Best of Two Worlds

Best of Two Worlds

Thank you to UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education for featuring me in their student spotlight.  I graduated from the program in July 2018.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

StrengthsFinder 2.0 and the World of Work:

Are you engaged?

An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work.  They are passionate about what they do and actively look for opportunities to further the company mission, goals and interests. Does this sound like you?  Do you jump out of bed every morning and feel excited about what you do?  Don’t feel bad if you don’t because you are not alone.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is an assessment that has changed the way I view myself, my relationship to the world and most importantly how I view my work.  It is one that you too can take to help you get on track to a more fulfilling and meaningful life and career.

Gallup, the global polling company has created this assessment to measure your strengths and as a result, increase the likelihood that you will be successful, productive and ENGAGED in your work.  Engaged employees are happier, loyal, and more productive.

Here are some examples of statements given from engaged employees

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing
    good work.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about
    my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.


As a career management consultant and executive coach I help people find connection to their purpose.  Questions I like to ask people when I meet them are “What jobs have you enjoyed in the past?  What are you passionate about?  What do you want to do in your next opportunity?   My clients can take a StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment and tie in those wants with what they are naturally good at.

To give you some background on how this assessment solidified—Psychologist & creator of StrengthsFinder, Donald Clifton, asked the question “What would happen if we actually studied what is right with people?”  He was a professor at the University of Nebraska from 1950-1969 and authored many books.  According to the American Psychology Association he is known as “the Father of Strengths Psychology and the Grandfather of Positive Psychology”

Clifton created a research company. He spent many years researching and writing about management and leadership. In this time he refined and defined his strengths based theories. His company grew so large they were able to purchase Gallup in 1988.

Fast forward a few years. In 2005, Gallup began its World Poll.  They continually surveys citizens in 160 countries, representing more than 98% of the world’s adult population.

They ask questions about Local and National Leadership,

Law and Order

Food and Shelter





Questions like how do you earn money?  Where do you shop for goods?  Do you grow food and bring it to the market to trade?  Or do you go to the grocery store and buy what you need?   What about where you live? Do you feel safe?  Gallup then asks questions about wellbeing.  What makes a good day and what makes a bad day.  Questions like “Was I treated with respect?  Did I laugh today?  Did I learn something new?  Or did I feel sadness, worry or pain? Gallup was able to take that information and merged economics and psychology to come up with a way to measure a country’s “Emotional Economy”

What Gallup discovered was astounding.  What most people want in life, more than love or money, or fame is a good job. For most people that is their daily work.  Even in the poorest countries—they found that the measurement of satisfaction, even happiness was directly tied to that of feeling useful.  You don’t have to have a paid job to feel useful, but you do need a purpose.  Everyone wants a reason to get out of bed every day.

The engaged worker is hard to find.  Gallup discovered that only 30% of employees feel engaged in their work– 7 out of 10 of people are not.  They are miserable or have checked out.  Most workers might be somewhat productive but the majority of the working population in the U.S. are psychologically not committed or are even miserable in their jobs.

Statistics support that person may be you.

Is it time to make a change?

Where to start

Ask yourself this:   “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” 

Gallup found that if people play to their strengths—every day in some capacity, you are 6x more engaged, and twice as productive than those who do not.  If you are a manager or owner of a company—you can see how this can directly affect your bottom line.

So what does this mean to you?  Do you even know what your strengths are?

After taking this assessment you will discover what your top 5 thematic talents are—and you will be given action items on how to develop them into strengths.  Through this process, you will start to understand the common threads and themes of jobs you have held and enjoyed in your life.  You will be able to assess where you fall in the continuum for employee engagement.

11 million people have taken this assessment and 1000’s of companies have adopted this assessment to better understand their employees and to help build their teams. In fact Facebook has even made it a point to give this assessment to its employees and tailor their jobs around their strengths.

Do you look ahead to the next year with enthusiasm and excitement? Or is it just another year closer to retirement?  You don’t have to necessarily leave your job to improve it.  You do need to be comfortable learning about yourself, and to be able to articulate your findings with those who your report to.  You will need to proactively seek out opportunities to employ your strengths in your workplace.

You don’t need to be employing your strengths all the time—but like the 80/20 rule—it can apply here too.  At least 20% of what you do should be aligned with what you naturally excel at or you might be in the wrong line of work.  Like a bad marriage where sometimes good people are just not good together, maybe your job is just not a good fit.

Maybe THIS is the time to make a change.

The best news?  You can purchase this assessment online from Amazon for less than $20.  Want to create an action plan of how to utilize your natural talents and develop them into true strengths for personal mastery?  That’s where I come in as your consultant or coach.  Give yourself the gift of knowledge—self-knowledge and start putting it to work where you turn the ship around and start doing not only what you love—but what you are great at.  What are you waiting for?

Sawa Bona- “I See You” by Gavan Ambrosini

Sawa Bona- “I see you” by Gavan Ambrosini

As a career coach for the past 10 years, I have been helping professionals navigate their way through the career transition. My scope of practice has expanded to include executive coaching in the workplace.  Why the switch? Through my work, it has become abundantly clear that what happens on the job has a profound impact on your self-view and the overall quality of your life.

A key finding Gallup has discovered through conducting global surveys is that your career satisfaction is directly tied to your well-being.   And yet 7 out of 10 people are disengaged or unhappy in their jobs. That is 70% of the workforce!  That is a whole lot of unhappy people, going through the motions every day, in the wrong jobs or the wrong career.  Perhaps they just need a new perspective? I am not in this business to help people switch careers, but rather to find satisfaction in what they do already.  As a StrengthsFinder facilitator, and strengths based coach for the past several years, I help people see themselves as powerful contributors in their work and in their lives.  Why do we need to focus on what you don’t have?  If we constantly try and make up for our gaps or shortfalls to be passably good at everything, we are going to have a lot of average people running around trying to be like everyone else.  Where is the good in that?

I help my clients with their own-self view.  As a coach, I am trained to listen for the themes and stories that we tell ourselves. My job is to help you re-orient yourself so that you can see the unique and powerful person that you are. Years of working with people in career transition has helped me hone the skill of finding what makes you unique. Many of the folks I have worked with had lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  My job has been to help them pick up the pieces and repackage their skills and experiences into a powerful whole again.  Years of identifying your self-worth to your job or career can have a devastating effect on your confidence when are no longer employed. To rebrand yourself, you need to be able to see yourself in a positive & powerful light!  Or how can you expect others to see you that way? I help people present themselves the way they are meant to be seen.  Together, we uncover opportunities that are in alignment with your strengths, values and vision.

Career coaching and consulting focuses on getting you into an organization.  Executive coaching focuses on what happens when you are already on the inside.  Common themes that come up with clients in that space are leadership & communication challenges, managing up, managing down, setting priorities and setting boundaries.  Execs want to be leaders and focus on vision and strategy, but they can’t get there when they are constantly putting out fires around them.  This crosses gender lines as executives struggle with how to get the most out of the day, their direct reports and their careers.  I take my clients through a structured process of helping them define what is, to designing what is possible.  Through a thought- provoking process of inquiry and reflection, we work through what is important to you, to help you create what you want more of in your life and/or in your career.

What my clients walk away with is a clear vision of themselves—a confidence that helps them clearly articulate what they want and what they need.  It starts with incremental steps:  Identifying the barriers to what is getting in the way to having what you want.  Finding ways to look at things through another lens,  identifying all your options and then creating steps to get you moving the needle forward.  More options=more solutions.  I will challenge you to consider other perspectives to view a situation by–encourage you to discover the learning or the gift, and always take a moment to give pause for reflection.  It is how we grow and learn as leaders.

There are 2 things most of my clients struggle with in their current roles:  Work /Life balance, and creating an impact as a leader.  Can you have both?  Is it even possible?  Yes, you can.  We can unpack the stories that you have created about what defines success and what is getting in your way to get what you really want.  When we can look at what your strengths are, your values, and what makes you shine and we can build a bridge to get you in your optimal space of creation and productivity.  Living is action.  Life is short.  It means getting out of your head and finally tackling what you need to do to get what you really want in your life.  Together we work on paving a clear pathway, removing obstacles to get the best out of your day, your career, your life!

My gift as a coach is to hear you and see you for who you are.—”Sowa Bona”:  An African greeting that means I see you.  I will reflect back to you what you have shared and help you see you how we see you.  We will capitalize on your strengths because those are your gifts.  The world deserves to know them.

Why Hire a Career Coach?

Why Hire a Professional Coach

Are you unhappy where you are at? Do you find yourself asking “What’s next?”  and need to bounce off ideas and come up with a career strategy?  A coach can help you lay out the foundation for a workable plan to get you up and moving to where you want to be.  Uncover your natural talents, discover your strengths, recognize your options and create opportunities to carve a new path.  Sometimes you find yourself on a trajectory that doesn’t align with your values.  Learn to recognize the signs of discontent, and find ways to get realigned, re-engaged and performing at your peak.  Life is short.  Decide wisely & make it happen with a professional coach at your side supporting you as you make powerful changes for your career and your life.


Interview Prep

Interview Prep

Interview Prep –so now you have the interview— this is where the real work begins.  How much time should you spend on prepping for an interview?  6-8 hours.  2 hours to review the job description line by line.  2 hours to research the company, website, articles, and everything about the company.  2 hours to practice your stories. 2 hours getting your outfit ready, getting driving directions and doing a trial run if possible.  If you have time to hire an interview coach —you can practice doing a mock interview to get you primed for the big event.  You will need an extra 20 minutes to watch this important Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy on body language.

Job Search Strategy

Job Search Strategy

Finding a job is a job.  There is no way around it.  So if you are going to do well at your new job of finding a job—you need to get a plan in place.  It doesn’t help to take the spaghetti noodles against the wall approach where you throw it all out there to see what sticks.  You need to target your job search.  Do the research and choose where you want to focus your energy.  Each time you apply to a job, it can take up to 2 hours of your precious time filling out the application, targeting the resume, creating a cover letter.  If you are applying for a job you found on a job board—unless it is a specialized position that very few people have skills in (including you) you better be spot on in what you offer as knowledge, skills and abilities.

Create an excel spreadsheet to capture your list of targeted employers and their data

Have  a professional sounding email and don’t use yahoo, hotmail, Aol or Comcast.  Gmail is your best bet since you will need one anyhow to access anything associated with Google.  Use your first initial and last name and even a few numbers since your name will likely be taken.  It needs to be professional and have your name in there.  Use your cell (not home phone) nobody uses their home phone anymore.  It is a sign that you are definitely not hip or accessible—or you are a homebody.  None of those are good.

Get some networking cards with your name, title, a tagline of no more than a few words if possible, cell, email and linkedin and/ website/twitter or blog.  You can create a free website through wordpress or  If you have a specialty in something—time to create a digital footprint that showcases your credibility in the field!  If anyone comes looking for you—you want to have something to offer-and it can all be done free.

Now that your tools are in place?  Time to start networking your way into those companies.  Part of your job search strategy is to get yourself OUT THERE!



Linkedin is the place to be found- yet you don’t want to advertise “unemployed” or “looking” or “available” anywhere in your tagline or summary.  It is kind of like saying “Single”.  Sure you might be single, but the fact that you are advertising it, tells me that you don’t want to be single and that you are looking for a match.  How do I respond to that?  Am I looking for a mate?  Do I know anyone who can be a match?  Do I have what you are looking for?  It is the same thing with advertising that you are “unemployed”.  Sure it is good for people who know you– to know that—but you don’t need to advertise it to the world.  Think about how you want to brand yourself, and call yourself that what you want to be.  If you are doing side jobs until you get the “real” gig—use Facebook or Instagram to advertise those services.  Putting up a “handy man” or “dog walker” is not going to entice an employer to take you seriously for a marketing director position.    Some people say Linkedin is your visual resume—and others say absolutely not.  My take is that it should demonstrate a few things—where you have worked, who you know, what others say about you-and what groups or organizations are of interest to you.  Like dating—Linkedin should “attract” not “chase” so stop selling and start enticing.

Cover Letter

To Write or Not –Your Cover Letter Question Answered

Cover letters are where you can breathe life into your candidacy.  It is here where you can namedrop a referral, share a personal story, communicate your passion for the industry or cause, or show your enthusiasm for the position or the company.  In a cover letter, you can address the elephant in the room—whether that is a lack of experience, too much experience, gaps in your work history or education.  If it is in another city, you can communicate your connection to that city or that company and that your intention is to move there regardless.  People don’t want to take a chance on you unless they trust your reasons for moving there are more than “because you are hiring.”  Should you always send a cover letter?  In a word-Yes.  Unless specifically requested to NOT send a cover letter, it is always in your best interest to send one.  It will give you an edge over others who don’t—demonstrate your communication and writing style, give you personality and life to an otherwise lifeless read (the resume) and could be the thing that brings you in for a resume.  Admittedly, not everyone reads cover letters—but that should matter not.  Like manners, you always want to show your very best version of yourself—and look at it as an opportunity to get the reader to get to know you.


A word on resumes

A Word On Resumes

Resumes are meant to be a highlight of your relevant skills and experience targeted towards the job you are applying for.  Not a regurgitation of your life story.  As a recruiter, I have reviewed 1000’s of resumes and the number 1 turn off for me –a wordy resume. One with no room to breathe or digest what is being shared on the page.  I shut down after 2-3 sentences and the rest becomes a whir of words on a page.  It is unfortunate—but many people don’t even get a second glance because they don’t know how to highlight the good stuff. People assume recruiters will read the whole thing to get to what is relevant, but sadly not the case.  If a resume doesn’t catch my attention in terms of relevant skills or experience on the top half of the first page—you’ve lost me.  Make every word and phrase count-Use white space-Give information in little sound bites of 2-3 sentences.  Break it up with bold headings but don’t go crazy on fonts and avoid italics.

Questions to Help Uncover A Purpose Driven Career

Questions to Help Uncover A Purpose Driven Career

Gavan Ambrosini –Executive Career Coach, PCC

November 16, 2016

California Career Development Association Quarterly 2016 Fall Edition

“It is not the answers we get, but the questions we ask that can help guide someone to understanding passion and purpose. Career practitioners can help clients see themselves as unique and positive contributors to the collective community of work and life. Learn to ask questions to prompt discovery and help them see what it means to have a purpose driven life.”

How do we help today’s youth understand that success is not all about “being” something—a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or astronaut. And it is also not just about having a fat paycheck, or about being a boss, owning your own business or winning the lottery. It is about finding a way to “have it all” without having it all.

It’s about creating work/life balance.  It means finding out who you are, and discovering ways to share your gifts with the world. Decide what moves you into action and translate that into purpose.

How do we do that?  When kids have been conditioned for 13 years to follow 1 set of rules, one path in hopes of getting an A—and that an A is what defines you as successful or not—how do we unlearn this strongly ingrained societal standard of excellence?

As adults–we have come to know what defines us; it is what we experience — and essentially how we respond to those experiences. Thoughts and feelings about those experiences get stored in our memory banks, and based on our past experiences we will move toward or move away from doing more of the same. If we can tap into this level of conversation early on—we can help youth better understand their uniqueness is what will help them stand apart.

Today’s youth need to understand that what makes them different is what can bring them success. They need to see themselves as unique and positive contributors to the collective community of work and life.

Many MBA students I work with believe that an MBA is an automatic ticket to a $100,000 job.  They are so focused on convincing employers they have a golden ticket that proves their worth and value.  They believe they can be molded in any way, and are disillusioned when they get passed over for high paying jobs by their peers.  Many have this mindset that having an MBA is proof enough they can handle whatever the business world throws at them.  This may be true,  but it is not enough.

Employers are looking past the MBA and want to see what prospective young employees are truly made of.

My advice to students is that an MBA a tool — much like a Swiss army knife — you may have access to many different functions—but it does not mean you are the knife and it does not mean that each function of the knife is particularly strong—even if useful.

The key factor students miss is that employers want to know their personal strengths more than their skills.  Skills can be taught, but natural talents?  That is what comes from within—and if discovered early can be honed into strengths and overall productivity and engagement.

Sometimes I put it this way to them: “If you could be any function of that knife—what would it be?”

Equally as important, employers are starting to understand that knowing the person inside is as important as what potential job-ready skills they bring. They want to know what drives them. What truly engages them? Many employers realize that a paycheck is not going to keep motivated and happy in their work as long as a job that utilizes their strengths and keeps them motivated and engaged.

The question now becomes this: “As professional career development practitioners how can we help our student populations discover who they are. Connect their individual talents, experiences and skills—find a way to communicate that individuality and create a more compelling path towards a purpose driven life.

It might help to describe working life as a buffet.  Many choices, many things to try and discover—and though we may want to choose everything—there is only so much room on the plate.  Rather than focus on all of what is available—let’s turn the tables and focus on what our clients enjoy.

Here are seven questions to ask students to help prompt the process of self-discovery and start to build the composite pieces of their colorful mosaic.

  1. Tell me a story about a time when you achieved something, felt most excited or happy. Describe everything you felt, saw and experienced at that moment using all five senses. (Prompts: achievement, vacation, holiday, birthday, sports, activity, outdoor activity, hobby(Values)
  2. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in this world what would it be? (What problem would they like to see solved in this world? (Vision)
  3. What makes you stand out from others? What makes you different? What is your “x” factor?  (What are they known for, what do they enjoy doing? (Passion)
  4. Tell me about a time when you worked really hard on something and failed to do well. (What does this story tell me about their ability to learn from failure (Growth vs. Fixed Mindset)
  5. Tell me about a time when you worked hard on something that you weren’t very good at and surprised yourself by doing well? (How comfortable are they with uncertainty?  How determined are they to improve your skills (Grit/Resilience)
  6. What are you naturally good at? Describe for me a time when you worked really hard at something and you enjoyed the process so much that you lost track of time (Discover what puts them in “flow” or in a mode of pure engagement/enjoyment –(Strengths)
  7. What does it mean to be happy?(

    Another values

    based question, however instead of experience focused, it is future focused and can help determine- (Intrinsic extrinsic motivators, self-efficacy and agency)

The big question then becomes—how can we take all of this and apply it to the world of work?  Instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, we can look at clients with unconditional positive regard—completely capable of aligning their gifts with opportunities for continuous engagement and growth.

Gavan Ambrosini is a talent broker and executive career coach in Sacramento, CA. She currently works with MBA Students at UC Davis as a career coach and facilitator. She is an NCDA certified Career Development Facilitator Instructor and an ICF professional certified coach (PCC) with a private practice. During the past 10 years, she has helped over a thousand people with the job search and is a regular speaker in the Sacramento area.