Crossroads

When A New Guy Gets Your Promotion

I have not counted how many times over the past 13 years someone has come to me to help them move up or out after their company hired a new guy for the position that they felt was their next move upward. If I had to guess, I’d say about 100.

Of them, some have only wished that their supervisor would have thought about them and recommended them for the job, but never actually verbalized their desire or made attempts to understand if there were knowledge gaps they needed to fill.

Then there are a portion of them who had made their ambitions quite clear, but felt it was a natural progression, not as if there were gaps in knowledge or experience that they needed to fill in order to be qualified for the next level up.

In both of these scenarios, a short and long-term solution is to coach the individuals to be appropriately assertive and proactive in seeking understanding about what is really needed in order to be ready for the next step up.

The first stage is always qualifying that it is, in fact, the right next step. Too many people become managers because that seems like, or is presented as, the only way to move up. This leads to a large number of managers who have neither the desire nor the training to know how to motivate and inspire engagement and performance. They then usually resort to being taskmasters, micromanagers and even tyrants. They are responsible for a team of people to meet numbers and use fear as a tool because their tool kit is limited. This becomes a vicious cycle, as one manager trains the next and on up they go, unconsciously creating a toxic culture.

Please, if you aspire to be a corporate leader, learn how to use inspiration, trust, recognition, self-awareness, accountability and mobility as tools. Then practice them under the guidance of a coach to influence from wherever you are now, and brand yourself internally and externally as a leader.

In yet a third scenario, the professional has been as proactive and assertive as possible to procure performance feedback and identify and fill knowledge gaps. However due to any number of reasons – politics, nepotism, vendettas, a complete failure on a leader’s part to thoroughly prepare team members for promotion, or failure on the professional’s part to make accomplishments visible – promotions still go to someone else.

In all three scenarios, branding would be a smart next step. However, only in the third scenario would I suggest an all-out strategic campaign to change companies.

In the meantime, operate under the assumption that this new person might be better at something than you, and find out what it is. You will most certainly know better than them the inner workings of your company. Befriend the new guy, ask for opportunities to show him or her the ropes, and show everyone that you do have what it takes to take on more.

Think back to when you were a new person and think about the things that you learned in your first 90 days that made a difference in your results, and I’m not talking about what you learned about the other people you work with.

Don’t be that guy that warns the new guy about office gossip, or the hardhead, or the ego maniac. These are opinions, even if multiple people share them. All the new guy will think is that you are judgmental and they will be wary to trust you. Stick with the facts and note when something you pass on is a subjective observation, like “The boss prefers that all KPIs are blue in the weekly report.”

I don’t think I have to tell people to not be a saboteur to the new guy, but it does happen. It can be tempting to want the boss to see they made a mistake by not giving you the promotion, but that’s not the outcome that is usually produced by being a saboteur. In fact, more often than not, it just confirms that you were not the right person for the promotion.

Start becoming more aware of when your ego is kicking in and make it a habit to start switching into your higher self – your higher self is the one that gets promotions, not your ego.

Sometimes it happens that a promotion was not granted due to timing. In an ideal world, open communication and accurate foresight would enable an employee and supervisor to have a frank, two-way conversation about the real expectations of a promotion – the hours, the responsibility, the travel, and the pressures. The employee would be able to discuss the changes with any personal stakeholders, like family members, who would be impacted by any changes in lifestyle and make the decision that is best for everyone, even if that means giving up a significant raise.

This is not an ideal world. With about half of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, extreme increases in the cost of living (when you include the technology needed to get by today, not to mention keeping up with the Jones’), increasing healthcare costs, higher education debt, and the perception of shortages of opportunity even though it is a job seeker’s market, whether it’s the right next step or not, few people would turn down a promotion. If an employee has personal things going on that a manager feels may interfere with being able to meet the expectations, that frank conversation may never happen. I do not condone this – this is just a far too common reality.

External candidates are sometimes chosen over internal candidates because managers know too much about the internal candidate’s life.

Have you endured or are you about to face a big life change? Have you missed days to deal with something personal? Has it become a trend?

It can feel unfair. It can feel like neglect, abandonment, or misfortune. It can also sometimes be a blessing. In a few of the cases I have mentioned above with prospective clients, the professional wound up needing that time to adequately deal with a major life change. While, of course, I am all about supporting people in moving up, over, or out, sometimes staying put is what works best at the time. Not aspiring to achieve more in your career in order to manage life is totally okay and it doesn’t have to be permanent. However, you will need to make it known if and when your aspirations change and you want to get back on a growth trajectory.

In most cases, getting passed up for a promotion was the impetus of change that led my clients to far greater happiness and fulfillment – the kick in the pants they needed to start taking control of their career direction.

If you want to know more about how to:

• Assess what the best next step in your career is
• Develop greater self-awareness to become more promotable
• Gain additional tools that will expand your influence and leadership
• Communicate assertively and confidently with your supervisor
• Be the person that gets thought of first for a promotion, even if you previously needed to stay still for a while
• Brand or rebrand yourself for what’s next in your career and what’s after that

Scheduling a free consultation is your next step.

Survivor – The Search Is Over (Official Music Video)

Survivor’s official music video for ‘The Search Is Over’. Click to listen to Survivor on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/SurvSpot?IQid=SurvTSIO As featured on Ultimate Survivor.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

If You’re Robbing Yourself of Fun and Self-Care During Your Job Search, You’re robbing Yourself of Results (Prescription Within!)

 

When I was out of work for 10 months after 9/11, I was not only in between jobs but also in between living arrangements. I wasn’t officially a roommate to my boyfriend (now husband) and his roommate since I was not paying rent, and I could not continue to live with my bachelor father, because some things you can’t unsee.

I had moved back in with my dad after leaving a cheating boyfriend at the age of 21, met my husband four months later, and was laid off six months into our relationship.

I had student loans to pay and some credit card debt that I’d accrued while searching for my first job after college. I had also finally bought a brand new car, a Saturn SL2, after being stranded one too many times on the side of the road with a broken down car, so I had a car payment as well.

After being informed that cleaning and tidying were insufficient forms of rent, and if he (the roommate) were me he wouldn’t be doing pilates at 3 PM or hiking in the middle of the day, but hitting the pavement.  I felt added pressure to spend all my time either working doing anything so as not to be home when he was home, but also not spending my time on self-care. I walked to a business within walking distance, since gas was a luxury I couldn’t always afford, and worked for minimum wage doing menial tasks while neglecting self-care. My depression worsened, and interview anxiety manifested, whereas I’d never had interview anxiety before.

As an employee, I was known to be sharp, intelligent, forward-thinking, and organized. As an unemployed sponge, I was now considered a burden, a leech, and essentially useless. Even though some friends were helping me out, giving me referrals for jobs, I was not making them look good at all. I was showing up as the unemployed sponge, not the confident, value-adding, trend-setting, technology-savvy people person.

After the business down the street told me their business slump meant my minimum wage job was no longer, I went back to taking care of myself. Neglecting myself wasn’t working; it was backfiring. So was doing work well below my capacity and potential. Something else I realized – my husband and his roommate didn’t know how to land a corporate job. Hitting the pavement was not producing jobs that would position me to pay my bills and rent and sending online application after online application left me powerless and dejected. I had to go back to my network, which I avoided when I was depressed and doing demeaning work. I had to show up as the person who would add value

I went back to pilates and hiking regularly. I spent my transition time finding out who my network knew (this was before LinkedIn). I shifted my criteria to target GROWTH opportunities that required a college degree, whether in recruiting or not, and challenged myself to find ways to have fun that didn’t require spending a lot of (or any) money so I could remember why people wanted to be around me.

I landed, finally, and then was laid off again three months later, but landed again five weeks later, and then was promoted three months after that. I knew that eventually, I would teach people what I learned about making a job search effective AND fun, and how essential both are.

Nearly 16 years later, here I am with 13 years of experience doing just that under my belt and when my clients express to me that their emotions and thoughts are getting the best of them, I prescribe them fun and self-care. Now, after years of studying human performance optimization and neuroscience, I have an even better understanding of exactly why fun and self-care are essential to job search success.

Do you remember learning about Pavlov’s dog?  Reinforcement is key to learning positive behaviors and making them habits. Reward yourself for engaging in job search activities that are effective, but perhaps stretch your comfort zone, like attending networking events, asking your friends and contacts for introductions, inviting hiring managers to speak or meet, and calling to follow up. The more you associate these activities with a reward, the more motivated you will feel to do them.

And, once you get results this way, the shot of endorphins will further compel you to want to repeat them.

Make sure your self-care routine incorporates exercise AND restoration. Exercise is not just healthy for your body, but also has proven clinical impacts on your mental state, helps you feel more confident, and increases oxygen to your brain to make you smarter! Restoration and recuperation is key to preventing physical fatigue and brain fatigue, both of which can negatively impact your performance and mood. Making time for stillness and reflection is essential to seeing where and how you can improve as a human being, teammate, and as a performer.

To take this all a level up, identify and engage in activities that put you in the flow. The more you can put yourself in a state of flow, the better you intuitively, swiftly solve problems and make decisions. For me, being in the woods or out on the water, coloring, making crafts with flowers and plants, swimming in the ocean, sitting in my hot tub, dancing to live music, attending development-related classes and webinars, watching sports, and yoga put me in a flow state.

Make a list of activities that make you feel like you’re in the flow, and set time aside on your calendar each week for these. Steven Kotler, NY Times best-selling author on the subject of flow, recommends at least 15% of your time be allocated for this each week.

Also, don’t avoid people because you fear their judgment. Isolation is a confidence killer and anxiety inducer.  Invite the people who know and appreciate the “real you” to spend time with you at least once a week. There are plenty of things that you can do that don’t require spending money, such as a game of catch, card and board game potlucks, picnics, and gathering to watch your favorite show or team. Keep up your team skills while in transition. You can even invite them to volunteer with you.

Having trouble justifying this to the stakeholders in your job search? Tell them it is a prescription, professor’s orders, and show them this:

 

If you want additional emotional support and guidance (not just advice, which I give freely here) on how to spend your days to optimize your performance and results, schedule a free consultation.

Put The Lime In The Coconut

AND SHAKE IT ALL UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

Celebrating 11 Years

Thank You by Andrew Bowden of Flickr

Ten years is usually the big milestone, and it was, but 11 is my lucky number and the year that I had been most excited to reach – a second decade in business to celebrate.

Rather, what is more worthy of celebration are the people I have met, engaged, helped, supported and been supported by. Also, the challenges I have overcome and the self-limiting beliefs that I have busted are worthy of celebrating.

I was very busy with business, grading, and preparing for my first destination girls’ trip (a celebration of the year my high school friends and I turn 40) on my anniversary, that I forgot to acknowledge it on the actual day, June 1st, prior to leaving.

But I arrived before my friends in Hilton Head, SC, and as I lie in a lounge chair over looking palm trees and the warm, gentle, loving ocean, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

  • I had hardly enough time to pack or sleep because my clients, mentors, and partners have been referring so many leads to me, and because now more clients engage me to work one-on-one with them throughout their campaign, a much larger investment, and more prospective clients are asking to speak with references.
  • I am so grateful for the myriad of former clients who are thrilled to share their story and genuinely want more people to have a happy ending/new beginning just like them.
  • I am grateful that I can spend money on a jaunt without worry that the well will run dry and I will soon regret spending that money, both because I have a full pipeline and because I have busted the belief that I am un-deserving, that the world is a place of cruel limits and lack, and that just when things are finally going well, tragedy will strike.

These beliefs kept me from fully spreading my wings, and while my wings are still not as fully expansive as they can become, they are FAR wider than ever before.

  • I trust in God and the Universe.
  • I know that I am deserving of success, happiness and wealth, and the world is abundant in resources and possibility, as long as I am resourceful and open to possibility.

My 40s and this second decade of business are looking to be my most exciting and adventurous years yet, and I have had quite an exciting and adventurous life so far. But, again, it is not about the years, it is about the people.

  • I first have to thank my husband, without whom I could not have been able to stay in business this long, and most definitely would not have been able to be home with my daughters.
  • I want to thank my parents. Even though I probably would have started a business without their blessing, I was both surprised and relieved to gain their support from the beginning through now.
  • Thank you my former BNI referral partners with whom I still keep in touch and some who still refer clients eight years later. You helped me hone my public speaking and networking skills, and supported my business during the most critical time in a business’s life and at a time when it was critical for me to have a strong business as I ventured into motherhood.
  • Thank you to the hundreds of LinkedIn Workshop for Jobseekers attendees. It was your feedback that enabled me to develop a much stronger curriculum.
  • Thank you to the people in the dozens of organizations who engaged me to speak. I found a new passion in public speaking and, now that my kids are older, see this as a primary platform going forward.
  • Thank you to my first clients who took a chance on a young, but ambitious and knowledgeable résumé writer and career coach who probably seemed like a baby to you.
  • Thank you to the clients who gave me a shot as a work-at-home mom. I was so scared of being perceived as unreliable that I was uber stressed all the time about keeping a regular schedule with my babies. I did not have a lot of time to work one-on-one with clients as I breastfed every three hours for 45 minutes. Though I was more diligent than ever with my schedule, if ever there was a snafu (baby won’t nap, explosive diaper incidents, illness, etc.) you were more patient and understanding than I could have imagined. Your patronage was so appreciated. You kept my business going.
  • Thank you to the clients who helped me test and launch new products and services. Helping you overcome your challenges was a reason to develop solutions that would help so many more.
  • Thank you to my interns and assistants. My management and mentoring experience before I started my business was minimal, but while I created new opportunities for you to grow, you also gave me the opportunity to see what kind of contributor I could be.
  • To my virtual experimental teams, who allowed me to test out new tools and processes while we learned along side each other, we may not have had the outcome we intended, but I can say that a lot was learned, and none of us were afraid to fail. For that we should be proud and I thank you. I will try again with new insights that will help future teams achieve more success.
  • To my former mastermind community, thank you for the virtually magic synchronicity that was created. Again, we may not have created a permanent group, but the momentum gained during that time had a permanent, compounding effect on my business. Thank you.
  • Thank you to all my clients who were willing to be vulnerable and honest with me, and trusted that I had your back and would be compassionate in my stand for your optimal outcome. You should be so proud of how you expanded your comfort zones, increased your life skill level and confidence, and grew empowered to create a future that makes the life you want possible. You ROCK in a very EPIC way.
  • To all the vendors who have helped me with marketing, graphic design, editing, transcription, sales funnels, and more, thank you.
  • A HUGE thanks to my current assistant, Angela, who has been with me two years supporting the most growth the business has ever experienced. Without your efforts, I could never have focused my time and attention on what really mattered, our clients and major strategic initiatives.
  • Of course, I thank my kids. To be honest, they seemed like an impediment to business a lot of the time. This might sound awful, but I used to feel immense pressure to compete with emerging coaches who had no tethers and could attend all the cool events and who started to “take” all the great speaking engagements. It took a while to grow in my own confidence, to see that I am a uniquely gifted coach, that my audience was not being “taken” by someone else, and that I am a FORCE of nature. That last one is something I learned from my kids, from overcoming the challenges that parenthood presented while conquering product development, plus business development, plus client delivery. I can now instill in other moms that it CAN be done.

 

Dear Soon-To-Be Graduates: 3 of 7 Things You May Not Want to Know, But Need To

The Graduates by Luftphilia of Flickr

 

I went back to college this weekend. It was horrifying to discover that these girls were born the year I pledged. My sorority invited alumnae back to campus to say farewell to the house that has been ours since my senior year. It was a time to reflect on some of the most impactful years of my life, but also to remember the fear, uncertainty, and sadness that accompanied leaving college, where your best friends were often just a door away. I had no grand plan, like some of my friends, and no full-time salaried job as an aspiring radio personality. I was under the impression that if I could not make it in radio, I would be living in a ditch begging for change to buy a meal.

That never happened, though hard times did follow. When asked, “What’s life like after graduation?” I had to remember that some of the best things in my life happened after college – my band, my husband, my company, my kids, and teaching, in that order.  As my friends now turn 40, (I’m the youngest, so I get to watch them all get there first) I see that for some of them, it means it is all downhill from here. That was an exact quote from a 40th birthday party I went to last night. (Happy 40th, Neal!) Looking back at the last decade, at what I have learned, how I have grown, what I’ve been able to accomplish and contribute, I am excited for the next decade.  I’m looking forward to it, and I think there are amazing things yet to come.

BUT, there are some things that I would have wanted my younger self to know, which I felt compelled to pass on to the graduating seniors in my sorority, and my students, as well as ALL soon-to-be graduates. I feel these things would have potentially catapulted me so much further so much faster if I had known and applied them.

Before I get into the hard truths, I most want ALL people, but particularly young people, to know that there IS a formula for success, and no matter what family structure, social or economic status, education, circumstance, or hardships you are from, they DO NOT limit your future at all. At any time you can improve your life. The tools, technology, and teaching exist – all you have to do is harness them.

Okay, now on with what you may not want to hear, but need to know if you want to make your 30s onward the best years of your life.

  1. Unless you land at Google, Apple, Disney, a Big 4 consulting firm, or a company with a similar colossal reputation, it will not be as easy as it is right now to land a job.

The co-op program where I teach is world-renowned. The biggest, most admired companies want these graduates badly. They come out of school not as entry-level workers who were getting coffee and observing leadership, but as junior business stars who have already solved real business problems. By the time they take my mandatory career management class, many of them already have jobs lined up from campus recruitment efforts and co-ops that led to offers. While you may be recruited aggressively if you work for a company with clout for hiring and developing the best talent, the legwork to find your next gig, even internally, if you don’t is on you.  AND, furthermore, even if you are aggressively recruited, you are not necessarily managing your career optimally by being reactive to recruiters’ sales pitches. This is why the class that I teach is not “Get a Job 101,” but Career Management and Professional Development. See your career growth as a trajectory and learn how to course correct early. Learn and master the life skills of personal branding, networking, and career management.

  1. The bottom is often the best place to start if you want to be a great leader.

Many of my clients are influential leaders today because they were once in the trenches. Isn’t that the point of Undercover Boss? Making well-informed business decisions can be easier when you have first-hand knowledge of business from the front-line to the executive office. Those that have been successful in implementing massive change say that they were able to rally the troops because they were once the troops. Empathy, as we have stated before, is quickly gaining popularity as one of the most effective leadership tools.

Also, even for those students who were solving real business problems in their co-ops or internships, it might be worth considering starting even lower if the target role or company is worth it. I can speak from experience here.

While I was on air, reporting news, DJing, producing live talk shows, and operating the board for remote broadcasts at a small community radio station, my fellow Communications majors were putting up flyers at concerts, dressing up in costumes, and handing out chotchkes for the major media radio stations. I figured I had the advantage, but I was wrong. I moved to the Jersey Shore and did get to work producing talk shows for an AM station, while digging into commercial production and more part-time work. I temped to pay the bills. Meanwhile, my fellow classmates went on to full-time jobs eventually at the major media stations. Granted, some of their jobs involved much less glamorous, even undignified tasks, like getting shot from a cannon. Guess what – they are STILL THERE, loving their jobs and making what is probably good money. Casey is the Executive Producer of a VERY popular morning show that is streamed worldwide.  Matt is a Regional Director for Advertising for the conglomerate and Joann is Traffic Manager for a radio station in the same company.

When it came down to it, I had recognized after a year in radio that I was not really willing to continue working awful hours, get paid peanuts, do the boring parts of the work OR keep moving from market to market in order to achieve my ultimate position, but that was what I had learned was necessary from the people who were more senior than I at the station where I worked. At the larger station I would have had a completely different experience, and even though I might not have started out on the air, perhaps I would have found a different niche in radio and stayed there until today, too. Not that I have regrets – I think things worked out just as they were supposed to. However, I’ll always wonder.

  1. In time, you will earn the right to demand certain accommodations IF you are a top performer. But for now, you have to play their game.

Older generations will tell you that they had no illusions – work hard, get a job, work your butt off, save your money, and you’ll be fine. That is not what the younger generations have seen, though, so it is not what they will believe. With diminishing financial security for employees came resentment to employers for taking more than they give. This is what has led to a perceived sense of entitlement.

Even though there are talent gaps, and certain skill sets are very high in demand, most are not. Yes, talent is hard to find, but that does not mean companies are willing to bend over backwards to hire you. Ultimately, there has to be mutual respect and value in the deal.  Many things ARE negotiable, but that depends highly on the company, their policies, their culture and what you have PROVEN you can do to make it worth giving you more than they have given to employees before you.

If you are really that good, get in and prove your worth. You may earn the right to ask for more flexibility, more money, extra vacations, or perks. In the meantime, understand that though your package should remain confidential, IF anyone were to learn of you getting preferential treatment, you would not like the climate that breeds.

 

As graduation month ramps up, I hope this food for thought is helpful, even if it may not be encouraging. In a way, your adult life does not really begin until after college. Adulting is not always fun, but being armed with wisdom and systems for success will make it much more enjoyable.

Follow me and stay tuned for more things you need to know, but may not want to hear.

Share this with graduates you know.

 

What’s Missing When You Pray to Discover Your Purpose

Kirtomy View Point by Paul Wordingham of Flickr

Kirtomy View Point by Paul Wordingham of Flickr

 

Not all of my clients are religious, though most would claim to be spiritual. I am constantly working on procuring and presenting the scientific studies that continue to emerge to promote the benefits of ritualized higher communication, which I will define as an attempt to connect with any nonphysical entity perceived to have power. This can take many forms, including most commonly prayer and meditation. I have covered in previous blogs the scientific implications of meditation without fully realizing that some of my religious clients believe that praying is meditating. There is a very clear distinction between prayer and meditation; with prayer, you are TALKING and with MEDITATION you are SENSING.

Discovering your purpose can be a very confronting process where limiting beliefs about yourself and the world inevitably surface. The services that I provide that to help facilitate this process can be very challenging to answer, because it requires my clients to see themselves in a way they may not have been willing to or needed to in the past. It hurts their brain, and they are brilliant – it has nothing to do with intelligence. I encourage them to rely upon multiple methods and tools that have helped them increase self-awareness in the past, and provide them with new tools and methods that enable them to answer these questions as comprehensively as possible so that we can arrive at optimal conclusions about their future faster.

After all, a ship captain does not rely solely on his cutting edge navigation system; it could fail at any moment. He needs maps, and perhaps would even be wise to learn the age-old system of using the stars to navigate the seas in the case that his maps are lost or thrown overboard.

Meditation is one of many tools that have proven to be very effective at helping my clients, and myself, gain more clarity on meaningful questions about how to achieve the life we want.

I have no intentions of minimizing the power of prayer, as it too has been scientifically proven to cause results and I have seen it work in my own life. However, the shortcoming of relying on this method alone is that the answers to your prayers can come in so many different ways, and they can be easy to mistake as insignificant coincidences. In order for this to be an effective method, you also have to attune yourself to be completely receptive to your answer and have unwavering faith that the answer will appear without using reason or logic to question that answer. You have to LISTEN for something beyond yourself.

Have you heard the story of the man who was warned by all of his town officials to evacuate to a shelter due to expected flooding? The sheriff came and knocked on his door personally after the rest of the town had already found safety and he refused, insistent that God will save him. As the floodwaters started to rise, a boat came by to take him to safety, but the man insisted that God will save him, and so he stayed, moving to the second floor. The floodwaters continued to rise until the only place the man had left to be safe was on his own roof. A chopper flew by and sent a rope down. The man refused this last attempt of human help. The waters continued to rise and in desperation the man cried out to God, “Why didn’t you come save me? I had faith that you would get me to safety.” God replied, “I sent the sheriff, I sent a boat, and I sent a chopper. What else did you want from me?”

What did the man think the help was going to look like? Perhaps he thought God Himself would come and raise him up to the heavens.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we have a lot of noise to sort through in order to hear or see the answers and resources that are truly all around us. Besides needing the faith to know that the answers are really there, you need to create quiet in the noise in order to notice the answers.

Meditation is a practice, albeit challenging for most, that requires us to be still, eliminate self-talk, and sense, as opposed to thinking. The best answer does not always come from our logical brain. Our logical brain will provide us with valuable input, but just like relying upon one form of increasing self-awareness limits how self-aware you will become, not consulting your intuition and your subconscious will narrow your spectrum of possibilities, risking that you will dismiss a very viable future as too far-fetched. We often focus prematurely on the HOW before we are clear on the WHAT. Another risk is that you simply will not be able to bring to light the things you don’t even know are possible.

Meditation is one of many powerful ways to attune yourself to be more receptive to the answers to your prayers, and I’m sure you have already heard about the studies that link meditation to other health benefits, including stress management.

Stress management is critical when you are in a state of flux in your life. The things that life throws at us can be that much more difficult to gain a sense of control over when we feel our future is out of control. The fear and anxiety that problems in life cause can be that much more of an inhibitor to our ability to be attuned and awakened to how to create alignment between our reality and our vision of an ideal future.

 

Meditation and prayer, as well as engaging experts in the job market like me, can all be powerful tools to help you accelerate what is usually the very uncomfortable stage of career discovery. When you are in flux, you don’t have a destination, and therefore are unable to gain control of your vocation navigation. Not everyone minds drifting aimlessly from port to port, but it will make some sea sick, and you eventually need to reach port to acquire the food and resources you need to live.  Wouldn’t you agree that it would be even better if that port has the potential to provide you with the resources for a fulfilled, happy life that you might even call home?

 

What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?

Tombstone by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

Tombstone by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

 

You might have heard that the most significant part of the tombstone is not the epitaph, but the dash between your birth date and your death date. What will the dash mean to the people you leave behind? Will you have had the chance to fulfill your highest purpose? Is that even really important?

According to Dr. Abraham Maslow, a purposeful vocation is essential after your most basic happiness needs are met. With nearly 70% of Americans being disengaged in their vocations, the majority of us won’t know higher levels of happiness before we make our exit.

On this Halloween, when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest, it might seem preposterous to suggest visiting a graveyard. If you are not that kind of thrill seeker, simply read through this exercise then close your eyes and use your imagination.

Sit in front of a tombstone and imagine that it is yours. Reflect on your life. Consider the legacy you cultivated. Did you bring forth your fulfillment in this lifetime? Did you complete your missions? Did you find your passion and share it with others? For what do you wish you had made more time?

When life gets hard, it especially becomes difficult to be grateful for the little things, like the fact that we woke up this morning and we’re still alive. We have today, but we don’t know if we will have tomorrow. What can you do to make today a meaningful part of your dash? What can you do tomorrow, if you are lucky enough to still be here?

Are the hours you are spending at work bringing you closer to the kind you of happiness that will make you feel proud of the life you led?

If this exercise makes you aware of a gap that needs filling in your purpose, contact us and we can help you accelerate the career discovery process and help you find a purpose-lead vocation that suits your skill set, personality, and desired lifestyle.

 

Don’t wait until December for my book, Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint Your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days.

 

The EPIC Way To Celebrate 10 years – Boldly Embarking On A New Adventure

And-for-that-one-moment-Kelliee More

On June 2, 2006, I was called into my boss’ office (I was reporting to two people). I received the news that I was being let go. I had been laid off twice before, and had been fired twice before, but this news was the best news I could have received at the time.

Earlier that year, I had been put on probation and asked to work under a mentor, the late, great Allen Astra, to make sure that I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. I had not made a placement in two-and-a-half months. This was after being offered the opportunity to work with a coach, the late, great Sheila Kutner, aka, “The Velvet Hammer.”

After two months on probation, I was given the chance to ask the account managers that I was working with to come into the board room with us, along with my mentor, Allen. They let me take the lead and confront them directly. Their general feedback was that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing to identify and present suitable candidates for their job openings, so I asked them for specific instances where quality candidates were not delivered. When no specific instances could be cited, my bosses then realized that it was a perception problem, not a performance problem, and my reputation was redeemed. I was no longer on probation, and I was to be assigned more viable jobs. However, I still was not feeling great about my job.

I had already realized that recruiting no longer fulfilled me. The seeds planted five years earlier to becoming a career coach before being laid off the first time were growing, pushing through the soil and begging for water, nutrients, and sunshine. Sheila helped me realize that I was the only thing standing in my way. What more did I need to know? Well, how to run a business, for one. She helped me devise a six-month plan that had started January 1st of that year. I joined a professional organization and took courses on career planning and résumé writing by one of the industry’s founders, Jay Block. My target date to quit and start my company was June 1st.

I had only saved up $1500 (this was a few months after Tim and I honeymooned in New Zealand, and the year after we threw a wedding for 250 guests, so there wasn’t much left in our account).  I figured I did not need much overhead if I could land clients right away.

On Friday, May 13th, my 13-month old cat, Lucy, was hit by a car. The impact was to her head and face. We almost lost her on the way to the animal hospital. They gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving, and they thought her jaw was broken. The bills were $1200, but she recovered in two days and on Mother’s Day I was able to take her home. She’s still with us today and I never lamented spending that money.

I delayed my plans until I could save up another $1300, but my plans, I suppose, were not meant to wait.

 

Where-words-fail-music-Hans

On June 2nd, after being told just two months before that I was the right person for the job, though knowing the job was not right for me any longer, I was told that I would have one month’s severance and be eligible for unemployment benefits. They were letting me go, with no specific reasons. It did not matter…this was exactly what I wanted. Without that push out the door, who knows how long I would have stayed just to feel more financially comfortable and stable, only to feel increasingly dissatisfied in my role.

On that same day, I drafted an e-mail to all my friends, family and former colleagues, announcing my new résumé writing company, Charésumé (charisma + résumé, which was rebranded as Epic Careering in 2012) and asking them to visit my website. My website had been lovingly put together by my brother-in-law, a CTO, in exchange for my résumé writing services– my first client.  A company was born, and I was reborn as an entrepreneur.

I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of that fateful day the EPIC way– there has been an idea rolling around in my head since reading “Think and Grow Rich” several years ago, and I will be finally testing this idea out on a much smaller scale.

It is a Career Revival Concert.

re·viv·al  (rĭ-vī′vəl)

n.

1.

  1. The act or an instance of reviving: the revival of a person who fainted.
  2. The condition of being revived.

 

  1. A restoration to use, acceptance, activity, or vigor after a period of obscurity or quiescence: a revival of colonial architecture; a revival of the economy.

 

  1. A new presentation of an old play, movie, opera, ballet, or similar production.

 

4.

  1. A time of reawakened interest in religion.
  2. A meeting or series of meetings for the purpose of reawakening religious faith, often characterized by impassioned preaching and public testimony.

 

  1. Restoration to validity of something lapsed or set aside, such as a legal claim or status.

 

This combines sermon-like job search education with the emulsifying, healing, connecting powers of LIVE music.

Music-can-change-the-Bono

 

On June 2nd, I would like to invite you to celebrate 10 years of Epic Careering with me. I’ll be doing a very short version of the Career Revival Concert – three songs with three mini-lessons, at open mic night at The Whitpain Tavern around 8:30ish.

I hope you can join me and bear witness to what could be the birth of a new way of helping job seekers, and offer valuable feedback that will help me make the CRC the most effective edutainment job seeker event possible.

Thank you for being a supporter to Epic Careering reaching this momentous milestone. Thank you to the hundreds of clients who have entrusted me to help you reach the next level in your career. Thank you to the family and friends who have cheered me on, cared for my children, and referred your loved ones.

 

Adventures ahead, ALWAYS.

 

Your Heroic Job Search

Simply-become-who-you-are

David is a programmer at a small company. One day he received a promotion to management. He used to love programming, but lately it feels like everything is going wrong at work. He’s learning a tremendous amount about the business side and loves to interface with the C-level: but, at the end of the day he is exhausted from all of the people-problems he has to deal with on the job. Drama between co-workers, scheduling issues when people call out sick, confronting his staff about missed deadlines, and their failure to meet performance expectations are just a few of the issues he has to resolve.

This affects his usually-pleasant disposition and he becomes a grumpy person at work and home. David is now irritable and impatient with his family. His relationships with his wife and kids suffer. His son’s teacher now recommends that David and his family see a therapist weekly. His problems begin to extend beyond work and his immediate family. Even though David knows that he only has so much time with his ailing parents, he resents how they depend on him. He has no energy to take care of his health, and now his doctor wants him to start taking cholesterol and blood pressure medication. David also didn’t take care of his car. He forgot to get it serviced and inspected, so he was pulled over and fined for driving with expired inspection stickers, and the mechanic identified major engine problems due to his failure to get regular oil changes.

As David’s expenses grow, he has to cancel plans for vacations, which further disappoints his family. He starts to feel like there is no reprieve from his life. David is getting a month older with every day that passes in his life. He feels hopeless. Nothing is going the way he wants. It is as if he’s walking toward the abyss and nothing can correct his course. He knows he has to do more to save his health and to reignite the passion in his career. The desire to search for a new job, and to leave the stresses of his current job behind are calling to him. David has to answer the call.

David wants new adventures and excitement in his life. He wants to feel as if his work matters, instead of feeling like a cog in a giant machine. Each night after work, he applies for new jobs on various job boards and on company websites. Most of the time, he submits his résumé and never hears back from potential employers. Other times, David’s interviews are torturous, as he tries to explain why he would be a good manager. He then tries to go back to programming, but receives even fewer responses, and is told he is over-qualified, and addressing his failure to be an effective manager continues to make him feel inadequate and embarrassed. He knows he’s not making a great impression with employers.

A year passed and David is still miserable at his job as a manager, unable to find anything new. He needs change NOW. David asks a few of his friends for advice and one of them suggests reassessing his job search. The manager knows he wants more from his job search. He doesn’t want to waste any more time and energy at his unfulfilling job. He begins the reassessment by attempting to identify his strengths, assess his skills, and tries to assume a new professional identity while carving out his own personal niche in the job market. David has a difficult time trying to achieve the vision he set forward. He reaches out to a career coach who can help him relay those findings into a vision of his new professional identity.

With the advice of a career coach, he is able to learn how to apply his strengths as a business analyst, has a new résumé written, and even learns how to connect with others in his desired industry. The career coach helps him develop a three-month plan to close the skills gap he needs to be considered a Business Analyst, and helps him enroll in online courses that he can take while he searches and works full-time. David learns how to demonstrate his value and passion to others. He also revamps his LinkedIn profile, and it is rewritten to promote the transferrable skills and innate talents he has been using all along. He is able to show how he will apply his skills in a new way, in a new role. The the results are almost immediate. Within three months of hiring a career coach, David receives job offers from multiple companies and discovers his negotiating power. David lands a job as a Business Analyst at a company he loves, while earning a higher salary than he did at his previous job as a manager.

David’s journey from a job he hated to a job he loved is not unlike the journey of a hero– a term used in fiction-writing. The call to adventure is often ignored or refused by the hero in his or her journey. The refusal might be because of a sense of fear, insecurity, or obligation. Refusing the call means feeling stuck in a place of hopelessness and being a victim to circumstances. Joseph Campbell, an American writer, helped summarize the concept of the Hero’s Journey in his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In his concept of the hero’s journey, the hero’s tale only takes a turn for the positive when he answers the call of adventure:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

 

Think of it this way: the decision to search for a new job, whether you’re unemployed or seeking a better job, is a journey. In your job search, YOU are the hero: but thankfully, you are also the AUTHOR of your own epic journey. Like the hero in many stories, your journey never really goes anywhere until you heed a higher calling. In the case of a job seeker, this would be the call to leave the job you’re dissatisfied with, or avoiding taking just any job if you’re unemployed. Heeding the call means you’ll be victorious in your journey. But many of us (at first) choose to ignore the call. What does this look like? More importantly, how can we get our heroic journey started?

 

The Journey and ignoring the call:

If you’re failing to find purpose in your job and your job-search journey is stalled, these are symptoms of a much greater problem– you are out of sync and out of alignment with your purpose and passion. Living against this grain causes splinters and calluses, much like how you can go into numbness and resignation. Until you surrender to the calling, EVERYTHING goes wrong.

If you’re dissatisfied with your job and you feel your life has a lack of passion, it’s not too late to start on a new journey. Bill Walsh, America’s Small Business Coach, said it best: “If your why is strong enough, the how will come.” Consider your own “why.” That is, what are the things that give you passion, drive and purpose in both your professional and personal life? Why have you chosen your particular career? Did you do it just to draw a paycheck? Or do you want to help others succeed: give back to your community: and enjoy your life to the fullest? Your “why” is something only you can answer. I created my own “why” video as one of my first assignments from Bill’s Rainmaker Summit.

Landing a job that helps fuel passion and purpose is a critical part of the hero’s journey. Remember, ignoring the call-to-adventure means being stuck in a place of stagnation and unhappiness.

 

Heeding the call:

At this point, you may feel like our hero who is on the cusp of embarking on the adventure. Right now, you may feel stuck, but you’ve found your reason for wanting to achieve greatness. Perhaps you were meant to read this very post, at this very time. It may be your time to STOP and listen to the call-to-adventure, start your hero’s journey, and accept the call to adventure. Don’t navigate it alone. Every hero has allies he or she can depend on. Those allies may be family, friends, alumni, co-workers and even acquaintances.  They are your network and they are willing to aid you in your journey.

There’s also the option to seek out professional help, if you feel your network can only take your journey so far. A career coach can help you discover the direction you need to take in your journey. Our own book, “Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint Your Purpose and Passion in 30 days” is a journal guide that can help you discover your passion. Whether the future is completely open or you know you need to make some major shifts, but keep a few things in place, our services will help you formulate a clearer vision of your future, so that you can build a strong foundation for a brand and campaign that manifest your ideal future.  We also recommend Derek Rydall’s programs to help you see what is in you already and to help bring it OUT, so that you can become who you are.  We suggest starting with Rydall’s “Best Year of Your Life Podcast” and then considering his Emergineering Program.

 

Decide that NOW is the time to answer the call-to-adventure. This will mean no longer being stuck in a mediocre job, and having the to power to change a career path. Discover what your “why” looks like and how it can help guide your job-search journey. As I said earlier, it could be finding a job you’re passionate about, finding your own financial freedom, earning a better salary, or even helping others in your community.

In your hero’s journey, once you find your “why” you can draw your sword and attack your job search with a renewed sense of purpose. No more job boards. No more torturous interviews. You’re going to be intentional about your future. You may decide that you want to enlist the help of a mentor, a career coach, or you may read about ways to discover and apply proactive methods to your job search. Creating a plan, choosing and targeting employers, networking, building your personal brand, hiring a résumé writer, and crafting a new cover letter are just a few of the many proactive methods you can use in your job search. Remember “why” you want to change your current circumstances and the “how” will come.

Epic adventures ahead!

 

Your Attitudes About Work Can Shape the Career Path of Others

child

Photo courtesy of Mississippi State University Libraries on flickr open source.

As a career coach I have met many clients who are unhappy with their career choices. I worked with a gentleman who made a decision to work in business. Business isn’t his passion, but it provided him with stability and good pay. As he got older, he realized he hated his choice. Being a businessman was not something he was passionate about, and it showed. Even so, he believed it was impossible to pursue a career that made him happy and to also earn a decent living wage. It was how his own father lived his life. These were the values he was brought up with and it is ultimately how he ended up working. He internalized these attitudes and they ended up becoming an absolute truth for him. My client wanted his children to live a more fulfilling life, but he was caught between the importance of a pragmatic career choice and one based on personal passion. As a result, he always told his children and younger peers that a stable career was more important than a fulfilling career.

We all know people who made a career decision based on their own generational beliefs that were formed from their life experiences, and the experiences of the generation that preceded them. The majority of us don’t second guess our career decisions, even if we are unsatisfied with them, and it is all too easy to pass our beliefs on to others.

Here’s an example of someone caught between the crossroads of a pragmatic career choice and their dream career:

We all have that friend who moved out to California to become a movie star, right? I do. He was 35 and considered it the last and biggest push he could make so that he’d always know that he gave it his best effort. I’m sure some thought of him as foolish, but I could not have been more proud. It didn’t even matter what the outcome is or will be. As long as he could make a living out there doing any variety of other things, he could continue to audition, build his portfolio and make connections. Until…

He found out that he has a baby girl on the way.  He’s scared. Not only was he never really sure if he ever wanted kids, but he’s still trying to figure out how to take care of himself. His biggest fear, however, is that this is the end of his dreams.

So, he has some big decisions to make in the next year and for the rest of his life. What would your advice to him be?

Chances are good, between us all, that he will get some very conflicting information, and that some advice would be well-intentioned, but potentially unnecessarily detrimental to his future. Furthermore, what he decides to do, and how he feels about it, talks about it, and lives it will make a huge impact on his daughter’s future.

How we advise him isn’t really as much based on what the BEST thing to do would be, but rather what our dominant paradigm is about work. As per my last article, “Are you martyring your dreams?” I wrote about how we shape the next generations’ attitudes about work, mostly unconsciously.

The actions and attitudes of one generation of workers can greatly influence the next generation. Personally, I do not want my children to ever feel limited about their work choices and commitments. My daughters are young, and are forming the next generation of workers. So, what about those of us already in the workforce? Thanks to longer life spans there is an incredible amount of generational diversity in the workplace. Four generations now work together and each of them brings their own attitudes to the job. Each generation also has its own perceptions about the previous and next generations. For example, Millenials are technology savvy, but entitled and lazy. Generation Xers are poor team players. Baby boomers and Traditionalists are slow to adapt and adopt new technologies. These perceptions are largely stereotypes, but each generation does have their own beliefs and values about work that informed and shaped their career decisions.  So, what are the attitudes of these different generations? How do our attitudes shape our own beliefs about work? And how do they shape the future of the workforce as a result?

First, let’s start with some common generational scenarios that lead to personal attitudes about work:

Gertrude was born during the great depression and remembers growing up during difficult times. She learned to save her money, hold on to what possessions she had, and generally respected authority. At work she was extremely loyal to her company, gained a great deal of experience, valued stability, and stayed there for much of her working life, putting in regular 9-5 hours. Her lifelong commitment paid off when she eventually made her way into upper-management. Her managerial style was direct and top-down. She preferred to talk face-to-face with her co-workers and subordinates, and would only settle on a phone call if she absolutely had to. Eventually, she became the CEO of the company and retired after more than 40 years of service. Gertrude’s beliefs and life experiences taught her that she needed to work hard, to be cautious, have lifetime loyalty to her employer, and that seniority is important to career advancement. Work is about picking a career, choosing a company to work for, and staying there until retirement.

Ronald was born at the end of World War II. His generation is one of the largest in American society and thanks to its size greatly influenced the direction of the country. He grew up during a time of prosperity, unbridled optimism and a rapidly changing political and social landscape. Ronald was raised to respect authority figures, but thanks to the changing nature of the country, he did not blindly trust the previous generation. Like his father, he believed the right course of action in a career was to pick a company to work for and to expect to stay there for at least a decade. He worked long hours, was on-call during the weekends, was loyal to his employer, and eventually made his way up the career ladder, thanks to his hard work. He essentially lives to work, believing it to be a priority over his personal life. A 60-hour work week didn’t matter, because he had something to show for it. Unlike his parents, Ronald has no plans to fully retire at 65. Ronald believes work is fundamental to his identity and self-worth. He puts in long hours at the office because it is how work “should” be done, and can’t understand why his younger peers aren’t willing to do the same.

Angela was born during the Regan Administration. Her parents worked hard, but they were eventually divorced. She grew up with everything she needed, but had less than her peers with married parents, whom she felt a great need to impress to be accepted. In short, her life growing up wasn’t easy. Her mother worked seven days a week to make ends meet. One day, the job her mother worked at for well over a decade laid her off, and she watched as her mother was forced to take a lower paying job. When she entered the workforce she was determined not to work as hard as her mother, and she was skeptical about staying with the same employer for life. Angela knew working hard was important, but she refused to “live to work.” She found a job with flexible hours that allowed to her work from home, and she isn’t afraid to change employers in order to seek career advancement. Angela grew up with a cynical attitude toward lifetime employer loyalty. She saw first-hand how easily an organization could layoff a longtime worker to make its bottom line. She placed an equal value on the workplace and her personal life, one was not more important than the other. Angela also values independence in her decision-making at work, and is willing to change employers to suit her needs.

Tobias was born during the end of the George H.W. Bush Administration. For the entirety of his young life, Tobias has been surrounded by technology. He doesn’t remember a time without the internet, barely remembers a time without cell phones, and is more at ease talking to friends on Facebook than face-to-face. He is young, highly educated, ambitious, and extremely confident in his own abilities. His parents worked long hours, but they were constantly there for him. Tobias was used to being praised for everything he did growing up. In his eyes, talent often triumphs hard work. It doesn’t matter how a project gets done, just as long as it is done. Life isn’t about working all the time. Unfortunately, he was dealt a harsh blow thanks to the Great Recession. Good paying jobs that match his skillset aren’t as easy to find. He has a lot of college debt, his standard of living isn’t as high as his parents, and the idea of organizational loyalty for life bores him. In other words, spending one’s life at a company doing rote tasks does not appeal to him. Tobias is optimistic. If he gets tired (or laid off) of one job, he can move on to another. He’s flexible, adaptable, and believes strongly in the personal brand he has built through social media. Despite Tobias confidence, he’s found it isn’t very easy to find a job in a field that uses his degree.

What are the generational differences on work attitudes?

In the scenarios I painted for you, Gertrude is from the Traditional generation, Ronald is a Baby Boomer, Angela is a Generation Xer, and Tobias is part of the Millennials. Each generation’s attitudes toward work are shaped by their life experiences and their differences are vast. In general, the older generations (Traditional and Baby Boomers) place a high value on company loyalty. Decades ago, it was common to expect to work for one employer for all (or much) of your life, and to retire from the same employer. Imagine the huge factories that used to dot the landscape of the Northeast and Upper Midwest. For example, a person could work for and retire from Ford (as an hourly employee or salaried management) and live a reasonably comfortable life. The hours were long, but working hard meant you could easily afford to provide for a family, and own lots of expensive possessions. Even a job in the corporate world (throughout all levels), meant long hours and good pay. It didn’t matter if a person worked up to 80 hours a week and rarely saw his or her family. Hard work and long hours were good for the family and society in the long run. The reward was a comfortable retirement could be that could be earned between the three pillars of pension, social security, and personal savings.

Younger generations of workers (Gen Xers and Millennials) grew up rarely seeing their parents, or seeing the stressful effects of long hours at work. Corporate downsizing, high divorce rates among parents, long periods of time without supervision at home (because of the many hours parents had to work), and the rapid rise of new technology caused this generation to seek a better work/life balance. Generation Xers in particular began to question the “workaholic” culture, and placed a value on flexible hours at work. Spending 10 to 12 hours in the workplace isn’t as appealing, nor is working at one company for the entirety of their lives. For many workers, staying 3 to 5 years at a company is a long term commitment, opposed to parents and grandparents who stayed with companies for 15 to 35 years. They want their identity and lives to be meaningful, and not completely attached to their career. Millennials often see their positions at a single employer as ephemeral, and have no qualms about leaving employers after short periods of time. Technology has always been a way of life and thanks to its immediacy, the generation can be impatient. Younger workers don’t believe in slowly working their way up to powerful positions. They are more apt to bypass the work ladder, and expect to take on higher management positions at younger ages with the help of a mentor.

Our beliefs shape our attitudes

Think about your own beliefs and career decisions. How were they influenced?

As we grow up there are three pivotal junctures in our life that shape who we are. From birth to 7-years-old, we observe our family, internalize their actions, and interpret them to be the correct way to live. For example: “Daddy works 10 hours a day and doesn’t like his job. That must be the way all grownups work.” From age 8 to 13 we begin to look outside of our family for role-models to influence our value decisions. “When I grow up I want to be a famous singer!” From the age of 14 to 20 we are influenced by our peers. We use our peers and society to test out our beliefs, to make decisions, start to finalize what kind of person we’ll be, and what our career will be. “Maybe I’ll be a computer programmer, it seems pays OK, and I don’t hate it.”

These major junctures in our life can even influence us in more subtle ways. We could tell a 4-year-old that life as an adult isn’t about fun, but it has to be spent working all of the time. That would become part of their identity, potentially. Or perhaps the young child would grow up, and revolt against this advice, being influenced in the opposite direction. Either way, we would use that advice to define us, and that’s when our strengths emerge, but it is also when a lot of untruths about ourselves are defined. The “truth” you know isn’t potentially true. We don’t have a looking glass into the future.

Going back to our formed beliefs and attitudes, how would you advise someone else in terms of their own future career decisions? Would you tell them that a pragmatic career decision is more important than a passion-driven choice? Let’s return to the example of our father-to-be.

As a member of the older generation, would you tell him that work isn’t supposed to be fun, and is only a means to secure a stable financial future? In other words, should he give up on being an actor and pursue a more stable career because he now has a child to consider? Or as a member of a younger generation, would you tell him not to settle for short-term work beneath his abilities, even if it meant a financially difficult life? I.e., don’t take any job if it’s not related to acting, because of your pride. These are the generational truths we believe in, and that we unconsciously believe should define us and others. Perhaps our beliefs about work and the future workforce need to be brought to the surface and reexamined.

The future will not be like the past. We can predict certain things about the future, but we don’t know what the future will bring. It is possible in the future that 85% of the jobs that graduates will be going for in 15 years from now don’t exist right now. Paul T. Corrigan has stated in his article “Preparing students for what we can’t prepare them for,” that the top ten in-demand jobs in 2010, didn’t exist in 2004. So how do you advise people in their career? How can you tell someone now that their best chance at a job is to settle for possible decisions determined by beliefs, rather than facts? An administrative assistant may be a decent career now, but it may not exist in the future, or may only pay a fraction of what it once did. There’s little authority in guiding people towards a “viable” career path. I’ve found the happiest and most productive people are those with a career driven by their passions. That is the most viable career path.

There was something that my older supervisor told me when I still worked as a recruiter: “Refute your biases.” And while she was mostly taking about refuting biases about people, I think it’s applicable to our attitudes on work. The whole reason I wanted write this is because all too frequently I see people making important career decisions on arbitrary feelings, untruths and things that aren’t real. Think about how different our attitudes would be if we made career decisions based on facts and passion, instead of ingrained beliefs.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Teach Your Children

1970

Executives: Downgrading your career? Consider…

Will your former executive title keep you from landing jobs with less responsibility?

 

Shelf Road Climbing by AMagill on Flickr

Shelf Road Climbing by AMagill on Flickr

In my winter newsletter one of the myths that I asked you to leave in 2013 was that you can accelerate your job transition by pursuing positions with requirements beneath your qualifications. (Subscribe below to receive our newsletter). The truth is…

  

…you can likely prolong your transition and create challenges that need not exist.

 

For some executives, however the pressure, travel, and hours of an executive position are no longer viable for their well-being. Genuinely, they would like to take a step back and just be a cog in the machine and maintain some value to a company, or for monetary reasons they must continue to work. In either case, they are not be ready to hang their hat and be put out to pasture, which does seem like a morbid way of looking at retirement. There are certainly better ways to look at retirement. However, people derive a lot of their self-worth from their job. It can be very difficult to define yourself after the prospect of any future potential career growth is eliminated. You might have good reasons to take the position that is beneath your qualifications, but you will face the same challenges in landing these jobs as the individuals who are pursuing jobs beneath their qualifications because I think it’s the faster way to get hired. Either of these types of candidates are huge potential risks for the employer.

 

Yes, age discrimination does happen, and many people assume that it has to do mostly with health care costs or the risk of short or long-term disability or a company doesn’t want to pay top dollar for experience when they can hire someone young and cheap.  Often, there is a lot more to it than that. Besides the fact that great companies want to give new employees positions that enable them to grow, the morale of a company can be depleted when you have a senior professional reporting to a more junior professional. You may expect that you will be okay with this, but too often senior folks do find themselves at odds with a supervisor they perceive as making rookie mistakes. Let’s face it; your years of experience certainly taught you things that this junior person has yet to learn. How do you NOT voice your opinion and can you possibly accept the wrong decision of your supervisor? This is another stressor in and of itself.

 

From a risk perspective, if an employer has been down that road before and experienced the repercussions of reverse generational reporting firsthand, they will be hard-pressed to be convinced that the reward is worth the risk, though it is possible. To do this, however, your brand and every encounter that you have has to consistently ooze humility. We all know that actions speak louder than words, so what is more humble than volunteering? Volunteering to help out a young company, not strategically, but with the administrative, customer service and execution details that sometimes get overlooked when a company is small and has few resources, is way to prove that you can simply do rather than lead, if in fact you can.

If, however, you have spent the majority of your career honing your leadership skills, it can be difficult to stifle. In fact, it can be so against the grain of your being that it, too, can cause more stress than it alleviates. You may want to consider lending your leadership or business acumen through an SBA, venture capital or startup incubation program instead where you are not accountable for results, but, rather, can enjoy being the impetus for a young company’s success. This, too, has a caveat that many consultants and coaches have to broach – when the client doesn’t follow through. You may be so accustomed to making things happen that it can be difficult to be compassionate to a young leader who has not yet found a way to change old habits, put in the effort, and deliver results. In fact, it can be frustrating.

 

A mistake people often make when they want to downgrade their careers is underestimating the amount of stress associated with a job. People often turn to retail or customer service positions, which really can require a lot of conflict resolution.  Stress is inherent in conflict. Sometimes they land in companies with high attrition, where stress is part of the culture. Another mistake is forgetting how under-appreciated these jobs can be. When you are the top, you are visible and your accomplishments are lauded. At the bottom, you can be practically invisible, and that can be a hard difference to reconcile.

 

At this time I really should introduce you to a new way of looking at stress as helpful. Kelly McGonigal, a Ted speaker and psychologist, has made a confession in a recent TED talk. She admitted that she might have been causing more harm than good by making stress the enemy. As it turns out, the belief that stress is harmful is more harmful than stress itself. She shares a way to look at stress that can save or prolong your life. This actually could mean that you can continue to work in the same capacity of your professional experience and talents, but with a more helpful, healthful perspective. It also suggests that extending compassion and comfort to others will make you healthier. So, perhaps if you were hesitant to end your career because of the self-worth you derived from your work, you can find new ways to be of service to others.

 

If you really need or want retire your brain but not your whole self, data entry, assembly line and inventory jobs still exist. It’s best for your well-being to be around things you love and enjoy. Look for companies aligned with your hobbies and interests in your favorite local trade magazine or niche publication. Check out what meetups exist to mingle among people who share your interests and can point you to companies associated with them. Of course, you can search trusty Google and enter the name of your town + the interest. Those sponsored ads are good for something!  Also, there are some niche recruiting firms that specialize in baby boomer placement. One such local (Philly) organization is The Carney Group. And, now more than ever before, there are legitimate remote, work-at-home positions where you can make your own hours.

 

Nothing you decide you want is wrong. That being said, we sometimes decide we want something without fully evaluating the reality of it. Hopefully with this insight you can make a fully educated decision that leads to greater fulfillment and quality of life, whether you chose to make this decision now or conditions outside of your control necessitated it.