Archive for March, 2008
Monday, March 31st, 2008
This myth is probably one of the most common. And it’s roots are in the fact that by age 40 you HAVE invested a tremendous amount into your career. But does that mean that a career change is out of the question? Of course not…and let’s examine why.
Remember, what is invested is gone, the only thing that matters now is what you get out of your career. Thinking too much on the investment is like the gambler who can walk away from a losing table because she had too much invested. Looking at the investment is focusing on the past. It is far better to consider what you want from your career in the years ahead.
What you have invested is paid back in knowledge, skills and professional contacts; all of which can pay dividends in your new career. Your career investment from the past 20-30 years is not lost. You simply transfer the benefits of the time invested into something more fulfilling. Take the time to consider how you can use your current contacts to find a new career opportunity and how your talents can be put to use in that new career.
This myth is often heard when someone fears losing the stability of their current employment. Making a career change does mean giving up some stability and comfort. This comes with any change in employment. But a career change often includes moving into a field with which you are much less familiar. If you real concern is giving up your stable employment, then call it what it is. But don’t blame your hesitation on what you have invested. Once you’ve correctly labeled your worries, you can do something about them.
As I’ve said, we all have a lot invested into our careers by the time we reach midlife. And leaving that familiar career will bring new challenges and some discomfort. So carefully consider why you are making the change and how committed you are. But don’t fall victim to the myth that you can’t change careers because of what you have invested. Look forward, and choose your path. Don’t look backward.
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Thursday, March 27th, 2008
This is another myth that seems logical when only briefly considered. Hey, if I’m unhappy, I must be in the wrong career. But before we decide that the career is the cause of our despair, we need to consider what else may be the culprit. Here are some other causes of career unhappiness.
The job has become routine and boring. Boredom on the job is one of the major causes of dissatisfaction at work. But boredom can often be caused by our own lack of adventure. This was the case in my own career. I had become bored because tasks had become repetitive, and I had lost my creativity. I thought the career had caused the lose of excitement, but rather it was the other way around. My own lack of enthusiasm for my work had lead to my boredom.
So, what did I do about it? Well, that could be an entire other post…and probably will be in the future. But to summarize, I started talking with others around me who still had a passion for our work. I also began looking for ways to be creative once again. In only a month or so, that spark was once again ignited.
Your current employment is a problem, not the career you are in. Often times you just need a change in employers, not a change in career. Examine your current work situation and determine where the problem originates. Is your unhappiness caused by characteristics common to the field you are in, or is the problem specific to your workplace? Don’t dump a good career because of a bad employer.
You’re experiencing a general unhappiness with your life. Midlife is a time when many individuals become disenchanted with how their lives have turn out thus far. That’s where we get the phrase “midlife crisis.” If your unsatisfied with other aspects of your life, besides your career, then the unhappiness at work is likely just a symptom of a larger problem. Consider talking to someone, a counselor maybe, about what you are experiencing. Don’t be quick to blame your career if you are feeling down about other parts of your life.
You’re not being successful at work. When times are tough at work and outcomes are not the best, it often causes us to become frustrated or lose our passion. We find encouragement in our successes. So when we don’t get the promotion we wanted or a major client closes their account, our passion for work will often be the first casualty. But life and careers are a series of ups and downs. The solution to our unhappiness may be just one success away.
Of course, in the end it could be that you need a change of career to bring back that passion you once felt. First examine the other possible causes of your frustration. And once you’ve identified the problem, take steps to improve your situation. If it’s a new career that you need, then begin planning for that change. But remember, unhappiness doesn’t necessarily mean it time to dump your career.
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Sunday, March 23rd, 2008
If this is a myth that you’ve bought into, it’s time to rethink things. The fact is, there are many “right” careers for you. The challenge is finding one of those careers and making it a great career.
This myth can create significant problems for the career searcher who wants to find the perfect match. Opportunities are passed up because of some minor flaws while hoping to find that one job for you. Even when you think you’ve find that ideal career, problems come up that cause you to question if this is truly the one career for you. You could spend an entire, frustrating lifetime searching for just the right career to only end up disappointed time after time.
A better way to view career changes is to consider that several options are available for a great career. The key finding a really good fit and working to turn your career choice into the ideal career. Think of buying clothing off the rack and getting alterations to make them fit you perfectly. You find a close fit, but work to have them made into just the right outfit. Careers are much the same; a perfect match is nearly impossible to find.
Think of a career as more like a marriage; you only get out of it what you put in. When you find a good match, you work emphasis the positive points and find ways to cope with any negatives. For example, if the paperwork of the job is not to your liking, find a way to streamline this work so you can spend more time on the tasks you love.
Having a broader outlook in your career search has two major advantages. First, you are likely to explore more options and consider a wider variety of opportunities. Second, you begin to understand that happiness in your career is highly dependent on your own actions. Loving your work is not just the result of luck, or stumbling onto the perfect job. People who love what they do, put a lot into their work.
So, stop waiting for that perfect career and begin exploring. That next great job is just around the corner.
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Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Only ten years ago, just 15% of unemployed job hunters were using the Internet in their search. Today, depending on the source, it is closer to 4 in every 5 job seekers. So, if everyone is doing it, then it must be the best method, right?
In 2005-06, the University of California, San Diego conducted surveys with recent graduates to explore, among other things, how they found employment after college. The results indicate that 26% of the graduates found employment through resources on the Internet. However, 38% found jobs as the result of networking, internships and prior experience. Other job sources were job fairs, campus postings, employment agencies and employer contact. But the interesting statistic here is the number of jobs found as a result of networking and other non-advertised methods.
More than a third of the graduates found jobs because of contacts they had, not through searching online advertising or newspaper classified (which, by the way, accounted for only 2% of the graduate jobs). This means that even for individuals starting their careers, networking is a key source of career leads. How much more vital must networking be for those of us who have been at this for more than 20 years?
Networking is a great way to find unadvertised jobs or to connect with employers through other channels. More importantly, if you are considering a career change to another field, networking is crucial to your success. Real career change should involve making connections, sharing information and promoting yourself through personal contacts. Your ability to network within the industry and follow up on leads is vital to finding the right job. For some simple tips on career networking, check out the article Job Search and Career Networking Tips at About.com.
Now, don’t finish reading this post and think that I said not to use the Internet in your midlife career change. On the contrary, you should spend time reading up on the career field, looking for potential employers, and networking with others. That’s right, use the Internet as a medium for career networking. Search for forums and groups in the field you are exploring. Talk with others who share your interest and begin following those important networking tips. Let people know you are looking to change careers and interested in helpful information and leads.
The Internet can be a great tool for midlife career changers, but don’t expect the perfect job to simply appear when you do a search on Monster.com. Invest your time into networking, it will really pay off.
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Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
I’m starting a new series at U-Turn called Midlife Career Change Myths. For the next several days, we will be examining some of the more common myths about making a midlife career change.
Midlife Career Change Myth #1: If there’s currently a shortage of workers in a particular field, it guaranteed to be an excellent career choice.
At first glance, this appears to be excellent advice. If there’s a shortage of workers, that must mean there is a high demand that will guarantee a future job and plenty of leveraging power for a better salary and benefits. How could this thinking be wrong? We’re always told to avoid careers with too much competition, so why not pick one with a lack of competition?
First, let’s remember that the job market changes constantly. What we are experiencing today can quickly change tomorrow. Remember the massive high tech hirings of the 90s? Many of those workers lost their jobs when the Dot.com dreams of the 90s went bust. And remember, if you think you’ve found the optimal job market, there are probably thousands just like you that are thinking the same thing. The competition could be much more significant in 3-6 years.
Also, we have to keep in mind that the actual reports of worker shortages typically lag behind the time of the problem. You need to do your research well to be sure the shortage is not quickly becoming yesterday’s news.
Finally, it is important to understand why the shortage exists in the first place. Is the job undesirable? Does it pay poorly? Is training for the skills required, difficult to find? Be sure you fully understand the career you are exploring before you make assumptions about the future potential. What looks like a golden opportunity, may turn out to be just an illusion.
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Friday, March 7th, 2008
When preparing to write this post, I didn’t know if I should recommend Sutton’s book, The No Asshole Rule, or his blog, Work Matters. The No Asshole Rule, subtitled, “Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t” simply and effectively describes the challenge of assholes in the workplace and why they have to go. But you can find the same crisp and informative writing about workplace jerks on Sutton’s blog and much more. Although, I recommend reading both, the subject of this post will be Bob Sutton’s blog, Work Matters.
Sutton is a professor at Stanford Engineering School, PhD in Organizational Psychology, and advocate/teacher of design thinking. So it is no surprise that his blog is intelligent. But one might be surprised to find that his writing is also sharp, friendly and entertaining. Here are a list of some of my favorite things on Bob Sutton’s Work Matters blog.
15 Things I Believe - On my first visit to Sutton’s blog, I found this list on the left column of the home page. Sutton lists the 15 things he believes about work, organizations and management, things like, “Work is an overrated activity.”
Asshole Rating Self-Exam (ARSE) - Even though this exam doesn’t reside on the Work Matters blog, it was written by Sutton and is linked from his blog. Take the test and see if you are a workplace asshole. Sutton also wrote an adaptation to help you identify if your client is an asshole.
