Will Spring Herald a New Beginning for You? April 25, 2018 – by Barbara Babkirk

If so, then keep in mind that any transition calls for trust!

A fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll even on the most courageous.

There’s just something about a blank slate of possibilities that prompts creative minds to conjure up lists of “what if” scenarios—most of which instill fear in our hearts and minds.

Our clients consistently express nervousness about their career changes that’s based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur–in some instances, because they want to feel prepared for the worse case scenario. But, the cost of this focus can hinder positive movement in the change process.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety.

So what do you do instead of getting stressed out in a transition?

  • While you may believe that your negative projection into the future is necessary to feel prepared for anything that might occur, it actually works against you.
  • This often spontaneous and habitual thought process is a waste of time, energy and attention because it is likely to interrupt your momentum or stop you in your tracks.
  • Successfully maneuvering through a transition requires nimbleness and openness to possibilities. Fear elicits the opposite in anticipation of some threatening outcome.
  • Consciously thinking about what you desire is an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to hide under your bed covers.
  • I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you become clear about the intention and desired outcome(s) for your transition.

While you cannot control all aspects of any change, you can control your thinking and your response to your transition.

In doing so, you will shift your attention from what you don’t want to occur to more appealing prospects. With this shift to a more trusting mindset, you should feel calmer and more able to move forward and complete the tasks that will make you successful.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”     – Goethe

The Heartache of an Unspoken Thank You – by Barbara Babkirk, March 6, 2018

It might surprise some to hear that I’m in the business of mending hearts.

Yes, my company is aptly named Heart At Work Associates, but those who know my firm realize that it’s a play on words for a career counseling and outplacement company that gets to the heart of the matter as it concerns career decision making and strategy.

Let me give an example of the mending hearts part of my job.

Tom’s company brought in a manager who decided on a new direction for his division.

After 27 years of service to the same company, Tom was summoned to his boss’s office where he was also joined by the HR Manager.

His stomach sank because he knew what was coming…the proverbial pink slip or termination notice. What he did not expect was the way it was delivered.

In very few words, his boss told him that his experience was no longer needed given the new business strategy. He was told to gather his office belongings and leave before the day’s end. The HR Manager handed him an envelope and told him that his severance agreement and necessary paperwork were included in it. He was not allowed to speak to his colleagues about this, let alone say goodbye.

Tom was speechless.

Several weeks later, Tom called me to set up an appointment. Part of his severance included “outplacement”, a provision of assistance to help laid-off employees find new employment.

Providing outplacement services is a significant aspect of our work and we’re honored to help at this time of need and emotional distress.

While I generally do not have any prescribed questions that I ask all my clients, I do typically ask my outplacement clients, “how are you doing?” given their circumstance.

Tom’s response was “sad” and “stunned”. It was difficult to accept the total lack of appreciation on the part of his employer.  A retirement party or watch? No, not even a thank you for all of those years of service.

At this point, my work as a mender of broken hearts began. Some compassionate patchwork was necessary in order for Tom to feel good about himself and his value before he embarked on a job search strategy.

When I work with people like Tom, I can’t help but wonder why such a heart-less ending was scripted.

It seemed so unnecessary and serving no one: the company loses a loyal employee who is apt to become a disgruntled one and the employee loses a sense of his contribution and value of many years.

Tom did, in fact, land another job. One he reported as “the best one yet”, and I could not have been more pleased.

A “thank you for your service and many contributions” would have made Tom’s exit less of a heartache for him and perhaps an easier task for his boss.

As for me, I’d happily give up the mending hearts part of my work in favor of working with clients who come in feeling whole, appreciated and excited to embark on their next work journey.

The power of thank you is not only relevant in situations where employees are leaving, but also in an effort to retain talent. My next blog will address the impact of gratitude on overall wellbeing.

 

Will you be a “working retiree”? by Barbara Babkirk – January 10, 2018

A recent study from Merrill Lynch determined that nearly three out of five retirees will launch a new work chapter after they retire from primary careers.

The term “working retiree” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s a new reality that is here to stay. It’s projected to have a significant impact on the marketplace due to low population growth and high talent needs.

If you’re wondering why this shift in retirement mindset is coming about after just one generation, think about the characteristics of this baby boomer demographic:

  • best educated in history
  • commitment to lifelong learning
  • healthy lifestyles and
  • desire to make a difference (think sit-ins and demonstrations of the 70’s)

But, not all boomers who want to work after retirement share the same reasons or priorities around work. Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, author and expert on aging issues, has identified four “core profiles” of today’s working retirees:

  1. Driven Achievers (15%) who have consistent derived their identity from work and continue to be driven to achieve
  2. Caring Contributors (33%) who are motivated to give back and make a difference in the latter part of their lives
  3. Life Balancers (25%) who see work at this time of their lives as fitting into larger priorities and want work to be fairly stress-free and fun
  4. Earnest Earners (28%) who need to work to meet financial obligations, whether or not they want to continue working. Since a significant number of boomers have not adequately saved for retirement, this group is predicted to grow.

If you’re among the significant number of retirees who leave work and after 6 to 18 months, miss the structure, camaraderie, or sense of purpose, then you may be joining the emerging group of working retirees.

Identifying your “core profile” from Dychtwald’s list as well as knowing what is motivating you in this next life phase, is essential to forging a successful path.

What to do about your job search during the Holidays…by Barbara Babkirk – November 28, 2017

The Holiday season is here and you’re exploring job opportunities. Do you put your efforts on hold, or carry on? While conventional wisdom may say: “Chill out, no one is hiring in December because budgets are spent.” We have a different perspective at Heart At Work.

Just think about all the people you see only once a year at Holiday events, plus all the new people you might meet who may be great connectors to your next employment opportunity.

However, if you are not clear about your career direction or job target, you might cringe at the thought of people asking what you’re are up to, or worse still, what you want to do.

Once you’re prepared for the inevitable question, you’ll be set to welcome informal conversations and offers of help for your transition. If someone suggests a contact and says, “use my name”, know that this approach rarely works.

You’ll need to then say “Thanks! Would you please make an email introduction for me and I’ll take it from there?” Then you can be certain that the email will not end up in spam or the trash since it came someone known to them.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to expand your network. With many executives curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity and even a new job to celebrate in the New Year.

 

Discover who you were meant to be – by Barbara Babkirk – September 5, 2017

Pearl In Open Shell

I was organizing a bookshelf recently and came across an article by author and activist, Parker Palmer, titled “Now I Become Myself.

I took time out from the task at hand to read my newfound treasure. While I believe I had read it before, the article had particular relevancy on this day because of a career counseling client with whom I had just met.

Palmer wrote that we spend the first half of our lives abandoning our essential talents and true nature in quests for approval and ill-fated attempts to establish ourselves in the world.

The sense of a “lost self” increases with age and reveals itself in career and work choices that don’t align with who we are meant to be. That could certainly contribute to the current high incidence of dissatisfaction in the workplace.

It is predictably at midlife and beyond that we find this discrepancy unacceptable and set out to reclaim “the person we’ve always been.”

The serendipity of my finding Palmer’s piece just after meeting with a 42 year old client was uncanny. Jen, as I’ll name her, had just come in stating that, after spending decades in the workforce just “falling into jobs”; she was now excited to take charge of her career.

She was ready to do the work of retracing her life’s path and recognize the truths about herself that would inform new options for her work in the world.

In making connections beyond the obvious about what we’ve done and who we are, we uncover gems that reflect true facets of ourselves.

These treasures can provide precious clues that reveal who we are meant to be and broaden how we see ourselves in the world.

Networking Made Easy by Mark Cook – August 22, 2017

Two managers having conversation

 

 

 

What comes to mind when you hear the word “networking”?

 I recently asked a few of my clients that question and here are some of their responses:

  • Wine and cheese events
  • Meeting lots of new people
  • Awkward
  • Leaving with lots of business cards from people I barely got to know
  • Not easy and not sure how it benefited me

If you are like most, networking is a difficult task you would rather avoid. You may also be unclear about your desired results and whether you have achieved them.

But, networking doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, networking that gets results is not complicated and everyone can do it—and perhaps even enjoy it – when you know what to do and you prepare in advance.

At Heart At Work, we have a unique perspective on networking. We coach clients about the three types of networking meetings:

  • A Professional “networking” Event where people with common interests gather to exchange business cards and quick introductions.
  • Informational interviews, when you are exploring a career field and need detailed and current information to determine if it’s a good fit for you
  • Strategic conversations, when you know the field of work in which you want to work, the position you are qualified for, or when you want to explore how your skills might fit with an organization’s needs

The key for all meetings is to be intentional and have an agenda. You need to be clear about the purpose of your meeting and then prepare accordingly.

If you have an upcoming informational interview, for example, develop a list of questions in advance. Research the person you are meeting with on Google and LInkedin. Make sure you have a current resume that highlights your accomplishments and a LinkedIn profile that draws interest and speaks to your capabilities, since it’s more than likely that your contact may look you up.

Next week, I’ll discuss the types of networking meeting more specifically and how to leverage them for your success.

Take Charge of Your Career in Six Steps by Barbara Babkirk – July 21, 2017

Therebigstock--162279116’s a trend I’ve noticed over the years as a career development professional. Somewhere in the 40s decade, people are often inclined to take action on their careers. It’s as though they feel an internal prompt, rather than an external motivator.

“I just fell into my career and I want to be more planful going forward. If it’s going to happen, it needs to be now.” That’s a common statement that the 40-something clients make.

If this describes you, then perhaps the following six steps will help you shift from a passive to a pro-active approach to your work life and career path.

  1. Take stock of what you want from work in this stage of your life. Ask yourself if your competencies, interests and values are adequately met in your work and workplace. If not, then consider negotiating another arrangement or consider a job search to work that is more aligned.
  1. Be mindful of your assumptions about what’s possible. Keep in mind what you want as outcomes, not what you fear.
  1. Understand the professional value you bring to the marketplace and seek out opportunities to communicate it verbally (meetings, performance reviews), virtually (with a great LinkedIn profile) and in writing (effective emails, outstanding resume, crisp cover letters).
  1. Create opportunities to increase your visibility with your clients, prospective clients or employer.
  1. Stay current with best practices in your field and be innovative in presenting new ideas and practices. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends in interviews or in professional conversations.
  1. Consistently attend to your needs. Take time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to seize the next best opportunity.

How to shift your fears in any transition – by Barbara Babkirk – May 30, 2017

Beautiful Butterfly.The fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll on even the most courageous.

There’s just something about a blank slate of possibilities that prompts creative minds to conjure up lists of “what if” scenarios—most of which reflect our fears and impact our hearts and minds.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear clients expressing trepidation about their career change that’s based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety.

While you may believe that your negative projection into the future is necessary to feel prepared for anything that might occur, it actually works against you.

This often spontaneous and habitual thought process is a waste of time, energy and attention because it is likely to interrupt your momentum or stop you in your tracks.

Successfully maneuvering through a transition requires nimbleness and openness to possibilities. Fear elicits the opposite, and has you “pull in the wagons of your life” in anticipation of some threatening outcome.

When you consciously think about what you desire, you create an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to hide under your bed covers.

I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you focus your attention, breathe, and get clear about the intention and desired outcome(s) for your transition.

While you cannot control all aspects of any change, you can control your thinking and your response to your transition.

In doing so, you will shift your attention from what you don’t want to occur to more appealing prospects. With this shift to a more trusting mindset, you should feel calmer and more able to move forward and complete the tasks that will make you successful.

 

 

Your path to a purposeful retirement by Barbara Babkirk – February 23, 2017

Natural flagstone path landscaping in home gardenWith an expectation to live 30 more years than the previous generation, baby boomers are heralding a “longevity revolution” that will invite increased options to fill the extended years of life. With these “dividend years” in mind, over 70% expect to work well beyond their parent’s transition to a strictly leisure-focused life.

The Mature Market Institute, MetLife’s organization that provides research on issues of aging, released a leading-edge study—Discovering What Matters: Balancing Money, Medicine and Meaning. The study explored the role that purpose plays in the lives of people over 50. As the study states, “…for most people, their primary goal is not financial freedom or good health, or even free time—it is to have purpose and meaning in their lives.”

Since today’s boomers nearing an end to their primary careers lack models to emulate, their task of creating meaningful options for themselves is challenging.

With the desire for purpose being central to the next chapter, boomers might consider asking these simple questions for further clarification of goals and plans:

  1. What is the significance of this stage of my life? What would give it more meaning?
  2. What are the primary skills, competencies and talents that I’d like to offer at this time?
  3. Where in the world is there a match between my skills and what would give me a sense of meaning and provide an opportunity to leave a legacy?
  4. What topics and issues engage me?
  5. What might I do next to investigate possible options?

There’s a new way to retire these days. It might be going back to school to develop new competencies, spearheading a community-based initiative, or serving as a mentor or advisor in your career field.

Taking time to consider ideas, possibilities, and changes that are aligned with priorities and talents can create a whole new sense of purpose and fulfillment for your next stage of life.

Heart At Work Associates, a career and outplacement firm in Portland, Maine has developed an innovative initiative called “The Boomer Institute”. This program, scheduled to begin this year, is a unique matching between talented and experienced boomers and opportunities with Maine employers. Consider signing up to be the first to know when it launches.

Eight Tips to Increase Your Professional Value by Barbara Babkirk – January 1, 2017

bigstock-140370929If you’re typical, you may have difficulty recognizing what you do well. In fact, if a skill comes easily to you, you probably take it for granted. The mindset diminishes the impact you have on your work and work environment. Here are tips that might help you reconsider your strengths and contributions.   

  1. Be vigilant to your highest values and priorities and boldly live them! Align your life between what you believe and value and what you do.
  1. Increase your visibility to your clients, customers, colleagues and people to whom you report. Understand the value you add and don’t be shy about it.
  1. Regularly take stock of what you want from your work. Annually assess if your interests and values are being adequately met in your current work. If not, negotiate another role, or consider alternatives in the marketplace.
  1. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect best practices for presenting your professional self. If it’s been a while since you’ve done this, consider meeting with a career counselor who knows effective strategies.
  1. Clearly and concisely communicate your competencies backed up with results-focused examples of when you’ve demonstrated them.
  1. Be mindful of your assumptions about what is possible. Keep in mind the outcomes you want, rather than those you fear might occur.
  1. Stay current with best practices in your field. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends at professional meetings and networking events.
  1. Take good care of yourself. Make time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to recognize and pursue the next best opportunity.

May you value and celebrate your contributions in the New Year!

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Heart At Work Associates offers career counseling and outplacement services for your life stage in Portland, Maine and globally.

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