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

Digging out of career hole

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

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

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

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

Changing your focus is the key to a midlife career change

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

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

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

Love the result, not the process

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

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

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

Too Creative For Tech?

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During the past 20 years as a job change expert, I have met dozens of men and women in hi-tech careers with a passion for a creative activity.

The computer programmer who builds customized electric guitars. The senior network specialist who travels the country to compete in paintball. The ITIL specialist who hosts folk music concerts in his home. The software designer who provides black belt martial arts instruction to hundreds of students. The systems development manager who studies astronomy. I can go on and on.

But in every case, none of these individuals developed a new career, or even
a second career, around that particular passion. Everyone is creative, everyone
has passions. But not everyone can create a job out of their passions. Why?

Because it’s not about taking one particular activity/passion and building a
new career around it, like someone having a passion for sewing, and saying, “I
love sewing so I’m going to work as a tailor or a seamstress.”

The software programmer does not usually give up a lucrative job to eke out a
living customizing electric guitars, unless they had FaceBook shares they cashed
in during the IPO, or their parents die and leave them a fortune, or they win
the lottery….it happens, sure, but rarely.

The simple fact is that the earnings of hi-tech professionals are much
greater than what they could make with their hobby passion. That’s what holds
them back, the trade-off between having fun and having financial security. They
believe the two are mutually exclusive.

For years, they’ve been molded by what they do, and paid extremely well for
doing it. Even if they come to hate their work, they believe there only option
is to stick to their hi-tech job box. They want to bust out of the box but fear
negative consequences. It’s called a rut, which is sometimes described as a
coffin with the ends knocked out.

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In the same way that the rut is linear, stretched out in one direction, they
think of their options in terms of the same left-brain, cause-and-effect
relationship. They see a line between what they do now and what they are
passionate about, and the connection does not compute.

They are focusing on the component parts of their lives, instead of looking
at the relationships between the parts. When they are doing what they enjoy
most—whether it’s building guitars, devising winning paintball strategies,
hosting folk music concerts, teaching martial arts, or studying astronomy—they
are engaged in a motivational pattern, one that is organized around their key
success factors.

It’s all about the pattern, the relationships between those factors that
energize them. Those factors can be defined, the pattern can be mapped. When
they see how their passion simply reveals certain aspects of their pattern, they
see how their talents and motivations match many kinds of jobs or careers in
specific work settings.

Instead of having one rather risky option organized around their passion,
they now have a dozen or more financially viable options organized around their
motivational pattern.

Busting out of the box is then possible. The dead end rut gives way to
shining path of real opportunity for a new kind of life, one that offers
financial security and job joy!

Hope & Joy in the Rubble!

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Did you catch the flash mob video of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus that was performed in a Food Court at the Welland Seaway Mall in late Nov’10.? It garnered a few thousand views before it went viral and watched around the world 20 million times in the past few weeks.

Hallelujah Chorus in Food Court

The creativity of human beings never ceases to amaze me. I love the tremendous display of creativity everywhere this time of year, such as the wonderful Xmas tunes that play nonstop on radio stations; the reruns of beloved movies that crowd the TV schedule; the new movie releases for the holidays; the abundance of goods that can be bought for presents; the vivid colors of home and office decorations : each one the product of creative minds, hearts, and hands.

Embedded in this creative explosion of sight and sound is a message of hope. Yes, the holiday season is commercialized. Thousands of jobs are involved in producing, marketing, selling, distributing, and servicing what we enjoy during this season. But, the mere fact of their existence doesn’t account for their success. All these holiday goods and services tap into our human nature.

Why bother to create anything if not for the hope of a better moment, or hour, or day, or year, or future?

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The holiday products of our creativity are an expression of the Hope that beats eternal in our human breasts, captured poignantly in the photograph featured here, shot in Seville (Spain) in 1933, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who became known for his photographs of apparent contradictions: pictures that left mysteries unexplained.

This famous photo depicts a run-down alley surrounded by decaying walls, strewn with rubble randomly stacked in thick piles lying on the street, and riddled with bullet holes dotting gray walls. The setting alone evokes feelings of sadness and despair.

The photo reminds me always of my travels in the Mediterranean, where I often saw school children kicking soccer balls against the walls of ancient churches. Coming from Canada, from the new world, with its recent history of European settlement, I often thought to myself : “Hey, you kids, stop that, don’t you have any respect for the sacred!”

The sacred, of course, is clearly visible–not in the bricks and mortar of church walls—but in the children. Within the grim alley scene of this photo, children are playing. They wear dirty and tattered clothes, as one might expect in such a setting, but like playing children everywhere, they laugh with carefree joy. In the foreground, a tiny boy on crutches hobbles away from two other boys, his face lit up with a broad grin. One boy is laughing so hard he has to hold his side. Others lean on the cracked walls, beaming with delight.

It is easy to spot the contrast — and the point. Joy amidst the rubble of life. Laughter amongst its ruins.

Life is full of contradictions. Even as we spread good cheer throughout our homes, offices and neighborhoods, others suffer unspeakable tragedies.

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

Life is hard, excruciatingly so for many people on earth. Hope keeps us going through trials and tribulations. Hope for more joy in life!

The creativity of the Christmas season is like a brilliant flash of light shining in winter darkness. Joy breaks through to touch our common humanity. It reminds us, perhaps, of why we labor.

We cannot avoid pain, however hard we try, as old Scrooge learned only too well in the wonderful classic A Christmas Carol. But we can avoid joy.

We cannot escape hardship and trouble, but we can miss out on much of life’s peace and laughter.

If you feel as if you could use more joy this holiday season, try the following:

Spend time daily creating something you truly enjoy—a special moment, an event, a gift.

Laugh heartily and frequently with family and friends, even strangers.

Cultivate within yourself an attitude of hope, and give free reign to where it takes your thoughts and ideas.

Enter a sacred space—a church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or chapel—and wrap yourself in the knowledge that you are not alone.

You’ll still have problems, but through it all, you’ll find hope and joy, even in the rubble.