Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

What do you hope for in 2014?

Empirical studies indicate that most episodes of hope involve achievement-related goals, e.g. success in some academic, artistic, athletic, career, relationship, and so on. “Hope is the passion for the possible.”

When it is allied with our highest aspirations and deepest values, it can give us a general orientation to life that motivates us to take actions…and propel us towards our desires.

Hope is grounded in desire

In the quote above, Pope refers to the desire to be blessed. Do you know someone with the first name, Hope? Ask them why their parents gave them that name.

One friend told me she was born prematurely at 1.5 lbs in a place and time where there were no medical facilities to treat her. Her mother and father put her in an incubator—where she stayed for 4 months—and prayed, then hoped for the best. They were elderly parents and Hope turned out to be their only child—a true blessing in their lives! She felt truly loved by her parents, deeply cared for, and relishes the time she had with them. She feels blessed as their child.

Caring about our future

Hope belongs to a constellation of feelings and attitudes related to caring about our future. On the positive side it is related to optimism, confidence, courage, faith, gratitude, and contrasts with fear, pessimism, resignation, despair. Usually, it is felt less intensely than fear, more like a sentiment that has a positive moral value.

One function of hope is to give goals far away from us their due importance. For example, making a career change usually takes time. Hope rouses feelings necessary to influence our conduct, to motivate us to take actions towards future goals. It helps us to overcome everyday difficulties by looking beyond them to a better future.

Hope motivates us to plan

Having made several career transitions myself, and helped hundreds of individuals make significant career changes during the past 20 years, I have learned that hope—as a general orientation towards achieving future goals—increases the effectiveness of career change tools and techniques, such as visioning, goal setting, planning, implementing, adapting actions, prospecting opportunities.

In the quote above, Pope uses the word expatiates, which means to speak or write at length or in detail. I guide my clients through a process of speaking and writing to uncover their hopes and desires.

I strive to help my clients develop clarity about their strengths, particularly their talents and motivations, in order to foster realistic hope. Clarity feeds confidence and increases self-understanding, both necessary for taking effective actions to realize goals. But hope provides the framework for action.

Hope is the well spring of desire and we deserve to be in a state of desire!

After all, if we have no hope for a better future, why take any actions?

I will leave you with some words of hope from the wise…may they nurture and sustain and help you persevere through the difficult times of the year ahead.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. (Dale Carnegie)

Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles. (Samuel Smiles)

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” (Pope John XXIII)

3 Tips For Overcoming Job Loss

Job_Loss_Toolkit

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with several people who lost their jobs after 20+ years with the same employer. One person is angry and bitter and takes every opportunity to vent about the unfairness of it all; another turned to drinking through the day; another is fighting the desire to hunker down in their “cave” and nurse their wound.

Some of these coping mechanisms might even be necessary in the short term as temporary relief. After all, this kind of job loss is often experienced like the death of a loved one. It’s serious stuff. In a previous post, I gave some examples of job losses and what your thoughts might be about it.

But life moves on. Learning to adapt to changing circumstances in life is a necessary skill. Lots of advice has been written about how to cope with job loss, and how to move on. Based on my 20 years experience, here’s what I’ve learned that works for most people most of the time:

1. Take care of yourself. Grieve your loss. Too many people don’t take enough time to let go of this major experience in their life. Think of all the time and energy invested in a job for 20+ years. It takes much longer than most people realize…to dis-engage from their work.

You have every right to be upset, so accept your feelings—anger, hurt, rejection, panic, relief, whatever you feel, go easy on yourself. When you get up in the morning, take a pad of paper and write down everything you feel—for 10-20 minutes, all the things you wished you’d said (or hadn’t said) to your former manager. Do this for as many mornings as it takes to dump your feelings. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.

Then, if possible, take a vacation, get out of town, put some distance between you and the experience. It’s easier to process the emotions, the memories, when sitting on a beach, or in some other safe haven. Eat well, make time for regular exercise, practice stress relief exercises, stay positive.

If basic habits, such as eating or sleeping, are disturbed by the job loss, get professional help from a doctor, a psychologist, a counselor. Ask for the support you need. Don’t try to shoulder the stress of job loss and unemployment alone. Your natural reaction may be to withdraw, to resist asking for help out of pride, shame or embarrassment. Don’t isolate yourself and brood. You will only feel worse. Whatever it takes to accept the situation, get there. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.

2. Reaching out to others. Over the years, you’ve built up a goodwill network of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances in your personal and professional life—now is the time to draw on that goodwill! Share what you’re going through with the people you trust, not necessarily the people closest to you, such as your immediate family, who also may be hurting from your termination.

Join a job club or form one with former colleagues who may have been laid off at the same time. Commiserating, talking through your feelings, focusing on shared issues can be energizing and motivating. Personal and professional support will help keep you on track during your job search.

Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill and, like any skill, it can be learned and applied in the real world. It is a simple fact that most job openings are not posted as job vacancies but exist as job opportunities off the radar screen, and filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Basically, networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships, and getting yourself in the right place so that when opportunities arise…you are in the pipeline ready, willing and able to take on a task! Learn to network—if you persist, it will pay off!

3. Rethink your career goals, or rediscover what truly makes you happy. Not everybody needs to create a job search plan, or keep a regular routine, or list their positives. We all have talents and motivations that will kick in…but now is the time to leverage your natural strengths into understanding how they correlate with specific jobs in specific work settings. This is the central message of JobJoy, so visit our site to find resources that can launch you into a new career or help you build on your existing one.

If you know anyone who has suffered a recent job loss, please pass this post along to them…and remind them that you have an encouraging work, a listening ear, a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on whenever they need it!

“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 you learn naturally can lead to working effortlessly

learning

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

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

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

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

What is your innate pattern for learning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

StretchExercise1_opt

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.

Find my Dream Job? I don’t even know what it looks like!

blindspot

When it comes to career change, we often focus on the blind spots.

This is especially true if we have been recognized and rewarded for a particular skill, even though the skill might leave us cold
or indifferent when using it to earn our living.

In other words, we confuse the means with the ends, or in JobJoy terms, we confuse a ‘can do’ skill with a motivation. Let me
explain by illustrating a specific case.

Writing is a skill that is highly valued in our education system. In school, we all learn how to present ideas, information, narrative or descriptive images using the written word. Some learn better than others.

These good learners develop strong ‘can do’ skills as a writer and go on to
careers in education (e.g. professor) or the public service (e.g. policy
advisor) or the private sector (e.g. resume writer) that involve a lot of
writing as a core job duty.

Year after year they write reports, papers, letters, and other products. They
start to think of themselves as a writer because others relate to them that
way, and pay them to write in a job.

Sometimes, this identity that we create for ourselves as a writer actually
makes sense. For example, I have had many clients who write business or
academic papers very well. But what really turns them on is creative writing,
involving poetry, plays, or short stories.

Here’s how one client described the benefits of writing a play: “I fully
escaped into my writing. Writing made me feel emotions more vividly and
discover feelings long dormant. With play writing, I came alive. I felt like I
was some kind of vehicle through which material completely outside my awareness
traveled onto the page. I discovered that the more I let the characters loose
on the page, the more they led my writing. This kind of writing was a full-body
experience. I loved feeling so alive and physically sparked. I loved the energy
I got from the activity.”

However, after a cathartic release of emotion, she never went on to write more
plays, or other creative writing. It wasn’t the craft of writing—the innate
desire to effectively impress what you have to say onto the minds of
readers—that motivated her; instead, it was breaking through emotional
barriers, breaking through the existing limits of experience at that point in
her life.

Writing was the vehicle not the destination. She went on to an academic career
and had to confront the reality of publish or perish. She was not motivated to
write academic papers for a living, even though she had been doing it for years
in order to obtain a Master’s and PhD.

As she got older, doing what didn’t come naturally or easily became more
difficult. She needed to find a different career path. But how could she find
her dream job, when the only option she could think of involved writing?

Doing so meant she had to stop thinking of herself as a writer. She needed to
create a new identity for herself, one that harmonized with her natural talents
and motivations.

Getting clarity about what we do naturally and effortlessly is the first step
to a successful career change. Then it becomes possible to create a different
picture of yourself at work. Now you can see possibilities that are stimulating and financially viable!

A career assessment should give you an accurate and reliable picture of what that dream job looks like.

The next step is to find people in that new picture of work, and communicate to them with confidence your value proposition.

The key is to have others pay you for what comes naturally and effortlessly. That is job joy!

Loving Your Work More Fun Than Driving a Jaguar

red-jaguar-xke-1_opt

I met with a young man last week because he was worried about being left behind in the job stakes. He was thinking of switching programs from a BSc in Biology
to something “more practical” like nursing because his two young siblings were in a nursing program that guaranteed a job after graduation. He didn’t see much prospect of getting a job related to biology without further education, despite the fact that he is currently employed in an internship with one
of the country’s largest health sciences companies!

Is this quest for job security a simple capitulation to market forces that are
increasing their influence over us in terms of how we think and behave?
Choices have consequences, and each choice constructs a thread that we will
follow daily as we create a story for our life.

This young man views education as an economic goal. Like most of us, he is
simply following a formula that is considered practical and realistic: good
education = good job, good money, good things. This is the story he is
living: we exist in order to buy happiness.

And one of our deepest fears is that we won’t get our share of the pie. I
remember that feeling well from my early 20s! Is that a real fear, or one that
is manufactured by others to serve their interests?

This young man won’t attend convocation ceremonies for another year but perhaps
he should listen to advice given this year to engineering graduates at a local
university by Leonard Lee, the founder and former CEO of a highly successful
international company, Lee Valley Tools.

“If you go where your passion leads you, you will probably do very well,” he
said, “although it is entirely possible that by doing that, you’ll never be
able to afford that Jaguar. But believe me, loving your work is more fun than
than driving a Jaguar.”

And he ought to know. Lee followed the same formula of grades=money; and, like
most people of the middle class, he had a pleasant job that provided a modest
sense of accomplishment, while still giving him time and energy for personal
interests. Most people would consider this a successful life, and simply
settle in for the long haul as a comfortable consumer and citizen of an
affluent society.

But if we scratch the surface of comfort, we may find the frustration and
dissatisfaction that drives people like Leonard Lee to change their lives.
That formula of grades=money teaches young people that we can buy happiness in
the face of convincing evidence that we cannot, e.g. drug addiction,
alcoholism, teenage suicide, divorce, loneliness, and other despairs are modern
plagues of the prosperous more than the poor. We don’t believe it, at least
not until we’re older and the accumulation of this evidence weighs heavily in
the scales of our personal experiences.

The stakes are bigger than just the quality of our individual lives. That
formula grades=money enhances runaway consumption and depletion of earth, air,
and water of our planet. We all pay a price for conspicuous consumption as the
benchmark of success! Driving a Jaguar is a sign of success.

Leonard Lee was a senior public servant when he quit his job at age 40 to
pursue his love of woodworking. He placed an ad in Harrowsmith magazine
offering the first 1000-item catalog for $1. Today, the same core business
earns $100M a year!

Lee is now in his 70s, and has learned what many individuals learn later in
life: having work that energizes you is better than having things. Joy is the
source of vitality and a life rich with purpose and meaning. Making money is a
by-product not the purpose of work. He’s had the Jaguar and he’s had the Joy;
he says he’ll take the joy any day of the week.

Of course, the old formula grades=money is still true for certain careers, such
as law, medicine, and engineering, where good grades are necessary for
acceptance into professional schools. And, all sorts of professional
credentials are increasingly used to establish criteria for certain job
postings in government and other large institutions.

But the world of work is changing rapidly due to social and economic pressures,
especially in knowledge sectors, where independent study, community service,
adventures and experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, are shaping the
formation of new kinds of workers and workplaces. (see The Future of Work). Common sense and the human nature of business people prevails in this space, where most hiring and promoting is done the old-fashioned way, using performance and private judgment as the preferred measures.

Finding our place in the world is a function of the story we live. One script
is being written by our market-driven culture, telling us how to live according
to what we buy. It takes courage at any age to view this story critically.

Leonard Lee has handed over leadership of Lee Valley Tools to his son. But he
didn’t retire like his former public servant colleagues. Why retire from
something you love doing? Today he is developing a line of surgical tools for the health care sector.

Years ago, he realized there was a dissonance between his public and personal
stories, his social self and his authentic self. He took a risk to bring
together what had been pulled apart for the sake of career. What he got was a
better story, a better life! That is the message he wants to pass on to all
young people.

Lesson from Las Vegas

las-vegas-mob-experience

I just got back from Sin City, the one that never sleeps, where all vices are on display and easily procured!

Las Vegas is an oasis in the desert built years ago by the Mob. That’s quite a story in itself (with its own museum and a whole show at one of the casinos on The Strip).

If you’ve been to Vegas, then you know that every major casino/hotel/resort is constructed around some kind of myth or story. The Mirage takes you into the jungle; the Excalibur into medieval England; the Luxor into ancient Egypt; Caesar’s Place into ancient Rome; the Venetian into romantic Italy; Planet Hollywood…well, that’s obvious.

Walking the Strip reminded me how much we are immersed in story 24/7 wherever we are whether we know it or not. Story is the universal glue that holds civilizations together.

I managed to see a show and pull a few slots, but I was there primarily to make several presentations to other career professionals at the annual conference of the Career Management Alliance.

I was delighted to participate in the Storytelling track at the conference. During the opening panel of this track, we were asked : Why does storytelling deserve this much attention for the careers of our clients?

I thought I’d share with you some of the more compelling answers because just one piece of information can sometimes help to solve the puzzle we call life!

Our personal story is a bit like traveling our road to work each day—we stop noticing the details. We are so enmeshed in our life pattern, that we don’t realize that we construct a thread to our life story with each passing day. We are narrative in action. Our story is our identity and our destiny. I focused on the importance of story in assessment : determining where to work and what to do.

All the panelists focused on the importance of living and telling our stories with more clarity and consciousness. Story can lead us out of dark places and into living with greater freedom and fullness of life in our careers.

Are you living the story you want to tell? What are the stories you are telling yourself about yourself? Are you separating facts from feelings? Are you naming your weaknesses and fears? Are you focusing on your strengths?

Telling your story in a compelling manner is not optional in this age of communications crowded with so many stories competing for attention in the job marketplace!

We discussed the importance of crafting and communicating your story in resumes and interviews. A great career story will be a resume differentiator. Storytelling in resumes doesn’t mean you are writing a novel. As a storyteller, we need to think strategically about what to include and what to exclude; we must select stories relevant to the position.

When telling compelling stories at interviews, you will transition from candidate to individual in the eyes of the interviewer. Do you know that old saying, “the devil’s in the details?” The reverse is true in interviews—sharing “the right details” can tip the scales of a hiring decision in your favor.

In both resumes and interviews, it is important to isolate strengths and accomplishments that fit with requirements.

In an interview with one or more interviewers, engage the audience! Don’t forget that storytelling involves an audience. Listen to them. Get them talking about their needs and preferences.

But don’t try to influence the judges. Tell what can be seen with the five senses, or better yet, a camera. Give them a picture of you in action doing things that demonstrate your capacity to perform in the job.

The tools for telling stories for career development and job search might change—e.g. building an online presence through Linked In, or YouTube, and so on—but the basic principles of effective storytelling remain the same. Know your audience. Frame your story for impact. Give examples with details. Leave them hungry for more.

You are a storyteller. You can learn to tell a better story. Keep the end goal in site. Your storytelling will improve with practice, rehearsal, and focus.

Telling a better story is the beginning of living a better story!

Dry Your Eyes

LongFace_opt

A client walked into my office recently saying that she needed a new career because her current one was making her sick; so sick, in fact, that she could not hold back the tears.

In this case, as in so many others, she got stuck in a toxic work environment with an abusive boss and/or co-workers.

Often a bad situation is made worse by a number of stressful factors, such as unreasonable workloads; or the prospect of an impending layoff due to a change in the economy; or the expectation that they be available 24/7; or a change of job conditions from flex-time at home to face-time in the office; or the fear of being squeezed out of competitive due to lack of educational credentials; or the unspoken pressure from family to maintain a high income at any price.

Whatever the circumstances, my client feels an overwhelming need to get out of her current job. Her short term goal is to avoid the pain. The long term goal is to find a better jobfit…if she only knew what it was! In the meantime, her priority is to maintain or improve her compensation package.

So, in fact, there are two contradictory goals at work here: my client wants a new job that will giver her more vitality and joy, but she also wants to avoid financial insecurity.

In order to avoid a future that might be financially insecure, she can’t take action to move out of her current job field because she doesn’t know what else to do; therefore, to move now means she might end up financially insecure. Damned if she does take action, damned if she doesn’t–this is the essence of being stuck.

She is likely to remain stuck for as long as she seeks a long term solution to a short term problem. What do I mean by that?

A career transition is not the solution to a short term problem. A transition takes time. It is best undertook during a period of stability without overwhelming financial or psychological pressures. A transition is oriented around creating the kind of life you want; it is not oriented around problem solving.

In order to solve her current problem, my client is learning to separate her contradictory goals. Her toxic work environment is a short term problem requiring a short term solution.

As distasteful as it is for her, she realizes that her best chance of getting out of her toxic environment, while maintaining her current pay check, is to do the same thing for another org; or, cross the street, and purchase the services (that she is now selling) for large orgs. Or, she can repackage her skills and market them for a related but different job target.

Sure, her current job is something she no longer wants to do. But she is not stuck there forever (it just feels like that right now). Feelings come and go: sometimes we are in love, sometimes not.

Most of us get angry, fearful, joyful, anxious, happy, sad, and so on, at different times in different circumstances. Why should feelings govern our commitment to taking actions to achieve our goals?

Some days I don’t feel like writing, or seeing my clients, or cooking dinner but I do them anyways, not because I have to but because these actions help me create what really matters to me. Feelings are temporary.

My client has dried her tears and realizes that the first thing she needs to do is take care of herself by getting out of her toxic environment. She needs to get into another job for the SHORT term in order to build up the capacity to make a transition over the LONG term.

Making progress towards a long term goal is about building the life you want. My client now understands that her long term goal to have a career that fits her deepest values and top priorities is possible but takes time and energy, two things that are in short supply when she is in crisis.

First, get out of the crisis, then take the time to transition.

Like the song says, ‘Dry your eyes and take your song out, it’s a newborn afternoon.’

Dry Your Eyes, Neil Diamond & The Band
(From my all time favorite concert movie The Last Waltz)