Hiring for your past success or future potential—what does your next employer want?

All employers have a hiring agenda. They want individuals who can help them reach their corporate goals by overcoming the problems, challenges, pressures and issues that get in the way.

Future potential

Context or ‘culture’ is very important in hiring decisions. For example, the newspaper industry has collapsed and thrown thousands of journalists out of work as advertisers shift to online platforms…but many social media companies don’t hire newspaper journalists because they want people with a different mindset, or employees not conditioned by ‘old’ forms of publishing. These employers often start with young people who have basic technical skills and hire for future potential.

Such employers often profile their top 3-5 employees to identify their success factors, and then formulate interview questions to uncover those attributes because they are looking for certain traits, capabilities or values that match the culture of the company. This is especially true for the ‘disruptors’ that are creating new markets, such as Apple or Google, or companies eating into the market share of traditional sectors, the way Netflix is challenging broadasters or Amazon is replacing retailers.

Many of these ‘new’ economy employers focus on the role of their interviewers to ask questions that will uncover future potential to operate in emerging or creative industries requiring a higher level of cognitive tasks. They often use a rating system when interviewing candidates about their interests, values, and outside activities, more than their previous job experiences. They are often looking for signs of adaptability, flexibility and creativity because these jobs require individuals who can be trained to the shifting context they will be working in.

Past success

Most traditional employers use a behavioural-based methodology when interviewing candidates. This approach is based on the idea that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar circumstances, e.g. “tell me about a time when you had to….” These employers identify what competencies and behaviors are important in a job and then ask questions to see if the candidate has behaved in the desired way in the past.

This is especially true for roles that use metrics as measures of success–the kinds of problem, service, and incident management tasks that make up so many IT, customer service, social work, health, public administration jobs, including sales reps, tech troubleshooters, call center agents, case workers, nurses, border agents, or airline pilots. Often these tasks are routine, methodical, sometimes manual, and sometimes administrative. Employers of this type might give tests, call previous employers, and conduct behavioral-based interviews to get a clear picture of past behaviors beyond what candidates present on a resume. These employers focus on the role of the candidate in the interview.

What to do

When preparing the interviews, it is important to research the culture of a potential employer, to find out their approach to interviewing. Will they focus on past success or future potential?

It is also important for you as a candidate to communicate with clarity and confidence. This means you need to know the right questions to ask a potential employer in order to uncover their hiring agenda. You need to answer their questions with compelling stories that demonstrate specific ways that you can add value to their operations, whether they are looking for concrete examples from past experience or trying to uncover certain attributes.

Having the right strategy and tactics in place before an interview can help you win a job offer in a very competitive job market. Jobjoy provides a range of services to mine your story for the best material to present to potential employers.

If you are trying to make a career or job change, it is important to prepare for interviews accordingly.

How to quickly switch sectors or industries

By choice, chance or job loss, many individuals move from one sector to another (e.g. public sector to non-profit), or from one industry to another, (e.g. construction to accounting).  Here are 5 ways to make your switch easier and faster:

1. Identify your target sector and some key organizations that represent the largest or best employers in that sector…then start talking to people in that sector and/or companies.  Find out as much as you can about the main levers that push and pull that sector through our economy.  Why does it exist? What do the key players do in it?  What are the main business models that allow them to operate successfully?  What are the key trends and issues in that sector?  Ask for advice, tips and tricks on breaking into your targeted sector.

2. Align your accomplishments, strengths and preferences with what you learn about that sector.   Think strategically about how to leverage your skills into that sector—which skills are transferrable?  Don’t forget about soft skills — like leadership, communication, and teamwork.  Then ask yourself the following question:  What do I want in this sector AND why?  Transition is not easy so you need to be motivated and determined to make the change to another sector.

3.  Step back from your emotions and look at your situation objectively.  In my experience, this is where individuals need the most help because they don’t feel confident about their chances—they focus on their inadequacies and fear of rejection, instead of focusing on transition as a project, like any other project that can be completed given the right strategies and tactics.  For example,  given your age, education, and experience, what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to achieving this goal in a reasonable timeframe?   What time, money, and energy from you is required to make the shift? For example, are you missing any hard skills or credentials for that sector?  If so, plan to acquire them through further education and budget the necessary time, energy and money for re-training.  Remember, you’ve already got lots of experience so find economical ways of building on what you already know and do.  Start with a few quick steps—what can you do now in the next 2 weeks to move this project forward?

4. Use your ‘goodwill’ network.  Most of the people you already know will not work in the sector that you are targeting.  But your current contacts—the people who like, trust, and respect you—are likely to have surprising connections across industries and will be more than happy to help you in your job search.  Make it easy for them to do so:  “Here’s the sector I’m targeting, here’s some leading organizations in that sector that I’d like to work for, and here are some job titles in that sector that seem to best match my combination of previous work experience and training.  Now, do you know anyone I can talk to?” Use professional social networks online, like LinkedIn to identify mutual connections and ask for warm introductions to the people who matter. Do the same offline by looking for venues where these kind of fish swim, such as local chapters of professional associations, and attend some meetings with the goal of asking Qs like those listed above in #1.

5. Communicate to others in a clear, concise and coherent manner.  Ask questions first, listen to answers, then be prepared to discuss how your background lends itself to success in your chosen sector.  Highlight previous achievements that give a picture of you in action solving challenges or issues relevant to this sector, so that others can see how your knowledge and skills are transferable to the needs and priorities in their organization.  This is how you build rapport with people, how you get introductions to hiring managers, and how to generate invitations to interview and, eventually, job offers! 

It’s not about you selling yourself…it’s about you tapping into the needs and priorities of decision-makers in your targeted sectors.

Individuals change sectors or industries all the time, so there’s no reason that you can’t do so too. 

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

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

Imagine working for a great boss every time!

Today is National Boss Day. 3 out of 4 employees report that their boss is the most stressful part of their job! More employees would prefer a new boss over a pay rise when it comes to improving their satisfaction at work. Ouch!

If you have a great boss, show your appreciation. Good or bad, bosses are a fact of life, and have been since ancient economies established master-slave relationships—the Pyramids were not built with collective agreements!

While workplaces today are (perhaps?) a little more humane, most of us have to navigate the power dynamics that go with any employer-employee relationship.

Some individuals are very flexible and can adapt to the operating style any boss. The rest of us actually have a preference for being managed. In fact, certain management styles bring out the best in us.

Operating Style of your boss can lead to conflict

I’m not talking about personalities here—whether your boss is warm, cold, two-faced, compassionate, analytical, judgmental, whatever. I’m referring to their operating style and the way that you, as an employee, best relate to authority.

For example, some employees need a hands-off relationship with a boss who allows them to exercise independent control over their specific area of responsibility. If they end up with a boss with a ‘directorial’ style—one who wants them to operate and perform in the manner the boss identifies as correct, appropriate, or most effective—then conflict is inevitable.

Without a clear understanding of this dynamic, we can get ourselves into a lot of hot water with bosses. As a career expert for the past 20 years, I have seen employer-employee conflicts played out in all kinds of scenarios…many of which could’ve been avoided or minimized if the individual—whether they were a boss or subordinate—had clarity about their preferred management style.

How do you prefer to be managed?

Most of us have never been taught or shown how to interview a potential boss for their preferred operating style, or how to negotiate with a boss in order to help them manage us in a way that brings out the best in us.

For example, if you function most effectively under a manager who provides you with initial support and direction at the outset of a new assignment of responsibility, then leaves you pretty much alone to carry it out…you probably need to learn how to tactfully help them do so.

But, if you get stuck with a micro-manager, you’ll have to grin and bear it, wait them out (the average tenure of a middle level manager is 2.5 years), or find another job–because this is a clash of styles that cannot be resolved through negotiation.

Many clients have described to me “a great boss” who provides intermittent support and direction at key points in a task, assignment, or responsibility. For them, the right manager offers assistance in making critical decisions. These individuals work best when they can count on their boss to have their back when unforeseen difficulties arise.

Others actually work most effectively with a micro-manager, a boss who provides continuous support throughout—touching base frequently and offering direction and advice when needed. But, if they end of up with a boss with a leader style, who prefers to paint the big picture and inspire others to follow him/her (or their program, cause, or mission) and leave the details to others, then they might dismiss this manager as inept or ‘political.’

Collaborate means to co-labor

In some cases, I have met clients who remember a single ‘great boss’ experience, followed by a series of bad bosses. A deeper analysis of their motivating situations reveals that they function most effectively under a manager who treats them as an equal, who works with them as though you were involved in a joint effort. In order to thrive at work, these individuals need an open-minded manager who has a genuine interest in their ideas and suggestions, as well as one who offers suggestions and advice when they ask for it or need it. When they don’t get it, they blame the boss.

Some even quit their jobs and go solo, only to discover they hate working on their own and need the dynamic of a workplace to bring out the best in them but they don’t know what that is until we do a deep analysis of their enjoyable experiences at work and outside of work. Then we discover they thrive in situations where they collaborated with others towards a goal.

Collaborate comes from ‘co-labour,’ or working together, and this kind of dynamic between employer and employee does not occur often, although when it does occur, interestingly enough, it tends to be a female boss who prefers to interact with subordinates in a participatory rather than authoritative fashion, preferring not to rely on administrative policies but on keeping others involved and keeping the momentum going.

There are bad bosses and good bosses in the world of work. But each of us can learn to better manage our relationships with authority by understanding what operating style used by a boss brings out the best in us. Then we can help create that at work or, at the very least, look for a manager who prefers to work with our preferred style.

Five Critical Ingredients For Successful Job Change

Current social and economic trends are forcing an increasing number of workers into job changes.

Many professional jobs, for example, that involve tasks that can be routinized or automated–including IT as well as accounting, even law–are being outsourced to firms in Asia, especially India and China, but also Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. In North America, the number one workplace disability is depression and related mental/mood disorders, which forces many workers to voluntary seek a job change to protect their well-being.

Job change is the new workplace reality. Whether its voluntary or involuntary, most of us will have to learn to make effective job changes quickly in order to protect and promote our careers.

I’ve noticed in my own field of career management, I am increasingly learning new online technologies to increase my ability to provide high concept, high touch services to my clients. Providing personalized, customized reports on job matches for my clients is not something that can be easily routinized or automated.

Recent careers research, based on results employing 7725 participants and 62 career intervention studies (Brown, Ryan & Krane 2000), concluded that FIVE CRITICAL TREATMENT INGREDIENTS improve the effectiveness of career choice outcomes and decision-making.

1. Workbooks and written exercises. A JobJoy client usually writes out 8 stories about times in their life when they are doing what they enjoy most and do well, preferably stories about events/activities outside of work! This short 3 min video explains how, as does this short blog entry.

2. Individualized interpretations and feedback. Individualized feedback on test results, goals, future plans, etc. regardless of intervention format. I provide my clients with a personalized, customized JobJoy Report, a complete, accurate and reliable picture of their motivational pattern.

3. World of work information. My JobJoy Report matches a client’s motivational pattern to specific jobs in specific work settings. They are also given a strategy to move from where they are now into a better jobfit. I also use written materials that require clients to do their due diligence on job change, to write their goals, future plans, occupational analyses, etc.

4. Modeling. I insist that anyone can make a successful job change and earn more with better work-life balance. Yes, a job change is challenging…that is why I put a lot of emphasis on helping my clients conenct to other clients who have made successful job changes.

5. Attention to building support. This e-jobjoy newsletter is just one way that I provide ongoing support to clients but I try to help each client develop activities that will build support for their career choices or plans.

I use these five critical ingredients because they are proven tools and techniques for successful job change. Clients deserve not just any ol’ tool but proven effective tools. I take my responsibility, seriously, to facilitate proven methods that will match their strengths and motivations to specific jobs, in order to help them earn more and live a better story.

Too Creative For Tech?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stuck-in-a-rut_opt

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

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

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

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

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

How you learn naturally can lead to working effortlessly

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.

“When are people going to see me for what I am — an impostor?”

I’ve heard this question many times from clients. It might be a guy who became a teacher because he didn’t know what else to do but, truthfully, he doesn’t like working with kids every day. Instead, he sees all the flaws in the system and is inclined to be a catalyst for change, making suggestions, getting others involved in projects to improve things.

But, he doesn’t dare presume to do so because he doesn’t have the qualifications or credentials to speak or act according to his natural inclinations. “Why would anyone listen to me?”

Or, it might be a woman who rose from Receptionist to VP. She has a gift for
managing others, for harnessing their strengths, talents, preferences, and
motivations of others. She is adept at determining what sort of work people
are suited for, what will encourage them, and how their talents may be used to
further corporate goals and objectives.

But everyday she goes to work thinking, “I’m not a REAL manager because I lack
an MBA or other degree, formal training, piece of paper, recognition that tells
me and others what I am, and when people find out that I have no credentials
other than what I’ve done, I will be cast out!”

In both cases, our social self is talking. Think about this for a minute. We
are swallowed up by the world and its systems and values. Society hands us
templates for acceptance. This is the development of the social self—that part
of us that wants desperately to “fit in” to society.

We are, after all, social beings who want to be liked and loved by others. We
spend our lives trying to become someone that people will like or look up to.
In doing so, we sometimes harbor feelings of inadequacy–we’re not competent
enough, sooner or later we’ll be exposed for what we are—a fraud!

This impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals are
unable to own up to their strengths, or their accomplishments. It causes them
to feel like a fake, with a public face of competence that everyone sees, but
another private face of anxiety, worry, or fear. Instead of feeling like an
integrated whole, they feel fragmented, compartmentalized, or conflicted about
who they are and what they do.

Why?

Because we want to be recognized and rewarded for our authentic self. This is
our natural desire as human beings.

The word authentic is related to the notion of truthfulness—it’s about being
genuine, honest, faithful, reliable, the real thing. In philosophical terms,
it’s about living a life that is purposeful, meaningful, significant, in which
your being is aligned with your doing.

We want to experience congruence between who we are and what we do. We feel
like impostors when are feelings are grounded in what we ‘can do’ or ‘have to,’
instead of our natural strengths.

Being authentic for some, like the teacher mentioned above, is to acknowledge
that teaching is not what he really wanted in the first place. He might not
know what he wants specifically, but he knows generally that he wants more of a
fit between who he is and what he does for a living.

By focusing on those times in his life when he’s doing what he enjoys most and
doing it well, and having those stories analyzed by a story expert like myself,
he can get an accurate and reliable picture of his right work and have it
matched to the kinds of work that will recognize, reward and motivate him for
what he does naturally and effortlessly.

Each day his ideas, assumptions, beliefs about reality are being shaped by a
job experience that forces him to do something he does not want to do. He
needs to see how his strengths match up to better jobfits, ones that are
financially viable and attainable without further education. When he does, he
will have a vocabulary to communicate to others with clarity and confidence how
he can add value to an organization as a catalyst.

For the receptionist turned VP, an analysis of her stories will create a
picture of her full motivational pattern. She will see how she cannot do what
she was born to do in terms of taking overall responsibility for accomplishing
a goal or getting something done through actively directing or managing the
efforts of others.

In the past, she may have been criticized by a parent or another significant
person in life; perhaps, her natural strength was not appreciated or approved
by them; or, perhaps the expression of her natural talents was not appropriate
in certain social situations and caused problems.

Our strengths have a flip side; in some situations they are actually a weakness
or detriment to our goals, e.g. treating your siblings, friends, spouse or
children as employees who must operate or perform in the manner that you have
identified as most effective, might produce results at work but creates
friction on the home front.

By getting an accurate picture of her motivational pattern, she can leverage
her strengths in a more conscious and direct manner into her job and delegate
her non-strengths to others that complement her strengths, thereby increasing
her managerial effectiveness, instead of letting her feelings of inadequacy
drive her performance.

Do you feel like an impostor? Relax. You can integrate your being with your
doing.

The understanding you need to do so is closer than you might think, right under
your nose, in the facts, people and events of your personal story.

There is no need to suffer stress, worry, anxiety or fear about your work
identity. You are not a fraud!

The truth of who and what you are in terms of work will launch you to a new
level of success, one that will support and energize you to work with more
clarity and power.

You can be who you are and do what comes naturally for a living!

You Can’t Cheat Life!

“I really HATE my job!” This is a phrase I hear almost every day as a career consultant who works with individuals in career transition. For example, when Elizabeth came to see me, she was 52 years old and had been working since her teens, and almost 30 years as a public servant sitting in front of a computer all day as an information analyst.

Her job required her to process about 90 email messages a day, plus 120 pages of info from the Internet, plus another 20 “alert” messages from subscriber-based services. She estimated only 10 of these 200+ messages were truly relevant to her job. She felt “stuck’ in her cubicle reading all day. She wasn’t the only one suffering from information overload. Of the 10 analysts employed in her section, 5 were on long-term stress leave.

Elizabeth herself appeared very fit and healthy. But she felt trapped in her job. She wanted help but felt severely constrained by her life circumstances. When she told me in no uncertain terms: “I hate my job!” I asked her what she did with all that negative energy? Was there an effigy of her boss that she could punch and kick during her lunch hours in order to discharge her frustration? No.

There are only two ways to process that kind of negative energy. One is to explode, such as the worst cases of “going postal” when a worker shoots his co-workers or boss. The other way is more common: we implode and the negative energy manifests in stress and dis-ease.

Although Elizabeth had a strong desire to do something, she felt unable to do anything because (1) she was only 3 years away from taking early retirement, and (2) she had two teenage children who aspired to a university education and needed her financial assistance. She felt compelled to continue down the same path. I have a lot of compassion for individuals who feel trapped in this kind of employment situation: damned if they do leave their job (and risk financial insecurity) and damned if they don’t leave (and risk their health). It is sometimes called the dilemma of ‘golden handcuffs.’

Every 6 or 12 months, I’d contact Elizabeth for an update, asking her how she was coping. After two years, I got an email from her sister saying Elizabeth could not reply because doctors had found a tumor in her brain the size of a lemon. Three months later (and 2 years after we met) I cut her obituary from the newspaper and closed her file. She made it to age 54. Like many people in her situation, she never collected that precious pension.

Her story inspires me to keep doing what I do. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the number one cause of disability in North America. It costs employers more money in lost productivity than any other illness. And the costs to society, in general, are huge. We all know someone who is defeated by their job, perhaps a family member who is crushed by their job; or, a friend who is underemployed and humiliated by the mundane, boring, and repetitive tasks of their work; or, a colleague who has been rendered impotent by the hierarchical structures of the institution he or she works in.

I work with scores of people every year struggling with burnout, depression, confusion, and cynicism. In almost all cases involving lengthy career pain, there is a serious degradation in the energy levels, health condition, peace of mind, self-confidence, courage, self-respect, happiness, freedom, and other aspects of their personal well-being. That negative energy has to go somewhere, and the sad truth is, it often turns against our bodies in the form of serious lifestyle illnesses. I am not suggesting that Elizabeth’s career pain caused her cancer but I know darn well that it contributed! You can’t cheat life!

However, some individuals have heard Elizabeth’s story and told me they would trade places with her in a heartbeat. They would relish the opportunity to sit in front of a computer every day reading emails in order to collect a public service salary and pension. For some reason, they believe they are impervious to the very pressures and stresses that undermined the well-being of Elizabeth and her colleagues.

Common sense defies their assumption. They too would experience stress, possibly burnout. However, the stress of struggling to pay bills, looking for jobs, coping with unemployment also takes a toll on health and well-being. The sad reality is that many individuals are managing career pain of one kind or another. If your work experience is full of pain, why not suffer in a cash-for-life public service job? This reasoning is rooted in a belief that work is suppose to hurt, that’s just the way it is. The temptation to cheat life is strong. Roll the dice, and hope you beat the odds and actually get a chance to collect your pension and enjoy a long, healthy retirement.

There is another way to approach your career. You don’t need to roll the dice and gamble away your life force. We can approach career choice systematically, with deliberate intentions to make the most of our talents and motivations. We can identify and define work settings that will recognize, reward and motivate us for what we do naturally and easily. We can identify specific job titles that best match our unique combination of talents, motivations, acquired skills, experiences, values and priorities. It’s a wonderful day when we can say in all honesty, “I know who I am and I’m glad I am me.” This takes courage in a world that is constantly trying to make us into something else.

Fear is a paper tiger

Most of the people I work with already have a job but they want to change careers. They often say to me, “I’d like to have job joy, but I have these fears.” What are they afraid of, exactly?

Usually, it’s the fear of negative consequences, i.e. if I quit my current job, even though I hate it, I will lose my regular paycheck, my comfortable lifestyle, and end up on the streets homeless and impoverished.

No one should quit a job until they have an accurate or reliable picture of specific jobs in specific work settings that suits them. That’s the first step in any career transition.

So, what exactly is there to be afraid of in putting together that picture?
You still have your job, so you’re not facing immanent poverty. You probably
aren’t afraid of succeeding, (although, the rare person might have some of
that). So, it must be that you are afraid of not succeeding.

Barry’s example

Let me illustrate with a hypothetical but typical example. Barry is a public
servant with a comfortable job, but keen to get out of this job and into
something more stimulating because “it’s way too bureaucratic, too boring, too
slow. One guy described it as a 30-year sentence. When I look at the big
picture, I don’t doubt him.”

Barry loves public speaking, and is a natural showman, using his physical
skills to impress people, e.g. he can hip-hop dance with backflips and other
gymnastic moves, and this from a 40-year-old man!

We craft a vision to get him started in public speaking, but he can’t take the
actions necessary to move forward with his plan. “When I think about the
speaking industry, I’m having trouble believing there’s an industry for it. ”
Clearly, there is a public speaking industry with professionals who make a
full-time living at it. That’s the reality, so it must be that Barry doesn’t
believe that he can make a living at it.

In order to overcome his fear of failure, Barry talks about how he wants to get
on the public speaking circuit, to do this or that with his life. And then he
says,

“But I am afraid of taking risks.”

“What’s the risk?” I ask.

“Losing my financial security.”

Fear and Ego

For folks who like talking about fear and risks, it’s hardly ever life and
death. They are not astronauts or surgeons or bounty hunters or demolition
experts where the word risk means something. They just don’t want to look like
a fool to themselves and others. This is called ego. They are making it about
themselves, not the creation they want to make.

Fear-based concepts are always tied up in ego, which is where we hold all kinds
of concepts about reality, most of which are not true, but are necessary to
maintaining our particular identity.

You can believe all kinds of things, but if they rob you of the motivation
necessary to take action that moves you towards what really matters to you,
then those beliefs are limitations to getting what you want out of life. In
reality, those limitations are usually paper tigers – things that seem as
threatening as a tiger, but are really harmless. As I already pointed out, when
you already have a job, there is no real risk in exploring other options.

If you act as if changing careers is a life or death issue, then you are not in
touch with reality. This is what happened to Barry: by assuming that public
speaking is so “risky” that he must guard against involvement, he limits his
choices, and cuts off his chances of realizing a new, exciting, and lucrative
career. By making it about his beliefs rather than what he wants to create, he
stops himself before he gets started. His future becomes a self-fulfilling
prophecy of failure.

What are the possibilities if you pursue what you want? There are two: you
accomplish the result you want; you don’t accomplish the result you want. Hard
to see what there is to be afraid of so far. The worst that can happen is that
you don’t make it.

Blowing over tigers

Everybody fails at something in life, that’s normal. In fact, psychologists
tell us that we fail more often than succeed. Our egos can take a hit and
survive. Conversely, we have all succeeded at things too. We can learn to
replicate success, to take effective actions to create a new career.

Fear is just another feeling, and a natural one that accompanies change of any
kind. So, if you are thinking about changing careers, then you will feel some
fear but your feelings, good, bad, or indifferent, are not the measurement of
how well you are doing at creating what matters to you.

Don’t focus on your feelings or beliefs, they might paralyze you. Recognize
the paper tiger that blocks your way forward. Just blow on it…and it topples.
Then you are free to move on and make choices.

What matters is not your beliefs or your feelings, but only whether or not your
next action moves you closer to your goal. If it does, you’re ready to take
another action; if it doesn’t then think about what you learned from it,
determine what might be a more effective action, then take it. This is how to
change careers successfully. This is how Barry, or anybody else, can move
towards what matters to them.