Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Few things move as quietly as the future — Bern Williams

Is your future getting away from you?

Are you neglecting some important things (relationship, health) because they are not as noisy as the overbearing client or the next bill to pay?

What support do you need to ensure that you stay focused on what really matters?

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SixFigureStart Quoted On How The Unemployed Can Stay Competitive

“The reason why market competition gets even worse for the unemployed at the beginning of a market recovery is because all the unhappy employed people finally get the courage to jump in, and recruiters will pick the employed over the unemployed,” said Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career expert; writer; speaker; and co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career-coaching firm.

To compete, Ceniza-Levine said, the unemployed need to match the advantages of their employed counterparts, including an air of confidence as well as current knowledge of top competitors and sector trends. If an unemployed person can demonstrate these attributes, she said, “they will appear as valuable as an employed person and help get over that hump that favors the employed candidates.”

Read the rest of Debra Donston-Miller’s article for The Ladders, “Out of Work, Not Out of the Running:”


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Job Opening at NYC Youth-Focused Non-Profit

 I’ve been volunteering with Opportunity Network for years, and they have a plum opening:


For The Opportunity Network

The Opportunity

We are looking for a Program Manager to work closely with the Deputy Director/Head of Programs and program staff to manage our high school career development program. This is an exciting opportunity for a high-caliber candidate to put his or her stamp on an innovative, proven program run by dynamic and passionate leaders. Work with great students, teach (and help refine) an exciting curriculum, gain access to an extensive network of NYC influentials, and seize a real opportunity to create social change.

The Organization

Founded in 2002 by two Yale graduates and funded by blue-chip backers, The Opportunity Network works to equal the playing field for high-achieving, underserved high school and college students by creating access for them to career opportunities, professional networks and college. We believe influential networks are essential ingredients for success not emphasized in career development programs for youth, so we take an innovative approach by underscoring the power of personal connections and professional relationships as vital complements to skills and experience. Through unique interaction with executives, intensive networking training, coursework in careers, paid internships and college counseling, our students dramatically change the course of their futures.

The Ideal Candidate: Requirements

We’re looking for a very smart, competent and engaging Program Manager, who is committed to a high standard of excellence and able to thrive in a small organization with an ambitious agenda.

The ideal candidate will also have these key assets and attributes:

2-5 years of work experience;

Experience working with teenagers, preferably at a youth non-profit or school; 

Corporate background/experience highly preferred; 

Demonstrated ability to connect with high-achieving high school and college students from

underserved communities: Can help lead class sessions in rigorous but inspiring fashion;

understands how to be both nurturing and demanding; appreciates boundaries, but not

afraid to push or challenge; enjoys teenagers;

High comfort level working with professional executives; comfort and savvy in corporate


Ability to learn about, synthesize and facilitate discussion on a range of career fields;

Self-starter with strong entrepreneurial drive: Takes initiative; comfortable operating in

growth mode and wearing many hats; can operate self-sufficiently, but also collaboratively as

part of a team;

Superb written and oral communication skills;

High degree of effectiveness – gets things done!


The Program Manager’s primary responsibility will be to manage the day-to-day operations of our high school career development program, including:

Running weekly classroom workshops (up to three evenings from 5-7pm) for high school

students on a range of career development, professional etiquette and networking subjects;

Working one-on-one with students on individual development;

Collaborating with executives to plan interactive career workshops;

Working with program staff to continually enhance programs;

Liaising with high school administrators and guidance counselors;

Engaging with parents to maximize student potential;

Working with senior program staff on evaluations and metrics;

Participating in student recruitment;

Pitching in on events, trips and operational tasks (along with the rest of us!)


Commensurate with experience, plus top-of-the-line medical benefits, excellent vacation package and great work environment.

To Apply

Please send a resume and cover letter, outlining how your credentials relate specifically to the requirements above, to jobs@opportunitynetwork.org.

Filed under: job posting, ,

Attending School Overseas and What to Expect When You Return

When I was led Campus Recruiting at Merrill Lynch, and at Warner-Lambert and at Citigroup, about 30% of all students studying in the U.S. were from overseas.  Citigroup and Warner-Lambert  would not sponsor those international students to obtain their visas, but Merrill Lynch would (at a cost of millions). 

What we rarely did was hire U.S. students that studied all four years at schools overseas.  They just were not on our radar screen.  We didn’t know the quality of the schools, therefore we didn’t know the quality of the education.  The schools we did know got our attention and the next question was whether or not the student had authorization to work in the country.

Read my comments in this US News & World Report article that was recently released about one week ago:


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Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite. – Robert Half

How long have you been working towards your goal?

Has this been quality, focused work?

Do you need to step back to refresh, restrategize or redirect your energy?

If you are on the right track, are you willing to persist?

Filed under: life coaching, ,

Career Success Requires Quantity, As Well As Quality

Recently, I heard from someone who was frustrated that, despite following all of the recommended career advancement strategies (networking, following up, working on her pitch), she was not moving forward. As an example, she referenced a few leads that had grown cold. What is the problem?

Now it could very well be that she is not networking, following up, or positioning herself as well as she says. But even if she is doing all of the steps right, and the quality of activity is there, a handful of leads not working out is not surprising. You also need quantity of activity in your job search and career plans.

Any one lead may not work out regardless of anything you do. There may be no promotion budget any longer. The management opportunity changes in a restructuring. Your company gets bought, and all of your allies and stakeholders get tossed when new management steps in.

Just like your financial investments should be diversified, so should your career investments.

Network inside and outside the company, at different levels, in different industries and functional areas. Follow up is not just about networking contacts but also about following up on different opportunities. Are you considering lateral moves, entrepreneurship (or employee status if you’re an entrepreneur), consulting v. in-house, nascent industries you may not know much about yet? When you position yourself, is it just to a small group of insiders who already know you? Are you blogging, speaking at conferences, getting quoted or publishing?

It is very easy to get swept up in the day-to-day of your job, especially in these times where resources are already stretched thin. But if you focus exclusively on quality of work and don’t expand your reach to a wide enough quantity of audience, you are leaving your career vulnerable. Get yourself out there and not just at the margins but with 100+ networking contacts. If you are in active job search mode, aim for 10+ target companies in play at any one time. If you are in career development mode, have several possibilities outside of your current company that you can move on at all times. Focus on quality, of course, but quantity also matters.

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Take Your Child to Work Week is Here!

Gen Y has been the lucky recipient of “Take Your Child to Work Week” where kids can observe business first hand.  This perspective is great, and typically not what we experienced as Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers. 

Here are my comments when I was recetly interview about the topic by iVillage:  http://parenting.ivillage.com/mom/workfamily/0,,gtfffk4f-p,00.html

Filed under: career coaching, Company news, , ,

SixFigureStart Quoted On Landing Your First Job

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of career coaching firm SixFigureStart notes that recent graduates need to “brand themselves for the specific industry and functional area they are targeting.” To compete with more experienced candidates, she adds, it is important to go beyond simply “promising to work hard and learn quickly. They need to make employers feel they’ve already done the job and will hit the ground running.”

See the rest of the tips for new entrants to the job market in Lee Miller’s article for the NJ Star Ledger:


Filed under: career coaching, resource recommendation, , , , ,

The one thing that hurts more than having to pay income tax is not having to pay income tax – Thomas Duwar

It’s not about finding a silver lining everywhere (though that would be nice!), but it is true that many of our problems co-exist with things that we want and value — the salary that comes with taxes, the promotion that comes with stress.  So the next time you think something is a problem (it’s Monday again and I have to go to work!), how can you reframe it to be grateful or excited instead (I have a job that supports me and my dreams!)

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Reader Questions on Salary

From the recent Vault.com and SixFigureStart Ask Anything teleclass, here are some questions on salary:

Lisa asks:  What’s the best way to approach a recruiter about salary negotiation…I’d like to know a) how someone new to the workforce should approach negotiation, and b) how that changes when you’ve got a few years of experience. 

Recruiters will demand to know salary before they present you to the client.  They need to know that you are in the ballpark of what their client is expecting.  It also is good market knowledge for them to have.  So you need to know that whatever you say goes to their client.

When you are new, you might think you have no negotiating leverage.  It is true that the big management training programs or analyst/ associate programs at banks and consulting firms have set salaries with little negotiating.  But for everywhere else, and that means most other jobs, there is no standard salary.  You are paid what the employer has in their budget and what they think you are worth.  So look at the market value of your skills (computer, languages, analytical, coursework), your internships and part-time jobs, and your degrees.  Know what benefit you will bring to your employers bottom line and what comparable people doing these same roles are making.  When you are new, employers will try to pay you based on your years of full-time experience because you have relatively little.  You want them to focus on skills and results.

When you are experienced, it’s trickier because there are more variables but the essential lessons remain the same.  Know your market and how you contribute.  That is your value and that should be your price.

Bhavani asks:  Due to the recession, I committed to a job offer which payed very less(peanuts) but was offered a good job profile. As time progressed I realized that the company did not deliver on its promises and I plan to quit soon. As I apply for jobs, I am expected to quote a salary based on my current salary. The current salary is very little and I believe that with my experience and education I should be able to quote a higher salary. How can one deal with this situation? 

Your current salary is a very strong anchor to what employers think they need to pay you.  So you need to do whatever you can to establish your value before divulging how little you make.  Focus on what you are bringing to the job and what comparable people in these roles are making.  See the points above.  Now that you have established that this is the correct anchor you can explain your salary as an anomaly and one of the reasons you are leaving.  Employers are happy to get good hires at a fair price even if that means paying a lot more than what you happened to make before.

Gordon asks:  How do I respond when a job posting (application) asks for salary history and minimum salary requirement?

This is why I don’t recommend that people spend a lot of time responding to job postings.  There is very little room to maneuver as some employers will toss out applications with missing information, such as salary and salary requirements.  I won’t even move ahead with presenting candidates to my clients/ hiring managers without salary info.  So you have to respond with the truth, and boom, the salary you name anchors how the employer perceives you. 

If you don’t want to respond (such as Bhavani might not give his question above) you need to find another way to apply that circumvents the application.  Network into the decision-makers and bypass the recruiter.  Make a pitch that focuses on your value so that salary is a secondary consideration. 

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters.  Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” due out April 2010; Bascom Hill Books.  Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.  Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.

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