The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

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Archive for the ‘Authentic Job Search’ Category

Reflecting on Contemplative Learning

Posted by Karen on June 5, 2009

What’s the difference between contemplation and reflection?

I had an interesting insight from someone who is doing work in diversity and religious studies who uses a “contemplative” model. She discussed how this was different from (though complimentary to) the reflective model. I was curious so I asked the difference.

The Reflective learning model – is all about observation, the ability to conciously analyze what we feel, see, observe.

The Contemplative learning model – is about more than analysis; it is about creating space around the questions so that something new and fresh can emerge. It’s not from an intellectual place, but from somewhere else inside ourselves.

I love that other disciplines are trying to define the same essence I’ve been trying to understand for the last few years of my career. We must be headed for a global breakthrough in the subject. It’s no accident that the “new” step I added to the updated version “The Job of Your Life” is Spaciousness.

Without space, the analysis can paralyze the observer. Without space, we are locked up in thought. Without space, there is no actual “newness”.

Posted in Authentic Job Search, Career Exploration | 3 Comments »

On Being Sick

Posted by Karen on April 8, 2009

A short muse…having returned from the depths of yucky cold/flu/sinus infection sickness.

What amazes me is how much I don’t care about anything when I’m really sick.

Nothing. Don’t care about the bills, don’t care about dinner, don’t care about the blog, don’t care about anything but the book I’m reading, the bed I’m sleeping in and getting rid of the damn thing. The world goes flat and there’s no animation or stimulation in it.

And then – the moment I start to really feel better – not just thinking I feel better but actually feel better – suddenly I am blogging and twittering and figuring out how to twitter on my blog (far left, scroll down…see? there i am twittering away…figured out how to do it without sounding like a pompous windbag or a total narcissist – it was a challenge and you can tell me if I’ve met it!).

Suddenly I have energy and with it creativity, positivity, vitality and enthusiasm for life.

So where does it all go when I’m sick?

I think the answer to that question to keep scientists and philosophers locked in theoretical fist fights for hours, so I won’t attempt it beyond the common sense answer of “when the body is fighting an invader it has no time for anything else”. However, it’s good to remember that our creativity and enthusiasm sits a continuum, and whether we like it or not, there are ups and downs beyond our control.

It is impossible to find enthusiasm and creativity for growing ourselves when we are experiencing sickness, pain, grief, loss, emotional upheaval, depression, anxiety and other pressing demands. Strangely though, we’ll be in the midst of something huge and still expect ourselves to come through with an innovative idea or the energy to make a meeting with a stranger for networking purposes. It’s not rational, but over and over again in my coaching, I’ll encounter people who say “I should be doing this, thinking that” when other areas of their life are out-of-control wildfires. Even if the fires are coming under control, fighting fires (i.e. moving house, grieving the end of a friendship, dealing with someone bullying your child, studying for exams, renovating, having house guests, having a baby, funerals, money worries, the flu, a broken wrist…life’s list goes on) take energy.

There are periods of intensity where breakthroughs in your self-development and career exploration will come thick and fast and times that work recedes for other important things to take its place. Trust that in these time of receding that your subconscious is doing good work and will return you, full-force, with lots of new ideas and innovative breakthroughs when the next space comes.

After all…I wasn’t thinking about Twitter AT ALL for the past couple of sick weeks. But the first thing out of the gate once I’m on antibiotics?

A tweet.

Thanks subconscious…I think…

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Above Average Persistance > Anything Else

Posted by Karen on March 17, 2009

Had an always enlightening and informative meeting with my friend Bruce Sellery today (click on the link for a fabulously cute photograph amongst other helpful stuff).

In the course of our meeting (mainly focused on learning some business-industry related information) he said one of the biggest predictors of success in getting into the television industry (and he should know) is persistence. Basically, someone with average everything – experience, intelligence, creativity etc – who has above average persistence will most likely get a job in television.

And I think that’s true for any career path.

The people who get what they want persist.

And they persist in a number of ways:

1) They persist in knocking on doors. People who succeed knock on more doors, or return to old (slammed shut doors) asking new questions or providing new information and being generally cheery about it all. Once I told a woman she didn’t have enough experience to work with me as a career coach. She said “What do you need to see from me to hire me?” Great question. And leaves the door open for her when she obtains some of the experience I outlined.

2) They persist in looking for other ways to do the thing they love. Okay, so maybe being on air in television isn’t going well. What about writing for television. What about story producing (what you learn behind the scenes is many times it’s the producers that come up wit h the interesting stories…the on air person is just a talking head who doesn’t have much interaction or command of the story direction beyond their 5 minutes on air). Sometimes producers jump to on air. Sometimes on air people become their own producers. There can be more than one way to the goal.

3) They persist in learning more about themselves and how they are perceived. They persist in getting feedback – authentic, truthful feedback. They listen to that feedback as a way to learn more about how to get what they want, not as a judgement on whether or not they can.

4) They persist because they know IT TAKES TIME to get what you really, really want. Longer than you think. And by persisting with that in mind, they see the longer term picture. Beyond this week, next month or even next year.

The people I see in my office who have the best shot of having a great career are motivated to continue, to keep looking for new doors to open, to keep having conversations, to circle back around if those conversations don’t come to anything, to get support, to ask more questions, to keep the focus strong.

What gets in the way of you persisting?

What has been your experience when you have persisted at something you wanted?

How could you re-charge your persistence levels?

Posted in Authentic Job Search, Career Exploration | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Computer Mayhem

Posted by Karen on March 13, 2009

It’s been a quiet week.

I had a computer meltdown on Saturday. Normally a computer meltdown means that the computer itself is melting down and technical repair is the only solution.

This time I was the one having the meltdown.

I’ve had a desktop computer since 2004 (2004! Where did the time go!?) that has run slower and slower and slower, until turning it on is an exercise in Zen-like meditation and patience as it loads slower than a glacier moving across the continents during the last Ice Age (which, if I’m not mistaken, was in 2004). I could turn the computer on, tidy the living room, make a snack and a cup of tea, run upstairs for something and knit a pair of mittens and when I returned to the computer it would still be whirring away as it – what? what was it doing??? Other than driving me insane?

Last year I bought a laptop, but I never got around to transferring all the data and setting up the laptop as the “main” computer. Why? That’s what I actually had to investigate during my meltdown, as I wasted nearly an hour trying to get a few emails and files from one computer (glacially slow) to the other (lean and speedy but content-free). I knew the steps I needed to take (burn backup disks, transfer data, secure wireless, set up Outlook etc. etc.). I knew what had to happen. I knew pretty much how to do it. I knew that it would be a time-saver to get it done. I knew my husband would be ecstatic to regain the dining room table. But I wouldn’t get around to doing it.

Why not? Why couldn’t I just do something that was so crucial to efficiency and ease?

After the meltdown (I didn’t actually throw anything or hit the computer, but I did stomp around and yell at it a little bit…imagine sort of cartoon-y language like “ARRRGGGGGHHH” and you’ve got about the right picture) I reflected on what was going on. I’ve only once managed to transfer my data successfully from one computer to another, and that was when someone helped me. Most times my computer crashes for good and I lose everything on it. I do this even though I have fair warning that it might crash any moment. There is something sticky for me about changing computers. I’m afraid I’m going to do something wrong I think and be responsible for losing something forever (rather than just having it happen and it not being my fault).

I also think that there’s something emotional/psychological at play…do I want to look at all of that data? Do I want to keep it? Do I have the time to edit it? How do I feel about it? Do I want to bring it with me? My logical mind tries to shuffle this inner agony aside. What does it matter? Just move and then decide. But there’s a part of me that gets involved when I look at all that information.

It’s actually a very similar feeling to me about tidying up papers (an issue my mother also suffers from…we both could drown in scads of “interesting articles and useful resources” that we pile up around ourselves in our work spaces). I just didn’t realize it was playing out in the computer environment as well.

The light bulb went off. I needed help!

I called the computer store that sold me the laptop and walked through what I needed. He said they could do it all in under two hours. Under two hours! I was imagining it as a full day’s work (and certainly would have taken me at least a day or more). All I had to do was make a list of what I wanted them to do.

That was a great assignment (and easier to do as an assignment than trying to do it on my own). Sitting down to figure out what I wanted transferred without having to be responsible for transferring it gave me the freedom to really examine what was on the computer. I felt in control of the process again, instead of dominated by it. It was hard to unplug the desktop – still having “change” panic – but once I took both computers in with my list…I felt so light all week.

No really. All those books and studies about what makes people happy was translated to: I’m happy because I took my computer to a computer store. Literally beaming with joy over a computer data transfer. Proving once again it doesn’t take much to be happy in life, just recognizing your true needs.

(Apparently husband’s “true need” was to have another room to re-design. His current joy is mentally re-arranging the dining room…I don’t know if I’d call it “lightness” so much as “thank god we can finally move all this ugly office crap cluttering what used to be the dining room out of here”)

Now the laptop is back in my possession. I have backup disks of everything, so even if this one crashes unexpectedly, I haven’t lost data. I even got the web-cam I’ve had for 2 years installed (what was so hard about that?). Of course I still have to find a password to get the email to work, but now I’m just dealing with one issue not seven.

So what’s the learning?

This process definitely reminds me of several key things about human nature:

1) We tend to resist change, even when we know it will be good for us.

2) Often there’s an emotional component to what seems like purely logical tasks. If you don’t acknowledge the emotional part, you get stuck.

3) It’s good to get help, even if you know that theoretically you can do it on your own. If the actions remain “theoretical”, it probably means that #1 and/or #2 are at play so bringing in someone else is a good idea. Or merely much more efficient.

Career explorations and job searches have lots of “logical steps” that can quickly become quicksand if the emotional components aren’t acknowledged. You can start calling yourself “lazy” or “cowardly” or all kinds of mean names, because you aren’t doing something you know you should do. Instead, review what might be happening for you just below the surface of the task and see if that opens up new ways of thinking about your “to do list”.

There is logic. Then there are emotions. You can’t get rid of those emotions, no matter how logical you want to get with them.

The only way around is through. Acknowledge the emotions and you will get unstuck.

Posted in Authentic Job Search, Career Exploration | 1 Comment »

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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