Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

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:


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SixFigureStart Quoted RE: Helicopter Parents

See my advice on how parents can support the Gen Y job search in a good way in Jaime Leick’s article “Black Hawk Down: Parents Help or Hinder the Job Search:”


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SixFigureStart Quoted In The Dallas Morning News

With 7.3 million jobs lost from December 2007 to October 2009, everyone “starts competing down the line,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, owner of SixFigureStart, a career-counseling service. “If you have to look for people, why not look for the unsolicited, more experienced people who are coming in droves?” They take the entry-level jobs. That means people who would normally seek entry-level jobs compete just to find “survival jobs.”

Read more about the effect of this tough market on Generation Y in Laura Vanderkam’s piece:  Why recession won’t mean lost generation


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How Good Manners Can Help Your Job Search

SixFigureStart recently met with the Placement Director and staff of a prominent graduate business school here in New York City.  We were talking about how this new generation – Gen Y/Millennials/anyone born after 1978 – is often times a mixed bag.  On the positive side, they are multi-taskers, relationship builders/team players, smart & agile, but on the flip side:

Read the flip side and tips on avoiding costly mistakes in your job search in our March 6 Vault blog post:


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Radical Transparency, Social Networking & The Dangers that Lurk there for Students

Radical Transparency is a new phenomenon that’s sweeping the world as a result of the freedom and access to information offered by the Internet.  Like most things, radical transparency is both good and bad, depending on how you use or misuse it.

It’s good because it makes important information accessible to the public.  For example, Kellogg’s cereals, which “Tony the Tiger” touted as being Grrrrreat for children, now cannot hide the massive amounts of sugar they have added all these years.

It’s bad because you can take a photo and think its fun, only to have it plastered all over the internet, making you look not so much like the person you wanted to look like.  Case in point:  a small city mayor had some provocative pictures taken in a bikini, only to have them plastered all over the web.  She was ousted out of office because of this poor judgment call.  And she didn’t even post the pictures on the web…her friends did.  Ugh!

If you are a student, beware!  A new survey of 500 top colleges found that 10% of admissions officers looked at social networking sites to evaluate applicants.  Almost 40% said they were negatively affected by what they saw.   Some admissions officers said they rejected students because of material on their sites.  In fact, one university rejected a student after that student gushed about the school during a visit, only to trash it online. 

Radical transparency creates a mine field for social networkers.  Look before you leap because once something is “out there”, it can come back to haunt you!

Filed under: career coaching, life coaching, , , , , , , , ,

Power of Storytelling

I was having lunch with my 12-year old, which is usually when we talk about South Park or Harry Potter or some of the very few things we have in common — she’s at that age where parents are so uncool.  Well, surprise!  She shares some career news.  She wants to do Teach For America.  Notice, she doesn’t want to be a teacher.  She wants Teach For America.  Ah, the power of stories…

My daughter needed to do a biography book report for school and I recommended Wendy Kopp’s “One Day All Children”, Wendy’s firsthand account about starting Teach For America.  An inspiring read and a great business case, the book sells teaching and Teach For America so well because it sucks you into its story and you forget the sell and just come along for the message.  I wanted my daughter to read about an enterprising and current young woman in Wendy Kopp.  In addition, my daughter got sold on Teach For America.

Another great story that I need to sneak into my daughter’s library is Alexandra Levit’s “They Don’t Teach Corporate In College”.   Here again, Alexandra has a great story about her early career climb but it’s so friendly and engaging that you forget you’re also getting excellent career advice.  It also helps greatly that it’s a young person talking to young people.  (For more good career advice for young people by young people, I also recommend Lindsay Pollak’s Getting From College to Career.  It’s got good stories too but reads more in a how-to format).

The power of stories is good news for those of you stumped for perfect interview answers.  Find your stories.  Tell stories about where you worked, what you did, your greatest achievements.  Don’t lecture.  Don’t list.  Engage.  Entertain.  Read the above books for style ideas if you have to, and notice how seamlessly a good story is an excellent sell.

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A Traveling Feast: What to order not order during a business lunch/dinner

I never liked business lunch meetings – especially if it was with a senior person.  One tomato stain on your shirt and you look sloppy.  One dot of balsamic vinegar on your tie and you look more junior than you ever wanted to be.  Well, here is a way to relax during your lunch meetings.  Let’s first start with the dos & don’ts of what foods to order: 

Don’t order…

1.      Pasta – forget it – sauce everywhere – and the long noodles are way too long

2.      Balsamic Vinegar – duck because those dark spots fly

3.      Spinach – nothing is worth having green between your teeth

4.      Sandwiches – they can come pretty thick & you don’t have a jaw like a snake

5.      Soup – you need to spoon out versus spooning in and who is comfortable doing that?!  Plus, the slurping is beyond tolerable!

Do order…

1.      Chicken breast:  you can’t go wrong here

2.      Any type of fish other than lobster:  Fish fillets, Shrimp, Salmon

3.      Baked or mashed potato

4.      Mixed vegetables

5.      Salad with any light colored dressing

The aim here is to be comfortable and relaxed enough to concentrate on the business conversation, and not worry about dodging any flying stains that are coming at you faster than heat seeking missils.

What to wear…

If all else fails, a dark stain on a dark jacket is much less noticeable.  So dark clothing is a way to go.  If you don’t want to look like Johnny Cash, a dark jacket & a lighter shade of pants/skirt are always sharp looking.

If all goes wrong…

A smile will soften the blow of any dish of pasta landing on your lap – so you can deal with this.  Self deprecating humor usually lightens the mood and let’s face it … it’s happened to just about all of us.

So now that you have a better idea of what to order, what to wear, and what to do should something go wrong, there is just one piece of advice to share:

Bon appetite!!

Filed under: career coaching, life coaching, , , , , , ,

United We Stand: Collaboration is Key to Business Success

Successful collaboration brings all the good things Corporate America has to offer:

So it's surprising that more people don't practice collaboration at work on a more consistent basis.  Perhaps there are not enough role models out there.  If you are lucky enough to have a manager that collaborates well, take note and try to learn from their behavior.  On the slight chance that you don't, here are some behaviors you may want to think about developing, in order to improve your capacity for collaboration: 

1.   Be open and honest in all of your dealings with people. 

2.   Try to build consensus and agreement among the appropriate stakeholders (and make sure you identify them in advance). 

3.   When a conflict presents itself, think about an innovative solution. 

4.   Decisions should benefit your group and other groups as well.  It shouldn't always be about developing your own high profile. 

5.   Key learning should be shared with others.  If something worked in your group, volunteer to show others so they can leverage your success.  It will only help you in the end. 

·         Promotions
·         Salary Increases
·         Great year end bonuses
·         Stock Options
·         Fun at work

Stand united and hopefully no one will fall.  Collaboration wnsures we come to work to make each other smarter, in addition to allowing us to enjoy ourselves more than usual!

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How to Market a Liberal Arts Education

If you are a liberal arts major and the thought of working in Investment Banking, Global Markets, or Management Consulting catches your eye … fear not because all is not lost.  Yes, the business majors will have the edge having taken accounting, corporate finance, statistics, etc.  But you can catch up and you can sell your strengths and what they bring to the table.  These will most probably include:

1. Critical Thinking:  Liberal Arts grooms you to dissect thoughts, make parallels, see possibilities.  Having the ability to compare literature from different centuries and find common themes is a skill that can absolutely be brought to the workplace and I’ll give you an example:  you have to create a new program with the technology team to capture certain data.  You have an old program from 10 years ago.  You take the best of one program, create new processes with the new and you have an amazing tool. 

2. People skills:  Psychology comes into play every day in business. There are so many personality types out there:  Type A, Type B, abnormal….need I say more?  Business is all about getting people to work together and accomplish tasks.  The more you know about eliciting a response from someone the way Pavlov worked with his dogs can only help!

3.  Organizational skills:  Juggling Psychology, Politcal Science, Philosophy, Writing Workshops, and a Music Class absolutely keeps you on your toes.  One of my clients said that they were declaring a triple major in business because the classes they had to take for that triple major overlapped so much that it would be foolish not to capitalize on the common classes they needed to take.  Liberal Arts students have a very broad based education that includes very different and very interesting perspectives.

4. Communication skills:  I can’t tell you how many business majors simply do not know how to write.  During the entry level training programs we spend thousands of dollars teaching them basic business writing skills.  The liberal arts majors have a huge advantage here.  They write their thoughts clearly and efficiently and with solid grammar!

I think you get my drift.  Be proud of your liberal arts major because it has worth.  Sell it enthusiastically because you bring critical skills that business needs and simply cannot do without!

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Reading, writing, arithmetic…and career coaching?

Check out one of my favorite pictures of my youngest kid.  http://www.startupnation.com/homebased100/contestant/453/index.php


While you’re there, vote for SixFigureStart in StartUpNation’s Home-Based 100 Competition.  You can vote once a day through October.


Actually, I was inspired to enter b/c of a much more serious issue than just to put a cute picture on the web….College recruiting is starting so early, I might have to position SixFigureStart at the Kindergarten demographic, rather than Gen Y.  Used to be that the summer internship between junior and senior year was the differentiator for those plum entry-level jobs after college, but now that’s expected.  So you need the internship between sophomore and junior year to get that next one.  And you need the one after freshmen year to get that second one.  And you need internships during the academic year too.  You also need a good internship in high school just to get into the right college to get that freshmen year internship…and so on.


PS.  The right college does matter.  Just ask Payscale and the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121746658635199271.html).  But that’s another blog…If you’re interested, Kristina Cowan had a great blog entry about that http://blogs.payscale.com/salary_report_kris_cowan/2008/08/why-graduates-o.html


Now, when I say plum jobs, I’m talking about banking and consulting jobs.  Not everyone wants banking and consulting, you say?  That’s fine.  But at $200k for a 4-year private college education, how does one afford not to have a banking or consulting job?  The complete disconnect between potential starting pay and the price of higher education is also another blog…


Even industries outside banking and consulting (e.g. media, consumer products, etc) are getting more competitive such that the quantity and quality of the internships required to land in these industries is higher than in past.  Like with banking and consulting this encourages specialization earlier and earlier.  Yet, these earlier specialized internships often don’t pay much if at all (after all these are glam jobs that don’t require money to attract people).  So now you have increasing tuitions and decreasing (if not disappearing) internship pay.  You still need that cash babysitting or retail job, but you do it in addition to the specialized internship.  When can students even study?  Forget summer school to cut your academic year credit requirements and save money.  You need that unpaid internship instead!



I don’t think this model is going away so the ultra-competitive and increasingly-early job search reality is upon us.  When Connie and I were choosing our niche within career coaching we picked students and young professionals for personal reasons – we love working with this demo.  But I also picked this demo to coach because we hired so many of them, and in recent years, candidates were starting younger and had to be so much savvier, and I felt like taking a megaphone to a busy street and saying, “Hey, you with the training wheels, have you been working on a resume?”  That kid should have ads on his bike, intern at the local bike store, and set up an e-commerce storefront for specialty bike parts.  Now that’s a kid who’ll get a first round interview!

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