Gritty City Repertory Youth Theatre

As I hope many of you already know from the Bell Youth-in-the-Arts Grant page in the Community section of our website, http://www.bellinvest.com, the 2013 Bell Youth- in-the-Arts Grant was awarded to Oakland’s own Gritty City Repertory Youth Theatre. Gritty City Rep was selected from a group of 35 other impressive applicant organizations, all of which have emerged in recent years to augment the dwindling arts programs available in the Oakland public schools. To learn more about GCR and the other nine finalists, please see http://www.bellinvest.com/about/bell-youth-arts-grant.

It is always painful to select one winner among so many worthy competitors, but in the end, the pain is offset by the joy of notifying the winner!  It is part of my role in the selection process to notify the top ten finalists of their standing and benefits and then the winner, in this case the Executive Director of Gritty City Youth Repertory Theatre, Lindsay Krumbein. She was thrilled, of course, to be recognized and encouraged by this honor on behalf of and along with the many students whose lives are being transformed by their participation in this innovative urban theatre experience.  She couldn’t wait to tell them at their very next rehearsal!

Next came the day for the actual delivery of the $5,000 check — an exciting and gratifying experience for all of us. It took place on a cold, rainy day in February at 1540 Broadway in Oakland where the brand new community theatre, Flight Deck, was already well under construction. Gritty City Rep has been selected by Flight Deck’s managing group, Ragged Wing Ensemble, to be one of a small number of resident companies, which means GCR will finally have a permanent home in which to house its administrative offices and to gather, rehearse, and perform.

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In its earliest days, when Gritty City was just an idea, the “offices” were pretty much boxes, papers, a computer and phone at Lindsay Krumbein’s home. For the past few years, however, there have been several different places that have served as temporary homes. An irony exists here somewhere, as “Flight” Deck becomes the place where Gritty City finally “lands.” Our grant will help make this dream come true and will assist the group in mounting its first production there, Sharman Macdonald’s After Juliet, opening May 29 and running through June 7.

As you approach the theatre, you will realize that construction is also going on right next door, where a brand new “farm to table” restaurant, Township, is emerging. Both street fronts share the same orange slanted awning on the outside, which bodes well for both endeavors. When you attend one, you will connect with the other, a sort of “twofer” smack dab in the midst of our renaissance city of Oakland. IMG_5058

While the theatre appears relatively small at first glance, once inside, the innovative space opens up in unique and surprising ways, including movable risers to provide seating. The space can be arranged in a variety of ways, from proscenium, to thrust, to theatre-in-the-round, depending on the particular needs of each production.  I could also easily imagine the space being used for a variety of community events, e.g., concerts, public school gatherings, and Oakland Chamber of Commerce meetings.

If you happen to poke your head in the door anytime soon, you will no doubt observe a variety of worker bees wielding hammers, pushing brooms, drilling holes, wiring wires, finishing up — all being done by a broad mix of professionals and volunteers, all happily at work completely transforming this former eyesore of a building (a warehouse uninhabited for over 30 years!) into something entirely new that hundreds of people will enjoy beginning in May.

On May 29, opening night of Gritty City’s first production at Flight Deck, Jim and I will be there along with many clients, colleagues and friends. Please join us! …and be sure to approach us to let us know you are there as well.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
2014 Bell Youth-in-the-Arts Grant applications are now available!
Oakland organizations can apply for the 2014 Bell Youth-in-the-Arts Grant by downloading the Grant Application and Guidelines below:

Download 2014 Grant Application
Download 2014 Grant Guidelines

Application Deadline: 09/19/14

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Hitting the Bulls-eye!

Just last week, one of my clients, Pamela – a writer/editor in her mid-twenties — hit the bulls-eye, – the very job toward which she had been aiming for the last three years, without realizing it. What she was experiencing was a lot of career pain, the symptoms of which included the dreads (dreading going to work every day); the drabs (boredom, verging on depression); and the dregs (obsessive-compulsive negative thinking and talking about the job).

If you have any or all of these symptoms relating to your job or career, take two Advil (my personal favorite) and call your career coach! It might be time for the Big Dig! A career coach just might be able to help you dig yourself out of the hole you are in and into the light and air that awaits you just above ground. As long as you’re down there struggling, you can’t see anything else.

You may not believe me now, but it doesn’t take all that much time to get a handle on what lies beyond the limited world you can see from that dark place. For Pamela, it took about six career coaching sessions over a period of two months to move from “I am stuck forever in this job because the economy is so bad and I’ll never get another job in my field,” to “I know who I am, I know what I want, and I am determined to keep looking until I find it.”

This transformed, powerful (as opposed to weak) attitude is predicated on finally knowing what you want and what you are looking for – the bulls-eye. You can’t find the needle in the haystack unless you know what it looks like. It requires that you sit with the not-knowing for a while until you develop a solid list of criteria for your next step. This list often emerges right out of the pain you are in. The pain is a sign of what you want but don’t have. The pain often points to its opposite, which actually points you in the direction of what you want next.

Example 1: You have no autonomy. This points to the fact that you want more autonomy. Check. Example 2: You have no say in how things are run. This points to the fact that you want more authority. Check. Example 3: You don’t respect your boss or your company. This points to the fact that you want to work for a company and boss you can respect. Check.

I just took a moment to look at Pamela’s list of criteria for the next step and counted 15. Here are a few examples of the general and the specific types of things that show up on a typical, well-thought-through list: 1) the position includes leadership, written and verbal communication, and some form of teaching or presenting; 2) the organization is either a non-profit with a cause that I resonate with, or a company with a mission and purpose I can respect; 3) there is the possibility of flexible scheduling and working from home. There were 12 more criteria on her list.

Usually people have a pretty clear sense of their criteria for the next step when they stop to think about it. Examples of these are: appropriate job title, size of company or organization (smallish, mid-sized, global, etc.), general vicinity and commute time, salary requirement, et al. These criteria constitute the general target for your fabulous cover letter and resume. Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want, only for jobs you want and that meet your general target requirements. If your resume is actually a fit for the job description, and you know you are a good candidate, it is likely you will be called for an interview. If you don’t get that call, move on. It’s not the bulls-eye, or you would have gotten the chance for an interview. The point of the cover letter and resume is to get the interview, so you can get your body there and assess the situation. You will have criteria you are looking for, just as the interviewer(s) will have. If there is a match, you will know it. If there isn’t, move on. Don’t take everything so personally! Each opportunity will give you a clearer sense of what you really want. Our mutual intent is for you to hit the bulls-eye, just as Pamela did. Her new job – the one she is thrilled about – has all 15 of her criteria, plus many great things she didn’t even think to mention. The bulls-eye job is usually better than you imagined it would be.

And lest you think it was just Pamela who hit the bulls-eye last week because she is 25 (and you are 50), another client, Daniel, a 48-year-old marketing creative on the East Coast, hit his bulls-eye as well. He’ll be assuming a VP role in a company that is expanding internationally – yes, one of his most important criteria.

One of the things Pamela said when she got the job offer was that she felt almost guilty because she knows people who have been job-hunting for two years. My response was, Do they know who they are? Do they know what they want? Do they have their criteria written down? Do they have a great resume that clearly matches the job descriptions to which they respond?, and

Do they have a career coach?

 

Posted in Career, Happiness, Resume, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Follow Your Passion
(when you don’t know what it is)

Most people have heard by now about how important it is for them to find their passion, work with passion, and live with passion.

The problem is that many people honestly don’t know what their passions are, much less how to find them or turn them into paid work. Others just don’t relate to the concept or word – it’s too intense, over-the-top, or somehow inconsistent with the rest of who they are. (Visions of Van Gogh cutting off his ear for love or killing himself for his art come to mind…)

Several years ago, I worked as a career/life coach with a young woman we’ll call Tam. Tam was bright, attractive, well-educated, and soft-spoken. She was very disappointed and dissatisfied with her career in accounting. She had pleased her parents with this choice but had made herself miserable. She definitely wanted a different career path, but she had no idea what it would be.

She was not a passionate kind of person, she said. She had no passions, in fact, so how could she possibly find her way to a career she would be passionate about?

When I asked her to tell me what the word “passionate” meant to her, she quickly responded that if you were passionate about a cause, a talent, or a person, you would be willing to die for them. She was quite sure there was nothing inside or outside herself that she felt that way about; therefore, in her mind, she was defective. She had no passions.

I suggested that we consciously put on hold the whole question of passion and career change while we took some time to follow the breadcrumbs – the more subtle clues that might point the way to a different and more satisfying direction.

To do this, we had to come up with language with which she was comfortable. Instead of exploring Loves, Hates, Deep Desires and Primary Values – all impassioned words and descriptions – we considered Likes, Dislikes, Attractions and Enjoyment. This worked; she could relate.

She became more comfortable and engaged in the process. She started perking up.

Next we worked on the Inventory of Personal and Professional Assets. These include your gifts, talents, education, training, experience, skills, accomplishments and personality traits. They invariably add up to something more valuable than the sum of the parts.

Once people can actually observe and acknowledge their accomplishments in print, they begin to get a grounded sense of who they are and what they want to spend their time doing. Then they can develop a grounded sense of the value they might bring to the marketplace. Clarity begins to emerge, and clarity is power!

What began to make a lot of sense to Tam as we side-stepped the concept of passion and took a serious look at what the breadcrumbs were telling us, was – hold on to your hats! – becoming a physical therapist. What?

It’s not just that the idea of a career in the medical field was subtle; it’s that it wasn’t even part of the conversation at all. It sort of jumped out one day in the midst of our inquiry as an “Oh, and by the way, I just remembered something that might be important. The thing I love to do more than anything is read about health, exercise, and nutrition. I know quite a bit about it. My friends call me Dr. Tam and are always asking for my advice. I am all about health and fitness.”

Suddenly everything came to a halt, and nothing was left but a pulsing silence. We stared at each other. We were thinking the same thing at the same time: woops, did we just stumble into a passion? We both burst out laughing. There was the answer, and the answer was pure delight.

Would she cut off an ear for it? Would she die for it? Probably not. But did she apply herself to it fully? Yes. Did she bring her gifts, talents, intelligence, education and accomplishments, interest and skills to it? Yes. Does she enjoy what she is doing every day? Yes. Is she making a good living and having a good life? Yes.

Are you paying as much attention to the value of your own personal and professional assets — to the passions in your life — as you are to your financial assets? They might be worth something, and you have much to gain by exploring them with a career/life coach.

This blog post was originally published by Bonnie Bell in December 2011.

Posted in Career, Happiness, New Year | Leave a comment

While the World is Focused on Outer Celebrations, Go Within

As soon as December 26 arrives with a thunk, the world shifts its focus to the New Year. By December 31, of course, all eyes are on the clock to hone in on the final countdown to the minutes and the last ten seconds – one by one – before pandemonium sets in celebrating the arrival of the New Year. Year in, year out, this is ritual, even if you are, in fact, home alone on the couch.

But what does this, or any other entrenched ritual mean, for that matter? A church liturgy, a bar mitzvah, a graduation: what do they really mean, if anything? Any ritual, if performed with a knee jerk, can be utterly meaningless; it can be meaning-FULL, too, depending on the consciousness, intention, and value you or I bring to it.

For me, December – when the outer world is at its darkest and coldest – is the perfect time of year to “reflect and capture” meaning. It seems to happen automatically, right in the midst of things, whether I am Christmas shopping or going to parties or attending concerts or wrapping gifts or sitting in front of the fire, there I am reflecting on the year, on the continuum of my life, the swift passage of time, the stages of life, all of which have me thinking about the big stuff:  Life, Death, Meaning, Purpose.

At some point, usually very close to January 1, I actually sit down and apply the four momentum-based questions that underlie Bell Investment Advisors’ approach to investment management, financial planning, and career and life coaching. They are very simple and pragmatic in contrast to the vast, looming, largely unanswerable questions that life keeps asking within us. They are:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What’s missing? and,
  4. What’s next?

These are the kinds of questions that, when applied to your experience in the year just passing, tend to yield clear, meaningful answers upon which to build positive momentum in the next. The concept, in general, is that you can wise-up if you build on what’s already working, get rid of what’s not working,  add what is missing, and develop a plan of action that incorporates your up-to-date “research.”

When the clock strikes midnight this year, on a much deeper level than ever, you can acknowledge what worked in 2013, say good-bye to whatever didn’t, welcome whatever good things you are adding to your life, and move forward into the new year with commitment and determination to make these things happen. That is something to genuinely, consciously celebrate!

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Why Do You Do What You Do?

