Tag: personal responsibility

#66 “Am I Good Enough?”

January 28th, 2022 by

From performance reviews to lunch with colleagues, you are surrounded by insights into your reputation. It is easy enough to get caught up in a vicious cycle of, “am I good enough?” This is how to answer.

Performance vs Identity

The link between job performance and self-identity can form a self-destructive trap – if you allow! See Post #35 for details.

Job performance includes your output, your results, your production. It involves the steps, mistakes, and research you’ve done to produce your output. Performance also includes communications with others, something professionals can easily dismiss. If your wonderful work is not clearly communicated, how can it serve a purpose?

In contrast, your identity includes how you think of yourself inside your mind. It is the mentality that describes your state of being. Your identity is shaped by several external and internal parameters. Your identity includes the ways in which you choose to think of yourself as a human being.

Identities are fluid and always changing. Thus, you should never feel pressured to formulate a concrete description of your identity. Nobody gets to decide or choose your identity except for you.

So far, we’ve established that performance is doing; identity is being.

Dissecting Feedback

When people provide criticism or feedback, even if unintentional, it may be common to dwell or ruminate. Lingering thoughts may plague you, such as, “what am I doing here … what if I don’t belong … am I good enough, etc.”

Here is a helpful nugget (that might require some practice): Differentiate between being vs doing. You (the being) are separate from your output (the doer).

For example, someone may state, “You’re not good at communicating.” First, this is poor wording as it references your state of being, not doing. Second, it does not mean you, the being, are a bad communicator. Rather, it means you, the doer, have skills that might need to be strengthened.

Your being is completely adequate as is; your doing (skillset and output) can always use improvement. 

Read more to understand why the answer to, “am I good enough?” is always YES!

Why You are Good Enough

You are good enough because you, the being:

  • were not hired to know all the answers to every problem
  • become smarter by facing challenges and tough decisions in a volatile, uncertain world
  • have a brain that knows how to be resourceful and figure things out

That is what it means to be human in the workplace. As a human, you are good enough!

To be human means to embrace our inadequacies while striving to evolve. We know that mistakes are inevitable, that perhaps they act as our teachers.

Sure, it’s possible you can be replaced in your current role if you are too big a liability. But guess what? The next flawed human is going to bring their own inadequacies and weaknesses to the job. It is a cycle that will always continue because we are humans.

While skills, abilities and knowledge can always be improved, your humanness is good enough exactly the way you are.

The next time someone dare imply you’re “not a good so-and-so,” make no mistake: they have zero vote in your integrity as a being.

If you enjoy this content, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and ask me about free strategy sessions for your career!

#60 A Complex Work Obstacle: Dealing with People

November 5th, 2021 by

You’ve got the hard skills, which partially represent the equation for a thriving career. What do you do, however, when dealing with people who are difficult, unmotivated, or who act like bullies?

The Science

Science is the part of a career that STEM professionals live for! We love spreadsheets, data, coding (some of us anyway), the analysis and the problem-solving. We speak our own language of numbers and acronyms. 

And we also love the things in life that are certain. For the most part, numbers are certain, math is certain, science is (assumed to be) certain. Plans, instructions, and checklists also make us feel certainty. After all, if we perform according to protocol, nothing should go wrong, correct?

Hence, we marvel in the sciences and the problem-solving tactics during college. That’s why we go to college for heaven’s sake. We want to study that which can produce a concrete answer. Answers are black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. 

The Problem

Unfortunately, there is quite a problem with this kind of one-sided training. The problem is that there is a critical disconnect: dealing with people.

The training you receive in college, i.e., the hard skills, serve very practical purposes:

– They allow you to obtain a professional job. 

– They allow you to perform the scientific part of your job. And if you don’t know how to complete a technical challenge at work, you have the brain to figure it out. 

– Your technical skills form a foundation upon which you continue to build. You may choose to reinforce those hard skills, or add newfound skills, such as communications, leadership, or sales. 

This is fine and dandy.

However, who taught you how to deal with human nature at work? For example, what is the right way to handle a toxic work environment? What is the best response when management bombards you with unreasonable requests? How do you address a difficult, needy customer that signed a big fat contract which is funding your work?

This, my friends, is where the disconnect lies. Your scientific training will not equip you to manage the largest uncertainty in the workplace: people.  

The Disconnect

College prepared you for a portion of your everlasting professional challenge. The other challenge involves the art of dealing with people.

The Science of a Career: Hard SkillsThe Art of a Career: Human Nature
The Science and Art to a Successful Career

You may have been blindsided in the workplace by human behaviors. Likely, you were not taught that career success depends on the art of dealing with people.

So, what is the best tactic when coworkers or bosses are stubborn, unreasonable, or uncooperative?

I will provide the short version of a complex answer: strengthen your internal foundation. The stronger your mental wellness and your internal perception of self, the more skilled you become at managing others. This includes elevating your self-worth, your self-acceptance, your self-confidence. It also includes the willingness to be vulnerable, to set boundaries and to be authentic.

The art of dealing with people can seem tricky, frustrating and overbearing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Ask me how you can start to dominate your interpersonal skills and make your career thrive!

If you enjoy this content, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and ask me about free strategy sessions for your career!

#51 Transparency in the Workplace

July 2nd, 2021 by

Management communicates something one day, only to turn around and backtrack. Rumor mills thrive among your colleagues as there is no transparency in the workplace. How do you be loyal and productive, let alone sleep at night, when you feel left in the dark?

Playing Games

First, there could be a number of reasons there is a lack of transparency in the workplace on the part of management. It could be a power play, or it could be a way to delay bad news. Or perhaps they believe you don’t need to know what’s going on behind the scenes. Might it affect your performance? And let’s face it, this is their choice to make. 

On a different note, management could appear to be secretive because they truly don’t know what to say. It’s possible they are also left in the dark when it comes to upper management. Maybe they’re not being told the truth, either, so they’d rather save you the heartache of their own speculations. In this case, no news is good news.

The brutal truth is that management is not obligated to be 100% open about workplace decisions. While it would be great to know what’s up and coming as an employee, employers get to decide what transparency in the workplace looks like.

This is point No. 1: The reality is that employers get to dictate how knowledge flows and when, if at all.

Your Safety Net

Now this leaves you scared out of your wits, right? How are you supposed to focus on your day-to-day not knowing if the terrible rumors are true … not knowing if you’ll have a job from one day to the next?

And here is my response: always and forever implement career emergency plans. More than one.

Life is less stressful and much more bearable when you know you have a Plan A ,B, and C as backups. What are your current action plans if things go south?

And I’m afraid to state thus, but in my experience, the majority of employees don’t create career backup plans. They have no safety net when times get desperate. They falsely assume the job is secure … until it’s not and they’re forced to react. Don’t let that be you!

While counterintuitive, it is best to focus on your next position when you like exactly where you are. I explain why in my video Influencing Your Job Search Outcome.

Point No. 2: Prepare ahead of time, especially when things are going great.

Start with This

Guess why things will turn out simply fine should your job change or suddenly go away? Because of the most powerful tool you own – your brain.

Whether you realize, your brain always has your back. It got you this far today. And it’s going to continue to work for you, so I suggest you get very cozy with it!

You can start now by outlining major areas in your employability vault. This vault contains a giant cache of your skills, abilities, personality traits and anything that makes you valuable. Brainstorm your heart out by thinking of every which way you can fill it up.

This is an excellent and practical exercise to maintain throughout your career, especially when there is little transparency in the workplace. Always strive to add new skills. Think of this vault as the biggest asset you have to show to a potential employer. When they realize all the valuables you have to offer, they will think “I can’t afford to NOT hire this person!”

Point No. 3: Give yourself credit where credit is due and fill your employability vault with personal and professional assets.

While your employability vault will not solve the lack of transparency in the workplace, it will arm you with ammunition to forge ahead with your multiple backup plans.

I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn and to ask me about free strategy sessions to ignite your career!

#49 “My Employer Doesn’t Value Me”

June 4th, 2021 by

“My employer doesn’t value me” you declare! If you’re tired of being undervalued at work, this blog offers 3 key points to consider when contemplating a solution.

First: Don’t Overwork

Many have been in this precarious situation: we work hard, produce results, and expect additional monies or accolades. Come to find out, your performance review was not what you had in mind (amazing how you and management can’t see eye to eye). You believed a significant salary increase was coming your way. You believe “my employer doesn’t value me” after receiving a good old ‘nice job, we appreciate your hard work.’

