Off the curb

Feeding the Meter

How Getting Fired Can Bolster Future Success

Have you ever been fired and felt like it was the end of the world? Or, thought you would never get hired again? For most of us, it's one of our worst fears. However, contrary to what you might think, getting fired may actually bolster your future success. In fact, a 10 year study conducted by Inc. magazine found that 91% of people who were fired eventually found another position as good or better than their last! According to Inc., “some employers even actively look for those who have tanked in the past, as it indicates boldness and resilience.”

There are some cases where people actually benefited more in the long run after getting fired and the experience turned out to be the necessary stepping stone to finding the ideal position or career path. For example, sometimes people struggle with defining the specific route to take to satisfy both their talents and interests and it can take a few different shots at a career to find the job that’s the right fit. Oprah Winfrey, for instance, is proof that getting fired doesn’t necessarily mean permanent career failure. Winfrey’s early interest in a television career landed her a role as Nashville’s first African-American reporter. She was then recruited by WJZ in Baltimore to co-anchor the prime spot on the 6:00 evening news. However, Oprah’s elation about the opportunity was soon replaced with heartbreak. Her new boss felt she expressed too much personal emotion in her reports and eventually fired her. “At the time, I was devastated, devastated,” Oprah shared in an emotional moment from her online LifeClass years later. However, she subsequently advised, “getting fired can be an opportunity to put you in the next best place.” In her case, it meant moving into another spot as a daytime talk show host which lead her to one of the most successful careers in media history.   

Getting let go can also give people the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate whether or not they want to continue on their designated career path. For J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, it took getting fired for her to finally begin following her passion for writing. Rowling worked as a secretary in London for Amnesty International but was constantly distracted by her ideas for novels. She admitted to constantly writing secret stories on her work computer when her imagination began to run wild. When her bosses took note of her behavior, she was fired for her inability to focus on her assigned tasks. Losing her job is what allowed her to delve deeper into creative writing. Without this experience, Rowling may never have run with her ideas and become the successful multi-billionaire author she is today. 

Getting fired can also light a fire under someone to make him or her more determined to succeed in the future. Steve Jobs is a great example of this. Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, because of his unbearably high expectations for his co-workers. The year following his termination was clouded with uncertainty.  He faced a mid-life crisis and attempted to pursue other careers. Ultimately, Jobs accepted that his heart remained with Apple and he was determined to find his way back into the company. When sales for Apple began to slip, he was asked to rejoin the staff and contribute his creative ideas to the company’s vision. After his rollercoaster experience, Jobs claims “getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.”

While each of these individuals are now worldwide success stories, their experiences have significant lessons. Oprah Winfrey could have let go of her passion for working in television altogether after getting fired from her initial news job. However, she decided to keep pursuing the field to find a job that fit her personality. In J.K. Rowling’s experience, getting fired from her secretary job was a blessing in disguise  allowing her to focus on what really interested her. Finally, Steve Jobs’ story proves that getting fired can be an inspiration to work harder and become more determined to achieve your goals. 

So what can you do to bounce back if you do get fired? First, consider what went wrong. Were your skills a bad match for the position? Did you have a personality clash with your boss? Did you initially take the position without fully understanding the requirements? Self reflection is vital in order to achieve success later on. Take the experience as a lesson for what can be improved upon in the future. If the subject comes up in an interview with a future company, be prepared to explain what happened without taking a stab at your former boss or employer. What a future employer wants to know is how you are going to help them in the future. You might say something like, “I learned I wasn’t a good fit for the position and upon reflection, I realize I would do better in a job that includes more interaction with people like your position offers.” Then go on to explain what skills and experience you have that will solve the potential employer’s problem and make you a valuable addition. You might ask for feedback from previous co-workers or employers to help you reframe what happened in a positive light. In a job interview, it will be more beneficial for future employers to hear from you what you learned from the experience and how it happened, rather than from your past employer. Another tip for moving forward is to set a new career goal. Ask yourself, what is your ideal position and what steps can you take to move toward it? The process of devising a game plan for your next career move can be motivational and empowering and can help move you away from your past experience.

Sallie Krawcheck, the successful CEO of a financial advising network, once said, “if you don’t get fired at least once, you’re not trying hard enough.”  So, should you purposely get fired? No, of course not! But, many successful figures like Krawcheck would argue that if it happens, it’s the people who learn from their mistakes, and face the initial hardships of getting fired, such as loss of income and self-esteem that will likely become the strongest faces in their industries down the road. Rather than dwelling on the negatives of the circumstance, it is important to accept the setback and discover ways to transform it into a positive moving forward.

By Off the Curb Features Writer Paige Holloway



For some reason, I find most people hesitate to apply for their dream jobs if they are not %100 qualified for the position. For example, the position asks for 5 years experience and they only have 3. Or the job description includes a list of 12 critical skills needed for job success and they only have 7. So they skip applying, thinking it’s a waste of time, and move on to to something they feel more closely qualified for. Seems like a logical approach. Instead, usually they unnecessarily shut themselves off from some potentially great opportunities! If this sounds like something you do, take note of the following:

  • Most employers write up a job description based on their idea of the “ideal” candidate. The requirements posted are usually guidelines and not necessarily hard and fast rules. Sure they’d love to have that engineer with 10 years experience in software design in their specific industry but will they also consider the candidate with 7 years experience who happens to be located nearby (avoiding relocation costs) and can demonstrate his/her ability to be a fast learner? Probably yes!

  • Do you have 70% or more of the qualifications or skill sets needed to be successful or only 10%? If you’re closer to the %10 it’s probably best to pass, but if you’re hitting %70 then think about what else you can offer the employer to make you a more attractive candidate. For example do you have a transferable skill you can offer? Perhaps you’re applying for a sales rep job and you haven’t worked in direct sales before, but you grew up working nights and weekends hustling to successfully get your family’s business off the ground. Could this hustle and tenaciousness translate into sales skills somehow? If so, make this pitch in your cover letter.

  • When you apply online, keywords are important. Look for the words in the posting that stand out and make sure your resume showcases your skills and experience using some of those keywords so you make it safely past the algorithms.

  • Once you’re resume makes it past the bots, remember that humans make the final hiring decision, not the bots! So if you can find out who the hiring manager is and make a direct pitch, then do. Or if you know someone in the company that can attest to your hard driving leadership skills, enthusiasm, or work ethic, then reach out and ask them the best way to make a connection. People hire people. In most cases, a hiring manager would rather hire someone who somebody can vouch for vs. taking a chance on a stranger with a few less qualifications.

  • You’re outgoing personality and enthusiasm can’t get you hired unless you get in for the interview so make sure you use language that conveys that in your cover letter. Don’t go on the defensive by using language such as “I don’t have all the skills but thought I’d apply anyway…” Do highlight the skills you do have and make your pitch. “Here are 3 strong skills I have that will make me immediately valuable to you…” as an example.

Although it takes work going for a position that feels a little higher than your reach, many people get ahead by going for it anyway. As the famous Frederick Wilcox quote goes, “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”


Check out our Off the Curb profile stories and you’ll see examples of people who have jumped career lanes or started a business to get off the curb! Justin Lind, jumped from mechanical engineering to become a remote fitness expert and Lynn Von Schneidau left a business position to become a naturopath and creator of unique wellness retreats. Although career success stories and entrepreneurship lore is full of mavericks who “gave-up-everything-living-off-Ramen” to pursue their dreams, quitting your day job cold turkey may not always be the best option! The old adage “it’s better to look for a new job when you already have one” often holds true because you don’t have the added stressor of figuring out how to pay the rent. In fact, according to research done by University of Wisconsin professors Joseph Raffiee and Jie Feng who followed over 5000 entrepreneurs over a 15 year time period, you are 33% more likely to be successful if you keep your current position while simultaneously starting your new venture. Raffiee and Feng call this “hybrid entrepreneurship.” So although it’s tempting to tell your irritating boss to take a hike while you pursue your dream of importing Peruvian coffee, unless you have a cushy nest egg, don’t mind living on your best friend’s futon, or have a significant other willing to pay the rent, if you can hold onto your current spot while you get your business going, statistically the odds will be in your favor!

