How to Become a Career Coach

How to Become a Career Coach

The ultimate guide to creating flexibility by launching a coaching business

INTRODUCTION:

SO YOU SHOULD MAKE CAREER COACHING A FULL TIME BIZ WHEN YOU…

There are A LOT of reasons people come to me wanting to start a coaching business.

Freedom, Flexibility, Travel, Help others, Control of their lives, Do work they love doing. Make a big impact in someone’s life. The list goes on and on.

For me personally the first time I thought about it, I knew that I wanted to be around for my kids and that I wanted to help people completely change and improve their lives.  

However most of those exact same people don’t see how they can make a living at it or how to make it possible for themselves.

This might be you too.

BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT’S WHERE YOU SHOULD DOUBLE DOWN YOUR EFFORTS?

If you’re the type of person who for some crazy reason people just keep coming to you for advice OR you’re that person who people want to share everything with.

Maybe you know that even though you can be a high performer working for someone else, you really want to actually be working for yourself.

You probably enjoy helping other people and probably also appreciate how some businesses can do a lot of good for people and the world.

Depending on how far along on this journey you are you might have already had a few clients that you’ve helped out.

You might even have a website where you’re just not sure how to use it to bring yourself clients or truly convey your expertise and establish yourself as an “authority”.

You’ve probably had passing thoughts about a coaching certification (but wondered whether or not it would actually help get you credibility or give you what you need to make this into “a thing”)

If all of the above are true OR even just one, it’s probably a safe bet that you would enjoy coaching full time tremendously.

Above all if you find that you just can’t stop helping other people in the areas you enjoy and have learned about or have some experience in, then it’s probably a great sign that you should be coaching or consulting in one form or another.

Plus, I’ve found that once you’ve done coaching and learned how to build and scale a business, it sets you up for so many ways to pivot from there.

I think of it as the best win-win-win way that I know of to start other businesses because it’s essentially “paid research” where you are legitimately helping someone solve their problem while they’re ecstatic to pay you AND you get to learn all about exactly what they need most from you to help them. Plus when you do a really good job you they are only all too happy to recommend you to others (think testimonials! Yea!)

Here’s an example of just a few spinoff businesses from people who I’ve helped get started with coaching.

  • Paid Speaking (once you’ve built authority on a topic area, people want to know more)
  • Created Training Classes and Group Coaching Programs
  • Live Events and Experiential Events
  • Online Education and Courses
  • Consulting for corporations (for expertise in their market)
  • Licensing for corporations or individuals
  • Published books and other published works

The possibilities are truly endless.

Wherever you’re starting in this journey, I’d like to show you 3 things that we show our paid clients and students who are starting and growing coaching businesses.

  • Exactly how it’s possible for your situation
  • What the exact steps are
  • How to position yourself as an authority in a market (quickly)

You’ll find all of these in the guide below!

Hugs!! Enjoy!

About the Author

Scott Anthony Barlow

Scott has started several successful businesses, multiple podcasts, including two of the Top 5 “Career Change” Podcasts on iTunes. He’s the founder of the Professional Career Coach (PCC) certification. He’s also started a very large number of projects, ventures and other general catastrophes that his wife Alyssa told him wouldn’t work (turns out she’s usually right!)

He is the CEO of HappenToYourCareer.com and now helps others avoid those same mistakes when becoming Professional Career Coaches and growing their own career coaching businesses! He’s directly helped hundreds of people begin their very first business and helped most of those have their first $10,000 month of business. 

Scott (who listens to his wife these days) and Alyssa live with their 3 kids in Moses Lake WA part of the year and somewhere else in the world the rest of the time! More about those adventures at FamilyPassport.co!

He absolutely loves thinking he’s up on music before it becomes trendy (you can’t tell him differently) and his extended family tree takes a whiteboard to be able to explain.

He also dislikes writing in the 3rd person, but really hopes you love this guide!

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What you don’t have time to spend time doing

Let me first get something out ***rant ensuing …now***

There are a billion (ok not a billion, but a lot) of people that call themselves coaches out there.

At one point I hesitated to even call myself a coach because it’s so low of a barrier to entry. Pretty much anyone can hang out a shingle and many people have unintentionally made a mockery out of the title because it’s become so well used.

Here’s the sad state of truth right now:

When you see the title “Coach” after someone’s name it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that:  

  1. It’s not the main source of income for that person (read: it’s their side hobby) OR
  2. That person is broke because they struggle to get clients and spend most of their day perusing facebook and leaving comments in various groups hoping they will hook some clients OR
  3. That person is paid by an organization and NOT running it as their own business.

I’m over that now ***END RANT*** and I prefer to dedicate a portion of my time to making sure that the people that I work with are elevating coaching as a profession and a business. We’ve actually even gone so far as to create a Career Coaching Certification and training to help elevate the profession.

It still doesn’t change the fact there really aren’t very many “coaches” out there that really are amazing and are helping their clients get astounding results. There are even less that are great at coaching AND making a healthy living, running a coaching business.

Here’s the two reasons why –

  1. Most coaches are good at their craft OR their set of expertise. They aren’t good at business… particularly marketing! (and most of them don’t enjoy it either) – This means they don’t have enough leads (people who are interested in their services) to survive!
  2. Most coaches don’t charge enough for their services to make a healthy living –This means they don’t know how to value the result they are providing OR aren’t focused on providing a particular result

Let’s call this group of well intentioned people that aren’t getting paid what their worth and not helping very many people “Broke Coaches”

Here’s what Broke Coaches are doing that you don’t want to do (and shouldn’t need to).

TRYING TO BE EVERYWHERE

Broke Coaches are on Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare (wait is Foursquare still around!) and whatever the latest type of social media that Gary Vaynerchuk has mentioned might be hot in the future.

They are chasing after people EVERYWHERE.

I don’t know about you but I did this for like 2 weeks and it was exhausting. Plus I’m lazy, my mind always goes to the question of “how do you make this easy?” and possibly even fun!!!

To be clear, there are a couple people I have seen this work for. Those people are extremely intentional with their strategy and they LOVE all types of social media. I would rather be helping people by coaching them than spending my time that way.

On top of this, these same people are writing blog posts, and publishing articles on LinkedIn and wait maybe I should be starting a YouTube channel… and what about my new podcast? It got 3 downloads today.

Ughh… I’m exhausted again.

You can stop doing this. Right now. Stop! Yes I know people tell you to do this. Don’t listen. It’s a recipe for disaster.

When you’ve done so well you can hire other people to support your business (can anyone say “executive assistant please!!!”) then you can be more places! It’s a much shorter road than you would think!

You have permission not to “be everywhere”

TRYING TO HELP EVERYONE

I’m warning you right now. This one will be hard for you.

