Authenticity Considered a Key Element to Career Success

What do we know about ourselves with certainty? I have always believed in the power of the mind and urge my clients daily to take time for reflection and understand what they want from a career and their lives. Knowing your authentic self leads not only to better decision making in career and personal life decisions but ensures we are on a path to job satisfaction. So watching the news this week has me questioning if we can indeed understand our authentic selves. If you “identify” as male or female or as black or white does this make it real or authentic? Or are there some things that do not change and we must ultimately integrate ultimate truths about authentic selves into our decision-making?

Rachel Dolezal, the adjunct faculty member from Eastern Washington University and President of the Spokane Washington Chapter of the NAACP, stepped down from both jobs this week. These big career steps occurred because she had misrepresented herself as a mixed race individual and there has been criticism from every side of this event. Being authentic and knowing oneself are critical elements. If you misrepresent some of the basics does this mean that other items like values or ethics are also negotiable elements? What does a lack of transparency about self have to do with how you will solve problems, work in a team situation, or the quality of your leadership?

I have counseled many people after loss of a job. This work always begins with processing what happened, understanding and learning from the event, finding the positive elements in a negative event, and then deciding what the next career steps will be. The chances of future success are directly related to self understanding and being honest about the issues. Ms. Dolezal is going to have a lot of work to do to regain her personal and professional respect. I suggest all of my clients take a time out for personal self-reflection every year to review what has been accomplished and where you are going next. It is a gift to ourselves. Don’t forget being honest with yourself in those reviews is critical.

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Considering; “What is a feminist?” and “Do all women vote based on a single issue?”

“A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses.” This is a quote from a speech made by presidential candidate Carly Fiorina last week entitled, “The State of Women.” She was speaking at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in D.C.

As someone who has a long-standing personal and professional interest in the careers and personal lives of women, I was elated to see a different viewpoint about women covered in the media for a change. I happen to totally agree with Carly. Women want to have the chance to choose how to live their lives and how to build their careers based on their own set of personal values. Every woman wants to set goals for their career that fit with their personal interests and skills. So by this definition, I believe most women are feminists. It is a pretty straight forward idea.

However, general media coverage in recent years about what it means to be a woman in the U.S. and Carly Fiorina’s other quote from the speech still have me thinking a week later. She said, “Over the years, feminism has devolved into a left-leaning political ideology where women are pitted against men and used as a political weapon to win elections.” What do you think?

I do agree with Carly and this statement, too, but I am still thinking about it. I know a few people and groups have spoken out loudly about what “all women want” …but from my experience most women have been too busy to speak out because they are working, building lives, and taking care of what matters to them. They are not talking about it. They are getting on with it. From my point of view, the suggestion that some believe women are single-issue voters is a resounding negative perspective on women. In reality women are a diverse group of thinkers. Would we say men vote based not on a presidential candidate’s credentials and opinions but because of their gender? Don’t think so.

I believe that assuming every woman is a single-issue voter is really disrespectful and not what happens in the voting booth. Some years ago during my first interview with the editor of a local paper about my work with economic development the editor said, “Oh come on Kathy, everything cannot be positive in your work with the City.” As the discussion continued he reminded me that the press is looking for “news” and more often than not that means finding out about something negative. It was an early lesson to me about how to handle the media. I learned you have to feed the media something they can ”sell” to their readers if you want them to cover it.  Does saying all women will vote based on a single issue, a negative idea and label. You bet it is.

So my question this week remains, can all women be counted on to support one issue over every other? Is gender in the end all that needs to be known about someone to understand their point of view? Does this one thing shape all of their thinking? Again, my answer has to be NO to both ideas.

I can tell you after talking to women for over twenty years in an employment counseling practice that when the topic of work and family comes up, it does include how these two elements in our lives can be balanced. Finding a balance is a definitely a universal part of the dialog of women when they talk about careers.  My clients do talk about childcare issues, maternity leave, and benefits options at companies, but they are thinking about the bottom line and much more interested in how much salary they will make at the new job. Their lives and their decision to take a particular job are focused more on salary, the geographic location, the work hours, and the job responsibilities.

Women are so much more than a single-issue constituency. What about the millions of American women who have decided to not have children? Will they vote based on a reproductive issue? Have you noticed the declining birthrates in this country? Trust me not one woman in my office has ever said, I decided not to take the job because I am a woman and the company/organization does not respect me as such.

My clients and I do not want anyone in the media telling us what we think is important and helping us decide how to vote. Instead these are strong career and family centered women who understand who they are and what is important to them. They can decide. So I keep asking myself, “Are our reproductive rights something for politicians to be concerned with in an election? Is this the only thing that women consider when they come to an election and decide for whom they will vote? Or will women vote for the person that can get employment numbers and salaries growing again and bring working women back to pre-recession numbers and get them a promotion?  Please let me know what you think. You can reach me at Let’s talk and become part of this really important discussion. All opinions are valuable.

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Is This Summer the Time to Consider a Job Change or Retirement?

I hope you had the same magnificent weather on this Monday’s Memorial Day that I did.  It was a porch sitting day for sure with a soft breeze, low humidity, and blue skies.  Lawnmowers were a soft back drop to the voices of children I heard playing in a pool across the way, birds were singing to their new little ones in the trees, and a baseball game’s cheers were heard in the distance. It was a great time to just reflect about how I wanted to spend this coming summer.  Have you set goals for the summer yet?  I did.

My thoughts turned as always on holidays to time spent with my family when I was growing up and our Memorial Day traditions at Smith Mountain Lake. With two parents who were WW II veterans, it goes without saying there always were flags flying near the dock,  stories about their memories of service to others during the war, and our day was always culminated by a family cookout.  Dad always asked about school or my work and Mom always asked about the children and how I was managing school, work, and children.

As I prepared for our own picnic this first weekend of summer 2015, however, I remembered how at holidays and throughout my life I was learning my family’s values and their traditions.  My previous life’s traditions motivate me to this day.  How about you?  I always thank my family in my prayers for teaching me about how important it is to serve and to help others less fortunate.  They also taught me how important it is to work hard and how others are less fortunate when they are out of work.  They especially taught us that if you have a goal you can achieve it if you plan and work hard, and that it is a waste to let time,  your life, your career just slip by.  So what did you learn?

Beyond how to celebrate a holiday, what dreams and traditions did you inherit from your family?  Are your thoughts about work related to messages you learned from your youth?  Do you want that promotion because of your parents’ expectations of excellence from you?  Has your self-esteem suffered because you do not earn the salary you expected when you went to college?  Do you think about retirement more now because it was what you always planned on doing at your age?  Are you thinking about  how to stay active and engaged in the community now that work is not your first priority?  Join the club. Summer was announced to us all on this week’s Memorial Day.  What are you going to do with this time?  Let me know about your goals and dreams.

Best of Luck this Summer.  Kathy

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Life’s next chapter

Do you ever feel like you are in a rut with your career or perhaps you have retired and you decided that you want to do more with your life?

Many people find themselves in that space and often feel stuck because of some of the following reasons:

Fear of change–what if I make a change and it is worse?   Take calculated risks–find out what is the worse case scenario and can you live with it?   If not, how can you minimize your risks?  What is the best outcome and how can you make that happen.

Not sure what to do or where to start!   Ask friends, family and associates who you value what strengths and talents do they see in you.   How can these strengths be used–you may get some surprising feedback that will change your life.    Make a list of the activities that energize you and start to look at opportunities that allow you to do those activities.    Take some assessments that help you to better understand yourself.  Work with a career or executive coach to help you pave the path to your next role.

Your decision to change may cause some issues in your family or significant relationships.  Have discussions with your loved ones to discover how you can make your dreams and aspirations work for you and for them.    You may be pleasantly surprised or you make have to make some difficult decisions.   Easier to have the discussions than to make assumptions that may keep you in your rut.

This is your life and you deserve to make the most out of it.   Give yourself some quiet time to think about your life and what you want.  Do some research to figure out what stays on your list and what things do you need to drop as it isn’t a fit for you.   Work through the things that may be holding you back–these first steps can be fun and exciting and may lead to your “next chapter”

Carole Sullivan’s First Post

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Welcome Carole Sullivan

Hello Spring :

At long last, one of my consulting partners, Carole Sullivan, is ready to join me in an expanded executive coaching practice.  We will be focusing on themes like,  “How to Achieve Want you Really Want at Work and in Life” and once you get that promotion or reach your goal, “How to Maintain the Balance of Priorities in Your Life and Find both Work and Life Satisfaction.”

Carole and I will both be working with clients individually and in sponsored workshops around the country.  Stayed tuned for what comes next.

Dr. Kathy Jordan

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Practice the Art of Forgiveness at Work and in Life

The wise woman in me asks why it takes so long to understand familiar principles.  Does it take a certain amount of life experience to understand the veracity of simple truths?  Are we too busy rushing through the days to consider the  truth about right and wrong and how healing must include the act of forgiveness.

As I sit and contemplate the work issues women discuss with me  in coaching sessions,  I know that often the conversation is about a “wrong” or “hurt” that happened years ago in a different setting. Because a woman still carries this wound, it continues to color what she experiences today.  She may avoid certain opportunities,  responsibilities, and future happiness because of a negative experience in the past. Why is it so hard to say to ourselves,  “Yes what happened was not right but I am going to put it behind me and move forward?”  I am going to forgive the people involved.  Is it our egos?

Yesterday I wrote about self-reflection and contemplation as gifts and now I am saying the practice of reflection can also help you deal with adversity.  Today I am talking about the unavoidable work conflicts we all experience at one time or another and how we move forward.

One of the chapters in my book is about conflict in the workplace, and my advice is it is best to always remember your work life s not your total life and a business decision should not be seen as a personal decision.   A difference of opinion about how to do the job may seem like a personal attack or that the person in the conflict does not value you.  However as critical as the conflict may seem in the short-term, ask yourself will this difference of opinion and who wins be as important to me a year from now? Does this conflict impact my life in a major way?  Listen to your inner voice.

Don’t be a victim in conflict but learn how to let the less important issues become part of  the scenery and not stop the entire play. I counsel that often you will be a better person to carry a memory of a conflict’s issues  forward but not give the memory permission to change your life.   You may be further ahead by simply putting the conflict away and walking forward.  

As difficult as this advice is to both give and receive……sometimes it is best to walk forward armed with knowledge but open to the world of possibilities.  Vow to not make the same mistake twice. Knowing yourself and your values helps in any conflict at work or in life.


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When God Gives You Lemonade What’s a Woman to Do?

Four weeks ago today, I fell during my daily fitness walk and dislocated both elbows and broke my forearms.  In one moment, life changed for a strong independent and very busy woman.  We know this can happen to any of us but how often do we rush head long through life, even our  times designed for physical and mental health?  I know about the importance of living in the moment but was not “in the moment” when I fell as I was thinking about everything but the walking.

Now four weeks later and half way through the initial healing process, I am beginning to recognize the gift that I have received.  My life for the past forty years has been about helping others.  Never in my wildest dreams had I really considered what it would be like for me not to be able to help others or not be able to take care of life’s basic needs for myself.  Losing the use of both of my arms has a way on insuring you no longer take life for granted.  Just touching my face or feeding myself was a chore.  I can only imagine how those who have been hurt permanently must feel.

During this time I occupied myself with self-reflection, one of the life principals I teach in my book, VOICES Words From Wise Women and discussed often as part of my coaching practice.  Self-reflection is so critical to career and life success, and yet I had neglected to implement it myself on an annual basis.  Too busy helping others, I guess. This is a problem for many women; too busy to help themselves.

What a gift the fall was as now I have spent four weeks reflecting about where I traveled in life and setting goals about where I still want to go.  I  understand again how even the teacher must slow down to  in order to be more effective.  Why did it take an unfortunate fall to bring me back to what is critical, reflection on our blessings?

I am giving myself a break and counting us all human. So when, as they say life gives you lemonade, make sure you take the time to understand the problem and how you got there, and then develop a plan to move forward.  Many of the most poignant success stories in life come from people who have “fallen” down more than once but continued to get up to move forward again.


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