Ages and Stages in Your Career Life

I had the good fortune to be interviewed recently by Teresa Bryan Peneguy, an editor with the Wisconsin State Journal.  The subsequent article “Ages, stages are factors in education, career” was published in the newspaper on 12.10.12.  It was at the back of the Sports section under the heading “Education for Life” and I thought it might be helpful to share it with you.  Here it is in full:

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”  –William Shakespeare  

The average American now works close to 50 years.  That’s a heck of a long time to do something you detest.  Luckily, you don’t have to.  Even in today’s economy and job market, you don’t have to feel trapped at a job that makes you want to run screaming for the exit.  Nor do you have to feel hopeless if your career is threatened by changes in technology and society.

Whatever stage of life you’re in – whether you’re new to the workforce or a seasoned worker – you have options in education and occupation.  “You just have to find out what you really want to do, know what your talents and gifts are, and figure out who needs what you have to offer,” says Madison-based career life coach Dee Relyea.

Your 20s

Although some people are questioning whether or not college still offers a good ROI, labor force data still reveals that the college educated do earn more than their peers without degrees, and the higher the education attained, the higher one’s earnings over a lifetime.  The times of spending seven years in college for a degree in Medieval Literature may be gone, but college is still a smart choice as long as one’s chosen career path requires a college degree.

An awesome thing about being in your 20’s is that you may have great flexibility at this stage of life.  Relyea talks about Sally, who attended college in Minnesota and earned a liberal arts degree.  After she returned to her home state of WI, she went to work in an off, “which didn’t suit her,” said Relyea.

Because she had a roommate, which lowered her living expenses, she had some wiggle-room in terms of her salary needs.  So she worked part time in retail and part time providing marketing for a martial arts school.  “She began trying on different workplaces,” says Relyea.  “She discovered she really liked social media, and since she had no need for a steady paycheck, she decided to do that (and be a freelance writer) full-time.”  Since all of her work was done via computer, she was able to live anywhere – so she moved to Denver.  It was the perfect scenario for Sally.

Your 30s

Another client of Relyea’s; Bob, got a computer science degree, went to work at Epic, where he had “no trouble getting his foot through the door.”  He loved his job, until his position changed and he was required to travel frequently.  This was a problem because he had dogs, “and he was miserable with the travel aspect of his job.”  Bob realized that his favorite thing was teaching computer skills to other people, so he stared a home business doing that.  He needed to earn a little more, so he picked up a part time job at the Apple store.  (Addendum to this story from Dee: “which evolved into a full time career and where, incidentally, he met the love of his life and is not only fully engaged in his work, he is engaged to be married!”  The universe works in wondrous ways…)

Your 40s

Betsy had a high-end marketing job at a Fortune 500 company.  As technology advanced and Betsy was required to carry a smart phone, “she found she had no respite from the office whatsoever,” says Relyea.  Betsy was a single mom with two adolescents, and she was working 70 hours a week.  Then she heard the company was going to be bought out.  “She came to me to create an exit strategy,” says Relyea.

Betsy completed a career assessment (the MBTI) which revealed her natural personality preferences and transferable skills.  She discovered she wanted to teach.  She had a master’s degree in marketing, but she needed to go back to school for a teaching degree.  When she was laid off, she got a severance package – which gave her the time (and the money) to get the education she needed.  “She was prepared and thrilled when she got that pink slip,” says Relyea.  Today, Betsy is a high school teacher and loves what she does.

Your 50s and 60s

In middle age, many people find themselves discontented with unfulfilling jobs.  “They want to do something they are passionate about,” says Relyea.  “Sometimes they have been downsized, and (sometimes) they want to respond to an inner calling.” 

You have a right to enjoy what you do for a living, says Relyea. “It’s really not a luxury,” she says.  “We don’t have much time on this earth.  You shouldn’t have to do something you don’t like.”  Often, people in this age range have “golden handcuffs” – they’re held hostage by a big house or a fancy car or expensive recreation.  “But you can choose to downsize your standard of living,” she says.  “People have successfully done that to find more fulfilling work.  A lot of people in their 50s freelance or consult, and work part-time in retail (or whatever) to make ends meet.  Multiple streams of income are the way to go.”

Relyea has answers for any questions you may ask.  For example, what if you want to start a home business but you need health insurance?  “You do have options,” she says.  “If you have a spouse, you may get it through them.  Umbrella group policies are available:  the Chamber of Commerce may offer insurance as do almost all professional associations.  You might be able to get COBRA to tide you over until insurance is easier to purchase through the Affordable Care Act.  You can find a way to do what you have to do.”

The bottom line is that you do have choices.  There are many paths available: just decide which one you want to take.  “I’ve seen some people achieve some amazing things,” says Relyea.  

I’d love to hear stories of your career experiences.  Please comment below.    —Dee


Dream Careers are Like Butterflies

Butterfly on Yellow FlowerIn our culture, the mass media bombards us with the idea that there is a “dream career” or a “perfect job” out there for everyone. I believe this is true, but for many of us finding that ideal work situation can be like trying to catch a butterfly – it always seems to be just beyond our reach.

You may spend years in school studying to become a ___________ (you fill in the blank) only to enter that career and discover it’s not what you really want – or worse – that you just aren’t good at it.

Some folks chase the money and plan their career trajectory based on what work yields the highest paycheck, but even if they end up making the big bucks, most don’t report feeling they have the “work of their dreams.”

So the question is, how do we discover what the perfect career for each of us is?

The keys to determining what might be fulfilling work  for you are pretty simple:

1.     Identify what work tasks you both enjoy and do well

2.     Identify work tasks that you don’t like BUT do well

3.     Identify work tasks you enjoy BUT don’t do well

4.     Identify work tasks that you both dislike and don’t do well

Here is a video explaining this further:

The challenge is that most people get stuck in jobs where they have several tasks that they do well, but don’t really enjoy. In order for us to be fulfilled at work, we need to be engaged doing things that we both are good at and therefore can be successful doing, but that also connect us to our passions and have an intrinsic value to us. This is what makes work truly fulfilling. By identifying the things above, you are taking the first step toward determining what the best work for you may be.

Bottom line:  you’ll never find that dream job without first determining what you’re naturally talented at and enjoy doing.  You must to be willing to take some risks in following your heart’s desire for doing work you’ll really enjoy.  You may need to take a less than perfect job to make ends meet while you return to school to increase your knowledge or get training to learn new skills.  You may experience criticism from friends, family and colleagues if you decide to “leave the mainstream” and significantly change your career path.  You are the only one who truly knows what that great work will be and it won’t be found in a job description written by someone else.

If you’d like some support and resources to begin this process, check out the exercises and inventories in my free “Discover Your Calling” e-course.  Sign up on the top right of this page.

The 3 Keys to a Successful and Inspiring Business

In this video, I explain the 3 components that every business idea must have. Watch this and ask yourself, “Does my business idea have all 3 parts?” I have coached many people and I find that people focus on 1 or 2 of the keys. If they have already started their business, they come to me wondering what why their business is struggling.

Having all 3 of these parts of your business plan is essential for success (and inspiration).

Watch this video and leave a comment. Does your business have all 3 keys?

7 Steps of Career Transition

Whether you are just graduating college or are experiencing a mid-life career challenge and rethinking what kind of work you want to do, it is critical to do some self examination. What do you really want to do or be?  What are your natural talents, abilities, and skills?  How do you get energized, and what challenges you in a positive way?  Gaining self-knowledge; determining your priorities and identifying your values are important factors in choosing a career direction and are the first steps to a successful career transition.

Here are two possible scenarios to consider:

Scenario A;  Career Transition to a New Job

  1. Explore your wants and needs for career fulfillment by identifying your particular requirements (How much income must you have?  Where and when are you willing and able to work?  What are your top 3 things you must have in your next job in order to be happy?)
  2. Identify potential employment opportunities
  3. Research potential employers to determine corporate or organization culture, management style, mission and vision.
  4. Update and revise your resume to maximize getting interviews
  5. Build your network through informational interviewing, attending events related to your profession, joining professional associations, and using social media.
  6. Enhance your interviewing skills – practice how you will answer difficult questions
  7. Navigate job offers, negotiate your salary/benefits

Scenario B;  Career Transition into Self Employment

  1. Explore your wants and needs for career fulfillment by identifying your particular requirements (How much income must you have?  Where and when are you willing and able to work?  What are your top 3 things you must have in your next job in order to be happy?)
  2. Analyze ways of working to determine the best fit for you.  For example: be employed part time while building your business, or writing your book or going to school, etc., or jumping full time into starting a business.
  3. Conduct market research to be sure that your business idea is realistic.
  4. Launch your business and determine your niche.  What is the scope of your service or product line?  Who benefits from what you are putting out into the marketplace?
  5. Develop your marketing strategy for your business including your brand.
  6. Build your network:  create cross referrals with colleagues who serve the same customer demographic, utilize social media, blogging and article writing to establish your expertise.
  7. Navigate project offers, draft proposals to meet customers’ needs, determine pricing and distribution channels for your product or service.

In either scenario A or B you start in the same place: exploring YOUR wants and needs for career fulfillment.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”  -Henry David Thoreau

The #1 Reason You Aren’t Getting Hired

I heard from a former client recently who has been having a hard time finding work.  He shared his frustration about applying for “100’s” of jobs not getting interviews, or if he did have an interview, not getting a job offer.  After 18 months of this, he was pretty angry.  He proceeded to give me a litany of reasons for his negativity.  Let’s look at these four:

1. Employers are rude, they won’t even acknowledge that they have received my applications.

2. The economy sucks, no one is hiring.

3. Companies won’t pay me what I am worth.

4. The people doing the hiring are guilty of age discrimination.

While these statements may have some truth to them, they are undermining the candidate’s chances for employment.  Why?  Because the unhappy jobseeker is blaming externals for his predicament and his negative attitude is derailing his forward motion.  Yup, the number one reason you may not be getting hired is your attitude.

Let’s look at each of these complaints from a more positive perspective.

1. Employers are swamped with applicants and may be short staffed.  Imagine yourself as the hiring person being deluged with resumes, many of which are poorly written, hard to read, and inappropriate for the position.  Having been in the position of screening resumes, I can tell you it is an exercise in patience to review each one and make thoughtful decisions regarding which pile to put it in:  maybe a fit, not a fit but maybe could be considered for something else, and totally unqualified for the position.  Then you take the maybe stack and sort it down to the strongest candidates, coming up with the number of candidates to be interviewed (like the top 3-10).  Is it reasonable to expect every person be sent an acknowledgment that their application has been received?  I don’t think so.

2. Even in economic downturns people are hiring. You may just have to look harder to identify where you might fit. 80% of jobs aren’t advertised. I encourage you to do some information interviewing to get the inside scoop on a company’s culture, needs and potential openings. If there truly are no jobs in your field, consider starting your own business.  Really look at your resume.  What else can you do with your experience, education, training, and talent?

3. What are you worth, really, to a potential employer?  In your correspondence and contact with an organization you need to stress what YOU can do for THEM, not the other way around.  Can you save them time, increase productivity, save them money?  How will the organization benefit by hiring you?

4. Although there may be age discrimination, carrying it around as a chip on your shoulder is not going to help you get hired.  Instead of tackling the “age issue” emphasize your experience, your knowledge, the wisdom you bring and the maturity.  Another advantage of hiring older workers is that they tend to be reliable, dependable, and diligent workers. Turn your attitude into thinking about what a great catch you are for some fortunate employer and see if that doesn’t make a difference!

Bottom line—put yourself in the employers’ role, wouldn’t you rather hire a candidate with a positive attitude?  Yeah, so would I.

Go forward confidently, energetically attacking problems, expecting favorable outcomes. Norman Vincent Peale

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. Thomas Jefferson

More great quotes on attitude

The Key to Fulfilling Work – Look Inward

Are you scouring want ads, searching internet job sites, and checking out staffing agency listings in hopes of finding your next great career move? The truth is there aren’t so many employers looking to hire these days and the job market remains quite competitive. Maybe what you are looking for isn’t “out there”. There really isn’t a job description that says “this is your ultimate perfect work come apply now”. The thing is, we need to stop looking out there for the elusive fulfilling work and start looking inward.

In working with people on career change one question I hear frequently is: “How can I have work that is personally fulfilling, makes a difference, and pays the bills?” There is no easy answer to this question. Cheryl Richardson in her book Stand Up for Your Life says: “First, you must make your personal and spiritual development a top priority by following your own unique path toward healing and growth. Second, as you develop a strong character by doing this work, you are also charged with improving the world in some way.”

Personal and spiritual development requires you to look inward, to get to know your inner self. Who are you? What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What motivates you? What kinds of tasks do you really enjoy doing and do well? You don’t have to have all the answers at any given time but it can be extremely helpful to identify these.

Here are some examples:
• bringing joy to others
• building things
• teaching or mentoring others
• creating beauty
• healing wounds
• analyzing information
• finding a new or better way for something to function
• gathering data
• nurturing people

Think about what you love to do that comes easily to you. These are your natural talents or “gifts”. Next, consider how these talents are expressed in your life. Let’s say for example, you identified “teaching or mentoring others” as a core driver for you. How might you do that in your life? Is it something you do in your current occupation or job? Are you able to teach or mentor through other means such as volunteer work? If not, is there a way you can incorporate teaching and mentoring others into your life? Moving into the work you love to do and do well gives us energy, it feeds the spirit and more often than not, brings us a sense of abundance as well as increasing our cashflow.

If you have a sense of being prompted to move into a different line of work, consider what is missing in your current job or occupation. Could be a bit of looking inward is in order. More on this next post!

Respond To Your Calling

I believe that each and every human on the planet possesses a unique combination of gifts and talents that need to be expressed in the world. I view our physical being as the vehicle that houses our soul, our essence, our personality, through which these gifts flow.

What are you dreaming of doing, of creating, of finding? These thoughts are prompting you to take some action! We tend to sit in our minds complacently pondering the “what ifs” and wondering about the roads not taken in the past and years go by. Sound familiar? How about these thoughts: “I can’t switch careers now, I am too old” or “I’d have to go back to school and get a degree/training/certified”, or “the economy is bad, now is the wrong time for me to start a business”.

What are you telling yourself that is holding you back from pursuing your life’s work? Make a list, write it down and then go through each and every thought and look at it boldly and ask; “is this really true?” If your inclination is to nod your head just stop for a moment and watch the “proof” that your minds puts up. How do you know the internal dialog you are listening to is the truth? What if it isn’t? What if you could move beyond the naysaying in your brain and embrace a different perspective? Challenge yourself! What do you dream of doing, of becoming? Play around with ways you can share your talents, your abilities, your knowledge and skills with others. Who knows? You just may find yourself turning your dreams into reality!

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
That is translated through you into action,
And because there is only one of you in all time,
This expression is unique.

If you block it,
It will never exist through any other medium
And will be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is:
nor how valuable it is:
Nor how it compares with other expression.
It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly,
To keep the channel open.

You do not have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware and listen
To the urges that motivate you.”
–Martha Graham and Agnes Demille

Entrepreneurship: the Path to Ultimate Fulfillment

According to renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow, our unfulfilled needs make themselves known through feelings of restlessness: “the person feels on edge, tense, lacking something.” When we feel this way, we are motivated to act to fulfill those needs. This is what propels us to make changes in our lives and to seek greater fulfillment in the things we do.

Many of us have felt this kind of restlessness in relation to our jobs and the work we do. When you feel restless, tense, or on edge at work, it may be a sign that you’re not doing work that is fulfilling to you, that you are not self-actualized. Self-actualization is achieved when we are successfully fulfilling all of our needs.

Maslow created a hierarchy of needs “Hierarchy of Human Needs;” the basic needs like breathing, food, and water are on the bottom and self-actualization is at the top. In order to be completely fulfilled, one must achieve self-actualization. When this occurs, many positive characteristics emerge. People become more accepting of themselves, more spontaneous, self-reliant, and independent. They gain a stronger sense of integrity, as well as an increased zest for life and sense of humor. Creativity and curiosity increase, self-esteem improves, and people become more altruistic, humanitarian, socially responsible, and adaptable to change.

What I find most interesting about this list is that the majority of successful entrepreneurs I know embody these traits. By stepping out of the world of traditional employment, they became more self-actualized and, in turn, more able to handle the challenges of entrepreneurship.

“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison

On Becoming Entrepreneurial

In the U.S., we have been brought up to believe in the 40 hour work week being employed by someone else. There is of course another option; you can become an entrepreneur instead of an employee. Given current labor market conditions, being your own boss is mighty attractive. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. What do you love to do that you do really well? For instance, is it natural for you to be consistently on time, plan full and efficient? Do you like keeping your home or office neat and orderly, “a place for everything and everything in its place”? Do you get energized by this? If you answered yes to these questions, one of your transferable skills is being an organizer. Think about the many ways this talent and ability of yours can contribute to others. Don’t stop with one example, brainstorm until you identify at least five more things you really do well and enjoy doing.

2. Who needs what you have to offer? Once you’ve identified your skills, talents, and passions, it is time to determine where they may best be useful. Is there a need for whatever product or service you want to share with others? You may be the greatest cookie baker in three states but if there isn’t a need for a cookie store in your area it’s not a good idea to start a bakery. Consider all the life experience you’ve had, how might that be useful to others? How can you be of service in the world? Using your list of transferable skills from question number one will help you brainstorm some possibilities.

3. Is there someone else doing the kind of business you are considering? Identify those people and organizations. For instance, if you are thinking of doing a doggy daycare, see who else has one and check it out. Note what you like and don’t like about their advertising, facility, customer service, etc. How do they get customers? How might you approach your target customers differently? What might you improve on?

4. Is being self employed a right fit for your personality and lifestyle? If you’ve been an employee for years, you may find it challenging to switch your perspective to that of self bosser. It can be tremendously fulfilling to create you own business, work when, where and how you choose to, and not have to get someone else’s permission.

Are you ready to step into your power and put your talents to work?