Monthly Archives: September 2014

FALL HARVEST FESTIVAL FEATURES CAREER QUEST CARDS

SEATTLE, WA—Seattle-based career counselor/coach Halimah Bellows, MA, MS, CCC, CPC will be on hand at the at the Women of Wisdom Fall Harvest Festival at North Seattle Community College on Saturday, October 11 to demonstrate CAREER QUEST CARDS TM©, the unique self-coaching tool which she created to offer individuals an engaging and affordable strategy for developing a fulfilling new career. North Seattle Community College is located at 9600 College Way North in Seattle. The Fall Harvest Festival will be held from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM in the Conference Center Room on the southwest corner of campus.

Packaged in a convenient, portable 4½-by-6-inch clear plastic box, the set of 24 CAREER QUEST CARDS TM© provides a distillation of 30 key career-coaching exercises. The cards are color-coded in five categories, allowing an individual the flexibility to work with them randomly or use them in a sequence that suits his or her own learning style. CAREER QUEST CARDS TM© are also available as an app for iPhone, Kindle Fire or Android devices. Career coaches and counselors, career development professionals and outplacement consultants, as well as high school guidance counselors and advisors can also utilize the CAREER QUEST CARDS TM © in working with their students or clients.

Halimah Bellows is a seasoned career counselor/coach with more that twenty years of experience as well as an educator and educational planner for colleges and non-profits on the West Coast. She is available for counseling, coaching or presentations and can be reached at 206-595.7927. More information about CAREER QUEST CARDS TM© is available at www.careerquestcards.com.

 

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3 Things You Need to Stop Doing to Get Started with What You Truly Want to Do

by Henrik Edberg, from The Positivity Blog

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

George Eliot

Getting started with doing what you truly want to do in life can be hard.

No matter if what you want is to start exercising, create your own business on the side, write a book, see other parts of the world or something entirely else. whatever

But often we make getting started a lot harder than it needs to be by standing in our own way.

So in today’s article I’d like to share 3 things you need to stop doing to step out of your own way and make it so much easier to actually get started instead of just keep dreaming about it over the summer.

  1. Stop making it a huge and vague thing in your mind.

The more you think about you want to get started with the bigger it tends to become in your head. And as you keep thinking about the various ways this could go it tends to become scarier and scarier.

So do this instead:

Get knowledge from the others who have been where you want to go. To defuse vague fears about what could happen if you got started and about the unclear unknown, get information from people who have already gone where you want to go.

It is easier than ever to find them today. Look them up online and read what they have written and said or send them an email. Or go ask someone you know in real life that has done what you want to do.

Ask yourself: Honestly, what is realistically the worst that could happen? Take a couple of deep breaths to calm down your mind a bit. Then ask yourself this question. You’ll realize that in most cases the worst thing that could realistically happen is not that bad. It may sting for a bit. But it is something you can handle. And it is a situation you can find something to do about if this worst case scenario were to happen.

The clarity you get from this question can – in my experience – reduce worries quite a bit.

  1. Stop trying to control everything.

Being prepared and knowing some things certainly helps.

But it can become a trap when you try to control it all or think things through 50 times to be on the safe side and to not risk making mistakes, fail or look like a fool.

What to do instead:

Realize: you will stumble and that is OK. It happens to anyone who steps outside of his or her comfort zone. It has happened to everyone you may admire and who have lived a life that is inspiring. It is simply a part of a life well lived. And if you reflect on what you can learn from a mistake then that will be invaluable to help you grow and improve.

Learn to set time-limits for small decisions at first. If you have trouble with overthinking then set a time-limit for when you have to make a decision. This might seem a bit scary though. So start small and set a 30-60 second time-limit when trying to decide if you are going to work out or reply to an email. Do that for a while and then move on to slightly bigger decisions. And then even bigger ones after that.

  1. Stop thinking that you have to get started in a big and spectacular way.

If you have a big goal or dream or even a medium sized one then it is easy to think that you have to take an action of the same size to get started or to get where you want to go.

That is most often not true though.

What to do instead:

Go small. Just ask yourself: what is one small step I can take today to get the ball rolling with my goal/dream? Then take just that small action. And tomorrow or later on today you can do the same thing again. If that question still lands you in procrastination then ask yourself: What is one tiny step I can take to get the ball rolling?

Single-task each little step. Focus on just the one step you are taking based on the questions above. Nothing else. Otherwise it is easy to get lost in thought, to go off track or to feel uncomfortable or a bit of fear. So keep your attention on just this one action and step forward. And after that, the next one. Let these actions build day after day into something bigger. And before you know it you’ll have gone quite a distance on your journey.

Hendrik Edberg lives in Sweden and offers online courses on self-esteem, social skills and living a simpler lifestyle. He is the author of The Art of Relaxed Productivity.

 

How to choose a career at 40

By Stacy Duhon, Principal at Duhon Coaching and Consulting

Contemplating how to choose a career at or after 40 can be nerve wracking and scary. And it seems more and more people these days are thinking about such changes. And they are usually faced with the dilemma: Do you stay in the same career because it is comfortable, secure and you are good at it? Or do you go after that career that you have always dreamed of but have never dared to take action on?

In contemplating what to share with you on this topic, I thought about many things I could write about: providing job search tips on how to go about switching careers, listing resources that are available for mid-life career changers, pros and cons of switching at this age, how to prepare financially for such a switch or some other practical guidance….but it all seemed so boring! And anyway, I am not an expert in those areas. So I decided to share with you something more personal and dear to my heart and an area that I am an expert in — inspiring others to listen to the whispers in their soul and then take action in the direction of their dreams.

Actually, asking yourself how to choose a career at or near 40 is the perfect age to be contemplating this. You are much clearer about who you are, what you like, what your skills are and what you bring to the table. Also, you are also probably present to the brevity of life given you have now lived half of your life with only half to go. It’s a great time to reflect as to whether you want the next 40 years to go in the same direction as the last 40 years. This reflection can be sobering at times! Furthermore, it can be the catalyst to get you in action.

So if you are contemplating making a career change that you have always dreamed of and are trying to choose if you ‘should’ make a change or not based on ‘reasons’ why it’s a good idea or a bad idea. Throw away that pro and con list. What there is to do is to listen closely to the voice that speaks to you in your quiet moments — the one that shares with you what you long for and reminds you of what makes you smile. Turn up the loud speaker on what your soul is sharing with you.

I have coached numerous clients in this area and what I do know is: not listening to that voice that whispers to you is like living a slow death. It is stifling, has you feel small, drains your energy and can be depressing beyond belief. You won’t feel fully alive until you are listening and taking action. As Steve Jobs so eloquently shared:

“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

If you have a dream or a vision of something you have always wanted to do, you may be plagued with the thoughts of:

  • It sounds silly
  • I can’t possibly make a living out of it
  • I’m too old to switch careers
  • I might fail so it’s wiser/safer to stay in a field I am good at
  • It is ridiculous to leave a known stable career for something unknown

Please know, those are common thoughts. And you wouldn’t be human if these didn’t cross your mind. However, don’t let these thoughts paralyze you. It is your one and only precious life and you get to choose how it will be used. Another message Steve Jobs stated was:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

If you are nearing 40 (or any age for that matter) and you know or have an inkling that you are not engaged in the life work that you long for, then please

  • STOP being willing to settle
  • LISTEN to the voice whispering to you
  • HAVE COURAGE to take action

And please know, not only have I coached and supported many clients on their journey to a career that they had only dreamed of before, but I also have been in your shoes and have a sense of what you may be going through. In my mid-thirties, I was introduced to the world of coaching and couldn’t believe that people could coach as a career! I knew I had to be a coach.

The problem was, however, that I had a stable, lucrative, fulfilling position with the biotech industry – a career that I never even contemplated leaving up to that point. So the voice spoke to me for many years before I would take it seriously. After all, who thinks about leaving such a good career and how to choose a career again? Definitely no one that I personally knew! That just seemed too risky.

The concept of leaving my biotech career was terrifying but that little voice inside me got louder and would not leave me alone and I felt like I was selling out on myself. And I knew I had to make the leap. Over a period of 5 years, in spite of the fear and uncertainty, I took the steps necessary to make a career change. At the age of 37, while still working full time in my biotech role, I went back to school to get my Masters in a coaching related field and then continued to get my coaching certification.

It was not easy. I had to make sacrifices (time, money, personal life, etc.) and those few years were hard but I knew I had no choice but to move forward toward my dream because otherwise I would die inside. And I was not willing to feel that way anymore.   I now have my own coaching practice and am thankful to myself for not settling, listening to my voice within and having the courage to take action because I am now living my dream. I am happy. And my soul is smiling.

One of my favorite quotes that helped me tremendously during my career transition was by Anais Nin: “And the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I was no longer willing to be in a bud. It was my time to blossom. How about you? Isn’t it time for you to blossom?   You can have the career you want. It is possible. It is attainable. And only you can take the first step.

Why You Hate Work

By TONY SCHWARTZ and CHRISTINE PORATH

From The New York Times Sunday Review

The way we’re working isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep.

Increasingly, this experience is common not just to middle managers, but also to top executives.

Our company, The Energy Project, works with organizations and their leaders to improve employee engagement and more sustainable performance. A little over a year ago, Luke Kissam, the chief executive of Albemarle, a multibillion-dollar chemical company, sought out one of us, Tony, as a coach to help him deal with the sense that his life was increasingly overwhelming. “I just felt that no matter what I was doing, I was always getting pulled somewhere else,” he explained. “It seemed like I was always cheating someone — my company, my family, myself. I couldn’t truly focus on anything.”

White-Collar Salt Mine

Mr. Kissam is not alone. Srinivasan S. Pillay, a psychiatrist and an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School who studies burnout, recently surveyed a random sample of 72 senior leaders and found that nearly all of them reported at least some signs of burnout and that all of them noted at least one cause of burnout at work.

More broadly, just 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 report by Gallup. Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. For most of us, in short, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in some obvious ways, it’s getting worse.

Demand for our time is increasingly exceeding our capacity — draining us of the energy we need to bring our skill and talent fully to life. Increased competitiveness and a leaner, post-recession work force add to the pressures. The rise of digital technology is perhaps the biggest influence, exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information and requests that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours of the day and night.

Curious to understand what most influences people’s engagement and productivity at work, we partnered with the Harvard Business Review last fall to conduct a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries. We also gave the survey to employees at two of The Energy Project’s clients — one a manufacturing company with 6,000 employees, the other a financial services company with 2,500 employees. The results were remarkably similar across all three populations.

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress. When employees have one need met, compared with none, all of their performance variables improve. The more needs met, the more positive the impact.

Engagement — variously defined as “involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, focused effort and energy” — has now been widely correlated with higher corporate performance. In a 2012 meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies, Gallup found that companies in the top quartile for engaged employees, compared with the bottom quartile, had 22 percent higher profitability, 10 percent higher customer ratings, 28 percent less theft and 48 percent fewer safety incidents.

A 2012 global work force study of 32,000 employees by the consulting company Towers Watson found that the traditional definition of engagement — the willingness of employees to voluntarily expend extra effort — is no longer sufficient to fuel the highest levels of performance. Willing, it turns out, does not guarantee able. Companies in the Towers Watson study with high engagement scores measured in the traditional way had an operating margin of 14 percent. By contrast, companies with the highest number of “sustainably engaged” employees had an operating margin of 27 percent, nearly three times those with the lowest traditional engagement scores.

Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform. What our study revealed is just how much impact companies can have when they meet each of the four core needs of their employees.

Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

We often ask senior leaders a simple question: If your employees feel more energized, valued, focused and purposeful, do they perform better? Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always “Yes.” Next we ask, “So how much do you invest in meeting those needs?” An uncomfortable silence typically ensues.

How to explain this odd disconnect?

The most obvious answer is that systematically investing in employees, beyond paying them a salary, didn’t seem necessary until recently. So long as employees were able to meet work demands, employers were under no pressure to address their more complex needs. Increasingly, however, employers are recognizing that the relentless stress of increased demand — caused in large part by digital technology — simply must be addressed.

Still, the forces of habit and inertia remain powerful obstacles to better meeting employee needs. Several years ago, we did a pilot program with 150 accountants in the middle of their firm’s busy tax season. Historically, employees work extremely long hours during these demanding periods, and are measured and evaluated based on how many hours they put in.

Recognizing the value of intermittent rest, we persuaded this firm to allow one group of accountants to work in a different way — alternating highly focused and uninterrupted 90-minute periods of work with 10-to-15-minute breaks in between, and a full one-hour break in the late afternoon, when our tendency to fall into a slump is higher. Our pilot group of employees was also permitted to leave as soon as they had accomplished a designated amount of work.

With higher focus, these employees ended up getting more work done in less time, left work earlier in the evenings than the rest of their colleagues, and reported a much less stressful overall experience during the busy season. Their turnover rate was far lower than that of employees in the rest of the firm. Senior leaders were aware of the results, but the firm didn’t ultimately change any of its practices. “We just don’t know any other way to measure them, except by their hours,” one leader told us. Recently, we got a call from the same firm. “Could you come back?” one of the partners asked. “Our people are still getting burned out during tax season.”

Partly, the challenge for employers is trust. For example, our study found that employees have a deep desire for flexibility about where and when they work — and far higher engagement when they have more choice. But many employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight — a belief that ironically feeds the distrust of their employees, and diminishes their engagement.

A truly human-centered organization puts its people first — even above customers — because it recognizes that they are the key to creating long-term value. Costco, for example, pays its average worker $20.89 an hour, Businessweek reported last year, about 65 percent more than Walmart, which owns its biggest competitor, Sam’s Club. Over time, Costco’s huge investment in employees — including offering benefits to part-time workers — has proved to be a distinct advantage.

Costco’s employees generate nearly twice the sales of Sam’s Club employees. Costco has about 5 percent turnover among employees who stay at least a year, and the overall rate is far lower than that of Walmart. In turn, the reduced costs of recruiting and training new employees saves Costco several hundred million dollars a year. Between 2003 and 2013, Costco’s stock rose more than 200 percent, compared with about 50 percent for Walmart’s. What will prompt more companies to invest more in their employees?

Pain is one powerful motivator. Often companies seek out our services when they’ve begun losing valued employees, or a C.E.O. recognizes his own exhaustion, or a young, rising executive suddenly drops dead of a heart attack — a story we’ve been told more than a half dozen times in just the past six months.

In a numbers-driven world, the most compelling argument for change is the growing evidence that meeting the needs of employees fuels their productivity, loyalty and performance. Our own experience is that more and more companies are taking up this challenge — most commonly addressing employees’ physical needs first, through wellness and well-being programs. Far less common is a broader shift in the corporate mind-set from trying to get more out of employees to investing more in meeting their needs, so they’re both capable of and motivated to perform better and more sustainably.

The simplest way for companies to take on this challenge is to begin with a basic question: “What would make our employees feel more energized, better taken care of, more focused and more inspired?” It costs nothing, for example, to mandate that meetings run no longer than 90 minutes, or to set boundaries around when people are expected to answer email and how quickly they’re expected to respond. Other basic steps we’ve seen client companies take is to create fitness facilities and nap rooms, and to provide healthy, high-quality food free, or at subsidized prices, as many Silicon Valley companies now do.

It also makes a big difference to explicitly reward leaders and managers who exhibit empathy, care and humility, and to hold them accountable for relying on anger or other demeaning emotions that may drive short-term results but also create a toxic climate of fear over time — with enormous costs. Also, as our study makes clear, employees are far more engaged when their work gives them an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.

The energy of leaders is, for better or worse, contagious. When leaders explicitly encourage employees to work in more sustainable ways — and especially when they themselves model a sustainable way of working — their employees are 55 percent more engaged, 53 percent more focused, and more likely to stay at the company, our research with the Harvard Business Review found.

Mr. Kissam, the Albemarle chief executive Tony first met more than a year ago, has taken up the challenge for himself and his employees. He began by building breaks into his days — taking a walk around the block — and being more fully focused and present during time with his family. He now sets aside at least one morning on his calendar every week for reflection and thinking longer term. He has also made it a practice to send out handwritten notes of appreciation to people inside and outside the company.

Mr. Kissam has also championed a comprehensive rethinking of his organization’s practices around meetings, email, flexible work arrangements, conflict resolution and recognition. By the end of 2014 more than 1,000 of his leaders and managers will have gone through a program aimed at helping them more skillfully meet their own needs, and the needs of those they oversee.

“I can already see it’s working,” Mr. Kissam told us. “Our safety record has improved significantly this year, because our people are more focused. We’re trusting them to do their jobs rather than telling them what to do, and then we’re appreciating them for their efforts. We’re also on the right path financially. A year from now it’s going to show up in our profitability. I saw what happened when I invested more in myself, and now we’re seeing what happens when we invest in our employees.”

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of The Energy Project, a consulting firm. Christine Porath is an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a consultant to The Energy Project.