The Twenty Minute Difference: A Case Study in Manager Flexibility

Managers – What are you thinking?

I have a great deal of respect for Managers. I know how tough it is to be one – I was there for many years.  Juggling the pressures of the job and managing people, who all have their own personalities, development desires, work habits, and expectations is one huge difficult task. As rewarding as it can often be, it is a big, big job.

Yet often times I cannot believe how foolish some managers can be, and how inept they are at building an environment of high productivity and trust.

But I have to say that I also am thinking, “Come on, people. Does this really make sense?”

A new client shared with me the primary reason she is looking for another job.

Before I tell you why, let me offer a bit of context.

My client, let’s call her Janice, has been working for EnergyAlive (fictitious name) for over eight years, and has been promoted three times into a Manager position. She is very well-liked, very smart, and has received consistently high performance ratings. (That’s why she was promoted).

So, what’s the problem?   

A new Director (Mason) recently came on board into the company. Within a few weeks, all of a sudden, everything changed. There is a problem.

Janice wants out – NOW.  She is seriously looking for another job.

Why is something that was going so right, all of a sudden going so wrong?

  Janice has a young son, John. John attends kindergarten nearby and goes to   after school care so that Janice can pick him up at 5:00pm every day after she leaves work.

Janice’s previous Director had given her the flexibility to leave 20 minutes early each day so that she could reach the daycare center on time to pick up her son. Janice usually took shorter lunches and was a hard worker so it all worked out.

Janice was grateful because it often took up to an hour, with traffic, to reach the daycare center. She greatly appreciated her Director’s faith in her to get the job done even though she had to leave a little early. She worked hard to show that appreciation.

Mason arrives as the new Director. He is gung-ho to “make his mark”.

Mason has a different idea of what the “rules” are.   

In plain English, Mason doesn’t believe in flexibility. He has laid down the law that Janice must stay at work until 4:30pm just as her hours dictate.

Janice now has a new worry every day – a big one. If she can’t make it to the daycare center by 5:00pm, she gets charged for an extra two hours because the daycare manager wants to close up at 5:00.

So what is happening?  Janice is stressed out every day. She rushes into her car and drives (perhaps a bit too fast) to get to the daycare center as quickly as possible – and rarely makes it on time. So along with the added stress, Janice also now has a much bigger daycare bill.

Janice now has a chip on her shoulder about the company (and Mason).  Are you surprised?

What used to be a very productive and positive relationship between Janice and EnergyAlive, has all of a sudden become a very tense and negative one.

I see this as Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

No, I take that back. I don’t even see this as Penny WiseIt is just plain foolish.

  • EnergyAlive has already lost an excellent employee. Janice will be gone soon. She has excellent skills and can bring those skills elsewhere.
  • Janice knows the company (and its customers) very well.  She used to have respect for EnergyAlive and its services, and really put in 110% effort to do a good job. Not anymore. Why should she care about them when they don’t care about her?
  • It will cost EnergyAlive several thousand dollars to hire and retrain and onboard a new manager to take Janice’s place. Usually this takes up to 8 months or more. There will be lost time and perhaps a big slip in customer service.
  • Janice’s co-workers know what’s going on and are also ticked off. They feel for Janice and can’t understand why Mason can’t be reasonable. It doesn’t bother them that Janice used to leave 20 minutes early. They like having her as their manager. She treats them with respect.
  • Mason is standing firm, because he doesn’t want to ‘lose face’. (He doesn’t realize he has already lost it)

Have you seen these types of situations arise? Have you been involved in one? It’s quite amazing how a change in the Director position has created such a negative impact on the employees and the company within a few short weeks.

Where is HR? Is anyone paying attention?  Who is coaching Mason that he may be establishing a reputation in the company that might eventually cause his derailment?  What’s fair? What’s reasonable?  What makes sense?

Twenty minutes of flexibility. Is this too much to ask?

Important things to think about.

