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Caroline Dowd - Higgins

Carolyn Dowd- Higgins has over a decade of career and professional development experience, Caroline authored the book and maintains the blog: This Is Not the Career I Ordered® which showcases her savvy professional development advice and women who are thriving after a career transition or reinvention. She maintains a career and executive coaching practice and speaks nationally on professional development topics specializing in the success of individuals in the workforce. www.carolinedowdhiggins.com.

Bring On Your Sparkle!

Women have long been told to be modest, to be polite and to shy away from bragging about themselves.

You may be thinking “well of course, that’s just good manners!”

But it can actually become detrimental to your career.

Men were taught to showcase their successes and in turn, we have found that they are more confident in their abilities and more likely to negotiate for themselves in job interviews.

When prepping my students and clients to network or interview for an ideal job opportunity, I encourage them to showcase their sparkle factor. This is the palpable characteristic that highlights their passion, strengths, and authentic interest in the opportunity at hand. The energy you emit is profound when you tap your sparkle factor and this visceral emotion should not be reserved for the job interview alone.

Finding your sweet spot in the career world can be daunting, but the responsibility lies with you alone to play to your strengths and honor your passions in the job you are in or the job you may be seeking.

Identifying what makes you unique requires self-reflection and focus – so get quiet with yourself. Turn off the monkey chatter in your brain and slow down so you will be able to identify what makes you sparkle.

Protect your sparkle fiercely in your professional life.

This is what makes you unique, what energizes you, and what gives the countless waking hours you spend at work meaning and a sense of purpose.

Know Your Distinguishing Factors  What sets you apart from the pack? Truly consider your strengths and the energizing skills that you enjoy performing. It’s not enough to be good at something – you must really relish doing it consistently. This is when time flies because you lose yourself in these wonderful tasks. When you can become the go-to person in your organization because of what you do uniquely well, then you can distinguish yourself and become indispensable.

Learn to Bob & Weave If you are not a boxing fan you may not know the origin of this term but the concept is universal. You must be quick on your feet, flexible, and ready to innovate in changing situations.  In other words – roll with the punches. The new normal has taught us that resilience matters. Showcasing your sparkle factor may provide growth and leadership opportunities if you distinguish yourself as the professional who is ever-ready to do what it takes to accomplish organizational goals.

Toxic People Can Steal Your Power  Positivity is infectious but so is negativity. Minimize the toxic associations in your life and give yourself permission to play to your strengths and focus on what you do well. Power is not given, it’s taken, so never let the toxic people steal your thunder or undermine your value. Be assertive, self-confident and fiercely protective of your sparkle factor. Establish a work culture of having a good day or a great day – both are very strong options and will diminish negative attitudes.

Ask for What You Need  The most successful people have a team helping them achieve their goals. Assemble your Personal Board of Directors and don’t be timid about asking for help. Can you do it all? Yes, but not alone, and not at the same time. Tap your tribe and pay-it-forward by having someone else’s back. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a wise distribution of what you do really well. Delegation can provide someone else with an opportunity and it empowers you to do what nobody else can.

Command Respect  There will always be people who are fearful and manipulative who may try to squelch your sparkle. Strive to earn their respect, since that is more important than being liked by them in the workplace. You need not win the office popularity contest, but it would be ideal if you earned your colleagues’ respect. People accept what you project so it’s your responsibility to teach them how to treat you. Consider what professional persona you want to put out into the world. How do you want to be recognized? Send that message out loud and clearly to those around you.

Bring it On  Showcasing your sparkle is energizing for you and contagious for your colleagues. Consider how you dig deep and deliver. Discuss what motivates you and your colleagues. If you are in a leadership role be sure to ask your staff what makes them sparkle so you can recognize and validate them for a job well done. Employee engagement, or lack thereof is a top factor in retaining or losing great talent.

Love What You Do  It all boils down to honoring your values and playing to your passions on a regular basis. If you are in a role where you cannot showcase your sparkle it may be time to consider your career future.

You alone have the power to embrace your strengths, own your self-confidence, and engage your sparkle factor. Spend some time reflecting on what makes you tick. You deserve to sparkle so once you find it – protect it for the precious commodity that it is.

Once you’ve determined your sparkle factor you’ll never again have to give in to self-doubt. You can spend the time you used to spend fretting and put it to good use, like earning the respect of your co-workers, rocking all of your tasks and having great work days!

**Edited for repurpose by Taylor Brown, Associate Editor of Goddess Connections’ publicationWomen Who Run It.

Investing in Your Image is Investing in Your Career

Have you ever convinced yourself to buy something by arguing that “it’s an investment piece?” “Black Louboutin’s will never go out of style… they must be worth the $500!“

We’ve probably argued this with expensive purses, technology and work attire. The truth is that they can definitely be considered investments – in you and your career!

Your image is an important part of how seriously you are taken in the business world but do we make sure our image is in tip-top shape everywhere? Sometimes we forget about another professional space where we may get even more attention, the internet. Even worse, our image is all we have on the web! If we aren’t projecting a good one then we’re probably being overlooked.
Be honest; does your LinkedIn profile have a photograph? Or are you one of those people who chooses (or can’t be bothered) to not to upload an image? If you opt out of including a headshot, the message you are sending to the professional world is not a good one. It is not a beauty contest, but more of a way for you to be identified, as well as for others to check out your professional persona.
We’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but some of us don’t consider it when choosing a photograph. For example, it should not be a photo from your best friend’s wedding that visibly shows your hand being cropped out of a champagne toast shot. Another thing I see often are photographs of couples. This is a major faux pas if you are looking to get hired or advance your career. Keep the couple shots on the wall in your home. Employers are only interested in you, not your significant other.
A lot of people panic when contemplating getting their photos taken. It’s important to find a photographer with whom you feel comfortable and can relax with during the shoot. While you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg, investing in a professional photographer will give you visibly better results than having a friend photograph you with their iPhone.
Your professional shot will come in handy for LinkedIn and other social media sites and can also be used on your organization’s website if applicable. You will find countless ways to use your professional photo, so consider this as an investment in your career.
Here are some tips for your professional photos regarding clothing, makeup, and jewelry. Keep in mind your attire should match your industry.
What to Wear
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable and well-fitting that make you look and feel great.

  • Turtlenecks are almost always a bad idea since they crowd the face.

  • Clothes should be neatly pressed or fresh looking.

  • Avoid busy patterns and large lines/stripes.

  • Choose colors you wear well that accentuate your eye color and skin tone.

  • Different necklines will change the shape of your face. Bring a variety of different shirts/blouses to see what works best.

Make-up/Hair for Women
  • Even if you prefer a more natural look – you need some makeup to allow your face to pop in the photo.

  • EYES:
 Well-groomed eyebrows are a must. Enhance eyelashes with black mascara. Dark brown eyeliner is a natural alternative to heavy black eyeliner and compliments all eye shadows.

 Don’t be afraid to add a little color on the apples of the cheekbones. It will really brighten up the appearance of the face.

  • FACE:
 Use both SPF-free moisturizer and foundation to prevent reflection and to enhance skin’s natural glow. Use a translucent powder to set.

  • LIPS:
 Lips are best in reds, berries, and browns. No frosty pink. Glosses in any berry color work well. Even if you never wear lipstick, a little color will really make your smile stand out. Your lips are an essential tool for effective communication.

  • If getting a haircut or new hair style, make your appointment at least 2 weeks prior to your portrait session so you feel comfortable with your hair.


  • Keep jewelry simple – small is better, even with the new bold styles.

  • Avoid jewelry that would distract from your face or that looks dated.

  • The picture is about your face not your jewelry.

  • Be prepared to remove facial piercings or multiple ear piercings unless this acceptable in your industry.

Do your research to find the best fit for you since photography is an investment in your professional future. Ask for examples of their work and call references to learn about what to expect on the shoot. Since digital images are the norm, ask to see some of the shots during the shoot so you can adjust your smile or pose before the session is over.
Practice your smile and poses in the mirror in the privacy of your own home before the shoot so you become comfortable and relaxed. You want your photos to really look like the authentic you so enjoy the process and smile!
If you’ve ever convinced yourself to buy expensive clothing or technology, all in the name of your career, then a professional photograph should be a no-brainer. Be a model for a day and let your professional demeanor and hard work show through the great image you can send out. The web’s a big place, don’t let yourself get overlooked!