Caroline Dowd-Higgins Career Coach • Author • Speaker Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:41:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 More Sleep, Less Stress – Equals a Better Life and Career Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:17:42 +0000 Stress is a hot button topic for many of us these days. When my coaching clients, family, or friends, talk about how stressed they’re feeling, one of the first questions I ask is whether they’re getting enough sleep. April is National Stress Awareness month, and it’s a good time to assess your stress levels and your sleep habits as well.

The correlation between lack of sleep and stress has been well documented in numerous studies, so, if you’re feeling stressed-out, I pose the question to you – are you getting your eight hours?

Never-Ending Day

Many of us feel that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, so we start extending our  workday later and later into the evening – often burning the midnight oil – and ultimately burning ourselves out in the process. It’s vital that we put our own well being at the top of our to-do lists – especially when it comes to stress-reduction and sleep.

As a recovering workaholic, I know all-too-well the temptation to just keep working – no matter how late into the wee hours – in order to pack as much into each day as possible. I had my own wake-up call when I hit the proverbial wall from exhaustion a few years back. Sleep has been a top priority for me, ever since.

Harmful Effects

Dr. Anda Baharav, a sleep expert who works with Stanford’s Center for Sleep Medicine and Research, studies the effects of sleep deprivation and the resulting stress on the body. She explains that stress left unchecked can be harmful. “While we all need a little stress to adapt, respond, and cope with environmental threats, damage can occur when a stress response is prolonged or uncontrollable,” Baharav says. “Sleep deprivation is a big contributor to this type of chronic stress.”

Turn off the Day

Researchers have found that getting seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep a night is critical to keeping potentially damaging stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) at bay. In order to make the most of those sleeping hours, Dr. Baharav recommends making a conscious effort to ‘unplug’, let go of the day, and focus on relaxing as you head to bed. She offers the following tips for unwinding and getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Make a list and check it off – Doing this during the day can give you a sense of accomplishment and closure to help you get to sleep.
  • Slow down on the caffeine – Caffeine can exacerbate an already stressful schedule. Opt for decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas from noon on to help insure a high quality of sleep.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine – Pick an ideal time to turn in and do your best to stick to it. Try a calming activity like reading a book, meditating, or taking a bath before going to sleep.

Many of us are doing a lot of multi-tasking in our careers, and in our lives in general these days, so we’re bound to feel stress. Getting the proper shut-eye, however, can go a long way in counteracting the negative effects of our daily stressors. So here’s to an abundance of good night’s sleeps ahead for you, and sweet dreams!

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Simple Joys of Networking Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:57:44 +0000 Networking isn’t as hard as you think. Learn about how you can approach building your professional community in simple ways and put some fun into this important task.

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Bring On Your Sparkle Factor Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:56:43 +0000 When you play to your strengths and tap your inner passion you reveal your sparkle factor. Spend some time identifying what really makes you tick and bring on your sparkle.

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Why You Need Both Mentors and Sponsors Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:26:34 +0000 Mentors and sponsors can be crucial for your career development. Think of them as accountability masters to take you to the new level to set and accomplish goals.

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins “Run The Mile You’re In” Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:22:26 +0000 Learning to be present and in the moment takes time and patience. This practice will help you live a healthier life and lead a more productive career. Take the advice of long distance runners and enjoy the now – run the mile you are in.

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins “Dream Big” Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:21:11 +0000 Give yourself permission to dream big in life and career. Identify a goal by getting quiet and reflecting and then take small incremental steps to move forward to achieve your goal. You deserve to honor your dreams – go for it!

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins “Write Your Own Press Release” Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:14:38 +0000 Write your own press release – your unique success story, in full detail. Then work backwards towards the goal to accomplish each task along the way. This road map makes achieving goals more manageable and attainable.

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Will You Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks? Start Preparing Now! Wed, 16 Apr 2014 20:07:24 +0000 You may have heard the saying about ‘luck’…that it’s more than just happenstance…that ‘luck’ is when preparedness and opportunity intersect.  So the question is – are you prepared for opportunity to knock?

If you’re a first-time job seeker or a career changer, here are some tips to help you prepare, so that, when those new career opportunities come knocking, you can be ready…

Assess your type – it’s helpful to know your personality type.  It will give you a better sense of jobs that are well suited to you and jobs that aren’t. Consider taking a Myers-Briggs personality test or a ‘Strengths-Finder’ assessment to help point you in a career direction.

Tell your story – sit down with pen and paper in hand, get quiet with yourself, and consider what you value most.  How do you like to spend your time? What energizes you? When time flies by and it doesn’t feel like you’re working, what are you doing? What special skills do you have?

Know what you love – the story that is uniquely yours unfolds as you take inventory of the things you like to do. Write about what you do well and forget about how your skills and talents fit with actual job titles for the moment. This exercise can help you figure out how you want to spend your time – wherever you end up working.

Develop your brand – what’s the special sauce that sets you apart? In the competitive marketplace, what is it about you that will be a value-add to an organization? When preparing to market your unique combination of passions and talents, practice talking about your strengths with family and friends.  In the process, they may be able to point out additional strengths you didn’t realize you had.

Know your territory – once you figure out a more specific career direction, investigate the job market in that field and talk to people in the know. Pursue informational interviews, job shadows, and build your professional community with people of influence. The more people who know you and what you do well, the better your chances of being informed about new job opportunities.

From this point on, it’s about making the commitment to be prepared when opportunity comes knocking.

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How to Be Successful in the Job Hunt: The 5 P’s Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:27:33 +0000 In my coaching business, I meet many women looking for a ‘magic bullet’ for career success – a ‘no-fail’ formula that will lead them to the job or promotion of their dreams. While there is no one formula for landing that perfect job, there are qualities that, when tapped into, can make a difference in a career trajectory.  Consider applying the ‘Five P’s’ to help you on your way.


#1 Passion – Passion is where it all begins. What brings you joy? What do you love to do when time flies and it doesn’t feel like ‘work’? Tapping into your passion and self-confidence is easy once you give yourself permission to own what you do really well.  If you’re just beginning a job search, inventory your strengths and talents and apply them to the professional world. Prospective employers want to see that light in your eyes when you talk about what you can do for them.

If you’re ready for a promotion, be ready to leave any fear at the door and let your employer see the passion you have for the organization, and your desire to move up within it – backed up with a proven track record.  Demonstrate what you can bring to the table with confidence.

#2 Persistence – In the recruiting world, employers’ ideal candidates are often described as being persistent and ‘scrappy’. These candidates have the ability to ‘keep on keepin’ on’ even when the going gets tough. Demonstrating persistence is a way you can set yourself apart from the pack.  Having resilience – the ability to go with the flow in the face of change and uncertainty – and, refusing to give up when obstacles are thrown in your path, are marketable qualities to employers.

#3 Personal Connection –Creating your own ‘Board of Directors’ – a group of advisors who can offer guidance and support – can serve you well. It’s been helpful to me to have mentors and sponsors to whom I can turn, and it can be helpful to you as well. You don’t need to do this alone.

#4 Participation – It’s important to get out from behind technology and meet people face-to-face. The more you can network and make your skills and talents known, the better your chances are of moving ahead in your career. People hire and promote people they know and trust. Whether you enjoy working a crowd or do better in one-on-one settings, it’s important to build new relationships through networking events.

#5 Pay It Forward – Your network can help you immensely during your job search, and it can also help others. It’s a wonderful feeling to ‘pay-it-forward’ and connect fellow job-hunters with the people in your network who could be of help.

Give the ‘Five ‘P’s’ a try, and see how helpful they can be in helping you unlock career opportunities.

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Go Ahead, Be Ambitious: Let Your Goals Be Known! Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:27:18 +0000 If you’re one who tries to mask the fact that you’re ambitious, or squelches even the thought of it, you’re not alone. Many women I’ve worked with in my career coaching practice are hesitant to admit to the trait.

In a mock interview, during one coaching session, I asked a client (I’ll call her Dana) if she considered herself to be ambitious.  From Dana’s reaction, you would have thought I’d used one of the more offensive words in the English language.

When I questioned the negative response, Dana explained that she associated the word ‘ambitious’ with the ‘run-over-your-colleague’ type of person who isn’t well liked in the office, and she wanted to distance herself from that label at all costs. Dana believed that any display of ambition would jeopardize her ability to maintain her professional decorum in her workplace.

Many think of ambition as a positive trait using words such as ‘go-getting’, ‘determined’, and ‘motivated’ to describe those who demonstrate it. However, others, including Dana, describe ambition as being ‘pushy’, ‘self-centered’ and even ‘ruthless’.

While ‘ambition’ may have been given a bad name by some, there are many women pursuing their careers with ambitious gusto and ‘playing well with others’ along the way.

Another ambition ‘roadblock’ for some of my clients is a fear of jealousy. A client, I’ll call Jenna, wanted to keep a low profile and avoid any possible negative attention for stepping out ahead of the pack and appearing too ambitious because she thought other colleagues would feel jealous.

My answer to Jenna and anyone else who hides out in the office ‘wings’ is this: worrying about what others think, and hiding your talent and ambition, is a sure way to keep you from moving ahead in your work and in life. When your boss asks about your career goals, or you’re out networking, have an answer that aims high. Sharing your goals can put you on the proverbial radar of those who can help make your new job or promotion a reality, whereas aiming low and acting too humbly can keep you stuck in a career rut.

It’s important that women get comfortable in their own ambitious skin and go for what they want in their working lives. If you’re feeling ambitious, embrace it. Work the positive end of the ambition spectrum – making sure to treat colleagues with fairness and respect along the way – and let your light shine. Ambition is the fuel that can propel you on to career success!

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