Brain Food for Job Change

Science has learned a lot about how the brain works during the past 50 years. For example, the physical brain, made up of brain matter, blood vessels, nerves, neurons, and so on, can be repaired, even rewired, and circuits regenerated. The brain is capable of creating new structures that can make it more effective—an awesome wonder indeed!

The mind is our intellectual ability to use our physical brain. Yet, often the mind holds back the brain because it gets stuck in certain patterns that it likes to repeat over and over, repeating so often that the pattern becomes a structure or habit we cannot break.

For example, you enter an elevator with Muzak playing one of those 70s songs from the Carpenters, like “I’m on the Top of the World” for a dozen bars, before you exit. The next thing you know that song is humming in your mind for the rest of the day. You didn’t choose to get hooked on that song; you just kind of fell into it with no conscious choice on your part.

Your mind was exposed to what in music is called “the hook.” A hook is a musical phrase that is structured in such a way, that as it begins to end, it throws itself back to the beginning, and begins all over again.

After hearing a dozen bars of “I’m on the Top of the World”, your mind is trying to resolve the unfinished bars, the ones you didn’t hear. That’s why you can’t get it out of your head, unless you consciously play the song, or sing the song, and finish it so that the tension is resolved, allowing your mind to move onto something else.

Similarly, our minds can get stuck with a belief, or attitude, or habit related to our work. If you hate your job, and want to quit or change careers, your mind will focus on that tension.

If a hook is constructed in your mind in the following manner: I hate my job but if I quit I will become poor, or lose my pension, or lose face with family and friends–then your mind will get stuck on that one track.

The hook is a fear of negative consequences. Your mind plays that tune over and over in your mind and all you can hear are the negative consequences that might result from quitting your job.

While your physical brain is ready, willing, and able to add new and better wiring, your mind wants to play the same old song: “I hate my job but I fear poverty.” This is the tape that plays over and over again in your mind.

The key is to give your mind different material to focus on. It’s the only way to break the endless loop. Most people don’t realize that their mind works as a simple tension-resolution system. It’s always looking for a tension to resolve.

That’s why we are susceptible to Muzak. Trapped in an elevator, most of us are exposed to the musical hook and we exit the elevator before our minds have time to resolve the tension.

If you give our mind junk food to work with, then the outcome will be junk: the “garbage in, garbage out” feedback loop.

The mind will work to resolve any tension that it considers. Be kind to your mind. Give it some stimulating tension to resolve. Whatever you focus on is what it will try to resolve.

Instead of focusing on negative consequences that might happen if you quit or lost your job, which plays like an endless loop in your mind—trust the fact, that your brain is wired to find a new and better structure for you.

Your brain is an awesome wonder. Give it good material to work with. Develop a vision of what you really want in terms of work. Then focus on that.

Think about your current reality; not the negative stuff that is holding you back but the stuff you already have that supports you attaining your vision, such as relevant experience, training, contacts, collateral, and so on.

In your mind, think of an elastic band and stretch it out. Now picture your current reality at one end of that elastic band, and the kind of work you want at the other end. Then let your mind do what it wants to do anyway, which is to resolve that tension.

This is the beginning of a successful career transition.

Of course, there are actions to take, strategies to employ, tactics to use, but now your mind is working with you instead of against you.

When Job Change is not like a Diet

I recently lost 16 lbs in the space of 6 weeks. We live in a sit down culture
and much of my work is performed in a chair in front of clients and computers.

The middle-age pot belly is an inevitable result for many modern workers.
Because I am not an exercise machine or gym membership or fad diet kind of guy,
I looked for over a year before I finally found a belly fat burning program I
could live with.

I was conscious of the fact that most weight loss programs result in failure,
with a majority of individuals putting the weight back on and then some within
12 months!

I believe this happens because most people approach weight loss as a problem to
be solved : `I want to lose weight but I don’t want to change my lifestyle
habits.’

I meet many individuals who approach their career issues with the same
problem-solving attitude : `I’ve got a job I hate but it pays my bills and
provides a good salary and benefits, so how do I replace my income and benefits
if I quit my job?’

