What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Archive for the ‘coaching’ Category

If you are thinking about graduate school, please read the post at Grad Pit Stop before you do anything else.

Moving forward without writing things down, weighing pro’s and con’s, talking it through with a number of people you respect, and thinking that you will be fine is not a plan.    I say this because I didn’t do these things and it would mean a lot to me if others could learn from my mistakes.

I headed off to graduate school because it seemed like the next logical option without any formal or informal examination of my various broad reaching career options.  I loved studying, reading, writing, and discussing ideas along a broad range of deeply interrelated subject matter.  My faculty, who were great mentors and supporters, thought it would be a great option.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school and looking more seriously ahead at a field replete with ABD-ghosts broken and floating lecturers teaching night and weekend classes, cobbling together a meager income from several different adjunct positions all over the region, that I started to see with greater clarity that the field I thought was so wonderful had a rusty carcass at its core.  The dream of making tenure by 30 was mythic for almost any person, even department stars.

There were quite simply too many implausible odds on writing one of two published books a year and scoring a tenure-track position at even the most remote a college, much less a top-tier university.  Unless I was on a holy mission to prove something or another, it just didn’t seem worth it to continue into the Ph.D. program.

When I started I was on a mission.  But then I discovered that my mission wasn’t built on pure desire to know, it was built and driven principle on a genuine desire to prove myself as “good enough.”    This discovery was piercing.

Like many transformational moments it was deflating, dispiriting, and fraught with despair at the same time it was the foundation of discovering the path to my self.    I totally admit that at the time it was happening, I didn’t see the opportunities as much as I saw the devastation.  It’s only in retrospect that I see how it was all meant to be.

So, I share this with you so that you might be much clearer on your mission, more conscious of actual field realities,  and more fully engaged in guided career exploration.

Sending fabulous energy!

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As you think options through, I really want to underline the importance of writing it down.

Take out blank paper and engage in brainstorming.  If you have questions or stray thoughts or ideas that keep spinning in your mind… it’s important to the process to engage them through or they will just keep floating in your brain interfering with productivity and focus.

So, here are some options:

  1. sometimes when I’m trying to figure out an idea it helps to draw.  I might draw circles that overlap and think about what one thing related to another would make…. sometimes it’s about relationship and sometimes it’s about proportion.    often it is both.
  2. sometimes it helps to make lists.   here are some questions I ask myself and clients:
    • what are as many of my options (even silly or stupid ones) as I can think of?
    • what would someone I like and trust think or say?
    • what are the costs/benefits of each idea I’m considering?
    • what’s another perspective I could choose?
    • how important will this be in 5-10 years?
  3. sometimes it helps to just to start typing or writing around the idea… no one else ever has to see what you write, but just getting the ideas out there and following where them gets you unstuck.

You see, if you only think about things or “I have it ALLLLLLL up here” is your philosophy, think again.  Your brain can’t get traction on ideas and fully process them if all you do is process things internally.

To grow, change, and fully engage in exploring your options, it’s very important that you physically get them outside of yourself, so you can truly visualize, prioritize,  and organize.   Here are some key brainstorming options:

  • talking it over with a supportive friend, mentor, or coach.
  • drawing
  • free-writing
  • blogging
  • list-making
  • using pictures or clippings, collage with them to create a vision board

So, explore your options….using whichever tools work best for you.  If you want more ideas, just ask.

Sending fabulous energy!

Well, check this out in the NY Times.    Keep playing with this powerful demographic tool to see how it breaks down for race, gender, and age.

Take a look at what happens to unemployment rates without a college degree.  Wow!

Even worse off without a high school degree.   Yikes.

If you are wishing this broke out graduate school as well, you aren’t alone.  But in other research graduate school generally increases employability.    Although, as I say that, I am quick to add that over-educated and under-experienced deep in student loan debt without a plan is no where to be either.   Go back to some of my recent posts on graduate school for more context.

One resource that may be helpful in assessing career options is the Occupations Outlook Handbook.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a biennial publication by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. It includes detailed information about the nature of work, working conditions, training and education, earnings, and job outlook for hundreds of different occupations. It is an excellent first stop to learning about a given career – what it entails, entry requirements, job prospects, and earning potential.

And, if you are seriously considering graduate school, start reading The Chronicle.  The Facts and Figures section will provide data on faculty and other administrative salaries, the Advice section will provide context and assistance as you move forward, and of course the Jobs section provides valuable research information for now and later.

Sending fabulous energy!

All of us want to be liked, but most of us feel it’s a bit of a random process of who likes us and who doesn’t.  We worry and obsess about whether or not someone might like us or not, but we often feel that it’s not something we can control.  That’s totally normal and understandable.

So, let me share a secret with you…and this is the honest truth: I was voted class introvert in high school.  Painfully shy and insecure, most days I felt like nobody liked me.   What I discovered over time was that feeling came from not fundamentally liking myself very much.  In that I discovered a bigger secret that can benefit us all.

So, want to know how to make people like you?  It works almost every single time…with all people and all situtations.  And, if it doesn’t, you will know that it wasn’t you.  That you’ve done everything you can do.  It’s a powerful tool and it’s very simple.

There are two ways to make people like you:

  1. Like them first
  2. Be helpful

There it is.  So, whether it’s a social gathering, a job interview, or first date….if you want someone to like you (and that is completely up to YOU) then start by just liking them first.

Find something about them that you can genuinely like. For some people that might be that you like their shoes, for others it may be that you have a shared interest in a cause or field of study, and for still others it may be that you like what they do.   The like has to be genuine for it to work or you will do more damage than good by being fake.

Then, if you want to build on that initial sense of like and create a solid relationship, focus on being helpful.

And, by helpful, I don’t necessarily mean you need to go tromping though someone’s life doing stuff for them.  Often there are things people do because they mean to be helpful, but aren’t because they are intrusive, bossy, or irritating.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  Rather, adopting a spirit of helpfulness or an openness to being asked for help is more on target.

For example, after chatting with someone,  a simple “it was so very nice to talk with you today.  If there is ever any way I can be helpful to you, let me know”  can do wonders in building long term relationships.  It doesn’t matter who the other person is or who you are.   This offer of help resonates with people as deeply likable.   You don’t commit to anything in particular and of course reserve the right to say no if what they ask isn’t something you can do, but you hold out an openness to helping them but don’t assume you know what might be helpful.

All of that communicated very simply, honestly, and directly.  Likably.

So, just try it to see.  Smile at a stranger.  Talk with someone sitting by you at a meeting or in class.   Take a leap of faith and know that you are deeply likable and there is absolutely no reason why someone wouldn’t like you if you like them first and radiate helpfulness.   Life’s so much more fun when you like people. …  Starting with yourself.

From:  Howatt, W. A., (2008).  Leadership vs. management.  Kentville, Nova Scotia: Howatt HR Consulting Inc.

1.      “Create constancy and purpose on an on-going basis so everyone knows why and what they are doing.

2.      Teach all to adapt to change, and work to keep ahead of change, because change needs to happen to ensure quality.

3.      Stop micro managing quality; instead, build quality self-assessment into the process and company culture.

4.      Build on long term relationships vs. going with the lowest priced person.

5.      Commit to daily improvement, with an understanding that this is an on-going process that never ends.

6.      Institute job training and on-going professional development.

7.      Offer leadership development; do not assume promotions make leaders.

8.      Remove all fear from the organization.

9.      Remove and break down any barriers between groups within the company.

10. Eliminate targets from the workforce; they need to be driven by the employees, not management.

11. Eliminate numerical goals for production; instead, work on developing methods for improving production and quality.

12. Eliminate barriers that removed workmanship pride.

13. Institute a program of company-wide self improvement and development.

14. Develop company-wide action plans that involve every employee, with the goal of creating a company-wide transformation to quality.

These are the fourteen critical factors that W. Edwards Deming created (professionally accepted philosopher and process developer) (Howatt, 2008, p.14).”

Or, that’s the saying…but if you are driving a car, do you wait until it’s broke before you grab the steering wheel?

So, what if that is true of our lives as well?  What would that mean?

Does it really have to be broken before we are willing to consider making changes? to grow?  to imagine moving from functional to optimal?

What if, instead, we are like my remote control.  It’s a perfectly good remote control.  It turns the TV on and off.  The volume and channels up and down.  Everything.  It totally is great as a remote control. There is not one thing that’s wrong with it.

But, what if it could find itself when I lose it?   It could maybe make a noise or something?  Wouldn’t that be so cool?

So, what if, YOU could find YOURSELF?  What would that be like?

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium.   In this deeply powerful lecture, he provides a number of great examples of where he ran into a brick wall and yet still made his dream happen.    One of his lessons that he shares is that the “brick walls are for the OTHER people.  The people who don’t want it as bad as you.”

In a similar vein, what if the brick walls aren’t really brick walls?   What if you could regard them as walls on swimming pool?   As a swimmer you can of course choose to be stopped by the wall and continue ramming your head into the wall…each time cursing at the wall and saying “WHY ME! why, oh, why does this brick wall ALWAYS get in my way!”

Or, you might choose like many swimmers to regard the wall as something to turn and kick off of, gaining more momentum and speed as you turn using it as a spring board, not a stopping point.

So, what if you asked yourself, what are you currently regarding as a brick wall?  What are you allowing to get in your way?

  • What else could you do?  What is another way to see the situation?
  • Who else might you speak with to get another perspective?
  • What about your approach or energy might you choose to change to better facilitate a solution?

So, truly, what if not only are the brick walls for the OTHER people, but also that the walls might actually be spring boards so long as you are focused and on a mission?

What might that mean for you?