The Innerspace Station Podcast

Episode #2: From French Horn to Career Coach

episode #2

From French Horn To Career Coach

Meet Karen Chontofalsky
Nerdy Girl Career Coach

"i started to have a sense that, what i wanted to find was something that allowed me to tap into that, thing that i was missing. it wasn't the french horn. as lovely as the instrument is. it was really an ensemble, it was working with the team."

Welcome fellow Innerspace Surfer…today’s episode is a juicy one! This one is literally eavesdropping in on a chat between two friends…because today I’m talking with Karen Chontafalsky a.k.a Nerdy Girl Career Coach. Karen  I go way back to our days working together as Career Coaches in the MBA program at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Karen has 16 years of experience, starting with her first role at, a startup multi-local job board answering job seeker emails and finishing her tenure there as the Director of Job Seeker Experience. She holds an MBA from Arizona State University and is a certified Job & Career Transition Coach (JCTC). Karen has worked as a career coach and resume writer for three separate MBA programs and two outplacement firms.

 In her current private coaching practice, she uses her years of perspective with a front row view of talent recruitment to help her client’s move ahead. Karen is passionate about helping people figure out their next career move and then how to get there.

She’s also a self-proclaimed dork, who loves reading, sci-fi, biking, and playing board/card games. Nerds are her people. Nerds of all sorts. 

Karen loves witnessing the passion of people who care enough about a topic to learn about it deeply, and I KNOW she can help you navigate tricky career advancement tasks and make your career transitions more successful and way less painful – so we’ll be sure to link her up in the show notes.

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What We're Exploring

on this episode, we're talking about:
  • Karen's story from French horn to Career Coach

  • How to use the STAR Method

  • Sharing soundbites & stories on resumes

  • Making the most of LinkedIn

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Audio Transcript

Kammie:  2:54  Hi.

Karen:  2:55  

Hello. How are you doing? I’m good. 

Kammie:  2:57  How are you?

Karen:  2:59  Fantastic.

Kammie:  3:00  I feel like we were just here.

Karen:  3:02  We were just here.

Kammie:  3:04  So yes. So for listeners, Karen and I had a What did you call it power channeling? I freaking love that. I was like, yeah, that’s what we did. It was intense. We had a two hour coach each other session. And we were tuned into the quantum we were tuned into our higher selves. We were tuned in. It was so juicy.

Karen: 3:27  I was tired. I almost fell asleep during dinner. I was.

Kammie:  3:33  Yeah, we we are we work through a lot lot. A lot of stuff. So

Kammie:  3:40  yeah, I won’t. I mean, I could share oodles and oodles about that. But I guess so. So let me start with this. Karen and I know each other What year did because I started at ASU. Karen and I work together at the WP Carey School of Business at ASU. I worked there from 2010 to 2018. And so what year did you pop into my life?

Karen: 4:07  I think it was at 2011 or 2012 was one of the two.

Kammie:  4:10  Yeah, it wasn’t long after I had been there. And I was career coaching MBA students and I was tasked with working with online MBA evening MBA weekend MBA and Executive MBA. And so they have the coaches broken down to, you know, different groups of MBA, you know, a lot of them supported the full time MBA students. And at that time, right 2011 things were really different. 

They look very different than they look right now. And so I was struggling with some of the technology pieces and ways to reach our online students. And I was like, I need an angel to pop into my life to help me to help support me in figuring out how we reach these amazing online students but they needed more support and people weren’t really engaging in webinars and some of the other things that we were trying and so So Karen fell into my life at that moment.

Karen:  5:04  Yeah. And I came to you from a background where I was working at an online job board. And I was wanting to focus on it. I also worked in outplacement as part of that that role. And I really wanted to focus on just coaching all the time. And but I could bring that that online working for, you know, an online resource, I could bring all of that to the table. So we we balanced each other really well. We did.

Kammie:  5:31  And I remember in your interview you saying, you know, you basically, they kept just putting more on your plate and like your role just kept expanding organically as it would I imagine that a startup right because jobbing was a startup at that point. And that you were building, you were answering all these questions of customers, and you were building out you were like, Oh, I’m building out the FAQs, like I keep responding one on one on one on. 

And so you are so great at figuring out like, how do we scale things, and really putting action to it. So that’s how Karen and I kind of complement because I’m vision strategy, big picture. And Karen was able to help, we would have these awesome sessions at ASU or cinnamon, I’d be like, I need to know how to break this all down, it feels so overwhelming. And you’re like, we got this and

Karen:  6:16  we’d have like just a project planning. Yeah, it’s I was able to bring that like working with IT project plan.

Kammie:  6:25  Which that part still feels scary to me today. But I’m trying to obviously overcome it. So anyway, that’s just a little snippet of background of kind of how we played together back then. And the beauty of you know, social media in life, right? You live in Illinois now. And I’m still in Arizona. And we’ve stayed in touch. And so we’re both at this evolutionary stage with these new creations we’re putting together you’re advancing your business, and I’m at the very beginning stages of growing mine. And so we’re like, let’s power jam together and like, help each other with and the thing that you’re really working on, which is why I’ve invited you here today, for us to have a deeper dive into this is the power of storytelling. So with that being said, let’s dive into your story.

So tell me all about ya…

Karen: 7:12  Well, you know, it’s interesting, I don’t talk about my story a whole bunch these days. Because I do so much career coaching, the thing that I end up focusing on the most is other people’s stories. So just thinking about my journey over the last 10 1012 years. And and what it took to get to here to where we are right in this moment. Just the past couple of days has been a little overwhelming.

Kammie:  7:45  In what way? In what way, but I’m here with the people for the process…

Karen:  7:50  Yes, yes. So I think it’s overwhelming in the way that it’s probably overwhelming for a lot of my clients is that, you know, it’s not just a story, it’s your life. Right? So, so, you know, we’re, it’s more than just this narrative I’m telling. There’s emotions, that are connected with all of these different parts. And sometimes, you know, things that I worked really hard to move from. 

So anytime you’re telling the story, and the context is like, how my How am I sort of creating an image of myself? is it accurate? Like, you know, always really wanting to be authentic? And am I tapping into something right now that I don’t want to be tapping into? Yeah, so just trying to be mindful of like, when you’re re engaging, especially with parts of your past that are painful, and you start to storyteller, because this will happen in interviews, where you have talked about jobs that you didn’t like, or managers that you didn’t, like, they’ll ask, ask for that. Storytelling is like, Okay, how do I engage with it in a way that’s healthy in a way that’s productive? And that says things about me, I want to actually say,

Kammie: 9:04  Yeah, and that you don’t get triggered emotionally in an interview situation.

Karen:  9:08  Right? Right. If they ask big detailed questions,

Kammie  9:13  What’s your biggest failure? Well, that’s a dumb fucking question first.

Karen: 9:18  Right?

Kammie: 9:19  Sometimes I’m like, What? We won’t even, we won’t even get into my issues with the whole process of like hiring and interviewing. It does feel like things are shifting a bit. So yes, yes, pressure. But anyway, so let’s walk back because before we hopped on, before we hit record, I said to Karen, I’ve been friends with you for how freaking long now and I still have no idea how you got from French horn, which is what you’re studying in college, to Pfizer. 

So let’s go back a little bit further and kind of just tell us like where you grew up and what you were into as a kid, whatever. Because again, on our coaching session, we also both shared that, looking back we see the threads of the things that we were interested in or the things that we were good at or the things that we had that brought us joy even way back when we were kids. So let’s, let’s, let’s hop in the Time Machine and go back a little.

Karen:  10:04  Go back to little bitty Karen. So, um, so when I was younger two things I really, really loved. So first off, I loved writing, I loved reading and writing, like, I was a block away from a Carnegie Library, beautiful library in a very small town. And in a town where there wasn’t a lot of these big beautiful town are Centralia, Illinois, so tiny Centralia, a small town in southern Illinois, and I had this gorgeous Carnegie Library a block away. So reading was big and important and and kind of monumental in my, my childhood. So and, you know, I could I could sort of leave this very small town by sort of traveling these books, and it was, like, I was always allowed to read like, there was no restriction there.

Kammie:  11:01  Did you have the bookmobile?

Karen:  11:03  No, no, bookmobile is yes, I’ve heard of them. But we didn’t have one in our town. Yeah,

Kammie: 11:08  well, I went to Catholic school, from like, third grade to like eighth grade, and we didn’t have a huge library at the school. And so the bookmobile would come, and it was like, you know, a mobile book unit. And it was just like, I just remember always being like the bookmobiles. And then at the summer, too, did you have we had in St. Louis, where I was at that point. The Pizza Hut, like, challenge over the

Karen: 11:32  book, it book. It was like, Yes.

Kammie:  11:35  Yes,

Karen:  11:36  yes. And I loved doing the book challenge, because, you know, I was, it was like, Oh, I’m gonna get pizza for something I’m already doing. Yes, sure. Yeah.

Kammie: 11:47  Okay. Sorry to interrupt.

Karen:  11:49  So, books and reading and, you know, stories were a big part of my life then. And I was in love with Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite authors. I love his book,

Kammie:  12:01  and oh, my goodness.

Karen: 12:03  So. So in fifth grade, I entered young authors, young authors contest, and I won for my school, which is so exciting. And I got to go to the, but there were four poems. And there are four poems that were a lot like Shel Silverstein, and I can share a short one with you. And it’s about Thanksgiving, too. Yeah. So it’s, and this is what I had to read when I got my award. It was Thanksgiving, Turkey on the table. Grab a plate full. Turn on the cable. Gobble, gobble, gobble. It’s all gone. Now. Look how much you’ve put on. You did this in fifth grade. Yeah.

Kammie:  12:41  Nice.

Karen:  12:43  So awesome. Gobble, gobble gobble.

Kammie:  12:48  From the TV.

Kammie:  12:50  Yeah. I think we all that’s that’s what Thanksgiving, you know, was and his first many.

Karen:  12:56  I channeled some truth there for people.

Kammie:  13:01  Love it.

Karen:  13:03  And so um, yeah, so that that was kind of like early stirrings of Karen and I also right around that time, I started playing French horn too. Mm hmm. So like, those were those were really the biggest things for me.

Kammie:  13:17  So you were a band kid?

Karen:  13:18  Yep. I was a band kid. And I was a book nerd. And those were really

Kammie:  13:22  You’re just painting such a lovely picture, I’m seeing you.

Karen:  13:25  Yeah. So that was really, you know, some of the biggest things that I sort of used to explore the world, you know, getting to know the world of classical music and, and music in general. And having conversations with other people through that medium and figuring out how quickly, you know, where, when I was meeting people, I was a shy person. When I would meet people, I had a hard time connecting and verbalizing. And, and, and sort of opening myself up to people but with music. I could get to know people I felt like really quickly. 

And and get to a point where, you know, there was that easy back and forth that I didn’t have when I was talking with them. Mm hmm. So those things stayed really important to me. For quite some time, I

Kammie:  14:21  And you continued French horn through high school? Yeah, yeah. that lead to scholarship for

Karen:  14:28  all kinds of stuff. It really is the thing that got me out of my little town, right. I got I got a scholarships to go to school. I had other musicians too, that were I was I was lucky to have a group of musicians that went through high school with me that were really talented and because of them, and being able to learn from them as peers and kind of develop through that it made a big difference. So that peer learning was important from the beginning. And then, um, so I went through undergrad and my master’s, 

Kammie: where’d you go? 

Karen: I did a lot of touring in my undergrad. I was figuring some things out like a lot of people did an undergrad

Kammie:  15:19  Tell us where you bounced around from?

Karen:  15:20  I went, I went. So I started at UVA by then went down to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where I finished and then once I graduated from my undergrad, I went out to Arizona, and I studied at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Kammie:  15:38  And so what brought you from like Midwest to Arizona? Was it the program? Was it just like a really stellar music program? Like,how did that get on your radar?

Karen:  15:44  Yeah, that’s interesting. So I had a teacher for one year, in my undergrad, she was my previous teacher I’d had since you know, I was in sixth grade. I studied with him privately. He moved to Memphis and I had actually auditioned to go down to Memphis and do my grad work with him and go study with him again, because I love studying with him. 

But one of the one of the interim teachers that I had met, got a gig it into you. And he was like, Hey, I can get you an assistantship at NYU, if you want to go to Arizona, and all of a sudden, you know, I google Flagstaff we, which I had never heard of, and I was like, hey, that place looks amazing. And it was a great it ended up being a great assistantship, it was with like the band program, which is not anything I had a huge interest in. But I was like, Sure, I can help with the marching band to get you know, my grad work yeah, so I went out and followed her I she allowed me to put 10 boxes into her moving truck. 

And, and, and move out there with her and I helped her pack and and get ready. She was also planning a wedding and stuff at the time. So we helped each other was the theme of mutual benefit.

Kammie:  17:12  Isn’t it awesome when those people just sort of cross your path? And it’s like that whole reason, season, lifetime, thing? Right? Like sometimes people just drop in and then they drop back out. Are you and her I’m assuming engaged throughout your stay there. But like, who knows for how long after right? Like, yeah, I just love that. If you’re open to receiving it in a way that you’re like, this is for on a whole nother podcast, but right if you’re open to receiving it in a way that is unexpected, or like that you would never have guessed like, Huh, you got a free you got to put yourself on her truck. You didn’t even have to get your own truck like that.

Karen: 17:46  I know. It was a basic it was basically

Kammie:  17:48  Early days of manifestation. You probably didn’t even know what you were doing. Right. And she got it.

Karen: 17:53  She got a personal assistant during and I am planning a wedding. And when all of it Yes. So. So we went across the country. I got to see places I’d never seen before. I’d never been through New Mexico. And I’d never been to the desert.

Kammie:  18:13  Doesn’t it look like Mars? The first time it literally looks like another planet.

Karen:  18:17  Yeah, I was like, Oh, I’m moving to the moon. Like, it was just completely alien. Yeah. And but like, I couldn’t stop, like just staring at it and just being like, in awe. And then when I got to Flagstaff, I was like, I can’t believe I’ve never lived anyplace that was that pretty. Now, not that there isn’t places a beauty in Southern Illinois. And I’ve I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of a cornfield in a different way coming back to it.

Kammie:  18:43  Yeah.

Karen: 18:43  But you know, at the time, I’d never been around mountains. And so all of that really sort of picturesque beauty was sort of new to me. And it was it was mesmerizing. I was in love with Arizona, like from minute one. 

Kammie:  18:59  Arizona is magic. I’ve lived here since 2008 – 10 of those years in Phoenix, and I’ve been up here in Prescott, which is Northern Arizona, you know, pretty close to Flagstaff a couple hours. for two and a half years. It’s just it’s magic. There’s just it’s Yeah, it’s if people have not been, let’s do a little plug for AZ Well, just the desert and the whole Southwest is like yes, it’s just a whole different bag of tricks. And what’s interesting is like 20 minutes in any direction, the landscape changes like you think it’s like the traditional kind of what you see in Phoenix, right? The cactus and kind of dry and some of that neutral palette or whatever. But like every single place you go in the state it looks different. It’s really cool.

Karen:  19:41  Yeah. And it was a different experience for me too, because I was used to being in places where all of the land was either farm or park or, or just town like like there was no unused land right or or sort of untamed, open land. And I actually got to go to places where there were no roads to get through. Like I was, uh, my dad even at one point asked me to keep sending him maps. And I’d send him like, like the third or fourth map and I’m like, Dad, what are you wanting on a map that I’m not getting you? And he’s like, well, I need one with all of the roads. I was like, Oh, no, I understand the problem. Now. There are no roads there.

Kammie: 20:23  Yeah, hello, Grand Canyon. Hello. 

Karen:  20:29  I’m like no, didn’t land. Yeah. Like I’m like, okay, so if you look to the right of this highway, there’s nothing there. It’s just, there’s something there. But it’s not like, it’s not roads and towns and things. And it’s not a park. It’s just mountains and crankiness. And I don’t even know how you would start to, like, so just just having those unaccessible kind of hard terrain area. Yeah, we’re like, that’s, that’s like living in a in a mythical Fairyland. Compared to like, everything’s already a park or a mall, or a farm. It’s something consumption, like, like that is it’s just its own thing just is.

