Career Change Advice for Talented Women with predictable, boring, mundane jobs

Taba-610x170

Taba Cookey is an extremely talented woman who had immigrated to Canada from Nigeria to go to work in high level finance. She had earned her first degree in England and had got  a Masters degree in Canada some years later before returning to Nigeria to continue her banking career.

She said that while she was in Ottawa looking to move from her job in financial sector research, she thought she should “take advantage of the kind of career consulting (that I offer) that doesn’t exist in Nigeria,” and explore her options for career change.
I had Taba write “her story”–eight examples of experiences that had been very satisfying for her throughout her life. They didn’t have to be job related.

What came up again and again is that she thrives with new competitive challenges that force her to stretch herself beyond anything she had ever done before. She also needs those challenges defined with deadlines and guidelines for measuring success. For example, she was usually one of the best student in her schools and was the only student in her graduate school class to complete her master’s thesis in time to graduate on schedule.

When she moved from Nigeria to London at age 9, she quickly established herself as one of the star sprinters in her elementary school. Before long, having run out of female competition, talk in the playground was that she should take on the fastest boy runner in the school.

“Finally, a date and hour was set. It was close…but there was no doubt about the result: I won, and that was the end of John’s bragging about how fast he was,” Taba said.

At some point during this career audit, she accepted an offer as Standards and Insurance Manager for a Canadian government agency that was charged with protecting consumers’ deposits in event of the failure of federally regulated banks and trust companies. She didn’t understand why at the time, but found herself so bored and frustrated with her job.

We figured out that even though her position at the government regulatory agency might be the perfect job for someone else, it was “just pushing papers” for her. Many jobs, including the one she was in at the agency, organized to be predictable and mundane and often become simple and boring for talented people like Taba.

Using “her story,” we determined:

* The work environment she would thrive in.

* The type of work she would thrive in.

* The way she likes to be managed.

* The way she likes to be rewarded.

* What motivates her.

* And how she likes to approach tasks.

“My work with George made me realize this sort of work was thoroughly unsuited to me” says Taba.

She began to seriously consider returning to Nigeria and we talked about the need for African ex-patriates to return home and use their knowledge and expertise in developing Africa.  She decided to go back to Nigeria without any prospects for a job. I told her that she had lots of talents and people would recognize and reward her for that.

I think that one of the reasons ex-patriates don’t go back to their home countries after being educated abroad is because they’re worried they won’t get challenging jobs. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for Taba because she has talents that transfer across borders. It was just a question of packaging her talents to be recognized and rewarded in different cultural contexts.

So we had to put her talents into a resume to show what this person could do for an employer anywhere–a dramatic example of how her talents transfer across cultures and borders.

She sent me an email saying, “An amazing opportunity opened up in Ghana. I am a Program Manager with the African Finance Corporation (http://www.africafc.org), based in Accra, responsible for overseeing all IFC leasing development programs in Africa. IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank, promoting development through loans, equity and technical assistance to the private sector.”

A lot of businesses in Africa have difficulty in accessing traditional bank financing, and leasing provides an attractive alternative to such companies. The program aims to promote the role of leasing through training, public awareness, attracting new investment into the industry and working with the authorities in specific African countries to improve the legislative and regulatory environment for leasing.

This job is challenging for her because it is so varied and really stretches her capabilities. Also, she travels all over Africa and has to deal with different personalities in differing cultures. She needs to be in circumstances that stretch her, like beating the fastest boy in school.

“The other day I went through the life stories I had written and the analysis you had done four years ago now, and was amazed at the way it has all come together in my present job,” said Taba. “It is really quite uncanny. But then again perhaps not, since you had so accurately identified the kind of work and environment that would give me ‘jobjoy’ and I have finally found it. It is not surprising that I can now say without hesitation that I have never enjoyed work so much, and…yes, feel fortunate that I am actually getting paid for it. I come to work every day with a sense of anticipation, and hardly know where the time has gone at the end of the day. I actually have to tear myself away! This is such a change from so much of my previous life spent clock watching and day dreaming at work.”

When we get into a jobfit, other parts of our lives often fall into place.  After a few years in this job, Taba returned to Nigeria in 2008 .  “It is great to be back home, I think age is finally taming my itchy feet!”  She was recently married, and took a new position with the Nigerian Stock Exchange.  Congratulations, Taba, in  putting down roots!

–with Nick Isenberg

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Story, My Passion

i_hate_my_job

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.
Microsoft PowerPoint - REVISED LOGO GRAPHICS 13.02.09

I am a personal story analyst committed to you reclaim your authentic self and write a life story that brings out your best so that you can give that to others through your work, job, and career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using the flip side of life to find your right work

FlipSideBlog1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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