The #1 Thing You Can Do For Your Career- Wherever You’re At

PROACTIVEI’m often asked questions like, “If I only do one thing to advance my career, what would you say I do?” And while I wish I had a silver bullet answer for a question like that, the truth is that it’s a bit more complicated than that.  You all work in different fields and have different skillsets and different personalities for starters. And I’m not a one size fits all kinda career lady.


BUT! (and there’s always a but). But nevertheless, I do have an answer to this question, and it is this: BE PROACTIVE. If you make that the guiding force of your career (and life overall), then you’ll be building your skillset, nurturing valuable relationships and able to see and reach for opportunities as you see them.


Ok, Jill. Grrrreatt.  What the heck does being proactive mean in practice?  I’m glad you asked:

  • Brush Up On Skills: And not just the ones you have in your current role, but also skills you’ll need to advance your career. This might mean taking an online course on Udemy or checking out Coursehorse or com for online learning. If it’s a bigger skill that can’t be learned by one small onling course (for example, you want to go from being a traditional web designer to a UX designer), you may want to consider longer courses where you can roll up your sleeves and actually create the end product for your portfolio. Don’t wait for your manager to suggest doing this- go out and get ‘er done yourself! (And check and see if your company has a tuition reimbursement program).
  • Reach Out to People You Never Thought You Would. We think once people reach a certain level in their careers, they’re unreachable. It’s a pretty common assessment people have of those who have ‘made It’ (yours truly included!). I’d like to challenge you to shed that thinking and reach out to people you never would have reached out to before. Take fear (of not hearing back, of being rejected) out of it- who is on your list, all the way up to the Michelle Obamas of the world? Obviously have a specific ask as relates to your career or reason for getting in touch, but beyond that, I think you’d be surprised at your response rate, since most people are scared out of their minds to do this! A story springs to mind about this. A pretty successful entrepreneur (and I’m blanking on his name at the moment, so forgive me!) did this as part of a project at Princeton. No one else even thought to reach out to business experts, but he did and got an audience from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, among many others.
  • Put Your Hand in the Air: Make it your business to know what the company’s upcoming projects and goals are and understand how your skills (and your future goals) might fit nicely with the project, so you can raise your hand for upcoming projects that make sense for the trajectory of your career. What we don’t want to have happen is you take on projects that aren’t mutually beneficial to both you and the company/department, and then you end up resenting working on it because it doesn’t align with you, your current skillset and/or your future goals. It would be like if I wanted to move into training and talent development, but raised my hand to be the de facto project manager for an upcoming event the company was running. There’s no alignment there, and I’m not learning any more about the area I want to take my career in!
  • Keep Your Network Fresh: Don’t wait for contacts to reach out to you for a catch-u. Be proactive. I highly recommend setting aside one evening after work a month (or maybe one morning before work, if you find yourself too tired after work) to reach out to your contacts and aim to grab two to three coffees throughout the month. Go to an event or two per month that’s relevant for you and build new connections to then add to this monthly outreach list. If you aim to see your best contacts once a quarter, then you’re on the right track.



What other ways have you been able to be proactive in your career? What success stories can you share about how proactivity has helped your career? I’d love to interview you for the Career Kitchen podcast (coming at you soon!).  Email me here and we’ll set up some time to chat.

The Raise: The Very First Step To #GettingTheRaise

I haven’t been blogging for a bit, mainly because I’m bumbling around like a maniac figuring out how to get my Career Kitchen podcast off the ground. (Tech= not my friend.). The goal here is to provide you, dear reader, with more 360-degree career tips and advice. What do I mean by that? I want to help you with all aspects of your career, not just the transition piece I’ve mostly been focused on lately. I do a fair bit of work in many areas – salary negotiation, asking for a raise, leadership development and navigating the workplace, to name a few- and I want to make sure that’s a big part of what I’m bringing you each week.

And I thought- while I’m fumbling around learning how to edit a podcast (oh boy), let’s get started giving you the goods NOW.

I’m hosting a free live “Show Me How” call with Q&A on February 7th on #GettingtheRaise (details to register are here.) let’s start by giving you exactly what you need to make that call a working call and get moving toward your raise. In other words, I want you to have the right information in front of you so you can use what we’re talking about on the call to get to implementing and ACTION right away!

So, what do you need to hit the ground running on TUESDAY with me?!

  • Median Salary: To get a down and dirty example for a potential raise, you want this for your job in your metro area with your level of expertise. I usually recommend people use all three sites that offer this data, knowing that the reality is probably somewhere in the middle. Those sites are, and (Payscale offers the most comprehensive view, IMHO because it asks you fro years of experience, budget you manage (If applicable), and type of employer which the others don’t. There are questions of gender and ethnicity in there, which you can choose to not answer if you wish as well.) You can also check any professional associations you’re a member of for data, ask a mentor, or ask friends or colleagues in the same kinds of roles at other firms. It’s not an exact science, but if you get enough of these data points, the picture becomes clearer.
    • Advanced Tip: I always recommend to clients that they pay attention to available opportunities regardless of their satisfaction levels at their current company. So, you can also go on informational interviews or real life interviews to get a lay of the land and see what you might fetch elsewhere. After all the quickest way to get a big bump or raise is to switch companies. What do you have to lose by seeing what’s available for your skillset and expertise?
  • Average increase at your firm. From my experience personally and working with clients and fellow co-workers, there’s an average raise, but that doesn’t mean there’s not more for top contributors.
  • Your Contributions. It’s imperative to know how YOU contributed, both individually and as part of a team. Look at the goals for any projects (you can find that on project briefs or strategy docs you have) and the goals you and your manager set for you for this year. How did you do against that benchmark? (And if the goals are fuzzy, you may need to consider more concrete goals this year!)

So to get a good sense for the raise you want to ask for, let’s take a quick example for the median salary piece of this, since I know that can be confusing and nebulous Let’s say you’re a marketing manager in NYC with 5 years of experience in consumer products. I went through the and got the report in this picture. This means that 50% of people make less than $86,110 and 50% of people in this profile make more than $86,110. And it looks like the entire range is $61k-$120k. While that’s quite a gap, you do know what other data points to gather to research what you’re worth in the market from the first bullet point above!





median salary example from

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, we’ll be going through the next steps to #gettingtheraise. Join be by snagging your spot here!

Kicking Your Career Change Off Right- Happiness Project Style

I know I’m about 8 years late to the party (story of my life), but I’m REALLY digging Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project”. It is rocking my world right now, just in time for the New Year. For those who are unfamiliar with her concept, Rubin chose 12 areas of her life she wanted to work on throughout a year and spent a month on each area.

By the way, I’ve started video blogging over on my Facebook page here, (“Like” the page to get notified when I go live and post video tutorials and all that jazz!) but after staving off 13 people’s colds, three stomach bugs and my husband’s full blown flu three weeks ago, I have finally succumbed to Sickness-Palooza 2016/17, so with my Rudolph-esque nose, I think videos are a no go this week.

Anyway, back to Gretchen. While her way of approaching things and her perspective is similar to mine in some areas, it’s radically different in other areas, which got me thinking: I bet we all think about career changes or pivots in wildly different ways, with wildly different attitudes, ranging from “I GOT THIS” to “NO, PLEASE, MAKE ME DO ANYTHING BUT GO TO A NETWORKING EVENT!” to everything in between.

SO, as I was reading her “Work” chapter, it hit me that lots of her lessons are SO vital to career change that I’d be remiss NOT to write this post. So, without further ado, here are some of the critical lessons from Rubin I think we could all consider as we enter a career change or pivot in 2017:happiness