Arse Tips - The Arse Tips are found on the blog homepage. Among the tips you will find a list of workplaces that are asshole free and tips for surviving workplaces infested with assholes.
Why Creativity and Innovation Suck -This post, which borrows significantly from the closing chapter of Sutton’s book Weird Ideas That Work, presents some of the problems with creativity in the workplace. He wrote an intriguing follow up post titled, James March’s Quote on Innovation: One More Time.
Fortune Story on The Trouble With Steve Jobs: Asshole, Genius, or Both? - This is the most recent post on Work Matters. Sutton briefly examines the leader/designer/manager Steve Jobs and shares some stories to help answer the question, “Steve Jobs: asshole, genius, or both?”
I recommend you drop by the blog today and discover the talent and intellect of Bob Sutton. For midlife career changers, or just everyday office slaves, this blog will spark a new way of looking at work, management, and the business world.
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Tuesday, March 4th, 2008
Since I started working as a counselor at a youth residential facility, I have worked in the nonprofit arena. Now, 23 years later, I have some insight on the advantages of working for a nonprofit organization. But before I start, I want to explain what a nonprofit business really is. In the USA, a nonprofit business is any business incorporated under the 501 section of the tax code that provides certain tax advantages to companies that don’t distribute a profit to owners or shareholders. These businesses are actually public trust entities with oversight by a board of directors.
And nonprofits provide a broad range of services and benefits to the community. Your Humane Society and probably the local theater company and the are both nonprofits. Churches, labor unions and chambers of commerce are also nonprofits. Here are just some of the advantages of working for a nonprofit organization.
1) You will be making a difference. This is probably the first thing you also thought of. Nonprofit organizations provide benefits to the community and often help those in need. Working in a nonprofit means you become a part of improving your community.
2) You can be a big fish in a small pond. Many people have left jobs in large corporations to work in a smaller nonprofit business. Certain business skills such as finance, information technology, and marketing are highly valued in nonprofit organizations. Leaving a large IT department to help a local children’s charity can be a great source of pride and recognition.
3) Nonprofits are often more willing to hire older workers making a career change. This is particularly true if you have job skills like those mentioned in the previous paragraph. I have personally hired midlife career changers who were tired of the corporate world, but had the skills I was looking for.
4) Working for a nonprofit serving families can mean a family-friendly employer. These organizations understand the challenges that families face and often are more flexible and supportive of their own employees when it comes to balancing work and family.
5) Nonprofits are typically a much less competitive work environment. Although I have known some nonprofits with a somewhat competitive environment, this is not common. If the corporate and sales ladders are becoming too frustrating with others always trying to push you out of the way, consider the options available in the nonprofit sector.
I’m not going to tell you that working in the nonprofit world doesn’t have it’s downsides, The common problems of lower wages and burnout have lead to many career changes in the other direction. But it’s my opinion that most midlife career changers are looking for a fulfilling career more than a big paycheck. So take some time to talk to nonprofit employers and do some research. You may just find that new career waiting for you at a local nonprofit.
By the way, a great book for those considering a career change to a nonprofit is Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector by Laura Gassner Otting. This excellent guide to finding a nonprofit career begins with understanding nonprofits and the differences between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds. She helps you understand how to research career choices and find a job in the nonprofit sector. I highly recommend this book.
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Saturday, March 1st, 2008
I know, it’s been too long between posts. For that I apologize. I have a personal goal of never more than two days without a post, but it was broken this week. I was at a conference of nonprofit organizations giving a presentation on using technology to improve communication and services. It was well received and a lot of fun to do.
So, it’s time to update you on what is happening in my own pursuit of a midlife career change. Several weeks ago I wrote about my decision to stay in my current job while pursuing business options on the side. I call this being a jobrepreneur, and I wrote about the advantages of this work arrangement in January. It is challenging to do both, but it’s actually given me a new motivation for my day job.
As part of the preparation for my conference workshop, I created a website on using technology in a nonprofit business. NPTechnology.org was originally going to just be a simple site for answering participant questions that could not be addressed during the conference. But in speaking with other nonprofit leaders, I saw there is a need for more information in this area. So, I’ve decided to make the site a regular part of my Internet publishing group, Coryan Media.
I’m continuing to operate and write for four websites/blogs, and have recently been adding advertising to each site, one at a time. I’m also working on a couple more sites, but I know that I will need help to manage all of this…so the new sites are getting little of my time.
My hope is that all of this work will lead me to some new midlife adventures. I want to keep my position as the nonprofit director, but I love the technology/Internet work as well. I will be finding ways to promote myself as a speaker/trainer to nonprofits on the use of technology. In the meantime, I’m having fun and making some extra change…in my life and in my pocket.
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