Career Story: Experience Career Velocity During Times Of Professional Transition With Gina Riley

Brave Women at Work | Gina Riley | Career Story


Crafting a career story goes beyond just listing your work experiences on a resume. It’s about weaving a compelling narrative that showcases your skills, experiences, and aspirations in a way that resonates with potential employers. In this episode, Gina Riley, the Creator of CareerVelocity System, shares her insights on the importance of crafting your career story during career transition. In today’s job market, career transition takes internal reflection and some soul searching to ensure that the next move for us is the right one, especially when we are in mid-career and looking for managerial-level roles or higher. Join us in unpacking more golden nuggets in today’s conversation. Tune in to this episode now!

During my chat with Gina, we discussed:

  • How Gina helps her clients during a career transition
  • What a career story is and why it is important to craft yours
  • How we can leverage our career story, especially during times of career transition
  • What a leadership language and how we identify ours
  • What Gina’s CareerVelocity System™ is and how we can use it to our advantage
  • The meaning of “You are a business within a business.”

Listen to the podcast here


Career Story: Experience Career Velocity During Times Of Professional Transition With Gina Riley

How are you doing out there? When we’re in a career transition, whether that be by choice or not our choice, we all more, we may tend to do the following. We update our resumés if we haven’t already. We network with our family, friends, and colleagues to ask, “Do you have any opportunities?” We ask that question. We apply for jobs, we interview, we apply for jobs, we interview again and that cycle continues. In the current environment, it can take a while. It depends, and it can be a long slog.

After my conversation with my guest Gina Riley, I learned that we may be missing some critical self-reflection steps during this transition. Some of the steps we may be missing include writing out our career story, which is something that I had never heard before, talking about and reflecting on our personal brand.

Gina talks about how you are a business within a business, which was a new concept to me. Of course, keeping our mindset high during the job search process. As I said, in the current job market, it is more than simply applying for jobs and hoping for the best. It’s going to take some internal reflection and some soul-searching to make sure that the next move for us is the right one, not only for us, but for the company that we’re going to, especially when we’re in that mid-career place like so many of us are and if we’re especially looking for a managerial level career or higher.

During my chat with Gina, we discussed how Gina helps our clients during career transitions, what a career story is, why it is important, and how we can craft ours. How can we leverage our career story, especially during these transition times? What does leadership language means and how do we each have one, like a fingerprint, and how can we find ours? What Gina’s Career Velocity System is and how we can use it to our advantage? Also, the meaning of, like I said, you are a business within a business and so much more.

Here is more about Gina. Gina Riley is a Human Resources professional who sits at the powerful convergence between career coaching, executive search and interview skills training. She is an authority in career transition and is the creator of the Career Velocity System, a comprehensive solution helping leaders and executives map out their transition strategy to last throughout their careers.


Brave Women at Work | Gina Riley | Career Story


Gina brings over 25 years of experience from small businesses to Fortune 50 companies. She has a Master’s degree in Whole Systems Design and has held positions in recruitment management of a 500-student intern program, work on an M&A initiative and served as HR Business Consultant to several executive teams. She developed, designed and delivered training programs on a wide variety of topics. She was sought after, rather for her thought leadership and expertise in the areas of professional networking and career development.

She has also led a new employer brand initiative for a $4 billion worldwide company headquartered in Portland and provided interview training to all of their US managers in Oregon, Arkansas and Texas. Additionally, she has conducted interview training for the leadership team at the renowned winery in Napa Valley.

Gina is also a certified UMAP coach, starting with her clients strengths, values, skills, motivators and leadership traits to help them powerfully integrate their unique attributes so their storytelling lands in every conversation or interview. She uses a rare strength combination of focus and action, customizing her coaching to help clients achieve career velocity so they can deliver their career story in a powerful way that resonates.

Gina’s unique approach and framework help leaders showcase themselves as a business in a business and position themselves as authoritative problem solvers with undeniable specialized leadership services. She is a continuous learner and prolific networker who has forged relationships with cutting-edge authorities in the field of careers and leadership around the world, constantly folding in fresh, relevant ways to help clients accelerate their career transition success. When Gina is not coaching or recruiting, she spends time studying leadership trends, volunteering to help others build professional skills, cooking, making old-fashioneds, or hiking in Central Oregon with her family.

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Of course, if this show has made an impact, your ratings and reviews make a big difference. If you can take five minutes to leave a rating and review, it would mean the world to me. If you’ve already done that, I thank you so much. If you haven’t yet downloaded any of my freebies from my website, check them out at The freebies are 24 Career & Leadership Affirmations, 5 Ways to Managing Your Imposter Syndrome and, most popular, Getting Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips.

As I have said in the past, these guides are workbook style. That means that you can simply write in them, learn in them and do all this in your own time. It is completely up to you, but they are good starters for these three topic areas. You can go to to learn more. Let’s welcome Gina to the show. Gina, welcome to the show. How are you?

I am amazing.

Yes, you are. You’ve got so much great stuff happening. Why don’t you share a little bit about your background story and how you’ve gotten up to where you are now?