See our profile story on Michelle Aronson who is a great example of doing this well. Michelle worked full time at a university until she could build a substantial following for her farm-to-table cooking school called Farmbelly. New York Times best selling author Sebastian Junger is another example. Junger grew up down the street from me in a Boston suburb and went off to Wesleyan to study cultural anthropology. He had an interest in writing early on but worked as a tree arborist while trying to improve his craft. He routinely scaled 20 foot trees with a chainsaw glued to his hip before an injury sidelined him and he narrowed in on his writing; eventually hitting it big with his novel-turned film The Perfect Storm. His writing also parlayed into authoring more books (including A Death in BelmontWar and Tribe) and becoming an award-winning war correspondent, ABC news contributor, and documentary filmmaker.

David E. Kelley, writer and producer of hits such as Ally McBeal, The Practice and the HBO mega-hit Big Little Lies also had a dual career for a while. Kelley (also from my hometown) graduated with his J.D. from Boston University and practiced real estate and criminal law for a few years while he worked on a screenplay on the side. He found an agent who sent his screenplay to T.V. producer Steven Bochco who was so impressed with the young lawyer’s work, he hired him as a story editor for his then-new-show called L.A. Law but Kelley kept a dual career going and took a leave of absence from his law firm to move to L.A. to test the waters before quitting his job. Eventually he left law and concentrated on writing and producing full time. Paloma Contreras, an international design influencer with over 100 thousand Instagram followers is also a hybrid entrepreneur. She kept her job as a high school Spanish teacher while working on her passion project, a design blog called La Dolce Vita, before she had enough of a following and interest in her interior design services to leave teaching.

Photo by

Photo by

Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider better known as the founders of the billion dollar eyewear company Warby Parker, also made a strategic choice not to quit their jobs or schoolwork to “go all in” with their entrepreneurial venture when they were just starting out. Despite getting business advice to the contrary, and working nights and weekends took a toll, by building their business in parallel with their current commitments, they were able to test their idea and build confidence in pursuing it. (For a little more insight into the Warby Parker founders decision-making, check out best selling author and Wharton Business school professor, Adam Grant’s Ted TalkThe Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers. Bucking the idea that all career changers and entrepreneurs need to be ambitious, full-time risk-takers, Junger, Kelley, Contreras and the Warby Parker founders combined their risk taking with risk-mitigating by balancing their ambition to fuel creative and business pursuits with a level of financial security and freedom they were comfortable with.

According to the Small Business Association roughly 30% of new businesses fail in their first year, and while that’s not a reason not to pursue your passion, it’s something to consider. Additionally if you make more than $60K a year, experts suggest it will take you 6 months to find a new position. So before you put it all on the line in your hopes of being the next Richard Branson, take a pause and think about the following:

1. Do you have enough in the coffers to sustain you (and your family) for 6-9 months?

According to most financial planning experts, you should have enough saved or enough coming in to cover your expenses for 6-9 months before quitting your job. In my coaching practice I’ve had several clients who quit on the spot only to regret it later, adding a great deal of stress to their personal lives, as they underestimated how long and how many additional resources would be needed to get their side hustles into a profitable position. While excited and anxious to follow their pursuits, both career changers and new entrepreneurs routinely underestimate the cash equation which can bury dreams pretty quickly. “One of the main reasons most small businesses fail is that they simply run out of cash,” says Cynthia McMahon, Founder and CEO of business plan software company Enloop. “Writing a business plan without basing your forecasts on reality often leads to an unfortunate, and often unnecessary, business failure. Without the benefit of experience or actual historical financials, it’s easy to overestimate a new company’s revenue and underestimate costs.”

Photo by Impact Hub

Photo by Impact Hub

2. Have you run your idea by a non-biased group of people to get a feel for the marketplace?

Where would you be without your encouraging friends, family members or mentors who encourage you to follow your heart’s desires. These relationships are invaluable in building a nurturing and supportive community and giving you a safe place to talk about your dreams. But I’ve also seen career changers and would-be-business owners jump into things without additional feedback. Equally valuable is the tough but honest feedback of people who might potentially hire you or use your products or services. If you’re changing careers, do you need to gain additional skills or experience? If you’re starting a business remember its not only about people liking your idea, it’s about people paying for it. So while you might have a website worthy of a design award, your girlfriend thinks you’re the next Bill Gates and 10K people are following you and your travels to Machu Picchu on Insta, if you don’t have a product or service people will pay you for, you don’t yet have a business. If you aren’t sure how to find people who will give you objective feedback, think about joining an incubator or shared working space like an Impact Hub which offers a range of services for its members, from free mentorship to business planning workshops; lending the right dose of equal parts optimism and reality to support budding bootstrappers. Most likely you’ll find someone who can look at your plans with an objective and knowledgeable eye. (Impact Hub offices are located in most US cities and many other cities around the world.)

3. Have you evaluated the “big boulders” in the way of pursuing your dream?

At Off the Curb we’re big on the “vision” thing. If you’re skipping off into the sunset it’s good to know where you’re skipping to. Your clear vision about how you want your career or business and life to be is the foundational piece in keeping you motivated, inspired, and looking ahead. Most career changers and aspiring entrepreneurs have strength in “visioning” but that’s not the only skill or attribute needed. I like C.D. Jackson’s quote, “great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.” It’s great when things take off but you also have to have the right details in place (such as process and infrastructure) to keep things grounded and make them happen. This is the less than glamorous part of changing careers or heading into entrepreneurship and can derail even the most optimistic people. I always encourage potential entrepreneurs to look at the 3 biggest “boulders” in their way. Whether it’s time away from kids, a weakness in digital marketing, fear of raising capital, or a product or service that’s not exactly flushed out yet, it’s important to look at what could potentially slow you down and come up with the best plan of action to proactively plan for, and get out in front of potential problems.

Pursuing a dual career or hybrid entrepreneurship is not easy. Maintaining a positive performance in your current position is important and most professional positions require more than the standard forty hour work week, but mitigating your risk with measured steps rather than a “big dive in” might be a way forward.

A recent LinkedIn” Purpose at Work Report” revealed that 74% of respondents wanted more meaningful work. As my late, dear friend Dana said when she knew she would be leaving us“ it’s a short spin on a little blue ball;” a reminder of how valuable our time here is. Whether our work is full time parenting or pioneering, most of us aspire to do work that’s fulfilling, and makes a difference. Perhaps a dual career or hybrid entrepreneurship is the right way forward for a career and life that’s meaningful for you.

Lynne Cage

If your transition includes starting a new business and getting it off the ground seems harder than expected, you’re not alone! True, new businesses have been on the rise but, according to a World Bank report published two years ago, the United States doesn’t make it easy to get a start-up, started. World Bank ranked 190 countries on the ease of beginning a business and the U.S. ranked number 51 on the list. Yikes! According to the report, a combination of regulations, taxing, licensing, and finding capital are the major culprits. Having some good tools on hand to help you proactively think through some potential quicksand is always a good idea. That’s why Guy Kawasaki’s book The Art of The Start 2.0 is great to have on any would-be-bootstrapper’s bookshelf. Although its aim is to help people grow small entreprises into big ones, there’s a ton of worthwhile gist for aspiring entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small business owners.

Guy’s no-nonsense approach combined with a dose of humor, make it a fun but useful guide for thinking through everything from crowdfunding to cloud sharing. Guy worked at early-Apple, became a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley and is currently “Chief Evangelist” at Canva. He’s been on the giving and receiving end of pitches, watched companies boom and bust, and has fallen on his own sword as a leader more than once which he shares pretty candidly. Having loaned my own copy of The Art of the Start 2.0out a number of times only to have it disappear I finally decided “gifting it” it to clients and colleagues was the way to go. The reason? Guy’s book is really a manual that you revisit along your entrepreneurial journey, dog-earring pages and highlighting paragraphs in chapters such as “The Art of Evangelizing, “The Art of Pitching” and “The Art of Enduring” as you go.

Here’s a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The first follower is what transforms the lone nut into a leader, and in a startup, that first follower is usually a cofounder.”

“Good enough is good enough. There is time for refinement later. It’s not how great you start—it’s how great you end up.”

“Meaning is not creating a cool place to work with free food, Ping-Pong, volleyball, and dogs.

“Meaning is making the world a better place.”

“If you make meaning, you’ll probably also make money.”

Starting a business is hard and according to the World Bank’s list, countries like Canada and Hong Kong (who ranked better than us) make it a whole lot easier so a little help from Guy and The Art of the Start 2.0 probably can’t hurt!

Lynne Cage

Imagine that your work is always interesting, constantly evolving and never boring.  You have taken charge of your work and the future of your career. You are the “ CEO” of your life and doing what you love.

Sounds too good to be true? “Not so,” says Cliff Hakim (a former Boston based career consultant) in his book We are All Self Employed. Originally written more than 25 years ago.  Hakim’s premise is that you can, and should, steer your own career direction rather than rely on your boss or organization to do it for you. Hakim challenges his readers to imagine being the CEO of his or her own life and work and to develop what he calls a “self-employed mindset” to be successful. Adopting this mindset means moving away from dependence, believing in your value in the marketplace, and establishing the belief that you work with rather than for your organization.

As with most forward thinkers, Hakim was way ahead of his time! When he wrote the book, “climbing the corporate ladder” to get ahead was the model most careers were built on. That was long before career lattices, shared economies, and personal branding were part of our work vocabularies. He rightfully predicted the economy would move from manufacturing to service to technology and that creating meaningful work-using our imaginations, taking risks, finding our way to make a contribution-would continue to be at the cornerstone of our culture’s legacy.

Work, now, is no longer constrained by organizational structures and physical locations in the same way it once was. Want to cut a record? You no longer need a music company. Want to host a TV show? You no longer need a network. Want to write a book? You no longer need a publisher. Want to hold a meeting or seminar? You no longer even need a room. What you do need to mobilize your career is to continually tap into your own creative resources, look for opportunities for continual growth, and invest time in updating your skills and knowledge.

Hakim later re-published We are All Self-Employed and also wrote Rethinking Work when he saw the job market reflecting a world where corporate needs shift in a heartbeat and people can sometimes become dispensable as a result. His original work, however, still provides solid and timeless advice. Here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Take risks based on what you know and believe

  • Assess your skills, identify your strengths and figure out what new skills are needed

  • Learn from feedback, mistakes and failure

  • Understand the needs of others in the marketplace

  • Differentiate yourself-develop a niche and a valued service

  • Defer gratification and maintain the discipline necessary to work incrementally toward your goals

  • Change your plan-but not your vision-in order to reach your goals

  • Articulate what you to have to offer and share your plan with others to get feedback

  • Be loyal to yourself, meet your own needs first and then you can give to others

  • Believe you can make a contribution

A word I don’t recall seeing in Hakim’s book is artisan but apparently, paying homage to his own advice, and being ever-on-trend, he has become one!  After more than 30 years as a career consultant and author helping others in work-life transition Cliff shifted his focus to a new endeavor building functional landscape art from stone. Find him at

Lynne Cage


I loved Nancy Meyer’s film, The Intern. If you haven’t seen it, Robert De Niro plays Ben an affable 70 year old widower and former executive who has trouble finding work. He opts to take an internship at a company run by C.E.O Jules (aka Anne Hathaway.) While the film’s comedic edge gets its roots from the challenges Ben faces as his Millennial colleagues help him navigate the nuances of a modern digital fashion start up, the subject matter is real; it’s tough for adults of a certain age to re-enter the workforce especially when there is a gap on the resume.

One trend that’s gaining some steam for helping mitigate this is the “returnship;” a mid-career internship. Companies such as Apple, Boston Scientific, Intuit, Uber and Paypal all offer returnships ranging from 9 to 18 weeks. Some have partnered with Path Forward a non-profit organization that partners with companies to offer 18-week paid internships aimed at helping workers get their foot in the door. Started several years ago in San Francisco, Path Forward has since set up programs in other cities including New York, Los Angeles and Denver and boasts an 80% hire rate at the end of the participant’s program.

Another organization popular for returnships is called The Mom Project. Companies send in their hiring needs and founder Allison Robinson and her team, match up these needs with the skillsets of moms in their database. According to Harvard Business Review only 40% of professional women who leave the workforce to take time off return. Robinson, who started the firm after her first child Asher was born, recognized the opportunity to create a talent marketplace to bridge the gap between employers looking for top talent and the millions of professionally accomplished mothers looking for meaningful work.

Recognizing the need for building experienced management depth, JP Morgan and Chase started it’s re-entry program 5 years ago for those who had been at the V.P. level or above and have had a career break for 2 years or more. This type of program is growing in popularity for workers because there is still a reluctance for recruiters to put forward candidates who may have gaps in their resumes.


In The Intern, Ben finds his way to a full time gig and a happy Hollywood ending. What can you do to up your chances for finding a meaningful returnship and, more importantly, meaningful long term work?

  1. Google “returnships” or “reentry internships” and your location to find organizations that specialize in mid-career internships in your area. Most large cities now have organizations that offer help.

  2. If you are interested in a particular field, reach out to professional organizations and send them a letter with your request. For example, if you are an engineer and contact the Society of Women Engineers, you’ll find they share internship/returnship opportunities through their website.

  3. Think about who in your network is doing work you would like to be doing and let them know what you are looking for. Follow up with a good cover letter highlighting how you might solve a problem at their firm and explain what you’ve experienced or learned from the gap in your job history. It’s better to hit gaps straight on rather than hide them. If there’s an “eclipse” in your skill set, acknowledge that, but emphasize what skills you do have and of course, like Ben, what you’d like to learn!

Lynne Cage
outstainding in the field .png

photo by Outstanding in the Field

Jim Denevan stood on a wooden vegetable crate and welcomed the roughly 200 wine sipping guests strolling the dirt paths of the Ocean View Community Gardens in Santa Monica. “I was feeling spontaneous today and thought I’d pay homage to a different kind of roots since it’s the World Series!,” he said. This explained why, as the Dodgers and Astros were about to slug it out, a massive white linen clad dinner table was set up on the dusty adjacent baseball field rather than in the gardens where guests were expecting it.

outstainding in the field 2.jpg

Spontaneity is never far from Denevan who as a visual artist with some notoriety, has left a mark by creating massive scale temporary land art using natural sources such as sand and ice. Many of his projects are so large it takes an aerial view to gain perspective. However, on this day, we are listening to Jim speak from his role as the founder and chief organizer of a worldwide movable feast called Outstanding In the Field. “Our purpose is to celebrate the people who work hard to bring good food to our tables,” Denevan said. In an era of “farm to table” restaurants, Denevan has flipped the concept by bringing the table to the farm. Having been to one of his events before, I knew we were about to sit down to a six course feast of the best local cheeses, meats and wine all orchestrated into a unique menu prepared by a celebrated local chef (in our case Chef Nick Erven of Erven Restaurant.) What I hadn’t heard before is Jim’s curb moment.

outstainding in the field 3.png

photo by Outstanding in the Field

Twenty years ago, Jim was working as a chef for a small restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA. “My brother had an organic apple farm not far away and I was always visiting his farm, as well as other small farms, to get the best produce for my restaurant. I also used to bring my restaurant staff with me to the local farmer’s markets. The idea hit me that it would be great if we could connect the people who work so hard on the farms with the people who eventually ate the food that was grown there,” he said. So Denevan started hosting small dinners on local farms and vineyards in Northern California. The dinners were an instant hit and before long, Denevan was taking his dinners on the road coordinating logistics from a 1950’s red and white bus and bringing community events to farms, first across the country, and then around the world.

outstainding in the field 4.png

“We have regional teams and we set up mostly outdoors but we’ve been in caves and greenhouses too. We try to stay true to the desire to reconnect people to the land and the origins of their food. We usually have a lot of fun doing it as you’ll see in a few minutes,” shared Denevan who went on to thank the team who had created the night’s event. “We get in, we set up, and we aim to create a little magic for the night, and in a few hours we’ll be gone and on the road again although I can’t remember where we’re going next,” he laughed.

Jim’s curb moment has since translated into Outstanding in the Field dinners in 13 countries set up everywhere from mountaintop meadows in Chile to remote sandy beaches in Hawaii and he and his teams have served thousands of locavore enthusiasts. However, despite life as a serial a globetrotter his mission stays closer to home roots; connecting people to the farmers who grow their food and to the land from where it is came.

For more about Jim Denevan:

Lynne Cage

Career experts estimate that 80% of available jobs are never advertised. 80%! In a world of Monster, Indeed, and Craigslist (and the millions of jobs they post each year) that fact seems hard to accept. True, many people get positions through these and other very reputable online sources. However, when you are trying to change career lanes, using online resources exclusively can often impede your career shift rather than boost it.

Early in my career I was in charge of college recruiting for an international technology company. I traveled across the country visiting college campuses looking for the right graduates to come join our business. Hundreds of resumes found their way to me each day. When we had a job opening, however, the first place I went to fill the position wasn’t my “resume bank” it was my “memory bank.” I’d ask myself; “ have I met someone who would be a good fit for this position?” The potential candidates might be students I’d met in person at a career fair or who had come to a lecture I’d done. Or perhaps he or she was working at the university coffee shop and I was left impressed by their warm greeting and great customer service. Maybe a student had signed up for a campus interview and had followed up with a rare hand-written personal thank you note stating why he or she would be an excellent match for us.


I also always posted positions internally so colleagues could pass it on to people they knew. Only after exhausting the “memory bank” and internal referral approach would I move on to the “resume bank” and advertise the position.

Think about how this plays out in your personal life. Despite the number of online service brokers available, you are still more likely to find a painter, stylist, car mechanic etc. by first hitting your memory bank and then by asking someone you know. Need a math tutor for your son? You’ll ask your neighbor whose daughter had a great tutor. Need your haircut? You’ll ask your friend with a stylish new look. Need a car mechanic? You’ll ask your running buddy whose car just got repaired. I’m not arguing against online resources in helping you get off the curb, but I’m strongly suggesting that it helps to get in front of people too. Here’s some first hand examples of this:


Example 1: A friend of mine was interested in a job change and I referred her to a technical manager at a local company. Her first response was to send him her resume on LinkedIn but I suggested inviting him for a quick cup of coffee as well. It turned out he didn’t have any positions available. However, two months later he did. And, where did he go first when he was looking? His memory bank! He remembered my friend from the coffee and and she got the position.

Example 2: Three recent college graduates all living together in San Francisco, were on the job hunt. All three hit online job posting resources regularly. One took it a step further. He identified 15 companies in the city he wanted to work for and hand delivered his resumes to the lobbies of those 15 companies. Next, he followed up with a personal note to the hiring managers at those companies saying in essence, “Today I met Susan Sullivan in your front lobby and passed on my resume to her….” and then went on to say what he liked about the company or noticed about the vibe while he was there and what appealed to him. He got a great job offer in 7 weeks in sales. The position was never posted online but the hiring manager saw someone who had taken an extra step to sell himself. (PS Neither of his roommates ever changed their approach. It took them five months each to get hired.)


When your curb moment includes making a career change, by all means Google away! Using the internet to find out what’s out there and to apply for positions is great but challenge yourself to get in front of people too!

Lynne Cage

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

For some, the answer is easy; software engineer, marketing analyst, social media maven. These people seem to know from an early age exactly what they want and where they’re headed. For others, the answer is tougher. They feel the pressure to “pick a career lane” but it’s harder to choose one job, one interest, or one direction because they have so many passions and interests. According to author and TedX speaker Emilie Wapnick, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In her view, having lots of interests doesn’t make you flaky or a “master of none,” it makes you a “multipotentiate!”

A multipotentiate is a term referring to someone who has many interests and creative pursuits.

Emilie puts herself in this category describing herself as,” the founder, creative director, and resident multipotentiate” of her business called Puttylike. She writes, speaks, teaches, designs, makes art, does research, explores, and tinkers…depending on the day. Emilie believes it’s possible to make a living and be productive in the work world without denying multiple interests and passions and she offers resources to help people do it. In her view our career decisions don’t have to be permanent or irreversible. She’s a good example. Emilie has worked as a web designer, a punk band musician, and a film production crew member. She has a law degree from McGill University and took a career spin in the law field as well. Today she offers resources to help multipotentiates find sustainable ways of making a living. Check out Emilie’s popular Ted Talk.

To learn more check out her new book called How to be Everything: Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling published last month (May 2017) or visit

Lynne Cage

Truth is (despite my pure Celtics upbringing) I’m a Magic Johnson fan. There’s a reason ESPN once named him the greatest NBA point guard of all time. Passion, talent, and drive made him a thrill to watch as he propelled his team to five NBA championships.

Although his leadership skills on the court were unquestionable, and his post basketball contributions to both the war on AIDS, and to inner city economic development extraordinary, the “v” word I’m thinking about isn’t vision although no one could argue Johnson doesn’t have it. The “v” word I’m referring to is vulnerability.

Vulnerability isn’t something most fans would have easily associated with the 6’9” athlete when, more than 25 years ago and at the age of 32, he tearfully announced he was retiring from basketball because of HIV. His “then” story was life as an international basketball giant. His curb moment was HIV.

I knew I was going to suffer

When Johnson stood at the curb, he could have chosen a different path. “He didn’t have to announce it. He didn’t have to tell anybody, ever! He could have retired under the guise of a neck injury that put him in danger of paralysis. He could have said he was retiring because of family issues,” wrote LA Times writer, Bill Plaschke. “Only his doctors knew of his HIV and they were silenced by patient confidentiality.” At the time, most of his advisors counseled him to stay quiet about his health, but Johnson went public despite the expected backlash. “I knew I was going to suffer,” he says. Endorsements got pulled, friends disappeared, and a comeback was thwarted when several pro players, including Karl Malone and Mark Price, publicly denounced him for fear they would catch HIV. “It really hurt,” recalled Johnson.


Fox Sports / Getty Images

Google vulnerability and words like “extremely susceptible,” or “physically or psychologically weak,” come up. It’s a quality most of us run from, not aspire to. It’s the ability some people have to manage the balance between keeping the stiff upper lip or moving ahead no matter what, and contrasting it with letting their guard down, owning up to mistakes, and sharing blind spots. Sometimes vulnerability takes courage and often it comes with risk.

Today Netflix is an $8 billion dollar company producing a number of critically acclaimed series such as House of Cards, but a few years back, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, screwed up! Hastings made a decision to restructure and separate the DVD and streaming businesses and increase pricing. Customers were irate. The decision drove away an estimated 1 million of them and instantly drove the stock prices down by nearly half. Many speculated Hastings would resign amidst the pressure and controversy but he didn’t. Instead he apologized. In a company blog post he wrote, “I messed up, I owe everyone an explanation.


Nathan McAlone /

In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success,” he wrote. “But now I see that given the huge changes we have been recently making, I should have personally given a full justification to our members on why we are separating DVD and streaming, and charging for both. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.” Two years later, in a New York Times interview with James B. Stewart, Hastings said it wasn’t the media criticism or plunging stock price that got to him, it was the thousands of emails that poured in from angry and disappointed customers.


Fox Sports

“I realized, if our business is about making people happy, which it is, then I had made a mistake,” Hastings told Stewart, “The hardest part was my own sense of guilt. I love the company. I worked really hard to make it successful, and I screwed up. The public shame didn’t bother me. It was the private shame of having made a big mistake and hurt people’s real love for Netflix that felt awful.” He added, “I wasn’t naïve enough to think most customers care if the CEO apologizes, but I thought it was honest and appropriate.” His vulnerability resonated with both customers and analysts alike and, over time, he built up consumer confidence.

Although vulnerability seems like a bad thing, sometimes when you’ve been kicked to the curb, it’s the opposite. It strengthens you because you stop wasting energy protecting yourself from what you think other people shouldn’t see. Such proved the case for Johnson and Hastings. As Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz said “I don’t think you have to be vulnerable everyday but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.”

Johnson’s story took a remarkable turn last month when Lakers’ owner Jennie Buss announced he would return as the Lakers’ new president of operations. Undoubtedly, Johnson’s announcement over 25 years ago was tough, and the transition to a new story challenging, but some would argue that he turned out to be a bigger player off the court than he ever was on it.

To learn more about Johnson see ESPN’s documentary The Announcement click here.