How to Write a Resume Like a Professional

How to Write a Resume Like a Professional

This article is a recipe for reaching your ideal job goal in the shortest amount of time.

In this article we will cover:

  • What Goes in a Resume
  • Job Targeting
  • Performance Profiles
  • Writing to Bots
  • Formatting
  • Do I really *need* a resume?
  • Career Coaches & Resume Writers
  • Templates

What Goes in a Resume

You may be an expert in your field, newly graduated, full of unique ideas, or the top sales professional on your team, you know how to get your job done, but you still don’t know what to put in your resume.

If this is you — you are not alone. I get messages all the time: “Help me! I don’t know what to put in my resume! What should I write in my resume? How do I highlight my achievements? What should I put for my skills? What? What? What?

If you find yourself panicked and at a loss, the first thing you might do is to write down a few lists:

List 1: Your Values — what do you value, and how does this show up in your work? Are you timely? A stickler for details? Do you think out of the box? Do you listen deeply? What do you impact do you want to make in this world?

Write down your CORE Values and consider taking the VIA Character Survey.

I call the VIA (Values in Action) Survey answers “how you BE” in this world.

List 2: Your Strengths — what do you rock? What do you do well? What kinds of problems do people come to you to solve? What can you do that is easy for you and hard for other people? What are your STRENGTHS?

To learn more about your Strengths take the Strengths Finder 2.0

Amazon affiliate link: make sure to buy a new book/kindle for online test code.

List 3: Your Interests — what do you enjoy? What are you doing when you find that perfect mix of challenge and pleasure? What activities let you get caught in a state of flow? What kind of problems do you love to research, solve or explore? What are your INTERESTS?

Not sure about your interests or passions? Does your current job bore you? Did you study the wrong thing or end up in management, but hate management? Consider booking a single Career Coaching session to set your career on the right track before you start your next job search.

Book a coaching session.

List 4: Your Needs — these might be financial (your salary and benefits), they might be your work environment (office, flexible, remote, requires travel, etc.), they might be intellectual or physical. What do you NEED from your job?

Not sure about your needs? Consider booking a single Career Coaching session.

Book a coaching session.

List 5: Your Target Job — now find 3 to 5 ideal job postings on the Internet, go ahead and print them off and highlight all the skills, experiences, qualifications, tasks, job requirements, and benefits that show up in the job descriptions. Circle the ones that also show up on one of your lists above.

Sketch out Your Resume

Your resume will have approximately five different sections:

  • Performance Profile
  • Key Skills & Experiences/Key Accomplishments
  • Work Experience
  • Education/Certifications
  • Technologies/Interests/Coursework

Your Performance Profile (see below) will match your employer’s values, strengths, unique skills, achievements, and needs/interests.

Your Key Skills & Experiences functions to confirm for the employer that you can do all the required tasks have the necessary knowledge, the soft skills, the hard skills, the language skills, or the technologies to get the job done.

Your Work Experience will demonstrate what you enjoy, what you have done, where you’ve learned or accomplished something crucial, and how this has played out in your previous and current employment.

If you’ve only got volunteer work or school projects, go ahead and list those instead, figure out what ties into your job search and highlight those details. For example, name the section “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.”

Your Education/Certifications show that you’ve got the technical requirements for the job. Often the “education” requirement can be replaced by “equivalent work experience.” Legal Certifications tend to be less flexible (licenses, etcetera), but you may get away with showing you are studying/preparing to contact them by X date.

Recent graduates list education right after the performance profile, and experienced employees list it at the end of the resume.

Technologies and Interests: some resumes list hobbies and interests or other technologies, which is technically a waste of space UNLESS your hobbies and interests, or technologies relate directly back to the job you seek.


When deciding which accomplishment stories, metrics, achievements, skills, and experiences to include on your resume, ask yourself: Is this relevant to the job I seek? Is this something that is required? Is this something that I enjoy doing and want to do more? If the answer is yes, work it into your resume.

Just because you CAN or DID do something doesn’t mean it is relevant or wise to include it on your resume. Think of what an employer NEEDs to know to hire you: What kind of person do they need? What skills? What personality strengths? Make sure you answer these questions and don’t worry about leaving out irrelevant details.

Job Targeting

How to write a resume based on the job description:

Many job seekers want to cry when they learn that you most likely will not get hired by submitting the same resume to every job application.

Unfortunately, when 200+ resumes get submitted to a job posting, the best way to ensure your resume gets pulled is to write a killer resume and tailor it to every individual job description.

There are a few shortcuts that you can take to make this process easier and less painful.

Tip #1:

The first time you craft your resume, write it to target your top three job postings. This tactic will help ensure that you get the most critical requirements, skills, and experiences in your resume and that it is well-formatted for the work you seek. And you can use it to apply to each of these three jobs.

Tip #2:

Use my favorite resume scanning tool, CVScan, to re-match your resume to each job description. Your goal is to have a minimum 80% match; when I write resumes for clients, I aim for more than 90%.

When using CVScan make a note of the words and phrases CVScan highlights as red; when you update your resume to match the new job description, make sure to get these words into the first half of your resume. Rescan.

Tip #3:

When applying for jobs, write the job title EXACTLY as named in the job posting on the top of your resume above your performance profile. This will assure the bot and the hiring human that you want the job for which you’ve just applied

Note the difference in these titles:


PERFORMANCE PROFILE: Business Process Analyst

PERFORMANCE PROFILE: IS Business Analyst/Relationship Manager


Let’s say you submit an application for the Relationship Manager position above with a resume titled “Test Analyst,” maybe the skills required for these jobs are similar. Still, quality assurance tests are different from customer relationships, and the hiring manager will immediately doubt your fit.

Take 30 seconds to update your resume and ensure the correct job title is on the resume header.

Tip #4

The first thing that often happens once you start applying to multiple jobs and customizing your resume to each one is that you quickly lose track of which resume went where. This can result in an embarrassing conversation down the road.

To avoid this conflict, do two things: Save each resume using your Last Name or Initials plus the company name and the date you applied.

For example, Rakoto.HR Costco.15.04.2019

And then, use a spreadsheet that tracks each job, resume title, date applied, and any notes. Here is a link to an excellent online job tracking spreadsheet (no need to reinvent the wheel).

Performance Profiles

Suppose you are looking to learn how to write a resume objective or write a resume professional summary; in that case, I recommend that you start thinking instead about your “performance profile.” Who are you as a professional, and what do you offer an employer? Objectives fail because they focus on your goals. The performance profile focuses on your ideal employers’ needs.

Your Performance Profile is easily the most critical part of your resume. Your performance profile is a proactive and future-forward replacement of the “objective” and sometimes called a “professional” or “power” summary section.

Your “performance profile” tells an employer what you can do. It speaks to your values and strengths, aligns your goals with that of your employer, and ties your past achievements into your future accomplishments. It shows how you will perform on the job.

Every kickass resume starts with a performance profile. Every. Single. One.

The performance profile is built upon a solid professional narrative. It is versatile; you can use it for your LinkedIn summary, as an elevator pitch, and when you are networking! Write it once, but then modify the language slightly to match the keywords and phrases that show up in each job posting.

Your performance profile should be uniquely yours. It should not sound like a job description; you can even write it in the first person. Resumes that incorporate the first person are what we call “human-voiced resumes,” When done well, they are highly effective.

If you are new to the “human-voiced resume,” consider writing your performance profile in the first person and the remainder of your resume in the third person.

Some recruiters advise against human-voiced resumes and prefer robotic-sounding text; my take on this is that if the recruiter wants to hire a robot, he should employ a robot; if he wants to hire a human, hire a human! I’ve used human-voiced resumes with clients since 2014 for clients and since 2004 for myself!

Digital Marketing Executive – Performance Profile Sample

With a growing passion for mission-driven technologies, I continue to value data-inspired and human-driven product design. In this, I anticipate working with a diverse set of high-level thinkers to collaborate and creatively solve business and user problems. Thus, leveraging my experience to guide teams to generate brilliant and disruptive digital experiences around an organization’s core mission — the end goal — facilitating brands’ seamless and positive integration into people’s lives.

Software Developer – Performance Profile Sample

Personable Senior Developer with twenty plus years of progressive experience, I delight in stuff that works. Committed to continuous professional development and learning: the pleasure is doing the work and seeing the results. I enjoy collaborating with end-users and maintaining open lines of communication with all stakeholders. Adept with requirements, solutions, coding, and communicating meaningful results, I particularly enjoy testing and quality assurance.

