Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You Can’t Cheat Life!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 8, 2013

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. For More Information Please visit www.jobjoy.com

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How you learn naturally can lead to working effortlessly

The way we learn most naturally can help us find and fit into a new job, sometimes a better job! For example, I can think of several clients who worked for many years in construction, then sustained physical injuries that prevented them from doing physical labor or operating equipment. But, they wanted to stay in the construction field because they enjoyed working with and around structures, tools, machinery and everything that goes with building, maintaining or repairing our physical world.

They needed to retrain in order to work again. However, they lacked confidence about educational upgrading due to poor performances in high school or college. In assessing their learning styles, I discovered that they learned well—but not through conventional book learning. Sure, they could force themselves to go back to a classroom setting and suffer through it. We’ can many things through sheer will and determination but there is always the risk that we will fail or not learn what we need to know in order to be competent on the job, thereby jeopardizing our chances for getting and
keeping a new career.

Learning new skills is always easier when we are motivated to learn, not driven to learn by the need for a new job, but motivated by tapping into our natural learning styles. For example, many of these clients learned more naturally through trying & doing, or by observing & examining, or by tinkering & experimenting. Sitting in a classroom studying & reading books, then memorizing and repeating what they read did not motivate them.

Retraining or upgrading skills then meant finding programs that matched their natural way of learning (such as construction-estimating) that emphasized a “hands-on” orientation versus a theoretical or academic one. In several cases, an assessment of their stories also revealed a natural aptitude for working with numbers and a knack for customer service, which matched up with jobs related to Construction Estimator, Quote Coordinator, Proposal Writer, Purchasing Manager, Builder Services Manager, Field Coordinator, and so on.

What is your innate pattern for learning?

When listening to your stories, I listen for clues to your natural talent for learning: what are you doing when you’re motivated to learn? To what depth and detail are you motivated to learn? What are the mechanisms through which you learn? What circumstances or conditions motivate you to learn?

Natural talents for learning correlate with different kinds of career situations. For example, someone who learns best by observing and examining—that is, someone who is motivated to learn by taking a careful first-hand look at the actual detail of an action—is probably better suited to an apprenticeship-type environment than someone who is motivated to learn by studying and reading (going over printed material, note-taking and underlining key phrases).

Perhaps you did better in college programs organized around listening and discussing activities than you did in high school, if the emphasis there was on memorizing and repeating of information. You are motivated to learn only when you are in a situation where you can hear the thoughts and ideas of others and express their own. Perhaps you never realized before that your favorite job was organized around frequent opportunities to brainstorm with others by hearing their ideas and bouncing your own off them.

Did your parents complain that you always asked too many questions? If they found it annoying, perhaps others noticed your knack for finding out things by asking people questions. You are more than just curious, you have a knack for probing and questioning others. You might thrive in jobs where that skill is a recognized and rewarded as a core duty, such as investigations, or assessing needs, or diagnosing problems.

Some talented and successful individuals get lousy grades in a classroom setting but turn out to be specialists or experts when they are left to their own devices to compile and collect information in their own way, at their own speed, in order to get a comprehensive picture of a situation to understand, explain, and predict certain principles, logic, philosophies, skills or techniques.

I’ve had some hi-tech clients that thrived in lab environments where they could experiment and tinker. They never read a book, and even failed certain college courses. Luckily, many of these individuals were able to find jobs in school helping a professor with certain research in order to pass. They could spend hours conducting trials or tests to find out about a subject phenomenon and see what happens. They easily fit into R&D work settings.

The real payoff understands why you learn and what the outcome of your learning is. Once we understand your innate pattern for learning, I can link it to specific jobs and careers that will reward you for what comes naturally and effortlessly to you. For More Information Please visit www.jobjoy.com

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Five Critical Ingredients For Successful Job Change


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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