Laid Off From Work? Here’s What You Should Do Next

You just lost your job. You may be devastated. You may be in denial. You may realize your work was toxic and be genuinely happy you never have to go back. Or you may not fully understand how you’re feeling.

Regardless of where your head’s at, it’s hard, and starting a job search can be even harder. Many people simply update their resume and apply for positions that look interesting. That’s one approach, but if you’re like most, you need to give yourself time to process the loss.

I’ve been in the exact spot you’re in now. I was laid off from an investment bank at a time when finance roles were hard to come by. Through personal experience, and through my work as a coach helping countless people find jobs, I’ve put together a timeline of how to handle that first week after layoffs.

DAY 1

The very first thing you should do after leaving the office is find someone to talk to. You probably won’t be in the mood to talk to everyone about your situation, but speaking with a close friend can help.

Once you’ve had the opportunity to vent, it’s time to start writing. I’m serious. Write about what just happened, how you’re feeling, how this impacts your plans, and what you might do going forward. The goal isn’t to come up with a game plan for what’s next. The goal is to capture the thoughts and emotions you’re experiencing so you won’t replay them over and over in your mind. Just write.

I recommend that every day during this period you spend at least 10 minutes journaling. Journaling consistently has been found to help people visit the doctor less, feel better, and have healthier immune function.

DAY 2

When I was unemployed, I spent days sitting on the couch. My wife would get home from work to find me in the exact spot as when she’d left in the morning.

Without the structure of a job, you’re likely to feel less productive and your well-being might suffer. That’s okay. But even if you’re not ready to start looking for work, there are other things you can do, including filing for unemployment benefits if you’re eligible. This was a step I didn’t take for a few months and I missed out on a lot of money. Don’t let that happen to you.

DAY 3

The next step is to update your resume. Depending on the condition it’s in, this may take more than a day. There are countless resources to help you here, but I’ve found The Muse to be particularly valuable.

Once you’ve updated your resume, I recommend sending it to several trusted friends or mentors for feedback. Know that resumes have evolved so you may get feedback that’s no longer relevant.

DAY 4

With your resume in good shape, let’s turn your attention to LinkedIn. Here are two articles I’ve written on how to get your profile looking amazing:

But seriously, if you’re not ready to go there yet, take another day or two.

DAY 5

Make a list of companies you’d absolutely love to work at. Start with a minimum of five, but no more than 15. Once you have this list, think about people you know at each company. LinkedIn’s a great tool to help with this as the company page will show the first and second degree connections you have at each one.

Starting with companies rather than just looking for openings will put you in the mind-set of pursuing opportunities that energize you, rather than looking for what’s available. Interestingly, most roles never get posted, and the majority of people find jobs through networking.

DAY 6

With your networking efforts underway, now you can start searching for positions. Depending on your industry, you may also find these niche job-search websites valuable.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to set up alerts on each site as this will automate a lot of your search, saving you both time and energy.

DAY 7

Make a list of 10 people you haven’t connected with in awhile and invite them to lunch or coffee. This may take you out of your comfort zone. Do it anyway.

Then, I strongly recommend sending an email to your network letting them know you’re looking. Head over to LinkedIn and click the “My Network” tab. In the top left, you’ll see your total number of connections. Select “See all.”

From this list, identify people who can help. Put them into two groups: those who’ll receive a personal note and those who’ll get a mass email. In your message, explain what you’re looking for and how they can help. The more specific you are, the better they’ll be able to help.

Final Thought

Everyone experiences layoffs differently. This is A LOT to do in your first week, so if you’re not ready to update your resume or your LinkedIn profile, that’s okay. Give yourself space. Get outside if you can. Spend time with loved ones. Read a book. Do things you enjoy that your work schedule didn’t allow. Then dive back in.

Losing your job is hard, and we all handle it in different ways. Give yourself the space you need. Be confident in how you’ve grown. You may even find a that’s better than the one you had before.

How to Bounce Back After Getting Laid Off

Okay, let’s talk layoffs. But first…

This photo was taken in Summer 2008. It was my first day at Lehman Brothers and my wife took this right as I left for the office.

Two months later, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. I was out of a job. But then I wasn’t. Barclays acquired the U.S. team. I was saved.

Until I wasn’t.

On January 14, 2009, I was sitting at my desk when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and was greeted by the head of my team. He asked me to swing by his office. I knew what that meant.

I sheepishly followed him, like a kid being escorted to the principal’s office, my heart pounding uncontrollably. He said a lot of words. I don’t remember many.

I went back to my desk and was told to call HR. They told me I had to leave the building immediately and I couldn’t talk to anyone. I had spent years taking all the “right” moves to land an investment banking job and it was over in an instant.

I couldn’t call my wife because my phone was taken from me. I drove to her office. We went on a walk. She cried. I told her everything was fine and I’d find a job in a few weeks.

I was wrong. It took more than four months. Not that long in the grand scheme of things, but an eternity to someone who’s full-time career was all of six months.

That period of unemployment was brutal. Self doubt. Rejection. Anger. Depression. I went through it all. It took years to recover from the setback.

In hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened to me. But those words ring hollow to someone getting kicked in the stomach.

To those who’ve been laid off recently, I feel for you. I’ve been there. It’s really hard. It may get harder.

I’ve written a lot about this topic. Here’s an article I wrote for The Muse that goes deeper: How to Bounce Back After You Lose Your Job (and Feel Like the World’s Ending)

I hope the piece brings you some comfort and support. You’re more than your job. You’ll bounce back stronger than ever.

(This was originally posted on LinkedIn)

Lessons From Zoom: How to Lead During a Company Crisis

This is a guest post by Derek Pando, the founder and CEO of Beeloo, whose mission is to give parents of young kids daily alternatives to screen time through printable crafts and activities.

It has been hard to look away with all the drama happening at Twitter the last few months. It is obvious that they have been in a full blown crisis now for months. I feel for Twitter employees and especially for all the leaders trying to help their teams while dealing with their own personal reactions to the difficulties at work. 

I know a little bit about what an ongoing crisis at work can feel like. I led international marketing at Zoom when the pandemic hit. From the outside, while it might have seemed that the pandemic was the best thing that could ever happen to Zoom, the pendulum always swings both ways. The attention and scrutiny from Zoom’s astronomical growth brought on many crises about privacy, security, relations with China and many more that threatened the company’s existence. 

At Zoom, we were lucky enough to have strong leaders. I watched, emulated and got advice from them as I tried to lead my own team through multiple back to back crises.

If you find yourself as a leader at work during a crisis, here are some of the things I learned that hopefully can serve as a cheat sheet for you on how to lead in a crisis. 

Be authentic. I remember Eric Yuan, Zoom’s CEO, addressing the company at an all-hands meeting one week when there were 100’s of negative headlines around the world about Zoom and acknowledging how difficult it was for him and the rest of the company. He did not try to act tough, ignore it or do anything other than express his authentic feelings. 

Empathy first. A company crisis can have cascading effects. It can impact an employee’s mental or physical health, their family situation or their financial situation. A crisis might also cause a dangerously high workload for employees. It’s best to always first take a breath before diving into what needs to be done  with your team to empathize with each employee as a human being, even when you’re in emergency mode. 

Help your team see beyond the job. At Zoom the crisis was so intense that one of my teammates was having severe stomach pains that were brought on by anxiety. I remember at one point he came to me a mess and I told him. “Listen, no matter what happens at Zoom, you will be successful and your future is bright.” He was young and early in his career, he was having trouble not projecting this moment onto his entire life. Sometimes as leaders at work, we have to help employees see beyond work. 

Be candid. This is tough as a leader as there might be sensitive topics, or you might be getting guidance from your company not to talk about certain issues. My advice is to use your personal judgment and push the limits to the side of candor. Most companies unfortunately will over index on trying to control too much information in a crisis, even when they have no actual chance of containing it among employees. Sharing as much as you can will build trust with your employees and help them feel confident that you are looking out for them.

If you’re in a crisis right now remember as difficult as it may be, this is a time to learn and grow as a leader. As the saying goes “smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”. Hang in there. You’ll make it through it and you’ll probably come out the other side a better leader. 

Icarus and the Dangers of Playing It Safe

You’ve heard the Greek myth of Icarus. But there’s an essential lesson you’ve likely missed.  

Icarus’ father fashioned wings made of wax and feathers and told him not to fly too close to the sun. But he ignored that warning. The heat from the sun melted the wax, the wings fell apart, and Icarus plunged to his doom. We’ve retold this myth, and many others like it, for generations. 

All these stories have the same lesson: Play it safe. Obey your parents. Listen to the experts. Don’t fly too high.  

But there’s another part of the myth that gets glossed over. Icarus was also warned by his father not to fly too low. If he did, the ocean water would ruin the lift in his wings.  

That second lesson gets skipped but it’s even more relevant than the first. Flying too low is actually more dangerous than flying too high. Flying low feels safe. Deceptively safe. 

We hear the story of a reckless entrepreneur who flew close to the sun, plunging his company into the ground. Those who flew too high become easy targets. It’s fun to call them out. But we don’t hear about the thousands of people who flew too low. Those who played it safe. Those who never swung for the fences. Those stories happen every day but rarely get told. 

Yes, there’s danger in flying too high. But there’s more danger in flying too low. 

Don’t shortchange yourself. Don’t play it safe.

Fly high.

How to Set Expectations for Your Job Search After Getting Laid Off

I recently saw a post from someone in my network that shocked me.

He’d been impacted by a recent layoff and despite trying everything possible to find a new job (applying, interviewing, networking, etc.) he’d been unable to land something new.

Frustrated by his lack of success, he was ready to give up.

The shocking part was that it had been 17 days since he’d started his search. 🤯

He’d expected that after 2.5 weeks he’d have landed the job of his dreams. I wanted to give this person a dose of reality. And a hug.

Years ago when I was laid off, I was similarly optimistic. I genuinely thought I’d be out of work for a few weeks and would quickly land something better. Weeks turned into months and I wondered what was wrong with me.

I took every rejection personally. My optimism had been completely disconnected from reality. I had no idea the average job search took five months. Resetting expectations was painful.

Optimism is good. But the reality is that finding a job will take longer than you expect. And it’s going to be an emotional journey. You’ll face uncertainty and self doubt. Your confidence may be shaken at times.

But your mindset will make all the difference. Mentally prepare yourself. Put in the work. Build relationships. Show up. Control what you can control. Hustle until you’ve achieved your goal. 👊👊

Here’s an article I wrote for Fast Company about how to manage getting laid off.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What have you done to successfully navigate a job search?

Why Neighbor Rejected an Unlimited Vacation Policy (And What We Did Instead)

Let’s talk vacation time.

For most startups, “Unlimited PTO” is the default. I put that in quotes because we all know it isn’t ACTUALLY unlimited. You’d be fired if you worked one week and took off the other 51.  

As an HR leader at some of the top Silicon Valley companies, I’ve found that managers AND employees struggle with the ambiguity of an unlimited policy. In an effort to clarify, additional rules and guidelines are created. This increases frustration (wait, you said it was unlimited?) and employee resentment.  

Moreover, hourly employees usually don’t fit in the unlimited policy so there’s a separate one created for them. Not cool.  

Additionally, I found that employees who have an unlimited policy end up taking FEWER vacation days. There’s no baseline on what’s appropriate so they err on the side of not taking too many.  

For these and other reasons, we do NOT have an unlimited policy at Neighbor. What do we do instead?

Every employee, regardless of seniority, gets 20 PTO (paid time off) days per year. On January 1, everyone at Neighbor is given 20 days and it’s up to YOU to use them how you wish. Go on vacation, stay home to take care of yourself or a loved one, take a personal day. Use them how you wish! There’s no second guessing on what’s appropriate. No concerns around abusing the policy.

Here’s your PTO. Take it. Recharge. Enjoy.

No, You Don’t Have to Be Miserable. Here’s How to Make 2022 Your Year.

Scrolling through my socials last week, I stumbled on the following tweet: 

Typically I’d keep scrolling, but for some reason it kinda bugged me and I felt compelled to respond. So I retweeted and added this gif. 

The author came at me, calling me braggy, and a friend of mine dm’d me saying that my response was “literally violence”. 

I’m going to be candid–2021 was an incredible year for me. Even as I type that, I feel a tad guilty. Somehow with COVID and everything else that’s gone on, we’ve been conditioned to think that we’re supposed to be unhappy. We’re supposed to be depressed and downhearted. And if things ARE going well for us, well, we better just keep that to ourselves because everyone else is suffering miserably.

Well, I think that’s garbage. Empathy for the suffering is one thing, and we should all strive to have more of that. But being miserable because we’re “supposed to be” is a whole different thing. And that was the sentiment I got from the above tweet.

But let me take a step back to a time where I was suffering, when things were looking bleak. Let’s rewind to the end of 2019. My family and I had just moved to Walnut Creek into a rental home that fit our family of six. Prior to that, we had lived in a three bedroom home that was 1,100 square feet. (Note: technically it was a two bedroom because one room didn’t have a closet.) Three of our kids shared a not-so-large room. The best part was that you could vacuum the entire house while keeping the vacuum cord plugged into a single outlet. We were happy but as the kids started getting bigger, our home felt a little tight. 

We moved to Walnut Creek in December of 2019 and things were looking up. I had a shorter commute, the kids were going to be in great schools, and eventually, if we kept saving diligently, we’d be able to buy our first home. Walnut Creek is where we planned to raise our family. We had moved a lot during our 12+ years of marriage and we wanted to put down deep roots. 

Well, as the great Mike Tyson said, we all have a plan until we get punched in the mouth. And 2020 certainly punched us in the mouth. A few months after the move, COVID hit and lockdowns began. Having just relocated we had very few friends in Walnut Creek and the wonderful schools we’d been so excited about closed their doors. School moved online. Hello Zoom. 

Day one wasn’t so bad. My wife set up an obstacle course for the kids, and while the girls quickly lost interest, our son decided to do it 100 times. This kept him busy for about two hours. 

I turned one of the bedrooms into a home office. While I worked, my wife made sure our 4th grader and 2nd grader stayed on task while doing preschool for a third kid and taking care of our fourth, an 18 month old. 

Each day was a grind. We hoped this temporary situation would quickly pass, but days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. The life we dreamed of had evaporated. There were silver linings along the way, but overall it was really, really hard. Some in our family struggled more than others. 

I’m sure many were impacted far more than we were, but that provides little solace when your family is spiraling. During Summer 2020 we kicked around the idea of moving but we still had a year left on our lease and we thought life would normalize soon enough. In October, it became clear there was no end in sight. Local schools signaled that remote school may continue well into the 2021-2022 school year. We hit a new low. I noticed a change in my wife and I knew we had to do something. 

In a matter of days we made the decision to move to Southern Utah, largely so our kids could go to school in person. When the December move date came, I felt sad. The life we thought we’d live was coming to an end. But I mostly felt pride. I had felt like a victim for much of the year. Circumstances were running our lives. We had no control. But in that decision to move, we took back control. As silly as this sounds, I felt like a hero. We were taking our lives back. 

In contrast, 2021 has been remarkable. The kids have loved their new school. They’ve made friends. They play sports, do gymnastics, act in plays, and do all the things that kids should be doing. They walk to school and play with friends in the street. 

There have been other highlights beyond the move. I took a VP of People role at a startup where I work with incredible people. I did an Ironman 70.3 with my brothers, ran my first marathon, and played a lot of pickleball. I watched my children gain confidence as they learned new skills and tackled problems. I spent quality time with friends and loved ones. 

It was by no stretch an easy year, and things are far from perfect, but they’re a whole lot better than in 2020. Leaving California was tough, but it was the right decision. We could have stayed but we didn’t. We took control of our lives. We were in a bad situation and we decided to make a change. We acted. 

Over the last few months I’ve reflected on this quote from Russell Nelson:

The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly life can change, at times from circumstances beyond our control. However, there are many things we can control. We set our own priorities and determine how we use our energy, time, and means. We decide how we will treat each other. We choose those to whom we will turn for truth and guidance.

2021 has been one of the best years of my life. But maybe it was an awful year for you. Maybe you’re happy to put it all behind you. But what are you going to do in 2022 to make it better? How can you control your circumstances? What do you need to do to take charge? 

I don’t want to be callous or flippant. You may have gone through a trial in 2021 that puts my 2020 to shame. You may have lost a loved one. Or lost your job. Or lost your purpose. But as you look ahead to the new year I invite you to ponder this question: Is it possible 2022 could be the best year of my life? 

As COVID concerns grow and other challenges only seem to increase, it’s easy to tell ourselves that things are bad and will only get worse. Maybe. But I challenge you to reconsider. Many of us are miserable. We don’t have to be. To quote Nelson again, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

As you enter the new year, I wish peace, joy, and happiness for you and your family. The world needs people who are striving to grow and improve and thrive. The world needs people who choose to act rather than being acted upon. The world needs you. Make 2022 your year.

Career Q&A with Nolan Church, CEO of Continuum (#15)

The next Career Q&A is with Nolan Church, who is the CEO of Continuum, an executive talent marketplace. Nolan and I were peers at DoorDash and he’s one of the most talented people I’ve worked with. He’s the real deal and someone I regularly go to as a sounding board. In this Q&A, Nolan offers great advice on taking calculated risks, surrounding yourself with people better than you, and the need to constantly push yourself. I hope you enjoy Nolan’s insights as much as I did.

Nolan Church is the Cofounder and CEO of Continuum, a marketplace for executive talent. Prior to Continuum, Nolan was the Chief People Officer at Carta and the Head of Talent at DoorDash.

Nolan graduated from the University of New Orleans and was voted captain of the baseball team. He has two kids, and a wife that is better than him at everything.

What’s a book that has influenced your career or life, and why?

Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I love this book because it perfectly describes the human journey. I’ve had so many moments in the last 10 years where I’ve felt overwhelmed, overworked, and scared of the unknown. But those moments are how we grow and build character. 

I’ve read the book 5 or 6 times. Strongly recommend!

Was there an experience you had before age 21 that shaped who you are? What was it?

I received a scholarship to play baseball at Kansas State during my sophomore year of junior college. They rescinded the scholarship two weeks before my JUCO season ended.

All of my plans vanished and my world was turned upside-down in an instant. Most D1 schools had allocated all of their scholarship money (I was broke and needed financial aid to continue playing). My JUCO coach connected me w/the coach at University of New Orleans. They offered me a 50% scholarship, but I had to make a decision within 24 hours. I had never made a decision that big, that quick, with such little information. It felt like a huge risk.

I took it, and New Orleans ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. It’s not what happens, it’s how you respond.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

I’ve failed so many times it’s hard to pick a favorite 🙂 

My college baseball team set the D1 record for losses my senior year (we went 4-50). At one point during the season, I went in a 0-27 slump. It was painful.

I realized my lifelong dream of playing professional baseball was over, and I needed to figure out a new direction. 

I re-focused on school and I got good grades. Those decisions ultimately allowed me an opportunity to crack into tech post-graduation. 

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Two tactical pieces of advice: 1) Become a concise written communicator and 2) cold email relentlessly. These skills aren’t taught in school, but they’re essential post-graduation.

Advice to ignore: Fake it until you make it. Have confidence and be authentic, but never pretend to be something you’re not. 

What are the bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Bad recommendations usually come from people that don’t know something firsthand, but act like they do. My rule of thumb is to only trust the people closest to the ground doing the work. 

If you could go back in time to when you were entering the workforce and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make your manager’s, director’s, and VP’s problems disappear. Someone gave me this advice when I first started my career, and it’s helped more than anything. 

What’s one of your proudest professional accomplishments? (while this can include an obvious accomplishment, feel free to include a more personal one)

Starting Continuum. There are very few VC-backed founders with a People Ops background, and I’m proud to be one.

What’s something unexpected that has happened in your career, and how have you responded?

In 4 years, I went from Recruiter, to Head of Recruiting, to Chief People Officer, to Founder. The amount of growth I went through — and continue to experience — in order to keep up the demands of my role(s) was/is insane. 

Early in my career I was constantly stressed. With time I came to appreciate that growth is supposed to feel uncomfortable. Now, I’m trying to enjoy the ride and have more fun.

Since entering the workforce, how have you changed or transformed?

As a kid, my parents always hated their jobs. They thought work was a necessary evil. It took me a few years post-college to realize that work could be fulfilling, fun, and a healthy part of my life. 

I learned that work becomes magical when you fall in love with what you’re building and who you’re building with. Life is short. Only work on things you’re passionate about.

When have you felt stuck in your career? How did you break out of it or push forward?

I hit a learning plateau after my first 2 years at Google. Nobody around me was pushing to get better, grow, or do big things. It was a very complacent culture.

I realized that I was playing it too safe. I needed to take a risk and push myself outside of my comfort zone. I left to join an early-stage startup (DoorDash), and I haven’t stopped growing since. 

Who is one person, dead or alive, who you admire? Why do you admire them? 

Teddy Roosevelt. I have the ‘Man in the Arena’ speech on my office wall.

Roosevelt experienced significant adversity. His wife and mother died on the same day. His son died in WW1. He became the youngest president after McKinley was assassinated. 

Yet he kept pushing forward. He’s remembered as a trust-buster and conservationist. He’s a model of perseverance. 

What habit or practice helps you manage stress? (the more specific you can be, the better)

Working out every day. Usually running (HIIT sprints on the Peloton Tread) 2-3x/week, strength training/climbing 3x/week, and yoga 1-2x/week. It’s the only way I stay sane.

For more Career Q&As, click here, or you can check out my monthly newsletter and podcast.

Career Q&A with Whitney Johnson, CEO of Disruption Advisors (#14)

The next Career Q&A is with Whitney Johnson, who is a CEO, author, investor, and executive coach. I’ve known Whitney for many years and she is one of the most gracious, intelligent people I’ve met. Whitney offers exceptional advice on the power of taking initiative, why everyone should get a coach, and how you can disrupt yourself to find career success. I hope you enjoy this Q&A as much as I did!

Whitney Johnson is the CEO of human capital consultancy Disruption Advisors, an Inc. 5000 2020 fastest-growing private company in America. Having worked at FORTUNE 100 companies, been an award-winning equity analyst on Wall Street, invested with Harvard’s Clayton Christensen, and coached alongside the renowned Marshall Goldsmith, Whitney understands how companies work, how investors think, and how the best coaches coach.

Whitney is an award-winning author, world-class keynote speaker, and frequent lecturer for Harvard Business School. She is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and the author of bestselling books Build an A Team and Disrupt Yourself. She also hosts the weekly Disrupt Yourself podcast whose guests have included John Mackey, Brené Brown, Stephen M.R. Covey, and Zaza Pachulia. Whitney is married, has two children, and lives in Lexington, VA. (See full bio here.)

What’s a book that has influenced your career or life, and why?

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. His theory of disruptive innovation––a Goliath-like legacy business could be overtaken by a silly little David––changed my thinking as a Wall Street equity analyst. It also revolutionized my thinking about growth. In 2004, I had been an award-winning equity analyst for nearly eight years. I loved it, but I felt like there was something more.

After an especially discouraging conversation with my manager, who wanted me to stay right where I was, I had a flash of insight. My current equity analyst self was the incumbent––Goliath. My future self was the upstart––David. To take up the giant, I had to disrupt myself. It was revelatory. Disruption wasn’t just about products, it was about people. As I write in the dedication to my latest book, Smart Growth: How to Grow Your People to Grow Your Company, “To Clayton Christensen, who made this S Curve possible.”

Was there an experience you had before age 21 that shaped who you are?

When I was three years old, after seeing The Sound of Music, I picked out Do-Re-Mi on the piano. I studied music throughout my childhood, and eventually majored in music. Piano practice brought discipline, accompanying vocalists and/or instrumentalists taught me to be attuned to others which informs my coaching, and the general sense of musicality informs my writing and speaking. Once, after a speech, I had an audience member say, “I felt like I was listening to you play an instrument.” Best compliment ever.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

A few years ago, I delivered a keynote. The audience didn’t like it, they hated it––I have the comment cards to prove it. Because of nerves, I was focused on myself, not attuned to the audience. I had become the hero (like the accompanist who thinks they are the star). And if I was the hero, then who was the audience? It was my job to be the guide so the audience could be the hero.  This was the wake-up call that made the ‘musical moment’ experience possible, the failure that led to a success. For more on failure, listen to our Disrupt Yourself podcast, Episode 200.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?

Take initiative. Take initiative. Take initiative. Look for what you think needs to be done. Tell your boss what you plan to do and ask for input. Ask Does that work for you? If you are competent, and take initiative, you will quickly be labeled a superstar.

Also, take advantage of the fact that you are straight out of college. When a twenty-something asks me a thoughtful question––I will try to say ‘yes’ simply to reward you for taking the initiative. In general, those over 40 feel the responsibility to feed our young. Being in your 20s has its privileges. Use them before they expire. 

If you could go back in time to when you were entering the workforce and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Get a coach. Straight out of college I was getting the training that I needed to do the functional job, but I had no idea how to navigate the emotional job that I was being hired to do. I read a lot of books, but a coach could have helped me move up my S Curve of Learning faster. 

What’s one of your proudest professional accomplishments? 

I am proud of the fact that I disrupted my mindset about what was possible for me. When I graduated from college, I had a music degree, no idea what I wanted to be or do, except some vague notion that I would have children (was already married), and not a lot of confidence. That I was able to change how I was thinking about myself and move from being an EA to an investment banker, which rarely happens in financial services (still!). I am proud of that. (And grateful that I had a boss who believed in me and made it possible.)

What’s something unexpected that has happened in your career, and how have you responded?

I didn’t expect that one of my superpowers would be to apply business theories or concepts to the individual, like I have with both disruption innovation and the diffusion curve. Nor did I expect that the S Curve of Learning would be such a useful model for helping people think about what growth looks like. My response––instead of this being in the background like it was in Disrupt Yourself and Build an A Team, it is the hero of the story in Smart Growth.

Since entering the workforce, how have you changed or transformed?

According to Jungian psychology, we have both masculine and feminine characteristics. The ability to get things done, to wield power is considered masculine, while to love and be connected are considered feminine traits.. To truly grow up, both men and women need to develop both. While home and family has been the vehicle for me to develop feminine characteristics, work has helped me develop masculine traits. It has been an important vehicle for helping me grow up.  Note: I write about this in detail in my first book Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream.

