Is job search a problem to be solved or part of your creative process? – Part 2

Problem Solving your career?

In my previous blog on this topic, I asked ‘Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want?” Whether you are pursuing a short term goal, like getting a new job in the next 90 days, or going after a longer term goal, such as changing your career completely—an important lesson to remember is this: you don’t get there all at once!

You build. You plan certain steps, and then you take certain actions. You start with something workable, and then you begin to develop it.

However, many people will simply react to their current circumstances. If they think their employer is downsizing, merging with another company, or going bankrupt, they will start looking for another job because losing a job is a problem to be solved. They do what they think they should do, i.e. go to job boards, look for postings, and apply online for their resume. They don’t usually think much about how the process works, why it functions they way it does, and so on.

Then, when they don’t get any callbacks for interviews, they start to panic and think something is wrong with them: “my resume is no good, I don’t have enough experience for that job, I’m getting too old, I don’t have enough education, I live in the wrong part of the country.” They start to blame themselves instead of understanding the dynamics of supply & demand at work in the job market and how job boards relate to those dynamics.

Problem solving is about reacting to circumstances.

Creating is about resolving the tension between where you want to be and where you are now. For example, if you want a new job, you can start by picking a job target. What is the job title that you are going to package/position yourself for? Is it the same one you have now, or slightly different, or very different? Where do you want to work? Do you have a list of 10-20 preferred employers? Getting clarity about where you want to be is a crucial step in creating your next job.

Next, make a list of where you’re at now. What personal strengths and professional assets do you have that will help you create your next opportunity. Do you have an up-to-date resume? Do you know how to use LinkedIn for job search? What about offline—do you know how to approach recruiters and agencies? Or prospect for opportunities through professional associations? Or network for referrals through your personal & professional contacts?

Are you introspective and like to plan, strategize and think? How can you leverage these strengths into your job search? Or, are you extroverted and like to meet with people and take actions? Do you know how to curb your impulsiveness and optimize your time & energy to get the biggest impact for your job search?

Creating your next job opportunity takes a little practice.

Start by using your strengths, your assets, and your preferences for how you like to do things. Taking actions that are based on your natural inclinations will build your confidence, something you need a lot of in a job search!

Not all of your actions will be efficient or effective but some will move you closer to your goal of a new job. You begin to get a clearer picture of what that job might look like. You begin to see where you are in current reality. Then, your mind begins to invent new ways to create that outcome.

This is the key to true job search, resolving the structural tension in favor of the desired outcome. Steadily and surely, you move from where you are now to a new job, building up your job search skills, and taking one action after another, learning as you go to take more effective actions until your goal is achieved!

Don’t get caught up or bummed out by a problem you can’t solve. Getting a new job is not a problem. It is part of a process with an outcome that you can create.

It’s a New Year: Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want? – part 1

New Year 2015

You have a job now, right? And maybe you don’t like it. Or you’ve been thinking about a midlife career change but you don’t know what else you could do and still make money.

So, now your life is taken up with reacting to the circumstances of your situation. How can I work less and make more? I hate the office, how can I work 3 days at home, 2 days at the office? My colleagues annoy me, how can I transfer to another unit? I’m stressed out, how can I get leave with pay?

In short, these problems start to dominate your everyday life. You are trapped into reacting against the prevailing problems of your life–they suck up your time, energy, and money as you seek a way out.

Problem solving is one of the worst ways to try to build the life you want. Here is a simple truth: you can solve all of your problems and still not have what you want. For example, you get leave without pay only to find that the same position is not waiting for you when you return to work; instead, the new job is worse! Or, you transfer to another unit, only to find the work is boring or the workplace toxic. Or, you find no motivation for working by yourself at home, you can’t get the work done, and you get laid off.

When you are trapped into reacting against the prevailing problems of your life, you are led away from thinking in terms of desired outcomes. When you are in this problem orientation, you get ‘stuck’ in your career. You can’t create from that orientation.

Creating the career you want is certainly possible when you approach it as an orientation and a skill. A creative orientation is a process that involves proven steps that move you from where you are now to a state of being that doesn’t yet exist. If you were to create a painting, a sculpture, or a poem, you are creating a product that doesn’t yet exist. You can do the same thing with career change—you can create an outcome that doesn’t yet exist.

If your career is the subject matter of the creative process, then you need to have some idea of the outcome, what it might look like, feel like, knowing what you want. That might sound simple but it is where most people get stuck. Instead of working on what it is they want, they work on answering other questions: What will make me happy? How should I live my life? What is my purpose? What is meaningful to me? Important questions, to be sure, but the answers are not necessary for creating what you want in a career.

Most people get stuck in their career because they can’t “see” another option. They don’t think about what they want, but rather, what they think they should want from a limited menu of available items. The subtext is: find the proper response. For example, at this age, you should be in this kind of position earning this amount of money in your career. We are supposed to think there is a proper response. If your circumstances don’t match that “proper response” then your life becomes a problem, rather than what you truly want based on your natural inclinations. This is how problem-solving rather than creating becomes the organizing principle in your life.

This is an important part of the work I do as a job change expert—to create a ‘new’ picture, an accurate and reliable picture, of what that work or career might look like, based on a creative orientation, by focusing on your natural strengths, motivations, values and preferences.

Then, on the skill level, you create that new picture. Creating the career you want is not rocket science but it is a skill and like any skill needs to be learned and applied in an efficient and effective manner to get the outcome you want.

That will be the subject of my next post.

Why does networking work? – Part 2

Networking

In my previous article, I provided job change advice and explained why the biggest source of external hiring for employers is not from resumes submitted online but from referrals. In short, networking works because it focuses on the needs and priorities not of you, the job searcher, but of the hiring manager.

As a certified job change expert who has been a hiring manager, I want to explain why referrals are so highly regarded by managers. If you’ve had to hire individuals, this will make a lot of sense to you. If you’ve never had to hire anyone, then try to put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager.

A manager’s job in any organization—public, private, or nonprofit—is to help that org reach its corporate goals and objectives. That’s why managers get paid the big bucks, have fancy job titles, and get lots of perks…they have a lot of responsibility to ensure their employer thrives. If they don’t succeed, their employer doesn’t succeed, and their career is in jeopardy!

So, managers are busy managing plans, priorities, projects, programs, schedules, budgets, people, equipment, machinery, and more! They spend little time hiring unless, of course, they experience high turnover of staff (which is usually symptomatic of deeper problems in the org), or they are in a high growth phase and need to staff up quickly.

In addition, most managers are not trained to hire, don’t enjoy it because of what’s at stake—one bad hire can make their life miserable or ruin their career!—and, while they may have some real talents for managing priorities or budgets, it doesn’t mean they have a knack for hiring.

The point is: hiring is problematic for managers! Hiring is stressful. Many managers are on the edge of burnout from performing their regular job duties, and the added stress of hiring puts a bigger load on their shoulders and can push them over that edge into serious health problems. What to do?

As human beings, when things are difficult, we find ways to make them easier by cutting corners, or shifting our efforts, or streamlining process. So, managers turn to each other for support. Let’s say I’m a manager suddenly faced with the prospect of hiring a half dozen new employees to service a new account. I’ll call up a friend and say, “Hey. Bill, I’ve got tickets to the next big game, let’s go blow off some steam!” So Bill and I end up hootin’ & hollerin’ & blowin’ off steam cheering for our Ottawa Sens hockey team…but my job is important to me. Pretty soon I start telling Bill: “I’ve got to do a bunch of hiring. I hate it. It’s so hard to find these technical specialists, so hard to hire them, so hard to keep them!”

And Bill responds: “Hey, shutup, I’m trying to enjoy the game! Listen, I know this guy, known him for years, he’s very competent, reliable, dependable, he might be just what you need. I’ll give him your phone number. Do yourself a favor when he calls next week, take his call!”

And, I go, “Phew! Thank goodness for Bill, he makes my life so much easier. I won’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know his referral because Bill knows him. And I like Bill, I respect him, I trust him. If he’s vouching for this guy, it’s as good as me knowing him myself. I can’t wait for him to call next week. I’m going to seriously consider hiring him.”

That’s why referrals work, not because of you and your resume. But because a hiring manager is getting a referral from a source he likes, respects and trusts. The hiring manager’s professional life is suddenly made easier, he can move one more item from the To Do list to the Done list.

How do you contact people in order to get in their pipeline? Click here.

The Peter-Out Principle

Peter-out Principle

As we get older, it is harder and harder to do work we don’t enjoy. Why? Because our energy gets drained by such work…leaving us less and less energy for what we really want to do. This is the Peter Out principle, not to be confused with the infamous Peter Principle.

I have written elsewhere about that one, the notion that people get promoted on the job because of their natural flair for doing certain kinds of work until they reach a level of incompetence because that new job doesn’t require any of their natural talents or motivations. Or, to put it in more simple terms, people advance in their career until they stop having fun.

Many others, of course, never find that fun to begin with. They fall into a job, or take a job because they needed to support their kids, or because they don’t know what else to do. Work, for them, often becomes a grind, a duty, or an obligation to pay bills, cover the mortgage, or take care of family. It’s our bargain with the devil of job security that leads to dissatisfaction or worse:

“I’m stuck. I’m shackled in the golden handcuffs. I have good leave benefits and look forward to a half decent pension, but I do not enjoy the work that I am doing. I crave that creative side that seems to be missing from my life and yet I never seem to get around to. I find that there needs to be a buffer of time to get the ‘creative juices’ flowing- time I don’t seem to have after-work commitments and commuting. I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall….” This is a complaint I hear again and again from men and women in mid-career or middle age. It is experienced by huge numbers of people.

This is the Peter-Out Principle in action. The origin of the phrase peter out is thought to be associated with the name St. Peter, which in medieval France may have morphed into slang for the male sex appendage. So, to peter out means to fall off in power, to dwindle away to…nothing.

As far back as 1962, psychologist Abraham Maslow discovered that one of the best–if not the best–way to achieve personal power is through work. “All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work. If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless.” In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow was simply pointing out what we all know to be true: that work is not just about making money, it’s also about making meaning.

Doing our work well requires some competency, confidence, or power. When our enthusiasm for work fizzles out, fades away, we might say we are petering out. When we work just for money, our desire for meaning, for vitality, for life ebbs away, tapers off, melts away–it peters out!

When considering this truth, I can’t help but think of Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, Canada’s 9th largest city, who first won office at age 57 and just retired at age 93. If she worked only for money, she’d have retired a long time ago. No one could accuse her of petering out! She is one example of many who prove it is never too late to find work that energizes you.

As a job change expert, my goal is to help you do so by identifying, defining and mobilizing your Aptitudes, Attitudes, and Appropriate Actions.

Writing the wrongs of job loss

Job Loss

Have you ever lost a job, been terminated one way or another? Not fun, right? Most people feel considerable anger and hostility about their termination experience–It’s not fair! It’s not right! Why me? Stupid management! Terrible decision!

The conventional wisdom among career professionals is to ignore these highly charged emotions and get their clients looking for another job right away. I beg to differ.

My personal and professional experience has demonstrated to me the necessity of taking time to deal with these feelings of anger, disappointment, and pain of rejection in an effective manner…before it deals with you!

The negative effects of job loss can be devastating for many individuals. I have learned that expressing these highly charged feelings, safely, helps to mitigate their power over individuals.

For example, I have a client who was terminated after 20+ years with the same company; even after six months he still gets angry about the “injustice” of his layoff, then falls into a depressive episode. I encouraged him to sit down, whenever this situation occurs, and write out his thoughts and feelings, just let it flow out in a stream of consciousness, no censoring, no editing. As he says, “the very act of articulating our thoughts and feelings can have a normalizing effect on the emotional state.”

Scientific proof

It is one thing to know this but another to prove it through a scientific approach. Luckily, that’s exactly what was done when researchers Spera, Buhrfeind & Pennebaker (1994) designed a study to address the emotional effects of job loss with 63 recently unemployed professionals (mostly middle-aged engineers). They tested the impact of disclosive writing on their subsequent reemployment activity and success.

Interestingly, results showed no real difference between experimental and control groups on behaviours related to:

a. reducing stress as indicated by self-report measures and physiological markers (blood pressure, weight, and heart rate); or,
b. increasing motivation to look for another job as evidenced by phone calling, letter writing, and interviewing behaviours.

Notably, however, the researchers did find that those who wrote about their thoughts and emotions were reemployed more quickly than those who wrote about non-traumatic topics or those who did not write at all.

They caution both job seekers and their career counsellors about dismissing this psychological processing in favour of immediate job search activity.

do-kids-write-autobiography-themselves-120X120

In addition, the subjects themselves were adamant that the writing process would have been more useful to them at the time of departure from their jobs than it was several months later.

That is why writing exercises are at the core of what I do. Yes, it is important to express feelings about job loss in order to clear some emotional space to move on to another job or change careers. But it is also essential in my view to write about times in your life when you are doing what you enjoy most and well, in order to establish more clarity and confidence about what you offer others through your work.

Discharge negative feelings, then recharge with proof positive of your strengths and value in the world of work!

From Doormat to Driver’s Seat—Career Change in the New Economy

From Doormat to Driver's Seat

Entering the world of work is like walking through a door.  Previously, we could follow a simple formula—go to school, get good grades, go to college or university, get good grades, which gets you a good job, then live a good life.  We all knew which door to walk through.  This was the “grand narrative” or post-WWII social contract that characterized the working lives of people lucky enough to be born and raised in the Western world.

Not anymore.  The new millennium ushered in a new social arrangement of work, a post-industrial order, fuelled by information technologies, global economics, cultural diversity, and postmodern ideas.

Uncertainty.  That’s the new buzzword for the workplace of 2014 and beyond.  How we respond to these profound changes is crucial to our physical, mental, and social well-being.  In the words of William Arthur Ward “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

We can be doormats and let these new social realities walk all over us (or hope, unrealistically, they never show up at our door).

Instead of being passive, we can be pro-active and cross the threshold of despair or denial by putting ourselves into the driver’s seat to navigate successfully through obstacles.

The cradle-to-grave job security of the Industrial Age still exists but, paradoxically, only in the most non-industrialized sector—the public service at all levels of government, and that security will be challenged by demands for harmonization with less stable private sector working conditions.

For an increasing number of individuals, then, this new reality of work in the Information Age involves job prospects that are far less definable, predictable, or stable…especially for young adults who are finding it increasingly difficult to break into good jobs.

Unfortunately, this is increasingly true for mid-lifers too!  Midlife is a normal developmental life stage that occurs usually between 35-55 years of age.  I’m seeing a growing number of layoffs in this age group.  Take the newspaper industry as one example.  The chances of finding a similar job in the same sector for a senior journalist, editor, manager is very difficult–almost impossible– as online news sources replace the traditional business model of print ads supporting news.  The same goes for many other sectors of the economy that are facing significant changes due to de-industrialization, organizational mergers, downsizing, economic restructuring, and other factors.

While the wider world of work is changing as we speak, what has not changed is the importance of work in the lives of individuals, as a means for survival, power, self-worth, social connection, or self-determination.  The meaning and purpose of work for many of us as will be severely challenged in the next decade. 

Since we can’t count on that simple formula or grand narrative anymore for guiding our career decisions, we need to focus on our individual narratives or stories to help us navigate through this grave new world of work.  For the past 20 years, I have helped young adults find a career job and helped mid-lifers make effective career changes. I do it by constructing a new story for my clients, one that empowers them to see the road ahead and make decisions that put them in charge of their career.  How I do so is explained in this short video and at this link.

Understanding who and what you are in terms of work—not a narrowly-defined job description but the kind of work you are suited for and needs doing in the world—is needed to survive and thrive in today ’s uncertain labor market. Current labor-market realities are changing.  For example, there is a big shift in North America from a manufacturing to a service economy, whether we like it or not.  Having clarity about your career identity—who and what you are in terms of a work-based value proposition—gives you more ability and flexibility to adapt to the changing labor market.  Your story holds the key to your adaptability, your prospects of making a successful change when the time comes…and it will come!

Career transitions are now and will continue to be more frequent and, perhaps, more difficult here in North America.   Are you ready?

From Doormat to Driver's Seat

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

What do you hope for in 2014?

Empirical studies indicate that most episodes of hope involve achievement-related goals, e.g. success in some academic, artistic, athletic, career, relationship, and so on. “Hope is the passion for the possible.”

When it is allied with our highest aspirations and deepest values, it can give us a general orientation to life that motivates us to take actions…and propel us towards our desires.

Hope is grounded in desire

In the quote above, Pope refers to the desire to be blessed. Do you know someone with the first name, Hope? Ask them why their parents gave them that name.

One friend told me she was born prematurely at 1.5 lbs in a place and time where there were no medical facilities to treat her. Her mother and father put her in an incubator—where she stayed for 4 months—and prayed, then hoped for the best. They were elderly parents and Hope turned out to be their only child—a true blessing in their lives! She felt truly loved by her parents, deeply cared for, and relishes the time she had with them. She feels blessed as their child.

Caring about our future

Hope belongs to a constellation of feelings and attitudes related to caring about our future. On the positive side it is related to optimism, confidence, courage, faith, gratitude, and contrasts with fear, pessimism, resignation, despair. Usually, it is felt less intensely than fear, more like a sentiment that has a positive moral value.

One function of hope is to give goals far away from us their due importance. For example, making a career change usually takes time. Hope rouses feelings necessary to influence our conduct, to motivate us to take actions towards future goals. It helps us to overcome everyday difficulties by looking beyond them to a better future.

Hope motivates us to plan

Having made several career transitions myself, and helped hundreds of individuals make significant career changes during the past 20 years, I have learned that hope—as a general orientation towards achieving future goals—increases the effectiveness of career change tools and techniques, such as visioning, goal setting, planning, implementing, adapting actions, prospecting opportunities.

In the quote above, Pope uses the word expatiates, which means to speak or write at length or in detail. I guide my clients through a process of speaking and writing to uncover their hopes and desires.

I strive to help my clients develop clarity about their strengths, particularly their talents and motivations, in order to foster realistic hope. Clarity feeds confidence and increases self-understanding, both necessary for taking effective actions to realize goals. But hope provides the framework for action.

Hope is the well spring of desire and we deserve to be in a state of desire!

After all, if we have no hope for a better future, why take any actions?

I will leave you with some words of hope from the wise…may they nurture and sustain and help you persevere through the difficult times of the year ahead.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. (Dale Carnegie)

Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles. (Samuel Smiles)

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” (Pope John XXIII)

3 Tips For Overcoming Job Loss

Job_Loss_Toolkit

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with several people who lost their jobs after 20+ years with the same employer. One person is angry and bitter and takes every opportunity to vent about the unfairness of it all; another turned to drinking through the day; another is fighting the desire to hunker down in their “cave” and nurse their wound.

Some of these coping mechanisms might even be necessary in the short term as temporary relief. After all, this kind of job loss is often experienced like the death of a loved one. It’s serious stuff. In a previous post, I gave some examples of job losses and what your thoughts might be about it.

But life moves on. Learning to adapt to changing circumstances in life is a necessary skill. Lots of advice has been written about how to cope with job loss, and how to move on. Based on my 20 years experience, here’s what I’ve learned that works for most people most of the time:

1. Take care of yourself. Grieve your loss. Too many people don’t take enough time to let go of this major experience in their life. Think of all the time and energy invested in a job for 20+ years. It takes much longer than most people realize…to dis-engage from their work.

You have every right to be upset, so accept your feelings—anger, hurt, rejection, panic, relief, whatever you feel, go easy on yourself. When you get up in the morning, take a pad of paper and write down everything you feel—for 10-20 minutes, all the things you wished you’d said (or hadn’t said) to your former manager. Do this for as many mornings as it takes to dump your feelings. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.

Then, if possible, take a vacation, get out of town, put some distance between you and the experience. It’s easier to process the emotions, the memories, when sitting on a beach, or in some other safe haven. Eat well, make time for regular exercise, practice stress relief exercises, stay positive.

If basic habits, such as eating or sleeping, are disturbed by the job loss, get professional help from a doctor, a psychologist, a counselor. Ask for the support you need. Don’t try to shoulder the stress of job loss and unemployment alone. Your natural reaction may be to withdraw, to resist asking for help out of pride, shame or embarrassment. Don’t isolate yourself and brood. You will only feel worse. Whatever it takes to accept the situation, get there. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.

2. Reaching out to others. Over the years, you’ve built up a goodwill network of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances in your personal and professional life—now is the time to draw on that goodwill! Share what you’re going through with the people you trust, not necessarily the people closest to you, such as your immediate family, who also may be hurting from your termination.

Join a job club or form one with former colleagues who may have been laid off at the same time. Commiserating, talking through your feelings, focusing on shared issues can be energizing and motivating. Personal and professional support will help keep you on track during your job search.

Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill and, like any skill, it can be learned and applied in the real world. It is a simple fact that most job openings are not posted as job vacancies but exist as job opportunities off the radar screen, and filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Basically, networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships, and getting yourself in the right place so that when opportunities arise…you are in the pipeline ready, willing and able to take on a task! Learn to network—if you persist, it will pay off!

3. Rethink your career goals, or rediscover what truly makes you happy. Not everybody needs to create a job search plan, or keep a regular routine, or list their positives. We all have talents and motivations that will kick in…but now is the time to leverage your natural strengths into understanding how they correlate with specific jobs in specific work settings. This is the central message of JobJoy, so visit our site to find resources that can launch you into a new career or help you build on your existing one.

If you know anyone who has suffered a recent job loss, please pass this post along to them…and remind them that you have an encouraging work, a listening ear, a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on whenever they need it!

3 Steps to a Grand Ol’Time at Work

Grand piano

1. Find out what specific jobs are a good fit for you, and which specific work settings offer such jobs.

You probably have some ideas already about what you want to be doing, what you’re good at, what you liked and didn’t like about previous jobs, and what you like or don’t like in the cultures of those organizations.

But these ideas need to be supported with evidence. That is the purpose of a career assessment—to provide you with proof and clarity about what really works for you. Proof builds the confidence that you need to take actions that will move you from where you are now into that better fit through efficient and effective job change.

2. The faster and cheaper you validate this career hypothesis, the sooner you will find the right fit and start earning more with it. You can validate through first-hand experience by trying something (including bite-sized projects), or second-hand by visiting people already working in similar jobs and asking them specific questions that will help you evaluate a fit for yourself:

• How did you get into your field? Is that still a good way?
• What are the major responsibilities of your position?
• What is a typical workday or week like for you?
• What do you like and dislike about your position?
• What are the critical skills and personal characteristics needed in this kind of work?
• What are some of the major problems or issues that someone in your position faces?
• What are the prospects for someone entering your field today?
• What are the career paths of this profession? With experience in this field where can a person move?

If you get into a discussion about your background, you can ask:-

• Given my background, what do you think I need to do to become competitive for a job in this field?
• Can you suggest anyone else I might talk to?

3. Focus on a target or goal and use proven, effective actions to reach it. Your work is a sizeable chunk of your human experience—you are likely to spend 80,000+ hours in jobs, so finding and securing work should be a “grand” adventure.

I use the word “grand” in every sense of the word. Your work should tap into your highest aspirations and deepest values with a rank and appearance that announces who you are to the world and what you will do for it.

But we shouldn’t take it so seriously that we lose sight of living…when we say we had a grand day, we are using the world informally to indicate we had an enjoyable day…so we should also have a grand ol’time with the work we do.

And, like a grand piano, or a couple grand in your pocket, our work should have weight, or gravitas, something that adds value to us personally and to those around us…our work should enrich the world!

Job Change Advice: If you find yourself in a hole…stop digging!

Digging out of career hole

It’s easy to dig ourselves into a hole that feels impossible to get out of. For example, it’s easy to fall into a job with no intention of staying there only to realize, years later, you’re stuck there…it’s draining you body and soul, but you need the money just to survive or maintain a lifestyle expected of you by family and friends.

Our tendency is to look for a compromise, to find a way to keep the money but find a way to make life better. The solution for many of my clients has been to do more of what they think they want to do– paint, write, sing, perhaps, or start a business–a reaction to their job dissatisfaction or problems.

Sometimes, these options make the situation worse! Starting something new takes energy, something that is in short supply when they get home from work. Sometimes, their marriage or partnership breaks down; or, they go into debt or bankruptcy; or, they try to figure it all out on their own but they lack clarity, confidence, and resources. They slip into depression. In short, they reach a desperate place. They see no way out of their hole…trapped!

It might feel like a death trap but it is not a life-and-death situation. They are not homeless or hungry. There are personal and professional supports available—this becomes the time to draw on them. One of the most important resources to draw on is the creative spirit than resides in each of us. We may not be musical, or artistic in any manner, but we all have the power to create our future. Creating is a process and anybody can do it.

Changing your focus is the key to a midlife career change

The biggest obstacle to creating a new career or business or future is our inclination to compromise. We focus on the wrong things, on what we think we can do for money, instead of what we want to do. In my experience as a job change expert for the past 20 years, what I see is a lack of vision based on one’s deepest values and highest aspirations.

In the creative process, it is important to love the creation before it exists—to love the dream home before it is built, to love the song before it is written, to love the child before it is born. The same principle is to get a vision for a career or job and love it before you find it our create it. An entrepreneur loves the business before it is built. A chef loves the dish before it is made. A filmmaker loves the film before it is produced.

In terms of work, too many of us have lost touch with what it is we love to create. How do we know? By comparison. When it is not there, you feel like you’re going through the motions, disengaged, uninvolved, disconnected—in short, you don’t really care, it’s just a paycheck. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a problem after many years, especially if it drains your energy, and plants you in a hole.

Love the result, not the process

One of the best ways to get out of a job hole, or career trap, is to push aside compromise thinking and focus on what it is you would love to create—the result. This does not mean you will love the process; you may even hate taking the necessary steps.

It is not a compromise to do the hard work, learn what you need to learn, develop the skills you may need but don’t have yet. Easy or difficult, fun or a pain, throughout the good, the bad, and the ugly, that experience of connection, involvement, of being true to yourself and true to your creation will permeate everything you are doing. Sounds a little like parenting, doesn’t it?

Love brings out the best in us for parenting and career change. One thing I know for sure is that your chances of making a successful career change will disappear quickly if you forget or lose touch with your desire to see the end result, no matter what circumstances you are in. Being a creator is about keeping your eye on the main prize.