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Career Change from the Inside Out

Career Change from the Inside Out

Johnny Bunko panel
    Pamela Skilling’s Escape from Corporate America and Daniel H. Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

    I just read something scary on Twitter. Jonathan Fields – entrepreneur extraordinaire (I interviewed him on Lifehack Live) – posted about a conversation he’d had with a friend who “didn’t get how I could live w/ ‘stress’ of being entrepreneur and not having someone else pay me.”

    It’s true: there are people in the world who will take an amazing amount of crap – layoffs, verbal abuse, boredom, office politics, and more – in exchange for the perceived security of having someone else write them a check every week.

    This isn’t a post about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s a post about doing something to deal with a job that drags you down. More specifically, it’s a post about two inspiring books I’ve recently read, both of which take on the subject of career change in interesting, creative, and very different ways.

    The first is Pamela Skillings’ Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Skillings was good enough to come on Lifehack Live recently to talk about her book, and I highly recommend people listen to what she has to say.

    The other book is Daniel H. Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, a guide to business life with a twist: it’s written as a manga, a Japanese-style comic book. Before you scoff, believe me when I tell you, this is not a book for kids!

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    Change Your Life, Change Your Career

    Let me quickly clear something up: neither of these books is about changing from one job to another. You’ll find no tips on building the perfect resume, no how-tos on dressing for an interview, and nothing about getting the most our of monster.com.

    Instead, these books are about changing your career – even if you stay in the same job. What that means is the focus is on you as a person, not the mechanics of your working life.

    Escape from Corporate American cover
      Escape from Corporate America is, as you’d probably imagine, the more straightforward of the two. The book begins with a look at what’s wrong with the typical American corporate job – the frustrating lack of control many workers feel, the soul-deadening demand for conformity, the feeling of “going through the paces” year in and year out – and in the end, having nothing you can point to that says “I made a difference”.

      Skillings points to recent surveys that show 50% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs – and almost all American workers fantasize about leaving. Why do we do it? Why don’t we stick our heads into our boss’ office, scream “I’ve had all I can take and I’m not going to take it anymore!” and storm out?

      It’s tempting to say “fear”, and I’m sure that plays a part in it, but I think a more realistic answer is “inertia” – the tendency of objects (and people) in motion to remain moving along the same path until an outside force acts on them. Skillings’ book aims to be that “outside force”.

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      Skilling’s talked with hundreds of people – corporate workers as well as successful “corporate escape artists” – about their experiences in and out of the corporate world, and compiled their responses, along with her own experiences and the latest research, into a guide to career satisfaction. The second part of her book offers the pros and cons of a variety of alternatives: from going to work for a company that “gets it”, starting your own business, to becoming a teacher, fighting the good fight at a non-profit, or launching a creative career.

      But more importantly, she offers a set of exercises in self-exploration, walking you through the process not of finding a new job but of finding the real you – figuring out your strengths, your preferences, and your values and matching them to a career that will give you the room you need to grow as a person.

      20090625-bunko-cover
        The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is also about figuring out and playing to your strengths. Poor Johnny Bunko is Everyman (or Everywoman), trapped in a job that he neither enjoys nor is all that good at. Then he comes into possession of a set of magical chopsticks – stay with me here! – that, when opened, call forth a magical career advisor who offers a set of six lessons.

        It’s lighthearted and silly – but then again, the problem Pink is trying to help you deal with is the deadly seriousness that traps so many of us into dead-end jobs we don’t enjoy and don’t see how to get out of.

        It’s a short read, so I won’t rehearse all six lessons here, but let me focus on the first two by way of introduction. When we meet our hero, he’s a low-level accountant at a company that does… what, we don’t know. He is a practical man with a practical job at a practical company, following “The Plan” laid out for him by his father, his career counselors, his employers – and it’s killing him.

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        Lesson #1: There is no plan.

        Too many of us get stuck because we had it all worked out years ago – college, starter job, pay our dues, a couple of promotions, maybe a move to a bigger company, and, at some point, a comfortable perch in a corner office where the “good stuff” happens.

        It’s a good plan, from a project management perspective; not so good for life, though. It assumes, for one thing, that we will remain the same person, with the same drives and the same ambitions, forever. It also assumes that when the time comes, the opportunity will present itself.

        Those killer assumptions blind us to all the other opportunities that are constantly presenting themselves – as well as the ones we have to hunt out ourselves.

        And when we hit a snag, when The Plan fails to come to fruition, we turn inwards, looking for the things we can fix in ourselves to make us more promotable, more desirable as a job candidate, more well-suited to The Plan. We become entrapped in a never-ending cycle of rooting out weaknesses.

        Lesson #2: Think strengths, not weaknesses.

        For one reason or another, all of us are better at some things than others – and find more satisfaction in some things than others. A life spent ignoring our strengths so we can “better ourselves” by improving in those areas where we’re weakest is no life at all – it’s a one-way ticket to perpetual dissatisfaction with who we are.

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        This doesn’t mean that if you’re a slob, say, everyone around you should just get used to it so you can focus on refining your brilliant wit. What it means is that you pay attention to those things only inasmuch as they affect your ability to function, while focusing on expanding the scope and strength of the things you’re best at. It means spending your time and energy to improve in those area where improvement itself is satisfying, where the return on your investment will be greatest, and where you are most likely to be able to make a mark in the world.

        Why waste your efforts on improving your weakest skills only to achieve mediocrity?

        Stop What You’re Doing and Read These Books

        Given the statistics, chances are you need to hear what Skillings and Pink have to say. Even if you’re satisfied with where you’re at right now, read them for tomorrow – you never know when you’re going to hit a wall and find yourself floundering.

        Neither of these books are very expensive: I picked up both in paperback for about $10 US each from Amazon. Escape from Corporate America is slightly better-suited for professionals, people with several years of experience in the corporate world under their belt (although my corporate years are almost a decade behind me and I still found a lot of value in the book). The Adventures of Johnny Bunko might appeal slightly more to younger people in more creative fields – or who wish they were in more creative fields. But both have a lot to offer to anyone, regardless of your age or current career.

        Get them and read them, and let your mind absorb what they have to say. You don’t have to run out and change careers tomorrow – in fact, Skillings is pretty adamant that the only way to fly is with careful planning – but the change in perspective will do you a world of good. And once that ball starts rolling, once that outside force changes your path, there’s no going back – the next steps will come to you, inevitably.

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        Last Updated on December 10, 2019

        How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

        How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

        It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

        So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

        1. Find Your Good Reasons

        Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

        You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

        If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

        Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

        Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

        • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
        • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
        • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
        • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

        2. Make It Fun

        When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

        Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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        Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

        They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

        Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

        A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

        • How can I enjoy this task?
        • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
        • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

        As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

        Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

        However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

        3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

        When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

        You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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        That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

        If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

        Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

        My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

        4. Recognize Your Progress

        Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

        We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

        Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

        Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

        For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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        You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

        Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

        For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

        5. Reward Yourself

        This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

        Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

        Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

        For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

        For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

        For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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        Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

        The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

        Mix and Match

        Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

        Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

        Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

        Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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        Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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