When have you felt stuck in your career? How did you break out of it or push forward?

When I was pregnant with my first child, my boss was fired. They probably would have given me the boot too, except that I had good performance reviews, and I was pregnant. I interviewed for a number of roles in investment banking, but there wasn’t a fit. Desperate, they pretty much shoved me into equity research. Once I got to research, there was a merger, and with it came a highly-rated analyst who covered the sector (cement and construction) that I was supposed to cover. I had now been disrupted twice. 

My only way out was a third round of disruption, but this time disrupting myself. There were a number of media companies going public and no one to cover them. So, rather than trying to knock on a cement door that was closed, I built my own door. I became a media analyst. By building a door for myself, I built a door for my company. My way through was personal disruption. 

Who is someone, dead or alive, who you admire? Why do you admire them?

Joan of Arc––I’ve been reading Mark Twain’s autobiography of her––she was so clear on her purpose and so courageous.

Diana Krall––I admire her musicianship and her voice––and how she didn’t start singing until she was in her late 20s because she thought she didn’t have a good voice.

What habit or practice helps you manage stress?

Exercise, running specifically, helps release the cortisol that builds up due to stress (whether good or bad stress).

Gratitude. Stress often comes because of a perceived danger––specifically that I won’t be able to get done what I need to do in the time that I have to do it. And ‘the wild bear will catch me and I will die.’ If, in that moment, I become hyper focused on what I am grateful for, my ‘upstairs’ thinking brain can signal to my ‘downstairs run away NOW brain’ that I’m not actually in danger. Which relieves the stress. And allows me to get done what I need to do in the time I have to do it.

Do the thing that I am avoiding which can lead to anxiety which leads to a stress response. If I am anxious about something (back to the wild bear), I might procrastinate, or avoid it, and then my brain will feel relief. Something I’ve learned from psychologist Emma McAdam is that in the moment my brain will reward me. Good job, you escaped the bear. But then when there’s another bear of a deadline, then my brain tells me to avoid it again. This creates an anxiety loop. So do the thing I think I can’t do––that’s making me anxious, that’s causing a stress response––now.

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The Calming Power of Three Deep Breaths

When was the last time you tossed aside your phone, closed your laptop, and just breathed? To be candid, breathing is something I’ve given little thought to for most of my life. It’s a natural, involuntary process, so how important can it be? That view has shifted over the last year.

I’ve long sought to master my emotions. Sometimes they get the best of me. There are times when I feel confident, intelligent, and at peace. I feel like I’m my best self. I feel like I can overcome whatever obstacles come my way. I call this expansion.

Other times I feel small. I feel anxious. I feel a lack of control. In these moments the obstacles in front of me look daunting. I’m overwhelmed. I call this contraction.

Physical exercise has been a powerful tool to help me move from contraction to expansion.  Intense bike rides, hard runs, and even long, slow walks have helped shift my energy. But I don’t always have 30-60 minutes to spare. I needed something faster. 

When I got serious about coaching, I hired my own coach. He introduced a simple exercise of taking three deep, intentional breaths. I start by sitting in silence with my eyes closed, then breathe in for five seconds, hold, then breathe out for five seconds. 

Deep breathing has a calming effect. It helps us relax our fight or flight response. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. And it’s an exercise that can take as little as 60 seconds. 

Shortly after learning the power of breathing, I introduced the exercise in my coaching practice. Every session now begins with three deep breaths, a practice my clients and I do together. We’re typically coming from other meetings and have a million things on our minds. Pausing for three deep breaths helps us get centered and present. On several occasions, I’ve been given feedback that the deep breathing exercise was the most impactful part of a coaching session.

Mastering our emotions and staying calm amidst the chaos can be the difference between success and failure. Spending more time in expansion helps us see new possibilities. It gives us the energy to sustain strong performance. There are many approaches that can shift us to a state of expansion. Taking three deep breaths is my new favorite and gives me the best bang for my buck.