Never shared secrets on how to prepare for a job interview

There are tons of generic tips on how to prepare for the job interview out there. But very little that is this insightful, and particularly addressed to diverse women.

Lily Benjamin

Tips to ace the job interview form Lily Benjamin, one of the top talent management experts

In a room full of people, you may first notice her because of her physical appearance. Tall (5.8 without heels) attractive and vivacious, she looks much younger than her age. But don’t be fooled, her wisdom goes beyond her years. Her young energy coupled with her insights, attracts all types of generations, including Gen Ys, among other diverse groups. Yes, this is Lily Benjamin, one of the most insightful and successful Talent Management and Organization Development executives I’ve met in recent years. Her depth of knowledge and her ability to convert it into concrete advice makes her the ideal person to discuss little known secrets on how to prepare for a job interview, among other subjects.

Lily has over 20 years’ experience in Organization Development, Talent Management, and Diversity and Inclusion. Throughout her career, she has traveled all over the world acquiring a rich international experience while working in multiple industries: health, pharmaceutical, finance, and consumer goods. These experiences have fed her passion for cross cultural leadership development and for building inclusive environments that foster meaningful contributions to the business.

Make sure to check out: 3 Sure-Fire Negotiating tips for Women

What are the three most important things women should keep in mind when they prepare for a job interview?

Ready yourself to bust stereotypes

It is important to recognize that all human beings have biases, some of them are conscious, and others are not. They just need to be effectively managed. As an interviewee, it is important that you are aware of this and anticipate which unconscious biases may pertain to you, and be ready to bust any stereotypes. The way in which you bust those stereotypes is to intentionally bring your uniqueness into the conversation as an asset and discuss how it complements the work you do. For example: “As a woman, I tend to be cautious, yet committed, which makes me reliable…” If it’s a global company and you are Latina, and the job could grow into the Latino market, you can say, “As a Latina I bring the perspective and richness of the Latino market into consideration to help broaden our perspectives…” The ‘busting of stereotypes’ has to be subtle. Do not overdo it, as it could come across as disingenuous and hurt your credibility. A personal example I use to bust whatever stereotype is out there regarding my accent is to directly talk about it. I do so by referencing how speaking several languages has given me insights into the nuances of different cultures. Busting the stereotype of accents is valuable and gives me a competitive advantage in a world where our clients are increasingly more multicultural.

At a job interview bust all stereotypes

Be ready to bust stereotypes that may play against you

Know your audience and prepare for them

Leverage any social media to learn about the interviewer that you will be meeting, the leadership of the company, and the history of the job (if it is public.) Align your examples in a way that is relatable to the person who is interviewing you; that references past experiences of that person as captured in social media, or that are relevant for their generational group, cultural background, and so on. For example, you should read about the communication styles of Baby Boomers, Gen X or Gen Y and be prepared to flex into the uniqueness of their respective styles. The caveat here is that a lot of what you read are generalizations. Don’t forget that each person is an individual. So stay alert to adapt as you deem necessary in case your interviewer does not meet the generalizations that you researched. Always avoid putting everyone in one box.

Promote your personal brand and competitive advantage, tastefully

At the interview you have to ‘sell a product’, and that product is YOU. You must sell your brand and competitive advantage. Be clear on how to communicate both in good taste, without turning people off.

Promoting your personal brand and competitive advantage plays a really big part in preparing for an interview. Could you speak to this?

Your competitive advantage is what makes you unique and the reason why someone should hire you over any other candidate. One of the tools that have been very useful to me is the StrengthFinder from Gallup. Take the test online and identify your strengths. They constitute your competitive advantage. Then consider how that strength can be value added for the job you are interviewing for.

Your brand is the image you want to project in a consistent basis. How do you want people to refer to you when they speak about you? Do they think of you as a trouble-shooter, as a thought partner, as indispensable? Then you need to make sure that you project that image. During the interview you can give clear examples that reinforce your personal brand, and how you want the interviewer to remember you. Ensure the communication of your brand is done with taste, which is what we call ‘healthy self-promotion.’ For example, if they are looking for a trouble-shooter, you may say, “My teams know me as being resourceful and good at trouble-shooting. Whenever there are issues around technology, people tend to reach out to me. I can usually help them resolve the situation, and if I can’t, I find the way to partner with them and sort things out.”

In preparing for an interview remember that you are your own agent.

If you don’t do some healthy self-promotion, no one will do it for you. Generally speaking, it is something hard to do for women and for certain cultures. But remember, potential employers are calling you in to talk about you, provide context, examples, and so on.

From a recruiter’s point of view, what is the one thing women do much more often than men at the interview stage which loses them opportunities to get hired?

In some cultures more than others, women can come across as tentative, apologetic, or not able to effectively balance assertiveness vs aggressiveness. And no one wants to hire an ‘insecure, aggressive’ person. This is an opportunity to bust that stereotype, by not coming across as such. Aim for balance, by reading the impact you are having on your audience and recalibrating accordingly.

Let’s talk about this. Can you share how women can come across as assertive and not be considered aggressive?

Unfortunately, being a woman, even if you are not being aggressive you may be stereotyped as aggressive if you speak up. But don’t panic, this label is also bustable. You just need to be aware of this fact and be intentional with your actions.

Understanding the fine line that distinguishes assertiveness and aggressiveness is a big step towards a successful job interview

Understanding the fine line that distinguishes assertiveness and aggressiveness is a big step towards a successful job interview

First know the difference between the two. Aggressiveness shows up declarative, individualistic, and close minded. In essence, it looks as though a person is pushing their perspective on others. Assertiveness shows up self-assured and confident, yet open and not threatening others’ points of views. In order to do that, you need to be very aware of how you convey your opinion, how it is received, and how people react to it.

I refer to it as you being ‘part of and apart’ from the conversation. That means that while you are confidently communicating your perspective, you are being part of the conversation. When you separate yourself from your perspective to see how others are receiving your words and how they are reacting to you, you take yourself apart. You distance yourself from your perspective and get closer to the perspective of others. So be prepared to share your experience, while reading your environment and checking frequently how you and your stories are been received. Be mindful that when it comes to communication your words only account for 7% of the message, 38% is your tone, while 55% is body language. Be in the look out for how you are received, as well as assess the tone and body language of your interviewer. For example, as Latinas, we can be passionate and extremely expressive, which can be misconstrued as being aggressive. If you are aware of that, it is easier to effectively manage a stereotype by articulating your intend, or what I call “flashing your intention.”

Here’s an example of how to flash your intentions to erase any gaps between them and the impact your communication produces:  “As a Latina I am very passionate about ‘this’, so if you see my expressions changing and my voice raising, is all good. This topic is very close to my heart…”   By articulating your intention, you are preparing the interviewer not to unfavorably jump too quickly to conclusions.

Although the interviewer asks about your past experience, they really want to assess your potential. How do you let them know what you’d be able to do for them and justify it with your past experience?

Organizations that recognize great talent and hire well, value experience yet look for potential. Interviewers look for both. When they choose to recommend you to the next step in the process, their credibility is on the line. Be a good partner from the beginning and support them by representing yourself accurately and demonstrating what you do, as well as what you can do in support of the shared goals. Start by preparing yourself for the process. Have your story organized around what you have done (experience) and what you can do (potential.)

An interviewer asks about your experience but is assessing your potential

To ace the job interview, make sure you address not only your experience but your potential

Demonstrate depth and breadth with examples.

For instance, Marisa, a woman I recently coached, had been part of different teams in her previous job. She had a specialized role in each team, but she understood well the roles of every person as well. The job Marisa applied for required for her to actually do the jobs of all the team members. So during the interview process she shared what she actually did (experience) and put the focus on discussing what she knew of the roles of others, which illustrated to the interviewer what she could do (potential.) She spoke with confidence and authenticity, and she got a job that had responsibilities beyond what she had done before. Due to her successful performance, just recently, her responsibilities have been expanded even further. The caveat here is that you must do your research and know all of those roles you’re speaking about to demonstrate your interest and knowledge on the subject. That’s how you show potential.

What’s the best way to prepare for an interview?

Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, and once you are ready, PREPARE!

How to dress

  • Dress on par with expectations, don’t be afraid to dress better than what the job requires.
  • Be conscious of body odors: have fresh breath; smell good but stay away from overwhelming perfumes.
  • Heels are ok, but don’t overdo it; do not wear shoes you will wear to a club.
  • Keep jewelry to basics, don’t have your attire be memorable or compete with what you bring to the organization.

How to present yourself

  • Be on time and mindful of time.
  • Show up organized, with your questions ready for them – have questions categorized on strategy, industry, people, job, structure, cultures, etc.
  • Be the expert of your subject, and show both experience and potential.
  • Read your audience and adjust accordingly to the clues you are picking up.
  • Share relevant names or contacts if they can strengthen your credibility, but don’t come across as a ‘name dropper.’

How to follow up

  • Send personalized, brief, thoughtful thank you notes, one or two days after your interview so you have time to organize your thoughts. 

How to ace the job interview with amazing research

What kind of research will help people ace the job interview?

In order to ace the job interview you must seek to understand the job description, know the industry, know the business, know about their competitors, and learn about the company’s culture.

You are the best at being you. You're powerful. You are strong. You can do anything. Never forget that!

Forget about trying to be someone or something you are not. Interviewers can easily detect your lack of authenticity. You are best at being you.

One of the many ways to learn about the culture is by researching their history, vision, mission, and values; all of this is available online. Leaders set the tone of a corporate culture. So learn about the organization’s leadership and any relevant information that can connect the interview conversation to them. This means, look up the leaders’ career path, where have they been before, what kind of culture those companies have.

If the leaders you are meeting with published something, read it. Then, only if appropriate, mention it to your interviewer and connect it to the job you are going after. This gives you an opportunity to relate to the company and to show you have done your homework, something all interviewers like to see.   In addition, seek to network with people that do the job you are interviewing for in other organizations and ask them questions to help you understand better what the job entails. This practice will help you show your potential by speaking about specifics and possibilities.

What other considerations are critical when preparing for the job interview?

Preparation is essential. Most interviews are behavioral interviews. What that means is that the interviewer is looking for specific examples. The best way to use your time with them effectively and memorably is to come with your examples ready and organized; put them in a CAR. That stands for C = Challenge (situation), A = Actions taken, and R = Results accomplished. And make sure that you stress your role and contributions in the examples.   The interviewer doesn’t necessary need the details, unless he or she asks for them. Be mindful of how you are sharing your CAR, communicate it as an engaging story with a clear ending. For example:

Question: “Give me an example of how you conducted a project you are proud of.


  • Challenge: “We needed to establish a Corporate University.”
  • Actions: “It takes a village for this type of projects, so I used my relationship building skills (promoting your personal brand) to create strategic alliances with senior leadership, put in place business cases, put a team together, found a sponsor and budget, created the strategy, and led its implementation.”
  • Results: “Consequently, we created learning opportunities for all segments of the organization— senior leaders, managers, and individual contributors. These increased engagement scores as seen in the Associate Engagement Survey, as well as retention levels. My responsibility was to spearhead and lead the initiative.” (If you have numbers, offer them.)

In this example you have promoted your personal brand with confidence, and succinctly provided a description of the impact that you made in the organization. Have the interviewer ask for details if they need them. Emotions are contagious. Your preparation and ease on how you present yourself will fill you with confidence, which will in turn make the recruiter feel confident about you and more eager to promote you with the hiring manager. Ensure that before you are done, you clearly and succinctly ask about the next steps in the process. Then send a personalized, brief but substantial thank-you note. You have one to two days to do so. Take your time to be thoughtful.

Many people think that to ace the job interview they must only focus on the interviewer but there are many other people involved, right?

 The process starts with the receptionist at the door, and it includes everyone you cross paths with in the hallway, the parking lot attendant, and security personnel as well. Be poised through the entire process and promote your brand with good taste by leaving positive and memorable experiences of you. Be thoughtful when you speak with people or connect with them. All of these considerations are important because the hiring manager will ask others what they think of you. Even if they don’t ask others, and people’s experience of you were either good or bad – in a memorable way – they might volunteer their opinion of you. Once you pass the screening process with the hiring recruiter, find out with whom you are interviewing next. Be mindful that the interviewing process is not only with the people you are scheduled to meet with. In addition, we are talking about your personal brand, so make sure that after you are hired you keep that image of you to strengthen your reputation and grow in your career.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly- By Robert F.Kennedy

Dare to take risks and you’ll see amazing rewards!

When speaking with the hiring manager or others, it is good practice to ask the interviewer how ‘this role’ (don’t say job, you don’t have the job yet) will interact and support their role. You will be showing partnership and collaboration.

When gathering your thoughts to write the thank you note. Make sure that you took good notes during the interviews on topics or conversations that you feel were important to the interviewer and relevant to the job. Go back home and do some research about those topics. If you find a brief yet relevant article on that particular subject, share the link and make the connection with its relevancy regarding the position in your thank you note. That will demonstrate thoughtfulness, partnership, and resourcefulness. It will show your interest in learning and demonstrate healthy levels of ambition; this combination is inspiring and welcomed.

If you need coaching to get you ready for the job interview, consider signing up for our RSM Step Up Program. We'll help you be you. Amplified!

Any final words?

You are the expert on YOU and know the value that you add to teams and organizations. They are looking to learn more about you, from you. So don’t be nervous, be confident.

Remember that while the interviewers are making their assessments, you too have the opportunity to assess if the organization is a good fit for you. Take every job interviewing opportunity seriously; the interviewing process is a job that you must excel at. If you are not selected, having had a good experience will further prepare you for the dream job that is awaiting you. So be positive and welcome each opportunity. This perspective should strengthen your confidence so you can be at your best.

You are the one who makes your future happen. Go for it! Best of luck!

You can connect with Lily Benjamin on LinkedIn

Finding Your Passion: The True Door to Success

Nothing makes better company than a good storyteller. And there’s no better way to become one than finding your passion and purpose.

Let’s face it: One of the reasons why you may not be as successful in your career as you wish is because you may not have made finding your professional passion a priority. When you stop to think for a moment about what really intrigues you, what interests you, what engages you in a way that time dissolves between your fingers, what do you come up with? Are you involved with “that” (whatever it is) in your professional life? Or is what you do when you leave work?

Finding Your Passion is the true door to success

TSalon’s founder Miriam Novalle

Many people weren’t raised with a mindset that made finding your passion a priority. And in many areas of society and the world, women still aren’t encouraged to go down that path. We grew up with predetermined ideas of what we could and couldn’t do or what we should or shouldn’t study. Many of us got to were we are by putting one foot in front of the next: high school, college major, Master’s degree… Only the very lucky ones discovered early on what their passion was. The rest of us just got here. So if when you take stock of your life you realize that your most treasured activity happens outside of work, it’s very unlikely that your career is as successful as you wished it were.

Today we talk with a woman who oozes passion from every pore of her body. That passion is tea. But before tea it was fragrances. Miriam Novalle, founder of T Salon, is not only one of the most successful women in business in New York but one of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. She’s a consummate storyteller, something that happens naturally when finding your passion in your career.

Finding your passion and purpose with your nose

Let’s start at the beginning. Before you founded T Salon. How did your professional career start?

During the early 70’s two of my dear friends and I inherited a 400 seat movie theater in the Catskills. Out of nowhere we were selecting our favorite movies and creating concerts on the weekends, building an organic health bar and living out our fantasies, Always staying true to our passions and sharing that with our fans.

Would you like to know how Finding Your Passion changes everything? read on!

TSalon at Chelsea Market

I moved from the Catskills to Woodstock where I met a lady who was developing and creating essential oils. I knew then that I had found my true-hearted passion. In 1975 I opened up the first “Body Shop”-style store in Woodstock NY, We blended and created fragrances out of essential oils that were sold alone and added to lotions, bubble baths and love oils. As the business grew, so did the product line to include lingerie and women’s accessories. It grew from one store to five.

In 1982 I sold the concept to Sears and Roebuck. They failed at it royally because they were a self-service store and the product needed a hands-on sales team.

If you’d like to read about another very successful woman in the chocolate business, don’t miss this interview with the founder of Mariebelle, one of the most iconic NYC chocolate boutiques and now a global empire!

What does it mean to be “a Nose”?

A nose is someone who can smell and define flowers, herbs, and barks, and understand their level of intensity. It’s someone with the ability to know how to mix and blend these smells into a successful perfume.

TSalon loose tea samples- Finding your passion is not a one-time thing. Your passion may change along your life.

TSalon loose tea samples- Finding your passion is not a one-time thing. Your passion may change along your life.

I am a self-taught “nose”. I opened my senses to the universe and developed a fine ability to create notes for fragrances and blends of perfumes. My nose was later insured by Lords of London for a million dollars because of its value to the industry.

Want some additional incentives to follow your passion? Read this blog to learn how finding your passion changes everything!

Was finding your professional passion a one time thing or did you have to look for another passion once you changed industries?

Yes, fragrances were a passion of mine. But my true love has always been and still is – painting. I sold my first art installation to Chase Manhattan Bank. I traded my art and abilities while I was in school at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence Italy for a used BMW. (The dealership wanted their family portrait painted.)

I showed my work at the Royal Academy in London. I also concluded a 2 -year study in studio arts in NYC and learned to collaborate with other artists to create installations, knowledge which I would later use to design and create all my packaging for my tea business.

Leverage your passion. Read the top qualities of a leader, explore this blog!

From fragrances to tea

What was the turning point when you decided to get into tea?

My sister was about to marry a man from Liverpool England. I was going to school in Florence at the time, and went to meet her new family and about to be husband.

We had something that I’d heard of but had never been treated to personally, “Afternoon Tea.” What a delight of tastes and smells and tea. Wow. We had scones, Devon cream, jams, and small tea sandwiches, along with tea. Except that the tea was an awful, dark water with loads of sugar and milk. I then realized where to put my nose and my palette of colors: into the tea biz!

Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within- Quote by Miriam Novalle

Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within- Quote by Miriam Novalle

How did your experience in the fragrance industry help you in the tea business?

I was blessed and honored to partner with Herb Albert of A&M. He wanted to create a personalized perfume. I would put up my nose and he would fund it. We became partners and we launched a successful, first ever, celebrity perfume called “Listen.” What an amazing ride.

I learned that notes of fragrance were similar to notes of tea. Both fill the senses.

Fragrances to me are on the emotional side, they have a memory of someone that you once loved, someone that you met in a fleeting moment, and the only thing you can recall is that fragrance whiffing by, or that pillow the next morning… Tea to me has the same memory, it’s the morning after, it’s the sitting in that quiet place with yourself or someone else. It is as ancient as the fragrance industry.

Tea is thousands of years old. It was drunk by the old Tibetan teachers, and Buddhist monks in order to achieve wonderfully long and silent meditations. I think they both have historical value. We are steeped in history with both products.

You went from having the largest tea salon in the world to having no stores. Were these adjustments you made in order to continue finding your passion and purpose?

TSalon Private label lines

TSalon Private label lines

“Adjustment” is an understatement. It was a true internal ride to avoid falling into the depths of depression when you think that you have failed and wonder where did you go wrong. It was a process to realize that you have the ability to manifest what you believe in is a great product, but in a different format. To give others the ability to communicate your passion in a different viral way through social networking, newsletters, blogs, mentoring, through your website, through creating pop-up stores, through other stores carrying your product, through hotels serving them in their lounges, restaurants and spas.

Do you ever get bored? How do you continue to fuel your passion?

Never, never do I ever get bored. I collaborate with so many amazing folks daily on new ideas, new ways to bring tea to the forefront. Ideas flow out of my head every day. Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within…

If you manage Millennials, here's a great piece on how to leverage their enthusiasm and passion!

Advantages of successful women in business

Are there any gender advantages that successful women in business share?

Internal intuition!!!! Vibrationally, women of the past and women of the future speak the same language. We could do anything we put our hearts into… We have big hearts and we are the elders who share our wisdom with the younger generation, and we rock!

You are very interested in health and sustainability. Tell us about some of the initiatives you’re involved with.

