What to Ask Yourself if You’re Questioning Your Career Path

You’re not completely sold that you’re on the right career path, but the idea of making a change is daunting. There are so many unknowns and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Plus, if you do decide to change course, will you have to take a step back to develop the necessary skills?

Wondering if you have the time and energy required to transition into the right career path may be a valid concern, but it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a path you love. Before you make a switch, ask yourself the following three questions.

1. Are You Developing a Competitive Advantage?

In The Start-up of You, authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha teach that we’re all entrepreneurs of our own careers. They argue that to become competitive in today’s global market, it’s critical to understand your assets (what you’re good at,) your aspirations (what you want to do,) and the market realities (what people will pay you for.)

Having only one or two isn’t enough. You need all three to develop a true competitive advantage. Know your assets and aspirations in light of the market realities—then pursue a path that maximizes all three.

2. How Often Do You Think About Work Outside of Work?

The importance of this question is best illustrated through a story. Henry Eyring, a former business professor at Stanford University, tells how he ended up choosing his path. His father, who was a renowned scientist and professor, hoped his son would follow in his footsteps. In Eyring’s words: “My father was [teaching physics] at a blackboard we kept in the basement…Suddenly he stopped. ‘Hal,’ he said, ‘we were working the same kind of problem a week ago. You don’t seem to understand it any better now than you did then. Haven’t you been working on it?’”

Eyring admitted he had not. His father then said: “When you walk down the street, when you’re in the shower, when you don’t have to be thinking about anything else, isn’t this what you think about?”

“When I told him no,” Eyring concludes, “my father paused…then said, ‘Hal, I think you’d better get out of physics. You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don’t have to think about anything, that’s what you think about.’”

To be successful you don’t need to obsess about your job 24/7, but if you’re only thinking about your job during the hours of 9 to 5, it may be a sign you’re on the wrong path.

3. What Does Your Career Path Look Like 10 Years Down the Road?

Think of those in your company or industry who are more senior than you. Do you eventually want to be doing the type of work they’re doing?

If you don’t know what your current path looks like, schedule an informational interview with someone more experienced. These informal meetings are a great way to find out what you can expect in the future. Consider asking people what they like most about their job, the types of projects they work on, and what advice they’d give to someone in your shoes.

Your answers to these questions will help you understand whether you should double your efforts in your current job or start figuring out your next move.

Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you if you are questioning your career path. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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Icons Who Will Inspire You to Never Give Up

“Never give up.” It’s probably one of the most cliché phrases you’ll hear as you’re building your career. But there’s a reason this saying is common—you never know when success is around the corner. 

Believing that is easier said than done, so we collected the following stories of icons who definitely never gave up, including J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, for starters. These folks are now household names, but they didn’t become one easily. Read on and get inspired!

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling had just gotten a divorce, was on government aid, and could barely afford to feed her baby in 1994, just three years before the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was published. When she was shopping it out, she was so poor she couldn’t afford a computer or even the cost of photocopying the 90,000-word novel, so she manually typed out each version to send to publishers. It was rejected dozens of times until finally Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, gave it a second chance after the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter fell in love with it.

Stephen King

King was broke and struggling while writing his first novel Carrie. He lived in a trailer with his wife—also a writer—and they both worked multiple jobs to support their family while pursuing their craft. They were so poor they had to borrow clothes for their wedding and had gotten rid of the telephone because it was too expensive.

King received so many rejection letters for his works that he developed a system for collecting them. In his book On Writing, he recalls: “By the time I was 14…the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a railroad spike and kept on writing.” He received 60 rejections before selling his first short story, “The Glass Floor,” for $35. Even his now best-selling book, Carrie, wasn’t a hit at first. After dozens of rejections, he finally sold it for a meager advance to Doubleday Publishing, where the hardback sold only 13,000 copies—not great. Soon after, though, Signet Books signed on for the paperback rights for $400,000, $200,000 of which went to King. The beginning of his success achieved!

Tyler Perry

Perry had a rough childhood. He was physically and sexually abused growing up, got kicked out of high school, and tried to commit suicide twice—once as a preteen and again at 22. At 23 he moved to Atlanta and took up odd jobs as he started working on his stage career.

In 1992 he wrote, produced, and starred in his first theater production, I Know I’ve Been Changed, somewhat informed by his difficult upbringing. Perry put all his savings into the show and it failed miserably; the run lasted just one weekend and only 30 people came to watch. He kept up with the production, working more odd jobs and often slept in his car to get by. Six years later, Perry finally broke through when, on its seventh run, the show became a success. He’s since gone on to have an extremely successful career as a director, writer, and actor. In fact, Perry was named Forbes’ highest-paid man in entertainment in 2011.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah’s dealt with a lot throughout her public life—criticism about her weight, racism, intrusive questions about her sexuality, just to name a few—but she never let it get in the way of her ambition and drive. When you look at her childhood, her personal triumphs are cast in an even more remarkable light.

Growing up, Oprah was reportedly a victim of sexual abuse and was repeatedly molested by her cousin, an uncle, and a family friend. Later, she became pregnant and gave birth to a child at age 14, who passed away just two weeks later. But Oprah persevered, going on to finish high school as an honors student, earning a full scholarship to college, and working her way up through the ranks of television, from a local network anchor in Nashville to an international superstar and creator of her OWN network (we couldn’t help ourselves.)

Jim Carrey

When Carrey was 14 years old, his father lost his job, and his family hit rough times. They moved into a VW van on a relative’s lawn, and the young aspiring comedian—who was so dedicated to his craft that he mailed his resume to The Carroll Burnett Show just a few years earlier, at age 10—took an eight-hours-per-day factory job after school to help make ends meet.

At age 15, Carrey performed his comedy routine onstage for the first time—in a suit his mom made him—and totally bombed, but he was undeterred. The next year, at 16, he quit school to focus on comedy full time. He moved to LA shortly after, where he would park on Mulholland Drive every night and visualize his success. One of these nights he wrote himself a check for $10,000,000 for “Acting Services Rendered,” which he dated for Thanksgiving 1995. Just before that date, he hit his payday with Dumb and Dumber. He put the deteriorated check, which he’d kept in his wallet the whole time, in his father’s casket.

“Never give up” still might be one of the most cliché phrases you’ll hear (even after reading these amazing success stories). But our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to better explain why ‘never giving up’ is important when it comes to your career and life. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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4 Ways to Find The Answer to “What Should I Do With My Life?”

What should I do with my life?

Unlike so many other questions you have about your career, this one’s not quite as easy to Google.

The good news is, you’re not alone—in fact, we guarantee that everyone has pondered their career path, finding their passion, or what they’re meant to be doing at some point. And luckily, many of them are willing to share their advice. If you’re at a loss for what steps to take next, read on for the best pieces of advice from a Quora thread on this topic.

1. Talk to People

“Meet or call at least 50 people. They can be your friends, relatives, friends of friends/references. Call them up, schedule a meeting, go see them and interact with them on what they are doing. Don’t expect anything, don’t ask them to find you a job, don’t ask them to give you a job. Just talk and meet and have a normal conversation.” – Gaurav Munjal

You’d be surprised at how much you can learn just listening to other people talk. If you take the time to really listen, you’ll get insight into people’s motivations, hopes, dreams, and ambitions. And when you piece all that together, you can learn how others got to where they are today—and if that’s a path you want to be on, too.

2. Get Started

“My suggestion is to do something. Even if it isn’t quite the right thing, it is nevertheless a movement that can give you an opportunity to experience. You can spend a lot of time taking tests and getting evaluations for what you might be suited for; ideas always sound good on paper. But words don’t match experience, so acting on something is your best choice.” – Kathleen Grace

Regardless of what you generally want to do, it never hurts to start building something. Start creating a portfolio, launch a career newsletter, or learn how content creating works. There are so many things you can do for your career—even if you don’t know what you want to do.

3. Gather Inspiration From Others

“Walk into your local bookshop and go straight to the autobiography section. Buy three books from across different industries, societies, and cultures. Focus on biographies that document great and successful people’s early lives, before they were great. Read them before bed. Wake up in the morning and write down 10 things you could do differently that day. Do some of them. Do this the next day. And then do it again.” – David Ball

What better way to get started than by learning how others reached their goals? Keep in mind as you’re reading that these people weren’t born knowing what they wanted to do either.

7. Enjoy Not Knowing

“Enjoy the meanderings, the soul-searching, the loves lost, the time wasted. All of it will add up to a complex and very unique ‘you.’ The more you appreciate right now, the more the future will become a fantastic reality. Don’t pressure yourself to be in the future.” -James Altucher

You know how math problems always seem impossible when you first look at them, but then, after taking a break, the answer feels so obvious? Figuring out what you want to do with your life is kind of like that.

By focusing on other less-pressing matters, the obvious answer will come to you when you’re least expecting it.

Just remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out. And that even when you do, you might change the course a few times. So don’t worry about having all the answers—just thinking about it is a good start.

Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you answer the age-old question, “What should I do with my life?”. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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Why You Need a Professional Headshot

Many professionals assume a headshot is something you upload to your LinkedIn profile and then never touch again. That assumption is wrong! 

Your headshot will come in handy throughout your career. It will grace the “About Us” page on your company’s website, be sent to new coworkers so people can easily recognize you, and be asked for by event organizers to advertise your speaking engagements.

Maybe you’re thinking: Speaking engagements? Please, I am never going to need a professional headshot in my career. 

If so, you need a reframe. Our Ignite Your Potential career coaches can point out countless blurry or inappropriate LinkedIn profile pictures (or no photo at all) that affect whether or not people reach out and collaborate. 

A headshot is useful for many professional situations:

  • Your Email Account
  • Your Email Signature
  • Your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram 
  • Your Website or Portfolio
  • Your Posts or Bylines
  • Your Company Bio

Convinced? Great, now it’s time to take one. And the good news is, it’s really easy.

Step 1: Pick out a shirt that you feel confident in (Tip: Avoid busy patterns or anything you would not wear to Grandma’s Sunday dinner).

Step 2: Find a plain, but ideally interesting backdrop (Tip: Avoid posing in front of windows or busy backgrounds unless you’re a lighting and photography editing pro.)

Step 3: If you’re a woman, you might consider makeup. Even if you don’t usually wear it. Without it you may look a little faded out in a photo. Time to smile and take the photo.

Step 4: Save it and use it for everything.

Whether a friend takes the shot or you hire a professional photographer—it is up to you. But whatever you do, make sure you have one handy—and update it every couple of years. It can costs you very little to make and will save you from having to scrounge through old Facebook albums and crop an adult beverage out of your hand.

Need more tips when it comes to professional headshots? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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15 Better Get-to-Know-You Questions for Your Co-Workers

Maybe you’re brand new on your team, or maybe, you’ve been around for a while, but you really don’t know all that much about the people you work with. Either way, it’s time to pull out some get-to-know-you questions. First, because it’s more fun to work with people you feel bonded to, but second, it’s an excellent strategy to be connected to the people who see your work closely. You will all end up being part of a career network that will last your entire career. In other words, connecting with the people around you is both a better way to enjoy your work and also a more sophisticated career strategy. Throw a couple of these prompts out and get ready to bond with your colleagues on a whole new level.

Strictly Business

1.What do you do at [Company] and when and where can we find synergy?

2.What’s a professional skill you’re currently working on?

3. What’s your go-to productivity trick?

4. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

5. What was your first job?

A Little More Personal

6. If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something what would it be?

7. If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be and why?

8. How do you turn things around when you’re having a bad day?

9. What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

10. What’s something you’ve done, but will never do again?

Just for Fun

11. Are you a dog person or a cat person (or neither)?

12. Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?

13. If you could choose a name for yourself, what would it be?

14. If you could only eat one item for every meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

15. If you could only have three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick?

It can be tough to think of questions that go beyond, “What did you do this weekend?” or “It’s a little cold in here today, isn’t it?” Bookmark this list to foster a reputation as the co-worker who can always get an awesome conversation started.

Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you create a better team environment. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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What to Do When You Hate Your Boss but Love Your Job

What do you do when you hate your boss but love your job? It’s not an easy situation to navigate—but what’s the alternative? Quitting and taking a gamble that everything else will line up?

Yes, having a boss you hate is a big reason that people start job searching, but it’s not the only way to handle the problem. If getting a new gig isn’t something you want to consider, then follow our Ignite Your Potential coaches’ tips on how to deal with the imperfect scenario: great job, nightmare boss.

1. Take a Good Look

Figure out exactly what it is about your boss that’s problematic and determine if there’s anything you can change or address. If there’s nothing (and that’s possible), maybe you could adjust the way you react to her behavior so you don’t escalate situations. For example, if she’s constantly emailing you at odd hours, expecting immediate responses, it’s up to you to gently set guidelines for your response rate—rather than responding snappily.

2. Remind Yourself

Why You Love Your JobMake a list of all of the things about your position that you dig. Write down everything from unlimited coffee to being able to work closely with the talented website developer. Nothing’s too small for this list! And if you are really, sincerely passionate about your position, this should be the easy part.Once you have your list, you can go on doing your work and rejoice in the fact that there is so much that you appreciate and value. Does it make sense to leave all that behind because of a bad boss?

3. Get Some Support

If you think your boss may be a narcissist or even if it’s not quite that bad but you could use some advice fordealing with someone very difficult, Nina Brown has the book for you, “Working With the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job.”

4. Wait it Out

If you’ve examined the situation thoroughly and concluded that there’s nothing wrong with anything you’re doing and your boss is, indeed, a really awful person, trust that you’re not the only one who sees it. No matter how much praise is bestowed on them now, it’s probable that, at some point in the future, someone else will take stock of what’s happening, and eventually they will be talked to.

But honestly, if the love-my-job-hate-my-boss situation doesn’t improve over time, you might have to move on. You deserve to work with people who bring out the best in you—so don’t let a great job keep you from working with an awesome boss. Somewhere out there is a position that will provide you with awesome responsibilities and a manager you’ll love.

Do you need more advice on how to deal with a nightmare boss? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you figure it out. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

Lacking Motivation? Ask Yourself These Questions

Are you feeling uninspired, unmotivated or just generally off track? It’s time to figure out where you are, where you’re going, and why you’re not there yet. Everyone wants to get out of a slump, but sometimes it takes a little push to start the change. Action is the mortal enemy of career slumps. Taking action and doing something to change your situation can have incredible results. To kick off your change, ask yourself these three questions:  

1. What is Missing? If you’re stuck in a slump, questioning what is missing in your professional life can provide the solution you need to bring back your career mojo. By doing this, you’ll have a targeted point of change that you can use as a jumping-off point for your new, motivated self. Not feeling challenged enough? Kick-off your new inspiration by asking your boss for new responsibilities or even go for a promotion. Give yourself a new challenge it may be just what you need to get re-engaged.   

2. Where’s the ‘Why’? Focus on bringing your thinking back to the reason you do what you do. 1.What makes you truly happy? 2.Where do you add the greatest value? 3.Why did you begin this job in the first place? Going back to basics and figuring this out for yourself can provide you with the answers you need to get your engagement back. If you’re failing to see the reasons why you’re in your current role, it may be time to consider a career pivot.  

3. How do I Get Motivated? Whether it’s applying for a job, asking your boss for a raise, or some other goal, just committing yourself to do it will make a huge difference. Everyone wants to get out of a slump, but sometimes it takes a little push to start the change. Action is the mortal enemy of career slumps. Taking action and doing something to change your situation can have incredible results.  Do you need advice on getting motivated? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a ​complimentary 25-minute phone session​ that will help you find your motivation again. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise. 

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How to Work Remotely Without Working All the Time

Working remotely has it’s perks (can you say “zero commute?”) But when your home is also your office, separating your work life and your personal life can be a challenge. And without that separation, work can start spreading throughout your home and invading the rest of your life. Not to mention the psychological effect, making it hard to disengage, and spend time on other things that are just as important (like your self-care, family, friends, and hobbies.)

Keeping your work life from infringing on your personal life is a must if you want to feel like you’re thriving, healthy, and balanced. But how exactly do you do that? Here are a few tips from the Ignite Your Potential award-winning coaches.

Work Parallel Schedules

When you work from home—and do so around the clock—it can feel like you and your family are ships passing in the night. The best way to combat this? Keep similar schedules. “I work on my business while my husband is at work. That gives me 10 hours to do my thing,” says Anna Kat Napier, founder of Boss Girl Launch Pad. “I need to be able to stop my work when he gets home so that we can catch up with each other and spend dinnertime together.” Scheduling parallel hours (for example, doing work while the kids are at school or during the hours your spouse is at work) will allow you to get things done but still have time to connect.

Set a Firm Stopping Point

It’s easy to tell yourself “just five more minutes” or “just one more email.” But working crazy hours can throw your body out of whack. “Your body is used to operating on a schedule,” says Kim Perkins, organizational psychologist and chief behavioral scientist at work and culture consulting firm NOBL. “Kids get up at the same time, they go to school at the same time, and this builds rhythms and habits—and it’s very easy to know what you’re supposed to be doing and when you’re supposed to be doing it. Even as adults, we need that for a sense of consistency—because otherwise it just takes too long to figure out where we are and what we’re supposed to be doing.” Setting a firm stopping point every day—and sticking to it—will help you keep from overworking.

