, or even someone you’re just getting to know.

And while you are at it, do not forget that it is nice outside. Find outdoor restaurants, or restaurants with patios where you can enjoy the nice weather while discussing important matters over a meal.

Many meetings are done over lunch. Introducing the outdoor element can make it more enjoyable for all involved.

  1. Send Invitations To People You Want To Meet

Who are you interested in meeting right now? Is there someone specific you need to contact? A gatekeeper you need to impress?

There are plenty of things happening during the summer – outdoor and sporting events, festivals, exhibitions, and so on.

Why not buy a couple of tickets to an event, and invite someone you would like to get to know to come with you? This can be an informal and relaxed get together. Focus on relationship-building, as the right mentality will help you get better results.

  1. Meet With Other Jobseekers

There is power in numbers. Other executive-level jobseekers have likely done their homework, and have built many connections that could prove valuable to you.

Consider creating an accountability group for the summer.  Have a regular meeting time / place.  Share leads, contacts, market intelligence.

You could look up local Meetup groups, or even organize your own using a service like Eventbrite.

Also, remember to connect with the people you meet via LinkedIn. This simple act can sometimes have a profound impact on your job search, as you may learn about opportunities or organizations you never knew about before.

Agree to help each other, and you may uncover opportunities together, which is ultimately what networking is for.

 

  1. Volunteer Or Join A Committee

Many organizations make decisions about their future during the summer. Contributing to committees or volunteer programs in a meaningful way can lead to great contacts and potential opportunities. As an executive level person, there is a good chance you can bring considerable value to these situations.

Volunteering or joining a committee will also look good on your resume and help you build your brand.

  1. Attend Charity & Fundraising Events

Find organizations that are making a difference in areas you care about and attend their events. Charity events are no longer strictly black tie affairs and often have an element of fun to them.

Attending fundraising events is a good way to find people who are aligned with your values. The best way to find valuable connections and opportunities is to find people who care about things you care about. This could open the door for future collaboration, or help you find fulfilling work.

Show your face and become known in the community.

Final Thoughts

Enjoy yourself – don’t just focus on networking and finding possible leads. This will make you more relatable to others.

Summer offers great opportunities for you to connect with more people, as many are spending more time outside and at a variety of events. Target relevant gatherings and events that appeal to you and give you fulfillment, as this will make your networking efforts more enjoyable and worthwhile.

Let’s get to work!

Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com

Find Your Perfect Career with 4 Questions

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

There are many careers to choose from, but there may only be a few that will keep you motivated. Finding your perfect career is an exciting process, but it may require some experimentation and soul-searching on your part.

You can watch as others thrive in their career roles, but what is right for you may be different from what is right for them. You must take the time to understand who you are and what you want out of your career long-term to find your perfect career match.

Ask yourself the following questions to help you clarify what opportunities to pursue:

  1. What Kind Of Work Energizes You Most?

There are many ways of phrasing this question. You could also ask, “What gets me up in the morning?” Or maybe, “What work allows me to make a difference in the world?”

The key here is to think about work that gives you energy, as opposed to work that drains and tires you out.

You will thrive in a position that allows you to be hands-on with projects and causes you care about.

Everyone is motivated by different things. You need to determine what excites you.

  1. If Money Was Not A Concern, What Would You Be Doing?

The answer to this question speaks volumes about who you are and what you care about.

Imagine being paid to do things you care about enough to do without pay. Think carefully about what your answer would be.

Answering this question for yourself will help you zero in on potential career opportunities. You may be surprised to learn that your dream career exists!

  1. What Are You Good At?

First, think about what you think you do best. What do you see as your main strengths? In what areas do you consistently perform at a high level?

Next, ask others what they think you do best. Ask people you trust to give you an honest assessment of your skills and experience. What do they see as your strengths? How do they think you could leverage your unique skill set?

You can also consider what areas you have been recognized in before. Have you received awards or been recognized for specific achievements?

Though there is plenty to learn in any career, you will do best in a career that allows you to utilize your gifts.

  1. What Do You Want To Be Remembered For?

What contribution do you want to make to the world? What mark will you leave?

Your next career may not be what you are remembered most for. But, it could be a stepping stone to greater things.

As an executive, you will be leading others, and you will be involved in making important decisions. You will have significant responsibilities. So, you will be remembered – how you are remembered is up to you.

What would it mean to be remembered in a positive light? What will others be saying about you based on the work you will be doing?