Kammie:  21:12  Yeah, I remember when we when I drove across country in my tiny little VW Beetle convertible at the time, with two dogs on my lap. My dad was driving, I had two dogs on my lap in the backseat was full of stuff. I remember just thinking like, how did people do this in covered wagons and honor joke horse, I don’t. Like,

Karen:  21:32  can’t, I couldn’t wrap my brain around. Like, how people did that. Like, it’s just so brave. The journey. Well, and now obviously being here and learning more about the land and the people who really tended to the land and lived off. And like everything was in harmony and plants for medicine, you know, all of that – all of those layers, which we won’t get into today. But holy Wow. Right, that and I think that like speaks to some of the magic too, or it’s just, it’s baked into the…Yeah, that’s a cool experience. Like, yes, it

Karen:  22:02  was very cool.

Kammie:  22:03  So was that let’s speaking of storytelling, was that somewhat foreshadowing of some of those challenges, then that you like, had to maneuver through maybe in college or working on your masters? Or like, let’s step into that phase and French horn and

Karen:  22:16  yeah, so going into the wilds, coming to Arizona, that was really kind of where I became an adult? Yeah. And I think I had to do a lot of growing up in actually figuring out what were the things that, you know, you don’t know which dragons you’re slaying. 

You’re young, you know, you just don’t know what fights like you’re so immersed in the fight, and you don’t know, you don’t know what those struggles even are. So I was regularly I think getting my butt kicked by things I didn’t understand. And I was just trying to make the next best decision, right? It wasn’t there was never really an understanding of who I was right or or or what, what was actually kicking my tail all the time.

Kammie: 23:07  So, with that, were you still was there still something calling to you or speaking to you or on a higher level that was like keeping you have a bit above some of the minutiae of, you know, navigating through evolving as a human right, like, So was there still something that was like pulling you a little bit along as you stumbled along the path?

Karen:  23:31  Yeah, I think, um, I, I let other people you know, I would anchor myself to other people. And, and, and kind of be drawn through whatever other people’s stuff right.

Kammie:  23:46  Are you also saying men because I mean, you and I share a lot of the same DNA right, like people pleasing, over perfectionist sickness, codependency, you know, I mean, we don’t need to air all of it right here. But, but yeah, for sure, like, Oh, this guy’s into this music. Now. I’m into that kind of music or, hey, so and so dresses like that. That looks cool. Let me try to and try it on right now. But this doesn’t feel like me.

Karen:  24:13  Right? Yeah, I was I was constantly just sort of, like, I was attracted to, like, really kind of over the top. gregarious people like, especially being a little shy and retreating, of kind of wanting to be behind it, but also being attracted to like them, you know, wanting what they had basically that being able to step into yourself. Yeah, project and get. 

So I was I was attracted to big personalities in my friends, strong personalities and ones that ended up taking a lot of the oxygen in every room. So that happened in relationships, mentors, friends, like that was just a pattern that kept going and going and I think I think you know, it, it helped me. I think I learned a lot about what, what, what was what was good for me and what wasn’t good for me. And in that time, and I think through that, at some point, I think I started to go Okay, no, what is it that I started to actually asking myself, but what do you think? But what do you want?

Kammie: 25:28  Mmm Hmm…I think at that age, there can be a lot of like wanting to hitch our wagon to someone else’s star instead of realizing that we are a star and that it’s, you know, like peeling all that away is allowed, you know, that’s how we allow ourselves to shine. But that takes a long time to, you know, get there.

Karen:  25:43  And I was still I was I was replacing parents. Right. And I think that is a normal thing, too. Is that when you move away from especially moving away from the security of home, I was, I was looking for home again. Yes. In a new place. And, and really not knowing how to create home for myself.

Kammie:  26:05  I was just gonna say, right, like, everywhere we go, there we are like we are. We’re home. We have. Yeah, we have to find that within. Yeah,

Karen:  26:14  yeah. And so I just don’t think I was there. I think I was just looking for it externally for a long time. Sure. Yeah. But you know, so in in during that time, that’s when, as I was completing my Master’s in music, that’s when I started realizing like, Hey, I don’t know if I want this gig.

Kammie:  26:32  So okay, so you got an undergrad in music also?

Karen:  26:35  Mm hmm.

Kammie:  26:36  So were you thinking at that time you were going to become a professional musician? Is that the path that you were sort of?

Karen:  26:40  Yeah, yeah, I was, I was on that path. And also, I wanted to be an academic and music and when the you know, probably French horn Professor somewhere. I was the playing in music and music pedagogy at at a college level that was interesting to me, I didn’t want to be a band director never did. So it wasn’t a music Ed major was always performance.

Kammie:  27:00  And then where did that shift. So walk me through a little bit like you did the undergrad, you went into master’s degree. 

Karen:  27:09  And that, you know, the end, the thought was beyond that I was going to go and get a doctorate in music after that, like, you know, that’s pretty much the path of an academic. But during that master’s program, I started feeling like a I wanted, I kind of wanted to be out of college for a little bit. I wanted to, I wanted to experience something else. And also, I hated the thought of like, still being a nomad for quite some time. Because at that point, you know, I’ve been in several different college towns like that was like, the third college town I’d been in I’m like, I’m a little sick of that. 

And I didn’t like the thought of, of how unable to build community and build routes that I was going to be as a performer, that I was going to have to go wherever the gig was, that I was going to have to, you know, like that I still had so much Nomad. And I was thinking, you know, am I did I? Did I want a family? Did I want kids? Like, I wasn’t even sure I’d even ever given myself room for thinking about it. Because I was I was so enamored of like the horn and getting out and kind of seeing the world that I hadn’t even thought like, hey, do I want to, like put down roots somewhere? Do I want a family do I want? So that’s when I thought, Well, after I graduate, I thought about again, for a split second. I was like, maybe I’ll go get a law degree. And I don’t even know where that came in. It was just like, it was like the panic of not knowing what was next. And I was like, Well, like I could definitely, I could just go back and study more.

Kammie:  28:45  Right? Yeah, I want to get away from being a nomad and going to another school, but maybe just diving deep into some other distraction will be right answer. Yeah.

Karen:  28:55  Yeah, it so luckily, I had gone down to Scottsdale and found it enchanting in a different way. And I was like, how about I just get an apartment and a job and like, see what that’s like. So that’s what I ended up doing. I went down to, to the valley, I found an apartment, I found a gig. It was working for a marketing and demonstration company in their office of the ladies to give out samples. It was the company that hires and contracts those ladies, I’m doing some back end administrative work. So a lot of photocopying data entry.

Kammie:  29:35  Yeah. So what time period was this? What year? What were we at time wise?

Karen:  29:40  I graduated from my Master’s in music in 2003. Is that right? Yes. Yes, that’s right. So 2003, early 2000s then and then started with the marketing and demonstration company didn’t wasn’t the right gig. And I was really isolated, I made up for some of that isolation by staying at playing, I played in the Salt River brass band with a couple of musicians I really admired sandplay Finn, and pat Sheridan. 

Sam was definitely a mentor of mine and someone I respected he passed in a couple years ago, or I think it’s couple years, maybe just a year ago from brain cancer, but he is a great force in the community. And another, just one of those great mentors that touched so many people’s lives. So being able to stay connected to people I admired and music in that way. But it was like, I could feel the music was receding for me a little bit.

Kammie:  30:41  Did you have any? Did you have any? Because I, I know having been through kind of some major pivots in my own life, right? Like, there can also be that not fear of letting go of the thing, but thinking, gosh, you know, I invested so much time, energy money, into this endeavor. You know, now I look at that kind of stuff very differently. And I’m able to let go of some of that stuff. But like, at that point, was there a little bit of like, was it easier to kind of fade it out by still staying, you know, having a foot kind of in that world in a different way, but like, you know, pulling out of it? Was there an awareness of like, Yeah, but?

Karen:  31:23  yeah, it felt like it kind of like staying in the ensemble for a little bit. felt like I was just trying to keep a toe in and it felt weird. And it felt like a little bit more of a wrench. Like it just kind of stabbed me in the wrong way. At that moment. I was like, yeah, this is just reminding me that I’m not doing that. Yes. Right. It was like, it was just like, it was too little. Like I, I felt like I either wanted to be in that or that. 