I’ve lost weight and I’ve changed careers, so I can speak personally to both
problems. Like most people, I try to solve a problem in order to avoid negative
consequences. So, when I read recently how excessive belly fat contributes to a
wide range of health issues during middle age and beyond, I decided to lose
weight in order to avoid those problems.

Similarly, many people come to me for career advice on how to avoid the negative
consequences of a bad jobfit. Often, they feel drained by their job, and want
to avoid the inevitable burnout or depression (now the #1 workplace
disability). Or, they have read the economic tea leaves and anticipate a
forthcoming layoff. Or, new technology being introduced into their workplace is
going to change their job duties in a negative way. Or, they don’t like their
boss or the people they work with. Or, their life situation has changed and
they need to move on.

Naturally, negative job conditions foster bad feelings, even intense emotional
conflict . Just by taking the action to visit with me and talk about these
issues can reduce the emotional conflict they feel. In the same way, once
people see they can lose weight by taking some kind of effective action, it
reduces the emotional conflict they feel about their weight issues.

To start the process of losing weight, we can join a gym, or buy a food portion
meal replacement program, or start a diet. Similarly, we can change careers by
going back to school, reconnecting with our LinkedIn network, or writing a
business plan.

However, we are all human beings, and once we experience relief from bad
feelings, our motivation to change weakens and we feel less need to act.

It is very easy to backslide then into old eating habits. Or, it is easier to
go back to the same job or something similar thinking that something fundamental
has changed.

But it hasn’t. If we keep eating the way we have always eaten, we put the
weight back on. If we go back to a job misfit, it’s only a matter of time
before the same issues rear their ugly heads once again.

To keep the weight off, we need to make some real lifestyle changes. To really
change careers, we have to make some hard choices and trade-offs for a new
career.

When tougher choices are needed, when actions get harder to take, we think we
can make things happen by exerting self-control. We try to manipulate the
conflict to go away–with self-imposed incentives, rewards, punishments. If I
lose 5 lbs this week, I’ll go shopping for a new outfit. If I send out 3
resumes this week, I’ll buy a flat screen tv to force myself to send out another
3 next week because I’m going to need a new job to make the payments on my
credit card.

Studies clearly show that this strategy of conflict manipulation does not
deliver long term success. When are motivation is driven by solving intense
emotional conflict, the relief is always temporary.

Emotional conflict leads us to act. Because we’ve acted, we feel better–even
if the situation hasn’t changed very much. Feeling better takes the pressure
off, which in turn reduces the emotional pressure we feel. Less emotional
conflict means there is less motivation to continue doing the things that
reduced the conflict in the first place. Since we feel better, there is no
pressing need to follow through with more actions. And the original behavior
returns.

This is why as many as 95% of dieters have put the weight back on within 12
months. And, while 95% of workers think about changing careers at least once a
week, only 5% ever act on that thought.

The only way off this merry-go-round of problem solving and conflict
manipulation is to create a clear picture–a vision if you will–for the outcome
you truly desire.

What I say to my clients is : Instead of trying to fix your bad job situation
(a problem orientation), let’s shift your focus to creating job joy (an outcome
orientation).

Yes, it is important is to find a short term solution to a problem but
understand that nothing really changes…until it actually does. Lasting change
is the result of effective and efficient actions organized around what really
matters to you over the long term.

You can make the best short term choices in the world but if your motivation is
to fix a career problem you have now or might have in the near future, you’ll be
back to your old tricks within a few years.

No wonder so many people give up on losing weight or changing careers! They
don’t know why they can’t pull it off. They’re sincere about it. They know the
stakes are high. But each time they try, their short term success is scuttled
by circumstances beyond their control…or so it seems.

I’ve reached a plateau in my weight loss. To reach my ideal weight, I need to
make more changes in my eating and exercise habits. What motivates me to do so
is the picture I carry in my head of things I will do with my optimal health.
What really matters to me is being very healthy as I move through middle age.
Weight loss is just one part of that bigger vision.

Similarly, I carry around a written Vision statement of my career 20 years or so
down the road. What keeps me going today–taking what are often small, mundane,
routine actions–is focusing on what really, really matters to me further down
the career path.

That is why I wrote my new eBook, JobJoy : Finding Your Right Work Through the
Power of Your Personal Story. You already have everything you need to get out
of yhour career trap and into a better jobfit, one that combines vitality and
security for a better life.