Final Thoughts

Introspection and reflection are two valuable tools that will help you identify what motivates you. There is a dream job out there for you if you have the right experience and talent. You will be happiest in a career where you can contribute at a high level. Take some time to answer the above questions. You will gain more clarity on opportunities that are matched to your goals and skills.

Let’s get to work!

Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com

8 Questions To Ask A Potential Employer

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

In every interview you will be asked questions. It is important to be prepared with answers, specifically, stories and examples that demonstrate your experience and abilities. However, being prepared with questions of your own is equally important.

When you ask good questions, it demonstrates that you are serious about the position and that you have done your homework. It also shows that you are looking for cultural fit – the same thing they will be looking for in a potential hire.

1. and 2. In The Coming Year, Where Do You Expect The Business To Face Stiff Challenges? (And then follow up with: What Priorities Need Attention Now?)

What is most difficult about this role? Executive level positions inevitably come with significant responsibilities and challenges. Knowing the answer to this question will help you better understand the company culture, as well as what they see as being your key responsibilities.

Find out if there is anything they think you will find surprising about the position. This can help you prepare for what will be required of you in the company. You can also assess how your experience and knowledge apply to these challenges.

3. How Will Success Be Measured? Are There Internal and/or External Benchmarks Used?

What are their expectations? What changes within the company are they looking to see in the next six, 12, or 24 months? When you step into a new position, you will not necessarily know what changes and difficulties the company has gone through. It is important to understand how the company is looking to change and why this position is open.

Additionally, you should ask what metrics or indicators they are going to be using to measure your success and how often. Find out if there is a possibility those metrics will be changing down the line, too.

4. Is This Role Important To The Company’s Growth?

The answer will likely be “yes.” Asking this question should help you clarify how it connects to the overall growth of the organization. How will you be contributing to their growth plan directly or indirectly?

This question can also help you discover other expectations that have not already been voiced. Even if you have already asked how your performance will be measured, it is good to be aware of how your work will play into their expansion plans.

5. and 6. What Goals Does The Company Have? Are The Goals On Target, Achievable, In Need Of Development?

The answer to this question should help you gain a zoomed-out view of what the company is trying to accomplish both in the short-term and long-term. You can then connect this to how you will be helping the organization to meet these goals.

You can also ask about the plans the company has, which can help you identify priorities that haven not already been voiced. You may need to become involved in those plans if you are hired.

7. and 8. Capitalizing on the Company’s Strengths, What Can Be Leveraged? If Performance Has Been Weak, Where Are the Major Issues?

Ask for their perspective. What do they see as being their biggest merits and weaknesses? Why have certain things proved challenging in the past?

With this question, you can begin to think about whether your strengths are complementary to what they feel they are missing in their organization. If you can help them in areas they do not feel as strong in, you could be a major asset to the company.

Conclusion

Research the company you are going to be interviewing for. Ask pertinent questions based on your findings. The best questions will come from your knowledge of the organization and will help you learn more about the position you are interested in.

Go into the interview with several questions. Your potential employer will see that you are engaged and serious about learning how you can help. This is one of the most important qualities they will be looking for in a candidate.

Let’s get to work!

Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com

How to Bring Positivity to the Interview Process

Businessman smiling with arms outstretched

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

Positivity is contagious. It can uplift the people and the energy surrounding you.

Bringing positivity to an interview demonstrates your can-do and problem-solving attitude. This is an attractive quality in a leader, as they are often responsible for motivating their team to overcome challenges. Everyone has challenges, but an individual that can see the positive in every situation is easy to trust and appears more reliable.

Here’s how you can be proactive about bringing positivity to the interview process.

Prepare For the Interview

Preparation will boost your confidence. Confidence naturally breeds optimism.

When interviewing for an executive position, you may be asked questions that are outside the scope of your education, experience, and qualifications. Recruiters are looking to gain an understanding of your capacity as a leader, as well as how you have managed difficult situations in the past.