Shut the Office Door

Ever heard of the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” Well, that also applies to your workspace.

“One of the tricks I use to separate my personal from professional life while I work from home is to shut my office door during weekends,” says Angela Zade, digital marketing manager for travel software company Trondent Development Corp. It’s her way of communicating to herself: “The Office Is Closed!” If you use a dedicated room as your home office, step away at the end of the day, and leave all your work gear, like your laptop and work phone behind. In other words, literally and figuratively, shut the door on work so that you can pursue personal projects, family time, or just good, old-fashioned relaxing without feeling the pull of the office.

When you work from home, it’s so easy to be tuned into work 24/7. But remember, your home is your home first—and your office second. And if you want the work-life balance you desperately crave, you need to treat it that way.

We hope these tips help you navigate your home and work life with ease. Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you find ways to find a balance between working and relaxing. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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Questions to Ask Yourself If You Are Uncertain About Your Career Path

Do you sometimes feel uncertain about your career path, yet find the idea of making a change daunting? The time, energy, and strategy required to transition into the right career path may cause hesitation, but this shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a path that engages you. Before you begin a career transition, ask yourself the following questions:

Am I Developing a Competitive Advantage?

In The Start-up of You, authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha teach that we’re all entrepreneurs of our own careers. They argue that to become competitive in today’s global market, it’s critical to understand your assets, your aspirations, and the industry realities. 

It’s important to think of these three aspects as puzzle pieces. Having only one or two is not enough. You need all three to develop a competitive advantage. You’ve likely heard the axiom, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This may be true for some, but blindly following passion can lead to an unsustainable career. Know your assets, aspirations, and realities—then pursue a path that exemplifies all three.

How Often Do I Think About Work Outside of Work?

This question is best illustrated through a story. Henry Eyring, a former business professor at Stanford University, tells how he ended up choosing his path. His father, a renowned scientist, and professor hoped his son would follow in his footsteps. In Eyring’s words: “My father was [teaching physics] at a blackboard we kept in the basement…Suddenly he stopped. ‘Hal,’ he said, ‘we were working the same kind of problem a week ago. You don’t seem to understand it any better now than you did then. Haven’t you been working on it?’” Eyring admitted he had not. His father then said: “When you walk down the street when you’re in the shower when you don’t have to be thinking about anything else, isn’t this what you think about?” “When I told him no,” Eyring concludes, “my father paused…then said, ‘Hal, I think you’d better get out of physics. You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don’t have to think about anything, that’s what you think about.’”

To be successful you don’t need to obsess about your job 24/7, but if you’re only thinking about your job during the hours of 9 to 5, it may be a sign you’re on the wrong path.

“Where Will This Career Path Take Me 10 Years Down the Line?”

A long-term view of your career is critical because many jobs change as you advance in your field. If you don’t know what your current path looks like, schedule a 25-minute phone session with one of the Ignite Your Potential coaches. These sessions are a great way to find out what you can expect in the future.

Your answers to these questions will help you understand whether you should double your efforts in your current job or start figuring out your next move. Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session that will help you find your perfect career path. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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5 Inspirational TED Talks for Anyone Having a Rough Day

Check out our 5 favorite TED Talks for the next time things are not going your way.

1. If You’re Feeling Sorry for Yourself: Living Beyond Limits 

Amy Purdy talks about the power of imagination. She explains how our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by the choices we make. Imagination allows us to break down borders, to move beyond our circumstances, to create and constantly progress.

2. If You’re Feeling Drained: Your Elusive Creative Genius

“Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

3. If You’re Feeling Sad: The Three A’s of Awesome

Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things savors life’s simple pleasures, from free refills to clean sheets. In this heartfelt talk from TEDxToronto, he reveals the 3 secrets (all starting with A) to leading a life that’s truly awesome.

4. If You’re Feeling Negative: The Surprising Science of Happiness

Dan Gilbert, the author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

5. If You’re Feeling Stressed: How to Make Stress Your Friend 

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken, and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

We hope that at least one of these video can get you through your bad day. Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you find cope with tough days. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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