Sure. Briefly, I sit at the convergence of human resources executive search and career coaching. My background started at Intel Corporation. I worked there for about a decade as a HR business partner, as a recruiter and developing training programs. In my latter part of my career, I have been affiliated with talents group executive search and consulting. I have conducted executive searches for CEOs, particularly in the nonprofit space, manage relationships with boards of directors through that process. All of my experiences have culminated in becoming a career coach. I created my own career transition model called Career Velocity, where I help primarily leaders and executives with that model by creating an effective career transition.

All of your stuff focuses on career transition. I have several friends right now who are in the middle of a career transition. For those who are reading, who are friends and even people I’ve never met, if you’re in transition, this is for you. This is our gift for you. Why don’t we jump right into the pool and say how do you help clients during that transition? It can be challenging, but it can also be a growth-oriented time. Tell us about that.

Yes, it can be very disorienting and there’s a lot of emotions that go up and down. Many of the people I work with actually have a job, and they’re trying to position themselves either upwards for promotional opportunities or lateral opportunities or outward. I always start with the strategy and look at the whole foundational aspects of creating that career transition. I do that because initially, people would find me and say, “Can you help me with my resumé?” The first thing people think about is, “I need to update my resumé.”

What I found is when I started helping people with the resumé or tweaking it, they couldn’t tell their story. They couldn’t succinctly explain their unique value proposition, their tell me about yourself narrative and all of that is foundational before you develop the language that goes on your resumé that goes on that LinkedIn profile. I start foundationally with that and then work the way through the marketing resumé and LinkedIn and then develop that interview prep and job search strategy following those fundamental steps.

Why do you think that is? You’re talking to executives, leaders, probably founders, people who are all very well educated, well-spoken and then when you ask what the narrative is, I think we get tongue-tied. Why do you think that is?

We’re not used to talking about ourselves in that way. Leaders and executives are used to telling the story of their company or their division, the work at hand. They’re not used to discussing their own brand proposition. It takes some working out to get to a place where you can do that in a succinct fashion.

Brave Women at Work | Gina Riley | Career Story
Career Story: People are not used to discussing their brand proposition. It takes some working out to get to a place where you can succinctly do that.


Specifically, I have been conducting searches where i’ll be talking to people who are very experienced and I will ask them, “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” at the beginning of a 60-minute conversation. I’ll let them know, I have eight skill-based questions to get through and I need them to give me a quick highlights reel.

There have been times that I’ve had people talk for 20 out of the 60 minutes, which is a deal breaker. First of all, you bore your audience, and your audience started to wonder, “Will they ever stop talking?” You don’t invite any fascination or curiosity about the story. Because they want it to be over. I believe that we haven’t been trained to talk about ourselves in a compelling and quick way.

When you say quick, is it like bite-size, like elevator speech? How long do they typically go when they’re crafted well?

Elevator Pitch

I see the elevator pitch or speech as almost Scooby snack-sized, which is 60 to 80 seconds. I see the tell me about yourself as something very specific. I see it as a quick highlights reel that’s 3 to 5 minutes long for a 60-minute interview. It starts with something that grabs attention like, “Throughout my career, I have systematically been tapped on the shoulder to take on a new role that hadn’t been created. It got created around me. Let me walk you through some of those highlights. A, B, C. What I’m especially known for is doing what?” Something like that that gives that bigger, broader highlights reel.

Another thing that people may need to do if they have a complicated career story, I’m working with someone who’s done everything from working on a police force and being the spokesperson for a mayor of a big city all the way through major electronics companies and so on. That’s a tough story to tell. You’ve got to lay it out so you can see it, organize it and practice it, but not in a way that comes across stiff and cardboard.

That’s helpful. Thank you for differentiating the elevator pitch or the elevator statement from the career story because they’re different. I did not know that. Now I do. Would you say everyone needs a career story? Not everyone who reads the show is an executive or in leadership. They might say, “Is this for me?” Is that for everybody?

Yes. I’m speaking at Oregon State Cascades in Bend, Oregon and it’s on branding, networking and interview prep. The overarching principles are fundamentally the same. It’s just some of the language that I’m adapting for that audience to inspire them is going to be a little different. I’ll tell you what, Jen. I’m bringing my framework for the tell me about yourself narrative. I’m giving that as an assignment where they’re going to pair up with each other, they’re bringing in some pre-work and they’re going to talk about their story in three chunks.

I created a table, and then, in the first column of the table, they’re going to talk about their course of study and some of their interests. The second column will be, “Here’s a few jobs I’ve held. Now it might be Dutch Brothers, landscaping or babysitting. I don’t know. It might be working at Walmart.” What were the jobs and volunteer things you’ve been doing? In the third column, I’m having the students articulate where they are heading, some of the target roles, and why they are interested in that now. That directly applies to something that an executive is going to do but at a completely different level.

This applies to everyone. I think you may have answered my question, but I wanted to clarify. The three steps that you’re talking about are how we craft that story. Can you repeat what you said and what you’re going to be doing with those students? It sounds like the step-by-step framework to getting started.

Yes, it is. If you don’t mind, Jen, I can repeat it, but instead, I would say that for mid-career to senior level people, who have worked for 15, 20 or 30 years, create three columns. The first column is about the major things you were doing in the early part of your career. What industries were you in and what were the key jobs that you held? What did you learn? Will you talk about that first third very much in an interview? No. It’s probably 60 seconds. “I worked in education and then I worked in government.” I then segue into the next column. The second column is that it’s generally those mid-level managerial roles where you’re starting to get your leadership chops and building up functional expertise. What were the key highlights in that mid part of your career?

The third column for people with more experience is going to be “what you’ve been doing.” “Lately, in the last 5 or 10 years, I have been the functional leader. I have been the VP of Engineering or I have been the CEO or I’ve been the executive director. I have been leading all functional areas. I have expertise guiding legal, HR, IT, etc., team sizes up to 200, regionally, globally,” that kind of thing. What you do after you lay that out is you cherry-pick the most important things for the people and the audience you’re talking to. It’s not stiff. You need to have something that you can have a mental model that you can refer back to, that you can modify it and adapt it depending on who you’re speaking with.

You keep saying not stiff. You have to build this into the fabric of who you are. You have to know it pretty well so that you can pivot depending on if you’re in front of the hiring manager, if you’re in front of an interviewer, if you’re in front of a panel, correct?

Absolutely. If you are mid-career and you are, let’s say, interviewing with the functional leader, let’s say you’re a marketeer and you’re interviewing with the chief marketing officer of a smaller company, that decision-maker may be interested in a few other things that you haven’t said in other parts of the interview process with the recruiter, for example. The recruiter may have a half hour with you, during which you check off some very important minimal qualifications to get into the interview process. You have to read the room. You have to pay attention and you have to do your research on the people that you’re interviewing with and make some guesses about what they need to know about you.

We’ve talked about interviewing briefly, but let’s say we get the career story crafted. We get it, like I say,  in our bones. It’s in the fabric of who we are. We know how to use it when necessary. How do we leverage it, maybe through networking or other ways during transition periods?

Leveraging Career Story

You can use it in all of those conversations. Let’s say you land an informational conversation with an ideal target company and maybe it’s someone who would actually be more of a peer and you’re asking them questions about what do you do day to day and what the challenges in your job, etc. Oftentimes, most kind people will ask you that. Tell me about yourself like, “Tell me a little bit about you. Where are you coming from?” In that situation, you still need that three-thirds narrative, but you’re going to keep it short and you’re going to lock in on why it’s relevant for that person so that they can tell you their best stories so they’re helpful to you.

It’s help me help you. I might say, “I’m in an early career and I’ve got five years’ experience and I’ve done these various marketing functions. I’m looking to speak with you about these other pieces that I haven’t had experience in. Can you tell me what you get to do in those areas and what skill gaps I might have?” You need to know your story so you know what you’re asking for.

With the career story, is it only oral or is it also written? Can you use your career story even if it’s slightly shorter than your LinkedIn profile intro or your resumé? Is it only on the oral side or is it also in print as well?

I believe you can leverage the language for those narratives for sure. When I’m helping particularly someone with experience create an about summary for LinkedIn, I wouldn’t construct it with, “Early career, I did this and mid-career I did that,” because the first three lines is what is showing and that’s what you need to get attention for a career transition.

I would lead with what you are like what do you do? You will hear from LinkedIn gurus and people who are exceptional writers, “You got to grab people with a story.” If you want to be found by a recruiter, I’m putting my recruiter hat on, Jen, and they land on your profile and it says, “I am a product marketing manager who is known for delivering with this functional expertise,” now I know if I’m on the right page or not. I don’t need to know, “When I was five and riding my bike and thinking about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, it led me to product marketing.” That’s not going to help you land a job. Go do that when you’ve landed the job and you want to tell a great story.

No, but that’s real life. Is there any other resumé or interview tips that you would recommend, especially in the current job market?

How much time do you have? For resumés, I’m going to tick off a number of important things. One is to make sure that your contact information is accurate and up there and all that. I would have a headline that announces your target. If it’s product marketing, then you need to have a product marketer or something that alludes to like what you’re targeting. If you make people go dig for it in your experience, then you’ve already lost half the battle there.

A brief summary of your experience and try to make it not too buzzwordy, like, “Passionate about.” That word passionate drives most of us crazy reading a resumé. You want to organize it in a way that is skimmable and that you’re leading with results. No matter what you did, if a bullet is taking up space on the resumé, are you listing the tasks that you did or are you saying improved customer response time by 15% after implementing? You’ve got to showcase your value and if the bullet is there, you need to ask yourself how compelling it is.

Ask ourselves when we read it, not just to fill space, but how compelling it is and if it’s results-oriented. That’s helpful. Anything on the interview side? Is it similar? When you’ve talked about your career story, you are leading with results. Is there anything else that we can be razor-sharp about, and can we be good in the interview process?

Yes, absolutely. I could talk about this literally all day. I do a six-hour standup training in corporate for talents group. We teach the other side of hiring teams how to craft effective questions, listen and probe, and all that stuff. I reverse engineer it for my coaching clients for interview prep. There’s multiple storytelling frameworks and I will share the one I use and why. There are others and I don’t want to be dismissive about the other ways of doing it. I use SOA. I’ll explain it. There’s STAR, CAR, PAR and other ones to outline the framework. I use SOAR. With each question, I’m trying to tee up. Based on the job description, I’m writing, “What was the situation? What were the obstacles that you encountered? What actions did you take? If you’re a leader, what actions did you take and then your team take as well?”

The results. If a bullet point on a resumé says that they need a certain deliverable done, you can easily change that into a skill-based type of question or a behavioral question. You can outline your past approach to tackle that issue or problem. The situation should be no more than an explanation of maybe two sentences. Why are you telling the story? Those are the challenges and obstacles. Why was it a difficult thing to do? The actions are explaining how you go about getting that thing accomplished. The result is sticking the landing and saying, “When we did this whole thing, we improved our customer experience by 25%.”

With SOAR because I’ve heard that. You are the second person that’s mentioned that to me. That means I have to dig now deeper. What other places can people learn about these different methodologies, particularly SOAR?

If you don’t mind me sharing this, Jen, I was on a podcast called Find Your Dream Job with Mac Prichard and we recorded an episode called How to Answer Any Behavioral Interview Question. It’s only a half hour. I assign that podcast to all of my clients, and it goes through how to reverse engineer these behavioral interview questions so that you can lay out how to answer them. It’s a very economical use of anyone’s time and it’s been downloaded over 18,000 times.

Good for you. Congrats. That’s great. Why don’t we pivot away from interviewing for a bit and let’s talk about leadership language because I did see that throughout your site. I don’t know if it goes hand in hand with career story, but what does the term leadership language mean to you?

For me, it’s about speaking at a level and with confidence and executive presence to engender trust in your capabilities. I don’t have a one-set pat answer for this, but you’re basically reading the room and modifying your storytelling in a way that lands with whomever you’re speaking with. If you’re interviewing for a leadership level role but part of the decision-making team will be the people reporting to you, you’re going to modify what it is that you’re sharing because their interests are different than the senior leaders.

It's about speaking at a level with confidence and executive presence to engender trust in your capabilities. Click To Tweet

Ask the people who are reporting to you, “What are your pain points? What are you hoping out of this new leader? What interests you the most?” If you’re paying attention to like telling them stories about how you might guide or lead them, that is going to instill the confidence that they need to recommend you. There’s not one list of words or anything like that that I come with. It’s more about executive presence, reading the room, showing up and modifying your approach in an authentic but adaptable way.

With that, I wanted to follow up because when I was reading about leadership language on your site, I kept thinking of fingerprints. You’re a leader, I’m a leader. Do we have our own, like you said, the word authentic leadership languages?

When I work with leaders, I use a leadership model called the Adaptive Leadership Model. It is not the model of all models. I use it to have them do a little research with an article that I wrote and we extract language about how they lead people in teams during times of change and transition. Some of the folks I work with will say, “I subscribe to the servant leadership model or the authentic leadership model.” That’s great. Awesome. Especially if you can speak to it authentically like you understand it and that you’ve applied it. Good for you.

I’m helping people describe how they get perspective on challenging situations. How do they call the elephant out in the room? How do they focus their teams on the right work? How do they regulate the distress that people feel during times of change? How do they pull in voices that are not heard within the organization to elevate diversity, if you will? There’s not a pat answer. It’s about can you infuse how you do what you do into the skill-based questions.

That’s valuable. You also mentioned a couple times about executive presence. I don’t know how to describe it. Tell me if you agree or disagree, but it feels like this secret sauce that a lot of people are trying to figure out how to get. If someone is struggling with executive presence, what would you say to them on how they can get some of that secret sauce?

The Secret Sauce For Executive Presence

I am so glad you asked because I reviewed a presentation I’m giving in Lisbon to a career thought leaders symposium. It is how we help our clients elevate their executive presence. First of all, it’s important to understand the research. The research is that I use is from Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success. It’s a book by Sylvia Ann Hewlett based on research from 2012. What’s super cool, Jen, is that in 2022, they updated the research, and there are six emergent traits that play to inclusivity. I wrote about it in my last article for Forbes Coaches Council in an article.

Ultimately, I’m helping educate my clients on the three elements of executive presence: appearance, how we appear, what people see, our communication, how we speak, our gravitas, and how we act. Appearance is our first hurdle because, as humans, we spend about three seconds making a first judgment call about someone. How you show up on Zoom, what your background looks like, if you’re wearing dated clothes and attire, all that stuff, whether it’s right or wrong, matters. It’s first hurdle. You have to be aware of it. If you don’t care, then that’s authentic to you. You need to know what engenders trust and confidence in your abilities.

Humans spend about three seconds making a first judgment call about someone. Click To Tweet

The second is communication, and while it’s not number one, under communication for me personally as a recruiter and when talking with people, it’s reading the room. Can you read the room and modify your approach? That’s a deal killer for me. The third is gravitas, how we act, and the most important things are decisiveness and confidence. Do you show up with confidence and can you make decisions with decisiveness?