It’s not rocket science. But it does take time, energy and money. However, the
Return on that Investment is priceless! Get started today!

dieting0130

A Job Change Lesson from the Grinch

This is the time of year when various versions of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ appear on television. He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch—that ol’ sourpuss who had his heart broken as a young man (he lost his girl to his rival, the mayor of Who-ville.)

Misery loves company, and the Grinch tries to ruin Christmas for all the citizens of Who-ville by stealing all their presents and sabotaging their holiday celebrations.

I love that scene where he stares down at Who-ville listening to the men, women and children singing Christmas carols. He realizes he didn’t stop Christmas because the spirit of Christmas is not contained in presents or feasts.

“And what happened then…?
Well…in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!”

He restores the presents and food to Who-ville, and is welcomed back into the heart of village life.

One suspects that the author, Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), had experienced his fair share of disappointment in life, in order to write such a compelling and convincing tale. In fact, we know that he tried to publish his first book, and was rejected by 27 publishers. Rejection is hard to take. Look what it did to the Grinch!

However, the initial rejection experienced by Dr. Seuss (and so many first time authors, I might add), is not the final word; unless, we let that rejection define our behavior, as was the case for the Grinch.

I have met many individuals of exceptional talent, each of whom had tremendous prospects for employment. They clearly identified a job target, and put together a plan of action that filled them with enthusiasm. But their initial efforts didn’t hit the mark. Instead, they experience rejection, and rejection is hard to take. If they let that rejection define their behavior, then their desire for a better jobfit, a better life, grows cold.

Obstacles to success should not be interpreted as stop signs. They are inevitable. Instead of pressing through them, I have seen many individuals give up and return to the same work that was driving them crazy in the first place! Better the devil you know….

However, the devil is a cold-hearted taskmaster, and submitting to a job misfit with all the stress and tension that accompanies it is enough to turn most people into a Grinch!

Like Dr. Seuss, there are some amazing stories of tenacity and perseverance that should inspire all of us with realistic hope. Here are some popular stories of failures suffered by some very successful people before they broke through into a better jobfit.

o Albert Einstein was four-years-old before he could speak.
o Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school.
o Ludwig Beethoven’s music teacher once said of him “as a composer he is hopeless.”
o Thomas Edison’ s teacher said of the boy, “He is too stupid to learn anything.”
o F.W.Woolworth got a job in a dry good store when he was 21, but his employer would not let him wait on customers because he “didn’t have enough sense.”
o Michael Jordan was dropped from his high school basketball team.
o A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had “no good ideas.”
o Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade.
o Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school in his first year. He was persuaded to come back and placed in a learning disabled class. He lasted a month and dropped out of school, never to return, but went on to create some of the most memorable Hollywood movies ever made, and become one of its richest directors.

If you hate your job, you should be happy! As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.” The people listed above succeeded in life because they were wise enough to NOT organize their lives around their failures. Instead, like Dr. Seuss, they focused on what really mattered to them. They established goals and took effective actions to create positive results in their lives.

Eric Hoffer, an American philosopher and contemporary of Dr. Seuss, wrote: “Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of failure and decay.” Which is another way of saying, the road to success is a bumpy one. Or, every overnight success takes twenty years. Pick the cliché, adage, or proverb on the tip of your tongue.

Remember it took Dr. Seuss thousands of tears to produce the joy of Christmas in Who-ville! Never give up on what really, really matters to you.

May the spirit of Christmas reign in your heart this holiday season and throughout the coming year!

How to Inoculate against job flus and blues

The current economic recession has resulted in millions of layoffs for workers across North America. On top of that, there is an H1N1 pandemic forcing millions to lay down from work for a week or more, jeopardizing good health, or even job security.

Learning to adapt to changing circumstances in life is a necessary skill. Being forced into such circumstances means letting go of situations that feel comfortable and predictable. Here are some examples of losses you may experience and what your thoughts might be about it.

Loss of the Familiar – “I felt secure in knowing what I was supposed to do each day.”

Loss of Structure & Clarity – “I liked my routine and felt comfortable with what was expected of me each day.”

Loss of a Hoped-for Future – “I thought I’d work here until I retired.”

Loss of Career Direction – “I knew where I fit into the big picture and what my options were.”

Loss of Influence – “My colleagues respected me, and they listened to my ideas.”

Loss of Friends – “My workplace was my second family.”

Loss of a Network – “I could count on them for personal and professional help.”

Loss of Knowledge & Expertise – “Staff and co-workers counted on me.”

Loss of Security – “I had a great compensation package.”

You can better adapt to changes like these by taking large doses of three Vitamin ‘A’s: Attitude, Aptitudes, and Action. They can help inoculate you from the negative consequences of job-related flus and blues.

Attitude

You have every reason to stay positive. You were able to learn your job and do well in it. So, it’s only a question of bringing your ability to learn and work hard to your new or next job.

You’re not starting from scratch. You have skills, knowledge, contacts–a vlaue proposition!  What other organizations would value your expertise? There are so many potential employers out there and you will likely find one to work with for many years.

And, once you have a new routine, do you think you’ll feel comfortable in your job? You’ve shown the ability to do good work and be rewarded for it, so you can apply that same ability in your next job. You were able to gain respect with people at your previous job, so why would your ability to establish and maintain friendships at your next workplace be any different?

Aptitude

There are over 60,000 jobs operating in the world of work, and you are suited to a dozen or more. You have experience, and dozens of managers are waiting for you to walk through the door and make their life easier by putting your unique set of talents, experience, and skills to work in helping them meet their organizations goals and objectives by solving problems, overcoming challenges, coping with impact issues, and dealing with pressure points that are acting as roadblocks to the attainment of those goals.

It is very likely that you will find a new career path at your next employer that’s even better than your last!

Action

You have a lot more experience now, so what kind of professional help do you need to position/package you for new and better opportunities?

Once you identify and define that next opportunity, you can communicate to your family and friends with clarity and confidence which organizations you are targeting.

When you are ready, you say goodbye to colleagues at your previous workplace, and invest some energy in friendships you want to maintain. Then draw on their goodwill because they WANT to help you, and they each know a lot of people.

Tell them specifically the kinds of jobs you are best suited for. They can refer you to people who can refer you to people until you get face-to-face with someone who will recognize and reward your talents and skill

Learn what simple and effective actions can help you break into the hierarchy of hiring and get job offers.

Transitions aren’t always easy but building up your immune system with these three Vitammin ‘A’s will help you adopt certain attitudes, aptitudes, and actions that can put you in a better place than the one you leave behind!

Break out of Zombieland!

Zombie movies point out how our human inclination to go through the motions of life at work and in relationships are eating us alive. Take courage and smite that zombie on the nose!

Thirty years ago, I got hooked on George Romero’s Dead movies, starting with Night of the Living Dead. And I enjoyed the 2004 spoof Shaun of the Dead. Now, the sub-genre lives on through the new movie, Zombieland.

Some critics consider these Dead movies to be a fitting metaphor for our times—the idea that zombies return from the dead to eat the living! It is entertaining to see how this idea is channeled through the creative talents of regular folks, such as one of my clients, Morris R., who helps organize a local Zombie walk each year in October. See if you can spot him in the video—he’s the one in the black suit with the red tie and dangling eyeball!

Zombie walks recreate key scenes and ideas from zombie movies. For example, as the credits roll at the beginning of Shaun of the Dead, your eyes follow the camera panning right through scenes of regular people moving supermarket trolleys, working behind tills, waiting at the bus stop, or mindlessly listening to street music, all staring and acting zombie-like. At the end of the movie, when the zombies have taken over, the camera does the same thing again, underscoring the point that nothing has REALLY changed—zombies now and forever!

Every time I see such scenes, I am reminded of clients who come to me in a state of calamity, including a local teacher who was desperate to find a better job fit. He said, “I come alive in summer. The rest of the year I am dead, a walking zombie, going through the motions of life.”

The living in these zombie movies are often characterized as people living in various states of limitation—making them easy targets for the Undead. Some are physically handicapped, others suffer from poverty, while others are stuck in institutions, or trapped in specific social settings, such as a mall or a amusement park. Others manage to escape a gruesome fate, but only for a short time, before their fears, beliefs, doubts or assumptions put them in the path of the flesh-eaters. In the end, they all fall victim to the insatiable appetites of zombies.

Limitations are part of the reality we don’t like. How much easier life would be if we could remove the barriers to career advancement and shoot forward into success! In Zombieland, the main characters literally shoot their way through the barriers posed by the Undead.

Many of us simply surrender to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If zombies surround us, why fight them, it’s easier to join them. Today, the number one workplace disability is depression. Millions of workers in North America cope with job stress and dissatisfaction by popping pills that have zombie-like side effects.

We can also react to negative situations with flight or fight. We might run from the zombies or beat them off…but then what? Being creatures of habit, it is too easy to backslide into our previous zombie-like existence—the exact point made in Shaun of the Dead.

Paul Tillich, a 20th C. philosopher, said “Courage is the affirmation of one’s essential nature.” When we have the courage to really live, we find joy, for as Tillich says, “Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous ‘YES to one’s own true being.” This takes courage in a world where choices have trade-offs.

Making hard choices is the essence of the hero’s story in any movie, including the Dead ones. How do you start being less fearful? How do you keep from falling back in the same old decision patterns? In my experience, the only way out of the career trap is through it.

It takes courage to honor the ambiguity that accompanies any transition process. We oscillate between hope and fear when we go from childhood to adolescence; from a student to a worker; from a single to a married person; from a childless adult to a parent–they all require some faith in the process of life.

This is the choice : life or zombieland.

If you’re stuck in zombieland, you need to break out. Now is the time to explore options with an emboldened heart and an open mind.

The zombie movies remind us that our fears sometimes force us to retreat to what is familiar. We keep doing what we’ve always done. Habitual behavior creates a comfort zone. You may not enjoy your job duties but at least they are familiar. Better the zombie you know than the zombie you don’t know.

Now is the time to rise up and smite that zombie on the nose. Choose life! Break out of Zombieland today!

Three Myths of Job Change

Three Myths of Career Change

Myth #1: Passion and Work Are Not Compatible

In fact, research shows the opposite to be true. Most successful
people are those who have learned to follow their passion. The
problem is that many of us were taught to be rational when we make
career decisions. So we buried our passion.

In order to get this point across at my seminars, I often draw a picture of a cart in front of a horse (and not a very good picture because drawing is not one of my natural talents). I show how most of us load up our cart with a toolbox of hard skills (e.g. architectural drawing, computer programming, public speaking, whatever). Our careers to date are often characterized by the cart dragging the horse–it being the symbol of the very things that fill us with energy, drive, strength, vitality—-passion. Career transition is about putting the horse in front of the cart where it belongs!

Think about your own career path. Maybe you were passionate about writing when you were younger, but made the rational choice to go into nursing. Maybe you were passionate about designing buildings, cars, planes…but decided accounting would be a “smarter” choice. (By the way, if nursing or accounting is your passion, and you followed it, congratulations.)

When we are passionate about our work, we are able to excel because we are tapping into our natural strengths and abilities. When we enjoy and are fully engaged in our work, our self-esteem is higher, and we are able to perform at a higher level.

On the other hand, when we are unable or unwilling to connect emotionally to our daily tasks, we are less likely to be successful. In fact, our performance will more often than not be characterized by mediocrity, just good enough to get by–nobody’s going to fire us but neither will we light any fires and win major promotions or awards.

Myth #2: The Way to Be Successful is to Pick a Career in Order
to Make Enough Money to Someday Quit and Do What You
Really Want to Do

Over the years, I have met many individuals who committed their time and energy to finding the holy grail, be it the next great network marketing scheme, or a hot stock, or “guaranteed” investment plan. And, occassionally, one of them gets lucky (or crooked enough) to win a lottery to keep the (unreal) hope alive for others.

Again, studies confirm that this isn’t what successful people do.
They, instead, are so absorbed in their career they work long hours,
think about their work constantly, talk about it to their partners and
friends. Please don’t confuse this passion with workaholism. Passionate people have that “fire in the belly.” In other words, their commitment to their work is unwavering. Workaholics often have energy but they don’t appear authentic in their work. They seem to be driven, going through the motions, trying hard to please with their performance.