This is a very different question than the most often asked question in day-to-day life, whether in a social setting or the marketplace: What do you do? The latter is a fair question and a reliable conversation starter, one that people are used to answering in a cursory fashion, unless they happen to be unemployed or hate their work, in which case they usually dread the question and answer it awkwardly in one way or another. People who actually love their work tend to answer the question in a noticeably different and interesting way.

Why do you do what you do? is an important question in career coaching and life coaching. I’m not suggesting that you go around asking other people why they do what they do. They would probably think you were challenging them or implying something negative and become defensive. What I am suggesting, though, is that you ask this question of yourself, and see where it takes you. Be gentle, curious, open-minded, and compassionate toward yourself. You could find out some very interesting things. Maybe you are more committed to your work than you thought; maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the meaning you could derive from your work; maybe your mindlessness can be transformed into mindfulness. Work that is performed in an unconscious manner becomes a meaningless paycheck.

A friend recently attended a non-profit board retreat and was asked a similar question regarding his board participation: Why did you decide to volunteer for this? Participants were asked to reflect for a few minutes before writing down their thoughts and before answering the question aloud. (I refer to this as “reflect and capture”.) The answers when shared aloud to the whole group were surprisingly moving and inspirational. As each person shared their story, the group sensed a deeper sense of purpose in their shared commitment. By stopping to reflect and capture their thinking about meaning and purpose, mindlessness was transformed into mindfulness, and all things became new. That would be the point of a retreat, I imagine.

In my work, by the end of our series of career/life coaching sessions, I want all of my clients to know why they are doing what they are doing and be able to explain it effectively to other people, whether a husband, a wife, a partner, a relative, a friend, or a potential employer. We don’t just jump in and write a different story. What we want, and what is most powerful, is the authentic story, the authentic narrative, which begins to emerge all by itself as we dive in and do the work of reflecting and capturing your thinking on several Big Questions you might not be asking yourself.

I know you have the answers within you. I just help you to hear them and follow them into the future you want. This is what career coaching and life coaching are all about.

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Cleaning House: You Never Know What Might Turn the Tide

For those of you who wonder if I offer career coaching services over the phone or Skype with people in cities outside the Bay Area, the answer is yes. At the moment, I have clients in New York, LA, Boston, and one in Europe. I won’t specify the country, because in addition to receiving permission from clients before using their stories, I also disguise their identities as best I can.

Pat and I have been having regular Skyping sessions—not to be confused with, but sometimes similar to, “griping sessions”—for about a year. We have not had a session for the past few months, during which time she has been doing her assigned “homework,” which was to begin executing the business plan we developed, designed to expand her home-based writing/editing/tutoring/and translation business . . . so she could finally hire a housecleaner!

In our very first career coaching session, Pat revealed that she was miserable. She felt like she was drowning under the weight of infinite responsibilities, including all that is involved with raising two primary-school boys, coping with her husband’s busy professional calendar, and juggling her own home-based business that felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. She was disappointed to tears that she could not find professional work in her chosen field (international public health) in which she had earned a Ph.D.; instead, here she was using her writing/editing/tutoring/translation skills that she never even went to college for in the first place! Her house was a mess, and she just didn’t feel she could justify hiring a housecleaner because she wasn’t bringing in enough money. She was quite sure that she was the most disorganized procrastinator in the world; even though she felt like she was working all the time, she felt she wasn’t making a difference in the world or even in her family’s life. She was definitely at a “guess I’ll go eat worms” point in her life. On top of it all, she was positive her husband would never agree to her hiring a housecleaner in light of their tight financial circumstances.

As homework, Pat eventually had a heart-to-heart conversation with her husband about all this, and was stunned to learn that he thought it was a good idea for her to hire a housecleaner. He had no idea she felt she was drowning. In retrospect, she says, it was that particular turn of events that seemed to turn the tide in her favor on many unexpected levels, not the least of which was a feeling that through this difficult conversation with her husband, she began to feel as if they were a team handling mutual responsibilities, rather than in an up-down relationship. They became more specific about who was responsible for what, and more and more “give-and-take” began to happen.

With more time available, Pat finally updated her resume—something she had been putting off forever—to include the breadth of her international experience as well as finally articulating all of the high-level teaching and translation services she had been able to provide to parents, teachers, schools and businesses as a result of her fluency in both their European language and in her own native English. So far, she had sort of “lucked into” business but had never promoted herself with any enthusiasm. “Marketing” seemed foreign and intimidating until we embarked on my career coaching crash course, which goes something like this:

Think of the original marketplace. Farmer Joe brought his eggs, Farmer Dan brought his produce, and Becky Sue, Dan’s wife, brought her freshly-baked bread. There were many others, all showing up in the same place at the same time to let people know who they were and what they had to offer for sale or trade. They each began to build an identity, good or bad, and to develop a reputation, good or bad. They spontaneously “Yelped” with one another. Some of them did so well that the gossip about them was very good; they succeeded. Some of them provided bad products or they proved themselves to be untrustworthy, and they eventually didn’t show up anymore. If you are going to build a business, I say in Crash Marketing 101, you have to let people know your name, where they can contact you, what services you provide, what experience you have, and how much you charge. Then you have to do what you said you were going to do and earn satisfied customers who will tell other people about you.

Not surprisingly for a Ph.D. in international public health, Pat got the hang of marketing, and word spread. Turns out she had lots of satisfied customers already who told lots of other people about her, once she asked them to. She started proudly handing out cards with her name and contact information on them every chance she had. She even added her Ph.D. to the card in order to create interesting conversations and let people know more about her background, so she wouldn’t feel at all bad about her foreground. She also did some proactive things like contacting schools, teachers, and businesses in the town to let them know how she might be able to help them. Almost like magic, it seemed, her business began to grow.

While busier than ever before, she reports that she is more organized than ever before, and finds she does not have time to procrastinate, so she doesn’t. With the help of the housecleaner, the house is mostly in order, and she doesn’t live in fear that someone will drop by unexpectedly to discover chaos.

The most exciting thing of all is that she has begun meeting with officials of an international nonprofit health organization located close to her town letting them know of her interest, experience and background in the kinds of issues they deal with all of the time. They want to meet her and discuss whatever possibilities might exist for her there. She also made herself known to the personnel department of the closest University, and has already contracted with a professor to do a large translation project for him. She LOVES doing this and hopes to parlay that experience into more of the same. It turns out that a little coaching helped her career in a big way.

The headline to Pat’s recent email read: “Business is Booming.” My translation: “Pat is Blooming!”

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Cal Performances’ Berkeley/Oakland AileyCamp:
Winners of the First Bell Youth-in-the Arts $5,000 Grant

Part of making a good life happen for me, is bringing plenty of music, dance, and other live performances into my life – plays, dance, the Oakland East Bay Symphony, jazz, occasional opera, stand-up comedy and more.

I love the excitement that fills a venue – and my own insides – when everyone quiets down, the lights dim, and it’s curtain time. I always know I’m about to enjoy something, but I never know when I will be taken by surprise and completely blown away by the thing I am about to see. Once in a while it happens, and sudden tears fill my eyes, because I know I am seeing something I will never forget! When that happens, I think about how grateful I am that I didn’t miss it. I think about all the forces that must have been at work to get me there on just the right day and just the right time! I could have been otherwise committed, been too tired, or forgotten.

On Thursday, August 1, in Zellerbach Playhouse on the U.C. Berkeley campus, the stars aligned, and I had one of those rare experiences while attending the final performance of the graduates of Cal Performances’ Berkeley/Oakland AileyCamp 2013 (underserved youth ages 11-14), winners of the 2012 Bell Youth-in-the-Arts Grant.

To learn more about AileyCamp, visit their website here.

To find out how to apply for the 2013 Bell Youth-in-Arts Grant, please see the below video and visit the community page of our website. Applications are due by September 13!

Posted in Community, Giving Back | Leave a comment

Sometimes Nothing Changes and Everything Changes. . .

Just this morning, I had one of the best client sessions of my 25-year career! That’s quite a claim to make, when you stop to think about it, so I’ll try to explain it as best I can.

Emily (no, not her real name) placed her first call to me from her car almost two years ago, which was parked for the moment along the side of the road, a couple of miles from the job she hated. She was on her lunch hour. It was a cold, bleak, January day for both of us. She didn’t have much time to talk. I said it sounded to me like she had just escaped from prison, she said it was almost like that, and we laughed. When I asked her how she found me, expecting to hear that someone I had worked with in the past had referred her, she said she googled “career coach,” and as she read through the various options, she liked the way I described my work as including the “personal, spiritual and professional” dimensions of life. Spirituality is very important to her.

She was thrilled that I had answered the phone directly because she only had about 20 minutes before she had to be back at work, and it was hard for her to find a time to call me other than during her lunch hour; she had no time to call me in the evening because of her young son. So right there and then we launched into our first conversation, which in a few minutes included tears, as she blurted out the multiple crises she was in, the last of which was hating her job and not making enough money. Others, to mention only a few, included a painful divorce five years earlier, an abusive, unemployed, ex-husband, the strain of raising her 8-year-old son on her own, and being on the brink of losing her home – all this after having to move out of her house and into a cheap one-bedroom apartment in order to save money.

If I didn’t have five years of experience in social work, four years of experience as a mental health counselor, and so many subsequent years of experience as a career/life coach, I would have fairly quickly explained that I wasn’t in a position or role at this point to give her the help she needed. I would have been compassionate, of course, but ended the call in good conscience with a referral to an appropriate resource center or therapist.

But there was something so unique about the instant bond that Emily and I established during this spontaneous, noisy, tearful call, that it took me in a different direction. We so quickly clicked – personally, spiritually, and professionally – that we were off and running before we had time to think about another option. We each had a strong feeling that this was “meant to be.” This much time later, we know for sure that it was. Mountains have definitely moved.

Emily is one of the most sincere, hard-working, resourceful, intelligent, faithful women I have ever known. I have tremendous respect for her and utter confidence, as of today, that she is on track for a great future. From the very beginning, she took every one of my “homework” assignments to heart; in fact, she went overboard. As one example among many, at my suggestion that she do a little reading on assertiveness training for women, she read eight books on the subject. In our subsequent half-hour call a few months later (always from her parked car about two miles away from the same hated job) she talked non-stop about the insights she had finally had about how much of her current situation had to do with her lack of assertiveness and tendency toward passivity; her fear of confrontation; her lack of confidence in her opinions and abilities; her life-long inability to say NO and mean NO or habit of saying YES when she really meant NO; her way of expending a lot of emotional energy on being angry at other people in secret; and her fear of confronting people who actually needed confronting.

Another time, when her renters began to abuse her house and make late payments that jeopardized her financial situation, I suggested she search out a non-profit program I had heard about that had been established to help property owners deal with legal issues they could afford to deal with (or something to that effect). She took immediate action, found the organization, called them, and arranged an appointment; she not only found a take-immediate-action, pro-bono attorney who could help her with the situation at hand, but one who helped her connect with other resources designed to help people like her to get out from under seemingly impossible burdens. Today, she is back in the house she and her son consider home, with an adjusted mortgage that is more reasonable. Several mountains moved as a result of that one suggestion, taken seriously.

Regarding the job Emily hated so much when she first called me, she still has it but doesn’t hate it so much. With the clarity she now has about herself – who she is, what she wants, what her true gifts, talents, skills and experience are – the job has been transformed. She can’t believe the changes she sees all around her. Her boss and coworkers value and even seek out her opinions and insights. “They seem to actually respect me!” she says. When she negotiated with her boss for a long-overdue raise and the privilege of working from home a couple of days a week to save money on her commute and spend more time with her son (negotiations about which she didn’t even call me!), he agreed, and at the same time changed her pay structure, which resulted in a $1600-a-month raise.

The thing that made me especially happy this morning, was to hear how well Emily’s son is doing and how much fun they are having together this summer. They are taking swimming lessons together, singing and playing music together, and enjoying their own backyard again. They have never been happier! (This expressed with tears of gratitude.)

Emily’s homework for next time, whenever that turns out to be, is to make sure she keeps doing the things she loves, because it is good for her and good for her son. This is the way to nurture herself and her son right in the midst of life, which is always challenging and stressful, to one degree or another. Because Emily is such a diligent seeker and good student, I am hoping she will take this particular homework assignment to heart as well.

This is not the end of the story, of course. I have a strong feeling it is just the beginning of a whole new story for Emily.

What a way for me to begin my day!

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The Search for Something Better

One of my former clients recently emailed me about embarking on a new job search, now that her current position has lost its luster. The job was a great fit a few years ago for getting her out of one field and into a new one, but now she has evolved, the job hasn’t, and she is ready for something better. Big surprise!

Career, as I always say, is a verb, not a noun. You can’t just pick one and think you or it will remain the same forever. You can count on one thing: you are evolving all the time, but you only notice it about every six or seven years. That’s often when the platform you are on, or the role you are in, has become too small for who you have become. The way you will recognize your growth is that you will begin to feel antsy, or bored, or stuck.

If you can look at these symptoms of “career pain” as growing pain rather than as some form of abstract existential angst you can’t do anything about, you are more likely to take effective action. If your “inner voice” could communicate a little more clearly, it might say something like, “Look at you, you wonderful creature! You’ve grown so much in these past several years. Isn’t it time for you to move on to something more suitable to the Self you have become? Get out there, look around, there’s something great out there just waiting for you. . . ” With this attitude, wouldn’t you want to get right out there and find it?

Unfortunately, that’s usually not the message that arises from deep within the pit of your stomach. At the thought of change, fear and dread are likely to raise their ugly heads and growl something more like this:

Lots o’ luck on the job search! You’ll never get what you want anyway, so why bother? First you have to update your resume – a task you hate doing, then make room for fresh truckloads of humiliation and rejection, then face the dreaded interviewing process you almost hope you won’t get, since it’s so stressful. You might as well avoid all this and just stay right where you are…(Where you are, if you recall, already in pain.)

Could there be another way to proceed with the search for something better?

Here’s my verbatim response to the client I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. It suggests a different approach:

No, you don’t have to change your resume for every job opening. I don’t know who started this rumor. What you need you already have: a great, clean, clear, authentic “core” resume. (Assuming that you, bright reader, also has a great resume, one that is clean, clear, and has been created or vetted by a professional, not just by a friend or neighbor.)

Each time you see a job opening that genuinely interests you or suddenly “lights you up inside” as you read about it, you should be able to write a compelling cover letter that explains why you think your background has prepared you for that particular role. If, however – and this will be the exception not the rule – you see a job description that requires you have some particular experience you have had but it is not already emphasized in your core resume, it might be a good idea for you to tweak a section of your resume to make that experience more obvious.

The Job Search does require that you put some time in on the internet – at least two to four hours a week, possibly more, but you need to manage your mood while you are doing it. This is because you are going to see way more jobs you don’t want than those you do. We’re talking maybe 100 or to 1 or worse. This should not be a shock. Expect it; accept it.

You are, in a sense, looking for a needle in a haystack, yes, but in order to find it, you need to have a pretty good idea of what it looks like and what you look like. There needs to be a good match in the first place in order for there to be a possibility or probability you’ll win an interview. This is not entirely unlike eHarmony or match.com, if you are looking for a possible romantic match. You have to be aware of the basic criteria that need to be present for there even to be a possible match. Then when you actually meet in person, a lot depends on chemistry. Same with a job interview.

Allow your “inner eye” to show you what attracts you and/or lights you up, because there’s no accounting for that. It just shows up sometimes when you least expect it. While you are searching (for a mate or a job on the internet), your “inner voice” will be responding with: No, no, no, no, no, God No, no, no, NO, no, no, no, and then all of a sudden, you will hear yourself saying something like, “Well, that’s interesting; that sounds good; there’s a maybe…, or, suddenly, there’ll be a Yes!” Pay attention when that happens.

This is what I refer to as an “automatic narrative.” When it shows up, it’s like a signal from the great beyond telling you you’ve hit a possible match. It’s like having your own personal Geiger counter. Rather than fretting about what to say in your cover letter, you will find that you know just what to say. (Still, to be safe, have someone, hopefully a professional, proof the letter for you. ) If you express yourself well, and you actually believe that your background and skills match the required background and skills, your letter will get the attention it deserves. If you get the interview, you will know what to say when you get there.

Don’t force anything when you’re searching. Go with your gut as well as your rational mind. If it’s a yes, apply. If it’s a no, meaning something you aren’t really interested in or it’s too much of a stretch or something you find yourself rationalizing about, don’t waste your precious time or energy. You already got the answer: it was “NO.” Let it go. You won’t be convincing anyway.

Remember what this is all about. You are searching for something better than what you have right now – a step up, a step out, a step forward – movement toward more satisfying work and, therefore, a more satisfying life. That’s what the discomfort during The Job Search is really all about! Keep your eyes on the (possible) prize.

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Hitting the Bulls-eye! (in 2013 and beyond. . . )

As I was reviewing some of my blog posts from 2012, I came across this one and realized it would be apropos to publish it again, because the same themes apply to several of my male and female clients who found their way to their bulls-eye jobs this year. You can pretty much change the names and particular job skills, and the same general themes will apply. Use your imagination to replace the name and description of the particular person to fit you or someone you know. There’s a good chance that many of the highlighted themes will apply. . .

Just last week, one of my clients, Pamela – a writer/editor in her mid-twenties, hit the bulls-eye – the very job toward which she had been aiming for the last three years, without realizing it. What she was experiencing was a lot of career pain, the symptoms of which included the dreads (dreading going to work every day); the drabs (boredom, verging on depression); and the dregs (obsessive-compulsive negative thinking and talking about the job).

If you have any or all of these symptoms relating to your job or career, take two Advil (my personal favorite) and call your career coach! It might be time for the Big Dig! A coach just might be able to help you dig yourself out of the hole you are in and into the light and air that awaits you just above ground. As long as you’re down there struggling, you can’t see anything else.

You may not believe me now, but it doesn’t take all that much time to get a handle on what lies beyond the limited world you can see from that dark place. For Pamela, it took about six coaching sessions over a period of two months to move from “I am stuck forever in this job because the economy is so bad and I’ll never get another job in my field”, to “I know who I am, I know what I want, and I am determined to keep looking until I find it.”

This transformed, powerful (as opposed to weak) attitude is predicated on finally knowing what you want and what you are looking for – the bulls-eye. You can’t find the needle in the haystack unless you know what it looks like. It requires that you sit with the not-knowing for a while until you develop a solid list of criteria for your next step. This list often emerges right out of the pain you are in. The pain is a sign of what you want but don’t have. The pain often points to its opposite, which actually points you in the direction of what you want next.

Example 1: You have no autonomy. This points to the fact that you want more autonomy. Check. Example 2: You have no say in how things are run. This points to the fact that you want more authority. Check. Example 3: You don’t respect your boss or your company. This points to the fact that you want to work for a company and boss you can respect. Check.

I just took a moment to look at Pamela’s list of criteria for the next step and counted 15. Here are a few examples of the general and the specific types of things that show up on a typical, well-thought-through list: 1) the position includes leadership, written and verbal communication, and some form of teaching or presenting; 2) the organization is either a non-profit with a cause that I resonate with, or a company with a mission and purpose I can respect; 3) there is the possibility of flexible scheduling and working from home. There were 12 more criteria on her list.

Usually people have a pretty clear sense of their criteria for the next step when they stop to think about it. Examples of these are: appropriate job title, size of company or organization (smallish, mid-sized, global, etc.), general vicinity and commute time, salary requirement, et al. These criteria constitute the general target for your fabulous cover letter and resume. Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want, only for jobs you want and that meet your general target requirements. If your resume is actually a fit for the job description, and you know you are a good candidate, it is likely you will be called for an interview. If you don’t get that call, move on. It’s not the bulls-eye, or you would have gotten the chance for an interview. The point of the cover letter and resume is to get the interview, so you can get your body there and assess the situation. You will have criteria you are looking for, just as the interviewer(s) will have. If there is a match, you will know it. If there isn’t, move on. Don’t take everything so personally! Each opportunity will give you a clearer sense of what you really want. Our mutual intent is for you to hit the bulls-eye, just as Pamela did. Her new job – the one she is thrilled about – has all 15 of her criteria, plus many great things she didn’t even think to mention. The bulls-eye job is usually better than you imagined it would be.

And lest you think it was just Pamela who hit the bulls-eye last week because she is 25 (and you are 50), another client, Daniel, a 48-year-old marketing creative on the East Coast, hit his bulls-eye as well. He’ll be assuming a VP role in a company that is expanding internationally – yes, one of his most important criteria.

One of the things Pamela said when she got the job offer was that she felt almost guilty because she knows people who have been job-hunting for two years. My response was,

Do they know who they are?
Do they know what they want?
Do they have their criteria written down?
Do they have a great resume that clearly matches the job descriptions to which they respond?, and

Do they have a career coach to help the process along?

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