Episode 7: Take Charge of Your Career with Legendary Career Coach Aimee Cohen

About Aimee Cohen

In this episode of The Leadership Habit, we talk to keynote speaker, elite career coach, and bestselling author, Aimee Cohen. Aimee has coached hundreds of clients for more than 20 years with the near 100% success rate. She empowers professional men and women to take control and manage their careers like a boss. Join us as we discuss how you can own your career development and understand why it matters. Aimee will also share some great easy steps you can take that can produce big results to create your own personal career success. Jenn Dewall and Aimee Cohen talk about how to overcome the common ways that people sabotage their success.

Full Transcript Below:

Jenn DeWall:                      00:45                     Hi everyone, it’s Jenn DeWall, and I am here with keynote speaker, coach, and author, Aimee Cohen. Aimee, I’m so excited to have you on our podcast today, and I know our listeners are going to love the conversation and the insight that you provide. I just wanted to maybe offer an introduction for the people that don’t know you. If you could tell them a little bit about yourself and what you do

Aimee Cohen:                   01:09                     So well, first of all, thank you so much for having me and hello to all of your listeners. I’m Aimee Cohen – for almost 25 years been a career expert, keynote speaker, author. Essentially what I do is I help people sort of manage their career success.

Jenn DeWall:                    01:27                     How Fun, I mean because we all need that, right? Regardless of maybe when we’re starting our careers or where we are in our careers, and sometimes we have those situations where we haven’t experienced them before. So we really need the guidance of someone like you to work with to help us remove those objects and keep going on our pathway to success.

Aimee Cohen:                   01:45                     Exactly. I always say for all of the training and education and certifications that people get to, you know, for whatever profession it is, what people received the least amount of training and education on is how to manage their own careers. Nobody ever learns how to do that. So most people are just winging it, right? Most people, you know, it’s like you’re just expected to wake up one morning and magically have all of the answers and know exactly what you’re doing – and that’s actually not the case.

Jenn DeWall:                     02:14                     Right. That’s so true. No, there is no one, there’s no blueprint and often even people that are going to college, they come out with no understanding of the things that they actually need to understand to be successful.

Aimee Cohen:                   02:27                     Exactly. Don’t even get me started on that soapbox because again, with all of the curriculum that they have, especially in higher education, the one thing they never teach you how to do is actually then how to use that knowledge to either, you know, start your career, manage your career, navigate just a simple job search process, which is not simple, but it does take, does take education, it takes practice. It takes some really critical information that no one ever teaches you because let me tell you, I do use a whole lot of calculus on a day to day basis and I’m sure people could go back and look up their school curriculum and realize what they have not used. I think every single person should take some sort of career management course.

Jenn DeWall:                      03:12                     Right? You need someone that’s going to help you and just show you the ropes so you can, you know, hopefully, avoid some of those like pivotal mistakes that can change your career because that can happen really quick too.

Are You Sabotaging Your Success?

Aimee Cohen:                   03:23                     Exactly. And that’s sort of what prompted the book, Woman Up: Overcome the Seven Deadly Sins That Sabotage Your Success. So over more than two decades working with individuals and speaking around the country and working with small groups, large groups there’s a lot that we can’t control in our professions and our industries and our organizations, things like that. But we can all take much better control of ourselves. So what I identified a really the seven most common self-sabotaging behaviors that we all commit, but the best part is, is that you know what to do to make sure that those do not derail your career, your success moving forward, how to fix it.

Jenn DeWall:                    04:05                  Yeah. How to fix that? Who do you think would benefit from your book, Woman Up? I mean, I’m really excited. I love this, evidently, sins that sabotage your success because sometimes we’re not even aware of the stuff that we’re doing that gets in our way. Like who could use this book and how could it help them?

Aimee Cohen:                   04:20                     Okay, well the short answer would be everyone, because again, this is, these are those subconscious sort of behaviors that we do to ourselves and we don’t even realize it. And we do them again and again and again. And it really is not until somebody kind of brings it to your attention, but more importantly, you know, cause I just, I don’t believe in just presenting the problem without also offering really simple actionable solutions that can make an enormous difference in managing your career.

Jenn DeWall:                      04:50                     Hey, and we need those actions. I mean, and especially when they’re simple because when they’re too big and too grandiose, I can just feel like, can I even do that? I’m not even sure I can do that. I’m already way too confused right now about what’s going on. So it’s nice that they’re digestible and small actionable things that they can do.

Aimee Cohen:                   05:06                     Absolutely. I mean it is the small things that really add up to the greatest amount of success. And I’ll give you a perfect example and because this is absolutely rampant when I’m out talking to people and it is under the um, kindness conundrum chapter in the book and how women especially, um, really are just paranoid about being labeled, you know, the dreaded B word, especially in the office place. And so what do they do? They err on the side of being so nice, so cordial, so conciliatory that they are constantly apologizing for everything. And this, over apologizing is one of the things, one totally subconscious. People don’t even know that they’re doing it. But for women, I mean just this tremendous desire and tendency to want to keep the peace. You want to be nice. You want everybody to like you. And so if you’re walking into somebody’s office and the first thing you say, Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. You are undermining your authority, your credibility in the workplace and you don’t even know you’re doing it.

Jenn DeWall:                      06:19                     Great. You’re killing your own confidence. And it’s easy. I mean, I know I’ve been there definitely where you just want everyone to like you who doesn’t, right? Like I, I love getting along with my colleagues and sometimes I still misinterpret getting along as the need to do instead of recognizing that sometimes we, it pays to be assertive and to set those boundaries because you’re actually going to go further and your result. Cause I know that too more than I try to pretend to keep the BS. I get frustrated or that resentment starts to build and it’s all really my own fault because I want to keep the peace and I don’t say anything.

Aimee Cohen:                   06:51                     Exactly. We do it to ourselves. And so once you realize, if you fall into sort of that category of being an over apologizer, those simple things that you can do, one, you want to be aware of it because I mean apologizing is a really strong leadership quality and trait. You know, you do need to take responsibility and take ownership if you’ve actually made a mistake. Okay, so that aside, so the first thing is, I mean, determine whether or not the, the egregious error is apology worthy. Have you actually done something that is worthy of an apology? 99% of the time that does not qualify. So if you find yourself just apologizing for everything, every sort of, you know, misdemeanor misstep, you walk into a room, I’m, I’m sorry for breathing. I mean, whatever you’re sorry for, then it’s time to learn a new language. So simple things. Substituting, I’m sorry for, excuse me. Pardon me, I didn’t hear you. Do you have a minute? Is this a good time?

Jenn DeWall:                      07:56                     I love that switch. Just the simple language piece of thinking. How can we say it in a different way so we don’t have to kill our confidence in the process and we can actually still have a proper conversation with someone.

Aimee Cohen:                   08:07                     Exactly. You know, and because men don’t walk around apologizing all the time and you know, but for women we do it and we don’t even realize it that this is one of those career killers that we can easily fix.

Jenn DeWall:                      08:25                     I love this. I love, again, keyword, easy, easy. And you know, I think it’s great to so many of our listeners that, you know, struggle with just even anxiety. Knowing that it’s okay to not apologize. You know, it’s understandable that we might sit and think in our heads about all the things we could have done, but it’s okay. There are other options for how we can do it, but it’s up to us to step into our confidence. Stop apologizing.

Aimee Cohen:                   08:49                     Exactly. I mean there’s, there’s a lot of other things to do and so one is just sort of manage that impulse to just blurt out an apology at every given moment. It may really sort of, you know, use your language skills, boost your confidence in a way that is really going to make a difference and also move your career in the direction you wanted to go.

Jenn DeWall:                      09:11                     So your, your book talks about, you know, how we can overcome the seven deadly sins that sabotage your success. What are some of the ways that people sabotage their success?

Aimee Cohen:                   09:22                     Well, not only is it over apologizing, but a big one, you know, especially for women is around sort of this perfectionism prison. It is just being trapped in this idea that everything has to be perfect. And when it comes to managing your career, the way that this shows up is in terms of taking risks, identifying opportunities and making decisions. So studies have shown that men and women evaluating job descriptions, okay, women really want to have nearly a hundred percent of that job description, meaning every requirement, every qualification, what is preferred? Mandatory. It doesn’t matter. They want 100% before they feel confident enough to put their name. And for the running, men need barely 60%

Jenn DeWall:                     10:13                     wow.

Aimee Cohen:                   10:14                     Because they think, well, I’ve got more than half, right? I’ll learn the rest on the job. Surround myself with really good people, I’ll be good to go. But so women, we want to be the expert first and then find the opportunity. Men find the opportunity and then worry about becoming the expert. So it’s very much this idea of this kind of strike while the iron is hot kind of mentality. Women, we want to make sure that all of our dogs are perfectly in a row. It’s the perfect time. I’m perfectly qualified. Everything has to be perfect before we’ll actually say yes and there really is no such thing. And so when you start thinking about it and start thinking about, so what are all the opportunities that I have missed that I said no to that I pulled myself out of the running that I self-selected because it was not going to be perfect or there was not a perfect guarantee of the outcome.

Jenn DeWall:                      11:13                     Right. Well, it’s easy to think about that because the, you keep postponing success, right? Well if at once, I get this, once I get this, once I get this, well you could also be 90 years old by the time that you actually feel fully ready.

Aimee Cohen:                    11:27                     Exactly. Nobody’s ever fully ready. That’s the whole point. And so there’s actually an example that I use from a client of mine. She’s a super successful attorney and she was sitting on our professional board and the board president term was ending and she got nominated to be board president. And so she calls me and first thing out of her mouth is, you’re never going to believe, which I was love when all the calls start off. You’re never going to believe. And she said, I just got nominated to be board president. And I said, that’s fantastic. Congratulations. What are you going to do? And she said, well, I couldn’t possibly accept the nomination. And she said, so here’s what I’m going to do. I have a plan because you’re always women. We always want to have a plan. Okay, here’s my plan. I’m going to spend the next two years, cause it’s a two-year term and I’m going to learn and shadow and mirror.

Aimee Cohen:                   12:21                     I’m going to take a class and I’m sure there’s a Webinar and I’m going to do yoga, I’m going to meditate, I’m gonna talk to my sister, all my girlfriends and I’m gonna practice, practice, practice. And then I’m sure that in two years I will be perfectly prepared for this position. And, and she said, you know, because I’m not ready right now. I have never been president before. So think about that statement. Cause what I said, well that’s pretty much how it works. No one’s ever been president before, right? Right. You grow into the role. And so, and I said, so think about this. So you’re going to do all of this practice, all of this preparation for two years. What if the opportunity doesn’t exist in two years? And she said, I never thought about that. And so I said, all of those nerves that you’re feeling, all of that discomfort, borderline nausea that you are sort of struggling with, that’s the good stuff. That’s where the growth happens. That’s where you know that just on the other side of that you get to a whole nother level because as adults, the only way that we grow and learn is when we feel uncomfortable. I was like, do you want to be excited about that? Because you’re about to catapult yourself to another plateau. So you want to run towards that discomfort, not away from it.

