Job Change Advice: Your Values and your Job don’t have to Conflict

Christine Ouellette

Christine Ouellette came to me because she wasn’t too clear on what she wanted to do and sought objective insight from someone else.

She was a vice-president of an international development consulting firm and really didn’t want to continue in that position because her responsibilities were changing and leaning towards business development, whereas her interest was more on the technical side.

Her passion was transferring skills, particularly around making transparent decisions grounded in democratic and participatory processes, to government and non-governmental organizations in developing countries. She specialized in good governance, poverty reduction and social responsibility. Christine was particularly concerned with the links between violence against women, human rights, and development and had carved a niche for herself as a specialist in gender equality and ending violence against women.

The first thing we did was an exercise identifying the most fulfilling experiences that she considered successful but wouldn’t necessarily be considered successful by other people.

By identifying her professional passions and innate strengths, she was able to refocus. She was in the right field, but by the time she met me, she had outgrown the organization where she was employed. She felt her employer was doing fabulous work in social development, but too much of her time was spent managing instead of doing. She was de-motivated by having to focus on the bottom line and managing priorities defined by others.

Christine needed work where she could set her own priorities in line with her values.

She had owned her own firm in the past, but it was freelancing, “an in-between thing” that she did between jobs.

She decided to restart her business and make it very focused. This time she was serious. She developed a mission statement, corporate image and concept for a web site and a brochure for the organization.

Now Christine works with associations that she chooses to work with – private sector, not-for- profit, and government organizations. She works exclusively on issues that she cares about. “It’s not about billing. It’s about values.”

Nowadays there is coherence between her values, her principles and the work she does. She’s making as much money as she did working in a formal setting and it’s much more gratifying and stimulating because she doesn’t have to reach financial goals set by someone else.

Since she’s been working for herself, Christine has been doing the types of projects she’s most interested in, both in Canada and overseas. For example, she developed a proposal with CARE Canada giving voice to marginalized people in South East Asia.

Christine made a heavy-duty commitment to her values. She understands the value of having a vision and sticking to it. She checks in with me once a month to help clarify that vision and come closer to the manifestation and obtainment of that vision.

She said she finds it valuable to have a third party objective point of view of her decisions. I’m not her husband, I’m not a coworker, I’m a third-party objective observer.

Christine needed to have a clearly defined vision to enable her to take actions that moved her closer to that obtainment. Ironically, this clarity made her more attractive to employers. Her vision and values harmonize so well with CARE Canada that they recently offered her a position as a specialist in Governance and Capacity Building.

After 2.5 years as country director in Cameroon for CARE, last summer she took on a new challenge as senor advisor gender equality, seconded by CIDA to the Pakistan Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. Now, she’s recently returned to Canada to take on the role of VP-Porgrams at the Canadian Hunger Foundation to foster food security for the world’s poorest communities.

Her vision manifests love – something that she wanted to see in the world so much that she was willing to take action to see it happen. It was easy to take action after she confronted her fears.

How to Network into a Job during the Festive Season

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An MBA client told me this past week that she has sent out 200 resumes since August and received no callbacks for interviews. Believe it or not…this is a normal result in this kind of job market!

If she had done the same thing 20, or 15, or even 10 years ago, she would’ve received a good number of calls from internal and external recruiters because the economy was still hot and expanding, and there was strong demand from employers for skilled labor. Not anymore, not now, unless you’re in one of the few hot job categories.

Instead, this MBA client, as well as most other individuals, need to move from a passive job search to a pro-active job search. Some 80 percent of jobs are now found through networking. I explain this pro-active job search in detail in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

The principles outlined in my webinar are especially effective during the holiday season. Why? Because this is the time of year when goodwill towards all men and women is real, doors are open, and people want to chat. The timing for meaningful contacts related to job search and career advancement couldn’t be better.

Hiring managers and decision-makers attend office parties, social events and community celebrations. They take their hiring needs with them wherever they go. Problems, challenges, impact issues, pressure points continue to get in the way of managers leading their organizations to successful goals and objectives. They are always scouting for new talent, for people who can make their lives easier, and help them succeed.

Remember, this is the season for giving. So give people will give you time and attention. Listen to their stories. Politely ask questions that probe their concerns. Find out where you can help.

If you can, offer to help. People will appreciate and remember your generous offers to assist and support. This is how you build rapport, deepen relationships, foster trust—and generate job offers!

Productive networking is about building relationships not performing transactions. Leave a positive impression, strengthen ties, share ideas, give people a reason to remember you. Face time is quality time. Stay focused, be alert and don’t overindulge in food or beverages. Conduct yourself professionally at all times. Dress conservatively (unless the job sector rewards non-conformity!).

The ROI is simple–just one meaningful dialogue can create measurable value from every networking event.

* Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission.
* Seek out meaningful conversations that leave a strongly positive impression.
* Be ready to pick up insider-only knowledge.
* Try connecting those you know to each other.

I spoke recently with a client who received a generous job offer from a contact he had worked with on a committee related to a local branch of their professional association. He gave generously of his time and energy over the past two years, and his efforts did not escape notice by this hiring manager.

These holiday encounters could be your big break to chat with current or former employees at your target companies; exchange business cards with an industry leader; or, arrange a future meeting with someone difficult to reach. Brief interactions can be springboards to great relationships if you find ways to provide support and thereby sustain the connection.

If you want to optimize your networking efficiency, be prepared:

- Have specific job targets in mind
- Be ready to make clear, compelling points to attract attention.
- Have a set of probing questions that uncover job opportunities.
- Think about what you can give in terms of time and energy
- Listen actively so you are apt to pick up on a need you can address and keep up your end of the discussion.

In addition, have a ready supply of business cards that have your contact information as well as a few bullet points on the reverse depicting your interests, areas of expertise, or other memorable data. Make your card easy to read, and make sure your phone number is large. Ask others for their cards, and make a few notes on the back to remind you why the card may be important.

Remember, it’s the quality not the quantity of relationships developed, pursued or renewed. It’s not just what you know and who you know, but who knows what you know that produces new opportunities in today’s job market.

Happy holidays, happy giving and happy networking!

How you learn naturally can lead to working effortlessly

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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.

S…t…r…e…t…c…h your ambition to succeed

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Another year has started. Did you promise yourself that this is the year, now is the time to change careers? You feel ready to make a real change in your life.

Changing careers requires some internal and external stretching to get you where you want to go. In the same way that stretching physically helps prepare your bones and muscles for more vigorous activity, we need to stretch our ideas and actions in order to transform our career into a better jobfit, one that will recognize, reward, and motivate us for what we do naturally and effortlessly.

1. Stretch your ideas. One of the biggest obstacles we face when thinking about a new career is a shortlist of options. Most people can only think of 30 jobs off the top of their head—teacher, lawyer, doctor, dentist, postman, policeman, professonal athlete, singer, secretary, baker, banker, and the jobs we see or encounter on a daily basis. But there are 60,000+ jobs operating in our economy and the truth is there is not one perfect job for you (perfection is an illusion) but up to several dozen jobs that you are suited for…if you only knew what they were. Getting a proper assessment of your natural talents and motivations, combined with your existing education, experience, values, priorities—can open the door to many exciting career options, not to mention several excellent jobs that you can transition into quickly and easily.

2. Expand your talents into a track record. You may have a knack for public speaking but you can’t be a competent and accomplished public speaker unless you seek opportunities to speak with your authentic voice. It’s hard to convince others of your knack for marketing unless you can design and deliver some impressive marketing collaterals. To succeed with a career change, your talents must be developed into skills through genuine effort to meet some real goals.

3. Take the time necessary for expansion. You’ve probably heard the old cliche that every overnight success took 20 years. Transformation does not occur overnight. Too many people kill their dreams by quitting too early. They want the rewards now. But taking responsibility for what you truly want from life requires time to plant and harvest. If you’re not willing to invest some time and energy then I suggest you don’t really want a new career; instead, you probably want to replace your current income with something that is not as stressful, or as toxic, or as boring, or as [you fill in the blank]. Avoiding something you don’t want is not the same thing as creating something you do want.

