Hi Amy! (Job Search Advice)

Here are a couple of emails I’ve received from folks wanting to know how to handle an issue in their job search, along with my responses:

Hi Amy!

Could I ask your advice regarding job searching I’m doing? I submitted an application for a dream position with a leader in my organization, Ms. Harris. I don’t know her very well, but she has a wonderful reputation, and my mentor, Marta, worked for her and is serving as a reference for me. The job posting closed 3 weeks ago. I emailed the contact on the posting to politely ask if a search committee timeline could be shared, but received no response. I wasn’t too surprised, as that person does not have the best reputation for responding.

My current position has become very unhealthy for me (not sleeping, hating work that I used to love under old leadership, etc). I was thinking about emailing that leader directly with a very brief and polite intro of myself, with the question of whether or not she could provide any insight into a timeline. Do you think this is a smart thing to do, or should I just try to hang back?

Signed, Debbie Dilemma


Hi, Debbie!

You should definitely try to make contact. Since you have the connection with the leader through your mentor, the best possible contact you could make would begin with “Ms. Harris, Marta suggested I contact you directly.” Of course, you should only do that if Marta does so. Is that something you could ask Marta about?

Short of that, its still fine to reach out to Ms. Harris directly, or if she has an assistant who is not the unresponsive person you were talking about earlier. I wonder, too, if you could just drop by her office? A phone call is fine too. I’m not suggesting you do all three of course, just one is good, and personal contact is generally more effective than email.





Hi, Amy. could give me your two cents?

I’m thinking about applying for an job in my field, after a couple of decades focused on family and volunteering. I think it might give me a way to get a foot back in the field, but it’s so far away.

I’m not sure I want full-time & I know I’m not excited about a hour commute each way, so still I’m toying with the idea of applying. Should I?

Signed, Cathy Compromise


Hi, Cathy!

It’s a great question. Deciding whether or not to actually apply for any job deserves some mindful consideration. Is it the kind of job you want to do? Is the organization one that aligns with your values? Are you qualified? Do you want the commute? Can you see yourself doing the work? All of these questions are an important part of the decision process.


I always work with my clients to help them identify what kind of job they really want to do. This is important because it’s often the most important difference between engagement and disengagement on the job. It sounds like you know what kind of work you most want to do, and this job fits that criterion. The other questions can be answered as you go through the rest of the process, and in fact you may not be able to answer them all before you apply.

A few years ago when I was in dire straits wanting/needing employment, an opportunity fell in my lap to do work I knew I would love, but it would require 75% travel. I considered the travel idea to be a dealbreaker, but I also knew I needed the experience with interviewing and negotiating, so I decided to engage in the process and see how far I could take it. To my surprise, the process actually sold me on the job, and I wound up deciding that the travel was worth it (and would bring benefits I had not previously considered). I kept the job for nearly four years and am so grateful I did it.

That being said, I also interviewed once for a job I thought I might want. It would require a move (or four hours of driving for the daily commute), but again I wanted the experience with interviewing, so I went. I was amazed by what I learned about the company and the team I might be working with. My sense that it was a poor fit was so strong that I pulled myself out of the running when I sent my note thanking them for the opportunity and the time they took to interview me. The commute wasn’t even an important factor.

The bottom line is this: you don’t have enough information at the start of the application process to know for certain that you do or don’t want the job. Plus, there’s so much in the application process that is not in your control. You have much better chances of success if you keep the doors open for yourself as much as you can, and close a door only when the voice of your inner wisdom tells you to.


If you’re puzzled about how to handle something that has come up in your job search or career development, send an email to amy@careerleadershipalignment.com. I may not be able to respond to everyone but will do the best I can. And your email may be chosen to be answered in a future blog post!

Amy Kay Watson coaches talented, brilliant, tender-hearted professionals to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with courage, humor, and compassion–even in a corporate environment. To learn more, go to CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

To stay in the loop, sign up for the bimonthly newsletter with content from the blog, videos, and podcasts here. Connect with Amy on Facebook and Twitter, too!



Hooked by distractions? How to change if you always take the bait.

I’ve been reading a book with pretty complex ideas, and it’s a challenge to stay focused. I remembered this post on on distractibility, distraction-seeking, and displacement activity. So now I’ll practice self-compassion in working at something difficult and remind myself that I’m only focusing on the activity for a limited time.

What works for you?

The Tao of Work

Suppose you start the day on a great note. You know exactly what you need to do that day.  You are FOCUSED.  Your to-do list has only the Big Stuff on it. Three or four things that are DO or DIE. And you have the energy to make it happen!

Before you know it, you’re off on a hundred tangents. The task list is all but forgotten.

Does this ever happen to you?  I experience it all the time, and based on what I’m hearing from my clients, so is practically everyone else.

At least three things are going on here: distract-ability,distraction-seeking, and displacement activity.  Here’s what I mean:

Distract-ability: A state of being easily pulled away from my goal or chosen focus. Example: you want to make an appointment on your calendar, but become distracted by notifications on your phone. Relate?

Distraction-seeking: Abandoning focus in favor…

View original post 851 more words

Other writings: Serenity, Grace, and Motivation

A couple of external blogs have published my work this past month, and I preached at my church. I’d like to share with you about these works and give you links where you can get more.

Grant me the serenity toaccept the things I cannot changethe courage to change the things I canandthe wisdom to know the difference (1)How to get the Wisdom, Courage, and Serenity you need

One of the ways I find that my clients (and I) can make ourselves miserable is by wishing for a better past. “He shouldn’t have done that,” we might think, or “I should have gotten an interview for that job!”

It also shows up in wishing for other people to be different. “You should do [xyz] without my telling you!” or “You should want to do this!”

When we use our energy in this way, to resist reality, we have no chance of making any difference in our own life or anyone else’s. The serenity prayer reminds us to conserve that energy. Let go of the complaint. Accept what is.

But sometimes we act as if the serenity prayer contains only that first line, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

It goes on. And the rest of the serenity prayer has been ringing loudly in my mind these last few weeks.

Click here to read more at Having Time.

pointing-woman-angry.jpgMotivating Employees When All Else Fails

When attempts at motivating an employee are going poorly, what can you do before you show them the door? Look at yourself.

When you struggle to motivate others, try to engage openly in self-examination, inviting feedback and remaining open to change.

It feels counterintuitive at first because we are so aware of what those others are doing that should be different. But, no matter how hard you try you cannot change someone else.

You can, however, effectively change yourself, and when you change yourself you change the dynamic of the relationship. That will always have an impact.

Click to read more here at Lead Change Group.

Grace (1)Cultivating Grace in Challenging Times

I preached at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus on Sunday, August 21. A few days later I recorded the readings and sermon as a podcast that you can hear here.

A teaser of the content:

Whether our experiences of wrongness are so short-lived you barely notice the shift, or are more like a pit of awfulness, we know how horrible it feels to realize we’ve been wrong. Wrong to judge some group for its behavior or history. Wrong to judge people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Wrong to merely stay in our privileged racial bubble. Some of us carry what I have heard called “White Liberal Guilt.” And yeah, that is probably deserved. I don’t want it to be true, but I have to admit there’s more I could do. Parts of my mind have been too closed.

Some of us come from traditions rich in guilt, and the guilt habit is hard to break. How many of us were Catholic, or Jewish, or Baptist before we came here? Do you think we left all that guilt behind? I don’t think so. We have a new list of things we “should” do– Some of them different from the old ones, but not all. Are we serving in some way at the church? Are we involved in social justice or our nation’s democratic process? How’s your stewardship?

I suspect none of us really believe we are off the hook for any of that. But sometimes we get stuck in feeling guilty instead of knowing how to get unstuck and move forward.

Maybe guilt can motivate us sometimes, but I know that with me it more often leads to shutting down and shutting out, or grasping for control in the form of self-righteousness, even around my new liberal values.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Ways you CAN help when a loved one is in crisis

A few years back, before I started learning the right way to be a coach, I decided to go ahead and take on an individual coaching client. A woman at my company was letting her fear hold her back. During our first (and only) coaching session, she shared some of what was going on with her, and I experienced an overwhelming sense of knowing was was right for her. I asked questions that did result in insight, but she never called for a second appointment.

When I reflect on that first attempt, I can actually feel what it was like to be in the conversation. That “overwhelming sense of knowing what was right for her” was both palpable and familiar. It had come up whenever a friend or loved one was in crisis, whenever I could see that their perspective on the issue was part of the problem they were experiencing. Each time I just couldn’t wait to let them know how they were screwing themselves up and how they could fix it.

If you’ve ever seen the internet video called “It’s Not About the Nail,” you’ve seen someone having the same experience. (If you haven’t seen it, take a moment right now.)

Fortunately, in the last few years I have had intensive training and ample practice in effective listening, which differs from habitual listening (such as we see from Jason in the video). People who are listening like this aren’t bad by any means! We just allow our internal conversation to override what is actually needed by the person who is speaking to us.

Earlier this month I wrote a post on what not to do when a loved one is in crisis. If you read it, you may have come away with a commitment to keeping your mouth shut.That was a good takeaway. But let’s not stop there.

The Do’s

When a loved one is in crisis, we can become a source of calm, a way back into the world instead of losing ourselves in the anxiety we’re experiencing. But we can only do this if we manage ourselves.

The following list of do’s covers both what we can do when we are actively listening to our loved one as well as what we can do throughout our lives when the crisis is several hours, days, or even weeks (or more) long.

What you can do includes:

    • Manage your own anxiety. When you notice yourself feeling restless or anxious, take three slow, deep belly breaths. This increases the flow of oxygen to your blood and into your muscles, which naturally helps you to relax.
    • Be present. Notice your base level of distraction and practice letting go of distractions. Tune in to the “here and now.” Keep your attention on your own breathing, or get a glass of ice water and focus your attention fully on the physical sensation of it. As soon as you can, return your attention to whatever is most important instead of a distraction.
    • Tell them you’re with them. While it can (unfortunately) do more harm than good to tell your loved one that “it’ll all be okay,” you can help by promising that no matter what happens, you’ll be with them. “I’m staying,” or “I’m here” are comforting.
    • Be patient. If your loved one has experienced a loss, he or she may not recover as quickly as you would like them to. They may not start job hunting, dating, or enjoying their typical hobbies and work when you want them to. They are grieving, and grieving takes its own time.
    • Recognize that their rationality may be temporarily gone. Any human in crisis mode is likely to undergo occasional or frequent experiences where the feelings of loss, anger, and panic are overwhelming. This experience is called an “amygdala hijack.” It happens when the part of your brain that keeps you alive in a crisis (such as a burning building or an invasion) kicks in. Learn about amygdala hijack, including how thinking is affected. Our rational brain is not engaged during a hijack. If you recognize this is happening frequently in yourself or your loved one, get support for yourself so you can respond in ways that are safe and effective.
    • Meet your own needs (for both the present and the future). Being patient does not mean ceasing all activity until your loved one returns to normal. You continue to have needs, and you deserve to meet your own needs, including nutrition, sleep, exercise, social support, peace, safety, and even development. If you are running a business, continue marketing and getting clients. If you have a job, go back to work as soon as you are ready. It’s okay for you to be fully present at work, too. Just focus on being fully present at home when you are there. If you start feeling run down, check in with yourself to see which of your needs are unmet. Consider calling a friend to help you with meeting them.
    • Get support. Friends, family, therapists, and coaches can all be valid sources of support and information. If your income has taken a significant hit, find support from someone who can help you figure out what to stop spending money on, where to keep spending your money, and which sources of money to draw on when.
    • Take it one day at a time. The more you try to plan for (and control) what might happen in a day or week or month, the more you will drive yourself crazy. Remind yourself that this is a process that will take its own time. Some days you and your loved one will feel the same, many days you’ll feel differently — one up and the other down, in an unpredictable teeter-totter of emotion. Whatever happens, it is temporary. Focus on getting through that one day (or that one hour) and know that things will change, even though you can’t predict (or control) how they will change.

Bottom Line

When any of us experiences a sudden loss, the results can be devastating. Family members of those most seriously impacted will experiences losses of their own while trying to be supportive of their loved ones. We can easily slip into behaviors that do more harm than good if we are not mindful and intentional about supporting rather than offloading our own anxiety on others.

You can be more effective by managing your own anxiety and staying mentally present with your loved one. Don’t rush things but know that the situation is temporary. If things have been going on “too long” in your perspective, get yourself some support.

Keep your focus on making sure you are taking care of yourself during their crisis.You can support them best by maintaining your own health and wellbeing while staying connected to them.

What do you try to keep in mind when a loved one is in crisis? What seems to help the most? Leave me a comment below and add to the conversation!

Amy Kay Watson coaches talented, brilliant, tender-hearted professionals to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with courage, humor, and compassion–even in a corporate environment. To learn more, go to CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.

To stay in the loop, sign up for the bimonthly newsletter with content from the blog, videos, and podcasts here. Connect with Amy on Facebook and Twitter, too!

What not to do when a loved one is in crisis

In the summer of 2000 I was fired from a job I loved. When I drove to pick up my husband from his job and told him what happened, barely holding myself together, he said simply, “They’re wrong.” He was intending to let me know he was on my side, standing up for me at a time when I was feeling extremely vulnerable, and yet I didn’t find his extremely supportive response satisfying. Why not?

On other occasions, my husband has been upset about some experience he’s had at work. I have offered what I believed to be support: suggestions that perhaps other’s actions weren’t intended in the way he was perceiving them, or maybe things aren’t so bad. He doesn’t always appreciate these suggestions. Why not?

When a loved one is in crisis, they may be looking for responses that they can’t describe. What seems natural or logical to us does not in fact meet the need. We feel helpless and vulnerable because we care so much about this person who is in pain, and our inability to support them properly only adds to our sense of powerlessness. (We might even try to discharge these feelings of vulnerability by blaming them for not accepting our well-intentioned support.)

Before and since my experience of losing my ‘dream job,’ both my husband and I have experienced unexpected losses of jobs, good bosses, parents, and clients. For more than two decades we have wrestled with how exactly to support ourselves and each other through crisis, uncertainty, and pain.

This post is actually disguised as a “how to.” The truth is that I can only share what I’ve learned, what I have learned to do (and not to do) when a loved one is in crisis. But this is an area for trial and error. I hope what I share here can be of use to you.

The Don’ts:

When a loved one is in crisis it’s very natural for many of us to get lost in their crisis. When we do this, we become anxious and start trying to resolve the situation in ways that ultimately do more harm than good. Here are some things to stop doing as soon as you can:

  • Don’t force perspective on them, such as proving that your crisis is or was worse than theirs, or telling them their loss “isn’t that bad.”
  • Don’t force “fine,” such as telling them they will be fine, that things will work out fine, that things are probably fine and they’re blowing this out of proportion, or that this only happened because they can handle it.
  • Don’t force logic of any kind, including the “law of attraction.” Don’t insist that it happened for a reason (no matter what reason might be coming to mind for you). This includes explanations. Even though people in crisis are prone to asking, “Why?” this isn’t really an invitation for an explanation. It’s more like a socially acceptable way of screaming, “NO!!!” If you hear the “Why” question as a “NO!!!” you’ll be more likely to respond effectively.
  • Don’t force solutions. Sometimes we might believe the situation would be resolved if our loved-one’s behavior changed, or if we ourselves intervened. This is not a problem for you to solve. Let it go.

A list of don’ts like that can make us feel pretty helpless. “If I can’t do any of those things, what on earth is left? What am I going to do? Just sit on my hands with my mouth clamped shut?”

That isn’t a bad plan, believe it or not. It’s probably incomplete, but I do have a friend who says when she paid close attention to the don’ts and really worked hard to eliminate those behaviors, she really did feel like she was just sitting on her hands, unable to say anything. She also says she got feedback that she was being “a really good listener.” So, you never know.

But you have to find your own pace–your own rhythm. The above list of don’ts are only part of the story. They are worth paying attention to because so many of us have strong habits to do all of them. Vowing to cut them out is at least a step in the right direction.

In my next post, I offer some positive actions that we can try.

Creating your coaching agenda (podcast)

If you have hired an ICF-Certified coach for career, leadership, executive, or personal development, you may have noticed that they ask you for your “agenda items.” (This can also sound like versions of “What do you want to talk about?” and “You’re in charge, where do you want to go?”)

This can be a baffling challenge for new coaching clients. What does it mean to create the agenda for your coaching session? In this podcast I walk you through five steps.



When you’re through, send me an email (Amy@CareerLeadershipAlignment.com) and ask for the “coaching agenda worksheet.”

Find the want-to beyond “should.”

June has already been a watershed month for me. Within the space of three days in the first week of the month, I finally shifted beyond “I know I should be exercising. I need to. But …”

Have you been here, too? Maybe it’s been exercise for you, too, or some other form of self care.

Maybe you “should”:

  • be more focused on your job search.
  • be networking.
  • quit smoking.
  • ask somebody out.
  • be reading a book.

Can I just say this? Life is hard. Current events are pretty much always depressing. We don’t have enough help at work. We aren’t getting paid enough. And everything costs too much. And we aren’t appreciated for what we DO. And onto all this discouragement we layer on all this stuff we “should” do.

Is it any wonder Netflix has been so successful? It’s one thing that’s easy.

But when you click the TV off, the list of “shoulds” are all still there, and right along with them are the list of helpful apps and advice sites ready to help you get your life together and finally do something for a change.

You really should look at one of them, right?

That’s exactly where I was on June 1. I knew I had lost my fitness “ground,” and I was afraid of starting up again.

“I’ll only quit again,” I thought. “I never stick with it.”

I heard my husband offer up one of these “shoulds” for himself around that time–“I really should do that core workout plan again…”

On Saturday, June 4, I spent a couple of hours in the garden. That sounds relaxing, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. It was hard work. By the time I was done with those two hours, I could barely stand. I spent the rest of the day in bed. I thought, “Ut oh. This isn’t good.”

On Monday, June 6, I presented on the subject of personal energy management to a group of 30 professionals in Dublin, Ohio. Leading up to that presentation I was becoming extremely aware of what I wasn’t doing for my physical energy management, and between the presentation itself and the hours afterwards I felt such a crisis of integrity — I thought, “This really isn’t good.”

On Tuesday, June 7, I spent the day volunteering. By noon I was brain-dead and saying things that later made me do a “facepalm” — how could I think that was the right thing to say?  And I knew (because I’d just presented on the subject) that physical energy, strength, resilience, and endurance are foundational to mental focus.

I thought, “This is just bad. This has to change.”

I gave myself Wednesday to recover, but I talked to hubby. “Thursday morning, can we start the core workout together?” He groaned and said “yes.” We talked about what exactly this would look like — how we would make it work.

And we did it.

Friday I got on the treadmill and tried to see what I could do in 20 minutes. It was sad, but it was a start. I decided the following Monday I would start using the Couch to 5K program. And, I did.

I am now starting to feel the effects of getting going. It’s like the laces that tie my skeleton together are being pulled, and things are finally coming together after being too loose for too long.

And I do like the feeling.

I’m also noticing more ideas, more creativity, and (generally speaking) more active thought processes. It’s good to have my brain back, too.

Rock Bottom is a Beautiful Start
Image stolen outright from Evolutions Treatment Centers — see http://www.evolutionstreatment.com/about/news-articles/rock-bottom-beautiful-start

What this reminds me of is that idea of ‘hitting bottom.’ In the recovery world, there’s an idea that someone will only seek help when they’ve hit rock bottom. I guess that’s what happened with me. I finally got to a point where I could FEEL how much I needed a change.

In the pilot Think in Ink guided-journaling program that started May 16 and will be finishing June 27, we have been exploring our lives — past, present, and future. We spent a week diving into our immunity to change. I discovered that I had a big assumption that doing exercise on a regular basis was going to eat up all my free time. I assumed that I could give myself the gift of spaciousness in my schedule by skipping exercise.

There are all kinds of big assumptions that hold us back. Maybe you assume:

  • you’ll be more financially secure in the long run if you don’t spend money on _____ (pursuing your goal).
  • you’ll never actually meet someone who can help you.
  • failure (or rejection) is so painful that it means trying isn’t worth it.
  • the effort is only a cost — you won’t get enough of a reward.

When you discover your “big assumption,” the next task is to design an experiment: What’s a safe, modest, actionable experiment that you could try to test whether or not this assumption is really accurate?

My experiment was to try out exercise for a couple of weeks, fitting it in at a time when hubby was willing to join or otherwise support me, and see if it really ate up my schedule as much as I assumed it would.

Long story short, I’m not watching quite as much Stephen Colbert on YouTube as I had been. And I guess that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make so I can have this feeling that I’m not so loosely connected. So I can have my brain back.

And sharing this commitment with you is part of my accountability. Please ask me how it’s going if you see me.

What is holding you back from what you know you “should” do?  Is it a fear of failure or something even bigger? What’s one thing you can do for yourself — one step you can take — today?

Learn more about immunity to change from the experts.
Request a copy of the article by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Bottom Line: Most of us walk around with a sense of something we would be doing if we were living our lives right. And, most of us won’t make the change because we are wired to keep doing the same old thing, living the status quo.

However, we can get ourselves past the “should” and into working for ourselves instead of against ourselves. Maybe it means hitting rock bottom. Maybe it means identifying our big assumptions and challenging those. It definitely means being willing to try even when it’s possible to fail.

What about you? What has it taken for you to get back in the game? Leave me a comment below!