How aligned are your aspirations with your career? Your success depends on it!

Stop whatever you’re doing. Ask yourself this question: How aligned are your aspirations with your career? Only when they are in sync will you feel fulfilled, centered and successful. Read on!

As simple as this may sound, it’s an issue that affects a large percentage of people, particularly women. Why? Because many of us are so busy pushing forward with our lives and professional careers that we don’t take the time to stop and reevaluate where we are and how we are feeling about it. And if we find that we are not happy, even fewer of us commit to making the necessary changes to redirect our careers.

Synchronize intention and attention. Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

Always remember to synchronize your intention with your attention. Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

How to identify potential misalignments?

There are several symptoms that point to a lack of alignment. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Frustration at not getting what you want
  • Envy of other people’s achievements
  • Anger at the huge effort you have to make to get anything from recognition to a promotion
  • Feeling frequently tired, in a bad mood, or lack enthusiasm for your job

I saw it recently in a highly educated, very smart colleague who was complaining about working too much and not having enough to show for it. When we dived deeper into the reasons why she thought this was happening, I could hear that her goals and her professional activity were not in sync. She wanted to achieve A but was putting a lot of efforts in a direction that pointed her to B. As we continued our conversation it became evident that she experienced a similar pattern in other aspects of her life.

How to do less and achieve more. A great read!
Post its with dreams by Kyle Glenn

Creating a vision board or a wall full of your dreams on post it notes can help keep you focused! Photo Credit: Kyle Glenn. Unsplash

How to align your aspirations and your career goals

There is a process by which you synchronize your intention with your attention. You see, when you are not clear about what you want, your attention is dispersed. You get pulled into a million different directions, as you have no sense of priority or what serves your purpose. It becomes more about staying busy, occupying your mind than anything else.  Now when you define what it is you want, what truly gives you a sense of fulfillment, then you develop a sharp focus.

Here’s a simple way to go about it: Spell out what you want

The best way to stop envying other people’s lives and successes is by zeroing in on what you want and how willing you are to get it. Because these two things go hand in hand. You may want to live in a four-bedroom home overlooking the ocean but not willing to do anything to change your current five-digits salary. So, grab a notebook and a pen. Sit in a quiet place. As a header write “The career I want.”

Then write 100 things that you want your career to be like. Describe in detail (one detail per line) the kind of job you want, the type of activities you’d like to do, the sort of bosses, colleagues, organization’s culture, industry, how far from home you are willing to go, and so on. The more detailed you are, the better.

This exercise works for all different aspects of life and work. You could create the same kind of list for an executive search your company is conducting or for a romantic partner.

It works incredibly well because when you’ve written down 50 things, and you think you have nothing else to add to the list, more items pop up until you have an incredibly sharp idea of what you’re looking for. What would fulfill you and what would not. It helps you keep your goals front and center and this in turns helps you make better decisions. You learn how to say no to things that would derail you and yes to things that will contribute to your objectives.

The more deliberate you are in your choices, the more your life and your career get aligned with your goals and this is the shortest path to achieving them. It also keeps the focus on you and your attainments rather than on other people and theirs. Thus reducing your envious impulses or any sense of not being good enough or deserving enough to get what you want.

Try it and then let me know how it goes. Sometimes the simplest solutions unexpectedly bring us the biggest satisfaction.

And if you’d like help with this process, consider our Step Up Program.

How aligned are your aspirations. Christopher Campbell. Unsplash

How aligned are your aspirations? Photo credit: Christopher Campbell. Unsplash

10 ways to say no without saying no

Saying no is hard for most women and even harder for some cultural groups who put a lot of value on being liked.

For women and for Latinas in particular, who grew up valuing personal relationships and hearing how important it was to look beautiful, to smile, and be pleasing to others so that everyone would like them,  saying no can equate to social suicide. So, why would you do it? I’m there with you. From turning down presentation opportunities to a night out with friends saying no doesn’t come easy for me either.

But you know what? I’ve learned a long time ago that “no” is the most powerful word in my vocabulary. It helps me stay true to my priorities and avoid the many distractions I can easily fall pray to every time I say “yes” to things that take my focus away. You want to have less stress? You want to integrate work and life? Learn to say no often!

The secret to saying no and feeling great about it is two-fold. On the one hand it helps to say no without saying the word “no.”  On the other hand you must take the time to hear the request, evaluate how it fits within your priorities, and offer an alternative that works better for you. That means that if your conditions are met, you can say yes.

You will see in the “10 ways to say no without saying no” that I include here, that  many of them begin with a “yes.”  The “yes”, however,  comes with conditions that make the other person re-think their request. The goal in all instances is to either get the other person to pull  back their request on their own or to adjust their ask in order to meet your conditions.