4. Embrace the creative process. Creating is a process that follows a proven format : come up with a clear vision of a new career; look at where you are now clearly and objectively; then take effective actions to move you closer from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. That’s it. The creative process is not rocket science, anybody can do it. But the key is to do it. Take effective actions that move you closer to what you want. Don’t waste time, energy or money by taking no action, or only a little action, or ineffective action. Life is too short. Commit to your transformation. Perhaps you can move forward more quickly by getting help.

Are you still feeling resistance to stretching your ambition, to grabbing the internal or external bull by the horns, and wrestling it to the ground once and for all? Perhaps this is the year when you take deliberate, intentional and proven actions that move you forward.

Help is available to help you seize the day and stretch beyond what you thought possible.

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.

How high do you bounce?

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Everybody gets knocked down in life, everybody. When you have a goal or objective in life, does the universe allow you to achieve it quickly or easily? Not likely. We live in a universe of adversity.

Our best laid plans, our deepest desires, our clearest objectives will run into opposition. Whatever path we are on, we will run into roadblocks and obstacles. The nature of reality is adversity.

This is a new year. And you can expect to get knocked down this year at some point. For example, I just got off the phone with a client who recently made a career change, one that has changed her life dramatically. “I feel like I can breathe again,” she says. “I’ve got my life back.” She loves her new job and is very happy she switched careers.

However, there is adversity in her situation. She has been parachuted into a key position with this company, and she is facing resentment from co-workers who undermine her enthusiasm with gossip and petty actions. The director of her division regularly criticizes her performance, sometimes with verbal abuse. On the worst days, she wants to quit.

Eric Hoffer, an American philosopher, wrote: “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of failure and decay.”

Everybody fails, everybody. It is normal. You can expect to fail this year at some point. You will have a strong desire to do or get something and you will not attain it. You will set a goal and not achieve it. In fact, the year starts with resolutions, most of which are never fulfilled. But the odd setback here and there does not a year make.

Life goes on. The setback does not last. Don’t confuse failure with defeat. I love that quote from General George Patton, the WWII hero: “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” Failure is a temporary condition; defeat is an attitude.

Most of us play or watch sports because sports reflect the nature of reality—adversity. In each game or contest, every player is trying to score or win. In order to do so, the players and teams must overcome their adversaries. Every player gets knocked down. The key is to get up and focus on what really matters to you.

Life is not a game but it is a structured event, full of circumstances around which we have no control as individuals. Adversity is woven into the very fabric of life. Life owes us nothing. We are entitled to nothing. We are simply given the opportunity to face adversity head on.

We consciously or unconsciously do the things that make us successful or unsuccessful. For example, we are in control of our attitude, of how we respond to circumstances. You will encounter both good and bad circumstances throughout your life; how you respond to them is your choice.

You can choose to be passive, and simply accept whatever life sends your way. Or, you can choose to take actions that will move you closer to what really matters to you. Yes, there will be roadblocks, obstacles, and adversaries that get in the way. By we can choose to meet them head on. That takes courage and strength of mind. To quote General Patton again: “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.”

Let me close by going back to my client who got a new job but inherited a bad boss and jealous co-workers. As bad as this might appear to be, it is nothing in comparison to the toxic work environment she left last year. I have seen this scenario hundreds of times over the past 20 years. A new year rolls around with a new set of challenges. We live in a universe of adversity; what does not break us makes us stronger.

She is learning to stand up for herself, setting boundaries, and focusing on priorities. Vitality is nurtured by overcoming adversity. We grow personally and professionally by confronting and overcoming challenges. May you bounce back all year long!
BounceBack

Put Horse before Cart

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In matters of career, I suggest we start by listening to our heart–an ancient discipline that has fallen into disuse due to the primary place of logic and reason in our culture. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using our heads, but it’s a little like trying to put the cart in front of the horse.

When explaining this principle to clients, I often draw a picture of a cart in front of a horse. It looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? This person is not going to get far. And yet, this is exactly where many of us end up in our careers when we learn early in life to adapt to the expectations of others.

Our social conditioning starts very early in life, as we learn to please significant others in our lives, such as parents, teachers, peers, coaches, and so on. There’s tremendous pressure on each of us to make career decisions based on certain social values and priorities—such as measuring our success according to the power, prestige and material wealth we accumulate.

Many individuals are channeled down a certain professional path using ‘can do’ skills long before they’ve had a chance to discover and nurture their natural talents and motivations.

So, many of us go to college because that is the expected thing to do. We select a major because we have to select something. In the process, we fill up our cart with what we told are the essential tools of success: education, qualifications, credentials, skills, knowledge, contacts, relevant experiences, awards, recognition, and so on. Then we look for and land a particular job for all sorts of reasons, most of them related to pre-conditioned notions of money, prestige, power and status.

What is true for college is true for trade school, the family business or the army. From grade school through high school and college and on into our careers, we strive to become somebody, some ideal. Inevitably, that somebody is different from who we are already. This is the result of developing only our social self at the expense of our authentic self.

I’ll never forget Ken, a second generation Canadian I met at university in Vancouver. He had just graduated with a BSc, and was enrolled in a Master’s program for Pestology. British Columbia is full of bugs threatening various kinds of natural resources, and Ken was going to specialize in destroying those bugs. However, he was first going to treat himself.

As a dutiful son of Asian parents, Ken was brought up to respect and obey his elders. Family honor is a primary value among Asian communities, so Ken had dutifully taken math and sciences through high school and university. But he harbored a secret passion for art. Growing up near Commercial Drive in Vancouver’s Chinatown, his home had been situated next to a sign shop where Ken spent many happy hours of his youth helping the proprietor draw and paint signs with vivid and wonderful colors. Although he found some opportunities to draw, this artistic side of Ken was neglected as he nurtured the social side of his self and worked hard to meet the expectations of his parents and community.

But, after entering grad school, Ken decided he was entitled to finally indulge his strong desire to learn more about art, and so he took an evening art class. That was it! He was hooked. He dropped his Pestology program, and focused on art. Finally, he was working with passion using his natural talents and motivations. He completed a BGS in Arts & Culture and went on to become an internationally-renowned artist, and teach art full-time at university.

His story is particularly poignant to me not only because I knew him way back when but because I’ll never forget the double-take I did when I saw four large billboard banners hanging on the outside wall of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in 2002. His exhibition paired life-size studio portraits of individuals and families of various ethnic backgrounds with bold-coloured, corporate style logos of their names on enamel and Plexiglass. They appeared as huge signs!

And, the text with the photos raised questions of identity, gender, race and class. They took me right back to the long and heated discussions I often heard at university on those issues. A review in The Ottawa Citizen at the time slammed the exhibit for its “politically correct tone.”

But Ken succeeded in doing what artists are suppose to do—get the public talking and debating about what is often taken for granted in everyday discourse and behavior. Art is suppose to foster strong opinions on both sides of a question! I can just imagine how pleased and happy he would’ve been to see his ideas bandied about in a nationally recognized newspaper.

The point is that Ken had traded in his ‘can do’ skills for his passion. And he was making his mark. For me, to see his art hanging on huge signs on the outside walls of a national gallery was like a loud shout of joy declaring Ken’s love of life! It was a validation of his passion and purpose. What I saw was a triumph of natural talents and significance over the safety Ken could’ve had by sticking to a career as a pestologist using his ‘can do’ skills.

That is not to say he may not have destroyed bugs in B.C. that deserved it, and gone on to make a contribution of significant economic impact, using his ‘can do’ skills. But I can’t help but think that the world would now be a poorer place if Ken had not honored his authentic self and nurtured his talents and motivations through his passion for art.

I encourage individuals to discover and develop their passion into work that will sustain them for a lifetime of employment and enjoyment. The key to self-fulfillment is to enjoy what you do day-in and day-out. Why would you stop doing something you love?

She Left a Toxic Workplace with her Dignity Intact

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There is a turning point in every career transition, and that is the time when an individual stops identifying with their fears—both rational and irrational—and chooses to identify more with their hopes.

I love this story because it is real and true and typical in so many ways. For the past year, I assisted a professional woman through a career transition. Bright and talented with two university degrees, she was stuck in a toxic work environment, but couldn’t let go.

This client had already made one career change in life, moving from the health sector to the financial sector. She was a rising star, often winning performance awards, and was being groomed for senior management. But she hated going to work each day.
In our initial session, she outlined the overwhelming pace and stress of the job in general. In workplaces organized around targets and quotas, there is a lot of pressure to make sacrifices for the team and do whatever it takes to succeed.

She also complained about abusive behavior from bosses and co-workers. For example, if she asked for an explanation, she was publicly yelled at and told to just do it without any explanation. In team meetings, she was afraid to raise some issues for fear of being censored by the rest of the team. This from a woman who was not timid, nor did she lack confidence or communications skills.

In addition, my client alluded to pressure from her family—some of whom also worked in the financial sector–to continue earning the same high income and enjoying the status that came with being an up-and-comer. These were direct messages from people she loved and respected about what she needed to do to be smart in this situation.

On the one hand, she would tearfully admit that she had lost her self in this job, that she had sold her soul in order to meet the corporation’s goals. She felt empty inside, more dead than alive. On the other hand, walking away from this career, even one she knew deep inside was all wrong for her, meant risking the esteem of those who loved her most.

There were other practical considerations too, of course, such as meeting her financial obligations, and exploring a tough job market. She had the same fear we all have, the fear of negative consequences, i.e. if I change my life, it will get worse not better. Better to stick with this pain than risk even more!

We don’t like reality because it often includes unpleasant things. She described a toxic workplace but for months she questioned her perceptions, and wondered if the problem was her, not the abusive behavior.

Why, she asked, am I falling to pieces, while everyone else seems okay? Everyone pays a price for tolerating pain. What was yours, I asked? She outlined sleeplessness, anxiety, smoking, drinking, and other ‘coping’ behaviours. Common behaviors shared by most of her colleagues, I’m sure.

Insisting that things are not what they are doesn’t make them change. So, we either use drugs and other strategies to deal with pain, or we remove ourselves—-physically or mentally–from the circumstances causing the pain.

Then she reached a point where she was truly tired of coping—It’s killing me!–and was ready to re-claim her life. She did my JobJoy exercise and wrote out her life story, which helped her to see her natural talents and motivations, and the different points in her life where her choices honored those strengths, and points where she disregarded them in favor of pleasing others or reacting to fear.

More importantly, this accurate and reliable picture of her in action, gave her hope. We reframed her career experience, so that she could see that there were many good options for her to move forward as a professional.

She set out to explore other career options, even as she continued to struggle with her toxic job. She stopped smoking. She took small steps to let go of “some things” in her life to create enough space to explore something new. She applied to another graduate program but decided not to proceed after visiting the campus. She looked at buying an existing business, as well as a franchise, but after crunching the numbers of both opportunities, she decided against it. She investigated an offer to cross the street and provide as an indepedent the same service she did for her institutional employer.

In the meantime, the abusive behavior in her workplace continued. It takes time and discipline to learn to see reality as it is. It takes skill, because we have been trained to think accordng to concepts, theories, speculations, beliefs, ideas, and so on. Much of our thinking has been reinforced by past experiences that we presume to be the same as what is going on in the present. In order to really see reality, we have to unlearn then relearn.

As my client explored other career options and met with other professionals, she was looking and observing reality in a new way, one that was not influenced by her experiences in her toxic workplace. However, observing reality is not the same thing as changing our reality.

Taking action requires some tolerance of uncertainty. There are no guarantees in life. But our minds hate not knowing the future, not knowing outcomes…and so, when we don’t actually know something, instead of looking to find out, our minds wants to fill the space with answers that pretend to know what we don’t know!

This is where are preconceived notions of reality sweep in—notions based on previous or current life expericnes : it’s hopeless; it’s never work; I can’t do it; there are no jobs; you’re throwing your life away; and so on.

If you are serious about change, about moving out of your pain into a better jobfit, then you must appreciate NOT knowing something until you find out. In other words, you need to acquire a taste for reality, and prefer it to the pain you know so well.

When my client got to this point, two strange but predictable phenomena occured. I had even warned her that it would happen because I’ve seen it happen almost every time a client makes a transition from one kind of work to another.

One,following my advice, she approached a previous business contact—a CEO of a mid-sized company–to outline the kind of work that she was looking for, and this person offered her a job on the spot, a job in which she had no direct experience. But the CEO knew a good and talented person when he saw one, a person who could add a lot of value to his company.

Two, she handed in her notice with her toxic employer, who immediately offered her a promotion and a significant raise. She thought about it, and realized that the offer was really an acknowledgement of how much pain she was willing to put up with for her previous salary, and now they were offering her more money to put up with more pain!

She admits, it wasn’t easy, but she declined that offer. In doing so, she took back the power over her life. She felt free! She still harbored doubts about her new job—what if it didn’t work out? What if the people there turned on her? What if she can’t do the job? Reality being what it is, not perfect, crap does happen. And she can’t know everything before she starts.

But she did start her new job, and sent me a hopeful message : Wow, what a different experience I am having – amazing – just in terms of a whole new focus on learning and development versus how to cope with stress and negativity.

She is free to choose what she wants. She has the power to decide what is best for her. She is choosing hope over fear!

Your Story, My Passion

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We are born, live, and die. This is our basic life story. We can’t do much about our beginnings or endings, but we have a lot of choice about how we live.

Stories can help us do life better. I have always believed this to be true. In a world made up of atoms and stories, I was always more fascinated by story. I very much appreciate and enjoy what scientists, engineers, tradesman, medical professionals and others do with atoms, but it’s not my thing. When it comes to discovering and developing your right work, it is always best I believe to stick to your thing.

We are the only species on this planet that constructs a story for ourselves to follow on a daily basis. We all have a fundamental choice : what story will I live?

However, most of us do not choose; instead, we adopt stories and live out of them unconsciously, e.g. reacting to circumstances we grew up in, rather than creating what really matters to us.

Usually, there are two stories being constructed throughout our lives. One story is about our social self, trying to please others and fitting in; the other is a story about our authentic self, trying to follow the desires of our hearts in a society that is often encouraging us to be something else. We sometimes get lost, or confused, in trying to resolve tension between the two.

Choosing a path is not easy, and the hard rock of reality trips us, so we stumble or fall. We may find ourselves terrifyingly alone, psychologically or physically broken, or simply bored, cynical, or stoic.

Fortunately, stories have the power to heal and build up. If life is a mystery, or a haphazard and random collection of events, then story helps to find patterns and plots. Story gives meaning to life.
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I am a personal story analyst committed to you reclaim your authentic self and write a life story that brings out your best so that you can give that to others through your work, job, and career.

This is important for you but it matters for the rest of us too. When a person loses their way in terms of work, the rest of us are deprived of their unique and wonderful contribution to life!

I stand in awe of your talents and motivations. People are incredibly gifted! I get very excited when I read about the activities and events that make up your life—during childhood, teen years, and in each decade of adulthood. These are stories about times in your life that were particularly enjoyable or consistently satisfying, because they energized rather than drained you.

I give you a simple format around which to organize your stories so that they can be easily analyzed for your key success factors. What I do is a little like mining for gold, separating ore from precious metal. I never get tired of mining for the gold that runs through your stories!

I bring my talents and passion for story analysis and writing to this process by preparing a detailed report. This is not a generic report that puts you into categories and boxes. You are more complex than simple labels that cannot capture the complexities, nuances, and subtleties of a life. What matters in determining your right work is your motivational pattern as a whole, not the individual variables.