It’s been hard for everyone I’ve helped. It was difficult for me too.

Everyone goes through this learning curve. I hope to help you go thru it faster.

The type of people that make great coaches are generally the type of people who truly enjoy helping others.

This means that Broke Coaches make the mistake of not focusing on one very very small target market (or very specific type of people with a specific type of problem they can solve) instead you get “life coaches” and very general coaches who are afraid to exclude anybody.

This of course means that they don’t really appeal to anybody and don’t really get to help out.

The irony here is that it works backwards from how most people think.

When you start very specific, it causes you to stand out and appeal to a targeted group. Then people want your help with many different problems instead of just the problem that they came to you for.

However if you start the way Broke Coaches start then you are trying to appeal to everyone and then people are confused about what you do and if you’re the right person to help them.

This of course leads to binging on hazelnut dark chocolate (mmm…) and crying in a corner wondering why this coaching thing is so hard and if you’re really meant to be a coach.

Don’t do that. Stop it. Before you even start!

THE PRETTIEST WEBSITE WINS (OR DOES IT?)

I’ve had so many emails from people that have spent a ton of time or money developing a beautiful, professional looking website. Or getting spending tons of time with their business license or choosing the right accounting software or trying to get everything just right for when clients come in the door!

 When I ask these same people how many clients they have the answer is either

A) none yet OR
B) I have a few people that are unpaid.

For some reason we associate the appearances of success with feeling like we are successful. Which means that too many of us spend a ridiculous amount of time on things like our websites making it look like we have lots of clients, when we could spend that same time just going and getting lots of clients.

I’ve done it too! That’s how I learned WordPress. By spending over 30 hours trying unsuccessfully to make my website look “professional”

We teach people in our Coaching Training programs how to put together a very simple but effective website and exactly what parts you actually need vs. which parts are a waste of time when you’re starting. Here’s the secret. It’s not much!

Later on in this guide we’ll actually show you how to attract leads of people who want to work with you WITHOUT a website. Crazy right?

Not really – what’s crazy is spending a ton of time and money get spreadsheets ready for clients you don’t even have!

Stop doing this. It’s distracting you from the part of business where you help people and make money from the helping of the people! Plus it’s what Broke Coaches do!

Here’s a short list of other things you can stop doing. You have our permission! Somebody else telling you to do them? I’ll write you an “excused note” saying you don’t have to. Just email me!

  • Stop trying to be on all places at once (you don’t need to be on all social media channels – hang out where your people are)
  • Stop messing around with your website (it’s never finished even when you run a 6 or 7 figure business)

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Who do you actually want to work with (and can help the very most)

There’s this secret to business success. Only it’s not really a secret.

It’s actually more like great advice that nobody really actually does, because they don’t see the value in it.

It’s like when you borrow your Dad’s truck and it’s slick out and he warns you that it’s really slick and that you will have to go really, really slow and drive differently than you normally do and you shrug it off and say “I know, I know” but then less than five minutes later you’ve run the truck into a dumpster and you can’t quite figure out how it happened.

You know the feeling…Wait. You’ve never done that?

Oh… me neither!

Anyhow, it’s this thing that most people know they’re supposed to do and they give it lip service but never really do it and then wonder why it’s so hard to figure out what you should be doing to grow your business.

THE NON-SECRET

What is this big “non-secret” that is the business equivalent of exercising and eating right to keep from being fat?

It’s called your “target market”… also called your niche, ideal audience, avatar, target customer, and your “wheezy” (ok, I made up that last one!).

Whatever you call it, one thing is true. Everyone underestimates the power of this.

Here’s a comparison of the difference between the Broke Coach and a Profitable coach making six figures from her business.

OK, the difference between how well they know their market is obvious. Great. Whatever…

THE REAL QUESTION IS “WHAT DOES KNOWING YOUR TARGET MARKET ACTUALLY DO FOR YOU?”

I’m so glad you asked!!!

Well aside from the extremely obvious piece that if you know exactly what the people in your market are thinking before they even think it then it makes it incredibly easy to communicate with them.

Which of course means:

  • When you create an offer for them, you know exactly what they are really looking for!
  • It allows you to know what types of incredibly helpful content you can create for them that is going to have them looking to you as the authority in their eyes. (without any guesswork) – More on this in the Client Attraction Magnet section
  • By the time you get on a “sales call” with them, you don’t have to do any “Used Car Lot” tactics because it just becomes about giving them what you already know they need and nothing else.

More importantly than all of that it helps you know exactly where they hang out.

When you know exactly where they are, you can just go to where they are.

Wait that was so simple, you might have missed it. Let me say it again:

When you know where the exact people who have the exact problem you solve spend their time, you can go right to them!

Don Quixote

Here’s how to think about this differently. Remember that the Broke Coach is wandering around going crazy trying to be everywhere. Well this is the exact reason why!

If I know exactly the person I’m trying to reach, I would know where they spend their time. And why would I keep interacting with everyone on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook if my target market spends the majority of their time on Instagram?

Don’t answer that! Rhetorical Question. Besides you already know the answer and can probably feel the relief rolling over you that you don’t have to do all this “extra” stuff.

WHEN YOU’RE RUNNING AROUND DOING EVERYTHING AND NOT FOCUSED ON A VERY SPECIFIC PERSON YOUR EFFORTS CAN’T BE CONCENTRATED AT ALL.

You’ve heard the analogy of throwing a pebble into the ocean. You know it doesn’t do much!

I don’t want you doing that. I don’t even want you throwing your Marketing pebbles into a lake… or even a pond!

No. Instead, I want you throwing a boulder into a stream! A stream of ultra specific people that you already know are going to respond to your message.

Here’s what that looks like:

Once you know where these people are, you can simply go to where they are. At first you can throw your boulder in, but later on, as you build authority and credibility in that space, I want you building a dam on that stream!

Now regardless of how you feel about the ecological effects of big dams on tiny little streams, we can all agree that going upstream and plunking yourself down right where you know those people will be coming is a way better approach than chasing after them wherever they might go in the big ocean!

I would rather be strategic and fun rather than spending large portions of my life being frustrated.

Once you’re there in front of that stream, you need to know what to offer them, so that they want to stop and spend their time with you, rather than keep on swimming toward the ocean!

And that is what we cover in the next section

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How to package an offer that gets clients (because it isn’t what you think)

If I say the word offer, there is a massive difference in what the Craft Coach thinks vs what a successful profitable coach thinks of.

Here’s what pops out when I ask the Broke Coach that question about “what’s your offer?”

“Oh… I uh… I give them 6 Skype sessions with me for $697.”

Then I guess I must stare at them in disbelief for a moment because it’s always followed by something like “but I was thinking about doing an 8 session package for $997 and raising my prices a bit.”

