Monday, December 7, 2009

Creating a Great 2010 and Beyond

Time magazine’s cover story of December 7, 2009 cover labeled the years 2000 to 2009 as “The Decade from Hell,” noting that:

“Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post-World War II era. Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want—just give thanks that it is nearly over.”

Regardless of how your recent past has been, I’d like to suggest the following six commitments as the keys for achieving your goals in the years ahead:

1. Be Responsible

While this may be obvious, taking responsibility for our work lives is harder than it sounds. It begins with the recognition that we always have choices and it also reminds us to focus energy and attention on those things and actions over which we have control.

2. Stay Relaxed and Alert

Anyone who does an activity requiring hand and eye coordination will recognize how important this is to achieving excellent results. It also means developing a pace that honors the best interplay between important and urgent. And finally, as we work toward our goals, it is critical to stop and rest when needed.

3. Keep Your Goals Focused and Diffused

As important as it is to be focused, it’s also important to see that there is always more than one way to achieve our goals. Not only does this help us to be more creative when confronting inevitable barriers and challenges, but it also allows us to recognize that what’s right in front of us is often prelude to what’s ahead on our path.

4. Trust the Process

The journey toward our goals is best fueled by a disciplined approach to the process. Through focused attention on small and specific steps, a momentum is created that carries us forward. Furthermore, as we open ourselves to the process, we build our capacity to create elegant solutions for getting unstuck.

5. Keep Your Sense of Humor

The capacity to laugh as we work toward our goals allows us to experience joy along the way. It is recommended to have at least several good laughs a day, with one or more of those being a hearty laugh at ourselves, thereby keeping our sense of self-importance in check.

6. Allow for Moments of Inspiration and Awe

Taking time in our day for silence, meditation, or prayer allows us to become grounded in what’s ultimately most important, giving us an opportunity to experience our sense of the “bigger picture.” And, finally, stay open to those moments of grace and beauty that are around us all the time.

With these commitments firmly in hand, best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2010 and beyond.

Mark Guterman

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Q4 Job Market Update

In my last Update I predicted an up-swing in September. This was primarily based on two factors. The summer slow down was coming to an end and the economy was recovering and would promote job growth. The reality is that there has not been an up-swing, more like a small bump from the bottom.

Companies are still laying off workers to get to profitability. The predictions on a jobless recovery early in 2009 seem to be on the mark. Why? - companies are looking for profitability and are shedding human capital and avoiding projects to get there. Other companies are being acquired thus eliminating employers altogether. The companies that are growing are selectively hiring but doing it cautiously. The Mercury news article earlier this months verifies this activity (

What is in store for us is hard to know. At this point we are in a better employment market than in July and August but not good enough to provide job seekers multiple opportunities.

My advice at this time is to be flexible in compensation (be open to a small reduction in salary) and look at any role that will help your long term career goals. It does not need to be a step up in responsibility, it can be a role that provides experiences that will round out your over all background thus making you more marketable in two to four years when the market is much better.

There is a good chance that new opportunities will slow down to a halt in middle of December. Now is the time to look at all options otherwise you may be in the same position mid to late January when everyone is back from holidays and caught up with their work.

Where should you be looking for a job? Use your network to provide any and all resources that may help. I look to the moneytree ( for investments into growth industry segments. The greatest industry investments in Q3, 2009 were - Biotechnology/Medical Device - 32%, Industrial/Energy - 18% and Software 13%. Businesses in mature markets may not be growing but have been hiring and upgrading their talent. These are very good employers with good career paths. Something to think about if you are looking for a more "secure or predictable" employment situation.

Happy hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Am I Doing Wrong? Networking Revisited

I have a new client, a senior IT professional, who has been struggling in his search for new employment. Though he has a well-documented track record, he’s had a very hard time getting interviews. His main search strategy has been to use the job boards, and after sending out at least 500 resumes in response to job openings, he has had exactly 8 interviews. His success rate of 1.6% is not very good, to say the least, but probably sounds all too familiar to those of you who utilize any of the local and national job boards.

He came to coaching with the question, “What am I doing wrong?” My response was that nearly everyone’s experience with posted jobs is about the same, and that if he relies only or primarily on “visible” job openings, he is severely limiting his odds of getting an interview. I added that he has “blinded” himself to the many opportunities that exist only in the hidden job market, those that never see the light of day.

When we started talking about networking, he laughed, and responded that he hasn’t been networking because he felt that someone at his level shouldn’t need to “beg” people for work or connections. He sees networking as a vague process and beneath his stature and experience. When we explored further, it turned out that he was embarrassed about networking mainly because he didn’t know how to tell his story in a way that was compelling and that he didn’t really know how to ask for help.

We began by having him script and practice his elevator pitch. The first thing I asked him to describe was his “hook;” a word, phrase or sentence that would get a listener immediately in the mood to hear more about who he is and what he has to offer. It was no surprise that he was unable to articulate his hook, and so that became his first homework assignment.

We then focused on how he could ask for help so that people would be likely to offer him useful ideas, information, or advice. He immediately recognized that asking directly for a job or leads to job openings was too blunt, especially if he was meeting someone for the first time. He also realized that he was much more likely to gain support if he framed his request in a way that people would respond with “yes,” instead of “no”. This, then, became his second homework assignment: How to ask for help so that people will give a positive and supportive response.

Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"What is the most significant change in client expectations over the past two years?"

This question provided by Canaan Ridge ( - Exceptional thinking forum. Michael Inserra from Alchemy Search provided one of two winning responses:

"I can summarize my client thoughts in one word: Relationships

Clients want to see a dedicated professional relationship. My clients want to work with service providers who invest time in getting to know them. They want to see time spent on site getting to understand the holistic value proposition their firm offers. Clients want a more personalized and unique approach, personal dedication, and a genuine interest in scaling with them verses a transaction. Process-wise, clients need confidence that we are one step ahead on logistics and have eliminated the obstiacles to close smoothly. There is no tolerance for leaving the final step up to chance."

Friday, October 30, 2009

The New Normal

As the national unemployment rate approaches 10%, I see increasing numbers of people who are becoming resigned to an economy where 9-11% unemployment may become the “new normal.” As this plays out in our work and lives, I see growing fear and anxiety, shattered dreams and confidence, and find it a continuing challenge to help people feel hopeful about the future.

It is, however, a “normal” reaction to feel discouraged during times like these, whether this comes from being bombarded by news of layoffs and budget cuts or by having the real experience of conducting an active and smart job search and seeing nothing positive come about. So, it should come as no surprise that so many are feeling hopeless and even helpless during these times.

As a coach, I wish I could help people easily and quickly move through these emotions and on to a successful conclusion of their journey. Unfortunately, all I can do is remind my clients and anyone else reading this, that by staying in the game, focusing on the process, and keeping a positive frame of mind, eventually (probably later rather than sooner for most of us) the problem will be resolved.

The challenge to stay disciplined, to be both patient and persistent, is probably the key characteristic that distinguishes those who are successful in a job or career change. They find a way, no matter how they might be feeling, to get up each morning and “go to work,” even if they are fairly certain that the work of the day will have little or no positive results. They recognize that by taking one step at time, moving a bit each day, that the cumulative effect, the body of work, so to speak, will start creating momentum. The problem for many of us is that we give up before the momentum kicks in and can do its work.

Here are some suggestions about how to work your way through the new normal:

1. Write a personal mission statement—for some this might be very concrete (I want to have a job as a . . . . by . . . at . . . salary) or it could be more esoteric (I want to help others to . . . through . . .). Read it regularly and let the energy of your mission motivate you to action.

2. Create a flexible structure that has steps/tasks to do each day. Do your best to complete those tasks.

3. Find a buddy, partner, or good friend who can act as a guide, mentor, and who has your permission and blessing to give you honest feedback, as needed.

4. When stuck or confused about what to do next, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “What’s the smartest thing I can do right now?” Then do that thing.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Friday, October 23, 2009

Career Change 101

I have a new client who is confronting classic dilemma of making a lot of money in a career he is very unhappy with. He feels trapped, as they say, by golden handcuffs, and is struggling trying to figure out how to do work he likes and still having a substantial income. He doesn’t lack for ideas, but most of them, for a variety of reasons, are not feasible (not enough income potential, too risky, spouse does not approve, etc.).

In addition to the challenge of deciding what he wants to do, he is also a very impatient person. He wants to know the answer right now, so that he can get moving sooner rather than later. As we’ve worked together, he is beginning to realize that his impatience is one of the reasons he is where he is, and has said a number of times “I’ve allowed my ambition to get out ahead of what I want to do.” He is working on ways to modulate his ambition so eventually it will be in resonance with his vision and goals. When that begins to happen, I believe he will be both very happy and very successful.

He is currently crafting a “personal job description,” that will capture honestly, and in great detail the following: What are the tasks/projects that I most wants to work on; what are the skills that go with those tasks/project; what is the work environment that allows me to do my best work; what are the values that I hold that I must have and would like to have met in my new work; and, what most energizes and motivates me to show up for work each day. As he puts this together, he is establishing an anchor, a basis for articulating what he “should” do (even if he doesn’t know what to call it yet).

He will soon begin doing informational interviewing, along with parallel internet research. His plans are to take his completed job description and interview the smartest and most well connected people he knows (and can get referred to) to ask the following fundamental questions: When you see my job description, what ideas come to mind? Who do you know who does something like this? How does someone with my background get from where I am now to this new career? Based on what he learns from these interviews, he will adapt his job description and keep moving forward until he has identified a match close enough to meet most, if not all of his, criteria.

Once he gets to that point, he will shift gears into job search mode, crafting a resume that shows his transferable skills, and learning how to tell the story of why he is making the change and how he will bring his unique qualities to his new work. For anyone who has ever gone through this process, you know how hard it is and how rewarding it can be when you see it through to the end.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Monday, September 28, 2009

Moving Forward Toward Recovery

I’ve just come back from a week’s vacation at Lake Tahoe. In addition to relaxing and playing, I spent time each morning thinking about the times we are going through and how we are moving forward toward recovery. It’s clear that the economy is still in bad shape and that the job market is months, perhaps years, away from normalizing. Even though it looks as though we are on the verge of recovery, it will be long, slow, and painful for many of us.

That being said, many of our friends and co-workers will thrive during the months ahead, while many others will continue to face unemployment, challenges, and barriers. What distinguishes these two groups? First of all is the recognition that each of us is ultimately responsible for our lives and work. My experience says that those who own this notion, who see themselves as the authors (or at least, co-authors) of their careers have a natural advantage in the work place. They feel and express a sense of confidence, are more likely to see threats as opportunities, and look for ways to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. They get out ahead of the curve and are, so to speak, pro-active in their decisions and actions.

Furthermore, they focus their attention and energy in a direction that will help them move forward toward their own recovery. They realize and accept that they are in charge, that they have choices to make, and that there are many more things they have control over than may be obvious. They are able to clearly discern between appropriate and inappropriate choices and they take action on those which will get them moving in a steady and disciplined way. As they do this, they also learn how to articulate and tell the “right” story, both to themselves and with others, that is positive and puts the emphasis on what they can and will do (with evidence that they have those capabilities), given the right opportunity.

Practicing the suggestions above will go a long way toward helping you move forward and there’s no time like the present to begin these practices. The sooner you get on with it, the sooner you’ll find yourself on the road to recovery.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

National Career Development Strategy: Part 2

I just returned from Washington DC where we had our second meeting on the creation and implementation of a national career development strategy. There were 21 attendees from all around the country, several of whom were from prominent think tanks or high levels of the federal government.