There’s more research. There are six emergent traits, which is super cool and it plays to inclusivity and authenticity. I’m delighted to be talking about that. Your question is about how I would help people elevate their executive presence. It depends on what I’m observing. If people have a hurdle with appearance, that’s a difficult thing because it’s super personal. However, if I’m working with someone who has progressive lenses, I’ve worked with someone whose lenses were progressive and it didn’t show up that great on Zoom, so talking with them about that saying, “Can you swap out for a different pair of eyeglasses when you’re on Zoom so we can see your face better or what have you?”

I’ve worked with women. In particular, we talk about what they’re wearing. They’re like, “Does this shirt color look good on me with my background?” We were actually talking about, “Change your lens. You need to have your lens up higher,” and whatever. There are things about communication, obviously speaking with confidence and reading the room and whatnot. With gravitas, how we behave. I think one of the big killers in how we behave is not showing up with humility. I am a mirror for people in helping them modify what they’re saying. Ultimately, I want them to communicate well in their interviews. That’s what we’re driving for.

With that, do you believe all of these things can be learned? You believe they can be learned then?

I know they can. In fact, one of the quotes that I have from Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who’s the author of Executive Presence, is that she calls out specifically in the new HBR article that she wrote that EP can be learned. You have to decide that you want to understand the different elements of executive presence and choose a few that you want to work on.

Brave Women at Work | Gina Riley | Career Story
Career Story: Executive Presence can be learned. You have to understand the different elements of Executive Presence and choose a few that you want to work on.


That’s helpful. You also kept saying about reading the room. You said EP is reading the room EQ. Can emotional intelligence also be learned?

I think that it can be learned. I would hate to think that humans can’t adapt. I can’t speak to different levels of learning differences. I’m not an expert on that. However, the ability to read your audience, it’s like 36% importance for communication. For EQ, which is emotional intelligence, it rates at 59% under gravitas or how we behave. It’s important.

We’re giving out all the resources. Before we jump off of EQ or emotional intelligence, any thoughts on a resource you might recommend for EQ?

I’m sorry I don’t have that in my back pocket. I do recommend Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book, Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success. You know what’s super cool too is you can Google her and put her name, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in the search engine, and then Google. She has two talks where she spoke at Google. One is about the importance of mentors and sponsors in your career. It’s awesome. The other one is about EP. It’s really good.

I’m going to go and listen. We’re totally geeking out. I’m so excited. I can tell you’re getting all pumped up. I’m getting all pumped up.

They’re so good. I listened to both of those a number of times. I’ll wash dishes and pop it in, just listen. She pumps you up. You’re like, “Yeah, I got to go control my career.”

Let’s pivot to controlling your career with your system called Career Velocity. I looked on the site did the deep dive before to prep and it’s pretty comprehensive. I don’t know if you have an elevator speech or a story around Career Velocity and how it came to be.

The short story is I was trying to address a pain point that ended up being starting at the wrong spot, which was people thinking they needed to update their resumé. Truly what it’s all about, especially when you get 20- or 30-years’ experience, is telling your story and understand that how that locks into what decision-makers need to hear from you.

Instead, people get wrapped up around the axle about what they were saying versus how it was connecting. I created a nine-step model that systematically takes people through how to explain their unique value proposition, starting with the career profile assessment called the UMAP. You can find that at and it costs $129 to take the assessment and you get 4 assessments in 1. We find out your top five strengths from StrengthsFinder. That tells me how you do what you do naturally.

I find out what you care about and you value through your values. I find out what skills motivate you, and what burns you out. I find out more about your career-related personality with the Holland. It gives me a holistic approach to understanding my client and helping them build language about their uniqueness. The second step is understanding their leadership behaviors, and drawing that out using the adaptive leadership model.

The third step is having them purge their entire career story with me. I literally meet with them for two hours, take about 8 to 10 pages of notes, and then spend about 5 re-listening and typing up a streamlined version that’s 4 to 5 pages. Guess what, Jen? We take those first three weeks of work and we converge on a tell me about yourself narrative. That helps them build those 3 to 4 columns of what they’ll say in little sound bites.

While they’re doing all this, they’re also accumulating their career results. They’re going back and looking at former resumés, all their performance reviews, what did they get rewarded for? That’s where the results are. I line them up with one of my professional resumé writing partners to get professionally done resumé. Frankly, I don’t enjoy doing it. I can do it, but it’s a twenty-hour project. We offload that while I help top to bottom with the whole LinkedIn profile.

We’re using some of the things that come back from the resumé, but we’re telling that story in the About section in the headline. The headline is super important. Make a banner if they don’t have one, and make sure that they have 50 skills represented so they can be better found. Do they have testimonials? Are they giving testimonials? The recommendations. All of that is super important to getting found. We work on intensive interview preparation, job search strategy, and networking strategies. At the end, my end cap is a thought leadership strategy.

Who would be a good candidate or even the perfect candidate to go through this program?

Most of the people that work with me, I would give it an age range of about 40 to 69. I’ve had a 69-year-old global facilities leader who I worked with. It’s people that are generally mid-career director level, all the way up to CEOs. What I would say is, as we talked about, I’m working on a book on the model and what I think is the whole model and the process applies to everyone. There are elements that are a little more senior-level.

Holding out the leadership level. Language about leading whole teams may not land for someone who’s in their late 20s and early 30s. However, what we do want to know from people early in their career is how do you collaborate with your teammates. How do you influence cross-functionally when you do not have position power? There are things like that that actually do apply.

Career Velocity is for everyone. As far as people who hire me, it’s people looking to invest in a relationship with me for up to a year where we’re helping them move through this process and spend a lot of time on the job hunt because that’s where the opportunity lies. It is in their networking conversations.

What about results? We’ve been talking a lot about the results piece and interviewing, but I’m sure you’ve had some amazing results with Career Velocity and the system. Any anecdotal stories that you want to share?

Sure. With any of us who coach, there are happy endings, and then there are frustration points where people don’t transition. It’s not 100%. What I would say is a lot of people who hire me actually are already in-house. They’re in a great job, but they might be itchy or antsy to leave or try to get promoted. There are a couple things that I’m proud of. I was working with two mid-career professionals. I’m going to guess they’re in that 40 range. They initially wanted to position outward, but what happened, I was working with one woman whose organization went through a pretty sizable reorg. They added a layer of management above her. It was going to give her an opportunity to move into a more senior managerial role, managing managers rather than a team.

Now, it was more interesting to stay at the company rather than to leave. What we did, I created a lesson for her called Write and Pitch Your Own Job Description. She canvassed the marketplace and created a job description that she could then pitch to the senior leaders as they built that layer of management. They promoted her based on some of that outline. “Here’s all the deliverables that I can do. This is how the company is going to benefit if you create this job and you wrap it around me.”

My other success story is a man who is a continuous improvement expert and he had five people reporting to him. While we were working together, he caught the attention of the senior VP, who wasn’t even at his plant. While we worked together, he got promoted into the plant manager role, managing 50 people. That is one cool success story that’s not about even leaving the company.

I’ve worked with other people, though, of course. One of my recent ones is a global sales leader and a supply chain expert who went from a $1 billion company to another billion-dollar company. I tell you, Jen, it took a year because at those levels, the jobs are not falling off the turnip truck. You’ve got to network and it takes 4 to 6 months to get through those interview processes. It’s horrible.

It’s a patience’s game is what you’re saying. Patience and persistence.

Diligence, persistence. You can’t let the mind games mess with you. You’ve got to stay on top of it and be in charge of your communications. The worst thing you can do is spray and pray. Apply for jobs and pray that someone’s going to call you. That’s not the best way to go about it.

At one point maybe, or an early career. Spray and pray is never a good option. I don’t think it’s a good option, especially when you’re mid-career and looking for higher-level roles.

There’s less opportunity at the top of the haystacks. You’ve got to be targeted and on message.

One of the other things you have is a message, which I love, that you are a business within a business. What does that mean to you?

My final synthesis from the first three weeks of work, I call it your business solution. If you are positioning yourself as a unique business solutions provider and you think of yourself as sort of a commodity in the marketplace, it changes the way that you may position yourself and think about yourself. The companies that are willing to hire you and pay you a salary need a problem to get solved now and in the future. Are you the solution?

Does your business within a business also apply to your personal brand?

Yes, because all that language is what you’re infusing into your branding. If you think of LinkedIn as your ultimate marketing storefront window, you don’t have your own website, something like that, that’s your free place to hang up your shingle and show the world what you’ve got, now you have language from the uMAP that you can use for your, to showcase your unique talents. What is your leadership approach? How does that impact how you’ve delivered and gotten results? That can all get infused into your About summary.

I know that you’re pretty active on LinkedIn. I’m active on LinkedIn, but not everyone is. Lots of people will get on LinkedIn and they’ll lurk or they don’t have a lot of connections. With this whole idea of personal brand and you are a business within a business, do you also recommend that your clients start getting more active in LinkedIn and crafting that story online?

A hundred percent. Working with me, we do craft that story. If they come to me with an anemic profile with the gray banner and a terrible photo and their headline says Product Manager at Acme Inc., that is ripe for me to do a complete turnover, which is very exciting because it’s a big difference. Let’s talk about thought leadership, which is step nine of Career Velocity. Most people that I work with don’t embrace or take on the challenge of thought leadership for a lot of reasons. They don’t want to showboat or they think it’s drawing the wrong attention. They don’t have time, for the most part. They can intellectualize that it’s important, but they’re not willing to do it and it’s hard to get going. Although, I do give them a framework to do that.

I do have a success story where my global sales leader made a transition. He’s similar in age to me. We’re both Gen X. We both heard the messages that you work hard, you graduate from college, you’re going to get recognized and promoted and it’s all going to happen naturally. We know that’s baloney. It happens to a few people, but it doesn’t happen to all of us and it hasn’t happened to me. I’ve got my own stories where I had to take the bull by the horns and manage my career, own it.

Anyway, this man was in that same boat. He was thinking, “I don’t want to participate on LinkedIn. People are going to know I’m looking for a job, etc.” Finally, I convinced him. I’m like, “You’re a global sales leader and you’re not even representing your brand on LinkedIn.” That’s a problem in my mind’s eye.

He finally gets the message through a whole process. He has turned it around to where he has a strategy and a way of keeping track of all the thoughts that come to his mind. He uses the notion board. He crafts these compelling narratives about his leadership approach, or maybe it’s about his company and the products. It’s all these different things and he is not on there every day. Now it’s become reflexive. It’s muscle memory. He is sharing things that are relevant to his community. Was he asked to be of his job hunting at first? Yes, he was. His answer was, “I’m building a brand. What are you up to?”

Isn’t that interesting? Why do you think people get a little afraid or uneasy? Do they think that because you’re getting more active on LinkedIn, you’re automatically looking for a job? What is that about?

It’s exactly that. I think the fear is real. Let’s be honest, you have zero presence on LinkedIn and suddenly, you’re commenting on people’s posts or you’re creating posts and that’s the first idea. Here’s the thing, you got to keep at it so it becomes natural and then people recognize that you’re on there and participating with your professional community and will get over it.

They’ll get over themselves. I like that one. You first have to get over yourself and then your peers will get over themselves. That’s super funny. Let’s move on to the advice that you would give. You obviously are very deep in this and have a wealth of knowledge because even in mid-career, there are differences for someone that’s looking for a manager role versus a director role or a director role to VP SVP or C-suite. There are shades of differences in terms of advice or how you would coach those individuals and any snippet thoughts you want to share about people looking for a job in one category versus another.

Making The Leap

I actually have advice that runs across the whole swath. What I’ll target is that mid-career, who wants to making the leap into the executive level. You must do your research. You must go and talk with people and have informational conversations doing the jobs that you’re interested in doing down the line. You can gather enough research and information, look at job descriptions, and come up with some profile that you’re going to have to target in order to land that role. What experiences do you need to accumulate to even get to the table to be considered? I call this getting the elephant called out in the room. You may or may not have a skill gap in getting there. You’re thinking, “I’ve been there. I’ve done it all. Why aren’t they choosing me for the SVP role?”

There is a perception that you don’t know about, about a skill gap that you need to fill that you haven’t uncovered yet. You have to go find that stuff out, and then you have to decide if you’re willing to fill those skill gaps or ask for help with how to do it. Maybe it’s rotational assignments. “Boss, for the next year, I would love to have three rotational assignments across supply chain and marketing and manufacturing so that I can get a wider purview of our organization and be better set up to understand and add more value to the company.”

When you’re saying that skill gap, is it, if you’re within the company, going back to humility, you have to have that difficult conversation to say to the boss, hiring manager, recruiter or whatever internal, “I didn’t get it,” understand, thank you for the opportunity and what drove that decision. You have to be willing to have that conversation, whether it’s inside the company or if you’re outside and going for a different role, correct?

You’re correct. I would dial it back one step, which is before you’re even in a position where you’re vying for a role, go do this homework in advance. By the time you’re asking for that and you don’t get the role, you may not have gotten enough information. That is helpful because we have to give the hard feedback. We have to be very careful about how we do that.

You may be very lucky and have an honest manager who may not use the term executive presence. They may say, “Some element of executive presence didn’t show up. You’re not ready because the way that you communicate or the way that your team perceives you or people don’t have confidence in your abilities,” whatever. Maybe it’s a hard skill, I don’t know. You better go find it out, though.

Do the homework in advance and then decide if you are willing to do what it takes to fill the gap. I’m thinking of some people not named who have reported to me and have said, “I’m getting passed over,” or this or that, or whatever. I’ve often given these folks the feedback, but many times, they don’t want to fill the gap or blame the company or me because there’s resistance. I think there is a lot of feelings when you get to these levels. Is that correct? It’s like ego and feelings. I’m not articulating it well, but does that resonate with you? Sometimes, people will push back on me, and maybe they’re not ready to get to those levels.

I have another resource for your audience that addresses a little bit of what you’re saying. I recommend buying the book The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. The ideal team player leads with three things, humble, hungry, smart. Leading with humility means that you’re able to admit mistakes, emit these skill gaps, if you will, and give credit to other people. That’s like the short story.

The ideal team player leads with three things, humble, hungry, smart. Click To Tweet

Humble and then hungry. Are you hungry for the jobs that are available, etc.? Smart means high EQ. You can read the room. If you’re looking at those elements and you’ve got an individual who is resisting the messages that they’re getting, especially if it’s from multiple sources, then there’s likely a lack of humility and self-reflection, don’t you think?

Yeah. I would say, as I’m thinking of a couple of these individuals that struggle with the humility. I would say humility all the way around. As you said, self-reflection and the willingness to absorb or even hear the gaps because there’s a lack of humility. They think they’re perfect, and it’s the company’s fault that they aren’t getting promoted when we’re all trying to help. They say, “If you want to get to this, then you need to do this.” It’s tone deaf. They’re not hearing or not willing to hear.

I think that would be a tough thing to hear that calling out that lack of humility. That would be a stinger. I’ll tell you, I have my own personal story. I worked at Intel the first ten years of my career and wanted to move from recruiter into an HR business partner function. I wanted to be the person leading with training. I wanted to be the partner for organizational development and all that stuff. Repeatedly, all the people I sought advice from said, “At Intel, to have this job, you must have a Master’s degree. It’s our minimum requirement. That’s a baseline.”

For a couple of years, I struggled. I was frustrated by that. Didn’t they notice that I was an awesome program manager and recruiter? Sure enough, they were not going to move me into that role. I had to make a choice. Was I going to leave to find some other opportunity or was I going to get that Master’s degree? I chose to follow the advice of the people who were willing to offer it. I did have a couple of people who were then sponsors and said, “If you go do this, Gina, I will make sure you have a place on my team.” They can’t promise, but you get the idea.

I went and got my Master’s degree and came back on my horse and said, “I am ready.” They said, “Hot dog, we’ve got a place for you.” I got to support a hot shot up-and-coming VP and an incredible team in an emerging business at Intel. I had some of the most fun and exciting experiences of my life doing that for the next couple of years. I felt very fulfilled. It was a full-circle moment.

You had to get over those couple of years. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Even you, right? We’re human. You had to go through that process to be like, “I guess I’m going to have to decide. I guess I’m going to have to go get that master’s after all.”

That was my choice. It was an investment, right?

Yeah, exactly. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work now?

I would say one thing is do the work to truly understand your unique value proposition, which is comprised of your unique talents, your natural talents. It’s also comprised of your experiences and your skillset and it’s comprised of what you can deliver based on proven results. If you look at it as overlapping three circles, you’re in the middle of all of that.

That’s a good visual. Is there anything else?

I could probably talk about this for days. It depends on where you would want to take the conversation. I would also look at the material on Executive Presence. I would look at the material on sponsors. What is the difference between mentors and sponsors? Mentors are people who might be consistently giving you advice. Sponsors are the ones that are speaking about you when you’re not in the room. My best go-to for information on mentors and sponsors is the Center for Mentoring Excellence led by Lisa Fain. I actually did an interview with her and created an article based on the importance of leaders having their own mentors.

Mentors are people who might be consistently giving you advice. Sponsors are the ones that are speaking about you when you're not in the room. Click To Tweet

That’s interesting, too. Thank you for these wonderful resources, Gina. I appreciate your generosity with us. How can women find you and your work online?

You can go to If you go to the top of my website, there’s a green button that has a free downloadable webinar. It’s 30 minutes and you check your spam folder and get a workbook with it that you can print. What it does is it helps you lay out all these moving parts to career transition success and helps you decide if you want to make your own strategic plan. It’s not a sales pitch. It’s literally why do you need a plan and here’s the framework for a plan.

You’ve been so generous with all of the resources. This has been so instructive for me as well. Thank you for the work you do and for being on the show.

Yes, you are welcome.

That’s a wrap on my discussion with Gina. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. Here are a few questions to consider until next time. What is your career story? Is there an underlying theme in your story that you can leverage in your next interview? What is your leadership language? How can you use it to your advantage?

Now that you better understand that you are a business within a business, what step can you take to support your career whether you are in a current job you love, planning for a pivot, or in the middle of a transition? As a reminder, please rate review and subscribe to the show in Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up. Find your career story and be brave.


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About Gina Riley

Brave Women at Work | Gina Riley | Career StoryGina Riley is a Human Resources professional who sits at the powerful convergence between Career Coaching, Executive Search and Interview Skills Training. She is an authority in career transition and is the creator of the CareerVelocity System™ – a comprehensive solution helping leaders and executives map out their transition strategy to last throughout their career.

Gina brings over 25 years of experience from small business to Fortune 50 companies. She has a Master’s degree in Whole Systems Design and has held positions in recruitment, management of a 500-student intern program, work on M&A initiatives and served as HR Business Consultant to several executive teams. She developed, designed, and delivered training programs on a wide variety of topics.

She is sought after for her thought leadership and expertise in the areas of professional networking and career development. She spoke at Portland’s first Disrupt HR forum and has conducted seminars on networking to help job seekers improve their ability to make meaningful and mutually advantageous professional connections. She was also a speaker at the 2019 Career Thought Leaders Symposium sharing expertise with career experts on how to advise coaching clients on how to build effective relationships with executive level recruiters.

She led a new Employer Brand initiative for a $4B world-wide company headquartered in Portland and provided interview training to all their US managers in Oregon, Arkansas, and Texas. Additionally, she conducted interview training for the leadership team at a renown winery in Napa Valley.

Gina is also a certified YouMap® coach, starting with her client’s strengths, values, skills, motivators, and leadership traits to help them powerfully integrate their unique attributes so their storytelling lands in every conversation or interview. She uses a rare strength combination of focus and action, customizing her coaching to help clients get career velocity so they can deliver their career story in a powerful way that resonates.

Gina’s unique approach and framework help leaders showcase themselves as a “Business In A Business” and position themselves as authoritative problem solvers with undeniable, specialized leadership services. Because she is a continuous learner and prolific networker, Gina has forged relationships with cutting edge authorities in the field of careers and leadership around the world, constantly folding in fresh, relevant ways to help clients to accelerate their career transition success.

With leadership clients that span coast to coast, her clients say she “connects familiar dots in new ways” and “pulls back the curtain” to share unseen processes and unheard conversations from an executive recruiter’s perspective.
When Gina is not coaching or recruiting, she spends time studying leadership trends, volunteering to help others build professional skills, cooking, making old-fashioneds, or hiking in Central Oregon with her family.

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