Job Change Advice: Your Values and your Job don’t have to Conflict

Christine Ouellette came to me because she wasn’t too clear on what she wanted to do and sought objective insight from someone else.

She was a vice-president of an international development consulting firm and really didn’t want to continue in that position because her responsibilities were changing and leaning towards business development, whereas her interest was more on the technical side.

Her passion was transferring skills, particularly around making transparent decisions grounded in democratic and participatory processes, to government and non-governmental organizations in developing countries. She specialized in good governance, poverty reduction and social responsibility. Christine was particularly concerned with the links between violence against women, human rights, and development and had carved a niche for herself as a specialist in gender equality and ending violence against women.

The first thing we did was an exercise identifying the most fulfilling experiences that she considered successful but wouldn’t necessarily be considered successful by other people.

By identifying her professional passions and innate strengths, she was able to refocus. She was in the right field, but by the time she met me, she had outgrown the organization where she was employed. She felt her employer was doing fabulous work in social development, but too much of her time was spent managing instead of doing. She was de-motivated by having to focus on the bottom line and managing priorities defined by others.

Christine needed work where she could set her own priorities in line with her values.

She had owned her own firm in the past, but it was freelancing, “an in-between thing” that she did between jobs.

She decided to restart her business and make it very focused. This time she was serious. She developed a mission statement, corporate image and concept for a web site and a brochure for the organization.

Now Christine works with associations that she chooses to work with – private sector, not-for- profit, and government organizations. She works exclusively on issues that she cares about. “It’s not about billing. It’s about values.”

Nowadays there is coherence between her values, her principles and the work she does. She’s making as much money as she did working in a formal setting and it’s much more gratifying and stimulating because she doesn’t have to reach financial goals set by someone else.

Since she’s been working for herself, Christine has been doing the types of projects she’s most interested in, both in Canada and overseas. For example, she developed a proposal with CARE Canada giving voice to marginalized people in South East Asia.

Christine made a heavy-duty commitment to her values. She understands the value of having a vision and sticking to it. She checks in with me once a month to help clarify that vision and come closer to the manifestation and obtainment of that vision.

She said she finds it valuable to have a third party objective point of view of her decisions. I’m not her husband, I’m not a coworker, I’m a third-party objective observer.

Christine needed to have a clearly defined vision to enable her to take actions that moved her closer to that obtainment. Ironically, this clarity made her more attractive to employers. Her vision and values harmonize so well with CARE Canada that they recently offered her a position as a specialist in Governance and Capacity Building.

After 2.5 years as country director in Cameroon for CARE, last summer she took on a new challenge as senor advisor gender equality, seconded by CIDA to the Pakistan Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. Now, she’s recently returned to Canada to take on the role of VP-Porgrams at the Canadian Hunger Foundation to foster food security for the world’s poorest communities.

Her vision manifests love – something that she wanted to see in the world so much that she was willing to take action to see it happen. It was easy to take action after she confronted her fears.

“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!

Choosing a values-rich career

When I first met her in 2005, Natalie Zend was on sick leave due to severe back pain and had some big decisions to make. She had a permanent position as a Senior Policy Analyst in the Children’s Rights and Protection Unit at a federal agency. She was weighing the pros and cons of a career change.

She was considering several options: promotion within the agency; or, a field posting; or an exchange with an NGO, university or international organization abroad; or, work as an independent consultant. In her early thirties, she wanted more work-life balance, a better integration between her personal and professional interests. And, she wanted more clarity about what would be the best choice over the long term.

She wrote detailed stories about times in her life when she was doing what she enjoyed most. Also, I provided her with a set of questions to help her reflect on her deepest values and highest aspirations. She was at a significant career crossroads. Ultimately, she would have to choose between being practical, realistic and staying the course of stability; or, determining what she valued most and seek a career that honoured those values.

As she wrestled with the implications of her JobJoy Report and the choices confronting her, she realized with increasing conviction that she wanted more direct contact with others and more meaningful open dialogue. She formulated a vision statement based on her deepest values. “My vision for my work in the world is to foster personal and social transformation for a life-sustaining society, by supporting social justice and environmental change agents in their work.”

Wrestling with transition fears

In the summer of 2006, Natalie took a one year unpaid leave from her job. She wanted to travel, as she had the agency, and to continue to help others through her work, but also have more time to pursue her goals in accordance with her values. “I wanted to centre myself and determine what I wanted with one-on-one support and guidance. I wanted to make my next move based on a sense of direction and priorities.”