Do we have all afternoon? I’m on the board of The American Sustainable Business Council. We go to the White House to speak to men up on the hill on sustainability, on women in business, on making a difference for the next generation.

I’m involved with Urban Zen created by Donna Karan. Bringing yoga and tea to hospitals, wellness centers, and educating the health practitioners to understand there are many ways of healing the body and mind, and tea is big factor.

You’ve had and continue to have a fascinating life. Do you find the stories or do the stories find you?

Both. I think when you’re truly in your skin your life becomes a story.

You can connect with Miriam Novalle at:


Twitter – @TSalonNYC @TSalonLA


How finding your passion changes everything

Want to know how finding your passion changes everything? Hear it straight from this 92-year old Guinness World Record holder, art-teacher who thinks age is just a three-letter word!

Before I met Conni Gordon, there was only one 90+ woman who had completely changed my mind about aging. My great-aunt Marietta Abeles. One of the most beautiful women I ever met, who at 94 continues to give me fashion advice. (And relationship advice too if you want to know the truth!) I’ll talk about Marietta in another post because once you see her picture you’ll want to know how finding your passion in life changes everything. Most noticeably, how you feel about yourself and about what life has to offer at every age.


How finding your passion changes everything | My great-aunt, Marietta Abeles, who at 94 gives everyone fashion advice. You can see why!

My great-aunt, Marietta Abeles, who at 94 gives everyone fashion advice. You can see why!

But I digress. Today is all about Conni. Another vibrant 90 + woman who holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Most Prolific Arts Teacher. She taught 17 million people how to paint. Read that again. It’s the equivalent to the entire population of Chile! Undoubtedly, Conni is the epitome of how finding your own passion leads to a happy, healthy, and long life. A veteran of World War II, Conni has taught President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, Sammy Davis Jr., Roger Moore, Larry King and many, many others. She’s appeared on more talk shows than any other person alive and is getting ready for an appearance on Univision, as she tries to share her amazing methodology with the Hispanic market.

How Finding your passion really changes everything

Conni Gordon, at 92 teaches us how finding your passion changes everything!

Conni Gordon, at 92 teaches us how finding your passion changes everything!

Did you know you had a passion for painting when you were young?

Yes, for painting and music. My dad was a theatrical agent. He hired strippers and other entertainment acts and someone had to accompany these women while they were practicing on stage. So I played the piano, the accordion and the organ to help him out. I tell you, everyone should have a childhood like mine, so free of prejudice!

I also had a Kindergarten teacher who got me interested in painting. The decision to choose painting over music came to me quickly when I was in finishing school in France. They told me that if I wanted to be a pianist I had to practice 12-14 hours a day. That was it. I became the fastest artist in the world!

Painting by Connie Gordon. Finding your passion is he key to a long, happy life.

Painting by Connie Gordon. Finding your passion is he key to a long, happy life.

And then you got a Guinness World Record for helping millions of people learn to paint fast!

Yes, that’s true. I was interested in being on top, being head of this or that, the valedictorian. It was always a challenge to be up front. Not in the back.

Finding your true passion

So when did you realize that your passion was more for teaching others than being an artist yourself?

Most artists want to paint for themselves and that was never my aim. From very early on, when I saw the women that came through my dad’s business looking all the same, I decided I was going to do something nobody else in the world had done. That was a passion that developed when I was 12, 13, 14 years old. It was about giving back to others. To me it was always more important to do for others, to help them improve their self-esteem, and make them feel that they could do more than they thought they could do, than it was to become an artist myself.

You are constantly developing materials, techniques and concepts to help people create art. Tell us a bit about that…

My interest is to develop concepts that a person who knows nothing about art can create. It’s a technique. My passion is opening the world of art to millions of people around the world. I’m very good with materials. So I developed materials to teach people to paint even when they are blind. Their paintings had become a way for them to make a living.

And I also developed a creative thinking method called TILS, which is a simplified approach to Mind Mapping and it helps people find solutions to their problems.

Throughout my career, I’ve always balanced between taking a high paying gig in a Fortune 500 company and a free presentation to people who need help.

How to find your passion

Why do you think so many people have trouble finding their passion?

Conni Gordon quote: If your attitude is that life has passed you by, then it has.

Unwrap every day like it’s a gift, suggests Conni Gordon

They don’t think for themselves. They accept what the family or friends tell them. People are afraid to look within themselves. If you have a hobby you enjoy why don’t you think about it as a business? Think about it. What could you do to turn it into a business?

What has been the biggest learning for you in teaching so many million people tap into their inner artist?

Painting by Conni Gordon

Painting by Conni Gordon

The fact that most teachers don’t give their students a feeling of immediate success! They talk about technical terms, they make it complicated. My thing is help people do something where they see the result right away. You can’t fool people. When they come out with a picture they can recognize they get interested in finding out more. (That’s why I stay in the realm of realistic art.)

What would you say to someone who’s trying to answer the question, “How to find your passion?”

To look into their heart and answer these questions: What do you really, really love to do? What keeps you happy? Being by yourself, or in a group? What makes you different? What talent do you have? Do you want to help others or do you want to live a selfish life? Those are the questions that lead to finding your true passion.

How has winning the Guinness World Record impacted your career?

