Thursday, 30 April 2009

Your Career in One Sentence?

I'm guest posting today over at where the JJL community and I are squeezing our careers into one sentence.

It's all in good fun but there is learning to be had too.

Join our conversation and take a look at the community where a little Hawaiian goes a very long way! :)

All the best for now,


Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Trappings of Success

Why trappings?

Why make success sound like a trap?

[Trapped? Looks pretty good to me :) - see more at Saundra's Flickr Photostream here]

Some language students call the English language, 'easy to learn but difficult to master'. I suppose that goes for most languages but maybe it is words like 'trappings' that make things tricky. Even life-long English speakers could be forgiven for wondering about this one.

Is the English language confused or is it highly enlightened. Are they just words or do some words offer us a tangible, everyday link to the full range of human experience and learning throughout the ages? Yes it describes but can it really teach us pitfalls at the same time?

In my opinion [around the subject of careers of course] trappings can only make us feel trapped if they are things we don't want. If the trappings of career success also deliver fundamental satisfaction and fulfilment, you are unlikely to feel trapped.

If however you feel forced to follow a particular career path [i.e. your career decisions are limited by the trappings of success] feelings of discontent, disappointment or dissatisfaction would seem more likely at some point in the future.

What are your thoughts on the trappings of success?

All the best for now,


Monday, 27 April 2009

Keep Career Dreaming

Especially when you can take photographs like this!

[Dew Drop - see more at Saundra's Flickr Photostream here]

Follow these links for more about supporting your career dreams with practical, pragmatic resolutions:

All the best for now,


Friday, 24 April 2009

Career Dreaming

An email I got following the Career dreams post asked me if I am anti-Career Dreaming.

I can see where the question came from because 'Career Dreams' could read like a negative post. After all, it is about someone following a dream and for one reason or another, the dream didn't work out.

I'd like to respond to this question openly. So, here's why the 'Career Dreams' story is positive and why I am a positive supporter of Career Dreaming!

[Objectif Lune - A badly photographed study of positive, practical dreaming]

I read that Aldous Huxley said, "Dream in a pragmatic way." I don't know why but this just stayed with me. It told me that dreaming was good but practical dreaming was better. And I listened because Huxley was an idol of mine at the time.

The same 'practical dreaming' thought is behind the example of the windsurfer in the 'Career Dreams' post. Becoming a windsurfing instructor was a great, individual career dream but it should have been supported more pragmatically at the time. Especially since professional career advisors were involved.

Instead of encouraging him to set up his own windsurfing school, his career advisors could have supported his research before he made the jump. More practical, decision-focused support could have got our friend to find people who have made the same change before him and ask them face-to-face about the reality of their careers.

For example, I might have suggested he talk to the instructor who taught him to surf. To ask him what qualities made him successful. To test and explore in a more grounded way and try his new working lifestyle for size before committing to it. Would it still be the windsurfing that gave him the buzz or would it be seeing his students grow and learn?

Such questions support career dreaming positively and practically. Maybe they could have saved our friend a lot of time and energy. Maybe he would have made the same decision in the end but he would have done it with a better understanding of what he was getting into. Yes it would be cold and wet but he would be prepared for that. Maybe he bought a thicker wetsuit for those cold winter lakes?

None of us know what might have happened but whatever the alternative reality, I argue the case for practical support that protects and safeguards an individual's reserves of enthusiasm for his or her career.

I want to thank my questioner for their email. On refelection, there was some regret in my previous telling of this story. Maybe that regret sounded negative because there was time and energy that could have been saved if the right support was available first-time around.

Happily, my feelings of regret don't last long because I know that every career experience counts. I know that if he could be helped to dream again, even our ex-windsurfing school owner/entrepreneur could apply all of his career experiences - good, bad and indifferent - to move his career forward in a direction he will find fulfilling.

To everyone who can (and that is anyone who wants to) Keep Career Dreaming!

Have a great weekend wherever you are!


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Career dreams

Sometimes you have a dream that doesn't define your career.

I met someone a few years ago who used his redundancy payment to set up a windsurfing school. His new career went OK for a while but it didn't last.

I asked him why he gave up his dream career and he answered, "I love windsurfing and I am good at it but teaching people to windsurf on a cold, rainy day is nothing like windsurfing for fun in the sunshine."

A career dream for player, groundskeeper and architect all in one photo :)

It seemed a hard way to make the distinction but like most tough lessons it was memorable too. You can have the dream and the genuine talent for something but if the work involved doesn't also connect fundamentally with your values and goals, it won't feel fulfilling for long.

Understanding your values, talents and goals is career dreaming but in a pragmatic way because it helps us to make informed choices. You move your career in a direction that keeps it growing and developing over time. There are still challenges but maybe there are fewer freezing cold lakes on a grey Monday morning!

Knowing our values, talents and goals also helps us to manage opportunities and potential career decisions before we commit. Apart from keeping us dreaming, this also gives us more of a chance to deal with the tough lessons that can't be avoided :)

Now I'd like you opinion:

Have you ever escaped a tough career lesson?
Has anyone you know ever changed careers, then realised they needed to change again?
What do you want to test more rigourously for its work/life potential?
What is the best career lesson you ever learned?

Comment your answers or send me an email!

All the best for now,


Monday, 20 April 2009

Make it known!

A formidable lady I worked for used to say, "Have the guts to ask!"

Get your intentions out there.

Once you know what you want, make it known to others.

Part of this is being prepared for any answer. If the thing we want is close to our heart, none of us want to hear we can't have it or that it's beyond our reach for now.

[Golden Bay - see more at Saundra's Flickr Photostream here]

It makes sense to test first when it comes to your career. When you know what is important to you, what you are good at and what you want for the future, you can define it for others. You know what to ask for.

You might not get the answer you want first time around but any answer you get can be learnt from. In every answer there will be something to help you move forward.

If you are unsure what to ask for, you can examine your experience and your values, talents and goals. When you are sure what you want, prepare yourself for every possible answer and go out and ask for it!

Follow these links for more on career decision-making and your values, talents and goals:

All the best for now,


Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Opportunity Management VI - Persist

Only a handful of encounters are genuine career opportunities.

When everything falls into place, one single opportunity will become your next job and the next step in your career.

Until then, you might finish runner-up a few times, get overlooked or maybe even completely forgotten.

Throughout all the unsatisfactory outcomes - or lack of outcomes in some cases - your career experiences grow, your knowledge builds and your awareness deepens.

And you move one step closer to your goal.

[Pacifca Beach View - see more at Saundra's Flickr Photostream here]

All of your research, your preparation, your hard work, sticking-to-the-task, persistence, early mornings, late nights, wins, losses and everything else besides, count towards the end result when you finally achieve it.

Whether you are job searching, changing careers, facing or dealing with redundancy or layoff, your story, your questions and your opinions are welcome here as always.

All the best,



Follow these links for more posts on Opportunity Management, Research & Persistence:

Managing career opportunities

Why we work

Research not Job Search

When failure defines success

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

If you fell down today...

Our careers sometimes turn us into novices again.

The above is true regardless of who we are, how old or how experienced.

No one person has seen or done it all.

The lessons do lessen in number for most of us as our careers continue, as we learn from our own experiences and from the experience of others. It is worth remembering, even if the occasions are rare, that sometimes we have more in common with the individual on their first day of work than we like to think.

[Captured by the Louvre - see more at Saundra's Flickr Photostream here]

The more aware we are of our attitude towards learners, the easier it is for us to embrace learning ourselves. The better our attitude towards learners, the greater our potential to learn with others and learn for ourselves.

H.G. Wells said, "If you fall down today, stand up tomorrow." He might also have agreed that standing up after a fall is easier when you are looking up at someone holding out their hand.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

An Attitude Towards Learners

Why don't we teach careers the way we teach drivers?

Some subjects are easy to pick up but difficult to master. Others require long and patient focus before they feel intuitive (musical instruments anyone?). We often hear that learning ability depends on the person but for the majority of us, isn't our attitude towards learning the most important factor?

If we are motivated to learn we learn. In environments favourable to learners & learning, we learn more.

['Into the bend' - see more at Saundra's Flickr Photostream here]

The way we teach drivers is a great example of the right attitude towards learners. When you learn how to drive, there is no stigma attached to being called a learner for a start. It is accepted that we all begin the same way. We wear the badges on our cars and we get on with it (in the UK these badges are big red 'L-plates' front & rear).

Our driving instructors are professionals. They are trained, experienced, patient, forgiving and focused on our development. We can and do learn to drive at all different ages but our experience as we go through the learning process is the same when we are 17, 37 or 57.

Compare all of the above to the way we learn about our careers. The difficulty we often encounter finding the right support. Our reluctance to be seen as inexperienced or as a learner. The obstacles to learning and developing our careers later in life.

If I could change one thing it would be this: our attitude towards learning career management and our attitude towards those who stand up and call themselves learners.

No where did I put my L-plates again?!

All the best for now,


Monday, 6 April 2009

Self-leadership: A personal career story

Why your judgement of others doesn't matter. Why your judgement of yourself does.

In the exploration of career matters, are the above two sentences a breakthrough? Probably not. But for people everywhere - at any stage in their career - the two sentences above can describe a personal breakthrough moment that changes their future forever.

[Dolphin Emerging, "It's a bit out of focus but you can see him/her none the less. 3 of the swam right up next to the boat for several minutes but it was hard to predict when they would surface. Not having my SLR with me, I couldn't shoot as fast as I needed to catch them. I did get a few second on video though. I guess that doesn't help you guys. :-)" Saundra's own words]

I spent most of my career in an industry that judged others. We were taught that our judgement of other people had the most value (value to our clients, to our colleagues, to ourselves).

I learnt to analyse, assess and pick out personal & professional qualities in other people and I learnt that it was an important, essential work & life skill.

The growing difficulty for me was the raw material for our weights and measures wasn't steel or diamonds or bananas, it was people. Real people with careers, families, hopes and independent potential all of their own.

After a while, judging others became something that no longer felt right for me and so I explored moving my career in new directions. After a great deal of searching (which is another story) I now work in a profession where I am no longer called upon to judge other people for my clients. I am called upon to help other people refine their judgement of themselves. Something I am much happier doing.

Ordinarily, I would have found a case study to illustrate the point about judgement and self-leadership but I realised (reluctantly at first) that my own experience was the best example I knew. This is the first time I have 'shared story' (as my expert friend Rosa might say) on work/life fusion, a blog that was never intended to be about me.

In writing the above, I now realise that it was a mistake to have my own career experiences missing from this blog in that way. I was asking you (my dear reader) to share your experiences before doing the same myself!

Hopefully, the above puts that particular error behind me and offers apology at the same time. The above story is my personal story of self-leadership and it has taken almost all of my career to date to make this distinction for myself.

The distinction that the judgement we make on ourselves is the one that carries the most weight and the most potential in our careers.

If we learn more about this judgement - and keep improving our conclusions - we really do stand a chance of finding work with meaning, satisfaction, fulfilment and personal success!

I've done my bit for now, it's over to you! :)


Friday, 3 April 2009

Learned self-leadership?

Is it a contradiction to say that self-leadership can be learned?

With true self-leadership, shouldn't you already know what you want?

Maybe, but isn't it also possible to learn more about what you want and get better at making informed choices over time? In the same way you get better at most things if you make an effort to learn more about them?

[San Francisco, CA - see more at Saundra's Photostream here

In my view, self-leadership is important to career success but critical to meaningful, personal career success. What makes it worth learning is the richness of reward in your relationship with work. The potential for satisfaction and fulfilment in individual work/life.

Have a great weekend wherever you are!

All the best,


[✪ This is a great night shot of San Francisco. It spoke of waiting in line and following the person in front of you (an analogy for poor career management and the antithesis to making your own choices and finding your own way). The car crossing to the left also offers a wonderful feeling of speed and movement (possibly even freedom or progress). The driver could just be lucky that there is no traffic in his/her direction but she/he could just as easily know a better route to where they want to be! If you interpret the pic in a different way, let us know! All the best, Saundra & Paul]

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

A Career Manifesto

I was chatting with someone recently and they mentioned their personal career manifesto.

It was made up of career-related beliefs and promises that this individual had made to himself. He recorded these key points by writing them down, with the full intention of living the beliefs and keeping the promises!

[To the moon Alice!: see more at Saundra's Photostream here

The more I thought about it, the more it interested me as a concept. It also appeared to fit quite well with the kind of strategic planning I complete with my clients as part of their career management process. I suppose the thing that surprised me is the word manifesto. The only time you ever hear this word in the UK is when there are elections and the political parties each issue a manifesto to communicate to us (the voters) why they should be elected.

Not because we don't know what the word means but because it is always worth exploring a definition for the insight it might give us. Here is what the dictionary says about a manifesto:

manifesto:  a written statement of the beliefs, aims and policies of an organisation, especially a political party (my thanks to Cambridge Online Dictionaries, as always)

What starts to get exciting about the above definition is that a manifesto is typically associated with an organisation. This inventive individual was actually treating his career and going about his career management in the way a group or a company would organise themselves (set an agenda, have a vision, measure progress, etc.). Apart from anything else, what a fantastic piece of evidential insight for the way the world of careers and work is changing!

[Taxi on Bay Bridge, San Francisco - see more at Saundra's Photostream here

Back to the manifesto itself: it was full of the kind of qualitative and quantitative targets that would not only allow progress to be made but to be measured as well. This career manifesto was effectively a self-binding contract that the individual was planning to hold himself to throughout his job search and career management activity. [Jason Alba with JibberJobber (a job search management tool) does something similar but this was the first time I had seen anything in this kind of structure.]

So, seeing it made me want to ask: What are your thoughts on having a career manifesto as an idea? Useful, overkill, useless?!?

The more I think about it, the more merit I see, especially if you are the kind of person (like me) who benefits from any kind of deadline or motivational objective.

Send in your thoughts & opinions on career manifestos and let's see what we find :)

All the best for now,


[✪ For those interested, here's why Saundra & I chose the above images for this post: 'Alice' not only looks closely at the road ahead, the moon is the subject of the shot too. What a great analogy for career management we thought! Concentrate on the road ahead but look to the moon as well!! The 'Taxi' in the second image is a cool analogy for strategic career planning. You never get into a taxi without an objective. You don't always know the route a taxi will take but it you know it will get you there, and sometimes quicker than you expected too! Hope this helps explain our choices, Saundra & Paul :)]