The Key to Finding a Rewarding Career

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What is important to you in a career? This is probably a question most of us don’t think about because we are too busy working.  The reason why so many of us are unhappy at work is because we are preoccupied with the daily tasks of our jobs as opposed to understanding what we value in a career.

The Difference Between a Job and a Career

A job and a career are two very different things.  A job is the place we go to most days that pays the bills.  A career is, or should be, a reflection of your values and passion in life.  One of the most important tasks is to discover what you value and what you find rewarding.  Is it money and status? What about helping people, or affirmation from someone (like a boss) that you are doing a good job?

You can look at the concepts of our values and what provides a reward from a few different perspectives.  Simply put, make a list of what you value and what makes you happy.  That is a very simple way to determine the direction you might take in your career.

The Concept of Reward and Finding Value in a Career

We can also look at what provides a reward by thinking about it from a more abstract, behavioral perspective.  Do you work in sales and remember what it felt like the first time you closed on a really big account? That surge of pure raw emotion? The positive reinforcement we receive from a reward, such as money, is the result of dopamine (although the process is a bit more complicated than that)! The reward circuits in our brains are controlled by the neurotransmitter dopamine and a structure called the basal ganglia.  You may ask, but why do I care? I’m not rat pushing a lever.

I think you should stop and think about this because if you can figure out what makes YOU tick, you can find the key to what is rewarding to you.  My first job right out of graduate school was in a transitional housing program providing case management to homeless veterans.  Every time I drove into the VA campus and saw all of the American flags, I could feel a surge of emotion.  It was in fact, the same feeling I got in college while strolling through Columbia’s campus at night.  The glow from the library, all lit up in the dark sent chills cursing through me.

Putting the Pieces Together to Find Fulfillment and Not Just Another Job

What does all of this mean? For me, helping others and personal achievement after years of hard work are both values of mine AND rewarding. For me to find career success, I need to find a career that fulfills both of those values.  The company I have created fulfills both of those values.  For you, it might be money, approval of family, the ability to change levels within a company, or selling a particular product.  It is not for anyone to tell you what is important to you or to judge what you should value and what you find rewarding.

You need to stop overthinking and pay attention to how your various work achievements make you feel.  You can use this simple tool to help you make decisions about what direction to take in your career.  Once you recognize what career achievements provide you a sense of reward, you can move forward to make decisions that will provide you with the most fulfilling career path.

Jackie graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University in 2002 with a B.A. in Psychology.  

Staying Focused on Your Career During the Holidays

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It’s that time of year again! Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are churning out their specialty eggnog drinks and candy cane-topped donuts…Holiday commercials have started, and you are sitting at work listening to everyone talk about holiday plans.

Maybe you love the holidays and can’t wait to eat Aunt Tina’s green bean casserole.  But many other people despise the holidays for a variety of reasons: financial issues, divorce, shared custody of children,  or recent deaths in the family, just to name a few… For many people, the holidays and commitments they entail create a time management nightmare.

The difficulty becomes when you have issues during the holidays and realize that yes, you have to keep working.  It may become difficult to put aside these problems and focus on work.  Maybe you are a nurse or doctor and have to work during the holidays and hate it; or, maybe your status as “essential personnel” is a fabulous excuse to let you avoid family gatherings.  Be mindful that everyone has different stressors and experiences during the holiday season and all of that can spill over into the workplace.

Ignore the Chaos Around You At Work: Focus on Your Career Goals

Maybe Sally your boss has been particularly harsh.  The truth is, you have no idea what people might be dealing with during the holidays. Maybe her husband is hoping to get a promotion and was just told he wasn’t getting one.  Your co-worker who seems so annoyingly chipper may actually be overcompensating for some tough family issues she is going through at home.

So how do you manage? Focus on your goals and don’t get distracted.  Make a list of your work goals for the months of November and December.  Maybe you work in sales and need to achieve a certain quota for the final quarter.  Perhaps you are an executive and are working out end of the year bonuses.  Take a look at what YOU need to achieve for the next two months in order to meet your work goals.

Next, ignore everything else.  Maybe you are having a difficult time financially and can’t afford a lot of presents.  That’s ok, we have all been there.  Turn your focus on other things and get creative.  Instead of giving gifts, plan to make cookies for everyone on your gift list.

Make Your Career List and Check it Twice

Make a list of what you can do that is career-related to ease the financial stress.  Maybe you can pick up extra shifts or approach your supervisor about that pay increase.

This time of the year is often a time to prepare for upcoming performance evaluations.  One of my clients recently said that he was happy to be working on his resume now because his year-end evaluation was coming and he needed to work on self-promotion.  One tip is to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses.  Be prepared to address work areas you need to focus on with your supervisor.  If you are sensitive to criticism, remind yourself this is an opportunity to improve.

Revise Your Resume

Take time out to revise your resume.  When was it last updated? Have you added your most recent job? Review your resume to see if you have listed all of your achievements at your current job.  Have you received special recognition at work? Did you increase revenue by a remarkable amount? Land a large and sought after account?

Make sure all of these accomplishments are listed on your resume. You never know when the perfect job might come along so you should always be prepared with an updated resume.

~J.O.

Reinventing Yourself: “I Hate My Job”…Now What?

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One day you find yourself sitting at your desk, staring at the computer, realizing just how miserable you truly are. You can hear your co-worker cackling like a hyena from her cube, and from across the room you smell your other co-worker’s fresh microwaved fish wafting through the air. You might be asking yourself, am I truly happy in my current job and what can I do to change it?

Are You Passionate About Your Job?

When my clients come to me for resume writing, often they want to change careers as well. While I most definitely can NOT tell you what you should do with your life, I can tell you that if you are not passionate about your job, you might not be reaching your full potential. The issue though, is to decide how much of a risk you want to take and how practical changing careers might be.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Changing Careers

One of the questions to consider is, “Am I financially able to just quit my job?” The answer for most of us is probably no.  Another question might be, what do I really want to do? Is it the thing I think I should be doing or the thing that sets my mind and soul on fire? There is a huge difference between the two.

You have to ask yourself, is what you do every day just a job, or a career?

Case in point: Me. I have wanted to go to medical school for years, but I just can’t seem to sit myself down and take the MCAT. Would I make a good physician? Probably. But something is stopping me from taking that silly test. I’ve been running my business for a few years now, and something interesting has happened.

Once upon a time, before I wanted to pursue medicine, I wanted to be a freelance writer…And, ladies and gentleman, look what has happened? By developing my business and taking action instead of banging my head against the wall going, “What should I do? What should I do?” (Can you hear Goofy’s voice?)…Well, I am doing what makes me happy and not what my brain thinks I should be doing.

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

But I digress…What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? A concert pianist? A teacher? Do you still think about it? What steps do you need to take to make it happen? I often work with clients who have the skills listed on their resumes to do something else, but they need to sit down, make a list of their skills, experiences, etc. and match those things up with what their dream job is.  Often, it’s a lightbulb moment.  Oooo THAT? I never thought of that!

Take a look at your current resume. What skills do you have? There are probably things you do every day that you don’t even realize you are doing.

Take Inventory of the Job Skills You Already Have

When I wrote my own resume, I forgot about how much goes into running a business. For example, look at all the skills that go into marketing: designing ads for Google, leveraging social media such as Facebook ads or posts, knowing what days of the week to run ads, or paying attention to when people are visiting my website. While I have no interest in marketing, these skills might lay the groundwork for another career if I wanted to pursue it.

That is why reviewing your daily job duties is so important. If you are interested in changing jobs or reinventing yourself, it is important to understand what skills you have that might make you, say, an excellent river rafting guide. Maybe you love public speaking, the outdoors, and teaching others new skills. Those skills might be your ticket to finding your new passion. ~J.O.

Fear and Changing Jobs

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Over the past week, I have had several clients tell me that it took them a long time to inquire with anyone about resume writing services.  I was a little surprised when I had two clients tell me the same exact thing: “I’m afraid.”

The Comforts of Autopilot: Why Change is Hard

When you drive to work every day, which roads do you take? Do you have to stop before you turn left at the Exxon station to remind yourself to turn left? Or is it automatic? Which shoe do you put on first? You probably don’t even know, for one simple reason: we are all creatures of habit.  It’s very comforting to drive the same way to work every day, stop at the same Dunkin’ Donuts, order the same breakfast, park in the same parking space, say hello to the same people in the same cubes, and put your lunch in the same spot in the fridge at work.

What is difficult though, is change.  People are terrified of change; and since your job takes up at least 23.8 percent of your time if you work 40 hours a week, changing that one thing is actually quite huge.  You are not only changing your job, you’re changing your co-workers, your route to work, your salary, the places nearby to eat lunch, maybe what you’re allowed to wear, whether you have an office, etc.

Stop Overthinking Your Next Career Change

I’m often mystified that people are so stuck on sameness that it’s easier to stay in a crappy job than make some movement.  What if it’s really not a better job? What is a better job? Is more money worth more hours? Is less stress worth less money?

Stop and read that paragraph again.  Does your head hurt yet? Mine does.  Sometimes I think part of the problem for people changing jobs is overthinking it.  Ask yourself a simple question…Am I happy in my current job? If the answer is no, make a list of what will make you happy.  This list is the beginning of defining what you value.  Once you are looking at the list, you will have some concrete reasons why it’s time to make a change.

Examine Your Values: Money, Family, and Time

Let’s say that your list has the following career-related values written on it: money, time with family, big office, vacation time, and good insurance.  Take a pair of scissors and cut each item out.  Now, place each value in order from highest to lowest.  You can use your values as a visual guide to help you decide what is important to you in your new job.  Once you have something concrete to work with, moving jobs won’t seem as scary.

Fear Of Wasting Time?

Another thing that I know gets me stuck is what if I invest all this time in ___ and it doesn’t work out? Well then, we won’t know unless we try.  A lot of times, if we sit there in our “stuckness” (Yes, I know that’s not a word), it just gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until picking up the phone to call the resume writer seems worse than calling the dentist to schedule your root canal.

What you have to ask yourself is, what is worse, the situation I am stuck in now in my current work situation, or the possibility of failure if I try to find a new job and don’t succeed? The only thing at risk is time…and time is going to tick away whether you pick up the phone or stay stuck.  Often taking the first step is the most difficult.  I have had many clients say that once they start talking about their current jobs and the sort of new job or career they want, it becomes easier.

Sometimes all it takes is the conviction to take a risk and not worry what might go wrong, or why, or how, or what if it doesn’t work out.  ~J.O.

Coping with Unemployment: Taming the Negativity Beast

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I typically follow up with clients after working with them on their resumes to see how their job search campaign is progressing.  I recently completed a resume for one particular client about 2 weeks ago and thought that today would be a good time to check in.  I called and asked her how her interview went.  Reluctantly, she told me she was still wearing her pajamas and was camped out in front of the TV watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.  Does this sound familiar?

The Aftermath of Unemployment

Are there newspapers piled up at your front door? A pile of unopened bills tossed on the couch?  I remember when I lost my job…There were cartons of half eaten Chinese food strewn across the kitchen table and recycling piling up in the corner.  My pajamas became my new uniform and I avoided going to Dunkin Donuts at 8:15 am like I used to because “they” were there…You know, those people going to work, dressed in their fancy clothes  and driving their BMW’s.

Maybe you have experienced something similar? If you have ever been laid off or found yourself suddenly unemployed, you know it can be a demeaning and dehumanizing experience.  You have probably thought to yourself, “How am I going to pay the bills? How will I support my family? What if I don’t get unemployment”?

Unanswered Questions about Job Loss

“What will I tell my future employers regarding why I no longer have a job? What has happened to my value as a human being if I am not contributing to society”? Many people quickly get overwhelmed and lapse into depression.  Many of my clients come to me asking questions like this and are often embarrassed they feel this way.

Exercise Your Ability to Define Yourself

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind.  You can’t let your job loss define you.  This has been especially difficult for my clients who are work addicts…You know the type, don’t you?  Working 60-80 hours a week, hiding in the office to avoid family life or other personal issues.  In this situation, your job has defined you, so when it’s no longer there, there is a giant void that needs to be filled.

Fill Your Mind With Something Else but Please, Don’t Feed the Negativity Beast

If you fill that void with negativity, that negativity will come across in interviews, in your cover letters, and the way you present yourself in an interview.  Instead, tell yourself that most everyone has been through something like this and that you are not alone.  Next, take a piece of paper and write down “I am not my job.  There is more to me than this job, and I will find another one. “

Hang it somewhere you can see it. In fact, staple it to your forehead so that when you look in the mirror, the negativity monsters have no means of surviving in your head.  If you don’t feed into them, they won’t have any hopes of surviving.  Redirect your anger and beat those negative thoughts into submission.

Job Search Strategy: Resumes, Cover Letters, and What Else?

The other important issue to keep in mind is that your job search campaign will consist of so much more than a resume and cover letter.  If you approach the process with a negative mindset, that will affect your ability to effectively search for a position.  You might not even have your eyes open to all of the possibilities out there for you because of your mindset.   Once you take steps to change your frame of mind, you might find yourself open to new opportunities.

Expanding Your Career Strategy Skills: Interview Skills, Job Search Skills, LinkedIn

Often my clients are lacking interview skills, job search skills, experience with LinkedIn, or are unfamiliar with ways to network.  Each of these areas needs to be developed in order for you to find employment.  I am here to help you with not only your resume and cover letter, but to help you navigate these other areas as well.~J.O.

Getting “Unstuck”: Finding a Career You Love

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Are you stuck in a job you hate? There is one thing about that sentence that’s an error in thinking: the word “stuck”. There is no such thing as stuck, in any situation, including your career. The first step you have to take to become “unstuck” is to identify what you want to change.

Making Changes and Taking Inventory of Your Current Resume

But then you might ask yourself, now what? I can’t just drop everything and quit, can I? Well, you could.  You could also hop on a plane to Tahiti and work remotely (wouldn’t that be nice?) but that might not be the most logical approach.  So let’s slow things down a bit.

What are the steps you need to take to make that leap into your new career? Do you have a resume? When was it last updated? You might sit there for a moment, and wonder, how am I ever going to have the time to do this? How do I do it? Where do I start?

Breathe!

Before you find yourself teetering on the edge of a panic attack, stop and take a breath.  Everyone has experienced those overwhelming, frantic moments of wondering where to start and how.  The best way to approach re-creating your career is one step and a time.  Take a few minutes and print out your resume.  Read it once, but then put it away until tomorrow so that you can read it with fresh eyes.

Pick it up again the next day, but ask yourself, Does this piece of paper capture my career goals? Who is my audience? Am I highlighting my achievements? Do I use action verbs and active language to engage my reader? Answering these questions will help you start the revision process.

Taking Inventory of Your Skills

Writing your resume can seem like a daunting task.  Stop for a moment and think about all you have accomplished throughout your career.  This can be the perfect time to revisit your accomplishments! I know when I reviewed my own resume, I could not believe how many skills actually went into starting and running a small business…. So take this time to be proud of yourself!

It may be helpful to take out a piece of paper and make a list of your job duties in your current position.  Think about the tasks that you do on a daily basis.  Do you manage staff members? How many people do you supervise? While these small details may sound trivial, hiring managers like to see specific details about your performance achievements.

Highlight Your Achievements

It may be easy to overlook these details because you do them every day, but it’s important for your future employer to know what you can contribute to their company.  Are you in a field that involves tracking profits or sales? It can be incredibly valuable to be able to quote a percentage or amount of profit in the past quarter.  This shows that you not only pay attention to details but that you are able to highlight a specific achievement at your current employer.  I always encourage clients to focus on performance achievements because they show how your stand up against other job candidates.  Many people also leave out these important details so just mentioning them will give you a leg up on your competition.

So the next time you sit down for a cup of coffee during a break, take a moment to jot down some ideas about all of the things you contribute to your workplace.  You will be surprised how taking stock of what you do every day can make you feel a little better about your current situation.  You have a lot to contribute, both in your current position and in your future endeavors! So don’t give up! ~J.O.

Check out my website for more information on my services including job search assistance, resume writing, and cover letters.