Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Where are the birds like me?

So much of the joy, reward and meaning of work is not solely found in what we do. It is also discovered quickly in whom we do it with. I have seen many clients over the years in a desperate migratory journey trying to find happiness at work when in fact it wasn't the work itself. Rather, a co-worker, colleague or boss seemed to make life on the job completely intolerable.

Take Jane for example. She chose occupational therapy in college because her dad commented that it is a 21st century hot career. She excelled academically in the sciences, but upon the clinical phase of her work, discovered a huge disconnect with her colleagues and patients. "No one seems to like me or even speak to me. My co-workers act like a high school clique and my patients are rude and condescending. They won't follow my directions even though I am matter of fact and concise. This work makes me feel incompetent. "

Take David as another example. He chose to be an attorney because of its seeming prestige in the community. He breezed through law school but could never develop a successful private practice upon graduation. His first hints of disppointment were in law school when he didn't seem to fit with classmates. He preferred being alone and likely appeared aloof. He hated working at the firm and despised what he perceived as office politics. He never once joined in for after hours get togethers, parties or social events seeing them all as a waste of time. He couldn't understand how he could excel academically, but fail misearably on the job. " I can't understand why this career is so horrible. I have constant anxiety and a recurring ulcer. I don't fit in with everyone else. No one in the firm seems to be like me."

What do Jane and David have in common?

Here are some lessons they've learned the hard way:

1. Career satisfaction is a broad spectrum of variables you cannot control such as the people who work alongside you. An awesome career can be ruined by a horrible boss or co-worker.
2. A third of life is spent at work. Why spend it in misery at a place or point in your life where you don't fit now or perhaps never fit at all? Academic success doesn't predict a sustainable, enjoyable and meaningful career.
3. A person can excel at the employability skills taught by professors or academic courses but not have similar interest patterns and values of colleagues that increase or decrease satisfaction in the workplace.

How is satisfaction attainable in the workplace you ask?

Well, let's just lay it on the line. It is all about our feathers, beak and migratory habits.

We ALL have a need and even longing to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes that plays out for some of us in a group. For some, it means being left alone with uninterrupted time and concentration. We need meaning and a sense of value. The more time spent with colleagues sharing similar beliefs and ideals the more we sense inside ourselves that we "fit" within the ranks of a profession.

For me, this collaboration and sense of identity corresponds to a goose flying in a "V" formation. Sometimes, I want to lead the charge for a new and updated theory or scope of practice that pushes the limit of tested knowledge. I will honk and quack until everyone is on the same page. Then there are moments when my wings are tired and I fall back in a set formation following the wind gusts and air lifts until energy is restored.

After all, geese are all about belonging to a flock. They're group oriented and even roost together in lifetime pairs.

All of this to say that as an identifiable goose, I know not to waste energy trying to eat out of a hummingbird feeder. I'm a bird with wings and a beak but I don't flit very well. I am not fast and speedy. I appreciate landing on a supportive device for long periods of time. I'm also not typically territorial and won't fight for the food unless irrationally provoked.

There are stark differences in people just as there are among the avian species. What species of bird best represents you? Are you a hawk? An eagle? A robin? A cardinal?

Whatever variety, the critical issue is to receive the validation of other birds like you and to appreciate the differences in those who aren't. Do you know at this moment, where birds like you are flying? Where have they set up the roost and you are missing the action?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Starting Over, Where Do You Begin?

As a career counselor specializing in helping job seekers for over 16 years, this particular down turn with massive company restructuring that seriosly looks like a triage room at a hospital ER, I must tell you the following. Please know there are strategies you can implement if the storm hits your desk and leaves you in the debris. Do you want to know what the secret is of those who rebound faster, heathier and even better than they were BEFORE they lost their job??? Keep reading.
1. Fear will do one of two things. A. It will be a wall that paralyzes your energy and strength. B. It will serve as a springboard to stop wasting time and energy focusing on what could have been, but isn't. So, choose fear wisely. Is it a prohibitor or a catalyst? Those are simply your only two choices.
2. People will be your greatest resource for encouragement, focus and strength. The more time you spend alone and isolated from people, the longer it takes to find a job. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! Visit the library, volunteer, give time at a soup kitchen, mow the lawn of your neighbor, take someone to a cheap lunch. Do whatever, whenever but don't do it alone.
3. Grief and anger are powerful forces to be reckoned with so give yourself persmission to feel the brunt of it. The very best definition of depression is: anger turned inward.
You may have lost your job and hardly anything is more daunting, embarassing and humiliating than facing a walk out of the building for the last time. Yet, if anger and grief are allowed to overwhelm your sense of identity, talent and purpose, you'll sink into a quagmire of reeking self pity. That will get you absolutely no where. So what to do?
4. Grieve, get mad, work out, run 25 miles, vent in appropriate ways, talk a lot, and cry like a baby. But! Give yourself a deadline. Declare the end of your grief and sadness. Give no more than seven days for this funeral from the moment you were let go. Then, it is over. Bury what happened and never, I mean never look back.
5. CHOOSE to move forward. If you don't the consequences of being mad, angry, depressed and afraid hurt no one but you. You have to believe there is an employer who needs your skill and talents. Use what has happened to you to change the course of your life for the better. Let me end with one of my favorite sayings:
"Stop looking at the hole by starting to look at the doughnut."
Krispy Kreme, anyone???