We tend to think about an offer as the “stuff” we are giving them OR the time we are spending with them.

That’s one direction you could go. Which is better than going nowhere.

If you choose to, you can trudge down that painfully long winding road to profitless transactions that empty out your heart and cause you to question if you’re really cut out for “helping others”.

And if you like that sort of painful despair, by all means, keep on going down that road. Please!

If you’re not the sort of person that likes running headlong into a wall again and again, let me propose a different way.

What if, instead, you sold outcomes or results? Because that’s what people are really buying anyways. Or in the case of the Broke Coach; not buying!

Let me give you an example of how this works:

At the end of 2016 my family and I went to Portugal and Paris for about 6 weeks. While I was there, we really badly wanted to climb up the bell tower in Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris.

Even though it was winter (the offseason), we found ourselves standing in a very long line in the coldest season in France (primarily because only 20 people can go up the narrow circular staircase at a time),

Across the street from the bell tower line were 3 little shops.

One offered Hats and Gloves of all kinds. Another offered warm drinks and crepes and still another offered all varieties of tourist crap (Eiffel towers in any size as you can imagine!).

We stood there for all of 20 minutes talking before the cold began to sink in and my kids began to get restless.  

The warm drink vendor across the way all of a sudden began to look very appealing. I didn’t even want something to drink when I got there and honestly wasn’t in the mood for Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate) or the Vin Chaud (French Hot Spiced Wine that when the French pronounce it sounds much like “von chow”).

As the time passed and we grew colder – and our kids started running thru the legs of the very nice English couple behind us – we decided it was definitely time for some Hot Chocolate and Mulled Wine!

So I crossed the street and paid a ridiculous number of Euros for 5 teeny cups!

Now why did I do that?

I didn’t care about the drinks. In fact, I didn’t even want the drinks!

I did it because it solved my problem!

If you remember from that last section, the very best way to have customers fall into your lap is to stay away from the ocean. Instead, find the tiny little stream with the exact people who have the exact problem you can solve.

Those street vendors weren’t offering a cup of Hot Chocolate or Vin Chaud. The offer was instead to “get warm” and enjoy doing it.

For me it solved my problem of keeping my three little kids occupied and having their little hands warmed up. And me feeling like a good parent vs subjecting my kids to the cold for 90 minutes only to walk up 720 stairs afterwards to the top to look at stone gargoyles and a foggy Eiffel tower (which was still awesome BTW!)

I wanted to solve these problems so badly, I didn’t even care exactly how much it cost or what the exact form of packaging it was in. It was irrelevant (think; 6 Skype sessions for $697).

When you are very aware of what value you deliver, you can charge based on that value NOT by the hour or any other way, and your target market will gladly pay you to help solve their problems.

From there, it simply becomes a matter of testing the Market and seeing what are the best price points. And remember when you’re talking to people one at a time, it means every conversation you have is an opportunity to test what you have learned so far and see if it’s accurate. This means you can do market testing in a matter of days sometimes!

So what’s an example of a great offer vs. a less than great offer.

What’s wrong with this offer?

Nobody (except me and I’m a weirdo) wants to be a better negotiator for negotiations sake.

Instead, they want a particular outcome. In this case they want to get paid a larger salary. Why do they want to get paid a larger salary? Depends on the market, but it may be any of the following problems they need to get solved:

  • Want to feel like they are getting compensated fairly for the work they do
  • Feel like they aren’t taken seriously in their job or they’re not valuable to the company
  • Want to get college debt paid off
  • Their current life isn’t fitting the lifestyle they envisioned.
  • Or many more problems!

No matter what it is, this offer isn’t focused on any of those! Instead, it’s only focused on the tool itself (negotiation).

That means the person in this target market must spell out for themselves how negotiation coaching is going to help solve their problems, and if you aren’t making it easy for them, it often leads to confusion.

Confused potential customers don’t buy! Even if you can actually help!

This offer could go from mediocre to great simply by focusing on the particular results or outcome that this target market wants – i.e. What does the negotiation actually get them? (the problem for them that it solves)

NOW HERE’S THE CATCH!

One target market might have a different reason for solving this problem than another, which is why it’s so important that you focus very narrowly at first. You can then speak their language!

If I’m focused only on helping 30-year-old administrative assistants with a college degree or advanced degree get paid more, it may be because they feel they are undervalued and underpaid, with a hint of embarrassment because they feel underemployed.

However if it’s 45+ executives that I’m helping negotiate, there is a whole different set of reasons behind why they want to get paid more.

No matter what I want to understand and be able to communicate those when I make them an offer.

However there’s an even bigger reason why I might be interested in understanding exactly what they want and need. It’s what will allow me to get in front of them in the first place AND cause them to want to talk to you AND already believe that you can help them!

Want to know how to do that?

Well then keep reading, it’s exactly what we talk about in the next section!

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Creating a client attraction magnet (because…well, isn’t it obvious you want to attract clients right?)

Most coaches that want to have a “digital presence” want to jump right into this piece!

I can’t tell you how many coaches I’ve talked to that have already started creating an e-book, or video series, or even writing an actual book without understanding who it is that they’re talking to OR what these people actually want and how you can help (your offer)!

The rest of the coaches and consultants that haven’t already started blindly creating something are instead left wondering, “What should I do?”  

Eventually, they decide on a video series or something else without ever knowing if that’s what is going to work well. So they go thru the trouble to make it and find out it was a bad idea in the first place.

Now if you already know your target market, who they are and what they want and need, you already have the information to answer these questions, but with a much higher degree of accuracy than our Broke Coaches.

I’ll show you how this works but first let’s define what a Client Attraction Magnet is and why you would want to create one.

HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO RAISE THEIR HAND TO SAY THEY’RE INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH YOU

I’ve focused a lot of my business on spending my time with the people that are excited to work with me and that I can help and ignoring the rest.

This is exactly one of the biggest reasons to create a solid client attraction magnet.

Think about it:

If you had a way to automatically (without spending your time) separate everyone that you would be excited to work with from the rest crowd wouldn’t you do it?

But, wait, it gets better. These same people want to give you explicit permission to build a relationship them and have you send them things that build you up as an authority in their eyes so they begin to trust you!

You might think, “OK, who am I going to have to bribe to make this happen?”

But that’s the beauty of it. You can do all of this without being manipulative or deceiving using a Client Attraction Magnet!

WHAT IS A CLIENT ATTRACTION MAGNET?

The simplest definition? It’s an ethical bribe that offers something of value to someone in your target market that is in exchange for their contact information. They come in many forms:

  • Video Series
  • Checklist
  • Swipe Files
  • Webinars
  • E books (and regular books)
  • Guides
  • Mini Courses (or full courses)
  • Free membership
  • And many more…

As I mentioned earlier, Broke Coaches get really caught up in the modality of their Client Attraction Magnet. Profitable coaches realize that it’s much more important to solve a particular problem or give a specific chunk of value that will help separate the people in your Target Market from everyone else!