Image: Happiness: A Happy Dog Contemplates Life In the Woods on New Year’s Day

  1. 1. In order to have more success, you need to be willing to accept more failure. Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy. Wow. This one was huge for me. As I looked back to consider my career change, I can pinpoint the few times I actually felt happy during it. I mean, I worked three jobs at one point to have some income while I built my business. I had months of $1200 or less in income. I had a ton of debt as I built and invested in my business and my skill set. I worked for a CA-RAZY company at the beginning of my career change (the one I mention that I don’t even put in my resume) that made my additional schooling all the more stressful. You get the deal. My career change was (and still is) fraught with risks and potential failures. Some came to fruition and others never did. So when you are considering your career change- or maybe you’re in the thick of it and feeling a little all over the place- know that it is normal, and that to really achieve that next level, there ARE inherent risks and nothing’s a done deal, but nothing is irreversible (besides questionable tattoos) either.
  1. Your Inner Critic Can Be Your Bestie, of Sorts. And no, not necessarily the margarita and taco night bestie, but more the friend who tells you like it is and doesn’t sugarcoat the message. What the heck am I talking about here? When instead of believing what your inner critic says about your abilities to change careers (“you don’t have what it takes”, for example) you can use that as information to KEEP.GOING. Acknowledge that this is your Inner Critic talking and keep going. If you want to get anything accomplished, you need to keep pushing ahead without constantly second-guessing yourself. So, terrified of networking meetings and think you bombed your first one? 1) you probably didn’t and 2) in order to hit on something big, strike a chord with someone, learn to present yourself better, you just gotta go out and do it again, and again until you start to hit your stride.
  1. When You Feel Rushed for a Solution, Slow Your Roll. When I’m trying to figure something out for the first time, I get all anxious like I need to know the answer right away or I’ll spontaneously combust. Like today, my assistant sent over a new program to help us keep track of passwords better (ummm if passwords are the bane of your existence like they are mine!) and I just HAD to know how to do it RIGHT THEN AND THERE. But…ya don’t, I promise you. So, if you’re embarking on your career change and feel like you just gotta know what your actual next step is RIGHT NOW OR ELSE, ya don’t, I promise you. Trust that you will figure out a way. When Rubin feels anxious and that she needs to know X now, she “puts herself in jail” which means that she tells herself she’s locked up with nowhere to go until she figures out a way to slow down. She also tells herself that it doesn’t matter how long it takes; the end result is that the project (in this case your career change) will get done.
  1. Work Smart. I talk about this in the Career Change Kitchen online course. It can’t be stated too many times. If you say to yourself, ‘Well I have all day Saturday to write some networking emails to start gathering info for my career change,” chances are it’ll be suddenly Saturday night and you’ll put your dancing shoes on and head out the door. Instead think about setting a timer (I suggest 45 minute work blocks) and focus on one SPECIFIC task. So with the networking emails, maybe you spend 20 minutes making a list of people you’re going to reach out to with their email address, 15 minutes drafting an adaptable email that can be tweaked per person slightly and 10 minutes sending the first one or two.
  2. Flip the Script: OK here it is: NOW is the fun part. I know, I know, a hard pill to swallow when you’re starting to put yourself out there in ways you never have before, so hear me out. The challenge for happiness, Rubin writes, is to take pleasure in the ‘atmosphere of growth’ – in the gradual progress made toward a goal. This brings in another concept I’ve been using a lot for clients and students of the Career Change Kitchen (and myself too!), and that’s Todd Herman’s idea of the WOW versus OWW Brain way of thinking. OWW Brain people look at accomplishments in terms of how far they still have to go and WOW brain thinkers look at accomplishments in terms of how far they’ve come. A very small yet huge distinction. SO, as you contemplate how to enjoy the career change process, try to think about it in terms of how far you’ve come. Maybe you’re just getting started, but making the decision to actually start after years of contemplating it is a huge deal. And then, as you rack up ‘wins’ in the career change process, you’ll note that doing a little something pretty often starts to stack up to bigger wins, and a WOW brain mentality is further cultivated.

Ok phew, that was a lot, but I hope at least one of these ideas re: happiness and career resonated with you as you start to contemplate or are going through a career pivot or change. They really are game changers once you put those mental hats on.

I talk about many of these concepts and more, as well as how to implement them in the Career Change Kitchen online course, a course I developed to help you achieve career happiness- in other words, helping you change your career in a soup to nuts way with way less anxiety and second-guessing. I’m guiding you every step of the way. You can check the course out here. I’m hosting a free info session on 1/9/17 and you can snag your spot here.

If You Don’t Have This One Thing, Your Career Change Is Doomed From the Start


Ok, so full disclosure here. I usually hate hyperbolic headlines like that, but here I am writing one. Why? Because there’s SO much advice out there and I so truly know this one thing to be true that I literally can’t stress it enough.

And no, it’s not a fancy resume or a kick ass social media presence. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not even your network or who you know.
While those things are helpful and can help you cross the finish line of your career change, nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace your mindset. Cultivating the right mindset from the get-go and revisiting it regularly (ie this is not a “Set it and forget it” kinda thing, guys!) is CRUCIAL to getting started and staying moving.

Sound Captain Obvious-y to you? I agree; this is not rocket science, but what I really want you to dig in to today is how YOU are actively cultivating that mindset on a regular basis. It needs to be crystal clear. Make a list of the ways you are clearing space for this change. I’m talking physical space- is your workspace cluttered? I’m talking mental space- is your mind cluttered? And I’m talking energy-space- are you drained each and every time you try to start? Do you not pinpoint your roadblocks and thus keep them up unwittingly, letting them derail you from your major goal of finally getting in a job that you actually want to go to 5 (or more!) days per week?

Below is a laundry list of potential ways that might help you with this big FIRST step toward making a career change. Maybe you do one or two of these. Maybe adding in another element to augment what you’re currently doing might help. For example, I recently added “Morning Pages”  to my morning meditation practice. They really go nicely together and help me clear my plate before I enter my day.

  • Daily Meditation practice (with or without apps like Headspace or
  • Daily intention journal
  • Daily gratitude list
  • 2 Minute End-of Day Recap (How am I feeling, what worked about today and what do I want to work on for tomorrow)
  • Morning Pages (to get the creative juices flowing and remove the clutter)
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness retreat
  • Work with a mindfulness teacher
  • Visit your local Shambhala Center
  • Books like “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “The Alchemist” or “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar”
  • Checking in throughout the day with how you’re feeling and what might be getting in the way of this

Are you sitting there thinking, “Jill, I don’t have TIME for any of that. I gotta get to work.” To that I ask you: Do you have time to spend more years than you already have in a job you really don’t like? Do you have time to spend more late nights at work and miss time with your friends, husband, wife, kid, mom, cat?

Until very recently, I was very much like that, running around from thing to thing and checking boxes off my to-do list. And while I’m by no means a levitating Buddha nor am I telling you that you have to be one to change careers (quite the contrary actually), I’m saying that investing a little time in this each day will make a BIG difference toward achieving this really big goal you have for 2017.

I will add that sometimes-annoying people like me can tell you this til the cows come home, but it’s up to you to give it a whirl. And by ‘a whirl’, I mean dedicate yourself to it for at least a month, if not 3 months. I was one of those people who sort of internally rolled my eyes (not VISIBLY though!) whenever someone told me I should meditate. So that’s why I’m not telling you that you should meditate- because that’s annoying if you’ve heard it a million times or just don’t like being told what to do (who does like that?)

So what I AM saying is this: 

A career change requires the right Mindset Toolkit. It will be slightly different for each and every person. This is all I’m asking you to accept. THEN, I want you to fill your toolbox with what works for you and leave the rest. And as you grow and evolve, you might pick up new tools but your core go-to tools are always your stead standbys.

BOOM. Happy holidays ya’ll.

PS: Mindset is where we start in the Career Change Kitchen- our new comprehensive career change online course (with some extra goodies and various levels of support from me!) Check out the info here.

PPS: You may have noticed the blog is getting a little less love lately. That’s because we’re focused on VIDEO FUN as we enter the New Year, so I’m trying my hand at vlogging in front of my Christmas tree. You can check out the goodies on my Facebook here (like the page to know when we’re doing special offers on courses and other events!) or my YouTube channel here.

You Got the Coffee Chat With That Important Person You’ve Been Aiming For….Now What?!?!

You Got the Coffee Chat With That Important Person You’ve Been Aiming For….Now 

You Got the Coffee Chat With That Important Person You’ve Been Aiming For….Now

coffee chat

Many of us aren’t natural networkers….or at least we feel like we aren’t. We know networking and connecting are important for our career advancement or career change, but really, we just don’t wanna do it. At all. Like we’d rather send 200 job applications into the ether, never to be heard from again, rather than going on 5 coffee chats or info interviews. You may be familiar with what I’m putting down here. The “oh crap, well now I’ve gone and done it! I’ve got the coffee chat set up and it’s PURE DREAD to figure out what to talk about!!!”


First, take some deep breaths and remember the following:


  • No one is going to die or spontaneously combust by going to a coffee chat.
  • The person SAID YES to you, meaning, they want to meet with you too. #twowaystreet
  • It really is a win-win, no matter how the meeting goes. If you have a good connection and gel, then that’s great for obvious reasons: building a long-term relationship, potential mentorship, and idea exchange, they think of you when they hear of a job- the list goes on and on. If you don’t gel, as sometimes happens, then that’s great too. You don’t have to spend time on the relationship and neither do they. You can instead focus on relationships that are mutually beneficial.
  • You may feel selfish and that you’re take-take-taking, but in reality, it’s a two-way street. Sure, maybe your aim for the meeting now is for job prospects, but you’ll more than happily return the favor or offer help in some way when they need it, right? (And if the answer is no, then we have a whole other blog post for that!)
  • It’s worth repeating: no one ever spontaneously combusted or melted into a pile of mush from a coffee chat. I guarantee it.

This morning, a client admitted that she gets into “Why Bother?” mode, meaning if someone responds favorably to her request for a meeting, she drags her feet at responding to finalize, asking herself what the point of it all is (in other words, ‘this won’t lead to anything!”)


If you’re nodding your head vigorously at that, remember the following:


  • You never know where a connection might lead. Maybe their colleague mentions a job and your connection thinks of you, or maybe they see a job posting and pass it along to you.
  • If you get into the “why bother?” mentality, actually answer the damn question. Yes, write down all the reasons why you should actually bother. For my client, she said it was because the woman was well connected, wanted to help, was a prolific public speaker which is one of my client’s goals, etc. Actually write it down so you don’t talk yourself out of something due to nebulous “Why bother?” questions.
  • No one has ever died by going on a coffee chat.


Ok, so now that we’ve got all that covered and you’re READY to rock and ride, what the heck do you actually TALK about in these meetings?!?


  • Coffee meetings are great because they’re generally 30-40 minutes, give or take. So it’s not hours upon hours of dreadful time to fill!
  • You don’t need to script every minute. As a matter of fact, I don’t advise that. I’ve never seen a coffee chat/info chat start right off the bat with business. People typically like to ease into these things, so you can ask them something non-work related. Ideas:
    • What’s this neighborhood like to work in? Any restaurants or bars nearby you’d recommend? (And from there, you could talk about food and cuisines and culture for a bit- sky’s the limit!)
    • If you know something personal about them (ie. Have kids, got married, went on a trip, started a networking group, gave a speech), ask them about it.
    • If something in the news is interesting to you and timely, bring it up! (Read: not politics, generally speaking)
  • Know your outcome: Do you admire their career path thus far and want to gain insights into how they did it? Ask. Do you want to let the person know you’re open to new opportunities? Tell them! This is where it’s important to have your narrative down- help them understand why you’re looking for a change and how you want to grow and why that’s important to you.
  • Listen more than you talk. There’s a misconception out there that you, as the coffee chat setter-upper, need to talk the entire time and carry the conversation. You don’t! I always try to invoke the “listen more than you speak” mantra and think it’s important for coffee chats especially. Relationships are built when you let the other person feel heard. This should take a little of the pressure to talk talk talk off your plate!


Most importantly, going on this coffee chat is important because as you do them, they become less onerous and scary and just another thing you do. Rip that band-aid off and get a-movin!