Jenn DeWall:                      13:46                     Right. Comfort should scare you. Comfort zone.

Aimee Cohen:                    13:49                      It should as even doesn’t scare you at least a little bit. It’s not worth it.

Jenn DeWall:                      13:53                     Right? And it’s, I mean it’s so easy to forget. We forget about all of our success and especially the further into our career we get, or maybe the more specialist we get in our industry, it’s really easy to think why can’t possibly do that. Cause you forget about all the times that you were vulnerable and didn’t know the heck you were doing and still figured it out. Exactly. It’s like, how do we do this? I always like to say that it’s like you show some your resume and it’s completely blank because you’ve forgotten all of your accomplishments in what you did and how you’ve overcome so much. So many challenges that made you where you are today.

Learn to Brag

Aimee Cohen:                   14:24                     Exactly. I mean, so this is what happens because people, everybody to the most part, you know, really suffers from professional amnesia. Okay. I mean we barely remember what we had for breakfast, much less what has happened over time. And what happens is, is that especially, I mean so many of my clients and the people that I talk to, classic overachievers, right? As you know, you cross something off your to do list, you a great accomplishment and then what happens, you’re on to the next. Nobody ever stops captures that success in a way that you should. So one of the biggest tips that I get, again, super easy but so, so effective is I make it mandatory for all of my clients. So if there’s any of my clients listening, you’ll laugh about this is that everybody should have a brag book. Oh, what is a brag book?

Aimee Cohen:                   15:18                     Great question you ask because what I ask audiences is like who knows what a brand book is? Nobody knows it is a success journal. It is a way to track and log and catalog all of your successes, your accomplishments, your achievements. Because the one thing you don’t want to rely on is your memory, right? And so what the brand book does is, and it only contains positive information. Okay? So we’re not going in there and saying, I really failed at work today. That’s not what the Brag book is for. There are other books for that. It is just for positive information of any size. Because here’s what’s also important is those small successes lead to huge successes. And so you want to build that momentum and you want to stop and acknowledge and celebrate it. And so what the brand book does is a few things.

Aimee Cohen:                   16:10                     One is, again, so you don’t have to rely on your memory, but now you have the information and the tests that I always ask is that if you got the call, the Jen, your dream job is right here in front of you. All you have to do is send me an updated resume in the next five minutes. Could you do it? I honestly don’t think I card. Congratulations. You’d be completely normal. And so because most people can’t, and so knowing that your resume is really a success story, you now would be able to go back to your brag book and in a matter of seconds, update your resume to send off for that dream job because let’s be honest, you will always want to operate from a position of power, not one of panic. I like that distinction. Power versus piano. Absolutely. Nobody’s at their best. When they’re panic it, your brain gets hijacked, your memory shuts down you, I mean, that’s why they call it panic situation because that’s what it feels like.

Aimee Cohen:                   17:13                     So one, you can update your resume at a moment’s notice. Number two is everybody’s favorite activity, which is a performance review, right? Where you have to go in and justify your existence at an organization and remind that person what you have done over the last six or 12 months. Again, a near-impossible task to have that memory recall for information, stats, figures, you know, anything that you have done. And then the third real benefit of a brag book is that we all have highs and lows in our careers. Absolutely. And when you’re in a low, it is really hard to remember those highs because nothing is going well. And so when you need to remind yourself what a rock star you are, you need to have a place to go back to and look at just to give yourself that boost of, okay, I have done a lot, I can do this. You know what? I’ve also been through worse and look at everything that I have achieved. Okay, back on the positive bandwagon. And it is a power of positivity that again, this is where you have to be sort of your own BFF in this role because we all have those friends. We all have the, you know, the greatest cheerleaders in our lives. You call them and go, okay, I don’t think I’ve done anything you have. You’re fantastic. You’re smart, you’re wonderful. All of those things, you’ve gotta be able to do that for yourself.

Jenn DeWall:                      18:42                     Right. And I love the distinction too of really like reflecting on that and saying, okay, I’ve been through worse, or I handled that situation in the past and look at how I overcame it. I may have some of the same emotions like I might be crying, I might be anxious or stressed, but I did that in the past and I still came through it and I’m a better person for it.

Aimee Cohen:                   19:00                     Exactly. It, it’s really about sort of building that resilience muscle. And I mean, I’ll walk my clients through all the time, sort of rock star moments. Those are those moments where almost like on a visceral level, you can transport yourself back to those highlights. You know when you were at your peak performance, when everything just, it just, the stars were aligned. It was the perfect storm in the best possible way. You could do no wrong, you know you were at that pinnacle and so how do you get back to that? You know and cause one. Again, you can use it to boost your confidence when you think of those rock star moments, but also too, it gives you a great perspective when you think about, okay, I’ve been through worse, I’ve dealt with worse. Whatever’s right in front of you, it brings a back down to a manageable size.

Jenn DeWall:                      19:52                     Oh, I love this conversation! I mean so much great knowledge for all of our listeners and we all need to hear that.

Own Your Career Development

Jenn DeWall:                      21:06                     I know that one of the things that we were going to talk about today is what are the areas that you have deep expertise in? It’s how to own your career development. So how can you, you gave us already so much so they can do easy steps like the brag book, but how can they own their career development? How can people do that when they feel like I’m just here, I guess I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to be too pushy. Maybe I have to wait, maybe I’m not ready. How can people own their career development?

Aimee Cohen:                   21:39                     So again, simple but not always easy. So the first thing that I always talk about is [inaudible] for so long and it still exists. This idea that especially for women that if you just do a really good job, just put your head down and just work harder than anybody else work longer than everybody else. At some point, somebody is going to recognize how brilliant you are, tap you on the shoulder and seamlessly carry you. Yeah, through a spectacular career. And it’s not that that can’t happen, but we don’t want to rely on that strategy. I would say that’s the hope and a prayer, right? Strategy when it comes to managing your career. So everything that I talk about is sort of this, this proactive shift. It is from moving from passively short, sort of floating through your career to proactively managing your career. And the first thing is, is you need to have an agenda. You need to know where you are going.

Jenn DeWall:                      22:42                     I’ve never, you know, you hear about an agenda for a meeting, but you never hear it for yourself. Like what does that mean?

Aimee Cohen:                   22:48                     That means it’s a goal. What do you want to achieve next? And just because you’re in one seat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to always be in that seat. So what is your plan? What is your next step and how are you going to get there? Because I guarantee you men always have a plan. They’re very vocal about it. Okay? In five years I’m going to be sitting in that corner office. I’m going to be on the C suite, right? Whatever it is. Women need a plan. And it is okay to more assertively design your career. Cause there’s a big difference between having a career by design versus one by default. Because if you are not managing your career, I promise you somebody else’s managing it for you. So the first thing is get a goal, have an agenda, and figure out what all of those little steps are along the way. The next piece to managing your career is all about visibility.

Aimee Cohen:                   23:46                     Again, this idea that you’re just going to sort of hunker down, put the blinders on. I’m just going to do a really good job. No, you need to understand that Harvard, Stanford and the Carnegie Institute did a study and when it comes to overall job and career success, 85% of your success is attributed to soft skills. Holy cow, 85% that means only 15% is hard skills, technical knowledge, industry knowledge, expertise, things like that. 85% are all of those soft, interpersonal, emotional intelligence sort of skills and that people pay the least amount of time with. So this is about your network. This is about your visibility internally, externally, online. Do people know you? And more importantly, do they know what you do and the value that you bring? Are You well connected? No. Do you have a mentor, a sponsor? Do you sit on a board? Because invisibility when it comes to your career means dispense ability,

Jenn DeWall:                      24:56                     right? They have to see you. What are your contributions and do you, you know, and it’s true, people are, I think in my twenties I used to have that belief of the rule that, you know, if I was at my computer after five o’clock I always loved to like I was working harder and that’s kind of what you, what I grew up in. And then the more that I was in it, I realized, wait, but I am really efficient so why would I stay here longer than I have to to get this job done? And I feel like even cutting that cord was really hard to finally set boundaries to say like, I’m not gonna stay here. I’m not going to do that. Like that visibility, piece doesn’t matter. There are different ways that I can show my value and contribution.

Aimee Cohen:                   25:35                     Exactly. I mean, and again, that speaks directly to this idea that if we just work harder longer, you know, if we do more, if we say yes to everything, those, that’s the secret to success. And I’m telling you, those are the things that will actually kill your career faster. It is really about, it is about that networking part, you know, are you, are you sort of in the right places doing the right things? Are you paying attention to those relationships, those quality connections that you have in terms of, you know, making those pivotal moves decisions throughout your career?

Jenn DeWall:                      26:16                     You mean, what are some examples of some individuals that you’ve worked with that have really taken ownership in that regard for their career and found ways to increase their visibility.

Your Personal Brand

Aimee Cohen:                   26:26                     So many ways. So you know, I mean a big part is, you know, first of all, identifying again what, what’s your goal? What are you trying to achieve? And this is really, this comes into play, especially when, let’s say you have, you’ve been considered a promotion couple of times and you’re being passed over again. And again, this is where you do have to do that deep dive. You do have to do that internal inventory. So what am I not doing? And oftentimes again, it really is a matter of those soft skills. And because just being a hard worker, you don’t, having a strong work ethic is not enough. This is also too about really being able to develop your personal brand and your value proposition.

Jenn DeWall:                      27:14                     What is a personal brand? You know, it’s something that I think some people are really familiar with and understands what it is and for others, when we think of just the word itself, a brand, we just probably think of what we shop, what we use. We don’t necessarily think about ourselves as a brand. Could you tell our listeners what that means?

Aimee Cohen:                   27:32                     Well, we could spend the whole time talking about a brand, but you talked about sort of branding in terms of what we, what we buy, you know, I mean all sorts of consumer companies who are really good job of branding and what branding does is it does two things. One, it distinguishes you in the marketplace and it creates lifelong loyalty. Okay. I’ve been using crest toothpaste since I was a kid. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s any better than any other toothpaste. So, I mean, just think of the products that you use just naturally, intuitively, instinctively, over and over and over. You know, you’ll look for it on the shelf. You grab it time and time again. The other example that I use a branding when I’m working with my clients to develop this, because again, this is again, one of those things that’s simple but not easy.

Aimee Cohen:                   28:20                     Think of McDonald’s, okay? So McDonald’s is not known for its fine dining experience, right? Nobody, nobody goes there for that, for that experience. But the reason why there is a McDonald’s that exists on every single corner around the globe is that you can walk into every McDonald’s and get exactly the same French fry in exactly the same way it is. Consistency of experience that so you have now made a promise to your consumers, to your audience, to your customers, and you keep that promise over and over and over. You’ve distinguished yourself in the marketplace, you’re creating loyalty. People know that you’re from Hong Kong to Europe, to Canada and every single street corner in the United States, you can walk into any McDonald’s and get that same French fry. So when I’m working with my clients is figuring out what kind of French fry are you, what does that experience that you are creating?

Aimee Cohen:                   29:22                     If there are, I’ll use myself as an example. If there are a hundred other career experts, how do you stand out accountants? How do you stand out attorneys, what makes you unique and what sort of makes people want to come back for more? Another way that I sort of talk about it terms of, you know, how can you, you know, also manage your career. Big Part of it is your executive and leadership presence because you need to appear and your presence needed to scream executive in all ways, all ways. So your behavior, your communication, your image. Does it say not only confidence, but it says here, I can absolutely represent this organization. I can be a brand ambassador if you will. You know you want me attached to your company internally, externally in every way possible. That’s additional value in a big part of the brand,

Jenn DeWall:                      30:22                     Right? Well, it is. It’s all about managing your perception. What do people think of you and I think you know, early in your career I struggled with that. I’ll, I’ll say that for myself personally, I struggled with not understanding what perception was, right? Like the unfairness of it of saying, but wait, I know I laugh a lot, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care because I definitely had feedback from my first job out of college that I laughed too much and it was so interesting because I actually was very type A and very focused on my job. I just also have that playful personality. But you know what? It’s not to say that that person that gave me the feedback was bad. It’s just understanding what perception is and that based on your perception and image, people are making assumptions about how you can show up and do things. So you want to be more strategic about it instead of where I was emotionally reactive and saying, but it’s me. I’m just fine. I swear it’s, you know, I got kind of a little defensive and a little bit sensitive to it.

Aimee Cohen:                   31:16                     It’s true. Perception is a reality, especially when it comes to your career. So think about this. So your, your executive presence is, is that perception which happens within the first seven seconds, seven seconds, seven seconds is that first impression. Okay? And it’s seven seconds for it to become a conscious and indelible thought in somebody’s mind. It is their opinion. It is their judgment. Seven seconds. So are you managing those seven seconds in the best possible way? So your presence is what people think of you. The first impression, your brand is what people say with that lasting impression after you’ve left the room. You know, so what lingers, what does that experience? How do they talk about you when you’re not in the room? And so think about this. Your executive presence again, those three components, behavior, communication and image account for 30% of what it takes to get a promotion. Wow. 30% so again, there’s a lot of things that you can’t control in your world, right? If the market crashes, if your organization goes through a merger and acquisition, I mean all sorts of things are beyond your control. Everybody can do a much better job of controlling themselves, especially when it comes to perception, presence, and branding.

Jenn DeWall:                      32:40                     I love that and it’s, it’s really empowering the way that you describe it because it gives you that feeling that hey, to everyone listening, you have full control over this. Aimee just gave you full permission and now you have to do that for yourself. You have full control.

Aimee Cohen:                   32:55                     Absolutely. And through all the control freaks out there, I’m right there with you. This is the best news possible is because instead of feeling like your career is always happening to you, right? I mean, what I spend the big majority of my time coaching and speaking on is learning how to sort of be in that driver’s seat of your career. You know, and really sort of being, knowing that you can take it from point a to point B, not just when you have to, but when you want to. You have all of the tools that you already need. I’m a big believer of the whole sort of image of Dorothy and the ruby slippers. You have everything that you need inside. You just have to know it. You just have to tap into it in the best possible way and use it to your advantage.

Jenn DeWall:                      33:39                     What happens when maybe you haven’t created the best reputation or that best first impression and maybe you’re getting turned over for promotions or looked over for promotions, not even asked to consider applying for a job. How, what type of advice would you have for those people where it may seem that kind of their time at that organization may be expiring? Do you stick it out and try to change that behavior? Do you try and go to different pastures and hit the start over button? Cause I know that that’s a true case sometimes just like in my, the way that I responded earlier in my career, I made some mistakes and it’s hard to pick yourself back up and I know there’s going to be other people that have likely made some mistakes that they wish they didn’t do but turn through there. That’s where they are right now.

You Are Not Stuck

Aimee Cohen:                   34:25                     Well, I mean let’s just be honest, there’s not enough time in the day for me to list or enumerate all of the mistakes that I have made. And so I am right there with you and everybody has, and I always say this is the information that I wished I had earlier in my career. And it’s not that you’re not going to make mistakes, but then how do you manage it? How do you manage your reputation? How do you manage or how do you sort of fix, uh, you know, a situation where that first impression did not go the way that you wanted or you are for whatever reason, whether it’s guilt by association, something happens in the office and you just kind of get, you know, you get labeled in a certain way or pigeonholed in a way that is a movable. So, you know, when I’m working with clients, I always say you have three options to every situation.

Aimee Cohen:                   35:15                     You can try to change it except it or leave it. And, and so weighing out all of those factors, but that there’s still power in that decision because you can try to change it. And sometimes there’s a lot that you can do. But to be honest, sometimes there is nothing that you can do. Sometimes really the best move is a clean slate. Sometimes the move or the best decision or the best realization is that, okay, maybe I’m not aligned with the culture of this organization. Maybe I’m not a good fit. Because you know, one of the hardest things to change it is a culture that an organization has. And so I’m a big believer that people should be doing sort of, you know, constant evaluation and reevaluation of who they are, where they are, what their career looks like, and you know, and if it’s time to make a change, just know that you are not stuck.

Aimee Cohen:                   36:09                     One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling like you are powerless. The less that you have no recourse, that you have no options. And so believe me, I mean, there are so many times that you know, working with people, I work with people when they have absolutely hit rock bottom, they don’t are. It’s so hard. It’s so emotional. And you know, we’re talking about something that sort of takes place in our professional side of our lives, but it feels so personal. You know, we’re one person. We are one and the same. All of our lives are fully integrated, the personal and the professional. And so it takes a toll. It causes people to have a complete crisis of confidence. You know, especially the job search process or being turned down for a promotion, those sorts of things. It is designed to absolutely rock your world specifically. And so what do you do? You know, how do you manage that? How do you navigate it? And the first thing that I can tell anybody, if you are in that situation and listening today, you are absolutely not alone.

Jenn DeWall:                      37:14                     And that’s so important to hear is that you’re not alone. And for people out there like this, I get, I’m probably giving so much work, my own personal experience, but it’s, it’s hard, you know, especially when you attach a lot of who you are to your career success as I’m someone that does that. And I think that’s what drives the craziness of Type A’s and working so hard-  because I had attached so much, right, wrong or indifferent, that’s how I’m wired. And so when things don’t work out the way they want to, it is debilitating and it sucks.

Aimee Cohen:                   37:43                     It’s devastating. It’s devastating. I mean, for a lot of people, you know, there’s so much of our identity is tied to our title, our organization, our success, whatever that looks like. And when that takes a hit, so does the ego. So does the confidence it, it does, it, it absolutely rocks your world. And so how do you pick up those pieces? How do you put it back together? How do you make better choices, better decisions? And a lot of it is also, you know when I’m working with clients, one of the first steps is to really also define success for you. What does success look like for you? Because when we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to everybody else, you mean especially now I’m the of social media. I mean everybody suffers from FOMO, right? Right. Fear of missing out or I should be doing this or look with so and so was doing and I should be further along in my career. I should have more money. Oh, the should’ve, could’ve, look what somebody else’s doing that, that comparison is, is also another, you know, really detrimental, um, sort of reality in our world right now that we are constantly battling against.

Jenn DeWall:                      39:08                     Yeah. We just grab onto it and I think it’s all, you know, it’s that subconscious piece, right? It’s just looking. It’s so easy to look through social media and all of a sudden, you know, you’re on Instagram and 10 minutes in and you’re really just judging yourself because you’re not on that trip in Italy or you don’t have that amazing job that takes you all around the world or tasty to the nicest dinners. Or maybe you have so much money that you buy everything that you could want. It’s so easy. It happens so quickly,

Aimee Cohen:                   39:34                     So quickly. I mean, you know, you’re looking at everybody else’s highlight reel one second and to your point then the next minute, you know you’re home in bed with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for a week. Feeling so horrible about yourself, and again, feeling powerless or stuck or feeling like that. You know this is as good as it’s ever going to get. And I will tell you that I can say this because I’ve nearly a hundred percent success rate with my clients. No one ever has to settle ever. It’s not as good as it’s going to get because it can get so much better than you ever imagined.

Jenn DeWall:                      40:09                     Oh my gosh, I love this. I know everyone at home is, when do we loving this too? Because you’re giving them that permission to say, I can make a difference. I can make a change.

Jenn DeWall:                      41:11                     and we keep talking about so many wonderful parts of how to really own your career development. But I know that we were a little off course there and so we just talked about having that agenda and setting that goal. How else can you own your career development?

Aimee Cohen:                   41:26                     Well, I mean there are things that you can do. I mean obviously, you do want to be a lifelong learner. You know, it’s really important more than ever that you are constantly keeping your skills current and relevant and investing in yourself, right? In terms of your own growth and development personally and professionally, there is no finish line. And so if you are fortunate enough to work for an organization that also shares that same value, fantastic. Doesn’t mean that you also can’t go above and beyond and do more. And if you are either on your own or you work for an organization where that’s not part of their offering, then you do want to take it upon yourself. Again, moving from the passive to the proactive. You want to make sure that your skills, your knowledge, you know in every aspect of your career is up to date, that you are anticipating what’s coming down the pipeline, that you’re in front of it, that you are prepared, that you are constantly positioning yourself so you are marketable and competitive. Things happen so fast now that you can easily be obsolete and you just want to make sure that does not happen to you.

Jenn DeWall:                      42:38                     Right. Your skills can quickly become, you know, not necessarily as well I guess utilized, demanded just based on how fast that technology has changed things. Maybe the direction that your organization is going in and it is important to stay one step ahead. And you know, when you think about lifelong learning, is it really more about the technical skills? Is it about the personal development piece or do you see it as both?

Stress, Burnout and Disengagement

Aimee Cohen:                   43:02                     Well going back to this idea that we are fully, you know, one integrated person is, I do think it’s both, you know, wholeheartedly and going back to that 85/15% split, you know, 85% of our success is soft skills. We have to have those really powerful and impactful interpersonal skills and abilities. And so, you know, if you’re struggling with emotional intelligence, for instance, I mean that’s something that I would invest in wholeheartedly. You can totally move the needle on that and make drastic improvements. If you feel like, you know, technology is holding you back and you’re going to be overrun by the millennials that are going to be taking over the workforce by 2020 then you do need to invest in those hard skills. I mean, this is where you do want to take that, that honest inventory of what needs some tweaking, what needs a little improvement, because you don’t want to be caught flat-footed. You don’t want to be blindsided and you want to set yourself up for success and be the best that you can.

Jenn DeWall:                      44:02                     Absolutely. And I know that everyone listening to this, right, like that’s they’re already taking one step in that direction because they are listening to a podcast to support their personal development, which is fantastic. And I liked the personal inventory piece about thinking, you know, being strategic and recognizing that what are the things in your industry or in your job that continuously change and how can you stay current to them. Maybe it is newspaper or meat, reading the newspaper or magazines or going and reading the articles or listening to podcasts or taking additional classes, but really taking ownership because in any career you can quickly become obsolete once you stop that learning process.

Aimee Cohen:                   44:42                     Absolutely. And, and also too, it’s recognizing that your career life is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. And so a big focus now more than ever is because I mean people are absolutely working themselves to death. Yes. I mean such a bad problem. It really is. I mean health issues are on the rise. Mental health issues are, you know, at an all-time high, I mean stress, burnout, fatigue. I mean people are crashing in record numbers. And so this is also about, you know when it comes to personal inventory, you do need to look at your own health and wellness. You have to take care of yourself. I mean, we all live very complicated and busy lives. And I know that there’s also this, you know, I’m so busy competition that that exists as well. Everybody thinks that you know, you know, I, I work 12 hours a day while I work 15 hours a day.

Aimee Cohen:                   45:40                     Well, I, you know, and plus I have two kids. Okay, I have 12 kids, right? There’s always gonna be somebody that has more than that is doing more. But you know, you cannot afford to crash. So is your health and wellbeing, are you taking care of yourself so you can go the distance? So you do show up each and every day as your best self. And so when those opportunities exist, are you in a position to optimize those opportunities? You know, do you have that, that clear focus, that mental energy, that reserve that you need to, you know, to really sort of, again, move the needle on your career? Or are you just spent, are you just done? You know, cause I will tell you if you are in there, I’m sure there are people listening right now. If you are at the burnout phase, it’s going to take more than a weekend because let’s be honest, there are so many people that are at that phase where they are disengaged.

Aimee Cohen:                   46:40                     We are at a disengagement epic rate right now of people that are disengaged at work. They’re over, they’re overworked, they are too busy, they’re overrun. And we wear that as a badge of honor, right, right. I mean like how much coffee can you drink because you only get two hours of sleep at night. We wear that as a badge of honor and we are plugged in and connected 24 seven three 65 there is no relief. There is no release. And so this is, this is the reason why burnout and fatigue, exhaustion, all of the disconnection disengagement. Again, is that a record high and there is not. We’re, we’re on the brink of a long weekend. Right? If you’re thinking that these three days off, I’m using air quotes because nobody’s ever off, right, is going to cure it and by Tuesday morning you’re going to go back to the office fresh as a daisy.

Aimee Cohen:                   47:38                     That’s not the case. You have got to take care of yourself every single day. You need to disconnect. You need to set better boundaries. You need to invest in your health and wellbeing and your fitness and you know, f in healthy relationships in your life. You know, for some people it’s time to clean house, right? Not just your closets, the people in your life, other toxic relationships that you need to look at, examine and maybe make some decisions about in addition to your wardrobe. You know, all sorts of things play a critical role in all of this. Are you doing things that actually feed your soul? Are you volunteering and you know, are you giving back? Are you helping others? You mean all of these things, all of these, um, sort of components add up to an overall, not just a successful career. Cause yes, that’s what I talk about. But it’s about being a successful person, having a successful life and a career is an important part of that life. But it’s just a part of it.

Jenn DeWall:                      48:44                     Great. It’s not the full thing. And I love that you brought up mental health and how that is really impacting organizations across the country, across the world as people are being asked to do more and they’re working their hardest and yes, there’s that badge of honor. I worked 12 hours yesterday. And you know that competition and that feeling that we’re not good enough or we’re not enough if we’re not doing what they are and you know, mental health, they think for a while it’s been kind of that elephant in the room and the car or in your organization that hasn’t really been addressed. And I’m so happy that it’s something that more organizations are really looking at. How can we make that better? And that’s not to say all because there are definitely still some organizations that maybe aren’t aware of it, but how can you make that better? And you know, the other piece I think of is not only that personal fatigue and that stress and never feeling like you’re good enough and that you have it all together, but also that workplace loneliness too, that reason to it and how people don’t feel as connected because we’re all doing so many different things. Or maybe we’re a remote employee and we don’t have that connection.

Aimee Cohen:                   49:46                     Exactly. And I mean it’s just, it’s just so interesting because May is mental health awareness month.

Jenn DeWall:                     49:51                     Oh I did not know that.

Aimee Cohen:                   49:53                     So it, you know, it’s shining a light on it but also recognize that mental health-related issues. So whether it’s stress, burnout, fatigue, depression, all of those things. So think about it in terms of this way it costs our US economy billions of dollars every single year in loss of productivity, miss days at work. Um, you know, healthcare-related expenses, all sorts of things. Because just when you think that you’ve, you’ve achieved whatever you’ve achieved, you’re at the bar, the bar gets raised and you’re expected to do more with less. And if you don’t, then you think is going to swoop in and steal your position. And so, you know, there is a tendency just to say yes to everything and take on more. And especially for women. I, I talk a lot about this, especially around the competency curse, is that we really do think that we can do it all and we can do it all by ourselves.

Aimee Cohen:                   50:53                     Right, right. Is that, you know, at, you know, underneath all of our outfits there is a wonder Woman Cape and the magic bracelets. I do believe that that, that, and that’s what we all believe, but we have a breaking point and you don’t ever want to get there, you know, and you do want to take care of yourself and, and managing it. And this whole idea of disconnection again is at an all-time high. And you know, I just think that there is such a hunger, there is just such a need on a very sort of cellular level for people to be really connected. And so this is sort of moving away from kind of that transactional type of career to a much more impactful, meaningful career. I cannot tell you how many times that, you know, I’m working with clients and it’s the biggest thing that is missing.

Aimee Cohen:                   51:56                     So based on, you know, just any kind of checklist, you’ll look at this person and from the outside, super successful VP title, more money than they know what to do with trips galore, whatever they need, right? But there is a hole that exists, a void. There is a lack of fulfillment, joy, overall satisfaction that is missing from so many people. And I know that it’s sort of that, um, kind of really tricky and elusive p-word when we’re talking about passion. But what is your passion? What is your purpose? Why are you here? And you know, really kind of taking or examining and looking at sort of what is the answer to that question? I am a big believer, you know, it’s a longer story than we have today, but I was not necessarily born a career coach, but I was born to be a career coach. There’s no question in my mind. So what were you born to be? And but also simultaneously, I’m a realist. And sometimes the passion and your profession don’t always align in the perfect sort of way, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t also explore and fill that passion and that need and that purpose in other ways in your life. There’s nothing to say. You can’t piecemeal this together. Right. And it’s thinking that you know, it’s not just about that they directly align, it’s, it’s on us also

Jenn DeWall:                      53:26                     To find our own passions and recognizing that area of impact and that area of meaning. And it, you know, it’s not always our bosses fault or the organization’s fault. It’s on us to really like ignite that passion. We can’t blame anyone else for ourselves, but not having that. And that’s a big piece I think about career development is remembering that it can be done, but you have to own it. Like, we can’t put that on anyone else.

Aimee Cohen:                   53:49                     Exactly. And that’s why I mean Woman Up, it really is that rallying cry to pull on your own big girl panties and take control of all of these things. I mean, don’t wait for somebody to either drive your career, tell you what your passion is, lay out the perfect opportunity at the perfect time, right in front of you. No, I mean, this is, you’ve got to take ownership of it, you know, and you do need to, you know, to drive all of these sorts of things in a way that’s important to you.

Jenn DeWall:                      54:21                     Aimee, one last question. How do you help people find their passion? I know that’s gotta be something that you might help people do. Is it, am I getting that right?

Aimee Cohen:                   54:29                     You are. I mean, I do it in the, in the context of, of sort of, you know, their career path and what they want to do and if it’s aligned if it’s not aligned, those sorts of things. But finding your passion is one of those, um, you know, really sort of deep conversations. But the way that I do it is yes, it is a deep dive, you know, into you what you want, what your interests are, what your strengths are, you know, all of those sorts of things. And then also attaching a strategy to it. So that’s where I made differ from others is that it’s passion with strategy, you know, so it doesn’t just sort of live kind of in this dreamlike state. I wish I could. I wonder if that, you know, this would be possible. No, let’s turn your passion into a possibility and then not just a possibility, a probability and make that happen. It’s all about identifying the goal, make the plan, work the plan, achieve the goal.

What is Your Leadership Habit

Jenn DeWall:                      55:29                     I love it. Thank you so much. And I have one closing question and that’s one question that we ask everyone that we interview, which is, what is your leadership habits for success?

Aimee Cohen:                   55:41                     Wow. Well, my leadership habit is, you know, it’s, it’s similar to sort of what we were talking about today. I control what I can control absolutely. From branding and presence and all of those things. But my leadership habit actually was something that I had to learn and we’ve talked about it today, is that no one ever achieves any level of success alone. You need people, you need the right people, you need a tribe, you need allies and advocates and champions and cheerleaders around you. You need to surround yourself with the right people because if you want to go fast, you go alone. You want to go far, you go with others.

Jenn DeWall:                      56:24                     Yes.

Jenn DeWall:                      56:24                     I love that. Aimee, thank you so much for coming on to The Leadership Habit Podcast. I really enjoyed talking to you today. I feel personally inspired, and you know, I know that other people are also going to have that same impact. So thank you so much for sharing your tips and advice, and we’ll be sharing additional information about how you can contact Aimee. But if you’re interested in the book that we were talking about today, you can find Woman Up: Overcome the Seven Deadly Sins That Sabotages Your Success from Barnes and Noble and Amazon. But Aimee, thank you so much for joining us. We’re so happy to have you. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks so much for joining our conversation with Aimee Cohen.

To find out more about Aimee Cohen as a speaker, work with her as a coach or buy her book, Woman Up. Visit her website, http://www.womanuppower.com. You’ll find tips, tools, secrets, and strategies to overcome the sins that sabotage your career success.