Career Coaching: Go from Painful Job to Joyous Career

Today many people find themselves working harder and longer with less personal satisfaction and little or no recognition for their Achieve work life balance with career coachingcontributions. How did we get to this place? If work is a ‘necessary evil,’ does it have to be emotionally painful? Does it have to be so totally life consuming that we lose our souls, the very essence of who we really are? One such lost soul contacted me for career coaching.

Karen was caught in a trap of working 60-70 hours per week and had been stuck in this rut for months. She was a technical writer employed by a large corporation, a corporation undergoing restructuring that involved downsizing and elimination of thousands of jobs. Karen didn’t want to lose her job, too. With a journalism degree, she had built her 20-year career in business communications. She had been happy for most of those years, but now it was different. Work was dominating her life. She was always tired and seldom had time for her husband who worried about her, missed her companionship, and pleaded with her to quit the insanity of giving her life away to her company. When Karen contacted me, she wasn’t clear about whether she wanted to ‘fix’ her current employment situation or find a new career path. What she did know, though, was that she couldn’t continue in her current state of being.

Karen came to our first career coaching session a bit unsure of what to expect and what would be expected from her. As I do with all my clients, we spent our initial time together in conversation getting to know each other better. We were laying the foundation for our career coaching relationship, a relationship that had to be based on trust and open communication in order to best benefit Karen.

Karen stated that her immediate goal was to understand herself better in order to help her determine how she could cut back on all those long hours she worked. She agreed to do introspective work on clarifying her values, defining her motivators for working, and assessing her complete repertoire of skills. With this kind of focused observation she could start to figure out how to change her life into one filled with career satisfaction – one offering a healthy balance between enjoyable work and her personal life.

“I believe this introspection was one of the key factors that helped me realize aspects about myself that I hadn’t thought about in many years, and certainly hadn’t thought about in relation to my work,” said Karen. “I also learned which communication style was most comfortable for me and the key role it plays in my career success.”

“Meg and I met for 45-minute phone sessions once a week for about three months. She was always there when I called. Her focus was completely on our conversation during every single meeting and she was able to hear clearly what I had to say. Meg listened and I talked and she asked all the right questions. It was astounding how quickly we became acquainted and how thoroughly she understood my situation in such a short time. She was always there for me and that was a great comfort,” said Karen.

Karen was very willing to do fieldwork between our career coaching sessions knowing that with ongoing concentration she could more quickly achieve her goals. Once she understood her values and how they didn’t align with her current company’s culture, she then defined her motivators and decided she was no longer driven to continue the extended work hours. Finally, she was ready to inventory her skills to see which ones she might be under-utilizing. This is when the ‘dream job’ exercise entered the scene and Karen got really stuck.

Career Coaching moves you forward!“Meg asked me to complete the assignment of creating my personal dream job – anything I wanted to do. The assignment required details about my daily schedule for one week including with whom I ate lunch, what meetings I attended, what awards I won – every detail. I just couldn’t do it! There was no part of any job I could think of that I wanted to pursue, so I decided to write a weekly schedule around all the things I wanted to do outside of work. That consisted of my exercise classes, yoga, walking, and writing. I was actually very discouraged at this point. I just couldn’t think of any job I wanted to do,” lamented Karen.

Karen came to our next career coaching session a bit dejected and frustrated with what she felt was her failure to complete the fieldwork. As we started to discuss her ‘dream job,’ I asked Karen key questions to help her look at her feelings and jump-start her creativity about what an ideal job would be like for her. I stated that I noticed a pattern in her written assignment and asked her what she saw.

“I don’t see anything,” Karen cried. “I couldn’t write about any job I’d like to do so I wrote about the fun things I like to do.” I asked Karen to look closer at what she wrote. What was she not seeing? All of a sudden I sensed the light bulb go on, all the way through the phone line. “I could be a personal trainer!” screamed Karen. “But that would be fun. You mean I could do the things I love and get paid for it?”

What a novel thought! “I had so equated pain with work that it was truly hard to accept the idea at first. I can still remember the ‘aha’ moment and how excited I was,” said Karen since then. Being the career coach, I asked her to test her idea by processing it through the business reality filter. Would it meet her income requirements? Would it satisfy her career goals? How could she make her dream job real?

“I did fieldwork that confirmed that being a personal trainer was a viable option for me,” said Karen. “Not only could I help people with their fitness goals, but I could also utilize my writing talents by writing fitness articles for magazines and assist health clubs with their newsletters. I couldn’t be happier, but this was really ‘out of the box’ for someone who had worked in Corporate America for 20 years. I had no official experience, only the years I’d devoted to physical exercising on my own. Meg helped me work through my initial doubts that something so wonderful could really be a profession that I could successfully pursue.”

Karen and I completed our career coaching about a year ago. Since then she has accepted a severance package from her employer as her department finally got caught in the layoff frenzy. “I felt so guilty about being happy while all my co-workers were hurting and not knowing what to do about getting new jobs. I had already begun my Personal Trainer studies,” said Karen. “My severance package was a bonus as I’d already decided to give notice soon and start working toward my new career.”

A few months ago Karen contacted me to celebrate passing her certification test. She is now a Personal Trainer happily employed in a fitness center. Only a few years just shy of 50, she doesn’t fit the profile of the typical beginner in her field. However, Karen sees her age as an asset in working with her preferred clientele – women over 50 who are trying to get into physical shape. She loves her work and advises everyone to find a way to work their passion as she has done.

“Life is too short to waste it in a job that causes stress and frustration. I now have time for my husband and we enjoy traveling on the weekends instead of going into the office to catch up on last week’s workload. Furthermore, I come home happy during the week with a sense of inner peace in my heart,” says Karen.

“My career coaching experience was nothing short of life changing. I never expected this kind of result. My career coach guided me to my new career path with kindness and thoughtfulness. Meg heard things that I never knew I said, and she would repeat them for me. This allowed me to find my way to this new career on very solid ground. I knew the minute I discovered Personal Training it was really the place for me. I truly don’t believe I could have ever found this place for myself without career coaching,” says Karen with a smile.

No more a lost soul, Karen has found the secret to a fulfilling career. As an Executive Career Coach, so have I.

Wishing you career success in 2018!

Meg

Are You Ready to End the Pain?

career change
End the pain with career change. Get a career coach to help you!

Do you go to work with dread? Can you identify that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Chances are you wish you could be anywhere than at this job. If so, do not stay with the pain just because it’s familiar. Instead, gravitate toward a career change.

While change can be scary, it can also be fun to discover new and fresh things about you and your interests. Recall that sense of adventure you had as a child? Every day brought new and interesting things at that age. It is now time to take a look back at that child. Recapture that sense of awe when you saw a baby deer for the first time or a fly stuck on your lollipop. Apply that awe to each step of our career change process. Celebrate the small achievements along the way to reaching your goal of career satisfaction.

Many people feel that they just want a new job, any job, that will take them away from where they are. Please, don’t run away from something – run toward something better. Running away only invites new problems and disappointments. You don’t want to get stuck in another bad job again, do you? Attract positive, not negative, energy into your life. Get clear on who you are and exactly what you want to make you happy in all facets of your life! You can become who you want to be!

Wishing you career success in 2018!

Meg

Social Media Bytes

social mediaFinally, I’ve done it. What, you say? I joined Facebook. Yes, I know, I am the last of the dinosaurs to do it. My resistance to this social media program has been worn down. Frankly, I find Facebook a bit intimidating. So many rules and privacy concerns: whom should I invite to connect with me and what groups should I join? Should I use the program for personal, professional or both readerships? Maybe I should have separate accounts for each? (I think I’ll just use it for personal for now, so don’t feel hurt if I don’t know you and ignore your request to connect with me on this platform.)

I also find Facebook fun. Friends from long ago are popping up in my feed – high school and college classmates I thought I’d never “see” again. My interest groups are sharing important tips on RVing. I am discovering recipes I just have to try. And the jokes – who can not appreciate a good laugh? I have been using other social media programs for quite awhile – LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest – but not Facebook. What was I afraid of?

Well, I have identified my huge concern. We all have heard the warnings about sharing too much on Facebook. This is particularly true when what you share can impact your professional life. Do you really want a Human Resources worker to see that joke about midgets that you posted? Or do you want your boss to see that swear word you used, even if you substituted an asterisk for one or two of the letters? I even saw a survey the other day asking readers to vote yea or nay about too much political correctness in the world – c’mon, really? (My eighth grade teacher had a saying I have chosen to live by, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.” In other words, exercise respect.) My point of privilege here: maybe we are just sharing too much that we used to save for phone chats with our closest confidants. Is there a good reason to share absolutely everything with the world on social media, especially Facebook? Doesn’t anyone keep a journal or diary anymore?

My biggest put-offs, though, are all the rants and sharing of politics in the news. We live in politically-charged turbulent times. Most of us have very strong beliefs about what is happening in and to our country. Your right is my wrong, and vice versa. While most of us can’t really change anything or do anything but vote in the next election, we want our voices heard – even at the expense of alienating co-workers, bosses, professional colleagues, relatives, and personal friends – and social media is the route many are taking. Is it worth creating a flash-in-the-pan presence on Facebook if you hurt or disgust someone important in your life? What happened to mutual respect? Even when you believe you safeguarded your posts from prying job-related eyes, are you sure they still can’t be found?

OK, I know I can drop connections from my feed that post things offensive to me. But I don’t want to lose contact with people I have just found. And if I stay on Facebook, will I have any connections left if I drop those expounding strong political beliefs? It is my dilemma. It has been eye-opening to learn about the politics of my friends and colleagues. I even have to admit that I’ve had to pull back my finger sometimes to keep from “liking” a post aligned with my own political beliefs. So far, I’ve remained neutral and just shared family and friend photos, recipes, non-offensive jokes, RV tips, and the like. Will I stay on Facebook? Time will tell. After all, it still is a lot of fun!

Wishing you career success in 2018!

Meg

 

 

 

Good Questions Enhance Communication – How?

What good questions do you ask? Questions can be powerful, especially open-ended questions starting with what or how and sometimes a non-intimidating why. Coupled with focused listening, you have here the tools for mastering the art of communication.

Let's establish that in most situations questions will produce better responses than commands. Try this with your teenager and you may be surprised. "What time will you be home?" will usually get better results than, "Remember, your curfew is 11 p.m." If your child tries to test you with a reply of time beyond his/her curfew, then you can always step in with the reminder. Just give him/her the opportunity to communicate with you.

In the workplace, how many times have you asked your boss questions that could be answered with yes or no? Did you get a helpful reply, or one needing more discussion? Perhaps you would have received more complete information if you'd asked what or how? Take a moment and ponder this point. How can you reword a question to start with what or how?

In a job interview, which questions produce better responses from you – those beginning with what, how, and why, or those easily answered with yes or no? Do you feel like you're leaving the response incomplete unless you add additional information? Notice how more comprehensive your response becomes when you're asked a what, how, or why question. Which kind makes you more memorable to the interviewer?

There is an art to asking good questions. One tip is to put yourself in the responder's shoes. How will they feel after answering your question? Hopefully, they'll feel comfortable and willing to continue communicating with you.

The next time you want information from someone, ask the what or how question with respect for the responder in mind. Give it a try! Be mindful of your results and fine tune your future questions. For more information on this topic, check out, "The Art of Asking Questions," on the HBR Blog Network.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

She Asked Good Questions

What will be your legacy? Will it be attached to your career? Or will you have one?

Journalism lost one of its pioneers for women this past weekend, Helen Thomas, 92. She joined the White House Press Corps in the Kennedy administration and retired in 2010. She was the first female reporter to cover the President. Always with a lot of spunk and persistence, she prodded presidents to get responses to her questions. One time she had President Kennedy talking in circles – he didn't know how to wrap up his answer. With grace, she rose and said, "Thank you, Mr. President." With obvious relief, he replied, "Thank YOU, Helen," and quickly exited the stage.

Just before Helen's retirement, Ann Curry of NBC News, interviewed her about her long career with the White House Press Corps. One of Ann's pointed questions was, "Helen, what do you want to be remembered for?" Helen quickly replied, "She asked good questions."

Many people wander through life with no thought to what the world will be like once they're gone. Others spend time trying to make the world a better place than when they entered it. Which type of person are you? Your legacy doesn't have to be grandiose or larger than life. It can be as simple as dedication to recycling or planting a tree in a park. Those with larger ambitions may run for office to improve their city, or join nonprofit boards or foundations to help improve others' lives.

Some peopled just want to give their children a better life than what they had. They work all the time to build savings and acquire "things" to leave their kids. Others focus on enriching their children's lives with beauty, fine arts, and appreciation for all around them. Whether you teach by example, experience, or with textbooks, kids will get their values from you. Your values will become your legacy to your children.

Maybe now's the time to give some thought to your legacy. You still have time to build one. In the future, someone will stop at your gravesite or flip through a photo album or see a plaque with your name on it and remember you – what do you want them to say about your life? As for me, being a career coach, I'd love to have people remember me by saying, "She asked good questions."

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Career On-Hold for December? Why?

When I went to the post office this week, I had to firmly grip my steering wheel with both hands as my car wanted to turn down the street to the shopping mall — all by itself! Seriously, I wanted so much to go "play" and leave work behind in the office. But if I did, what would my career coaching clients say when they called for their appointments and I wasn't there? What would my clients think who were expecting their resumes completed, and I hadn't even started writing them? What would my creditors think if I ignored the bills on my desk and just added more? I had obligations to myself and others that I needed to fulfill despite the holiday season with its good cheer and temptations beckoning me.
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Traditionally, December is a time when employees party-hearty, slack off some, use up vacation days, and wind down in anticipation of holidays during the month. On the other hand, companies look for ways to meet budgets, trim expenses, and complete their annual planning for the new year. Sometimes layoffs occur before December 31 as cost-saving measures to enhance a company's year-end bottom line – you know that, right?

You may ask, "How does this relate to MY career?" Well, let me tell you — plenty! The economy is coming back. Today the national unemployment rate was announced at 7.7%, the lowest rate in four years. When employers begin hiring in 2013, will you be ready? Or will you be someone who has put your career on hold for December, choosing to play instead of prepare for the hiring rush? Perhaps you are happily employed and have no desire to change career or job right now. If that is your situation, congratulations…you must be working your passion, and I am so thrilled for you.

However, according to several recent reports, 20-50% of all workers are miserable in their current
Definesuccess208gifjobs and want to "bail out"
the first chance they get. If you are ready to jump ship, or if you are currently unemployed, December is the perfect time to update your resume, practice job interviewing skills, work on your career plan, and get ready for January. Don't be left behind when hiring gears up.

Contact Abilities Enhanced for your career change needs. I'm ready to help you!

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

At This Time of Year We Give Thanks

(From the archives, November 2004) 

At this time of year, we think about the meaning of Thanksgiving and what we are thankful for. Not a simple task, for those anticipating pink slips before the end of the year. Not a simple task, for
Thanksgiving those enduring long-term unemployment. Not a simple task, for those wondering where they will find the money to buy holiday presents for their loved ones. Not a simple task for those in decision-making roles who have to choose which employees to keep, which employees to let go, and in which direction to lead their companies as they struggle to move forward into 2005 (and now 2013 – what's changed in 8 years?).

Yes, there are signs that our economy is improving, depending upon where you live and work in the U.S. Somehow most of us are going to make it, even if we have to work temporary positions for awhile, even if we have to purchase our own health insurance, even if we have to make our presents this year instead of buying them.

This week (in 2004) I received an email from an American client who has put his coaching program on hold while he works for a U.S. contractor in Baghdad, Iraq. He recently completed an assignment there working for the U.S. Department of Defense and decided to return to continue honoring his calling. Let me share with you some of his thoughts at this time of year:

"It is fall in Baghdad though it doesn't feel like it since the trees don't display the season's colors that we have in the Midwest. But the leaves are falling. The other day I watched a Marine (who was standing sentry) push leaves with his boots creating a nice little pile. I bet he was thinking of home.

"We had a very sad incident occur a few days ago. Three of the guards that protect our building were kidnapped and executed. They were young and all married with children. The 'powers that be' continue to keep us safe (in the building). We have many guards around the building, as well as inside. We are constantly under tight security.

"I forgot how exhausting this place is. Twelve hours of work is enough to wear a person out. And when the day's work is done, it is impossible to relax and get a good night's sleep when you jump at every sound. So, I am looking forward to my first R&R back home with my family – only 31 more days.

"This week I finished a counter-terrorism course and next I will be learning field first aid. I am planning to add the counter-terrorism course to my resume. All this is so different than the work in the states. The experience (here) just continues to grow."

Compared to many living in other places around the world, most of us in the United States have a lot to be grateful for at this time of year. By digging deep and acknowledging our joys, our loves, our strengths, our abundance – we will trigger our hopes, our passion, our self-confidence, and our convictions to inspire us to successfully make the career changes that bring us closer to living the complete lives we want. Are you ready to honor your calling? To follow your dream? It's up to you to make it happen. It's time to figure it out – now – at this time of year.

*** A Thanksgiving 2012 note: Don't forget to pay tribute to our military, many on active duty who can't be with their families this year. We owe them so much! And also give thanks for, and to, our veterans who have defended our country, often leaving permanent wounds that will affect them for the rest of their lives. We owe our own lives to them all.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Job Interviewing: Positive Spin or Just Plain Lies?

After a very long Presidential campaign, it's fair to say that we're all tired of political ads, debates, lawn signs, and "news" programs focused on the election and candidates. More than anything, I'm tired of all the different versions of the "truth" cast about by those fighting to win. How could any of us discern the "real" truth amidst all the contentious babble? I know I struggled, but I did vote.

"Why You Need to Run Your Job Search Like a Presidential Campaign,"  an article published by by Andrea Murad at FOXBusiness on Election Day (November 06, 2012), got me thinking about how the campaign was more than just a job search – it was a very long job interview. Have you ever had those job interviews that go on for weeks where you have maybe six or more interviews with individuals, committees, and then individuals again? At the end of the ordeal, do you even still want the job?

After so many job interviews for the same position, you may begin to wonder if you told each interviewer

Perfectjob_12 the same version of why you wanted to leave your current employer – why you wanted this particular job – why you were more qualified than your competition. Or do you begin to reflect on what you said at different times and hope you didn't contradict yourself? Everyone wants to create the best possible impression when interviewing for a job. But there is a fine line between positive spin and just plain lying.

When asked why you're leaving your current employer, it's fair to say that you want a job or career change where you can build on new skills you've developed. What you don't want to say is that your current boss holds you back and refuses to give you new responsibilities, although you've acquired new skills. Never blame your boss for anything, even if true in your own mind! It's not a lie to omit this information from your reason for leaving. In other words, give your reason a positive spin focused on you, not a negative one that shows your stressed relationship with your boss.

So what is classified as a job interview lie? If you claim to have graduated from college when you've completed 120 credit hours, but not actually graduated, that IS a lie. Just as political candidates are fact-checked for their claims, you will also be. College graduation is easy to check, so don't put yourself in that position. Instead, in a job interview, explain why your combined college courses and life/work experience exceed the qualification of college graduation. Sometimes that will work!

Another easy-to-check fact regards your references. Accept that your references WILL be checked, so don't ever lie about knowing someone you don't. Furthermore, ask your references permission to list them and send them a copy of your resume so that they can feel more at ease with your potential employers when discussing why they support you.

Job interviewing is an art based on facts. If called for an interview, go – even if you have mixed feelings about the job. Yes, you need lots of practice, but more than that, how can you really know anything about a job until you've spoken with a hiring authority at that company? You may surpise youself and get an offer when you don't feel the stress of dearly wanting this particular job!

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Networking for Life – Do You Do It?

Today Joan called me in a panic. The job she's been happy in for the past two years is coming to an end due to company restructuring. I had coached Joan for several months to help her land this position after she'd been laid off the last time. She worked so hard to get it, and now she's going to have to hit the pavement again. It's so unfair! What makes the situation particularly painful is that Joan did not maintain her network of contacts once she accepted her current position. She thinks she knows where some of these people are, but will have to do some legwork to reestablish all her connections. This process will slow down her job search considerably.

With the average stay on a job now less than three years, it is critical to build and nurture a strong
Networkingprofessional network for the life of your career.
Stay in touch with people through occasional emails, greeting cards, and phone calls. Go out to lunch once in awhile. Don't end up like Joan – out of work one more time and having to start from scratch to rebuild your network. You are the only one responsible for your job security; you cannot afford to stop networking just because you get a new job. Jobs are transitory and will not last forever. Focus on the relationships you build to bridge you from one job to the next.

We're heading into the holiday season where more opportunities for networking present themselves. Please take advantage of these. Don't just party – build personal relationships! Even if you're not in the market to change jobs, broaden your knowledge base about what career opportunities exist. You never know when you'll need a little help from your friends.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg

Ready to Change Jobs? Follow 6 Top Tips for a Smooth Transition

The buzz among hard workers today is that they're exhausted and ready to make a career change in 2013. Are you one of them? Here are a few tips to help you move forward:

1. Know what you want in a new job.
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Make sure you’re moving toward a better job and not just running away from one you don’t like. What are your values and how do they align with a new company’s culture? What will make this new job better than the old one? (Money is not the most important reason to change jobs.) A coach can help you work through the confusion.

2. Create a professional resume.

Your resume acts as your introduction to a company. It makes your first impression for you. Find books with resume samples to guide you or hire a professional resume writer who is trained, experienced and certified in this field. Make sure your resume reflects your work achievements. Don’t forget to send cover letters and interview thank you letters to show that you understand business etiquette.

3. Evaluate your network of contacts.

The job search process is a lot like dating – prospects usually don’t come knocking on your door! You have to get out and meet people. More people get new jobs through networking that any other activity – up to 80% according to several surveys. Look at the business relationships you already have and what you do to cultivate them. What professional, civic, and social groups do you belong to? Where do the people hang out that can introduce you to the right job opportunities?

4. Prepare for intervieiws with storytelling techniques.

Most hiring authorities use “behavioral or situational” interviewing methods. Write down examples from your work experience of specific challenges or situations, the actions you took to resolve those challenges, and the positive results or outcomes of your actions. Be ready to discuss these in any interview to demonstrate the value you have to offer an employer.

5. Test for business reality before saying “yes.”

Know the salary, benefits, overtime expectations, relocation/travel requirements – you don’t want any surprises after you start a new job. Some executives negotiate exit agreements before signing acceptance letters – kind of like pre-nuptial agreements!

6. Revisit old opportunities.

If the job you really want doesn’t choose you, check in with the employer 6-8 weeks later to see how the new hire is working out. Sometimes – not always – you can head off your competition and get a foot in the door before a second job vacancy notice is issued.

Wishing you career success in 2013!

Meg