Natalie said she “spent many months during her sabbatical looking at her fears of leaving her job: ending up on the streets, penniless, without respect or professional identity.” It takes courage to confront our fears and to take responsibility for what we really want. Natalie realized that returning to her job would have been “out of fear of doing something different.”

This is a fear of negative consequences. As individuals, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid the negative consequences of decisions. But, truthfully, we cannot read the future; we don’t know what will happen. Without that certainty of what will happen, many of us “choose the devil we know, rather than what we don’t know.”

Fear to change is natural and normal. To get out of a reactive mode of living, we need, I suggest, to move into a creative mode of thinking, by focusing on what it is we really want to create for our lives.

Based on her JobJoy Report, Natalie had a clear picture of who and what she is in terms of her right work, and how she operates naturally and effortlessly when she is doing what she enjoys most. But she needed time and space to think about how the what connects to the why. Why do I want to do that, i.e. change my life to align with my motivational pattern?

Organizing principle for successful change

Answers to the WHY questions of life give us the organizing principles for the WHAT we do. Once we have the WHY questions answered (at least in part) then it’s a question of figuring out HOW to manifest our values and priorities–what really matters to us–how do I make a living? How do I decide what to do with my time and energy? How do I increase my chances of being successful at what I want to do? That is the challenge of every adult, and that was exactly the challenge Natalie faced with courage and conviction.

She “longed for freedom, authenticity, and growth in the direction of greater connection to spirit, self and others.” She felt exhilarated and inspired that the needs she had met through her work at the agency could be met through other means and strategies. At the conclusion of her sabbatical, Natalie was at a decision point: return to the safety and security of a full-time government position; or, go out on her own. In one giant leap of faith, Natalie determined to follow her spirit and disavow the “safe and reasonable” judgment born from her upbringing.

“George helped me see the gift in what has been a lifelong source of anxiety and insecurity for me—my tendency to try to live up to what I perceive as others’ expectations of me. He helped me understand that my natural talents—rather than the job market, perceived societal or family expectations—could be a primary basis for choosing or creating my work. “

Taking effective actions to make change real

Natalie gave notice to her employer, and packaged her skills and vision as an independent consultant, specializing in training, facilitation, analysis and children’s rights. She would build on the relationships and experience she had accumulated working 10 years in international development and refugee policy and programming, primarily in children’s rights, human rights approaches to development, conflict resolution, peace building and gender equality.

“George helped me recognize that I am a ‘visionary’ who instills people with enthusiasm and that I thrive in situations where I can act as a coach, trainer, facilitator or coordinator. I eventually saw that playing those roles as an internal or external consultant—a third-party neutral—could be a valid and effective way to exercise leadership for positive social change.”

In order to attain her highest aspirations, Natalie decided to build on her BA in History and her Master’s in International Affairs with further education. In 2010, she was designated a CTDP (Certified Training and Development Professional) and received a Certificate in Adult Training and Development. The certifications, Natalie says, “increased my credibility and competence and have enabled me to increase my skillfulness, presence, confidence and personal impact.”

Much of her consulting work has focused on helping organizations in Canada and around the world to design, implement and report on rights-and-results-based programs that more effectively implement positive change for children. She has also supported diverse stakeholders in an organization or project to reach shared understanding and commitment through events that offer an unprecedented space for mutual learning and dialogue.

Finally, she helps leaders who are overwhelmed with the state of our world to connect to a greater sense of hope and contribution through workshops drawing on deep ecology, systems theory, and other transformational tools.
Natalie has also continued her personal growth through education, travel and daily practice. She has studied and practiced facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, leadership and communication. She is fulfilling her goal for a more balanced life with greater connection to self, spirit and others.

She also has studied and applied a variety of group methodologies: The Work that Reconnects, Awakening the Dreamer, Open Space Technology, NonViolent Communication, Appreciative Inquiry, Participatory Learning and Action, and Process Work, as well as practiced and facilitated improvisational voice and movement and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness and spiritual practice have led Natalie to retreats in France with Thich Nhat Hanh and to India where she studied with the Dalai Lama.

“George helped me realize I could contribute to life and make a living through a career path that is a unique expression of my calling and talents. He helped me to recognize, accept and build on my natural gifts and inclinations rather than trying to be someone else.Becoming a consultant has given me the time and flexibility to integrate spiritual practice into my daily routine, and to do spiritual community support and leadership work that does not always pay. In my paid work, I have been able to share my values and practices openly and authentically with colleagues and partners. Embodying my values in my work is very important to me. My primarily goal in work is to contribute to life and well-being of people and the planet.”

Contact Natalie at andizend@yahoo.ca or 647-300-6102 for more information about her work and workshops.

Forever Young Through Work that Energizes You!

Ray Crist retired at age 104. He was a scientist who worked in a lab. At age
82, he started researching how plants might remove toxic poisons from polluted
soil, such as mine tailing’s. He didn’t do it for money—he donated his dollar a
day salary to charity—but for love. He loved doing science! Why retire from
something you love doing, something that harmonizes with your deepest values and highest aspirations?

Individuals who experience deep job satisfaction live longer. In fact, work
satisfaction is the #1 determinant of longevity, more than genes, diet, or
exercise, according to one study[i].

Consider all the successful people who continue to create long after retirement
age when they clearly don’t need the money. Paul and Mick, both 70 now, still
rock. Octogenarian Clint Eastwood still directs movies, Willie Nelson still
tours, and Betty White & Cloris Leachman still make us laugh. Their vitality is
admirable and enviable!

According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.4% of Americans aged 75+
still work, most of them for pleasure not money, as illustrated in a recent
LA Times article. Studies show that staying intellectually challenged,
either through paid work or some other pursuit, improves a person’s quality of
life in his or her later years. In fact, when people are “engaged” in their
work, at any age, they visibly demonstrate competency, vitality and high
performance.

When your work energizes you, instead of drains you, why would you stop doing
it…especially as you age? When work harmonizes with our authentic self, then we
are “creating” something worthwhile—not necessarily art or
entertainment–something “good” in the world that is rewarded, whether it is a
scientific discovery or excellent customer service.

We are meant for this creating, and the reward is a by-product that is clearly
visible in the vitality of these engaged older workers. It is a joy to behold
such a person, and it is a joy to be such a person whose being matches their
doing—they are full of life, vitality, joy, energy!

age_progression1_opt

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young. (Lyrics by Bob Dylan)

ageprogression2_opt

Of course, as we get older, our physical powers slowly or quickly waste away.
We lose physical strength, or eyesight, or hearing, or whatever, but we lose
such things whether we are wasting away in front of the television as a couch
potato or engaged in some worthwhile work that energizes us and keeps us
connected to others.

My goal is to help others find or create the kind of work that will last a
lifetime, work that engages and energizes. As Ray Crist and the others
demonstrate, if you are interested in your work, really energized by what you do
day in and day out, life is interesting. If you don’t have work that engages
you, life is boring as hell.

Most people either settle for or seek the extrinsic reward of making enough
money to survive and save for a pension…to stop doing what they don’t truly
enjoy..and live with the consequences, both good and bad. But, it is possible
to have a different kind of life, one with work that engages and energizes for a
lifetime, one that stimulates you to be a truly interesting person with a song
always sung.

The real fountain of youth is not found in plastic surgery, or magic pills or
superannuated pensions or supernatural formulas. It is found within your
“creating” self, in which each new day offers an opportunity to express your
authentic self and give it through work to others for intrinsic rewards.

[i] Brown, Mark G. (1996). Keeping Score: Using the Right Metrics to Drive
World-Class Performance
. New York: Quality Resources.

Getting to first base with a hiring manager means getting them to feel “safe” with you

I provide recent MBA grads with job search advice. Many of them are keen to leverage their degree into a related job or advance their career. For example, Chandra is trying to leverage her MBA-Human Resources concentration into an HR Specialist role.

She recently applied for such a job with her current employer but it was given instead to another employee with no HR education who had filled that role temporarily. The HR Manager asked Chandra to take the internal Recruiter role left vacant by that employee.

Naturally, Chandra was a bit miffed at being passed over for someone who had not invested their own time, energy and money in higher education. Feeling unappreciated by her employer, she redoubled her online search to find a job elsewhere, only to run into a brick wall—-she has not received any callbacks for interviews.

Like so many others, Chandra feels she has done everything right by being a good employee adding value to her employer, taking the initiative to go back to school to upgrade her skills, and now deserves her just reward–a better job in line with her degree. And, when you look at it from her point of view…she’s right!

I understand her frustration but I asked her to look at the hiring process from the HR Manager’s point of view. He was simply doing the most natural thing in the world!

