Mid-Life And Career Floating?


When you were in your late teens you hadn’t quite figured out what you wanted to ‘be’, but you had your whole life in front of you. Besides, there was a lot going on back then; the new job, the relationship thing was blossoming. Friends were in abundance and there was so much energy in your life!

Back then, things seemed bright and you felt you had purpose. You were learning new skills on the job, more senior employees you worked with showed you how to do what it was you needed to know. Of course you were pretty sure some of them should have moved on and definitely saw your chance coming to take their place in the near future and move up in the pay grid. The company would be taking leaps and bounds with the infusion of your generating ideas; surely they’d be grateful for taking them as you transformed things from the way they’d always been done to your new world order.

As you arrived into the 30’s, your perspective changed. A little older and wiser, the folly of your youthful exuberance was understood and you came to realize those older employees who you thought would soon be out to pasture when you were in your 20’s were themselves only in their mid 40’s. They were actually in their prime, and while some have moved on, many have moved up while others have become your go-to co-workers; best buds in the workplace. While some of your ideas are considered, you’ve matured and had this growing realization that other people’s ideas have merit too. In fact, some of your ‘best’ ideas you came to realize wouldn’t have been successful had someone had the wish to implement them after all.

Now it’s you in mid-work-life career and you’re conflicted. You’re hungry for more, looking for something that’s fulfilling, challenging and above all stimulating. You’re wanting more income to do all the things you want in the lifestyle you’re after. However, what’s plaguing you is this nagging itch you can’t seem to find to scratch; figuring out what it is you’d really like to be doing. The thing is that while you’re trying to figure out this big mystery, time is passing. Welcome to Career Floating.

Career floating as I call it, is when you stagnate. You’ve got the skills and ability to do your job and do it well by the way. You’re not the expert yet you’ll one day be, (although you won’t come to fully appreciate this for another 10 years). You’re feeling pulled to do something more, something different. What’s complicating things is…well…a number of things.

There’s the responsibilities you’ve got with respect to the mortgage, your role as partner and parent. It’s taken you until now to become exposed to other possible careers and yet every career move seems to need an education you haven’t got at the moment and a return to school to get what you lack to get what you want means an interruption in your income. How can you suddenly go back to school, incur more debt and give up your salaried income for 2 or 3 years? How long is it going to take to recover all those lost wages and incurred debt?

The more you think on things and try to reason things out, the more you beat yourself up for inaction and over-thinking things instead of making a decision. So when did you come to be so hesitant and indecisive? Oh my goodness! Suddenly you realize you’re becoming Lou – or is it Louise? That person at work that seems to be stuck going nowhere that you snickered about inside when he was talking in the lunchroom about being so unsure of what to do himself. Lou, Louise; their 15 years your senior; there’s no way you intend on being in that same situation in 15 years!

There’s not going to be some amazing advice at the end of this piece. If you’re reading this saying to yourself, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly me! It’s like he’s talking to me specifically! What oh what am I to do?!” Sorry. There’s way too many of you – of us – realizing that re-inventing ourselves is not just fanciful but downright necessary if we’re to really be happy and re-engaged in our work lives. Things have become too automatic haven’t they? Sure you have to work at things still; the job doesn’t do itself. However, you’re looking down the road at the rest of your work life and saying more and more often, “Is this it?”

Well as you may have guessed by now, you’re not alone and nor are you a failure. Who you are as a worker is only one piece of what makes up your identity. There’s your social and home life, hobbies, your role as a parent, sibling, family member. There’s your free time and spare time, your quiet time and vacation time. Look at life – oops the big, “L” Life any number of ways. Yes you spend a large amount of time at work and therefore define yourself and are defined by others often by what it is you do – who you are. However, it is but one way to define yourself.

You’re no closer to having the curtain pulled back and an answer. This one, you figure out for yourself. Hint: listen to yourself and above all else,

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Must Work Be Meaningful? To Whom?


I wonder if you’ve ever been advised to find a line of work where you can really find a strong sense of meaning in the work you’ll do? This advice typically is followed up with the promise that finding meaning in the work you’ll do will make whatever you’re doing rewarding; and in it being rewarding and meaningful, you’ll enjoy it  and life in general more.

It’s not bad advice really. There are many people who’d agree, if for no other reason than we spend a lot of our waking hours at work, and as all those hours add up, we’d best all be doing something meaningful to justify the investment of time.

However, the downside of this advice is that there are many people who don’t look to find meaning in the work they do, they just happily go in day in and day to work. Telling such people they’ll be happier searching for work they find real meaning in doing might just result in giving them something to worry or stress about. And who is to say that the meaning you might derive from one job over another would be similarly felt by someone else; say your daughter or son? How many mothers or fathers have hoped that their children would follow in their footsteps and have the same career as themselves, only to have their children choose other lines of work?

If you’re so inclined, you might realize too that people change. The job we found meaning in when we were 20 something might hold that meaning for 5 or so years, and then we suddenly realize one day that it’s been awhile since we really felt it as truly rewarding and meaningful. If this is the case, how do we go about finding a career in our late teens and early 20’s that we’ll find genuinely meaningful for the next 45 or 50 years?

Well, don’t fret about it. First of all it’s highly probable and natural that as you become exposed to different jobs and careers over the course of your life, you’ll find some of those jobs intriguing; perhaps enough to go after them. Changing jobs within our field is something many of us do, changing our field of interest entirely is also something not all that uncommon. It’s called evolution; becoming exposed to something new, finding real interest in it, doing what it takes to qualify yourself and working a plan to one day be in that new role.

Yet, while it’s natural then for many to want to do work that they find meaning in, is there anything wrong with doing work that one doesn’t find meaningful? Do you know anyone who when asked why they do what they do replies, “It’s a pay cheque”? I mean there has to be a number of people who are doing jobs quite competently; but for whom the concept of doing meaningful work isn’t important. And because we are all so very different on this planet, it’s impossible to take a career – any career – as an example of a job that no one finds meaning in.

You might think a Cashier, a Waiter/Waitress, Server etc. might not find any meaning in the work they do; that it’s got to be just a job until a career comes along. You’d be wrong though. There are obviously more people than you’d guess who do find great meaning in these jobs, and what’s more, their not deluding themselves; they see themselves as providing a service to others. Further, they wouldn’t want it any other way. Maybe they could make more income doing other things, but perhaps they don’t take home excessive worries and stresses that go with some jobs you’d tout as more meaningful.

Whose perspective are we talking about here anyhow? Yours or theirs? Projecting our own ideals and values onto others, saying that one job is more meaningful than another is something we should be careful of. When we tell our son or daughter that a Teacher’s job is meaningful; more meaningful than say a Crossing Guards, we transfer our own value system. If they go on to be a Teacher we’re happy. If however, they happily become a Crossing Guard and find meaning and happiness in that role, have we now sent that message that somehow their choice of career is a disappointment to us? Is that what we want or intended to do?

Conversely, if they get ulcers and migraines – growing old before their time – fighting with and climbing over others on the way to some career which robs them of much of their personal time; missing family occasions because of work, will we find it okay to console ourselves by saying, “but the work is meaningful and important.”

Important… maybe that’s it. Could it be that when we say find work that’s meaningful, what we’re really doing is saying, find work that’s important, and then by association you’ll be important too? If that’s the case, what message are we sending if the work isn’t important in our eyes? Do we really mean that they are only important if what they do is important?

So what’s the goal? Find work that is meaningful and if so to whom? Happiness? Sufficient income? Security? Challenge and reward? There are a lot of different values we could and do place on jobs and the people who do them. Something to think about.

 

Stuck On Picking A Career


Sometimes we get stuck right? I mean, we have a vague idea of what it is we think we’d like, but as I say, it’s a vague or general idea. This is when we say things such as,, “Well I’d like to work with animals,” “I want to help people”, or “I’m good with my hands.” While these kind of statements are good starting places and represent an early first step in career decision-making, some people will get stuck moving beyond one of these broad sweeping statements.

While it might seem pretty common for people in their late teens and early 20’s to be typically thinking about what to do career-wise and getting stuck, it can happen to anyone at any time. Take you . Uh huh, you.

Have you got one of those LinkedIn titles that says, “Open to new opportunities”? No? Maybe yours says, “Looking to make a difference!” or “Seeking new challenges.” Ah, so you do have one of these or something close to one.  Even after having read any of these three, the reader is still no closer to knowing what it is you want. This is because you don’t either. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself you’re being deliberately vague so you keep your options open. Sure. I’ve seen a lot of resumes over the years that start with the same kind of statements; “Looking for an opportunity to use my skills and grow with the company”. Even after having read that opening objective statement, the goal is still completely unknown. What a waste of 13 words on the résumé!

The problem however, is defining not just to the world, but to ourselves, what it is we want to do. If we could do that, then we could figure out the steps we need to take to move closer to our goal. We could for example figure out that we need a certain Diploma, Course or Degree and then happily invest the time and money to go pursue it; confidently knowing that we’re on the right track and with every day getting closer to our ultimate employment goal.

However, isn’t the real issue here that we don’t often know – that is – YOU don’t know what the end goal is? I mean, that’s what makes the idea of school and its associated cost so intimidating right? I mean, sure going to school to get more knowledge is great but with no goal, what if we choose wrong? What if we end up spending thousands of dollars and 2 or 3 years of our life in school only to find that we don’t really want to do whatever it is we’re in school for by the time we graduate? That would definitely be a waste of time and money and we’d be no further ahead. Or so we’ve told ourselves over and over.

So you’re paralyzed; stuck. Every day seems like spinning the same record around and around, trying to decide what to do? What to be? Look up the song, “Big Time Operator” by Keith Hampshire. Figure out this one thing and you’re good to go.

Okay so let’s see if we can’t help out here. Start with giving yourself both the permission to get going and forgiveness if you get it wrong. Who told you that you have to get it right this time or your entire life is a failure? That’s just not true. Work, for all its worth, is only one part of who you are; one part of what defines you.

To find a career, let me simplify things. First you need to be exposed to some possibilities and then you investigate them. You can gain exposure to careers a number of ways. Talk to people and ask them what they do, ask your local employment centre what careers are in demand, use the internet and search careers in your vague, generalized areas of choice. “Helping people careers”, “Jobs with animals” or “Physical jobs”, “Manual labour careers”.  You can also search what are called, “NOC CODES.” National Occupation Classification codes. You can search by skills, or even an alphabetical listing and see what jobs exist; many you might be entirely unaware of. So these ideas give you exposure.

Now, having exposed yourself to more possibilities that might interest you, choose a few and start investigating. Before looking to see how much the job is in demand or how much it pays, you’ll want to know if this is something that only sounds good or if it sounds good and in fact it interests you once you’ve done some research.

Find people in the roles you’re considering and talk to them. Set up meetings, email them some questions, have some conversations. Learn what’s good and bad, what skills and education are needed, how they got started and how they’d get started today if they were just beginning as things may have changed. Then ask them for the names of others you might talk to.

The more you learn, the more you’ll feel the job is right for you or not. When you start getting enthusiastic about a job, look into education requirements, the labour market, where the opportunities are. Still interested? Feeling on the right track? That’s because you are! But to get to this point, you have to get moving.

Remember how long you’ve been stuck where you are and know that continuing to do nothing won’t move you forward.

Re-Inventing Yourself?


Whether by choice or necessity, have you ever, or are you now in a place where you’re re-inventing yourself? You know, moving in a completely new direction from what you’ve typically done work-wise in the past. Depending on your circumstances, this can be an exhilarating time of hope, possibilities and uncharted exploration, or it can be fraught with stress, desperation, anxiety and worry.

So, is it starting to sound like I’m speaking to you directly? There’s actually a good chance that this resonates with you to some degree because all of us have times in our lives where we assume new roles. This is important to both hear and comprehend; all of us go through this.

It’s true you know… becoming a teenager then an adult, being a parent or grandparent, the first job where we joined the ranks of the employed, leaving one job for another. There are all kinds of moments in our lives when we transitioned from one role to another. But somehow, changing your career at this particular time in your life seems markedly different from all those other transitions. This is magnified when you feel forced to make the change instead of initiating change out of a personal desire.

For a lot of folks, the anxiety is stirred up wondering what to actually do. It’s like that year in high school where you had to make a decision on what you wanted to be when you grew up. As awkward as that period might have felt way back then, it pales in comparison to the present where you’re no longer 17 or 18 years old with your entire work life in front of you. No, now you’re looking at yourself and wondering, “what am I going to do at my age?”

For the men and women who have been in positions of labour their whole lives, this idea of needing a new vocation could be brought about because their bodies are no longer able to take the physical demands of their trade. While the body is refusing to do what it’s always done, the brain is fully capable and stress is caused because the work they’ve done is only what they know. It’s like laying bricks for 37 years and then the back and knees give out, so the Bricklayer struggles trying to figure out what else they could do.

Sometimes the body isn’t the problem though. Sometimes the prevailing problem is of a mental rather than physical issue; the need to change careers is however just as valid. For many, there is still the notion – completely wrong in my opinion – that a mental health issue needs to be concealed, while a physical issue can be more easily shared and understood. So the person with two bad knees and a back issue gets empathy and understanding while the person with anxiety and depression draws more skepticism and doubt. As a result, some people hide their mental health challenges as long as they can, thereby making it difficult if not impossible to get the very support and help they need to move forward.

A good place to start when you have to re-invent yourself is taking stock of what you have on hand. Imagine yourself on a ship with your destination fully known and suddenly waking up one day to find yourself shipwrecked on an island. You need to survive so you take stock of what resources you have. You don’t go off exploring your surroundings without first taking your bearings and assessing your needs and your resources.

Using that analogy, you’ve gone through – or are going through – the shock of an abrupt change in your work life. The future is going to be very different from your past and while you understand this on an intellectual level, you’re at that crossroads trying to figure out in what direction to move. You’re worried perhaps that with the limited time and resources you have available, you can’t afford to just move in any old direction in case you choose wrong. If only you could look ahead and see the rewards and pitfalls in all directions and then decide. Life doesn’t always work this way though; as you more than anyone has just found out because you didn’t foresee where you are now in your future just a few years ago.

So take stock of your skills, experiences both paid and volunteer. What did you like and dislike about the work you’ve done in the past. What are you physically capable of and mentally able to take on? It may be that the very best thing you can do is give yourself the gift of a short break. Yes money might be tight but if you can free up funds for a short trip to somewhere you feel good in, you may do wonders for your mental health.

Getting a booklet on courses from a community college or university might enlighten you  to jobs you haven’t considered; and you might discover funding assistance at the same time to go back to school if you wish.

This crossroads you’re in could be a blessing too. You’ve got time now to really think about what to do with your life; something some people who dislike their current jobs would envy you for. When you’re ready, and definitely not before, reach out and share your thoughts with someone you who’ll listen with an open mind.

All the very best as always!

Thinking Jobs


How comfortable would you be interacting with and assisting people who approach you for help if your role was a customer service / reception function? I suppose it would depend on the organization you were employed by correct? The organization and what the people in the organization do would largely impact the kind of people who might approach you each day.

So for example, if you worked at a reception counter in a financial institution, the people who would enter and approach you would presumably be coming to you announcing themselves as present for meetings with Financial Advisors, Loan Agents, Senior Banking officials etc. Your role might in this scenario be to direct them to a seat to wait and then contact the employee they are meeting and advise them that the person they are meeting has arrived. Job done.

However, let me give you another scenario. Suppose your job wasn’t just simply reception but also to interact with and fully serve the person who stands before you or sits down across from you. Let’s further suppose that the person is what we both might call needy; takes a long time to explain what they’re after or doesn’t appear to fully grasp the information you do provide for them. Now let’s multiply this person by say, 50 and your job is to deal with these people day after day.

This job might be right up your alley if you’re a people person; working in social services and you got into the field because you wanted to help others. Conversely, you might dislike this job and see it as the last thing you’d want to do because you lack tolerance, patience and haven’t got the time for dealing with ‘these’ people.

Often it’s not only important to know what we want to do in life but also the things we dislike and want to avoid doing. Knowing what we dislike and therefore rule out can narrow down our search for meaningful work through the process of elimination.

Take working in confined spaces, working from heights, underground, deep water or shift work. Think about outdoor or indoor jobs, desk jobs, physical labour or dangerous jobs that involve explosives, weapons, radiation, diseases or disasters. There are all kinds of jobs that, while we are glad to know other people work in these roles, we ourselves wouldn’t want to do for any amount of money.

If you think of a job you aren’t comfortable with, instead of just saying, “No I don’t want that job”, stop and identify WHAT it is ABOUT that job that is unappealing. Is it the hours of work, the working conditions, the danger or does it play on your psyche such as working in tight confined spaces underground? If you note these things, you’ll perhaps see patterns that link undesired jobs with others.

So what’s the benefit of this you ask? Well, in short, you can find work that is meaningful and rewarding often by trying different kinds of jobs or reading job postings and eliminating those you find undesirable.

By the way, the jobs you find distasteful or reject don’t have to be necessarily dangerous or high-risk. Could be you find some every day common jobs boring, tedious, mind-numbingly repetitive or they pay less than what you’re willing to work for. Money however is best left out of this process because your enjoyment of a specific job shouldn’t decrease or increase based on the dollars attached to it. There are people who do work for less than they’d like and some who will turn down jobs that pay much more because they don’t find the work itself fulfilling.

One good strategy is to talk with people; a lot of people. Ask they what they do, what they like and don’t like about their jobs. While you will get that persons take on the job they do, you may find what they like is something you wouldn’t and vice-versa, but the questioning is still helpful and illuminating.

In addition to speaking with people you know well, don’t overlook the people you interact with or could interact with on a daily basis. There’s the Crossing Guard, Hot Dog Vendor, Bus Driver, Courier, Police Officer, Parking Lot Attendant, Bank Teller, Salesperson, Security Guard, Casino Dealer, Hair Dresser.

While you may know you don’t want to sell hot dogs for a living, the Vendor might be thrilled with the job as they work independently, love the outdoors, laugh with the regular customers, meet people from all walks of life and every so often get free tickets to a hockey game from the people they serve. You might also be very surprised with the income they take home.

Some pessimistic types will tell you that finding a job period is what it’s all about in 2016 and forget about finding a job that is fulfilling; you take what you can get. I don’t subscribe to that and I don’t think you should either. Don’t be embittered, caught up in others views of the world. Find what makes you happy, rewarded, challenged, intrigued etc.

You’ve got one shot at this life in this world so why not spend your time working productively and satisfactorily? You’ll have many jobs over your lifetime so don’t worry about finding a job for the next 40 years.

That’s how I see it anyhow.

What Do You Want For Yourself?


From the time we are old enough to communicate we get asked questions. In fact, as an experiment, see how many times you find yourself asked a question today or tomorrow. Most of those questions are pretty simplistic, such as what you want for breakfast, when you want to take your break at work, what you want to watch on television this evening etc.

Most of the questions you will be asked come innocently enough, and you’ve probably got the necessary information accumulated in order to answer intelligently. So you know what you want for breakfast, you know when you’re ready for a break at work, and you know what you’re in the mood for in the evening as you sit down to watch the television. How exciting!

What of the bigger questions you ask of yourself? I don’t mean what to wear on a certain day, whether or not to take the umbrella or who to sit with at lunch at work. I mean the BIG questions.

When was the last time you really thought about your life and what you want to do with yours? Let’s face it, most of us go about our day without really thinking about the BIG questions. We’re so focused on what we have on our daily agendas, what we’re having for dinner, what work has to get done, who will be off today at the office, remembering what bills to pay, we don’t often stop and consider what we want for ourselves.

I suspect that many people just get on the treadmill of life and live their lives in a predictable, socially acceptable manner. We go to school, graduate, get a job, have relationships, then settle on a strong relationship with someone, end up with several jobs or careers over a lifetime, retire and hope to enjoy it, then die. It’s predictable, we’re remembered by those we leave behind who knew us, and then depending on your belief system, you go to Heaven, get reincarnated, are reborn etc.

The after-life debate aside, how often do you really give yourself the benefit of time to reflect on what you want to do based on what’s important to you? How does the way you live your life reflect what you once wanted?

Some people do what’s expected on them by others; they go to school, join and then later run the family business, and pass it on. Some are told in school they’ve “only” got the potential to work in the trades (and the trades in the way it is voiced is somehow undervalued vs. a University degree), and therefore they take on an apprenticeship and work in the trades without challenging that view.

How often does someone in their late teens have the foresight to imagine themselves as retired looking back at their work life saying, “That was a life worth living! I’m glad I (fill in the blanks).

Every time we find ourselves out of work or wanting a change in work we get closer to thinking of the big picture. Questions like, “What now?” do come into our minds, but too often don’t we just scramble for a job that approximated our previous one; or choose one that while different in responsibility is really just maintaining our lifestyle. So a labourer finds another labour job, a Healthcare Worker finds another job in the Health sector?

What of you? Have you got dreams – or did you once have dreams you’ve let go of? Maybe you had some vision of what you would love to have done, but before you could launch that dream, you were too far down the predictable path of everyday life? You got into a relationship that made following your dream difficult if not impossible in your view. Now with rent or mortgage payments, kids, r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-i-e-s… well, you know; you’ve kissed those dreams goodbye.

Now if you’re happy it doesn’t matter when it comes to dreams and hopes you once had. Truly happy people should carry on. I’d say it’s not only about being happy as you look back nearing your end, but it’s about being happy all through the stages of your life. Are you doing what you want with the time you’ve got?

What if the answer is you’re not happy? Well, what would make you happy? What do you want for yourself? It might well be some wild experience; a life filled with travel, adventure, chaos and physical challenges. It may also be a job in the city sharing your life with someone who loves you as much as you love them.

Whatever you wish for yourself, if it’s not your reality, or you’re not seeing it getting any closer, what would it take to make that dream happen? Does it require more effort, a change in locale, some self-confidence or hard work? Does it take some courage to chuck it all and start again?

If you’ve been waiting for something to get you doing more than just thinking, think of this; time is passing. Take a leap. Do one thing this week other than just thinking; in other words take some action. Have a conversation, download the brochure, book the trip, contact the company; whatever small step you can think of, do it.

Life is too precious and time too short to delay. What do YOU want for yourself?

Make it happen.