Customer Relationship & Sales Manager – Performance Profile Sample

As a charismatic and results-oriented sales professional, I delight in solving customer problems with the best product or service. An early adopter of anything tech,  I am on top of current trends, and I anticipate continuing to deepen my knowledge. I understand the importance of listening skills and customer empathy in finding innovative solutions.

I look forward to contributing to a positive team atmosphere.

How to write a resume that will impress a bot

This isn’t actually a joke. Nearly all resumes get scanned by ATS (Automatic Tracking Software) before going to an actual human being. You need to write a resume that impresses both the bot and the human.

One of the most important reasons NOT to use a cutesy or unique or stylish or trendy resume template is that many of these templates are NOT bot-friendly. For the same reason, avoid using your mad design skills to create image boxes and fixed tables or include another image on your resume.

These things cannot be read by the BOT!

To write a bot-friendly resume you should do the following:

  • Create your resume in a format that allows all of your text to be read in the order of appearance on your page and in a single cohesive text box; for this reason avoid putting your name and contact info in a Header, instead create your first-page header in the body of your document. Multiple text boxes on a single page can result in gibberish and missed text when scanned.
  • Print off or copy the text of 3 to 5 job listings; now highlight the keywords and phrases used in each description and make sure to use these in your resume. Your jargon should match the jargon the bot is scanning for! This is a crucial reason you need to modify your resume for EACH job.
  • The keywords, activities, and requirements listed in a specific job description should appear in the first half the resume. If you want to create interest with synonyms and other technical terms, do so in the second half of your resume. Bots weight the first part of your resume.
  • If specific certificates or educational requirements are a must in the job description, make sure you list your education using the same language in the job description.

If you don’t believe me or someone has told you otherwise (so many resume writers are PIMPING Canva resumes), here is another article that discusses how ATS software reads (or doesn’t read) your resume. If you want to get hired you gotta pay attention to these details!

How to format a resume and get noticed

Writing a resume is hard. It sucks to dive in and dig deep, recalling all the things in our past and figuring out what is the most important or crucial items to list on our resume.

Our biggest fear is that we will come across as sounding boring, robotic, and just not good enough. Selecting a sexy resume template seems like an easy and clever fix to the resume doldrums, but I assure you it is NOT.

Writing a resume is uncomfortable, so it’s really easy to get lost searching out the perfect format. All the online templates created by apps like CANVA make it easy to put too much emphasis on the formatting and forget that it’s the content that really counts.

Yes, your resume needs to be readable and easy on the eyes, but unless you work in graphic design, you are not being hired for your design skills, the content of your resume is more important than a sexy template. And, as we discussed in the previous section you need to address the BOT!

To get hired, spend most of your time working to ensure the content of your resume is relevant, interesting, and that it tells a positive story about what you can do. Use your words and your experiences to stand out, not some fancy type and trendy color combos.

Your resume should look good, but it is the story it tells that people will remember and that will get you hired.

If you’ve got six hours, but three of them into writing your Performance Profile, two into writing the resume content, and one into making sure the format looks good and that the grammar is correct.

If you hire a resume writer, consider that an expert resume writer will spend three to five hours researching, writing, and targeting your resume. If you hire a $50 rewrite that person is either making $10 an hour or they are only putting a lazy hour into modifying your resume.

When I work with clients I provide you a survey that may take YOU upwards of two hours to complete. Writing a GOOD resume is an investment in your future — invest the time, the brainpower, and if needed the money (aka professional support) you need to get ahead.

Hire me to give help with your professional narrative — this is the best way to learn how to write your own winning resume.

Design DOES Matter: Top Formatting Mistakes to Avoid

The design of your resume does matter. A flashy design without compelling content is pointless, but your resume does need to look nice. For this reason, I’ve shared a few simple, clean templates that you can download and use or modify.

The easiest to make mistakes involve fonts, colors, spacing, borders, and the use of image boxes, some tables, and columns (often used with skill ranking systems).

Let’s look at these in detail.

Type Font and Font Color:

If you use an application to create your resume, choose common fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman or Helvetica. These fonts are common because they can be read by all types and ages of computer systems.

Article on type fonts: If you don’t believe me, go to MIT for proof!

You and your hiring manager will likely NOT be using the same type of computer or software; so, to make sure your resume can be read use a common type font and save your resume as a PDF.

When you select your font color (and your backgrounds) take time to think about what it will look like printed in Greyscale. You might format your resume to be bright and cheery, but trust me, a recruiter who prints off 100s of resumes a day won’t be investing in using her color ink to print YOUR resume.

If you want to add variety to your resume, you can use shades of blue or grey fonts that won’t change a lot on different systems. Beware of greens and red or orange as what looks pretty on your screen might look like puke or poop on another. Trust me, I’ve seen it!

Lastly, make sure your resume still looks good and is readable if printed in black and white!

Click here to download my custom and FAVORITE minimalist template.

This is one page but can be easily extended to two pages.

Just remember to put your name and a page number on the second page!

Spacing & Borders

Resumes need to be readable and spacing issues can be awkward. Keep your borders reasonable (don’t go under ¾ inches (0.75) or 1.5 cm on the sides or ½ inch (0.5) or 0.5 cm on the top and bottom.

Double-check that line spacing, period spacing (one), page pagination, and all that jazz is consistent and looks good. If you use block formatting make sure that awkward spaces don’t appear in your blocks.

If your resume goes onto two or three pages (for those of you in very technical fields or with 15+ years of experience) make sure your name and the page number are in the header of the additional pages.


In general, avoid using a border on your resume; different systems produce different results and it might be that your border gets off-centered or moves over your header text or drops onto an additional unnecessary page.

Image Boxes, Tables & Columns

Image boxes cannot be read by the ATS systems period. Don’t use an image for any part of your resume from your name to any details in an image box or logo. The information will be lost. The only place you may wish to use an image is as a background block of color.


If you use MS Word, GoogleDocs or Pages you can create a hidden table to list skills. I like this as a tactic to this is a good way to get extra keywords in your resume and to make it easily modifiable for specific job targeting.

Warning: I’ll say it again. Do not create tables that are images. Do not use a design template like Canva to create a table. These usually cannot be scanned by ATS software.

Hitting Save As > PDF.

As with everything the best way to ensure your PDF lands in the format that you sent it in, is to save it as a PDF. All current versions of Word, Pages and GoogleDocs allow you to save your resume as a PDF.

The exception is that if you are working with a specific recruiter who may wish to reformat your resume to meet specific employer requests. In this case, share a PDF that you approved and an MS Word version that your recruiter can modify.

Linkedin: Are Resumes Still Important?

With the advent of online portfolios, LinkedIn and other forms of social proof, sometimes keeping an updated resume on hand, may seem like overkill; however, resumes ARE not DEAD.

Regardless of the sad number of dead trees involved, if I’ve got to compare 20 or 200 hundred candidates and share them with my colleagues, it’s a heck of a lot easier to share a stack of printed resumes than 200 links, which may all have different amounts of information and load time.

Write a resume that stands out and have it at the ready, ready to share if someone asks for it in both print and PDF form. And then have another version in Word, GoogleDocs or Pages that you can quickly modify to fit a particular job posting.

Luck comes from preparation, if you are not prepared, you’ll never be lucky!

Career Coaches & Resume Writers: Are they worth it?

The number one reason you might hire a resume writer who is a career coach is to reach your goal in the shortest amount of time. Invest in your future TODAY and it will pay off faster than you imagine! Note I wrote, “a resume writer WHO IS ALSO a Career Coach.” Not all resume writers were created equal. Hire a cheap resume rewrite and you may be wasting your money. Hiring a career coach? Now that is a wise investment.

Recently, working with a client who’d been in “career transition” for three years, my client got an interview and job offer BEFORE I even completed rewriting her resume. Why? Because in one coaching call and a conversation about her strengths, I’d taught her to talk about her work differently and with more confidence. All she had to do was tell a more compelling story.

If you simply hire a resume writer (not a career coach), keep in mind that their focus will be on what you tell them and on making your resume keyword ready or giving it a fancy format. If your professional narrative is lacking, if you are targeting the wrong jobs, your average resume writer won’t be any help. Many of my clients have ALREADY WORKED WITH A RESUME WRITER. They come to me because they realized they needed something MORE. They needed a coach to help them articulate their strengths and goals to craft an effective professional narrative.

The BEST reason to hire a career coach is to build your self-awareness and improve your ability to talk about what you can do and want to do, while also gaining the confidence to know that you are on the right path for long-term career satisfaction and success.

Resume writing and job search skills are life-skills, the earlier you learn them, the better off you will be!

How to Pick a Career Coach or Resume Writer

First, I’d check out their LinkedIn profile and recommendations. Just because someone has a website and even testimonials doesn’t make them legit. In this day and age, it’s difficult to “hoax” your LinkedIn.

If your ideal coach or resume writer has nailed her LinkedIn, she can likely help you too. If she’s got reviews (and recent ones) that is also a good sign.

Referrals are another great way to find good writers and coaches, so if you’ve got friends that have just found new jobs, inquire if they got any help!

Writing a good resume takes time and thought. Any service that offers you a 24-hour resume return and for CHEAP is likely just going to play with your formatting and keywords. There is no way that anyone can get to know you and write an effective resume in that amount of time.

Career Coaching also takes time, so anyone promising you a quick fix, may not know what he or she is doing. Take the time and invest in your future. $200 or $500 spent today, is nothing when you consider how much it may increase your future income.

I recently coached a young man (a French ex-pat) for an interview with an American company. One of the subjects I coached him on was salary; thanks to my coaching he got more than double the salary he’d been expecting prior to working with me.

What about Templates?

Yes, I get that you want to take the guessing out of formatting your resume. A top resume search term is “Fast & Reliable Templates,” but the trick is that there is no simple formula.

Many resume templates are super attractive, but for the most part, they are difficult to manipulate and customize for specific jobs and many, such as templates created in CANVA often cannot be read by ATS bots.

If you REALLY want a pretty resume, then do a traditional resume for submitting to jobs online and a general “pretty” one to print off and keep on hand for in-person networking.

You can also use a pretty PDF template if you know for certain that your resume is going directly into a hiring manager’s inbox. Just remember to respect the content and narrative recommendations I discussed above.

Two Templates Just for YOU with built in instructions

Basic One Page Chronological Resume — modify as you see fit!

Functional Resume for a Career Pivot or to hide a GAP — modify as you see fit!


Some Tips for Specific Concerns:

  • How to write a resume as a freelancer: write a resume that supports targeting your ideal client and that highlights the skills you wish to focus on; if you’ve pivoted fields, make sure you’ve got a narrative that backs you up.
  • How to write a resume as a consultant: this will vary depending on your field, but focus on keeping it relevant and using accomplishment stories. Don’t just use action verbs or power words; show people what you do and what you are like to work with.
  • How to write a resume as a stay at home mom: Focus on your strengths and values; don’t discredit volunteer work, describe what you’ve done, learned, managed (going above and beyond titles) over the last few years. Use the language that shows up in job descriptions and show both your drive, your motivation and your understanding of what needs to get done. Your performance profile is your ticket to success — create an image of the professional you can be before they read the rest of the resume!
  • How to write a resume before graduation (and after): Make sure you align your values with those of your ideal employer. Instead of talking about “my goals” or what “I hope to get” show how your goals, skills, drive, ambition will allow you do succeed in a role and solve the employer’s problem — honor your goals but write to the employer’s.

In Conclusion

Your resume is one of the most important investments you can make in your future. You may feel uncomfortable and even annoyed that you’ve got to dig deep and do a good job, but if you want a job you love, you need to put some love into your resume!

Shortcuts and quick fixes, too much of a focus on design and not enough focus on your content will just send you barking up the wrong tree or getting ZERO call backs. Be intentional and thoughtful with your design, making sure that your resume is READABLE by all!

Ready to work with a coach? Book me.

Ready to Learn How to Make Your Own Luck?

Ready to Learn How to Make Your Own Luck?

And, How to Avoid Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Career while you’re at it?

In my experience, women, including myself, often feel like we need a Ph.D. before we can call ourselves an expert. Pretty much every woman I know has at some point (or daily) suffered from feeling like an imposter.

Many young women that want to have both a career and a family, have started putting off the “family” part until their career is “ready.” And or they make vital decisions early on in their career because they see that on a certain path they may never be “ready” to be a mom.

I hear women young and old say “I am not ready yet.” Or, “I need to do this first.”

And although right now, you may think this next statement is off topic, I’ve also noticed that very few women go around saying “Look how lucky I am!”

What women do, is just about any and everything we can do to gain control over our lives because we don’t believe in luck.

But maybe we should. Maybe we SHOULD believe in luck.

Let’s break this down.

What does it mean to be “ready?” Or be “lucky?”

In my experience as a career coach, you are “ready” not when you’ve amassed a particular pile of qualifications, earned your Ph.D. or achieved a certain balance in your bank account.

Being ready is, in fact, a state of BEING.

Note that we talk about being ready, not doing ready. You don’t have to DO a bunch of stuff to be ready or make your own luck. On the flipside not doing is a fast track to making the BIGGEST MISTAKE (and sometimes consecutive mistakes) of your career.

Similarly, we don’t do luck, we don’t be lucky, instead we make luck.

Yes, that is terrible English, but stick with me!

How do you BE ready? And, what MAKES luck?

First, you need to commit to something and you need to know yourself.

As a woman of the 21st century, you are likely aware of how advertising and images affect our images of beauty and idealize what it means to be successful (bling, shiny smooth hair, nice cars, etcetera).

Pretty much everything my 4-year-old daughter already idealizes are all the things that have infiltrated our brains and made us think that we should be anything but whom we actually are.

While you may be sensitive to the influence of the media on women’s physical appearance, you may not be aware of is how much of your personal values and your ideas of personal success have also been influenced by the media. What’s more, it’s not only you the media influence, but also your family, your friends, and society as a whole. Oh, and also by the entire movement of “influencers.”

Then add in the biases embedded in your chosen field of study or work and WOW that is a lot of noise telling us as women not only how we should look and act, but also what we should VALUE.

So, one of the first steps to understanding yourself, being ready and defining your own idea of success, is to stop looking OUTHERE and turn our reflection inwards. Answer the question, what am I committed to?

On August 25th, 2018 I had a life-changing experience. Caught in a riptide while swimming in waves that seemed to have whipped up out of nowhere, I found myself carried farther and farther from the beach, I had to make a decision. I could give in to fear and fatigue and let my kids grow up without a mother or I could will myself to keep treading water and breathing calmly. I chose life as a mom.

Realizing that my fatigue came partially from my panicked state, I calmed myself down and focused. I realized that occasionally I could still touch the bottom and if I could touch the bottom I could wave my arms.

With one eye on the waves and with the knowledge that you can tread water for hours (at least that’s what I’d learned in water safety at age 12), I kept myself afloat. And when I could, I waved a big X or help signal towards the beach.

Finally, a young surfer, Tantely (honey in Malagasy) saw me. He recognized my situation and paddled out. The current was strong and it took him forever to arrive. Once he got to me we both had to hang on to the surfboard and swim. The waves were so rough I got a black eye from the surfboard, but I kept swimming.

Eventually, other surfers on the beach made a “fire line” out to us and they passed me in. I made it up to the beach and back to my kids. Once I sat down I began to shake, but I didn’t cry until I was home in bed that night.

You don’t really ever believe that death might take you until it almost does.

That day, my mindset my commitment to live, my preparation (thank you, mom and dad, for the water safety classes) saved me, my ability to keep calm (thank you sports training & meditation), to signal for help. Combined with Tantely’s knowledge of the beach and his ability to navigate the water, Tantely and I made my LUCK. I am LUCKY.

What is your personal recipe for success?

First, let’s talk about what goes into your recipe: the average human recipe for human satisfaction and contentment aka happiness or feelings of success is made up of the following:





Values: Stop Shoulding on Yourself

The first step is to clarify your values is to identify all the things you think you should do or that you feel that have to do. Too many times I’ve worked with women who came to me believing that they know what they value; however, after a few conversations it quickly enough it becomes apparent that their values extrinsically motivated versus intrinsically motivated.

When your motivation and values are extrinsic it is really easy to get tired, burned out or even depressed. We start to doubt ourselves and question our self worth. We feel really unlucky.

The Values Cure

Take five or ten or twenty minutes and write down a list of all the things in your life and around your career that you think you should do or that you have to do.

Now try and rephrase the “I shoulds” to “I values” and the “I have to’s” to “I can” or “I choose”   happens. You may notice that a phrase that is easily written as a an “I should” suddenly becomes a “heck, no!” when you rephrase it to “I value.”

Now, head on over and do this exercise that implements Brene Brown’s list of Values. Once you complete this exercise, go back over your “I shoulds” and see what else you might change. Make a new list of the things you’d like to do in your life or that you need to do in your life and see how it feels to write only phrases that start with the following:

I value…

I can…

I get to…

I choose to…

I enjoy…

I am grateful to…  

and do the associated exercise on identifying what you value that I’ve created.

Recognize Your Strengths

Many times we underestimate ourselves when something comes to us naturally. Similarly, there are many things in our lives that we do or have, such as tendencies, habits, or solving particular types of problems that link right back into our natural strengths and talents.

When I work with career clients, I nearly always ask my clients to take the Gallup Strengths Finder test, which will give you your top 5 Strengths. Not only do these results give you insight into what you do well they also give you language to explain how and why you work the way you do.

The above link is an affiliate link to Amazon; however, I have no association with Gallup, only respect. If you do buy the book, make sure to purchase new or Kindle to get the online code for the test!

Read my personal Strengths Story.

A common mistake that women often make is to underplay and undervalue something that is easy for us, without ever considering that what’s easy for us may be extremely difficult for another person.

If you want to get ahead in your career and benefit from the confidence of a job done well, it’s vital that you own your strengths and that your professional narrative clearly highlights your strengths for your audience.

Buy the book (new or Kindle) to get a code that you can use to take the test online.


Needs are a HUGE issue for many women, from salary negotiation to time for ourselves to even doing the tasks we desire, we often put others’ needs before our own!

When it comes to deciding your career make a list of needs that covers topics like security (your income and benefits, for example), your personal care, your intellectual care, your spiritual or mindset care, your relationships, and your recreation.

A great tool for assessing where in our life we are meeting our needs and where in our life we might do better is called the Wheel of Life. There are several out there, but I like the 9 areas that show up on this wheel and exercise.

Once you’ve completed the Wheel of Life, set it aside and come back to this section on Goals and Direction.

To Make your Luck you need Goals/Direction

I’ve listed Goals and Direction after Values, Strengths, and Needs because to choose our path we need to understand what is important to us, what we are good at and what we need. From here it is easier to figure out which of our curiosities or passions connect us to our work and give us a sense of purpose or usefulness.

Indeed, the magic of luck is based on knowing where you want to go. Lucky people make their luck happen by being thoughtful about where they are going. How?

Synchronicity, Kismet and such show up because when we are aware of our direction and when the universe is too, suddenly the world seems to present” opportunities to us left and right. Most important in this little bit of “magic” however is the idea that we need to know where we are going, in order to identify those opportunities.

If you are one of those people who are terrified to set goals, because of a fear of failure or a fear that if you set a goal, you’ll be locked down and lose out on other “possibilities” let me help you see things through a different lens.

In reality, what happens when you set thoughtful goals that honor your values, use your strengths, and respect your needs, is that you create opportunities. Hope is in fact built on your ability to articulate what you want and how you hope to get it. If you can set a goal, you’ve got a vision, if you’ve got a vision you’ve got direction, and if you’ve got direction, you’ll be able to recognize and shake loose opportunities, you’ll be able to let the universe give you some luck.

It’s also important to note that goals are not like physical laws, you won’t be breaking anything or killing off anything by setting a goal. You can always choose to set a new goal if the one you pick doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped. The thing is, if you’ve set thoughtful goals, when you decide to set a new goal, you will be making your choice from a position of understanding and autonomy, versus feeling like a raft lost at sea.

Tell me Again What this Has to do with Luck?

Many times we think some people achieve their goals and their success through luck. We look these people up and down and say “I’ve got was she’s got,”  I’ve got her brains, her education, I’ve even got MORE experience. She must be a SUCCESS because she is LUCKY.

Here’s a little evidenced based secret: the research shows that lucky people create their own luck. What she may have in excess of you is some little combination of self-confidence, goal setting and belief in her path.

At the most basic level, you cannot win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

At the more advanced level, if you don’t know what you want if you don’t know where you are going, if you don’t have clearly defined goals, and a plan, you won’t know when you’ve won the jackpot.

Similarly, if everything you do goes against what you really want, perhaps in other people’s eyes you are a success, but in your own, you have failed.

Perspective is HUGE when it comes to luck.

Are you luckier than you think?

What could you do to be more intentional on your path and increase your luck?

The Elephant in the Living Room

Let me illustrate with a story of my grandmother. When I was growing up she had this magical brass elephant coffee table. I’d never seen anything like it and it was super uncommon in the little western farm town that my grandparents had settled in.

My grandmother also had lots of other elephants: pictures, knickknacks, glass elephants, coasters, you name it, she had it in “elephant.”

I loved elephants too and so one day, I asked what had made this gritty western lady who’d never even flown in an airplane or left the country, love elephants?

Her reply? I don’t.

Back in the 1950s, some friends had traveled to somewhere far away for business. They brought her back to this elephant coffee table. Grandmother graciously received the gift and put it in her living room. The table stood out so much that everyone noticed and everyone assumed she liked elephants.

And for the next 50 years, people gifted her elephants.

The Elephant and the Rider

I like this story for two reasons. Firstly, because it demonstrates that if we need our own professional narrative. If we don’t write and own our own story, other people will write a story for us. Second, because in positive psychology we talk about the “elephant and the rider.”

The elephant is our emotional brain, it is extremely strong, big and in fact wise, but it often lacks logic or doesn’t understand the world. Our logical brain is the rider. This rider sometimes does what it thinks is logical and overrides the wisdom of the elephant. Often when we feel anxiety or uncertainty, it’s because our elephant and our rider disagree on the direction we want to go.

When we are clear about our values, when we recognize our strengths, when we understand what we need, when we own our story, when we trust our gut (elephant) suddenly, our elephant and our rider start to work together instead of against each other. An elephant and a rider working in tandem can achieve pretty much whatever they want!

Getting Help When you are Stuck

Maybe this all sounds well and good, but are you still feeling stuck and having a heck of a time figuring out where you really stand or what you really want or need?

If this is the case, maybe it’s not just an issue of getting your elephant and your rider to work in harmony, maybe you first need to get unstuck from your glass bottle.

If you think about it for two seconds, you’ll see that it’s really hard (if not impossible) to read a label from inside the bottle.

If you’ve done the exercises, but you still find it difficult to piece together your values, your strengths, your needs and use them to set your direction or pick a goal, it may be that you are trying to read your own label from the inside.

Sometimes you need to figure out how to get on the other side.

Who can help you?

Your partner or best friend is a good starting point. You could do a 360 review of your strengths and talk through your values and wheel of life worksheets. At the sametime, sometimes, the people close to us are also some of the biggest influencers in our lives, which can make it a real challenge to determine what we actually value, need, feel, think versus what we’ve been told to think and feel.

This is where a career counselor, career coach or a life coach might help. Although each of us wears a slightly different hat, individuals trained in coaching believe that you’ve got the capacity to find your own answers, and we can help you by being your unbiased mirror. Working with a coach opens doors and windows because it lets you see inside your bottle and figure out what you really want and need.

So how does this all help you make the biggest mistake of your CAREER?

Depends on you and your particular goals and direction, but it can help you avoid a couple of major mistakes.

Mistake #1:

Not taking a job or not following your passion, because you are afraid it’s not inline with your values.


If your values are not aligned with your interests or passion, it’s most likely it’s not the values you’ve been told you SHOULD have; what you really truly value inside is most likely in alignment with what you are good at and what you enjoy.

Mistake #2:

Not taking a job or following your passion, because you are afraid it’s not a good job for a mom (even if you don’t intend to BE a mom for another decade).


From Prime Minister of New Zealand to Olympic Runner to whatever YOU choose to do, you can do it, do it well, and be a mom. All moms have to make choices and decide what they value; all mom’s need to learn to ask for help; all moms need to learn to be okay with “doing our best.”

Mistake #3:

Not following your passions or pursuing a goal, because you “are not ready” yet; you may never be “ready” so dive in, do the work, take the risk.


When surveyed near death, folks never regret what they’ve done; but they do regret what they didn’t do. What will you regret? DO IT.

My Favorite Personal Luck Story:

When I graduated from University at age 22, I wanted to join the Peace Corps, but I didn’t, primarily because I had a big student loan and I wanted to get it paid off. I’d been offered a job with a salary, benefits and a membership to a local health club, and so I thought I should take the job and work on my debt. Had I known it would take me 10 years to get it paid off, I would have joined the Peace Corps!

Finally, around the time I finally paid off my loan, I was already a stay at home mom, living in suburbia and wondering what had happened to my adventurous soul. As I started to crawl out of a depression, I decided to pursue a Masters In NonProfit Management and International NGOs.

I was now over 30 and I’d been in management roles, so I wanted to run an NGO, not just work in one, but it seemed like such a distant dream. I’d not worked in a nonprofit or an NGO (except serving on a board) for nearly 7+ years, so I started to volunteer, while going to class and learning as much as I could about the current state of affairs.  

I found an NGO working in Haiti and doing community development work in accordance with my values and interests with an office 5 minutes from my house. I started to volunteer, helping with filing, recording donations and writing in the newsletter. Soon enough I had a course in fundraising and we had to write a financial resource development plan for our final project.

I dove in head first to write a complete 3-year development plan for this organization, interviewing board members, reviewing goals, and talking to other similar organizations working in Haiti. Little did I know that this particular NGO was in the midst of a restructure due to a few misfortunate incidents; and part of this restructure meant that the Executive Director under whom I was volunteering resigned.

Well, as LUCK would have it, the organization needed someone with a plan to keep them moving forward, and there I was with a detailed 3-year plan, so I got hired. From stay-at-home-mom to my dream job in less than 12 months.

Synchroncity? Kismet? Luck? Maybe, but I had to put in a lot of thought, hard work and intention, to make it happen. A perfect instance of making my own luck!

Recap: Values, Self-Awareness, Confidence, and Direction = a Recipe for Luck

Are you waiting for your big break, a sign from the stars or that Kismet moment?

I totally believe in synchronicity, it’s been a hugely powerful factor in my life; however, lucky, kismet moments can only show up if you already KNOW what you are looking for and if you put in the work to start moving in the direction you want to go.

If you don’t know what you want, how will you know it when it shows up?

Not only do you need to know what you want, but you also need to know what you value.

Sometimes life presents us with great opportunities (like my first salaried job) and we feel that we must say YES!, but here’s the thing, an opportunity might be good, it might be great, but if it’s not in line with your long-term goals (or if you don’t have a vision for your future) it’s quite possible this opportunity might draw you off your path.

So, now that you know your direction and understand how to make your own luck, can you answer the question, “am I ready?”

Of course. You are ready today.

What is one little thing you can do today to move you in the direction you want to go?

What are the 10 things you could do over the next few weeks to move you in the direction you want to go?

What is your 6-month plan? 3-year? Set that direction, make your luck and adjust course as needed knowing that you are living out your values, using your strengths, taking care of your needs and joyfully being your authentic self! Ready to make a change? You can reach out to me today, I’d love to give you a hand.

Craving inspiration? Read this list of 50 Powerful [American] Moms. You’ll note that even a few of them had babies while things like working, writing the Ph.D. at Stanford, and being CEOs.

How to Succeed and Overcome the Fear of Failure

How to Succeed and Overcome the Fear of Failure

Let’s look at what it takes to design a career of purpose and freedom that delivers both fulfillment and allows you to create your own definition of success.

One of the most seemingly benign (or to some people annoying) and yet incredibly powerful questions that I ask of anyone struggling to find their direction is:

“If you could do anything and be assured success, what would you do?”

I get many different responses to this question.

Some people launch directly into their current path and goal. They’ve got an answer at the ready.

Some people pause, take a deep breath and launch into their dream vision, which they clearly desire and yet [currently] consider to be impossible.

Some people make an uncomfortable laugh and tell me something seemingly impractical, such as a desire to become Superman or be the first person to land on Mars.

Others give me a mixed story that hints towards their dreams and passions but is oddly undefined.

And some, you might be one, simply tell me they have no idea, they just want a good job with a nice work-life balance.

None of these replies qualify as the “right” answer, because there isn’t a single correct answer to this direction.

However, each response is telling, and as a career coach practitioner, it is sometimes the light in the person’s eyes, their choice of vocabulary, they way they make eye contact or avoid eye contact when they respond that is even more telling.

A Common Denominator

A common denominator in nearly all the replies, even the person who launches directly into their current goals, is that most people don’t really believe that they can do or achieve whatever they put their mind too.

Most adults qualify their goals based on what they’ve been taught is practical, logical, and safely achievable.

Society has led us to believe that a happy life is an easy life and that security is more desirable than risk and  that the people who dream big and succeed are simply LUCKY and that luck is not something that can be made or found, it just is.

10-Year Study on Lucky People

Happiness is not an Easy Life

And so, too many of us settle for a path of least resistance that meets our basic needs and that will supposedly deliver us happiness in the form of security, titles, and sufficient material wealth.

We are a “yes” culture that does as we’ve been told. We worry a lot about what we should or shouldn’t be doing or have or look like and then we wonder why, in our so called modern society, those of us living in countries ripe with freedom and success continue to see rising rates of depression and a culture that is terrified to fail.

And yet, life is not easy. Even those who succeed experience  pain and suffering in their lives. They lose loved ones, they fail, they get sick and sometimes they don’t want to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. Success and failure are both perfectly human.

At the same time, to feel courage you must also experience fear.

To win big, you must take a risk.

Happiness is not easy, hope itself requires that you’ve got a goal in mind that you are “hopeful” to achieve.

Hope itself even requires that you have a clear vision in mind that you know what you want and that you understand what you must do to achieve your goal, combined with the belief that you can make it happen.

So let me ask you this question and I want you to answer with HOPE:

If you could do anything and be assured success, what would you do? What is your desired life direction? Where do you really want to go? Who do you want to be?


What is “direction” and why is this question so telling? Direction gives us both purpose and inspiration, it helps us to prioritize what is good in our life and say no to the things that distract us or lead us down unhelpful paths.

Direction is a vision for who we are and who we hope to become. Many people have trouble with this question, because for so many years their dreams have been squashed, either by people in their lives or by their own fears and anxieties.

When a 40 year old answers the above question with “drinking cocktails on the beach” or “becoming an olympic gymnast” or anything else that is not grounded in reality, I hear in the response that this person is a bit lost and could benefit from finding her direction.

This person likely has a private dream or desire, but she is afraid. She is frozen. She thinks the effort or the money, the sacrifices or the special steps required to achieve this dream make it impossible. She lacks faith in herself and the universe and she fears what might happen is she tries and fails.


Humans are biologically programmed to be fearful, we are naturally inclined to display a negativity bias, to be watching for the lion or the leopard that might gobble us up around the next corner. However, in our daily lives, many of our fears are really “worse case scenarios” and statistically not likely to happen. Most of us don’t have lions in our backyards (except in Colorado, where I am from…ha!)

Our parents, our friends, our insurance agents and in particular our TV broadcasters set our daily programming to worry “what if.” We live in a society that conditions us to want everything and at the same time to give up before we start.

Why then do some people succeed? What makes a boss? I let you in on a little secret, the boss across the street or running that yoga studio or rapidly growing start-up  isn’t different from the rest of us in that she is invincible, perfect or that she lacks fear.

She is successful because she has faith in herself, she has hope and she has set her direction. She is aware of her fear, so aware that she identifies it and she sets a plan in place to step into that fear, finding her courage, making a plan, and forging ahead.

You cannot have courage without fear and vulnerability.


When we step into our fears and anxiety, when we push through to the otherside, we do risk failure, but at the same time we invite success.

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.”

You can dream and plan all you like, but if you don’t take action, if you don’t pick a direction, life will pass you by.

But as John Lennon also said, “You’re just a human.”

So give yourself permission to be human. No one expects you to be Wonder Woman. You might make a mistake or drop a ball, but that’s okay. If you drop a ball, it means you are playing the game of life, not just sitting on the sidelines watching life go by.

Plan of Action

Which takes us to PLANNING and ACTION. If you’ve got a direction, if you’ve acknowledged your fears and given yourself permission to be human, then the next step to your success is to make a plan and take action. Even one tiny action per day can make a difference.

Baby steps lead to toddler steps lead to kid steps and so on. If you’ve got a dream, if you’ve got your direction, what steps can you take TODAY to make this a reality?

Whether you plan out your next ten years or your next 10 days — there are definitive small steps to take that will add-up and move you towards your goal.

Sometimes our direction or our overarching goal seems so big and complex that a useful trick is to work backwards. First identify where you’d like to be in 5 years (or 10 or 20!). Then identify where you might need to be with this goal in 3 years and then 2 years, working all the way back to where you stand with this goal today. Now that you’ve visualized your goal in reverse, you can lay out the ground work to move forward effectively.

What can you do today to move you towards this goal? Maybe it’s research, maybe it’s a phone call, maybe it’s signing up for a class or making a budget.

Now, what is one tiny thing you can do every day for the next 10 days, to move you in the right direction?


An important part of achieving our goals and successfully moving in a direction that meets our hopes and desires, is taking the time to reflect and adjust. Indeed,  intentional living and cultivating long term life satisfaction doesn’t mean that you set your course and forge blindly ahead, never stopping to learn, listen or make adjustments. .

Note that I used the word reflect, not ruminate. You cannot change your past, but you can create your future. You can reflect on what is going right and what you could do better. You can learn from mistakes, but if you want to move forward to avoid wasting your time ruminating on your mistakes leave them in the past.

Reflection questions you might ask:

What have you done in the past that worked?

What might you do differently in the future?

What fears or anxieties continue to hold you up?

What have I done that has brought me the most joy/satisfaction/feelings of usefulness?

Am I living up to my vision for excellence?

Take the time to reflect. Even to meditate. And to rest.

Your Personal Compass

Remember that the direction — the path — you’ve chosen to follow is your path. And you can change your path. Perhaps you’ve spent the last three weeks or the last three weeks pursuing a particular path, but upon reflection you notice that you’ve changed or learned something new, maybe you need to modify your path and your direction.

That’s okay. That’s even good. Self-awareness, the permission to be human, intentional decision making are components of self-agency. Your path is yours. Set the direction that you want to go and define your own success.

Your success might be making enough money at a day job to travel wherever you wish on vacation. Your success might be to figure out how to raise your kids and work part-time or to be a stay-at-home-mom with no regrets. Your success might be to start your own business and never have kids, or to start that business in spite of your family obligations.

The Story of My Father the Artist

Every person is unique. Every direction is unique. What we all have in common is the desire to set our dreams in motion and make them happen. To step into our fears and to feel that rush of courage. To try or learn something new, to feel the progress and exprecience the progression in our life.

So, if you could do anything and be assured success, what would YOU do?

Please honor me with your hopes, as your advocate and your champion, I want to know. You can either comment below or email me, whatever you choose, tell me your answer!

If you want to know more about this subject and my story you can read “Who are you meant to be?” or my about page!

Who are you meant to BE?

Who are you meant to BE?

Who are you meant to be

I Challenge You to Design a Career of FREEDOM and PURPOSE

Who are you meant to be?

What are you meant to do?

Too often we leave our dreams behind somewhere in our teenage years, setting off on a path to please or on a path of rebellion, not necessarily checking in to listen to our inner wisdom.

From a young age, society programs us to believe that we are not enough, just as we are, that we need to BE somebody.

The result, it’s often hard to accept or believe that we are enough. As we grow the outside world is loud and our own inner voice harshly judgemental.

In reality, we know ourselves best, but all that outside noise and our inner critic make us afraid to listen to our inner wisdom.

When we come up with an idea or path a bit off the “beaten” career path, we often move straight from excitement into assuming “the worst-case scenario.”

When we take our ideas to our friends and family, it is all too easy to listen to external doubters, giving more weight to their opinions than our personal values, insights, and needs.

Add in unexpected events, challenging relationships or economic situations, and it’s no wonder that sometimes we find ourselves with a total lack of career direction.

If you sometimes feel like a sailboat lost at sea jostled to and fro, never knowing when life might bring the next big wave or storm, you are not alone.

Does Your Career Lack Direction?

A few years after the birth of my first son in 2007, I was lost in a sea of career confusion. My first big breakthrough came when I learned to make a distinction between activities I did because I believed “I should” versus because “I valued.”

I recognized that many of my career and life choices, even relationships, I’d made because society had “told” me that I should do them and I’d listened. The moment that I started to let go of “I should” and get reacquainted with “I value” I suddenly rediscovered a childlike enthusiasm for life and a sense of freedom that I’d not felt since I was maybe 8 or 9 years old.

Following my values led me back to school and into an experimental cohort with 6 other graduate students. Our “coach” as I’ll call him, Rich Male, led us through many interesting discussions and activities, but the one with the most significant long-term impact, was having us take the Gallup StrengthsFinder test (this is an affiliate link to Amazon; however I have no association with Gallup, only respect).

Own Your Story

I’d always been told that my “short attention span” for effectively solving problems and then moving on was a weakness. My parents wanted me to get a secure job and stick with it. When I did the Strengthsfinder, Rich said,

“Alison, you have the profile of an entrepreneur! You generate ideas and identify opportunities, you see the big picture and understand what strategy to implement. Don’t let anyone underestimate you!”

My life changed that day. Suddenly, what society told me was a weakness became a strength. I understood why I was so good at what I did and how to make that even better.

Knowing and understanding your strengths is crucial to long-term job satisfaction, as is doing work that lets you exercise your strengths, doing what you do best.

Dare to succeeed

Take Action: Work with a Coach

One of the most powerful reasons that you can work with a coach is to find and set your career direction.

Unlike your friends or family – a good coach will not judge you nor try to sway your decision in any way – a good coach will instead ask the right questions and support you with the best tools for you to find and understand your own path.

A coach is your partner. A coach helps to keep you accountable. A coach is a guide. A coach will champion your inner wisdom and hold the space for you to show up in the world the way you want to be.

Not ready to work with a coach? That’s okay. You can still start this important work on your own.

Online Career Tool Box

I’ve designed a Tool Box (FREE) to challenge you to get over your career confusion starting TODAY. The desired outcome of this ToolBox is to provide you exercises and opportunities to reframe your view of yourself and your career options.

Work through the ToolBox as you need to build stronger sails for your boat; learning when to put down an anchor and developing confidence in directing your own direction.

Indeed, I like to equate knowing your strengths to deploying your sails; sure, it’s good to see where you have a weakness (patch those leaks), but if you don’t put up your sails, you won’t go anywhere!

These short exercises and activities will help you to identify and engage your inner wisdom and celebrate your personal brilliance.

You will clarify your values, desires, curiosities, passions, and needs. You will align these with your skills, strengths, and experiences. If you need additional guidance or would like to work with a Career Coach, feel free to reach out to me at any time.

It is 100% possible for you to finally feel the experience of confidence and faith in who you are and what you do. This is totally DOABLE.

Meaningful work and a sense of purpose do take effort, but aligning your work with what gives you the satisfaction of being useful and having a self-selected direction, is immensely rewarding.

beat the tide, set goals!

What is your goal?

Tell me in the comments, email me, or dive into the ToolBox and figure it all out!

Master the art of working and living.

Master the art of working and living.

Doves of Peace, by Bill Border
Bill is my father and he has Mastered the Art of Living

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both.

“Education through Recreation” by Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

The first time I read this quote, it was at the start of a chapter in the book Chesapeake, by James Michener.  I felt a sense of longing, wondering if I could ever achieve this ultimate example of work-life balance.

I printed off the quote and posted it above the monitor on my desk at work. I printed off another version that I framed and put on my dresser in my bedroom at home.

For many years I had no idea if the ideas in this quote represented reality or if they were just a dream, a work of fiction created by a gifted author. The answer to this question is complicated, and of course dependent upon the individual in question.

In my particular case, I’ve found that I’ve been able to craft a life, in which I’ve been able to find a balance between my work life and my personal life that indeed engages a gentle and playful flow existing between the two and that allows me to excel in the areas that I value the most.

Hope & Possibility

The good news is that since I first posted that quote and set the intention to discover the mystery behind it — I’ve made massive progress on a personal level.

For example, last week I had the honor to be invited to lead a group of LinkedIn Profile Ambassadors for an Executive Networking event with 500 RSVPs in South Denver. A decade ago I could have done the work needed and succeeded, but my inner anxiety, fears, and stress would have made me a grump at home, prevented me from sleeping well and possibly contributed to a little road rage on my commute.

This year, however, the event was energizing and as fun as playing a game with my kids. Teaching the ambassadors to assess and review LinkedIn profiles was an absolute delight. I enjoyed meeting people, answering their questions and even my drive to and from the event.

I did excellent work, and if you’d been observing me, you could have easily questioned, was I working or playing?

How did I get from where I was to where I am today? And if I did it, can you? Yes. Yes, you can.

Regardless of the unique situations of our diverse professional lives, the science of human flourishing, also know as Positive Psychology, has some answers.

A Crucial Distinction

Let us start by making a distinction between the following three words:


When we think of our work as just a “job”, the data shows lower levels of satisfaction, engagement and an overall sense of work-life-imbalance.

When we think of our work as a career our engagement and life satisfaction, our ability to juggle work and life tend to get better. Many people have “long and happy careers.”

The quote, however, best describes those who have found a calling. Engagement at work and personal satisfaction go up exponentially, even from the level of “career” when we start to see our work as a calling.

The problem for many of us, however, is that we’ve never had a sense of a true calling or purpose that aligns with our work. Sure, we may have a calling to serve, or we may have a calling to explore the outdoors, care for rescue animals or protect the environment, but we cannot align these passions — callings — with what we do for a living. I was once in this boat too.

So what can you do if you have a job?

Or how can you turn your career into a calling?

If you are lucky, it’s simply a matter of reframing. Maybe your “job” entails the work you intentionally went to school to study and then intentionally set out to find a “job.” Perhaps it’s just that you see your job as something you do during the day, distinct from who you are and how you live your life.null

In reality, it’s likely more complicated.

Since about 2000 we’ve been tracking workplace engagement in the USA, and 66% of employees report NOT being engaged at work. We’re good at something, and so we do it, we get hired, we get promoted, and we do the job. Inertia keeps us where we are, but over time we start to feel the pressures of life. Maybe we suffer from an unhappy boss, unfair corporate policies, or just from our lack of engagement at work. To us, it’s just a “job.”

Whatever your unique situation, and even if you have a career versus a job, the surprising thing is the same types of activities can help you, just as they’ve helped me, to achieve greater life satisfaction. Whether you work as a cashier or a rocket scientist, we can all move our compass in a positive direction. There are real and statistically significant actions we can take to start moving our perception of ourselves and our work-life balance from “stuck” to “free to be (or play)!”

In this post, I look at three techniques you can take to move your work satisfaction and your work-life balance or meter in a positive direction. We’ll look at Gratitude, Self-Awareness, and Goal Setting and how you can put them in action today.


Balloon Man, by Bill Border
Remember the joy you felt when receiving a balloon as a child? That is the experience of gratitude.
what does that look like in practice?

The practice of gratitude is exceptionally powerful. But many of us get gratitude wrong as we confuse “being grateful” with practicing gratitude, so let’s talk about the difference.

Think of it this way: you can appreciate the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, but you don’t enjoy them in full, until you actually bite into the cookie and enjoy it’s texture and taste, until you have that little moment of savoring the contrast of the bitter chocolate and the sweet cookie dough side by side.

You can be grateful that someone just passed you a freshly baked cookie. Practicing gratitude is stopping and taking a moment to think about what has happened. Perhaps your boss, your mom, your neighbor made the effort to bake the cookies, had the thoughtfulness to put them on a plate and the desire to bring you joy through sharing the cookies with you. Awareness of all that you’ve just received is gratitude combined with a verbalized and wholehearted thank you — to the person and the universe — is the practice of gratitude in action.

Being grateful is the act of thinking “I am really lucky to have such great kids.”
Practicing gratitude is taking a moment to savor what it means to have your kids, to feel their love, and experience both their joys and their trials. Taking a moment to reflect on your gratitude, to write it in a journal, so that you can go back and savor this moment in the future is the practice of gratitude in action.

Being grateful that you have a job, when your neighbor is jobless, is not practicing gratitude. Taking the time to think about what your job provides you, from a place to go during the day, an opportunity to make an income, a place to practice your strengths or try new things, and a way to support your financial expenses in life, is getting to the practice of gratitude.

Another way to frame this is to go from a scarcity mindset to that of abundance. If you’ve just paid your phone bill, it is typical to regret the money we’ve just spent. But what happens if you flip it? If I’ve only paid my phone bill, it’s because I have a phone with service that lets me call my friends and family, surf the net, check my email, and do all sorts of things my grandparents never dreamed. Practicing gratitude for having my phone and my service provider suddenly flips my once negative bill-paying experience into one of gratitude and positivity.

Ever wondered why a monk that has nothing to his possession is so happy? It’s all a frame of mind and awareness of the things we do have versus a focus on what we lack.

Navajo Skies, By Bill Border


The second technique for improving our experience of our work-life balance is awareness. Two kinds of consciousness can contribute.

There is self-awareness, which focuses on things like our strengths, be their personality strengths, characters strengths or simply things we are good at doing. Maybe you are really good at identifying problems and finding solutions; perhaps you are really good at seeing discrepancies; maybe you excel at finding opportunities for harmony or explaining how to get something done. We all have core strengths that often account for why we’ve ended up where we are, but over time we get accustomed to being us, and we cannot see the forest for the trees.

Organizational change and career counseling studies over the last few decades have shown over and over again that learning to recognize our strengths — turning our focus from what we do right and away from our deficiencies, improves not only our sense of well being, but it also improves our productivity and engagement at work.

Emotional intelligence, appreciation of beauty, a sense of fairness are in fact measurable strengths. Strategizer, individualizer, and developer are also descriptions of strengths in action. If you want to feel more engaged at work — find out what are your core strengths through an assessment such as the GallupsStrength finder — a look at what you “do.” Or the VIA Strengths Survey — a look at how you “be.”

An amazing thing about strengths is that we are all a mix of 5 or 6 core strengths and everyone is different. There is not a “best” or “worst” scale on a strengths test. What knowing your strengths does, is that it gives you the language and the confidence to understand how you tick and insight into why you work the way you do. Alongside an understanding of why folks you know do things differently.

From a positivity standpoint and working towards that work-life balance the best thing about strengths, is that once you know your strengths, you can get benefit from both focusing on improving your existing strengths, as well as, working on areas that you might be less “strong.” Indeed, identifying areas that are perhaps not part of your core strengths profile, but are things you value if you focus on “growing” these value points, good things will happen.

A look within, a focus on self-awareness naturally leads to mindfulness. And taking the time to be mindful of how we work, where we naturally excel, where we’ve worked hard to learn or improve increases our sense of engagement in life and work. It also opens us up to opportunities to grow and desire strategic change.

Painting 5 of the Carousel of Life Collection
The Carousel ofhttp://www.billborder.com Life, by Bill Border
Life is not a carousel that goes round and round. It has an end. Why wait for tomorrow when you can set your goals today?

Goal Setting

In life it is easy to go with the flow and just follow the path of most resistance; however, long term life satisfaction is directly linked to living with intention. Happily, practicing gratitude and cultivating our self-awareness opens up opportunities for us to see things we might like to change or add to our lives.

Perhaps today you have a job, but if you can connect your job today with your strengths and where you’d like to be, you now have the framework to set some goals and set in motion a plan of action.

Perhaps your job would be a career or a calling if you changed companies, maybe you’ve ended up in a toxic workplace.

Maybe, your strengths led you to a field of work where you can do a good job, but that doesn’t engage your passions.

Or, if you are a bit further along in your career, perhaps you started with a career or a calling, but you’ve been promoted up the line until you’ve ended up in a job that no longer utilizes your core strengths and causes you distress. Awareness of your strengths and an understanding of what you need to work on to better engage in your current role, can turn the tables and move you back to your calling.


Strengths Finder

Via Strengths Survey

Please note that I am not affiliated with either the VIA or Gallup Strengths tests; I share these resources because they are useful tools.

Need a LinkedIn Profile Audit? Let Me Roast You!

Need a LinkedIn Profile Audit? Let Me Roast You!

What is a LinkedIn Audit or Profile Roast?

If you’ve ever roasted a marshmallow, you know that marshmallows start out perfectly perfect white poofs of sugar. But when carefully roasted they please different palettes. Some people like them golden brown and others burnt to a crisp.

You are like a marshmallow. Perfect just as you are.

However, to effectively optimize your LinkedIn profile, you need to be able to communicate your perfection to your ideal audience.  With my LinkedIn profile roast, I’ll take your profile — your marshmallow — and roast it to please the palette of your target LinkedIn audience.

In approximately of 5 minutes of live recorded video, I will go over each section of your profile and provide you with an overarching assessment followed by 5 to 10 pieces of strategic and actionable tips to guide you to get the most from your profile.  

So, get out a pencil and take notes. Just kidding. I’ll send you my notes in a single page PDF report, in addition to a link to your video.

Who doesn't love a FREEBIE!!!

Once a month I offer 3 to 5 public roasts to members of the Digital Nomad Girls Community or anyone woman who is ready for a career change. Complete my Typeform questionnaire to get on my waiting list. First come first serve. Must be willing to have your roast shared on my LinkedIn feed. 

Are you in a rush or do you want your roast kept private?

Once per week I record private roasts with my actionable tips shared directly with you via a private video link and a single page LinkedIn Actionable Tips PDF report. If you are a do-it-yourselfer or simply can’t afford a personalized profile rewrite, this is an awesome way to high value from my experienced feedback, fast and for the cost of free minimum shipping on Amazon.

$30 per roast

Complete my Typeform questionnaire and I will follow up with scheduling and payment details. 

Why you need a Vision Board and How to Create Yours

Why you need a Vision Board and How to Create Yours

Why create a vision board? Visual imagery is immensely powerful in helping us to visualize our dreams.

That sentence is a tad redundant and I wrote it that way on purpose. It’s one thing to have an idea in your head. It is yet another to start thinking about what that “idea” would look like put in action.

And yet another to put it on a Vision Board where you can not only see it but imagine it alongside your life goals. 

Once you can visualize an idea, think about what it means to you and how it is is a part of your life, you become closer to turning that dream into a reality. Many successful athletes visualize success before events.

Creating a vivid and detailed image or plan is, in fact, part of successful goal setting, because doing so requires you to think through the steps and understand what is required of you to achieve a particular goal.

What’s more, creating a Vision Board that you post in an area of your living or working space where you can see it daily further reinforces your goals and your ability to achieve them.

Seeing something daily is both an affirmation and a reminder of our goals.

The Form of Your Vision Board

Today you can create virtual or concrete vision boards. I prefer the practice of creating a concrete, tactile vision board, because for several reasons. One is just because it’s fun to cut and paste. Don’t we all wish sometimes we could return to the early days of primary school where glue sticks and not computers dominated our daily life? Similarly, it is all too easy to get caught up in “SERIOUS” goal setting and making plans for the future.

Life should be fun.

Life is good.

Life is beautiful.

Have a little fun!

On a more serious note, ahem, the act of physically cutting, pasting, and designing your board is therapeutic and a robust tool to help make your goals and dreams a reality.

The first time I made a vision board, it was in a seminar run by Career Services at my Alma Matter CU Boulder.

However, it wasn’t until I read the Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown that I really began to realize the gift behind the creative work for any and all adults, in creating a Vision Board.

Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This includes links to books or supplies in my blog posts and articles. 

Basic Supply List at Amazon (these are affiliate links) or your local Office Supply Store. 


  • Poster Board:  22” x 18” or 24” x 36” (60 cm x 90 cm): can be white, corrugated cardboard, plastic board, signboard, whatever you wish, as long as you can glue on it, write on it, and hang it on your wall!
  • Glue Sticks: (clear) or fast drying glue paste of your choice.
  • Colorful Markers: I like Sharpies for ease of use and because they write on just about anything (my toddler has tested this for me).
  • Pictures, quotes, etc. from Magazines, Journals or News Papers.
  • Images you print off from online.
  • Post-it Notes or note cards for handwritten quotes.
Vision Board Function:

  • Give your vision and goals clarity.
  • Highlight your values, needs, strengths, passions, inspiration, and your available resources.
  • A functional way to reaffirm your goals that you can come back to and “see” for inspiration.
  • To keep yourself on track and motivated.
  • Allow yourself to be playful or creative: find your passion and inspiration, have fun!
So, let’s do the work. Create a representation of your vision. Cultivate and embrace your creativity. Have fun. Enjoy your path.

Again, I like physical boards for the “creating” process and because they are easier to hang/display for future inspiration. If you make a digital one, print it off when you are finished and hang it in your work/living space.

Vision Board Warm-Up

Answer the following questions quickly. Blink responses. Gut answers. Don’t overthink! Just Go! Grab a pen and paper and answer the following as a warm-up:

  1. What makes me happy?
  2. What is a quote that I find inspiring?
  3. What is an affirmation I’d like to use to guide me?
  4. Who is someone (real or fictional) who inspires me?
  5. What are five words my co-workers/classmates would use to describe me?
  6. What are five words my boss would use to describe me?
  7. If I could do anything for work, what would it be?
  8. What are my five biggest strengths?
  9. What do I do for self-care right now? What can I add to this practice?
  10. What do I want to achieve professionally in the next year? Go back to work? Change my work? Create my own business? Other?
  11. How much time do I want to spend at work vs. not at work? What is my personal “work/life ratio” for feelings of happiness and success?
  12. What do I want to achieve in my personal life in the next year?
  13. What do I want to achieve for my health in the next year?
  14. Where do I want to be professionally in 3 to 5 years?
  15. How do I want to live?
  16. What does my dream workplace/office look like?
  17. What does my dream home look like? Or what makes a “home” for me?
  18. How do I envision my ideal relationships?
  19. What experiences do I want to have that I’ve yet to access?
  20. What is my definition of success?
Supply Explanation: 

Find a big piece of paper, cork board or poster board. Minimum size (legal paper) but can be as big as you wish.

  • Unless you’ve got a big display space, I recommend a half-sheet or 22×18 inch (about 55 x 45 cm) poster board as the ideal size. Beware that if you order on Amazon, you might get a lifetime supply, although this will make it easier to update your board every year! Generally, you can find some poster board in the school supply section at your supermarket or Target.
  • If you’ve got lots of display space, feel free to go big and use a standard 24×36 inch poster board (60 x 90 cm).
  • Other supplies:
    • Scissors
    • Glue sticks (I like clear).
    • Fun Stickers (themes, beach, sparkly,  stars, rainbows, nature, anything that makes you happy)
    • Colored Markers (I am a fan of Sharpies because they write on almost everything).
  • Find your inspiration:
    • Magazine clippings or digital images (again, I like magazines, so you don’t fall down the black hole of the internet, but I also don’t want you to devote a day to find your materials.
    • Follow the path of least resistance. If you don’t have adequate magazines, print off pictures online or draft your vision board on Pinterest today and create a physical board later.)
    • Look for images (and words) that represent the three goals you addressed last week. Keep your Mind Map and goals close by for reference.

The Vision Board Process:

Once you have your supplies in place, look for images, text, and quotes that align with your vision and goals.

  • First, find a picture of yourself from any time in your life that you love. Maybe you are 4 years old at the park on a swing, maybe you are at university reading a book, maybe it was last week out with friends.
    • Whatever it is, look for a picture that aligns with your goals.
      • Maybe it shows you happy, with a twinkle in your eye, ready to go after the world!
      • Or maybe the picture is thoughtful, you watching the sunset or looking over a peaceful body of water, someplace where you felt calm and in control of your destiny.
  • When deciding what else to use, ask yourself:
    • What is it about the image or the text appeals to me?
    • What the story behind the image or text in terms of my goals?
    • Is the image aligned with my values?
    • Look for Images that show where you want to live or work (geography, space, architecture, nature).
    • Quotes that inspire you or represent your values or that are indicative of your goals.
    • Pictures that represent the steps to your success, what you want to do, learn or achieve.
    • Pictures that represent happiness, success, satisfaction, connection, your future.
  • Find as many images and texts pieces as you can. You might want to “over find” in the sense that when you start to construct your board, you will decide that certain selections work better to pull your image together than others.
  • If you find a quote or image that really “sings” to you then give it a central spot. Glue, paste or tack your images onto your board. Creating this visual representation of your dreams that you can go back to in a blink of an eye will keep you on track and motivated.
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Now Go Create!

Now that you have your materials and you’ve done your warm-up exercise, it’s time to sit down and get sticky. Have fun creating your vision. Designing your life. Living a life of intention. If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And, when you are done feel free to share your vision board via your favorite social media. On Instagram, you can tag me at @Voky_Be On LinkedIn, you can find me at linkedin.com/in/alisonrakoto And on Twitter, I am @alibcandid.

Who is Alison?

I am a career coach and strategist that helps you find work you love.

How do I do this? Think of me as a professional grandmother. I ask you questions, I help you identify and celebrate your strengths, I provide you with guidance in setting career and life goals that will help you achieve success. Whatever you chose to do, I am your champion and I support you in chasing your dreams.

If you’d like guidance finding work you love or help with your vision board, I’d be thrilled to work with you. Contact me today and let’s set up a time to talk!