Monday, 30 June 2008

Interest in your career

Take a moment to think about the people and groups with an interest in your career. Arguably the most important stakeholders are You, your friends/family, your work contacts/colleagues and your current employer (unless you are self-employed).

Looking down your list now ask yourself which individuals or groups have a long-term interest in your career and whose interests are a little more temporary. It might also help to look back on your career and consider what all of the people with a genuine interest have in common. What unites the short and long term interests, the past and present? Also, what answers would this varied group of people give if they were asked what they wanted for you?

Individual answers are yours to interpret but it could be argued more generally that the priorities directing and guiding your career are also important to the people who want to see you succeed. If you already know your priorities and you can effectively communicate them to people from all groups then you are at a considerable advantage. If understanding your career priorities further sounds interesting or challenging then exploring your values, talents and goals is a good place to start.

Friday, 27 June 2008


As discussed in recent posts the definition of personal success incorporates more than just success at work. This is chiefly because career planning from the perspective of work alone can lead to unsatisfactory outcomes.

If you have ever started a job convinced that it was right for you but ended up hating it, you will need little more convincing that there is more to effective career planning than first meets the eye.

Exploring your values, talents and goals in the broader context of work and life creates the opportunity to aim for a more meaningful version of success.

If you have already considered the three initial questions -- What is important to me? What am I good at? and What keeps me going? -- revisit your answers in the broader context of work and life and compare the results. If you would like to follow up here on the blog please leave a comment with your findings or questions.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Opportunity management IV - Gradual steps

Many people have stages in their career where choice and change are not an option. For most of the world's working population the opportunity to choose what they do is either non-existent, insignificant or so fleeting that by the time it arrives the chance to act has already passed.

If we imagine a scenario where our opportunities could only ever be small and rare (as well as applying ourselves diligently) managing our opportunities well is one of the few things we could do to progress our career.

Opportunity management is about recognising the situations that present us with a choice. Even if it seems insignificant at the time. With a clearer idea of what's important to you, what you are good at and what keeps you going, comes the opportunity to make choices that work in your favour. The knowledge that can help change work for you.

It's not just ourselves that we have to consider in this equation but if you are in a difficult situation and looking for something to change -- or change is being forced on you -- it can be a good place to start.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Goals and planning

A recent conversation provoked the following thought: You don't need a career plan to be successful but in order to achieve personal success you do need goals.

I'm inclined to agree because goals can be the milestones that remind us we are heading in the right direction. They also give us a good excuse to celebrate success. As a result goals form a key part of our motivation. They help directly to keep us going.

Immediate goals can be clear and well defined but as we look into the future the variables increase and it is arguable that highly-defined, fixed objectives contain as much risk as reward. One reason to support this? Although they can be motivational and achievable; fixed, long-term objectives definitely can't be guaranteed.

Because this is clearly a subject too complex to resolve in one post and maybe even too complex to find a definitive answer for, I'll end with this point. A fixed objective is not essential to personal success but an idea of direction is. An open interpretation of what your values, talents and goals might lead to is an exciting prospect for the future because it allows newly gained knowledge and experience to contribute as well.

That's enough from me but there's a lot more to be said. What do you think?

Monday, 23 June 2008

Pursuing personal success

Asking yourself three questions -- What is important to me? What am I good at? and What keeps me going? -- is probably the best place to start if an earlier definition of personal success was interesting to you. Where that sentence is wrong however is that even when you ask yourself these questions for the first time, you are not beginning the search for personal success, it is already well underway.

That's because pursuing personal success is not about starting again or discarding knowledge and experience earned in the past. It is about understanding your knowledge and experience and utilising it to its full potential. What you have learned and experienced to date is essential to your personal success and throwing it away or ignoring it is a waste of valuable resources.

When you ask yourself these questions it's not just your point of view that's important. Just as important are the things that others would say if they were asked these questions about you. As your answers take shape you are looking for them to be a combination of the things that you think about yourself and the things that the people you trust say about you. It may take a little more time but the strength of your answers will benefit as a result.

Lastly, don't worry if these questions take time because there is no rush. In fact your answers get better with time because new knowledge and experience is added along the way. If you hit an obstacle, ask someone you trust or even send a question to this blog. Sometimes your answer might take the form of a new question but new questions have the opportunity to move us forward one small fact at a time.

And if you ever wonder what these individual questions have in common? It is their direction. The direction they are helping you define towards personal success.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Johnny Bunko and Personal success

If you haven't seen it already, Johnny Bunko is a book about career decision making but it's no exaggeration to say that it is unlike any other you are likely to read. In my opinion, Johnny Bunko stands apart because the book speaks intelligently about personal success in a language and format open to all. Traditional career reading has struggled to be practical and accessible but even the few that have managed this have hardly been read for the enjoyment factor alone.

For anyone considering their future, trying to define what success means to them or dealing with any other subject that unites work and life, Johnny Bunko captures an example of this moment beautifully and not only makes the subject interesting, it achieves the almost unthinkable and makes it entertaining too.

Reading this book was a reminder that defining personal success should be easy to follow and inclusive rather than exclusive. My hope is that work/life fusion has always demonstrated this aim. As for entertainment value, it is a pleasure to leave that to the artists.

(If you want to learn more about Johnny Bunko the book, find it on the web at

Have a great weekend all!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Personal success

When all else is said and done the aim of this blog is advancing personal success. The personal success of any reader with decisions to make about their career future.

Work/life fusion defines personal success using a combination of what is important to us, what we are good at and what keeps us going. Together this combination of values, talents and goals needed a broader definition of success and so the idea of personal success began.

As the questions and case studies evolved on this blog so did the definition of personal success. This evidence so far defines personal success as something that can be achieved every day if progress according to values, talents and goals is made. It also suggests that this daily progress is essential to fulfilling, longer-term objectives.

If Barack Obama is elected President of the US it will be a huge success in his personal and political career not to mention a milestone in the history of that nation. It would also provide Barack Obama the man, with a platform for opportunity and success beyond anything he would have if he lost the election. However, if you could stop the election night victory party for one moment and ask Barack Obama if he thought he was a success there is every chance he would tell you to ask him again in four years time.

Personal success is about achieving milestones but it is also about knowing what we want from our future. With a clearer definition behind us, the management of opportunities to deliver or create or personal success becomes a far more achievable task.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


This blog began in April with a couple of dictionary definitions. Reading definitions more closely at the time it struck me how the subtleties of some words can be lost in their everyday use, especially when they are applied so deliberately in marketing or advertising.

Other people have more dangerous hobbies but I also found it quite rewarding to stumble upon everyday words with more than one relevant meaning to a given situation. In the context of work/life fusion the word resolve is a good example. In one dictionary there were 24 definitions for resolve. Thankfully all 24 won't be listed here because after comparing entries in a few more dictionaries it appears there are three main meanings for resolve. The first is to settle a problem or find a solution. The second is to decide firmly on a course of action. The third, chiefly used in Chemistry, is to separate or reduce something to its component parts.

All three of these meanings have great relevance to career decision making and direction finding the way they are defined by work/life fusion. Initially you resolve to look more closely at your future. As you work on the problem, because it is complex, it helps to resolve it into its component parts. As you make progress you start to resolve the issue, all the while calling upon resolve in the form of persistence to keep you at your task.

Considering all of its meanings resolve is a simple, succinct way to define a large part of the process that work/life fusion deals with and is therefore worth remembering if change is either forced or desired in your future.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Breaking new ground

Not many of us get to feel like pioneers in our working lives but the irony is that most of us have the opportunity to break new ground every day.

I spoke with someone recently who was stuck with a dilemma. Should she move her family to a different part of the country and leave behind a career she enjoys or stay in a less attractive location and continue her preferred line of work? Before we settled on this problem as the critical one to address, a new question presented itself that gave us both renewed energy for our task. Why does changing location have to mean abandoning your career? In other words, could she move to a preferred location and continue a preferred line of work?

Instead of starting from a point that already feels like defeat, this new question allowed us to explore what an ideal solution might look like. We agreed that it was a far harder task, that compromise was likely but both of us also agreed that changing the question also changed the likelihood of an ideal solution from impossible (or incredibly lucky) to possible (or easier to influence).

Readers with high boredom thresholds might be asking how this is an example of breaking new ground in your working lives. One answer is that the individual with the above dilemma decided upon a new course of action. Once decided, it could be argued that every success on the road towards this newly clarified objective advances the cause or, if you prefer, breaks new ground.

Turning to work/life fusion for the last word. If the question you pose for yourself is "How can I achieve personal success?", working towards it can feel like breaking new ground, learning something new and adding to your knowledge with every step.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Continuing the theme of yesterday's post, whether you are job searching, hard at work or as an old boss of mine used to say, hardly working, there are quite often slow periods. The effort ploughed into phone calls, meetings and networking reaches a natural pause where incoming contact is anticipated in return.

These quieter moments are also a useful reminder that momentum is chiefly governed by our individual outputs. If you are job searching, chasing contacts or any other activity requiring two-way interaction your returns are directly linked to the interest you create.

Work/life fusion is a means to define and realise personal success for this reason. Progress is difficult to make with a definition of personal success alone. It is much more likely to be made by having the definition along with the motivation and the means to achieve it.

When a quieter moment becomes extended and deadlines for expected calls and meetings begin to slip by, it may seem inequitable but the next step is down to you. Pick up the phone. Compose that new email. Make that new contact. Ease yourself back into output mode and let momentum and compound interest grow as your search, your contacts, your meetings but most importantly your opportunities, continue to build toward personal success.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Gathering compound interest

Compound interest in the financial sense is easily understood by most. It has been explained to me a few times, probably because my reaction wasn't as enthusiastic as it should have been first time around. The point was stressed that interest gaining interest would mean more to me one day. Predictably, that day did arrive but only when an analogy with career decision making and opportunity management hammered it home.

When deciding on a career direction or as part of the process of looking for a new job, the outputs that we as individuals make are essential to our success. If we don't complete applications, respond to advertisements, call our contacts, attend interviews and so on, no-one knows that we are looking. In most careers there are periods of intense effort and output like this and the returns that each of us receive are our reward.

Sometimes the returns for our outputs aren't as forthcoming and this is where the notion of compound interest can be an asset, not just in creating the returns themselves but also in our motivation to bring them about. Compound interest in the context of work/life fusion is about communicating your vision of personal success in such a way that when a suitable opportunity arises, the potential for it to reach you does not diminish over time. Once you realise that your activity of a month ago, three months ago or even last year is still working for you, it is easier to see how individual actions today can contribute to the overall effort.

There are often lulls in any difficult endeavour. Moments when our outputs appear to deserve more tangible results. During these times there is great comfort in the knowledge that the next call, the next task or the next meeting not only incorporates opportunity of its own, it also has a place in the accumulated knowledge and experience that contributes toward personal success.

Financial advisors may disagree but for me this equation holds a lot more interest than discussing compound interest on a pension or savings scheme.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Your experience

Have you ever considered what your experience qualifies you to do? Not what you are doing currently or what your job title says about you. Instead, what does your accumulated experience add up to, what does it qualify you to do and what does it say about your future?

If you made a list of all the jobs you have had in your career [even the part time positions] what are the common threads that begin to emerge? What have you enjoyed doing most? What skills have been called upon more regularly than others? What jobs do you recall fondly and which still give you an uneasy feeling in your stomach? What was it that made them enjoyable, unsatisfactory or even unbearable at the time?

You might have been a paper boy/girl, a waiter, a gardener, an office junior, a trainee lawyer, a secretary, a bus driver, a salesperson, a researcher, a tech support person, a store manager, a consultant, a chief executive. It's statistically unlikely but you might even be Barack Obama or Steve Jobs. Whatever the make-up of your individual career you have a unique set of experiences and, whenever you choose, you also have the opportunity to interpret these experiences for the insight they provide into your future.

You have earned your experiences. They are among the few things that no-one can take from you or claim as theirs. Even the most dogged ex-partner, distant family member, lawyer or tax inspector will concede and grant you free reign. It may sound odd to suggest that your future starts with a look to the past but when it comes to defining personal success there is no better preparation for the road ahead.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Why I write

The sentence in the banner at the top of this page has been there since the first post on this blog. When it was written it was the fewest, simplest words I could find to articulate the essence of work/life fusion. A few advertising and marketing professionals have mentioned that the words aren't that few or even that simple!

This will come as no surprise to any reader of this blog.  As a writer I don't have a particular gift for brevity. Where others have already cut to the chase, I am still constructing sentences, using too much punctuation; worrying about unearthing a precise adjective, not to mention fussing about grammar, accentuation and spelling.

On starting this blog I knew that it wasn't the style of writing that would hold a reader's interest. So why do I write? I write chiefly for the belief that work/life fusion works. My experience of talking with hundreds of people over thousands of hours in interview, assessment and general career conversation has taught me that much. When it comes to career direction finding and opportunity management in the real world, work/life fusion is practical and it works.

This blog was started to challenge a hypothesis just as much as to support one. It may yet be disproved but the evidence received to date has helped work/life fusion evolve and strengthen. Individual case studies and questions from readers have made a huge difference in ensuring that the debate moves forward and in helping this blog to show that meaningful success can be different every time.

Taking all of the above into account and thanks to a growing respect for the artistry and talent of copywriters and wordsmiths everywhere, I haven't given up on finding a simpler way to express what work/life fusion is and what it does. My best effort to date: work/life fusion is about finding out what matters to each individual and ensuring that this is present in their objectives and decision making.

Whether that new sentence represents progress is not for me to say...

Friday, 6 June 2008


When we decide on a new career direction or develop an existing one we are essentially expressing a preference. A preference for a certain event (or series of events) to happen and for unsatisfactory outcomes to be avoided.

Almost every individual goes through moments in their work/life where the weight of expectation is difficult to ignore. Waiting for news following an interview is an example most of us have experienced. Absolute relief only arrives with our answer but some relief can be gained by examining our expectations earlier instead of allowing them to intensify towards a situation with the potential for overwhelming disappointment.

The work/life fusion approach ensures that multiple outcomes are considered. Getting a 'Yes' or a 'No' after interview creates a distinct fork in the road. If successful your immediate future lies with your new employer. If unsuccessful your research continues but with the addition of new lessons that can be incorporated into future decision making and opportunity management.

It would be wrong to suggest that work/life fusion can provide immunity from disappointment. What it can achieve however is a mindset that values every experience along the road to personal success and a better chance of managing expectations rather than expectations managing us.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Opportunity management III - Not opportunism

Successful opportunity management differs from opportunism in a number of ways.

It depends on an informed idea of direction where opportunism does not. It takes into account external expectations and perspectives while opportunism is overtly linked with furthering self-interest.

Above all, successful opportunity management is driven by an assured self-knowledge and an awareness of how well one might fit within a particular place and time. Opportunism demands neither, is more random and far less concerned with delivering satisfaction and fulfilment over time.

The objective to succinctly define opportunity management in a work/life fusion context continues...

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Revisiting past events and decisions

If you completed the exercise in yesterday's post, significant career events may still be on your mind. Too much reflection can be a distraction but revisiting past events is an essential component of the work/life fusion approach to career planning and direction finding.

Thinking about the choices we have made in the past and the lessons they provide is very different to wondering at what might have been. Rather than allowing hindsight to reinforce regret, revisiting a particular past event can often confirm how and why we would act differently today.

Putting this notion into practice immediately, past experiences writing this blog have taught me that we have reached the point where an illustrative example would help. Yesterday I spoke with a former client for the first time in a couple of years. When we last spoke he had turned down a big corporate role but was thorough in his thinking and secure in his reasons for doing so at the time. During yesterday's conversation, we realised that we had both (independently in this case) wondered what life would have been like had this decision gone the other way. At the end of our chat we also knew that if a similar opportunity were to come along in the future, his decision would be different.

In this example and because the feeling is reciprocated, the near future may present the opportunity to re-unite this one-time-potential-employee with his one-time-potential-employer but although that would be a stellar example of the power resident in revisiting past events and decisions, that particular ending is for another story.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Practical exercise I

A short practical exercise for anyone making career decisions at this time. [Note: If you want to make it more fun, do it wearing a party hat and streamers]

1. Think of the most successful point in your career then ask yourself the following three questions:

(i) What were the main factors behind my success at that time?
(ii) How was my success experienced by those around me?
(iii) In hindsight, are there any ways I would act or behave differently?

2. When you are satisfied with your answers to the above, think of an event or point in your career that you view as the least successful or most troubled. Ask yourself the following three questions:

(i) What were the main causes behind my lack of success at that time?
(ii) How did I behave around others at that time?
(iii) In hindsight, are there any ways I would act or behave differently?

3. When you are satisfied with the answers to all six questions, pick the three things that stand out for you the most. Review these three elements for their ability to:

a) confirm something positive that you already know about yourself
b) shed light on something that is motivating your career
c) offer a new perspective on your ability to influence success and deal with difficulties in your career future

Feel free to share your comments on this exercise or the insights that you gained as a result. [Note: Please remove your party hat if you have not already done so]

Monday, 2 June 2008

When no means know

Rejection is hard to avoid in any search for career development. It must be a tiny minority who have never had a job application turned down or worse still, been told after interview that they will not be invited back.

Using the example of a failed job application or interview, remaining positive and telling yourself that you will do better next time can be a comfort but does it move your understanding forward? Does it underscore the learning from the experience and will it ensure that the situation is not repeated in the future for similar reasons? Would this post use it as an example if it did?

Before rhetorical question madness sets in, the good news is that there are new and exciting voices on the subject of dealing with setbacks as you seek career development, How's your self-efficacy? on the Johnny Bunko blog is an example worth reading. New arguments like this offer practical opinion and behavioural examples as opposed to vague concepts and platitudes. Thankfully, work/life fusion is joining the ranks of the former on this subject.

In the work/life fusion approach to career direction finding, experiencing rejection is an essential learning tool and should be embraced. Individual progress relies in part on incorporating external opinion and, as importantly in these situations, on finding a satisfactory answer to the question, "Why was I unsuccessful this time around?"

You may be able to answer this question yourself but if you are unsure you can seek opinion that can help. For example, when you received the news that your application or interview was unsuccessful were you completely satisfied with the feedback from your recruiter/HR professional/interviewer? Is there anything that you could ask in follow up that would help your understanding? Could you explore the situation with a confidant for an opinion that you trust?

With a more satisfactory answer to the question, "Why was I unsuccessful this time around?", new knowledge can be acquired that changes your situation directly and it is knowledge that can be applied to future rounds of exploration and testing. Approached in this way each decision and each experience can be embraced for their contribution to our ultimate success.

Put in a less generic and more practical way, each experience helps to define personal success more accurately, adding new data and insight as we progress. The more accurate the definition of personal success, the more it communicates about the individual. The better the communication in opportunity situations, the harder it works for the individual.

When every candidate describes themselves as the best man/woman for the job, only the candidate that the opportunity describes as the best can be successful. It could be argued that the difference is a subtle one but it is around such subtleties that decisions are often made.