Monday, December 30, 2013

Declining an Offer

You have been in interviewing for a job.  It has gone very well and they have extended you an offer.   For whatever reason you know you are not going to accept.  At Apparel Resource our candidates have changed their mind for many reasons.  They have a competing offer that is more compelling.  They have been offered a new role or counter offer to stay where they are.  They decide they are not ready to relocate…there can be many reasons.
It is important to be sensitive to the time and effort of the people who were involved in evaluating, preparing and extending the offer you are going to decline.  The best way to decline an offer is honestly, promptly and gratefully.   When a position is open it creates stress and work for the people on that team.  When the employer gets close to offer stage the people involved are usually excited and hopeful that the candidate will accept.   When a candidate declines there is disappointment.

We have had candidates know they are not going to accept but they want to avoid the difficult conversation.  They avoid the conversation by not returning phone calls emails or texts. This leaves the employer with a very negative impression. We have had employers tell us at this point that if the candidate will not manage the conversation around declining an offer that they would no longer consider hiring the candidate in the future.
If you are working through a recruiting agency like Apparel Resource it is best to let your agency know the moment you have decided not to accept.  We then get working immediately on other candidate options for the employer.  We also help prepare you to have the direct conversation with the hiring manager and the HR/recruiting professional in the organization.   This conversation should be done with thought and sensitivity so that these people understand your decision and would consider you for future options if your situation changes.  It is important to be direct, honest and thank them for their time and effort.  For example:  “This has been a difficult decision but I have decided to accept an offer with another company.  The organizational structure they have offers me greater long term career growth.  I really appreciate the time you have spent with me and the offer you extended.” 

Responding directly with a live phone call is professional and courteous.  Do not leave your answer in a voice message or send it via email.  The live direct conversation gives closure to those that were involved and should leave the door open behind you should you want to reconsider this employer in the future.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Welcome the new guy

I have worked at companies where new hires can be either feared or welcomed. When I started a role with… we’ll call it company X, there was fear. My role was not defined. People didn’t know what I was there to do. There was a perception that my new position would take away their power. Because of that, people withheld information. They showed up late to meetings if they showed up at all. The first three months of that job were incredibly stressful and unnecessarily difficult until I was able to break through and show my value to the team. We could have made more progress faster if I was welcomed. The fear didn’t help anyone. Intentionally being difficult takes more time and energy rather than just working together.

On the flip side, I started a job with my current company and was welcomed. Co-workers lined up to share information and partner on projects. Because of that, the company & my coworkers quickly benefited from the additional headcount. We moved major projects forward quickly and efficiently. It was a smooth transition and I was happy to go to work every day.

What is the value in fear? How does withholding information help you? Who do you want to be? How can you welcome a new employee? What benefits might there be from welcoming a new employee?

To learn more about career coach Kate Kibler, go to

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stopping at no

I received an e-mail the other day telling me that a critical order had been cut. One of my most important styles would not be arriving in time for the season. It was not good, so I started to do some probing. What had happened to the order? How could we move some other things around to make my order happen? Who could I talk to in order to fix this problem? After a series of emails, we found that there was a computer glitch. If I didn’t push on asking these critical questions, my order would have been lost in the system.

What did I learn? Even with the best intentions, sometimes people deliver information without learning the whole situation. When there is a lot to do, you tend to move fast and rush towards the finish line. Even I have been guilty of this on occasion. Taking a few minutes to ask the right questions or learn more about a situation could save time and effort on the back-end, or in this case- protect my business.

How often have you accepted no without questioning? How can you start to ask the right questions? What are best practices to ensure you are getting all of the information you need to make a great decision? Who do you know who does this well?

To learn more about career coach Kate Kibler, go to

Monday, December 16, 2013

Talking with Recruiters

I wasn’t always a recruiter.  My career started in retail management and transitioned into Merchandising.  I used to get at least one phone message a week from recruiters.  I never returned their calls.  Nothing against recruiters personally, I just always loved my job and was too busy to find the time to get back to them. 

The one time I decided to speak with a recruiter it ended up leading all the way to a fabulous job offer from Target.  I had been honest with everyone all along, saying I was open to considering but not really motivated to make a change.  The offer was aggressively more than I was making where I was at.  I did decline the offer.  It just was not the right time personally and professionally to make a move.  The recruiter was really angry with me for declining and did not treat me very well.  I returned to my prior behavior of not returning their calls. 

Now on the other side of the equation after 7 years running a recruiting agency, I have a different point of view.  Independent recruiting agencies like Apparel Resource have relationships with a variety of clients.  These employers often call us asking for help with very unique opportunities.  Building teams to launch new divisions.  Confidential openings that are not posted.  New positions they have not recruited for before.

When I contact a candidate and ask to speak with them it is because that candidate has great work experience that looks like it aligns with the kinds of openings we work on.  I know it is likely the timing might not be right for the candidate.   When a candidate agrees to schedule time to speak with me I review their work history carefully.  I learn about the type of work they do, the corporate cultures and challenges they enjoy.  We talk about what they get frustrated with, their relocation preferences and what they are thinking about next in their career.  If they are qualified for any of the openings we are currently working on I share those options with them.  If they are not interested in making a change at this time that is not a problem.  I have learned about a candidate’s experience and career aspirations.  I can continue to contact them for options they tell me they would like to hear about.

I have been in touch with some candidates for 7 years and not “placed” them.  These candidates are still a valuable asset to my business and I am a valuable resource for them.  We share industry knowledge, they often provide referrals and I can be a resource to them in many different aspect of their job.  If these candidates are ever in a situation where they need to make a change due to job loss or family situations I will be an excellent advocate to assist them with their options.

When you get a call from a recruiter….do some research on who they are, what firm they are with and what employers they represent.  If they do reputable work in your career space it is very likely that you will not regret taking time to visit with them. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Interview feedback

I recently interviewed someone for an open position I had. I’ll call this candidate “Susan” for the sake of the candidate’s privacy. Susan had a great background and had many of the skills I needed for the role I was trying to fill. I was excited to meet her in person. Once Susan came into the office, it quickly became apparent that Susan was one-dimensional in her career. She had worked for the same company for twenty years and didn’t have an opinion or skill set outside of that particular company’s methodology. I pushed her with several questions to think differently. Unfortunately, Susan seemed trapped in her old company’s paradigm. Susan had been laid off from that company over a year ago. She had nothing to fill the gap on her resume and continued down the only path she knew.

Although I didn’t hire Susan, I did provide Susan with feedback. How many other job opportunities had passed her by because she didn’t get that direct feedback? As a manager, or potential employer, how does it benefit you to not give feedback? How can feedback help both you and the candidate? What is your track record with difficult conversations?

For more information about career coaching go to

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Managing versus leading

There is a fine balance that needs to be achieved in leadership between leading and doing.  I have heard many people call themselves leaders but are actually in fact managers. There is a huge difference between a leader and a manager. A manager directs a team and makes sure the work gets done. A leader engages the team, drives each teammate to be better while exhibiting the work ethic and values s/he would like to see in his/her team. A leader teaches, encourages and empowers while staying connected to the team.

Who do you want to be: manager or leader? How do you know which one you are? How can you improve your leadership? Where are the opportunities to change from a manager to a leader? Who can help you evolve to a leader? Who inspires you as a leader? 

Go to to learn more about career coach Kate Kibler

Monday, November 25, 2013

Entry level candidate

I do a lot of networking. I talk with students and presidents of companies alike. I enjoy hearing what interests people, what motivates them and how they see their careers. Almost every entry level candidate or student asks me what I am looking for when I interview someone just out of school. Let me start by saying that every hiring manager is looking for something different. Here is my general list and reasons why I seek out those specific qualities:

  • Intelligence- If someone is smart, they generally learn fast
  • Communicates well- If a candidate cannot communicate clearly and in an articulate manner in an interview, they are out.
  • Worked while in school- The retail industry is so fast paced, that my hires need to be able to handle a lot and multi-task. When someone says they didn’t work so they could focus on school sends a red flag on what I am looking for in a candidate.
  • Activities while in school- Same as last reason.
  • Cultural fit- This varies at just about every company and could mean just about anything. I have worked in really strong companies where you can only succeed if you are very vocal, where other companies would not value that characteristic.  
  • Curious- A candidate needs to ask questions. Real questions. Not ‘how did you get here in your career?’ That is a bad stock question that teachers tell students to ask. I like to hear curiosity around the open position, company and culture. I want to know this candidate was not only listening but also engaged.
  • Enthusiasm- I want everyone on my team to be as excited as I am to come to work every day. An aloof candidate is a not the right one for me.

How can you find out what a hiring manager is looking for in a candidate? What company exhibits the values and traits you practice? How can you connect those two to find a job that is a great fit for you?

For more information about career coaching go to

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Listen to understand

Think about the last serious conversation you had with an employee. How much did you listen verses talk? How did you listen? Listening sounds easy, but it can actually be very challenging. Pure listening means you are both hearing and processing what the talker is saying. This can’t happen if you are thinking of a response, coming up with ideas, wondering how this applies to you or talking over someone. Most of the time people are not listening when someone else talks. The ‘listener’ is trying to solve the problem or think about what s/he will say next.

When I first heard this, I didn’t believe it. I thought I was a good listener, but I was wrong. Luckily, listening is a skill that can be taught. First, you have to realize what is holding you back from truly listening. For me, I was thinking of ways to solve the person’s problem. Secondly, you need to figure out a way to overcome your reason for not listening. My solve was to take notes on things that I could come back to later. Such a simple step significantly helped me to become a better listener.

What does listening mean to you? When have you had a conversation where someone actually listened to you? How did you feel? How can you be a better listener? What are some things you can do to improve your ability to listen?

For more information about career coaching go to

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lunch and Dinner Interviews - Mind your manners.

Have you ever been a candidate or an interviewer that was given the meal slot?  How do these interviews differ from office setting interviews?

The short answer is other than setting they are still absolutely an interview and the majority of the same rules apply…but now you add table manners and etiquette. If you are meeting at the restaurant a hand shake is still in order.  If you know the name of the restaurant ahead of time you can usually review the menu on line and make a selection ahead of time.  Something neat and easy to eat so you are not distracted wrestling with long pasta noodles and sloppy sauces. 

If you never had a formal education in dining manners here are some easy tips that go a long way. 

·         None of your belongings should be on the table (including phones…which should be silenced).

·         Place your napkin in your lap when the food arrives, when you are finished your napkin should be placed neatly back on your plate.

·         Chew quietly with your mouth closed.  If you are asked a question mid bite, take your time to finish and answer when you are comfortable your mouth is empty.

·         Unless you are choking wait until your food is swallowed before taking a drink.

·         Keep your elbows off the table while eating.  When the food is removed your elbows can be on the table for conversation.

·         Don’t slouch or lean too far back in your chair.  Sit straight and lean slightly forward.

·         Cut one piece of food a time as you eat it.

·         Ask for things to be passed to you rather than reaching for them.

·         What about alcohol?  None at lunch.  If it is dinner and the interviewer is ordering a drink as a candidate one glass of wine is perfectly acceptable and it is safest to stop at that.

·         Always say ‘excuse me’ when you need to leave the table.

·         Be courteous to the restaurant staff and other patrons.

·         If you are the interviewer you should pay for the meal.  Candidates however should not assume this is the case.  When the server brings the tab you can reach for your means of payment and offer to buy.  If the interviewer indicates they are paying, do not object just say “Thank you.”

We would love to hear if you have any interesting meal interview stories!   If you want to know what clients we can set you up to interview with, contact me at

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thinking positive makes things better

Positive thinking or positive reinforcements can really turn around not only your attitude, but also your reality. Recent research suggests that having a positive outlook improves resiliency, improves your health, and makes you happier. It can be easy to get caught in a spiral of negativity when things aren’t going your way, but consider how you can turn that around.

After starting a new job, I was crunched for time. I just moved to a new city and outside of moving my home, I also needed to make a trip to the department of motor vehicles (DMV). I procrastinated going to the DMV as long as I possibly could. Almost every trip I had ever made to a DMV in any state ended in frustration. I had a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. I was negative. In order to motivate myself to make the trip to the DMV, I started working on some positive reinforcements. I told myself over and over again that I would have a successful and productive trip to the DMV.

With my renewed positive energy, I printed off all of my papers, pulled together every piece of identification I had, and double checked the website one last time to make sure I had everything together. I arrived at the DMV first thing in the morning before they were open to a line of about one hundred people. Not bad. This line will go quickly once we get inside. When I got up to the counter, the woman told me I needed additional paperwork that I didn’t have (in her most off-putting tone she told me I not only needed the letter for proof of address, but also the envelope it came in). I stayed positive and asked a couple of questions. The woman across the counter came up with a good idea of how I could still do what I came to do. With her suggestion, I moved to the next counter. At the next counter, woman #2 told me she could not find my information in the system. I knew it was there. I asked her to check again. She checked again and repeated that it wasn’t in the system. My stomach started to sink into that place of negativity. I shook it off and kept with my promise of positivity. I calmly explained that there must be some confusion as I was told the DMV had my information. She checked one more time and found my file… someone had added a zero to my VIN number by accident.

While I had almost been pushed over to negative feelings, I was able to stay positive and walk out of the DMV with everything I needed. I only got what I needed because I was able to stay positive. If your inclination is to assume the worst out of a situation, the outcome will usually follow. If I had let negativity take over, I would have walked out with nothing to show for my trouble.

How can this example relate to a work situation? How can you stay positive and prescribe the outcome you want? Where do you find your negative feelings surface? How can you turn something negative into a positive? How can being positive influence your life?

For more information about career coaching go to

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Get a life

Just one more email… one more phone call… one more meeting. It is easy to get swallowed into the workplace. Constant changes and moving deadlines make the fashion industry especially daunting. Sometimes you step back and think… wow. We are talking about a button. I just blew off dinner with my sister because I need to stay in the office to update the color of a button on two hundred styles before the night is over.

How has your personal life suffered as a result of work? How has your career suffered as a result of your personal life? How can you introduce a work-life balance and succeed in your job? What are the non-negotiables for you in your personal life and in your career? Who can help you find the right balance? How can you create boundaries that help you maximize your time and happiness?

For information on career coaching, go to

Monday, November 4, 2013

Your Internet Image - What is it Rated?

We have had more than one candidate be edited from the interview process because prospective employers found photos and information on social media space that they felt were inappropriate.  There are so many places to build profiles.  LinkedIn most people recognize as a career based networking site.  Prospective employers will also search Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and any other information they can find on candidates.
Here are some guidelines to keep your social media space from costing you career opportunities.  In the most simplistic advice it should be rated PG in content. 

Things to avoid:

Excessive party pictures.

Bad language.

Inappropriate Dress.  

Extreme political views.

Extreme personal drama.

Violent content.

Sexual content.

Negative dialog about employers, co- workers and work in general.

Even if you set your Facebook photos as private they can show up in other places.  Do a Google search on yourself and see what comes up.    If I Google my husband’s name photos show up from a wedding we were at in California.   We did not post these pictures.  You can see when we attend community meetings, minutes from meetings of organizations we belong to, you can find that we are runners and have raised money for certain charities.    Much information can be found on line.  Protect your internet image carefully. 
What do you find when you Google your own name?  Does it represent who you are professionally?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Interviewing or networking?

Most people consider a job interview as a brief interlude into one’s life or career if a job is not offered and/or accepted. I challenge that notion. Every interview or touch point with anyone in the industry could be viewed as an opportunity for networking. How did you end your last interview? Think about your role as either an interviewer or interviewee. As an interviewer, did you give clear and constructive feedback to the candidate who did not get the job? If you were the interviewee, and did not get the job, did you take the rejection graciously? If you passed on a job offer, did you clearly articulate why you were passing on the opportunity and thank the company?

Take advantage of that one shot even if you are not the right candidate for that particular role. Make a great impression whether you are the interviewee or interviewer. The retail industry is small. That hiring manager or HR director likely has other friends in the industry who are looking to hire. That candidate you just met may not be right for the role, but their friend could be the right fit for another opening on your team. In my opinion, all interviews should be seen as an opportunity for networking.

To learn more about career coaching, contact Kate Kibler at

Monday, October 28, 2013

Never burn a bridge

The fashion industry is really small. It’s like three degrees of separation. Another well-known fact about the industry is that there are some big personalities that can conflict with each other. Passion runs rampant in fashion. This can lead to some significant conflicts. My advice: try to stay neutral and never burn a bridge. It is highly likely that you and that person will cross paths again in your career. That conflict, or better yet, the way you handle that conflict, could be the difference between you getting a job or not in the future.

Staying neutral does not necessarily mean avoiding opinions or being a wimp. It means not getting emotional or obnoxious about your opinion. It means not being a know-it-all and staying open to conflicting views. By keeping that open mind-set, you will make better decisions for yourself and the company for which you work.

What experience have you had with a difficult person? If you were to look at your most strained business relationship today, how could you turn it around? What is holding you back from being open?

To learn more about career coaching, contact Kate Kibler at

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Long term unemployment

Ok, you are unemployed. It can be devastating when you lose your job. Even worse, you have been looking for a job for three or more months and still are unemployed with no good prospects in sight. It happens to the best of us. How can you remain attractive to employers as a viable candidate?

So, what are you doing every day? If you are eating bon bons and watching soap operas (I may be dating myself here), you are not presenting yourself in the best light. I don’t have all of the answers, but do have some suggestions. You need a story: Take classes. Travel. Freelance. Live abroad. Learn to cook. Start a business either related or not related to the field. Do something extreme. If you are interested in working for an outdoor action sports company, go snowboarding at some of the best places in the country. Or, if you are financially challenged, go work at one of the best snowboarding destinations in the country and brand it as ‘market research’. The goal: when you talk to a recruiter or hiring manager, they say “whoa, I’m so jealous.”

When you look at what you have been doing during your unemployment, do you feel confident in your story? How can you take your interests and craft a great story? How can you both take advantage of this time off and build a compelling story to share with a hiring manager? Who can help you assess if you have something interesting and engaging to share?

While a great story won’t get you the job, it could get your foot in the door. A great story gives a hiring manager or recruiter a reason NOT to edit you from their list of candidates. 

To learn more about career coaching, contact Kate Kibler at

Monday, October 21, 2013

Relocation - Is it a good move?

The majority of the candidates we contact about opportunities say they are not open to relocation.  I get this.  I would not move my family at this point unless we were forced to through a double loss of job.  We just bought a house we love.  Kids are doing great in school.  Close to aging parents.  We love the seasons and being outdoors.  These are our main reasons.

We hear a wide variety of reasons that people don’t want to move.  People from large metropolitan areas are not interested in smaller cities.  People in smaller cities are not interested in large metropolitan areas.   Sometimes there is a second career to consider in the household that prevents a move.  Children in school, family, friends, lifestyle activities (“I have to surf” “ I have to ski”) and climate are all often reasons people are not willing to move.

There are some world class employers for our industry in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Seattle, Georgia, Nebraska, Colorado, Florida…literally almost every state.   I can’t count the times I speak with talent from very large cities who will not even give consideration to a smaller city.  Often this mindset is based on the unknown and what they “think” the area will be like.  I have even been laughed at when I say an opportunity is in Wisconsin. 

Many of our candidates have successfully relocated to Wisconsin who lived in NYC their entire lives.  People who told me initially they would NEVER leave the city and CERTAINLY not to Wisconsin.  The triggers for these candidates were all different; bad day at work, bad day in the city, a change in the family situation.  Whatever the reason, once these candidates were open to exploring the option and actually came and looked at the area they had a whole new perspective.  Some still ultimately decide the move is not right for them.  Other candidates took the leap, loved it and never looked back.  Some make a move for a few years and then move on to other locations based on having experienced a move, making new friends and finding they are more open to new locations.

The thing that concerns me most is missed opportunities based on perceptions of what a region is or isn’t like without having been there to check it out.   My daughter hates cheese (yes in Wisconsin).  Today I made pumpkin whoopee cakes they have a cream cheese frosting in the center.  She was defiant that she would NOT like them because they had “cheese” in them.   After much discussion about how important it is to try new things or you might miss out on something wonderful…..she took the teeniest bite.  Her eyes lit up and she said I LOVE these!  She gobbled it up and declared it her new favorite desert.  Don’t miss out on a wonderful new adventure because you are sure you won’t like something you have never tried!
You can see the cities we currently have job opportunities in at .

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What to do when you lose your job

What to do when you lose your job… I would love to be able to give you a simple answer on this, but unfortunately there’s not a one size fits all solution. Almost everyone I know who has been laid off has needed a moment to reset. Even if you were expecting the layoff, volunteered to be on the chopping block or been given an option to leave, there has been a hit to the ego. Although you think you are putting on a good face, confidence (or lack thereof) always seems to present itself in an interview. Looking for a new job without confidence can be a huge obstacle to having a great interview.  The tricky balance is between taking time to ‘get over it’, rebuild confidence and not let too much time slip by. (Of course, I recommend a career coach to help you figure it out: Please forgive the shameless self-promotion).

Once you are ready to start putting yourself out in the job market again, how can you make yourself look more desirable to a future employer? First: research, second: research, third: research. You have plenty of time as you are after all, unemployed. What companies would you want to work for? How do those companies tie into your experience? What experience do those companies value? What kind of person are those companies looking for (personality)? How does your resume reflect the position you want? Have you found a posting for the position you want at the company you want? Who do you know who works there? Who do you know who knows someone who works there? How can you network with these contacts to help you make the right connection?

Once you have all of the details & a perfectly targeted resume (see Kari’s post from 6.3.13 for more about targeted resumes), you can start working to make contact. In many cases, you only have one opportunity when you get your resume or name in front of the right person. The more you research, the more you can target your resume, and target how you present yourself. Good luck with your job search!

For more information about career coaching, go to

Monday, October 14, 2013

The boss who takes over your life

I have a friend; we’ll call her Mary (not her real name). Mary’s boss used to make her spend an inordinate amount of time working and hanging out together. Lunches together were mandatory. Happy hour: mandatory. Late night calls: frequent. Mary didn’t feel like she had a choice in spending time with her boss. The boss would sometimes talk about work, but more often than not the conversations were focused on work gossip or the boss’ personal life. Once, Mary told her boss she couldn’t do lunch together and her boss retaliated by bringing one of Mary’s coworkers into the new hot seat. For weeks, Mary’s boss gave her the cold shoulder. It wasn’t long before Mary found her way back into her boss’ good graces. Although Mary frequently complained about her boss’ behavior, she let it continue and sometimes encouraged it.

