Archive for October, 2011

The Job Coaches: Create networks that mean something for you

October 28, 2011

For women in the workforce, networking is not only necessary but advantageous. In its simplest form, networking is an interaction to discover commonalities.

The objective of business networking is to create and expand long-lasting relationships for mutual benefits. Referrals generate 80 percent more results than cold calls. Job opportunities and career options result from introductions and recommendations.

A person who thinks highly of you and says the right thing to the right person at just the right time can be behind your promotion. On average, your network contacts may know as many as 200 to 250 people. You may not know any of them.

Networks of trusted and knowledgeable advisers aid in navigating organizational cultures. They are critical to becoming an “insider.”

This is because networking often leads to becoming a member of a group that meets formally or informally to study or plan or recommend a strategy that draws special attention.

Sometimes, especially if the group is predominantly male, a female member may be designated to take notes. Grab this opportunity if it arises. You gain a special voice as recordkeeper.

Most likely, you will become the only member of the group who can say with confidence, based on carefully recorded notes, that: “What we decided earlier was …” or “What (the absent member) said last time was …” From committee member to “authority” in one important step.

Networks also aid in problem-solving. Dealing with a difficulty in your company? Most likely, the dilemma is new only to you. While you can’t talk to your next-door neighbor about the issues and a family member may not have enough inside information to provide the intelligent guidance you need, a sage acquaintance or someone you respect in your immediate network may shed some real light.

Networks require personal involvement and investments. Don’t want to talk about the problem to someone in your immediate work group because the conversation may come back to haunt you?

Invite the wise acquaintance or someone you respect from another department or division in the company or from an outside similar, noncompetitive company to lunch or coffee at your expense. At the least, the small effort can further cultivate your friendship. At best, you find the new perspective you need.

Networks also offer a sanity check to see beyond the current mess or when you feel that nothing good is happening or to rebuild your confidence to face challenges.

When something really bothers you, a good support group is critical. Thinking about a career transition? Well-formed networks can provide the initial support and realistic advice.

Some things to keep in mind in building an effective network:

–It may be structured or casual. Some research indicates that informal networks are more important than formal ones.

–Maintaining networks is demanding and requires carefully honed time-management and people skills.

–Working within networks requires paying attention to seemingly little things. Come to the relationship to listen and show empathy. Project a professional image by the way you dress and carry your body. Develop a short and lively personal introduction that provides an open avenue for exchange. Prepare a professional business card and your own name tag to take to meetings.

–Because the most effective networks are built on mutual trust, they evolve over time. Keeping your word when you promise to say or do something builds credibility.

–Construct networks so they are well in place long before you need them.

–Avoid developing superficial networks. Gossip may be fascinating, but participating in it provides few targeted benefits.

–Networks are a two-way street. Support members of your network when they need it. Don’t keep score. It is not just when you want something, the goodwill in the bank and the right to request a favor without hooks when you really need help is important.

–Develop networks across generations. Avoid the dilemma of thinking everyone in your network should be your age or younger. You need wisdom and perspective across generations: silent/ traditional, baby boomer, X and why.

Dorothy Perrin Moore, Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship Emeritus, The Citadel.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, November 13, 2009.

C4W Member Profile: Ryan Nelson

October 26, 2011

What is your profession? Media and PR Consultant at Nelwater Consulting.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? I love eating at local restaurants with my mom, Lana Nelson, who just survived a heart attack. I really enjoy spending time with my husband, Darren Goldwater, the TV announcer for the Southern Conference network. He’s off doing a ton of games, so when he’s home, we love having fun in the Lowcountry. I also enjoy spending my time with local nonprofits like Louie’s Kids and SWAT, along with helping local nonprofits with their events. I am embracing life more than ever and absolutely loving it.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women?As the original host and creator of Lowcountry Live, both Cathy O’Hara and I truly believed in the mission of C4W and helped them reserve a permanent spot on the show  more than five years ago. I feel I have been a part of the C4W since the beginning, and seeing them flourish is amazing. Our community needed the C4W more than ever and I’m glad it’s an outlet for so many.

What inspired you to become a member?The Center for Women was recently a beneficiary of the Pour It Forward for Square Onion Too, and I realized I hadn’t signed up to be a member in forever, so I signed up immediately. What this organization does for our community is beyond immeasurable.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? I’ve been lucky enough to present a program at the C4W along with seeing them grow over the many years. They not only make an impact on myself and my business, Nelwater Consulting, but they continue to increase awareness of all the kick-ass women business owners in the Lowcountry who I’ve worked with on many clients. I’ve been lucky to meet so many of them and know that each woman contributes their own unique twist to the organization.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? As quite the outspoken woman, I have felt that my role in the world is to be strong and the C4W has helped me realize that. I remember when I interviewed Jane Perdue, she amazed me with her gumption and I asked her, “How do you deal with people who call you a bitch?” She asked me if I knew what bitch meant, I laughed admitting it probably wasn’t what I thought…she said, “It stands for Boys I’m Taking Charge Here”…ha! Since that day I knew as a woman in my native Charleston, that I needed to say what I meant, stand behind it and help other women in this town blossom. I love being a woman!

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? Sometimes it’s scary to be let go from your job or change your life when you least expect it, but in the end, embrace that change. Know that the next door that opens for you will be more than what you walked through before…and know that no matter what, you CAN do it.

The Job Coaches: Increase your stock value at work

October 21, 2011

photoEverywhere you turn these days, the conversation is about the state of the job market.

Pundits debate the recovery given still sky-high unemployment rates and people everywhere are more concerned than ever about finding jobs and keeping jobs. What does it take to make sure that your name is on the short list of people who are valued and viewed as “keepers” in the slippery world of business today?

1. Understand the business. I’m talking about the big picture of the business. It’s not enough just to master your job or even your functional area. Think in systems terms about how what you do every day affects the success of your business on a macro level. Study the marketplace. Understand the context in which your business operates and who its competitors are. Figure out how the job that you do contributes to the ultimate experience of your company’s customers.

2. Get clear on the strategic direction of the business. Time and time again, when I ask people what they need to be successful at their jobs, what they say to me is, “Just tell us where we’re headed.” If you don’t understand your company’s vision, it’s hard to add relevant value. Don’t be afraid to ask your company’s leaders to share their vision for the organization. And if you’re one of those leaders yourself, remember that a huge part of your job is to clarify strategic direction for the people you’re depending on to get the job done.

3. Build relationships. High tech or not, every business is a people business. The quality of your relationships often contributes as much if not more to your success as the quality of the job you do. Take the time to invest in connecting with the people that you work with in a way that builds trust and respect.

4. Be proactive. The business environment in which we operate today is far too complex for most directives to come in the form of a tidy list of instructions. One of the most important skills you can develop is the ability to ferret out critical information, study it, and then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you what to do, or you may just find them telling you where the door is instead.

5. Take on the tough assignments. If you know or suspect that you have the ability to successfully complete challenging projects that have not yet been offered to you, ask for them. If you know that there are assignments that other people shy away from, put your name in the hat. Your visibility can increase exponentially if you take on the thorny jobs and do them well.

6. Focus on outcome vs. activity. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the significance of their jobs is all about how they spend their time each day, as if being busy is what matters. Businesses value results, and what you do to produce them is far less important than your bottom-line ability to deliver the goods. Make sure you understand exactly what results the company is looking for, how they are measured, and how you can exceed their expectations.

7. Understand the culture. Every organization is unique in terms of what it values, how it operates and the kinds of behavior that are expected and rewarded. Getting a handle on the culture of your company is kind of like mastering the unwritten rules. The playbook may be elusive, but it’s important. Make it your business to understand what matters.

8. Manage perceptions. The currency of value in any organization is how you are perceived by others. You may be the most talented person in the world, but if the decision-makers in your company don’t see that, it doesn’t count. Make sure that your behavior, how you communicate, dress, act, etc. reflect the image that you want to convey and the substance of what you bring to the table.

9. Be a team player. Virtually any environment these days, regardless of industry, relies on teams to deliver its products or services. Being a good team member requires compromise, adapting to different styles, and learning to collaborate in a way that produces results that you couldn’t achieve on your own. Invest in developing a camaraderie and flexible working style with your team members that makes it a pleasure for them to work with you.

10. Study the superstars. Every company has them — the top producers, key contributors. Observe how they operate. What makes them effective? How do they communicate? What do they prioritize? What can you learn from them? Sometimes the best way to get ahead is to heed the example of those who have gone before.

Advancing your career is largely about increasing your own stock value at work. Make sure that your strategy helps you to bring the best of yourself to the business, and have others take notice!

Barbara Poole is a master-certified coach and president of Success Builders, Inc.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, February 5, 2010.

The Job Coaches: Plan for references, background checks

October 14, 2011

photoQ: A company that interviewed me wants references and is going to do a background check. What do I do?

A: Most companies check references and do background verifications for security and legal reasons. They also want to assure that your resume and application contain the facts. References are a make-or-break part of getting a job offer. Successfully handling this part of your job search requires some prior planning.

Who should be on your list of references? Prospective employers want to talk to people who can vouch for your work accomplishments. Excellent choices include former supervisors (ideally your most recent), indirect supervisors (your boss’ boss), customers, vendors, professors/advisers, clients, colleagues and direct reports. Employers will question your credibility if you include close friends and relatives as references.

How do I know what people will say? Always invite someone to be a reference. A first-rate initial question is: “Are you familiar enough with my job performance to give me a positive reference?” If someone hesitates or is lukewarm with their response, that’s a good sign to pick someone else. You must know in advance that your references can confirm the content of your resume and speak confidently of your contributions, strengths and performance. If your references work for a company that limits the information they can share to just dates of employment, job titles and salary history, you need to be aware of that; so ask.

Is there a way to prepare my references for calls? Provide your references with a copy of your current resume along with a list of companies or people to whom you have given their name. Secure current information from your reference: current job title, company, address, telephone numbers (home, work and cell) and e-mail address. Ask them if they prefer a phone or e-mail contact, and include that information in the list you give to potential employers.

Will I have to sign any releases or waivers? Don’t be surprised if a possible employer asks you to sign a release so they can check your references. They are simply protecting themselves from possible liability. If a company is using an outside company to conduct a background check, you must provide written authorization to them before the review happens.

What kind of information is included in a background check? While the list of items checked varies from company to company, any of the following (and even more!) could be researched: criminal history, previous employment, driving record, military experience, Social Security number, court records, credit history and education.

What do I do if something bad turns up? Upfront honesty works best. Employers typically check your background once they are interested in you. So disclose that DUI from your college days. Tell the truth on your resume – don’t inflate job titles or college degrees. If you were fired or involved in other difficult situations, work with a job coach to develop an interview response. More and more companies are also checking you out online — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — so clean up anything that could be embarrassing or compromising.

With some thoughtful preparation, you can ace the reference and background check part of your job search.

Jane Perdue is the principal/CEO of The Braithewaite Group.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment. A donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, August 28, 2009.

In Memory of Kimberlee Shonk

October 7, 2011

Last January Kimberlee Shonk, age 20, died as a result of ovarian cancer.  She was a College of Charleston student, a biology major with a 3.7 GPA and with plans to attend medical school.   Kimberlee attended Wando High School and was a proud member of the Wando Marching Band.  She was an intelligent, articulate, beautiful young woman with a great sense of humor.  Recently her college friends sent me their recollections of Kimberlee —

  • She taught me so much about living and how to enjoy life.
  • Seeing her walk down a busy street;   it was like the sea parted for her with her beautiful long blond hair and flowing skirt.
  • She coined the word “Swooztastic” to define the joys of life.
  • She never lived in fear of dying.

Although we were separated by 40 years in age, we were sisters in ovarian cancer.  Sitting in my office with our bald heads we compared notes on chemotherapy and talked about the lack of a reliable test to detect ovarian cancer.    Both of us wondered how we could have had an earlier diagnosis.   What symptoms did we ignore?   What should we have done differently?  Kimberlee was diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer in the spring of 2009.  I was diagnosed with stage III peritoneal  ovarian cancer at the same time.   Each year, over 20,000 women are diagnosed  and about 15,000 women die as a result of ovarian cancer.   The symptoms:  bloating, abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary frequency or urgency, are common and often ignored.   Kimberlee sent me an email last September 2010 as we were preparing events for Ovarian Cancer month.  She included her symptoms, bloating and pain in the abdomen, in hopes that by sharing them she would encourage other women to pay attention and “listen to their bodies.”

Ovarian Cancer occurs more often in older women; however, it can attack women of all ages.   For this reason, the Center for Women’s  Lowcountry Women With Wings organization in conjunction with the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance at the College of Charleston hosted “Teal Day” at the College on September 30th, the last day of  Ovarian Cancer Month.   Teal is the color to recognize ovarian cancer awareness and all students, faculty and staff were encouraged to wear teal not only to bring awareness of ovarian cancer, but,  most importantly,  in memory of Kimberlee Shonk, a member of the College of Charleston family. “Teal Day” included distribution of ovarian cancer information and a “Breaking the Silence” event at 11:55 am in the Cougar Mall.

Another awareness event was held at the MUSC horseshoe on Sept. 27 with the Pink Fire Trucks that travel the country promoting awareness about cancers that strike women. Lowcountry Women with Wings was there as well with a teal convertible!

The goal of Lowcountry Women with Wings is to Rise Above Ovarian Cancer by educating our community about the symptoms.  Kimberlee wanted to tell her story with the hope that she could encourage other young women to listen to their bodies, have regular check-ups and to attack this silent killer.

Sue Sommer-Kresse, PhD

Charleston, South Carolina

C4W Business Member Profile: Laura Rayl, ResCare HomeCare

October 5, 2011

What is your profession? Branch Manager for the Charleston Office of ResCare HomeCare.  ResCare HomeCare delivers quality care and compassionate support when you want them, where you want them – in the comfort of your own home or community. ResCare HomeCare professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week including holidays. We tailor our services to meet your needs and offer a broad selection of service and scheduling options.

Our staff includes a large pool of direct support professionals. Each is a ResCare HomeCare employee, and we hire and assign every individual with care. All of our caregivers are thoroughly screened and pass criminal background checks; trained in accordance with state licensing rules and regulations; and supervised by our branch managers or nurses on an ongoing basis. We carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance and manage our caregivers’ compensation, payroll taxes, and benefits. Substitute caregivers are available if needed. ResCare HomeCare offers everything from companion services to hands on personal care.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? I love networking and meeting new people.  I love anything to do with the arts and water.  I also have a love for children and seniors.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? I just joined the Center for Women but have attended events for several years.

What inspired you to become a member? I love the mission of the Center for Women and feel like it is a good worthwhile organization.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? I have had some great learning experiences at some of their events as well as met many great women.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? I feel women have many more stresses and challenges than others on a day to day basis.  I am a strong, outgoing, happy person that knows I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, woman or not.

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? Get the rest you need, care for yourself first then you will have the energy and effort to do whatever you want in life.  Smile because it makes you and others much happier.

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