Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

Career Conversation-Why am I doing This?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Chances are you’ve asked yourself this question when the going got rough at work.

What were you thinking!?

Really. What were you thinking when you were excited about this job? Spend a few minutes recalling what is appealing to you.  List those things that are  still present.  Do you still have the opportunities to learn new things (even about how to handle challenges)?  Are you proud of what you’ve done so far? Has it made a difference for others by providing information, ensuring compliance, solving a problem, etc?

You’ll likely slide into ruminating about the things that are not so appealing or thwarting your efforts. Such as, having trouble getting buy-in on a no-brainer improvement? Waiting on decisions or information from others?  Consider how those challenges are part of making any kind of change. These challenges are part of everyone’s work.  Despite all the ‘Yes, but…,” is there something inside you that says, “this is what you were meant to do?”

Does the thought of quitting make you feel panicked or at peace?

Are you doing this for the recognition you hope to get as a result? If you are never recognized for this work, would you still be happy?

Yes, we are compelled to manage the rough spots because I need the paycheck. When I think about these questions, it helps me re-boot by remembering what I love about my work.  My answers help put into perspective the daily frustrations that interrupt the good things I’m contributing.  Perhaps they can help get you through this rough patch.

Your Personal Career BoD

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Should I move to take the next step in my career? Is now the time for me to launch my own business? Why should I invest in a Ph.D?

A personal Board of Directors (BoD) can facilitate your career decisions. Many of us have our friends, relatives, former teachers, or mentors  that we go to for advice or to test ideas. This network is essential if you are feeling stuck or looking for your next move.

Why a BoD?

Tom Peters first coined the phrase, “You, Inc.” to illustrate the type of control we need to take for our own careers. When you adopt the mindset that you work for yourself, although full-time within one organization, your perspective shifts to greater collaboration and accountability. As an employee, your manager and organization are also partners in your career.

We need others’ expertise to help us explore and make informed decisions for both our career and life. Your BoD serves not only as counsel, but will broaden your perspective. They provide critical reality checks and they point you towards resources or in directions you wouldn’t find on your own. They help you formulate and realize your goals.

What do they do?

They tell you the truth. This means you create and nourish the relationships around trust: trust that you will listen to, work to understand and consider their advice, especially when you don’t agree. They can help you see blind spots of both strengths and skills. They will tell you how others may perceive you.

They share their own experience and professional advice. At times, they may pave the way or refer you for an opportunity.

Your BoD can guide you to resources and help with decisions around career opportunities, formal education or certifications and other major investments of time, effort and money. They will encourage, help problem-solve and hold you accountable for your career decisions.

Who do you need on your BoD?

You’ll want people who know your profession and aspirations. You’ll need professional expertise in the areas that support your aspirations. A BoD is  comprised of people from outside your employer to give you a bigger picture.

A corporate board includes expertise from finance, marketing, legal, tax and technology to name a few. Your BoD should include mentors with experience and expertise in all the areas of your life such as these. Many people include spiritual guidance as well. Your family/partner also play an obvious role and need to be included in your decisions.

What’s in it for them?

They share their expertise and experience with you because they want you to succeed. It is that simple. As a bonus, through you and others on your BoD, they expand their own network of professionals and friends. You can pay it forward by referring business or contacts to them, as appropriate.

How does this work?

Initially, convene your BoD with an invitation to share breakfast (you pay) to meet each other and set an initial agenda. Meet as a group one to three times a year as you need them for planning and discussion. (Don’t wait for emergencies!) Keep them informed as to your progress and questions with a quarterly e-check-in. Meet with individuals as needed.

Decide if you want to provide a stipend for your BoD members. Be clear if you want this to be pro-bono. Use the initial discussion to outline how you want to work together and expectations – yours and theirs.

Your Board wants to see you succeed and may be with you for many years. Some may rotate off.  Do stay in touch and be grateful for this valuable person in your life.


Two Key Questions for Your Next Job

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

“Why are you interested in this job?”  This is a standard interviewer’s question, or should be. The hiring manager is wise to ask about your motivations to determine if you’ll be a good fit with the team and organization.

In looking for your next job, your first step is having a good idea of why we want a new job. It generally falls into categories of more money, better schedule or commute, and meaningful tasks. To ensure your next job is a “better” one, think through what a “ideal” job will be for yourself:Door to sky

1)  What salary and benefits address your work-life balance needs?

2) What experiences and skills do you want to use and develop?

3) You also need to be able to describe the type of work environment where you will be most productive and happy. This could be  to work on a larger scale, supervise a larger team, or master a new skill. Maybe you want the prestige of working for a particular organization, or in a consulting role, or the pleasure of being having a larger role and responsibilities in a smaller organization.

Knowing these things helps answer the interview question, “Why are you interested in this job?”

But don’t leave the conversation one-sided.  Balance the table by turning the question back to the interviewer, “Why would a top performer want to work in this job?” You’ll learn so much by asking that question. Is this a role that will meet your desires? You can probe deeper into the organization’s culture and values by asking the hiring manager, “What do you need in an ideal candidate that we haven’t talked about?”

You may not be the exact skill match right now, but with this information you can demonstrate your abilities to be successful in the position. Be ready to talk about how you took a similar risk and had a successful result.

I’ve made better decisions based on knowing the potential of meeting both my needs and the hiring manager’s needs by asking questions like these.

What questions have gotten you deeper understanding and greater satisfaction in career decisions?

Accomplishments: Meaning in the Mundane

Friday, February 14th, 2014


The key to every self-performance appraisal, resume,and interview  is capturing our accomplishments.  Many of us don’t feel we have any because we just come in and do our jobs.  Others of us believe that our good work will get noticed by others and we don’t have to remind them. We are carefully taught not to brag or boast.

Over the year, does your boss remember your contributions to the team or organization? With 5 or more other peoples’ reviews to write, probably not.  Your boss needs a gentle reminder of what you do and how it helps to meet the goals of the unit.

For job applications and interviews, people don’t know if you don’t tell them. We will not get the job if we don’t distinguish how and, more importantly, why we do certain tasks better than our competition.

Too often we just list the activities or duties that can be found on a job description. We also to include the context or challenge, and the results. The context supplies the scope – why the activity is needed, how often, how many, etc.  Our actions need to call out the expertise, knowledge and skills we have to do this well. The result answers the question, “So what?”

This week I was helping a team of people identify and write their accomplishments. This was not just for self-appraisals, but to jump-start thinking about what actions the team could be doing to improve and further their goal.  Too often we only view our jobs as the mundane tasks to satisfy boring metrics, such as weekly reports.  We have to step back and remember what happens with the work we produce: What decisions are made based on the things we produce? What would happen if we didn’t do these tasks? [This could also be an exercise to streamline work processes.]

In the case of this team, their work not only raises awareness of diversity and inclusiveness, but illustrates and recognizes the success of others. This team supplies data and trends (aka weekly reports) which drive the ability of highly talented people to have the opportunity to contribute to answering the most important questions of our lives. Where would we be without Stephen Hawkings, Richard Pimentel, Percy Lavon Julian, Bath, Patricia and so many others? Suddenly they remembered that this job wasn’t just about the money.

Do your tasks align with and further the accomplishments of the goal of your department?  What would happen if you didn’t do them? If you don’t care, find a new job or encourage your team to create meaningful goals so you can contribute to something you care about.

I have the honor of helping people discover why their work matters. That’s enough to keep me going every day. And you won’t find it in the job description.

A Crystal Ball – Skills for Now and the Future

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

A research report from Apollo Research Institute gives us a crystal ball for looking towards 2020.  “Future Work Skills 2020”

I like the way this report takes the major global trends and matches them with the skills workers need to thrive now and going forward. Its very useful for  the many people needing to re-skill, re-career and generally upgrade their skills to get good jobs.   Its also useful for HR/OD professionals working on reducing the skills gaps in your organizations. It can add richness to your competencies buffet. More than technical skills, these are the abilities to think, analyze, empathize; the willingness to seek different perspectives, use logic meshed with creativity, and use a variety of means to communicate.

There are six categories from the report:

  • Transdisciplinarity: ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
  • Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.
  • Sense-making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  • Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  • Cross-cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings.
  • Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.
  • Novel and adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  • Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  • New media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcome

This is not only a great read, but full of food for thought.

Exposure – Key Element in Career Search

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011


My mother would take me to symphony concerts when I was a child.  I was so bored!  There was no action!  Then she told me to watch just one or two musicians throughout a piece to see what they did both while they were playing and especially when they weren’t.  That kept me awake and attentive!  I began to look around the theater to see the lighting, the sound equipment, architecture, what the ushers did as well as the conductor and musicians.  Then she allowed me to audition for a play and I was introduced the the backstage “magic” by being cast in a professional-style community theater.  Decades later, a BFA and lots of theater technical skills, I’m still excited by the ‘magic’ created in the theater. Yet I also know the hours, hard work, conflict management, budget and procurement, creativity and discipline required to create the magic.  I watch a movie seeing not only the story, but also the costumes, settings, and FX guessing how they did that.  All because I was exposed to live theater, not just the TV.

Travel had a similar impact on my career.  And I see it happen to others as well. It can be travel just to a different neighborhood, or around the world. My first trip outside the US exposed me to people from all over the world. I heard, for the first time, that  US policies and actions weren’t adored and multi-national companies weren’t great saviors to developing countries. I find going outside my neighborhood exposes me to different perspectives that improve my outlook on many issues.

The more we are exposed to things both within and outside our daily lives, the more we can explore to find meaningful work/career options. Then we can can look into the knowledge and skills we need to make that contribution.

Whether watching the fireworks on the 4th of July or the bugs near the picnic blanket, we can help others (especially children) explore their work/career interests everyday by being curious.  Asking questions such as:

“How do they do that?”  “How does that work?”

“Why does that happen?”

“How could that be better?” ” What do I want do about it?”

“What would it be like to do that for a living?”




More Boomers Starting Own Biz

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Reuter’s Wealth Blogger, Mark Miller, shared the statistics of Entrepreneurs age 55 to 64 now represent a rising share of start-up activity, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, accounting for 23 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2010, up from 14.5 percent in 1996. As this age group experiences the early buyouts, early retirement and layoffs, many are looking to become their own bosses.  Some people have juggled part-time activities for years and now take the steps to expand those interests.

This trend seems to be a combination both internal motivation and business economics.  Boomers are having difficulty finding new jobs because employers need a new skill sets that many don’t have.  Labor cost containments mean lower salaries in many sectors. When a company has to cut costs, the layoff is the jump-start that we need to move from our comfort zone of a stalled job. I know it was the bungee jump for me!  It becomes the opportunity to  following one’s dreams. Having built confidence and skills from previous employment, this transition offers us time and motivation to learn entrepreneurial skills.

Whether you join the ranks of contingent work force, contract your knowledge and skills to an organization, or hang out your shingle in a brand new field, its a powerful feeling to be your own boss. There are plenty of free and low-cost resources to stimulate this critical part of our economy. Start with your local (county) small business association. Participate in local business functions, such as professional organizations and your local chamber of commerce.  Be the Leader you always knew you could be.

Career Decisions – How Much is Enough?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

When do you know you have enough money? Do you always need a higher salary, or an increase in revenue? To some these are moot [aka “dumb”] questions because of the belief that “more is always better.”  Much has been written and espoused on the Scarcity vs Abundance perspectives and their impact on the way we live our lives and relate to others.

A recent interview on NPR brought this issue back to me. Mag Instrument Inc. (MagLights) could make much more money if they off-shored production. But that is not what is important to the owner.  Keeping people employed is a higher priority than excessive profits.

Earlier in my career I was faced with a choice of earning 10% higher salary doing the same kind of work, or staying at current salary and increasing my professional knowledge and capabilities. At that time in my life I was satisfied with my lifestyle and income.  More money would not have increased that satisfaction. But learning new things was  more enticing and would offer longer-term marketability.  I’ve never regretted that decision, even when a year later I was job hunting. I found another fantastic job because I had the additional expertise.

There are times when we do need to strive for greater income to meet basic needs.  Are they really ‘needs’ or ‘wants?’ What do you trade-off for money?

Thinking of Retirement?

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Is retirement an option for you? Are you facing a decision due to mandatory or an early retirement offer from your employer? Have you reached that milestone point in terms of tenure or age?

“Retirement” is really a word only used in financial terms now – you are eligible by either age or time in your job/profession.   Whenever people adamantly say, I’m retired, I don’t do anything.”  I generally find they are doing the things they always wanted to do. But because they aren’t getting paid for it, they call it “nothing.”

Most people don’t think this is a tough question.  They are enthusiastically counting the days and minutes to the moment they can walk out the door the last time. For others of us, we are absorbed with our work. It has become who we are both as a person and as a professional and what we want to do with our days. Leaving the job would be like cutting off oxygen. “I really like what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else.” We have become comfortable with the structure, people and challenges the work setting provides.  We don’t know what we would do without these.

Many people begin “encore” careers, or develop creative interests through writing, painting, music, etc., or generously volunteer to help others. Starting a new business after age 60 is common.

Many organizations are offering more flexibility to prevent the brain drain that the boomers are believed to be creating.  Reduced hours, part-time status or contracting back to the company for a project or for mentoring others are common.

Fluency with Change

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Because change is so pervasive, resiliency is critical to success in all aspects of our lives.  Fluency with change is the ability to be at ease or have a sense of confidence in dealing with ambiguous situations.  It is the ability to respond to annoying things like deadlines, software changes, traffic delays – and major changes such as job, family, or health issues. Change is both voluntary and involuntary.  Its the latter that is often the harder to manage.

What gets in our way of effectively managing change? Our own expectation of how things ‘should’ be is challenged by what is really happening.  We may agree there is a problem to resolve, but disagree with the solution.  Or, when good things happen, we may feel guilty, as if we don’t deserve them.

3 Tips for Developing Your Fluency with Change:

1. Take stock –  Dealing with change, or not,  is a matter of choice. It is choosing to be accountable to yourself for your own reactions, in both personal and professional development.  We often cannot see how we undermine ourselves by our beliefs.

Create your own list of major things that happened or that you created in your life over the last year.  These can be the “good” changes as well as disappointments or losses. Note how you initially responded to the change.  How did you feel?  What did you think? What did you say, to whom?  What did you do? How do you feel about the way you handled it? What would you do differently?

2. Revisit your Sense of Purpose and Perspective – Clearly define “why” you do your work. Remember the stonecutter who made square blocks of marble day after day?  When asked how he tolerated such a boring job, he replied, “I’m not just making square blocks.” He pointed across the field and continued, “I’m building that cathedral over there.” There are many resources to help people discover their mission or purpose in life.  Your organization’s original mission can be a good place to start.

Re-new your commitment to your personal and/or organization’s mission. Then when you experience set-backs or other changes, you’ll have a stronger perspective to deal with the change.

3. Personal/Professional NetworksPeople don’t tend to keep up their network when they haven’t had to look for a job.  Your network is not just a safety net in bad times.  It’s a mutual exchange of ideas, support and connecting people as resources for each other. The most resilient people have a variety of personal and organizational relationships.

Jump-start your network by listing people you can depend on in times of need.  Now choose a name and think about what you can do for them today!