Help! I’m plateauing or even on the wrong Mountain! What do I do?

Last week I wrote about defining your Mountain, in terms of establishing larger than life, long-term goals as a way keep focused on your overarching purpose and mission in life, as well as utilizing short-term mini-goals to ensure forward progress. Having a well-defined sense of purpose keeps you passionate about your efforts and can be the glue that keeps a high performing team enthusiastic, engaged and excited. But what if, as a leader, you feel like you’re on a plateau or have even lost sight of the Mountain? This happens to the best of leaders, frequently. We all have a myriad of options and career opportunities and sometimes can get so excited by a new venture that it can take considerable time to realize that it’s not leading up the Mountain we want to climb.

In my opinion as a coach, plateaus can happen for a few reasons. The first is simply attaining a goal. The problem with most goals is that if we haven’t thought about what will happen after we attain them, we immediately go out of action after we’ve hit that goal. For example, when I write novels, I used to make my goal writing a novel in X days, and I always accomplished that goal. And the book sat there. If the Mountain was writing a novel, I was a success, but if the Mountain was becoming a successful published author, then simply finishing the first draft is just one mini-step along the path. It took me five novels and some woe-is-me angst to actually get that and get off the plateau of non-published to published author with an actual contract and release date.

Another reason plateaus can happen is plain and simple burnout. No matter how well you pace yourself, if you are run long enough without a break, YOU will break. Our culture is particularly terrible about lauding overwork and work-life unbalance and buying into it will result in feeling like you’re plateauing but in reality you just need some refreshing time.

Boredom is another culprit behind the plateau. If you do the same thing time and again, you will attenuate – and this holds true in every area of life from exercising to leading. I used to have team meetings every Monday and it was a great way to exchange ideas and keep the team enthused….until it got a bit too routine and the meetings were more of an obligation than a motivation with nobody getting anything out of it. Taking a week break to change up the format and do things a bit differently added the spice back.

The fourth component of plateauing is inertia. If you are not being intentional about taking every opportunity to learn and grow you will hit a plateau. Although we all fantasize about having a leader and company that invests in our growth, and that is a wonderful thing when it occurs, our growth is an inside job that we are all responsible for. If you create any forward motion here, you will pick up speed, but beware of inertia because it’s a lot more difficult to get moving after you stop. If this is you, get started again with just 10 minutes a day invested into reading or talking about something you are passionate about.

But what if you’re not on a plateau, but on the wrong Mountain altogether? How do you know you’ve climbed the wrong Mountain? It’s different for everyone, but a sense of unease, of being trapped, of frustration and even depression is a good clue.  This is not to be confused with ordinary fatigue, the goal taking longer than expected, or hitting unanticipated obstacles. If you’ve ever taken a detour from your true calling, you know that this is a very different thing.

It can happen to the best of leaders and seems to be most common in people who have multiple strengths. John Ortberg explains it best as a Shadow Mission. The basic concept is that we all have competencies and callings and sometimes they are not the same. Some of us get distracted by our competencies, or are motivated by fear of failure or economic insecurity to pursue our competencies in lieu of our callings because it feels safer. In Mountain language, you pack your bags and start climbing the wrong Mountain. Because you’re a good mountaineer, you’re likely to get very far.  If you find yourself climbing the wrong Mountain you only have three options. Keep going and forget about your original Mountain, stop moving (and die) or backtrack and get back to your original Mountain.

The times I have found myself on the wrong Mountain, my first response is usually to keep going. To do otherwise feels like quitting, which is unacceptable and counter to my self-concept of being able to overcome anything. This has rarely (okay, never) worked out in my favor and usually ends up with me subconsciously or consciously sabotaging myself in order to get off the mountain.  The next response is then paralyzed indecision. This is where I question every decision, make excuses for not going back and starting over and trying to convince myself that the view at the top of the Mountain I’m on is likely to be just fine. Staying in the same place will only accomplish getting eaten by a predator, so it’s also not a good idea.

That leaves backtracking and/or starting over. To figure out if this is what I really have to do, I have to get quiet and try to imagine myself twenty years from now – what will I want to be doing, what will I want to have done, and is my current situation getting me closer or farther away? Another good barometer is a values check – does my current situation allow me to be in alignment with my values and beliefs? The answer is usually apparent, if seemingly inconvenient.

It can be scary to find yourself on the wrong Mountain, but rest assured ignoring it won’t do a thing to make it better and rationalizing only goes so far. As someone once told me, if you navigate by the firmaments, when you get off track you will be able to detect it and course correct.  And in the end, it’s worth it, because energetically climbing the right Mountain for you is the most fulfilling thing you can do personally and professionally.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at


5 ways to survive office politics

Having been a HR Director for years before starting my consulting business, I stopped saying ‘nothing surprises me’ sometime in 2006, just because it seemed like it was courting disaster.  Unless you’re a solopreneur, the workplace is a study in human behavior; the good, the bad, and the downright evil. Between my own experiences (and, unfortunately, mis-steps) and the things I’ve learned from my employer clients and my job-searching clients, I’ve come up with some pretty sure-fire methods for avoiding the worst of the politics and some reminders to keep yourself sane if you’re in a particularly aversive environment.


1)     The mic is always on…

If you’ve ever thought you were on mute and weren’t, or hit reply ‘all’ accidentally and this caused panic, if not terror, then this advice might serve you well. The best course of action to conduct oneself appropriately in the workplace is to assume there is a hidden microphone at all times and that everyone can hear everything you say. In most workplaces, of course, this isn’t true, but pretend it is, and you may avoid a lot of needless drama.

2)    Don’t pick teams

This is tough, as it seems like we’re wired for a tribe mentality, but if at all possible, avoid picking sides in office political wars. The higher up the food chain the wars go, the safer it is for you to stay completely out of it. We’ve all had that boss who’s promised us a job for life if only we support him in his latest coup, but people who play politics for a living are way, way better at it than you likely are. If your boss isn’t playing nice with others it can be tough to stay out of it, but at least try to stay neutral, remember there are many sides to every story, and put the good of the company above all and you’ll do better.

3)    Remember who you work for

It can be easy to blame all the problems of a company on your boss, or the company owner, but if you want to be effective and successful in your job, you will avoid lapsing into complaining, resentment or bitterness. The reality is we all have choices. Maybe the company is unethical, or the boss short-sighted, but you’re the one choosing to work there, right? As long as that’s the case, your energy is best spent trying to make the situation as positive as possible, not undermining from within.

4)    Don’t participate in gossip

Office life would be easier for absolutely everyone (especially HR practitioners) if we all took this to heart. I like to remind myself that other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. Now, that doesn’t make it less hurtful to find out about an unkind comment, a broken confidence or even a broken promise, but it doesn’t really help you to know about it and it definitely doesn’t help you if you do it to others. Besides just being counterproductive to actually getting work done, it is a rare person indeed who can restrain once they hear something bad about themselves.

5)    Keep your resume current

Some cultures are just toxic, and when it comes from the top down, there won’t be much you can do to change it no matter how hard you try, so it’s best to be prepared for the worst (best?) and/or actively be looking for a new workplace. Your resume is your most important marketing tool, so don’t wait to keep it updated. It also is a good psychological reminder that your current gig is NOT the only job in town, no matter how it feels. If you are feeling trapped in a job or culture that is anathema to you, having a current, awesome resume will do wonders to help you empower yourself to take the next step.


In summary, wherever there are more than two people, there will be politics of a sort, but a large part of our experience is determined by our own behavior. Playing to ‘win’ by stabbing others in the back, or using other Machiavellian tactics may bring short term success but the reality is at the end of the day you want to be able to look yourself in the eye in the mirror and be okay with yourself. And even if you are able to engage in dirty politics and be okay with yourself, the people around you most likely won’t be. We all know that someone who talks about other people is probably talking about us, too, so at the end of the day, using gossip, slander and double-dealing won’t get you as far ahead as you might think. If taking the high road keeps you at the bottom of the heap in your company, you might just be in the wrong company for you, so don’t be afraid to explore your options.  


Why we get stuck and what to do about it

One of the reasons I became a coach is because I just love helping people break through imaginary limits they’ve placed on themselves. And yes, when I earned my coaching certification it was very much a case of ‘physician, heal thyself’. See, my whole life I knew I was supposed to be in a ‘helping’ profession that did not include a traditional 9-5 corporate office job. I imagined a life of coaching, writing, and the flexibility to accommodate my obsessive-compulsive approach to work and play as well as my desire to have kids some day and be present in their lives.

So of course, I became an HR Director (huh?). Now, to some, this is a wonderful career option and fortunately for me I served at an amazing company that actually did allow me a lot of flexibility and opportunity to help people in non-traditional ways. But for me, this was not what I was being called to do. I knew I was supposed to broaden my sphere of influence and use my gift of ‘being a catalyst’ as a coach/consultant. And yet I stayed in the corporate world for nine more years after becoming a certified coach. Why?

It’s simple, and most stuck people I encounter are stuck for the same reasons.

1)     Fear of the unknown

This is definitely the biggest obstacle for most of us. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we are ‘safe’ in our current gig and that if we go ‘out there’ it will be less money, less flexible, less secure, less….you name it. I know for me, being a single person at the time with no one to help me with my bills, the thought of diving into a new career was terrifying. But you know what’s more terrifying? Not following your dream. I was lucky because at least as a coach I had learned to look more deeply into things and was aware of what I was doing. And I knew that every time I encouraged someone to follow their dream that that pang of regret about my own choices to play it ‘safe’ was telling me something. And, not to burst your bubble, but your corporate gig is NOT safe. A company can tell you seven ways from Sunday about how much they value their employees but chances are you are just a line item in the budget that they will cross off if your salary threatens the year-end profitability/C-level bonus.

2)    Lack of confidence

I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve met who have a dream that is unrelated to their current profession. A lot of people tell me they want to be a writer or an entrepreneur and you know what? Most of these people have the skill and/or knowledge to do it. The ones that aren’t held back by fear are hampered by this sense of disqualification. They feel like they’re not ‘real’ writers, (or business owners, or you name it). I went through this when I was becoming a coach and with my writing. I remember my coach at the time telling me “You already ARE a coach”, or my writing group telling me ‘writers write’. So many times we are waiting for the world to give us permission to grab that gold ring, but the world is most definitely not going to do that. The difference between success and status quo is the willingness to just start.

3)    Lack of knowledge

Becoming educated on what it takes to achieve your dream is what will take you from hobbyist to success story. Michael Hyatt explains it best when he talks about the 3 P’s of Proficiency, Passion and Profitability. It’s not enough to just have a dream and a passion. There is a lot of legwork involved in building a successful business. You need to have a plan and you need to have realistic expectations about the financial requirements of your plan. When we launched our gym, it was after a full year of researching locations, building a realistic financial plan and ensuring we had the savings to bridge from point A to point B, and securing trusted advisers in areas outside our core strengths. We also had to learn how to use social media, what marketing strategies were effective in our geographic location and a myriad of other things. Without the willingness to be teachable, and the understanding of the time frame that was required, we would probably have quit or failed within a year. Instead, we hung in there and stuck to the plan and are now seeing the rewards of that.

So if you have a dream and are not actively pursuing that dream, ask yourself if fear, lack of confidence or lack of knowledge is holding you back. If they are, the good news is you can overcome all of those and start the road to living your best life today!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at


Job search advice from my clients to my clients

I’m in a somewhat unique position from the job search perspective in that I am a professional resume writer, I provide career coaching, I am a recruiter, I am a Talent Acquisition Consultant for a Recruiting Process Outsourcing firm, and for some of my clients I serve as the hiring manager. All that to say, I am intimately involved in the hiring (and firing) process from all levels and lately I have been noticing some things that are keeping perfectly good people from matching up with other perfectly good people!


If you are looking for a job:

·      Please include a cover letter with your resume – even if no one asks for one but especially if they do. Take the time to customize it for the actual job to which you are applying. Last week someone sent me a cover letter detailing how their goal in life was to be a medical coder and biller. Too bad they were applying to be an Account Manager for a label manufacturer!

·      Please review the job posting and the hiring company’s website prior to your interview. If you tell me in the interview that you have applied for so many jobs that you don’t recall applying for this one I will have a very hard time believing you really want to work for this particular company.

·      Please tell me your desired compensation range. A range is fine and if you are negotiable let me know but please let’s not play the ‘whoever talks first loses’ game. I will happily tell you my payment range as well but I as the hiring manager am likely more flexible if you are awesome.

·      I don’t expect you to be a professional resume writer (but hey, I can help you out with that if you like) but please get your resume to modern day standards. Don’t give me your career objective, don’t hand me something that looks like it was produced on a typewriter and mimeographed and at if you’re going to claim to have great attention to detail, check your spelling. And don’t go back more than 15 years, because you are unnecessarily exposing yourself to prejudice about age that you just don’t need.

·      I totally understand being desperate for a job, I really do – I’ve been there, but please don’t just send your resume out to every posting blindly. This week I had the same applicant apply to an AR job, a Safety Role and a Business Development manager for two different companies in three different states! No cover letter and nothing remotely relevant on his resume to any of the jobs. Do you just need to check a box that you applied or did you want to be considered.? HELP ME HELP YOU (recruiter cries pitifully)


And to my clients who are hiring…

·      Please don’t label someone as damaged goods just because they’ve been laid off if they are an otherwise great candidate. At least let’s find out the whole story.

·      Please hire for culture, but is it really necessary for every manager in the building to interview someone? Especially if none of you get along…how exactly do you see this ending?

·      Please don’t add unnecessary complexity to the hiring process. If you don’t trust your hiring manager to make the decision, why don’t you hire an awesome management development expert (and hey, I can help you out here too) to get your hiring managers more proficient in hiring rather than insisting that the C Level execs sign off on entry-level candidates.  BTW…I have noticed absolutely no increase in retention in companies that do this. I completely agree with hiring for culture and in getting C Level buy off on some position but other times it shrieks control issues.

·      Please try to look for the good and not just the bad. You will find whatever you are looking the hardest for and no offense but are you sure you can afford the perfect unicorn you are demanding?


And to my resume clients

·      Pick a career target. Any career target. It will make it easier to write AND read your resume. You can have more than one resume – no one is going to get mad at you.

·      Just be yourself. The right company for you is out there. This is like dating and if you fake it, you’ll end up with someone who only likes fake you, which equals stress, stress and more stress.

·      Please provide me some accomplishments you’ve done, or impact you’ve had. If you want your resume to ‘pop’, you must provide me some information besides all the tasks you were responsible for. Tasks are boring and don’t ‘pop’. And no, I will not use colored font for your resume and neither should you!


So there, for the people, by the people, to get the people working for the right people!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm devoted to helping business owners fall back in love with their businesses. A certified executive coach, seasoned Organizational Behavior Management Practitioner and Senior HR professional, Carrie can be reached for consultation at


Is the job you ‘hate’ keeping you from soaring?

Lately, I seem to have run into a higher than usual proportion of people who claim to hate their jobs.  Some of them seem very convinced of this and some maybe just love to hate.     Now, often people are just expressing a momentary frustration (a dangerous thing to do in the presence of a literal thinker like yours truly – just sayin’).   These momentarily frustrated people are primarily satisfied in their job 80% of the time or even more and just have occasional flare ups of dissatisfaction. But there are, on the other hand, people who are genuinely, chronically and terminally out of love with their job, occupation or industry. 
If you have thought or said that you hate your job on a more or less consistent basis for, say, more than six months, then you just may actually hate it.  The coach in me just can’t leave a statement like that alone, so when this is the case I think it’s good to ask yourself:

Part 1.  What is it about this job in particular you hate?  Is it the commute, your peers, your boss, your customers, the mission of the company, the industry, the tasks you are required to perform, is it monotonous (or conversely, too chaotic), unethical, boring, too difficult?
I recommend a very thorough analysis of the above points.  Be as detailed as you can.  This is the time to whine, people…get it all out and figure out what is it about this particular job that is pressing your buttons.

Part 2.  This is the kicker, take a very good and honest look at your employment history.  Is this particular job the only one where you’ve felt this way or is there a pattern?  This is going to be the key to your happiness, so do not skimp on thoroughness and honesty here.  If you have a pattern of chronic dissatisfaction, your solution will be much different than if you’re a generally satisfied employee except for now.

Part 3.  If you have done your homework you will now have realized one of two things:
A)    I love my career but I hate this particular job or
B)    I hate my career

If you hate your particular job you will probably have a good idea of why.   Now look at the why and determine whether it is changeable.  For example, if it’s your boss, and he owns the company, that is probably not changeable.  Some things will be.  It might be worthwhile to have a discussion with your supervisor about what you’d like to change.  Come prepared with solutions.  If things can be changed, great! If they can’t, you will need to ask yourself if you can accept the status quo and learn to be happy or if you need to find a new job (I know a great resume writer if that’s the case).

On the other hand, what if you hate your career?  Going through the discovery process may lead you to realize that you are not pursuing your dream, and have ‘settled’ for something that is now making you miserable.  Pursuing dreams is not for the faint of heart.  Sometimes it is accompanied by financial insecurity or other potential negative outcomes.  You could fail.  It might not be as good as you thought it would be and you would have a  -gasp- crushed hope.   Everyone has a different threshold of financial need, faith, risk tolerance and fear factor.  The pain of hating your career may drive you over that threshold, or it may drive you into acceptance of existing circumstances (made easier by practicing gratitude for the things in your life you don’t hate).  
There is clearly no right or wrong answer, but if you do feel regularly like you hate your job, there are things you can do to ease the discomfort.  If you have hated a job, or currently hate your job, I’d love to hear your story!

Carrie Maldonado is owner of Limitless HR Solutions, a Seattle-based management consulting firm.   As a certified HR Professional, executive coach and resume writer, Carrie divides her time between consulting with small to mid-size businesses and career coaching with executives in transition.  Carrie and her husband Tony (owner of Limitless Fitness) partner together in delivering corporate wellness solutions.  When not coaching or consulting, Carrie is a novelist and mother to a daughter and twin sons.  Carrie can be reached at or by phone at 949.354.1588.



More job search tips; for the laid off and/or “overqualified”

Last week we discussed tips for your job search from a recruiting perspective.  I’ve received numerous comments and questions about this topic (in answer to the most common – Yes, I do offer career coaching and resume writing to individuals – just not to the individuals I encounter when I’m wearing my recruiting hat, because hello, – conflict).  Some of the specific questions and concerns I’ve heard from job searchers is a fear that they will be labeled as ‘damaged goods’ if they have been laid off and/or that they will be labeled the dreaded ‘overqualified’. So what to do?

First, let me state that these are legitimate concerns and there are several dynamics at play.  It is still the general expectation that as one progresses through one’s career, one consistently takes on more responsibility or challenges and that one’s pay increases commensurate with this.  It is also true that in the last five years, layoffs are more common than previously.  Consequently, people find themselves on the market after losing very high paying and prestigious jobs.  These people have the option of trying to find something similar to their last position or trying a new career avenue.  Sometimes, they find themselves in a place of applying for jobs below their competence or desired pay out of desperation or because they feel they are running out of options.  Ironically, when someone decides to ‘settle’ by applying for less than ideal positions and salary, they can often become even more discouraged by a lack of response from employers. If they do hear anything, it’s the dreaded ‘overqualified’. What to do?

First, the layoff question. Sad to say I do have some employer clients who still believe that valuable employees do not get laid off, (even though they often do).   If you have been unfortunate enough to be laid off maybe you question your own value.  After all, in years past it was pretty well accepted that you never let your most valuable people go, no matter what.  Let me reassure you, it happens.  It happens when the business structure changes, it happens when the business model changes, it happens when new leaders are brought in and then they bring in their cronies from their previous organizations and it happens when you’re at the top of the salary band and the company is struggling to pay its bills.  My advice is to be as honest as possible about what happened, without being disrespectful or negative towards your previous employer.  Explain the decision making process behind your situation and, if you were a senior executive, the role you played in the strategic decision to eliminate your position.  It is possible to salvage this.

As for being overqualified. If you are using your COO resume to apply for a General Manager position then you probably are being labeled as overqualified, but I would actually label you as a somewhat lazy job searcher.  If you really think it’s necessary to downgrade your career aspirations at this point (and maybe it is, but don’t be too hasty) then create a General Manager resume that focuses on those skills.  And ask for pay suitable for a General Manager.  This will greatly, greatly reduce the risk of being labeled overqualified.    

Some people use lay-offs as a platform to enter an entirely new career.  This is more typical when there has been a significant severance but not always.  When this happens you often do need to start from scratch.  In this instance, I’d suggest a functional resume, where you take any transferrable skills you can and re-purpose them to your new endeavor.  There is a reality here that you may need to scale back your compensation expectations if you are not trained or experienced in the new line but this is often just a temporary situation, as you do have life experience under your belt to help you learn new skills quickly.

If you haven’t been on the job market in a long time, you do need to know the landscape has changed.  Here are some very general Do’s and Don’ts to get you started with basic resume/online etiquette. 


  • ·Proofread your resume and follow these generally accepted standards
    • Keep it to two pages or less
    •  Ensure there is [sic] absolutely no typos or grammatical errors
    •  Use attractive and consistent formatting
  • Include a cover letter every time and tailor it to the job for which you are applying
  • At least try to determine the name of the hiring manager
  • Do some research on the company.  LinkedIn and Google are the bare minimums.
  • On that topic, make sure you regularly update your LinkedIn profile and your resume…AND that they match each other
  • Join as many relevant networking groups as you can (more on this to follow)


  • Do not allow job search boards to create a canned resume for you.  They look terrible and generic.
  • Don’t use the same resume and cover letter for every job for which you’re applying. 
  • Don’t address your cover letter “Gentlemen”.  This actually happened to me this week.  This is a terrible idea for many reasons.  As it happens, I was recruiting for a woman-owned business, which is very apparent if one does the bare minimum homework. 
  • Don’t use your personal email if it is unprofessional or hints at illegal or unethical activity
  • Don’t apply multiple times to the same posting.  It makes it look like you are not paying attention

Hopefully this is helpful.  Please reach out with any questions to