Today, I’m home with the flu, which I haven’t had for some 20 years. I suppose most of us know the feeling when life gets in the way and messes with our plans. Well, this has caused me to reflect a bit about how I came to be where I am today, and why I feel so passionate about Career ADD and speaking out for those of us who are suffering with these afflictions. There is a wonderful site that I often refer to, I want to encourage you to check it out. It may help give you a voice and/or become aware of tools available for diagnosed or undiagnosed ADD/ADHD. So, the part of my story I want to share with you is a very dark time in my life after leaving KidzArt, the company I founded, which continues as an international art franchise today in 11 countries and 29 states. At the time, I left, I was longing to return to career counseling. This is the work I have always loved and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. I was then locked into a semi-corporate structure – one that never suited me and, because it was my “baby,” I felt compelled to make a go of it for myself. The truth is, I was seriously burning out. I was unhappy – miserable in fact. I did not wake up looking forward to the days’ challenges as I had in the beginning. When the company was formed, we really had no clue how to successfully form a franchise system. It was a combination of luck and tenacity that kept us going, but at the expense of leaving a negative mark on the folks I worked with due to my ADD. At the time, I was undiagnosed. I had no clue why I felt different (as I had my entire life) and why others didn’t get what I was trying to accomplish. After all, I was the one who brought pretty much everyone into the company and had taken steps to develop the concept. Had it not been for ADD, I doubt that KidzArt would exist today. It’s called “hyper-focus” – something we do when we are truly engaged. Of course, that is the good news. Deep down, I felt that how I envisioned the “big picture” (an ADD characteristic) was what needed to be done to make us successful. Sometimes, it almost felt like having “psychic” abilities, but trying to fit in with “normal” folks can be a challenge, to say the least. I don’t know how things would have changed had I known or been diagnosed, but frankly my leaving was the best thing that could happened. Perhaps I would have left sooner. It was not on good terms. I lost friendships, trust, and confidence. Not pretty. Our administrative assistant was a very organized and almost “anal” personality, and as you can imagine, we clashed on almost every level. Details? What details? Organized? Not! A few months before leaving KidzArt, I got divorced and became a newly single mom. In addition, the company took a nosedive due to the recession. Our salaries were cut in half – not good in my situation. I became fearful and negative, and dreaded our Wednesday afternoon staff meetings. Each month, I was going deeper and deeper in the red with no back up. I wanted out of the torture that I spent so many years creating. Life happened. So financially, emotionally, and physically, I had bottomed out. Once I was diagnosed, I began to check myself with other people. While it’s not perfect, I am living a much less stressful life and doing more of what I enjoy. With my skills and background in career counseling, coupled with my knowledge of how ADD can take a tremendous toll on our lives, I have set out to bring Career ADD to the forefront. Not only can I relate to it personally, but it brings out the best in me. For me it’s about:

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Do you have career ADD? A few days ago, I had a great conversation with my old next door neighbor. He is a guy I connect with when it comes to business and brainstorming ideas. He has ADD like me, and has always been happy and excited about his life and about his work. I want to share a few of the tips I learned from Marco that might benefit some of us who tend toward career distractions. Marco knew early on that he loved sales. He manages tee shirt accounts through a company that caters to “big box” retail stores as well as mom and pops. When the economy took a nose dive, he used his outside-the-box creativity and “I need to keep working or doing something so I don’t get bored" ADD skills to help bring in a good income for his family - although they have had to make some changes. He also owns (and his wife operates) another company in our town that is reasonably profitable. You can see just by the description of Marco’s life that he has multiple streams of income which require a wide variety of skill sets and activities that keep him busy. True to ADD form, his work day is never linear. For example, he makes lists of what needs to be done, and instead of going down the list, skips around so he’s doing the tasks he enjoys the most first, and hopefully getting to the least enjoyable tasks later on. He is very much aware of his nature, and although he has not been formally diagnosed, he embraces his idiosyncrasies and exclaims to his wife, “If I weren’t like this, our life would be boring.” She agrees. This is key. She is very organized and absolutely thrives on the details. Marco, on the other hand loves to throw out the task at hand as if it were as simple to accomplish as a smile. Although this has been a source of some irritation for her (as well as mild arguments), she willingly helps him to manage it all in both businesses! I have often thought those of us with ADD should be born with a personal assistant to take care of the details… but I digress. Not bad if you can find that in your life partner or maybe just hire someone. Marco explained he uses a timer every day. He understands he can spend more time on tasks that are not profitable just because they are fun, and less time on those that require a bit more focus. The timer helps keep him on track and also allows him to get up and take a breather so he can return refreshed and ready to tackle another task. Notice I didn’t say “the next task.” Try as we might, this is almost impossible for those of us with the distraction factor wired into our brains. Even now, I am tempted to switch activities and am amazed I’m still writing this article without getting another cup of tea. One of the key factors in Marco’s success is he LOVES and THRIVES on the variety in his work - “I never do the same thing every day. It is always new and fresh.” He enjoys traveling to new places. When he comes back to his home office, he is ready to throw orders out to his wife to take care of the details. Marco’s office is something to behold. He has a desk piled with papers (disorganization is something that is part of our make-up – the key is knowing where to find everything). But the most surprising and key element of his office are the two drum sets in either corner. One is so he can get up and break the day up with a completely new activity that is somewhat physical. The other is for when his son comes home from school and they can take a break and play together. It was so fun to get caught up with Marco, and so enlightening to finally understand our connection. He wholeheartedly labels himself as ADD, although he’s never had a true diagnosis. However, he embraces his finely tuned brain and uses it to his benefit to live an amazing life.

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There are many factors that may determine the "belief" some of us have with regard to choosing a career. See if any of these sound familiar:
  • "My parents wanted me to be a _____, but I have no interest in it."
  • "My parents will not approve of my career choice."
  • "It will take too long to pursue that career or idea for self-employment."
  • "I do not have the money, time, support."
  • "No one will understand why I chose that direction. They will think it is weird. It is not mainstream or one of the top ten best careers for 2011."
  • "There are no jobs in what I'm really interested in."
  • "I do not know how to get training - there is no correlating college major."
Your turn. The truth is sometimes, a career chooses us. That is, if we're listening, looking for the clues and asking the right questions. When I transitioned from Career Counseling to founding KidzArt and forming a franchise system, the last thing on my mind was entering this "profession." The truth was this: I heard the calling and I answered it. I was tired (older mom of a young child) and did not have a clue what direction I would take with my art education franchise idea. But the thought kept coming up over and over again (sound familiar?), and would not go away. I figured if I didn't pursue it, I would not sleep at night. I had no idea where the road would take me, and frankly if I had it to do over again, I would have approached it very differently. But here's the thing - it was a calling. It was something I had to do and I became passionate about to the point where NOT following through was no longer an option. It was also taking me out of my comfort zone, as I was fairly established as a career counselor, even thought we had just moved from one state to another. The point is when you hear that calling, that voice inside, or when an idea keeps coming up over and over about something you could never imagine yourself doing, it's time to take the first step - explore, research, learn, test the waters. The key is not to ignore it. In one of my Career Path groups, there was a man who made a living as a rocket scientist. The truth for him was that he was miserable doing that work. He was pushed by his family to pursue this direction, but in the end was unfulfilled. Throughout his process, his attention turned to camp directing. Had he not completed an internal career-oriented process where he heard the "calling" over and over again, he would never have given himself permission to explore this career. He eventually went to work as a Camp Director on the East Coast. So, who was it that was telling him it was "unrealistic" to transition from rocket scientist to camp director? Who could be telling you not to pursue your dreams? Clue: check the mirror! Here are six tips to understanding when it is time to consider a career change that may seem "unrealistic:"
  1. Visualize yourself in your perfect work world five minutes a day - without fail. Try not to edit anything. Keep distractions to a minimum.
  2. Take note of your surroundings in your visualization, and what tasks you are doing (clues to job title/field of interest or industry). Are you at a desk, in an office, outdoors moving, in a car most of the time, meeting the public?
  3. Does it seem outlandish (like taking pictures when you don't own a camera?), yet it still feels fun and exciting?
  4. Write down whatever comes to mind.
  5. Consider exploring options further with a professional in a group or individually to gain clarity, receive feedback, support and to establish the next steps.
  6. Remember nothing you consider is unrealistic - it is only unrealistic if you don't take some action to become more informed.
There you have it - ALL choices are realistic if they meet YOUR criteria.

I recently wrote onCareer Assessments and Career Happiness. In it I explained the trouble with many assessments is that there is no personal involvement or inner process that involves an individual seeking guidance in the results other than checking yes or no to a question – or another limited response.

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How often have you heard defining your career is an inside job? If so, or even if you have not, ask yourself these questions:
  • Are you now looking for work out of desperation?
  • Are you more concerned about getting the job just because you have the skills or because the job appeals to you?
  • Are you applying for everything and anything you can put your hands on that you think you may qualify for out of “guilt”?
  • Are you doing everything that the career gurus say to do (at least the ones you find for free on the internet) to find a job, but feel deep inside that there is something still missing?
  • Did you take their advice, get the job, and once you got there ended up wanting to leave after the first week, month… you get the picture.
If you are buying into the song and dance that “the economy” has something to do with why you may still find pieces missing in the work you are doing, no worries, you are not reading this by mistake. This is not an article about how to find your spiritual path. However, this is an article that will not sugar coat the fact finding your true career direction – the one that represents who you are as a person -- requires going inside for the answers first. By that I mean allowing yourself to dream the big dream and connect with the part of you that wants to have it all… and defines precisely what that is. So you may ask yourself (or me), “Yes, but what does this have to do with reality.” Here is my answer: everything. Here’s why: If we are perpetually using the “economy” or some other reason why we are not finding our dream job or finding a job at all and blaming others – our boss, our co-workers, our spouses, significant others, etc., guess what happens? Correct – square one. By defining our dream work from an inner perspective, we are literally creating enormous possibiities. It never ceases to amaze me when I witness my clients make that shift to knowing without a doubt where they are going next in their careers, and exude confidence. Doors begin to open and opportunities abound. However, I must confess not everyone is ready in his or her life cycle to make this shift. It can bring up a host of feelings such as regret, guilt, resistance, and even anger at even having to look within for the answers. Some even give up and go back to the same old same old. My question to you is, are you ready? My brother is a great example. I love him dearly. Yet, he is struggling with returning to a job in the career he is “comfortable” with and, leaving the exact job that has created more grief and disharmony than anyone should have to deal with in a lifetime. If he returns to this career, he can be assured of experiencing the same challenges and perhaps reaching a breaking point that could have physical repercussions. We are now working together on a way for him to take the time to do the inner work that will allow joy to come back into his life by creating opportunities for him to do what he is truly meant to do. It is not surprising he has Career ADD. How much he is willing to accept, let go, and redefine is up to him. Here are a few examples of steps you can take to get the inner ball rolling:
  • Relax and decide that you are going to take the time to discover now what you have spent perhaps a lifetime eluding – Career Happiness.
  • Make a list of EVERYTHING in your past jobs that you did not like or that you were resistant to.
  • Include in this list every task, skill, type of people or specific people and why you think you did not resonate with them, working environment (down to the type of chair you sat in), product you were selling or involved with through your work, industry you were in, etc. that made you feel bad.
  • Now take that list and decide what the opposite of each item is for you – in other words what is your PREFERENCE to what you have listed (not necessarily the literal opposite). You must be completely honest or this will not work.