Or I needed to just put it aside for a minute and figure out like, like, I needed to allow space for something else. And so that really pushed me to doing a lot of you know, build my own career coach, I started reading every career coach, because like, mainly, I was like, Okay, I have all of this stuff that I did. And I studied, like, how can I put this to work in my career? Like, how can I use this to help build instead of feeling like I’m just starting from scratch, because I put too much work in that to make this like, like, it doesn’t count for anything. So what the the first real like career coaching spark I got, was reading a book that is used by so many career coaches, and I think is one of the best, like, if you’re going to read one book, that’s career coaching, I think you should get this one. Is that What Color is Your Parachute? Right?

Kammie:  32:43  I saw the cover. In fact, I have it on my shelf. Right? Yeah.

Karen:  32:46  Yeah, every single career coach does, it’s kind of like the Bible of like career changing. Right? It’s all about figuring out, what are those transferable skills? What is it that you’re bringing to the table, even if you don’t have experience in the thing that you’re moving toward? Mm hmm. Um, so that was kind of like the beginning of, of me having an interest in, in like job searches that basically I, I had to go through a massive career change and become my own career coach. 

Kammie:  33:19  Mm hmm. Let me interject and ask where the since since we’re all about intuition, and wanting to, you know, really, like help people tune in and tap into that, that innate sort of gift that we all have, but some people don’t realize, you know, when they’re hearing it – were there moments that you were, because I know, you’re very intuitive as well. But were you aware of that, at that time in your life? And what did that look or sound like?

Karen:  33:50  I don’t know. That I that’s interesting, because I don’t know that I thought at that time, that I was very intuitive. And one of the things that I started to see right then was I had an understanding that that music wasn’t necessarily about music. For me, I think when you hear a lot of musicians talk about their connection to music, it’s about the art, you know, or you know what I mean. But for me, it was about the people. It was about like, it was about ensemble, it was about connection and communication. 

And so I started to have a sense that, that what I wanted to find was something that allowed me to tap into that, like that was the thing that I was missing. It wasn’t the French horn. as lovely as the instrument is it was really an ensemble, it was working with the team. So I had a very isolated role. And I knew that the job that I was working that like me working in an office by myself on the weekend was the opposite of what I needed to be doing. So I remember looking looking for a job and I started searching adjectives instead of job titles, because I just kept not finding what I was looking for. I just kept getting more of the same, right. So one day I actually searched the word FUN. I was like, You know what, I want a company that will actually talk about, like, I need some fun to get through my day. I need I need motivation. So I have people that care about that. So it was it seemed like a frivolous thing to search. 

But it was something that was really core. I’m like, I need to, I’m a silly person that needs to have fun in my day. Yes. So I, I found a startup job board that was looking for somebody to be their admin assistant, but also answered the job. seeker helpdesk questions, and I was like, that sounds, I thought that sounded amazing. I was like, I can talk to people, I can interact with them. And it was like, it was so cool to go into a startup culture that felt collegial. It felt like that environment that I was used to, and that I loved of young people energy and you know, spending way too, you know, spending way too much time at work probably. Right?

Kammie:  36:14  When you were younger. So you had lots and lots of energy, right?

Karen:  36:18  I had nothing but time and energy to give. So it was a good time to be at a startup. Right?

Kammie:  36:23  Yeah. Well, and how awesome is that, that you were pulled/drawn/ magnetized to a job or like a company that literally helps people find jobs? And that’s really what your biggest question was, like, well, what is next for me? What am I supposed to be doing? And yeah, so that’s lovely.

Karen:  36:42  I was I thought, well, if I wanted to explore the world of work, like how, what better place to do it, I was like, I was like, if nothing else, this is going to be a good Launchpad. Right? This is a good place to go figure some stuff out. And it ended up being that in spades. You know, I met a wonderful mentor, my my boss, Rebecca is, is forever going to be my example of, you know, tell me about your, your best boss. She was just an amazing teacher on so many levels of what it meant to be a professional of what it meant to to be a good manager, a good leader, and what it meant to really connect with other people.

Kammie: 37:21  And how did she embody that? What were some of the qualities or ways of being that, you know, you, you would look at her and go, Oh, God, I want some of that, like, obviously, we’re drawn to those people, because we want more of that for ourselves. So what were some of those qualities that she embodied?

Karen:  37:37  Well, one of them was that she always give people the benefit of the doubt. She, she assumed good intent, which, as a person with, you know, at that time, undiagnosed anxiety problems. That was a really hard thing for me to do. And I didn’t realize how it sabotage my relationships with people to, to not assume that somebody was trying their best into, you know what I mean? Like that, because it was just anxiety going, Oh, you know, they must, they must think that you’re incompetent, or they must think that you’re dumb, or they must, you know, that that’s kind of liar in my head was going full tilt. 

And so to see somebody that had this thing, she just had this complete compass, of, of, Oh, this person that I’m talking to that works for me, is absolutely trying their very best to get this done. And so, like, we always felt like she had her back, like she was always there to help us. And that level of just like, constant there for support, constant rock, just that absolute complete trust that I had and her that she was able to instill through that was probably one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my career.

Kammie:  38:51  Well, and just to acknowledge, like, that’s who you are, like I when you were describing, you know, the anxious you with those thoughts, and, you know, making up stories in your mind about what people were thinking or intentions and what I like, I don’t know, that version of you. I’ve never known that version of you. So you’ve come a long way, baby. 

Karen: 39:13  Yes. That’s some hard one, you know, and I am back to the I didn’t know which dragons I was fighting. I, was so attracted to that, I think because it was really a constant daily struggle that I didn’t hadn’t acknowledged at that point in my life that I was fighting.

Kammie: 39:29  So how long were you at jobbing and then what? Jobing is what led you to ASU, right?

Karen: 39:36  Yeah, I was at jobbing for six and a half years and during that time, I kind of rose from being an an admin assistant to being the director of job seeker experience. So I was overseeing like, all kinds of things that were job seeker facing. And

Kammie:  39:52  And so what did that look like? What were some of the things that you built where that emerged from, you know, during your time transition from this to this extraordinary role.

Karen:  40:03  What like I did a little bit of IT project management around things that faced the job seeker portion of the business because there’s a huge part of the business, the part that actually generated revenue was facing the employers, because that’s where the money comes from. They weren’t charging jobseekers for anything. So it was a really interesting thing to like, own the part of the process that would could be sent it seen as like a cost center. But like, I had the wonderful privilege of them understanding that really engaging job seekers is like, that was what the employers were paying paying for it,

Kammie:  40:43  Right? So just explain for people who don’t know jobbing or at least at that point, who knows what iteration their businesses in at this point. But so at that point, it was a job board, the employers paid to be on there and promote their jobs. But there was no business model revenue generation going on on the candidate side?

Karen:  40:59  Correct. There’s a pain for Yeah, except for then we got to a point where Lehman Brothers happened. And all of a sudden, we were in a mass unemployment event, we went from having, you know, we had the nation’s largest career fairs and our local markets. So we were locally focused, that was our niche. We only had job boards and places where we had offices, so that that meant a huge real estate investment was and and and because the housing market fell that that, that real estate, like having all this leases, and all those different locations was a real part of why we had to go from like, 500 employees down to 50. So I had made it from like, being employee number 70, all the way up to 500. And then back down to 50. So it was it was a crazy time.

Kammie:  41:56  Well, and so just to just to put a pin in or a little just like, you know, an Asterix? Um, what an amazing thing for you to experience for future Karen, who’s coaching clients, right? Like, hey, I’ve been through total growth, and then boom, knocking all the dominoes down and bringing it all back to basics. So that’s, that’s an incredible thing that that’s like foreshadowing, right, and storytelling. So like, if you didn’t know, at the time that you were being set up to have more empathy, to have more awareness, understanding, compassion, and also what it takes to then pick yourself back up and right move along down the road.

Karen:  42:36  Well, and I was, so I was helping all of these friends of mine that were losing their jobs, I was helping them get settled in new places and do their job search. And also, we had launched an out placing product at that time, which was companies that were laying people off, they weren’t hiring. So we had to try to find something to sell them. Right. So then we were selling outplacement service services. So I was acting as a career coach for the first time through that. 

