John Neral, MA, CPC reawakens, energizes, galvanizes and innovates the mind think of employees, corporations, associations and systems. He is a celebrated executive/career and professional development coach and an in-demand, mindset-shifting public speaker.

Prior to this, John served as a professional development manager of an instructional coaching program in the District of Columbia Public Schools system (DCPS); a mathematics educator for 16 years, and a state educational assessment specialist (DC). He’s also been a longstanding corporate consultant for Fortune 500 giant, Casio America, Inc. and a Training and Staffing Director for an Educational Non-Profit (AIR). He now leads John Neral Coaching, LLC, one of the most progressive, mindset-shifting professional and organizational coaching and public speaking firms in the U.S. and is the author of the new book, SHOW UP – Six Strategies to Lead a More Energetic and Impactful Career.

In this episode, John asked us some questions to help us make progress in our own lives. Listen for the great tips and the challenge he invites all of us to join. 

Your Challenge Invitation from John

I put up a photo recently of two chairs, too empty chairs, and they were just next to each other. And underneath the chairs, it said who do you need to talk to today? And that would be my challenge to your listeners.

There is somebody out there whom you’ve been wanting to talk to. Whether it be at work, be a colleague or your boss. It could be at home with your spouse, your kids, a relative. It could be with a friend. It could be even with a complete stranger, but who do you want to talk to today?

The gift of having the intentional conversation is with one sole purpose in mind. And that is to move the relationship forward. How does having that conversation with somebody you want to do today going to help you move that relationship forward. And at a time right now, where we are collectively experiencing so many things, the gift of having an intentional conversation with somebody right now, I truly believe it’s one of the best things. And that would be my challenge to your listeners.

Contact and follow John through his website, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram orTwitter.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

When we pay to get something done and it is done well, and it is of high quality, we really feel empowered. – John Neral

Timeline of the Chat

00:00 – John’s bio
1:50 – Changing Jobs from Education to Career Coaching
4:52 – Recognizing when it’s time for a career change
5:56 – The biggest challenge of John’s career advancement journey
7:36 – Learning from challenges to make progress
12:52 – About John’s coaching work
14:37 – Approaches to career coaching
15:32 – Work in the time of COVID-19
16:45 – The biggest change during COVID-19
19:09 – Dealing with death and grief
22:44 – What does it mean to SHOW UP
26:31 – The Six Strategies, with an example of their application in family relationships
30:30 – How the six strategies work together
33:50 – The starting question to ask yourself about your career
35:24 – What you’re good at versus what you enjoy
38:01 – An approach for generalists
39:47 – The Best Advice if you’re reentering the workforce or switching careers
46:01 – Today’s challenge
48:00 – Listening to each other for meaningful conversations
52:29 – How to connect with John
54:32 – Outro

What did I do well, what did I learn and what do I need to work on. – John Neral quoting from Lanny Bassham

Quick Links

To acknowledge and validate what’s going on is I think one of the biggest gifts we can give to somebody, even if it’s not perfect. – John Neral

Transcript of the Episode

Changing Jobs from Education to Career Coaching [00:01:50]

Damianne: [00:01:50] Likewise. You were in education for many years and then you have transitioned into being a coach. Of course you’ve done the job of coaching over many years but it’s still a career change for you. How did you decide to leave education and become a coach?

John: [00:02:05] So the big pivot for me really started to happen while I was working for the educational nonprofit, American Institutes for Research. I was there as a training and staffing director and what I had learned in the five years that I was there was that I certainly brought a lot of content expertise.

So the work that we were doing was that we were writing large scale summative assessments for students all across the United States and our partners, if you will, were state departments of education. So we had a team of content specialists across all subject areas that were writing these items. And I was asked to move very quickly after I had joined into a role to focus on training and staffing.

And what I had found was that I was doing a lot of coaching albeit organically in the workplace. I was loving it but there was a big shift between what I had been doing as an instructional coach and wanting to be really good at being a corporate coach and coaching people on a lot of the issues and challenges that they were facing in the workplace.

So I went and got certified. I enrolled in a coaching program through IPEC, which is the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, which I’m very honored to say is currently running classes in Europe and it is worldwide, which is great. It was a very rigorous program that took me almost a year and over 300 hours to get my certification.

 I had every intention of bringing a coaching program into the organization. What I found was that we didn’t share the same vision and there is no disdain or anger or upset in saying that because it was just very simply a business decision. Executive leadership didn’t see us moving in that kind of direction and so where it left me after a couple of reorganizations was to really question where I wanted to move my career. 

When I started my coaching program, I had no intention whatsoever of launching my business full time. As things progressed, it became very apparent that that was the move I was going to make and I did so because I had an opportunity to serve more people outside of my organization than I could internally. And so that changed for me was big because it was about me stepping outside of my comfort zone and going into business for myself with a whole primary motive of reaching and serving more people than I could have done inside of that organization.

Recognizing the time for career change [00:04:52]

Damianne: [00:04:52] Yes, that’s very challenging I find, especially in education. I worked in education for 15 years as well. One of my last roles was to coach teachers within the school where I was working with technology integration, but sometimes the disconnect can happen where you have one vision and you really see where things can go, but sometimes schools have so many different priorities that it doesn’t necessarily align with where you want your career to focus.

John:[00:05:22] Absolutely and the thing, and I love that we share this experience in common is that where I personally found the struggle was in my core values and what I wanted to do and how I wanted to serve and make this kind of impact. When it wasn’t directly in front of me in terms of where I was working, and that could be said for all of the education jobs that I had held, it was up to me to really lean in and decide what was the next step I wanted to make.

The Biggest challenge of John’s career advancement journey [00:05:53]

Damianne: [00:05:53] As you’ve gone through your career advancement journey, what challenges have you’re faced? 

John: [00:06:05] The biggest challenge for me really happened when I was teaching in Northern New Jersey in a very, very nice district with great staff and great families and loved what I was doing and I was stale. 

I was just stale and I didn’t feel like that was fair to the kids. While I was still delivering quality instruction and still loving the time that I was spending with my middle school students and getting a lot of energy from them and vice versa, I wasn’t going to work with the same kind of feeling that I was excited about what I was doing.

 For me standing in front of a room of 25 middle-schoolers who were there to learn math, it got really challenging for me because I thought, gosh, if I’m not serving them fully, then I need to step aside and let somebody else come in so I can figure out exactly where it was I wanted to serve. And for me, that was making this transition to work more with adults.

I wanted to go to work with teachers and improve their practice and their instruction. That would then, in turn, impact the instruction students in their classroom was receiving. That was a big change. That was a big change to really say, gosh, the way I thought my career was going to go wasn’t happening in the way that I thought.

Learning from challenges to make progress [00:07:36]

Damianne: [00:07:36] One thing I found is that when we’re tested, that’s one thing that can really channel our progress. That’s one thing that can really push us forward. Did you have such an experience that you felt that although it was a challenge, it really channeled your energy into making some progress?

John: [00:07:59] It’s very interesting how the universe aligns. For me, I was actually feeling this pull not only professionally but also personally. So back in 2008, I had met my now husband and we had a long distance relationship for two years. So we were 250 miles apart from each other and his job was really good.

I knew I wanted to make a move. For me, it was about finding a job in Washington, DC. I told him that I wouldn’t come down unless I had a job offer. So there was all of this personal stuff that was going on, which was I now have an opportunity to pursue a relationship that I’ve been wanting to do and saw really, really good things in taking the opportunity to do that.

And then there was also this professional piece, which was I was going to move professionally anyway. So what’s really the difference between moving next door, the next neighborhood over or moving a few states away and starting a whole new opportunity there.

When I started my work in the district of Columbia public schools, and I managed a team of 21 instructional coaches across 13 middle schools, the lift that I experienced professionally, I could never have gotten anywhere else. I am so grateful for that work and that opportunity and the learning that had happened. 

I am still connected and colleagues and friends with people whom I had worked with on that job, which is now 10 years ago. I am so grateful for those experiences. And so getting pushed, be it both personally and professionally, really was the impetus for me to make this kind of change that was really, really big in my life at the time.

Damianne: [00:09:58] It sounds like it was a major job change in terms of much more responsibilities, something different that what you had done before. That could be quite scary to a lot of people. 

John: [00:10:11] It was absolutely. It was very scary. And then you throw in the thought of I don’t want to fail, right. I don’t want to start this new job and then all of a sudden sit there and go, well, it’s not working out and I failed at it and now I gotta go back. That was never in my purview or my intention but I knew there was a huge learning curve.

I worked in a upper middle class district, primarily white, and here I am going to work in a school system that is primarily African American and I’m the white guy that’s coming in here. There were many colleagues who had pulled me aside and they were like, “Do you know what you’re getting into?”

I was like yes and no. There’s a lot of things that I have to learn. And so I made these agreements with all of my coaches that when I went to their schools, I wasn’t gonna say anything. I was there to listen and to learn. 

I’d say to them, I want you to take me and show me your building. Show me your staff, show me your students. Show me what’s working well and show me what isn’t. You need to know I’m going to be really quiet for the first couple of times I come. And then you and I are going to sit down and we’re going to figure out exactly what the plan is and the action that we’re going to have to help improve teacher performance to impact student achievement.

Had I come in there in any other way other than my authentic self and had been like, okay, here’s what we’re going to be doing right off from day one, I would never have earned the trust and respect from the people I was working with. I had been doing instructional coaching in my other job but it was nothing like what I was going to experience.

So that’s where I needed to be humble and I needed to be respectful and I needed to be open-minded. So I could really build a partnership with my coaches.

Damianne: [00:12:09] Yeah, that’s very important. I remember when I first started doing coaching work with teachers, I thought I had to work with everybody. And I thought I had to push and push and push, and it was really a mindset shift to realize that it’s about partnership. And so you’re working with people who want to work with you; that’s where the success lies.

And so it’s a matter of how to get people to work with you. And if you’re pushing all the time, you’re not going to make a whole lot of progress. And so I really appreciate the way you come across in terms of the work that you do…

John: [00:12:46] thank you

Damianne: [00:12:47]… which is perfect for us to talk about the work that you do. 

About John’s Coaching Work 

[00:12:52] Who are your clients? Why should people go through career coaching? 

John: [00:12:56] I think everybody should give themselves an opportunity to work with a coach at some point in their life, whether it’s health coaching, life coaching, career coaching, leadership coaching, spiritual, whatever it is. 

We get into coaching because we believe so strongly in the power that coaching contains. What I have come to find is that my niche or my sweet spot is working with the mid career professional, someone who typically has somewhere between seven to 15 years experience. Their biggest fear is of being stuck. They realized they are capable of doing more, but they are unsure of how to get there.

 Whether they are employed or they’re not currently employed, the process of navigating a career pivot can be very overwhelming. My job is to guide them through a very systematic approach that’s going to take a look at their attitudes and their leadership skills, their workplace strengths, and how to leverage them, to take a look at their resume, their LinkedIn, how they network, how they interview, but most importantly, help them tell their career story from a place of value that they get to bring to a new organization or the value they get to bring to an advanced role within their current company. 

Coaching gives this person the space and the grace to open themselves up to be asked the questions that they need to have asked to them so they can move and make the impact. 

Approaches to Career Coaching [00:14:37] 

Damianne: [00:14:37] Is career coaching it always about advancement, always about career advancement, or are there other dimensions? 

John: [00:14:45] There’s absolutely other dimensions and certainly advancement is one part of it. Career coaching is also about helping people explore where they fit, right, where they get to leverage their strengths. That could be currently in the job that they’re in. I have worked with clients who are currently in leadership roles and they’re looking for ways to move their team differently.

It’s not an advancement per se in terms of title and money, but it’s an advancement in the way that they’re showing up and doing the work that they’re doing. So yes, there’s always an advancement piece in the sense that you’re growing and you’re moving, but it is not always about getting a better job with more money.

Damianne: [00:15:30] Okay. So it could be about doing things differently or doing things in a way that you feel like you’re showing up. And we’re going to talk about what you mean by that a bit later.

Work in the time of COVID-19 [00:15:42]

Twenty twenty started out as such a promising year. It was a new decade. Everyone was so excited setting goals and all of that stuff. And then we’ve seen COVID-19.

We see all of the struggles that are happening in the US and around the world. How has your work changed in the past few months with COVID-19?

John: [00:16:03] My work hasn’t really changed all that much. I pretty much had a virtual business. One of the interesting things about the Washington DC area being a major city is that sometimes navigating around here can be very time consuming. So it is far easier for me to meet with a client over the phone or by Zoom just as much if they’re local as if they are across the country. I pretty much had that virtual component set up in my business. 

Now I had speaking engagements and things that were tied to the book that understandably got canceled or have been postponed and rescheduled. So in that part, that was a change.

The biggest change during COVID-19 [00:16:45]

But the biggest change for me was when my circle of friends lost one of our friends due to COVID-19. That was something that had happened at the end of March, so very early on in terms of where we were seeing things escalate in terms of the number of cases of Coronavirus, but also the numbers of deaths.

 When we found out that our friend had passed away, it really sent a shockwave through our very close circle of friends. I like to say that we have our families of choice and our families of origin and our families of choice that make up our friends and those people who are so close to us whom we’re not biologically connected to. For the dozen or so of our friends that knew George, to hear of his passing hit us really, really hard.

And so any thoughts about being invulnerable to the coronavirus went out the window when someone you know not only gets it but passes away from it. 

So there was a lot of things personally that hit all of us really hard in that respect. And so the mindset and the behavior was stay home, limit the exposure of going out. We only go to the supermarket. We only go to a doctor’s appointment needed. Keep your social distance when you are out and follow the science. 

And so professionally, work is still going on, which is great. And I still get to serve my amazing clients and have fantastic conversations like you and I are doing today and all my networking calls and potentially talking to new clients and things like that. The biggest change for us and for me personally, was just when you have a friend who passes away from this, sadly, it wakes you up in a different way. 

Damianne: [00:18:40] My condolences. 

John: [00:18:41] Thank you. 

Damianne: [00:18:42] I talk about grief in episode 20 of the podcast. It’s not specific to coronavirus, but you might find some helpful suggestions and ideas if you’re experiencing grief or helping somebody else who’s grieving.

 Some people are having anticipatory grief because of the effects of COVID-19 on their life or how they think it will change their life because of job lost or things going on.

Dealing with death and grief [00:19:08]

I hear people often saying let’s give each other some grace. I think that’s very broad. I tend to think too much. I’m always like what does that exactly mean? One thing that I’ve decided is that it means giving people space to make mistakes, to not be as you expect or want them to be. Just let some things go that you might not ordinarily let go.

John: [00:19:34] So it’s such a great point. When we talk about grief, death is uncomfortable for those who remain. We deal with the loss and the emotional pain, and it can be very awkward for many, many people to figure out exactly what to say in that moment. We see a lot of things even on social where people will put in sorry for your loss.

 I’m not saying they don’t mean it in any way, shape or form, but it’s that like obligatory or customary thing that you put out there and then you’re like, okay, let’s go ahead and move on.

And while not COVID related during this time as well, I had a very good friend of mine pass away from a five-year battle with cancer. And so as I was talking to his wife, and here’s the thing, what has helped me and I will share this to you and your listeners is that I will say, I don’t mean for this to sound like a dumb question but how are you doing. Cause you know the answer is gonna be not well, no, I’m not doing well. But to acknowledge and validate what’s going on is I think one of the biggest gifts we can give to somebody, even if it’s not perfect.

We’re not trained really well in how to do these kinds of things. And so the space and the grace, like you said, is about realizing that people may not handle it perfectly, they may not say the perfect thing, but that you’re heard and that you’re listened to. And that I think right now, with what we are seeing so much in the world and especially here in the US, people are wanting to be heard right now. They need to be heard and that is a call to action we can all step up and do. 

Damianne: [00:21:34] Krista Tippett had a podcast episode; she has a podcast called On Being and she interviewed Ruby Bridges sometime back. One of the questions that Ruby Bridges shared that she asks people is “where does it hurt”? And another thing I’ve heard people say is how are you doing right now?

Within the scope of things, we know that overall we’re struggling, but sometimes when people are going through a very difficult time, focusing on the right now can really help them hone in on sharing something with you because it’s not too big in terms of everything that you’re feeling. 

John: [00:22:17] I love that. Yeah. It’s an interesting time for sure. 

Damianne: [00:22:20] You’re listening to a conversation between me and John Neral. John’s an executive career and professional development coach. You can learn strategies for an effective career from him in his new book Show Up: Six Strategies to Lead a More Energetic and Impactful Career.

Show Up [00:22:43]

That ties into the idea of showing up. I get the impression that you were talking about showing up at work, but then you also talk about showing up in a life in terms of being authentic and that how we at work is who we are. It’s about our whole self. Would You please share a bit about what you mean by show up and the concept of showing up.

John: [00:23:09] Sure. Showing up is very personal and it’s personal because when I go back and I think about the events that have happened in my life, there were expectations, and understandably so, as to how I was supposed to show up. 

When you realize that you need to show up differently than the way people expect you to, it’s a huge call to own where you are and act upon it. So for me, I never came out to my family until I was 28 years old. My life took me on a series of steps and events that I knew when I came out to my very staunch religious family, that it was going to go over well. It wasn’t going to go over well for a variety of reasons.

Through the process of my coming out, what I had learned amidst all of the pain and the heartache was that there was this level of perseverance that I had never, ever known before. So being disowned from your family, it’s hard, but the easy part then is just walking away, like, okay, that’s done, I’m done.

I’m going to walk away and that’s it. And yes, there was a time that I did that. The harder part is rebuilding the relationship after all the cards have fallen. For me, that pivotal event was when my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom wanted to see me before she went into the hospital for a procedure, which I did.

And my mom was very curious. She would say to me “are you still with him” because she could not accept the fact that I was in a relationship with someone, even though it was a committed, monogamous relationship, she could not accept that. And she said are you still with him? And at the time, my partner I had separated and we were no longer together.

And her immediate response was well good. And I go no, you don’t get to do that cause we’re going to set some ground rules. And the ground rules are you don’t get to take delight in the fact that my relationship is no longer. You’ve asked me to come down and see you before you go into the hospital. So this isn’t an opportunity to gloat.

I love you. I’m going to be here for you, but I’m also not going to have you attack me and have you attack my character and who I am. So we’re going to set some ground rules on this. And I got really clear with her about what I needed, but also what I wanted. And in return, she did the same thing for me. And my mom and my dad and I worked really, really hard from that point. Not that we hadn’t been before, but from that point on it was so pivotal about understanding and setting the ground rules for what we needed. We had to own where we were, right?

The Six Strategies in SHOW UP [00:26:30]

The six strategies in the book are setting ground rules, having intentional conversations, own where you are, welcome new opportunities, use your genius, protect and promote your brand. I learned in helping to work with my parents on repairing our relationship all six of those strategies came into play very vibrantly and vividly throughout everything that we did.

Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Did it get ugly at times? Oh yeah, it did. But we came to the table because we still acknowledged we loved each other. Right. So for me to sit there and say to my mom, you don’t get to gloat over the fact that my relationship is over. I’m not asking for your approval, but if we’re going to move this forward, this is what we need to do from this point. 

Thankfully my mom got through that surgery okay. And in early 2000, 2004, my dad passed away suddenly. There’s a defining moment, and I described this in the book. It was about six months after my dad had passed and my mom looked at me and she goes, I don’t know how you’ve done it. I said, what do you mean? And she goes, being single is hard. I think she said it sucked. She’s like being single sucks. 

And I go, you know what, mom, you’re right. It’s a lonely and I go, you and dad were married for 55 years. I go you had this amazing marriage and this wonderful relationship, and you loved each other so much and you are blessed because of it. Why can’t I have the same thing? Damianne, at that point, it was like a light bulb went off.

 It wasn’t that she fully accepted, it wasn’t that she fully got it, but she was starting to. She was starting to understand and empathize with me about what I had been going through a little bit in my life. And I’m very happy to say that by the time my mom passed, we had literally come full circle. 

For an 84 year old woman who quote, unquote finally got it on her own terms, she could welcome my husband. Richard and I did not get married until after my mom had passed. It also was not legal here in the US for us to do that while she was alive, but she knew we were in a relationship. In her own way, she got it. And she gave us her blessing on that. But had I not shown up in the ways that I did and learn those lessons along the way, that would have never happened.

And it also would never have happened had my mom and my dad and my family not shown up in that way either. And so now you’d take all of those strategies that I had personally experienced, and I started finding common themes with them throughout my career, in how I was managing my own career. I was leading my teams and leading my departments and leading my staff around these were the common themes what it meant to SHOW UP.

And I see the same themes over and over again with my clients day in and day out. So the strategies are really easy to call out and coach them around those things because they are relatable, they are tangible and they are memorable to really help move them forward 

How the Six Strategies work together [00:30:30]

Damianne: [00:30:30] How do the six strategies work with each other? Do they all have to happen at the same time or is there one you have to develop, you know kind of like a domino effect that helps you?

John: [00:30:41] So in my work with my clients, the first strategy we always work on his own where you are. As a coach, I can not help my client move forward unless we take a really hard look at their self assessment for what is working well and what isn’t. 

There’s a great book by Lanny Bassham called With Winning in Mind. Lanny Bassham is a two time Olympic gold medalist in the 50 mix, one of the shooting events. He was in the Olympics in 72 and 76. What he had done was he developed this mental management system and you can Google it and check it all out, which is phenomenal. 

It’s based on three questions that he would evaluate at the end of a training or at the end of a competition. It was what did I do well, what did I learn and what do I need to work on? 

Damianne: [00:31:31] Oh, interesting cause I’ve been in meetings over and over again where the presenter has used that but I did not know where it was from.

John: [00:31:40] Yeah. For my clients, I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them thrive, what frustrates them, where they feel their greatest value is and where they want to grow. I want to know what they loath. So I want to get really clear about their attitudes behind a variety of situations, and I also want to get to know their strengths.

 So once we own where we are, then the other five strategies open themselves up in some really interesting ways. So they are all dealt with or strategized collectively but there are times, for example, let’s say if I’m working with somebody as new to a leadership role, the idea about setting ground rules and having intentional conversations is paramount for them to start building trust with their teams, right. 

I don’t think we talk enough about brand and I think brands gets very, conflated or confused in terms of the social dynamic. We see people on social and they’re talking about their personal brand and everything. We all have a personal brand. In the workplace, I like to use the quote from Jeff Bezos, from Amazon, which is your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

And a lot of times people aren’t aware of what’s being said. It confuses them when they are passed up for a promotion or they don’t qualify for a certain position maybe because of experience. And they don’t fully understand what their brand is. Now their reputation is how well they’re executing on their brand. 

if you are looking at moving the needle in your career, you’ve got to know what your brand is and you’ve got to promote it. Of course, sometimes if your brand is not what you want, you need to change it. 

And the W in terms of welcoming new opportunities ties in really well with the U, which is using your genius.

The Starting Question to Ask Yourself [00:33:50]

And for people who are at mid career and anybody who is listening to your podcast today, what I would say to them is what are you really, really, really good at? When you think about the work that you’re doing, what makes you an expert or like I like to say a genius at it. You are the person who is the go to in the office; when something needs to be done, they call you, they come and get you.

When you know what your genius is, you are in a far better position to leverage that when you look at the opportunities that are out there for you. You get to find how you get to solve somebody’s pain point or problem. Interestingly enough, I happen to work with a lot of program managers and project managers. And the one thing I always say to them is I’ve never met a mediocre project manager.

I’m like you’re either really, really good at what you do or you’re really, really bad at it, but no one seems to land in the middle. And we have this really nice laugh at this point. And I’m like, why are you an outstanding project manager?

And they will be able to rattle off things because they know from leading their projects, this is where they’re most valuable. We all need to be having that conversation in terms of our genius and how we get to move that forward. 

The relationship between what you’re good at and what you enjoy [00:35:21] 

Damianne: [00:35:21] Yeah, I think sometimes people struggle with the whole idea of, I can find my next advancement opportunity belief or mindset. I’ve definitely fall victim to this, sometimes have trouble with focusing, like maybe we enjoy lots of things. 

I heard you say what are you really good at? And I’m wondering, how does that compare with, what do I really enjoy doing or what have I always enjoyed doing? What’s the balance between those things?

John: [00:35:53] The way that I’ve been able to define it, the way that I’ve been able to say it in my clients and the conversations we have in our coaching sessions, if you think about something you really enjoy doing whether it’s at work or at home, whatever that is, when you get so immersed into that activity, that you’ve lost track of time, there is a level of enjoyment that equates to that, right? 

So I know for me, when I got out of the classroom that as I was working with teachers or I was working with staff, the best and favorite part of my day would be a checkin meeting with my team because the energy that we’d be able to create, the conversations that we would have and the opportunity to set action steps to move them forward professionally, whatever that was, that was my favorite time of the day. 

But if you threw me behind a spreadsheet, I’d hate it. I would hate it. I would do it, but I would hate it. That’s what I mean. I think there are those things that we can look for that we really like to do because we’re really good at it and we lose track of time in doing so, because we don’t consider that to be work.

It would be like somebody who works in accounting and they’re masterful at it. Um, they would rather work outside and do work with their hands, be it landscaping, working in forestry, whatever that might be, something completely different from the suit and the tie and and the business attire and everything that she or he is wearing but something totally different. 

That’s what they’re really good at and they’re passionate about. What would it look like if they took that and moved that opportunity forward for them to SHOW UP?

What about generalists? [00:38:00]

Damianne: [00:38:01] What about if there people who are good at several different things?

John: [00:38:05] So we refer to them as generalists. What I have said when I’ve worked with younger professionals is that’s a really good time for them to get good at a lot of different things. You get into a new organization, explore all the different things that you can do but still land on something that you get to be really, really,really good at. 

It’s great that you know a lot of things and when we think about people who have worked at companies for 15, 20, 25 years, they’ve done so many different roles that their view of the organization is different.

 My husband, for example, is a third generation librarian. And he leads a team of more than 15, 18 people that he leads collectively in his organization. 

His job in his leadership role is, and he’s really, really good at it, but if you gave him an opportunity to digitize something or to research something and to help, he’s got those skills cause he’s done that work. It allows him to touch back in a little bit on that which he loved to do at a certain point in time that he could still go back and do. Yet he still loves what he gets to do now. 

 There are times when we see ourselves all over the place in terms of things that we do, but as we advance in our careers, there always tends to be something we gravitate a little bit to than others. And that is an opportunity for us to really question and get curious as to how much do I really like that and how much do I want to continue. 

The best advice if you’re reentering the workforce or switching careers [00:39:47]

Damianne: [00:39:47] You’ve made the move a few times into different careers and you must have developed, learned new skills as part of that process. Sometimes I see people who either there may be moms who have been out of the workforce for a while and they want transition into another career, or anybody else wants to transition. 

 Reading some of the online tools, you can find the strengths in whatever you’ve been doing in order to be able to create your resume, to show what you’re offering to an organization. But I have to admit as somebody who went through this journey myself, it was quite overwhelming to figure out where to start,what do you actually pull, how can you promote yourself into a new role.

 Is there a resource that you can suggest to listeners or actions that you think would support with this kind of transition?

John:[00:40:38] I firmly believe that one of the things best things anybody can do to take the overwhelm of where they are at in their job search is that if they’re really clear about some work that they want to do, get your resume professionally written by someone who is an expert at doing it. And you do this for a couple of reasons.

First thing is if you are not an expert resume writer, it is too overwhelming. You will struggle with the format. You will struggle with the language. You will struggle with how to get your resume through an applicant tracking system successfully. 

Damianne: [00:41:22] And so that’s because a lot of the systems used nowadays are electronic systems. That’s what you’re referring to?

John: [00:41:28] Right. Absolutely. So larger companies, let’s say when you submit your resume, they have a metric, if you will, that pairs up your resume with the job posting and see how closely it aligns. 

Now what we don’t know is what the cutoff score is for that particular job. You want to get your resume as closely aligned to it as possible, but if you never get your resume past that artificial intelligence, then you’re never going to get seen by a human being. And so put that work in the hands of somebody who is an expert at it. 

 I know for anybody that works with me one-on-one, I pay to get your resume professionally written. And I don’t write it because I’m not a resume writer, but I have a coach colleague of mine who does a fantastic job. All of my clients have been happy with her. And so I just make that part of my services. I’ll pay to get your resume done. 

Here’s what that does. It frees them up from all of the worry of having to do that themselves.

When we pay to get something done and it is done well, and it is of high quality, we really feel empowered by what we were able to get in return. What I say is is that once you get that resume back, you now have permission to play and to play full out. 

Submit that resume for the jobs that you want. You may have to make a little bit customization or tweak to it here or there to match up some key words. But nothing is going to be like the lift of having to rewrite that resume completely. Then we can test it and see how well is your resume performing. 

In the US today, we just got a new report that was like 1.3 or 1.9 million more people file claims for unemployment. So we currently have 42 million people in the US that are unemployed and looking for work. But you get that resume done, now you know that that part’s taken care of. 

 If you get somewhere in the ballpark of a 15% response rate that you’re at least getting a resume through and acknowledge that, yes, we’re going to have you come to a first round interview or no, you didn’t qualify, but thank you. If you get either one of those and you get 15% out of everybody that you’re submitting to, we actually say that’s a pretty good response rate. 

You get that up to around 20 to 25%, your resume is performing exceptionally well. So it is always a numbers game. You need to get one offer and then you need to decide whether you want to accept that offer or not.

But getting the resume done, especially for people who are looking to reenter the workforce, or if they’ve been out of work. To me that is the most bang for your buck and worthwhile investment. You professionally show up and stand out differently when it is done by an expert. 

Damianne: [00:44:40] The algorithms are constantly changing from what I’ve heard. I think it was on Freakonomics or something recently where they were talking about how most resumes are not looked at. That’s a very important point to get your resume done properly.

John: [00:44:55] I have someone in my family of choice who is going to be starting a career pivot. And her birthday comes up in a few weeks and I said, look, I could send you an Amazon gift card and you can do with it whatever you want or I can pay to get your resume done. She was like, get my resume.

I was like great, okay.

Damianne: [00:45:17] She gets the value of that.

John: [00:45:19] She gets the value of a resume done. And so I think that’s the thing. If that’s what’s really important to you and maybe you don’t have the money yourself, you know, like, Hey, can I get my birthday present early or something like that? If it’s that important to you, you will find ways to get the money and get that all done. 

But what this is going to do for her and what it has done for so many other people is it just takes all of that worry, that anxiety and that stress away from them. I’d be like, my resume is professionally done, it tells my story. It tells my accomplishments and who I am and who do I help, and what do I do? 

And now I can submit that and see what happens.Today’s Challenge [00:46:00]

Damianne: [00:46:00] I like to give listeners a challenge or an action or some kind of step that they can take that will help them make some sort of progress in their life, whatever they’re working on. It could be for career change or more general. 

John: [00:46:13] Let me think on that for a second. Okay. If you follow me on Instagram and it’s at John Neral coaching, just throw that in there. I put up a photo recently of two chairs, too empty chairs, and they were just next to each other. And underneath the chairs, it said who do you need to talk to today? And that would be my challenge to your listeners.

There is somebody out there whom you’ve been wanting to talk to. Whether it be at work, be a colleague or your boss. It could be at home with your spouse, your kids, a relative. It could be with a friend. It could be even with a complete stranger, but who do you want to talk to today? 

And the gift of having the intentional conversation is with one sole purpose in mind. And that is to move the relationship forward. How does having that relationship with somebody you want to do today, going to help you move that relationship forward. And at a time right now, where we are collectively experiencing so many things, the gift of having an intentional conversation with somebody right now, I truly believe it’s one of the best things.

And that would be my challenge to your listeners.

Damianne: [00:47:43] Thank you. 

John: [00:47:44] Yeah.

Damianne: [00:47:45] That’s excellent, especially since it connects back to a theme that seems to be running into the recent podcast episodes. So it must be what we need right now. We need to talk to each other, listen to each other. 

Having Meaningful Conversations [00:47:58]

John: [00:47:58] I was talking with a colleague, a connection of mine. And I have been so struck by what he had shared. He is an African American gentleman and we were talking about what’s been going on and he said, you know, I don’t need your sympathy. I appreciate your empathy. What I need is your action.

And that has just stuck with me because I sit here and I struggle with what can I do? What can I say? And those words have stuck so strongly. That conversation we had, that’s one of the best gifts that I have gotten and I keep trying to move that forward as much as possible, that having conversations like that are exactly some of the things we need right now.

Damianne: [00:48:59] Yes. And I would also encourage people to have these conversations with other people that look like you, whether or not you’re African-American or black or white or whatever, because what I’m noticing is that there are lots of podcasts nowadays that are bringing on somebody who is African American mostly to talk about what the experience is. And that brings me back to our conversation we had earlier about with your mom, where she can’t really understand your experience. It’s interesting because even thinking about the conversation you had with your friend, I’m thinking how much empathy is it possible to give somebody to the experience you have not been through yourself?

And it’s really hard. I mean, for me, it’s very hard to imagine what somebody who is not black or who maybe is LGBTQ or whatever, because that’s not my experience. And so I want the best for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that I always know what it’s like to be somebody. So I think what I would encourage people to do is to have the conversations with people that look like you and people that don’t look like you, but also understand that it’s very difficult for some people to have these conversations. 

One of the things I’m noticing at a work with African Americans is that so many African Americans are in a processing mode, feeling overwhelmed. And even amongst ourselves, it’s hard to figure out how to put things in words.

 Sometimes conversations are a bit much. And so I’d say yes, be open to the conversation, but also understand where people are. And connecting back to the idea of grief as well, people are grieving in many different ways right now because of the individual effects of racism, of inequities in justice, but also the societal effects of all of that.

John:[00:51:15] Well said. Cause if it’s important for you to have the conversation with someone, whoever that is, and they don’t have the bandwidth or the energy to have that conversation with you, leave them alone. Go check yourself cause it’s not… You need to like let people have, and that goes back to our space and our grace comment earlier. Like you can have the conversation another time, but own where you are and respect where people are as well. Absolutely. 

Damianne: [00:51:46] Well, it’s funny also, because sometimes I want to say go talk to that friend. I know that they get what’s going on right now and they have the ability to speak so go talk to them. 

 It’s also the whole idea of allies. In terms of action, one of the best actions I think people can do is be an ally and shoulder some of the burden.

So when you hear people who are confused, if you’re white, it could be up to you to do some of the explaining. It doesn’t always have to fall on a black person to explain why Back Lives Matter. 

John: [00:52:21] I encourage you just to keep up the great work. The messages are powerful and so thank you.

How to Connect with John [00:52:28]

Damianne: [00:52:28] Thank you so much. How can people reach you?

John: [00:52:30] Yeah, best way for people to reach me, I’m on all the social media channels so LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram. You can find me at johnneralcoaching on Facebook and Instagram, John Neral on LinkedIn. And then check out my website which is You can always email me at john@ as well. 

Damianne: [00:52:51] Okay, great. And if you go to John’s website, you will see that there is a free download that you can sign up for the mailing list and receive with three steps to create your advancement opportunity. So that’s available for everyone to take advantage of, and also connect with John nif you think that he can help you in some way.

John: [00:53:14] Right. Anybody who’s listening today, we can have a preliminary call. There’s no charge for that and just really a chance for us to connect and see how we fit and how I can help you as your coach and go from there. Also please check out my book on Amazon. 

Damianne: [00:53:29] Definitely. And as we end, is there anything that is on your heart that you would like to add to end today?

John: [00:53:37] Yeah, thank you for that. I have said this over and over again, but how we show up matters. And even now in a time like this that we are dealing with so much, just to focus on how we show up matters and think about the actions and the steps that we all want to take as we move forward to make this world a much better place. 

Damianne: [00:53:56] Thank you, John, for chatting with me today. You’ve been so generous talking with us and sharing about coaching, some very concrete things that we can do to see progress in our own lives and in our careers.

 I invite all the listeners to take the challenge and find someone to have a conversation. With decide who your conversation will be with. 

It’s been a great opportunity. 

John: [00:54:24] Thank very much, Damianne. I appreciate you. Take care. Thanks.

Damianne: [00:54:28] Thanks. 

What are you really, really, really good at? – John Neral


You get to find how to solve somebody’s pain point or problem. – John Neral

About the Author
I'm a curious problem solver.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: