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

“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.

How networking in the short term paid off in the long term with dream job!

Tony

It took much courage to undertake the professional transition that Tony Vetter successfully completed recently.

Tony had worked more than 10 years in the telecommunications sector, having served as Senior Product Manager (Ciena), Director of Technical Marketing (Roshnee Corporation) and in advisor and managerial roles at Nortel.

Tony came to see me because he felt it was time to leave high tech. He needed a career that better matched his core values and where he could contribute meaningfully to making the world a better place.

He had a lot of energy but no real clarity regarding careers that matched his ambition for “values-rich” work. And he was skeptical about replacing his considerable income earned in the hi-tech sector for fulfilling but less financially rewarding work in the nonprofit sector.

“I realized that if I wanted to follow my heart I would eventually have to leave my career in high tech,” said Tony. “I felt that if I continued in high tech I would only be contributing to a development process driven by the pursuit of profit and technological advancement for its own sake. I found myself questioning whether the rapidly evolving trends I was seeing in the development of our global communications infrastructure would actually lead to a net benefit for the global community.”

Tony was particularly interested in how he could use his proven high tech skills to foster sustainable development through Information & Communication Technologies (ICT). However, he needed to be convinced that there were real opportunities for his skill set in a values-rich workplace. We completed a JobJoy Report to identify and define all his Key Success Factors.

I guided him through a systematic and deliberate process designed to successfully transition him from high-tech into International Development within four years. This involved the full range of transition services: assessment, targeting and marketing. We spent several years positioning him for ideal opportunities: rewriting his resume; identifying and meeting with prospective employers; and completing his Master’s Degree in International Affairs from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) in April, 2008.

His career transition was jump-started by a desire to demonstrate to others his proficiency in new skills, techniques and knowledge related to international development. He organizes around a drive for proficiency and is motivated by acquiring and using that proficiency in an accurate and timely manner.

Tony is motivated to comprehensively understand a subject and searches for underlying principles, logic or philosophical background. He has a strong desire to master fundamental skills and techniques of craft. Tony is not an academic working only with ideas: he strives to implement ideas in practical, day-to-day ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I have always instinctively felt that following my heart would lead me to making my best possible contribution to the world,” says Tony. “George helped me to identify the kind of work I most valued through the telling of my life stories for which I felt a sense of consistent satisfaction or events I particularly enjoyed.”

I provided Tony with contacts in his field of interest which led to face-to-face dialogue with people who had already made transitions from purely technical environments to international development. He also prospected with CIDA, IDRC, Industry Canada and other agencies with international development mandates. We used an Approach Letter strategy to help secure meetings with key people. This gave him a vocabulary to speak to others about himself in an accurate and forthcoming way independent of the jargon spoken in the high-tech industry.

Through the Norman Patterson Institute, Tony was placed on a cooperative placing with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization located in more than 30 countries. IISD engages decision-makers in government, business, NGOs and other sectors in the development and implementation of policies that benefit the global economy, global environment and promote social well-being. The placement met Tony’s criteria of “values-rich” work and in July, 2007, Tony joined IISD on a permanent basis as Project Officer, Knowledge Communications. He has since moved on as an expert in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Sustainable Development.

About the same time, one of Tony’s colleagues crossed paths with the CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust, and she subsequently met with Tony again to discuss international development. There was no job opportunities at the time with DOT but Tony asked her to keep him in mind if things should change.

“The most powerful aspect of George’s coaching for me was his process for opening doors to potential new career opportunities by making contact and interviewing people doing the kind of work I was interested in,” Tony said. “Post transition, I have ended up working with or having contact with many of the people I interviewed as part of my career transition. George has helped me successfully establish a solid network of contacts for growing my new career direction.

He is charged with researching and analyzing the efficacy of ICT for development initiatives and governmental ICT policy in developing countries in context of how they contribute to achieving sustainable economic and social development while respecting the limitations of the environment. Using the findings of research and analysis, he formulates recommendations for policy coherence with sustainable development strategies, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Millennium Development Goals and other development frameworks and agendas.

Despite taking almost a 50% cut in pay in carrying out this transition, Tony has satisfied his need for values-rich work. Long term, he aspires to work on projects aimed at achieving sustainable development objectives using appropriate technologies in emerging markets, and to apply his ideas on development in practical, day-to-day ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

He will get the chance to do this very shortly. Remember the CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust he met several times during the past five years? The DOT has experienced rapid growth, and late last year they decided they needed to expand their core executive team.

