Archive for the ‘Emotions At Work’ Category

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

Tuesday, March 6th, 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.

 

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

Friday, September 8th, 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.

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

Tuesday, May 30th, 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.

 

 

When loyalty puts well-being at risk – by Doug Babkirk – November 4, 2016

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Loyalty PuzzleIn my executive coaching work I often hear clients, especially Boomers, talk passionately about being fiercely loyal to their work or employer. In a recent session with a client who wanted to rethink her work priorities, she spoke of how difficult it was to say “No” to co-workers who were asking more and more of her in her leadership role. She was conflicted: she loved the praise and admiration from others who appreciated her skills and wisdom; and yet, she was resentful, exhausted and feeling adrift in responding to everyone’s requests. “I am just too loyal to everyone. I always have been. I can’t continue to work this way.”

As I listened to her story, I wondered about the importance of loyalty in her life and asked, “How are you loyal to yourself?” which then led to a rich discussion of how she had always placed the needs of others before herself and gradually lost herself along the way believing that loyalty to others precluded being loyal to herself. In our time together she began to see how she could work differently by: partnering with others; questioning if the request from co-workers was truly a priority; discerning if and how the request could be done differently; and questioning if it reflected the highest and best use of her time and skills.

By giving herself the time and space to pause, reflect and re-think her commitments to others and to herself, she began to establish a new framework for working with greater ease and awareness of what truly matters.

  • How does loyalty show up in your work?
  • How are you loyal to yourself? To your values? To your priorities?

“If you want to do your best for future generations of humanity, for your friends and family, you must begin by taking good care of yourself.”     Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche

Feeling stuck in your career? Try these steps. – by Barbara Babkirk – October 25, 2016

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I can do it

What’s on your career “to do” list that you keep putting off?

Is it updating a resume that’s ten years old? Sending an email to a colleague to ask for introductions? Attending a professional meeting and risk having to tell someone you’re not working or unhappy with your current job?

While it may seem that these tasks are benignly hanging out on a list, they are, in fact, zapping your energy just by being in queue along with other obligations.

When you postpone some action you need to take, you’re not really free from it because it will occupy your thoughts until you act on it.

Completing the task may be simpler than you imagine.

Typically, procrastination is not rooted in poor time management or lack of discipline, but rather, in how we’re framing the action we need to take.

For example, if you need to tap contacts in your career field, but aren’t sure what to say, you might convince yourself that no one will want to help you. With that mindset, there’s no use in making the effort—and so you don’t.

Or, you might need to update your resume or improve your a LinkedIn profile, but you’re unaware of current best practice or how to convey your professional value. So, you make up a story that you’re not really employable which zaps any motivation to move forward.

The following five steps can help you shift from inaction to action and empower you to take charge of your career:

  1. Recognize the career-related task/s you are delaying.
  2. Be honest with yourself about what’s behind your inaction. Is it fear or a lack of knowledge that is keeping you stalled?
  3. Sort out the facts from what you’ve assumed or made up. Do a reality check and/or ask for some help about how to proceed.
  4. Break the task down into manageable steps with adequate timeframes for completion.
  5. Seek help from a professional if you need facts and help getting started and moving forward.

Over 50, looking for a job, and concerned about your age? Don’t be. by Barbara Babkirk – October 11, 2015

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Ageism Gets OldMy career counseling specialty is the boomer demographic and most of my clients have two things in common: they have worked for decades in a primary career and they are afraid that their age will hinder their search for new work.

My job is to help them get to the heart of the matter: identify what they want to do, what they have to offer and how to land a job. In order to begin that work, I often have to give them a reality check about their fears.

So I ask: Have you heard that 30% of Maine’s population is between 50 and 70 and that a third of that group is poised to retire?

The “older boomers” nearing 70, will create a significant gap in the marketplace as they officially disengage from paid work. It’s clear that employers will need to think creatively and inclusively about how to fill positions and get the jobs done. It will be the naïve hiring manager who lets age discrimination get in the way of a good hire.

So, avoid second-guessing any prospective employer about how they’ll view your age, and focus on what’s sure to be an asset: your cadre of pertinent skills, experience, and relevant education and training.

The initial way to present this information is via Linked in and a professional résumé. As you put your best foot forward virtually and in writing, avoid any indicators that will hint that you are not current in your skills or knowledge of the marketplace.

Here are tips for conveying your knowledge about current best practices in the job search:

  • More than 90% of people seeking to hire use Linkedin as a key resource to identify talent. Create a winning Linkedin profile that includes a summary “story” about your background and skills. Be sure to customize and include your LinkedIn URL on your resume. (We have a LinkedIn specialist on our team who offers LI workshops three times a month.)
  • Avoid unnecessary, extraneous information on your resume like “references furnished upon request”, personal data such as “married, 2 kids” or a list of your hobbies.
  • Include only the years of past employment and not the months that detract from more important information.
  • Provide concise information about your experience; show results whenever possible and use strong and descriptive verbs to delineate your experience.
  • Avoid including the year you graduated from college or graduate school. Keep them guessing about your exact age.

With a pro-active approach and positive mindset, you will shift from fears about your age to focus on finding a great match between your skills and job target and marketplace options.

Find the pause button and get the clarity you need by Barbara Babkirk – September 29, 2015

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

th-1

I recently saw a client I’ll call Anne, who was stressed from overworking—a very common issue these days. She had made the decision to quit her job within a year and wanted to discuss options that would allow for better balance in her life in her next position.

After exploring the issue more in depth, it became clear that Anne was not really in a place to imagine possibilities. She was depleted and not feeling very expansive in her thinking. Anne admitted that the options that came to mind would put her back in the same pattern of overwork.

While her job was hard to manage, she had developed a pattern of saying yes to practically any request that came her way, causing her to feel resentful and tired.

In spite of having accumulated several weeks of vacation, Anne’s work had taken over her life and she had not even thought about time to renew and regroup.

Rather than explore her next work options, we discussed taking time—three consecutive weeks in fact, to renew her spirit and get some much needed R&R.

The other strategy we discussed had to do with how she responded to requests. Her habit of saying yes came from a place of wanting to be of service and needed, but was getting in the way of her experiencing down time or evaluating the way she was spending her time at work.

Anne agreed to experiment with “finding a pause button”. When a request came in, she would, whenever possible, get the information she needed and tell the person she’d get back to them the following day. She would sleep on it and “be with” the request. She would allow some feedback to bubble up from the inside out and let that influence her ultimate decision of how to respond.

I’m confident that shifting the “yes” pattern and taking time to rest and renew will both support Anne’s desire to find new work and a different way of working.

 

 

 

 

How to deal with things you can’t control by Barbara Babkirk – September 9, 2015

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

You have choices in life that you may not always recognize…like whether or not to worry or obsess about not having a job or the slow response from prospective employers.

Even when you feel like you don’t, you often have options that can influence the process and perhaps shift the outcome of a situation—it’s all in your response.

By focusing on what is happening externally, you are likely to overlook what’s going on within you—such as your attitude and feelings—two things over which you have direct control.

You can have a direct impact on what you think or how you feel—unlike the impact you may have on what goes on around you.

Recently a friend recounted her experience in an airport, missing flight after flight home due to weather conditions. She first felt frustrated as though something was happening to her. While in a sense, this was true, it finally occurred to her that it was also true that she had choices as to how to spend her time and whether or not to be annoyed or good natured about it all.

Tensions ran high as passengers heard the news: no flights were coming or going. For the most part, she saw few people making lemon out of lemonade. They had all unconsciously decided to have a particular mindset about something external to them they could not change.

No matter the circumstances of your life, don’t overlook your attitude or your feelings. By shifting your attention, you might be surprised that you feel better by taking charge in some small way of what’s happening around you.

Thinking about a career change? Slow down. by Barbara Babkirk – August 19, 2015

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Hammock On A Tropical Beach Resort Vacation ConceptIt may seem counter productive to slow down when you are gearing up for a change, but that’s what might add the most to your success.

Think about it: If you’re navigating a sharp turn in the road, isn’t it less risky and more prudent to slow down and put your attention on the curve?

The same could be said for navigating a major career shift. You may not be able to see exactly what follows the shift (curve in the road), but if you are mindful about what’s needed to turn well, you’ll eventually get beyond it.

Few would argue that most of us have too much time on our hands. The fact is that we’re way too busy. Living life in constant motion makes us feel out of breath and out of control—neither fosters clear or creative thinking when you’re contemplating a change.

So, what can you do to facilitate your career change? Here’s a list of simple steps that will slow down your pace of life and allow new ideas and possibilities to emerge:

  • Center yourself with three deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed by the thought of a change.
  • Decrease the stress of the unknown with brisk walks on a regular basis.
  • Calm your spirit by reflecting on three things each day for which you are grateful.
  • Remember what has helped you navigate difficult times in the past and repeat it.
  • Reach out to a trusted friend and be vulnerable when it is safe to be.
  • Stay focused in the moment and decrease the times you push yourself to multi-task.
  • Remember: Simple actions can counter complicated situations.

 “You will find yourself in the simple and forgotten things.” – Carl Jung

 

What happens when you take a leap of faith? – by Barbara Babkirk – June 29, 2015

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Anglefish Jumping Into Bigger FishbowlI’ve seen several clients recently who took a leap of faith around their work, so I decided the topic was blog material.

While in each scenario, the circumstances surrounding the leap were unique; each person experienced a similar outcome.

Take for example, the person who, after many years as a master teacher, quit teaching, even though he did not have a specific job or even a concrete alternative option in mind.

Another, after a dozen years as a “stay at home mom”, took a business idea seriously and enrolled in a course to help aspiring entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

A third person altered his original “three year plan” of disengaging himself from his family business and decided to leave in a year without any guarantees that his idea to reinvent himself would be successful.

Despite totally different career paths, marketable skills and economic backgrounds, these people had some significant factors in common in their leap of faith stories.

  1. Each had been involved in a long term work scenario that, although not entirely satisfying, was
    comfortable and secure in its own way.
  2. None of the individuals was being forced into a change by external circumstances—the impetus
    was entirely self-driven.
  3. And most interesting to me was that they all experienced a rush of unanticipated support from
    a wide range of places and people once they began to talk about their idea. From offers of
    places to rent for a new business and chance encounters with people with appropriate resources
    and information, to a conversation with a relative that lead to the naming of the
    business—each person felt overwhelmed by the amount of positive energy that their leap of
    faith seemed to release.

The phenomenon of a convergence of helpful resources that counters a somewhat risky endeavor is not new to me. In fact, it’s very common for a person to come in for a career counseling session, identify something they are particularly interested in, and also state why it is a risk.

They create an impasse in their minds and stay in that stuck place. In the instances when the person tips the scale in their thinking in favor of the leap of faith, it doesn’t mean the fear has vanished—it’s just that they have decide to move ahead in spite of it.

In the latter case, I help the person take a few steps toward their desired career to determine if the direction seems right and to gather some momentum for the transition.

A couple weeks later, I’m always delighted to hear a familiar opening remark when the person comes in for a follow-up session: “You won’t believe what happened!”
Then their story unfolds and I hear myriad examples of how their leap of faith idea took on a life of its own and gathered supporters in the process.

After many years witnessing this phenomenon through clients’ stories, I’ve come to believe that there are rewards for taking a leap of faith risk. It would seem that Eleanor Roosevelt had a premonition of these positive outcomes when she said: “Do the thing you think you can not.”

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

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