To People Who Want To trade in the career treadmill for traction towards a meaningful life! But Can’t Get Started…

Another year has started…do you feel as if you are still stuck on a treadmill?

On the one hand, our life goals are pretty simple: to survive, get a decent job with some stability and security, develop loving relationships–even raise a family–pursue some enjoyable activities, and do it all with a certain amount of comfort and dignity.

On the other hand, to achieve these simple goals, we must subject ourselves to a range of social controls, such as work, which requires us to behave in certain ways and respond predictably to a prescribed system of rewards and punishments. For example, if we adhere to a lifetime of work, save money, follow the rules, then we will be rewarded with a pension and security in our old age.

But, at the same time, we are constantly harangued by advertisers to spend our earnings on products that will produce the most profits for merchants, not to mention the whole system of legal and illegal pleasures run by gamblers, drug dealers, and sex trade entrepreneurs.

The good and bad of social controls

Some social critics insist that this treadmill of modern life molds us into “helpless” consumers who are socialized to respond predictably to what feels good and what feels bad so that others can exploit our preferences for their own ends.

And, let’s face it, most of us find it is easy to accept this system of social controls—after all, what kind of world would it be without them?

Furthermore, staying on the treadmill has some advantages, otherwise we’d jump off in a flash. There is genuine pleasure in the competitive struggle for “success”—winning is fun! Without any viable alternatives, most of us resort to striving even harder to pursue the “good life” with more ‘goods’ like a bigger house, new car, more toys, more power on the job, a more glamorous lifestyle and so on. Happiness is about feeling good, and acquiring the tokens of success makes us feel good. But studies clearly show that such happiness is fleeting, temporary, shallow at best…so we respond by striving for even more!

And yet, while this striving helps us avoid the question, “Is that all there is?”, the consequences for doing so are proving to be increasingly negative for both individuals and societyl. For example, the city of Ottawa, where I live, is the capital of a G-8 country, and has the highest rate of per capital income in the nation, but it has also been diagnosed as the “depression capital of Canada,” by the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health.

Disability claims for mental health by federal public servants spiked to an all-time high in the past 3 years (even though workers on the public payroll enjoy excellent wages and benefits and have little to worry about in terms of surviving). Depression and mental health issues are now the #1 workplace disability in North America costing our economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in social pathologies over the last generation, including more organized crime, family breakdowns, ecological degradation, a widening gap between the rich and the rest, and so on.

What is the remedy?

How do we, as individuals, get off the treadmill, cast off these social controls that inhibit our freedom, and find meaning and purpose in life? These are big questions…but studies show that trying to answer them does, in itself, seem to help solve the problem.

While a happy and meaningful life overlap in certain ways, they are also very different. Money is clearly a factor in happiness because it can reduce stress and worry about surviving and enhances our opportunities for “feeling good.” We can more easily “take” from life what we need. If anything, pure happiness seems to be linked to not helping others in need, according to recent research.

What separates human beings from other species is not “feeling good” but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans. Psychologists have discovered what many world religions have taught for centuries—humans derive meaning from giving a part of themselves away to others and making a sacrifice on behalf of their community. Any parent knows this because having children is associated with a meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but research shows that parents often exhibit low levels of happiness because having kids is worrisome and stressful!

Some studies indicate that another remedy to overcoming helplessness and meaningless-ness is to gain control over our consciousness or, more specifically, the content of our experience. Instead of submitting to the treadmill of social expectations and rewards, each of us can decide what is important to us and act accordingly. But, after decades of developing habits and desires that serve those social controls, it is not easy to (1) know what to do, or (2) actually do it.

You are not trapped in your job or career.

Having meaning and money are not mutually exclusive. You can learn how to combine the two, and you can take efficient and effective actions to do so. You can change your job or career. Research clearly shows that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction.

At JobJoy, we are committed to helping our clients connect their work to a clearly-defined purpose that harmonizes with what is meaningful for them, and still make money, as demonstrated in this free how-to webinar.

If you feel stuck on a treadmill, or suspect that your life is being controlled by external forces that don’t have your best interests at heart, then maybe this is the year that you determine to do something about it.

You can start, I suggest, by focusing (with our help if you like) on what really matters to you, by thinking about what you really want from life…then taking a few simple effective actions to move towards it. This gives you traction for a meaningful life.

How to Network into a Job during the Festive Season

An MBA client told me this past week that she has sent out 200 resumes since August and received no callbacks for interviews. Believe it or not…this is a normal result in this kind of job market!

If she had done the same thing 20, or 15, or even 10 years ago, she would’ve received a good number of calls from internal and external recruiters because the economy was still hot and expanding, and there was strong demand from employers for skilled labor. Not anymore, not now, unless you’re in one of the few hot job categories.

Instead, this MBA client, as well as most other individuals, need to move from a passive job search to a pro-active job search. Some 80 percent of jobs are now found through networking. I explain this pro-active job search in detail in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

The principles outlined in my webinar are especially effective during the holiday season. Why? Because this is the time of year when goodwill towards all men and women is real, doors are open, and people want to chat. The timing for meaningful contacts related to job search and career advancement couldn’t be better.

Hiring managers and decision-makers attend office parties, social events and community celebrations. They take their hiring needs with them wherever they go. Problems, challenges, impact issues, pressure points continue to get in the way of managers leading their organizations to successful goals and objectives. They are always scouting for new talent, for people who can make their lives easier, and help them succeed.

Remember, this is the season for giving. So give people will give you time and attention. Listen to their stories. Politely ask questions that probe their concerns. Find out where you can help.

If you can, offer to help. People will appreciate and remember your generous offers to assist and support. This is how you build rapport, deepen relationships, foster trust—and generate job offers!

Productive networking is about building relationships not performing transactions. Leave a positive impression, strengthen ties, share ideas, give people a reason to remember you. Face time is quality time. Stay focused, be alert and don’t overindulge in food or beverages. Conduct yourself professionally at all times. Dress conservatively (unless the job sector rewards non-conformity!).

The ROI is simple–just one meaningful dialogue can create measurable value from every networking event.

* Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission.
* Seek out meaningful conversations that leave a strongly positive impression.
* Be ready to pick up insider-only knowledge.
* Try connecting those you know to each other.

I spoke recently with a client who received a generous job offer from a contact he had worked with on a committee related to a local branch of their professional association. He gave generously of his time and energy over the past two years, and his efforts did not escape notice by this hiring manager.

These holiday encounters could be your big break to chat with current or former employees at your target companies; exchange business cards with an industry leader; or, arrange a future meeting with someone difficult to reach. Brief interactions can be springboards to great relationships if you find ways to provide support and thereby sustain the connection.

If you want to optimize your networking efficiency, be prepared:

– Have specific job targets in mind
– Be ready to make clear, compelling points to attract attention.
– Have a set of probing questions that uncover job opportunities.
– Think about what you can give in terms of time and energy
– Listen actively so you are apt to pick up on a need you can address and keep up your end of the discussion.

In addition, have a ready supply of business cards that have your contact information as well as a few bullet points on the reverse depicting your interests, areas of expertise, or other memorable data. Make your card easy to read, and make sure your phone number is large. Ask others for their cards, and make a few notes on the back to remind you why the card may be important.

Remember, it’s the quality not the quantity of relationships developed, pursued or renewed. It’s not just what you know and who you know, but who knows what you know that produces new opportunities in today’s job market.

Happy holidays, happy giving and happy networking!

“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!

The LinkedIn Advantage for Job Change

Some job experts say that more jobs are now filled online through LinkedIn (LI) than all the job boards combined.

LI is, without a doubt, a major player in online job search; it is here to stay; and it’s influence continues to grow. If LI were a country, it would be the 12the most populous country in the world! I recommend that most job searchers learn to use it. Why?

Hiring practices have changed a lot in the past 10 years because we have moved from an expansionary to a recessionary economy; instead of growing rapidly, the
economy is shrinking slowly.

In an expansionary economy, employers have to hire a lot of people quickly in
order to compete and prosper from selling their products and services. This
creates a “sellers market” with an advantage for job searchers because the
demand for skilled labor outstrips supply.

For example, during the hi-tech boom, employers were looking for skilled labor
in order to push their products out the door. Job searchers could throw their
resumes online using job boards, or post directly onto company websites, and
if they had skills, experience or training that matched employer needs, they
would get calls from recruiters or employers in a timely manner.

We are in a very different economy now. Organizations are not expanding, they
are cutting back, and no longer have the same need to hire lots of new
employees. Supply now exceeds demand. To throw your resume online and expect
the same response that you may have enjoyed during the hi-tech bubble is an
unrealistic expectation.

And yet, that is exactly what I am hearing these days from so many clients.
Their last job search experience occurred during the hi-tech bubble when it was
relatively easy to get a job through an online job search.

But now, we live with a recessionary economy, a “buyers market” for employers,
who no longer have an urgent need to go online to find employees. Instead,
they can afford to wait for candidates to come to them…by loading a resume
onto the company website, or through referrals, or through networking.
Employers can take the time to be picky and choosy. They no longer need job
boards or recruiters to the same extent in order to fill the gap between demand
and supply.

This is the reason, at least in part, for the success of LI. Many managers
themselves are going online to recruit candidates. They are bypassing
recruiters, even their own HR departments (which have been seriously downsized
as companies cutback overhead), and using the features of LI to troll for
candidates.

Therefore, it makes sense for job searchers to leverage themselves into the
hiring process through LI, which is designed to help managers find you and vice
versa. How?

Think strategically

You have to join LI in order to use it, but it’s free. Scroll to the bottom of
their page and select their Learning Center link, which will help you Get
Started and learn how to use LI efficiently and effectively.
You can also use a search engine and type in the Q: How to use LinkedIn for job
search? And get lots of free advice from videos, webinars, articles, books, and
more.

As the picture with this article shows, you have hundreds, thousands, of people
in your goodwill network who want to help. Your job is to make it easy for
them to do so. LI can help.

I specialize in helping clients with job change, with transitions from one
career space to another. So, before getting active on LI, I advise them to
think about how they want potential employers to view them.

Do not use LI like a job board. It’s not about posting your resume. It’s a
business networking tool and designed for that purpose.

“Should I quit my job?” is not the first Q to ask yourself when making a career
change. Instead, think strategically about what you want to do and where to do
it. Where and what are the two Qs that I help my clients answer in very
specific terms.

LI then can help translate those answers into real job opportunities in real
work settings by identifying communities of interest. LI will facilitate
connections in that career space. LI is about managing relationships in a way
that facilitates your professional goals to break into that space.

Have a clear picture of your next career space and how you fit into it. Know
your value proposition and stay on message or, in the parlance of social media,
stay on brand. Consistency is the key! It’s about packaging and positioning
yourself online according to your right work, to the kind of work you most want
to do, and that best suits you.

There is no need to rush into a public profile. Before you build it, plan it!
Think strategically.

Job Search: “It’s Not About Me!”

The fall hiring season is upon us, and I’m spending a good deal of time each day coaching clients on a few basic principles to increase their chances of getting hired sooner rather than later.

As a job searcher, it is essential to understand the nature of your relationship with a hiring manager, whether you are meeting him or her in a formal job interview or speaking to them informally in their office, at a conference, at a networking event, or any other venue.

1. The most important person in the hiring process

Unless you start your own business and hire yourself, you will always be dependent on someone else to hire you. That person is the most important person in the hiring process. We call that person a “hiring manager,” not because they spend all their time hiring—far from it!—but because they have the power to hire you. The person you report to in any organization is your hiring manager.

2. Hiring managers are human beings too

When you go looking for a job, you are preoccupied, naturally and rightfully, with your own needs and priorities– you want a solid ROI on all that education and experience you’ve already invested in your career. You want a job that is fun, or lucrative, or easy, or challenging, or close to home, or any combination thereof.

In the same way, a hiring manager is interested, first and foremost, in protecting and promoting their own career. And, s/he is not going to make a decision or take an action that might jeopardize their career. Remember, too, that in many cases, managers are not trained to hire (they are trained to manage plans, priorities, programs, projects, budgets, schedules, and so on), or they don’t enjoy hiring, or they are not very good at it. As human beings, they are looking for an easier way to do things, including hiring.

3. Hiring is a risk assessment exercise

Put yourself in their shoes: they don’t know you. It is human nature to fear what we don’t know. To increase your chances of getting hired, it is important to understand the hiring process from their pov. And, from their pov, the hiring process is a risk assessment exercise.

There is a lot of truth to the old cliche that ‘people hire who they know.’ Managers know that nobody is perfect; everyone has shortcomings, weaknesses, faults, biases, and prejudices–-things that pose a potential threat to the safety of his or her career. Everyone has a downside. It is easier to hire somebody you know because it is easier to assess their downside : “I know Bob, Janet and Ricardo, each has strengths and weaknesses, but when I look at their shortcomings, can I still manage them? Are they a threat to my career?”

Think about formal interviews, and how many questions are designed to uncover weaknesses and shortcomings: What is your greatest weakness? Describe a situation in which you were unsuccessful achieving a goal, and how did you respond? How would you rate your ability to resolve conflict on a scale of 1 to 10, from low to high, then give me an example?

Sure, managers want employees who are competent in terms of knowledge and skills but those employees aren’t much good to them unless they can manage them easily. Above all, a hiring decision for a manager is about feeling “safe” with them, safe in terms of protecting and promoting their own career as a manager.

4. “Why should I hire you?”

Every job search campaign is a response to this simple question. It’s one that may be simple to ask, but it’s difficult to answer, especially when you focus your answer on the “you” part of the question. Your first inclination is to start your sales pitch, to convince a manager that you are a good choice. You want to highlight your features and benefits, such as “I’m reliable, dependable and hard-working.”

But, the truth is, you will do better in any interview when your focus on this question is on the “why” not the “you.”

5. Tapping into pain points

I realize that this approach is counter-intuitive. In fact, I ask my clients to write down the phrase, “It’s not about me!”…to remind them of this fundamental principle, since our inclination is almost always to focus on our needs and priorities first; or, our lack of experience, education, or credentials; or, our accomplishments. These things may be relevant to a successful job search but they should not the primary element of your job search strategy.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider the priorities of a hiring manager again. Managers are not focused on you when they are thinking of hiring. They are thinking about their needs and priorities. Managers are responsible for achieving the goals and objectives of their organizations…that’s why they get paid big bucks, have fancy job titles, and get perks. However, it is not easy to attain those goals. If it was easy, they could do all the work themselves and wouldn’t need employees!

But the nature of reality is adversity : things get in the way of corporate goals and objectives, such as problems, challenges, issues and pressures. To a sales professional, these “things” are known as “pain points.”

In sales, it is important to understand the goals of your prospects and their pain points in order to determine how your product or service can make their pain go away and reach their goals. The only difference between sales and job search is that you are the product or service for pain relief!

This is the agenda behind every hiring decision, i.e. the manager is looking for help around specific pain points. Your job in a formal or informal interview is to uncover that agenda. Once you are in the door, it is important to get a hiring manager talking. Listen for clues to their pain points. Respond not with the features of your value proposition (i.e. your education, experience, personal traits) but with benefits (i.e. how you can help them with their pain points).

Obviously, we cannot cover here every possible scenario. I am outlining a strategic approach. The implementation of this strategy is up to you. That is why I strongly suggest that job searchers get professional help. There is a lot at stake in terms of your career. You want to optimize your time and energy.

Summary

Establish rapport with a manager by focusing on their needs and priorities. What is their agenda? What challenges, issues, problems, pressure points are driving this hiring decision? Flush out concerns. Find out what red flags the employer may have about hiring somebody they don’t know. Listen carefully for “sensitive” questions.

Many times informal interactions with a hiring manager can turn into formal interviews because a manager has a genuine need to hire. They warm up to you as the person asking the questions, and they want to make the most out of their time with you.

The truth is this : there are always jobs and managers are always hiring. Be prepared!

Loving Your Work More Fun Than Driving a Jaguar

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

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!

“Get Your Spiritual House in Order!”

I heard this fervent command not from the lips of a Sunday morning television evangelist but in a commercial on a prime-time radio show.

The ad features the CEO of a training company who uses short radio spots to promote to business owners his sales training programs on how to motivate and manage a sales force.

What does spirituality have to do with selling products and services in the marketplace? A lot, according to this sales trainer.

He suggests that sales people need to clean up on the inside in order to present a positive attitude on the outside. If they are holding onto any anger or resentment, then it is only a matter of time before they dump that negativity onto prospects and clients, thereby hurting the bottom line of the business owner.

We’ve all been knocked down in life because failure and defeat are part of life. Failure is inevitable. That’s why so many parents are keen to have their children participate in competitive activities, such as sports, chess, spelling bees – anything that can provide an experience of victory and defeat. The sooner they ride the roller-coaster of life’s ups and downs, the sooner they have a chance to adjust to reality.

As young children, we need our basic requirements handed to us because we cannot fend for ourselves. As we age, we are supposed to learn skills to help us do so. If we don’t learn those skills, or if we don’t apply what we learn, the world will often teach us in the manner of a harsh taskmaster. You can’t cheat life.

One of the most difficult transitions we make from childhood to life as teens and then as adults is to discover that our selfish needs are not the center of the universe. At some level, we need to learn compassion for and service to others.

The sales trainer mentioned above knows that even the best sales performers will face rejection more often than they will get a sale. One of the key factors of success for any salesperson is to persist in the face of rejection, to know that each ‘No’ brings them closer to a ‘Yes.”

Anybody can make a sale, given a proven product and a proven method for selling that product. What gets in the way of a sale is very often a person’s attitude towards failure and their ability to get up after being knocked down by rejection.

A rejection is often felt personally and can foster feelings of anger or resentment or fear. When that happens, it can show up in your attitude towards others. As the sales trainer knows, a negative attitude produces negative results.

Rejection is just a part of life. Successful people know how to process the negative experiences of life. I think it is important to recognize that most successful people have a spiritual dimension to their lives to help them process those experiences. They connect to it; they realize that their work is part of something bigger than them and their needs.

Too often we focus only on the financial aspects of work. When we do so, we let work undermine our hunger for spirituality. The world of work tends to make us dry and weak spiritually. By contrast, successful people often exhibit an air of enthusiasm about their work. They are their own best spokespersons for what they do. They inspire confidence in themselves and their work.

The roots of both words, enthusiasm and inspiration, are related to spirituality. The source of the word ‘enthusiasm’ is Greek , for “having the god within.” The word “inspiration” comes from Latin, which meant originally “to blow into”, to describe God giving Adam the breath of life.

Successful people have learned that their achievements are predicated to some extent on the good energy they bring into the world. They have poured their energy, love, talent, and creativityinto others through business, public service, teaching, coaching, volunteering, art, or some kind of investment in others.

And, by doing so, they have achieved success in the more important dimensions of life, such as their health, self-respect, happiness, courage, self-worth and relationships.

When your spiritual house is in order, it shows up in your work. It’s part of living a better story for your life.

George Dutch
www.jobjoy.com

Beating the Peter Principle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do our brains want to work or win lotteries?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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