Saturday, October 13, 2007


Have you ever wondered how you have come to view the world, make decisions, see yourself? How others may influence your decisions and choice of work?

Nobody lives in a vacuum. Every step we take reverberates to those around us and every choice we make is influenced in some way by those around us. When you’re not aware of the messages you pick up from others—especially influencial others—you can find yourself going through the motions without knowing why.

That is not a good approach for finding joy in life or work.

For 15 years, Marsha and Alex have talked about moving to the country and building the house of their dreams. Instead, they continue to rent and probably always will. The reason: Alex’s parents warned him throughout his childhood never to trust, especially the real estate market--that everything he worked for could be snatched away in a single instant.

Michael’s influence could not be more different than Alex’s, but it has restricted him in a similar way. When his best friend Teddy unexpectedly died before they were able to take that cross country trip they had planned for years, Michael,decided he would leave his job as a successful attorney and live for the moment. Except he hasn’t been able to figure out what “the moment” should look like. Some of his friends tell him to travel the world; others advise him to grow up and get back to practicing law.

Sometimes advice from others helps and clarifies. Other times it harms and confuses. Here’s an exercise that will help you understand who influences you and why….

Imagine you are the President and CEO of your life. Who sits on your Board of Directors? Identify at least three people and up to five who have something to say or some influence over the direction you take and the decisions you make. Your Board Members may be living or dead, young or old, real or imagined. Write the name of each person in the circles below.
Once you have identified your Board of Directors, convene a meeting. You have a matter to address, and that matter concerns a question about your career, work, or future plans.

1. Write the Agenda for the board right now:

Good afternoon, Board Members. The issue before us today is about me.Specifically:





2. Next, think about how each member of your board will respond to your question. What will his/her position be? What is each member likely to advise you? Under the name of each person, write a few words that express that person’s advice to you. What does this tell you? Do your Board Members agree with each other? Does their advice reflect the realities of your life today? Does it tell you more about how they see their own situation rather than yours? Are they respectful? Do they believe in you? How do they see the world? Is the advice confusing? Comforting? Uncertain?

You will find that certain words and phases provide clear clues and helpful themes.

Take a look at Ed’s Board. He taught science for 9 years before being promoted to High School Principal. He knows that he does not enjoy his work, even though he is well liked and highly regarded by students, faculty and parents. He easily knows the position of each of his Board Members:

Father: Don’t be foolish. You have a job that pays you far more than you could ever earn as a Teacher. You have to be practical. I knew you’d have problems the moment you decided to get married instead of going to medical school.

Wife: I just want you to be happy

Superintendent of Schools: You are a natural leader with a good business sense. I can see you replacing me someday if you stick it out now.

Sons (twins, age 7): Let’s Play, Dad. Let’s build rocket ships!

Best Friend Doug: You do all the right things but it seems to be at a high cost. I think you should go back to being a teacher and forget about advancing.

Ed is surprised to learn that the people who matter most to him—his wife, his children, and his good friend—do not encourage him to remain in any job where he is unhappy. He is also surprised at the strength and influence of his father’s voice, even though he has been dead for 11 years.

When you look at Ed's Board, here's what they say: don't be foolish, be practical, just be happy, natural leader, stick it out, let's play, high cost, teach. Different opinions: that's no surprise. But who does Ed listen to? And why?

What does your board say? Who speaks the loudest? Who dominates? Who do you listen to? Who knows you best? Who speaks the truth?

Most people who complete this exercise are surprised by what they learn. Take a moment to write down your observations and thoughts about the advice you get from others…..and then, write down the words and phrases ONLY from who knows you best and/or who speaks the truth. This make take a small act of courage on your part, but filter out the "shoulds" and "oughts" and predictions of gloom and doom. Pass them on by, and then write the advice you know to be true.

Your board has spoken....

Oh, by the way, this is a good time to tell you: the observations and thoughts about the advice you get from others should be brief enough that they can fit in a pie slice. This will be your SECOND pie slice: along with words from the Line of Your Life...

...Because next week I will introduce the Good Work Circle, where you will be able to store and learn from the words and phrases that will lead you to the work of your dreams.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Is your current life, career or circumstance good or bad?