But if you are working to just make money and you are postponing enjoying your work for some later date, you will be unable to maintain that type of commitment over a long period of time. Workaholics burn out. Passionate people make it look easy. They have made an important discovery – that the journey itself is even more important than the goal.

Myth #3: You Need to Be Sure What You Want to Do Before You
Start Doing Something

This belief holds people back from making any moves at all. People
who have successfully changed their career began by experimenting;
trying out new opportunities part-time, on a small scale, beginning
weekend projects, volunteering, taking night classes or going back to
school. They found a way to “stick their toe in the water.”

I did this myself. While I had a full-time job in the government, I did some assessments to determine my right work. After reviewing several recommendations to become a career counselor, I checked out the industry and identified a niche that harmonized with my talents and preferences. Then I started seeing clients during lunch hours and after work to validate my plan. Then I created a financial cushion for myself in anticipation of a worse case scenario when I made the final jump to a new career.

When you begin exploring, you actually begin to experience your possible future and what it might feel and look like. You can then make adjustments
in your course as you gain more experience and your direction
becomes clearer.

The reason is simple. For years, you have been molded by what you do. Therefore, you need to actually start doing something else. If you are the kind of person (like me) that likes to do extensive research, make lists, take assessment tests, and research potential companies before making a move, do it.

Gathering information can be useful. Don’t forget, however, that you need to
begin taking steps to try out what you are learning.

This is the hardest part of any career transition. You need to be exploring options with an open mind. It is by doing this research and exploring that the “right job” will appear. People tend to want to skip this part of the process but in my view it is the most important. Forget about what family, friends, books say in terms of educational qualifications and salary levels. It’s way too early in the process to be thinking about those things.

The whole point is to do the research, which includes talking to people,
in order to find the thing that will get you excited. You don’t start
with an “aha!” experience then go out and try to find it. You go out looking for the “aha!” experience. Yes, career transition is a systematic and proven process. But be open to surprise, to coincidence, to chance encounter.

Career transition is not rocket science but it is something you’ve never really done before, so you need to learn new skills and apply those skills. You must put your assumptions aside and proceed with an open mind. One phone call, one click on the web, one chance encounter can propel you into a new opportunity. It might sometimes feel dispiriting but if you start today, you will be much closer now than you were 2 weeks ago and, if you persist, in 2 weeks you’ll be further ahead than you are now!

Just this week a client said to me, “Ten years ago, my friends told me to go into Psychology, I was a natural. I said to myself, ‘No, that’s another 7 years of school.’ But if I’d done it, I wouldn’t be here regretting that decision 10 years ago.” The ten years go by, whether you follow your heart or not.

Career transition does not follow a straight line and no two transitions are the same. It can happen in a matter of months, or it can take 2-4 years. Sometimes, it is smooth sailing, and sometimes it is a case of three steps forward and two steps back.

By waiting until your plan is perfect, you increase the chance that no moves will be taken. So, begin the search for where your passions lie. Get a proper assessment done, such as the JobJoy Assessment Report.

Don’t let career change myths keep you stuck. By changing some of your beliefs about your transition, you will actually change the direction of your journey. Happy trails!

Your Career is Not a Problem to be Solved

 

One of the things I’ve noticed during the past 15 years of assisting individuals through career transitions is that successful transitions have a creative orientation.  What I mean by that is the distinction between a problem-solving mentality and a creating mentality.

 

Many people don’t like their jobs, and want to change.  For them, career transition is about taking action to get rid of something they don’t want, i.e. the problem, the unwanted situation, the conflict.  

 

There’s a reason for this.  Our scientific-engineering-driven society is all about problem-solving. It’s easy to talk about what needs fixing because so much does. But the mobilization of people through problems is always temporary. It works best during a crisis, like times of war. People who may not usually agree with each other can quickly join together for what seems to be a vital cause.

 

Crisis is often what motivates people who want to change jobs.  What gets them started on changing their careers is the intensity of their career pain. Once they take action, even if the action doesn’t work particularly well, there is less intensity of the problem. That leads to less future action, because the motivation to act has weakened.  In their minds, they have fixed the problem of pain because it is less intense.

 

The cycle is always the same: more intensity leads to action which lessens the intensity which leads to less future action.  In fact, what often happens is that the person stays in the same job, or gets a similar job, because the intensity of the career pain has diminished ergo problem solved!

 

This is not a bad thing per se. There is nothing wrong with improvising, hoping one thing leads to another well enough that you fall into the situations you would hope for. It is simply a less reliable approach.

 

What is more likely to happen is more reaction to circumstances, a kind of running on a treadmill where every action brings you back to where you started.

 

If the prevailing circumstances drive us, then we have one of two limited choices: to react or to respond. In either case, the circumstances are in charge and we simply react to them…over and over again.

 

We spend a lot of time “fixing” problems driven by circumstances. It is easy to organize around problems. You don’t have to think. The problem (the circumstances) drive motivation, focus, and even the types of action you would take.

 

And yet nothing really changes. Solving all your problems doesn’t mean you will have what you want. The underlying structural problems remain.  We might have a new job title, a bigger paycheque, and we put on a brave face that we’ve really got it together…but our soul continues to shrivel up and die! 

 

Even though people make superficial changes, the underlying issues eat away, and often manifest into stress disorders or more serious illnesses.  Personal health is a place where the difference between a problem mentality and an outcome mentality is enormous.

 

The traditional medical approach is to problem solve.  After all, much of modern medicine was developed on battlefields over the past 200 years, and we have a lot to be thankful for in terms of modern medical procedures and pain control protocols.

 

However, our medical system today is not over-burdened by gunshot wounds.  Instead, it is collapsing under the weight of so-called “lifestyle” illnesses.

 

Modern medicine is learning that health is a holistic issue that involves not only the physical dimension of an individual but emotional, psychological, even spiritual aspects of life. You can’t use problem solving to build anything long term. 

 

Taking action to get rid of something is the opposite of taking action to give birth to something.

 

This creative orientation was clearly outlined by Robert Fritz in his ground-breaking book, The Path of Least Resistance, when he introduced a powerful organizing principle in creating our lives–structural tension.

 

Your career is not a problem to be solved. It is a creation in process. This tension comes from knowing the end result you want to create, and knowing where we are in reality at any given moment. Tension is formed by the difference or contrast between our desired state and our actual state, and this tension is dynamic, a positive force.

 

I have seen many of my successful clients hold this structural tension as they make their next moves. They have a clear picture of their right work.  They look at their current reality objectively and accurately (easier said than done because of the negative circumstances they often live with).

 

When they know the very next step they are about to take in the context of the overall outcome they want to create, suddenly the energy they need is there in abundance. They become creative and focused. They move with momentum. They do not have to get “pumped up” because they are already on the move. 

 

Of course, the creative process begins with the question, “What do I want to create?” Without the end in mind, you are left to drift in and out of problem-solving.

 

Individuals that make successful career transitions have a clear end in mind. That is why a career assessment is so crucial to a successful transition.  If you leave your current job, where would you go, what would you do there?  Answering these two questions with some clarity gets the ball rolling.

 

The outcome doesn’t need to be all that clear at the outset to set the process in motion, just clear enough that you know what you want to create.

 

This, then, makes the question of your starting point immediately relevant: where am I now in relationship to where I want to be? 

 

Career transition is not a “to do” list followed mindlessly. Every move is related to the final outcome, and occurs within the context of structural tension

 

There is always a next move. Our lives are in motion, even when they seem to be standing still. The question is, to what degree can we determine the next move, and will it lead us where we want to go? 

 

Contrast that with not knowing the next move. When people do not have a picture of what they really want in terms of their career, they often need to force themselves into action.

 

They feel blocked or feel like they are running in a circle, with the same old thoughts, same old ideas, same old same old. Just because the underlying structure you may be in leads to lethargy, doesn’t mean you have a block or a psychological condition. You are simply in the wrong structure.

 

Change the structure, the so-called “block” goes away, and your creative juices become alive again. 

 

Without an organizing principle, it is hard to organize. And it is easy to make explicit what otherwise would have been implicit, the outcome you want to create. 

 

Once structural tension is established, the next step is the next step. I’m here, and my next move on the path to the overall accomplishment of my goal is just right over there. 