You’ve already done the work for this at this point too so all you have to do is look at what your target wants and needs. The very best Magnets will solve a smaller problem or a chunk of the bigger problem that your ideal client has OR it will help them understand the path to solving the bigger problem (and maybe even think about it in a different way!)

Here’s some examples of Client Attraction Magnets that we use at Happen To Your Career:

FigureItOut.co – Figure it Out 8 Day Mini Course

At first glance this may not look like much (and there isn’t much there), but this is one of many versions that we’ve tested.

This is targeted toward a very specific group of people. They use this verbiage “work that fits me” when they describe what they want.

Their Problem: They are in jobs that they don’t find desirable and feel they are meant for something better. They want to stop wasting time and finally figure out what they should do for their career. They are tired of not having this answer and feel like it’s stopping them from truly living their life. In short they are in the wrong job and want to understand what they should be doing for their career to have work they enjoy and fits their lifestyle. They’re looking for an answer.

What does this client attraction Magnet do for them? It helps them understand chunks of a process they can use to solve their problem. Some people can go thru the entire process and have their solution and didn’t even have to pay for it (which by the way this is a good thing, those people share it and spread the word!) Other people get an understanding of the process they will need to go thru to solve their problem. This can be just as valuable to them to “see the pathway” as it is to walk down the path. Because it now gives them hope.

What is it actually? (How does it work behind the scenes) It’s a series of emails delivered from an email service like Mailchimp. Then each day of 8 days they get that email with a link to a blog post on our website using WordPress through a “hosted” website (we use BlueHost for many of our sites) When someone self selects to “opt in” to the page (pictured above) they will be added to our email list and then be sent emails similar to the one below which each provide a link in the email to a webpage with a video and a short set of actions for them to take.

Voila!! Video Course!

BTW for more info on how to set up a website or some of the other tools we recommend you can find instructions here.

Here’s another completely different take on a lead magnet.

This is from David Mariano at FinanceCareerLaunch.com. We helped him get his business started and get some of his first customers in 2016. Instead of an ebook or a course or a video, he offers a membership site that houses several of these items for his target audience and the people who subscribe to his email list. They give him their email and he gives them a username and password to access everything he has on the site. This is an advanced option and certainly not right for every target market but helps you understand a non-traditional take on the subject! He’s created the go-to set of resources for would-be finance professionals wanting to advance their careers.

HERE’S SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN GETTING READY TO CREATE A CLIENT ATTRACTION MAGNET

How does your target market like to consume content?

This will help you decide what modality might be best for them (Ebook vs. Video vs. Something else)

What are the smaller problems that you can solve immediately for them?

These are often precursor or pre requisite  problems that lead them closer down the path to get where they want to go?

For example, if you coach people on nutrition and particularly smoothie diets, you may be able to provide detailed reviews of Juicers or Machines to make smoothies. As you help them decide whether to get a Ninja or Kitchen Aid, you will be building trust with them so that you can later get the opportunity to help them further!

What can you do to do deliver more value than you are comfortable with!

It should feel like you’re giving away something that others might charge money for. This is part of what will cause people to want it AND cause you to stand out at the same time!

Feel free to give away the farm. If you are doing coaching, most people will need more than just information from you to make the change! (Example: Most people charge for the info that’s in this guide, I would prefer just to give it to you and we know that some of you will take it and run with it and we will get the opportunity to help others to work to implement all of it!)

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Start to Climb – Pursue Your Ideal Career and Life

Alright!

You’ve now got your Client Attraction Magnet, you can describe the people in your target market better than they can and you just plunk yourself down and wait now right?

Well not exactly!

There’s one more piece of the puzzle here: Traffic

WHAT ON EARTH IS “TRAFFIC” REALLY?

Traffic, in this case, simply means bringing your Client Attraction Magnet to live human beings that likely need your help.

Where do you get these humans from? Do I need to shop local? Can I grow my own?

While I don’t want to discourage you from raising mini humans for the purposes of having them download your Client Attraction Magnet later on, there is a better way!

Remember everything you now know about your target market? All that work you did early on? Well part of what you did was also learn where these people hang out, who they follow what they click on. What websites and podcasts and blogs they pay attention to.

Where do these people meet in real life?

Now is where you get to use that info and plunk yourself down in one of those “streams” of your specific peeps! There are several different ways.

The main ways I recommend are to Buy, Build, or Borrow

BUYING TRAFFIC (PAYING FOR PEEPS!)

Buying traffic usually means paid advertising. This can range from the Ads you see on Facebook and Twitter, to sponsored Blog posts to buying sidebar ads on a website that happens to have your target market living there!

This method can work incredibly well however let me start with two caveats

  1. When we talk about buying ads to get peeps we’re not entering the realm of slave trade or something else creepy!
  2. This is usually not for beginners, you will want to be comfortable with establishing a budget that you may not see a return on at first before moving down this method!

Where can you do this?

  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc
  • Websites: Ads, Native Advertising (messages that look like they are regular content)
  • Blogs: Sponsored Posts, Side Bars, Headers, Resource Pages
BUILDING AN AUDIENCE

This is by far the crockpot method NOT the microwave method for traffic. It takes a lot of consistent action spread over time to build an audience in any one method.

To show you what I mean, here’s the download numbers in a chart for one of our Podcasts. We started this one from scratch (with no audience and no connections) This one has been running since late 2013. If you look closely, it really only began growing substantially in the last 2 years.

There are things you can do to speed this up and I have a number of friends that have grown faster, however I want you to understand that Audience building is a long term strategy and is usually best when complemented with one of the other two options.

Here are some ways you can build an audience to bring traffic to your lead magnet. My team and I have experience in a lot of these areas but we won’t cover how to do these here since each one can be an entire class with multiple guides to itself!

  • Video Based Shows or Channels (Distributed on YouTube, Vimeo, or other places that act as search engines)
  • Audio Podcast or Radio Show (distributed on iTunes, Google Play, I Heart Radio, etc)
  • Blogs or Writing based feeds
  • Leveraging Social Media platforms built in options (note that if you build an audience on social media the disadvantage is that you don’t own it and changes that platform makes can potentially affect you) Ex. Facebook Live, Periscope, etc.
  • Books (Distributed on Amazon for digital or Stores and Online Retailers for hard copy books)
BORROWING TRAFFIC

This is where most people will get their initial traffic from besides their friends, Mom, and weird Aunt Susie who stays oddly up to date on everything you do (it’s almost disturbing! …And how does she know about that night with the tequila anyway!)

Anyhow, forget Aunt Susie, Here are some very specific ways you can borrow traffic from other existing audiences.

Contributed Writing – Contributing to an existing website or publishing company. For example we contribute to TheMuse.com and Ramit Sethi’s GrowthLab.com on a regular basis.

Guest Posts – Similar to contributed writing but specifically for those websites that are or have blogs. Often these are smaller but even more targeted than the publishing houses. We’ve written for EventualMillionaire.com, StartofHappiness.com and a number of others that have overlap with our target audiences!

Bonus: Here’s my personal evernote file with info on how to get to write guest posts and contributed articles

https://www.evernote.com/l/AWztMM_kTCtP96MgtE36mziGjX4vHJI8d9o

Podcast Appearances – This is part of how I grew my audience AND found many clients. I went on over 100+ podcasts as a guest and I gave away “gifts” to their audience (my client attraction magnet, which was truly helpful for their audience!)

Bonus: Here’s my personal Evernote file with info on good and bad pitch examples to be a guest on podcasts.

https://www.evernote.com/l/AWyz-IawR5VAkaAEQiGAxUs6YhTMrWt-BdE

Media Appearances – This could be TV, Radio, Newspaper or other print. This is usually only worth your time if that “channel” has exposure to lots of people in your target market OR extremely high numbers in general!

Affiliate Relationships: Sometimes this might be referred to as Affiliate Marketing, Joint Ventures, or Partnership marketing. These are other companies or people that are offering your client attraction magnet to their audience in exchange for a cut (commissions) on any product or service that you end up selling.

Just traffic from this approach alone has added over 10,000 people to our email list in the first 3 years of business.

Webinars or trainings for existing audiences: I have a friend who is a career development coach (for executives) she regularly does webinar style trainings for large recruiting firms.

Speaking and Workshops – This one deserves extra attention, just because it can be such an easy way to get clients at the very beginning of your business. In fact this is how I got my very first coaching client (and my only local client to date!) I spoke at a young professionals function and collected $600 2 days later! BOOM!

However, there’s usually a longer (and more sustainable) road that you can use speaking for besides just your first client!

I helped one of my clients Kwame Christian, Negotiations Coach and Founder of AmericanNegotiationInstitute.com, to his very first 5 figure month by focusing on speaking at functions that had a captive audience in his target market. He would then capture emails from people who wanted his client attraction magnet by passing around an iPad (a clipboard works well here, too, if you don’t mind manually entering emails)!

Another HTYC student who we’ve helped create a funnel for Speaking traffic is Michelle Robin from BrandYourCareer.com. She takes it a step further, when she speaks she passes around a trash can to collect everyones business card and resumes from everyone who wants her Client Attraction Magnet. With this unique tactic she cleans up close to the entire room when she speaks!

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How to put it on auto pilot so that you can spend your time on coaching (and traveling!)

Systems are the best!

You don’t have to think about it when you have a system. You don’t have to waste precious time and energy when you have systems and best of all: When that system is automated you don’t even have to lift a finger to keep benefitting from it day in and day out!

We have some automated systems that we built years ago, that still, to this day, are making it easy for potential clients to get help, get to know us and be prepped to buy from us all without breaking a sweat (or even waking up for that matter!)

When you take the upfront time to build a system that delivers your client magnet, follows up on your behalf AND even schedules potential clients to your calendar automatically, you have the ability to spend your time on other things!

You can focus on making sure your current clients are extremely successful. Or it makes it realistic (and possible) to build a business on the side of your full time job.

Or later if you run a coaching business full time it makes it feasible to travel or take vacation without wondering where the next set of clients is going to come from or if you’re going to have to return their email to set up an appointment.

It allows you to work on your business instead of in your business.

Want to know something trippy to think about? The very same system that I created in 2014 now allows my entire team of coaches to have a continuous source of leads of people who need our help (and that we are excited to help!)

It’s that same system that is making it so that I don’t have to be chasing down leads and I can write this for you right now!

Is it easy to create. Simple yes, easy? No.

Worth it? Oh yes, very much so!

WHAT YOU NEED TO BUILD AN AUTOMATED CLIENT ATTRACTION SYSTEM

There are many ways to do this, but I want to show you the most simplistic form of what you need.

Let’s assume that in this case your client attraction magnet is a PDF copy of a checklist and that you send them a video along with the checklist telling them how to use it.  

NOTE: The details of the target market and the Magnet are left out here because they will be very specific to your situation. What’s important here as a prerequisite is that you are using something that is truly helpful and desirable that fits your target market’s needs. We’ve almost always had to test and create several versions to get it right.

Here’s what you need to make this happen

  • PDF (Client Attraction Magnet)- you can use Google Docs or Microsoft Word and Save/Export to PDF
  • Video (Made on iPhone and hosted on YouTube for free)
  • Calendar Scheduling Software – We recommend ScheduleOnce or Acuity
  • Email Service (That allows drip email or autoresponders) We recommend Mailchimp to start
  • Landing Page – for your target Market to Opt in to your Client Attraction Magnet. We recommend Leadpages, or Using your own hosted WordPress site.

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Ok…Where do I start?

Everybody has somewhere to start for you. It usually begins with buying their “thing” to help you get started.

Here’s what I would suggest. Start with the steps that I’ve outlined in this guide.

  1. What you don’t have to spend time doing
  2. Who do you actually want to work with (and can help the very most)
  3. How to package an offer that gets clients (because it isn’t what you think)
  4. Creating a Client Attraction Magnet (because….well isn’t it obvious
  5. The not-so-magic trick of getting people to come to you!
  6. How put it on auto pilot so that you can spend your time on coaching (and traveling!)

Avoid what Broke Coaches do like the plague and you will find that your coaching business rises out of the out of the dismal abyss and your fellow coaching friends you make will be coming to you asking what you’re doing.

Trust me, it doesn’t take much. Ever since we had our first $3000 month years ago, people have beating down my door and asking to pick my brain on what we’re doing.

That’s how low the bar is. But you don’t have to stop there. Once you know how to grow a $3000 a month business, you can easily do $5000, Once you can do $5000 simply changing your prices can get you to $8000 a month

BTW here’s the quick math on what an $8000 a month coaching business looks like.

$997 per client per month X 8 Clients.

Done and Done. That’s my kind of Math!

Maybe that’s too rich for your target market? Probably not, but I’ll indulge you.

No problem.

$697 per client per month X 11 Clients

Or here’s what my business looked like when I went full time back in 2015

Once you’ve built a coaching business you don’t have to keep coaching 15+ clients if you don’t want to, you can mix it up any way you like.

But if you’ve learned all the steps earlier on in this guide, those are the same steps that you can use to develop products, courses, programs and really to build and market businesses in your particular industry.

If you want help putting this together and getting your own coaching business up and running, we would love to help!

Plus it’s kind of what we do!

All you have to do is take a few minutes and tell us a little bit more about the business you’re building or would like to build and we can help you figure out the very best way we can be of service for you!

Just click here and fill out the help form and we will figure out how to get you on the road to your own full time coaching business.

Take a few minutes to fill out the form here and schedule a call!

We will help you determine the best way to help you get to full time with a coaching business of your own.

Or feel free to simply email my team at support@happentoyourcareer.com

Or me at Scott@happentoyourcareer.com

We would love to serve you any way we can!!!

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The Ultimate Guide to Using Your Strengths to Get Hired

How to Become a Career Coach

Your Invitation to a Strengths-Based Career

Let’s start with a question: Why do you care about your strengths?

Maybe you’ve spent time looking at job opportunities online, getting depressed at how few jobs you’re qualified for, interested in, or willing to do for low pay. Or maybe you’ve recently had the realization that “this can’t be all there is” to work.

You might have even taken every assessment, personality test and quiz out there only to find out that you’re still in the same place.

You, just like many of the people we work with, found out the hard way that the knowledge that being a “relator” or “achiever” or “learner” is interesting, but you still don’t have a raise, a new career, or work that makes you happy.One thing’s for sure:

You know that what you’re doing right now isn’t where you want to be forever… but you’re not even sure where to begin looking for something better!

Worse yet, you might have already tried a few things that put you right back where you started! I know it sounds crazy, but the key to getting off this roller coaster to nowhere is a deep and thorough understanding of your strengths AND then applying that knowledge in a way that is useful and valuable. Live a life that is unapologetically, uniquely YOU!

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with people who are successful by their own standards and not someone else’s.

All of these multi-millionaires, CEOs, company founders, professionals and creatives — people in every income bracket and every walk of life — are living a life that is unapologetically themselves. And they all have one thing in common, whether they’re real estate moguls or non-profit fundraisers:

They have an incredible understanding of what they enjoy and what they offer to the world.

People who are succesful by their own standards are spending most of their time using their Signature Strengths.

And I want you to have that same understanding and experience! It’s something we all deserve: To do work that serves the world, and that fulfills us.

But before we get started on identifying what that is for you, we need to get clear about something: When you’re doing work that fits you, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns. It’s often challenging. It’s often a harder road. It will push your comfort zone in new and different ways.

Spoiler Alert: It rarely feels like something so new that you’ve never ever had any experience with it before. Yes, you’re expanding, but it’s in the ways you’re naturally prepared to grow and stretch.

Careers that fit feel much more familiar, like the feeling of coming home after you’ve been away!

I’ve been through this very process myself. After spending time in a “good” job that was more misery than joy, I went to my boss to tell him what I was feeling and asking for his help. I thought we were headed in the right direction until… three weeks later…

I got laid off!

I had a family, a mortgage, and very little money in the bank, but in retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me the wake-up call to never be in that same situation again. I was determined to do things differently, and I did. I found a new, better position, but more importantly, the experience ignited my passion for learning more about careers and their intersection with personality, strengths, and skills — and how I and eventually others could live their fullest and best life.

After spending months learning as much as I possibly could about strengths and how they impact career satisfaction, I came up with a process that I’ve now used with hundreds of one-on-one clients and our Career Change Bootcamp students. My team and I lead them through this very process to help them live a life that’s unapologetically, uniquely YOU.

I’ve learned that one key to creating that kind of life involves working in your strengths.

That might sound touchy-feely, but it’s actually ultimately very practical. When you know what your strengths are and design a career based on them, you fulfill several important goals:

  • You do what you love.
  • You do what you’re good at.
  • You do what brings value to your clients, customers and organization.

Of course, the obvious next questions:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What do they look like?
  • And — maybe most importantly — how do I put them to work to actually make money (and if you do this right, MORE money!)

Follow the process.

In this guide, I’ve taken the results of hundreds of hours of study, and combined them with real-world road-testing of these principles and exercises. Rest assured that this very process has been used successfully on hundreds of smart professionals, just like you.

We’ll start by defining what strengths are. Then we’ll lead you through specific exercises to determine your own strengths, and then talk about how these can help you not only define your ideal career, but also help you locate the organizations in which you’ll be happiest. And if that weren’t enough, we’ll show you how knowing your strengths and positioning them correctly can help you stand out as the ideal candidate in the interviewing process.

I know this can be overwhelming, and if you’re in the middle of a job search or career transition, it can be frustrating because you just want to jump to the end result already! You don’t want to mess around — you just want a paycheck that’s gonna cover the bills.

We’ll get there, but sometimes the process is the key to that end result.

That’s why I’ll suggest you give yourself the gift of space and time. It won’t necessarily be an overnight deal, or “three easy steps to the career of your dreams.” It will require self-reflection and even struggle and discomfort at times as I ask you to dig deep. But the more permission you give yourself to really dig in, the bigger the rewards and the better the results.

Embark on this process with a sense of curiosity and fun rather than seriousness and stress. There isn’t only one right answer, so let go of the desire to “get it right.” Not only will you enjoy it more along the way, you’ll also get much better results.

I look forward to helping you figure out what fits.

Scott Anthony Barlow

Founder and CEO, Happen to Your Career

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What Are Strengths?

When you hear the word “strengths,” you probably think you have a pretty good idea of what a strength is — even if you’re not 100 percent clear on what yours are!

After all, we’re a culture that loves to dissect and analyze, whether it’s on your 9th grade English report card, or by the ESPN analysts the day after the big game.

When we talk about “strengths” here at Happen to Your Career, we’re referring to a very specific subset of your personality and character.

It isn’t just things you’re good at, or things you’ve been praised for.

— although that’s part of the equation. Instead, we see it as the intersection of two things:

Your strengths: what you can truly be great at — maybe even the best in the world if you spent the time and energy developing them!

And

Your passions: what you enjoy and love.

Then add in your skills, experiences, knowledge and predispositions… and voila! You’ve got YOUR “signature strengths.”

Signature strengths go beyond skills like “I’m good at woodworking,” or “I’m really good at grammar.”

Those might be clues to finding your signature strengths, but being a good speller is just the tip of the iceberg. These are the qualities that make you uniquely you, and once developed and truly mastered they allow you to literally change your life and your career.

Now I typically hear two responses when I introduce the idea of “signature strengths:”

1. “I’m not sure I have signature strengths!” With over 7 billion people in the world you might be thinking, “Yeah Scott, I don’t have any of those things I can be best at.”

Or

2. “I’m good at a lot of things, but how can I narrow it down?! Where do I even start?”

First, let’s debunk the idea that you don’t have any signature strengths.

After working with hundreds of clients and becoming a student of strengths for over 10 years, I can confidently tell you that there is NO ONE on the face of the planet who does not have signature strengths. It’s impossible!

Instead, if you’re thinking you really don’t have anything you’re “great” at, what that tells me is that you either haven’t spent the time and energy to understand your strengths OR (more commonly) you’re going about it the wrong way.

In either of these scenarios investing in developing those strengths becomes impossible if you don’t really know they are (Thank you captain obvious)

I don’t want you to feel bad, though!

BEING UNSURE WHAT YOUR SIGNATURE STRENGTHS IS NORMAL.

Sometimes it’s a result of the structure of our education system. Or maybe it’s because you haven’t been in environments in which you could explore and develop your passions and interest. Or maybe you just haven’t asked the right questions.

Whatever the root cause, the good news is that you can change your trajectory today… and we’re going to show you how in the upcoming sections of this guide.

Take a deep breath… we’ve got you covered!

Now, if you are one of those “overachievers” who says, “I just have so many things I do well,” you have the opposite problem! It likely is that you’re confusing “skills” with “signature strengths.”

When a client comes to me and says, “I really am good at a lot of things,” I know they’re probably pretty smart, pretty capable, and probably a pretty successful people-pleaser. As a result, they may also be pretty clueless with regard to what they really ENJOY.

For instance, just because you’re really good at unjamming the copier when it gets a paper jam doesn’t mean that you should make that into your life’s work.

With you, I’m going to ask you to set aside all the expectations others have for you about what you “should” be doing or what you’ve always done, and instead view the future as wide open. Pretend you are a blank slate and every possibility is open to you — because it is!

Now that we’ve addressed those two burning questions, let’s move on and start figuring out what your personal signature strengths are.

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How Do I Determine My Signature Strengths?

Most people haven’t taken the time to dig down into what they’re really great at — or what they have the potential to be great at.

But not you — if you’re reading this you’re not most people. You’re already ahead of the game because you’re (obviously) interested in finding out!

In this section, we’ll dive deep into how to figure out exactly what your signature strengths are.

WHAT THE HECK ARE SIGNATURE STRENGTHS?

We’ve talked about how your signature strengths aren’t just skills like, “I’m really good with Excel.”

There’s more to it: It’s that intersection of things you’re really, really good at with things you really, really love — combined with your experiences, disposition, and a few shakes of both nature and nurture. ?

Signature Strengths are your unique combination of experiences, skills, knowledge and even the way you’re wired. It’s the stuff that makes you, you.

Often when you drill down to your signature strengths, these are the things you can’t stop doing if you tried, you can’t help it. Many times they come easy to you because you enjoy them and also you don’t recognize them because you don’t think that they’re that big of a deal.

Right now, you might be thinking:

Okay, Scott. I get what signature strengths are. But if it’s something that’s really easy for me and something I enjoy, how can it possibly be valuable? How will anyone pay me for it?

We’ll dive deep into this in Parts 3 and 4, but I want to address it now so you can concentrate. ?

It’s natural to think that if something is easy for you, it is easy for everyone else, too… but that’s simply not the case.

Think of an athlete like quarterback Tom Brady or Olympic gymnast Simone Biles — they can do amazing things with their bodies, like throw a football 50 yards with amazing accuracy or do a back handspring dismount off a 4-inch-wide beam set 4 feet off the floor. Why? Because they have the experiences that are natural activities for them. It’s so easy they don’t even think about it.

But very, very few people can perform those feats. And as a result, they are compensated very well for them.

You may not throw a touchdown pass or win a gold medal, but you still have “natural as breathing” activities that contribute to your signature strengths. And the fact that these ARE so easy for you makes them huge clues to what your signature strengths are!

But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. I’m going to ask you to work through a series of exercises looking at your past, present and future, and then we’re going to look at patterns and themes among the answers.

This is where you really need to trust the process. Any one exercise in and of itself is not going to generate a neon arrow with letters reading, “Your Signature Strengths Here!”

Instead, you’ll start seeing patterns and themes emerge, which will then give you connections between dots that maybe you had before, but you didn’t know how to connect. And just like a dot-to-dot worksheet from your childhood, a picture will slowly emerge.

LOOK TO THE PAST

Exercise: Job Inventory
Here’s an easy exercise to get you warmed up. Take out a piece of paper or open a Word doc or Google doc on your computer.

Start by listing out all your past jobs and roles on the paper

Then, underneath each one, do three things:

  • First, list out the things you enjoyed in each of those roles, even if you hated the job. There’s always something small like, “I loved goofing around with everyone when we were on our break,” or “I really loved learning how to use the CAD/CAM program.” Nothing is too small to add!
  • Next, go through the list of jobs and add a column for which things in each role that you’d consider yourself pretty good at. It could be answering customer complaints, or staying calm while everyone else got more and more stressed as deadlines approached. Again, don’t pre-judge which things “matter” and which ones don’t. Just list them all.
  • Finally, go through your lists and circle the skills and elements that contributed to success in other positions or roles in your life. For instance, learning how create a budget in one job may have helped you run a successful program in another position. Look for connections and patterns. They’re there.

Review your lists.

Circle any patterns or themes you see recurring.

If nothing jumps out yet, don’t worry! It will. ?

LOOK TO THE PRESENT

Exercise: Passions Inventory
So I have some questions for you to answer to get you started!

1. What do I love enough to do for free?
2. What do I do that causes time to feel differently? What causes me to lose track of time?
3. If I had to teach something, what would I teach?
4. What do people typically ask me for help in?
5. What do you get complimented for?
6. What do you find you can’t stop doing? (Mentally rearranging the furniture in other people’s homes, dissecting Super Bowl commercials to see which ones are most effective and why, organizing the gum and candy in the checkout line at the supermarket, reading books and writing short reviews for your friends…?)

Exercise: Ask for input

The most direct way to get input is to ask for it — directly!

Reach out to five of your closest colleagues and friends to ask them to weigh in on your strengths and what they see that’s unique about you.

If you aren’t sure how to phrase your request — and most of us are really bad at asking for this kind of feedback! — you can get a copy-and-paste template straight from our Career Change Bootcamp.

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With our students in Career Change Bootcamp

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Exercise: Five Whys

Jason was having difficulty defining his signature strengths. He said, “I know I’m good with people, and that people trust me, but I don’t know how that relates to my strengths.” I led him through an exercise called “The Five Whys,” which helps get to the heart of a situation or topic.

This is a great exercise to use in combination with some of the discoveries you’ve made in the previous questions, to determine the root of the signature strength.