This situation continued for years until Mary’s boss was eventually fired. I wish I could say this story was an anomaly. Unfortunately, the industry is a breeding ground for bosses who will push past people’s boundaries when permitted. While you can’t control your boss, you can control your reaction to the boss’ extraordinary demands. If you are currently working with a boss who takes over your life, how can you respectfully express your boundaries? How much are you willing to sacrifice for your career? How do you determine what the balance is between work and your personal life?

To learn more about career coaching, go to

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting where you want to go

I recently had a client talk about switching careers. Not a dramatic switch, just a small switch in function. Her goal was to obtain the position she wanted within two years. Switching roles can be harder than you think in the retail industry. Of course my client and I worked on associating her current skills to the job she wanted and targeting her resume (see Kari’s post from 6.3.13 for more about targeted resumes). We were also able to work with her current employer on a title change in order to line my client up better for the future job she wanted. The question remained… what else could my client do to get the career she wanted?

We landed on: act like you have that job now. Just start adding responsibilities of the job you want to your current role. Immerse yourself in the role you want. It’s pretty rare that an employer is going to get upset about you doing additional work. Coworkers usually like the additional help. That was a good solve for inside the office, but what about outside the office? What could my client do to start building a solid reputation? 

After some intense research, my client is starting a blog. She knows she is going to remain with her current company and in her current position for another two years. Her blog will give her a voice into the industry where she can showcase her skills in the role she wants. It will give her exposure and an edge on other recruits when the time comes to make a move.

How much time have you spent looking forward to your future career? What have you done to prepare yourself for the next phase in your career? How could you establish yourself as an authority in your field? How could a career coach help position you for the future?

To learn more about career coaching, go to

Monday, October 7, 2013

Title - What's in a name?

Title – What’s in a name?

The question of how important a title is comes up often when candidates are considering a job change.   In past postings we have mentioned that titles mean different things at different companies.  Kate has been writing about vision.  When you are considering a job move how important is title to reaching your vision?
Much research has been done on job satisfaction.  Title usually ranks behind work relationships, job content and compensation in importance to job satisfaction.
Since the tough economy in 2008 created many layoffs in our industry, we have not seen many people get a promotion in “Title” upon being hired by a new company.  It is more common to see lateral moves in title and in many cases taking a “Title Down” to join a new employer.

There are 5 major factors to consider when considering a job opportunity outside of your current employer.

1)      What is the job content and scope of responsibility?  Often you can “Title Down” and actually grow in responsibility.   Things to consider in the job content umbrella are:

·         Dollar volume for which you are accountable

·         Size of team

·         Are there direct reports?

·         Level of executives you interact with on a daily basis

·         What is the immediate impact/accountability you are able to have on the health of your business?

2)      Corporate culture.  Is this a place you are going to like being every day (ok….most days, every day is probably not realistic)?  Are the people respectful and collaborative?  Do they have a clear strategy and processes in place for you to do the job expected of you?

3)      Salary.  Does the salary meet your requirements?  Take into consideration cost of living differential if you are moving to a new location.

4)      Location.  Make sure you have an open mind regarding location if your life allows you the flexibility to consider relocation.   There are more opportunities available if you are willing to move.  You might have a perception of an area that is not correct.  Most companies will set up tours for you to explore areas as part of the interview process.  Realtors are great resources and are usually happy to provide a community tour.

5)      Are you comfortable with the title relative to the work you will be doing?

If the majority of the 5 factors are a positive change you may be missing a great opportunity if you focus only on the title of a position. 

What title do you think should be next for you in your career?  Have you ever “Titled Down” and been happier?  Have you ever taken a promotion in title that turned out to be less satisfying than your previous role?  Check out what titles we are working on for our clients at .

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Staying professional

It’s not always easy to stay professional in a less than professional industry. Yes, there are certain apparel companies where professionalism is expected. These are usually the bigger, more corporate type firms. In most fashion companies however, you can easily be lured into unprofessional behavior such as gossip, tardiness, cliques, and even harassment. I’m not sure why the fashion industry is prone to this type of behavior.  The social norms of many corporate environs don’t follow suit for fashionistas. Very rarely will you find business attire or proper email etiquette. Even non-creative roles in fashion work in a more fluid style.

So, how can you remain professional in a mostly unprofessional industry? First, understand your goals. How does participating in gossip move you closer or further away from your goals?  What about lateness? If you are in a divisive company where cliques are prevalent, how would you choose which clique to associate with? Better yet, how could you get your job done and not associate with a clique? What would the benefit to you be to remain neutral and steer clear of the clique behavior?  Whatever the unprofessional behavior, understand who and what you want to be before following along.

While it may not be easy, it is possible to remain professional in an unprofessional industry. Keeping a clear target for both your career and life goals will help you find your way.

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Monday, September 30, 2013


So here you are, focused on your vision. You took a new position that is going to bring you closer to your goals. Everything is perfect and in place. And then… you are thrown a curve ball. The CEO leaves the company and the job you moved for has been eliminated. This happened to me shortly after joining a company. I was offered another role, but it would move me far away from my vision. In fact, the move would have set me back years. I am not going to pretend I wasn’t disappointed in the changes that transpired. The company I was working for at the time didn’t seem to understand why I was dissatisfied with their alternative offer. I considered my options and decided it was better for me to leave the company rather than stay in a role that pulled me further away from my vision. I am sure that was not the story book ending you were hoping to hear from a career coach, but it was what I needed to do.

Alternatively, I had a client who experienced something similar. Unfortunately, she was not able to walk away as easily as I was. She had a family to support and needed to make both her job and vision work despite the change in direction from her company. Working together, we were able to craft a plan where her vision would be attainable.  We reframed her new role and department in terms of her vision. She presented her ideas to the company in a way that not only would benefit her, but also the company. It was a win-win.

When you experience unexpected and unwelcomed change, how can you reframe to make the most of it? Where have you seen examples of this in your professional career? Who have you worked with that is a good balance of pragmatic and opportunistic? How can you influence your current situation to bring you closer towards your vision?

To learn more about career coach Kate Kibler, go to

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Checking in on your vision

I have a vision… admittedly it changes about every four to five years as I learn more about myself and my career. In 2011 I was looking to make a job switch. I had lived in New York City for the last fourteen years and that is where I focused my job search. In 1997 when I first moved to New York City, New York City was part of my life’s vision. Fast forward to 2011 and I realized I was looking exclusively for a job in New York because of an old way of thinking. My life had changed. My vision had changed and I wasn't paying attention. I had no reason to limit my job search to New York. In fact, my new life vision led me to intentionally seek a change in location. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives we forget to look towards our future and think about what we really want.

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of having a vision. What I did not mention was how important it is to occasionally check up on your vision. A vision doesn't need to be static. You can add to it, change it, check in and make sure it is still applicable to your life. I would challenge everyone reading to spend time and energy on knowing your vision before making any big decisions. Contacting a career coach is a great way to do just that (forgive my shameless plug).

When was the last time you checked in to make sure your vision is still relevant? What decisions have you made because of an outdated way of thinking? What circumstances have changed in your life that may affect your vision? How can you be sure your vision matches what you currently value? 

Contact Career Coach Kate Kibler at: 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reputation - Do you know yours?

By definition reputation is a noun.   The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.

Reputation can make or break career growth.   When candidates are up for promotion or interviewing for a new role the reputation they have is a factor in whether they are selected. 

When talking about reputation in the work place it is usually based on qualities like honesty, respectfulness, effectiveness, even tempered, fairness, solidarity, helpfulness and being collaborative.  A long list of behavior qualities that can’t be measured with financial metrics but they are very important.

Much of the time when we do reference checks or hiring managers call a colleague to inquire whether a candidate might be a fit for a role, it is these behavior qualities that are discussed. 

I have had an employer not move forward with a candidate because they were told a leader was “not respectful but condescending to their team”.  I had one executive level candidate find out a former colleague was saying bad things about her in the industry and the candidate felt that it may be the reason that she was not getting selected for new opportunities.  In the candidate’s opinion the feedback was coming from jealousy and not valid or factual.  The subject of reputation can be based on office drama and politics, it is opinion and it can be unfair.  So what do we do?  Not everyone we work with is going to like us and we can’t kill ourselves trying….that would not be effective.

The people I have seen with excellent reputations stay focused on a couple of simple things.  They focus on delivering the quantifiable objectives of the job.  They work to achieve those objectives in an honest and respectful manner.  There are and should be disagreements at work.  When you disagree stay focused on working toward the solution vs. winning your point of view.  Stay calm and professional.  If things get heated, then take a break and regroup at a later time.  

What do you think your reputation is at your company?  Have you ever been asked to weigh in on someone else’s reputation? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


One of the most important aspects in building a career is having a vision. I don’t just mean a career vision; I mean a vision for your life. The reason I insist on coaching clients before offering consulting services is because I want the client to build the path to his/her vision. With a vision in sight, all of a client’s energy can focus on how to get to the vision. 

It may sound a little silly if you are not familiar with the concept, but think about it for a minute. If you are interviewing and offered a choice of two different positions with different salaries and different companies, how would you know which to choose? If you have a vision, the vision will guide your answer. For example, if you are focused on your family, live an hour from work and your vision insists that you spend more time with your kids, you may choose the lower paying job at the less prestigious company if the hours would allow you to spend more time at home. If your vision has you as a future CEO at a top tier company, you may choose the company with a better reputation for career development regardless of the salary.

How has your vision effected your career decision making? Where can your vision help lead your career? What can you do to start building a vision today?

To learn more about career coaching, go to

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three post vision series

My next three posts will be a series dedicated to vision. Vision is often discussed in the fashion industry as a topic relating to the product or brand. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone talk about an employee’s life or career vision in the twenty years I have worked in the retail industry. Managers tend to talk about career goals or may ask where an employee wants to be in 5-10 years. Goals and planning for the future are very different than building a vision. As a career coach, defining and understanding a client’s vision is a big part of what I do… helping them get there is the other half of the process. 

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never look for a job when you are unhappy

Never look for a job when you are unhappy. It was some of the best career advice I have ever received. At first it sounds counter-intuitive, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Although I had this advice in hand, I once decided to interview while unhappy in a past job. It didn’t go so well. I had a hard time articulating in interviews why I was looking for a new job while staying positive. I tried my hand at another interview and was tempted to accept a position that would not have been right for me. When people are unhappy, they tend to make bad decisions. With the words ‘never look for a job while you are unhappy’ echoing in my head, I quickly decided to hold off on my job search. Instead, I spent that energy trying to make my job at the time work.

With a renewed sense of purpose, I did make that job work. I re-dedicated my time and energy to building my career where I was. After spending another four years at that company, I moved on. When I made the change, it wasn’t because I was sad with my old job; it was because I was excited for a new challenge.
How can you decide if it is time to look for a new job? How would you classify your current career happiness? What can you do to boost your career in your current company? What are the reasons you would consider moving to a new company? Are you running away from something or running towards something? Would the job you are interviewing for be attractive if you were happy in your current position?

To learn more about career coach Kate Kibler, go to

Monday, September 9, 2013

Aesthetic. A Beautiful Principle.

In our industry aesthetic is often used as a candidate evaluation.  This can be tricky because aesthetic is very subjective and fluid. 

It can be an adjective;  concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.   "the paintings give deep aesthetic pleasure"

In the case of a quality sought in candidates it is a noun;  a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.  " she has a very goth aesthetic"

Aesthetic is a quality often evaluated in Design and Merchandising candidates.  A Designer’s aesthetic can be evaluated based on their portfolios.  Aesthetic can also be evaluated based on how a candidate dresses and presents themselves during the interview, or on their social/professional media space.  Interview questions can be asked to evaluate a candidate's aesthetic.    What brands do you think look the best this season?   What is your very favorite piece of clothing? 

Aesthetic has a huge span in fashion.   It is one of the many things that makes apparel so interesting.  Gap Kids and Justice have an entirely different aesthetic in girl’s clothing.   Some brands have a very clear aesthetic and some struggle with consistency.   If you are thinking about joining a brand it will be important that you understand their aesthetic.  What space are they in?  Is this where they want to be or are they trying to change the aesthetic?

Hiring managers are usually most comfortable selecting talent with a personal aesthetic that is aligned with the brand aesthetic. 

How important do you think aesthetic is as a candidate quality?   Can a person change their aesthetic?  (I have to hope so based on how I dressed in the 80’s.) What brands does your personal aesthetic align with?   What are some ways to determine whether aesthetic is a fit in the most objective way?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making mistakes

I make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Think of a situation where a coworker recently made a mistake. Then think of the possible reactions from your coworker once s/he realizes the mistake:

Scenario 1: S/he denies accountability and makes excuses why the mistake happened.

Scenario 2: S/he hides the mistake. You knew it happened, but the mistake was never acknowledged.

Scenario 3: S/he takes responsibility, apologizes for the mistake and asks for your help to solve the problem.

Scenario 4: S/he admits the mistake and suggests solutions on how to correct.

I’m not sure about you, but I want to be the person in scenario 4. I want to work with the person in scenario 3 or 4. Who do you want to be? Who doesn't make mistakes? What defines your career is how you handle those mistakes.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Delaying decisions

I once worked for the president of a company who never made decisions. You could go to this guy with an incredible amount of data, a clear point of view and a solid strategy. Still, he wouldn't make a decision. Eventually, he was ousted from the company. I have since recognized this as a pattern in many senior leaders. The slow decision making can be frustrating for an employee waiting to bring a project to conclusion. What is the cause of the slow decision making?

There can be many reasons a leader is delaying decision making. In my experience, a leader would like as much information possible to make sure they are making an informed choice. Often, time alone can help confirm the quality of data. Other times, that leader wants to gain support from corporate partners or clients before resolving the issue. I have also seen a leader delay moving a project forward because they do not want to be accountable for the outcome. Fear can be very powerful.

In the end, if you are waiting for a decision on a project you want to move forward, think about how you can help your leader. What is their hesitation on finalizing the decision? Where can you alleviate some remaining concerns around the project? How can you help them gain support from corporate partners or clients? How can you ‘manage up’?

If you want to learn more about career coaching go to

Monday, August 26, 2013

Can I take a year off?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a manual that had all of the certain answers about how to make choices in your career?  Many candidates approach me with the question of what it would mean to their career to take a year off.  Most wish there was a definitive answer…. but maybe it is good that there isn’t.

Some people want to unplug to travel, to care for a loved one who is ill, to spend time with their children, or just to rest their souls.   Some teachers get sabbaticals: paid leave every seven years to study or travel.  Not so much in fashion.   We are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act FMLA where if your situation qualifies   you can take up to 26 weeks unpaid time off to care for a family member and be guaranteed a job when you return.   Though you need to review this legislation and how your employer interprets  FMLA prior to making any decisions.

If your situation is not covered by FMLA and you want to take a year off to travel, or further your education, or pursue some passion, there are no certainties about how it will impact your career.   Here are some things to consider.  How happy are you in your current role?  Would you want to return to the same company?   In some cases it can be easier to take additional time off as part of a transition to a new employer.  On the flip side there is certainly risk involved when you leave one job without having another job lined up.  You also lose some negotiating leverage on salary when you are interviewing for new roles without coming directly from a current salary.   

Really smart employers will be flexible to retain talent that is performing.   If you have a great relationship with your current company and would want to return to them, an option would be to have a candid discussion with your boss and your HR generalist about your desire to take some time off.  Work with them on the timing so they can cover your role before you take the time off.   

I know candidates who negotiated to work part time for a year so they stayed connected but had time to devote to other priorities. 

Some candidates did this seamlessly.  For example, one fabulous designer on the West Coast wanted to take 6 months to surf all around the world.  She resigned from a company where she had worked for  6 consecutive years.  She had great success and career progression in her time there.  She gave them plenty of notice,  got references from them, and left on great terms.  She did take calls from recruiters while she traveled and stayed networked so that when she returned there were options and contacts waiting to visit with her. 

There have also been candidates who have not returned to their careers as easily as planned.  Some have taken roles with less responsibility and money, some had to job hunt for much longer than they anticipated.  In one case the candidate left the industry entirely after 2 full years of job hunting.

At the end of the day this is a personal decision that requires thought and planning.   It is extremely important to carefully weigh the risks and benefits.  Strong  business relationships and a great network of industry colleagues will greatly assist returning to a satisfying role.   I would love to hear from you if you have taken some extended time off and how it impacted your life and your career. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Size matters

I felt very successful as a young manager. I had a small team of one, then three, then five. I had a great deal of time to spend with my team giving them the tools they needed to be successful to move forward in their careers. For the most part, we were a happy, high performing team. I switched jobs and my next team was made up of eighty five people. It was a big jump, but I was a strong leader. I knew I could handle it. What was the difference between five and eighty five? It turns out there is a big difference.

It was impossible to give everyone the personal attention I gave to my previous teams and be involved in all of the daily tasks that went along with my previous roles. I quickly realized that one style of management does not work for everyone in your team. What could I do to still be a good leader with this large group? After a short period of floundering like a fish out of water, I decided to start listening. What did each person need from me to feel fulfilled, get their job done and build their skills? Some needed personal attention while others enjoyed autonomy.  Most needed me to help clear obstacles so they could move forward with their functional roles. Some needed encouragement and affirmation that they were on the right path with their leadership and job function. Others were concerned with career development.

The balance of my job had shifted. In prior roles I had spent about 35% of my time on leading and developing my team, 5% on clerical/ budget work and 60% of my time in my functional role. With this large team, 50% of my time was spent leading and developing my team, 20% on clerical and 30% on functional tasks and cross-departmental relationships. The shift in time from functional tasks to leadership was not easy until I realized my team was handling most of the functional tasks. They, and the company, didn't need me for that.  The team needed leadership. Most of all, they needed what they specifically asked for.

In the end I was able to become a successful leader for this large team, but it wasn't overnight. What can you do to prepare for a change in team size? How can you better understand expectations? How can you see when some people respond to your leadership while others shun it? How do you find the balance between team development and functional tasks?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Monday, August 19, 2013


Usually when someone writes in all capital letters it seems like the writer is shouting. If you notice, the post title is in all caps. It is intentional and should be read as though I am shouting. Over the years I have given many presentations to students about the fashion business. In almost every presentation a student will ask what the best piece of advice I can give for them to be successful in the fashion industry. My answer is always the same. KEEP IN TOUCH.

It sounds simple, but the new generation of students graduating is not very good with this. I specifically remember a presentation I gave about two years ago; I shared the same advice with about fifteen students. I gave every student my business card and encouraged them to stay in touch. Two out of fifteen followed up one time.  I responded to both students positively and was open to keeping the connection. I never heard from either one of them again. I cannot express enough how unwise this is for students. Relationships are everything in this business and if you don’t have any, your upcoming job search will be difficult. Friending someone on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ just isn’t enough to build a relationship with executives in the fashion industry.  If you want a relationship, a personal email or phone call is what would make you stand out from the crowd.

I admit that I have not maintained connections to everyone I have ever met or worked with, but I will tell you that everyone who has remained a connection has been helpful in my career and vice versa.

Who are you happy you connected with? How can you better maintain connections with new acquaintances? How have your connections helped in your career? How have you helped your connections with their careers? What has held you back from staying in touch with potential business connections?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Managing up

We have all heard the term 'manage up'. When I first heard it, I had no idea what it really meant. I thought it meant brown-nosing. Basically, I thought if you were 'managing up' you were 'kissing up'. In one annual review many years back, I had a boss tell me I needed to learn how to 'manage up'. I was perplexed. I got my job done, and done well. My peers, employees and even my boss' boss were very happy with me. What did she mean by 'manage up'? Rather than leave the review in the dark, I simply asked her what she meant. My boss wanted me to give her daily updates on what I have been doing, what issues I encountered, any news I heard about, and how I solved problems. Although I was doing my job, she felt out of the loop. That was an easy problem to solve once I knew more about what she wanted.

I have also seen the opposite problem though. I once had an employee that came to me with every small dilemma he encountered in a day. This wasn't an assistant or associate. This is someone who had been working for quite a while. I wanted him to 'manage up' by making his own decisions and solving his own problems. I would be there for the big stuff when he needed me. It turns out his previous boss wanted involvement in the minutia. Once we had the conversation about what my expectations were and how I trusted him, the behavior changed. He started to 'manage up'.

What does it mean to manage up with your boss? How can you be sure that you are managing up? What does your leader need or want from you? What conversations have you had with your leader surrounding expectations? How can you balance 'managing up' with getting your job done? How can 'managing up' improve your daily work life? Who can help you 'manage up'?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Monday, August 12, 2013

Love Your Life

This is going to be a very personal post for me.  As I am writing this I am spending the night in the hospital with a very dear friend who is fiercely battling Stage 4 Melanoma.   She is sleeping and I am catching up on work emails. 

I am and always have been a very driven person when it comes to my career.  From college until I had my first child, my career in fashion/retail was my TOP priority.   It caused some strain on those closest to me and my personal relationships but those who loved me hung in there!  When I had a child my world shifted entirely.   There were no longer enough hours in the day for me to be who I used to be from a career perspective and who I wanted to be for my family.   I watched other parents do this seamlessly but I struggled.  I felt I wasn’t doing any of my roles well and wrestled with stress, anxiety and fatigue.  I continued to push on for seven months.  The morning of September 11th 2001 I said goodbye to my husband who  I had not spent quiet time with for as long as I could remember. I dropped our son off at a day care provider I was not satisfied with, and headed to work.  I was on the phone with a vendor in NYC when the planes hit.  I was supposed to be in NYC that day but my work trip had been pushed out.   It was a pivotal moment for me and millions of people.  Life is precious.   I realized I needed to make a change. 

After 12 years of all career it was frightening to let go.  I discussed it with my family and we decided I would step out of the industry for a year and see how it went.  We planned from a budget perspective…slashed our income in more than half….moved to a smaller home.   I was in a new world of stay at home moms with children.  For six months I introduced myself including the fact that I used to be a Merchant.   Hard to leave that identity.   I took an entire year off that I will NEVER regret.  But there is a part of me that gets great validation from my career and I just love the people in our industry.  So I slowly started working again.  12 years and an additional child later I have my own business and am back to full time work.

It is not the dream I used to have of being a Brand President leading an army of fashion talent but it works with the rest of my life.  The days are intense but there is balance and flexibility.  My dear friend who is fighting for days reminds me how important it is to love your life every day.  Our industry is intense and the more we earn the more is expected of us.  However when people perform, have confidence and plan there are always options.   I talk to many candidates who are not happy and in an unhealthy work environment .   Life is too short.  Make sure you stop and evaluate.  Have you had a pivotal moment?  Did you make adjustments or just keep muscling through?   Do you enjoy what you do?  Does your career allow you to have a balance in life that works for you and those you love? Does your life allow you to do work that you enjoy?   If you need to make a change…what are your options?   Keep an open mind there might be wonderful things you never considered just around the corner!