Career School of Rock n’ Roll

Summer is the season of music festivals.  Touring in a band is like managing a career change.  Here are the relevant lessons:

Lesson #1: Join the Right Band

Do you feel out of place, in a dead end job that neither satisfies or motivates at any level? Perhaps you are married to a lifestyle that demands constant touring and time away from home. You love country music, but find yourself in a jazz ensemble expected to improvise a solo performance instead of participating in a three-part harmony.

is Interactive survey uncovered the following statistics on American job satisfaction:

*          Across America, 45 percent of workers say they are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs. That means 55% are not.

*          Only 20 percent feel very passionate about their jobs.

*          33 percent believe they have reached a dead end in their career.

*          21 percent are eager to change careers.

This survey reveals that a lot of people are in the wrong band which helps to explain why so few bands really make it.

A good jobfit is like singing the right kind of music (the kind you like) with the right musicians (the ones you like). Like you, everyone has a role, the roles are well defined, and everyone pulls their weight. You have good gigs and bad gigs but a common vision helps the band endure the ups and downs of different expectations, different egos and personalities, different work circumstances.

Lesson #2: Play Your Own Music

Perhaps you have simply forgotten how to play your own music? You started out moving in one direction, then went another way, then another, and another. You chased money, opportunity, personal growth, professional advancement, travel, power, status, and other legitimate ends. And one day you woke up a complete stranger to yourself, feeling like an imposter, wondering when everyone else will catch you living this lie.

Like most bands, you learned very early that a band can make a living playing other people’s songs, but the your right work hinges on your ability to write, record, and sell your own songs. But staying true to your authentic self is not easy, especially if you never enjoy any success.  In the end, it isn’t your fault. If you are a recording artist, playing your own music is still the way to make the most money in that business.  Hang in there long enough and your turn will come.  Unable to gain any traction from early success, tensions rise in any band, and the band starts falling apart.  Staying true to your authentic self, your vision, your values is not easy.  It requires patience, persistence and courage.  Most of us give up far too early, for good reasons—marriages, mortgages, duties, obligations, bills to pay.

One of the most important things you can do is remember why you started down that path of passion in the first place– to honor that place inside yourself where the sound of your own music and sense of purpose is in harmony with who and what you are in terms of your right work.

Lesson #3: Good Marketing Trumps Good Talent

From the employer’s perspective, talent at some point becomes a “given” and the real differentiating factor for making a hiring decision is much more precise. By the time you get to an interview, the question is how your talent “fits” the employer’s need. So talent is important. People who can’t compete on talent don’t even get to that point in the discussion. But leveraging that talent into a particular set of employer problems/challenges/issues/pain points is what wins the job.

There are a lot of bands out there competing for your concert dollar.  There are many ways to spend your money.  The talent of a band is important but at the end of the day, there are a lot of bands with talent.  And the ones that get your money are the ones that focus marketing, passion, persistence, professionalism, and whatever name you assigned to the sensory assault of the massive light and sound equipment they travel with.  They might be selling talent, but you’re buying something else–an experience.

The same thing happens in a job search.  Employers are buying talent but there are lots of talented people in the marketplace.  It is very important to use marketing, passion, persistence, professionalism to get in front of an employer.  In the end, they will either like you or not.  It’s that intangible something or other that makes the difference in choosing you over another experience.  Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to choose you.

Career consultants understand this and work everyday to optimize their client’s prospects of getting a job offer.  They can make a big difference in the way you are marketed through your resume, your interview performance, your follow ups, your salary negotiation, your probationary period.

Lesson #4: Listen When the Music Stops

For many people who lose their job, the music has stopped. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable with the silence?  Your first inclination is to try to make the same music again and again despite the fact that you don’t even like the music.

Use this gift of time to LISTEN to the internal voices that can guide you in the right direction. I understand the desire for job security.  However, studies show 80% of people are not passionate about what they do.  Somehow, people have bought into the false idea that job security and passion are mutually exclusive.  Many people are finding out, of course, that there is no real job security, and too often it comes at the price of losing the music inside us.

All music begins in silence.  Silence carries not only a message, but an answer, the right answer.  Now is the time to slow down, block out the noise, and LISTEN.

Your personal story is full of music, one that harmonizes with who and what you are in terms of your right work.  There are dozens of jobs that align with your authentic self.  All that is required is for you to slow down, listen for the rich sounds embedded in your stories, and follow the melody into a better job fit.