Tag: careerhappiness

#45 Three Universal Leadership Lessons

April 9th, 2021 by

Whether you are a freshie learning your first role or a long-term manager, these basic leadership lessons are essential to your soft skill portfolio.

“Why should I care about leadership lessons, I’m just an employee,” you might ask. You should care because leadership is rooted in the self and you are the leader of your life. You need not become a manager to apply your leadership skills each day!

Lesson No. 1 Be the Leader You Wish You Had

You can sit around and ruminate; you can complain to colleagues or you can take action. But here’s the thing, bosses are human. Management is human. And it’s true they may not consider all things and all people all the time.

Can some leaders handle pressure better than others? Yes, of course. And you know in your mind what your boss should be doing differently. You might allow their faults to get to you. And let’s face it, sometimes bosses can be outright belligerent (see Post #44)

However, you get to choose how you respond to this stimulus. If your leadership lacks in one (or some) areas, then ask yourself how you can fill in the gaps. What it is they should be doing differently? If it’s within your boundaries, go out and do these things yourself within the confines of your job scope.

For instance, if it burns you up that leadership doesn’t respond to emails, always respond to yours. If it pains you to see leaders treating people poorly, make it a point to treat others with respect. If you wish leaders would take more initiative, initiate yourself to get the job done to the best of your abilities.

Lesson No. 2 Great Leaders Empower Critical Thinking

The roles of leadership are always up for debate. Some leaders like to give orders, instructions and directives. Others like to shame, criticize or blame. Some people claim great leaders are persuasive, assertive and outspoken… the debate rages on.

While opinions differ, especially from organization to organization, I believe leadership lesson number 2 is a gold mine:

Great leaders allow open dialogue that enables employees to self-reflect, critically think and problem-solve on their own. This is a mental, continuous improvement process that employees can take wherever they go.

A great leader’s contribution to the workplace? Leaving behind employees who apply this empowering mental technique on their own, with or without leadership.

Lesson No. 3 Don’t Lead Others Until You Can Lead Yourself

“Why are there so many bad leaders? How do incompetent people get promoted to positions they do not deserve? Why doesn’t management do something about XY&Z?” These are common questions (and complaints) I often hear.

This might just be one of the most powerful leadership lessons one can learn. Bosses, management, and leaders project their sense of self onto others via their management style. I’ll take this statement one step further. The way people treat you is an indication of the way they feel about who they are.

Leadership is not about having all the answers. It is not about covering up mistakes or fudging numbers. Leadership is not about having to please people. And it is definitely not about serving oneself.

Leadership lesson 3 is about uplifting your employees and colleagues.  Not an easy thing to do – this requires a leader to be whole with him/herself. It requires emotional maturity, self-accountability, the willingness to embrace fear and too many other skills to list.

Leadership is about extracting internal resources to upgrade external people around you.

Do you struggle to understand how you fit into your organization? Let me know what’s holding you back from leading yourself and the price you pay!

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my Youtube channel for additional coaching insights!

#43 What is My Right Career Path?

March 12th, 2021 by

To switch jobs, industries, or go back to school … what’s the right career path? It’s no wonder you are plagued by this question. It promotes a cyclic path of thought errors because it’s the wrong question to be asking!

The Wrong Question

First, do not ask yourself, “What is my right career path?” Why not, you ask? Because it is not relevant. It is like asking, “What is the right child I’d like to have?” Many answers exist, yet you can always find resistance in those answers. And you might attempt to apply logic, data and evidence. Or you might resort to a decision matrix to help convince yourself you are making the ‘right’ choice. See Post #40 if you suffer from career indecision.

Secondly, this question is a closed-minded question. It presupposes there exists one right and many wrongs. I challenge you to rid this idea and get it out of your head. If a job is less than desirable, or if it did not turn out as expected, you didn’t lose. Learning is knowledge, even when it does not align with your desired outcomes. If you walked away from a job with newfound knowledge, it was worth it.

Let’s suppose you ask yourself different questions, questions that open your mind. For example:

  • I have an interest in A, B, C and D. What if I commit to pursuing a job in each area, one at a time?
  • If I get a job trying such-and-such, what is the absolute worst that might happen?
  • I’m interested in job Z, but if I never try it out, how would I ever know that I like it?
  • When I think about my future self in 2, 3, or 5 years, will I regret not trying __?
  • Isn’t it great to know what I don’t enjoy as much as it is to know what I do enjoy?
  • I can’t go wrong as long as I’m learning something new; trying job ABC will teach me __.

Failing Ahead of Time

There is a difference between someone performing a job ‘just because they can’ vs fulfilling their calling in life. In my experience, few people come to realize and engage in their calling. Do not be misled by the people who have been performing their jobs for years on end.

In fact, I would argue that careers are fluid, agile, always adapting and changing based on individual and business needs. One day your preferred title might be risk analyst, the next it could be marketing manager.

And I would caution you to be aware of the mindset trap that there is one ‘right’ career path. Several kinds of jobs could fall under the umbrella of being ‘right.’ And all of these ‘right’ jobs would create different ‘paths’ for you. Therefore, there is no such thing as the ‘right career path’. That is a self-limiting belief that might have you banging your head against a wall.

Keep your mind open, not closed. You must try different things to know what you like. It’s okay to do so, especially given today’s dynamic work environments. Every position will offer you new insights and knowledge – and that is something you will take wherever you go.

It’s just as important to know what you don’t like as it is to know what you do like.

If you never try, you are failing ahead of time. Failing ahead of time is easier and more comfortable than putting yourself out there, risking a new adventure. Open yourself up to the idea that careers are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, rather, they all provide ample opportunities for growth, development and learning.

It is not the career itself that matters as much as the person you become while performing it. 

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my Youtube channel for additional coaching insights!

#42 Career Passion: A Thing of the Past?

February 26th, 2021 by

Do you look back on the days when your naive energy shot you out of bed in the mornings? Or dwell on the nights when you were too excited to sleep in anticipation of going to work?

If you no longer identify with these scenarios, or dread the thought of waking up to work, you might be burnt out, stressed out or you may lost your career passion.

Crystal Clear

There used to be a time your plans were strategically laid out to create a sustainable and fulfilling career for yourself. As you know, plans don’t always work out. But you also know this is okay, because you are resourceful enough to land on your feet. The point is that your career passion, once fueled by dreams and motivation, has dissolved into a pile of ashes you’d rather bury. 

What happened – are you just unlucky, did you make a wrong choice or earn the wrong degree?

No, no and no.

What we know right now is that you are on a journey. This journey will involve nasty bumps, potholes and roadblocks along the way. Losing your career passion is a common roadblock. You’re stuck, unhappy, and you want a way out, yet fail to see one.

The Gap

Once upon a time, you had a vision. This vision involved a superb education with fulfilling employment that offered meaningful ways to accomplish great things. That was your plan, your career passion. 

However, reality has offered a different plan. For you, reality might include quelling administrative fires, accomplishing monotonous busywork, and satisfying management at all costs. Or, your reality might involve painting numbers, consistently looking over your shoulder, or spending endless hours on the phone with your foreign IT department.

There is a clear gap between your passion and your job duties. So, how do you resolve this gap? You resolve it by learning how to reconcile “the way things should be” (passions) with “the way things are” (reality).  Not an easy thing to do!

But what might this look like? 

Work Purpose

First, consider the true purpose of work (contrary to popular belief, it is not money, titles or benefits):

Service: contribution toward something greater than you as an individual. Because as a collective, people make profound impacts as opposed to working solo. The next time you’re frustrated or wishing for more, think in terms of service: ask yourself how you can help others, how you can contribute, and how you can make those around you better.

Development: evolve your skills, enhance your character, and progress your brain. The way to do this is by defeating obstacles, challenges, and road bumps. One way to defeat obstacles, challenges and road bumps is to go to work. How can you rise above the difficult coworkers or incompetent management and perform your best despite their intentions? And this, my friends, requires a lot. It requires you to be a mature emotional adult.

Legacy: manipulate your strengths, maximize your output, and be a proactive change agent. This includes unraveling your authenticity, applying your strengths and seeking improvements. Always leave a position and leave a company in better shape than you found it.

No Guarantee

Now that you understand your purpose for work, here is an exercise to help you start the process of reconciling the way things “should be” with the way things “are.”

1. Get clear on your reality.

In other words, learn to separate out your subjective narrative about work from the true facts. The facts are: you have a job, a boss, colleagues, customers and assigned duties. Other than this, all opinions and self-talk are subjective stories you tell yourself (i.e., “this isn’t what I expected, I’m in the wrong job, etc.”).

2. Get clear on your passions. List them on paper and describe what they should look like in your life.

3. Match numbers 1 & 2 as much as possible.

How can you find opportunities at work to apply your strengths in a way that satisfies some of your passions? How can you become more curious and explorative as opposed to just being diligent?

4. Look outside of your employment to fulfill the passions that employment can’t.

Your career, created by your employer and in your employer’s interest, exists because you are qualified to accomplish the tasks at hand. Tasks that were created specifically in conjunction with other people’s tasks to reach organizational goals. There is no guarantee that affords your passions to be fulfilled on the job. The employment exchange is that you provide value in return for compensation under the employer’s terms and conditions. That’s it.

Therefore, fulfilling a career passion is your own responsibility and you must take ownership. That usually means a proactive pursuit outside the workplace.

You don’t have to suffer in silence. In fact, you don’t have to suffer at all. Check out my course, Overcoming Career Constraints, to help you become the person who can reconcile “the way things should be” (passions) with “the way things are” (reality).

Do you work in a passionless career? Send me a note and let me know how it affects your wellbeing!

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my Youtube channel for additional coaching insights!

#40 Do You Agonize Over Career Indecision?

January 29th, 2021 by

You can always find a reason to leave your current job, right? However, you consistently agonize over career indecision because, there exists an odd comfort about staying right where you are.

The Dilemma

To leave or not? If so, is it worth the jump – and how will you know?

These stifling questions are all too common for the professional who longs for something greater (See Post #10). If you’re not careful, you can agonize over career indecision indefinitely. And the agony can consume you. I’d like to offer the possibility that you don’t have to agonize and live in fear of making the wrong decision.

In general, there seem to be two reasons why people agonize over career indecision:

Situation 1: Too many options. Your career choices are numerous, attractive and you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). Each decision could be right and each could be wrong. It pains you to think about choosing only one, because you want to do them all!

The sky is your limit, and you feel suppressed by having to make one lonely choice of many desirable options. While people may tell you it’s a good problem to have, you still agonize over career indecision.

Situation 2: Too much risk. You cannot decide if the potential rewards of leaving will outweigh the risks. You have gained enough professional experience to know that the risks could be high. You may have to ‘prove yourself’ all over again, or ‘start over’ from the very bottom of the ladder.

On the other hand, it seems easier and convenient to stay right where you are. Why pack up and move to another location if the job isn’t worth it? But, you’re not happy where you are. You agonize over career indecision because you might make the wrong choice.

Right vs Wrong

Despite your reasons for career indecision, the good news is that the path towards a solution looks the same. Here are three critical points to keep in mind as you contemplate your future:

Point 1) Assess your reasons for working in the first place. If you are heavily focused on the benefits (salary, retirement, perks, etc.) then you will forever be chasing that wild goose. Rather, the purpose of work is threefold:

  • Service: Contribution toward something greater than you as an individual. Because as a collective, people make profound impacts as opposed to working solo. The next time you’re frustrated or wishing for more, think in terms of service: ask yourself how you can help others, how you can contribute, and how you can make those around you better.
  • Development: Evolve your skills, enhance your character, and progress your brain. The way to do this is by defeating obstacles, challenges, and road bumps. One way to defeat obstacles, challenges and road bumps is to go to work. How can you rise above the difficult coworkers or incompetent management and perform your best despite their intentions? And this, my friends, requires a lot. It requires you to be a mature emotional adult.
  • Legacy: Manipulate your authenticity, maximize your output, and make an impact. Another purpose of going to work is for you to unapologetically discover your authenticity and apply your strengths. Always leave a position and leave a company in better shape than you found it.

The great news about Point 1 is that you don’t have to rely on an employer to fulfill the purposes above. In fact, I recommend you pursue creative projects that will enable your brain activity to flourish, both in and outside of the workplace.

Point 2) What if your decisions are neither right nor wrong? Given point 1, you can make the ‘worst’ decision and still have much to gain. No matter the decision and the outcomes, you are still in a position of learning. And that’s what life is about. You may not know what it is you want until you actually commit to a decision. So, stop lollygagging, commit to a decision, and remember it is all about the learning process.

Which leads us to Point 3…

Point 3) The decision itself is much less important than who you become while executing! Hey, as long as you are learning, growing and challenging yourself in new ways, then you are doing the right things (whether employed or not). Comfort equals stagnation.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes I heard by a dear friend and fellow life coach Bridget Sampson: “Always be new at something.”

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my Youtube channel for additional coaching insights!

#36 Searching for Your Dream Job?

December 4th, 2020 by

Of course you are searching for your dream job! That’s what we do in our culture. You grew up in a world that rewards you with a dream job in exchange for that rigorous college degree. Almost as if you are entitled.

Off to the Races

To your dismay, that dream job has been elusive during your 5-, 10-, or 20-year career. Where the heck is it, you wonder, and how do I find it? You’ve realized that job hopping only lasts so long. Unfortunately, you’ve also realized that you cannot assess a job until you live it.

You are meticulous about picking apart job descriptions. And you are an expert at eliminating jobs that don’t sound perfect. You ask great questions in your interviews. Informational interviews are standard practice. Of course, you always insist on meeting your new prospective boss before accepting a new job. 

You’re doing all the right things. Yet, here you are, begrudgingly searching for your dream job. The perfect one that offers reasonable challenges, superb benefits, and a stellar team with true leadership. Whatever your definition, you’re not finding it. And it is a maddening race you cannot win.

Professional Scavenger Hunt

The myriad counselors, advisors, teachers, and professors have tried their best to guide you. It is not their fault that, after all this time, you are still searching for your dream job. Nor is it your fault. You can only act based on the information at hand.

The missing piece is that you attract what you are, not what you want. If you want great, be great.

If you are unsettled, if you are wishy-washy, if you are uncertain, that is the kind of job (and career) you will attract. Accepting a job with hope, wishful thinking, or high expectations is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment. For example, if you resentfully go to work, your work and your output will be resentful. If you force yourself to go to work, your work and your output will be forced.

However, the flip side is also true. If you are proud, confident, or happy before you accept your new job, then the job will follow accordingly. The point is that dream jobs are not something to be found, as if they are part of a professional scavenger hunt. Dream jobs don’t hang around awaiting the perfect person to whisk them away akin to a fairy tale ending.

Dream jobs are created. They are created by people who are great within themselves. Great cannot be found out there in the external world; it is something you foster within your being. The secret to a dream job is to nurture this great relationship with yourself first. Alas, paving the way for you to create your dream job.

Dream jobs are created by you, they are not out there to be found.

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my Youtube channel for additional coaching insights!

#35 Career Attachment: Do You Conflate Self and Job Identity?

November 20th, 2020 by

I spoke at a conference yesterday and struck a nerve. Attendees reached out to me with personal stories about career attachment, and how it caused havoc in their lives. They thanked me for the helpful information, and I gladly summarize here.

Career Attachment

We work super duper hard to earn one of the toughest degrees around. As engineering students and as young professionals, we create visions of a fantasy career living life happily ever after. It includes wonderful images of promotions, accolades, benefits, and money. We start our first professional job ready to hit the ground running.

Naturally, you’d like to see your career thrive. You want to nourish it and feed it and watch it grow. This desire promotes a dangerous kind of bond if you are not cognizant – an emotional attachment to your career. It is as if your career is a child, which requires emotional bonding to thrive.

However, your career is not a child. You have possibly fostered an emotional bond to your career, and this career attachment grows with time (see Post #09). The problem? Your emotional health in this scenario is dependent on your job outcomes. In other words, your emotional quality of life is dependent on an external circumstance – your career.

This career attachment you have created can grow into a monster, because as the job rides a professional roller coaster, so does your personal life. It can lead to self-defeating activities such as overworking, lack of boundaries, burnout, or worse.

Self-Description is not Job Description

First, recognize that the things you DO in life are different from WHO you are. Your TITLE at work is separate from your IDENTITY as a human. Humans are uniquely authentic and inherently worthy. This means, despite your past, your successes, and failures, you are still a 100% worthy, spiritual human being.

Your career, on the other hand, is a tool to be used for the sake of evolving your life. It is fluid and unpredictable, you never know how it will morph from one day to the next. One thing your career is NOT: an indication of your worthiness in this world.

Secondly, breaking the career attachment habit requires high self-worth and self-confidence. This includes respecting and valuing who you are, despite your flaws and failures. It requires knowing yourself inside and out. The magic happens in life when you can learn to love yourself unconditionally!

Last, I offer my favorite definition of self-confidence: the willingness to feel any emotion. When high self-confidence allows you to embrace uncomfortable feelings, such as setting boundaries or saying No at work, your emotional health will vastly improve.

The main takeaway is that career attachment leads to an unhealthy, destructive dependency on your job outcome. Instead of relying on external outcomes to feel good, look to the inside and rely on your mentality.

Internal self-validation sets the stage for the way you experience life.

Are you attached to your career? Let me know what that creates for your life!

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and subscribe to my Youtube channel for additional coaching insights!