Back In Control


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Everyone goes through a career change at least once in their life and most people switch careers several times. This transitional time often causes people to feel stuck, depressed, dejected, confused, alone, and stressed. Back in Control contains counsel and comfort for people working through these changes, turning an unconstructive and emotionally damaging experience into a personally enriching and beneficial one. This book picks up where the “how to” manuals leave off. Countless career books will help readers craft a winning resume, use the Internet and other resources, or prepare for the all-important interview. Wilson’s book helps readers manage something even more difficult: themselves. It talks about the stuff that most of us want to know about from others but are seldom in a position to ask. It features personal reflections collected from people going through career changes—real-life experiences described in rich and candid detail.

Back in Control has been selected as a Finalist in the Business/Leadership category of the 2005 Nautilus Book Awards. The Nautilus is a unique book award, recognizing authors and titles that contribute to our society’s awareness and embrace of spiritual and ecological values such as compassion, sustainability, simplicity, and global peace.
Buy the Unabridged MP3-CD Audiobook here.


Praise for Back in Control


Splendid—full of interesting stories and crystal clear suggestions. This important book shows how to add distinction and avoid extinction in today’s new economy.

—Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose and Whistle While You Work

Diane Wilson does an excellent job of capturing the emotions involved in dealing with career and life change and provides a practical framework for developing solutions. In addition, her approach and advice regarding techniques to shorten the change cycle are well worth employing. I recommend this book for anyone contemplating or currently involved in career transition.

—Michael L. Buckman, Senior Vice President, Lee Hecht Harrison

I wish that I could have had this book in my hands when I worked through my own unexpected career transition ten years ago. My humble experience surely resonates with Diane’s wisdom from her own highly developed spiritual intelligence (SI). I recommend this book to those who are willing to reflect and learn from their own experience in tough times. Life is good only if we are able to see the life larger than our own.

—Zenglo Chen, Ph.D., Management Psychologist, Motorola

Work is a stabilizing structure in our lives. When it is gone, we can spiral out of control. Diane Wilson respectfully shares the stories of loss and emergence with insightful markers that normalize both the journey and the humanity of an experience most of us will face. This is a great tool for people in transition and those who help them through the process.

—Peg Hendershot, Director, Career Vision, a division of The Ball Foundation

This book offers something different from the typical job search book—hope. Reading it is like having an ally in your corner—a source of support, comfort, fresh perspectives, and practical wisdom. I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with the frustrations of a career transition.

—Rochelle Kopp, author of The Rice-Paper Ceiling: Breaking Through Japanese Corporate Culture

Ms. Wilson has done a wonderful service for anyone experiencing career transition. She shares her wisdom on how to effectively manage the variety of challenges that accompany career change in a refreshingly straightforward and practical way. As a career coach, I found her stories, insights, and strategies to be right on target with what I focus on with my own clients. This book is a must read for anyone interested in optimizing their success and effectiveness with career change.

—Albert D. Spicer, Psy.D., Chicago Coach Federation

Diane Grimard Wilson provides sound, practical advice to help manage the emotional side of career transition, drawing from a wide range of experiences and learning models. You will find opportunities to convert uncertainty and fear into growth and positive change.

—Jeffrey Sugerman, President & CEO, Inscape Publishing

This book is a rare treasure in that it goes beneath the surface to grapple with the real psychological and social effects of unemployment. Diane Wilson provides a “roadmap” of the emotional terrain one is likely to encounter in successfully navigating a career transition. Awareness, acceptance, and action—her three pronged approach helps us to transcend counter-productive knee-jerk reactions and find our way safely to the other shore.

—Laura Wimbish, Ph.D., Principal, Satori Consulting

Diane brings a wonderful new perspective to transition. I suspect this is the ONLY book on this topic that includes a discussion of Feng Shui and Focus! Since reading it, I have changed my office and feel totally refreshed. Diane asks much of her readers, however, when in transition, life holds great rewards for those willing to make the right investment of time and resources.

—Roger Breisch, Founder, Midwest Organizational Learning Network

Back in Control eloquently highlights the human vulnerabilities and emotional upheavals that accompany job loss and poignantly presents the candid reflections of 21st century job seekers in transition. The author combines career acumen with counseling and coaching expertise to offer a fresh, enlightened, holistic approach to support all who are navigating—or wishing to better navigate—life’s inevitable career transitions.

—Julie A. Sells, Assistant Director, Career Center, Division of Enrollment Management, DePaul University

Back in Control is a real how to—a powerful toolbox for either personal or professional transitions. Diane Wilson is a highly emotionally intelligent, warm, and compassionate writer—her real-life stories are inviting and recognizable. I learned from this book and others can too!

—Janelle Dimitriou, Midwest Workplace Solutions Manager, KPMG

An inspirational primer for those seeking meaning in their lives and careers. Ms. Wilson does an outstanding job of helping the reader discover one’s own path while encouraging life balance.

—Gary S. Cohen, Co-President, Employee Resource Systems

Back in Control is a powerful book for not only people in job transition and contemplating career changes; it is full of insightful ways to live a life you love.

—John H. Bishop, Certified HeartMath Coach

Diane Wilson has done a wonderful job of capturing how important work is to our psychological wellbeing. Getting smart about one’s career is like having food for one’s soul. And being able to engage oneself in meaningful work is a basic foodstuff in today’s work environment. Without meaningful work—either being in a job that does not have meaning to you or actually being unemployed—people move into the realm of ‘emotional unemployment.’ The book is personal and prescriptive without being in-your-face, helpful without being accusatory. Back in Control is must reading for those concerned about their career transition.

—R. William Holland, Executive Vice President, Right Management Consultants

Losing a job is like a sock in the gut. It knocks the air out of you and can make you feel terrible. In Back in Control, Diane Wilson addresses how to acknowledge the loss and yet use it as a tool to find opportunities that are right for you. She does this with expert knowledge, courage, and compassion.

—Anita R. Brick, Director, MBA Career Advancement Programs, Career Development Office, The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

Wilson’s book, Back in Control, deals with the emotional side of job hunting, and, therefore, fills a real hole in the existing literature. In an excellent treatment of the issue of emotional responses to career change, Diane Wilson guides individuals through the process of taking control of their careers and of career transitions. Her book will aid self-awareness by showing people that they are not alone in experiencing a wide range of confusing emotions when faced with career moves.

—Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., author of The Difficult Hire

Wilson’s Back In Control will help readers gain the knowledge and strength needed to manage their career transitions successfully, based on solid content and the real life experiences of career transitioners.

—Dr. David Helfand, author of Career Change: Everything You Need to Know to Meet New Challenges and Take Control of Your Career

I enjoy Wilson’s personal candor and the statements from her clients. This book is filled with life-giving advice based on many years of coaching.

—Dr. Tom Murray, Former Executive Director, Career Transitions Center of Chicago

Back in Control is right on the money with sound advice on behavioral styles. The content is insightful and presented in an engaging manner. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn how to communicate effectively with potential employers who may have different styles than your own.

—Jack Cullen, author of The Agile Manager

Job transition has the power to crack us wide open and send us reeling. Rather than beginning with what we should do, Back in Control starts with where we are. Its gift is helping us to become aware of what is going on within us and to accept it as a departure point on a path of engagement and empowerment.

—Al Gustafson, Cross Roads Center

Diane Wilson’s book, based on her extensive experience, provides informed and compassionate guidance for the difficult transitions that many face in the course of their careers.

—Robert B.Slaney, Head of Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Services, Penn State University


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A career today is less likely to be a decades-long, one-company relationship than it was forty years ago. Now, a worker may change employers several times, or make a radical career shift. This volume, instead of the more usual resume-preparation, Internet research, and interview scripting of many career-change books, focuses on managing oneself and learning from previous experiences.

The author is a licensed clinical professional counselor with a master’s degree in clinical and counseling psychology. As a coach, she assists job-changing clients during the transition period (which often overlaps the end of the previous position), the job search, and the inaugural period of the new employment relationship. Wilson notes, “Whether the change is voluntary (‘I quit!’) or imposed from the outside (‘You’re fired!’), most people feel lost and alone at some point.”

The book offers real-life quotations from Wilson’s clients, some of whom have been retired, some let go as the result of downsizing, and others who are still employed but are exploring a new job or a change in their work situation. “For many of us, self-management in transition is no small task,” states the author. “For most, is the most important”.

Wilson has contributed columns for Chicago Tribune’s Working Section feature “Insider”, and her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Conscious Choice, and trade publications. She is the founder of Grimard Wilson Consulting Inc., which has focused for more than eighteen years on issues related to human side of work.

Each chapter of her book addresses a topic such as understanding what is really happening; being aware of one’s own situation; and recognizing key challenges and personal barriers, which can include lack of self-confidence, depression, and over-aggressive interview techniques. The author counsels consciousness of what has actually happened, and getting past any negative or traumatic history. She advocated using personal journals, and concludes each chapter with reflection exercises that call for written responses from the reader.

Chapter Five, for example, deals with conditioning the mind for success, and provides useful strategies for overcoming negative mind-sets with techniques like identifying negative paradigms and countering them with positive statements. One client substituted repeating “I am full of energy” instead of “I’m so tired”, and over time, moved from being sick and unhappy to planning his next career move. Chapter Eight deals with creating structure to stay focused, and includes some Feng Shui tips, such as removing clutter and distractions from one’s sleeping space.

This book is a useful guide to anyone experiencing the angst of difficult workplace changes.

—Leonard F. Charla, ForeWord

Excerpt from The Jungle

Most people get discouraged during a job search by relying too much on strategies that have a low success rate, such as applying to ads posted on the Internet, says Diane Wilson, author of Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive and Inspired in Your Career Transition. One of the best ways to land a job is still through a personal referral. Your best bet is to spend most of your time networking, many career experts say. To stay positive, Ms. Wilson also advises job seekers to surround themselves with supportive people and to avoid others who ask, “Do you have a job yet?”

“If you approach it from a perspective of strength and that you have a contribution to make, then the whole process is different,” she says.

—Kris Maher, The Wall Street Journal

Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive and Inspired in Your Career Transition by Diane Grimard takes a holistic approach to the job hunt, not found in many books in the career field. While many of us looking for a new job or a career change may look for books targeting a very specific part of the process – resume & interviewing guides, guides to finding jobs in your specific field, or perhaps skill assessments to figure out what field we should even be looking in – but Wilson touches on all of those areas, as well as focusing on the often neglected emotional side of the job search.

Having recently gone through a job search myself, I was amazed at how often I felt like Wilson was reading my mind. I was having the same thoughts and feelings she talked and I really did wish there was somewhere I could turn to help deal with them. It was incredible learning how universal the feelings of shame, impatience, and frustration are in job searches, and Wilson provides numerous tools for dealing with these feelings, first by figuring out exactly what they are and where they’re coming from, then addressing the sources of these feelings and developing more useful outlets for your concerns.

The only complaint I have about this book is that it’s a little long, but it’s jam-packed with information, and I found myself pulling several helpful pieces of information out of each chapter. The chapters I found most generally helpful were: the first few chapters explaining the basic emotional responses to career change and also helped you explore your own emotional reactions; the chapter on maintaining your general health and welfare so you can be more effective in your job search; and the chapter on helping those around you be more effective for you in your career change (i.e. how to politely explain to your nagging mother that you would appreciate it if she didn’t talk to every Tom, Dick, or Harry about your need for a job).

I highly recommend this book for anyone going through a career transition who’d like a little extra help with coping with the process.

Books for Dummies

Excerpt from Job gone. So, how’s it feel?

T 7 A.M., the bomb Tom Boosz had watched fall for so long finally hit him. Hoover Co. didn’t want him — like hundreds of others — as an employee anymore.

By 8 a.m., he was sad.

By 9 a.m., he was downright depressed.

By 10 a.m., he had accepted it.

Boosz’s emotional experience is pretty typical for someone suddenly thrown out of work, although the North Canton man waded through it quicker than most do.

“You can expect to go through a rainbow of emotions,” said Diane Grimard Wilson, author of Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive and Inspired in Your Career Transition.

The trick is to not drown in those negative emotions. If you do, landing a worthwhile job will be a lot harder. No one wants to hire someone with a bad attitude, and depression has a way of sabotaging opportunities before they even develop.

“Emotional unemployment is a very real thing that people go through,” said Wilson, a professional counselor in suburban Chicago. “It’s important to have practices that you do every day to keep you going.”

Wilson suggests maintaining the same schedule you did when you went to work.

Get up at the same time. Eat at the same time. And go job hunting like you were heading to the office — the same eight hours a day, five days a week.

The idea is to cling to a sense of normalcy in an abnormal situation. Structured activities, even jogging every morning or cooking every night, help job seekers focus on the things they still can control.

“People will spend the day looking in the refrigerator for their next job” if you let them, Wilson said.

“Victims feel helpless,” Wilson wrote. “If you see yourself as a victim, it is difficult to recognize your true gifts and move ahead.”

“Getting a job these days is not about the want ads. You have to network,” said Wilson, who got her master’s degree from the University of Akron.

“I run into people weeks after they leave a company and they still say `we,’ ” Wilson said. “We process things over time.”

—Erika D. Smith, Akron Beacon Journal 

Whether your career transition is voluntarily or involuntarily, Back in Control helps you mold the crisis of change into the wisdom of transformation. Teaching you to manage yourself rather than your resume while you nestle into your next rewarding career, Diane Grimard Wilson uses her extensive experience as a psychologist to help you embrace this transitional time that demands the redefinition of yourself and your perceptions of the world. Unfortunately, few of us are willing to confront the “emptiness we must allow ourselves to experience to create the new” because it can make us feel downright crazy. Rejection, ambiguity, deep frustration and anger are all normal parts of career change, which most people can expect to undergo five to seven times in a lifetime. Expertly demystifying the workings of transition, Wilson guides you in understanding what you are experiencing, assists you to make successful decisions, and fosters a sense of control in the midst of what feels like chaos. Relaying the personal stories of others in career fluctuation, Wilson removes the sense of isolation that intense change often brings and manifests clarity for your individual situation, skillfully leading you into your dream job which motivates you and uses the full range of your exceptional skills.

—Alec Franklor, Spirit of Change Magazine

Back in Control offers much more than information. Career management professionals and job-seekers alike are often inundated with a surplus of ‘How to Get Your Dream Job’ myths and advice prescribed by ‘those-in-the-know.’ Unfortunately, those in transition are often left struggling to put the information to use, or strugging to reap benefit from the information.

Recognizing that job transitioners can be overwhelmed by “information overload” and slowed down by “paralysis and over-analysis,” Back in Control is a practical book that effectively cuts through the chaos and zeroes in on the true experiences and emotions of real people in real job and career transitions. Not only will the reader instantly identify with the candid and gut-wrenching emotions documented by journaling 21st century job seekers, but the reader will quickly begin to understand that transition is a learning process to be embraced not battled.

Diane artfully combines simple action steps and ideas with otherwise complex theories and frameworks from the behavioral sciences to aid the reader in taking small steps toward career transition goals. It is refreshing to have a career book that offers a holistic approach to career transition and highlights the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection, the value of applying principles of Feng Shui, the four behavioral dimensions of the DISC Model, William Bridge’s three stages of Transition, and Dr. Kubler-Ross’s five stages of loss in just over 200 pages of engaging text!!

I encourage all professionals to read this book and to recognize the opportunity it presents for you, your clients, friends, family and anyone concerned with career transition.

—Julie Ann Sells, Newsletter for the Chicago Chapter of the
Association of Career Professionals International

Forest Leaves, Jobless in a worsening economy

In retrospect, Anne White’s timing couldn’t have been worse.

The former Maryland resident moved to Oak Park to be closer to her granddaughter. She had a job as development director with the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation.

But she didn’t feel right. She’d work in not-for-profits for much of her life, and the work was starting to feel familiar.

“It was like suddenly there was this voice that said, ‘You’ve been in development for a long time, you’re 65,'” White said. “Something else was speaking to me.”

And so she left in August, to find something else to do. Then the economy tanked. Work became scarce.

She and her husband moved to Oak Park, but they still have the home they lived in on Chesapeake Bay, unable to sell.

“I call this the sweaty palm part of my life,” White said. “I keep having this vision of a flying trapeze artist standing up on the bar.

“You let go of the one bar, flying out in the middle of the air and you sure hope you can catch the other bar.”

It’s not a good time to be looking for work, but White, along with many other Oak Parkers, is out of a job.

According to statistics from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Oak Park’s September unemployment rate was 4.9 percent. Statistics are not seasonably adjusted.

In July, Oak Park’s unemployment rate peaked at 5.8 percent, higher than anytime since 2003. Discouraging times

“It’s a discouraging market right now,” Career and Executive Coach Diane Grimard Wilson said. Wilson is the author of Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive and Inspired in Your Career Transition.

“There’s just so much financial turmoil that people are experiencing personally,” Grimard Wilson said. “You look around, and it’s just sort of all over.”

To help people, Grimard Wilson has started a support group for the unemployed at Unity Temple in Oak Park. The group is a pilot program, but she’s already got 20 people attending.

Grimard Wilson wants to help people to develop skills to manage change, the space between careers.

Work, even if people don’t like it, gives people structure and meaning, she said. When someone leaves their job and cannot find new work, that can erode their self-esteem.

“Many of the people you talk with, they know how to do a resume, they know how to do an interview,” Grimard Wilson said. “They don’t know what to do on a Monday when they don’t have a job.”

White is a part of Grimard Wilson’s group. In the past, White said she always chose to go from one job to another.

But she’s never done any of the inner work, to think about that transition, she said. The job in Oak Park came so quick, she never really had a chance to break from her old life out east.

“I literally flew home, packed my car with what I needed, and left Ed to deal with packing the house and selling the house,” White said.

Now she’s in Oak Park, new to the area, and she’s lost her network.

In times like these, Career Coach and Creative Advisor Wendy Lalli said, networking is most important. Networking key

“Expecting to find a job in the want ads, I think people have kind of given up on that one,” Lalli said. “Even finding a job online, going through different online sources … you’re competing against everybody, literally, in the world.”

Networking is key, Lalli said, and that includes online social networking. Instant messaging, Facebook, these are tools people seeking work need to understand, connecting with old friends, finding out if they know someone who is looking to hire.

“Expand your network as wide and deep as possible,” Lalli said. “Some face-to-face events make sense, but not all of them.”

People also need to change their expectations of work.

Some people still seek the permanent job, a place they’ll work the rest of their lives, Lalli said. But that place doesn’t really exist anymore.

People should find work that they want, Lalli said, not take anything that’s available and putting off an impression of desperation.

“Find something that makes sense for you to do and that you want to do,” Lalli said.

White is in the process of reinventing herself. She’s spent much of her career working for other people, she said. She wants to find something for herself now.

And she has no intention on retiring. She comes from a generation of feminists who trailblazed into the workplace, broke through glass ceilings and stood up to cultural norms.

“Here we are retirement age, and we’re supposed to go out to pasture to play golf?” she said.

— Chris Lafortune

Managing emotional unemployment

Author Diane Grimard Wilson is running a support group at Unity Temple to help people manage the transition from one job to the next.

The group is a pilot now, scheduled to end Dec. 2, but she believes the program will continue.

“People need all kinds of help now,” she said. “They need help with practical aspects. But they need space, ways of understanding this, tools to help them manage this whole interior.”

Grimard Wilson’s top five tips for managing emotional unemployment are:

* Create structure to Stay Focused: Look around you and your environment, make certain you surround yourself with people, places and things that help you stay focused and positive. Keep a schedule of your time working on the transition.

* Know Your Own Story: Take a moment to stand outside yourself and write a simple account of where you are and how you got there. Every story has honor.

* Tap into the Power of Your Style: Know your blind spots and what will come easy for you during this time. Some people love research and some enjoy networking. In transition, you need to do both. Guard against only focusing on what’s easiest.

* Let Your Emotions Be Your Strength: Everyone has many emotions during this time. Be aware of these, accept them and move on to positive actions.

* Cultivate Intuitive Intelligence: Many of us get swamped with our own nagging, cynical internal dialogue which keeps us from hearing our deepest wisdom. In transition, especially, we need this intelligence. Give time to activities which help you hear this inner voice. Examples: Keeping a journal, meditation and fishing.

— Oak Leaves

It’s about time someone wrote a feel good book about what job changers/seekers go through. Up until now, Dick Bolles spoke to us as a trusted Dad through his Parachute books. But Diane Grimard Wilson has surpassed even Bolles in helping the wandering career nomad to have faith that all will turn out well if you will just listen to Mom because Wilson doesn’t truck with the tools and techniques of resumes, interviewing, networking (well, she does mention networking) and the like. She looks into the reader’s soul and asks the reader to do the same. She tells us what we will have to weather, the emotional ups and downs, the perilous journey, the bad scare days, the looking at the past, the present, the future and explains about limitations and traits; how to condition your mind and what to expect when your brain begins to engage in the process of transition. And she does this in one new, definitive book that will help your clients as she has helped hers over a twenty-year period. Much of Wilson’s style reflects her own story as she tells us about her own history and that of her clients. Throughout the book, we read snippets of her clients’ writings which read like journal prose. Wilson herself catches the spirit of inner life through writing, and encourages her clients to do likewise. Each of the ten chapters has numerous references to key conditions or states of mind of the career seeker.

—Barbara Grauer, Career Planning and Adult Development Network e-Newsletter
Volume 26, Number 3

Is It Your Age or Your Salary?

Age discrimination is neither legal nor fair. Nevertheless, it is prevalent in a variety of forms, job seekers, career coaches and recruiters agree.

Most often the discrimination isn’t overt; it’s more a function of who does the initial filtering of resumes and job candidates and the likelihood that those relatively junior staffers don’t understand the real requirements of the job they’re filling or what an experienced executive would bring to it.

“I’ve found age discrimination pretty prevalent,” said John, an OpsLadder member who is an expert in sourcing and supply-chain management. Working through TheLadders, John was recently hired by a leading medical equipment company, six months after he was laid off as director of materials management, supply chain, purchasing and inventory at telecommunications equipment maker JDS Uniface.

“It’s not overwhelming, but it is disheartening. You talk to a lot of recruiters who weed you out before you get to the manager to explain the value you can bring,” says John, who is 59. “And there are two parts to it: age, certainly in my case, but with 28 years of experience, your comp package is pretty high.”

It’s almost impossible for job candidates to tell whether they’re being judged or passed over based on their age or their salary, according to Diane Grimard Wilson, a career coach who is president of Grimard Wilson Consulting Inc. and author of Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive, and Inspired in Your Career Transition.

The sticking point could be just that the interviewer is surprised to see gray hair on a candidate he or she assumed was younger.

“If you’re an executive in your mid-50s who made it through the first screenings because you didn’t put your first couple of jobs on your resume or excluded the year you graduated, you could walk into that interview and be talking to an HR person who’s the age of your child,” said Sally Haver, senior vice president of business development at The Ayers Group/Career Partners International, a recruiting company that specializes in career transitions and outplacement.

Those relatively inexperienced screeners have usually been told that their responsibility is to say ‘no’ as often and quickly as possible to candidates who don’t fit the pattern, according to Jim Villwock, president of expense-management service IEM Group Inc. and author of the forthcoming Whacked Again! Secrets to Getting Back on the Executive Saddle.

“You’re at the mercy of low-level people with a slate of profiles to match,” he said. “You can address that by talking about the value you bring, but you have to be at the top of your game to do it. The subject matter you’re presenting is difficult for people at that level.”

The goal, Haver said, is to satisfy the interviewer that your qualifications fit the profile and that there are no other issues – such as age, health problems or unusually high salary requirements – that would disqualify you.

“You want to convince them you’re pass-on-able. If you are in this screening interview with HR, you want it to be as transparent as possible,” she said.

Prepare to Overcome Objections

The key to being successful isn’t hiding your age or salary but being prepared with explanations or propositions designed to overcome the objections screeners of different types will bring up, according to Cheryl Palmer, a certified career coach and president of

“Think like a salesperson, even if you’re not,” Palmer said. “A salesperson practices to deal with any objections you might bring up because they know what the potential objections will be.”

For a screener it might be enough to demonstrate that you’re still energetic, focused and vital despite a few gray hairs.

“You can get a lot of questions settled before they’re even asked,” Palmer said. “Usually the first few minutes of the interview are, ‘Did you have trouble finding the place’ or, ‘How was your weekend?’ Instead of the usual, you can go out of your way to say, ‘I went hiking with some buddies of mine over the weekend, and I feel great!’ Right at the outset you paint this picture of someone who’s energetic and raring to go. You’ve painted over those misgivings without even knowing if age would be an issue.”

Questions about compensation and authority are stickier but can be dealt with a lot more directly with the hiring manager than issues as potentially liable as age, Haver said.

“If you’re talking to the hiring manager, you can cut to the chase and say, ‘I can do everything you need done and more, and you’re going to be thrilled,’” Haver said. “‘You will not find anybody who can do this job better than I can do it, so let’s talk about how you can bring me on board in a way that’s comfortable for you.’”

If compensation is the sticking point, you can suggest that the hiring manager bring you in near the top of the scale that would have been appropriate for the more-junior person that was originally expected in the role, with the understanding that your compensation will be reviewed in six months based on the amount of value you bring to the job.

“You can start on a consulting basis to get your foot in the door and say you’re comfortable with that arrangement because you know the kind of value you can bring to the organization,” Haver said. “Make the entry point as comfortable as possible for them.

According to Villwock, the key to making the compensation talk work is demonstrating not that you can do elegantly the kinds of things a less experienced person might not know to do at all but to show that your experience makes you uniquely valuable compared to other candidates for the job.

“Most executives I talk to are strictly a commodity,” Villwock said. “They say they have 20 years experience, but it’s one year of experience 20 times.

“If you do your research – and I’m talking about doing as much as 40 hours of research including talking to people inside and outside the company before a final slate of interviews – you can show that you know the company, know what problems it’s really facing, and can offer ways to address those problems.

“If I’m the CEO or CFO or COO, I care about return on investment, cost savings, how you’re going to help me increase revenue, not how you’re going to train people in your department,” Villwock said. “That says to me you’re not a commodity and, to me as the CEO, that you can do things to solve the problems I’m worried about.”

—Kevin Fogarty, The Ladders

The Bigger They Are…

Dealing with failure isn’t easy, but those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Here’s how to “get back on the horse” after a bad fall.

We’ve all known moments of failure: blowing an exam, missing a promotion, or just making a bad decision. If we’re lucky, the loss is mostly a private matter, there’s no permanent damage, and we can retreat into our comfort zone for reflection and rejuvenation.

But not everyone has such good fortune.

Al Gore focused his entire professional life on winning the presidency and ended up losing the election by fewer votes than the margin of error in the electoral process. Scott Norwood was the All-Pro NFL place-kicker whose 47-yard field goal attempt went wide right, costing the Buffalo Bills the 1991 Super Bowl. Dan Doctoroff, a wealthy former investment banker and New York City deputy mayor, spent 11 years and $4 million of his own money trying to bring the 2012 Olympic Games to the Big Apple only to lose — by a whisker — to London.

Regardless of whether defeat comes on a grand scale or in a moment of private agony, our disappointments affect our families, relationships, and self-esteem. Jeffery Zaslow, a regular contributor to the “Moving On” column in The Wall Street Journal, notes that researchers have advice for high achievers who fail: “Try self-deprecating humor, do extensive postmortems, allow yourself to dream big again, and ask yourself what was your failure? Was it not reaching your goal or not giving your all?” If it was the latter, then you know where you need to improve next time. If it was the former, then it’s critical to remember that sometimes you lose, and that’s an unfortunate but necessary part of life. What’s important is learning from the experience and always trying to figure out how to improve.

Life after wide right
“The biggest thing about that kick,” says Norwood, “was not how it impacted me but how it let the team down. But I had prepared as well as I could. I had done the best I could. I could look myself in the mirror.”

Mental health professionals will tell you that such openness is the first step in healing after this sort of failure. When you experience a major loss at work, such as being fired, laid off, or demoted, there is a predictable sequence of feelings, similar to the stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.

Diane Grimard Wilson discusses these stages as they apply to the workplace in her recent book Back in Control (Sentient Publications, 2004): “Some people start with acceptance and move backwards, while others experience the whole cycle in one direction or another.”

For example, a serendipity, such as an interview opportunity at a desirable firm, could cause you to reflect on what you learned from a prior failure and suddenly leap from anger to acceptance. Researchers agree there is overlap between these stages and no single pathway through the process.

Lt. Cmdr. George Cowan was a fast-tracking Navy pilot on a vector to the pinnacle job in naval aviation: command of an aircraft-carrier-based maritime surveillance squadron. Then his dreams were dashed when his portion of the naval aviation community was disestablished in a force-reduction decision. Suddenly he was on a path with no known destination.

Taking a lesson from Zaslow’s advice and allowing himself to dream big again, Cowan won a coveted spot at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He earned his medical degree in 2005 at the age of 40 and is now in the second year of a psychiatry residency at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Va.

In his work with a number of patients struggling to cope with grief and depression, Cowan has found that “problems arise when emotions and feelings are withheld and hidden, and sometimes these problems can be devastating. It’s important for people to realize that whenever they are having significant life stressors, such as a loss or personal failure, seeking help from professionally trained counselors can be a tremendously positive experience and ease their distress much [more quickly] than gutting it out or going [it] alone.”

Healing and moving on
For many, the healing process begins with a focus on the family. Turning your attention toward your family members’ lives might make it easier to get on with your own. Gore’s focus after the 2000 presidential election initially led to coauthoring a book about American families called Joined at the Heart (Holt and Co., 2002) with his wife, Tipper, a psychologist.

More recently, he resumed a higher public profile, joined the board of Apple Computer, launched a mutual fund emphasizing environmental stewardship and social accountability, and coproduced a documentary discussing the potential impact of global warming (An Inconvenient Truth, 2006).

But sometimes a focus on family and friends can lead to uncomfortable moments. Dory Hollander, a career coach based in Arlington, Va., notes that “when you’re unemployed, particularly if you’ve been unemployed for a while, it seems that friends and relatives ask the most probing, insolent sort of negatively nuanced questions. Whether it’s intentional or not, they know our soft spots.”

To address this potential problem and other transition issues, it might be helpful to consult Professionals in Transition. Founder Damian Birkel has assembled this Web site to help unemployed professionals successfully navigate a career transition or an unexpected job loss, including discussions of networking techniques, health care options, how to plan a graceful exit, and related issues associated with a sudden job loss.

Personal fitness is also an important part of recovering your spark, self-confidence, and initiative after a setback. Many career coaches encourage their clients to begin — or maintain — an exercise regimen as part of their career-transition process, since research shows that exercise can be as effective as psychotherapy in treating depression or grief.

In the wake of the failed 2012 Olympic bid, Doctoroff wanted to challenge himself physically. He took a 200-mile solo bike ride and was rejuvenated by the experience. “After not reaching the Olympic finish line, this was a meaningful victory.”

Career-transition researcher Wilson also points out that “many people get some of their sharpest insights and discoveries about what they want to do next while doing physically challenging things like running or exercising.” Re-careering baby boomers could find themselves in the same job market as enthusiastic and eager “millennials,” born in the late ’70s or early ’80s, and it’s important to project a vigorous appearance to complement an older worker’s strong and diverse résumé.

Mentors and advisors can be particularly valuable for advice and counsel following a personal or professional crisis. However, you can’t wait until you have a predicament to cultivate a mentor network. Look for mentors inside and outside of your current company. Alumni groups, professional societies, not-for-profit boards, and even your church, are favorable places to look for people with whom you might have common bonds and from whose experience you might learn. Most important, look for mentors with the grace and self-confidence to share their failures —as well as their successes — with you. The best mentor networks include a variety of people you’d like to emulate in both business savvy and people skills.

Moving from failure to gratitude
People who take risks sometimes fail, but failure is a necessary experience for personal and professional growth. And out of failure frequently emerges a sense of gratitude: gratitude for the experience, the new job, the strengthened résumé, or the opportunity to correctly prioritize your life. Reflecting on the wide right kick, Norwood says, “If everything always worked out for you, then you don’t have that sense of appreciation. You can always think you understand what it means to have things not work out, but until you live it, you don’t really know.”

Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the Space ShuttleChallenger disaster, June Scobee Rogers, the widow of Shuttle Commander Col. Dick Scobee, says that, “without risk there’s no discovery, there’s no new knowledge, there’s no bold adventure, all of which help the human race to soar. And the greatest risk is to take no risk.”

—Jim Carman, MOAA 

Excerpt from Wishing, hoping, doing

Is there anything so exhilarating as a fresh start?

A new year carries infinite possibilities. The mere turn of the calendar’s page makes us vow to weigh less and exercise more, to gain more autonomy or plug a hole in the soul. And yet, as much as we thrill to every story of a banker-turned-bookseller or a police officer who hit it big in Hollywood , most of us are still here, tethered to our keyboards and cubicles.

We want to address that canyon-size gap between our expectations and our reality, but something holds us back. Maybe that explains why fatigue and depression are two of the most common health complaints for Americans.

So, on this first day of the new year, how can we tackle this epidemic of malaise?

“Start by doing something different, even if it’s as simple as changing your route to work,” advises Diane Grimard Wilson, a Chicago job consultant, author and firm believer that small steps can lead to big changes. “Just the declaration of `I’m going to change something’ can bring out your intuitive intelligence … triggering an awareness of those gut feelings we all have but often ignore.”

And once that door is open, who knows where you will go?

—Bonnie Miller Rubin and Johnathon E. Briggs, Chicago Tribune


Increasingly, people are going through career changes in their lives. They start out in one direction and elect to go in a new one. Or they are fired from a position and find employment in a new field. Work is closely tied to our emotional well-being and disruptions can cause great distress. Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive and Inspired in Your Career Transition by Diane Grimard Wilson will help avoid the feelings of depression, confusion, and stress that frequently accompany this transition. It contains counsel and comfort for anyone working their way through change, picking up where most “how-to” books leave off.


about the author

Diane Grimard Wilson

Diane Wilson, founder of Grimard Wilson Consulting, Inc., has focused more than eighteen years on issues related to the human side of work. Her background is in coaching and counseling, management training, college teaching as well as organizational consulting. She has been involved in numerous projects helping individuals find personal meaning in their work, as well as increase their level of competence. Organizations have benefited from her services by maximizing their effectiveness. Diane's expertise ranges from survey research to executive coaching with special interests in career satisfaction and enhancing emotional intelligence at work.

Diane has been a contributing columnist for the Chicago Tribune's Working Section feature, “Insider.” Her work has also appeared in Reader's Digest, Conscious Choice, and in trade publications. Known for her compassionate yet practical perspective, she has written about topics including team building, leadership development, managing stress and goal setting. She has been interviewed for television, radio and print periodicals including Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Christian Science Monitor, Black Enterprise and Financial Times.

Diane is a member of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Organizational Development Network (ODN), the Association of Career Professionals (ACP) and the International Coach Federation (ICF). She is a licensed clinical professional counselor with a Master's degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from the University of Akron. She has continued her education in organizational dynamics, coaching, and career and executive development including training with Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, and The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Visit her website at