How to Change Everything at the Same Time (and only cry a little bit)

melancholy of departure

In New York City, there is a company called Seriatim that negotiates life transitions. For a fee, someone will come to your home after a divorce, the death of a partner or parent, or as you prepare to move to a smaller home. That person will talk through your transition, arrange logistics, and help you dispose of the things you no longer need. They will help you pare down art collections, and talk you into letting go of your ex-husband’s college sweatshirt or your late mother’s silver letter knife. When I heard about this service from a friend who works there part time, I began fantasizing about what it would be like to be rich and bereaved, and to give over some of life’s difficult decisions to a paid professional.

Seven years ago, I went through a transitional period that rocked me deeply and surprisingly. While working in political organizing in San Francisco, I decided to get an MFA in creative writing. I’d wanted to get one since graduating college, and had been accepted the year before, but I deferred for a year because I hadn’t felt ready to leave my work in San Francisco. But then I felt ready. Shortly after making that decision, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had to tell my colleagues that I would be taking leave for surgery and follow-up treatment—and then would be leaving for good soon after. (read more…)

How to Survive a Dinner Party

Luncheon of the Boating Party

We all have a few things – maybe more than a few – that we don’t like about ourselves and are embarrassed to admit to others. Things that we wish were different, but regrettably, are not. One of mine is that I don’t like meeting new people.

Before you judge me, let me explain: I’m just an introvert who doesn’t feel comfortable in groups of strangers. I can make small talk, sometimes very proficiently, but I dislike it and it makes me uncomfortable – which is problematic since it is pretty much the industry standard with groups of new people. Being comfortable around someone, for me, means feeling connected to them, even in a minor way. For me, connectedness comes from being more or less yourself and not worrying too much about pleasantries. And connecting, by definition, entails going beyond small talk. For all these reasons, I tend to avoid social situations of more than four or five people, and definitely groups of strangers. Yet socializing with large groups is an inevitable part of work and of life – and truly connecting with new people is energizing and one of life’s great pleasures. So while I have a hard time putting on a game face for situations where I anticipate feeling uncomfortable, I also need to find a way to make them work for me. (read more…)

The Emotional Negotiation

The Emotional Negotation

You probably know you should become better at negotiating, although maybe you don’t view yourself as the tough, stubborn, hard-nosed type. In fact, if you read about negotiation, you might hear that the most important thing in a negotiation is to know your bottom line. The official term for this is best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. But focusing on this in a negotiation presupposes that negotiation is all about power plays and leverage. I believe this approach distracts from a much more influential component of the negotiation: emotions. Ultimately, we make decisions for emotional reasons, and give logical arguments afterwards.

Many times, negotiations are happening between two unskilled parties. You know this type of situation (maybe you’ve been in one yourself): one person offers a salary of $50K, the other asks for $60K, and they compromise at $55K. When things like this happened to me, especially when I was early in my career, I thought the solution to getting a better final salary was to just set a higher initial anchor. I’ve since been involved in many, many small and large negotiations, and I now provide private negotiation coaching to start-up founders and individuals who want to improve their job offer. I have found that having a deep understanding of the emotional component of a negotiation has a far greater influence on the outcome than power and leverage.

Here are five suggestions I make to my clients to help them use emotional focus to their advantage in negotiation: (read more…)

What Does It Mean To Be a Mentor?

My Parents 1977 by David Hockney born 1937

I wrote in an earlier post about my experience entering the working world in the 1960s, at a time when I was often the only woman in the room. It was not an easy environment in which to advance. Throughout my career, though, I had several mentors – all of them men – who were huge influences on me and who, in various ways, helped me develop and progress. Later, when I was a senior executive and did a lot of hiring, I became a mentor to a number of young women; in fact it is one of the parts of my career that I cherish the most.

What does mentoring someone mean?

(read more…)

Networking with Strangers


Pretty much everyone I know is on LinkedIn – but not too many of them (including me) are using it to actively develop and advance their careers. Jorge is a friend of mine who has become expert at leveraging the platform to network with people in his field – even when they are complete strangers. From this, Jorge has gained valuable industry connections, access to professional groups, and at least one job. I interviewed Jorge about how he does it.

LinkedIn has a number of different features and tiers. Which tier do you use, and how do you use it?

I have LinkedIn Pro; I pay for the lowest tier (about $30/month). I started paying so that I could see the complete profiles of people who I wasn’t connected to but was interested in.

(read more…)