It has been very important because it was the highest recognition at an official level you can get. Everyone knows if it’s in there it has been researched. It’s proof. It has made me proud and it helped in selling and convincing other people that may be my method has power. All that without paid advertising!

Have you felt at any point that your mission of teaching people to paint became a burden?



The only burden is that I’m growing older and I can’t go around the world as I used to! But I do it through books (they’ve sold 17 million copies!) online, and I franchised the method to someone in Russia, Lithuania, and San Diego. And I’m now training Cecilia Bertomeu, who I met while she was taking classes with me, to continue my work.

What would you say to women who think that their age is an impediment for starting something new, better aligned with their passion?

Age is a three-letter word that doesn’t mean a thing. It’s your attitude. If your attitude is that life has passed you by, then it has. If you look forward to opening up every day as a gift, then it will keep you going. You need to have something planned to look forward to everyday.

Blaze A Unique Career Path All the Way to the Top

You can’t put her in a neat box. She doesn’t fit any Latina stereotype or female stereotype for that matter. Hers is a unique career path that she blazed one step at a time. Get inspired! Read on!

How often do you meet someone who’s excited about their career and a few minutes later you scratch your head perplexed: How did she get that job? When you look at her resume it’s hard to figure out how she went from one position to the next. It’s obvious to you she followed an unusual career path. She probably broke every rule any recruiter would ever advice you to follow. And yet… she’s wildly successful. Not only because she has a fantastic job but mostly because she loves what she does and it shows. Maybe that has been her secret all along. Pay no attention to the rules, the naysayers, or the box makers. Just define a unique career path that suits your personality, your multiple interests and talents and voila! You got yourself a happy life.

Cosette Gutierrez, an amazing example of unique career path. Get inspired! Read on!

Cosette Gutierrez, an amazing example of unique career path

So who is she? And what does her unique career path look like?

Cosette Gutiérrez, Senior Group Manager, Community Relations at Target (in charge of Target’s Education giving across key markets in the Northeast Region), a Member of the Board of Directors at the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, and Chairman Emeritus, National Board of Directors of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.   That’s for her current occupations.

Here’s what we mean by a different career path. Prior to her current position, Cosette was a Store Team leader at Target, Senior VP at Bank of America, Commodity Manager at Honeywell International, Assistant VP at Citibank, and Product Coordinator at H. Muehlstein and Company. Her education? A BS from MIT and MBA from Indiana University. Yup. A Latina graduate from MIT who went from managing the procurement of Natural Rubber from Indonesia to banking to retail to philanthropy in one sweep lifetime.

Cosette Gutierrez

Cosette Gutierrez

Are unique paths created with a master plan?

How did this happen? Did you have a master plan for your career or did it just turn out to be a unique without you realizing it?

I definitely did not have a master plan for what my career would be like! I have always been flexible and eager to try new things, which led me to many opportunities. I always focus on a very simple formula for achieving success: Performance + Passion = Promotion.   Performance is about working hard, and striving to be the best at every job you have. You will never get to the next great job without being a rock star in the one you have today. Passion is about loving what you do, every day! If you don’t love the job, it is time to find another one. Life is too short to be doing something that you don’t love! When you perform, and you are passionate, it shows, and that’s how you will get that next role, where you’ll begin the formula again…Performance + Passion = Promotion!

What allowed you to think that you could break away from any preconceived notions of what your career should look like?

Believing in myself and my capabilities, and learning to not take “no” for an answer! If there is something that I want to do, but don’t know how, then I focus on learning how to do it. I’ve always been an avid learner, and focused on filling “my toolbox” with all kinds of skills. Some you use often, others not, but you have them there, and you’d be surprised when they are needed! Like public speaking for example. People always compliment me on my ability to speak to any audience, ranging from an intimate gathering around a dinner table, to a large room of thousands.

Cosette Dec 2014 American Latino Influencer Awards Miami

Cosette Dec 2014 American Latino Influencer Awards Miami

They are also surprised when I tell them I was an introvert as a child and hated speaking in public. While in college, I knew this skill would be very valuable, so I took an acting class, where I learned how to think and speak on my feet, as well as memorizing lines, and manage my emotions. At the time, my MIT classmates teased me about my “acting class”. Fast forward to today, I am very grateful for that experience as it allows me to shine in all that I do!

Sometimes being the first person in your family to do something makes it harder to stray away from the known paths and pick a unique career path

Were you the first in your family to go to college? Did that give you more or less freedom to choose a different career?

Neither of my parents completed high school. My aunts and uncles attended college in our native Dominican Republic, and my great grandfather was a self-taught doctor, so we knew that it was in my genes J. Navigating the U.S. college system was not easy, but I was extremely fortunate to have a mom who believed in me, and always pushed me to achieve more. She knew that education was the key to success in the United States, and I was encouraged to study, many times at the expense of being with friends, and going to parties. I grew up watching my mom work in the bridal business, something which brought her much joy, and she always told me to “do what you love darling”. So, as I began to navigate different career options, her questions were always “Do you like the job? Will it make you happy? Are the people nice?” Of course, she usually followed up with “I hope the pay is good”! As long as I answered yes to her questions, I knew that I’d be okay. Thank goodness, it has turned out better than okay!

Her unique career path took Cosette Gutierrez to her current job at Target. Here, about to get on the Target Jet! Read her story!

Her unique career path took Cosette Gutierrez to her current job at Target. Here, about to get on the Target Jet!

What would you say is the secret to your success? And let’s not chuck it to luck.

I mentioned Performance and Passion before, and will reinforce that Performance is critical to success. Work, work, work, work – successful people work really hard! My experience has been that successful people aren’t hanging around resting on their successes. Once they achieve something they have been pursuing, they move onto the next achievement.   In addition to hard work, having great mentors and listening to them, especially when you do not like what they have to say, is part of the success equation. I have been blessed to have strong mentors in my life, leaders who believed in me, and supported me in some of my craziest adventures. My motto on mentors is simple…if your mentors only tell you that you are awesome, it’s time to find other mentors. Find people who care enough to give you true feedback and push you to take risks that you wouldn’t think of taking.

FInd out how to find corporate mentors and career sponsors.

Cosette Gutierrez Quote on Mentors

Cosette Gutierrez Quote on Mentors

What would you say to women who don’t fit in a box? What’s the best way to go about creating your unique work path even when you have few role models to show you how to do it?

My recommendation is to make your own box! It’s much more fun that way than trying to fit into someone else’s box. I love it when people say to me “you did what?!?” Your life is only yours to live, and you should do so with no regrets. I’m saddened by people who live lives that are less than what they want or what they are capable of. There are too many people in our society who are happy with being average. Don’t settle! Take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail. There are learnings in every failure. The key is to not make the same mistakes twice.  Lastly, do not be afraid of asking others for help. You are probably not the first person to experience the situation that you are in, and for those of us who have been there before, it would be our pleasure (and our responsibility) to help you. You are never alone!

You can follow Cosette Gutiérrez on Twitter: @CosetteNYC

If you want to discover your unique career path, explore the RSM Step Up Program. You’ll be amazed at how fun it can be to start your own discovery journey. It’s You. Amplified!


Integrated Talent Management that Fuels Female Leadership

It’s no longer an option. If you want to be a leader in your line of business, you must have an integrated talent management strategy in place. We talked with Marcelo Fumasoni, VP and Head of Human Resources of Latin America and Canada for Novartis who shared his experiences on corporate social responsibility and integrated talent management with us.

We have reached a point where disregarding 50% of the talent pool is inadmissible. It’s no longer an ethical or moral issue. It’s a business imperative. With a fiercely competitive global economy where women influence 80% of the purchasing decisions, organizations are forced to seriously look at the lack of female leadership at senior levels.

If you are serious about corporate social responsibility, you need to begin by evaluating your own talent management strategy. Do you have policies in place that enable your employees to shape a career path that fits their priorities? Can women and men take time off to parent their young children or care for a sick relative without needing to leave their jobs?

Do you have policies that support employees career paths? If you are serious about corporate social responsibility, you need to begin by evaluating your own talent management strategy.

Do you have policies that support employees career paths? If you are serious about corporate social responsibility, you need to begin by evaluating your own talent management strategy.

In a brilliant article, Judy Shen-Filerman, principal and founder of Dreambridge Partners, points out that many women opt out of their jobs not because they don’t want the jobs but because their companies don’t make it possible for them to keep those jobs when personal priorities change. Is your company one of them?

What does it take to retain top female leaders?

It’s sad that in 2014 we have to explain the need for organizations to develop policies that adjust to women’s realities. But if you really want to promote and retain female leadership, you must rethink your policies, business, and corporate social responsibility strategic goals. You’ll have to reframe the way in which you measure performance and reward achievement, and you will have to build a flexible culture that embraces your employees changing priorities.

It’s now more important than ever to set in place an integrated talent management for female leadership strategy.

Novartis, a large corporation with integrated talent management strategies that brings results

Marcelo Fumasoni supporting the Red Shoe Movement

Marcelo Fumasoni supporting the Red Shoe Movement

Some companies have had integrated talent management for female leadership strategies in place for a long time. Take Novartis, for example – a large pharmaceutical corporation that for over six years has directed specific efforts to attracting, engaging and developing female leadership.

In a recent conversation with Marcelo Fumasoni, VP and Head of Human Resources of Latin America and Canada, we had a chance to learn how the company is handling talent management to increase female leadership and the great results they are obtaining.

When it comes to female leadership, what are some of the challenges you face as the Head of HR in Latin America for a large corporation?

The challenge is to create an open, transparent and trusting environment where we can have career conversations with no preconceived notions on either side.

When it comes to Latin America and Canada, our challenge is to offer an attractive career proposition. For that we take into consideration family and dual career planning. The challenge is to have the ability to create roles for employees to acquire new capabilities that don’t entail moving at a time when it’s inconvenient for the employee to move.

Novartis is an organization that has been working in a permanent evolution mode regarding its own Diversity and Inclusion strategy. A key driver of a more inclusive environment has been to establish clear parameters to improve our female pipeline bench strength. You can’t leverage diversity without inclusion in the workplace and workforce!

How does Novartis handle talent management for female leadership in the region?

At Novartis we are continually fostering a culture  in the workplace that enables us to act inclusively and leverage our diversity efforts. If we can keep that ability in place, we are able to create value, engage employees, and generate the best outcomes for our patients and customers.

As a next step, we secure the implementation of policies that are in line with our talent management strategy. This means: maintain a gender balance at the moment of external hiring, equal participation in educational and leadership programs, have regular D&I internal forums where we can gather insights about how to improve the conditions in the workplace (for example, re-entry conditions after maternity, dual career planning), mentoring programs, etc.

Do you find that the double burden most women face is more or less of a problem for your employees in Latin America vs. the U.S? How does the double burden affect integrated talent management for female leadership strategies?

I understand where you are going with the question but Novartis we have been able to handle the development of an inclusive and nurturing environment no matter what country we are in. Therefore, it’s a bit difficult for me to remove myself from my reality.

I believe that the differences in both geographies could be minimized if the Talent Management, Learning and Development agenda are fully integrated and are a priority for the Executive Board of Directors.

Studies show that the fact that more women are graduating from college than men in itself won’t solve the gender parity problem at the executive level. What do you think organizations can do to move the needle faster? Any suggestions for effective strategies for integrated talent management to fuel female leadership?

Yes, I agree with these studies. Graduation alone does not change this. We need to ensure that the company recruits at the entry level on equal basis distribution of gender. When there’s an opening at the C-level, there should be inclusive recruiting actions so as many men as women are considered for the position. In addition, companies must have Human Resources policies in place to enable both genders to grow equally.

Marcelo Fumasoni on Integrated Talent Management Strategies and acceleration of women's growth within an organization

Marcelo Fumasoni on Integrated Talent Management Strategies and acceleration of women’s growth within an organization

Sometimes to accelerate (and to see results in the long run) you have to slow down. You have to build a career plan that is not the typical one. Life events and circumstances – for instance, the need for dual career and family planning – need to be taken into consideration in order to support career growth.

For example, an entry-level female employee could move at half the pace of a male just because of the family planning component. The recommendation will be to have a thorough plan from the beginning and to have a common agreement with the associate that the acceleration and career progression will be implemented at the right time for both parties.

Could you point out the most commonly-held biases against women that affect the opportunities they are offered in an organization?

Usually, the most commonly-held biases are that women are less mobile, and that they may not have the experience needed for the position at hand. At Novartis we have been constantly implementing D&I efforts for over six years and we make sure this does not happen.

One last question: What can women do to empower themselves and propel their careers?

Sometimes the most common self-imposed barriers arise from the most basic things. For example, a failure to capitalize on the opportunity to have an open conversation about mobility or timing to reach a new role could be a common derailer. That is why the culture component (trust, confidence, openness, focus on our patients and customers) is a key success factor.

My recommendation is for women to take more risks at the beginning of their corporate careers (expand roles, move to different geographies, get to know different business units, do the field work) in order to have a robust set of capabilities and experiences in place when the opportunities arise… And this actually applies both to men and women.

Corporate Social Responsibility | telecommuting statistics in the US

Corporate Social Responsibility | telecommuting statistics in the US

Integrated talent management for female leadership – strategies that work

We all know how hard it is to find great talent. Why risk losing it and incur the high cost of recruiting, training and acculturating new talent if you can come up with a solid integrated talent management for female leadership strategy?

Here are a few ideas you should consider:

  • Offer part-time, job-share or telecommuting options as an ongoing career path. This means maternity or paternity leave should be seen as a temporary choice within a career path and not as quitting a job to raise a family. Encourage your executives to take advantage of some of these options to set an example.
  • Keep in check the need for face time as a requirement for any job. Ensure that people (often women) who choose to work remotely are not penalized for doing so at bonus/promotion time.
  • With this in mind, ensure that you offer development opportunities for people who have chosen to work remotely and not only for those who come to the office.
  • Make sure that employees who are single have the flexibility to pursue passions outside the office. Oftentimes the integrated talent management for female leadership strategy only focuses on mothers trying to integrate work-life and leaves out single women.
  • Offer job-sharing alternatives so that two people are responsible for a function. These options, often implemented in admin positions, can easily be implemented in management positions as well and are ideal to encourage female leadership.
  • Offer daycare services within your organization to make it easier for new parents to return to work without worrying about leaving their young children at home. Encourage them to spend time with their kids during the day.
  • Invite women to exercise their female leadership style rather than expect them to fit within your organization’s more male-oriented leadership style. This means you should encourage and celebrate women’s tendencies to:
In a recent conversation with Marcelo Fumasoni, VP and Head of Human Resources of Latin America and Canada, we had a chance to learn how the company is handling integrated talent management to increase female leadership and the great results they are obtaining.

In a recent conversation with Marcelo Fumasoni, VP and Head of Human Resources of Latin America and Canada, we had a chance to learn how the company is handling integrated talent management to increase female leadership and the great results they are obtaining.

Celebrating women's differences and inspiring them to bring their authentic selves to work is the best way to retain your female leadership talent

Celebrating women’s differences and inspiring them to bring their authentic selves to work is the best way to retain your female leadership talent