Archive for the ‘Work & Identity’ Category

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

Wednesday, January 10th, 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.

Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral? by Scott Woodard – April 20, 2015

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Clients often express frustration that they’re not finding meaning in their work. They may have at one time, but no longer. They may feel they have plateaued in their current role and there’s no place for them to go. They may have mastered their work and are no longer challenged. Their workplace may be disruptive or toxic and they have no power to change the environment. Work, for them, in a word…well it’s not good.

They come looking for help in finding their new work. Work that is meaningful, challenging, exciting, collaborative. However, when asked to define what that work might look like, many are at a loss. They have no idea other than it is not what they’re doing now.

So, we’ll do some exercises to help them focus on purpose and clarity — what drives them and what they’re good at doing. We may have them take the StrengthsFinder assessment. We may have them write an essay that describes their ideal work day — from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night.

For many, these exercises provide focus and help define what they want to do going forward. Others, however, find these tasks difficult. They struggle with how their StrengthsFinder themes help; they can’t define their ideal work day. They just know that they don’t want to continue what they’re doing.

Not to diminish their frustration with their current situation, these folks may need a reframe. I’m reminded of the story of a traveller who came upon three brick masons busy at their craft. He asked the first one, “what are you doing?” The mason looked up with a scowl and responded, “I’m laying bricks, what’s it look like? Now don’t bother me, I’ve got another hour before my shift ends.” The traveller went up to the second mason and asked the same question. “I’m helping build this wall, and we’re in a hurry; we need to lay another full row before end of shift.” The third brick mason got the same question from the traveller: “What are you doing?” He looked up at the traveller and responded, “I’m building a cathedral.”

A recent conversation with my son brought this home. He is in his first professional job at a national foundation that supports the educational advancement of promising students in financial need. When he was first hired, he was excited about the opportunity, believing strongly in the mission of the foundation. Almost a year in to his job, he’s discouraged that all he seems to do is manage budgets and manipulate spreadsheets. Trouble is, he’s not sure what he wants to do next.

Then he told a story of how he helped one of their students obtain internet service at her home. The student’s parents couldn’t afford cable in their inner city apartment. The foundation agreed to pay for the service so the student could access the internet for her studies. My son negotiated with the internet service provider to install service. It took nine months. Knowing that service would be paid by the foundation, the provider was willing to install the necessary cable and modem…between 1 and 3 PM…on a weekday. An adult would need to be present to sign for the installation. The major problem was that both parents worked at low wage jobs and could not afford to take time off to be available for the installation. My 23 year old son — the budget manager and spreadsheet manipulator — negotiated with the global internet service provider to install the necessary equipment. It took him nine months, but he was successful and the bright, young student now has access to internet to supplement her schooling.

I’d say he did more than just lay bricks.

Over to you. When you’re frustrated with your job, do you see yourself just laying bricks? Can you reframe and refocus your thoughts and your activities so that you’re building a cathedral? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take charge of your professional life by Barbara Babkirk, December 11, 2014

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Far too many people let their careers happen to them.

If you relate to this statement, but hate to admit it, there are steps you can take to shift from a passive to a pro-active approach to your work life.

  • Take stock of what you want from work. Ask yourself if your competencies, interests and values are adequately met in your work and workplace. If not, then consider negotiating another arrangement or a job searc
  • Be mindful of your assumptions about what’s possible. Keep in mind what you want as outcomes, not what you fear might not happen.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 is your personality impacting your career? by Barbara Babkirk – August 12, 2014

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Once very happy with her company and career progression, Jane was now rethinking her career direction because of how she related to her new manager.

“I just can’t seem to get my point across to him”. “He is very different from me and I feel intimidated and as though I can’t meet his expectations.”

That was how Jane recently reported her frustration and concern about her relationship with her new boss. She was on the verge of quitting and wanted to explore options beyond her current job. One of my tasks as her career counselor was to help her determine her options and ultimately decide if a move was in her best interest.

After hearing examples of difficult interactions with her manager, I decided that she would benefit from a different perspective on her situation—one that considered differences in personality type between herself and her boss.

Developed to better understand the personality theory of Carl Jung, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a widely used assessment that’s been translated into 21 languages and administered to over 1.5 million people annually. The MBTI is a way to better understand ourself and develop greater appreciation and tolerance for other’s differences.

Jane took the assessment and felt confident about her four-letter type after reading about characteristics and behaviors associated with it. With her newfound knowledge of personality type, she began to understand how she differed from her boss and how those differences impacted her interactions from communication to expectations.

Through the lens of the MBTI and her personality type, Jane was able to consider her less-than-stellar performance review in a way that allowed her to see her work from his perspective.

She acknowledged that her boss was expecting her to stretch beyond her comfort zone in several areas. Type knowledge helped her understand why this was difficult for her, but also helped her see how she could do this in a variety of ways, not just how her boss would do it.

As a result of her increased understanding of personality type, Jane felt determined to stay with her company and challenged to improve her performance.

For those who have taken the MBTI and want to explore its relevance to work, read Do What You Are, by Paul and Barbara Tieger for an in-depth view of how knowledge of one’s type can help clarify appropriate options and shape career decisions.

Keys to Job Satisfaction – Barbara Babkirk – January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Imagine…It’s Sunday night and, even though you’ve had an enjoyable weekend, you’re feeling down, even a sense of dread.

At first your change in mood takes you by surprise, but then it hits you: tomorrow is Monday and you’re not happy about returning to work.

If you can relate to this scenario, you are not alone. It’s estimated that more than half of all Americans do not enjoy their jobs. To paint an even bleaker picture, more people suffer heart attacks on Monday mornings than on any other day—a sobering statistic.

So, what does it take to find work that is satisfying and that shifts your attitude about Mondays?

The keys may be in a simple formula that seems to consistently result in sustained job satisfaction.

S+I+V=Job Satisfaction

  • Skills: Your work predominantly calls on the strengths, competencies and proven abilities that you currently enjoy using.
  • Values: The work you do and the mission of the organization for which you work align with your values. Your work is meaningful to you in some way.
  • Interests: The topics surrounding your work as well as work-related discussions and professional development activities are ones that engage you.

To have one or two of these factors in your job may seem adequate, but over time, it’s likely that you’ll lose interest and motivation. Typically, all three need to be part of your work experience to sustain a sense of satisfaction.

So go ahead; assess how your job stacks up against the formula. You might discover what’s missing in your current job and have a tool with which to evaluate your next one.

If Your Work Doesn’t Suit You, Consider This…

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

“There are hundreds of thousands of us ill-suited for the work we are doing, searching unsuccessfully for passion in our work. This is not a job training issue, it’s a soul-level issue.”

These words, from the book, Walking a Sacred Path, by Dr. Lauren Artress of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, jumped off the page because they reflected my own philosophical belief that frames and guides my career counseling work.

Often clients will see me thinking that we’ll talk strategy right away. While I fully agree that having a sound and effective plan for making a career transition is essential, it’s not very often the first step in the process.

First, I need to understand the real issue behind a person’s discontent with their current work or career. Especially when the person is in the second half of life, the real issue becomes complicated by other life challenges that may emerge by way of a career or job during this complex time of life.

From a Jungian perspective, the second half of life presents opportunities to integrate lesser-known parts of ourselves as we move through life toward wholeness. Consider that fact with the notion that most people work out significant life challenges in two arenas: relationships and work, and you have the makings of a “it’s more than a job-training issue” scenario.

You may be wondering if your career or work challenge falls into the deeper category of “soul work”, meaning it has a spiritual dimension. If you answer yes to any of the following questions you may be experiencing a soul issue,

  1. Is the issue at work or in your career part of a pattern you’ve experienced in the past?
  2. Does the issue seem to warrant a solution that goes beyond what you can figure out alone?
  3. Have you tried various ways to address the challenge only to come back to a stuck place?

If it’s a soul issue, be gentle with yourself because you may be facing into an important and possibly transformational time.  Engage in activities that allow contemplation, reflection and inspiration so you’ll gain a clearer understanding of your situation and your options.

Is Your Heart In Your Work?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Recently, I’ve been very aware of people who love what they do.

I’ve noticed that they often have a dynamic energy around them that’s hard to miss.

On Saturday, I was working in my garden when two women appeared in the yard. They were carrying what appeared to be religious books of some sort and they approached me with smiles and appreciative comments about my plantings.

After they identified themselves and their religious tradition, I realized that I didn’t particularly agree with the philosophy of their belief system. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the manner in which they conducted their missionary work. I commented that they seemed to truly enjoy the work they did on behalf of their church. They both nodded in enthusiastic agreement and, after hearing that I had my own approach to spirituality, moved on to my neighbor’s house.

That same day, I was running errands in preparation for a dinner party–always a great reason to stop by Portland’s newest bakery, Cranberry Island Kitchen. Karen, one of the owners, greeted me in her usual welcoming fashion and quickly opened a box of treats for me to sample. I couldn’t resist the invitation to try the latest whoopie pie flavor, even though I knew my mission that day was to purchase her yummy lobster-shaped shortbread cookies as favors for my guests. Both Karen and her colleague, Carol portray the traits of people whose heart is in their work: enthusiasm and a desire to share with others what they do.

My own clients will often remark that I must love my work because they sense my desire to help them and my sincere interest in their stories and quest for right livelihood.

Here is a list of some of the characteristics I’ve observed of people whose heart is in their work. Note if you see yourself in the descriptions:

• Consistent enthusiasm for the work and conscious enjoyment of each day.

• Desire to share the work with others in some way.

• Curiosity about and an interest in delving deeper into related topics.

• Recognition of how the work aligns with what is important to them.

• Spirit of generosity that is projected to others.

• Gratitude for the work and an appreciation for the opportunity to share it with the world.

While most people come to see me for help in identifying and securing work that they’ll love, they don’t always leave the job they are in. It seems that in some cases, experiencing “heart at work” can be cultivated and achieved without going to another job or forging a new career direction.

Do You Feel Successful?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

I don’t think many people consciously consider what success is to them. Yet, ask anyone you know and they’ll most likely be able to tell you whether or not they feel successful.

For some, success equates with money earned, for others it’s connected to power and influence or the ability to make a meaningful contribution to society. People accept jobs for a variety of reasons that may or may not allow them to meet their own criteria for success.

For example, imagine that your job involved a particularly long commute that created conflicts with your family commitments and your ability to exercise regularly or explore a hobby. If you decided to look for another job, you would naturally want to find something that is closer to home, otherwise, why quit? If a job offer came along with an organization nearby, you might be so ready for a change that you would accept the position without considering the whole picture. With a single-minded focus, you could overlook the important question: Does this job measure up to my values and notion of success?

With any luck the answer would be “yes”. However, that is not always the case when a person trades off their criteria for success and accomplishment in favor of one particular amenity that is sorely lacking in their current position.

So, take time now to think about what you need in order to feel successful. Determine whether or not there are actions you might take to improve your current success scenario—like taking a course to upgrade your skills, volunteering on a committee to improve conditions in your workplace, or preparing well for your next performance review during which you negotiate for a raise.

Being pro-active will increase your feelings of success and allow you to focus on those factors over which you have some control.

How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You?

Friday, December 16th, 2005

When you’re looking for a job or contemplating a career change, you need to articulate the skills, talents and personality traits that make you an impressive candidate. While this may sound easy enough to do, it is not for many people.

One of the reasons is due to our cultural conditioning to downplay our talents, ostensibly to keep us from being arrogant or self-centered. I’m not sure how many people are saved from inflated egos as a result of damping down how they view themelves, but I do know that the idea of keeping a lid on our best traits can backfire when it comes to the job search.

Looking for a job requires anyone to put their best foot forward in a confident and believable way. Being uncomfortable with communicating your strengths is likely to cost you the job.

So, how can you reverse a case of “modesty” when preparing for prospective interviews? If you have difficulty addressing the questions: “What are your relevant strengths?” or “What skills have you developed in which you are very confident?”, you might imagine what other people, like co-workers and good friends, might say on your behalf. Write out what “their” answers, then literally ask some of them and compare the responses.

Another way to identify what you do well is to create a chronology of your work experience—much like you’d do for a traditional resume. Then, in detail, using past tense verbs, describe the tasks you executed in each job. This website gives many examples of verbs to consider. When you are through, notice the trends—skills that you have used in multiple and/or different positions. This exercise should help you name your strengths as well as build your self-confidence.

Know that there are times when it is not only appropriate to speak well and confidently about yourself. Shift the notion that this is bragging and replace it with the idea that you’re telling the truth and helping someone select the best applicant for the job.

Is Your Identity Tied To Your Work?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

I was struck by a question a client asked me recently. She was commenting on how she tended to avoid certain social gatherings lately because she knew she’d be asked the dreaded question: “What do you do?” that typically followed an introduction. Unemployed for some time, she frequently found herself in these situations, although she never became comfortable with them. Knowing that I had recently spent time in France, she asked how people introduce themselves or are introduced in that country.

It was an interesting question that I had to ponder a minute. Recalling the various people I met during my annual combined business and leisure trip to the south of France, I was surprised by what I remembered.

I could not recall one instance when I was asked or when I thought it appropriate to ask about a person’s “métier” or work at our first introduction. In France, it’s often the case that a person is introduced and immediately identified in terms of their connection with another person (e.g. Roger’s aunt, or the cousin of the banker). It does not seem to be the French culture to be so bold or personal, especially on the first meeting. Yet, in the U. S., most of us don’t give a second thought to delving right into the subject of one’s profession as soon as we know their name. In doing this, we act as though there is no boundary between who we are and what we do.

Our culture’s implicit connection between work and identity can have a damaging impact on a person’s self esteem when they are in a job transition or when they decide to take time out from the workplace to raise children. While it is natural to experience loss when any particular aspect of our life ends, it is not healthy to believe we are without value or worth when we finds ourselves without a job. Yet, this is a common feeling for people who are not working.

While the experience of being without a job has its particular difficulties, it also has rich opportunities for growth and increased self-awareness. When a person can no longer look to the superficial contexts of job title, employer or salary to define them, they are more apt to discover the deeper more meaningful aspects of themselves.

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

Visit us on Facebook  Facebook icon    Join Us on Pinterest  Pinterest    Pin Our Website     Follow Us on LinkedIn  

home | career counseling & outplacement services | innovative programs | philosophy | heart at work blog | meet the team | contact
career counseling • outplacement & career transition services • relocation services • retention programs
© Heart At Work Associates, LLC