As we worked our way through the day, one clear consensus emerged. We agreed that whatever the strategy might look like, one key to its success is that it must be deeply embedded in the K-12 curriculum so that virtually all Americans would graduate from high school with the skills and tools to manage their career for the rest of their lives. This means the development and implementation of an age-appropriate curriculum that would be just as vital to the educational process as are current and emerging graduation requirements.

All through the discussion, I couldn’t help thinking about the hundreds of clients I have seen in the last few years. Most are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s and virtually every one, somewhere in the process, makes a comment like, “I wish I had learned this when I was younger,” or “Why don’t they teach these things while we are in school?” The reality is that it is taught, but it’s not core to the curriculum, as it should be.

Assuming career development competence becomes part of what we learn by the time we are 18, how would our work lives be different? First of all, people will make choices that serve them well, as they will know how to make wise decisions and will recognize that they are responsible for creating the future they most want. Secondly, people will feel confident about their prospects, because even if they don’t know what their future looks like, they will have all the tools needed to figure out and make their goals a reality. Finally, for those who go on to college, having the skills to plan and manage their futures means their experience is likely to be more focused and meaningful.

If we can do this, the anxiety, fear, and disengagement we see around is going to lessen and become much more manageable. Rather than doing what most of us do now, like waiting for unemployment to get better, hoping the economy will improve, or wishing that the pace of change will slow down or settle, those who know how to manage their careers will find themselves in control and much more able to create the future they desire.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Monday, August 24, 2009

Toward a National Career Development Strategy

I just attended a meeting in Chicago with a number of career development thought and practice leaders. We came together to begin the creation of a national career development strategy. Though we are just at the beginning of a year or longer process, we’ve already put down what we think are some guiding principles for such a strategy.

The first principle is that each of us is fully responsible for our career and work lives. This means, among other things, that we are the owners and drivers of our careers, that regardless of the state of the economy or our particular job, function or industry, we are responsible for actively managing our present and future work lives.

The second principle declares that life-long learning must be embedded in everyone’s work life. This means that each of us needs to have an active learning and development plan in place. Whether this is formal study, reading, observing others, utilizing a career coach, or the myriad other ways of developing ourselves, learning must be a part of how we work each day.

The third principle says that successful work lives happen with the on-going support of others around us. It means that no one achieves success alone and that support can come to us in a number of ways and forms, which may change depending on where we are in our work lives. This implies that there needs to be multiple layers and methods of support, training, coaching, offered willingly by workplaces, educational institutions, community based organizations, and all levels of government to assist people working toward their aspirations, whatever those might be.

A system that integrates responsibility, learning, and support means that everyone will be able to get and keep work over a life-time, and develop the skills necessary to stay employable for as long as they care to and are able to work. Many people have already built these principles into their work lives, but it might be a good time to take another look and to ask the following questions:

1. In what ways am I pro-actively managing my work life?

2. How do I make learning a part of my work day?

3. How am I building the support needed for my short and long term goals?

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Q3 Job Market Update

Not only is this summer in the Bay Area cooler so is the job market. I don't think this is a surprise to anyone out there hunting for a new job. For anyone that will start looking there isn't much to see in August but we anticipate some job growth in September.

Why is the market going to be better in September? First school is back in session meaning the end of summer vacations and the focus on business. Much hiring is budgeted for late Q3 early Q4, hiring managers will be around and eager to complete this task before year end. Second the capital markets have come back which will allow some companies to increase head count in areas that have been neglected by the lack of funds during this recession. The trend I have seen after the last two recessions is the job market lags the capital markets by 3 to 6 months. How much better will the job market get? We don't know.

What should we look for? Last quarter there was a significant jump in investments in alternative energy businesses. There will be job creation in this sector. In addition almost every company is looking to hire someone, these are specific hires for specific needs that are due to turn over, increase compliance requirements and other non-growth factors. Temporary or temporary to hire jobs will become more available as this was a trend when the last two recessions ended.

What should you do if you are seeking a job? You need to use your network and stay on top of job postings to ensure you are in the know when opportunities become available. Find two to three recruiting relationships that can help you. Recruiters have confidential searches and in many cases are told about job openings that are not posted to job boards.

What should you expect if you are hiring someone right now? Most candidates are willing to look at less pay in order to land a job with a solid business, especially one that may be closer to home or provides career growth. Making an offer at the existing base pay or equivalent total compensation is a safe bet in obtaining loyalty and success in the offer process. But don't under pay to try to take advantage of someone who is concerned about finding work. The market will change in the next twelve months, when it does everyone who feels under paid will not turn away a significant increase in income and make a change. You don't want to be repeating the search process in a more competitive candidate market.

I hope this helps!

Happy Hunting,

Bryon McDougall

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to Business

I taught a workshop earlier this week for a group of 25 unemployed professionals and managers called Getting Back to Business. Its focus was how to conduct a disciplined and professional job search with the underlying assumption that those who do the most sophisticated and authentic job searches are most likely to be re-employed the quickest.

We focused on the usual topics of being organized, seeing the job search as a marketing campaign, understanding how to network appropriately, and so on. As we worked our way through the session, and continuously responding to the very prevalent, “I’ve tried . . . and it hasn’t worked . . . ,” I realized a couple of things that was making the process challenging for these folks.

The first thing I noticed was that, as smart and accomplished as the participants were, many of them were simply going through the motions of the job search. In other words, they were diligent in doing it “by the book”, but only a few recognized that a good job search is a process of continuous learning. So instead of applying what they learned from each experience and encounter, I felt the most of the audience was following that time worn definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The second thing I saw was an intense level of anxiety, much of which resulted from where they were putting their attention and efforts. They kept talking about the sorry state of the job market and their efforts they talked about were often centered on trying to get people “out there” to respond to their continuing requests for action. What most were not seeing was that they needed to put their attention on what they had control over: The attitude they brought to the process, the choices they made at any given moment, and putting their energy and efforts in taking one, small step at a time.

There’s no doubt that a job search can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We all know is lousy, but there are always things each of us can do to mitigate that reality. With the right mind set and focused action, the transition process can actually be a time of great energy and profound learning. Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Aching Back

I’ve been out of work this week due to a back injury I sustained last weekend. My doctor recommended applying heat, taking muscle relaxants, and going for several short, slow walks each day. The good news is that my back is slowly healing. The bad news is that I have earned no income this week because I am paid as a contractor and when I can’t show up to do the coaching, training, and consulting that is my profession, then I don’t get paid. As one might imagine, my anxiety has risen throughout the week.

I tell this story for two reasons. First of all, anxiety is part of everyone’s work life these days and though it’s not in our power to eliminate or even control it, we can use our anxiety as a spur for taking steps toward the future. So, even though I had to postpone my coaching and training sessions, I used the time to get to projects that I had been wanting to work on, as well as getting caught up on some things that I had gotten behind on. So, even though I had zero cash flow this week, I did get many things accomplished that I would not normally have gotten to.

The second reason for relating this story is that my rising anxiety pushed me into making some marketing and networking calls that didn’t feel quite so urgent just one week before. So, even though I was somewhat immobile, I made a several calls to set up informational interviews, made lunch dates with two people who I’ve wanted to meet with, and even found time to re-connect with a colleague from more than 20 years ago. He and I will be meeting in the next month to talk about possible collaboration on a new project.

I cold easily have let my anxiety get the better of me, either preventing me from doing things or making me feel sorry for myself. Admittedly, I’ve had several moments of each during this week, but rather than wallowing in it or berating myself, I’ve simply allowed myself to feel the anxiety, take a few deep breaths, and then get back to work. And that’s how it goes. Most of us are experiencing our own high anxiety and we always have choice about how to respond to it. I choose to take the active path—how about you?
Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Articulating Your Value Proposition

As a follow up to Steve Hernandez’ June 7 blog entry on the challenging job market we are facing, I wanted to add some additional thoughts. It’s very possible that the economy may show real improvement before the end of the year, but there are many signs that any such recovery may be jobless (no net new jobs) or, worse still, unemployment may continue to climb well into the recovery. Regardless of the strength or weakness of the job market in the months ahead, you can best prepare for any eventuality by understanding and being able to articulate your value proposition.

Every one of us brings value to the workplace, some of which is easily identifiable and quantifiable and some of which is more subtle and often difficult to put into measurable terms. Whatever the challenges in articulating our value, it’s vitally important to know how our previous accomplishments, efforts, and hard work translate and bring value to a potential new employer. Our ability to tell appropriate and compelling “added value” stories more often than not will make the difference when in the job search process.

You can articulate your value add by identifying accomplishments and then being able to clearly answer these two questions for each of those accomplishments: “What changed because of my work?” and “What role(s) did I play in bringing this about?” The more fluidly these questions can be addressed and the more “evidentiary” stories you have, the more likely you are to feel confident during times of transition and the more likely you’ll be able to work your way through the “tough” questions in your interviews.

As you develop your stories, you will build the capacity to handle the hard questions with answers like, “I don’t have the exact experience you are asking for, but I have done something very similar . . . and here is how I achieved outstanding results . . . .” These kinds of answers are made even stronger when they demonstrate more than what your interviewer has been asking for. Furthermore, by easily sharing your “transferable” stories, you show that you don’t easily get flustered when facing a challenging situation and that you think well on your feet, both of which are highly valued competencies by employers.

The more you know and can articulate your value proposition, the better your job search will go. All things being equal, it is those who can confidently and smoothly share their value proposition throughout the interview process who will find their search process going more easily and quickly. Let us know if we can help you to prepare for your interviews.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Sunday, June 7, 2009


It looks like we’re still in for a rough employment road here in the Bay Area. I speak to hiring decision makers, employees, and job seekers every day. I still hear a lot of talk about overhead cuts, hiring freezes, redundancy, and lay-offs.

I feel like we’re currently experiencing the transactional stage of the economic downturn. Financially weaker companies are struggling to drive revenue, so they still need to cut more overhead. They also end up being acquisition targets, or may merge with other companies in order to survive. All three of these scenarios lead to a continually tough job market.

Larger companies with cash are looking for acquisition deals. When these transactions occur, inevitability there will be redundancy, and more lay offs. It’s probably going to take awhile for this transactional period to shake out. We’re going to have to hang in there and stick it out.

Though this reality may be difficult for many, looking at it more positively, this type of activity represents a transformation of the Bay Area marketplace. Transactions will create new companies; new products will be invented; new entrepreneurs will take risks, and new jobs will be created.

As we spoke about in previous entries, our local economy will be changing over the next year, whether we like it or not. Companies will fail, be sold, merge, or move; jobs will be eliminated. At the same time, new opportunities will arise. The marketplace for the next decade is under construction. Our job is to hang in there and be ready to role with what new opportunities come our way.

--Steve Hernandez

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is Your Specialty?

I just finished reading a book by Debbie Ford called The Secret of the Shadow. One of her key points is that every one of us has a “specialty” that is unique. This specialty, she argues, is the contribution that each of us has to offer to the world. I agree. I believe that we are born with particular gifts and talents, which are unique for each of us, and that we can choose to build those into skills and competencies, and through the process of our life’s journey make our contribution.
My experience tells me that most of us have a deep yearning to know and express our specialty and the degree to which we are able to do so, is also the degree to which we find a sense of satisfaction and meaning in our work and lives. Short of that, we will always feel like something is missing or incomplete. It is clear that many people, for many reasons, are working and living in ways that are disconnected from their specialty. This, naturally, has consequences for our work places, communities, families, and of course, for those particular individuals.
The interesting dynamic here is that we don’t have to know or fully express our specialty to be happy. But we do, at least, need to be on the journey to finding what it is and be on the look out for ways to express it. Whether this is through paid or non-paid work, through hobbies and extra-curricular activities, involvement in our communities, our lives take on a fullness when we are moving towards the knowledge and expression of our gifts and talents. And for those who have real fears and barriers about this knowing or expressing, I’d suggest that working through these is their major life work.
I see many clients and people with whom I have more casual contact, who are disconnected from their specialty. They are oblivious, unconscious, in denial, or making choices according to what they “should” be doing. I know that many, if not most of these people, are either mildly unhappy or deeply depressed, even as they appear outwardly successful. They often don’t come to terms with their issues until something major happens to them or they reach a point in their lives when they can no longer bear the pain or burden of being so disconnected from their truth. At that point, change can begin. As I advise all of my clients: Begin now.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Sunday, May 17, 2009


A few words to current graduates.

I was driving on the UC Berkeley campus today, taking my daughter and her friend to the public swimming pool. Once I got near campus, it became very apparent that it was graduation weekend. Even though the traffic was frustrating, it was a positive sight seeing all the recent graduates and their families walking around with smiles on their faces. I saw joy, relief, hope and excitement in their eyes.

My daughter, who is seven, asked me what was going on. I told her that people were graduating from college. She replied by asking, “What are they going to do now?” I responded by saying that they face a world of opportunities and a world of challenges all at the same time. And that the choices they make in the next few years, will have a profound impact on the long term quality of their lives.

I feel I have insight on this matter for two reasons. First, I graduated from college in the early nineties, when the economy was slow. Myself, and many of my peers of that time made some poor work decisions, because we felt we just needed a job, any job. And second, as a career coach, my specialty client population is mid-life, mid-career professionals, who often come to me because early on in their professional lives, they put enormous time, energy, and commitment into jobs and careers they ultimately found unfulfilling. Eventually the need to change out their predicament becomes dire.

So, here are a few words to the graduates I saw on campus today. First, don’t be too picky. It’s great to have long term goals. It’s also a good idea to pursue opportunities that stick as closely as possible to those goals.

However, we’re in a tough job market right now. Plus, we’re going into the summer months, when hiring tends to slow down anyway (it’s a good time to take that post graduation trip). Thus, if one really needs to work, then it doesn’t pay to be too rigid in your requirements. Maybe the job doesn’t need to be exactly on your chosen career path, but if it’s related, perhaps you can savor picking up skills in the short term that will help you down the road. The job also doesn’t necessarily have to pay you the optimum of what you were hoping to get. I believe, if one makes the right choices, and gets the right exposure, the money will follow. Finally, the job doesn’t have to be with the perfect company or organization. Right now, given the market conditions, if one finds an opportunity with a solid organization that is reasonably stable and provides opportunity to learn and grow, I say jump on it.

The other side of this point is not to sell yourself too short either. If one takes just any type of job, because it’s a job, or maybe because it pays well, but doesn’t offer any substantive professional development, or exposure, you may end up making a costly mistake. One could find themselves spending several years in a dead end job that offers no transferrable experience. In a situation like this, one may end having to start over a few years from now, having to take a new entry level position, or a cut in pay. Or, if one is not willing to do that, then they may fall into an alternative career path that wasn’t planned or greatly desired. This is basically the scenario I described earlier, which leads to mid-life discontent.

In general, I believe it’s always good to strike a balance. In the current environment, it’s healthy to be flexible and prepared to make some concessions, yet it’s also equally important to consider how your short term job decisions might impact your long term career plans.

--Steve Hernandez

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Q2 Job Market Update

Here it is! The job market...........NOT GOOD!

Anyone surprised? The good news is the worst is behind us, we will see better days before the end of 2009. Through the summer of 2009 we may not see any significant jump in job growth, the best case is a small increase to current activities in Q3 early Q4. Once we see a jump we anticipate that a steady increase of activity will continue through next year and hopefully beyond.

The recession started Q4 2007, approximately 18 months ago, at that time the West Coast was not effected like the East Coast. We had seen a steady decrease in jobs from Q1 2008 with a significant decrease in jobs last September. The West Coast (Bay Area) should recover before other areas of the country because we are/were better prepared for the down turn plus receive more venture money than anywhere else in the world (approximately 1/3 of all VC money) see SJ Mercury Article ( ) and (

Who will be hiring? Most companies are selectively hiring now, but once there is a clear path to growth all will open requisitions that have been on hold. Industries to target can be the ones who received the most investments in 2008:

Software $4.9 Billion
Clean Energy $4.65 Billion
Biotechnology $4.5 Billion
Medical Devices/Equipment $3.46 Billion

These 4 industry segments represent more than 61% of all investments by venture capitalist in 2008 (

Not to sound like a broken record but jobs that are technical are always the ones that are in demand. Jobs that are not core to the business or drive government/industry compliance are going to be hired later as they are not must have positions.

If you are a hiring manager and want to take advantage of the abundance of great people the time to move is now through August. Once the market turns the competition for talent will increase greatly with no warning signs. If you are a job seeker you need to work hard at networking with people you know to get in front of the right hiring manager. Effort is as important as the wording on your resume - both are keys for success in your job search.

Please contact me if you have any questions, happy hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Friday, May 1, 2009

Job Search Revisited

Last week I facilitated a workshop for a group that has just been laid off from a well known Bay Area company. May of the participants had been with this organization from 10 to 30 years, and several had been there since graduating from college. Suffice it to say, what most of them knew about work was connected to a company that will very possibly soon be out of business altogether.
As you can guess, most of the participants were overwhelmed and felt ill prepared for the impending job search. Their resumes, besides looking and feeling dated, were loaded with industry jargon and acronyms. They had almost no understanding about the transferability of their skills or how to begin articulating their accomplishments in terms of added value for a potential new employer. And, needless to say, the concept of networking was something they were dreading with a fear that was almost palpable.
Our two hours together was to help them begin tuning up and getting ready for an efficient and effective job search. Their major expressed concern was the state of the economy and it took them awhile to realize there were a number of things they needed to do regardless of how the how high the unemployment rate was. Once they began to accept the reality of their situation, they went to work on updating and upgrading their resumes. We talked about how to reframe their skills in language that others would understand and they learned how to build an accomplishment-based resume that highlighted both their skills and the results they achieved.
As they began to realize that most people get their jobs through the connections they have (or are willing to make), the power and importance of networking became apparent. They discussed about how much networking they would need to do and the consensus was: do as much as necessary to get in front of someone who has the power to hire you. For some, those already well connected, this might be several, and for others, who have few meaningful contacts, networking might need to become a near full-time effort. Many in the audience were not happy with that prospect.
The last part of the workshop focused on interviewing. Most of the participants couldn’t recall the last formal interview they’d had and when I asked if they’d ever heard of a “behavioral” interview, you could almost feel the panic in the crowd. After calming them down and assuring them that a good interview, regardless of style, consists of telling your story in a clear and compelling manner while emphasizing what you can and will do, you will more often than not, conduct a strong interview. With that as our final topic, they went on their way, better equipped to conduct an effective job search.
Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are We There Yet? Getting Ready for the Recovery

I’m asked continuously by job seekers and people in career transition how I see the job marketplace. The specific questions are: Are we at the bottom yet? How high will unemployment go? When will the recovery begin? When will the job market improve? And, what will the job market look like when things turn around?

This last question is the most pertinent and most useful. First of all, when I hear this one, I can see that people are looking ahead and are using their strengths in a positive way to envision where future opportunities will be. Secondly, this question indicates that people are putting their attention less on externals and (Does it really make a difference that unemployment is 10%, rather than 9%?) and instead are focusing on those things over which they do have control. That is to say, what can they do now to prepare themselves for when things turn around?

There are a number of things you can do to get ready for the recovery. You can make sure your resume is current and emphasizes your accomplishments, over and above what you are or were responsible for. Furthermore, it should paint a clear picture of your skills and the added value that result from those skills. Secondly, this is an excellent time to be enhancing or adding to your skill set. Take that class you’ve been putting off, read the book your colleagues have said is a must-read. Learning, whether through formal means or self-study, is fundamental to preparing for the recovery.

This is also an excellent time to be developing the habit of networking. I’m finding that people are very open to helping and advising others, so this is an opportune time to renew old contacts and make new connections. The key to networking is to make it a disciplined part of how you manage your career, regardless of whether or not you are in transition. You can also be scripting and rehearsing the story you will be asked in the not-too-distant future: “How did you weather the recession and what did you do to enhance your employability.” Practicing this now will build your resilience and make it easier to move forward in a clear and confident manner.

Finally, this is a great time to be working on what some have called “presence.” You can use your experience of being out of work or unhappily employed as an exercise in developing patience and persistence. You can learn how to stay calm and focused amidst the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds you. And, you can develop a sense of perspective when you recognize that no matter how bad things might be, this shall, as they say, pass.

Best wishes in preparing for the recovery.

Mark Guterman

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Cave

The entrance to one of the buildings where I work has just undergone a complete renovation. It’s now well lighted, with high ceilings and a very open and inviting feel. The other day I asked the security guard what he thought about the new entry and he simply shrugged his shoulders and answered, “It feels like a cave.” He wasn’t smiling when he spoke and I took his response to mean that he wasn’t entirely thrilled with the new entrance, beautiful as it now is.
That’s often how it is with change; even one that most would agree is an improvement. Almost no one really likes to change and most of us, no matter what we say to ourselves and others, resist change. The familiar becomes comfortable, creating a sense of stability. Just think of your current workplace, especially if business is not going well right now. This is the reason why people will stay in a miserable job or one where the boss is abusive, sometimes for years and then move on only when forced to. Homeostasis, our need to keep things the same and stay put, is powerful.
The challenge we are facing, however, is that the pace of change is accelerating and the changes we are faced with can often be dramatic. This causes a great deal of resistance, which in turn heightens our stress and anxiety. And as stress and anxiety intensify, it becomes more difficult to manage the demands we face each day. This process can easily turn into a downward spiral leading to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and possibly, depression.
So, how does one avoid this potential vicious cycle and instead make the process of change an ally? There are several things to do. One is to recognize and accept that change, big and small, is a fact in our lives. Next, once you fully understand this, you can then work to look for the positives in any change that comes your way. The security guard could have chosen any number of ways to describe the new entrance, other than as a “cave.” Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is to make change an opportunity for learning. That is to say, with every change, you need to pose the question: What does this experience of change teach me that will allow me to be more effective in the future?
One final note is to understand that all change, even the positive ones like a raise or a promotion, cause stress. This means that having a practice of stress management will serve as a preventive and can inoculate you to the negative effects of continuous and rapid change. Stress management techniques can include any or all of the following: regular exercise, getting plenty of rest, eating well, having someone to talk with about important issues, keeping a diary or journal, regular prayer or meditation, yoga . . . .
Best wishes in managing change.

Mark Guterman

Saturday, March 21, 2009


With each additional piece of news about foreclosures, layoffs, and organizations declaring bankruptcy and going out of business, our individual and collective anxiety rises. The stories we hear and tell about losing jobs and houses or shrinking retirement funds, are frequently met with sighs of recognition and resignation, which only serves to reinforce and amplify our sense of fear and helplessness.
It would only seem natural, then, that during times like these, a sense of gloom might overpower the desire to create meaning in our work and lives. We tell ourselves that meaning is a luxury, and can well be put on hold until the crisis passes or at least until things begin to get better. That’s a reasonable conclusion to draw. What if, however, we are in a very long cycle (think Japan in the 1990’s) of economic stress? Do you want to spend all that time feeling anxious and waiting until things are settled before you begin to build meaning into your work and life?
I recognize the depth of this anxiety, and at the same time, believe that this is a good time to begin building meaning into one’s work life. There are two reasons for this. First of all, times of transition create openings for new awareness and learning. This can be a time for exploring areas and ideas that have been previously ignored or put on hold. Secondly, when there is much stress and disruption around us, there are opportunities for seeing and creating new possibilities. During times of high anxiety, however, keeping these in mind may be a real challenge.
So, if one wanted to work toward meaning during this time, how would the process begin? At a minimum, there are three things one can do right now. First of all, you can take time for reflection to clarify your purpose. I recommend a daily routine of quiet where you can sit and ask yourself: “What is most important to me and what am I here to achieve?” Secondly, you can commit to building your sense of purpose into the stories you tell yourself and others. That is, you can make sure that even the most anxiety-inducing stories are connected to your long-range vision. And finally, when you hear the anxious stories of friends and colleagues, you can share with them your renewed sense of purpose and commitment to same, while offering them a “reframing,” or a new way of looking at and thinking about their circumstances.
This growing sense of anxiety, just as with our on-going need for meaning, is as much about outlook and mindset as it is about our actual circumstances. Each of us has choice about how to see and interpret our work and lives and we believe that many of us have “defaulted” into our anxiety. We’d like to suggest that it doesn’t have to be this way; that we can also focus on creating meaning. In making that choice we reverse the equation: Meaning Up; Anxiety Down.
Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pulling Back from the Edge

Have you found yourself recently feeling so stressed and anxious, that when you stop and look at it honestly, you would say you are near or at the edge? The bad news is that more and more people are answering “yes” to that question and to make matters worse, it looks as though circumstances may not improve any time in the near future. Many people are seeing their bank accounts and retirement funds shrink, watching as their current and future career/job prospects continue to remain bleak, and all the while their general sense of confidence and optimism continues to decline. As bad as this looks and feels, it is important to remember that you are not along and more importantly, there are things you can do to pull back from the edge.

First of all, whatever your current situation and stress levels are, you must accept and own the situation. You need to, as they say, get real and deal with where you are. Secondly, you need to resolve to move forward in a smart and disciplined way. This means you must develop a compelling goal, or clear line of site. Even if you don’t know any or all of the steps needed to achieve the goal, you can begin moving forward by taking one step at a time. The movement not only leads to learning that which will help you to know subsequent steps, but as you move toward your goal, your stress level will lighten and allow you to pull back from the edge.

As these action steps are underway, it is advisable to build daily stress management practices into your routine. This should include: Regular and vigorous physical activity; daily time for quiet, reflection, meditation, or prayer; fun and pleasant activities; time with friends and family, where you converse about things for which you are grateful and appreciative. Whatever stress management activities you take on, the more you integrate them into how you live and work each day, the more likely you’ll be able to keep yourself from getting too close to the edge.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, is to examine your attitude about your life and work. There is ample data to show that optimists handle stress and anxiety better than pessimists. By keeping a positive outlook and recognizing that you will survive the current, dire circumstances, you might actually come through this period wiser for having gone through it. Though these are painful times for many of us, this is also a great opportunity to build your resilience, while at the same time strengthening your capacity to work at or near an edge without succumbing to being overwhelmed.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Few Words about Transition

I think we can all agree we’re in the middle of transitional times. We don’t know what the Bay Area employment situation is going to look like a year from now, but it’s a good bet it will look different from what it is now.

The big question is where will you fit? For many, things may not change at all. They will have the same job, with the same organization, and will remain on the same career path. However, for those of us whose organization or company didn’t survive the downturn, or whose career/industry specialty fell out of favor with the marketplace, transition may be in order. For these folks, searching for a new job is merely part of the equation; they may have to make an overall career or industry shift as well.

If this scenario describes you, my first bit of advice is don’t panic. One can have a two pronged game plan that presents short and long term goals. If you find yourself unemployed and your career path or industry is struggling, stop and take a step back. Look at the big picture what’s happening in your local economy. Even in these tough times, people are still getting hired. Conduct research on who is getting hired, what skills are still in need, and what types of companies and organizations are hiring. A good place to start your research is at the bureau of labor statistics website: Also, one can exam multiple on line job boards, and make note job opportunity trends in your preferred locales. I’ve also found that reading local business publications will give you the latest trends on what types of organizations might be fairing better then others in your marketplace:

Once, you’ve made your observations about what jobs are currently viable in your marketplace, then make a general assessment about your own skill sets, and connect them to what’s in demand and available. Remember, the job you seek on the short run, doesn’t have to represent your long term career plans. Give yourself permission to take a short term step back in responsibility, or pay. You won’t be alone. Sometimes, it’s just about getting a job.

Once you’ve found a place to work during these difficult times, you can then start researching and planning your long term career adjustment. As this point, enlisting the help of a career coach may not be a bad idea. For ideas about career transition, visit:

--Steve Hernandez,

Monday, February 16, 2009

Networking Amnesia

Last week I facilitated a workshop for 40 professionals and managers in transition called, “Getting Back to Business in Uncertain Times.” In addition to focusing on the usual job search strategies and techniques, we spend a fair amount of time talking about the challenges facing job seekers in this market.