On the line below, put a ‘star’ somewhere--anywhere--that comes closest to where you fall right now. Don't take too long to think or your mind will step in and your answer will be influenced by what is safe or what is concrete or how things SHOULD be. Instead, just respond as honestly as you can.

Things are bad...... I'm not sure........Things are good

"I had all those cable networks reporting to me, I had a number of windows in my office and I had all the corporate perks you could possibly imagine, but that wasn't what I was about, so I left."- Geraldine B. Laybourne, resigned as President of cable TV operations for ABC & Walt Disney Co., now with Oxygen

I want my identity back. I don't want to be known as the CEO of AOL Time Warner . . . I'm my own person. I have strong moral convictions. I'm not just a suit. I want poetry back in my life. - Gerald Levin, former CEO of AOL Time Warner (the world's largest media company)

It doesn't matter what level of fame or fortune you've achieved: I’ve never met anyone who permanently escapes the search for purpose and passion. The fact that you are a human being guarantees that sooner or later you will come to face this issue head on.

You might find "it"--those moments when you and everything around you are in allignment with the rest of the universe-- in your spare time, or once a year while on vacation, or if you're really lucky, in your paid work. If the latter, consider yourself very lucky, because most people plod through their jobs for security, money, but not for purpose and passion.

And yet, if it's is so damn important, and it is, why not let yourself believe you can find it in the work of your dreams?

We're going to call this state "GOOD WORK". Here's what it is and isn't:

Good work is meaningful, enjoyable, interesting, rewarding.

And bad work is boring, miserable, meaningless, and depressing.

Before I tell you how most people describe work that they consider to be “good”, what is your own version of good work? Answer the following by writing down words, phrases, sentences—whatever comes to mind:

I know when I’m doing good work when:


How much of this description is present in your current life?

If your answer is “very little” or “none”, you should know that it not only doesn’t have to be that way, it is unhealthy for you to keep it that way. Good work matters.

Here’s what good work isn’t. Most research studies confirm that good work does not depend on:
your job title,
how much money you make,
how successful you are,
or even what you do.

Assemblers in Detroit and Teachers in Baltimore can experience their work as good, and CEO’s in Boston and Production Supervisors in Louisville can experience their work as bad. At its core, good work is not about prestige or salary or power or benefits. It’s not even about your job duties or tasks or responsibilities.

Here's what Good Work IS about. People who are generally happy with their jobs report the following characteristics:

· Time flies: You lose track of time when you are doing good work
· You are in control: You are able to do a job in a way that feels efficient and

· What you do contributes in some way-- to your well being, to others, to

society, to the planet.

Differences in income, education and employment tasks bear little relationship to whether or not a person is fulfilled by the work that he or she does.

Some work is inherently and obviously bad. There is nothing redeeming about showering rain forests with pesticides or scamming elderly seniors out of their life savings. Fortunately, we have courts and governments and agencies to protect us from the very dark edges of bad work. Unfortunately, we do not have the benefit of such arbitrators when it comes to our individual career choices: you are more or less left to figure out good and bad on your own. And because 80 % of all Americans report that they are unhappy in the work that they do, most of us haven’t done a very good job for ourselves in figuring good from bad.

I encourage you to think about Good Work as a practical and achievable goal. The happier you are in life, the better for everyone around you. People who do bad work often come across as uncaring, incompetent, bitter, short tempered, or fatalistic. And it doesn’t matter if you are a college professor or the person who cleans bathrooms. Put aside your job title or job tasks for a moment and think about how you work.

Remember Rule # 1: You are not what you do. You are how you do it.

Whatever your current situation may be, think about what makes good work good and bad work bad. Then think about how you work. Then be patient, because in the next few months you'll be looking at the work of your dreams.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


"The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that . . .Accept that it's unknown, and it's plain sailing." John Lennon

I remember the first time someone asked me, “What do you do?” I was 23 years old, shyly attending my first dinner party. I knew what the questioner really wanted to know, so I introduced myself as my occupation.

Thirty years later, I still used my occupation as the number one description of the person within. Throughout the years, even when I disliked my work or circumstance, I always made the effort to put the best spin possible on my answer to “What do you do?”

The problem with side-stepping the real question of who you are is that your true self can get buried beneath the spin and temptation to define yourself through your work. I do not recommend this approach when you look in the mirror. Life is too short to get sidetracked by polite answers and innocuous chatter, especially to yourself.

“Who are you?” matters. Forget about matching yourself to good work if you don’t know what you bring to the table.
Who Are You & Why Are You Here? (The Line of Your Life)

Often it's easier to understand something when it's visual. First, draw a straight line on a piece of blank paper.
Next, put a dot somewhere on the left side of the line signifying the day you were born. Put another dot somewhere on right side of the line signifying when you will die. Label each dot accordingly, in your own words, such as: “My birth”, “Death”.

Take a good hard look at the space in between. This is your life. It began with a blank line: the truth is that circumstance, fate, fortune, and your own efforts and choices determine what happens between the dots.

Now put a dot somewhere along the line signifying where you are now--today. Label it.

To the left of your dot is where you have been; to the right is where you will head.

Your imaginary line will look something like this:
Birth............. .......Today................ ..Goodbye!

Next, in between your birth-dot and your today-dot, add and label 1 or 2 or 3 dots that signify important events or things that have happened up to now. This could be anything--a graduation, a marriage, the birth of a child, a move, a loss, a promotion-—anything that has been pretty significant in your life up to this point.

Take another look. You cannot change the past, but you can honor it. The dots you have placed represent events in your life that influence and color who you are. They are significant, but they do not lock you into a permanent playback or control your destiny. You get to decide that yourself.

Here comes what you CAN control. Now place and label two or three dots on the line between where you are now and your death-dot. Each will represent a significant event or accomplishment—a certain goal you hope to reach, a level of accomplishment, an event you look forward to, activities, plans, achievements, anything that plays a part in your hopes and dreams for the future.

This is the Line of My Life. This is the big picture. Anything else is just small change. I can look at this and know what's important.
When I look at my Life Line, there is no doubt about the importance of my daughter, my business, writing, jb, travel and teaching. Here are a mere SIX WORDS that define who I am and why I am here.
What about you? When the Line of Your Life is complete, what do you see?

In a notebook, on your lampshape, inside your wallet, or where ever, write down and hold on to your important words. They are the beginning of your roadmap to the job of your dreams.

Oh, and by the way, you can change your mind. Your future is not cast in stone, and your values and priorities may change to the point where the purpose of your life will change also. Should that happen, you lose nothing by re-defining and re-directing the little dots that symbolically sit between your life and your death. Until then, you know now, to the best of your ability, what matters most. Hold that information close. You'll be using it again soon enough.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"To be nobody-but-yourself---in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else--- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."- e.e. cummings
This space affectionately called CAREERS will loosely follow a four part program called Good Work If You Can Get It!, based on an upcoming book by yours truly to help you achieve the job of your dreams. Normally it's a three to four month journey, we'll weave in and out of that schedule somewhat, but if you want to follow along over the coming months you will have plenty of chances to don new information and ideas--about yourself, your labor market, and your job search. Or you can just stop in when the topic interests you. You can do either leisurely and in any order you wish--there is no right or wrong approach and flexibility is an asset here.
If you are confused or discouraged about your career, or lack of it, you'll quickly find you are not alone. Please allow me to start at the beginning:
Who Needs Career Help?
Who doesn’t? Eight in ten work-aged Americans report that they are somewhat to moderately unhappy in general. Fifty percent of workers say they fall somewhere between dissatisfied and miserable with the job that they do. Most heart attacks occur on Monday mornings. There’s not much more to say.
I’m a career counselor. That means that I work with people who for some reason need to decide or re-decide what to do about work.
I work with all kinds of people—from company presidents to attorneys to teachers and marketing reps, to graphic designers to woodworkers and assemblers.
When I meet a new client I say, “I’m the counselor everybody should have had in high school and nobody did”.
That almost always brings a knowing smile, because most adults of all ages know that throughout time there has been too little assistance in the way of vocational advice and career guidance.
People find their way to me or to someone like me for one or more of several common reasons:

· They have been laid off or are just out of school, have not had a job offer, or worse yet, aren’t sure what they should be looking for,

· They have already achieved career or financial success but have a strong desire to do “something that matters”,

· They have been depressed or otherwise stuck and a family member or someone else has pushed them to do something about it,

· They are being “outsourced” or encouraged to change jobs--which is a polite way that many employers say, “Take a hike”,

· They have been unable to work, or had an interruption in work, because of a physical or emotional reason.

The average person is not likely to find me or receive much help in any of these areas unless they are, in a sense, either very desperate or very lost. If you’re a department manager wanting to design playgrounds or an Insurance Specialist longing to be a jeweler, you’re generally out of luck.
Sometimes it’s not the job but the circumstance. If you hope to stay in the same field but have a supervisor from hell, or you have lost your confidence that the work can be good again, it’s hard to know where to turn. Schools try, and there are some excellent training programs, but usually the time when you really need the help is when you’re out of school, not in it.
I am describing different kinds of people who need career help to make the point that, by and large, even though work takes up almost half of your waking life, most people muddle through their jobs and careers on their own, and often on automatic pilot, entering law because their father did or staying in food service because its was their first job in high school, or choosing an occupation or accepting a job simply because it was offered.
Most Career Resources don’t work either. First of all, they're not commonly available. If you check out your local bookstore or library, you will find several dozen good books and resources to help you write an effective resume, complete an impressive job interview, or organize a comprehensive job search. But the problem with this focus is that most people end up looking for work before they know what kind of work they can and should do. Better to know what your mind and heart are looking for before you start searching for it.
There are many books and resources that ask the right questions about your mission in life, likes and dislikes, your values and visions. But too often you will encounter difficulty in applying your core values to the demands of the real labor market. I am always saddened when I encounter someone who has been “holding out” for the perfect job for months or years. In the meantime, his/her self esteem, confidence, energy and motivation have withered so significantly that it is near impossible to make a good impression or make the necessary adjustments. Good work doesn’t mean perfect work. Career joy doesn’t mean total satisfaction. But neither means long term misery or hopelessness either.
Let's face it: mMost of us have never been taught, guided, or exposed to the process and skills needed to make one of most important decisions in life. You probably have more experience in buying a new car or computer than you do in choosing and finding good work.
So here's what to expect here. First, you'll look at YOU: your hopes, fears, challenges, goals, preferences, skills, dreams, aptitudes and interests. You'll be introduced to the Good Work Circle, an interactive tool that will help you learn about yourself, the labor market and, finally, kick off and successfully complete your job search.
From time to time I will also address career questions you may have. Not to mention you will no doubt find some terrific comments from terrific visitors that will get you both thinking and moving ahead.
That's what to expect ahead. I hope you find what you're looking for. And I hope in the process we'll learn and laugh our way to the finish line!

Saturday, September 22, 2007


This blog aims to provide helpful information in choosing or changing your career. Work takes up too much time to be stressful, miserable, dull, or depressing.
There are three essential parts to choosing work that will satisfy both your head and heart:
1. You have to know yourself.
2. You have to know the labor market.
3. You have to know how to conduct a dynamite job search.
Here's a good place to start:
Rule # 1: It's HOW You Work, Not What You Do
Philosopher Matthew Fox tells of an Auto Mechanic who was depressed by his work but stuck with his job because of family responsibilities. He saw his work as meaningless. Through the advice of a Sufi teacher, he began to speak a religious term each time he turned the ratchet to repair a vehicle. By doing this his whole relationship with his work changed. “Now”, he said, “I love my work. I love cars. They are alive. It is a mistake to think of cars as inanimate. A car will tell you, if you listen deeply enough, whether it wants to be repaired or whether it wants simply to be left alone to die.”

Does this story sound silly to you? It is not as unusual as you might think. Gardeners will tell you that plants tell them what they need. Pet owners will tell you that they understand their animals’ communications completely. Homeowners will tell you that they have an unexplainable connection with their houses and sometimes know intuitively what attention the house needs. Artists and scientists will tell you that they are given ideas and information from sources that they do not know about and do not understand.
To think about your work as a living thing, to tend to it because the tending somehow matters, will bring you closer to good work.
People who do good work feel that their job means something, that in some way large or small what they do makes a real difference to somebody, or to some situation or some event. It does not matter if the worker is the President of General Motors or the Grill Cook in the company cafeteria. It does not matter how much money the job pays. What matters is that the work matters. And what matters most of all is HOW you work, not WHAT you do.