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January 14, 2014 

Start off the Year with an Intention; then Focus Your Attention

Happy New Year! Here's a good way to start off the year.

I read the following in a Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog by Caroline Web:

“… if we consciously decide what’s really most important to us — on this day, in this interaction, during this task — we can more proactively determine what we notice and remember. We can … see more of the reality we want to see. In short, we can change our experience.”

Ms. Web refers to a well known experiment by Chabris and Simons where you’re asked to focus on a task in a video (e.g.: count the number of basketball passes) while in the background a guy in a gorilla suit walks across the screen. Few people see the gorilla. Their conclusion: our brains screen out most everything except that on which our attention is focused. The experiment and its results have been replicated many times, in many forms, in many professions, including doctors (consider the implications of seeing what you expect to see!). Research shows that our brains process what we’re paying attention to.

I still hear about someone being a great “multi-tasker” as a point of pride. Our brains just don’t multi-task. We do our best work with any specific task, conversation, interaction, etc. if we have an intention, and then focus our attention. And business is beginning to pay attention to paying attention!

What if we directed our attention to a specific intention? Imagine how powerful that degree of presence might be. Imagine that we make the focus of our intention a shift to the positive. For example, instead of using the filter… James is always undermining me! try focusing your attention on other possible motivations James might have (maybe he’s trying to impress me; maybe he’s trying to be a creative problem-solver; etc.). Imagine how your intention to consider a positive motivation might change the conversation with James.

Try committing to an intention (work or personal) and then make it the focus of your attention. Just as an experiment for a week. What effect does it have? Let us know on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/whatsnextcoaching or click the link at the top of this page!).

June 17, 2013

Long After Recession’s End, Deep Layoff Scars May Remain (http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/06/recession-layoff-scars?utm_source=cc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nwsltr-13-06-14)

My comment on the above article:  "I applaud [The Globe's, Carey Goldberg] for "going public." Though most people will not talk about it (due to humiliation, dredging up painful feelings, misunderstanding by future employers, etc, etc), the big secret is that most people at some point in their careers are laid off or fired. I know this from experience, mine and my clients.

I'm a career coach with a clinical and HR background, and I work with many people whose self-esteem has been injured, or traumatized, by an employer's actions. I tell them it's a type of PTSD (I like the term Post-Dismissal Traumatic Stress that Erik Gregory from MSPP talks about). The trauma sneaks back to haunt us long after the event, and can even be triggered at a new job. Relief from it comes with healing one's self-esteem, understanding of the dynamics of the original situation (and the self-doubt that accompanies it), and being able to reality check the triggers and their effects in the current job.

It pains me to know the effect employers can have on smart, capable, creative, promising and accomplished employees by actions meant to help the company, but are insensitive to the humans it’s affecting. My advice: please don't suffer this alone! Get support - from mentors, teachers, career coaches, or therapists. But know there is support out there so the effects of the event don't derail you in future jobs."

What's Next Coaching has helped dozens of clients with the PDTSD of job loss, and can help you too!


February 20, 2013

How Important is Self-Confidence to the Success of a Job Search?  5 Tips to Move Confidence into Positive Territory 

The short, and probably not unexpected, answer is that self-confidence may be the most critical factor to the success of your job search. Who wants to hire someone who can’t communicate confidence in themselves or their skills?

The toughest thing is, how do you increase confidence and self-esteem when it’s the lack of a job or disappointment in the job search that’s causing the downward slide?

The answer requires most of us to let go of our cynicism, self-judgments and, as some like to call it, “edginess.” But if you want to convince an employer of your value, here’s what to substitute:

1.       Learn to be optimistic. This isn’t about being a “Pollyanna” (or the male equivalent). Brain research has shown that neural pathways become set by the way we think, and if we think negatively, then those neural pathways become entrenched in negative patterns. It’s like how we drive the same route to get to someplace we go regularly. It becomes second nature, or a habit. Our car goes there almost by itself. It just needs the prompt of “doctor’s office” or other usual destination. Those habitual routes are like neural pathways in our brain. To change the pattern, we have to think consciously and intentionally. Building a new positive neural pathway takes catching oneself in the glass half empty talk, and redirecting to glass half full. Soon, it will become a habit to see the glass half full, and a new neural pathway will be established.

2.       Stop talking about what you haven’t done or what’s missing in your skills or background. Start talking about the skills and experience you do have. Come up with examples of how your background fits the qualifications of a job. If you can come up with an example from your background for more than half the qualifications, apply for the job.

3.       Always write and talk about what you can do. There’s no reason to talk about what you can’t do. This includes conversations with friends and family, maybe especially in conversations with friends and family. Start noticing how often you talk about what you can’t do. Then start changing it to what you can do.

4.       Stay active. Get exercise. Get out of the house. Volunteer. Set up informational interviews. Be curious. Brains produce chemicals that create and influence mood. If we’re active, involved and engaged in something each day, especially if it involves physical exercise, it will have a positive influence on mood

5.       Finally, create a statement that describes the value you would bring to an employer. Think about the value you’ve brought to past employers (the good experiences), the value you brought to your project team in college, or the value you bring to your group of friends, or even one friend. And if you have difficulty coming up with a few things, ask your closest family and friends. They’ll tell you if you ask. And while you’re at it, ask them to make it real by reminding you of a few examples.

If you keep at it, you’ll find you can turn the corner and your self-confidence will be there ready to meet you!

Sandy Machson is the founder of What’s Next Coaching in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A respected Career and Leadership Coach, and Human Resources Consultant, Sandy has been working in the field for over two decades. Learn more at www.whatsnext-coaching.com.



January 13, 2013

The Boston Globe today has several valuable articles for job seekers: Check out the LinkedIn article, the Multimedia Resume article, and "The 2013 Outlook: Slow hiring, then it picks up."  http://www.bostonglobe.com/business


"Generation Stuck" from the Perspective of a Career Coach

Revised January 9, 2012

WBUR has highlighted many of the challenges of 20-somethings trying to get started on their careers in their series called "Generation Stuck." #generationstuck. Or GenStuck. #genstuck. Even though the label makes me cringe, it’s been used this past year in articles from The Atlantic (3/12/12) to The Huffington Post (4/11/12), and elsewhere. I’ve heard 20-somethings called lazy and entitled. Terrible labels to stick on a generation of young adults who are doing their damnedest to become self-supporting, responsible adults in a world trying to climb out of a major economic disaster.

I’m a career coach and I’ve worked with many 20-somethings, or early career professionals. Every one of them is extraordinary in his or her own way. Every one of them has accomplished so much already in their lives. From internships to various jobs, from international experiences to a wide range of service projects, from getting involved in local politics to community organizing, the 20-somethings I’ve encountered have strong values, an amazing world view, knowledge of economics, technology and social systems, as well as many skills and powerful perspectives to share.

However, these days landing a job is nothing like their parents’ job searches; maybe nothing like their older siblings’ job searches. No longer can you send out 20 resumes, get 3 interviews and land your job. Since 2008, finding a job requires a carefully planned and executed strategy. And time.

Here is what I have found to be the most common path to finding a job, for all ages, but definitely for early career folks:

  1.           Know thyself! Know your strengths, personality characteristics, and the impact you have on others - when you are at your best.

    2.     Be able to identify and articulate what differentiates you. Start with what differentiates you from your friends and family - when you are at your best.

    3.     Be able to articulate your personal brand – the unique contribution that is characteristic of anything / everything you do. Again, when you are at your best.

    4.     Itemize all your accomplishments – from high school to the present, from very small ones to the major ones. Prioritize which are most important to you.

    5.     Develop a powerful resume based on those accomplishments. Speak about them with pride.

    6.     Exercise. Regularly.

    7.     Learn how to network in a way that’s fun and energizing. Yes, it’s possible! And necessary.

    8.     Learn the best ways to use social media in your job search. Develop a powerful presence on LinkedIn (the most used site by job creators to find candidates!) Create a blog about your interests. Clean up your Facebook and Twitter sites. Start creating social media entries that highlight your strengths. Prospective employers look for these.

    9.     Volunteer. Then write about your experiences on you blog.

    10.   Find strategies to sustain your energy, motivation and hope during your job search. Do things that make you happy. It’s not a sign of laziness if you play your guitar, join a soccer or swim team, paint, perform at open mic night, etc.  Set a personal goal, like running a half-marathon or 5k race. It will give you the energy you need to run the job search marathon.

I would never say that finding a good job is easy. And these days, it can take a long time. Sometimes it helps to consult with a professional. But don’t give up. Contrary to what it may feel like, you have plenty of time to have a career that’s truly satisfying and enables you to support yourself.

Sandy Machson is the founder of What’s Next Coaching in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A respected Career and Leadership Coach, and Human Resources Consultant, Sandy has been working in the field for over two decades. Learn more at www.whatsnext-coaching.com.


January 7, 2013

From WBUR - Important, creative job search techniques create an edge:

6 Steps To Find A Job For Soon-To-Be College Grads

By John Wilpers

Many 20-somethings have become discouraged by a difficult job market. A growing number of recent college graduates have taken low-level jobs and moved back in with their parents. Their self-esteem has vanished as a result of rejection letters and what seems like a dead-end job search after college.

But John Wilpers says the opportunities are abundant for these Millenials and they just need to know how to navigate a digital savvy marketplace, and how to presents themselves to get noticed and land that job.

Wilpers founded a company called Degrees2Dreams, which advises college students and recent college grads on how to manage their careers. Wilpers says there are six basic steps that new grads can take:

  1. Clean Up Your Digital Footprint: Make sure your online presence is professional. Get rid of those incriminating photos and ranting blog entries.
  2. An Interactive Resume:  It should include links to multimedia samples of your work and also a video link of a reference such as a professor giving a testimonial about you.
  3. A Professional ‘Me Site’: This will serve as a digital portfolio of your best work. It will help hiring managers who search for you on the Web find the “best version” of you.
  4. A Professional ‘Passion Blog’: This blog should showcase the skills your resume says you have and your knowledge of your field; raise your profile in the industry; and build your professional network as more and more key people hear from and/or about you.
  5. A Social Media Marketing Campaign: “Social media can open opportunities for you that you could never have dreamed of,” Wilpers says. The campaign should promote you as you follow and interact professionally with the key players in your field.
  6. An Informational Interview Campaign: “You need to go out and interview the people working in the field of your choice and put those interviews in your blog,” Wilpers says. “Then four months later when you call those people who might hire you they will take your call. A blog is the most powerful tool you can use.”

Related WBUR Series: Generation Stuck


For managers at any level, here are excerpts from a valuable HBS blog:

Your Employees Are Not Mind Readers

As a leader, what do you want to accomplish? Do your employees know what needs to be done to reach that objective? Do they know how you expect them to behave? And — once they know the "what" and "how" — do you provide them with enough autonomy to get the job done in an effective and timely way? These are pragmatic business issues that all leaders encounter. Here are a few thoughts on how you can more effectively address these issues and reach your goals in an authentic and enduring way.

Collaboratively Develop The "What" And The "How"

Before anything else, you engage stakeholders in a conversation about where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. By seeking and valuing their perceptions, you increase their commitment, confidence, and the likelihood of getting traction when it is time to execute. This collective perspective helps define what needs to be done (the what) and the behaviors needed to deliver (the how).

Declare Yourself — and Live By Your Commitments

Often leaders have the best intentions, but people cannot read their minds. That's why it's important to declare yourself: Tell people why you choose to lead and the code you live by. Lisa, a VP who led an innovation team, was struggling in her attempts to influence some of her peers. When meeting with one especially resilient colleague, she made a conscious decision to meet with him privately and do something she has never done before; Lisa let down her guard and was transparent. She declared herself by talking about her values and explaining why she cared so much about her work. Then she said, "I want to have a strong working relationship. Can you tell me what you look for in a colleague? What does it take for you to trust someone?"

Respect Autonomy

You need to be careful not to carry the "what" and the "how" to an extreme. It would be counterproductive to tell people exactly what they are supposed to do and exactly how they are supposed to do it to a point where they become more concerned about your expectations than about completing their work in a quality way.

In the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink did a great job identifying what motivates people. His research uncovered that the number one key motivator is autonomy, or acting with choice. People hunger to be the master of their own destiny. Therefore, you have to recognize that people want to know what is expected of them but want as much freedom to operate as possible so that they can deliver the expectations in a way that works for them. In fact, the best solutions often lie in the creative tension between these natural dualities.

Be Consistent

Not only do you need to declare yourself early, you need to declare yourself over and over again. People lead complicated lives and aren't hanging on your every word or the company mission statement. You have to become a broken record of your expectations of the organization and show people why it is relevant and how it works in specific ways.

Remain Adaptable

The one thing I know is that whatever decisions I make, they will sometimes be wrong. So, when I declare myself, I acknowledge that at some point I will make a mistake.

Making this room for yourself, being flexible, does not say that you don't know what you are doing. What it does say is that you know exactly what you are doing and, because of this understanding, you know everyone makes mistakes.

When you do mess up — and you will — the key is to course-correct and to do it quickly. The most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge your mistake, commit to do better, and make sure you follow through.

Wrapping It All Up

Use each interaction as an opportunity to practice the elements listed here. Aim for improvement with each interaction. Commit to developing ever greater clarity and capabilities so that you may become ever more helpful in the moment. So say what you care about, make it clear what you intend to do, and remain accountable.


October 2012

My inspiration for today was from Tony Schwartz's blog at www.theenergyproject.com

Fueling Creativity and Innovation

With relentless demand, limited resources, and constant distractions, it's understandable that many of us struggle to set aside time for thinking creatively and strategically. Creative ideas don't come to you when you're hunkered down at our desks, or trudging from meeting to meeting. The right hemisphere of the brain is more active when you are doing reflective, open-minded, big picture thinking, but you can only get there by stepping back from immediate, urgent demands. 

As a leader, you have an opportunity to provide your team with the time, space, and motivation to do that, both individually and together. Setting aside time in meetings for brainstorming and long-term strategy, as well as giving people sacrosanct time for renewal and creative thinking, helps to foster a culture of innovation.

Nurturing creativity is an integrated process that draws on all dimensions of energy, and their components: sleep, rest, exercise, positive emotions, uninterrupted time to focus, and a sense that what you're doing matters. The capacity to think creatively is something that can be trained systematically and improved dramatically through time and practice. Find some great tips and ideas below for fostering your creativity!


June 2012

Pressing the PAUSE Button

This weekend in the Globe, there was a review of a biography of author and playwright Lillian Hellman. The subtitle under her picture read: "Lillian Hellman's life and politics ignited controversy." Personally, I thought most of the controversies she ignited needed to be ignited. But the question that came to mind was - was she effective in leading the charge to empower women - the theme about which she seemed most impassioned? Or did she just “ignite controversy?”

This made me think about leadership - and not just about people whose job is leadership. It made me think about the power of our emotions and being effective as a leader. On one hand, being impassioned can be a powerful leadership tool. But, I can’t tell you how many times my leadership capacity was incapacitated by those trigger-happy emotions.  

Emotional triggers, especially around our values, are ripe for the picking by those with whom we work most closely. If we are using our emotional intelligence, we learn to manage these situations by managing our own emotions. Easier said than done. When our chemical brain signals go into fight or flight mode, we may not even recognize it until we’ve “ignited controversy.”

So how can we be true to ourselves, provide leadership, and manage our emotional reactions? This is actually very complex. However, the one thing most of us miss is our ability to press the “pause” button. There are 2 easy steps we can take toward taming our brain, our emotions and increasing our emotional and leadership intelligence:

  1. Notice the trigger. Don’t try to get rid of it – that’s virtually impossible. Just start by noticing that you’ve been triggered. Notice the tension inside yourself. Notice how shallow your breathing is.
  2. Take a couple of long, deep breaths. Start with letting out all your breath as much as you can, and then breathing in from the bottom of your diaphragm to the top of your chest. Do this a few times. This is the PAUSE button.
Go back to the situation that caused the trigger. Anything different now?


April 16,2012

Having a new website is like having a new toy to play with. Please come back to this page often for News from What's Next.

For the moment, What's Next News is that this website is all now open for business - with all new content. Please take a look around. I'd love to hear your feedback on the What's Next Facebook page (click button at the top of the page).

See you soon again.

-Sandy Machson



This link will take you to Sandy's interview on WBUR: smachson


Link to WBUR article with tips for "Generation Stuck" (12/20/12):


What's Next Coaching | sandy@whatsnext-coaching.com | 617.462.4805