I love to communicate your uniqueness in clear and precise terms with a map, or Individual Passion Pattern, then match it to specific jobs in specific work settings. After all, there are over 60,000 job titles operating in our world of work, with new ones being created daily. We are truly fortunate to live in a part of the world that offers so much opportunity.

I strive to give you a clear route to a new destination of employment, or self-employment, or business building.

My goal is to provide you with a vocabulary to communicate with clarity and confidence to others along the way. My commitment is to keep the information grounded in what is practical and realistic with an Action Plan and ongoing assistance to implement your transition.

The result? Your career decisions are made easier. The journey becomes the adventure it is meant to be. Life is sweet. And the world becomes a better place.

Using the flip side of life to find your right work

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Why does autobiographical writing help you discover and develop your right work? Writing stories from your life helps you understand your own life in terms of the forces that have defined and changed you over the years. The facts, people, and events of your life have formed a seamless web of meaning that help you answer the questions : Who am I? What am I trying to accomplish with my life?

I know it sounds strange but even negative life experiences help us uncover the truth of our right work. For example, I am particularly ashamed of a shoplifting episode during my teens. I got caught. However, I really enjoyed playing a different character in order to avoid incarceration.

I have a gift for story-telling. Sitting in a police station, I walked out without charges by weaving an elaborate lie a la Frank Abagnale Jr., played by Leonardo Dicaprio, in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Unlike him, the person I impersonated found me out and turned me in. I was charged and put on probation.

This was morally reprehensible, I agree, but when we are looking for clues to our right work, we should not neglect those negative experiences. Every event has a flip side. We need to strip away the moral fabric of these events because we often “sin out of our strengths.”

The examined life lets you see patterns of behavior. It lets you see lessons learned the hard way. You learn the value of failure, and the value of accomplishments. Your life is your stock in trade. Even if you think your life has been unimportant to the world, it’s important to you, and that’s what counts!

One of the Success Stories on my website features a natural promoter who has a knack for getting things started. As a college student, he jerry-rigged a payphone in his dorm to permit free long distance phone calls. It wasn’t legal, but it was enterprising.

He was always starting money-saving, or money-making ventures. But he lost interest once the crank was turning and required daily attention to details to keep things running smoothly. He was criticized his whole life for his very strength. The people around him who had a knack for managing had no talent for getting things started; but once a venture was started, they criticized him for not having their talent for managing. Those criticisms cut deeply into his self esteem until he understood the value of his talent.

The key here is to identify our natural skills and abilities. How we use those talents is another issue. We choose virtue or vice; we use our gifts in the service of good or bad. It is, of course, difficult to write about emotional events in our lives, especially painful ones. But when you are writing your autobiography, try to portray the events of your life with accurate and honest descriptions. Leave out the moral judgments.

Try it. Pick one negative event from your life, and write about it according to the following format :

1. A clear statement of the activity (in one sentence)

2. What caused you to get started in the activity?

3. Write a detailed story of what you did, how you did it, where, when, and with whom. Stick to the facts. Focus on the how not the why.

4. What parts gave you the most sense of satisfaction and fulfillment?

5. Was there some significant reason you stopped the activity?

In my book JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work through the Power of Your Personal Story, I provide a format for charting and writing your stories quickly and easily.

From your stories, I generate a JobJoy Report. This report gets to the essence of who and what you are in terms of work. Career decision-making becomes easy. It taps into the motivations of each individual.

I analyze your stories and prepare a comprehensive detailed report that will identify and define your Key Success Factors. This report answers the questions: What are the natural talents you use and consistently bring satisfaction to you when you are doing what you enjoy most and doing it well? What is the subject matter that you gravitate to without even trying? What circumstances or conditions have to exist in the job environment to bring out the best in you? How do you naturally build relationships with others?

From this analysis we can generate an Ideal Job Description and match it with specific opportunities in the real world of work.