5 Questions To Ask If You Think Consulting Is The Right Path For You

Compass symbol


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

Consulting sometimes gets a bad rap. But the reality is that there are a lot of upsides to the profession too.

You can earn good money. You can contribute valuable ideas to various organizations, and see them grow as result of your input. And to some extent, you can set your own hours.

But this isn’t to suggest that it’s all glitz and glamor. You’ll need to do your homework. You’ll need to travel. You’ll need to be able to sell yourself and charge a fee that’s in keeping with the value you can provide.

Here are five things to consider if you’re thinking about becoming a consultant.

1. Are You Willing & Able To Travel Often?

Consulting often requires a lot of travel, and many consultants give up a good part of their week to their work because of this.

So you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to live the plane-and-hotel lifestyle. And if you have a family, you have to think about whether or not two to three days of your time on the weekend is really enough to sustain your relationship with them. Additionally, this is the only time you will have for yourself, your errands, doctor’s appointments, and so on.

2. Can You Adapt Quickly?

Many consultants find their work anything but predictable. One moment they’re talking about business strategy. The next, they’re addressing regulatory and legal concerns.

For better or for worse, you can’t just make a to-do list and tackle items one by one. You’ll have to be flexible with your work and be prepared to adapt quickly.

You will gain experience in many different fields as a consultant, but in reality this is out of necessity – it’s really part of the job description.

3. Are You A People Person?

Consulting requires you to network and meet new people constantly. You will also need to be able to demonstrate and convince people of your worth.

But there’s more. You have to be able to present at a moment’s notice, communicate well, and be able to keep a finger on the pulse of the value you’re offering. If you can’t summarize how your work is going to benefit the company, your client or one of their colleagues might question your validity and ability to deliver on the promised results.

4. Can You Sell Yourself?

If you get into consulting, you’ll be selling yourself to new organizations and clients all of the time. It’s like a job search that has no end, because you’ll be going in to do job interviews frequently.

One opportunity can certainly lead to another, but you can’t assume that this will happen. As a consultant, you will need to be very proactive about finding your next job. This can be challenging, because you can’t be selling while you’re working, and you can’t be working while you’re selling.

If you’re not the aggressive selling type, you will likely require a system to attract and convert prospects into paying clients.

5. Are You Reliant On A Steady Paycheck?

There is an opportunity to earn a considerable amount of money as a consultant. But this doesn’t mean that you will automatically make droves of money, or that your income level will be consistent from one month to the next. In most cases, you won’t even be paid for your work until after 45 to 90 days have passed (and that’s the best case scenario).

And even if you put your best foot forward, there’s always the chance that you won’t have any clients for several months at a time. If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability to provide great service, you might give up before the going gets good.

In consulting, you’re in for an up-and-down ride. Can you handle it?

Final Thoughts

If you love challenges, and you pride yourself in your ability to help businesses, then there is tremendous upside to being a consultant. Carefully consider the above, and think about whether or not you can handle the workload and tension involved.

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 Ways To Positively Work With “The Gatekeepers”


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

Here’s the thing about “the gatekeepers”. They’re busy. They have a lot on their plate. And whether it’s pitches or résumés, they’re getting a high volume of submissions on a daily basis.

So how do you get through to CEOs or other executive level people? How do you grab their attention amidst their sea of emails and phone calls? Or, if you’re already communicating with them, what do you do to keep them engaged?

Here are five ways to work positively with the gatekeepers.

1. Recognize The Flow Of Influence & Use It To Your Advantage

In corporate environments, influence flows downward. As result, talking directly to the gatekeeper could actually be to your detriment. Gatekeepers are there to keep you out. Letting someone through could mean putting their reputation or even job at risk. More often than not, they will reject you, and they might give you more than just a polite brushoff.

When all is said and done, the gatekeeper is still the person you will be pitching to. But starting at the top gives you an advantage. Talking directly with the decision maker could give you the information you need to make a better pitch to the gatekeeper.

Instead of trying to get through to the gatekeeper, try getting through to the decision maker first.

2. Treat The Intermediary Well & Be Personable

Although you may be rejected by gatekeepers more than once, if you don’t maintain your composure, you could get blacklisted. Keep in mind that it’s their job to decline the vast majority of inquiries.

It might sound like “play nice” is canned advice, but there’s more to this than you might think. Gatekeepers, more often than not, turn out to be incredible resources. And when you make an effort treat them well, you might end up being the first person to do that all day. That causes you to stand out.

Make notes on who the intermediary is. Take interest in them. Send them handwritten notes. Dare to ask, “what can I do for you?” When you do that, it shows initiative, and also demonstrates that you aren’t all about yourself. It shows that you’re willing to reciprocate.

3. Use Email To Demonstrate Your Expertise

Instead of using email to sell, try using it to establish the work you’re doing to move the deal forward. Your first email should not be about selling or pitching, but rather a brief introduction into who you are, and a reference to a challenge your recipient is experiencing. Follow this up with a phone call.

Ask permission to include the gatekeeper in the conversation, and copy them in your ongoing communication. Then, include the decision maker in the emails. As they continue to see the work that’s happening behind the scenes, they will have a hard time not being impressed with you.

Naturally, this does mean actually doing the work – finding out what the company does, what challenges they’re experiencing, what solutions you can provide them with, and the like.

4. Be Honest & Transparent

You might be able to coax and manipulate a company into making a deal with you. But if the deal was cut on pretence, and the foundation of your relationship is shaky, the agreement will fall apart, and you will miss out on business with them over the long-term. Aggressive selling or pitching tactics may yield upfront results, but will also earn you a bad reputation. Repeat business is more to your benefit.

Truth is refreshing. When you’re a truth-teller, it demonstrates that you would make for a solid partner over the long haul. Build your credibility by being honest and transparent about what you’re looking to achieve.

5. Learn To Listen & Read Between The Lines

In today’s fast-paced, attention-deprived world, people tend not to listen. But listening could provide some valuable clues as to how to move forward with your communication, and what problems you could solve for them.

As you continue to communicate with intermediaries, you’re going to be asked more and more questions. You need to learn to answer questions while flipping it around on them, and in turn, following up with your own question. This will keep the conversation moving.

Don’t forget – the person asking the questions is in control of the conversation.


Be genuine and treat others with respect. It sounds simple enough, but it can be difficult when you’re looking to get that handshake on a deal. Learn to steer the conversation, and how to get a “yes” when gatekeepers are most likely to respond with a “no”.

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

Line Your Library! Summer’s Here And It’s Time To Get Reading For Your Career Search, Planning, And Of Course, Enjoyment With These 4 Literary Works


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

Summer is here! For some, it’s a time for rest and relaxation. For others, it’s time for thoughtful reflection.

Either way, it is the ideal time to unload baggage from the past and get recalibrated and ready for another season.

Reading is a great way to stimulate your thinking and gain new insights into your career path. Here are four great books to help you get your career search and planning underway!

The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore

Looking for change in your career? Considering a new path? Interested in moving in a new direction?

Nicholas Lore’s The Pathfinder features over 100 tests and diagnostic tools that will offer the insights you need to make that change, or simply alter your perspective around the opportunities you’re already pursuing.

Is career satisfaction and fulfillment a priority for you? Have you ever wished that you had more direction in choosing a career growing up?

Then The Pathfinder can help you discover a side of yourself you never even know existed. Reconnect with your dormant talents and skills and unlock your full potential.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Dive into classic Covey wisdom with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Be reminded of why you need to take the initiative in your life. Define or refine your personal goals. Learn the ins and outs of priority management. Develop the habit of growing yourself and finding the win-win in every situation.

Covey offers a definitive, in-depth guide into the habits that will transform your life and make you more effective in every aspect of your career. Apply his wisdom and watch as the world unfolds before your very eyes.

101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions: 25th Anniversary Edition by Ron Fry

If you’re searching for a new career and applying to positions, then job interviews are part and parcel of the process.

After reading the 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions, you’ll be ready for any situation. When you’re looking to land that job you really want, the ideas contained in this book are going to prove invaluable.

If you’ve never done well in interviews, then one of your weaknesses is about to become one of your strengths! Just remember to gather all the specifics for the position you’re applying to.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

These days, the attention span of a human being is often being compared to that of a goldfish. Not to worry – human beings definitely aren’t goldfish, because we’re capable of deep, focused work.

Cal Newport’s Deep Work reveals one essential skill every executive should master – the ability to focus on difficult and demanding tasks without giving in to unnecessary distractions.

If we want to get high-value tasks done, we can’t get caught up in a flurry of emails, texts, and instant messages. We need to cultivate the ability to enter flow states and give our all to tasks we need to complete. This book will teach you how.

Final Thoughts

What will you do next? What do you see for yourself, your future, and your career?

Will you remain in the role you’re currently in, or do you see change ahead?

Whatever the case, let these four books guide you onto new horizons, excel in your career, and live a more impactful life. Make this summer the most productive one you’ve ever had.

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

Interview Success

art of interviewing

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

Interview success is important not only for your job prospects but for your self-confidence during the job hunt.

Ensuring you have a positive, successful interview process is important as you continue your job search.

Do Your Homework

A successful interview comes with a lot of preparation. Who will you be speaking with in the interview?  What are your common denominators?  Look up this person (or panel) on LinkedIn. Were you in the same field, university, former companies, or community groups?  Also, conduct your research on the company.  What do you know about them? Have you also read their social media feeds? What do they post / tweet about?  Read the articles they have written – be prepared to sprinkle in some of that info during your meeting.

Prepare Your Questions to Pose to Your Interviewer

There will be moments in the interview when clearly the next question belongs to you. Think about this like a date! You wouldn’t want your date to start asking you “hardball” questions right out of the gate.  Consider some nice “softball” questions during the first ten-minutes such as: “Ms. Smith, tell me how this position came about?”; or “I recently saw a press release that your company is about to ___. What is this department doing to help that transition?”; etc.  These opening questions show interest, research, and some high level thought processes.  As the interview progresses, consider “hardball” questions like: “What are your challenges”; “How do you define success for this role?”; etc.  I consider these “hardball” questions because your interviewer needs to trust you, or certainly be considering you before laying out their current challenges.

Prepare your Answers for the Interviewers Questions

Use the job posting like an open book test. Review the responsibilities for the position.  If you could turn that responsibility into a question (and a follow up question), what would they be? How would you answer?  I find that if candidates can do this – they are probably ready for 80% of the interview!

Have Validation Stories Ready

Validation Stories are KEY for your interview success.  You want to be able to share what you have done at past companies, why it was important, how you did it, what the outcomes were, and (the best part) how it relates back to this company’s needs.  If you could have 5 validation stories at your fingertips for each interview, even if you are only able to use three of them, you will be in excellent shape!

Prepare your Value Proposition

(It’s not an ELEVATOR SPEECH! You’re not an elevator!) This is about showing WHY you are the candidate of choice!  You have 2 to 3 minutes to present your Value Proposition in the early moments of the interview.  Use it to set the tone of the entire hour that is about to unfold!  This shows them why YOU are the person that was invited in!  If the interviewer doesn’t say: “Tell me about yourself” – Please volunteer it, jump in and say: Ms. Smith, before we begin, let me tell you about myself!”  They will appreciate your executive confidence and realize that this is a great way to start the conversation.  I often wonder as a career coach, if this is the one question that we know will be asked 90% of the time – why aren’t candidates ready for it? Promote it during the opening moments of the interview.

The Thank You Note of Their Dreams

Follow up with 24 – 36 hours with a GREAT Thank You note.  In the note, DO mention several challenges you heard them speak about and then note how you have handled each area in the past with success.  Back it up using action verbs, metrics, outcomes, etc.   A thank you note like this goes beyond the obligatory thank you for seeing me, but rises to an executive piece that clearly shows you distinguishing yourself from other candidates.

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

Positivity During Job Search


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

Whatever the reason for your job search, staying positive during the hunt is a critical component to finding the right one for you!

Job hunting can be a stressful time for anyone and the long process can easily get you down. A job search is more than setting goals and picking out the right interview answers; it is also about your personal well-being during the job hunt.

We have some tips for maintaining positivity during your job search!

State of Mind

Positivity is all about state of mind and the way you approach your job search will make all the difference in the world.

Perceiving a job search as an opportunity rather than a burden means you’ll work harder to ensure you’re putting yourself into the right position for success. This search is an opportunity to find your dream job and pursue the goals you’ve always wanted to achieve. Remember, you are giving yourself opportunities every time you make a phone call, send in a resume, or submit an application. Look for opportunities everywhere; in your interesting connections, at businesses you love to frequent, and in your own passions.


Even if you don’t get the job at a company you had an interview with, you’ve met executives from that company. Most industries are actually very small and companies know their competitors and the key people at those companies. The connections you make during a job search are useful to you depending on the job you do end up taking. Ensuring your interview and follow-ups are positive experiences could create a solid connection in your industry that will come in handy later!

Support System

We all need people in our corner rooting for us.

Friends and family show you how much you mean to them when you need them and leaning on your support system during a job search can have a huge impact on your state of mind.  Communicating your job search struggles makes them seem less daunting.

Talking out an interview strategy will help make you feel more confident when you go into the interview.

Stay Healthy

Take care of yourself! While a job search can be stressful, this is no time to let your healthy habits slip.

Ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Well rested individuals are at the top of their game and are less likely to make little mistakes that can come with a tired brain.

Exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle and it can help burn off nervous energy before an interview or when you’re laying in bed trying to fall asleep after sending in a resume


All the things that can help keep your state of mind positive are great mood boosters during a job search.

If your job search is getting you down, turn to one of the things proven to make you happy.

You will find the job of your dreams and all the hard work will be well worth 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

Successful Executive Behaviors


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

Successful executives often have similar behaviors that can be translated into goals for your professional life.

People don’t get to the top of their fields without a few key behaviors that you can emulate in your own work life; the key is recognizing these behaviors and understanding how to apply them.

Check out these successful executive behaviors and learn how you can apply and become a successful executive yourself!

They Delegate

Successful executives know when to delegate tasks and when they should be handled personally.

The ability to delegate requires a trusted and reliable team to delegate tasks and projects to who you trust to deliver on time and within specified constraints.

Micro-managers often don’t rise much farther than middle management because they spend too much time worrying about other people’s tasks and not enough on their own. High level executives know it is just as important to delegate as it is to handle tasks on their plate using the most efficient methods.

They’re Reliable

Successful executives didn’t get where they are by being unreliable.

Being on time or early, completing tasks assigned, and having consistent behavior are all keystones in executive personalities. People who work their way up through the ranks have proven themselves to be reliable and are people that can be turned to in a crisis.

They Let Things Go

There are office politics and conflicts that arise in every workplace. Successful executive behavior includes letting go of grudges and getting over conflict.

Once something is resolved, whether or not they like the outcome, successful executives move on and keep doing their jobs. Focusing on building and growing the company, looking at the big picture, and not getting caught up in the minute details make for a successful executive.

Staying civil with coworkers keeps your working reputation positive. You never know which coworkers can help you further your career path.

They Share Credit

Executives don’t get where they are by hogging all the credit, which may surprise some people.

Very few people complete big projects and handle all the tasks alone and those who share the credit, or give it away completely, are more likely to be seen as humble and good team-players.

A manager whose team is successful is also successful, yes, but a manager who gives the credit to his team who made an endeavor successful is still successful and has the trust and respect of their team.

Accepting credit where it’s due is important but sharing credit when it should be shared is critical.

They Are Independent and Communicative

There’s a fine line between independent and aloof.

The ability to be self-driven and work on their own is an excellent quality in an executive but if no one knows what they’re up to or where their projects are, they can seem aloof or incommunicative.

Worse yet, people may not realize they’re getting anything done. Keeping key people aware of the status of projects without relying on them for input at every turn is a great quality that allows for both communication and independence.

High level executives turn to key people when they need projects done and you’re more likely to get these projects if those executives know you’ll take charge and keep them informed of project status along the way.


Successful executives start out as successful employees.

Applying these successful executive behaviors in your career now can help pave the way for a successful executive career in your chosen field.

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

Job Search Planning for 2016



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

There’s nothing like a new year to make time refresh your career planning. How can you make 2016 a successful job search year?

Set Goals

Setting achievable goals in one of the most important parts of job search planning.  I like to use S.M.A.R.T. goal planning for my business which is easily applied to job search.  Think in terms of Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals!

Have a clear ultimate goal of where you want to end up, whether that is an industry, a company, or a location.  If you only have a vague idea now, think about what is most important to you.

What are your interests? What do you do well? Where do you want to live?  Is having the flexibility to spend time with your family important or do you want a career you can dedicate your time to? Break up your ultimate goal into smaller, attainable goals. Set a number of applications to send in each month or quarter.  Complete a community college course.  Go to a networking event where you can further your career opportunities. Accomplishing goals makes job searching achievable and less daunting!

Consider using some new tools.  I like www.PlannerPads.com to hold all of my goals for networking, social media, editorial calendars, sales objectives, etc.   What about using ASANA to collaborate with an accountability group?

Better Yourself

One of your goals that can help your job search can be to expand on a skill, a strength, or even a weakness. Pick something that will make you a more attractive candidate in the field that you want to work. You don’t just have to focus on tangible skills. Soft skills are just as critical. Taking a class (or a Harvard Business School weekend) shows your dedication to your field and shows that you are willing to spend time outside normal working hours to make yourself better. Get this on to your resume!  Oh, and while we are talking about resumes:

Remember that the “you” reflected on your resume is ever changing and adapting.

Ensure your resume is up to date not just in hard copies but also on the search websites that you may have profiles posted.  You should be able to get your resume to a person standing in front of you almost immediately. Have a PDF saved on your smartphone and if you carry a briefcase or purse, try to keep a hard copy there.

Stay Positive

Searching for that new position can be hard.

One of the most difficult parts of searching is waiting. Waiting for your application to be reviewed, waiting for an interview, waiting to be called back.  Having planned, personal activities to take your mind off the waiting is one of the best ways to get through the process. Plan your workout, a movie with a friend, date night with your spouse, a beloved craft to do with your hands, etc. – all of this can make a difference in our frame of mind and attitude.

Do Your Research

Target the specific companies you want to work for and do your homework. Ensure you’re as prepared for an interview as possible by knowing the company history as well as the industry the company specializes in.

Networking is also a great way to gain more knowledge about the company you want to work for.  Check LinkedIn, reach out to your contacts in the industry or alumni networks, and let close friends know your plans.


Break your goal into smaller, attainable goals like bettering yourself and doing research on your potential future employers.  You will feel more accomplished and see positive gains.

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