How Big Trends Produce Big Career Changes

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Robots are already building cars in the USA and delivering food in Japanese restaurants. Millions of low-skill manufacturing or service jobs are being replaced by robots that need far fewer workers to install, maintain and repair those robots. Driverless trucks and drones will do the same. Shared services like Uber and AirBnb are cutting deeply into traditional service jobs.

Knowledge workers are also vulnerable. Millions of IT jobs have been outsourced from North America to Asia. Social media destroyed the print newspaper industry. Robo-advisors guide clients through the steps of financial planning. During the next decade, high-skill routine jobs in hospitals, universities and law firms will also be automated, thereby eliminating thousands of professional positions. One British futurist predicts that children today will need to work until 100 at 40 different jobs!!!

Final outcomes are difficult to predict but changes are now occurring so quickly that our political and social leaders cannot respond adequately. For example, the cradle-to-grave job security that forms the foundation of our social order is crumbling before our eyes. Massive dislocation and disruption in the world of work is creating a ‘risk’ society throwing millions of individuals into precarious situations in terms of their ability to earn income.

We are moving from jobs that require a basic transaction between humans (think of how many times a day you perform a self-service task—at the gas station, bank, grocery store, cafeteria, online shopping—that once employed millions of workers) to an interactional economy. Think how hard it will be for robots to perform jobs that have a strong ‘emotional’ component, such as teachers, social workers, homecare assistants, palliative care nurses, and so on. These are just a few areas where people currently working in jobs vulnerable to social, economic and technological trends can start identifying future opportunities.

Helping individuals find re-employment quickly in the same field has been the focus of career services for decades, such as helping a laid off journalist become a Media Relations Specialist with a large corporation, a job change that involves “crossing the street” to work for an organization that was covered previously by the journalist as a newspaper reporter.

A career change, by contrast, is more difficult and involves moving from one career path to something completely different; for example, a journalist with a weekend knack for fixing things might need to transition to a full-time career as an independent home renovator. If current trends continue, this shift from job change to frequent career change may require a significant change in learning skills. Career change is a more complex skill to learn than job search…but an increasingly necessary one.

That is why the field of career guidance is turning to narrative approaches for career change, like the one that I’ve been using for almost 25 years. If a person’s previous job experience does not guarantee future employment, then we must look for clues in their life experience to find a better fit and help them make a complete career change involving a change of job title, employer and regular job duties.

My narrative approach to career assessment involves a written analysis of a client’s stories to identify and define very specific elements of a motivational pattern. Each person’s pattern is unique, not dependent on previous skills or work experience; and avoids occupation, education, age, race or gender bias. As the economy changes, the ‘pattern’ is flexible enough to adapt to a variety of career options. How this works and why was the subject of my recently published research paper, which includes reports of positive career changes by this study’s participants:

IT Systems Analyst to Pet Groomer; Electrical Engineer to Public School Teacher; Occupational Therapist in Mental Health to Medical Research Project Coordinator; Desktop Publisher to Certified Financial Planner; Software Tester to Senior Product Marketing Manager; Medical Laboratory Assistant to Library Clerk; Printed Circuit Board Designer to Musical Therapist; Lab Technician to IT Support Analyst; and Senior Telecom Product Manager in a private sector high-tech company to Senior Director, Global Operations in an NGO.

Results of this research show that life-story writing as a career intervention is often accompanied by positive changes, such as more income; more congruence between job duties and values; an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions; more clarity and confidence in career decision-making.

Don’t just react to negative trends in the world of work, be pro-active now by mining your life story for gold!

Job search success! A true story of the right mix of strategy & tactics

Job Search Success

Looking for job postings online, following up on tips, asking for referrals, attending workshops in your hometown is still hard work, even in such familiar surroundings with a built-in goodwill network of family, friends and former colleagues.

Imagine how much harder it is to job search when you move from another country, even with solid credentials and experience. I experienced this very challenge myself when I moved to Australia from Canada in the 80s with no prospect of a job. It took me 8 months to land something commensurate with my degree and experience.

Each person is different of course and has a specific set of credentials and experience, and each one is operating in a unique set of circumstances. But, in my personal and professional experience, the right mix of pro-active job search strategy and tactics executed with persistence and patience always pays off in a good job. Here’s a true and recent case:

In May 2015, Paul relocated from the UK to Toronto when his wife got transferred with an international company (can’t use his real name due to his wife’s terms of confidentiality). Paul had resigned his UK position as a Senior Building Surveyor with an engineering company that managed construction projects in the public sector.

After getting his two young sons settled into T.O. school and life, he started looking for work in his field in line with his visa conditions. He did a smart thing and followed up on leads from his UK contacts but they did not materialize into any job prospects.

He also sent out dozens of resumes but got no call-backs. When I looked at his resume, there was an obvious issue—Building Surveyor is not a job category in Canada, so he wasn’t getting screened in for interviews. But, more importantly, there is an oversupply of construction professionals in Canada, so employers didn’t need to consider prospects from the UK.

We quickly modified his resume and LinkedIn profile to better position/package him for the T.O. market as a Senior Project Manager-Construction because it combined the key technical, account management, and leadership responsibilities of his UK role.

When he sent out his resume and followed up with phone calls, employers now took his calls and talked to him. These conversations taught him a lot about the employment culture in Canada, and what was similar or different to his experience in the UK. It also demonstrated to him the importance of being pro-active in a job search for senior roles.

Consequently, he dialled back his online job search and put together a list of target companies. I encouraged Paul to leverage his natural charm and strong communication skills into “networking” in his neighbourhood. I explained the benefits of doing so. Sceptical at first, he started telling his neighbours and parents at his sons’ school what it was that he was looking for and asking them directly if they knew anybody in his targeted companies.

Besides building his confidence that his UK experience offered value to the Canadian marketplace (because his neighbours took him seriously), this pro-active approach generated a number of referrals, including one to a local recruiter who specialized in placing senior people in construction. This recruiter introduced Paul to a small firm headed by two partners from the UK. They were immediately interested in Paul but didn’t have a position that fit his experience.

I explained to Paul that this was code for “we don’t know you well enough to feel safe enough to hire you.” I explained to him how 40%+ of jobs are created for senior people who walk through the door, who get into conversations that uncover a firm’s key corporate goals/priorities and the major challenges that get in the way of them achieving those goals, and who can then spot the work opportunity in the intersection between the two…because a job is nothing more than activity organized around solving problems to reach corporate goals.

After meeting both partners several times in a professional manner in their offices and in a social setting over dinner, Paul was sent a job offer, which he accepted at the end of November. Interestingly, they left him to define his job description during his first 3 months on the job!

At JobJoy, we specialize in customizing a job search to the right mix of strategies and tactics that will land you a job that corresponds with your value. Call George today to discuss your situation 613-563-0584.

Shifting from no change to know change

Know Change

We all know a cabbie, or an assembly-line worker, or someone in media who recently lost their job–they are all victims of disruptors. The workplace is suddenly a volatile site subject to changes occurring in dramatic fashion through technology, in the economy, or due to social, political, even natural disasters. And these disruptors to routine and predictability are unlikely to stop disrupting our jobs and security in the near future.

On the one hand, life goes on as normal—most of us get up, go to work, get a paycheque every two weeks, and live our lives in a predictable and lockstep manner through school, work, marriage, family, retirement. However, this repeating structure of stability is now subject to continual change, some of it going on beneath the surface of everyday life only to erupt into cataclysmic change sending millions of people out of work, such as the 2008 sub-prime financial crisis. Or, appearing suddenly, like a flood or a fire to change our lives briefly before things get back to normal.

Order and disorder

What is abundantly clear, I think, is our inability to control and predict the future in an accurate and reliable manner. No change in our work lives is not an option. Order and disorder are composites of the same reality. This applies to your career development as much as it applies to any complex system.

This means we, as individuals and as a community, need to learn about the nature of change. JobJoy is in the change business. Let us help you prepare for what is inevitable—career change—maybe not now, not this year…but it will happen. Career change is now a critical component of lifelong learning.

It is important to understand your past and how it has shaped your present in order to better prepare for your unpredictable future. As you know, I am a personal story analyst, one that puts much emphasis on identifying and defining your motivational pattern. When you understand your key success factors and how you work best, it is easier for you to adapt to the inevitability of change in your working circumstances.

You will lose your job, or have to change jobs, or move to another employer, or learn to work with different kinds of people, or replace a full-time income with a portfolio career. Understanding who and what you are in terms of your right work will help you adapt to new conditions, to new technologies, to new workpace requirements. Being agile and productive is the key to career success!

No change in your job is not an option. Your work circumsances will change! And you must change with them. Learn more about the nature of change and know how to change.

Career Repair: you already have the right tools

Career Repair

From our childhood to our current career, we tend to gravitate towards activities and projects that require our natural strengths. Why? Simple—we get pleasure from using our talents in situations that motivate us.

The problem is we do some things so naturally and effortlessly, we think, “Doesn’t everybody do it this way?” No, they don’t. You have a knack for achieving certain results using certain talents because that’s what energizes you—and you make it look easy. Other people might be able to do the same thing due to training or experience but it’s grunt work and drains them (they always wish they were doing something else).

Natural Strengths

For example, some individuals get energized by having an impact on the physical world. If there is a piece of equipment, or machinery, or a vehicle, or a household appliance that breaks down or is performing poorly, they repair it, or restore it to its original state. You can tell it energizes them because you can hear them humming, or whistling or singing, or just bouncing around happily as they do what comes naturally and easily to them.

If this talent is caught early in life and channeled into a particular vocation then recognized and rewarded by an employer, they might even end up with a long and happy career as an aircraft mechanic with an airline, or a pipe-fitter in a refinery, or a mechanic in the military, or a maintenance worker for public transit, or one of hundreds of jobs available from hundreds of different employers.

Even if they lose one job, they can quickly adapt or retrain for something similar in another sector because equipment, machinery, and vehicles will always wear out, or break down, or need replacing and require individuals who have a knack for impacting such physical objects with their natural talents and learned skills.

The same is true if you like to have an impact on people, or like to control how, when and where a project or plan will proceed. Or, if you are energized by pursuing and reaching a goal or a target. Or, if you get juiced by engaging in a process of discovering, developing or expressing.

True Job Security

Each general human inclination can be narrowed down to reveal your particular motivational pattern, and that pattern can be matched to dozens of specific jobs in specific work settings.

This is true job security. When you take the time to understand your motivational pattern then you don’t have to worry if you lose a job because you will already know what other sectors of the economy will recognize and reward you for what comes easily to you.

Don’t let our volatile economy catch you by surprise. Get a JobJoy career assessment done today so that you can do some long-term planning for real job security.

You already have in your hands the right tools to repair and grow your career. Put them to work in your favour.

Fitting Your Square Peg Into Round Hole of Work

Career pain is trying to fit square peg into round hole

Career research has shown that you are more likely to have job satisfaction if you have a work-role fit, one where their core job duties align with their talents, skillsets and motivations.

It’s no surprise then when the same job seems very meaningful to one person but not to another. If your essential motivation goal is to help others, commercial careers organized around attaining sales goals, status or power will feel empty.

If you get deep innate satisfaction from always learning new things and promoting your curiosity, then repetitive and structured jobs will wear you out.

If your chief interest is working with others in a setting where there is freedom to talk and interact, make new friends, then you will hate jobs where you have to spend long hours alone working independently on a task in a concentrated manner in a work setting that is not socially or personally interactive–this is why so many competent professionals hate working from home as independent consultants.

Your motivational pattern

When you do not know what their motivational pattern really is, then you will probably react in a negative manner to situations at work simply because your job does not align with your natural inclinations.

However, when you have the full picture of your talents and motivations, you have more power to find your right work or to communicate in your current job with more clarity and confidence to others what motivates you to be a productive and valued employee and thereby craft your job into a better fit.

When you are simply reacting to work circumstances and trying to fit like a square peg into a round hole, it can drive you crazy. That hole has been shaped by others with no consideration of your unique talents and motivations.

But you are not trapped because you can shape that hole to better fit you by getting knowledge about your motivational pattern.

The key to enjoyable work

Instead of reacting to your work circumstances, you can find a better fit by crafting your current job to fit you better—this is the key to enjoying your job (and life), as well as making your career (and life) more meaningful at a practical everyday level.

Let’s face it, work takes up much of our days and we all prefer to be energized not drained by our jobs.

In my next article, I will explain how you are more likely to achieve job satisfaction or find meaningful work when your job helps you to achieve longer-term goals, especially when those goals align with your core needs and values.

How our lazy brains block career goals & what to do about it

Our lazy brains

We are creatures of habit because our brains make us that way!

Neuroscience shows that we are motivated to achieve and maintain a comfort zone because our brains equate that state of equilibrium with survival.

It’s only natural to resist change because the brain is hard-wired to respond to any stimuli or situation that disturbs our equilibrium. That’s why every news broadcast starts off with a “bad news” story—to get our attention! Our brains become alert to this news of danger, crisis, or threat at a personal level.

Earthquake in Nepal! Should I take shelter? Tornado in Texas! Should I batten down the hatches? Murderous rampage in Colorado! Should I lock my doors? Unless you or a loved one is in close proximity to these events (very unlikely) then these stories do not really effect you in any practical way.

But we can’t help listening, our brains automatically tune it. Broadcasters know it, and they use it. Why do they want us to be alert for the news broadcast? Not because the news items really matter to us but because they want us to be alert for the advertising messages that pay for the news broadcasts! The news is not a public service but a commercial one. It is a very effective way to collect ears or eyes and sell them to advertisers.

For some of us, this is Communications 101. But, even knowing this, we still listen. So, think about how many tens of thousands of hours of conditioning we have been subject to through such messaging! Our brains, broadcasters, advertising messages—these are all powerful forces to contend with and should not be underestimated.

Is it any wonder then that the prospect of losing a job, or having to look for a job, or making a career change strikes fear into the heart of anyone? Talk about crisis! Alarm bells go off when that state of affairs is disturbed—our jobs and careers go to the very heart of personal safety and stability.

The psychology of motivation

Our brains are naturally lazy and default to operations that require less energy. You’ve probably noticed this when driving a car: learning to drive takes a lot of concentration and energy but once learned we drive without really thinking about it.

While neuroscience research proves that we are meant to get in a groove and stay there, life does not cooperate. We now live in a ‘risk’ society characterized by high unemployment and a steady increase in contingent labour in volatile workplaces. Whether we like it not, more of us will have to change our jobs, our careers, our lives more often. Choosing or being forced to make a career change activates a fear response because the brain knows it’s going to have to expend a lot of energy to survive.

So, what’s the best way to deal with all this? Neuroscience and the psychology of motivation tell us to undo what we’ve learned and build a new habit. But, left on our own, we individually default back to our habits. Did you know, for example, that only 1 of 9 coronary bypass patients adopts healthier day-to-day habits after their surgery?

Changing our lives is not easy but it’s always easier when we do it with others. I focus on helping my clients build new career habits because our brains are also hard-wired to build new skills (aren’t we amazing!).

The Zeigarnik Effect

There is a concept in psychology called the Zeigarnik effect which is the ability of humans to finish a task once they’ve started—our brains resolve the tension between the present and a desired future of completion. That’s why somebody can learn to walk again after a stroke with months of rehab in small steps…literally!

Same thing with job search or career change, we can build new habits, new skills, that move us closer to a goal. It’s not rocket science, anyone can do it! The key is motivation, i.e. the desire to walk again.

That is the purpose of a JobJoy Report: to give you the desire to make a career change, to see with clarity the specific jobs and work settings that will recognize, reward and motivate you for what comes naturally and effortlessly.

Turning that desire into reality means working three major components to motivation: activation, persistence, and intensity. Once a new career is identified, we move into that space with deliberate, intentional, systematic and effective actions.
But start small, take an action, evaluate the result to see if it moves you closer to your goal or not. If it doesn’t move you closer, then look to see what is to be learned from that action, if anything, and adjust. If it does move you closer to your goal then what is the next action to take?

Unlearning old habits, learning new skills, this is the rhythm of successful change.

We persist through inevitable challenges and setbacks that are just part of life. Anyone who has ever had a goal (like wanting to lose ten pounds or run a marathon) probably immediately realizes that simply having the desire to accomplish something is not enough. Achieving such a goal requires the ability to persist through obstacles and endurance, to keep going in spite of difficulties. But there are certain times during the process where you turn up the heat, bear down on your goal, do your utmost to accomplish your goal.

Of course, finding another job or career is more complicated than that and depends on a lot of other things but the point is this: anyone can do it if they want to. The key is in your motivation.

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.