There are many lessons to be learned in nature. One of the lessons I took from my recent alone time in Yellowstone National Park is the experience of expansiveness. Breath-taking vistas and shear majesty call for an open heart and mind - not just on a lonely park road, but in everyday life.
For the unemployed, underemployed, or miserably employed, this simple inquiry "what do you do?" can trigger a downward spiral of negativity and self-recrimination as our Inner Critic starts the incessant diatribe about our worth, value, competency, capability as parent and/or provider, contributor, citizen, and even human being. In our modern American society, our work and our identity are tightly coupled. There has to be a way to respond to the question "what do you do" when we are in the midst of career transition that is positive, self-validating, and helpful. I believe there is.
Have you noticed that we use the word "really" a lot - really a lot? In my conversations with those at critical live junctures, I find myself asking questions like "what do you really want to do?" or "do you really believe that?" or sometimes just an incredulous "really?!?". In the quiet early morning hours, I ask myself the "really" questions of want, desire, truth. It strikes me that "really" has become a code word for the call for serious conversation and deeper, more honest thinking.
In my work with men and women in career transition I have come to recognize a pattern of thinking, choosing, and believing that can be best described as "opportunity tunnel vision." Every day I see talented, experienced, good people simply choose a well-worn career path and not even recognize that they have alternatives. I do not think this is inevitable. I believe we can explore alternatives, make better and more creative choices, and enjoy longer-term well-being by taking the time and opening our eyes, mind, and heart to alternative career futures.
The average American will move 11.7 times in their lives and, interestingly, the average American will hold 11.7 jobs in their lives. While these broad-brush averages may not reflect the pattern of our individual lives, what it does say is that at some juncture we may find ourselves job seeking in a new geographical location.
Frustrated. Isolated. Panicked. Discouraged. These are just some of the emotions experienced by job hunters, especially those who have been on the hunt for a while. In my work with Veterans seeking new or better jobs, I have come to recognize some common elements among those who feel lost and disheartened in pursuit of meaningful work, or in some cases, just a job to cover their financial obligations. Do these sound familiar?
Several weeks ago I was asked to make a presentation at the Women's Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA) for a networking series called Strong Women, Strong Coffee. Amazingly, a room full of women and a few stalwart men got up at the crack of dawn and came out to hear me speak. I was both amazed and humbled. I was asked to share some of my "keys to success." One of the most important lessons I have learned is how to contribute without selling my soul.