Focus on What’s In Front of You

We have all been there—work is humming along and yet you wonder: Is there something better out there? That place in which you think “is their greener grass?” and question if things are better or different somewhere else.

Unfortunately there is no perfect project and no perfect group. While it is important to see what else is out there it is equally important to get the work done in front of you. Often staying focused (and doing great work in your current role) is the best way to lead you to a new project.

A few questions to think about before you go in search of greener grass:

1.       What do you like about the current work that you are doing? What is missing? Are you curious? Or are you just feeling bored? Exploring these questions helps you get to the root of your questions.

2.       Talk to other consultant and gain a perspective. By simply chatting with others you may realize that your grass is actually pretty green. J These conversations can help you explore if you are indeed missing out on other opportunities and the actual job landscape (vs. perceived landscaped).

It is so easy to get distracted. My theory is to focus on what you have to get what you want. That is when the golden opportunities present themselves.

Guest Blog: Build a Professional Development Insurance Policy

What’s coming down the pike? How is my industry evolving?  What new skills, competencies, and credentials do I need to acquire to ensure I don’t go from “hot” to “not” employment-wise?

These are the types of questions you should be asking monthly (if not weekly!) to ensure your relevancy and success. Professional development is no longer optional.  As we’ve all seen, the job market is ferociously competitive and any sense of “entitlement” to a paycheck was left by the wayside about a decade ago. 

Today, the key to ongoing career success—as a consultant or full-time employee—is to ensure your toolbox is brimming with the latest tools, techniques, and methodologies that employers in your industry are salivating to acquire.

So how does one determine which competencies to target as part of a professional development strategy? My biggest recommendation is to talk to your potential customers. Know thy audience. Leverage your network, either of the offline or online (e.g. LinkedIn) variety, to locate the types of people who would theoretically hire you. When you stumble across them, simply say “Hey, I’m conducting a bit of research on the skills, strengths, and technologies that leaders in the (insert your own) field feel are most valuable. I’d love your opinion, if you’d have two seconds to share it. Any thoughts?”

The Internet is another great source as it’s awash with useful trend data.  For example, you can look up your core strengths on LinkedIn’s Skills & Expertise page to study their growth/decline statistics—as well as review the “related skills” that come up, hunting for terms you don’t recognize that might be “blind spots” you need to address via further study.

Once you discover what skills are important, then it is on you to develop and grow them. Make an active plan and search around for online and/or local classes or relevant organizations that provide training. For example do you want stronger project management skills? Places like your local community college have continuing education classes that can teach you these skills.


At the end of the day, I realize we all lead busy lives and it can be tough to carve out time to work on these types of strategic career planning issues. Ultimately, those who invest a little focused effort in this direction on an ongoing basis will have the upper hand in an increasingly competitive job market!


Matt Youngquist, Career Horizons, LLC

Narrow your story

Telling a good story is not easy. Telling your own story is even harder.

Last weekend I taught my personal brand course at Bellevue College. Whenever I teach this course one thing stands out: your personal brand is only as strong as your authentic story.

Your authentic story is what motivates you and what you really want to do.   Narrowing your personal brand to what it is you really want feels uncomfortable for most people. It is hard work to get narrow in what we want because we like to leave our options open. However when we tell a vague story about what we want, we get vague in return which can lead to frustration. 

I find when I ask people to talk about their personal brand it becomes very clear what is authentic to them through their enthusiastic tone and mannerisms.  One of my favorite things to do is reflect what I hear someone say where I hear their natural voice inflections. 

Most of us really do know what our personal brand is, that’s not the challenge; it’s choosing to own it.

2013 Marketing Talent Trends

Seems like everywhere you turn there is a new marketing prediction list for 2013. Being that we work with corporate marketing teams daily on their talent needs I thought I’d share what I see clients asking for in the marketing space.

·         Communications. The trend around story telling is colossal as businesses look for fresh ways to tell their tale in an effective, compelling way to a host of new audiences (i.e. social media). This trend is not only external yet includes internal needs.

·         Campaign launch. Getting a campaign “right” is critical and we see clients needing extra help during these times. Not just “warm bodies,” corporations need smart consultants to come in (immediately), jump in and make the campaign a smashing success.

·         Project management. For most marketing teams there are several projects that need to be effectively managed. Clients consistently tell us that they need a strategic-doer. A consultant that can think about the big issues yet can roll up their sleeves and make sure everything works.

·         Business Analytics. Clients need numbers experts not only to crunch the numbers but make sense of them, be able to tell the story *with* the numbers.

·         Digital/Social. This is a trend that evolves daily. Clients are asking which channels to leverage to drive their business and how to be “found” on-line.

One prediction I am confident in is that help (to make a business a success!) is needed— and a consultant is a great (low risk) way to make it happen!

Making Analytics Personal in the Role of Marketing

2013 is in motion and I love to read the stories on the predictions for the year. From Mashable to Entrepreneur people are placing their bets on what the year will offer.

One prediction I unswervingly agree with is the role of analytics in marketing.

As more companies use data to drive product decisions to new customer audiences—analytics have become indispensable. Yet what is more important than the actual tools are the people doing the analysis. For many marketing teams the data sources are multiplying at lightning speed as new channels (i.e. social media) crop up daily. Teams need the right marketer to jump in and make sense of all the data to achieve their goals. 

Data for data sake is worthless. The right data in the right context is powerful. 

Keeping Up: The Right Talent When You Want

The recent CES news makes me dizzy. From newfangled TVs to life-like robots the hustle of innovation is blinding. For many companies the real question comes down to –how do we keep up?

The secret for many is in the speed, nimbleness and excellence of their talent to move things forward. This is why I am placing a big bet on how the role of a consultant can help businesses thrive.

Having the right talent is not static. As companies are in constant motion enlisting the right talent (as needed) is dynamic. I hear from clients “I need someone for several months to help me launch a new product” to “I need someone full-time to help me build a new channel.” Each company is different as is each need. And it changes daily which is why having a variety of talent options is so important.

Options from skill set to part time/full time, location, experience and more.  Thinking about a flexible team made up of the right talent when you need it is the way to keep up.

Your Fan Club

It’s a new year and many of us are pondering what resolutions we want to make.  For consultants, it may be thinking about what kind of work we want to do, how much we want to work and what new exciting projects are out there.  The next question is usually who do I know that needs my services to do the work I love?  This is where your fan club comes into play.  We all need a fan club and the bigger fan club, the more opportunities. 

How do you build a fan club?  Consistency with the ABC’s in your current project.  Here are the ABC’s of what clients want:

  • Attitude – Passion for client success, go-getter and strategic doer.
  • Build trust – Being adaptable to clients’ needs with a proactive approach.
  • Communication – It’s all in the details. Crafting concise and effective emails, creating powerful and impactful presentations, strong relationship skills and cross-group collaboration.


The more you are consistently demonstrating the ABC’s with your current client, the higher likelihood that your fan club is increasing which allows you to achieve your resolution. Happy 2013!


The Why before the What

A recent LinkedIn article, the #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make, discusses how having a broad set of work skills is essential. Yet the author claims that the mistake most people make is being everything to all instead of determining your highest point of contribution: “developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage.” The article is another solid example on why defining your personal brand is a critical part of your success.

As we start the New Year this is a great time to dig deep on where you really want to make a difference. The why before the what.

What kind of impact do you want to make? What differentiates you from others out there? As the personal brand topic becomes increasingly more important I look forward to further dialogue in 2013. If you are in the Pacific Northwest please join me at Bellevue College this month as I teach Personal Branding for Professional Success.

Here is to a new year!

Tip #5: Be Kind

In order to really own your personal brand you have to believe it in your heart and soul before anyone else will.  This is why tip #5 is about being kind to you.

We are creatures of habit. Our thoughts drive our actions and our thoughts come from our life experiences that shape the way we see the world and ourselves. Many thoughts that may have served us well earlier in our lives are still playing as continuous soundtracks in our mind and it’s very common that we become unaware of them. They have become part of our subconscious, part of our daily life and we may be blind to see that perhaps these thoughts may not be serving our personal brand. 

Everyone has their own inner critic and often several of them.  Recognizing those negative thoughts that hold you back and choosing not to listen to them is being kind to yourself.  For many of us such saboteur thoughts could be thinking I’m not smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, or confident enough.  Become aware of what that negative soundtrack in your mind is saying and when you experience it make yourself aware and choose not to believe it. Choose to believe your personal brand. 

What’s Not Going to Change by 2022?

Does it feel like the moment you get use to something it changes? From technology to health, so much has changed in the past decade as people explore new limits. Yet many things have not changed. For example, buying holiday presents is still the same yet the way we buy them (i.e. Amazon prime) might have changed.


As an entrepreneur Jeff Bezos is a true inspiration. In a recent fireside chat I like a comment he makes about change. He says that he’s always asked what will change in ten years yet the more important question is “what’s not going to change in 10 years?” What will customers continue to need? 

One thing I am certain of is that the right talent in the right roles will always be a necessity. Hence I will take a lesson from Jeff—listen to my customers, continue to evolve and always provide them the things they value!