As a manager and leader – how will YOU handle these issues?

A report by Sodexo (has approximately 125,000 employees in North America alone) in 2012 shows employers need to think beyond the business and outside the traditional office setting to create an engaged, productive workforce*.

*2012 Workplace Trends Report: Integration, Flexibility and Wellness Top Drivers of Employee Engagement *

“…Because recession or not, the U.S. still has a skilled worker shortage.  As the economy picks up and the boomers finally do retire, it is only going to get a whole lot worse.  Companies that get ahead and build real cultures of workplace flexibility are going to have the staffing advantage and the competitive edge.

“Flex is no longer an ’employee benefit’.  Those days are gone.  Today it is an all-around public policy issue and bottom-line corporate strategy.”

Sodexco’s research predicts continued focus on well-being and the ability to deliver a unique value proposition to business communities that focuses on not only integrated, effective and efficient use of space, but also the performance of human capital. Employees are looking to organizations for tools and resources to help them simplify their lives, stay healthy and balanced, and bring their “whole self” to work as these continue to be top drivers of engagement.”

Terry Del Percio is a Career Transition and Workplace Consultant based out of Beverly, MA. Follow her on Twitter at @WorkIntegrity or visit her website at www.workstrategies.com  

Holy Fools’ Day: A Spark of Madness

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” ~Robin Williams  

Lately I’ve been wondering if I still, to a certain degree, live some of my life to satisfy others’ expectations. Of course I like to think that I stopped doing that years ago, but I suspect I still do it often without awareness.

Gail Larsen

The following is an excerpt from Gail Larsen, author  of   “Transformational Speaking”, a book that inspires even if you aren’t a public speaker.

This excerpt, about our tendencies to “tame our madness” and suppress our voices, resonated with me, particularly since I recently visited my 94 year old father, whom I hadn’t seen in approximately 40 years. I still found myself concerned about his expectations of who I was and who I became, and I wonder if he had similar thoughts.

Gail’s e-letter says:

Most of us tame our madness to fit into what other’s expect and never use our inherent spark to become the wildly unforgettable speakers and change artists that are needed in these times of shocking transformation.

How would your life be different if you didn’t care what others think?  I sometimes ask that question in my classes and when an astute participant responded, “What if I didn’t care what I think?”  I realized she was on to something.

So armed with both those questions, and assuming you could give up editing and rehearsing yourself around what others may think, or what you yourself may think just for a moment, how then might you express your spark of madness?  Would you be the first to speak rather than first feeling out whether your listeners would agree?

Would you launch a new movement using social media and organize your own demonstration against injustice or corporate domination or nuclear power?  Whatever you do, don’t get attached to the outcome. Just go for it.

I suggest you no longer try to lose or suppress your spark of madness and instead give it a voice on April 1 [popularly known as April Fool’s Day].  

This festive and often annoying holiday suggests we play tricks on others with a jovial spirit and once we’ve duped them to yell with delight, “April Fools!”

Comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell talked about the archetype of another kind of fool: the Holy Fool.

The Fool is the most dangerous person on earth, Campbell explained, the most threatening to all hierarchical institutions. He has no concern for naysayers, and no one has power over him (or her). She is not limited, not stoppable, nor controllable. She knows what she has to do and is doing it, no matter what.

I think of the Holy Fool as similar to the Court Jester, the only person in the Royal Court who dares to speak truth to the King without consequence.

Or the Koshari of the Hopi and Pueblo peoples of the Southwest, who in the midst of sacred ceremonies makes us laugh at ourselves by mimicking our behavior so we can see ourselves in a new way.  Their role is to create lessons at the expense of another’s seriousness, recognizing that laughter is a great shape shifter of old habits and patterns.

So here’s a suggestion. How about on April 1 we engage in a dialogue with our inner Holy Fool and Spark of Madness and ask what he/she most wants to express, convention be damned.

Ask where you are being duped day in and day out and not shining the light of your truth.

Let’s stop concealing our greatest passions and be willing to say what we love and what we know without editing and rehearsing ourselves into oblivion.  Let’s declare April 1 Holy Fools’ Day and engage the madly passionate part of us that has something important to say – and just say it.

Rumi said (paraphrased):     

I used to be like you.

Calm, rational, controlled.

Now I am seized by passion.

Watch out

No one’s safe!

Our world is changing, one voice at a time, and yours is needed. I’d love to hear what happens when you connect with your Holy Fool and say what is yours to say. Speaking your truth, especially when convention is expected, opens the door to your liberation.  You might just find you want to be a Holy Fool and reveal your spark of madness every day.

© Gail Larsen 2011

Reprinted from “Real Speaking Power Points” a free e-letter by Gail Larsen, author of Transformational Speaking.  To subscribe and receive occasional insights and ideas to enhance your public speaking and communications, go to http://www.realspeaking.net

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Can you see how this is connected to your career choices and your leadership approach?

Happy Holy Fools’ Day to you all.

For more information about Terry Del Percio’s Career Transition Services, please visit http://www.workstrategies.com or call to schedule a free phone consultation at 978.282.8900

A Rhetorical Question About Work

Peter Bregman recently wrote a post entitled “A Life-or-Death Question to Start Your Day”. He tells the story of how, during a long-ago trip with his wife to the wilderness for kayaking, they assessed the risks they were taking each morning. Every day before they left shore, they asked themselves: “If we died today, what mistake could have done us in?”

Years later, Peter still thinks of that approach to each day, except the questions (and the risks) are quite different. Peter’s take on the new questions is: “Am I prepared for this day? For the meetings I have planned? Have I anticipated the risks that might take me off track from achieving my goals?” Ultimately, Peter realized that if not prepared, each precious day could be withered away.

It’s a great story and a very meaningful lesson.

Yet I am thinking that the most important lesson for me might be to take it one more step.

Should my questions be:

  • If this were the last day of my life, how would I treat each person I come in contact with?
  • What would I appreciate most about life in each moment that I have left?
  • Would achievement and power, or collaboration and compromise be my approach to whatever has to be done?
  • Would I be concerned about my title or my salary – or would I recognize the opportunity I have, every moment, to be a thoughtful, kind and useful person?

These might be rhetorical questions, but I feel good about the perspective they push me to understand about life and work.  

Terry Del Percio. www.workstrategies.com

978.282.8900

You Gotta Believe

Why do people make the choices they do throughout their careers?   What makes one person persevere and take risks to achieve their goals while others can’t seem to get unstuck and find themselves locked into an unfulfilling job for years? In this article we are suggesting that the critical factor is belief. Belief is ultimately what determines how successful you are.  

Essentially, beliefs are your unconscious patterns of thinking. Core beliefs are the foundation of your personality. They describe you as worthy of respect or worthless, competent or incompetent, fairly treated or victimized, independent or helpless.

Individual belief systems are an incredibly powerful influence on the choices people make. We observed people who said they wanted to make positive change, but struggled to take concrete actions to accomplish their goals. Many intelligent and motivated people become paralyzed by intangible inner obstacles.

The Source of Your Beliefs

Where do our beliefs come from? There is no simple answer because several factors need to be considered.

  1. Personality – Obviously, not everyone holds the same beliefs. Our fundamental personality has a tremendous impact on the beliefs that we assume through our formative years and how we view the world in general.
  2. Family and Role Models – There is no question that our environment plays a significant role in who we become. Our families and role models send us very powerful messages about who we are and how the world operates. These messages become the foundation of many of our beliefs into adulthood.
  3. Cultural and Ethnic Values – Many of us are raised within certain cultural environments that provide us with feedback about what’s right/what’s wrong and what’s true/what’s false. It may sound like stereotyping, but cultural and ethnic values still have a strong impact on what we believe.
  4. Spiritual Orientation –Beliefs around faith, destiny and god have a tremendous influence on the choices we each make about work throughout our lives. This might include traditional religious values that we learned as children.