Getting that job was important to Chandra, but I pointed out that she is not the most important person in the hiring process because she doesn’t get to hire herself; that task is still in the hands of the HR Manager. And his priority, naturally, is to protect and promote his own career first and foremost.

Chandra admits that she had never met that manager prior to applying for the position of HR Specialist—that’s a major reason she didn’t get the job! He doesn’t know her, and he’s not going to risk his career on hiring someone that could jeopardize it. Instead, he hired someone that had worked for him for several years, and someone who had performed that role temporarily without “relevant” education.

It is “safer” for him to hire someone he knows as reliable, dependable, and competent, over Chandra, who is “qualified” but unknown to him; in short, she is too much of a risk for him. What if she has a personality flaw and can’t get along with him and they end up in a dispute, or litigation? Not to mention the many other possibilities that could lead to some kind of workplace conflict that could jeopardize his career. I’ve written about this in more detail in another post, but suffice to say here that few managers will take that kind of risk if they don’t have to.

By offering Chandra a lower level position as an internal Recruiter in his department, he is saying in effect, “Thank you for applying for this position. I like what I see so far. But I really don’t know you well enough at this point to take such a big risk with my career. Please accept this other position so that I can get to know you better. Once I feel safe with you, I will feel confident about promoting you into an HR Specialist role.”

I recommend that she take the internal recruiter position, and use it as an opportunity to deepen rapport with her HR Manager. This makes his job easier when it comes to hiring in the future.

If she wants to prospect externally for opportunities, I suggest that she focus on a pro-active job search strategy, by identifying preferred employers, getting the names of HR directors, using her contacts to get face-to-face with them to establish the same kind of rapport that is a pre-requisite of any hiring situation (except desperate ones!) . I have outlined this process in my free webinar ‘Secrets to a Successful Job Search.’

Your job, as a job seeker, is to reduce that risk for a hiring manager, by giving them a chance to get to know you. The purpose of these meetings is not to get a job but to build rapport with a manager so that they feel “safe” with you.

Talking Your Way Into a Job

Jerry (due to the security nature of his job we are not using his real name) came to my office a victim of the high tech bubble burst in 2003 with an interesting problem. He was a middle manager in his middle 40s and didn’t know how to look for a job. He really never had to look for a job in the past. He had a good reputation and as long as things were going well with high tech start-ups, employers were coming to him.

However, things were no longer going well. He had spent most of his career in aerospace and telecom research and development. By time he came to me, he had spent most of his summer sending out resumes without success.

What Jerry needed from me was coaching on how to target companies and tell his story in a compelling manner–concepts that he’d had no reason to think about very much in the past. He also had to learn where he best fit and what kinds of jobs to avoid. He was quite willing to do all three.

The first thing we did was work on “the fit.” The opportunity of “making a killing” was the main draw to his previous jobs. In retrospect, he realizes they were not good situations because he didn’t ask enough questions. He even described his last job as a “toxic work environment.”

What he really needed was an opportunity to use broad organizational and leadership skills to manage technical projects with some high risks and exciting challenges. He also wanted to work with a “reasonably-sized group,” which he defined as “over 10 people.”

Our next step was to have Jerry increase his networking skills so he could make contacts to find his hidden opportunities–positions he would fit that might not even exist. He did this by creating a spreadsheet of 20 target companies, who the principal players were at each company, if he knew any of them and how to contact someone if he didn’t know somebody at the company.

Next he called each company and wrote into the spreadsheet what they talked about, when to check back and how he had left off the conversation.

Then he would meet with me every two to three weeks and go through what he did. If he was called for an interview, we would go through typical questions and the methodology of answering those questions the day before the interview. We also went through a debriefing during our next meeting after each interview.

Most people go into an interview with the assumption the employers know what they’re doing. Employers are just human beings, too, and they’re subject to all kinds of flaws and weaknesses.

So instead of just answering questions, Jerry had to learn to tell “his story” in a compelling way. People think that when they are being interviewed, they are being interviewed for a job vacancy. If they can communicate their value–Here’s what I bring to the table; here’s what I bring to the company–more than a third of the time, the employer will create a job for them.

It certainly worked for Jerry. After two interviews at major defense contractor for a posted vacancy, the senior managers created another job, one that is a perfect fit for him. He’s in charge of the research for designing most of the surveillance equipment used to protect Canada.

Jerry got the job because he had a coach that helped him stay focused on what he really wanted and then Jerry did the work.

How networking in the short term paid off in the long term with dream job!