The first key point to note is that you might be tempted. You may feel the urgency to work ‘harder’, do ‘better’, and bend over backwards hoping to earn that next significant raise. It might seem logical to expend extra work effort.

I’d encourage you to be aware of this mindset and stop yourself if you notice these behaviors. The truth is, your employer can always find a reason to submit an average performance review, deny you monies or worse. I’ve seen too people fall for the mind trap, “If I prove my skills and worker harder, they should reward me.” 

As logical as it might sound, life doesn’t work that way. 

So please avoid overworking or over impressing – you may find yourself on the path to burnout.

Second: Answer This

It’s awful to think “my employer doesn’t value me.” But prior to making a drastic move, consider the bigger picture.

The bigger picture includes a holistic view of your employment. Consider business strategy, management, colleagues, trainings or other opportunities your employer may offer. Also consider your salary, your vacation, years of service, etc. If you have not done so, assess whether current work benefits outweigh the downsides.

Another way to think of it is to decide whether it’s worth accepting the bad with the good

Before you decide it’s time to run away, answer this fundamental question, “How will I deal with this same issue in the future?”

Switching jobs, employers, or industries is a short-term solution that never guarantees against feeling undervalued

Third: Stay and Accept or Walk in Peace

Should you decide to stay, then do yourself a favor. Accept the terms, conditions and caveats. In other words, accept the bad with the good and be the best employee despite all the bad. 

Should you decide it is time to go elsewhere, leave in peace. Do not burn bridges, do not leave projects or people hanging. And walk out as if you might someday be back … because as horrible as the place may seem, you never know! Returning to an old employer is a common phenomenon I observed in the workplace, so be aware.

The third key point here is that changing the circumstance will not solve your problem. You may move on to find the next job is worse. What do you do, then? In short, before changing the circumstance, dissect the way you perceive your situation.

Tip: One way to prepare yourself for chaos or uncertainty is to understand that your mental state follows you to each job. If you feel “my employer doesn’t value me” today, you will find reason to feel undervalued in the future. There are only so many times you can walk. Instead, I recommend you step up for yourself.

Investing in your mentality to deal with uncertainty and build resilience is a long-term solution. All of us can use some mental strength and conditioning. While it takes effort, it is the solution to an uncertain world outside of our control.

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

#47 Your Performance Review: Is it About Performance?

May 7th, 2021 by

Why does it seem like your performance review wasn’t even about your performance? Have you left ‘the room’ thinking, “It’s so unfair … I deserve more … they don’t even know all the things I do … etc.”

Because I care about your health and wellness, I am going to save you some heartache here. I’ve been there done that, and it is no way to live!

What to Do?

First, let them have it.

Let them have their way with the antiquated process they refer to as a performance review. What I mean is, allow them full ownership and detach yourself from the outcomes (See Post #35). If your emotions are dictated by this nebulous process that utilizes the input of others, you will (almost always) find disappointment in the end.

Emotional wellness should not be dictated by external things outside your control.  

One trick to help with detachment: think of your performance review as a credit report. Other people, who you don’t choose, who know little about you, get to hold you accountable. These people judge you against constraints without your consent. Then, they rank you based on said constraints, resulting in a punishment/reward system. You virtually have zero control over the process, rules or decision-making.

You’re left with the output, which may or may not be representative of your behaviors.

The performance review is part of a process that fulfills an organization’s goals. It caters to their own guidelines, business objectives, and even offers legal protection. According to bizfluent, “Federal and state laws regulate employee performance reviews.”

Let the employer own their performance review, their processes and the stakeholders. Of course, if you disagree with written remarks then you must pick and choose which battles to fight. But in general, release the whole process from your mind and let them have it so you can make space for more productive matters.

What NOT to Do

I highly advise against radical attempts to improve next year’s review. 

Do not work extra ‘hard’ or go above and beyond simply for the sake of achieving a ‘better’ review. Your health and wellness are priceless, and aiming to improve the next review can deplete you. It can insidiously drain your energy while sucking the life out of you, creating resentment toward the employer.

And be aware – you’re fooling yourself if you believe, “I’ll just work harder, I’ll stay longer, I’ll jump when they snap their fingers and do all things necessary…” At the end of the day, at the end of the year, you will be judged by others.

Therefore, apply your energies where you have the most control: your own development.

What Matters Most

For a moment, forget about the colleagues, the boss and the customers. Instead of wondering, “What do they think, how can I please them, what will they say, etc.,” I invite you to redirect these questions.

What do YOU think about your performance? What would YOU tell someone about yourself, your work ethic, and your accomplishments? This practice, my friends, is both a difficult yet extremely rewarding aspect of self-development.

Here’s the thing. Management may choose to dismiss your successes and accomplishments. But at the end of the day, you know your performance level. You understand something that no one else possibly can – your own efforts. That’s what matters most: holding yourself accountable to you.

Why does that matter the most?

Accountability is a self-reflective habit that over time will start to create something amazing in your life: sustainable happiness. Accountability includes redirecting your energies away from the forced performance review and instead applying them toward:

  • Tackling your day-to-day obstacles with the provided resources
  • Being like the bigger adult in the room
  • Deliberately choosing productive responses in light of circumstances

Focusing energies inward allows you to recognize, cultivate, and apply self-development to your job and to your life … unlike a biased performance review, which vanishes into the digital world of bureaucratic formalities.

Let me know how unfair your mandatory performance review was and how it affected you!

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

#46 “I’m Tired of the Grind”

April 23rd, 2021 by

“I’m tired of the grind.”

“I feel like all I do is work, take care of the house, take care of the kids.”

Between demanding meetings, virtual work drama and external home responsibilities, your’e tired. But what is a person to do … you have financial, professional and personal commitments. It’s not so easy for most to just ‘land’ a new job or up and move to shake things up.

Here, I offer mental wellness tips to help yourself get out of your head and become more grounded.

I’m Tired of the Grind = I’m Tired of My Life

You may never state aloud “I’m tired of my life” to anyone or to yourself. People may assume the worst, like you’re lazy, ungrateful or you’re a bad parent. But stating “I’m tired of the grind” is easier. It’s safe and feels more neutral. However, the meanings of these two phrases can stem from the same place: a desire for change, wanting some things to be different than they are.

You tell yourself, “If only I had a better job … less responsibilities … smarter colleagues who work as hard as me … etc.” The list can go on, and I’m positive that you extroverts have been particularly affected by COVID. I personally know many extroverts who feel stuck and isolated working from home, as if in solitary confinement.

While tempting to dream of a different, better life, I offer a word of caution. That caution is to recognize when you resist reality. Resisting reality can take many forms; common examples are statements that start with:

  • I just want (more time in the day)
  • I wish (my job weren’t so boring)
  • Things would be better if (my kids listened to me)
  • Life would be better if (I could travel again)
  • If only COVID would go away (things would be normal)
  • I can’t wait until (I get my raise)
  • I’m tired of always having to (clean up messes)
  • If only people would (do the responsible thing)
  • I’d be happier if (I could take a vacation)

You get the drift. These classic mental examples of wishfully thinking are what it looks like to resist reality. Now why is that important to know?

Permission to be Human

As you recognize and acknowledge wishful thinking, i.e. resisting reality, you also come to understand its impact: how it makes you feel. And when you connect the dots between resisting reality and feeling miserable about it, you take ownership.

Why would I want to take ownership over wishfully thinking? Because ownership equals authority.

Whether emotions, thoughts or home projects, taking ownership (i.e. responsibility/accountability) opens up the mind to creative authority over the issue. Thought ownership is a bold practice of coming to terms with yourself, promoting separation of thought from the thinker.

After separating thoughts from the thinker, you pleasingly discover it’s okay to be human.

When you give yourself permission to be human, a sort of magic happens. You impartially allow thoughts to exist without judgement. There is no guilt or shame when admitting, ‘it’s true, my life would be easier without kids’, or ‘I’d rather not cover for my sick colleague,’ etc.

Authority, or thought ownership, is the ability to embrace thoughts and allow space for them to flow with NO self-judgment. And this opens the door to enlightenment.

Enlightenment is Freedom

Enlightenment, if you were to google, has myriad definitions. I’m going to use my favorite definition of enlightenment thanks to the Happiness Podcast by clinical psychologist Dr. Robert Puff: enlightenment is the radical acceptance of what is.

Enlightenment is the radical acceptance of what is. Let’s recap – How do you lead yourself to enlightenment? How can you get away from, “I’m tired of the grind?”

One, recognize thoughts and moments when you resist reality. Two, own them. Create distance between thoughts and the thinker. Three, permit the thinker to exist as a human with zero self-judgment. 

Finally, as a last step, I encourage you to embrace the below statements with an open mind. Which resonates the most, and how you can work with the ‘grind’ instead of against it?

  • I’m starting to realize that every person has their own grind to manage for themselves.
  • It is true there are ways in which I can change my grind, but I choose not to.
  • Others would love to have my grind over their own.
  • I’m open to believing that managing my grind will someday pay off and I will be grateful.
  • It’s a privilege for me to navigate my own grind.

Let me know which one resonates the most and how you can work with the ‘grind’ instead of against it?

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

#44 “My Boss Doesn’t Like Me”

March 26th, 2021 by

Why is it the boss likes to laser in on your shortcomings and ignore your accomplishments? Your performance is above average, you’ve made a few silly mistakes in the past, and everyone has a major screw up. Despite the situation, project or your output, you tell yourself “my boss doesn’t like me.”

And it drives you mad because you don’t know how to fix it.

The Boss Function

Let us start by diving into some fundamentals of the boss role. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it serves as a useful reminder especially if you are a boss:

  • One, your boss exists to help equip you with the tools and resources necessary to perform your job. They guide you to help yourself resolve issues should you not have all those tools and resources. (By the way, many people do not have all required necessities to do their jobs, it is not just you).
  • Two, a boss acts as a compass to point you in the right direction. They are not there to solve your problems. Rather, bosses create a healthy, unobstructed environment for you to try, fail, innovate, and blossom through a consistent feedback loop.
  • Three, your boss must answer to their boss. If your boss wants to perform properly, it requires you to perform properly. Thus, your boss evaluates your performance to determine if you’ve met your goals. (Ideally, this process would look like an objective performance review).

As an aside, a performance review can be quite the emotional roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, I’ve heard and seen many people walk out of their reviews feeling defenseless, like they were ambushed. Nothing should ever be a surprise to the employee during their performance review. That is the power of a feedback loop: the employee is consistently made aware of expectations, strengths and ‘areas of improvement.’

Whether your boss performs the functions listed above, whether your boss is present or absent, is good or bad, etc. is not the point. The point is that a partnership exists between you and your boss. The two of you share a common goal: perform your best so the company can thrive.

“But, my boss doesn’t like me,” you exclaim. Now, where does that leave you?

It Helps to Know

1. By telling yourself “my boss doesn’t like me,” and by believing this statement at face value, you make the situation personal.

It is as if you are telling yourself, “the boss does not like my being, my presence or my humanness. I am not good enough because I am not liked. Since the boss doesn’t like me, perhaps I am unworthy of fair treatment. Maybe I should not be in this job and I should change myself. I want to be liked and accepted because I want to continue working here.” The self-narrative can spin out of control if you do not keep yourself grounded.

A critical detail here: anytime you believe “they don’t like me,” it implies a personal attack against your being and your existence.

Critical Point #1: Is your situation truly a personal attack, or is the boss attempting to criticize your output? These two scenarios are vastly different beasts. Let’s address the more severe of the two: My boss doesn’t like me for who I am.

2. Worst case scenario, your boss does make the situation personal, and they do not like you as a person.

It gets personal when management is critical of the things that make you uniquely you. Personal is when they use your personality or characteristics against you. For example, this might look like “you aren’t smart enough; you are too emotional; your spouse is annoying; the college you attended is insignificant, etc.”

If a boss makes the situation personal, they are faulty in two regards:

  • They fail to provide an environment that promotes self-reflection in the name of self-improvement
  • They are teaching you how miserable they feel about themselves

Critical Point #2: If someone doesn’t ‘like’ who you are, the translation is that they don’t like themselves when in your presence. On the contrary, people who appreciate and like themselves lift others up and facilitate self-improvement. They will not berate or criticize.

To Stay or Go?

Your employment isn’t about the boss being good or bad; it’s not about whether they like you. Your employment is about holding up your end of the bargain; it is not a personal relationship.

If you perform to the best of your abilities, learn from mistakes, and take initiative, there is nothing more a boss can ask of you. In fact, there is nothing more you can ask of yourself. While it is your responsibility to learn, grow and contribute to company goals, do not think you have to change yourself or your values … especially NOT for a boss.

If you believe “my boss doesn’t like me for who I am”, then it is possible they are taking their insecurities out on you. While this is their own internal problem to address, they unfortunately have some power to make employment more complex. Leaving this scenario for alternate employment can be tempting and sometimes justified. However, leaving the scenario may only serve as a temporary band aid offering short-term relief (which some people need in extreme cases!).

The reason leaving this scenario is not the best solution: you will always and forever deal with insecure people in your surroundings.

Leaving is the easy, temporary answer. Strengthening your mindset to deal with difficult, external situations is a much more sustainable, long-term solution (and applies to all areas of life). Ask me how!

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

#41 “I Hate My Engineering Job”

February 12th, 2021 by

“I hate my engineering job.” The results of this Google search were staggering to me. And according to an ASME article, engineering is the second loneliest profession (behind law).

This article is not the end all be all answer, because the answer is overly complicated and cannot be resolved in one blog post. However, as a recovering engineer myself, I can offer information to help neutralize the pain.

In the Trenches

Of course, I know there are engineers who ‘hate’ their current role. For crying out loud, that is a large reason why I started my coaching business in the first place!

But, the agonizing responses after searching “I hate my engineering job” served as a painful reminder of my past life as an engineer working in the trenches:

  • I just started as an electrical engineer for a consulting firm just over a month ago. At first I was ecstatic, because I got a job and now all of that hard work over the last four years to get the degree will finally pay off. However I just realized the other day that I hate my job.
  • This is such a cookie cutter job.
  • I don’t like my first engineering job and I want advice.
  • I’ve been an electrical engineer for 33 years and just left the profession 2 months ago. Technically, it’s an “early retirement” but quite frankly I just needed to get out.
  • In particular, I’m in agreement with it changing from engineering > management, now to engineers being yanked all over the place due to management / politics and finance.
  • My love of the profession and my hope that I would one day become like my heroes were gone. I wasn’t solving problems or coming up with creative solutions for customers and colleagues. I was pushing paper and, as a lead, using the lash of my tongue on others to achieve the same exacting standards.

There is not adequate time or space here to delve further into the endless pit of career horror stories. But, “I hate my engineering job” is a very real syndrome among the STEM population. Allow me to sum up the most common reasons I could find:

  • Boredom
  • Politics
  • Finance/business hierarchy
  • Loneliness
  • No impact/no pride
  • No autonomy/creativity

What’s an Engineer to Do?

For starters, here are a few things you need to know that I wish I had known back in the day.

First – Did you realize you are not alone? Engineers tend to (there are always exceptions) allow emotional career frustrations to linger and fester inside, which results in two obvious drawbacks. One, the pressure keeps building over time until you find an outlet. That outlet could spontaneously combust and turn out to be a major regret in life.

Next, you portray the image that nothing is wrong. That you’re just going about your business… that life is swell. And do you know why that is not a good idea? Because other people around you (either physically or on the socials), might be feeling the exact same way. Then, they believe they are the only ones feeling down and out about their jobs because the other engineers they know are putting on a show. It becomes a vicious cycle where all parties suffer in lonely silence.

Second – Did you know that you don’t have to bottle up negative feelings and live a pretentious life? Let me guess … you never learned this in engineering school, did you. They don’t teach us that it is natural and human to experience a wide spectrum of emotions in our careers. We have not been told that it can be stressful and unhealthy to suppress one of our most basic instincts as humans: expression. In fact, I would argue, based on personal experiences, that the STEM world discourages human expression. You are to get the data … do your job … don’t cause trouble … rinse and repeat.

Third – Did anyone tell you that there could be a large disconnect between academics and professional reality? Both worlds can offer feelings of pressure and pride, and both worlds can offer opportunities for growth and challenge. However, the circumstances under which these features are offered can be vastly different. Some engineers do directly apply academics to their jobs – note, this is typically a given assumption for most young engineers. After all, why would you bust your rear end in college to earn a job doing anything else?

The Inevitable

The sad truth, folks, is that many engineers do not require application of an engineering curriculum to be a successful engineer. Thus, you are left feeling bored, regret, hopeless, or worse. It’s no wonder you agonize over, “I hate my engineering job.”  You should know, you must know, that there is often a disconnect between industry and academics.

Engineering school doesn’t teach you how to be an engineer; rather, it teaches you the skill of how to learn in the context of engineering.

Now what? Where does this leave you? For one, you can let me know about your frustrations and dead-end attempts at engineering happiness by sending me a note – let’s chat about it. For an additional thought-provoking insight into career despair, see Post #25, “How Long Will You Suffer from Career Despair?”

Do you feel misled? Are you getting more brain-dead as time goes by? Send me a note and let me know how you are affected by this industry-academic disconnect.

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

#39 How to Have More Control

January 15th, 2021 by

Are you frustrated living at the effect of others? Feeling helpless or out of control? This article offers a way to start and build upon a foundation so you can have more control in life. I share three basic questions for you to answer when life hands you lemons. The better you can answer, the more control you will have.

What do I Know for Sure?

This is an insightful question that will open your eyes like you never imagined. The reason is because we often believe some things (or a lot of things) are true when they are not. There is a critical distinction between what you believe to be true versus what is true.

For example, you may believe, “My boss is out to get me, I’m not treated fairly.” The reason you believe this to be true, perhaps, is because you have evidence. It appears your boss reprimands you for mistakes, doesn’t approve vacation requests, and didn’t give you a raise. Thus, your logical conclusion is that the boss is targeting you unfairly.

Let’s pause for a moment, and ask, “what do I know for sure?”

Do you know unequivocally for sure the boss is out to get you? Actually, no, you don’t. That is a conclusion your mind has drawn up. Is it unequivocally true you are treated unfairly? Let’s dissect fairness – what is fair and how does it apply to everyone?

Does the boss reprimand you only for your mistakes and not others … has the boss ever denied others’ vacation requests … could there be a reasonable explanation you were the only one denied a raise?

This exercise, “what do I know for sure?” will help you shed light on your self-talk, which could become self-destructive if not put in check. It is a starter question that will springboard your way to having more control.

How Can I Help?

This is a beautiful question. It helps your mind break out of the victim or blaming mindset. “But I am a victim!” you might quip. “But it was so-and-so’s fault!” Those beliefs resemble a kind of self-pity, poor-me mentality that fuels negative energy. Negative energy leads to negative actions. I recommend avoiding counterproductive self-talk. It is an easy path, requiring little resistance that promotes downward spirals.

Instead, if you’d like to have more control in your life, I recommend a different path. The path this more difficult and could make your brain hurt. Find answers to, “how can I help?”

Referring to the example above, suppose your boss is out to get you. Suppose you believe this to be a fact. “How can I help?” will get your gears turning in a more positive direction. I am not claiming you go to extremes and try to be best friends. However, I guarantee you can dig deep and find small ways to impact the situation.

“How can I help?” may invoke a variety of answers. It could translate to your job efforts, your timeliness, your communications, maybe even the way you carry yourself. This question does not imply you are at fault or that you’re doing things the wrong way.

It is a positive question that opens the mind to exploring positive actions.

What Does Great Look Like?

When question 1 and 2 seem futile, you can try answering, “what does great look like?” We all want to be great, right? We all want to do great things and make great impacts, don’t we? This question is another way to have more control.

When you’re in a tough situation and it feels like the only way is down, think about greatness. Think about how you could create greatness with available resources. I’m not stating you must solve all problems, and you certainly can’t solve other people’s problems.

I am suggesting you find a way to start small. Maybe creating greatness could mean smiling more. It could mean asking the colleague who hates you if they need anything. Using the example above, it could mean calmly sharing your evidence with the boss to maturely discuss your concerns.

The uplifting impact these three questions can generate are far superior to the negative impacts caused by dwelling or self-pity. Another reason I recommend these three questions is because they are open-ended, ready to be tailored by you and for you. There are no right or wrong answers.

You can have more control in your life, and it starts by answering the three questions above. I am not taking credit for these questions. They originate from a phenomenal TedX Talk by therapist, leadership expert and drama researcher Cy Wakeman. I encourage you to watch as she eloquently explains the nature of these power questions.

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!

#33 Three Guarantees in Life: Death, Taxes, and Job Insecurity

October 23rd, 2020 by

According to careertrend.com, job security is defined as “a sense of assurance that you will remain employed for the foreseeable future – or at the very least, until you decide that you are going to move on. Job security means you are confident that your employer will keep you on board, regardless of the forces that affect the business.”

Modern Job Insecurity

Back in the day, people would loyally work at the same establishment for years on end. In many industries, climbing a ladder was not required to earn a decent salary or a plethora of benefits. Jobs felt, for the most part, secure.

It is true many jobs and employers have morphed since then, but some employees have not. There are folks out there who believe in the idea of modern job security. Do you believe the route to elevated job security includes hard work, impactful results, and pleasing your management? (see Post #31).

If this is you, even a little bit, I am thankful you found this article!

The aforementioned work philosophy, unfortunately, can lead employees down a demoralizing path. Working hard and doing all the things you believe will secure your job only secures one thing: your belief that this work ethic is the ticket to continued employment. Performing duties out of fear, threat, or insecurity is not only a downer, but will likely lead to disengagement and burnout.

In your employer’s eyes, an impeccable work ethic does not necessarily equate to job stability. You see, your employer may be under pressure to consider executive directives, headcount, performance reviews, downsizing, and other mandates we can only imagine. Therefore, the best and brightest workers can be overlooked, depending upon criteria set in motion by the employer.

If you are interested in guaranteed job security, you can become a tenured professor (it’s possible with lots of hard work, right?) or a U.S. Supreme Court justice (possible, but not probable).

So, where does that leave you given today’s modern job insecurities?

Employability Vault

It leaves you with the fact that given today’s modern job security, you must be prepared for unemployment. Of course, nobody wants to think about being unemployed. That, my friends, is part of the problem.

Too many people set themselves up for urgent reaction instead of strategic proaction (yes, I just made up that word). For example, do you regularly network with exemplary contacts in your field? Is your resume consistently up to date? Can you depend on three trustworthy sources should you need letters of reference tomorrow? Would your current boss offer glowing remarks about your performance?

Instead of wondering, “how secure is my job,” let us approach this topic from a different angle. The deeper question is not about job security. Rather, a more insightful and useful question is, “How secure am I?”

Companies, bosses, and jobs do not secure you. Employability does. Your ability to become employed at any given time is your safeguard … your ascent … your answer to job insecurity.

Employability assets include your:

  • Hard/soft skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Growth mindset
  • Transferable skills

Your employability involves being in tune with who you are and knowing yourself inside and out. It also means you can recognize and articulate exactly what you bring to the table.

I challenge you to a self-serving, brainy exercise. Heavily consider every which way that you are employable. Dissect your strengths, assets, and authenticity. Imagine gathering all these components together inside a giant vault — your employability vault. I guarantee there are more items than you initially realize! Part of my function is to help you dig deep and uncover all the great things for which you do not give yourself credit.

I leave off with a useful expression as you move forward in your career: Employers can never take away the valuables cached inside your employability vault!

Job security comes from within, not from your job.

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

#10 Your Future is Bright – True or False?

December 20th, 2019 by

You look forward to your next training, professional conference or job title. Your future is bright and your possibilities seem endless. Your career could take multiple turns for the better. Correct? Or … not so much? Perhaps your boat is sinking and at this point you’re just hoping to remain above water.  


What is true about your future? Two important points to keep in mind and these can be gamechangers. First and shockingly, your future does not depend on your employer (see Post #13). It does not depend on your colleagues, your boss, your recruiter or your friends. 

A common self-destructive habit too many professionals believe is that they have little control over their futures. As if others are somehow responsible for the way your future unfolds. Your future is bright thanks to the explanation provided below.


Also shocking to some of you is that you are 100% responsible for creating your own future. This is a job for you and you only. Every action today will affect you tomorrow – it is your decision to make a move in this moment. You are sole owner over your credentials, mentality, professional development, etc.

Your future is bright because you are CEO over your own life. Take ownership over your brain and hold yourself accountable to your future creation, just as a CEO holds its professionals accountable to their judgments.

How are your actions today going to affect your world tomorrow, next month or next year? What actions do you take next for your future growth and evolvement?

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