Inclusion and Belonging

Inclusion and Belonging

Organizations are figuring out how to manage and motivate employees who are working remotely.  At the same time, they’re managing the impact that COVID-19 has had on their bottom line. Because of this shift, many managers have revealed that talent development has come to a halt. The last thing on organizational leadership’s mind is ensuring that employees and customers feel a sense of inclusion and belonging - and that’s something that’s needed now more than ever.  

What makes diversity, equity and inclusion really work is a sense of “belonging”. 

Positive business outcomes associated with having diverse teams can’t be achieved without a sense of belonging. It’s not just about including people at the table who are different races, different genders and different ages. It’s about amplifying everyone’s voices and removing the barriers to do so. It’s also about appreciating each employee for their unique backgrounds - that is where belonging comes into play.

Getting to know the people on your team as individuals is key.  Belonging, community and feeling part of a group is what makes people feel like what they’re doing at work matters. The ability to share their personal stories can create empathy and can increase an employee’s sense of belonging.  

If you’re unsure what belonging looks like and sounds like, please read this LinkedIn post by Zoe Feldman of Chobani yesterday:

“Two years ago today I walked into the place where I finally felt like I belonged. There was no pretense, no ego, no artificial barriers between functions or levels. The people were overwhelmingly kind, generous, thoughtful, hard-working, and bought into the notion that business can and should be a conduit for good. If anyone thinks Chobani is simply a yogurt company, you are sorely mistaken. The past two years with these human beings have restored hope to my previously darkened soul. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this place and these people, who wake up every day and wonder “how can I do more good today?” Now that is an employee who feels she belongs where she works.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled, Are Your D&I Efforts Helping Employees Feel Like They Belong?” They explained why it matters.

“When employees felt like they didn’t belong in the workplace, they felt like they couldn’t be themselves at work. When employees feel they can’t be their authentic self at work, they have lower workplace satisfaction, find less meaning in their work, and have one foot out the door.”

3 Steps To Belonging:
  1. Tell your own story:  Many employees believe that putting up a wall about their personal lives is the professional thing to do at work. Don’t talk about your kids.  Don’t talk about caring for a parent. COVID-19 and the lack of privacy (thanks, Zoom!) has turned this idea on its head. It’s become clear that hiding from who you really are not only doesn’t feel great - it doesn’t produce great outcomes at work. Leadership can take the lead and tell stories about themselves. When leadership talks about their own struggle to fit in, or to be their authentic selves at work, it can be a powerful way to encourage a sense of belonging among an entire workforce.
  2. Establish Trust: Every employee will feel like they are part of the organization regardless of their backgrounds when they can trust in the company’s mission and trust in the leadership’s vision and goals. This can lead to a stronger sense of belonging and their affinity with the organization.
  3. Look for Signs: If the same people are talking during a meeting, it might be because the others don’t feel safe voicing their opinions. If you’re in a management position, ask if this quiet person may have been consistently put down or questioned and if so, you have your answer on why they choose not to speak up. If that person has valuable contributions they’d like to make but feel uncomfortable doing so, they’ll be unhappy in their role and go to a place that values their opinions and be in an organization where they can be their authentic selves.

Learning about an individual’s unique strengths and unique experiences, and recognizing those, is what leads employees to feel a higher affinity for the company they work for and ultimately, that’s what any employer would want.

Reviewed & Recommended:

Build a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace

Forbes: Now is Not the Time to Put Diversity & Inclusion on the Back Burner

Discover the Hidden Job Market

Discover the Hidden Job Market

We all know that many job opportunities are never listed publicly.  Some career experts say that 80 percent of openings are never advertised. Most businesses prefer to hire someone who has been referred to them by someone they trust. It’s a credible, reliable person they’ve either worked with in the past or have found through other connections.

A friend of mine recently changed his approach to interviewing and decided he’d give his knowledge away for free.  So he decided to figure out the pain points of a company and approach them with his viewpoint including solutions about gaps he could see. If he did not know someone there, he’d set up a call with one of their leaders through LinkedIn.  He did this by explaining his background and established credibility by citing something that recently occurred at the company and if they’ve experienced X.  That short note typically landed him a 20-minute phone call which led to additional conversations and relationships at that company.  He landed a “hidden job” by using this tactic because when people at the targeted company met him, they thought he had great ideas and he was able to illustrate his expertise.  Here are four ways to find the hidden job market:

  • Your Network is Your Net Worth:  Your best source of leads for these hidden jobs is your network, people you already know— friends, neighbors, relatives, former co-workers. Have you heard the saying that if you combine your five friend’s salaries and divide by 5, that is typically your salary as well?  It’s the “birds of a feather flock together” syndrome.  Being aware of the types of people in your inner circle is key.  If you feel like you may need to expand your network, taking a challenging class is one way to do that.  If everyone is working towards a similar goal, it’s a great way to build friendships, collaborate and get a referral. 
  • Your Pitch:  Have a 30-second pitch and a one-minute elevator pitch ready when talking to people about your desired position.  In it, include your background, accomplishments, and where you’re headed and why it makes sense - especially if it’s a career pivot. 
  • Make a List & Do the Research:  Make a list of potential employers and learn as much about them as you can. What are their needs and how can you fill them? Follow them on LinkedIn and follow their leadership team. If you’re not sure which company interests you or where to locate them, there are typically “Top Private Companies” lists or “Top Public Companies” in that city’s “Book of Lists” published by American City Business Journals.  Learn about a specific job lead, including the skills and prior experience the job requires.  Look at the job title in LinkedIn and research people who have the same title.  What kind of background does the individual have and how do they market themselves?  Could their career path be duplicated?  Was there a career pivot that made sense?  What certifications have they attained in the last few years? You’ll find interesting ideas from others when reading people’s profiles who are on a similar path or are where you’d like to be. 
  • Join a “Talent Community”:  Talent communities are online forums companies use to attract prospective job candidates. For example, both Adobe and Zappos have one.  It’s an opportunity for employers to start building a relationship with potential hires and for would-be applicants to let them know what they’re looking for in a candidate. When there are job openings, the employer has a pipeline of interested prospects.  Here are four reasons to be involved with a talent community:
  • Get a feel for the company culture: Companies use talent communities to share information about what it’s really like to work there. It illustrates their culture, core values, and work-life initiatives. 

    Learn more about the company and its jobs: Businesses share what’s happening in their company and share information about new product releases, business news as well as new job openings. 

    Interact with recruiters: Being active in a talent community gives you an opportunity to talk with recruiters and learn about the company’s hiring process in a low-risk environment. Sometimes, recruitment teams even host “Ask the Recruiter” webinars for their talent communities. 

    Build relationships and increase the likelihood of referrals: As we mentioned in the beginning of the article, getting a referral into a job greatly increases the odds of being hired and it’s the most important benefit of being involved in a talent community. By networking and actively participating in discussions with decision-makers and other employees, it will help to build relationships that may lead to job referrals.


Reviewed & Recommended:

Other ideas on finding the hidden job market:

6 Ways to Crack the Hidden Job Market


Managing Career Development in Midlife

Managing Career Development in Midlife

Now’s the time to illustrate flexibility and creativity by focusing on the possibilities of a career trajectory.  Writing goals, making a plan, and taking action are all part of the process. When outlining a plan, another career piece to consider is how different industries are changing, both in terms of the immediate COVID-19 crisis and in the long term. Doing this will help carve out a solid career path. Identifying industries that are poised for future growth or transformation is one way to discern what positions and skills will be needed during and post-pandemic.  

Here are some ideas to get started on your own career development path.

Goal Setting:  In order to set realistic and achievable goals, it helps to follow the SMART acronym. A SMART goal is: S (specific) M (measurable) A (attainable) R (realistic) and T (time-framed):

  1. Be specific: When writing down goals, it’s best not to be vague. If it’s a new exercise commitment, for example, write the days and time you’ll commit to it. The more you can define and refine, the more specific you are, the easier it is to stay focused. Don’t forget to ask for help from your coach. Your coach can send you email reminders and hold you accountable. Don’t have a coach? Find one. They don’t have to be a professional career coach, just someone you trust to keep you on track.
  2. Measure: Tracking goals is important to make sure you’re on the right path. Write down whatever WAS accomplished so that a bit of celebrating can occur. 
  3. Attainable & Realistic:  Make sure it’s a realistic goal.  Give yourself a timeline to achieve and work backward.
  4. Time Framed: Having the number of hours committed to a certain task helps but make sure you also look at the overall picture and time frame. What month or year will you achieve your goal?  That way, being reminded of steps to get there is easier.

A Balance: “No pain, no gain” is true in many areas of goal setting. However, if there is too much pain, the goal probably won’t be achieved. Make sure you are willing to pay the price of achieving your goal.

"Write down your short- and long-term goals four times a year. Two personal, two business and two health goals for the next one, five and ten years.”

-Chip Wilson, Founder, lululemon

New Skills on Resume & LinkedIn:

Whether you feel like diving into new topics or learning new digital tools, it is one way to illustrate a willingness to learn and be curious.  We wrote about MOOCS and certifications for ideas to get started and many of the ones we wrote about are free of charge during the pandemic.  Adding an area called “Production Tools” on your resume is one way to show your tech expertise beyond MS word and Outlook.  When listing them, consider which ones are popular by doing a search.  If you don’t know them, watch a tutorial.  Many have free versions so experimenting is easy.  If the company hiring doesn’t use them, they might be using something similar and have heard of them.  

Your Digital Footprint:

Leadership and becoming a thought leader:


Look at ways to leverage your expertise whether it’s writing on the “Medium” platform or posting an article in LinkedIn.  Make sure your education matches your desired skills and career goals - even if it’s a certification program to illustrate how serious you are in making a change.  Join LinkedIn groups that align with your interests or expertise.  When writing an article on LinkedIn, the group can be tagged so that others who have similar interests and backgrounds can see it. Another bonus? Someone who is in a position to hire might also see it and reach out.  

Check your name:


A long time ago, I posted a funny comment on my friend’s blog but that blog was not private so if anyone did a search on me, that comment popped up.  Although it was relatively harmless, I asked my friend to delete it because I thought it might hurt my chances of finding employment.  To find out if you’ve done something similar, use different search engines to search your name.  Type in your name using your full name, middle name, maiden name and see what results are pulled up.  Would anything that comes up impact your chances of getting hired?  Beyond Google search, I also use duckduckgo which pulls completely different information.

Consider Social:


Many professionals stick to LinkedIn and Twitter for their social media messaging.  Twitter is fast and a great way to interact with organizations and business people you admire.  If you think Twitter is a waste of time, think again. Many academics and authors are on Twitter which is why I love it.  And you’ll see people of ALL ages on it.

I follow loads of people in behavioral research and as a result, someone asked me to apply for their new speaker series at a research conference a few years ago.  The woman who reached out to me has her Phd and over 1 million followers.  Networking through social media channels provides the opportunity to create new contacts and relationships, share a new business idea, ask for support in your career search, or set up informational interviews, and virtual meetings.

Expanding an Existing Network:  


Focus on building sustainable relationships.  It’s been more of a challenge to find out where to meet others beyond our existing career groups but there are creative ways to learn about groups beyond LinkedIn.  Since many jobs are remote and will remain that way, it’s a great time to investigate age-friendly companies nationally.  Another idea is to seek private community platforms such as Cirkel or TealHQ in order to find a job.  They use a matching system to connect you with people who have similar interests.  Oftentimes it’s within a group setting with a cap on the number of people.  Pro tip:  If you put one of your interests as HR or Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, you may be paired with someone who is a recruiter.  Another way to expand one’s network is to comment or reach out to experts via social media.  You never know who will be willing to discuss a topic that interests both of you. 

Taking ownership of your career during uncertain economic times is a challenge but it’s also an opportunity to prepare yourself for your ideal career.  Taking small steps builds momentum and it will pay huge dividends in the future.

Reviewed & Recommended:

Future of work


Getting curious about the future of work can help identify where skills will be needed and being positioned to jump on those opportunities will be the key. In this article, there are five books listed that help understand where work is going and they are recommended by an economist from Oxford.

5 Books to Read If You Want to Understand the Future of Work

Articles on goal setting and digital footprint advice:


Setting Goals & Writing Them Down 

Your Digital Footprint Matters

Reviewed & Recommended:  Career Stories with Kerri Twigg

Reviewed & Recommended: Career Stories with Kerri Twigg

Kerri Twigg is a career coach who was recommended to me by a friend about 6 months ago. Kerri has a quirky personality but a practical approach. Her blogs and her YouTube channel provide valuable information on everything from responding to uncomfortable interview questions to how to brand yourself online. She’s from Canada so there’s a chance you may not have heard of her and the resources she provides.

Kerri is especially adept at helping people with their career stories. These stories help us explain how to transfer work skills from one job to the next or how to talk about a career pivot in a seamless way.

In Kerri’s Tedx talk, she talks about the need for everyone to burn their resume and walks through the process of career storytelling to get to the heart of what makes you sing.

Here are the top tips she recommends to get clarity on your career story:

  1. Think about what you are most proud of at work or in a previous position.  Sit with that and think about what it is that made you feel awesome.
  2. Discuss those things you do that make you want to sing.
  3. In the Future of Work, there are four main attributes being discussed as highly needed in a world of automation and they are: collaboration, creativity, communication, and solving problems.  When developing your stories, keep these attributes in mind.
  4. On index cards, write down what you were most proud of at a previous or current job. Do this for 7 days.
  5. Then turn that card over and write down your biggest strength while at a company or previous job.
  6. Once you have these, a career story will begin to unfold and you can introduce yourself in a different way by having this illustration that comes to life.
  7. The Future of Work needs the emotional side of human beings so Kerri recommends looking for ways to show up as yourself and articulate your awesomeness.

Other ways to find Kerri:

Career Coaching and Job Search Strategy | Career Stories

On YouTube, Kerri has a channel filled with helpful advice regarding career pivots, your digital footprint, and branding yourself for your next big career move.

Handling Midlife Career Interview Questions

Handling Midlife Career Interview Questions

Interviewing is tough - especially when competition to land that coveted position is extremely high. While age related questions and comments may come up in an interview, there are ways to handle them and redirect them and (confidently and politely) confront their concerns.  Sometimes their statements encourage an interviewee to divulge more information.  Here are a few examples:

"You seem overqualified for this position."

Their main concerns?

  • Get bored easily
  • Might be too expensive
  • Might learn the job and leave soon after

How to address the statement:

Talking about learning in different capacities including from others is key. “I love being able to excel at what I’m doing, whatever the position and I see this job as a challenge - and that’s when I thrive.  While it’s true I have experience in this area, I’ve also been able to propose innovative ideas that were well received by my last employer.  Also, I’m at a point in my career where mentoring and learning from others is really important to me, and I see many ways to do that in this role and environment.”


"It depends on where you are in life."

It’s open ended but can be tricky.  While it’s tempting to overshare, don’t do it.

I recall one time I went to a staffing firm in Portland and this question was asked.  I said way too much.  And guess what?  I never heard back from them.  Bottom line, they are probing for more information about your life and possible distractions or life events.  When you stay on track and redirect the question, it helps to be more prepared. Their main concerns?

  • They may be hinting at retirement questions
  • Might want to learn if you have kids living at home or in college
  • They might want to learn about another life event (divorced, caretaking concerns)


How to address the statement:

Make sure you illustrate your curiosity and enthusiasm regarding whatever it is you’re working towards professionally.  Showing proof of this in a casual way can look something like the following, “It’s funny.  Many people believe that at a certain time of life, it’s time to slow down.  It’s actually the opposite for me.  Right now I’m learning as much as I can about UI/UX. I’ve loved being a graphic designer and want to expand my knowledge beyond digital media.  I’m also learning more about human behavior as it relates to the customer journey.  I’ve created two different models in figma for a friend’s company focusing on X. I actually have the examples on my phone, would you like to see them?”


"We’re concerned that you’re not a cultural fit."

Their main concerns?

  • Unable to take direction from a younger manager
  • Believe you won’t be able to relate to people on the team about cultural (pop culture) things and the latest tech
  • It’s not going to work to “hire Mom” or “hire Dad”


How to address the question:

Discuss how you worked in a multi-generational workplace and how everyone mentored each other.  Site examples of this and how it helped make your team more productive and consistently exceeded business goals.  Here’s an example, “Oh that’s interesting.  I’ve found there are different definitions of ‘cultural fit’ from companies I’ve been speaking with - can you explain what you mean?  If you’re talking about being older than others on the team, that is no problem.  I’ve worked for managers who were both younger and older than myself.”  


"We use updated technology and change it constantly.  Can you use it?"

Their main concerns?

  • Unwilling to learn new technology
  • Outdated and slower than younger job candidates


How to address the question:

Show that you embrace change.  One hiring manager I know used to state in a rapid fire sort of way all the technology they use at the company and watch the older candidates' reactions.  If they squirmed or looked at all uncomfortable, that was a sign to her not to move forward.  Here’s an example of how to respond, “I’m very comfortable using new technology. What specific technology are you asking about?” Then illustrate it by using an example of something you accomplished recently and were continually learning in a previous job.  And if you don’t know a particular tool or program, it’s better to be honest about it.  Talking about learning things quickly is a bonus as well.  For example, “I’m not familiar with that production tool, but I can certainly learn it.  I’ve learned how to use 10 new tech tools in the past few months.”

Having stories and quick examples ready of working on a multigenerational team, of learning and embracing new technology and being genuinely curious will go far in the interview process.


Reviewed & Recommended:

Tips on asking them questions:

Top 14 Best Questions To Ask In An Interview (These Are Powerful)

Job Interview Tips for Older Job Seekers


Need help with basic interview questions?  Here is a YouTube channel for additional help. And here is a great site that focuses on How to Answer Interview Questions About Being Out of Work.

Conquer Your Fear of Tech

Conquer Your Fear of Tech

In this day and age, technology is everywhere, from the ubiquitous smartphone, to different cloud computing platforms that host most of the applications we rely on for work. Given the pervasiveness of technology in our daily lives, it’s understandable that we may not want to admit to a fear of learning new technologies, but don’t worry, we won’t judge. 

If you have been tech curious but were afraid to ask, now’s the time to dive in. Don’t be intimidated by new technologies or run from them.  It’s never too late, and ignoring tech won’t help your odds of finding a job or starting a business.

Here are some great resources to help you conquer your fear of new tech, whether you just want to understand what all the acronyms actually mean, or if you’re looking for an easy way to sharpen your tech skills.

Technology Resources

Grow with Google is a great place to start. Google has been quietly building out this online learning hub since 2017. It focuses on a wide range of topics, from basic free training to more specialized topics like learning technology in education, or training for veterans and military families.

Do you come from a traditional media and marketing background and want to sharpen your digital skills? Grow with Google also offers certifications like this one in the Fundamentals of digital marketing.

Through its EdX site, Microsoft also offers free online courses from a range of over 140 different institutions spanning topics like software development, data science, and engineering.

LinkedIn Learning also provides a broad range of content, some free, some paid. For example, here’s a good one on collaboration in the modern workplace. It provides a nice survey of different tools around file management, collaborative editing, and communication.

Want to go a bit deeper and learn about cloud computing and what you can do to start building and testing your own cloud services? Check out our post on the promise of ‘no code’, and then look at some of the training resources from the major cloud providers:

Cloud Computing and Amazon Web Services

AWS free training

Azure Training on LinkedIn Learning

There are tons of free courses on LinkedIn Learning (now owned by Microsoft).

Just looking to understand more about the different tools that can help you work remotely? Check out this article from Skillcrush.

There’s a world of options out there, but this should give you a good place to start and make your journey into new technology less intimidating.

Reviewed and Recommended

On a related note, here’s a great Ted Talk on myths about the future of work and the impact technology will have through increased automation. It covers fear of substitution, and the positive benefits through what Daniel Susskind calls the “complementarities” of new technologies.