The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Archive for January, 2009

Frozen like a boat in the Beaufort Sea in February

Posted by Karen on January 31, 2009

Got this email yesterday from a witty and side-career-coach friend of mine:

I’d love to hear what you’d say about staying in action when you don’t want to. I have a client right now who has a job he really likes in Toronto. But his partner has relocated to the US and they have sold their house. He’s terrified of the rejection of the job search, especially in this economy, plus the complexity of visa issues, and is frozen like a boat in the Beafort Sea in February”

Another former client emailed me today about a resume I thought she’d done long ago. She’d been sitting in front of a blank computer screen on and off for months and now feels like she’s hanging by her fingernails when she thinks of having to get this puppy done for an upcoming meeting . Frozen, as my witty friend might say, like that damn boat (and what WAS that boat doing on the Beaufort Sea in February anyway…?)

It’s a great question…how do you stay in action (that is do all the things you know you’re supposed to do around a job search like write your resume, get the resume you’ve promptly written out there and make connections and phone calls to recruiters and government agencies that handle Visas etc. etc.) when all you really want to do is crawl under the sofa and distract yourself by looking for spare change?

When you’re frozen solid…you’re not doing something (or many things) you know you are supposed to be doing, you need to step back, take a breath and look deeper.

There is something else – some part of you – that needs to be heard, acknowledged and accepted – before you can move into action. If you ignore it, you will find yourself inexplicably digging your heels in and going nowhere. Let’s take our man in Toronto. Life has just been turned upside down for him. He had a job he liked and a world that was known…and in the blink of an eye he’s going to have to tackle moving, moving to a new country (and all the rubber stamping paperwork that entails) AND moving to a new country that despite being Obamained is in far rougher shape than Canada. On the other hand, one surmises he’s not only leaving a job he likes, but also people he likes, a house he liked enough to buy and a whole life he put time and effort into creating. 

You don’t just let go of all that without a little emotional blowback. 

Even if moving with his partner was always in the cards, his partner is the one with things sorted out at the other end. He or she can be excited about the prospect of a “new adventure”. Our guy is just left wondering where his day-to-day reality just went. He is the one truly stepping into the Unknown. And until that is appreciated and acknowledged on a deep level, there is some part of him that is resisting the “To Do List” of moving south.

Plus, it doesn’t do for him to be expressing any feeling of doubt or sadness. We want to be supportive and positive. We want to be perceived as brave and adventurous. We think that having made the decision we don’t get to have any further feelings of loss or grief or doubt. So amplifying his fear is the need to put on a happy face and suck it up. His frozen behavior tells you how well that’s working.

When someone is frozen from taking the next step, it can be about the overwhelm of a job search. Paring down the To Do List and starting small is a good place to begin coaching.

What I suspect in this particular case however, is that he needs space to have all his feelings and emotions about this change acknowledged and validated. He needs a safe space to wonder if this is the right thing, without being called on it later. He needs to slow everything down (even though the decision has already been made) and be given permission for his emotions about the move to catch up with the logistics.

I would also suggest that if possible he delays his job search and becomes the point person for the move. It would be easier to search once in the new city anyway, and if they can afford to give him a couple of adjustment months, it might be really nice to have someone who can be home to great the cable guy and figure out where the best grocery store is.

As for my resume gal, the same theory of stepping back applies.

Resumes are notoriously full of emotion. My god it’s a piece of paper that is meant to literally summarize your life’s accomplishments. If you don’t feel deeply related to those accomplishments, or you fear getting present to choices you’ve made in life, or you are afraid if you don’t get the document right people will judge you and it will block you from your future…well, no wonder many people flip over to Facebook instead. Resistance really isn’t futile, in the sense that you can’t make yourself do something you really, really don’t want to. Start listening to the “I don’t wanna!!!” and you may find it gets you somewhere new.

Take the time to acknowledge the part of you that is resisting. Rather than push it or berate it, listen to it. It has something really important to say and it needs to be heard. Listen to it doesn’t mean you have to do what it wants. You just need to let it be heard, so you can integrate it into the whole and move forward from there.

What I find is, if someone is digging in their heels even if their stated intention is to move forward, compassion and loving attention with no agenda for forward movement often softens and breaks away the ice better than any Coast Guard ship.


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Aiming for Perfection in your Career Exploration

Posted by Karen on January 25, 2009

Kelly asked if I could comment on perfectionism and how it relates to careers. In my work, I’ve seen how perfectionism can deeply impact not only the outcome of a career exploration, but also the quality and enjoyment of the process.

Let’s define perfectionism first.

For the purposes of this blog and this topic, we’ll talk about perfectionism in a couple of ways. First of all, it’s an internal measuring bar. We all hold ourselves to a set of standards, whether we are consciously aware of what those standards are or not.  Some people have much higher personal standards than others. Those standards can be so high in fact that they are nearly impossible to attain, but you will still feel like that’s the level of achievement needed to be reached for the action to be a success.

That’s a lot of words…I feel like I could write forever to try and attain the perfect definition (see…right there). Luckily my son demonstrated it for me this afternoon.

At three years old he likes hiding under things.

Today we made a “tent” with a blanket over his small table. Well, not content to play under there, he got whiny and demanding, asking us over and over to help re-set the blanket. He kept asking us to “make it dark”. Mark and I got frustrated; nothing we did made it dark enough. Meanwhile, instead of enjoying his little tent, he was upset it didn’t meet some idea he had about how the tent should be. He didn’t enjoy himself, he upset everyone around him and all the fun went out of the game.

Sound familiar?

You know you are bringing perfectionism into your career exploration if you’re sucking all the life and fun out of the process by demanding it to look a certain way. Lots of us do this…I promise you that you’re not alone. We have some unattainable idea of how fast it should go, what progress should look like, what exactly we should be focusing on and how we will “know” the right answer. And in the end we just end up like whiny three year olds who cry a lot and topple over the whole table because we’re so frustrated we can’t make it happen the way we think it should go. That’s when it gets easy to think we’re stuck or  stupid or lost.

None of those are true. We just hit an inner road block when our expectations came up against the true nature of the (mostly creative, mostly non-linear) career exploration process.

So that’s what perfection in career exploration looks/feels like. Next we can discuss ways to break through this state. One of the first ways is by becoming conscious of what you expect from yourself in the process.

How does the need for perfection impact your career exploration? What high standards have you set for yourself?

In the meantime, stop trying to make it so dark!

Posted in Career Exploration | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

The Job of Your Life…and Mine

Posted by Karen on January 19, 2009

the-job-of-your-life-cover_jpgHello there fellow explorers.

Welcome to The Job of Your Life blog.

Here’s how I’m envisioning what goes here: this is my place to capture things I’m thinking about around work, career exploration, job search and the emotional blocks to getting what we want.

I will also be tracking the release of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Job of Your Life and be able to interact with those of you, around the world, who keep finding and loving this dear book of mine. I love it too and I’m so glad that it is available again to share with you…(now available with more Job-of-your-lifeness!).

I’m also loving the new cover, designed by Craig Francis of Craig Francis Design.

Okay…that’s the set up…stay tuned for more insightful and entertaining posts. And please feel free to comment or get in touch with your thoughts.


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