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Get There and Keep Going: Managing Your Career Journey

It was an exciting opportunity and a privilege to be invited to speak at the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Conference in Chicago recently, sharing the program with NFL MVP Peyton Manning, and Shark Tank’s Daymond John. The 7,000 professionals attending the conference were at various levels in their career development, from those just starting out to seasoned executives, yet all were focused on continuing to enhance their careers. This blog will give you the highlights of my responses to a series of questions I addressed on that exact subject.

How do you seek professional opportunities?

  • The foundational strategy is to CONNECT with others

    • Nurture and build existing relationships

    • Join professional organizations

    • Connect with someone “who knows who you want to know”

  • Leverage social media

  • Learn the most effective networking principles and use them

How do you network effectively?

  • Build mutually beneficial relationships continually, not just when you need something or at events

  • Listen to understand others’ needs and challenges – how can you help?

  • To really CONNECT you need dynamic people-reading skills and effective communication skills

  • Impress others with how smart they are

  • Remember: People may forget what you say and do, but they will not forget how you make them feel

Do you have any interview preparation tips?

  • Interviewers look for two things:

    • Will you solve my problem?

    • Will you make more problems for me?

  • Do your homework/research the company:

    • Familiarize yourself with the organization’s core values – are they a fit?

    • What is their mission?

    • What are their challenges?

  • Don’t volunteer information about yourself that could cause concern (like what your therapist had to say)

You got the job! What are the first things you do?

  • Network internally while you listen and learn

  • Identify key players and familiarize yourself with the company culture

  • Do more than what is expected of you; add value and secure early wins

  • Follow through on whatever you offer or are asked to do; without integrity nothing works

What do you consider as keys to successful career advancement?

  • Build relationships by:

    • Navigating the network of conversations

    • Adapting your style to that of others

  • Remember that someone’s greatest skill, if overused, can become a liability

    • Know yourself

    • Understand others

    • Cultivate your resilience

  • Dress for where you are going, not where you are

  • If you want to lead – read

  • Think like an owner:

    • Look at the Big Picture

    • What’s keeping them up at night?

  • Surround yourself with winners who want you to win; keep friends who will tell you not only what you want to hear, but what you need to hear

What Certifications/Degrees are helpful for professional development?

  • Take advantage of on-line learning webinars and podcasts, not just formal education

  • Set a goal to learn something new every year

What Was The Most Calculated Career Risk You Have Taken And How Did You Assess The Pros and Cons?

  • Changing my name from Cooperman to Cooperperson was risky and controversial and also created courageous conversations. But transformation lives in language and it was the right thing to do.

  • Shifting my business model from a leadership coach and educator to expand our impact beyond direct service into on-line learning. This was driven by a strong desire to make a difference in the way people communicate at work – another form of CONNECTION.

What helped you make successful career changes?

Everything you want is outside your comfort zone so learn to ride the wave of discomfort!

What challenges have you encountered during your career journey? What techniques have you used to overcome these challenges?

  • My son’s serious illness taught me to:

    • Play the hand you’re dealt

    • Learn to compartmentalize so the personal/emotional does not seep over into the professional

    • Stay focused on what you want, not what you don’t; stay positive & optimistic

    • CONNECT and ask for what you need

What is your perspective on maintaining a work/life balance?

  • There’s a difference between juggling and balancing. I consider it a juggling act to:

    • Examine your priorities and determine how you can be present when needed at work and at home

    • Spend quality time in both places whenever possible

  • Take time to unplug, push “pause” and take a breath

How do you evaluate if you are in a growth or career limiting position? Do you ever ask yourself “What was I thinking?”

  • Bloom where you are planted because the most difficult situations are often our best teachers.

Who was your most important mentor/role model and how did they help you?

  • My controversial choice is novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. What I took from her writings are:

    • A vision of what’s possible in American industry

    • Inspiration

    • Do what’s necessary; integrity in the moment of choice (what you said you would do) rather than how you feel

    • You can get by on charm briefly, but after that you’d better know something

    • Our background and circumstances influence who we are but we are responsible for who we become

If you could give one piece of career advice to someone to help make their career journey successful, what would it be?

If you are going to climb, make sure your ladder is against the right wall. So work with and for:

  • PASSION: the reason you get up in the morning, are willing to stay late, continually study, seek mentors and push through obstacles

  • PURPOSE: make a contribution

  • PROFIT: the result of adding great value using unique abilities

If you would like to receive our follow-up podcast, send your request to And I would be remiss not to thank both BNY Mellon Bank for inviting me to speak and CARLISLE etcetera for their sponsorship. CARLISLE etcetera provides a curated collection of women’s clothing that helps professionals “dress for where they’re going” with personalized service both in-person and electronically. Visit them at and

Ellen Cooperperson is Chief Executive Officer of Cooperperson Performance Consulting (CPC), one of the leading organizational development firms in the Northeast. She is recognized as an authority in executive coaching, corporate culture and communication. Ellen earned the American Society for Training and Development’s top awards for “Best in Training” and “Excellence in Organizational Transformation.” Her cutting-edge CONNECT 4 EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION, an on-line communication training tool, is now available to help you hone your communication, networking, relationship-building and interpersonal skills for the enhancement of your career goals.

If you or your organization needs a dynamic speaker, executive coaching or leadership training, please contact us at:


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