Listen for the Pebbles That Can Propel Your Career

Luke on guardSome of my greatest lessons, examples and reminders come from my dogs. I have three dogs; the one pictured is Luke, the baby of the family. He is a big six year old puppy full of enthusiasm, joy, unconditional love and unbridled energy.

And the attention span of a gnat.

I discovered after Luke was a part of my family that he had special talents – being able to open doors (especially the pantry and empty the contents), figuring out child locks, putting holes in walls, leaping six foot privacy fences and major anxiety.

Luke and I have been playing new games for over a week. It is actually training, but do not tell him that or he will stop playing. In less than a week he now drops his toy for me to throw instead of drooling all over me and nipping at me while trying to get me to take it out of his mouth. Today, he dropped a toy over nine times in a row before he got bored and napped. Major victory!

We have also been working on playing nice while walking on a leash. Here is the thing – this dog could drag me all over creation without batting an eye. He weighs almost as much as I do, extremely strong and big – and don’t forget that unbridled energy. So walking nice on a leash is a big thing.

This weekend he was praised by a neighbor for calmly walking past her two yip-yip hyper dogs as they tried to tear through the fence to play with him. I was a proud mommy. Training was going well. I still have to remind him when he sees people on the other side of the street or in their yard that they are not out there to meet him.

Yes, all was going well, until that guy.

We had completed over a mile and a half at a good pace so he was happy and a bit tired and listening well when a man, his dog and his small daughter appeared at the end of the street. As they got closer, I shortened Luke’s lead and told him (in a voice loud enough for the guy to hear) “good boy, no, we are not going to play, stay with mommy”

Apparently the guy was deaf.

He kept making a bee-line right toward us. So when he was close enough, I started to take Luke off the path and told him, “He’s training, so we can’t say hi to your pup.”

Apparently the guy is really deaf.

He continued right up to Luke with his dog and said, “It’s ok, they will be fine.”

I’m sorry, what?? As I tried to pull Luke back and continue, the guy moved forward so his dog could continue to sniff Luke and then said, “See, they are doing good.”

Are you kidding me? What?? That is when I was finally able to break free of that guy and his dog. The whole time his young daughter looked on.

I am normally a very nice person, a friendly person and a happy person. However, disrespect my dogs or my kids and it becomes a different story. For the sake of the little girl, I kept my calm and walked away, praising Luke for being a good boy and muttering not nice words about the man in my head.

I fumed about this for a bit. I specifically told this guy to not bring his dog up to mine. I was nice, I was firm and I could not be more clear. Okay, maybe I could, but that might have involved words that my mother would not approve of, so yes, I was clear.

Yet he refused to listen.

It hit me later that there are a lot of people that do not listen throughout their career. Their bosses, customers or coworkers are nice, firm and clear but they just do not listen. There are so many opportunities lost because we do not listen.

If it is suggested by your boss that someone should learn a certain skill, take on an additional responsibility or serve in a certain capacity – how many times does this fall on deaf ears?

That is opportunity! More than one opportunity – a way to learn something new, let your boss know you are listening and willing to put forth effort needed and a chance to step up.

It is a pebble. The road to greatness, adventure, advancement, exploration and growth are all built upon pebbles.

If your coworkers or boss compliments an aspect your work or the job you did– those are pebbles. You have been recognized for a skill set or ability, now how can you build on it and do even more? Are you listening?

If a customer makes a suggestion or even a compliant – are you listening? It is a pebble. An opportunity to solve a problem or go beyond to create an even more memorable experience.

Often people feel stuck in their jobs or careers; yet what they do not realize is there are amazing opportunities all around just waiting to be taken advantage of propelling them to where they want to be.

Stop, listen and then take action.


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I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Stop Cheating Yourself by Expecting Others to Do it All for You

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn, and I still struggle with today, is not doing everything for my family.  When my son was younger, I might have done things to save time.  Some of my family is not very technically savvy so, as I am on my computer for the better part of every day, I was asked to perform certain tasks.


It was a matter of convenience.  It was easier if I just did the tasks.


It would not take me as long, I was more versed in the arena or I had more time to complete it since it would take them much longer to complete it.


Guess what – that is a big load of cow manure.


It is a huge disservice for everyone involved.


I received several “binkies” from my baby showers.  I don’t know what you call those little mouth plugs we give to infants but around here we call them binkies. 


I remember him sitting in his swing one day and being a little fussy so I thought we would give the binkie a try.  I popped it in his mouth and as soon as I sat back down he looked at me and spit it out.  So I got up and gave it to him again.  Again, he waited until I sat down and looked at me and spit it out.  We were done with the binkie.  The way I looked at it is one less bad habit I would have to break later.


I wish I had the same wisdom when it came to doing for others.


When he was younger I might have done tasks for him or completed them for him as a matter of convenience.  Let me also admit here that I am not the most patient person in the world.  But what happened was as he grew up it became an expectation.


I was expected to complete not just past tasks, but any tasks for him if he didn’t want to do them.  Becaue I was Mom, that is what I did.  Same for family members.  I would help out and then it became an expectation.


The problem with this is once you realize the expectation and the true disservice that you are doing, it is damn near impossible to break the habit. 


When you first deny the person you immediately get resistance.  They may think you are joking, or mad at them.  I mean, why else would you not do it?  When you put your foot down and say no, hostility can very easily crop up from them.


You have always done it before.  It isn’t like it is a big deal for you.  You are being selfish.  You aren’t being supportive of your family.  Nowhere in their reality do they ever see it as an imposition or using of you.  This is partially your fault – you set the stage.  I am fully responsible for the bad habits I instilled in my family.


I didn’t always handle this change in dynamics well.  I have very hard-headed, stubborn and sometimes short-sighted family members.  Hey, I am not judging, I can be one of them.  So when I started saying no there was a lot of resistance.  The calm talks, explanations and flat out no’s were not received well nor did they sink in.


I had to take quite a loud and drastic stance.  A couple yelling sessions and a couple breakdowns were involved.  It wasn’t pretty nor was it fun.  I just kept telling myself that I had accountability in this so I had to just suck it up and stick to my guns.


Yes, I was being selfish because here are a couple of cold hard truths:


– If I don’t take care of myself how can I possibly be at my best to take care of anyone else?

– What makes me think I can solve everyone else’s problems by taking them on?


You see, when I kept trying to do all for everyone else it was sucking the life out of me.  I was becoming distracted, short tempered, exhausted and just a lot of things I did not like.  My family noticed I was not myself, but could not connect the dots as to why.


I have come a long way with this, but I still have a ways to go – personally that is. 


Professionally, I have a hard fast rule: You have to have skin in the game or we will not be working together.  Prospects will ask me how successful I am, they want to know how many people have gotten jobs based on working with me.  My reply is simple:


I am 100% successful.  I provide my clients with what they need; however it is up to my clients to use this information and put it into practice to reach their goals.


I cannot take all credit for my clients’ successes, nor do I take all responsibility for their failures.  There are some that will have all the best tools but never take them out of the box.


That is the best thing I can do for my clients.  I can provide them with the most fantastic resume, LinkedIn profile, interview or network coaching but I cannot perform the actions necessary for them to succeed.  They must be involved in the process of these things in order that they can fully engage in them and take full ownership.


In my process I incorporate a method of teaching.  I will finalize their resume for the first position that they want to target.  For the second target I have them make the revisions and then we go through them.  I transition the process to them, giving them coaching and guidance, in order for them to take full ownership and move on without me.


I cut the cord, I kick them out of the nest. 


That is an important part of my job – not just give them the tools they need, but teach them how to use them. 


When you are evaluating hiring a professional to hire you in any activity for improvement do not sell yourself short and expect them to do it all for you.


Would you hire a personal trainer and expect that by watching them work out you will get in better shape?

Would you hire a dietitian that tells you what foods to eat and outline a change in your eating behaviors but not incorporate the changes yourself?




When you take ownership of or within a project you take accountability and are more engaged in the process to ensure you reach a successful outcome.  The outcome you want.  The outcome you help create.


When you expect others to do the work for you then you are giving up your control and creating an opportunity for blame.  You get an outcome that is decided for and given to you.


I saw a quote the other day that I think applies perfectly: you can have results or excuses but not both.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach & Brand Strategies

Certified Professional Resume Writer


It’s Not a Demand, It’s What I Want

I heard someone say once that they loved children because they were so honest.  Obviously this person did not have children.  Ask a child with chocolate smudged around their mouth standing next to an empty plate that once held a piece of chocolate cake if they ate the cake and without blinking an eye most will instantly answer, “No.”  So much for honesty.

However; it is a whole different story when you ask a child what they want – they have no problem being honest and just laying it out there.  Sometimes they even tell you without asking – they are honest that way.

A peculiar thing happens when we start to grow up; we stop telling other people what we want or need.  I think it is a conditioning thing; we are told we are asking for too much, it is impossible to grant, we are silly for thinking of such things or worse yet that we are being selfish.

Then when we combine our desire to express our needs within relationship situations it gets worse.  When I say relationships I mean both personal and business.  It gets all confused and often times it comes across as a demand; i.e. if they other person does not provide it then the relationship will end.  Because of this misconception too often we stop asking for what we want.

For example, in a working situation perhaps you are getting bored and you want to be included in more challenging projects.  The dilemma comes in how to ask for more challenges without being perceived as ungrateful for what you have or threatening in a manner of it you do not get the opportunities you will look for a new job.

Before you get yourself all in a tizzy about this stop and take a breath.  Think about the reasons for asking for what you want, as well as if you do get it will it make you happy?  If you don’t like the people you work with and ask for more responsibility it is not going to address the personnel issues so ultimately it probably won’t make you happy.

It is important to identify the reasons behind the need in order that you can clarify them to the other party.  On the flip side, identify the things that you are doing now that you enjoy or the positives about the relationship – you will need to include both of these elements into your request.

If you were to approach your boss about more responsibility I would suggest starting with thanking them for taking the time to speak with you; reiterate the aspects of your job that you really enjoy; point out your strengths; open the door by stating that you want to be an even more integral part or contributing member of the company and then request what you want.

It could sound something like this: “I know you have been really busy so I wanted to thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to me.  Let me just start by saying I really love working on the corporate development side within our department; I think that my organization and follow up have been a really great contributing factor to a lot of our successes over the past year.  If there is anything else you can think of that I can be doing to help even more I open to suggestions.

One thing that I have been thinking about is that I would really like to get more involved in a deeper level to help the company even more.  I know we have a lot of membership events and I would like to be involved in those.  I think I have a lot to offer those events and it would give me a chance to be challenged and grow even more within our department.  I’m coming to you to see if we can make this happen and get your thoughts.”

No where in that conversation was there an implication of being unhappy or threatening to leave if the opportunity is not available.

You might think you are ready to go have this conversation – but wait.  There are a couple more factors you need to prepare for: namely your reaction and statements to their response.  Have three ready: one for acceptance of your proposal, one for rejection and one for a neutral response.

Will you need to provide examples to help sell yourself in the case of rejection?  What if they try to give you a blow off response – are you going to let it die right then and there or will you respond that you will give them some time to think about it and offer to come back in a few days to circle back?

Another factor to consider is if you get the rejection – how will it make you feel?  Will you feel resentful or upset?  If so be mindful of this because if it comes across during your initial conversation then it is going to be perceived as a threat, not a request.  There is a chance that the opportunity is not available at this time, ok, keep your eyes open and try again.

Of course it could be that they feel you are not quite ready.  If that is the case be open to listening to their objections and suggestions as to what you can do to be better prepared; then do them.

Life would be wonderful if we all got what we wanted when we wanted it without additional effort – yeah, but that is not always the case.  There may be factors that you are not even aware of that are hindering your ability to get what you want.  Once these have been uncovered it is an opportunity to make adjustments or improvements in order to move forward.

Let’s be honest, if it is something you really want then you are not going to be opposed to working for it are you?  If you are then I guess you really didn’t want it that much in the first place.

Lastly, I find that many people almost feel bad for asking for something that they want.  Don’t.  Hey, if it is something that is going to make you happier, more fulfilled and all around feel better about yourself than to heck with what anyone thinks – go for it.  At the end of the day it is really all about what makes you happy.  When you are more fulfilled and happy it is a natural progression for you to want to give more of yourself – and that is a win-win situation for all.


Don’t forget to logon to to sign up for the kickoff session of Career Connect presented by The Grindstone!  I’ll be talking about career progression.  It’s going to be great so sign up today!!

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.