How to Negotiate Your Salary the Right Way

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

When it comes to job satisfaction, money is not everything.
It is important to be paid fairly for your expertise and experience, but you also want to feel valued and be able to meet your personal needs.
Negotiating salary is a bit like walking a tight rope. You have to find the right balance. Some people – even executive level professionals – can feel awkward trying to ask for what they need while respecting the company they are working for (or looking to work for).
Here are several key strategies for negotiating the salary you deserve.
Be Clear About What Works For You
First, identify the maximum amount that would represent a stellar offer. Then, figure out the minimum you would like to be paid.
So long as you are in between the two values, there is room for negotiation. But, never go below the minimum you have established.
Second, never start low and try to work your way up. This rarely works, and leaves you with no room for negotiation, as you’ve already laid your cards on the table. Instead, start high and work your way down if necessary.
Third, be honest about your needs. If a win-win scenario cannot be achieved, then one side is always going to end up resenting the other and the arrangement is not going to work out.
Research The Role You are Applying For
Ensure that you know everything there is to know about the role you are applying for. 
The most important question to ask is: ‘what are others in the same role being paid?’ This is something you should be aware of as you look to negotiate your salary. If possible, talk to current or former employees. Alumni of your college or university who hold similar positions or who are employed by the same company may provide you with useful information. LinkedIn can be a good source of contacts for this.
If you quote an amount that is too low, they may assume that you do not have the experience and skills necessary to take the job.
If you quote an amount that is in line with what others in similar roles are being paid, they will know that you are in the right ballpark.
Do not be afraid to ask for more based on the maximums and minimums you have established as guidelines for yourself.
Salary Calculators are a terrific aid for your research.;; ; Robert Half International Salary Guides (accounting, finance, financial services, technology, legal, creative positions, administrative jobs) are some that I use to investigate the latest salary information.
Demonstrate Your Value
As a leader, you must be able to demonstrate the value you can bring to a company. You need concrete examples of how you have increased a company’s bottom line, drove revenue, cut expenses, boosted productivity and efficiency, and so on.
These examples should always be relevant to the specific company or role you are applying to.
If there is enough evidence to suggest that you can help a business grow, an employer is more likely to take you seriously and pay top dollar for your tenure.
Prove Your Worth
Negotiations do not always go as planned and you may not get the amount you have asked for. The company may not have the resources to give you the amount you are asking for, or they may be looking for you to prove your worth first.
Work with the boss or HR department to come up with ideas on what you can do to prove your worth and set up deadlines for these goals. Take notes on these conversations and then report on your progress regularly. As you meet targets, you will likely get raises.
Additionally, it is important to understand that sometimes items besides salary are up for negotiation. This includes items like your preferred vacation accrual, work schedule, training opportunities, and tuition reimbursement.
So, if you can negotiate for favorable terms in this regard, the job may still be worth taking. Sometimes, you can work up to your salary goals over the long term.
Final Thoughts
Take genuine interest in the company and role you are applying for. Understand that their needs are and what they are looking for in a new hire. You will be better able to serve the company in the capacity they need to help them grow and move forward. And, that will increase your worth as a leader.
Let’s get to work!
If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

Improving the Culture of Your Workplace

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

Though it can sometimes be hard to define, company culture is crucial to maintaining a healthy and productive workplace. A solid company culture will also help you retain your best talent.

Maybe you feel your company culture needs a makeover. Or, maybe you are just getting started in your role and you are wondering how you can instill a sense of culture from day one.

Whatever the situation, here are three ways in which you can improve the culture of your workplace.

Improvement Through Inspiration

A regular dose of inspiration can help your employees remain motivated over the long haul.

Here are several things you can do on a practical level to keep your team engaged:

  • Recognize achievements. Recognize employees who have done an outstanding job. If you like, you could award one person with the title of employee of the month and showcase them on your website and/or your social channels.
  • Bring in guest speakers. At times, your employees can benefit from an outside perspective. Guest speakers can bring fresh ideas to the table that boost morale and heighten motivation.
  • Offer ongoing training and development. Today’s workers are interested in improving their skills and in learning new things. Offer ongoing training sessions or give your team access to online and offline resources they can tap into on their own time, such as books and courses.

Do not rely on any one tactic to create inspiration. Rotate through each to create variety and engagement. Sticking to one thing for too long could prove detrimental for morale. For instance, if you are constantly recognizing a small group of people who are outstanding achievers, those who are not getting recognition are going to start feeling left out.

Improvement Through Reflection

Reflection is one of the most powerful tools available to leaders and workers alike. Thinking about what has and has not gone well can offer valuable insight into how to improve. This can lead to breakthroughs in the workplace.

Here are a few ways in which you can use reflection as a tool to improve company culture:

  • Hold brainstorming sessions. Get your team together to think about how company culture could be improved. Make this a planned session rather than a spontaneous one and get your team members to come prepared with a couple of ideas.
  • Gather feedback. Gather feedback from individual team members and reflect on the answers they give you. You can collect feedback in a variety of ways, but the number one thing you need to establish is trust. If your people don not trust you, they are not going to give you honest and transparent answers.
  • Encourage personal reflection. Group reflection can be beneficial, but as we all know, meetings can easily become unproductive, especially without an agenda, and care and attention to organization and planning. Perhaps, at the end of each week, you could encourage your employees to reflect individually for 15 to 30 minutes or so.

Improvement Through Teamwork

“Joe should really connect with Sue, because Sue could help him gain perspective and understand his responsibilities better.”

Have you ever caught yourself saying something like this?

You must acknowledge that you are making a bit of an assumption here, as Joe probably is not seeing things from a bird’s eye view like you are. Perhaps you should consider pointing out the connection to Joe and give him an incentive to talk to Sue.

Many leaders wish they could encourage more teamwork and collaboration among team members. And, the reality is that you can.

Teams are often siloed off by department. So, one way you can encourage more communication is by breaking down those walls and getting everyone on the same page. This could be a literal or figurative “wall”.

But there is another way of looking at this. You could also create groups that include someone from each department. You could have these groups work together, or just get together on a weekly basis to discuss happenings in their specific roles.

Regardless of how you do it, the key is to get your team members interacting with each other and understanding how their role contributes to company objectives.

Final Thoughts

Do not make company culture an afterthought. Defining who you are and what you are about gives your employees an opportunity to connect to the vision and the purpose of the business. It also helps you attract likeminded people who can help you grow the company.

Let’s get to work!

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

3 Benefits of Mindful Leadership

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

In leadership, there is often a strong focus on doing, whether it is talking with team members, connecting with suppliers and vendors, networking or otherwise. After all, without action, there is no progress.

But all these actions can benefit from one thing – being more mindful.

Today, mindfulness is often linked with meditation, breathing, stretching and so on. These are all good practices to implement, as they can relieve stress, make you calmer and more focused, and even cause you to be more empathetic, which is a good quality to cultivate as a leader.

But mindfulness is not just an exercise. It is something leaders can practice in their daily work lives.

In today’s busy culture, it is easy to forget how important being mindful is. Here are several ways in which mindfulness can positively impact your leadership.

  1. Managing Your Team

Picture this: Your employee, Charlie, is late delivering a report.

Additionally, Charlie has 18 projects assigned to him. He is doing the best he can to complete all of them to the best of his ability. The reason Charlie was trusted with the report in the first place is because he is known for his quality of work and timeliness.

Being mindful of the fact that he may already be overwhelmed can help you make sense of the delay. Instead of coming down hard on him, as a stressed and overburdened leader might be inclined to do, you could help him out by asking another employee to assist him with completing this task.

You can build a stronger relationship with your team members by practicing mindfulness. Ultimately, this can increase your team’s productivity.

  1. Communicating More Effectively

Internal dialogue is a constant within every one of us. Sometimes, we assume that the conversation going on in our head is exactly the conversation others are having with themselves. But, there is a good chance it isn’t.

It is easy to make up stories about others, what they know, what their predisposition is and how they handle challenges. This is where communication can easily break down.

You may think you told your team members that reports require cover sheets. Did you send out a memo or an email stating this? Is it in the procedure documents? Did you follow up using the internal messaging system, or restate it at your latest meeting?

The best leaders are effective communicators. If you are mindful about how you are communicating, you will find fewer things slipping through the cracks.

  1. Developing Better Strategies

Some of the best leaders are known to spend a considerable amount of time just thinking. This is a form of mindfulness all its own.

Thinking allows you to establish clarity on goals to set, next steps to take, how to innovate and create a competitive advantage for your company and more.

Leaders should be spending time on high-value tasks, and strategic thinking should be considered high value. Leaders need to be cognizant of what to do next, as the demands of the market are constantly changing.

Strategic thinking can lead to new ideas and insights, new ways of doing things and even a more proactive and innovative company culture. You can develop a more effective team by directing your focus towards strategy.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness can extend into every facet of your life. As you achieve success in one area, it will empower you to make worthwhile changes in other areas. It is important to understand the impact that your personal life can have on your career life and vice versa. If you want to be more effective in every area, then bring your presence and awareness to every situation.

Let’s get to work!

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

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