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  • Writer's pictureWendy Saccuzzo

It's 2013. I finished graduate school, my marriage of 12 years had just ended, and I was back in the workforce full-time for the first time since 2004, back in the Bay Area after many years in Sacramento, and with two young children to raise as a single mom.

It took a bit of time to get my footing in the world of technical recruiting; it was a pivot, and the jargon of Silicon Valley and software engineering was a whole new world to me.

I moved into 2014 strong with a career development plan to roll out, testing the waters on my idea fo job search meetups with Women Who Code in San Francisco.

I met hundreds of members, we talked about job search, interview preparation, the challenges of being the "only" woman, and so much more. We bonded, I helped a lot of people get focused and get connected, and a year later moved into a role as Director of Career Services at Hackbright Academy, the coding bootcamp for women. To say I met amazing people via those organizations would be an understatement- they're the core of my network now.

I had a Big Idea- I had just joined a private practice, Career & Personal Development Institute, in San Francisco, and hoped to move into that full-time eventually. I overextended myself, running the career services program at Hackbright Academy, moving through the company being acquired, growing my private practice, and keeping my people at home surviving and thriving. I said yes to everything, responded to everything way too fast, and didn't slow down, and it took a toll on my physical and mental health. I burned out, big time.

When my position was eliminated in 2017, I was done. It took me months to rebuild my motivation, drive and stamina in the tech world; I'll spare you the details of the awful interviews I endured and the sense of loss over a role I loved and was challenged by. It was clear I hadn't set up boundaries, and I needed time to recover. It took over a year.

From 2013- 2018, I said yes to almost everything- all the free events I could speak at, all the free consultations I could offer to potential clients, and more. However, I don't regret a single yes. I wish I had set up better boundaries to manage all those commitments I made, but wow, did they pay off! If I had a coach or therapist that I saw regularly, I probably could have set up a better framework for myself and my business, and I wish I had slowed down and done that, in retrospect. Oh, the irony! Even coaches need coaches.

Today I have a private practice that's nearly 100% thriving on referrals. I have the most satisfying work yet running career services for an organization that has my heart, Tech Ladies. (I hope you'll join if you're not already a member!) I have boundaries at home and work, and it makes a huge difference. I learned some big lessons and I'm so much better because of it.

Moral of the story- plant seeds for your Big Idea. Reverse engineer a plan to get there by setting goals. Create a roadmap to get there, and build in some accountability for yourself along the way. And please, ask for help and build in support for yourself- I still offer those free consultations, so take advantage. I'd love to help you with your Big Idea.

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  • Writer's pictureWendy Saccuzzo

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

As a career coach and counselor, it's easy for me to talk with someone, hear their story, and pick out themes about what is going on with them, then work with them on setting goals and creating solutions to address their needs.

It's SO much harder to do this for myself. I admit it. I could really use some better habits in 2021. I'm thinking about working on my writing, reading more, getting up earlier, doing more strength training and working on my balance and core, to name a few.

When I went out for my walk this afternoon, I chose to listen to the podcast, "Disrupt Yourself" by Whitney Johnson, Episode 190 with James Clear: Atomic Habits. I made it to 20 minutes before I was struck by the realization that I need to read this book that had been on my to-do list for over a year. Why was I continuously putting it off?

James talks about the habits he formed about writing and the fact that he didn't identify as a writer for a long time, and getting to the place of finally realizing he was doing the thing:

"...and eventually, I don't know when exactly, but I crossed some kind of invisible threshold and it was like oh, I keep casting these votes for being a writer, I guess maybe that's who I am. And this is the way that I like to think about how habits and identify influence each other, which is that every action you take is like a vote for the kind of person that you want to become."

He continues: "Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person that you want to become or the type of person that you believe you are, so the more that you perform these little habits, whether it's reading one page or writing one sentence or meditating for 60 seconds, the more you reinforce, you provide evidence, and cast a vote for that identity of being a reader, or a writer or being a meditator."

Today, I'm casting my vote for writing more, and reading more. Here's my writing. I did it today.

Have you read Atomic Habits? What was your takeaway? I'd love to hear!

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  • Writer's pictureWendy Saccuzzo

Updated: Mar 25, 2019

Lately I’ve been coaching a lot of people who are in job search mode- leaders in companies and individual contributors who do solid work. They are telling me it’s tough out there- companies ghosting them in the middle of the interview process, reappearing after weeks to say sorry things fell off the radar but they have no news, and generally appearing disorganized and unprofessional. I always ask what they’re doing to get into process with these companies, and time and again the answer is mostly the same- applying for jobs online, and getting very few responses and a lot of rejections.

I see this a lot, and let me just say- rejections are only rejections when a human makes contact to say they’re not the right fit. An auto-response from applicant tracking software is not a rejection- it just means it’s time to try another route.

The Other Route: Making Connections

Once upon a time, I loved going to events. Talking to people I didn’t know, putting myself out there- I look back now and am in awe of that lack of fear, that openness to talk with people, and the space I had in my life to embrace the number of events I attended. I feel differently about how to draw my energy today, and these big events with lots of people just aren’t my jam anymore. According to my Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I’m still showing a preference on the extraversion side of the continuum, but I more and more appreciate quiet time, where I can get away from the noise and recharge. When I left my full-time role and built my coaching business, at first I felt isolated, so I set a goal to have coffee with at least one person per week, so I could continue to build my network and keep up with hiring trends. This helped immensely, both with my continuous learning and also in building and strengthening connections with people.

In my work, I see a lot of people who, like me, are mentally drained or recoil at the term “Networking”. Context is everything, so allow me to clarify- when we think of networking, we usually think of those big events where there are people we don’t know, who we may or may not authentically connect with. Let’s substitute in the term “relationship building” for networking, and rebrand it as the art of connecting with people and planting seeds to learn new things, make connections, and grow personally and professionally.

Most of us feel we should be better at networking. We envision a room full of people we don’t know, and being forced to talk to people we don’t know sounds draining, useless, scary- insert your adjective of choice here. (BTW, anytime we say “should”, it’s often a signal that it’s not what we want to do but rather what we feel is expected of us. Does that make it the right thing to do?) Back to the rebrand- on the other end of making connections, there’s relationship building- this is where some real magic can happen. Anyone can practice this. This is when people bring their authentic selves to a conversation, open up, share, and are vulnerable together. Some real Brené Brown goodness. (And, she’s got a Netflix special coming out! Be still my heart!) This is where a couple of or a handful of humans come together for a more intimate conversation, share information, actively listen, and hold space for each other. This is where we help each other out and mentor each other: friendtors!

Introverts or extroverts, it matters not- as humans, we need connection. Think back- when was the last time you had a new connection in real life and built a relationship with someone outside of your day to day at work? I hope it was lately, because it can be a conduit to so many great opportunities, both personally and professional, to hear each other, share information, and grow.

Job Search & Connections = Referrals

If you haven’t had that connection with someone lately, and you’re looking to change jobs, it’s a double whammy. People who invest time in building relationships personally and professionally have an increased chance of getting connected to opportunities through their personal and professional networks. We know that around 80% of jobs aren’t even posted on job boards. How will you find out about these opportunities if they aren’t posted? People with more connections are creating opportunities for themselves, which can lead to interviews. You’re more likely to get an interview with a referral from someone you know- in fact, 40% of hires come from referrals.


In the interview scenario, conversations with recruiters or hiring managers put us in the spotlight as we answer their questions, try hard to impress them, and wait for the next steps- information, acceptance, or the dreaded Rejection.

Ooof. Rejection. It hurts- a little part of the heart breaks with each one for most of us. We take it personally. We wonder what we did wrong, where we went wrong, what we said that was wrong. And the way recruiting has been functioning for the last several years, we usually don’t receive feedback on why we are rejected. We may continue to wonder, and sometimes Imposter Syndrome sets in. We may feel like we’re Not Enough, Not Good Enough, Not Smart Enough, Not Worthy. We may shrink from connecting with people and being social. We might make ourselves small.

In this smallness, we miss opportunities to connect. We miss the ability to demonstrate our curiosity, to share what we are good at, to share what our gifts are. This is actually the right time to lean on our relationships and get support from our tribe- they want to see us succeed and may have a new strategy to suggest to get closer to that new job.

On the other hand, interviews are an opportunity to connect, be our authentic selves, and make an impression. Maybe the job we interviewed for isn’t right for us, or the company promoted someone internally. Remember that 80% of jobs aren’t posted- maybe we’ll be offered one of those instead. This happens more often than you’d think. In fact, it’s happened to me a few different times.

Deepak Chopra & Our Gifts

People: we all have gifts. We are good at things. We might even have built up expertise that’s valuable to others- you likely have done this! Part of my work is helping people identify their talents and gifts, their areas of expertise, their strengths. I know everyone has these. Do you know what yours talents and gifts are? Recently I listened to Deepak Chopra on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations and was touched by what he had to say about discovering our gifts- time flies when we are using them. I especially enjoyed this article, “Self-Worth- 5 Ways to Identify Your Unique Gifts”.

If you have been building relationships and making personal connections, as great leaders are likely doing, go to your tribe and ask them what your gifts or talents are. Then listen to what they say, absorb the information, and recharge yourself. Because, if you make yourself small, if you don’t build relationships with people, your gifts may go unused. How will your potential new employer even find you and your talent if you aren’t talking to people and putting yourself out there? Try this when you reach out for connection: "I'm looking at ways to get better and wondering if you had any recommendations,” or "Wow, the flow of our last project was great, what do you think made us work well together?"

Moral of the Career Development Story

Connecting with people is important, not just because it’s human nature, but because it can open us up to opportunities, provide the warmth and community that we are craving, and give us a new perspective on forging forward if we’ve been feeling stuck. Introvert, extravert- it doesn’t matter where we get our energy from or how shy we feel. There are ways to connect in a medium that feels right to each of us. A coach can help you identify how to most effectively tell our career story and identify our strengths and talents when building these connections and executing on a job search.

If you identify as a woman and you're looking to kick your career up a notch and grow as a communicator, manager, or thought leader, join me for a Career Lab to build your communication and leadership skills.

For more career development information, follow me on Twitter @aboutworkstuff.

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