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

Job Change and the Hourglass of Eternal Recurrence

Hourglass of Eternal Recurrence

This is the time of year when we are regaled with year end reviews—news, movies, musical hits, championships, scandals, and so on. Let’s step away from the usual sort of reviews for a thought experiment.

Imagine some demon sitting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear: “This life—as you lived it this past year—you will have to live once more, and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and everything unutterably small or great in your life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence.”

Is this past year, one that you would want repeated again, forever, like an eternal hourglass of existence turned upside down again and again and again? Imagine going through life with chronic stress from work, or dis-ease, anxiety, dissatisfaction, hopelessness, depression. Let’s face it, that’s what most of us put up with in order to make a living to get to a pension and out of this life with some level of comfort.

This idea is sometimes called Nietzsche’s wager, so named for Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19 C. philosopher, who first popularized it. Think of the psychological consequences of eternal recurrence: Each time you choose an action or avoid one, you are making a bet or wager on its consequence for eternity.

How can you not hate this thought experiment?

Imagine being stuck in a job you hate, or don’t like, or feel indifferent to…imagine having to perform the same job duties over and over again…forever…it almost takes your breath away. Imagine that all the choices you make to satisfy others for the sake of duty, obligation, responsibility, or social convention–is your eternal life!

But that was Nietzsche’s objective, to make you hate it. You always have a choice, he said, to live based on hating this idea of eternal recurrence (hoping his theory is wrong), or live in such a way that you love the idea of living forever with the consequences of your choices!

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies, and put her observations into a book. The number one regret as recorded by Ware was expressed as:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

How to find a better career? It’s never too late to start living the life you want to live, doing the work you want to do, creating the results you really want in life. As a job change expert, my job is to help you find that positive eternal groove. You can have a better jobfit, one that matches your natural strengths and motivations to work that will energize you, not drain you. You can have more joy in what you do day in and day out, everyday, always.

Best wishes for a Holiday season and New Year full of eternal recurrences that make your heart sing!

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!

“Oh, what a feeling…what a career change rush!”

What a feeling, what a career change

Everyone’s heard a story about some successful businessperson who dumped a 20-year career to pursue something completely different and is happier for it.

The famous Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, for example, ditched a lucrative banking career and bourgeois life in Paris to paint full-time in the Polynesian islands.

Most people who want to make a midlife career change never take such drastic action because they fear change and don’t want to make sacrifices—at least that’s the common job change advice. I suggest this is incorrect.

I’m sure Gauguin feared change and didn’t want to make sacrifices but did so anyway. What motivated him to do so, and why do so many people who feel stuck in a career, unable to take action to get unstuck?

Like most people, Gauguin got an education that led to a particular career path. His vocation was fixed but some years later he decided he wasn’t a banker anymore. Like others, he probably said to himself, “If I don’t make a move now, I never will, and I’ll live to regret it.” But the truth is Gauguin didn’t know how to make a career change.

A successful transition requires effective actions

Gauguin’s first action was not to jump on a boat and sail to the South Pacific. He didn’t start with an “aha!” experience then go out and try to find it. No, he spent years painting.

He learned to paint, hung out with other artists, and explored the art world, learning not only his craft but the business of art. Transition is a process based on actions. As a job change expert, I know that the motivation underlaying those actions is the key to a successful transition.

Gauguin knew what he wanted to do—paint. But that’s not enough for change. Many people figure out what they want to do but nothing comes of it. Why?

Gauguin remolded his deepest values and highest aspirations. Instead of producing wealth, he decided it was more important for him to produce beauty, his deepest value. In order to produce beauty, he decided to paint full-time, his deepest aspiration.

Changing careers means redefining our working identity—who and what we are in terms of our right work, what we communicate about ourselves to others and, ultimately, how we live our working lives.

Who we are and what we do—our BEING and our DOING–are closely connected, the result of years of certain actions. And to change that connection, we must first resort to other actions that align with our deepest values and highest aspirations. This is the source of motivation for a midlife change.

As a painter, Gauguin didn’t make much money but loved his new life. The feeling—the intrinsic reward, the emotional value–that he gained from painting aligned with his deepest values and highest aspirations, a feeling he couldn’t get from banking.

A picture of a future that feels better

In other words, change occurs when we have a picture of a better alternative to our current identity, one that feels better. My clients who have made successful changes know this feeling well.

That is the purpose of my JobJoy Report — to give you a picture of a new working identity, one that aligns with your BEING. It will help you visualize a specific outcome, something different than the one you are now stuck in.

My JobJoy Report will start you moving in a new direction because you will be motivated to make a change, by DOING new things that feel better.

Once you experience those positive feelings, by taking different actions, you will make a successful career change and live a better story. Oh, what a feeling…what a rush!

Making a big career change late in life as a single mom

Single mom's career change

Vera Adamovich was very motivated to make a career change when she showed up at my office. She had that day signed a contract with another career consulting firm, heard of me, and then signed up with my organization too.

At the time she was running a home-based desktop publishing business, the main product of which was a weekly advertising publication.

She wasn’t unhappy with the business because, as a single mom, it had allowed her to be home with her daughters for nine years.

However, when I met Vera, the kids were 11 and 16 respectively and there wasn’t the need for her to be home as much, which caused her situation to be less than satisfying.

Although not miserable, she was always struggling financially because the business didn’t provide sufficient income. Vera hated the responsibility for advertising sales that were necessary to increase the volume of business, but it was difficult to secure good sales people. She’d hire them and they’d last a month.

Though she knew she’d “had it” with desktop publishing, Vera had no idea of what she wanted to do.

Assessment

After reviewing several of her more pleasant assignment experiences, I realized Vera had one very valuable talent. She was able to translate complicated concepts like accounting procedures, computer reports and financial statements in such a way that people could understand and apply them.

In the past she had had jobs where she taught people how to use software, how to interpret management reports and how to process and track orders on an automated system.

Vera’s education wasn’t in high tech but in art, which she used in her desktop publishing business. She loved the creativity involved with designing graphics and derived much satisfaction from a well turned-out final product. What was missing was people contact.

In fact, her work life was structured exactly the opposite way than it should have been. She was spending 80% of her time at home alone working on the computer and 20% of her time interacting with people.

It wasn’t a good job fit and she needed to reverse that equation so that the people portion was 80% of her time and the remainder was spent working at her computer.

She needed to be independent, and not confined to a 9-5 desk job. In other words, she needed a variety of activities and the flexibility to manage her own schedule.

It was actually a question of whether she was going to build a career around her artistic talents or her communication talents. The creative route gave her a real feeling of accomplishment, but she wasn’t able to make enough money from that alone.

Job Choice

Armed with the knowledge of what she needed and what she needed to avoid, Vera was able to find the perfect job in a very short time. She got a position with Laurentian Financial Services as a Certified Financial Planner. However, even though she works with a big company, she has a sense of being self-employed under a structure that is similar to a real estate agent.

“It’s absolutely a people business,” she said. “When it comes to financial planning people have problems that need solving. Dealing with what are often huge problems to my clients, I am able to offer solutions with ease.” Vera enjoys the level of comfort she is able to bring to her clients. She’s happy as the captain of her own ship and totally in charge. She can choose whether to work in her home office or her downtown office.

Most of her time is spent talking to people. When she does have to work on the computer, she says, “It’s a joy! It comes naturally to me, and that’s a creative outlet as well.”

She added that her income is now “great.” It can be whatever she wants it to be. She has everything she needs to get true satisfaction from her career.

Values + Talents = Good Jobfit

Vera made a career decision based on values – that it was important to be home with her daughters. A value-based decision one hears more often is something like, “I’m going to be a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

It’s not a bad thing to make a decision based on values, but don’t make a decision that excludes your talents. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. People who make a career decision based only on values may be setting themselves up for a job misfit and years of frustration. Vera’s values were noble. She was trying to do the best for the kids, but her choice didn’t match her natural interests and talents.

She could have done both. Many people get trapped in job situations because they don’t recognize their natural inclinations – what they do naturally and effortlessly – in terms of the right work.

Once Vera had that knowledge, she was able to spot an opportunity that fit her to a “T”.  Today, Vera’s business continues to grow through the Independent Planning Group Inc.

Forever Young Through Work that Energizes You!

Fountain of Youth

Ray Crist retired at age 104. He was a scientist who worked in a lab. At age
82, he started researching how plants might remove toxic poisons from polluted
soil, such as mine tailing’s. He didn’t do it for money—he donated his dollar a
day salary to charity—but for love. He loved doing science! Why retire from
something you love doing, something that harmonizes with your deepest values and highest aspirations?

Individuals who experience deep job satisfaction live longer. In fact, work
satisfaction is the #1 determinant of longevity, more than genes, diet, or
exercise, according to one study[i].

Consider all the successful people who continue to create long after retirement
age when they clearly don’t need the money. Paul and Mick, both 70 now, still
rock. Octogenarian Clint Eastwood still directs movies, Willie Nelson still
tours, and Betty White & Cloris Leachman still make us laugh. Their vitality is
admirable and enviable!

According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.4% of Americans aged 75+
still work, most of them for pleasure not money, as illustrated in a recent
LA Times article. Studies show that staying intellectually challenged,
either through paid work or some other pursuit, improves a person’s quality of
life in his or her later years. In fact, when people are “engaged” in their
work, at any age, they visibly demonstrate competency, vitality and high
performance.

When your work energizes you, instead of drains you, why would you stop doing
it…especially as you age? When work harmonizes with our authentic self, then we
are “creating” something worthwhile—not necessarily art or
entertainment–something “good” in the world that is rewarded, whether it is a
scientific discovery or excellent customer service.

We are meant for this creating, and the reward is a by-product that is clearly
visible in the vitality of these engaged older workers. It is a joy to behold
such a person, and it is a joy to be such a person whose being matches their
doing—they are full of life, vitality, joy, energy!

age_progression1_opt

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young. (Lyrics by Bob Dylan)

ageprogression2_opt

Of course, as we get older, our physical powers slowly or quickly waste away.
We lose physical strength, or eyesight, or hearing, or whatever, but we lose
such things whether we are wasting away in front of the television as a couch
potato or engaged in some worthwhile work that energizes us and keeps us
connected to others.

My goal is to help others find or create the kind of work that will last a
lifetime, work that engages and energizes. As Ray Crist and the others
demonstrate, if you are interested in your work, really energized by what you do
day in and day out, life is interesting. If you don’t have work that engages
you, life is boring as hell.

Most people either settle for or seek the extrinsic reward of making enough
money to survive and save for a pension…to stop doing what they don’t truly
enjoy..and live with the consequences, both good and bad. But, it is possible
to have a different kind of life, one with work that engages and energizes for a
lifetime, one that stimulates you to be a truly interesting person with a song
always sung.

The real fountain of youth is not found in plastic surgery, or magic pills or
superannuated pensions or supernatural formulas. It is found within your
“creating” self, in which each new day offers an opportunity to express your
authentic self and give it through work to others for intrinsic rewards.

[i] Brown, Mark G. (1996). Keeping Score: Using the Right Metrics to Drive
World-Class Performance
. New York: Quality Resources.

How to Holiday Party Your Way into a Career Job!

Mark - headshot

Mark Buzan came to me at age 22 and about to receive his political science
degree and wanted to work on Parliament Hill.

He wasn’t really clear about what he wanted to do. “It was pretty scary,” he
told me. The only thing he knew for sure was that he wanted to do something in
politics or journalism.

During our first conversation it became apparent that he wanted to work for a
Member of Parliament (MP), but he had no idea on how to get a job, on Parliament
Hill.

As far as he was concerned, thousands of people graduate with a degree in
political science every year and they all want a job on Parliament Hill and the
ones who get them are people who are very active in politics, or who’s families
have political connections. So what chance did he have?

But he had a problem that was bigger than no political connections. He sort of
knew what he wanted, but he didn’t have a target. If you want to hit the bull’s
eye you have to have a target. You can shoot an arrow, but it isn’t going to hit
the bull’s eye unless you have a target.

So we had a very important target to find. I did an assessment of his talents
and determined that the best job fit for him was as an executive assistant.
Then, we set about taking action to hit the target. And, it worked.

He came to me in November and by the end of January he had a job offer as a aide
to an MP.

Our plan to hit the bull’s eye began with some big parties. All the political
parties in Canada have Christmas parties on Parliament Hill. And they’re open to
the public. So I told him to go to the Christmas parties of the political
parties in which he was interested and mix with them. At a party, people are
more relaxed, more likely to interact on a social level, and more likely to be
open to hearing your story.

At one of the parties he met the senior member of the staff of Jason Kenney and
eventually got a job as an executive assistant in that office.

But obviously there’s more to getting the right job than just going to parties.
So our plan was very specific.

Mark had some special training in tax policy and tax law and had some ideas on
changing tax laws. First I told him to find out which MPs had the tax reform
portfolios for their parties. Then we put together a letter summarizing Mark’s
research and ideas about tax reform and sent it to those MPs requesting a
meeting. Then I provided him with a script of what to say to get into those
offices for a meeting.

Mark spent about 20 minutes with each MP and talked to about 6. He then
debriefed me on all his meetings.

One of those MPs set up a meeting with his legislative assistant–his right-hand
person–which turned out to be one of the people Mark had schmoozed with at the
Christmas party, so they already had a rapport. Mark had several more meetings
with that legislative assistant, eventually leading to a job offer.

Mark loved what he was doing, but after a while decided that he needed more
challenges. He wanted to become a lobbyist.

We put together a portfolio and then he created his own company called Action
Strategies. He received a couple of small assignments and built up a track
record. Then at 29, he got hired as lobbyist. His official title was Public
Affairs Coordinator for the Canadian Hydropower Association. Several other
positions followed and, today, Mark is an Executive Director of a national
organization for health care professionals.

All of that was very deliberate and intentional. It wasn’t luck. It was
intentional, having a clearly defined target, a vision of what he wanted, then
taking specific actions to move him closer to his vision until—bingo! He hit the
target.

Sometimes you have to take some risks to get what you want. Some people wouldn’t go to a Christmas party uninvited. You have to do unconventional things to get noticed. Not all of the time. But it increases your chances of getting hired.

How you learn naturally can lead to working effortlessly

learning

The way we learn most naturally can help us find and fit into a new job, sometimes a better job! For example, I can think of several clients who worked for many years in construction, then sustained physical injuries that prevented them from doing physical labor or operating equipment. But, they wanted to stay in the construction field because they enjoyed working with and around structures, tools, machinery and everything that goes with building, maintaining or repairing our physical world.

They needed to retrain in order to work again. However, they lacked confidence
about educational upgrading due to poor performances in high school or
college. In assessing their learning styles, I discovered that they learned
well—but not through conventional book learning. Sure, they could force
themselves to go back to a classroom setting and suffer through it. We
‘can do’ many things through sheer will and determination but there is
always the risk that we will fail or not learn what we need to know in order to
be competent on the job, thereby jeopardizing our chances for getting and
keeping a new career.

Learning new skills is always easier when we are motivated to learn, not driven
to learn by the need for a new job, but motivated by tapping into our
natural learning styles. For example, many of these clients learned more
naturally through trying & doing, or by observing & examining, or by tinkering
& experimenting. Sitting in a classroom studying & reading books, then
memorizing and repeating what they read did not motivate them.

Retraining or upgrading skills then meant finding programs that matched their
natural way of learning (such as construction-estimating) that emphasized a
“hands-on” orientation versus a theoretical or academic one. In several cases,
an assessment of their stories also revealed a natural aptitude for working
with numbers and a knack for customer service, which matched up with jobs
related to Construction Estimator, Quote Coordinator, Proposal Writer,
Purchasing Manager, Builder Services Manager, Field Coordinator, and so on.

What is your innate pattern for learning?

When listening to your stories, I listen for clues to your natural talent for
learning: what are you doing when you’re motivated to learn? To what depth and
detail are you motivated to learn? What are the mechanisms through which you
learn? What circumstances or conditions motivate you to learn?

Natural talents for learning correlate with different kinds of career
situations. For example, someone who learns best by observing and
examining—that is, someone who is motivated to learn by taking a careful
first-hand look at the actual detail of an action—is probably better suited to
an apprenticeship-type environment than someone who is motivated to learn by
studying and reading (going over printed material, note-taking and underlining
key phrases).

Perhaps you did better in college programs organized around listening and
discussing activities than you did in high school, if the emphasis there was on
memorizing and repeating of information. You are motivated to learn only when
you are in a situation where you can hear the thoughts and ideas of others and
express their own. Perhaps you never realized before that your favorite job
was organized around frequent opportunities to brainstorm with others by
hearing their ideas and bouncing your own off them.

Did your parents complain that you always asked too many questions? If they
found it annoying, perhaps others noticed your knack for finding out things by
asking people questions. You are more than just curious, you have a knack for
probing and questioning others. You might thrive in jobs where that skill is a
recognized and rewarded as a core duty, such as investigations, or assessing
needs, or diagnosing problems.

Some talented and successful individuals get lousy grades in a classroom
setting but turn out to be specialists or experts when they are left to their
own devices to compile and collect information in their own way, at their own
speed, in order to get a comprehensive picture of a situation to understand,
explain, and predict certain principles, logic, philosophies, skills or
techniques.

I’ve had some hi-tech clients that thrived in lab environments where they could
experiment and tinker. They never read a book, and even failed certain college
courses. Luckily, many of these individuals were able to find jobs in school
helping a professor with certain research in order to pass. They could spend
hours conducting trials or tests to find out about a subject phenomenon and see
what happens. They easily fit into R&D work settings.

The real payoff is understanding why you learn and what is the outcome of your
learning. Once we understand your innate pattern for learning, I can link it
to specific jobs and careers that will reward you for what comes naturally and
effortlessly to you.

“When are people going to see me for what I am — an impostor?”

Women-w-white-mask-half-face

I’ve heard this question many times from clients. It might be a guy who became a teacher because he didn’t know what else to do but, truthfully, he doesn’t like working with kids every day. Instead, he sees all the flaws in the system and is inclined to be a catalyst for change, making suggestions, getting others involved in projects to improve things.

But, he doesn’t dare presume to do so because he doesn’t have the qualifications or credentials to speak or act according to his natural inclinations. “Why would anyone listen to me?”

Or, it might be a woman who rose from Receptionist to VP. She has a gift for
managing others, for harnessing their strengths, talents, preferences, and
motivations of others. She is adept at determining what sort of work people
are suited for, what will encourage them, and how their talents may be used to
further corporate goals and objectives.

But everyday she goes to work thinking, “I’m not a REAL manager because I lack
an MBA or other degree, formal training, piece of paper, recognition that tells
me and others what I am, and when people find out that I have no credentials
other than what I’ve done, I will be cast out!”

In both cases, our social self is talking. Think about this for a minute. We
are swallowed up by the world and its systems and values. Society hands us
templates for acceptance. This is the development of the social self—that part
of us that wants desperately to “fit in” to society.

We are, after all, social beings who want to be liked and loved by others. We
spend our lives trying to become someone that people will like or look up to.
In doing so, we sometimes harbor feelings of inadequacy–we’re not competent
enough, sooner or later we’ll be exposed for what we are—a fraud!

This impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals are
unable to own up to their strengths, or their accomplishments. It causes them
to feel like a fake, with a public face of competence that everyone sees, but
another private face of anxiety, worry, or fear. Instead of feeling like an
integrated whole, they feel fragmented, compartmentalized, or conflicted about
who they are and what they do.

Why?

Because we want to be recognized and rewarded for our authentic self. This is
our natural desire as human beings.

The word authentic is related to the notion of truthfulness—it’s about being
genuine, honest, faithful, reliable, the real thing. In philosophical terms,
it’s about living a life that is purposeful, meaningful, significant, in which
your being is aligned with your doing.

We want to experience congruence between who we are and what we do. We feel
like impostors when are feelings are grounded in what we ‘can do’ or ‘have to,’
instead of our natural strengths.

Being authentic for some, like the teacher mentioned above, is to acknowledge
that teaching is not what he really wanted in the first place. He might not
know what he wants specifically, but he knows generally that he wants more of a
fit between who he is and what he does for a living.

By focusing on those times in his life when he’s doing what he enjoys most and
doing it well, and having those stories analyzed by a story expert like myself,
he can get an accurate and reliable picture of his right work and have it
matched to the kinds of work that will recognize, reward and motivate him for
what he does naturally and effortlessly.

Each day his ideas, assumptions, beliefs about reality are being shaped by a
job experience that forces him to do something he does not want to do. He
needs to see how his strengths match up to better jobfits, ones that are
financially viable and attainable without further education. When he does, he
will have a vocabulary to communicate to others with clarity and confidence how
he can add value to an organization as a catalyst.

For the receptionist turned VP, an analysis of her stories will create a
picture of her full motivational pattern. She will see how she cannot do what
she was born to do in terms of taking overall responsibility for accomplishing
a goal or getting something done through actively directing or managing the
efforts of others.

In the past, she may have been criticized by a parent or another significant
person in life; perhaps, her natural strength was not appreciated or approved
by them; or, perhaps the expression of her natural talents was not appropriate
in certain social situations and caused problems.

Our strengths have a flip side; in some situations they are actually a weakness
or detriment to our goals, e.g. treating your siblings, friends, spouse or
children as employees who must operate or perform in the manner that you have
identified as most effective, might produce results at work but creates
friction on the home front.

By getting an accurate picture of her motivational pattern, she can leverage
her strengths in a more conscious and direct manner into her job and delegate
her non-strengths to others that complement her strengths, thereby increasing
her managerial effectiveness, instead of letting her feelings of inadequacy
drive her performance.

Do you feel like an impostor? Relax. You can integrate your being with your
doing.

The understanding you need to do so is closer than you might think, right under
your nose, in the facts, people and events of your personal story.

There is no need to suffer stress, worry, anxiety or fear about your work
identity. You are not a fraud!

The truth of who and what you are in terms of work will launch you to a new
level of success, one that will support and energize you to work with more
clarity and power.

You can be who you are and do what comes naturally for a living!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Gift

I recently performed in a musical theatre production of ‘The Gifts of the Magi,’ a story about a young married couple—Jim & Della Dillingham—who are living in New York in 1905 when Christmas rolls around and they have no money to buy each other gifts to express their love.

They have hit hard times because Jim is unemployed and Della gets a little sewing work now and then. In the end, the buy each other gifts that are very meaningul but are made by a huge sacrifice: Della cuts and sells her beautiful long brown hair in order to buy a watch fob, for the very watch that Jim sells in order to buy Della pure tortoise shell combs for her beautiful long hair! The fact that each was willing to make such a personal sacrifice for the other demonstrates their deep and genuine love for each other. It makes no real sense, there is no good reason that explains what Jim and Della did out of love for each other. Hope and love cannot be reasoned with.

I think the same idea stands behind the notion of doing what you love for a living. It can’t really be reasoned with. In fact, there are many good reasons for not doing so, reasons that sound very…well…reasonable. It’s just too hard, too risky, to pursue what you really want; just accept the fact that you can’t have it and compromise. Choose a career that is safe and learn to live with it. [Or, do as I did as Soapy, the bum, in the musical, who does his best to get arrested in order to avoid work! He's the comic relief...]

But the heart wants what the heart wants; it cannot be reasoned with. Our life-spirit cries out for vitality, we want to feel engaged with life, living with purpose and meaning. Is it any wonder that a career compromise often leads to a mid-life crisis, or depression (which is now the number one workplace disability)? I am not denying the fact that for some people there are formidable and genuine obstacles to making a significant change in one’s life. But, in most cases, the obstacles to moving forward to a life of more vitality may be challenging but not impossible.

What is reasonable, I suggest, is to learn how to create what you truly want without compromise. What is not reasonable is to surrender to compromise, to give up on your natural talents and motivations, or the chance to explore the fullness of who and what you are in terms of your right work, or your highest aspirations and deepest values…it’s never too hard or too late.

The way I approach this issue with my clients is to separate what they enjoy doing both at work and outside of work from what they think is only possible. This is critical. Most people can only think of 30 jobs off the top of their heads, and if none of those jobs light a fire in them, then they use this as an excuse not to explore their options further. For example, there are over 60,000 jobs operating in our economy, with new ones being created every day because almost 50% of jobs are created for individuals who have a particular set of unique talents and skills. My job is to help identify and define those many opportunities, and develop a plan to move you into a better jobfit according to your time and priorities.

So here is a reasonable question: Is it reasonable to give up before you have had a chance to see what kinds of jobs you are truly suited for, and before any learning has taken place about how to move from where you are now into a better jobfit or career? I would say that is unreasonable and not terribly practical to squelch the self-honesty about what you might really want in terms of work. A compromise can close the doors on one of your most important human instincts, the desire to create a career or work that really matters to you.

Hope and love make so many things possible. That is a gift given to all of us. We don’t have to settle for a reasonable compromise. Incredible things occur every day, unlikely, unpredictable, unreasonable things that bring more vitality into the world. These things are available to you too. It starts with a commitment to explore your options. Don’t compromise on that creative urg to get an accurate and reliable picture of what you truly want.

Here at JobJoy, we are in the business of helping you get that picture and take effective actions to make it real. In 2012, you can be in a very different position than you are as 2011 ends. Our JobJoy Report lays the foundation in which you are more able to create what you want in terms of a better career or job. This webinar explains how it works as a gift that keeps on giving.