It took much courage to undertake the professional transition that Tony Vetter successfully completed recently.

Tony had worked more than 10 years in the telecommunications sector, having served as Senior Product Manager (Ciena), Director of Technical Marketing (Roshnee Corporation) and in advisor and managerial roles at Nortel.

Tony came to see me because he felt it was time to leave high tech. He needed a career that better matched his core values and where he could contribute meaningfully to making the world a better place.

He had a lot of energy but no real clarity regarding careers that matched his ambition for “values-rich” work. And he was skeptical about replacing his considerable income earned in the hi-tech sector for fulfilling but less financially rewarding work in the nonprofit sector.

“I realized that if I wanted to follow my heart I would eventually have to leave my career in high tech,” said Tony. “I felt that if I continued in high tech I would only be contributing to a development process driven by the pursuit of profit and technological advancement for its own sake. I found myself questioning whether the rapidly evolving trends I was seeing in the development of our global communications infrastructure would actually lead to a net benefit for the global community.”

Tony was particularly interested in how he could use his proven high tech skills to foster sustainable development through Information & Communication Technologies (ICT). However, he needed to be convinced that there were real opportunities for his skill set in a values-rich workplace. We completed a JobJoy Report to identify and define all his Key Success Factors.

I guided him through a systematic and deliberate process designed to successfully transition him from high-tech into International Development within four years. This involved the full range of transition services: assessment, targeting and marketing. We spent several years positioning him for ideal opportunities: rewriting his resume; identifying and meeting with prospective employers; and completing his Master’s Degree in International Affairs from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) in April, 2008.

His career transition was jump-started by a desire to demonstrate to others his proficiency in new skills, techniques and knowledge related to international development. He organizes around a drive for proficiency and is motivated by acquiring and using that proficiency in an accurate and timely manner.

Tony is motivated to comprehensively understand a subject and searches for underlying principles, logic or philosophical background. He has a strong desire to master fundamental skills and techniques of craft. Tony is not an academic working only with ideas: he strives to implement ideas in practical, day-to-day ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I have always instinctively felt that following my heart would lead me to making my best possible contribution to the world,” says Tony. “George helped me to identify the kind of work I most valued through the telling of my life stories for which I felt a sense of consistent satisfaction or events I particularly enjoyed.”

I provided Tony with contacts in his field of interest which led to face-to-face dialogue with people who had already made transitions from purely technical environments to international development. He also prospected with CIDA, IDRC, Industry Canada and other agencies with international development mandates. We used an Approach Letter strategy to help secure meetings with key people. This gave him a vocabulary to speak to others about himself in an accurate and forthcoming way independent of the jargon spoken in the high-tech industry.

Through the Norman Patterson Institute, Tony was placed on a cooperative placing with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization located in more than 30 countries. IISD engages decision-makers in government, business, NGOs and other sectors in the development and implementation of policies that benefit the global economy, global environment and promote social well-being. The placement met Tony’s criteria of “values-rich” work and in July, 2007, Tony joined IISD on a permanent basis as Project Officer, Knowledge Communications. He has since moved on as an expert in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Sustainable Development.

About the same time, one of Tony’s colleagues crossed paths with the CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust, and she subsequently met with Tony again to discuss international development. There was no job opportunities at the time with DOT but Tony asked her to keep him in mind if things should change.

“The most powerful aspect of George’s coaching for me was his process for opening doors to potential new career opportunities by making contact and interviewing people doing the kind of work I was interested in,” Tony said. “Post transition, I have ended up working with or having contact with many of the people I interviewed as part of my career transition. George has helped me successfully establish a solid network of contacts for growing my new career direction.

He is charged with researching and analyzing the efficacy of ICT for development initiatives and governmental ICT policy in developing countries in context of how they contribute to achieving sustainable economic and social development while respecting the limitations of the environment. Using the findings of research and analysis, he formulates recommendations for policy coherence with sustainable development strategies, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Millennium Development Goals and other development frameworks and agendas.

Despite taking almost a 50% cut in pay in carrying out this transition, Tony has satisfied his need for values-rich work. Long term, he aspires to work on projects aimed at achieving sustainable development objectives using appropriate technologies in emerging markets, and to apply his ideas on development in practical, day-to-day ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

He will get the chance to do this very shortly. Remember the CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust he met several times during the past five years? The DOT has experienced rapid growth, and late last year they decided they needed to expand their core executive team.

“Apparently she had been bringing my name up every few months, particularly when things got busy. So they gave me a call and asked if I would apply. I did, and they quickly had me interview with each member of the executive team. I was offered a package within 24 hours of my final interview that literally left me speechless.“

Tony deserves a lot of credit for the risks he took to have work that was meaningful for him. Although we desire certainty and safety, a career transition requires some tolerance for risk. Tony invested in what matters most to him. He connected with others who shared his values and had the power to hire him. He established and maintained rapport with the CEO of a targeted organization even though no job was readily available.

In the meantime, he continued building credibility and experience in his chosen field. When that NGO grew and the CEO needed somebody, she offered the opportunity to Tony, a person she knew professionally as competent, capable,and qualifed (and the rest of her team agreed). Tony’s short term sacrifices resulted in a return to his previous salary level in a field that harmonizes with his values and priorities.

Today, Tony is the Senior Director, Global Operations at Digital Opportunity Trust (http://dotrust.org/), with 8 national programs in Africa, operations in 3 middle eastern counties, and expanding operations to focus on Southern and Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus region, as well as operating in the USA, Mexico, and China. He is looking forward to taking his job joy around the world!

~ with Harry Gallon

How to Holiday Party Your Way into a Career Job!

Mark Buzan came to me at age 22 and about to receive his political science degree and wanted to work on Parliament Hill.

He wasn’t really clear about what he wanted to do. “It was pretty scary,” he told me. The only thing he knew for sure was that he wanted to do something in politics or journalism.

During our first conversation it became apparent that he wanted to work for a Member of Parliament (MP), but he had no idea on how to get a job, on Parliament Hill.

As far as he was concerned, thousands of people graduate with a degree in political science every year and they all want a job on Parliament Hill and the ones who get them are people who are very active in politics, or who’s families have political connections. So what chance did he have?

But he had a problem that was bigger than no political connections. He sort of knew what he wanted, but he didn’t have a target. If you want to hit the bull’s eye you have to have a target. You can shoot an arrow, but it isn’t going to hit the bull’s eye unless you have a target.

So we had a very important target to find. I did an assessment of his talents and determined that the best job fit for him was as an executive assistant. Then, we set about taking action to hit the target. And, it worked. He came to me in November and by the end of January he had a job offer as a aide to an MP.

Our plan to hit the bull’s eye began with some big parties. All the political parties in Canada have Christmas parties on Parliament Hill. And they’re open to the public. So I told him to go to the Christmas parties of the political parties in which he was interested and mix with them. At a party, people are more relaxed, more likely to interact on a social level, and more likely to be open to hearing your story. At one of the parties he met the senior member of the staff of Jason Kenney and eventually got a job as an executive assistant in that office.

But obviously there’s more to getting the right job than just going to parties. So our plan was very specific.

Mark had some special training in tax policy and tax law and had some ideas on changing tax laws. First I told him to find out which MPs had the tax reform portfolios for their parties. Then we put together a letter summarizing Mark’s research and ideas about tax reform and sent it to those MPs requesting a meeting. Then I provided him with a script of what to say to get into those offices for a meeting. Mark spent about 20 minutes with each MP and talked to about 6. He then debriefed me on all his meetings.

One of those MPs set up a meeting with his legislative assistant–his right-hand person–which turned out to be one of the people Mark had schmoozed with at the Christmas party, so they already had a rapport. Mark had several more meetings with that legislative assistant, eventually leading to a job offer.

Mark loved what he was doing, but after a while decided that he needed more challenges. He wanted to become a lobbyist.

We put together a portfolio and then he created his own company called Action Strategies. He received a couple of small assignments and built up a track record. Then at 29, he got hired as lobbyist. His official title was Public Affairs Coordinator for the Canadian Hydropower Association. Several other positions followed and, today, Mark is an Executive Director of a national organization for health care professionals.

All of that was very deliberate and intentional. It wasn’t luck. It was intentional, having a clearly defined target, a vision of what he wanted, then taking specific actions to move him closer to his vision until—bingo! He hit the target.

Sometimes you have to take some risks to get what you want. Some people wouldn’t go to a Christmas party uninvited. You have to do unconventional things to get noticed. Not all of the time. But it increases your chances of getting hired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using “her story,” we determined:

* The work environment she would thrive in.

* The type of work she would thrive in.

* The way she likes to be managed.

* The way she likes to be rewarded.

* What motivates her.

* And how she likes to approach tasks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–with Nick Isenberg