Archive for July, 2012

Find Your Career Flare – Your Personal Style

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

“We construct a narrative for ourselves, and that’s the thread that we follow from one day to the next. People who disintegrate as personalities are the ones who lose that thread.” ~Paul Auster, author

At the core of ‘who you are’ is your personal style.  It doesn’t operate all on its own, as it is impacted by other aspects of your ‘self’ in the Career Decision Wheel.  However, it may steer much of your thinking, communicating and decision-making.  It may also impact how you get along with others, and how they perceive you.   Knowing your personal style, along with being able to assess the style of others can be helpful in the world of work.

There are many ways to assess your personal style, but one of the most common is based on the psychology type theory of Carl Jung.  The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) http://www.myersbriggs.org/ is one assessment that will help you determine which of sixteen types best fits for you.  It uses the following components or four scales:

  1. How and where you focus direction and get energy (extraversion vs. introversion)
  2. How you prefer to receive and process information (sensing vs. intuition)
  3. How you like to make decisions (thinking vs. feeling)
  4. How you react in life and decision making (judging vs. perceiving)

Another well respected personal style assessment is called Personality Dimensions. http://www.personalitydimensions.com/ It shares some similarities to the MBTI in that the full assessment measures how you focus your direction and how you get your energy, and the end result is a dominant style or type using a colour-coded system (e.g. Inquiring Green vs Authentic Blue).  These types are based on the work of Jung, Keirsey, and Berens and uses a dynamic card sort system and questionnaires to help determine personal style.  One of the qualities of this tool that is worth mentioning is that it represents the metaphor that we are all a composite – or plaid – of all of these colours, and simply that one colour or ‘type’ comes more naturally than others.

Personal Style Gaps

Typically the only time you will find a ‘gap’ in personal style is if something is wrong with the assessment process.  It is important first to remember that we are never just one thing – that while we are unique individuals, we all have the ability to share certain traits, characteristics, preferences, and styles.  No assessment will tell you who you are – you need to verify this for yourself, and determine why an assessment is saying what it says.  Before you take an assessment of any kind, it is important to take note of your personal state – most suggest that you take the assessment when you are not stressed and try to envision yourself in your most relaxed, natural state.  However, if you are under duress, such as during a crisis of any kind (including unemployment) or if you have any mental health concerns you should talk to a counsellor and Career Development Practitioner first.

Some people find that they are able to find a style that feels like it fits very easily.  Be careful to avoid complacently allowing an assessment to ‘tell’ who you are and suggest what career is best.  Be sure to validate your results with examples from past life and career successes, and by spending time talking to others about how this could fit for you.

Some people find attributes from each personal style that fits for them, and are unable to accept the results of just one type.  Another important distinction is that personal style is the difference between personal preference and skill.  For example, a person may have developed excellent presentation skills and appear to be outgoing, but they may find their energy more inwardly – understanding this difference between skill and preference may be the key in determining your true preferred style.  Most people can find skill and some interest in many aspects of personal style, but if you are able to be true to your most preferred states, you are likely to have the best assessment results.

Personal Style in Career: A True Story

An accountant in a social service firm knew that she was the ‘go to’ person for all the company’s financial matters.  Known for her meticulous and dependable nature, she always had her reports done on time for the CEO who liked his reports with detail, but preferred the executive summary.  The accountant was quiet, and preferred to work with her door closed.  Meanwhile, the Lead Project Manager down the hall drove her crazy!  She was so loud on the phone, insisted on her ‘open door policy’ so that colleagues could come talk to her whenever they wanted.  Her reports were always left to the last minute – probably because she was talking all the time, according to the accountant – and it drove her crazy, because her procrastinating always made the accountant have to wait to get her reports finalized.  The CEO, on the other hand, had knowledge of the finances, but when it came to innovation, when he decided they were moving forward with something, he didn’t question the ‘how’, but just directed her to figure out the finances to make it happen.

Despite how these relationships might have appeared doomed, each colleague had a great deal of respect for each other and the skills and attibutes they each brought to the team.  Their personal style was reflected in their career choices (ISTJ accountant, ENFP Manager, ENTP CEO).

Personal Style Assessments

These two types of personal style should be done with a qualified practitioner and you can find someone who administers these assessments through the links below.  However, if you would like a taste of what personality or personal style assessments can offer at free/low cost, consider starting a personal style assessment on your own through one of these other personal style or personality assessments:

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)  http://www.myersbriggs.org/

Personality Dimensions http://www.personalitydimensions.com/

Other Sample Assessments:

Keirsey Temperament Sorter:  http://www.keirsey.com/sorter/register.aspx

Carolyn Kalil’s Personality Assessment (True Colors): http://www.truecolorscareer.com/quiz.asp

These assessments are offered for FREE at a most Work BC centre: http://www.workbc.ca/Work-BC-Centres/Pages/Work-BC-Centres.aspx

Next Steps

Once you have completed your Personal Style assessments, you might find it helpful to note your MBTI Type or Personality Dimensions colours on your own Career Decision Wheel.  More importantly, note what that means to you – if there are particular words or images that resonate for you through the assessment process, document the top ‘ideas’ that come to mind.  If at any point you feel stuck, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner.  They can help provide you with appropriate assessments and other tools to help you make the best career choices.  Stay tuned for the next Career Decision Wheel blog on Significant Others.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Your Values

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

Actor and comedian Jim Carrey believes that: “…everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” 

Who you are and how you act is more important than what you do or what you make.  Even if you value fame and fortune, in going through this assessment process you will better understand how all aspects of the wheel work together for a best fit.

In some ways, values overlap with other spokes on the Career Decision Wheel.  Values such as ‘helping others’ are obvious and in alignment with the ‘social’ career interests as well as the “ENFP” personal style type, while a value of ‘material possessions’ and ‘financial comfort’ goes well with the career interest of “enterprising”.

Finding work that looks for these overlaps can help in maximizing career satisfaction.  When your work isn’t in alignment with your values, it may be difficult to get interested in what you are doing – or worse, when your work contradicts your values, you may find yourself completely disengaged and dissatisfied.

Personal values also need to be considered. For example, if you value ethics and a particular employer doesn’t share this value, while your career might be in alignment, the employer may not.  Also, if you value a particular type of community involvement, such as coaching a soccer team or participating in religious activities and your work doesn’t allow for that, you may need to consider alternative career or workplace options.  As always, compromise may be inevitable but finding the right balance is critical.

Values in Career: A True Story

A college instructor valued both the pursuit of knowledge and being considered a subject matter expert.  He felt that this was the best fit for being considered as Dean of his program and applied when the vacancy came up.  However, upon reflection, he realized that he was least fulfilled when students didn’t appreciate all the information he had to share with them, and was most satisfied when his colleagues came to him for tips on his subject area and for ideas on teaching style.  At first, he was disappointed when he didn’t get promoted to the role as Dean, but when he learned about his colleague who valued working under pressure, making decisions and supervising others, he realized that the college administration had made the best choice.  Instead, he created a personal plan that included attending conferences on his subject area, writing more white papers on his subject area, and opportunities to work with colleagues as a mentor, and removed the idea of being the head of the department from his career path.

Values Assessments

Although it is ideal to pursue work that is congruent with your values, in the short term that may not be possible.  When your values aren’t in alignment in your work, you may need to ensure that your values are met through volunteering, extra curricular activities, and/or through family.  Understanding what needs are not being met in any aspect of life and career can help in identifying gaps and coming up with long term solutions.  Having a plan to fill these gaps can make any short term plan more bearable as well.

Here are a few assessments that may help you assess your values:

Career Values Scale:  http://www.testingroom.com

Work Preference Inventory:  http://www.careerperfect.com/content/career-planning-work-preference-inventory

Next Steps

Once you have completed your Values assessments, you might find it helpful to note your top five values on your own Career Decision Wheel.  Start to look for those emerging patterns of what overlaps from one section of your wheel to the next.  Look for inconsistencies and question why that might be.  Make note of these questions to discuss with significant others in your life.  Look to see if there are opportunities you have – or have not – seen before.  Note them as you progress through the rest of the Career Decision Wheel.  If at any point you feel stuck, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner.  They can help provide you with appropriate assessments and other tools to help you make the best career choices.  Stay tuned for the next Career Decision Wheel blog on Personal Style.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Your Interests

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

When you consider what you are interested in, have you ever found that you are caught up in an activity and lost all sense of time?  Actor and author Todd Duncan once said: “What you invest your time in defines who you are.”  Finding work that considers your interests can be very effective in maintaining a long term career interest.  Consider doing an assessment that considers your career interests.  Any assessment based on John Holland’s theory of career interests can be a helpful tool in determining your primary area of interest.  The six areas according to Holland’s theory include:

  1. Realistic (jobs that ‘do’)
  2. Investigative (jobs that require ‘thinking’)
  3. Artistic (jobs that have ‘creative’ components – not restricted to jobs in the arts)
  4. Social (jobs that ‘help’ or ‘serve’ or interact with other people)
  5. Enterprising (jobs that involve ‘persuading’ others)
  6. Conventional (jobs that require ‘organizing’)

Being interested in something doesn’t mean that you are necessarily good at it yet – but people tend to develop skills in an area of interest by the sheer amount of time, energy and commitment that they put into it.  Reporter and Author Malcolm Gladwell has surmised that people who have truly developed a talent or gift have typically put in at least 10,000 hours of time into ‘doing’ something.  Interest alone does not determine success, but combine interest with enjoyment, hard work and determination and success is more likely to follow in career and life.

Personal Interests

It can be helpful to take stock of your personal interests.  Some people fashion an entire career out of a hobby.  Other people find that they can’t make enough money from a hobby to turn it into a career, while others prefer to keep their work and play activities separate.  If you have created a career development binder or a journal for yourself, check out these great guiding questions to ask yourself:

  •  How do you spend your free time?
  • What would you like to blog or tweet about?
  • What do you like to think about? Talk about?
  • What do you like to read?  Newspaper sections? Magazines? Blogs? Books?
  • What kind of TV shows, movies or music interests you?
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • What and who do you care about?
  • What would you like to accomplish in your life?

It can also be helpful to document your other passions or areas of interest, as they can inform your workplace decisions.  This can be expressed through many parts of the Career Decision Wheel other than just through Interests (e.g. Values).  For example, having a personal interest in doing an early morning exercise boot camp may mean you need to ensure a career choice allows for that timeframe, while an interest in knitting may indicate a preference for working with your hands.  Alternatively, being aware of your interests means that you may consider employers differently when evaluating job offers based on your needs and preferences (e.g., yoga at lunch, office daycare, work/life balance, same charity focus).

Interest Gaps

For some people, they have never really developed any interests through work or play.  It can be very upsetting to hear people say “find your passion” or “follow your calling” when you have yet to determine what you are interested in.  The only way to find out what you are interested in is to try things.  While you may never develop a strong interest, you’ll at least find out what you do and don’t like – and this can be helpful in making your work and day-to-day life more “interesting”.

Interests in Career: A True Story

A financial planner’s Holland Codes are CIR (Conventional, Investigative and Realistic).  He had pursued an educational path that was along the realistic side, obtaining a Bachelor of Science.  He had no desire to pursue a career in the sciences, but had an interest in business and numbers.  As an introvert, it takes most of his energy to be focussed on serving people, and he doesn’t enjoy trying to persuade others to do what is best for them financially.  He is not a natural sales person, and doesn’t like that his profession has a sales element, when in his opinion the best planners from an ethical perspective are focussed on the plan and not the sale.  However, he really enjoys coming up with a financial plan for them, as he is good with numbers and enjoys watching the global marketplace.  He enjoys thinking things through and making sure the right amount of risk is factored for his clients.  He has found success in his work as clients learn about his values and interests as their Financial Planner, despite the overwhelming number of people with other interests in his field.

Interests Assessments

Next Steps

Once you have completed your Interests assessments and reflected on the Personal Interests questions, you might find it helpful to note your three to five main areas of interest on your own Career Decision Wheel.  If at any point you feel stuck, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner.  They can help provide you with appropriate assessments and other tools to help you make the best career choices.  Stay tuned for the next Career Decision Wheel blog on Values.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Your Skills

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

“A lot of industries are having difficulty finding reliable workers with the skills they require,” according to activist Jerry Rubin.  This is true today, with the gap between available jobs and available workers in Canada growing.  Probably one of the easiest things to do is to figure out what you are good at.  If you look to past experiences, you can probably identify a few things that you were known for being good at.  If you aren’t sure of what you are good at, take time to go ask past colleagues or supervisors, teachers, family and friends for their thoughts on what you are good at, and choose from that list what stands out to you.

Career Development Skills

Today, Canadians typically have at least seven careers in their lifetime.  As a result, it is important to be resilient and adaptable to a changing work world.  If you have had a successful career path to date, you may already have strong career development skills.  If you have struggled with work and past employers, this may be an area worth exploring on your own and with a career expert.  Often employers cannot or do not share helpful feedback with employees who are terminated for fear of legal repercussions – this is true also with employees who choose to leave voluntarily at times.  However, it is in your best interest long term to know what their perceptions were, so that moving forward you can know how and if you need to shift in the world of work.

Throughout your early school years, the public education system was designed to help you develop core skills for work and life.  Group projects and subject areas like math and English were intended to help you develop skills in numeracy, reading, writing, oral communication, working with others, thinking, document use, computer use and continuous learning. These are all the Essential Skills (link: http://www.myerc.ca/content/Skills/Main.asp) that are necessary for the workplace and life can be assessed by career experts in employment resource centres.

Motivated Skills

It can be helpful to take an inventory of your skills and figure out two things: what you are good and what you enjoy.  Finding a career that uses the skills that fit both is typically the most motivating, and you will likely have the most success.

When you are first starting out in the world of work it can be difficult to isolate what you are good at, but hopefully you will have a sense of what activities you lose time in and truly enjoy.  While these may be interest areas, you may have developed skills in these areas, and these are considered your more motivated skills.

Malcolm Gladwell (see interview:  http://pinterest.com/pin/81416705733881483/), author of “The Outliers”, has researched the idea that you typically need a minimum of 10,000 hours to become good at something (almost 5 years at a full time ‘job’).  Consider what skills you have honed so far – and if you enjoy using those skills, they are worth bringing to your next career choice.

Transferable Skills

If you are considering a career change, you may hear that you need to “upgrade your skills” or “get training” to try a new career.  While in some cases this is true, this is not always the case.  Half of the work is showing a new employer in a new field how your previous work fits.  You don’t want to leave the guess work to the employer – make it easy for them by showing them how your skills fit.  First, try to figure out what skills are the key requirements for the job of interest to you, then note all the skills that you have and make notes of proof or evidence of your past accomplishments that highlight those skills.  While you may be documenting your transferable skills for the sake of choosing a career, keep your list handy for when you are ready to job search so that you remember to incorporate your greatest strengths into your job search tools (cover letter and resume, and also for during interviews).

Job-Specific Skills

Some skills may not be transferable.  For example, typing at 50 wpm is irrelevant if your new work will be outdoors restoring rivers and streams.  However, taking note of what job-specific skills you have can still help you identify work opportunities that are similar.  Many people also learn and specialize in their field on the job through apprenticeships, internships and through on-the-job training.  While these may not help you switch careers, it may help you in other ways.

Sometimes taking the time to assess what you are good at – and how you have honed your craft – can remind you about what you love in your work.  It can also help you showcase to a new employer how dedicated you are to personal development.  Your ability to learn job-specific skills is a skill in and of itself, and is highly transferable – and the skills required for one specific type of work may be relevant in ways you can’t yet foresee (such as someone who has familiarity with the inner workings of a boat engine can transfer this knowledge to small engine repairs with a little bit of training).  When it comes to your job search tools, you may need to remove or adapt job-specific skills to suit the types of jobs or careers you are seeking (e.g. avoid jargon specific to past employer and explain or generalize for someone who may not recognize the terminology).

Knowledge-Based Skills

Your educational background comprises of the various skills you have acquired through informal and formal training and educational programs.  Keep in mind that there is overlap from your education that will flow into various skill areas, such as a second language skill or specific computer training.  However, there will be a separate blog on the Educational Background section of the Career Decision Wheel.  Stay tuned for that in the coming weeks.

Skill Gaps

Sometimes it may be a challenge – even demotivating, to take a look at what you are not good at, especially when you are reminded of it daily.  For others, they may be embarrassed to evaluate the skills they are good at if they are not considered “good skills” in the world of work.  Consider though, that most skills can be looked at from a different viewpoint, and that you can take what you know and use it in a new way (e.g., marijuana grow op skills show plant knowledge and care).  However, that can help you figure out what careers to avoid, or determine what skills you need to work, or what strategies you will need to use, if you wish to pursue a career that may use that skill.

Many people think that they need to be retrained in order to switch careers, but often you may find that you are just using the “wrong” skills as your main focus of your work (see the Motivated Skills and Transferable Skills section for more on that).  If you determine that going back to school or a training program is the best fit, be sure to talk to significant others in your life before you commit a lot of time and money.  Consider also seeing a Career Development Practitioner who can provide you with an objective perspective on your skill set and who have extensive, current local knowledge of the work world.

Skills in Career: A True Story

A student found that she was willing to take “just any job” during her high school years so that she could develop skills that would help her in the workplace over time.  She had worked as a cashier in the family hardware store, which helped her develop cashier experience, customer service skills, typing skills and speed, and all kinds of knowledge about hardware and building supplies.  However, she was constantly getting in trouble because she hated being dirty and the store was always full of dust. She spent more time talking to customers to figure out what made them tick rather than cleaning or stocking shelves.  When she went to prepare her resume for a summer job before going to college, all she could think about in terms of her skills were the ones she obtained in her paid work.  She hadn’t factored the skills she was gaining in other aspects of her life, such as the work she did on the Crisis phone line, the peer mentoring she did at school and the Sunday School class she assisted with – all highly motivated skills that she should have been focusing on when it came to looking for paid work and choosing a college major and future career.

Skills Assessments

Dependable Strengths: http://www.quintcareers.com/Dependable_Strengths.html

Motivated Skills: http://www.stewartcoopercoon.com/jobsearch/motivated-skills/

Transferable Skills: http://www.roguecc.edu/emp/Resources/transferable_skills_checklist.htm

Skills and Values Assessment: offered for FREE at a Work BC centre: http://www.workbc.ca/Work-BC-Centres/Pages/Work-BC-Centres.aspx, ask about doing a TOWES or other Essential Skill assessment

Skill Gap Analysis: a how to guide to develop a plan http://www.ehow.com/how_5941663_write-personal-gap-analysis.html

Next Steps

Once you have completed your skills assessments, you might find it helpful to note your top five skills on your own Career Decision Wheel.  If at any point you feel stuck, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner.  They can help provide you with skills assessments and other tools to help you make the best career choices.  Stay tuned for the next Career Decision Wheel blog on Interests.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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Find Your Career Flare – Know Yourself

Career Decision Wheel
Model by Norm Amundson
Image by Jody Little

Confucius said: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  To find a job you love, you may also need to take advice from a more contemporary career expert, Norman Amundson.  He suggests that instead of worrying about what you want to do with your life that you focus more on who you want to be.  Being clear about who you are and what matters to you can go a long way in helping you “be” and find long term career satisfaction so that you can “do” what best fits.  This can be the difference between finding a job, choosing a career, and pursuing your true calling.

Amundson (https://campus.digication.com/careerwell/Norm_Amundson) has developed a tool called the Career Decision Wheel which is designed to help guide you on many aspects of the career decision making process.  Think of this as your own personal steering wheel.  It is there to help guide you and has the ability to turn as you do, and take you in new directions based on your shifting priorities over time.  As in any journey, your travel tools, like a map or a compass, are just tools that you use for information – they do not drive you, but are driven by you.  When you are clear about your preferences, it can help you determine what career options, industries, and types of employers will make the best fit.

Over the coming weeks, you will be able to explore each part of the Career Decision Wheel on the My ESC blog and consider how that impacts you and your career goals.  Consider getting a binder or journal to gather your research on the way.  You may even want to enlarge the Career Decision Wheel and print it out so you can make notes on each section to see the “whole picture” on one page.  Each section will highlight key areas of that topic, address gaps, provide links to some assessments, share a true story and next steps for your own journey.  If at any point you get stuck, consider meeting with a professional Career Development Practitioner to guide you on your way.

Sarah Nelson’s educational background includes education, linguistics, and career development. Professionally a Career Development Practitioner with a CHRP designation, Sarah has a vast array of work experience across several industries. Her early career began in the hospitality industry and has morphed into a career with a strong focus on education, including being a School Trustee in the public education system, a Learning Consultant in the career development field, and a college instructor.

Her main areas of interest include communication and the power of words, innovation and creativity, living with passion and purpose and a desire to see the world full of lifelong learners who want to ‘be the change’. Sarah is also a “midnight genealogist” with a desire to uncover lost roots for herself and others, with a desire to learn from the past to live in the present and create a better future.  Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahnelson71 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/sarahnelson71.

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