There are several things you can do to prepare yourself for the interview:

  1. Research possible interview questions. You will be better prepared to answer if you have been anticipating certain questions and you have had time to determine your response ahead of time.
  2. Learn about the company. Do your research and go in-depth. The more you know, the better.
  3. Search your memory. Consider real-life stories and examples you could share to demonstrate your competence and leadership ability. I ask my clients to prepare 12 to 18 validation stories so they are “at the ready” during an interview to prove you do what you say you do.
  4. Utilize the Job Description section on the responsibilities the job will cover. Turn these into questions and practice answering them.
  5. Prepare questions. Be ready to ask questions of your own. Asking questions exhibits definite interest in the position and also shows that you are also searching for the right fit.
  6. Practice your body language. Remember to smile, look the interviewer in the eye, be attentive, and speak clearly. Work on your body language regularly to project confidence and poise in the interview.
  7. Dress for success. Ensure your professional wear is in top shape for the interview.

Remain Present

It is easy to get distracted during an interview. Staying in the moment allows you to bring your awareness to the conversation. This will enable you to give more on-point, relevant answers to the questions being asked. You will think of better examples to bring up and demonstrate a clear understanding of the questions with your responses. You will feel sharper.

When you are fully aware, you will feel it become easier to be positive during the interview. Instead of dreading the things you must do later in the day or thinking about what went wrong in the past focus on the positive aspects of the interview process. You can give your attention to what matters most in the moment.

Concentrate on what you are looking to accomplish and you will find that your anxieties and fears will vanish.

Build Your Self-Confidence

If you are looking to add necessary experience or qualifications to your resume be proactive about educating yourself. Take courses, attend seminars, read books, or even listen to podcasts.

If your energy levels are low try exercising, eating well, and meditating more regularly to boost your self-image and feel better in your own body. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night to help you feel rejuvenated each day.

If you have been feeling down or negative change your self-talk. Learn to see the upside in every situation. Tell yourself that you are worthy and capable. Repeat and reinforce positive phrases to yourself.

There are many ways to improve your self-image, but it can take time and persistence. When you feel good about yourself, it will be easy to be positive in interviews.

A positive individual is a rare individual, which is why they always stand out.

Conclusion

Be prepared to ask for the job. Many people leave an interview without finishing their thoughts. You can easily avoid this situation by making it clear that you feel the position would be a good fit for you.

Positivity may take some practice, but it is worth every bit of effort you put into it.

Let’s get to work.

Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com

5 Body Language Tips that will Boost Your Effectiveness

Man hand turning a knob in the highest position, Concept image for illustration of high impact communication and advertising campaign.

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

You are an executive. You want to present yourself with confidence and poise.

With effective language, you can send the right message and communicate with authority every time. But communication is not just what you say verbally – it is also what you say with your body.

Practicing effective body language can help you achieve better results with interviews, meetings, and even with casual conversations.

Here are five tips that can help you improve your body language.

  1. Practice Active Listening

Actively conversing and paying attention to small details during conversations can instantly separate you from others. People are more apt to converse freely when they know their audience is paying attention. You can show your appreciation through your body language.

To demonstrate your active listening, hold eye contact for a comfortable length of time. Nod occasionally. Lean forward. Face the speaker. Repeat a few facts back to make sure you heard them correctly. As these behaviors become habitual, they will also become more natural. Actively listening will demonstrate that you are engaged, and you will find you remember more about the conversation.

Your overall communication will improve when you are able to remember these small details and bring them up again in future conversations.

  1. Work on Your Feet

When it comes to body language, people often focus on practicing their facial expressions, posture, and gestures, but forget to rehearse their feet. A person’s feet can reveal very much about how they are feeling.

When your own feet are still and comfortable they communicate confidence. This posture shows you are collected, grounded, and engaged in the moment.

You can observe other people’s feet to read the room. Increased movement, shuffling, and fidgeting can be a sign of anxiety or discomfort. Reading this body language is a good indicator to change the direction of the conversation.

  1. Uncross Arms & Legs

Crossed arms and legs can indicate introversion or lack of receptiveness. Keep a more open posture by unfolding your arms and legs. This posture can help you absorb and retain more information in conversation. This body language will communicate approachability and openness.

Whether you are in an interview, at an important meeting, or at a conference, it is always best to remain attentive and appear receptive to conversation. Keeping open posture will help you stay engaged and on-point with your communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

Closed posture, or crossed arms or legs is something you can watch for in others. This may indicate defensiveness or a good time to take a break and shake things up.

  1. Master the Handshake

Your handshake seals your interactions with a confident, poised, friendly gesture that others can remember you by.

A good handshake should not be too limp, squeeze too hard, shake for too long, or grab the wrong part of the hand entirely. Practice your handshake with willing friends or family members to perfect your technique. Ask for feedback as you try different things.

Mastering the handshake can take time. A little practice can go a long way when trying to create a lasting impression.

  1. Use Hand Gestures (but not too much!)

Hand gestures can help emphasize, clarify and improve points that are being verbally communicated. The key is to keep them clear and controlled. Your words should be more emphatic and memorable than your hand gestures.

You can use your fingers to emphasize numerical values or enumerate conclusions in your presentation. Bringing both of your hands together can mean “coming together.” An open hand with palm facing up can be used to demonstrate trends.

And one I think is especially important: during interviews, use one arm / hand gestures vs. both arms / hands.  One arm / hand gestures demonstrate an executive stance and presence.

These and other techniques are often used by the world’s most effective presenters and speakers. Use your hand gestures to enhance your words, but not distract from them.

Final Thoughts

To create a great impression with everyone you meet, make sure your body language is as confident and poised as your words are. Pay attention to the body language of those around you. Their body language will tell you how you can approach them to be most effective.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com

17 Ways to Kick Start Your Career Search in January 2017

 

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

 

  1. Send Your Thank You Notes

Be sure to send thank you notes within 24 hours of any job interviews you have. You can also send thank you notes to new contacts you made in 2016, which will set the precedent for future communication.

  1. Review Your LinkedIn Home Page

Spend 5 to 10 minutes each morning on LinkedIn so you can keep up with what is happening in your network. Address any comments or messages you may have waiting for you. Remember, your profile should be updated regularly.  This includes being an active and contributing community member.

  1. Get Your Interview Clothes Dry-Cleaned

First impressions are important. Get your interview clothes cleaned and pressed so you are prepared for future interviews.

  1. Read about the Applicant Tracking System to Stay Competitive

More companies are using ATS software to handle recruiting. Learn how it works so you can get through the software and land more interviews.

  1. Get Your Resume Ready

Review your last year and eliminate irrelevant, outdated or lesser credentials. Modify your keywords based on jobs you are applying to. Be sure to include relevant data and metrics. Verify that everything is up to date and correct.

  1. Update Your Target List

Utilize your network connections to get closer to companies that are on your target list.  Add to your list strategically and prioritize prospective opportunities.

  1. Find & Attend Local Events

An empty calendar will not help you land a job. Start filling it with relevant networking events and seminars you can attend to meet influencers and decision makers.

  1. Reconnect

Get in touch with old contacts – you never know what they might be up to, or who they could connect you with. You can also uncover hard-to-find job openings this way.

  1. Prepare For Interviews

Research common interview questions or role play with someone you trust. Be prepared with great answers. Expect the interview process to factor more heavily into whether you get a job in 2017. Do not underestimate the power of using your validation stories to demonstrate your capabilities and expertise.

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering can create great opportunities for networking.  Consider volunteering for an organization within your Subject Matter Expertise (SME).  (ex: treasurer for your church/synagogue if you are in accounting or a CFO; IT support for a local business if you are a tech guru; etc.)

  1. Uncover Hidden Opportunities

Some companies are too busy to make a job posting. Others have openings they do not regularly mention. Network and get in touch with your contacts to see if they are aware of any opportunities that meet your skills and requirements.

  1. Get on Social Media

Employers, recruiters, hiring managers will find you on social media platforms. Create profiles that are clean, neat, professional, and interesting.

  1. Follow Up Relentlessly

Some employers will not hire you unless you demonstrate a degree of tenacity. Follow up after interviews – it demonstrates your willingness to persist. Also remember to follow up with anyone you meet at networking events and seminars.

  1. Read about Recruiting Trends In 2017

Get acquainted with the stats and data. Become aware of in-demand skills. Find out what recruiters and HR teams will be looking for.

  1. Be Honest

Be open and transparent about your skills and experience on your resume and interviews. You need to be able to deliver on your promises.

  1. Track Your Efforts

The most successful people in the world are fervent trackers. Log everything you do in your career search so you can stay honest with yourself and the effort you are putting into your job search. Make note of what works, and stop doing what is not helping you find your ideal role.

  1. Don’t Give Up

Keep a positive attitude and stay the course. Be patient, and stick to your plan. It can be hard to maintain enthusiasm, but your positive attitude will not go unnoticed.

Final Thoughts

Do not try to do everything at once. Focus on one or two items at a time, and then move on to work on others. Avoid becoming overwhelmed. Set goals that stretch you a bit, but are not beyond your reach. Make the most of 2017.

 

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com