So, let me begin by saying: Here's some irony for you... For years, I've struggled to properly explain what I do for work. Funny, right? The gal that has spent the last 15+ years of her life helping professionals with their personal brands, job searches, and career planning doesn't know what to label herself. Saying I'm a "career coach" has never seemed to properly convey the job. I feel that title makes light of the important work myself and my Work It Daily teammates do every day. And, I feel the term "career counselor" really speaks to those folks you find at high schools and colleges. But recently, a conversation about the evolution of Work It Daily provided me with a big ah-ha moment. Ever since that, I've wanted to post the following... "My name is J.T. and I'm a Career Therapist." (Finally! I said it.) I've known for a long time this is really my job. Each day, myself and a team of trained career support specialists give people a trusted, secure, and private place to talk honestly about their careers. This is no small thing. As humans, our identities, and subsequently, our happiness are tightly tied to what we do for work. When you spend 40+ hours each week doing a job, it can't help but define you and impact your ability to feel successful and satisfied in life. So, while I'm not a doctor (and I don't play one on TV), I am a career therapist. And, I'm no longer ashamed to say it. Why would I be ashamed? Glad you asked! Because getting career support is still seen as "taboo". When I decided to leave corporate America to become a career coach, my friends and colleagues thought I'd lost my mind. One former college classmate asked me if I was going to become some sort of new-age-hoohey-type (his words, not mine). I lost the respect of some people who thought I was throwing away a perfectly good career track (six-figure female HR executive), to do something weird. To them, people who used career coaches were "broken" and "unemployable." But over the years, these same people circled back, many of them asking to chat with me about their own career challenges. Still, those early years of criticism from my peers gave me doubts. But, fast forward to today and here's what I know... School teaches us a lot of things, but learning how to identify and pursue a meaningful career throughout our lifetime is not one of them. With more than 70 percent of the working population feeling disengaged and dissatisfied with their career success, we have an epidemic of professional happiness going on right now. And sadly, people don't seek the help they need. Even though we use trained professionals to fix all sorts of problems in our lives i.e. doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, physical therapists, etc. we still naively think we should be able to figure out our career problems on our own. The good news is, I think the thousands of people who have become members of Work It Daily in the last year would tell you: getting a little career therapy isn't a sign of weakness, it's a path to greatness. We refer to them as #WIDwarriors, and they're changing the world, one dream job at a time. So, to the millions of people sitting in silent disgust and desperation with their careers and failing to get the help they need (you might be one of them?), I say:
I think one of the hardest things about networking events is just getting a conversation going with someone – without being awkward about it. Related: 10 Tips For People Who Hate Networking Approaching someone new can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. So, what are some natural and easy ways to break the ice? Here are some tips and tricks:
Did you know four little words form a simple question that, in my experience, has a serious impact on your career decisions? Related: How To Make Wise Career Choices Let me prove it to you: Imagine you are in a room full of strangers. In order to strike up a conversation, besides introducing yourself and asking a person their name, what’s one of the first questions you’ll ask? ANSWER: “What do you do?” There it is. A simple question that is so commonly used in our society, most people ask it absent-mindedly, in the same way they ask a friend, “How are you?” However, the question “What do you do?” has a much more serious implication. That’s because, as soon as we hear a person’s answer, we begin to size them up. Admit it, when someone states what they do for work, we immediately start to think about the profession, our past experiences with people in the field, and then in turn, make generalizations and assumptions about the kind of person they are. In short, we start to decide how much respect we feel we should have for this person. Now, do I think this is a fair or accurate thing to do? Of course not. How many professionally successful people lead miserable lives? Yet, it’s the truth: career identity plays a huge role in how people are viewed. Which leads to this next observation… It stands to reason, if we A) know we are going to be asked this question, and B) recognize we are going to be evaluated on our response, then it’s likely that lots of us choose a career based upon its capacity to impress others. For those of you thinking, “Sure, lots of folks probably pursue a career to gain respect, but not me,” I challenge you to look deep inside yourself. Can you honestly say that your current career choice wasn’t rooted in some initial desire to impress others? And, for those of you who are pondering the possibility that you’ve been pursuing career success to gain respect, let me prove my point with two additional questions: 1) If you had to stand up and introduce yourself to a room full of strangers, besides your name, what’s one of the first things you would tell them about yourself? ANSWER: What you do for work. 2) Think of the most successful person you know. Now, ask yourself, “Did I automatically choose someone with career success?” In other words, did you associate the word ‘success’ with professional accomplishments? ANSWER: Most likely, you chose someone who has accomplished a great deal in their career. Yet, perhaps you can also point out that this success has come at a cost in some other area of their life. (i.e. relationships, health, etc.) My point is this: as a culture, we place a lot of emphasis on our careers as a way to define us as people. But why? Who benefits? Isn’t the goal to create our own happiness? Then, how does being obsessed with professional success as a way to determine self worth help us? Perhaps, it’s time to stop impressing others and start impressing ourselves. For many of us, when work isn’t going well, life isn’t going well, right? Yet, here’s the thing: career success doesn’t guarantee a happy life. In fact, the way many people pursue careers in America leads to very unfulfilled lives. No wonder so many people are dissatisfied with their careers – they’re costing them too much. I say it’s time we start to take the pressure off one another and get to know each other differently - and, hopefully, better. So, here’s what I propose: Starting today, stop asking the question, “What do you do?” and instead, simply ask, “What do you like to do?” Now there’s a question that will give us much greater insight into who a person really is. What do you think? How will changing what you ask people change what you learn about them? More importantly, will it change how you view them, too?
I read this article on AOL Jobs that said studies show convicted felons have an easier time getting hired than the long-term unemployed. I won’t deny the facts: People who have been unemployed for an extended period of time are discriminated against. It’s terrible, but it’s the truth. In the last few years, I’ve worked with over 1,800 job seekers inside CareerHMO, many of whom had been out of work for a long time. (The longest had been out of work four years!) Here are three techniques that helped them get back to work and beat the unemployment stigma: