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Have you had enough of being dissatisfied with your job?

Feeling dissatisfied with your job can reach a peak for people around Christmas and the New Year. The time off work that many of us have gives us space to reflect on where we’re going, what we want and what’s perhaps missing for us.

Problems at work

Problems at work and maybe signs on the wall that you had better move on before you get moved is one factor. We may not be getting on all that well with our work and it’s registering somewhere in the system, like with your boss, the results you’re getting, or the feedback. This might or might not chime with how you are feeling about your work. Some of us are aware things aren’t OK and then again others need to have it drawn to their attention.

You’re changing

Then again it might be that you’ve been doing well and people seem happy, but it’s you that isn’t content with how things are. Maybe you’ve been doing what you do a while now and you’ve lost the earlier motivation. Maybe there’s been change in the organisation and then maybe it’s you that’s changing, or things at home are different. Sometimes changes occur at work which affect our motivation, interest, confidence and self belief.

Time for a change

It can be that we reach points in our lives such that we no longer accept the status quo and start thinking about making changes. This review can occur at all sorts of times in people’s lives, such as reaching certain ages like 40 or 50 for example, or where their personal circumstances have changed, or where major events have occurred in their lives. Something spurs us to think about how we could make changes in our work.

It can be that we’ve always planned a major career change or promotion and we’ve made up our mind that now’s the time to take action. Thus some want to significantly raise their level in the business while others think of running their own business instead.

Your direction

There is often in the background some reflection going on about our future and our direction. Where do you want to be in say 5 or 10 years’ time. In fact what are your long-term plans? Are you one who hasn’t thought much about the future but now need to? Or has this issue been around a long time and you’re tired of it not being resolved?

This desire or need to move on in our work is very important. It can often be the powerful motivator for change. Be focused on it enough and things start to happen. We draw it to us.

When we need help

However a key problem is so very often that people lack external input to help them make the wise decisions that will move them in the right direction. Or they need the sounding board in order to plan the changes. Or they aren’t clear in their own mind which way to move and need help to get things clear. You might for example want to make changes but don’t know where to start. Very often when people’s confidence is low, they find it less easy to think positively about themselves and the future.

These are all example of where life coaching for career development or change can be so very useful. A coach like me helps you make sense of your situation, clarify your options, sort out your strengths, know more about your direction, build confidence and self belief, make decisions and take powerful action to realise what you had perhaps only vaguely dreamt of before. Read more here and contact me here.

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Are you not feeling fulfilled in life?

Has it dawned on you at some point that you are not feeling fulfilled in life? It happens, to more of us than I think many of us realise. It is in relation to work that this can most show up, but it can also affect us more generally.

Yet another survey tells us in the UK that around one third of us are not feeling fulfilled in our work, particularly those in their late 30’s to mid-40’s. For those in that age range, and others, it would come as no surprise since some form of self-searching about their direction is not uncommon, and some would argue quite healthy. Of course you might just need a change of job at work, or as the survey points out, it might be about the degree of responsibility, involvement, variety and autonomy that you have.Then again, you might consider doing some more thorough-going career review and exploring how far you’ve actually moved on in yourself and need something more different.

Yet for many, it isn’t just the job but other factors that can come into play too. What people joke about as a “mid-life crisis” is often also about reaching a point in your life where the old assumptions no longer seem to apply. You aren’t necessarily so enthusiastic about your work. Your priorities and values might have changed. You might no longer have the same flexibility, perhaps now having children and and financial commitments. There is a sense around 40 that people aren’t immortal and that they want more from their lives than what’s been happening so far. It’s like there’s a realisation that there isn’t an endless life after all, and they don’t have endless time to make things work out. Other changes can come in parallel, major illness, a redundancy, changes at work affecting your role, societal changes, a relationship break-up, and so on, which can lead us to question where we’re going and what we really want. Some too might be frustrated by a conflict between what they really want and what seems possible.

The sense of not feeling fulfilled in life can spread across our lives as a whole, which is one reason perhaps why people don’t just change their jobs, but also their lifestyle, where they live, their family set-up, and other things. Many even move countries. It can be worth exploring, however, what that desire for change can be about, since you might otherwise find, after the upheaval is over, that the same problems have somehow followed you, because the real issue didn’t get addressed.

It isn’t necessarily that you need to change your job, or start a new career, and many do that, but that you do reflect on what’s really going on and devise ways to manage the situation so that the lack of fulfillment doesn’t end up costing you. The above-mentioned survey doesn’t, as published make much of career development, but it is worth pointing out that some organisations do actually invest in career development for their staff, and support them in finding ways to evaluate what they do, and to make changes if that’s what seems right. However, you can do that for yourself. Career coaching is one way of doing that and you can learn more here.

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Do you really only live to work or work to live?

This is a very well-used phrase but I think a false dichotomy, “you live to work or work to live”. It puts two contrasting scenarios together as if they are alternative choices. It reminds me of that old hackneyed interview question, “Are you a small fish in a big pond, or a big one in a little pond?” leaving no way out for a third option, like a middle way, unless you choose of course not to play by the implied rules.

Yet you could change it a bit and, as with Josephine Fairely, simply have a passion for what you do, and that gives you a raison d’être. As described in the article in afore-mentioned link, she sold one very successful business but couldn’t stay away from business for long and went on to create other ventures. For such people, it is in their blood. For those of us on the other polarity, the work-to-live people, they may seem like sad people who can’t get a life. Neither are invalid choices, simply different ones which can each work in their own way so long as it meets one’s personal criteria. You can work as Fairely does because you like a challenge. It’s a well-known career driver. Equally for others what matters is work-life balance and such people will talk about the range of interests for example that their work enables them to do outside work. Both can feel fulfilled. Others get other things from their work, such as sense of personal value from being competent at what one does. Others too get a lot from the relationships they form and the social interactions with others that occur in work. To simply say you work to live or live to work rather eliminates the very varied job-related satisfiers people have – and can often miss when they don’t have them.

Also it is often said that the main reason why people work is because of money, and while that may objectively seem to be the case, when you talk as I do to very many different people at work, they tend to come up with other reasons. As with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or Herzberg’s hygene factors in motivation, once certain conditions are met, such as the ability to support oneself, other factors come into play. Money as the key motivator in the West in modern times has been sliding down the scale, as it is now well-known that it isn’t what makes people happy, for example, despite what is often believed. People look for other things from their work, like a challenge, work-life balance, technical competence or affiliation as we’ve seen, but also being in control of something, or a sense of accomplishment, or a contribution to something bigger, or being a part of something. When these motivators are missing, people can then revert to survival behaviour but then can often now seek out ways of moving on to something more aligned to their goals. To say we work to live misses a huge part of why people do what they do.

I help people with their career development. Click here.

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Do you feel under pressure to be doing more with less?

Do you feel under pressure to be doing more with less? And is that leading you to be questioning your future in your work?

It probably isn’t surprising to read that many people would probably like a change of work, but don’t feel able in the current climate to perhaps take the risk. Yet, thinking like  that shows up the fact that motivation at work is not what it needs to be. It can take a lot to take action and make a move. So, what is it that gets us off our butt and go to all that trouble and possibly upheaval to change jobs and maybe even careers?

It probably comes as no surprise to learn that among the main reasons people give for leaving include not feeling valued, a desire to better their career, a lack of recognition, and more money. What is striking though is that surprisingly it isn’t just money, money, money. People aren’t motivated purely by financial returns, once their minimal needs are met, as Maslow argued in his famous Hierarchy of Needs. There are matters like feeling part of the team, opportunity for influence, achievement, self-esteem, pressure, recognition, and so on. People often comment on the factor that people often leave because of their boss, or perhaps to be more accurate, their relationship with their boss. But that is perhaps too simple too. There’s the often-commented-upon mix of the balance of rewards and benefits with higher-order needs like achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and the nature of the work itself.

However, I was struck by an article I received from a colleague recently. If you read down, you’ll see it describes a particular scenario that must be very familiar to many at present: the changes at work, the expectation to be doing more with less, the increase in demands from above, pressure, the lack of praise and recognition, the sense of not being able to develop one’s career, and of just not feeling valued. For so many of us there’s the sometimes bewildering rate of change which potentially affects our careers, downsizing, restructuring, take-overs, loss of key people, a change in managers, and the whole accompanying upheaval in relationships, atmosphere, leadership and the sheer power and glue of connection that keeps everything in harmony.

It can often be forgotten that very many of us spend long hours at work, and in travel there and back. We feel under pressure, not just from the workplace but also because of the economics of domestic life, the much-discussed squeeze on middle class incomes that was going on before the recession but has been radically increased by it. If your workplace has changed in ways that you don’t like and your motivation is falling, it’s not surprising if you’ll start to think about making a change.

What is key however, and often gets missed, is that when we get to consider that move, that we do it for positive reasons, and to not just be moving to “get away” from something. It is very important to be re-framing that whole issue into something we are positively seeking to create. It is the inspiring vision, what we are seeking to build, where it is taking us, who we believe we are, what we seek to accomplish – these are powerful drivers that uplift us and give powerful, healthy enegergy to the change that takes place.

I give coaching to help people shift from a negative work situation into a positive vision for the future that they are inspired to accomplish and take action to make it happen. Click here.

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Where are you going with your life that gives you meaning?

A theme that I hear a lot concerns the “prevailing gloom” in our society at present, ascribed as it is to the still-ongoing recession. Despite brief attempted “fixes” like the Olympics or the Jubilee here in the UK this undercurrent seems to run and run. We can get brief “fixes” from all sorts of directions, entertainment, eating and drinking among them, but when there’s an underlying malaise the problem doesn’t necessarily go away unless we deal with what’s causing it.

Not surprisingly with another economic downturn, there’s lots of change happening and motivation at work has fallen. A brief respite like the Olympics can still leave people with longer-term issues being put on one side, such as what to do about a career that has perhaps stalled with a succession of economic ups and downs and business restructurings. “Where am I going?” is an important question that many can find hard to resolve.

It can link in with other things that might be missing in your life. Maybe there’s an unresolved relationship issue, or there’s been a problem with your health, or you’ve been off work with stress, or your finances have been getting the better of you despite all your efforts, or what you’d expected would happen with your life hasn’t materialised.

We can get to points in our lives when the current dispensation is no longer working. It can even feel like it’s come to a standstill.

As regards work, you will probably know that familiar job interview question, “What are your career goals?” which you respond to with some plausible-sounding waffle that gets you the job, but you might not have any real goals beyond getting and holding down the job you’ve gone for. Those in work might be thinking, if anything, about lateral or promotional moves, but if asked about a longer-term strategy may struggle. It’s when people lose their jobs and realise their career isn’t going anywhere and that this is now an issue for them that they might start to look seriously at the question.

In general, those who find they’ve hit a real, big crisis in their lives can be hit with this dilemma. Some major accident or illness, a bereavement or some other upheaval can leave people wondering what is all about.

It’s time like these that some of us start to look for the meaning in it all, like what will give meaning to my life now, what’s it about, and what do I want it to be about?

This journey, if really addressed, can take us in new directions that can bring us far more satisfying results. But we need to address the issues that brought things to a crisis and find out what it’s got to teach us that is truly meaningful for our life path.

Those who might be serious at addressing the issue can benefit from thinking about what their purpose or “mission” is, what for example their chosen line of work is for, or what do they want in general from their life. For example it might be to serve some ultimate goal, such as a particular type of work for which you need to get the training and experience. Or you might have some higher goal, which your work is intended to serve, such as helping others in some way let say.

According to Martin Seligman, the proponent of Positive Psychology, a key determinant of well-being is meaning. According too to Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, humans need to derive meaning from their endeavours. I have over and over found in my work that those who struggle to find a way forward have difficulty answering the question, “What do you want?” with regard to their life. As many often say, they so often haven’t known the answer and life has just happened for them by default.

This is about taking control and making a conscious decision to move things on. While we’re all stuck in recession, this question is perhaps plaguing whole chunks of our society right now. No wonder people are depressed. Yet we all have the answers potentially within us, when we find a way to unlock them.

I help people do work on their meaning and purpose, in my coaching.

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Athletes too can lose their sense of purpose

It’s not just the spectators who feel a drop in spirits after the Olympics. Athletes do too. The post-games depression is a very real occurrence that many sports lovers will know well. There you are, for two weeks absorbed in what might be for you the best sporting event in ages, caught up in all the drama, sharing in the emotion, rejoicing when your stars win, it can become almost a life of its own. And it brings people together and we all feel the collective joy of a particular success by some sportsperson. Just think of the enormous cheering and applause that greeted particular successes. Then it’s over, and you need to get on with your life. Some have great difficulty coming to terms with the loss.

Equally the athletes can have trained for years for this event, and its become like an all-embracing obsession. They get through the heats and they have their victory, if they’re the lucky one, and then there’s the adulation, the praise, the interviews, the victory parades, those medals, and appearances on chat shows, conference key notes and other events. Then it all goes quiet. If you’re still continuing your career, then there’s training for the next event. But if not, there’s very often a loss of a sense of purpose and identity. Who you were was this very successful person, but who are you now? What are you going to do, what are you about, what will give meaning to your life now? For some it can be really serious, almost like a bereavement such can be the nature of change.

This is where people need skill in identifying a new sense of purpose and finding meaning once again in their lives. It’s a learning curve all of its own, a transition to a new life no longer defined by what is now past, and no longer therefore living in the past but creating something new. Thus it was interesting to learn the other day on TV how Dame Kelly Holmes after her retirement following her double Olympic golds in Athens had set up the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust to help disadvantaged young people (a great cause), gives sports training help to young people herself and is now planning to develop a business.

So, it’s not just people who get made redundant who go through this change process. Top performers, and not so top, do too. It happens too for media stars who are no longer in the public eye and are no longer working because they are no longer in demand. There’s an adjustment, a coming to therms with the loss of a role and a need to work out something new. We can go through a transition process that was well described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a grieving process that can be emotional, involve depression and if embraced and worked though lead to a new sense of purpose. For goal-focused, perhaps very driven people, who need to be motivated and in action, this shift into a new sense of direction is very important. As many say, they need to be doing something worthwhile for them.

I coach people who are going through a transition to work out a new sense of purpose and mission, often in their careers

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Job satisfaction falls in the recession

It will probably not come as a great surprise to many people to learn that a majority of staffare not satisfied in their jobs or proud of the company they work for. Job satisfaction has plummeted as the recession has worn on. It points up the importance for managers to be regularly thinking about how they motivate their people, but also for the people themselves to be thinking about what they value in their work and where they are coming from too.

For staff themselves this should perhaps be no surprise in that we have been having a lengthy period of retrenchment, salaries have not been rising in real terms and people have been asked to make sacrifices to keep their jobs. It’s been a tough time. This brings me to the point about us thinking for ourselves about what’s in it for us and what we are in this for.

The nature of the unwritten contract is that each should in theory be getting their needs met in a healthy relationship: you put in your time, effort, skill and knowledge and the boss provides good rewards and an attactive deal in return. You get your financial and other job motivators met and your boss is able to get the relevant key areas of the work need covered effectively. When morale drops, people can however start to slide out of their commitment to this unspoken contract. Their motivators become negatively skewed. They feel they aren’t being looked after as they would like and begin to feel the victim. They get less sympathetic to the boss’s challenges.

Of course there’s a big element of communication here and can raise the question of how well managers are continuing to get alongside their staff and can think themselves empathically into their people’s perspective. Yet, it is easy to start to slide out of taking responsibility for your career. This is the key element. In a recession it is easy to get into a stuck position where you feel in a corner and at the effect of the forces around you.

Yet we can still practice our own career development, and look to build up skill and knowledge, research new opportunities, and also new ways to be a contribution. You could develop your career by moving roles, if you want to stay, or by widening the scale and scope of your contribution. It’s this eclectic thinking that can so often get missed. It is something I am very often discussing in my coaching: what can you do for yourself, that promotes you in the business, makes a difference to what’s being done and make it more possible for you to get better opportunities later?

This whole approach to managing our own futures can get overlooked. However, as the more enterprising businesses invest in a downturn in order to get ready for the next upswing, so too do we need to do this as individuals.

I can discuss this possibility with you in a no-obligation introductory conversation, if you contact me here.

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Losing your job can be anticipated and prepared for

Back with a bump, one might think after two weeks of Olympic euphoria, and yet here again is a stark reminder of the need to be vigilant with regard to your career and employability in the face of threats to losing your job.

Today another reminder came of the very difficult underlying trends in the UK economy, with predictions that employers might soon start making a lot more redundancies than they have to date. With the economy still officially in recession and the eurozone crisis far from resolved, it seems employers are thinking they are finally going to have to start making people redundant in much bigger numbers. Having held on to skilled people in the belief that to “let them go”, as the euphemism goes, would prove more costly in the longer term, they are finally having to accept the seeming inevitable.

What the above article does not say is that in today’s economy, one company’s loss is often another’s gain. Skilled and talented people tend to find more work. Remember that unemployment figures are an aggregate total and do not reflect the massive turnover in jobs that occur, let alone the very many that the official compiler of these statistics never gets to hear about since so much occurs in the “hidden” job market of unadvertised jobs.

While this may not actually occur, and the economy could start  to grow again soon, it points up the need to keep your CV/Resume and LinkedIn profile as up-to-date as possible, as well of course to being careful with your spending and building up a buffer. This all indicates the importance of anticipating events in terms of prudent planning, while of course not getting invested in negative thinking about the future and thus drawing it to you.

It’s worth going through what you’ve been doing recently and looking at what you already have “out there”. It could be that there are significant items of recent work that could make your profile look quite different. Also, it is worth researching potential jobs, and looking wider than what you have recently being doing. Is your career ready for its next “quantum leap” to another level? Are there other roles, that might better reflect what you are actually about, that till now you’ve not thought about? Often people’s real careers move on, while their thinking is rooted in the past. They often don’t see the new opportunities that are open to them with a re-presentation of what they do.

So, while employers might be thinking of making changes, perhaps you can too. A lot of people have stayed loyal to their employers out of fear, and have accepted real-terms wage cuts to keep their jobs. Maybe it’s time to think again. This is the point of the unwritten real contract, whereby you work together only so long as it suits both parties, and you part company when this changes.

So, there might be an opportunity in adversity, as there so often is in life in general. You could be using the quieter months of August to have a refreshing think about where you are going, and develop a new strategy.

I help people think through their career strategy and develop new ideas for the way forward. To find out more, click here

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An inspiring vision that you feel impelled to make a reality

Vision and purpose are those things that you hear businesses talk about about, often rather glibly, but it doesn’t figure so much with individuals. When I ask people about this, they often say they “don’t know”, although if we dig around a bit then they come up with certain specific, often short-term material desires for the future. Purpose usually draws a blank.

This is quite serious given how insecure many jobs are in today’s climate. Now you could say that in itself describes a vision by default, which might be limited to one of survival, and perhaps people are thinking less of the future. That doesn’t fit so much with many Generation Y people however, as the defining characteristics of this age group are autonomy, ambiguity and meaning – and they don’t expect to stay in the same job long. Yet if the overall economic situation is uncertain then, like businesses are doing at present, people won’t invest in the future, not will they spend.

Yet to leave one’s future to chance can be tempting fate, if it were not that very many people are busy raising their qualifications by part-time study, which makes sense too if you consider the advancing sophistication of the workforce and the need for specialist skills.

So, in this situation it might well seem strange to write about vision and purpose. Rather you might expect a certain cynicism. After a period of excess, if that is what we might call the “noughties”, and with a very severe economic downturn we might think grand ideas are likely to be replaced by doubt.

However, all this ignores an underlying optimism that we humans possess, one that keeps going despite the apparent evidence to the contrary. We tend to underplay potential dangers and have, most of us, a tendency to think the future will be better.

Which can be very useful to tap into when we need it. Arguably now is the time. It is often at the bottom of an economic cycle that people start planning to develop in a new direction. It is at times like these that the more entrepreneurial start to develop new business ideas for example.

So a vision for an individual might be, let’s say, their picture or description or sense of what they would like to be doing long-term in areas like lifestyle, location, housing, activities and a preferred line and level of work if relevant. Those who I find that are thinking like this will tell me that around a certain age they planned to shift to a different but not necessarily unrelated kind of work, move location, and change their lifestyle. What such more far-sighted people do is plan their current activities and, lets say training and skill and knowledge acquisition in order to be able to make the shift intended. The purpose would be some description of what they would be doing this for, why it was important, what meaning it would be giving them, what it would be achieving, that sort of thing. Some might call this “mission” instead. Vision and purpose are quite closely related. As a coach, I’d like to get a sense that they were inspired by what they were articulating, like it was one that they strongly believed in and were motivated to take action on.

I’ve often been struck by the power of vision in TV programmes like “Secret Millionaire”, when some successful businessman returns to an environment they escaped from as a teenager to make their fortune and they say, “I always knew I’d be rich” (or successful, or whatever). Such is the power of a clear vision. It’s very common. We can do the same. Visions become realities.