Saying NO: Discover the 10 Effective Ways to Say NO

1Yes, and re-prioritize

The fastest way to reduce stress is to say NO | Discover the 10 ways to say no without saying no

Saying no can help you remain focus on your priorities and have less stress in your life.

“Yes! Now tell me which of these five priorities should I drop?”

If your boss asks you to do something and you know you’ll be unable to do that plus what you’re already doing, ask them how they prefer for you to manage the other priorities. That may help change their mind or, get you out of something else.

2Yes. With these conditions

“Yes, sure! But I can only do it next week.” Or with the help of an additional person, or after you finish something else you are doing. The idea is that you can do it only if certain conditions are met. It’s up to you to come up with conditions you know the other person won’t be able to meet. (If you know they have a deadline and you can do it after the deadline.)

3Yes. In exchange I’ll need this
“Yes, sure! I’d love to help your team finish the project. But if I stay tonight, I won’t be here tomorrow morning to help you run the event.” Or any other trade you deem fit. Again, the goal is that if you are going to do something you really don’t want or don’t have time to do, you won’t do something else that affects that person.

Here's a great article about work-life balance /integration.

4Yes. In exchange you have to do this for me

“Yes, sure! I’d love to help you with this. The only thing is that if I do X you’ll have to do Y for me.”

Here you are asking the other person to take on something you have to do and will now drop in order to help them with their project. For example: I’ll write the report for the committee and in exchange you’ll prepare the Power Point for the meeting on Tuesday. If they don’t agree with your exchange, you can easily say: “Then, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to turn you down, because I don’t have time to do both things.”

10 ways to say no and feel great about it | Read everything about the 10 ways to say no without saying no

Practice this ten ways to say no and see your career flourish

5Yes. Plus additional compensation
“Yes, sure! I’d love to take on John’s responsibilities. It will mean that I have to work weekends for two months to do my job and finish his project. So can we talk about how I’d be compensated for that additional time?”

The goal here is to make it clear that you are willing to step in but want to be compensated for the effort it will take. This strategy only works in certain situations, not when you are expected to cover a team member who’s temporarily absent. But keep it in mind for when the situation presents itself.

6Flattered. But will pass

“I’m flattered you thought of me for this. Unfortunately, I’m overcommitted right now, so I’ll have to pass.” A simple, short answer. You can leave it here or do what’s suggested in #7.

7Flattered. Will recommend someone

“I’m flattered but I have a previous commitment. However, I’d like to suggest someone who’d be great for this.” When you recommend someone who can do the job you are solving the other person’s problem. So instead of focusing on your “no” they move on. Not only will they forget faster that you said “no,” but they’ll also be grateful for your help.

Here are some additional ways to say no by Adam Grant

8Flattered. Couldn’t give it my best

“Thank you for thinking of me for this opportunity. Unfortunately, I’m so overcommitted that I wouldn’t be able to give my best to the project. So, I’ll have to pass this time.” Again you can end it there or you can suggest someone else who would do a great job.

Saying no frequently, enables you to say yes to what really matters | Discover the 10 ways to say no without saying no

Saying no frequently, enables you to say yes to what matters

9Flattered. I could train someone else

“Thank you for thinking of me! I would love to do it! Unfortunately right now, I have no time to take it on and do a good job. But I’d be happy to train someone else to do it.” You’re exhibiting good will, team spirit, and appreciation for the opportunity, so in the future they think of you again.

10Let me check my calendar

“I’d love to do it. Let me check my calendar to make sure I have the time.” This is a wonderful way to avoid feeling forced to give an immediate response. (Which more often than not would be a “yes.”) After you take the time to think thoroughly about what was asked of you, you can come back with a reason why you can’t take on one more responsibility, you’re committed for that day, etc.

Believe me, if you start practicing these 10 ways of saying no and you combine them with a smile and a positive body language, you’ll soon feel great about turning down things that swallow your valuable time but are not a priority for your career. You can practice them at home too. You’ll be surprised at how effective the strategy is!

And if you want direct coaching from me and from our team of internationally renowned experts, plus an amazing range of leadership development resources, join the Step Up Program.  You. Amplified!

And if you want direct coaching from Mariela Dabbah and from her team of internationally renowned experts, plus an amazing range of leadership development resources, join the Step Up Program. You. Amplified!

RSM Step Up Program

Claiming Credit for your Ideas and Career Success

Do you know how to take credit for your idea? Claiming credit for your ideas is not an easy feat for many women and it can be crucial to your career success. These tips will tell you how to make it happen!

By Mariela Dabbah

Celebrate the ideas of others. It makes claiming credit for your ideas easier when the time comes. Photo credit:

Celebrate the ideas of others. It makes claiming credit for your ideas easier when the time comes.
Photo credit:

For many women and people raised in families that emphasize the value of humility, claiming credit for one’s ideas is not part of their DNA. It’s a behavior often equated with arrogance and, in a corporate environment, with not being a team player. But bosses promote individuals, not teams, so being recognized for your individual contributions is important for your career success. Hoping to get noticed without actively making your work known to others doesn’t usually work that well.

Career Success: If you have a strong brand, you don’t need to be so vigilant

When there’s enough buzz around you, when you have a strong personal brand and colleagues and bosses know who you are and what you bring to the table, you can relax a bit more. You don’t have to keep your guard up all the time to make sure nobody steals your ideas because people know the kind of ideas that usually come from you. So, make sure you network with your boss, his/her boss, and laterally with bosses and peers who work in other departments. The more people know you, the more insurance you have against your ideas being credited to someone else.

Claiming Credit for your Ideas and Career Success: Sharing your ideas with your network ensures people know you are the source

Sharing your ideas with your network ensures people know you are the source

When claiming credit for your ideas is a challenge

It’s not unusual for women to propose an idea at the beginning of a meeting and have it overlooked or dismissed only to hear the same idea cheered when presented by someone else (often a man) later on. If this happens repeatedly, you may end up feeling disengaged from your job, which will eventually be detrimental to your growth. So your goal is to find a way to claim credit for your idea without turning people off while letting them know you’re ready to stand behind your contributions. There are several ways to do this, and the best approach will vary case by case.

  • Say to the person who “stole” your idea: “I’m glad you see the point I made earlier. Let’s discuss how we can work on this together.” Or, “That’s exactly what I was trying to say a while ago, and I’m glad you were able to express it in a way that the group understood the idea.”
  • You could ask, “What has changed from when I proposed the same thing an hour ago? I’d like to understand and make sure we are looking at it the right way.”
  • Don’t say anything and approach the person who “stole” the idea after the meeting and let him/her know you know what just happened. That will likely deter them from doing it again in the future.
Claiming credit for your ideas is key for your career growth

Claiming credit for your ideas is key for your career growth

Easiest way of claiming credit for your ideas? Send them in writing!

Let’s face it: Most of our communications take place digitally. A great way to cover yourself from potential “idea pilfering” is to send a note to all stakeholders before a meeting sharing some key concepts you’ll discuss later in person. This way everyone knows it came from you.

In addition, celebrating other people’s ideas in writing is not only a great way to show your support for your colleagues’ careers but also a way to brand yourself as a team player. Something that can become very useful when the time comes to stand up for your own contribution.

Claiming credit for your ideas or making sure they are executed properly?

As with everything in life, you should always pick your battles. There are many situations when the execution of the idea is more important than receiving the credit for it. If that’s the case, rather than claiming credit for your idea, you should make sure to be part of its execution even if that means supporting another team. In the end, having an idea that never sees the light of day is much less powerful than bringing it to fruition.

It’s critical for women to find ways to be more visible, and standing behind your work both privately and publicly is one of the ways in which you can achieve this goal.

Career Advice: Interview Tips for Women

Best career advice from Susan Landon and the top interview tips for women you will ever read! How to relay your accomplishments, timing, your personality for a smashing success.

By Susan Landon

You’re getting closer to your new job.  You’ve been following some good career advice and networking everywhere you go.  You’ve written a terrific resume.  And now you’ve got an interview scheduled with your dream employer next week.  You want to make sure that you’re ready and avoid difficulties that you’ve heard women are prone to in interviews, so you’re looking for specific interview tips for women.  So here they are…

Career Advice: Top Interview Tips for Women Photo credit: www.

Career Advice: Top Interview Tips for Women
Photo credit:

Interview Tips for Women: Best Career Advice

Be yourself!  As women, we often try to change who we are to fit into a male environment. And we end up hiding the things that make us unique and likeable, and we come across as flat.  I once provided career advice to a delightful woman named Jessica who had a full, infectious laugh. She had a great resume and was invited for many interviews, but Jessica never got the job offer.  As I tried to help her figure out what was happening, I learned that friends claiming to have good career advice had told her to make sure that no one heard that laugh during an interview, because it didn’t sound professional.  So Jessica put all her energy into making sure she didn’t laugh.  And her interviewers saw her as nervous and dull.  Once I told her to be herself and let her true personality shine, she had no trouble landing a great job.  If you put on a fake personality during the interview, they might hire you.  But eventually they’ll find out who you really are.  And if that isn’t who they wanted to hire, it could be disastrous for you.

An important interview tip for women: brag! Photo Credit:

An important interview tip for women: be yourself!
Photo Credit:

Interview Tips for Women: Your Accomplishments

Brag!  This is not the time to be humble.  Make sure that you can discuss every job on your resume from the perspective of what you accomplished and what you contributed.  If you’re looking for a more senior position, you should be speaking in terms of how you led your team to achieve X or Y. But if you’re interviewing for a less senior position, it’s crucial to speak in the first person so the interviewer understands the accomplishments are yours. This is a key piece of career advice that often gets overlooked. Think about what you can contribute to your new employer and be as specific as possible.  The interviewer doesn’t want to hear only that you’re a hard worker.  She/he wants to here what abilities and experience you bring to the table.

Interview Tips for Women: Timing is Key

Watch your timing!  Don’t ask about vacation, work/life balance, compensation or other benefits at your first interview.  Of course these are important!  But you don’t want the interviewer to think that these are more important to you than the job content and opportunity to contribute to the company’s objectives.  Just as you wouldn’t bring up how many kids you want to have on a first date, don’t discuss your special needs on a first interview.  Once you and the interviewer have fallen in love, you’re in a better position to ask for things you want. (So keep in mind that regardless of whose career advice you’re following, timing is everything and when applying any interview tips you must be mindful of the situation.)

Interview Tips for Women: When interviewing, keep in mind this sound career advice

When interviewing, keep in mind this sound career advice

Interview Tips for Women: Making a Personal Connection

Make a personal connection!  This is something that women are particularly good at, but sometimes we think it’s not professional, so we hold back.  You obviously seem to be qualified for the job, because you were called in for an interview.  Hopefully you’ve been doing a good job of talking about your accomplishments.  But interviewers want to hire people they like.  People they would want to work side-by-side with and go to lunch with.  If you notice the interviewer has a photo from a ski trip and you like to ski, make that connection.  If you see photos of kids, it’s OK to comment that they’re cute.

Although this is sound career advice for everyone, women can benefit from focusing their attention on the aspects I highlighted. I promise you that if you follow these interview tips for women, you’ll have a great interview and you’ll be settled into your new job before you know it!


Susan Landon, Managing Partner New York, Alexander Hughes Executive Search Consultants

Empowering Women: Asking Tough Questions

Empowering Women for Career Success

Empowering Women for Career Success

Even the best intentions sometimes fall short. This is often the case when it comes to empowering women. There are plenty of programs out there focused on empowering women that unwittingly play against their own missions.  Just recently, one of my clients brought into her company a three-day training program where participants where repeatedly told in no uncertain terms that they needed to wear jackets to project executive presence. There was no room left for individual self-expression, nor any in-depth discussion of what executive presence really means and the various ways in which it is projected. No, during this particular program, participants were strongly encouraged to adapt to the reigning style of the corporation set in place and upheld by the executive-majority – middle-aged white males — if they hoped to grow beyond middle management.

How are you empowering women in your organization?

Undoubtedly, that’s the antithesis of empowering women. It’s common knowledge that you take people’s power away when you ask them to check their style and personality at the door and adopt someone else’s style – be that the dress code, the way they express themselves, the way they think, or the way they relate to others.  Equally important as allowing women to bring their style and personality to work is providing an environment where women feel comfortable asking tough questions. Yet, when women are asked to leave their uniqueness at home, it’s unlikely that they’ll feel comfortable asking colleagues questions that can help them understand unspoken rules that can open doors to better opportunities.

There’s has to be a clear connection between your words and specific actions or the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and promoting women to higher positions becomes harder.

There’s has to be a clear connection between your words and specific actions or the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and promoting women to higher positions becomes harder.

Questions that relate to the salary range others are making for similar positions, what packages their male counterparts have received to move for a long-term assignment, how to break into a certain powerful clique within the company, and so on. Questions that you don’t ask when you don’t feel empowered.

So you could be talking about empowering women from here until 2050, but unless there’s a clear connection between your words and specific actions, the culture of your organization is unlikely to change and years from now you’ll still be wondering why is it so hard to promote more women to higher positions.

Empowering Women with Actions

Here are a few things you can start looking into right away, if your goal is to prepare more women for career success.

    • Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence? Can that definition be expanded to include more women? Do your executive positions all involve a lifestyle few women can adjust to? Are there any areas of flexibility? Do you pass over women for promotions assuming they won’t be up to a job that demands travel?
    • Evaluate openness to employee input. How open is your organization’s management to listening and implementing ideas from women at lower levels? How do you reward those ideas?
Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence?

Understand your internal hiring and promotion processes. How do you define executive presence? What are the unwritten expectations of someone with executive presence?

  • Create circles of trust. Do you offer opportunities for your employees to meet in smaller groups and discuss honestly critical career issues? Are they structured in a way that elicits mutual trust?
  • Review your unwritten dress code. Are you upholding codes initially established by and for men in the workplace? How can they be adjusted to embrace different styles for women?

If empowering women is a top priority for you, you may find yourself analyzing the core culture of your company to identify areas that need small tweaks and others that require a complete make over. Start somewhere, anywhere. Any step, even a small one, is a step in the right direction.