“Apparently she had been bringing my name up every few months, particularly when things got busy. So they gave me a call and asked if I would apply. I did, and they quickly had me interview with each member of the executive team. I was offered a package within 24 hours of my final interview that literally left me speechless.“

Tony deserves a lot of credit for the risks he took to have work that was meaningful for him. Although we desire certainty and safety, a career transition requires some tolerance for risk. Tony invested in what matters most to him. He connected with others who shared his values and had the power to hire him. He established and maintained rapport with the CEO of a targeted organization even though no job was readily available.

In the meantime, he continued building credibility and experience in his chosen field. When that NGO grew and the CEO needed somebody, she offered the opportunity to Tony, a person she knew professionally as competent, capable,and qualifed (and the rest of her team agreed). Tony’s short term sacrifices resulted in a return to his previous salary level in a field that harmonizes with his values and priorities.

Today, Tony is the Senior Director, Global Operations at Digital Opportunity Trust (http://dotrust.org/), with 8 national programs in Africa, operations in 3 middle eastern counties, and expanding operations to focus on Southern and Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus region, as well as operating in the USA, Mexico, and China. He is looking forward to taking his job joy around the world!

~ with Harry Gallon

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

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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.

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.

How to Write Your Way into Your Right Work

do-kids-write-autobiography-themselves-120X120Do you think about changing jobs? The power to do so is right under your nose…well, behind your nose actually! Stored in your brain are memories about events and activities you truly enjoyed in life since childhood. Here are some tips for analyzing your life history for key success factors that reveal work that is personally and financially rewarding.

Do a quick inventory from your childhood years (ages 6-12), then your teen years (ages 13-19), then your young adult years (ages 20-29), then your thirties, then forties, and so on. In each period, there are specific examples. You can even create a shortlist of your top 10 most enjoyable events.

The power of your stories is in the facts, people, and events of your life. These stories are like veins of gold that run through your life. Mining gold, however, involves moving a lot of ore with tools and equipment to get at that precious metal.

Similarly, mining the veins of gold in your life is easier when you use the tool of writing. Write about what is important to you, not what you did to please others. Identify those activities that gave you an intrinsic sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

Above all, be brutally honest about what is you truly enjoyed, as opposed to what you are proud. You may be proud of a certain accomplishment but there is no real innate pleasure from the activity itself. For example, many people get high grades in school in order to please their parents, not because they truly love math, or history, or truly enjoy studying and doing homework.

It actually makes it easier to tell the story if you stick to a proven format, like the one I provide in my book JobJoy. You may want to analyze or evaluate your stories for an accurate and reliable picture of your motivational pattern. Or, you may want to turn the exercise over to a personal story analyst to really nail down the essence of who and what you are in terms of work when you are doing what you enjoy most and doing it well.

For example, your stories can be analyzed to identify and define your Key Success Factors. Please understand that the factors critical to success are very different than personality traits, or the results you get from Myers-Briggs and other personality assessments you may have done.

A personal story assessment can answer in very clear, concise and meaningful terms 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? How do these success factors combine to create an essential motivation; that is, the thing you are best at and best suited for in terms of work?

This accurate and reliable picture of your right work can be developed into an Ideal Job Description and matched to specific opportunities in the world of work.

Beating the Peter Principle

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If you watch the popular TV comedy The Office, you may find it hard to believe that Michael Scott–branch manager of paper company Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA–was ever competent at anything!  He appears to have no talent whatsoever for managing others.

He is the embodiment of the Peter Principle, first formulated in a 1969 book of the same name,  by Dr. Laurence Peter, who famously said: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”  Employees will be promoted so long as they work competently; until they reach a position where they are no longer competent; and, there they stay, stuck, unable to earn further promotions.  Hello, Michael Scott!

In the real world of work, individuals are usually promoted because they are competent, and they are competent because they have a particular flair, or talent, or strength for performing certain job duties.  Their work is valued enough by their employers that they are often rewarded with a promotion to supervisory positions.

The Peter Principle then becomes active when a managerial position requires a set of skills that do not come easily or naturally to the person who has been promoted into it.

For example, I have worked with a good number of engineers who excelled at troubleshooting technical problems, especially when they were left alone to work in their own way at their own speed to analyze a particular problem and design a solution, often building the solution with special tools & equipment.

They are masters of the physical world of structures, machinery, and processes.  Then they are promoted into a managerial position where they are required to collaborate with others on committees and make decisions through long discussions at meetings that must be submitted up the hierarchy for approvals, involving frequent delays, postponements, or rejections.

In the meantime, they must resolve disputes between employees who disagree on how to proceed; or,  plan years in advance for potential scenarios; or, compete with their colleagues for scarce organizational resources; or, fight about money and budgets—none of which they have a genuine interest in or a knack for dealing with.

Why do they put up with it?  Perhaps, for the sake of a better compensation package, or the admiration of their peers, or the expectations of power, prestige, and status for someone their age; or, because, they don’t know what else to do.

What is true for engineers promoted to managers, is also true for front-line social service workers promoted to policy positions; or customer service reps promoted to supervisors; or teachers promoted to principals, and so on.  Often, I will hear from such people a desperate confession.  “I feel like an Impostor at work, pretending that I know what I’m doing.  I keep wondering when they’ll find out.  In the meantime, I try to fake it ‘til I make it, but I just dread Monday morning. “

This is a short term coping strategy that may backfire in the long term.  If someone is not motivated by their core job duties, their performance will degrade, so that when the inevitable downturns of an economy occur, they may be laid off when their performance is compared to others who are suited to managerial duties and feel motivated by their work.  Or, their level of job dissatisfaction fosters dis-ease that leads to physical illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of stress-related disorders.

Sure, we can learn managerial skills by taking courses; but, just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean we will do it.  For example, we can learn how to do conflict resolution because our job requires it. But if are natural inclination is to avoid conflicting situations or highly charged emotional encounters in favour of working alone on a task in a concentrated manner, then we will develop coping mechanisms to avoid using our newly acquired conflict resolution skills unless forced to do so.  Motivation is the key to performance on the job, whether we are managers, supervisors, or subordinates.

You don’t have live like an Impostor, pretending you are something you are not.  You can get a clear picture of your natural talents and motivations and learn how to leverage them into your career plans in a way that will recognize and reward you for what you do naturally and effortlessly, rather than for what you have to do in a job misfit.

Here at JobJoy, we are in the business of mapping your motivational pattern and matching it with the work you are best suited to do so that you can excel in your right work.

Do our brains want to work or win lotteries?

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Do you work hard for your money?  If, yes, then you get more satisfaction from your cash than Paris Hilton!

I know it’s hard to believe but researchers who study the pleasure center of the brain say that lottery winners, trust-fund babies like Paris, and others who get their money without working for it, do not get as much satisfaction from their cash as those who earn it.

Other studies have shown that people who win the lottery are not happier a year after they win the lottery. And the number of winners who keep their jobs is growing (and so is the number of academics studying lottery winners).

Psychological and behavioral scientists have clearly shown that people get a great deal of satisfaction out of the work they do. The brains of those who work for their money are more stimulated.  Ray Crist is living proof!

I’ll never forget the radio story I heard a few years ago about Crist, a chemist who finally stopped working at age 104.  (The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t even collect data on workers older than 90!)

Why would you stop doing something you love? For the last two decades of his life, Crist went to work 5 days a week from 8am to 5pm in a research laboratory where he worked on experiments to use plants to remove toxic metals from water, a labor of love that resulted in 20+ published articles.  He didn’t do it for the money (in fact, he donated his salary).

“I’m just a working laboratory person. And I don’t exactly call it work because I’m just living,” said Crist.

His story and the studies both suggest that the brain is wired this way by nature.  Our brains did not evolve in order to sit on the couch and have things fall in our laps.

We are wired for work, that is to expend effort to pursue worthy goals. Crist did not save the world from toxic chemicals; few scientists see the full realization of their goals during their lifetimes.

What keeps them going, what gives them the drive and passion to get up every day and go to the lab is not money but the vision they have in mind.  They can see their destination.  It is a goal worthy of the deepest values and highest aspirations.

It is good to have an end to the journey but, as Crist’s life and work clearly demonstrates, it is the journey that matters most.

While money is necessary for the journey, it is not the purpose of the journey.

Ray Crist retired at age 104.  He died not long after retirement.  He was 105 years, 4 months and 15 days old.