Push’n’Go Career Change

It’s been almost three years since I did this email interview about mid-life career transition with Singapore-based writer, entrepreneur and owner of ‘goal-setting-college’, Ms. Ellesse Chow.

Reading it now, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can see where my optimism about mid-career change (as a coach) was about to collide head-on with severe economic turbulence.

Of course, since then we’ve experienced what the Western media have been calling the ‘Global Financial Crisis’, but in Japan is more often referred to as the ‘Lehman shock’.

As we approach the end of 2010, here are my three ‘rules’ of career change (not set in stone, just based on what 36 months of living and breathing untethered from the corporate teat have taught me.)

Mid-Career Change Rule #1 – S##t Happens

Mid-career change is not a ‘walk in the park.’ Stuff just, well, stuff just happens. That’s life. Be prepared and open to change before you embark on such an adventure.

Mid-Career Change Rule #2 – Know Your Strengths

This is where a good inventory of your skills, experience and interests can be a godsend.
I wrote about Prof Ed Schein’s career anchors approach in Dec 2007. And the advice I received in that report about my career anchors has been, almost uncannily, spot on.

Will this type of research-based and guided self-analysis work for someone just starting out in life and thinking of career change?

push-and-go-fire-truckIt’s very possible.

Back in Xmas 1986, I was preparing to swap my science teaching career for an IT training career with McDonnell Douglas Information Systems.

You can get a sense of that transition story in Ellesse’s interview, and also from my ‘About Mark McClure’ page on this blog.

Anyway, on the last day of School, my class of 16-year olds gave me some ‘goodbye’ presents.

It was very sweet of them and I recall those days fondly – even more so when my daughter and I visited the school in March this year. Walking into a school again almost 24 years later is a very humbling experience, especially when so few of the staff there still knew who I was!

The one present that’s survived all those years is the push’nGo firetruck shown in the picture. For the life of me I can’t remember why they chose that. Perhaps I resembled the driver haha!

Looking at the toy this afternoon, I can see how the driver’s head is cracked, the truck’s paintwork is fading, and one wheel kind of wobbles when the head is pushed down.

But it’s still a toy fire truck.

Admittedly, a somewhat beaten up truck, but recognizably one.

And I, at heart, remain a teacher; using my skills in one way or another.

For example, what’s a career coach?
He or she, in my opinion, is a teacher of the self.
A mirror of possibilities and probabilities that another person can use to teach themselves.

And what about a tech case study writer or white paper writer or personal growth writer? (My current three writing loves.)

The best writers use words to help teach the prospect or customer about solutions to the problems they’re facing. And if I’ve learned anything about copywriting and human nature, it’s that people are most interested in ‘benefits’. They care much less for ‘features’.

So it’s in those three worlds – coaching, teaching and writing – that my days are experienced. Funny how those three attributes have morphed and changed as career companions over the years. I don’t expect them to go away while I still draw breath.

Returning to the question of identifying what ‘career anchors’ a person might discover for themselves from their 20s onwards.

Although I didn’t have the advantage of Ed Schein’s work or of the Internet 25 years ago, I did have my own intuitive feeling about what work engaged me, and what bored me. This is sometimes expressed by career writers with a personal growth bias as, “do what you love“.

It’s also regularly disparaged by people of a more pragmatic persuasion. These people quite rightly see career choices and rewards becoming ever more competitive and uncertain, especially as the ‘globalized economy‘ continues to add hundreds of millions of equally ambitious people into the equation.

Who is right? Well, I believe both are.

And that brings me to express the final rule in this way:

Mid-Career Change Rule #3 – Aim at Doing More of What You Love

Books can (and are) written about this precept to “do what you love.”
It is, of course, easier to say so on a full stomach, under a dry roof, and in a clean bed.

That’s why you have to be careful about following the advice of those who advocate, “Yes, go do what you love. The money will follow.” It aint necessarily so and you would therefore be wise to AIM at doing more of what you love while also taking care of providing daily sustenance for you and yours.

It’s at this point – that of providing daily sustenance – where some people get stuck.

Of course, they dream about how wonderful it would be have a job they both love and get well paid for. But this ‘daily sustenance providing’ is a real drag. And it can be, if your circumstances demand almost all of your time and energy to get to first base. There are no simple answers here.

However, there are questions you can ask that may eventually lead to answers appropriate for you.

Here’s one example of this type of question to finish on, and one which also allows me to introduce a very deep thinker and believer in human happiness – the late (and ex) Father Anthony De Mello.

The question is : “Do you want to be unconditionally happy?”

Let that one simmer on the back burner but be aware, it might take time for you to wake up and answer it.

In the meantime, kindly give your attention to these audio recordings of Dr. De Mello doing his thing at a retreat. I don’t know exactly where or when, but it was many years ago. Whoever made the YouTube videos has added some entrancing Nature shots but those are just a backdrop for the ‘magic’ our good Doctor is working.

In fact, these two clips are almost word for word what is written in his book, “Awareness“, between pages 9 and 15. The first clip is insightful and I often ponder on the contrasts between unconditional selfishness and unconditional selflessness. The second clip is, well, hilarious! Enjoy…

Well, what did you think?
I’d be interested to read any constructive comments.

That question again: “Do you want to be unconditionally happy?”

Try applying it to your ideas on doing more of what you love and see what comes back. Keep a journal or blog about your thinking. That’s partly what I’ve been doing with this blog since Nov 2007…

Mark McClure