How do you position yourself for a promotion? Related: 4 Things To Do Before Asking For A Promotion Even in a city like mine, Las Vegas, which still boasts the nation’s highest unemployment, for the approximately 65-75% of us who are fully employed, this is as good of a time as ever to start thinking about how to climb to the next level of professional success.

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Even in these difficult economic times, a lot of professionals still would like to find a new job or strike out solo and put up their own shingle. I know. Like most entrepreneurs, prior to starting my own coaching and training company I had a 9-5 (or in my case, a 10-6). Fortunately, unlike a lot of employees who - out of economic need, fear, or a combo of the two - stay longer than they would like, I left my company prior to losing my ability to be a top performer. It's important to know when it's time to find a new job. For I firmly believe, whatever reasons for leaving a job you have, the way you walk away from your company is the way you will show up to a new one - especially if it’s your own, brand-spankin’ new business. To prevent yourself from staying too long at your current employer or leaving before you are truly prepared to go, I recommend considering these top two points. If you can confidently say “yes” to both of them, most likely you are ready to move on. Just as importantly, you will be able to do it with integrity - before the discomfort of staying outweighs the discomfort of leaving.

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I’ve had the privilege of chatting with a lot of students and recent grads (young professionals) on my book tour, and one of the questions I often get asked is: "How can I make myself stand out when a lot of other applicants have more education and professional experience?" I always start by saying “breathe.” Then, I usually recommend the following: 1. Request informational interviews with leaders in your target companies BEFORE they post jobs you want to apply for. Fortunately for you, it’s much easier to be granted an informational interview when you play the “I’m a recent graduate” card. During your informational interview, make sure to ask questions that show you really understand the company, its culture, and you are clear on how you can provide the kind of results they’re looking for. This will give you an inside connection when a job does emerge. 2. Position yourself as an emerging leader in your field by creating a content-rich blog and strong social media presence. Connect with leaders in your field by citing their work and interviewing them in your posts. As relationships develop, make yourself irresistibly attractive by asking them how you can help them. And when they most likely ask you the same question, don’t be afraid to let them know who and what you are looking to connect to. 3. Hone in on your two to three greatest strengths and link them to the primary responsibilities and accountabilities of your prospective position. (Watch the tendency to have lengthy answers to questions about weaknesses. Remember, it’s your strengths you want to emphasize and have a prospective employer walk away remembering!) 4. And most importantly, show you're a sponge. In your networking, cover letters/resumes, and interviews, display your commitment to absorbing new information quickly, your desire to learn and grow in your role, and always be able to cite examples of how you have done this in the past. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

One of the greatest investments I made in myself in 2011 was throwing down the bucks to work with online marketing and women’s lifestyle luminary Marie Forleo - first in her Rich, Happy & Hot B-School program and then in her Rich, Happy & Hot Live event. While Marie’s genius is vast, I think my top tweet-sized takeaway from both of these experiences was: direct your focus towards the behaviors that are necessary to be successful. Now, Marie is a Coach U grad like me. And Coach U, and the coaching profession in general, is all about mindset first. If you think it, you actualize it. So, initially I was uncomfortable by the suggestion that I needed to redirect my energy away from my mantra of recycling obstacles into opportunities. But in truth, making opportunities out of obstacles is a behavior. The practice requires us to search within ourselves, recognize our inner knowing, seek out the support of others, forgive… It’s a whole lot more than mere positive thinking. So in the year ahead, while creating and sustaining a possibility-centered mindset might be one of the behaviors you work on, I’m going to encourage you to make the other behaviors integral to your career success and life satisfaction your utmost priority. Here are my top five.

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What skills do college grads need to be successful? I’ve had the privilege of doing a variety of different work around on-boarding recent college graduates into their first full-time, post-collegiate jobs. A lot of this work has been looking for mutually-beneficial solutions for meeting young professionals where they are to take them where employers need them to be. This has had me thinking... what are the specific gaps between what colleges provide students and what employers expect them to know? Certainly this differs across fields. But if we could come together and agree on some particular skills, we could save employers (and young professionals) a lot of time, energy, and heartache down the line.

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A few weeks ago I attended a terrific ASTD-Las Vegas presentation led by San Diego based trainer Jeff Toister. Jeff facilitated an engaging conversation around how to get CEO’s and senior directors’ expectations met when going in to implement coaching and training solutions. He encouraged us to shift from thinking about our impact in terms of Return on Investment (ROI) to Return on Expectations (ROE). For while in these tough economic times leaders may profess to care about the financial bottom line, it’s erroneous to assume success (from a client’s standpoint as well as our own) can always be measured in terms of money saved and money earned. Jeff’s words sparked a nice aha for me. Many of my clients would not measure their success with me simply in terms of their financial investment and the financial payoff. And yet ROI is still bandied around in most corporate pitch sessions at the expense of discussing the client’s specific expectations (i.e. attracting and retaining higher caliber employees, national press coverage, sustaining a culture of corporate calm, etc.) This discussion really got me thinking about CAREERpreneurship and how, as CAREERpreneurs, we want to get really clear on our long and short-term expectations if we’re to make the best possible choices for our career trajectories. What are our expectations for what we will have achieved (and who we will have become) by the end of our careers? How do the present opportunities before us fit with where we’re trying to go? While no person–not even the savviest CAREERpreneur–can play God, we certainly can use our previous experiences and gut instincts to make an educated guess. When we are clear on our long-term expectations, we can then work backwards to see if the choices immediately in front of us are likely to produce the return to move us closer towards what we’re striving for in the long term.

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One of the great things about my work is it positions me to contribute my two cents for books, articles, college courses, info products, etc. The bummer is when I dedicate the time to give what I believe are valuable nuggets for action or reflection and they never see the light of day…as recently happened when one of my media superheroines reached out for a story on young women in the workplace. Since the biggest bummer is having the content go underutilized, I’m piecing it together to share with you my thoughts on how the recession is impacting us Gen-Y and millennial women. In many ways it’s a companion piece to my June 17 Awaken Your CAREERpreneur vlog where I asked, "The Ladies Are Coming, or Are They?" The 2 Biggest Trends: Gen-Y Women And The Recession First, for well-educated young women who are still pursuing full-time employment upon graduation, I am noticing that those who are driven by a desire to succeed are more tentative about taking positions with start-ups, in publishing or on Wall Street. Instead, they are looking to align their expertise with corporations that are pegged for continual growth such as health care and renewable energy. Second, for young women driven by a desire to make positive social impact, I’m seeing a lot choose to move home so that they can work in a nonprofit and make a contribution through a company like Teach for America or YouthBuild. Gen-Y and millennial women inspired to drive change through entrepreneurial solutions are also looking for positions in social enterprise or in CSR. Knowing that work in most industries is unstable at best, many young women are saying, “I might as well do what I care about now. For the only thing worse than selling out is being sold out,” as so many of us have witnessed happen for Gen-X and Boomers. New Grads as Perpetual Grads I’m also seeing a lot of young women go directly from college to graduate school or from college to work (or job seeking) for a year or two and then to graduate school…rather than waiting 3-5 years to launch their careers, gain real-world experience and choose a degree program that aligns with their professional goals. As a former women’s studies professor, trust me I’m not knocking higher education. And the influx of women into MBA and PhD programs is exciting to be sure. However, when young women accrue massive educational debt, haven’t necessarily chosen degrees that will make them more competitive job candidates or graduate over educated and under experienced, I worry. It’s important for any woman choosing graduate school to be VERY clear about how much the degree will increase her earning potential and whether it’s enough to cover and warrant what she will be shelling out in monthly payments upon graduation. The Gen-Y / Millennial Woman’s Mindset While we know we have lower rates of unemployment than our male counterparts, there is still a sense that we are not moving up the ranks as quickly as we did in a robust economy. The fear, the source of most self-sabotage, manifests in a lot of concerns over integrating the personal with the professional: How do I put equal attention into job hunting/career reinvention and dating? How do I feel about the fact that I may be supporting or at least picking up the tab for a significant other who is unemployed? Will I have achieved the success I seek prior to wanting to start a family? For many Gen-Y and millennial women, unfortunately, the greatest barrier to workplace equity is ourselves. We trail miserably behind young men in negotiating our first salaries. We trail miserably behind young men in asking for performance reviews and promotions. And we trail miserably behind young men in our assessment of our workplace performance and preparedness for leadership. Therefore, while we might get ourselves in the door before young men do, we are much more likely not to move as quickly up or be paid as well the longer we are in the workplace. It’s important to step into our moxie and ask for what we’re worth—in money, position and opportunity—once we’ve gotten in and have measurable results to back-up our case. All of this undoubtedly plays into our thoughts on entrepreneurship. It’s commonly reported that Gen-Y believes entrepreneurship to be safer than full-time employment. A recent survey by the Young Entrepreneurs Council reported 35% of Gen-Y who are currently employed have started a side business, 21% have started a business because they are unemployed and 79% are interested in one day becoming entrepreneurs. As I know firsthand, young women are more likely to start home based businesses than tech start-ups. More and more are taking to the internet to blog, create info products and sell services through our online brands. This is the space where I think women will most be stepping up and leading in the next 2-5 years. The next wave of young female small business success is leveraging one’s products and service to make more sizable and replicable social impact. Alexia Vernon is a career and workplace author, speaker, coach, trainer and media personality who empowers people to build careers and companies that are successful, sustainable and full of soul. To receive Alexia’s "7 Biggest Obstacles to Success and the Sinfully Simple Formula to Shift Them into Opportunities," visit www.AlexiaVernon.com. Read more » articles by this approved career expert | Click here » if you’re a career expert Image from Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock