Are you ready for the new world of work?

It’s easy to manage your career when the world of work is stable and follows a set of rules that both employers and employees agree upon. This was the ‘cradle-to-grave’ job security that formed an unwritten social contract for decades since WWII. It allowed our society to move forward with political stability and economic affluence.

Hey! rub-a-dub-dub, three fools in a tub,

And who do you think were there?

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,

And all of them gone to the fair.

This nursery rhyme captures the spirit of that social contract, the notion that a rising tide of GDP floated all boats and carried everyone along on a light-hearted trip to a future of fun.

That social contract has been torn to shreds in North America by changing social and economic conditions, such as the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector and the millions of high-paying unionized jobs that went with it; the outsourcing of other jobs to Asia; the shift to lower-paying service jobs; the pervasive 24/7 reach of cellphones and other technologies that make it harder to establish boundaries between work and home; and other social trends and issues.

Did you know that the top 10 in-demand occupations of 2015 had not been invented in 2000? Or, that more information will be created next year than was created in the last 5,000 years. Or, that the average person will make 7 to 14 occupational changes by age 38?

Yes, it is much more difficult to manage your career in this millennium than the last. Did you wake up this morning dreaming of a future as a:

• Gamification Specialist
• Social networking affiliate manager
• Nano-mechanic
• Old age wellness manager
• Memory augmentation surgeon
• Weather modification police
• Waste data handler
• Personal brander/communications advisor
• Parallel programmer?

Probably not. If you thought about the changing world of work at all, you probably asked yourself: “Where do I fit in this world? What is available to me? How do I achieve a balance between my needs and all of the forces and influences around me?”

Big business, big government, and big unions have shown quite clearly since 2000 that they cannot provide guaranteed careers for a lifetime of work because they cannot control external variables, such as financial markets, climate change, technological revolutions, terrorism, and other influences on the economy.

These questions are best answered, I suggest, by shifting our career management strategy from an objective perspective, one that uses linear thinking–such as go to a good school, get good grades, get a good job, and climb a ladder of promotions and income—because that job-for-life will not be there.

Instead, we need to prepare our selves and our children to think about work in terms of fluidity and flexibility to meet the challenge of much change in a short period of time.

In order to meet these challenges in the external world, we may need to better master our internal world, to get a better understanding of our talents, beliefs, motivations, and values in order to shift efficiently and effectively with the twists and turns of a global economy and social upheaval. We need to know what hard skills we are suited to acquire and sell in the marketplace, and we need to know what soft skills we are suited to developing to sell those skills. In short, we need to think more subjectively.

Prepare yourself and your children to adapt to this rapidly changing world. Moving from an objective way of thinking about career to a subjective way of thinking is not easy but it starts with understanding your “life story” and how it relates to the kind of work we are best suited for as individuals and where that connects to the social world.

In the coming months, I will write more about how you can build and sustain the energy, enthusiasm and skills to be continuous adapting to this changing world of work, and especially how to find the fun in doing so!

Is job search a problem to be solved or part of your creative process? – Part 2

In my previous blog on this topic, I asked ‘Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want?” Whether you are pursuing a short term goal, like getting a new job in the next 90 days, or going after a longer term goal, such as changing your career completely—an important lesson to remember is this: you don’t get there all at once!

You build. You plan certain steps, and then you take certain actions. You start with something workable, and then you begin to develop it.

However, many people will simply react to their current circumstances. If they think their employer is downsizing, merging with another company, or going bankrupt, they will start looking for another job because losing a job is a problem to be solved. They do what they think they should do, i.e. go to job boards, look for postings, and apply online for their resume. They don’t usually think much about how the process works, why it functions they way it does, and so on.

Then, when they don’t get any callbacks for interviews, they start to panic and think something is wrong with them: “my resume is no good, I don’t have enough experience for that job, I’m getting too old, I don’t have enough education, I live in the wrong part of the country.” They start to blame themselves instead of understanding the dynamics of supply & demand at work in the job market and how job boards relate to those dynamics.

Problem solving is about reacting to circumstances.

Creating is about resolving the tension between where you want to be and where you are now. For example, if you want a new job, you can start by picking a job target. What is the job title that you are going to package/position yourself for? Is it the same one you have now, or slightly different, or very different? Where do you want to work? Do you have a list of 10-20 preferred employers? Getting clarity about where you want to be is a crucial step in creating your next job.

Next, make a list of where you’re at now. What personal strengths and professional assets do you have that will help you create your next opportunity. Do you have an up-to-date resume? Do you know how to use LinkedIn for job search? What about offline—do you know how to approach recruiters and agencies? Or prospect for opportunities through professional associations? Or network for referrals through your personal & professional contacts?

Are you introspective and like to plan, strategize and think? How can you leverage these strengths into your job search? Or, are you extroverted and like to meet with people and take actions? Do you know how to curb your impulsiveness and optimize your time & energy to get the biggest impact for your job search?

Creating your next job opportunity takes a little practice.

Start by using your strengths, your assets, and your preferences for how you like to do things. Taking actions that are based on your natural inclinations will build your confidence, something you need a lot of in a job search!

Not all of your actions will be efficient or effective but some will move you closer to your goal of a new job. You begin to get a clearer picture of what that job might look like. You begin to see where you are in current reality. Then, your mind begins to invent new ways to create that outcome.

This is the key to true job search, resolving the structural tension in favor of the desired outcome. Steadily and surely, you move from where you are now to a new job, building up your job search skills, and taking one action after another, learning as you go to take more effective actions until your goal is achieved!

Don’t get caught up or bummed out by a problem you can’t solve. Getting a new job is not a problem. It is part of a process with an outcome that you can create.

It’s a New Year: Are your career goals organized around solving problems or creating what you want? – part 1

You have a job now, right? And maybe you don’t like it. Or you’ve been thinking about a midlife career change but you don’t know what else you could do and still make money.

So, now your life is taken up with reacting to the circumstances of your situation. How can I work less and make more? I hate the office, how can I work 3 days at home, 2 days at the office? My colleagues annoy me, how can I transfer to another unit? I’m stressed out, how can I get leave with pay?

In short, these problems start to dominate your everyday life. You are trapped into reacting against the prevailing problems of your life–they suck up your time, energy, and money as you seek a way out.

Problem solving is one of the worst ways to try to build the life you want. Here is a simple truth: you can solve all of your problems and still not have what you want. For example, you get leave without pay only to find that the same position is not waiting for you when you return to work; instead, the new job is worse! Or, you transfer to another unit, only to find the work is boring or the workplace toxic. Or, you find no motivation for working by yourself at home, you can’t get the work done, and you get laid off.

When you are trapped into reacting against the prevailing problems of your life, you are led away from thinking in terms of desired outcomes. When you are in this problem orientation, you get ‘stuck’ in your career. You can’t create from that orientation.

Creating the career you want is certainly possible when you approach it as an orientation and a skill. A creative orientation is a process that involves proven steps that move you from where you are now to a state of being that doesn’t yet exist. If you were to create a painting, a sculpture, or a poem, you are creating a product that doesn’t yet exist. You can do the same thing with career change—you can create an outcome that doesn’t yet exist.

If your career is the subject matter of the creative process, then you need to have some idea of the outcome, what it might look like, feel like, knowing what you want. That might sound simple but it is where most people get stuck. Instead of working on what it is they want, they work on answering other questions: What will make me happy? How should I live my life? What is my purpose? What is meaningful to me? Important questions, to be sure, but the answers are not necessary for creating what you want in a career.

Most people get stuck in their career because they can’t “see” another option. They don’t think about what they want, but rather, what they think they should want from a limited menu of available items. The subtext is: find the proper response. For example, at this age, you should be in this kind of position earning this amount of money in your career. We are supposed to think there is a proper response. If your circumstances don’t match that “proper response” then your life becomes a problem, rather than what you truly want based on your natural inclinations. This is how problem-solving rather than creating becomes the organizing principle in your life.

This is an important part of the work I do as a job change expert—to create a ‘new’ picture, an accurate and reliable picture, of what that work or career might look like, based on a creative orientation, by focusing on your natural strengths, motivations, values and preferences.

Then, on the skill level, you create that new picture. Creating the career you want is not rocket science but it is a skill and like any skill needs to be learned and applied in an efficient and effective manner to get the outcome you want.

That will be the subject of my next post.

Avoid Burnout & Advance Career – Get in the zone!

Flow−the experience we have when we’re “in the zone”−has been studied for decades by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi. During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused…they lose themselves in the activity.

When your work utilizes your natural talents and motivations, when your daily grind is helping to create what really matters to you in life, then you are in your right work. There is a flow to it, an innate satisfaction abounds from it, and you derive genuine joy from what you do, a joy that is clearly evident to others.

Every job has a downside. We all have tasks we detest. Doing calculus homework in high school, for example, might be boring and hard if you have no knack for solving logical problems through numbers. You start but feel mentally exhausted, and you know you’re not getting the right answers.

But, you might also be an aspiring architect. Your math teacher clearly explains in detail how calculus can help you design more creative and ambitious structures. Your aspiration is personally important to you and the idea of creating interesting structures fascinates you. Suddenly, you see calculus in a new light. Instead of feeling exhausted by your homework, you now feel energized and motivated to learn to solve these problems. It’s the same work, but it now has a very different psychological effect on you.

Similarly, you might be in a helping profession, such as counselling, and have a strong desire to be self-employed in private practice working one-on-one with individual clients. But you can’t practice unless you have a funnel of clients who want your services. You don’t have a sales bone in your body. You once had a sales job and suffered burnout–it almost killed you.
But, now you gladly research sales and marketing tools techniques and implement them because your aspiration for self-employment is greater than you distaste for sales. You start to get clients and feel energized which, in turn, keeps you motivated to do the sales and marketing necessary to bring in clients.

Research shows that interest helps us perform our best without feeling fatigued. In one recent study, psychologists asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. Before they began, they were told them how exciting and enjoyable the task would be. Then they read a statement that framed the task as either personally valuable or of neutral value.

Those who read the first statement, and who also thought the task would be enjoyable, solved the most problems. Their engagement was more efficient because they were “in the zone” and not simply working on problems for a long period of time.

Psychology experiments often get participants to squeeze a spring-loaded exercise grip for as long as they can while performing another task to see if this increased performance makes people feel fatigued, or if high interest in a task maintains their mental resources. Much like the self-control needed to stay on task when we would rather do something more fun, resisting the urge to let go of your grip when it becomes uncomfortable also requires self-control. And that exertion of self-control is mentally fatiguing.

So, in a follow up study, psychologists found that people who thought the puzzle was highly enjoyable and highly important not only performed among the best, again, but they also squeezed the hand grip the longest. In other words, they solved the most problems, and it was not mentally exhausting for them. In contrast, those who were uninterested in the task generally performed worse, let go of the grip sooner, and were mentally fatigued by the effort.

Interest matters. It is crucial to keeping us motivated and effective without emptying our mental gas tank, and it can turn the mundane into something exciting.

Knowing the subject matter that most interests you, knowing your natural talents and motivations can help you harness “flow” to your advantage—to find your right work or advance your career.

From Doormat to Driver’s Seat—Career Change in the New Economy

Entering the world of work is like walking through a door.  Previously, we could follow a simple formula—go to school, get good grades, go to college or university, get good grades, which gets you a good job, then live a good life.  We all knew which door to walk through.  This was the “grand narrative” or post-WWII social contract that characterized the working lives of people lucky enough to be born and raised in the Western world.

Not anymore.  The new millennium ushered in a new social arrangement of work, a post-industrial order, fuelled by information technologies, global economics, cultural diversity, and postmodern ideas.

Uncertainty.  That’s the new buzzword for the workplace of 2014 and beyond.  How we respond to these profound changes is crucial to our physical, mental, and social well-being.  In the words of William Arthur Ward “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

We can be doormats and let these new social realities walk all over us (or hope, unrealistically, they never show up at our door).

Instead of being passive, we can be pro-active and cross the threshold of despair or denial by putting ourselves into the driver’s seat to navigate successfully through obstacles.

The cradle-to-grave job security of the Industrial Age still exists but, paradoxically, only in the most non-industrialized sector—the public service at all levels of government, and that security will be challenged by demands for harmonization with less stable private sector working conditions.

For an increasing number of individuals, then, this new reality of work in the Information Age involves job prospects that are far less definable, predictable, or stable…especially for young adults who are finding it increasingly difficult to break into good jobs.

Unfortunately, this is increasingly true for mid-lifers too!  Midlife is a normal developmental life stage that occurs usually between 35-55 years of age.  I’m seeing a growing number of layoffs in this age group.  Take the newspaper industry as one example.  The chances of finding a similar job in the same sector for a senior journalist, editor, manager is very difficult–almost impossible– as online news sources replace the traditional business model of print ads supporting news.  The same goes for many other sectors of the economy that are facing significant changes due to de-industrialization, organizational mergers, downsizing, economic restructuring, and other factors.

While the wider world of work is changing as we speak, what has not changed is the importance of work in the lives of individuals, as a means for survival, power, self-worth, social connection, or self-determination.  The meaning and purpose of work for many of us as will be severely challenged in the next decade. 

Since we can’t count on that simple formula or grand narrative anymore for guiding our career decisions, we need to focus on our individual narratives or stories to help us navigate through this grave new world of work.  For the past 20 years, I have helped young adults find a career job and helped mid-lifers make effective career changes. I do it by constructing a new story for my clients, one that empowers them to see the road ahead and make decisions that put them in charge of their career.  How I do so is explained in this short video and at this link.

Understanding who and what you are in terms of work—not a narrowly-defined job description but the kind of work you are suited for and needs doing in the world—is needed to survive and thrive in today ’s uncertain labor market. Current labor-market realities are changing.  For example, there is a big shift in North America from a manufacturing to a service economy, whether we like it or not.  Having clarity about your career identity—who and what you are in terms of a work-based value proposition—gives you more ability and flexibility to adapt to the changing labor market.  Your story holds the key to your adaptability, your prospects of making a successful change when the time comes…and it will come!

Career transitions are now and will continue to be more frequent and, perhaps, more difficult here in North America.   Are you ready?

From Doormat to Driver's Seat

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

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

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

What do you hope for in 2014?

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

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

Hope is grounded in desire

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

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

Caring about our future

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

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

Hope motivates us to plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job Change Advice: If you find yourself in a hole…stop digging!

It’s easy to dig ourselves into a hole that feels impossible to get out of. For example, it’s easy to fall into a job with no intention of staying there only to realize, years later, you’re stuck there…it’s draining you body and soul, but you need the money just to survive or maintain a lifestyle expected of you by family and friends.

Our tendency is to look for a compromise, to find a way to keep the money but find a way to make life better. The solution for many of my clients has been to do more of what they think they want to do– paint, write, sing, perhaps, or start a business–a reaction to their job dissatisfaction or problems.

Sometimes, these options make the situation worse! Starting something new takes energy, something that is in short supply when they get home from work. Sometimes, their marriage or partnership breaks down; or, they go into debt or bankruptcy; or, they try to figure it all out on their own but they lack clarity, confidence, and resources. They slip into depression. In short, they reach a desperate place. They see no way out of their hole…trapped!

It might feel like a death trap but it is not a life-and-death situation. They are not homeless or hungry. There are personal and professional supports available—this becomes the time to draw on them. One of the most important resources to draw on is the creative spirit than resides in each of us. We may not be musical, or artistic in any manner, but we all have the power to create our future. Creating is a process and anybody can do it.

Changing your focus is the key to a midlife career change

The biggest obstacle to creating a new career or business or future is our inclination to compromise. We focus on the wrong things, on what we think we can do for money, instead of what we want to do. In my experience as a job change expert for the past 20 years, what I see is a lack of vision based on one’s deepest values and highest aspirations.

In the creative process, it is important to love the creation before it exists—to love the dream home before it is built, to love the song before it is written, to love the child before it is born. The same principle is to get a vision for a career or job and love it before you find it our create it. An entrepreneur loves the business before it is built. A chef loves the dish before it is made. A filmmaker loves the film before it is produced.

In terms of work, too many of us have lost touch with what it is we love to create. How do we know? By comparison. When it is not there, you feel like you’re going through the motions, disengaged, uninvolved, disconnected—in short, you don’t really care, it’s just a paycheck. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a problem after many years, especially if it drains your energy, and plants you in a hole.

Love the result, not the process

One of the best ways to get out of a job hole, or career trap, is to push aside compromise thinking and focus on what it is you would love to create—the result. This does not mean you will love the process; you may even hate taking the necessary steps.

It is not a compromise to do the hard work, learn what you need to learn, develop the skills you may need but don’t have yet. Easy or difficult, fun or a pain, throughout the good, the bad, and the ugly, that experience of connection, involvement, of being true to yourself and true to your creation will permeate everything you are doing. Sounds a little like parenting, doesn’t it?

Love brings out the best in us for parenting and career change. One thing I know for sure is that your chances of making a successful career change will disappear quickly if you forget or lose touch with your desire to see the end result, no matter what circumstances you are in. Being a creator is about keeping your eye on the main prize.

“Oh, what a feeling…what a career change rush!”

Everyone’s heard a story about some successful businessperson who dumped a 20-year career to pursue something completely different and is happier for it.

The famous Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, for example, ditched a lucrative banking career and bourgeois life in Paris to paint full-time in the Polynesian islands.

Most people who want to make a midlife career change never take such drastic action because they fear change and don’t want to make sacrifices—at least that’s the common job change advice. I suggest this is incorrect.

I’m sure Gauguin feared change and didn’t want to make sacrifices but did so anyway. What motivated him to do so, and why do so many people who feel stuck in a career, unable to take action to get unstuck?

Like most people, Gauguin got an education that led to a particular career path. His vocation was fixed but some years later he decided he wasn’t a banker anymore. Like others, he probably said to himself, “If I don’t make a move now, I never will, and I’ll live to regret it.” But the truth is Gauguin didn’t know how to make a career change.

A successful transition requires effective actions

Gauguin’s first action was not to jump on a boat and sail to the South Pacific. He didn’t start with an “aha!” experience then go out and try to find it. No, he spent years painting.

He learned to paint, hung out with other artists, and explored the art world, learning not only his craft but the business of art. Transition is a process based on actions. As a job change expert, I know that the motivation underlaying those actions is the key to a successful transition.

Gauguin knew what he wanted to do—paint. But that’s not enough for change. Many people figure out what they want to do but nothing comes of it. Why?

Gauguin remolded his deepest values and highest aspirations. Instead of producing wealth, he decided it was more important for him to produce beauty, his deepest value. In order to produce beauty, he decided to paint full-time, his deepest aspiration.

Changing careers means redefining our working identity—who and what we are in terms of our right work, what we communicate about ourselves to others and, ultimately, how we live our working lives.

Who we are and what we do—our BEING and our DOING–are closely connected, the result of years of certain actions. And to change that connection, we must first resort to other actions that align with our deepest values and highest aspirations. This is the source of motivation for a midlife change.

As a painter, Gauguin didn’t make much money but loved his new life. The feeling—the intrinsic reward, the emotional value–that he gained from painting aligned with his deepest values and highest aspirations, a feeling he couldn’t get from banking.

A picture of a future that feels better

In other words, change occurs when we have a picture of a better alternative to our current identity, one that feels better. My clients who have made successful changes know this feeling well.

That is the purpose of my JobJoy Report — to give you a picture of a new working identity, one that aligns with your BEING. It will help you visualize a specific outcome, something different than the one you are now stuck in.

My JobJoy Report will start you moving in a new direction because you will be motivated to make a change, by DOING new things that feel better.

Once you experience those positive feelings, by taking different actions, you will make a successful career change and live a better story. Oh, what a feeling…what a rush!

How Click Moments lead to Successful Career Changes

New services and products are being created daily. They seem to come out of nowhere and rocket to almost instant popularity, like Pinterest. Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp met for a beer in 2009 and discovered they both loved collecting. Click.

Talking further they thought, “Why not develop a way to digitally display your collections?” Click. That interest grew into a shared passion to create a service that looked obvious — after it was created. Despite a lack of programming expertise, they managed to pull in others to create one of the web’s fastest growing social networks.

When you honour your passions and interests, things you really enjoy doing and do well, you are more likely to have click moments, enabling you to pivot more than once into new, more successful directions, no matter how unique or unusual your interest.

Looking back, haven’t there been unexpected time in your life where you met someone or heard an idea that positively changed the course of your life? Light bulb goes off…click! That is a click moment.

While we are so willing to accept randomness in falling in love, the unexpected way it happens, we resist believing that unexpected factors can help us define and develop a career. Planning has its place but many successful entrepreneurs have pointed out that the most important goal of a business plan is to show that a team is moving in some coordinated fashion toward a goal but the plan itself will be outdated within the month.

Same thing with careers. We plan but it is often serendipitous moments that send us down a particular path. On the one hand we want control over events that determine our careers, but on the other we are steered in certain directions when unexpected things happen.

In my JobJoy For Life home study program, I help my clients prepare and plan for such click moments. We create a Vision chart that structures creative tension between our current reality and what we really want for our careers and lives. Then we plan certain actions that will move us closer to our goal.

What is always amazing to me is how serendipity shows up between those planned actions. It’s almost like the universe has its own plans for each of us. It’s important is to recognize those click moments and nurture them into real opportunities. This makes life more of an adventure than a grind.

Consequently staying open to serendipitous events increases the chances you’ll meet the right people and learn the apt information, to stay relevant and, better yet, keep opening adventuresome chapters to the life you are truly meant to live with others. My JobJoy For Life program helps my clients turn click moments into successful career changes.

Like Silbermann and Sharp, who continued with their regular jobs, they took actions that moved them towards their vision for Pinterest, a vision now realized, a new career for each!

This is not magic. It is a process of creativity and available to anyone. We can all create what really matters to us and new opportunities to change jobs, earn more, and live a better story!

You May Not Be Crazy for Changing Jobs

When I first spoke to Maria Ford she was the marketing communications manager for a semi-conductor start-up company, and a confused and distressed woman.

She was working at “yet another high-tech start-up,” her third company in four years. “It’s turning out to be another bad experience,” Maria lamented. She’d just walked out of “a very stressful meeting,” returned to her desk, opened up the phone book and looked under career counselor listings. She found me.

Sitting in my office, Maria opined that she had no support system at work. Her job was “getting engineers to relate a good story,” the only person in the company with that responsibility. “It seems like the engineers and a communicator, like myself, are two disparate species,” she said. “I feel like I am the “crazy one” on a daily basis.”

Maria had been doing a comparable job for similar companies for five years and thought the problem must be her. No matter what company she joined, she always had the same experience. In Maria’s words, “It’s not unlike the movie Groundhog Day. I wake up every morning and it’s the same struggle, day after day.”

To make matters worse, many of her friends were envious of her success. For her, the rub lies in the fact that, “I am really good at my job. Everyone loves my work, I’m making great money, I have a nice house and I’m highly employable. I look successful,” she added.

“My friends think I’m the poster child for English majors. I’m being rewarded for the job I’m doing, so it must be the right work. However, if this is success, I’m going to die very young.”

My work with Maria was very simple. Sitting across from me was a very talented, creative young lady, an excellent writer with a Bachelors and Masters degree in English Literature, trapped in a job misfit.

I pointed Maria to her authentic self. She was not being true to herself, the writer. She was listening to her social self – parents, teachers, peers and society – authorities in general. Here was a woman working with engineers who could not recognize or reward her for her natural writing talent.

Engineers represent logic, left-brain thinking and rationality. They typically don’t appreciate creativity and right-brain thinking. A semi-conductor company is comprised of people who spend their days thinking about circuits, ones and zeros. Maria spends her spare time writing poetry.

If you talk to Maria now, she admits she had no vocabulary for what was wrong. “I now realize that they weren’t bad people. The job was merely a bad fit for me. I’m a creative person and a communicator and I was working for and with engineers who communicate with math.”

In order to be true to herself, she had to find a work setting where her talents were recognized, appreciated and valued. At the time, she didn’t have the self-awareness to understand that her creativity was unique, but once she was able to, she created a life that focused on it.

Within eight months of her first visit to my office, she started her own company in Ottawa called Kaszas Communications Inc.. She utilizes her special abilities to communicate the differences and values a business offers to its’ target audiences.

kaszas_sml

The ironic part of Maria’s story is that eighty percent of her client base is still high-tech start-ups. Now there’s a big difference. What allows her to enjoy working with those clients anew is that she is able to structure her business in such a way that her services focus on offering what she’s good at and what she loves. She is able to say “no” to elements of jobs that aren’t good for her.

Maria’s job situation wasn’t unique. It’s important to be true to yourself, even when you’re being rewarded for not being true to yourself. Otherwise, you will pay a price – an emotional price. Not being true to oneself is a slippery slope to self-destruction.