And, you know, I had, I had spent a lot of time communicating with career coaches, through my kind of community relations piece of of helping, you know, our community relations team being able to engage with Career Services in their different local markets, to reach job seekers, right, and to provide them with resources as well. So like, I’d seen these people and I knew they were my people. And I, and then I engaged in a practice that I, I still recommend to my clients today – I had an informational interview with Carrie Sanderson…

Kammie:  43:44  God bless the informational interviews, I’m still a huge fan. I always was a fan.

Karen: 43:49  And it she was a wonderful career coach to me.

Kammie:  43:51  So let’s explain what the informational interview is. And then you know about your informational interview with Carrie, and more that led you on that path.

Karen:r  43:57  Yeah. So an informational interview is isn’t like a normal, like a job interview. It’s where you’re going to have a conversation with someone not to get a job, but to ask them about some aspect of their work. So it can be about the type of role that they’re doing if you want to make a change into that type of role. Or it can be like, you know, I’ve never worked for that big organization that you work in. What’s it like to work at AIX? What? What does that company value? What are they looking for in candidates? And what’s been your experience there? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? 

Kammie:  44:33  Just so important. People always forget that. Like, I remember when we were coaching all these MBAs, I need to go work in Apple and Amazon. I’m like, do you know? Like it could be for you, but it might not be for you?

Karen: 44:44  Yeah, think about it. Like they people would come to us and they would they would say oh, I really want to work for this company. And we would know their personality and right like, I don’t think you know the person because we knew the personality mismatch was there like people that wanted to work for us. Okay, so I’ll just say the name of the company Hinkle. Right. So that was Dial, right?. So and there was nothing wrong with them. It was that like that was a it was a German company that we kind of structured yeah says, and then we’d have these like kind of wild free free

Kammie:  45:16  spirits. Yeah. And they wanted to be brand managers. So they’re creatives that were thinking like, that’s where I want to go be a brand manager for these products. And we were like, mmmm go talk to a few people that work there and then come back.

Karen:  45:29  Yeah. And then they would come back to us and be like, Oh, my God, you saved me. Right? Like, let’s talk to you about like, what is that right fit? What is that right environment?

Kammie:  45:38  So I have a really quick story to interject about informational interviewing, because this is literally what I would share when I was doing career coaching ASU and built it into some of my courses, or webinars or workshops about informational interviews because people dread it. And it’s like, actually, it’s a really fun thing. So in college during undergrad, I was a broadcast journalism major. And for our senior project, we had to go do an informational interview of someone who had a job that we either wanted or a few jobs above what we thought coming out of undergrad we would want. 

So I had found that the program manager at a radio station, I was very much into broadcasting at the time and thought that I was going to have a career in broadcasting at that point, and was the there was an alum of my school, I went to Lindenwood. It was Lindenwood College at the time and St. Charles MO now it’s Lindenwood University. So Scott Strong was the program manager at a major radio station in downtown St. Louis, which is a pretty major market. Now mind you, I wasn’t going there looking for a job. 

And I was like I have this project I have to do this informational interview. So I think at that point, I don’t even know if I emailed him like was email a thing in the late 90s. After I either emailed him or him right you you probably called him but was like, Hey, can I come down with maybe his pager? This was pre pager? I don’t even know. Yeah, that’s in the Wayback Machine. So I remember reaching out and saying, hey, I’d love a quick tour of the facility would love to maybe meet with an on air personality and just sit and ask you some questions about what it’s like to be a program manager at a major market radio station. Cool. Come down, here’s the time to and like to go from the suburbs in St. Charles, Missouri to downtown St. Louis. 

I didn’t spend a lot of time downtown. I mean, I did a little bit and in college, you know, we hit the bars, downtown occasionally. But it wasn’t like I was really familiar. You know, it’s a big city. St. Louis is a big downtown St. Louis, a big city. So that in and of itself was intimidating. Just to get from like, I don’t even remember that part. Like, did I guess I drove myself? I don’t know, it’s not like we had Google Maps at that time, either. Right? So I get there. He and I are meeting in his office, we’re chatting, I’m asking him, you know, I have my notebook with my questions all ready and prepared. And, you know, I’m like, how’d you just kind of like this? How did you go from being at lindenwood to you know, being an on air talent working your way through, he talked me through a conversation very similar to this, right? Not not super scary, or I wasn’t asking him for anything. 

So through that conversation, then he flips it. And he starts asking me questions. And then he brings me around and gives me a tour. And they take me into the studio. And I’m like, holy shit. This is a studio at a major market, you know, and like the DJs look cool and fun. And, you know, it’s mid 90s. And there’s some like grungy, where I was like, what, like, how freaking cool is this? He brings in the music director because I was the music director at the college campus station. So I meet her, they give me a bunch of free CDs and T shirts. And then she leaves and goes about our business. 

And he goes, so what do you work? And I was like, what I was like, Yeah, I have a part time job. I like waited tables or whatever. He’s like, would you rather be on the radio, and I was like, WHAT? He says, We are always looking for part time people to fill in on holidays and weekends. And when any of the full time staff doesn’t want to work, you know, we need some people on air. He’s like, you have a good voice, you have a good presence. What do you think? And I was like, Ah, yes, please, you know, so. So that led to my first, you know, opportunity, I had no idea going into that, that that could happen. And that’s what can happen over and over and over again. 

But it also allows you to exactly what you said, see the culture of the organization, I got to be in there, I got to feel energy. And I’ve done informational interviews where I was like, Hell to the know, right on board of this shit show. Thank God, I came in here to talk to whoever, because I just saved myself a ton of heartache. Like what if you’d gone through the whole interview process, you get the job, and then you’re there and you’re like, these people are loco. You know, that’s just a little snippet of a story that I always love to share with people. Because if you really just go in with an open mind, and really, it’s an exploratory conversation, you’re looking to connect and get to know the other person. Evaluate sort of one, like you said, the role like, do I even want to do this job? Is this something that I would want to do? Does it fit my strengths and what I can do I have value to add here? Also, the culture of the organization.

Karen:  49:53  Yeah. And you know, the other thing Carrie was able to get to talk me through is because it was a career change. Since I was coming from a job board with this role, like director of job seeker experience. What is that? I was coming from corporate startup.

Karen:  50:10  And what was Kerry’s role? And where was she? She was the

Karen: 50:14  Career Services at Gateway Community College. Okay, so part of that Maricopa Community College network that’s so fabulous in Phoenix. And, and, and she had a wonderful program. I believe she was director at that point, but I’m not sure. But wonderful, both administrator and coach. And I had known her through jobbing. She had been in the community relations role there. 

So that was, you know, a former colleague that was doing something that was really like, I felt like the right next thing for me, but I really wanted to talk to somebody in it. And she just went through all of the like you said, the kind of ins and outs, but then was able to help me with the real, really important part was like, What objections? Are they going to have to what are their concerns going to be going in for like, because I had seen this job open at ASU and I wanted to apply to WP Carey The, the MBA program, because I had, I had just received my MBA through the program as well. So I felt like that was something I had going for me. But I needed help from her to like, how do I make a case that I can do this gig,

Kammie:  51:25  Right? So that transitional like, how do you spin your skill set your strengths, what you do here, which is a huge part of what we coach people through, they just didn’t they kind of would resist that piece to write or not even resisted. They didn’t understand. I mean, I even have, like executive level clients that I’ve worked with in the last handful of years, that trying to transition, right, like people can’t see, like you still did you, your brain still operates the same way. And so then it’s just like, how do we then look at what this new role is, and pull those strengths over and communicate the value of, like, Did this here and it looks like what I assume this bullet point in your job description is? Yeah.

Karen: 52:07  Yeah. And, and it was also, you know, being able to, you know, have them understand that I knew academia and why I knew it. And, you know, my depth of experience as a student, but also as an employee at universities, the entire, like, it schools the whole time. And, and, and, and, you know, pretty extensively worked in some nice administrative roles that I think I thought could be, you know, very, very relevant. But you know, she she walked me through the like, what are their objection is going to be? And how can I speak the language that they would understand that they were listening for? So that they would know I got it? Mm hmm. And I think I would never would have been able to, to go and have a conversation with you and have you by that I could do the gig, if I hadn’t had that conversation.

Kammie:  53:00  And quite honestly, in that interview, I saw that and I understood, and I know, I know what I knew what we needed for that role, which was very different from what the other career coaches were doing. And so there was definite pushback. They were like, well, because the other coaches, you know, like we said earlier, supported the full time MBA, which was a very different experience than what we needed to do to support evening, executive and online. They needed a lot more resources and access to things. Whereas the full time coaches were presenting a lot of that stuff face to face in office and or via face to face class. And so yeah, I really was the advocate and the voice at the table for you, because I was like, but that’s, that’s not, she’s not going into that role. She’s going to this new role that we’re creating to support these other people. So yeah, okay, so you hop we can fast forward a little bit, and then we’ll do and then we’ll do a little bit. I’m trying to be conscious of your time. Because I’ve then want to get us to the star method. Yes, we’ve loosely kind of started getting towards we’re naturally moving in that direction. I just want to wrap up kind of like getting you to ASU, and then getting you to where you are right now. And then we’ll kind of get a little bit into the tactical stuff. And yeah, and so circle will be complete.

Karen:  54:17  Yes. So I got the gig. And, you know, I started my journey on, you know, coaching at ASU, there was a point then, where, you know, I thought I would never leave that gig. And then there was just like, this pole, like, everything in my life. For some reason. I was like a big man and a little suit. You know? Nothing fit. You’re like me, everything feels a little crunchy. Yeah. And, and I got to that one of those decision points again, where I was like, Oh, yeah, like, I started trying to change things at the periphery, you know, and I was starting Going things, but like, there was one key thing that wasn’t working out. 

And you know, it was my, my marriage at that point was just, there were so many things that weren’t working with it. And there was no talking about it, there was no getting any change to happen within it. So I just kept trying to change everything else. I quit my job, I started another random job that wasn’t a good fit. Like, I don’t know, it was just, it was just like, Okay, well, maybe if I keep changing all this peripheral stuff, maybe, maybe my life will be okay. And it’ll start to fit again. And it was not working.

Kammie:  55:33  It’s that whole bandaid on the bullet wound, right? Like, I’ll just put a bandaid on this, it’s, you know, it’s hemorrhaging, but I’m gonna just slap another bandaid on it, we’ll try to like, keep it tucked down, instead of just ripping that puppy off

Karen:  55:45  I just everything’s on fire. And I was sitting here going, it’s fine.

Kammie:  55:49  And so side note, you know, perhaps we’re gonna have Karen on, she’s gonna be our resident career coach. So we can get more into this in another episode, the healing and the health stuff. So just know that the Karen we’re seeing today is very different. Because, you know, we can and we should, because I have many health, health challenges that I overcame, as well. And a part of that is right, like, the stress like, we always hear, like stress affects your health and, and people don’t know, so it’s like, very ambiguous and amorphous and like, what’s that really mean? That’s like, when your life is on fucking fire. Your body starts to shut down.

Karen:  56:24  Oh, yeah, I got to the point where I felt like, you know, if I stick with this, it’s gonna kill me. You know, it was it was just my, my health was tanking so fast. And I couldn’t get any traction. So I that’s the point where I just hit the nuclear option, move back, move back to the move, Midwest started over and was like, Okay, this is me building it from the ground up. What do I want my life to look like? 

What what serves me now? Not like Karen 10 years ago, not caring two years ago, like what do I need right now? And I think that’s when I got really clear, like, everything either has to be like, let’s go ahead and swear. Everything has to be a Fuck yes. Or not going to do it. Absolutely. And because when you’re when you start over like that, if you’re,

Kammie:  57:11  We call that like the Holy fuck, there’s another coach. Oh, gosh, I’m blanking on her name. But she called Yeah, it’s like the Yeah, the holy Yes. The Holy fuck, it’s, it’s Fuck yes or Fuck no. Yes. Or it’ll keep showing up. It’ll just keep showing up. Right. Right?

Karen:  57:24  Right. Like, because because I was I was living too many things I wasn’t in agreement with that weren’t weren’t true to me. You know, I was married to somebody that like, it really believed a whole bunch of different things than I did. I valued different things. And I did wanted different things. And I and that was always going to be a problem. Like, yeah, and, and so and because I was looking, you know, it was like what we said earlier, you know, I was trying on other people’s thoughts. I was trying, and it kept not working out. So I really, I think that was that. And I struggled with it, too. I still have another whole year of kind of, no, this isn’t right. No, that isn’t quite right. And I had a few more rungs to fall down before I finally started. Like one thing worked. You know, I finally I got I got some medical help from like, Yeah, I was unemployed. I had I was homeless, I was living in a friend’s guest room. And I ended up on Medicare, which thank goodness and, and food stamps. And that was the moment that

Kammie:  58:33  I didn’t know that

Karen:  58:34  that was the moment where like, all of a sudden, like this, this kind of nobody back with neurologists ended up doing these old treatments that really ended up being the thing that helped me and them and then I was just I started trying everything. It was like it was like I had been so afraid to do stuff because of all the health stuff for a while that I just started trying everything. 

Me and my friend we built a I helped her build a shed from scratch. I’d never built anything. And we went on a big kayaking trip I’d never been kayaking and all of these things I started just feeling like there was a lot more possibility than I had thought previously and and all of these things that I wanted in my life just started showing up because like I was looking for them I was and I think I was getting some clarity on what worked for me what served me and what didn’t

Kammie:  59:28  Yeah, well in gaining clarity on your values I’m really sorry all these sunshine spots. There’s it’s the disco ball sometimes to like it hits by fire when

Karen:  59:38  it’s your fairly light.

Kammie:  59:40  Yes, I called them in and they’re here.

Karen:  59:46  So really, it was it ended up being just the best thing and now you know I get flashing forward to this moment you know where I’m stepping more into my private coaching practice which has been Slowly ramping up for years and years, but making that like the thing, and it’s that’s been a seed in the back of my mind. You know, that’s, that’s been a long way coming this whole time.

Kammie:  1:00:12  Yeah. And so I just want  – two things. One, we definitely need to have a separate conversation on all of the health stuff, right, that part of me, but also a separate conversation of the building of the business, because I think a lot of listeners are interested in especially now, right? A lot of people lost their jobs, they’re not interested in going back to a job job. And so they may want to create something, but they don’t know what and it seems really scary and overwhelming. 

And that’s something that I’m trying to challenge myself with his showing a little bit more behind the scenes, and what that looks like, because I’ve been coaching forever. So I have the skill set to do the thing that that I’m doing here, right, but I haven’t run a business doing it. And so that’s very different. The doing the work versus building the business doing the work. So I’d love to have that conversation. Because I know, you know, even in the last couple of years you have contracted with some universities and did did remote coaching of their MBA students. And then there were some outplacement companies, but you’re like stripping all that away and really like building out nerdy girl career coach?

Karen:  1:01:07  Yes, so

Kammie:  1:01:11  I wore my my nerdy glasses just for you today.

Karen:  1:01:13  I love it. I didn’t wear any of the ones that I wear. There’s so much glare, you’d never seen my beautiful,

Kammie: 1:01:20  Aww, I love your beautiful eyes.

Kammie  1:01:21  We definitely are like sisters from another. Like, when we work together? Yes. People would be like, are you guys sisters? have blonde hair.

Karen:  1:01:29  I had blonde hair. So well. not natural. Of course, this is my natural culture,

Kammie:  1:01:33  it suits your personality.

Karen:  1:01:34  Yeah, I think I think probably I was back to you know, trying to blend into my environment. I was definitely trying to blend in with Scottsdale with the blonde. Yeah, well, and to be fair, we were all trying to fit into it. So right. Um, but so back to your comment about the star stories, because let’s jump into that. So when people come to me, and they start wanting help with a career coach, a lot of times people, the first thing they really want is there, they just want you to be their resume writer.

And they’re like, Oh, you know, like, the one thing that people know to do is get out that blessing Word document, and spend all of their time on that. That poor little sad piece of paper. And I and the interesting thing is, is is so little about what’s going to get you the next gig. And if if they had known like the 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of people I’ve seen at this point, getting ready for the next thing in their lives of you know, the resume has a part to play, but it’s just it’s not the lead starring. Right. Right. And we give give far too much time to it. But I think the big thing is is just like what we’ve been talking about this whole time, it’s the stories that we can tell. It’s it’s like, what is the story of you and how you got here? What is that journey?

Kammie: 1:02:59  So before we get to the star method, and what that is, where are those places besides the resume that people tell their story?

Karen:  1:03:06  Yeah, Kammie:  1:03:07  is that important, like the star, the star method will help us fine tune and refine the story? Where are those places done that we take that what we get from that? Where do we pepper that throughout the job seeker experience?

Karen:  1:03:20  Yeah, it’s in the profiles that we write about ourselves online, you know, a bio, maybe on the company’s website or your your LinkedIn profile page, where you know, most people do their networking, online for work. But also, the conversations we have with people maybe add, add, you know, once networking events happen again, or you know, the casual conversations you might have waiting for your oil to get changed, or given just the way that you might talk in an interview. It just the way you professionally storyteller. What are those details that you bring out about yourself when you’re talking to other people about the work that you do?

Kammie:  1:04:04  Yeah, and that requires work, right? You have to know what those little gems and nuggets are in your story. Because maybe you end up at dinner at a friend’s house and the VP of ABC Company is there and you’re like, holy shit, like we always hear about the elevator pitch. But really, it’s like, it is like it is important to condense it down into a soundbite because we still live in that sort of world, right? 

Because initially, that’s all you get is that little soundbite moment. So say you’re at a dinner party and the VP of yada yada is there. Once you get past the initial like, hey, introduction, whatever, what are those little nuggets then that you maybe can share that that’s going to perk their ears and go oh, you know, like, Oh, interesting. We may want a you at our organization.

Karen: 1:04:43  Yeah, because I don’t have two hours to tell you about how I started off playing French horn and how I ended up running my own career coaching business. Like that’s, we’ve stepped through it. It’s It’s a hard story.

Kammie:  1:04:56  Yeah, it was an hour that was right at an hour that we told you Your story, right? And so then what are those little gems and nuggets? Yeah. 

Karen:  1:05:04  So people come to me and they asked me, you know, like, Karen, tell me a little bit about what you do. And and the thing I can say now is I’ve really thought and distilled down what it is I’m doing when I’m working with clients, what it is, that is kind of like has always been important to me. And this storytelling. And so I don’t talk to them about doing resumes, I don’t talk to them about the fact that I’m preparing people for interviews and stuff like that. I tell them, you know, I help people clarify and tell their stories, so that, you know, their strengths come through, their talents come through, and they can connect with the best possible fit, because I’m passionate about people, you know, that we don’t have to be miserable at work that like, there is so much variety in the world of work that there is a place, that’s a good fit for everybody and a good everyone’s telling talents. So I want people to be happy and love what they do at work, because we have to spend a lot of time doing that stuff. 

Kammie:  1:06:10  Sooo…Let’s just share what STAR stands for. And then let’s walk through what that might sound like, like what we might put into that format.

Karen:  1:06:20  Right? So star stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. So when you’re breaking down, like let’s say in an interview, somebody says, Karen can tell me about a time where you be old.

Kammie:  1:06:37  The ol’ Tell me about a time,

Karen: 1:06:39  Tell me about a time where you made a mistake. And I can tell them about the time that I accidentally ordered $2,000 worth of tape. Tell me about it. Right. So this is what it looks like. 

So the situation was that I was working as an admin assistant, I answered the phone call one day from a salesperson who is selling office supplies. Now, we already had an negotiated agreement with a company where we got our office supplies, but he just wouldn’t let me go. And I couldn’t say no. So So I store I placed what I thought was gonna be like a little like, 12 $12 order of just some tape and some sticky notes. 

And you know, nothing big. And it’s one I forget about it promptly. And then it all starts showing up. It’s just the boxes start coming in. I’m like, What is this? Why? Why is there a wall of boxes in front of me. And I asked him to get this this invoice. And there it is, like $2,000 I accidentally instead of getting like, I ordered gross of things, gross, a gross of things instead of you know, a thing. And it was it was a deceptive sales practice than they were engaging and, and so in order to return it, I had to then it was gonna be like $300 to restock it. So immediately how I handled it was I, I took the, the the receipt and I went into the CFOs office.

And I was like, Look, I’ve made I’ve made a mistake. I was like, this is what happened. And now we have $2,000 with the tape and true to a CFO, he he sat there and he did the math to see if it was a good deal on tape. And I you know, it does the best CFO reaction I think I’ve ever had. But because I actually, I think I might have put my hand on his arm and I was like, wait a minute, I need to just ground this and the fact that we will never use this.

Kammie:  1:08:48  Holy cow.

Karen: 1:08:49  So anyway, so the the Action I took so in that in that situation. So the situation really was the mistake, right? And you know, the one thing I have to say here is that people usually spend too much time on the situation, because the setups already in the question, right? So here’s the mistake I made. So I usually keep the story pretty short about I’ve made a mistake and I ordered. And then the action I took us I went and I communicated it, I owned it, I said this is what I did, I made a mistake, and I sought out help from someone that might have an idea of how we might handle it. And, and then the outcome. So this is the result is what we were able to pay a couple $100 to restock it and send it back. 

And I also learned how to say no to salespeople. And, and and you know, we we negotiated these contracts for reasons so we can get the best possible deal. Just kind of stuck with it, you know, like going forward. If if something needed to be tried that was different, I would engage the other people that were involved. making the decisions. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and, and really, you know, and not feel pressured on the fly into into doing something that that, you know, wasn’t actually really evaluated and studied to make sure it was like, you know, the best practice. So I learned so much about how business makes decisions, why they make decisions. And, you know, going forward, it was much easier to be informed of like, no, like, and because I’m not the person that makes the decision, and we already have something in place. Yeah, you know, it was just very easy and clear. But you know, that was an important early career thing to learn.

Kammie  1:10:39  Yes. Well, and a super awesome example of a star story, right? Yeah. Yeah. So you killed two, you check two things off the list, right? Like, how to answer Tell me about a time you made a mistake. And then using the star method to tell that story. So thank you for the bonus lesson. 

Karen: 1:10:54  yeah, absolutely. 

Kammie  1:10:57  I remember coaching a lot of MBA students. And the other piece to like the result, the are. So there was also like, here’s a situation, here was the task at hand, here’s the action steps and really breaking down those steps. So first, I did this, then I did this, then I did this, it resulted in increase in sales by this to this, this percentage, this number or decrease in this from this to this, you know, year over year, q1 to q2, to like, whatever, whatever that sort of, you know, but the number piece and the showing the results, and that’s where people get kind of locked up, because we’re not taught to keep track of, yeah, you have to go into the archives, right of like, hmm, and think about specific examples where you did increase, decrease, you know, how did you add value to that situation? 

And so that I remember that being the piece that was always the hardest, like, people could get the situation and they could even sometimes they would get a little lengthy even in the in the action steps, right, like, so we would we would talk to them a lot about first you did this, then you did this, then you do this, like three steps. And then let’s talk more than let’s spend the bulk of the time talking about that juicy result?

Karen:  1:12:09  Mm hmm. Yeah, the action result part I think is probably

Kammie:  1:12:14  you can also see how your brain works. Right? When you walk through those steps, then they see how you think how you process information, right?

Karen:  1:12:21  Yeah. And they also see, you know, the, the reason those behavioral questions are even asked is because, you know, your past actions are the best predictor of your future actions, how you handled something in the past is very much a good predictor of how you’re going to act in the future. And on top of that, like, so, the example I gave was a negative example. So there’s one more step past that are, if it is a negative example, if the if it is a story where you’re having to talk about a mistake, or difficulty or something that’s a challenge for you, or a weakness, the next thing you really want to get to is talk about the lesson you learn. 

So there’s an optional L, it’s like Star baarle. It’s a lesson learned. And so if it’s a negative thing, and that’s what I got to at the end, right there, in my example, is I started talking about and I that was a very long winded star story. Sure, I have to get it a little more compressed for an actual interview. But that that lesson learned of being able to say in the future, this is what I would do differently, or the in the future. I this is how I did things. Yes, yes, of really like having them say like, okay, I saw that, my obstacles, or my failures, I see as an opportunity to learn. And a big thing that’s important to companies right now is that you have that growth mindset that you’re not you’re not taking failures, and blaming other people and looking other places. Yeah, you’re always taking it as an opportunity to learn and grow so that being able to get those lessons learned is how you communicate that growth mindset.

Kammie:  1:14:01  And, you know, we know because we talked a lot to the employers and you still have more recently than I have, right? Like a lot of companies, especially now in lieu of what’s just happened with our world this last year, right? Like adaptability, flexibility, not being attached to outcomes, but also not being afraid to fail and fail fast. So we know specifically one company, Amazon, a lot of our students will go to work at Amazon. And they would say, We need people who are open to failing. We don’t get new fresh ideas by people trying to figure out and like, you know, hemming and hawing and not being able to make a decision and just wanting it to be perfect. So I think there’s a false narrative around like, Well, I think that’s part of what’s on the way higher level dismantling all the issues in 2020, and old systems and processes that no longer work or serve us, which is back to the storytelling piece. And the coaching that you and I did two days ago, is how do we make sure we’re showing up super authentically because when we try it to put this false face on, right, it’s just not want it doesn’t resonate with people. That’s not what people want. And that’s not where we feel the most fulfilled. That’s not where we get to show up in like, have juicy fun sessions with clients and or whatever it is people are doing in their jobs.

Karen:  1:15:16  Yeah, but usually the first time I start working on people working on working on storytelling with people, especially interview preparation, with that in mind, you know, people say, you know, I don’t like being fake, and I don’t like bragging, those are two stumbling blocks that people have when they’re going into this. So they were like, Oh, that feels like bragging, or I don’t really like talking tough on the don’t feel like talking about yourself. 

I like that’s the whole point of this is that you do have to practice talking about yourself in that particular way. It’s a, it’s a weird type of conversation that people aren’t used to having did like storytelling, like, you’re used to telling stories about your personal life, about your family life. But getting used to telling stories about your professional life does take practices to practice. Yes. So the other thing is because it feels different than then that sometimes translates into like, I feel like I’m being fake, if I’m being or if I’m being professional, and showing respect and, and boundaries and stuff. Like that feels like fake to me, because, like, I’m used to like my impersonal communication style.

Kammie:  1:16:31  But what is that like middle ground? Right? Yeah, yeah, like,

Karen:  1:16:34  So I’m like, Well, you know, it is authentic, to be respectful in an environment where some buddy has earned respect. So it’s like the first thing we talked about that, that respect and boundaries, and professionalism is about creating rules of engagement that allow safety for everybody, and allow us to conduct business, free of the types of fights, arguments, dramas that happen in family life and personal life, because people don’t have boundaries. Now, that’s a whole nother. 

Right? So like, we have to even get to the heart of like, what why does professionalism exist? Why does that? Why do those respect and guidelines exist? And so like, you can still within that, communicate who you are authentically, talk about the things that matter to you, but you have to get really clear on that. And you have to get really clear and how to talk about that, professionally, respectfully, and in a business context. So, it’s a it’s a lot to practice. But yeah, you’re who you are, as a person absolutely has to come out. Like, the last thing you should do is fake being somebody, you’re just gonna talk yourself into a job, that’s the wrong fit. Totally. Yeah, a lot. That was a lot.

Kammie:  1:17:50  Totally, that was a big download, we’re power channeling again. So just in, we’re at 20 minutes after the hour. And so just to also one final thread is then so we pepper that we get that, you know, crystallized and we pepper that through, what are those places that we then are able to once we’re able to communicate about that a little bit more effortlessly? Where are then again, those places that we pepper that information through?

Karen:  1:18:17  Yeah, like so. One thing is, if we get some really good accomplishment based stories, some really good star stories and examples that you want to have come out in the interview, that you then start reverse engineering the interview with your resume. And so like, it’s really getting to that point where you can talk about your strengths and stories that highlight those strengths. Like, it’s not enough to take the assessment, I need, I need examples. And now those those those strengths show up in your work life. So coming up with those examples, and then weaving those stories, featuring those stories in your resume, and condensing that star story down to like, okay, the situation and the task is really like the company, and the, the, the title that you’re in. And the action result is what happens in each one of those bullets. 

So thinking about the bullets just in that way, maybe, you know, what is the problem that I solved, the action that I took, and the outcome making? sure that’s, that’s in each one of your bullet points, you will have like the most juicy resume, and they’re going to get a clear picture of you. So that’s one place. It also can show up in your LinkedIn profile, how you tell a story about yourself, you know, these are the things I’m passionate about this is how I’m hardwired to show up to play. And, and these are the results that I’ve been able to get for people and businesses and maybe I can get these types of results for you too. And then, you know, even to like how you reach out to people on LinkedIn or, or how you initiate conversations with other people in your profession. 

You know, I think having conversations with other career coaches has helped me more than anything else to become a better career coach. Hmm, absolutely. So if you’re not engaging with other people that do the work that you do, like, What are you? Why are you missing it? It’s like, it’s like when I started my MBA and I was doing all of my MBA close coursework by myself, um, you know, like, I was just alone in my apartment trying to like figure out all of this math. And I realize like, that’s how I muscled my way through too many degrees and things before I like know, if I just talked to the other people that are also doing the same it, we get best practices, I get it, I get clarity on things that I have maybe like the wrong impression of I, I find out earlier, if I’m making a mistake, you know, like all of the things that would be such a struggle to figure out on your own just engaging with other with peers. And that’s where the referrals and recommendations come in too. That’s how you get pulled into organizations. We could talk about that another time. 

Kammie:  1:20:54  Yea, I’m feeling like what’s coming from this too, is like, maybe we do some sort of Facebook, or Instagram, like live, maybe not even live, or just record something and share it there like some sort of office hours, where we can share some more of these specific types of tips because it’s obviously so rich, we could you and I could talk for days. I so appreciate you hopping on here and sharing your story. It was fun to learn things I did not know about you…

Karen:  1:21:23  it was fun to story tell about my life. Like I feel like I got to have a nice little retrospective. This is a really great time to check in with that to like, I would actually recommend if you have a chance to talk to somebody about your story. In the next couple of weeks do it because you know, it biographies yourself a little bit write a little journal entry because this has been a great reflection for me, and then preparing me into the going into the new year. What do I want to bring with me? And what do I maybe want to trash and leave behind?

Kammie:  1:21:57  Yeah, where do you want to turn the volume up? Or turn it down? or delete the file altogether? Right? Yeah.

Kammie:  1:22:02  So in, in closing, where can people find you? How do they find you? How do they get to your juiciness? How do they get to work with you? Or at least follow along so that perhaps one day when they may need your brilliant genius? Where do they find you?

Karen: 1:22:17  Well, I’m you can find me at www. nerdy girl career coach. com. I’m also nerdy coach Karen on Twitter. And they can find me on Facebook. I’m you could if you search nerdy girl career coach, you’ll you’ll find me there too.

Kammie:  1:22:33  Yes. And I know you’re on LinkedIn as well doing a lot on the LinkedIn. So you know also there’s the Google – Nerdy Girl Career Coach

Karen:  1:22:39  Yeah. And Karen Chontofalsky will get you 100%. But I don’t want to make you

Kammie:  1:22:47  So nerdy girl career coach, it is yes. And I will put all of the links and we’ll link it up in the show notes so that we make sure everybody that needs to find you can find their career coach, sage, angel

Karen: 1:23:01  I’d love to help you tell your story. I’d absolutely be delighted to do it. 

Kammie: 1:23:08  Well I appreciate you so much. As a friend and as a professional and being just a superstar, what you do. And I’m so excited to share you with the people even though we’re a baby podcast. And we’re just getting started. So I’m not sure, but we’ll make sure we put this one back out there in rotation a couple of times so that people who join us later down the road know that they can go back to the library archives and find this gem of a conversation.

Karen:  1:23:32  I love I love you. I love you and thank you so much for having me today. Kammie. 

Kammie: Yes, thank you.

Wow! What a jam packed & JUICY convo, right? I’m super grateful to my sweet soul sister Karen Chontafalsky a.k.a. Nerdy Girl Career Coach for joining me today, for sharing HER story & for schooling us on how to use the STAR Method as a power tool to share soundbites & stories for using on resumes, cover letters, on Linked In & online profiles and most especially in interviews or at networking events. 

I hope YOU gained some value from Karen’s extensive knowledge & insights.

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Karen's rec's for self-empowering and clarifying books by high-octane authors:

  1. Career Rehab by Kanika Tolver
  2. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero
  3. You Turn by Ashley Stahl
  4. Career Rehab by Kanika Tolver
  5. Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster

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