Belief Imprisonment   

When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
– Dakota Tribal Saying

Your beliefs shape your life and your behavior. This, of course, is a good thing if your beliefs are accurate and affirming. However, limiting beliefs get in the way of positive change. They restrict what you can achieve. Beliefs are often referred to as “childhood tapes” that play over and over in our heads and often dictate our behavior. Do any of these tapes sound familiar?

  • I’m really not smart enough to run a company, am I?
  • I want this promotion, but I don’t think I have what it takes to do the job
  • I’m too old to go back to school and start a new career – it’s too late
  • It would be irresponsible to pursue my passions now because I have a family
  • Better stick with this job – it’s all I know
  • I should never quit my job without having another one

In our consulting practice, we have coined the phrase “belief imprisonment” to describe being stuck in your limiting beliefs. Since many beliefs operate outside of your awareness, their influence on your daily choices may be invisible yet profound.

Identifying your core beliefs and bringing them into your conscious mind is crucial for making positive change.

If you don’t expect to get well when you are diagnosed with a health problem, you won’t do all the things that can help you get better – especially those things that may be difficult. In the same way, if you don’t expect that you can successfully make a career change or get that promotion, you won’t do all the things than can ensure you succeed.

Consider Lisa. She is bright, personable and very capable. Lisa holds a position as a Senior Manager in a large multi-national organization. She is thought of as an extremely competent and valuable employee. Yet Lisa is miserable because of unreasonable expectations around volume of work that are standard in her company. Her boss’s lack of follow- through and consistency also continually frustrate her.

Lisa first came to us because she decided it was time to move on. She had been putting up with the frustration of her current environment for two years and was very unhappy. More importantly, the stress of her job was making her physically ill.

But it isn’t so easy to change things when you are conducting your life based on inaccurate beliefs that have accumulated over a lifetime. Lisa is still struggling with strong internal contradictions and is continuously questioning her ability to ‘succeed’ in another company or another role. Since she hasn’t mastered every aspect of her current job, she believes she is incompetent. This prevents her from applying for new positions. A great burden of guilt prevents her from taking time to go on interviews or network.

“I know intellectually that I deserve to find a position that suits me better, but this inner voice keeps telling me that I should be in my office ten hours a day – and I should stay here longer to learn more – I can’t seem to break free”. In her mind, if she goes on an interview, she is not being responsible or loyal.  

Lisa is stuck because of her limiting beliefs and fears about not measuring up and not being viewed as a responsible person.

We identified three limiting beliefs. Lisa has agreed to take simple concrete actions so that she can move forward and is trying to push through her fears by looking at her limiting beliefs square in the eye. She’ll get there, but it’s natural for her resistance to be high.

Breaking Through Limiting Beliefs

To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.
– Katherine Patterson

We look for evidence that supports what we believe and ignore contrary evidence. This reinforces our inaccurate beliefs about ourselves and makes it difficult to change.

Alvah Parker, a coach that works predominantly with attorneys, identifies 10 common beliefs on career change that can derail your desire for change. If the belief is making you unhappy or feeling stuck, now is the time to change it. It will help to free you to make a change in your life.

How do you break through?

  1. Understand your basic personality – This will give you insight into the type of beliefs you have a tendency to hold onto.
  2. Identify your limiting beliefs –Write them down and bring them into your consciousness.
  3. Question your beliefs – Especially those that are limiting or inducing fear. Be aggressive about this. Only you can create your own future.
  4. Behave differently – Your behavior drives and reinforces your beliefs. Start behaving differently (even if it is uncomfortable) and eventually you will believe differently.
  5. Change one behavior at a time – Don’t think you can change everything at once. Establish realistic goals. Get focused.
  6. Push through your fears – There are always fears associated with limiting beliefs. The fear that someone you love will not approve if you change, the fear that you won’t live up expectations, the fear of failure (you know the list).
  7. Seek professional help – It is tough to change beliefs without objective feedback. Deeper issues need to be addressed with a trained psychologist.

Learning how to alter your limiting beliefs is a skill. It’s hard work, but the potential rewards are huge. Doing this can bring you a new sense of freedom. Don’t be a victim of your own limiting beliefs – seek out help to reshape your beliefs about who you are and what you can do. You have the capability to achieve everything you want to. You just gotta believe.

Terry Del Percio is a Career and Workplace Consultant. She manages a private practice called The Work Strategies Company located in Beverly, Massachusetts. Visit her website at http://www.workstrategies.com or you can contact Terry by phone at 978.282.8900.                         Twitter @WorkIntegrity

References:

McKay, Ph.D., Matthew and Fanning, Patrick. Prisoners of Belief. California: New Harbinger Publications, 1991.

O’Hanlon, Bill. Do One Thing Different. New York. William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1999.

Fear: Our Biggest Obstacle

What would you do with your life if fear didn’t play a role?

“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear.   She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.    But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.   

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons.

The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”

— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Entering into a Career Transition?  We can help you jump the chasm and beat the fear.  WorkStrategies.com Terry Del Percio | 978.282.8900         

Steve Jobs: Career Advice for Tough Times (Guest Blog)

This is a guest post by Carmine Gallo, Author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success. It offers interesting insights into Steve Jobs’ history of success and new ideas about how you can approach your own career.

The global recession has forced many people to reconsider their careers and life choices. In these turbulent times, where does one turn for career advice? As I was researching the material for my new book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs (McGraw Hill) I realized that many of the principles behind Jobs’ breakthrough success at Apple apply equally to the management of one’s career.

Jobs has had his share of setbacks and skeptics. He started what would become a multi-billion dollar brand by sharing his parents’ kitchen table, he was fired from the company he started, and he rebounded from two near-death experiences to become one of the most iconic business leaders in corporate history. He’s learned a lot along the way and he has a lot to teach the rest of us. Here are just a few ways Jobs can teach you to ‘think differently’ about professional and career success.

Put a dent in the universe. Steve Jobs has never underestimated the power of vision to move a brand forward. Vision inspires new ideas and attracts evangelists to your cause. In 1976, Steve Wozniak was captivated by Jobs’ vision to “put a computer in the hands of everyday people.” Wozniak was the engineering genius behind the Apple I and the Apple II, but it was Jobs’ vision that inspired Wozniak to focus his skills on building a computer for the masses.

Jobs’ vision was intoxicating because it had four components that all inspiring visions share: It was 1) bold, 2) specific, 3) concise and 4) consistently communicated.

In 1979, Jobs took a tour of the Xerox research facility in Palo Alto, California. There he saw a new technology that let users interact with the computer via graphical icons on the screen instead of entering complex line commands. It was called a “graphical user interface.”

In that moment, Jobs knew that this technology would allow him to fulfill his vision of putting a computer in the hands of everyday people. He went back to Apple and refocused his team’s effort on building the computer that would eventually become the Macintosh and forever change the way we talked to computers. Jobs later said that Xerox could have “dominated” the computer industry but instead its ‘vision’ was limited to building another copier.

Innovation — the kind with a big “I” that moves society forward — doesn’t happen without a bold vision.

Just as Jobs had a vision for his brand, you must have a vision for the most important brand of all — yourself. What vision do you have for your company or your career? Yes, you need to follow your gut and do something you are passionate about — doing what you love is Steve Jobs’ first principle for breakthrough success — but while passion gives you energy to overcome skeptics and obstacles, vision points you in the ultimate direction.

Kick-start your brain. There’s no dispute that Steve Jobs thinks differently than the rest of us. His creative ideas have transformed not one industry, but four — computing, music, entertainment, and telecommunications. 

Innovation — in products or careers — requires creativity and creativity requires that you think differently about…the way you think. Scientists who study the way the brain works have discovered that innovators like Steve Jobs do think differently but they use a technique available to all of us — they seek out “diverse experiences.”

This reminds me of the story behind Apple’s name. The idea fell from a tree, literally. Steve Jobs had returned from visiting a commune-like place in Oregon located in an apple orchard. Apple co-founder and Jobs’ pal, Steve Wozniak, picked him up from the airport. On the drive home, Jobs simply said, “I came up with a name for our company — Apple.” Wozniak said they could have tried to come up with more technical sounding names but their vision was to make computers approachable. Apple fit nicely. 

Steve Jobs creates new ideas precisely because he has spent a lifetime exploring new and unrelated things — seeking out diverse experiences. Jobs hired people from outside the computing profession, he studied the art of calligraphy in college (a study that found its way into the first Macintosh), meditated in an Indian ashram, and evaluated The Four Seasons hotel chain as he developed the customer service model for the Apple Stores.

Look outside your industry for inspiration. Bombard the brain with new experiences. Remove the shackles of past experiences.

Say no to 1,000 things. Steve Jobs once said the secret to innovation comes from “saying no to 1,000 things.” Steve Jobs is as proud of what Apple chooses not to do as he is about what Apple chooses to focus on. The lesson — don’t spread yourself too thin. 

Find the career that intersects your passion, skill and the ability to make money doing it. Once you find it, focus on it, work at it, and dedicate yourself to excellence in that area. Say “no” to anything else that will distract you from pursuing that career.

If you are looking for a work or frustrated with your current job, there will be plenty of friends, families and colleagues who offer unsolicited advice on what’s best for you. Filter out the ideas that might derail you from the career best matching your strengths and passion.

Master presentation skills. Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest corporate storytellers in the world. His presentations inform, educate and entertain. By giving extraordinary presentations, Steve Jobs stands out as a leader and communicator.

You are being judged to a large degree on your ability to communicate what you do. The big difference between extraordinary communicators like Steve Jobs and the average leader is that people like Jobs use presentations to complement the message. The speaker is the storyteller; PowerPoint slides serve as a backdrop to the story. That means you must learn to avoid bullet points and to think visually about bringing a story to life. Read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs (McGraw Hill, October 2009), for tips and techniques.

Don’t let bozos get you down. Steve Jobs knew he had the skills to build a computer that would be simple enough for the average person to enjoy. Few others shared his vision.

Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment, once told Jobs “There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.” Thank goodness Jobs didn’t listen.

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after a 12-year absence from the company he started, Apple was close to bankruptcy but Jobs rallied his employees, customers, and investors with the vision of what Apple could become. Millions of Apple fans have Jobs to thank for not listening to critics who believed Apple was destined to fail. If he had, consumers would not be enjoying Macs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones which popularized touch-screen technology.

Many people around you think they know what’s best for you. Only you can be true to your own heart and intuition.

Innovation sits in a lonely place because very, very few people have their courage of their convictions and the self-confidence to tune out negative voices. Perhaps the greatest lesson Steve Jobs teaches us is that risk-taking requires courage. Believe in yourself and your vision and be prepared to constantly defend those beliefs. Only then will you be able to lead an “insanely great” life and career.

© 2010 Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success

Author Bio
Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, is a presentation, media-training, and communication-skills coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is an author and columnist for Businessweek.com and and a keynote speaker and seminar leader who has appeared on CNBC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC.com, BNET, RedBook, Forbes.com, and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily, as well as many other media outlets. Gallo lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is a former vice president for a global, top-ten public relations firm.

For more information please visit www.carminegallo.com

Posted by Terry Del Percio, Career Transition Consultant: www.workstrategies.com

Follow me on Twitter: @WorkIntegrity

Does Anybody (Else) Care About My Career?

After reporting to eleven bosses in eleven years at the last organization I worked for as a communications director, I knew it was time for me to take control of my work life. The way I put it to myself was, “If anyone’s going to pilot my life, it’s going to be me.”

If you’re a boomer who’s facing your professional future with a frown, the tactics I used to resolve my situation, as well as the tips at the end of this post, can help you plan your own Great Escape.

The specific conditions that provoked my personal wake-up call and the exact career I embarked on might not be the same as yours. But if you know that what you’re doing with your life isn’t what you were meant to do, I hope that parts of the strategy I applied can offer you a path to your next career.

Coaching     

Long before I abandoned my job, I put myself into the hands of a coach. I can still picture myself hunched over a yellow lined pad, feverishly writing down my coach’s tenets of success. A lot of them had to do with modifying my mental attitude. She convinced me that it was critical that I focus on success rather than stir up every thought of failure I could summon.

I finally realized that if I didn’t take the first few baby steps she outlined, I would never arrive at any grand goal I might have had in mind.

In my case, that meant that if I didn’t submit my writing for publication, 100% of it would be unpublished. So, while still at my old job, I submitted an essay to a national publication. From hundreds of applicants, I was among the 12 chosen to write a whole series of articles. That experience demonstrated for me that I had something valuable to offer.

Then my coach and I moved on to writing down simple steps I could take to begin a new career.

For example, I was to set up my home office to be effective for my new career (and the new me), rather than for the old ones. That helped me start seeing myself in a new light, and begin to take myself seriously.   

Strategies

I want to share some more of the strategies my coach taught me.

Keep your hand in. Even before you can leave or change your job and do what you like full time, take advantage of opportunities to do the work you want to do. It may be as a volunteer. Some people get new jobs based on work they did do or contacts they made through volunteer work.

Associate with others who are doing what you want to do. Seek out those who are in the field you want to be in. It’s easy to do that these days. If there’s no one in your community who shares your interests, join an online community through the groups on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.com. Some of the people you “meet” online will live in your area, and after chatting online for a while, you can get together in person, if you chose to.

Carve out a physical space, no matter how small, where you will do your new work. It might be a corner of your kitchen or bedroom, a section of your attic, or even—weather permitting—your porch.

Take classes in the field you want to enter. That has the double benefit of making it possible to meet others with your interests.

Pay down your bills, in preparation for your new work—which might not pay as much as you’re used to earning.

Put a little money aside—even if it’s only a few dollars a week—and earmark it for your new career. (I left my job right at the beginning of this last recession, so it was pretty scary. But scarier still was the toll my job was taking on my health and well being.) 

Don’t wait for permission from anyone—not your husband, your family, your parents, or your employer. Of course, it’s better to have everyone’s cooperation. But remind yourself that you deserve to be fulfilled in your work. Your mind and body will thank you. And those close to you will see that you’re a lot more fun to be around when you’re doing work that’s meaningful to you.

Prepare yourself to take a risk. There’ll be some sleepless nights during your transition. But if you’re like most of us who have put off our passions in favor of a job we don’t feel suited for, you’re probably already doing some tossing and turning in the wee hours.  

As we get older, we begin to wonder how much longer we can afford to put off our dreams. What are we waiting for? A lottery win would be nice, but come on, what are the odds of that happening?

After my first meeting with my coach, I hung a quotation above my desk. It’s by the novelist Louis Auchincloss, a cousin of Jackie Onassis.

“One can spend one’s whole existence never learning the simple lesson that one has only one life and that if one fails to do what one wants with it, nobody really cares.”


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Lynette Benton is the author of the essays, “From Part Time to Parting Time” in Skirt! Magazine and “After Burnout, a New Career Helping Writers,” in More Magazine online.

She is also the author of Polish and Publish: The Indispensable Toolkit for Creative Writers to Get Started and Get Published. Her website is http://lynettebentonwriting.com.

Note: For more excellent strategies on making a career transition, check out the book Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra.