Articles in the Media

“Crafting a new story for B’ham”
Birmingham Business Journal, Sept 12, 2014

Birmingham Business Journal Crafting a new story for Bham

Published in the Birmingham Business Journal, Sept 12, 2014

Have you seen the billboard or heard the saying, “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?” According to Luis Ubinas, former president of the Ford Foundation, 40 years ago cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle were broke, had drastic unemployment and residents were leaving. They were considered dying cities. Since then, these cities have rewritten their stories and rebounded. They are comeback towns.

But before our minds fly to the idea that Birmingham is different from these cities, or that changes that occurred in those cities cannot be replicated here, I invite us to stay open to the whisper of possibility and to live each day in Birmingham beyond business as usual.
Because beyond just showing up and existing day after day is our ability to choose and create a future we really want and will dare to make happen.

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business there. One sends back a telegram saying, “Situation Hopeless Stop No One Wears Shoes”. The other writes back triumphantly, “Glorious Business Opportunity Stop They Have No Shoes”. Each scout comes to the same scene with his own perspective; each returns telling a different tale. All of life is a story we tell.

As a leadership coach, I often witness the power of story in people’s lives: something happens, we interpret and make it mean something – usually something negative about ourselves like “I’m not good enough,”“We can’t/won’t succeed,”“Things will never change” and so on. That story then becomes a context we are stuck with, a disempowering lens through which every event is seen. Unconsciously, this story or conclusion runs us. It’s our blind spot until someone points it out to us. I wish I could say that having stories only happens to some people, but it occurs to anyone who is human. So how do we write a new, more empowering story? It starts with asking these questions: What do we want, or what do we want to change? What do we want to let go of? What do we want to avoid? What do we want to keep and enhance?

For the sake of simplicity, take the country of Singapore as an example for applying these questions. A small island state with no natural resources, Singapore was a British colony that became an independent republic in 1965. In about 50 years, it transformed itself from a swamp to one of the richest countries in the world. One of the goals Singapore aimed for was to be a hub for foreign multinationals to base their Asian headquarters. They wanted to change the world’s perception of it as a Third World country with no natural resources, to one that had a sophisticated and highly educated workforce.

She wanted to avoid racial tensions and disharmony in her multicultural people through social policies like having people from different ethnic groups live in the same residential areas. And one of the things that Singapore wanted to keep and enhance was the diversity of food that each ethnic group brought to the table. It is no surprise that this country is known as a food paradise.

So, the question is, what does Birmingham want, or what does Birmingham want to change? It starts with a conversation. As Peter Block, a consultant who is making a positive difference in Cincinnati says, “If you want to change the world – or the culture – all you have to do is change the conversation. In the beginning was the word – that was how the Bible started … The value of our coming together can be measured by whether or not we are able to have a conversation we have not had before. A conversation is an action.”

Create a goal or a possibility, put it out in the world, and its inevitable brethren – breakdowns and the idea that there shouldn’t be any – arrive at our doorstep. Perhaps our plan for the community didn’t get approved, or we couldn’t find funding for a project, or some politician puts his self-interest before the community’s and throws a wrench in our ideas – breakdowns are unavoidable.

They often carry with them some hint of failure and invite the disempowering interpretation of “what’s wrong with me/them/us” or “what was I thinking.” Our identity or who we consider ourselves to be have become the focus, rather than the breakdown. When a goal is thwarted, we may feel frustrated, but the danger is when we become resigned that things will never change for the better, so why bother?

The point when something doesn’t go according to plan is the fork in the road. Do we become resigned and give up, or do we recommit and make a stand for a possibility that we don’t yet know how to achieve, a possibility that is not referenced against who we were or what had been done in the past? The circumstances and conditions will never be perfect, but they are the raw stuff from which possibilities arise. As we stand in the future, what stories can we write? As we set our imagination free from the baggage of the past, let us be transformed by the realization that “The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. The world does not speak. Only we do.” We are the ones who have the power to shape the world with our words. We are the ones who can make things happen.

This column initially appeared in David Sher’s blog.
Duanna Pang-Dokland is a Singaporean who has lived in Birmingham for the past 10 years. She is a leadership coach. Reach her at

“How to Get the Best Results from Your Leadership Training Program”
Birmingham Business Journal, Aug 10, 2012

How to Get the Best Results from Your Leadership Training Program in Birmingham Business Journal

In 2010, American businesses spent $171.5 billion on employee learning and development, according to a 2011 American Society of Training and Development report.

Managerial and supervisory training was the most offered content, at 12.8 percent of the total.

I would venture that the variety of activities conducted in the name of leadership development probably ranged from traditional MBA courses to whitewater kayaking and swinging from ropes.

Given that investment in leadership development is in the tens of billions, with some industry experts estimating as much as $60 billion, it makes sense that 92 out of 96 Fortune 500 CEOs are interested in the business impact of these programs, according to the Birmingham-based ROI Institute.

So, the question is, how do we ensure that a leadership training program directly and positively impacts the bottom line?

The first thing to do is to define clearly the business results that the leadership training program should be tailored to achieve. In the mid 20th century when business schools started teaching about leadership, traditional training objectives involved grooming leaders who were effective at everything.

This approach resulted in the emphasis on learning about leadership traits that were considered relevant to achieving any organization’s goals.

Not surprisingly, this was overwhelming and created a lack of clarity about which skills would produce desirable business results.

Research done at Sears, for example, showed that a 5 percent improvement in employee commitment increased customer satisfaction by 1.3 percent, and that, in turn, led to a 0.5 percent rise in store sales.

If you own a retail store, you might, based on this research, seek to identify leadership behaviors that drive employee commitment up and develop your managers in those key behaviors.

According to Neil Rackham in his book Spin Selling, 87 percent of learning from a leadership program will be lost within 30 days if there is no follow-up.

In addition, a 1988 survey revealed that follow-up was often very rare. Since then, extensive research done by Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan that involved 86,000 employees and 11,480 managers has pointed to the dramatic effectiveness of following up.

Follow-up activities are designed to reinforce and strengthen what managers learned at the training.

They include the leader simply asking trusted colleagues about whether progress is being made on the leader’s behavior goals; to taking time to predict application obstacles and deciding how to respond to them; to one-on-one coaching of the executive.

Coaching is a process of partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. So, it’s not about giving advice or mentoring. Rather, coaching is a solution-focused questioning approach that facilitates self-insight.

A study by Gerald Olivero, K. Denise Bane and Richard E. Kopelman of Baruch College, revealed that a training program alone increased productivity 28 percent, but the addition of follow-up coaching to the training increased productivity by 88 percent.

Why does coaching work? One of the main reasons has recently been substantiated by neuroscience: Tell the human brain what to do by giving it advice and it automatically pushes back.

This phenomenon is partly due to the brain’s tendency to maintain equilibrium and move away from change.

In contrast, using solution-focused questions to elicit insights provides a non-confrontational access to the person’s natural problem-solving abilities.

In other words, coaching effectively bypasses the resistance that is inherent whenever someone attempts to make a change in his or her behavior.

In terms of how the brain works, what happens is, at a moment of insight, a set of neural connections that have the potential to overcome the brain’s resistance to change, is generated. And that provides an opening for positive change.

While neuroscience continues to shed light on the relationship between coaching and effective leadership development, it is evident that leadership training should not be a standalone event. Rather, training is a process that requires following through.

In the early 19th century, Sir Walter Scott wrote, “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through, then follow through.”

As companies continue to invest billions of dollars in the development of their leaders, they will be prudent to heed this two-century-old nugget of wisdom.



“Happiness business model paying dividends”
The Birmingham News, Mar 17, 2011

The Birmingham News column-17Mar2011

Coca-Cola, Zappos, Google, Virgin and Adobe are all doing it.

They are pursuing happi­ness for the sake of their employees and customers.

What exactly does that mean? Very simply, the corporate pursuit of happi­ness is about using happi­ness to attract customers and increase employee en­gagement and productivity. Happiness is defined as a state of well-being that constitutes emotions rang­ing from contentment to intense joy.

Part of Coca-Cola’s mis­sion is to “inspire moments of optimism and happi­ness,” while Zappos’ vision statement says that “Zap­pos is about delivering happiness to the world.”

Last year, Coca-Cola cre­ated a “Happiness Ma­chine” — a vending ma­chine that was placed in a cafeteria in St. John’s Uni­versity in New York. In­stead of dispensing bottles of soda, the machine sur­prised students by churn­ing out flowers, pizza, sandwiches, or several bot­tles of Coke at a time. In Rio De Janeiro, “Happiness Trucks” visited neighbor­hoods and dispensed sur­prises like surf boards and soda, all for free. These were captured on video, posted on YouTube and garnered over 2 million views within two months.

Online fashion retailer,, does more than $1 billion in gross merchandise sales every year. In 2009, it was ac­quired by Amazon for over $1.2 billion. Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, is much sought-after as a speaker because of the company’s well-known customer serv­ice practices and fun cor­porate culture that many wish to emulate. All of these are achievements for a company that is only 11 years old.

So how does Zappos de­liver happiness to its em­ployees and customers?

Apart from having a fun culture that can best be de­scribed as a daily party atmosphere, complete with theme costumes, bells and hoots, Zappos offers its employees free health and dental care, and the ability to dictate how much pay raise they want based on which skills they wish to acquire. The company also shortened the promotion process from 18 to 6 months so that employees could experience a con­stant sense of progress. All these initiatives made em­ployees happier.

Zappos is also known for its unique customer serv­ice, such as free shipping both ways, a 365-day return policy, 24-hour customer service, and the practice of spending as much time as it takes to resolve any issue the customer may have, re­gardless of its relevance. An example of the latter: you could call Zappos and ask where the nearest pizza place is, and they would as­sist you.

In case you think all this happiness talk is too touchy-feely for your com­pany, consider this: 75 per­cent of Zappos sales are from repeat customers, with orders that are, on av­erage, 2 1/2 times more than those from new customers.

As for the effect of the pursuit of happiness on employee engagement, a 2005 study of 96 companies in the U.S. showed that firms whose score was in the top 25 percent for “en­gagement” enjoyed returns on assets 12 percent higher, and profitability 11 percent higher than firms that scored in the bottom 25 percent on engagement.

So is the corporate pur­suit of happiness just a passing fad?

Not if more and more companies over the last 10 years have jumped on the happiness train as a result of its positive, long-term impact: Employees who are primed for creativity, inno­vation and productivity, and loyal customers who make statements like “I’m going to be a customer for life.”


Featured in “Up & Comer” section of Business Alabama Magazine, Oct 2010 issue

Business Alabama Mag Oct 2010

“Coaching them up”
Published in the Birmingham Business Journal, 25 Sept 2010

Executive consultants provide a ‘safe place’ for business leaders
By Aneesa McMillan, Staff

BBJ interview-25Sep10

When Richard Drennen became CEO of Superior Mechanical, he learned that the old adage is true.

It really is lonely at the top.

Like many people who became executives, Drennen discovered that having the final say when it came to company business was not as easy or
glamorous as it seemed.

When most ascend to high-ranking positions, there is the difficult discovery that suddenly, there’s no source of immediate accountability or a “safe zone” not influenced by office politics.

As a result, Drennen and many other top executives seek out leadership coaching to sharpen the key skills needed to lead a business.

Drennen said he turned to a coach to have a sounding board for difficult decisions.

“I have sought counsel from my coach in everything from promotions to compensation,” he said. “It helps you step away and have a safe setting where I’m not worried about what people will say or think.”

Drennen said coaching has helped him to change the way he communicates to his team. A coach can ultimately act as a person to listen to and help improve your approach to certain situations, he said.

“Often as a CEO, you encounter issues that you and only you can decide on,” Drennen said. “But with the use of a coach, I’ve actually been able to soften my tone and script what I’m going to say for things that are emotional.”

Four years after seeking a coach, Drennen now views his coach, Marc Corsini, as an extension of his leadership team.

When his company was working to secure the largest contract in company history, he said much of his coaching sessions involved crafting a strategy to get the contract.

Corsini, president of Corsini Consulting, said that such training is key to avoiding the dangers of burn out.

“As executives, we are all swarmed with the day-to-day activities of what we have to do,” he said. “This makes it hard to know what we want to do as executives and the goals we want to set.”

For Corsini, a typical client meeting occurs at least once a month. During the meeting, both he and the executive take a snapshot of where the client is and where they want to be.

Homework consists of exercises that cause participants to evaluate how they intend to achieve those goals.

“The training is ongoing and is out of the office and away from the distractions,” Corsini said. “When they develop their goals, we make it a living, breathing document… it’s not just an exercise.”

But if you do decide to seek out a coach, know that there’s more to address than just what happens at the office.

Duanna Pang-Dokland, owner of Igniting Possibility Coaching, is also a leadership coach.

She said new clients typically fall into one of three categories: those taking on new responsibilities, high potential employees with aim at their retention, and those with problems that need to be addressed.

She said helping executives understand how their job relates to the other aspects of their life is one key component of her coaching.

“The higher you are in your company, the more time you spend on your work and not family or social activities,” Dokland said.

“What we do is encourage them to have some balance, because if you are burned out or affected in other areas of your life, you are not going to be productive.”

Dokland also trains clients on understand how their decisions affect others.

“When you have an awareness about how your actions and decisions impact your team, stakeholders and peers, that leads to improved relationships,” Dokland said.

Dokland meets with her clients once a week or once every two weeks for the first six months.

At the end of the six months, she and the client assess the goals they developed at the beginning.

After the assessment, they determine how much more training is needed.

“You develop better leaders, and that leads to a more engaged and productive staff,” Dokland said. “The executives get more clarity about their goals.”


Why Startups Fail & What You Can Do To Succeed” By Duanna Pang-Dokland
Published in Singapore’s Action Community for Entrepreneurship website
Also published in Birmingham Venture Club’s home page in Mar/Apr 2010.

“Survive startup status by diving into sales, marketing” by Duanna Pang-Dokland
Published in the Birmingham Business Journal, Nov 13, 2009

BBJ 13Nov09

So you’ve started your own business. What are your motivations for doing so?

Perhaps you’ve been downsized and being unable to find a job in this economy is forcing you to start a business. Perhaps you’re tired of being an employee – you hate your boss, can’t stand your colleagues, don’t believe in your company’s goals – and think it’s time to leap into entrepreneurship. Or maybe you have an innovative product or service that you think might be the “next big thing” to take the world market by storm.

Whatever your motivation, starting a business is the easy part. According to the Small Business Administration, an estimated 627,200 businesses were birthed across America in 2008, while 595,600 businesses closed. Thirty percent of businesses fail within the first two years, while 50 percent survive five years.

Rather grim statistics. Yet why do startups fail and how can you ensure that your business is among the ones that survive and thrive?

Expecting quick success

It’s easy to be attracted to the idea that we should be successful if we’ve invested some time, money and energy into a business. For example, placing one advertisement or sending out one sales letter and expecting clients to pound at your door.

When quick success doesn’t happen, self-doubt arises, taking a stab at much-needed confidence, causing you to lose faith in your business.

To be a successful entrepreneur who makes it past the five-year mark takes resilience – the ability to turn around a bad situation, to profit from your mistakes and to bounce back from failure.

This mistake can be avoided by taking a 360-degree look at the steps needed to grow your business, implementing a well-researched plan and having enough financial reserves that last at least 18 months when you start a business.

Not applying sales/marketing fundamentals

Do you have a negative reaction to the word “sales”? Many entrepreneurs dread sales because of old images of “snake oil peddlers” – manipulative con artists who convince others to buy things they don’t need.

The reality is nothing happens until a sale is made. As such, the first fundamental is to have a healthy mindset about sales and marketing.

Other sales and marketing fundamentals, like having a target market, knowing who your ideal client is, having a sales process, the 80/20 rule (that 20 percent of your marketing activities will generate 80 percent of revenue), the seven-touch-or-more process prospects go through before becoming a customer, the need to have a marketing plan, the necessity to invest at least 10 percent of revenue in continued marketing may seem run-of-the-mill.

The truth? They are applied in businesses that succeed and are absent or sporadic in those that fail.

Some successful entrepreneurs may even go so far as to say a business owner’s main business is marketing and not the product or service they are offering. While you might not agree with this view, the point is: constantly exploring new marketing methods, testing them, repeating what works and discarding what doesn’t will ensure your business survives.

This mistake can be eliminated by mastering the sales and marketing fundamentals, really weaving them into your business and continually testing marketing methods. As always, strategies you’ll learn work only if you work them.

Not mastering the mental/emotional game

If running a successful business were as easy as knowing what to do and doing them, why aren’t there more successful business owners around? It’s usually because people haven’t mastered the inner game of winning in business.

To win, you must be aware of the types of behavior that are self-sabotaging, deal with them and hold on to your vision until the finish line. At the same time, you must continually nourish yourself by connecting to your belief in the success of your business and truly owning the difference your business is making on the world.

An example of self-sabotage is the inability or refusal to learn from your mistakes. It’s the tendency to repeat self-destructive behaviors even though you repeatedly end up being bumped in the head.

An entrepreneur I worked with was close to shutting his business down, because, like the previous business he started, he didn’t embrace sales and marketing and let sales dwindle until it was too late. He was avoiding the real issue – his discomfort with selling.

This mistake can be eradicated by budgeting for a coach like you would an accountant and having the coach assist you in uncovering your blind spots and developing an unstoppable mindset. “You can’t see what you can’t see” is the reason sports legends like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan work with their coaches.

A good coach not only can point out what you don’t know, but is probably one of few people who is 100 percent dedicated to your success. You are taking on the challenging, yet rewarding, entrepreneurship game after all and you deserve all the support you can get.

“Consult an executive coach to achieve strong leadership skills” by Duanna Pang-Dokland
Published in the Birmingham Business Journal, May 16, 2008
Original title submitted: “Good Leadership — What’s Coaching Got To Do With It?”

BBJ leadership story cover-small jpg

For some managers and executives, being a leader is like a bumper-to-bumper crawl through an inferno with an occasional jolt into the next level of anguish.

To those executives, the meaning of good leadership seems to shift with the times, leaving them confused and uninspired.

What is good leadership, anyway? According to leadership experts, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, decades of analysis have given us more than 850 definitions of leadership. Definitions reflect fads, fashions, political tides and academic trends. They don’t always reflect reality and sometimes they just represent nonsense and like love, leadership continued to be something every­one knew existed but nobody could define.

So, while we may not definitively state what good leadership is, we at least know that it is important because, according to Bennis, it accounts for about 15 percent of the success of any organization.

Despite the significance of good leader­ship, however, the reality is that most of us who lead have neither been formally trained in leadership, nor had good role models. So we lead as we were led. We wing it, and tend to do what comes naturally to us. But good leadership practice is often the opposite of the latter. For instance, it may come natu­rally to treat employees like they were your children, but it works better to treat them with adult respect, as yourmost precious resources for success.

Another element that is lacking in most managers but contributes significantly to leadership success is emotional intelligence. Popularized by Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence,” it is now con­sidered the strongest indicator of success in the work world. The higher up you are in an organization, the more emotional intelli­gence (or understanding yourself and others, and managing yourself and others) deter­mines your leadership success, contributing as much as 80 to 90 percent to the equation.

So what is executive coaching? Coaching is the second-fastest growing profession in the world, rivaled only by information technol­ogy. Recently, the Harvard Business Review reported that business and executive coach­ing is worth $1 billion a year.

Two factors contribute to the popularity of the profession: the massive global eco­nomic restructuring since the 1980s and the personal development movement. In addi­tion, the demand for coaching is fueled by flattened management structures, shrinking talent pools and ineffective leadership.

In terms of return on investment, Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Dell, Boeing, Bristol Myers and Johnson & Johnson have all report ­ed experiencing positive ROI. Evidence from studies done by the Manchester Group and others shows that executive coaching brings an ROI of up to five times its investment.

The coaching process, as defined by the International Coach Federation, is partner­ing with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional poten­tial. So, it’s not about giving advice, because we learn from having been teenagers our­selves that human beings first reaction to advice is to resist it.

Why hire executive and business coaches, you might ask. Today, they are hired because stress and failure of executives has increased, executives face more frequent perfor­mance assess­ments, the old command and control style of leadership is out of sync with the younger, inner­-directed, collabor­ative and culturally diverse workforce; and the economic realities of short­-term financial suc­cess have placed enormous pres­sure on organizations.

And as for the impact of executive coach­ing on executives themselves, “Ungagged, Executives on Executive Coaching” in the Ivey Business Journal, reported that benefits executives experience include continuous one-on-one attention, expanded thinking through dialogue with a curious outsider, self awareness, personal accountability for development and just-in-time learning.

An additional benefit my clients often report is having a sounding board — an impartial confidante to talk with without having to worry about political implications or maneuvers.

So, the answer to the question about what coaching has to do with good leadership is undoubtedly: everything. This means man­agers who have their own coaches are usu­ally better leaders than those who don’t, mainly because these managers are consis­tently experiencing the benefits of coaching.

The other significant connection between good leadership and coaching is what is called “The Coach Manager” — a manager who takes a coaching approach to leadership. This is a manager who creates an environment of influence versus authority, self-responsibility versus being answerable or liable and inspired actions versus obliga­tions. His role is as a developer of people, where he believes in the potential and pos­sibility of each employee and assists his staff to achieve their professional and personal goals. A Coach Manager is one who capital­izes on his staffs’ strengths, while working around their weaknesses. He also seeks to lead his employees to come to their own “A­ha” moments, rather than constantly giving them advice or telling them what to do.

The impact of the coach approach to lead­ership is a more engaged and productive work force, who is, believe it or not, happy to go to work.
Now that is a paradigm worth shifting toward, wouldn’t you say?

“XO laptops bring unadulterated joy”
Duanna’s Letter to the Editor of The Birmingham News, May 2, 2008

Bham News Letter XO laptop pix 30Apr08-small jpg

It’s not every day that I wake up at 4 a.m.because I feel compelledto write a letter to The Birmingham News, but here are the two things that fueled my compulsion:

** First, the $200 laptop that students in Birmingham are receiving is actually designed by Swiss-born, San Francisco-based industrial designer Yves Behar. So, just because the laptop is sent to Third World countries as a non­profit initiative does not mean it isof inferior quality.
Behar is renowned for creatingutilitarian objects that often become design icons, such as the Herman Miller leaf lamp, the Birkenstock garden clog and so on. His client list includes BMW, Nike, Apple Inc., Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, just to name a few.

** Second, the photo of first-grader Tyris Pickett as featured inThe News was precious. The au­thentic joy he was experiencing when he received his XO laptop isthe reason some of us do what we do to make a difference in people’s lives.
In the end, it’s not about the politicians’ egos, which camp wonwhich argument or the list of things that are wrong with Bir­mingham or the world around us. It’s about the unadulterated joy someone experiences as a result of a positive change.
Imagine how different life would be if we all just focused on that.

“Strong first impression: Creating a resume that stands out”
The Birmingham News, June 14, 2009

By Jean M McLean
ResumeArticle for site

Making a resume stand out is a new challenge in a market where workers are leaving one industry for another, seeking interviews outside their established fields.

Wallace calls an effective resume a concise, bulleted two-page “marketing brochure” that quantifies achievements, designed to “get an interview, not a job.”

“You should demonstrate why your skills would be an asset to any company,” said Duanna Pang-Dokland, certified business coach with Birmingham-based Igniting Possibility. The company coaches clients on leadership, team-building and transitioning strategies, including resume writing.

Avoid industry jargon and acronyms, said Wallace and Pang-Dokland, since you should emphasize how skills developed in one industry can apply to another.

Each resume should be tailored to the opening.

Good resumes include job content and accomplishments, Pang-Dokland said. Action verbs (“directed, implemented, restructured”) are combined with specific results (“…reduced turnover by 30%”).

“A dull resume might say, I raised the level of sales,” said Pang-Dokland. “An effective resume might say, ‘I reversed negative sales trends, implementing employee training that raised sales 40%.'”

“The individual owns their skills,” said Wallace. “They must be able to effectively explain them, to tell their story.” She calls this a CIB, for Circumstance-Improvement-Benefit. The worker gives a short summary of the circumstance (low sales), the improvement (employee training) and the benefit (40% increase).

How far you go back depends upon your experience, said Pang-Dokland. A 45-year-old should focus on accomplishments within the past decade.

An insignificant short-term job needn’t be mentioned, said Wallace. Although you should never misrepresent anything, this is not an affidavit. It is a marketing tool. While older workers focus on leadership/management, younger workers might emphasize technical abilities.

Although a resume should include concise, basic information, “No one should have just one page,” said Wallace. The two-page document should emphasize accomplishments, with concise, action-packed results.

Sent before the resume, the teaser includes a brief, margin-to-margin introduction followed by two columned lists. The candidate lists the position requirements in bullets on the left, with his corresponding qualifications on the right. The result looks like a “T.”

Job seekers are emphasizing applicable and transferable skills, said Marlene Wallace, founder and president of Career Concepts, a Birmingham-based national career management firm.

One way to do that is to provide what Wallace describes as a “teaser” letter, comparing the position’s requirements with the applicant’s qualifications.

Here are some basics for every level:
• Online formats are okay, with customized content.
• Ask others to help proofread.

• Eliminate personal information like age, spouse’s name, political or
religious affiliations.
• Supply references only upon request.
• No photographs or colored paper/ink.
“Your resume is not your obituary,” said Wallace. “The resume is much more than what you did. It’s what you want to do.”

“Act II: Following a passion”
Birmingham Business Journal, June 13, 2008
by Aneesa McMillan, Staff 

BBJ career transition cover-small jpg

Years had passed since Neil Lyda embarked on what he thought was a career path that would lead him to the promised land of stability and security.
Lyda was like many individuals — he was in search of a career that was meaningful and full of potential to bring a better future.
But for Lyda, then a technology analyst for ADP, there was one major problem: He had spent 2,191 days of his life doing something he felt no passion for.

Surprisingly, Lyda was not alone at this pivotal point in his life. Many professionals in this region find themselves questioning their career paths — even when they’re at the top of their game.
For Lyda, he wanted a less rigid job, where he could think out­side the box more. He wanted to “create something and that feeling wouldn’t leave.”

Following the death of his father in 2004, he was inspired to find a path that allowed him to follow his dream of wanting to create and build businesses. So he switched careers and launched a tradeshow display company.

“After his death, I felt like there was nothing else holding me… I think I even felt a little reckless,” Lyda said.

Some friends and family questioned his decision.

“A lot of people thought, ‘Why are you leaving a stable job?”’ said Lyda. “I even had people telling me that I didn’t even know how to run a business. That may have been true, but I was determined to follow my passion.”

He soon realized his boldness came at a high price. He had to relin­quish the stability of health benefits and ended up with severe rheu­matoid arthritis. However, Lyda said he survived because he planned carefully and made good financial decisions during the process.

Despite the difficult journey, including the decision to drop his trade show business, he said he has found a career that suits him best — in insurance. Today, Lyda is a partner at Chandler Brothers Insurance Co., where he is building and creating a working environ­ment that follows along with his passion to run a business.

He has no regrets about the decision he made — and credits his success to help he received from a life coach.
With many professionals wanting to switch careers, the trend of turning to a life coach has caused a mini boom in the field of career coaching. Many are staying in the work force past traditional retire­ment age and looking for an opportunity to keep working at a differ­ent pace. Others are finding themselves tossed around by downsizing and globalization.

Coaches offer emotional and psychological support for those who may be experiencing some of the same things that Lyda faced when he decided to leave his career.

That’s what Duanna Pang-Dokland said she provides to her clients.
“One of the first things I do is listen to my clients’ stories,” said Pang-Dokland, a life coach who has assisted many individuals who felt they were going down the wrong career path.

Pang- Dokland, who coached Lyda before he became partner at his insurance agency, said many times a coach can simply help someone figure out if they just need a change in environment versus a change in careers. The key is answering whether or not the person would still be unhappy in another environment.

“Our behavior is shaped by the perception of things,” said Pang-­Dokland, who also changed careers from editing magazines. “So the key is to look at their environment and see how they fit.”

Pang-Dokland said it is important to be clear about the problem before any permanent changes are made. Also, open and honest com­munication is required with family and friends.

“If they want us to, we have group sessions with their families,” Pang-Dokland said. “The goal of the sessions is to explore how the family is going to adjust to the new arrangements.”

Pang-Dokland said she then works with clients to develop a plan to clearly outline what they expect from their new line of work. From that point, she and her clients figure out how to get there. While every situation is different, it can take a minimum of three to six months to work through the issues.

PASSION: Life coach can steer to new career

“We design every aspect of the new career,” she said.

Dave Buck, CEO of life coach company Coachville, said self-promotion also makes the process much easier.

“You have to have the courage to tell people, ‘This is who I am, and this is what I do,'” Buck said.

Buck said the biggest mistake people make when changing careers is failing to be assertive about their new goals. People should also remember that no matter their age, it is never too late to start venturing into other areas that could potentially make you happier.

“When you get the call, you have got to listen,” Buck said. “If something is bad, it’s bad no matter how old you are and in the end, you pay the price.”
But Buck said the additional self-knowledge that is attained after such a process makes taking the chance to change careers one that is not filled with guilt and stress.

His company provides training for coaches of all kinds, including sports. He said the objective is to help people train others to be better at the “game of life.” This includes making sure that people are making career choices that lead to happiness — and better productivity at work and home.


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