Happy Valentines Day!


First a quick personal update, and then on to the good stuff 😉 

I have been absent the last few weeks – quiet on twitter, behind on email, and missing on my blog.  I am working furiously to launch an MVP of my first leadership tool (and I still need to come up with a name – if only I was as good at branding as tech!).  And the paid recruiting content site should be up in the next couple of weeks.

Starting my own company has been fun, but also terrifying.  I am working harder than I have ever worked – I am putting in 14 hour days!  However, I am have been amazing at the outreach from people and how generous very busy people like Mike, Jay, Duncan, Gene, Scott, Anthony, and Bryce have been with their time.  I am so lucky to have such amazing people reach out and give me guidance and input – THANK YOU.

Of course I am struggling to learn everything I need to build the greatest product, and if there happens to be someone reading this with strong CSS, HTML skillz (yes, skills with a z) I would be happy to trade you my time in exchange for some help polishing my UI.

Now, enough about me, and let’s talk about some gifts worth giving….


Give The Gift of Leveling Up

Throughout my life others have seen my potential and made an effort to shared tools and gifts that have helped me level up, translating my goals into actions. We can all use a little boost like this from time to time. I know this was especially true for me early on when I didn’t have the money to spend, and is true now when I don’t seem to have the time.

When you want to help someone level up in their career, one of the most valuable things you can give them is your time. Unfortunately, there are limits on how much time we can spend and how many people we can spend it with, so long one-on-one meetings and coffee dates are not always an option. Plus, it’s sometimes nice to be able to give a tangible symbol of your relationship with someone (one of my most memorable gifts was a pen that was given to me as a parting gift from a favorite job, and the most impactful was probably the advice form a revered mentor).

Giving gifts can be an excellent way to secure a relationship with someone, and giving gifts that show you are invested in their future is even better. If you’ve got a mentee, peer, or employee who you want to share a gift with on their birthday or a holiday (probably not Valentine’s day though!), why not focus your giving on something that can improve their confidence and performance at work?

Below are a few of my favorite suggestions for gifts you can give someone in your life to help them gain confidence and improve their skills to help them achieve their biggest career goals.



Books are an awesome way to help someone build new skills. There are so many books out there by so many authors on every topic, so you can usually find one that speaks directly to the career path and desires of the person you’re gifting it to.

You can pick a topic that you think will inspire them, or one you think will give them actionable tips they can start using in their daily work. Think about what you hope the results will be, and let that guide the book you choose (and if you need a recent suggestion I am current reading the Phoenix Project and really enjoying it so far – and I am planning on interviewing the author in a future post!).

If you choose a book that has been significant to you in your career or that you have another personal connection with, it builds trust with the recipient as you share something special to you with them. Did a friend of yours write an awesome book on web development, or did a particular book help you finally decide to make the leap from engineering to management? Books with personal significance are more likely to be read and have an impact on the person who receives them.

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Tickets to lectures, conferences, or events

Going to events and networking with people in your field is important and helpful for your career, yet many professionals shy away from attending because of cost or even just because they don’t see the point in going.

I used to avoid networking, and never imagined I’d one day be a speaker at events like these, until I recognized the valuable connections I made and their impact on my success. Think of introducing a younger or more introverted colleague to the power of building new relationships, and introducing them to someone that may be their future friend, colleague or customer. 

The ticket doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive, either. Many colleges and universities offer free or low-cost lectures, and with a little bit of research, a quick phone call  or email, and courteous request  is all it takes to get admission.  If you’re in or near a major city, you can easily sign up your gift recipient for a day pass to a conference and not have to worry about travel or lodging expenses. If they want to stay longer or add additional events, they can take care of the extra costs, but you can get them there with the original pass. 


An upgrade on their office supplies

Many people carry a computer bag or briefcase to work, and lots more keep a notebook, set of pens, or personal organizer with them every day at work. Giving someone a nice, high-quality version of a tool they’re already using can help them feel like they’ve taken a step up in their career and help them see themselves in a new light. 

Even though upgrading from a legal pad to a bound leather notebook doesn’t necessarily seem like a huge leap, it can actually make you see yourself as a more serious professional and improve your confidence day to day. Having a more positive self-image translates into better interactions with your peers at work, and can help you envision even further steps towards your dream role.  And for people you know well, sometimes a great “executive” outfit (such as a dress shirt for that upcoming interview) can give them a bit more confidence and panache. 

My personal favorite “small gift” is nice pens.  I love writing with a high quality pen (my fave is Le Pen in dark gray) and everyone who ever borrows my pen comments on how much they like them.  Of course, then I like to follow up with a couple new ones and nice note on their desk.  It makes them feel special and remembered and sets me back <$5 (and cheap can be important if your employer doesn’t allow you to expense gifts).


Subscription to a service that can help them level up

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that do all the work themselves. Giving someone a subscription to a service that can help them stay organized, manage their own projects, or stay on top of their goals is a great way to show them you are invested in their future and want to see them succeed.

These don’t need to be pricey gifts either, since lots of great apps are just a couple of dollars. For example, you can give someone an upgrade to Evernote Premium to give them access to more organizing and tracking features for $5/month, or Pandora if they like to listen to music while they work.

There are so many great tools out there, and just letting someone know which tool has worked for you, and letting them try it for free, can be a great help in sorting through which ones are really the best for them.


Gifts should be about the recipient

My last piece of advice on giving gifts for leveling up is to always keep the recipient in mind when you’re picking something out. What do you know about their current position? What do they aspire to do? Who do they admire? By answering some basic questions, you can make it feel like less of a random selection and pick out the very best gift to help them build the career they want. 

Oh, and take the time to write a nice note.  If you don’t like your own words pull some quotes from inspirational speakers (some included below).  Just take the time to give some words of encouragement that are personalized and thoughtful.  Words are free, but can be priceless for the recipient.

Smile and pay it forward 🙂

 What’s the best gift you’ve received that helped you level up your career? Do you have other tips for picking out great gifts?


 Quote Ideas:


Believe you can and you’re halfway there. — Theodore Roosevelt

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” — Sir Edmund Hilary, First to reach the summit of Mount Everest

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” — Dalai Lama

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive, who is youer than you.” — Dr. Seuss

 “Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” — Alexander Graham Bell

 “When you have exhausted all the possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” — Thomas Edison

  “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants.” — Isaac Newton

 “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” — Dr. Seuss

 “We’re different, we all are. But there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?”  — Fantastic Mr. Fox

  “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”  — Nelson Mandela

 “Opportunities are not offered. They must be wrested and worked for. And this calls for perseverance..and courage. ”  — Indira Gandhi, Indian prime minister

 “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

  “It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him. ” — John Steinbeck


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