Congratulations! You have begun your inner journey to career happiness. This will be vital information to use in developing a career direction. Career spirituality image from Shutterstock

Yesterday I received a call from a young man who expressed an interest in learning more about the field of career counseling. He was wondering if he had to return to school to another master’s degree in counseling, although he already had two degrees – one in communications and the other in marketing. One of his many dreams is to be on the NY Times Best Seller list since he realizes writing is a skill that must be incorporated into his next career. My answer, however, to the need for another master’s degree, was a resounding NO. In his young life, he had already racked up two advanced degrees and many hours of classes on various topics of interest to him – specifically in writing. Although he had a job that was easy enough to allow him to work fewer hours and still be paid a full-time wage, he was left wondering what was missing. He had been considering career counseling for several years but didn’t know how to get into the field, or even if it was the right fit. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But, clearly he will want to explore his options with career counseling support before making a decision. In fact, had he done so before completing not one but two master’s programs, he would likely have chosen a more specific direction leading to an ideal career or at least much closer. In addition to completing his degrees, he had amassed a great deal of debt on his education and was blocked financially, and he was at a loss regarding what his next career move will be with the debt looming. Further along in our conversation, I told him that from my perspective, career counseling is not only a practical process, but it is also a spiritual one. I further noted that in my counseling, I subscribe to the spiritual concept of the Law of Attraction – better known as “we create our own reality” through our thoughts and through our corresponding feelings. Further, inspired action through good feeling thoughts is the only kind of action that can take us to where we are meant to be in any area of our lives, and particularly in the area of career. If we take action because we are “motivated” or because we feel desperate to do something now, it is more than likely not going to lead us anywhere. Then next day I received an e-mail from this wonderful young man. He explained to me that, after our conversation, he realized and was inspired to take an action that resulted in freeing up several thousand dollars of debt. He also realized that his thoughts had been concentrated on worrying and trying to figure out how to manage it all. After his “aha” moment, he had a shift that inspired him to go forward with an opportunity that had been presented to him a few weeks earlier. He thanked me, but more importantly, he said that he was continuing to receive inspiration. I told him that his e-mail was my “gift” for the day and that it would inspire me to create more happiness and good feelings in my life. That in turn will lead to... well who knows? My day was absolutely magnificent! In fact, at this moment I am inspired to write this article while listening to Mozart. It seems anything inspired by me in writing requires this music to help keep the flow of words coming. I use it to focus. I hope in some of this “rambling” you found a message or two “inspirational.” Career inspired action image from Bigstock

When I first began my career as a career counselor, I remember attending a conference for our profession held in Sacramento close to 20 years ago. One of the workshops was a debate on both sides of the effectiveness of career assessments versus self-assessment and introspection. While I have taken and given many assessments, I have never felt the warm fuzzies when using them in any capacity, with the exception of the Self-Directed Search by John Holland, which I use in a very limited capacity, and in combination with one on one or small group counseling. Utilizing assessments without interaction with a professional or as a small piece of the equation for identifying one’s ideal career direction, in my opinion, can cause even more confusion. My concern is with the large career-oriented companies that tend to over use these tools. Assessments should be just that – a tool. Although I realize I may be offending career professionals who use assessments almost exclusively, my feelings backed by experienced in the field have never changed. We must be encouraged to ask and answer questions in an environment of complete openness and willingness to explore anything and everything that our minds can conjure. We must also be allowed to explore the feelings we have while exploring many possibilities – good and bad. Our feelings are ALWAYS the key indicator of our best choice for long term career happiness. If we feel anxious, impatient, frustrated, bored, or even sick to our stomach when we read a job description, this is a huge indicator we should not apply for the position. On the other hand, if we feel excitement, enthusiasm, and even exhilaration about a career opportunity – this is also a sign. If I’m looking at a job description that includes an inordinate amount of record-keeping, I realize this is probably not going to be a good fit, even though I am perfectly capable of doing the work. On the other hand, if I feel exhilarated and excited about using a skill or doing a task, this is a huge clue that we need to look a lot closer. Assessments can provide us with good information, but not from a place of true introspection. Have you ever gotten the results of an assessment that seemed to be very much on target? Yet, when you asked yourself, What did I do with that information?, it is more likely that you did little or nothing. Many people do not follow up with the written recommendations even though they may spend thousands of dollars on taking these types of assessments. Why? Because there is, often, very little personal involvement in the process or coaching to move you through the challenges and ways that you can sabotage yourself before you get to the place of understanding what will truly bring you career happiness without the outside influences. What the assessments don’t take into consideration is the fine tuning involved where you get to feel or experience the parts of the job or career that truly resonate with who you are. I always have and always will advocate for a personal process that is structured enough to allow the individual to come to his/her own conclusions. All it takes is one assessment that provides inconsistent job or career goals, and we can shut down to other career opportunities or possibilities that will fit like a glove. Please freely leave comments if you have taken career assessments and may have been turned off to the idea of exploring career opportunities that have the potential to create career happiness. Image Credit: Bigstock