There was, of course, a great deal of stress and anxiety, and most of the participants realized that managing their emotions and keeping a positive attitude might make the difference between a receiving a job offer and being “candidate # 2”. We also spent time talking about how those who are willing to work the process with discipline and courage are the ones who will be re-employed sooner.

The one theme that repeated throughout the session was that networking, practiced regularly and with finesse, is a real difference maker and is the one thing people can do to maintain a sense of hope and control in an otherwise non-rational process. As sophisticated as most of the participants were, many did not fully appreciate the power of networking, both in making meaningful connections, but also in building momentum into the process.

Furthermore, even though most in the room had gotten virtually all of their previous jobs through connections, they seemed resistant to that fact and some even claimed “networking amnesia,” having forgotten how effective the process was during earlier transitions. Fortunately, by the time the workshop was over, there was near unanimous agreement on the power of networking and everyone in the room stood up at the end to make a verbal agreement to make networking a core strategy in getting back to business.

Let us know if we can help with your networking efforts or anything else regarding your transition or career issues.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Job Market Update Q1, 2009

Back in November I wrote that we had seen a trend of a steady decrease in new jobs for 10 to 12 month period and then in September/October we had seen a significant drop in new search activity. We needed a number of things to take place to turn the job market around. They were:

1. Better than expected holiday season and better than expected Q4 corporate earnings resulting in more confidence that the worst may be over.
2. With better than expected results in Q4 a change in the volatility in the capital markets will need to take place if it hasn't already.
3. Companies who have been able to stay profitable will need to have the confidence that business will continue to do well and the investment in human capital will not result in layoffs 6 to 9 months down the road.

Well.......I don't think any of that happened in December and January. So where are we now? Hopefully near the bottom of a hiring down turn. We don't expect the job market to get much better over the next three months. It may stay down until the end of summer. We are optimistic that by the end of this calendar year it will improve and 2010 will be a good time to look for your ideal job.

We believe that a significant increase in hiring will not take place until corporate America has the confidence that the economy will start growing. For now, when a company has made the decision to open up a hiring requisition most if not all hiring managers will be patient, they are looking to hire the best and will not feel the pressure of losing someone to a competitor.

I have no secrets to ensure your success in finding a job. I recommend each job seeker to work hard, be flexible and be reasonable and express interest if you are interested. Talk with our Career Services people to help you with interview techniques and how to market yourself.

I will update you all in three months with some positive news........I hope.

Happy hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stuck on Stupid

I was working with a client last week and we were doing an exercise where we had him look at the defining moments in his work and life, along with the lessons learned and how he has changed over the years. As we went through a number of his experiences, he repeated several times that he had a tendency to get “stuck on stupid,” which meant for him that he had a hard time moving on and he also sometimes failed to learn the lessons that were embedded in particularly difficult experiences.
As this phrase began to resonate and stick in my brain, I recognized that we all can and do get stuck on stupid. There are many reasons for this, of course, and it mostly has to do with our fears of letting go, of making the changes needed to move on in our work and lives. For many of us, staying stuck is far preferable to making the changes necessary to get what we want. This accounts for why most people don’t make job or career changes unless they are forced by layoff, depression, burnout or the like.
So, as we look ahead for the remainder of 2009, let’s look forward to not getting or staying stuck, that even in a treacherous economy and job market, it is preferable to move than to be or stay stuck. Here are some thoughts about you might begin to do this.
First take an inventory of your strengths and unique value proposition. Next explore deeply and clarify for yourself what your most important values are. Then set short, medium and long term goals, based on the first two steps. These might have to do with the current job you are in, a hoped for next job or promotion, or a career change of some sort. Try to make these goals as explicit as possible, including detailed action steps and the time frames in which you will take those actions. You might want to tell a trusted friend or co-worker about your plans and ask that person to partner with you regarding your accountability to those action steps.
The key, of course, is not so much which of the goals you achieve, or even when you get there. It is more the matter of moving and keeping yourself from getting stuck again. Once you are moving, it is much easier not only to keep moving, but it will be much more likely that you will achieve your goals. And once you stop and get stuck (whether on stupid or something else), you’ll find it’s much more difficult to get started again and even less likely that you’ll achieve the goals you’ve set out for yourself.
So, don’t get stuck on stupid—get going and keep moving.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The theme for 2009 is likely to be “surviving the recession,” and whether you are currently in transition, it is prudent to be prepared for whatever might await you in the weeks and months ahead. A recent article by Kate Lorez, editor of, emphasized the following activities:

1. Pay attention to fields and industries, such as health care, food services, education, etc. that are experiencing worker shortages or are still experiencing growth.
2. Freshen your skills, especially those that can be leveraged and transferred to other functions or fields.
3. Network continuously and be sure to have a well established internet voice (i.e. LinkedIn).
4. Think in terms of results and how you can articulate and communicate how you add value.
5. Practice telling your “story” with particular emphasis on what makes you unique and how that adds value.
6. Find opportunities in your current position and do everything you can to make yourself essential.

To these, I’d like to add several more:

1. If you have not done so, update and revise your resume. Make sure it emphasizes your achievements and results.
2. The best time to look for work is when you don’t really need to— so in addition to regular networking, it is recommended that you do informational interviewing to learn about new possibilities, as well as reconnecting with old colleagues and friends.
3. Become familiar with the dynamics of the transition process and recognize the ways that transition can be a positive experience.

Whether you are currently in transition or not, the more engaged you are in these kinds of activities, the more smoothly you’ll get through whatever transition awaits you. If you are having trouble getting started or are feeling stuck, career coaching can assist you to prepare for and successfully move through transition. Give us a call.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman