You Are Not An Old Dog Stuck In A Career – You Can Learn New Tricks

old dog learning new tricks

I was at a party last weekend and had a wonderful conversation about dogs with a fellow guest.  Us dog people can sniff each other out in a crowd.  I mentioned that I had hired a trainer to train me on how to train my dogs and he was quite interested as he had a pup or two that could use some guidance.

Near the end of the conversation a light bulb went off and he remarked that my dogs were not young.  No, they are not.  My boys are both 7 and the little princess is over 10.  And yet, they took to the training.

I do not know where they phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” came from.  After my training experience, I have concluded it was coined by a person who was not trained to train their dog and therefore their dog did not respond.

Too often during our career journey this phrase pops into our heads when we feel stuck.  Unable to move forward or even laterally into a new position or company that would better benefit us.  Perhaps we use it as a consolation phrase to make us feel better.  It is an excuse.

We can learn new technology, skills, systems or even ways of thinking at any age – it is our will to do so that is the determining factor, not our age or length of time in a position.

I am continually motivated by clients that have completed advanced training, education or even a complete jump into a new career after years being stuck in a box.  That is courage and it is impressive.  The one common denominator with all of these amazing people is this: they had a desire that they turned into action.

They wanted more, better or different.  They realized it was not going to materialize out of thin air where they are so they went after it and did it.  Sometimes it is to advance their careers, other times it was to expand their own capabilities without a direct correlation to their career.

Not all knowledge is going to serve as a means to propel your career – if you want it, go for it anyway.  Setting and achieving that goal gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride that is irreplaceable.

To learn new tricks does not always mean formalized certification or education.  Sometimes the best tricks you can learn are free.  You have a wealth of knowledge and experience all around you in your network.  Look around at your circle of influence, alliances and friends.  Explore your connections on LinkedIn.  Then take the most important step – ask.

One of the best ways to increase your knowledge is to simply ask.  I have a wonderful alliance of women that I see frequently and we combine exercise with expansion.  If any of us have a question, problem or contemplating a new idea – we ask the others.  We discuss our businesses, marketing, opportunities, experiences, thoughts, failures and stories.  This is a mobile MBA program in business!

In the world of knowledge, we are all very young pups with a lot to learn.  Let’s start by asking.


As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

★ Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you. ★


Leadership: It is All About You…For Them

Last night I had the privilege to attend the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association panel discussion “Women in Leadership: The Challenges, the Victories, the Strengths”.

Although the event was through a women’s organization (the second largest in Indiana) and the title specified women, one of the most important messages was not gender specific.

And yes, there were men in attendance.

The panelists were Tiffany Olson, President of Nuclear Pharmacy Services at Cardinal Health; Colleen Hittle, Managing Director at Navigant and Jennifer Zinn, Vice President of Strategic Affairs at Roche Diagnostics with moderator Dr. Cheryl Beal Anderson, Sr. Director at Lundbeck. Talk about a powerhouse group!

Throughout the discussion there was a wealth of information presented, such great insight, humor and wisdom, just a few tidbits include:

  • Being a leader can be lonely, careful what you wish for; but it is a privilege.
  • Not all paths are straight and narrow, sometimes the broken path leads to the greatest destination.
  • Eliminate the word “balance” in work/life, it is an equation; and one that you must calculate to fit you, not anyone else’s expectations.
  • Learn to literally sit at the table and be comfortable in your seat.

One message that resonated with me and that I continue to go back to today is leadership is all about you in order to be a better leader for your team.

When I say it is all about you, my meaning is this: know yourself – your strengths, weaknesses, values, motives, goals and boundaries.

When you come from a place of honesty, integrity and transparency, you are able to perform at a higher level for your team. That is when the shift comes from all about you (knowing yourself) to all about them – providing direction, inspiration, encouragement and sometimes, a little butt-kicking.

Leader’s must make difficult decisions, the buck stops with them. What the panelists shared in making these decisions easier is to know yourself, trust your intuition, act with integrity and make the decision that is in the best interest of the group.

Communication is key. Learn first how to listen and then paint the long term benefit picture for the team as a team. Learn how to communicate in the way your team will best listen and understand.

You will never be right 100% of the time, you will make mistakes and you will tick someone off. One panelist made a difficult, but right, decision and her co-workers ‘voted her off the island’ for a few weeks. That is when being right can be lonely; however, knowing you acted with integrity and honesty will make it a bit easier to get through and much easier to look back upon.

Knowing your priorities in personal and business will allow you to keep what is important front and center and not be overrun by the priorities of the day.

Allow, no encourage or just short of demand, people to challenge you. One panelist said it wonderfully in stating mentors should push, inspire and challenge you. If they are just encouraging and agreeing, they are not providing much value. Not all mentors will be your mentor throughout your career. Some come in for specific purposes at specific times and once they have provided the value you need, it is time to let them go. Allow them to help others and allow yourself to bring the next level in to meet your needs.

Honesty is vital. Honesty with who you are, what your value is, what you are good at and where you can improve allows you to grow as an individual and a leader while providing a strong base for others to follow.

Each panelist had different viewpoints, experiences and I would hazard to say leadership styles; but the common denominator in them all: self-awareness, honesty, integrity and continual progression. It is something we can all learn from in being better versions of ourselves and better leaders to our teams.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Brand Strategist & Career Coach
Certified Professional Resume Writer

Just Ask For Help Already

Image  I love tomatoes.  My favorite food in the summer is a salad made with avocados, black olives and tomatoes.  I love picking tomatoes off the vine and eating them like an apple for a snack.  I also make a killer cucumber and tomato salad.


For these reasons, I need fresh tomatoes.  Yes, it is a need.  Not want, need.


Sounds simple enough. 


I looked outside at what used to be my garden and see two of my dogs chewing on the grass that has taken over.  I also catch them fertilizing the weeds that have invaded.


Not an ideal tomato patch.  It needs a lot of cleaning up.


But before I can clean it up, I need to cordon it off.  The two big dogs have a way of trampling, fertilizing and marking things; but the little one, well, she was trained by my old pack leader how to pick tomatoes off the vine and eat them.


So before I can plant, I need to clean it up; but before I can clean it up, I need to create a crazy-dog proof fencing.


I say crazy because one dog scales six foot privacy fences and the other can pretty much open any latch man has made.


So I have to build something.  I decide a fence with added features on the corners will cure the scaling dog and a couple contraptions on the latch will slow down the other.  I need to build a six foot fence and gate that match the existing fencing and gates.


Which means I have to prepare before I build, before I clear, weed, prepare and plant. 


Post holes need to be dug, things have to be measured off, materials have to be purchased without the risk of returning because they are the wrong things.


All I wanted was tomatoes.


One simple thing that has turned into a huge to-do list, an overwhelming to do list.  The first thing is dig the holes for the posts.  


After a couple of weeks, and only being able to dig down 12 inches and they kinda looked in line; I finally gave in and asked for help.  I had no choice.  If I was going to get my tomatoes this year, then I had to admit I was out of my element here.


I called for backup.  I called one of my best friends.  I even made the request more urgent by telling him that our 21-year-old son was going to help me build the fence. Yes, my son’s father is one of my best friends. 


He is also an expert at cars, building and well, sometimes everything – but that is another story.


He built the deck on the back of the house and many moons ago used to build desks and privacy fences.  The man can build.


Yesterday the rest of the post holes were completed then two eight foot and two ten foot posts were set in concrete.  I helped, I just want to say.  I carried lumber, poured concrete mix, held things straight, strung twine and masterfully added water to the concrete. 


I was so excited at how much progress was made in a couple hours with help that when my little buddy (my two year old neighbor) popped his head up and asked, “Whatcha doing?” I had to tell him about the fence, gate and garden.   Hey, I was excited and he asked! 


Then he asked why, I think a natural response from two year olds, so I told him to keep the doggies out of my tomatoes.  I completely lost him then because I said the magic word “doggie” (he loves my dogs) and he was off trying to see them between the fencing. 


Today, the bracing goes up and probably the fencing.  This means that soon after the gate, clearing, tilling and preparation can be done for planting this weekend!


Now, had I not asked for help, this project could have stretched out indefinitely, which means no fresh tomatoes for me this year. 


I am not a person to ask for help easily.  I am stubborn.  I could justify this not asking by saying other things like I am independent, my dad and ex taught me how to use tools, blah, blah, blah.  But let me just cut to the chase – I am stubborn.  I want to be able to do things on my own.


It burns me when I cannot.


I put my big girl shoes on and asked for help because I needed it.  Sure, I could have done it all myself.  It would have taken me a crazy long time to complete and honestly, may not have been as solid as what it is now.  I would have wasted a lot of time, money and energy only to have to have it all fall down after I did it on my own.


I’m still breathing after I asked for help.


That’s the other thing – it didn’t kill me to ask for help.  No price to pay, no begging, crying, pleading, humiliating sucking up; I just simply had to ask.  It was so easy.  Why do we set it up to be so difficult?  Why do we force this “I can do it all on my own” attitude on ourselves and then when we realize we are out of our league we have to compound the problem by “having” to ask for help?


I didn’t have to – I wanted to.  We work well together, he does awesome work and I always, always learn something.  I also let him know how much I appreciate his help and expertise.  He felt good about being able to help.  It was a good thing all the way around.


We are not made to do all things ourselves.  We need help.  People like to help.  We just need to get over it and simply ask.  Then those that need the help are connected with those that like to help and guess what – it is a win-win situation!


Where are you stalled?  What is some hurdle that you cannot get over to move on with a goal?  What is it that you are lacking in order to accomplish this goal?  For me it was two things:  knowledge and brawn.  Look, there is no way I was heaving four 50 pound bags of cement to the back yard.  Just wasn’t going to happen.


Figure out where you need the help, get over yourself then ask for help.  I know part of it was ego, luckily being only five foot tall there isn’t a lot of ego to get over, but I had to; and once I did, I can see the vision coming together.


I think I might have to put this into practice more often.  It feels awesome to know that not only will I be able to plant tomatoes soon, but the gate and fence are going to be solid, well build and look great.  What else can I accomplish if I just ask for a little help?  What can you?


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer


How To Make That Change

workWhile this seems like a vague title, it is intentional.


I am in the business of change.  I work with individuals to change something in their present situation.  In a general sense you could say I am a brand manager.


For those looking for a new position or advancement in their career I work with them on their resume, LinkedIn, interviewing, networking: everything leading to the change in jobs.


For business owners and teams I work with them on LinkedIn, business bios, networking and anything that helps engage their prospects or building their business.


I help every individual identify or clarify their brand and learn how to communicate that to the appropriate audience.


For each client it takes work; on both sides.


That is exactly what it takes to make any change: work.


Most people look at work as a dirty four letter word.  Not me – I see it as a positive, invigorating motivation.


If you want a change; whether it is a new job, a better job, new business, more prospects, better engagement, to master a skill, to take up a new hobby, to increase your social circle it takes work.


And here is the work that will work for you:








You have to identify the want.  What do you really want and why?



What is the situation around you, what is present and what is not?  What are any opportunities available for you and what are available if you make a change?



What is to be gained?  What is the first small step and reward and what is the one after?  Set goals and know when you have reached them, use them to motivate you to the next step.  It is not a stagnate process and end-all point.  Rewards are continual as long as you keep going.



Sometimes this is the best result of work – the knowledge.  Learning about yourself, a new industry, a new hobby, what worked, what didn’t, how you can use that going forward and learning about those around you.  Knowledge is power.


You make think you really want to make a change, but unless you are willing to identify and fulfill the work than you are dreaming.  Dreams are goals without a plan.  Dreams are illusionary and goals are tangible.  You can measure your progress toward a goal, you know when you receive a reward, when you accepted the knowledge, when you identify a new opportunity and fulfill a want.

Work is the method for change.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


There are No Stupid Questions

I had to get a new pair of earbuds the other day, I listen to my Ipod constantly and am very hard on my earphones. This morning as I was putting them in I looked down and noticed there was a little “R” and “L” letting me know which one should go in which ear. Really? Does this make a difference? Is it going to affect the sound quality if I put the R in the L ear? Nope, it didn’t, I just tried.

Of course this little exercise of futility got me thinking about instructions and why they are needed. Oh we have all heard the jokes about the hair dryer that says not to use it in the bathtub and how we have never been in that big of a hurry to get ready. Or the Preparation H and not to use that product orally. I’m not touching that one.

We can all have a good laugh; however, I also realize that sometimes the “simple” instructions are needed because others have not had the fortune of our own experience. Let go of the Preparation H joke now, follow me.

When I teach a class often times I get a question which to me might seem like a no-brainer; however I have to remember that writing a resume is not taught to us as children or adults and it is a scary process. I encourage all and any questions because I realize people just really do not know and they are more afraid of doing something wrong than taking a chance of doing something right. You may think that asking if you should put your name on the second page would seem silly, but not knowing the “rules” can intimidate someone into inaction. Fear makes us second-guess everything.

Think about it, the only way you know some of these rules are because you were taught in one way or another. Either by a parent, teacher, boss, co-worker, or perhaps picked it up overhearing a conversation. We were not born with a set of rules automatically programed into us.

The next time your child, co-worker or even a stranger asks you a question which you think should be common sense, take a second to remember that not everyone knows what you do. If you mock or shame this person for asking you could really be doing some major damage. What if your child feels so badly for asking what they were just told was a “silly” question and that makes them so embarrassed that they stop asking questions in class?

There is nothing wrong in not knowing the answer to something. What may be common sense to you isn’t to me and visa versa. I used to be embarrassed to ask questions, I did not want to look “stupid” or uneducated. I got over it. I realize that I just don’t know everything and the only way I am going to know the information I want to know is to ask. So I ask, and I ask a lot of questions. Not only did I get over this fear I totally conquered and destroyed it to the point that I ask A LOT of questions because I want to understand things completely.

When my boys were growing up they knew that my house was one were you were not judged and could ask any question. Before they went off to college and the service some of them stopped by to have one of our talks and they all said they appreciated the fact that I never made them feel stupid. That no matter how silly the question was I would always answer and treated them with respect, they felt safe here and respected. What greater gift can you give a child than by a creating these two feelings just by not mocking them but rather simply answering a question?

Occasionally I am still mocked for asking questions that others assume should be common knowledge and I just laugh it off. I have also learned to laugh at myself. I can deal with a little mockery and teasing. The way I see it, I would rather have a moment of embarrassment than a lifetime of ignorance.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Transition Strategist
Career Polish, Inc.