The best way to describe it is to just show you how it works:

For instance, Jason mentioned in one of our sessions that he can’t help but get into deep conversations with people he’s just met — from the person sitting next to him on the airplane to a dad on the sidelines at their daughters’ soccer games. “They always say, ‘I don’t think I ever told anyone this before!’ I guess you’d say that I’m good with people.”

Jason: “I’m good with people.”

Scott: “Why? What does that mean?” ← “Why” #1

Jason: “I think it’s because I’m willing to have tough or uncomfortable conversations with them.”

Scott: “Why?” ← “Why” #2

Jason: “I think it’s because it doesn’t make me uncomfortable the way it does with other people.”

Scott: “Why?” ← “Why” #3

Jason: “I’d say it’s because we have an established level of trust that comes pretty fast.”

Scott: “Why?” ← “Why” #4

Jason: “Hmmm… I think it’s that I really listen to them, and I’m genuinely interested in them and curious about what they care about.”

Scott: “Why?” ← “Why” #5

Jason: “I guess I’ve always thought that everyone has a story to tell, and I want to hear their story and what matters to them. So I ask those questions that get at the core of who they are.”

You can see how we could keep going here. There’s no secret about Five Whys versus Six Whys or Seven Whys. Just keep going until you feel like you’ve gotten to the core. For Jason, five whys was enough for me to see that his signature strength — something he does better than almost anyone else — is creating strong connections with others so that there’s an immediate connection and feeling of trust.

Note: We’ll talk more about how these signature strengths relate to your career, but I bet you can begin to see how creating a feeling of trust would be very valuable in a number of fields, from medicine to hospitality to the financial world… It’s something that Jason can use to set him apart from others in his field, whatever that field is.

To get where you really want to go, you will need to practice pushing beyond these self limitations and self-imposed barriers.

LOOK TO THE FUTURE:

Exercise: Wildest Dreams

When you start thinking about what you want, typically what goes on in your head is your brain automatically filters out possibilities before you even really consider them. Your brain says to you “That’s not realistic so don’t consider it!” or “That seems unreasonable, don’t put that down.”

As a result, you are capable of so much more than you let yourself believe, because the really great ideas, the really great careers and the really great life is filtered out as “unrealistic” or “unachievable” almost as quickly as they come in!

You’ve probably heard the motivational question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I want you to take a different spin on this. By letting yourself dream your wildest dreams, you can get a hint at what really gets your passion fires burning — and we’ve already determined that your signature strengths lie at the intersection of your passions with things you’re good at.

So here’s your assignment:

List JUST 3 THINGS that you want to do, that seem wildly unrealistic.

Let’s define “wildly unrealistic”: Things that you have no idea how you’ll accomplish them and you know the folks at your job would laugh at if they knew you wanted to do.

At least three (more if you’re so inclined!)…and make sure that they are occupations, jobs, or even gigs that you want to do that seem out of reach. Put them down on paper or write them in the comments here.

Don’t filter, Don’t qualify, Don’t censor…. just put your three things down.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • What you wanted to do as a kid (and are still a little fascinated with)
  • Something you read about in an article, blog post, magazine or someplace else where you thought to yourself “how great would that be”
  • What is that one thing you like doing for a hobby that you have previously thought “I could never earn any money doing this”
  • You have recently seen something glamorous and had judgemental thoughts about that person and their occupation, but when you thought more you realized there was just a tinge of “I wish I could do that”
  • Something you have always had curiosity about

Remember, everything you write down will seem unrealistic until you actually do it…write it down anyway!

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Now you’re probably staring at a stack of what seems to be disparate information — the first job you had as a fast food worker when you were 17, a list of books you love to read and re-read, printouts of emails from your college roommate and your co-worker from three companies ago… And you’re probably wondering what to do with it!

This is the fun part. ?

You get to play detective.

Pretend you don’t know the person that all this information relates to. You are a criminalist with the FBI, and your job is to create a profile of this “unknown subject.” You need to sort through all these clues and develop a sense of who they are and what’s unique about them.

  • You’re looking for PATTERNS
  • You’re looking for REPETITION
  • You’re looking for CONNECTIONS

Do you see that all of your “best days ever” were spent out in nature?
Did you discover that you’ve always been complimented on your ability to remain calm in stressful situations?
Did something in your brain click when you saw that you’ve always been a natural teacher?

Sometimes we’re so close to the subject that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

That’s when it can be really helpful to have a supportive colleague or coach sift through the information with you to look for those hidden gems and connections. You might not be able to see that your love of hosting themed dinner parties is connected to the compliments you always receive on being a good listener — but an objective third party might note that they’re both rooted in your ability to connect with others and make them feel comfortable.

Whether you’re working on your own or with a “support person,” jot down your discoveries… and remember, there is no right or wrong, there are no minimum or maximum numbers of signature strengths. When it comes to self-discovery, often we have to test our findings to see if they are accurate or need more refinement.

You also may want to take some of the assessments mentioned in the Resource section to further your understanding of your unique characteristics and strengths.

Just remember: It’s all good as long as you keep moving in the right direction.

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How Do You Use Them in Your Job Search?

Your understanding of your signature strengths can be a huge asset in finding work that fills your soul and makes you feel like you’re living “on purpose.”

You don’t need to have a firm list of never-changing signature strengths — few of us do!

After all, you’re always growing and changing, and that’s a good thing.

The more you know about what makes you truly happy and satisfied, the more you can bring it into your life.

Once you identify your strengths, you can identify what you want in your life. You can hone in on the types of activities you’re best at and that make you happiest. Then you can work backwards from there to figure out the types of jobs where you can find those activities… and what types of companies hire for those jobs!

This is the opposite approach that 99% of the world takes. Most people look at what they think their options are and try to make the best of those. They make their own barriers and limits by not considering what they really want and instead focus on what they think is probable or possible.

Unintentionally limiting yourself in that way will also unintentionally limit your happiness!

This is going to be a sort of career matching game. We are going to take everything you have learned about yourself, your past, your career, etc. and implement that valuable information in identifying opportunities that suit you.

Step One:
Focus on what you already know you might be interested in (or “think” you’re interested in — absolute certainty is not required here!) in any of these three areas. Take your best guess as to where your signature strengths align:

Area (e.g., HR, operations, finance, teaching, research)
Industry (e.g., alternative energy, travel and tourism, broadcasting)
Sector (e.g., education, manufacturing, government, non-profit, for cause, etc.)

Step Two:
Figure out what is most important to you in your career environment. Is it essential that you work in a small, start-up tech organization? Would you prefer a more structured environment? Would you be happier at a Google or at an IBM? Do you work around creative-types or lawyers and accountants? Is every day “casual Friday?” Are you willing to sacrifice pay for a flexible work arrangement?

Know what your priorities are.

In our Career Change Bootcamp, we lead students through the creation of an entire “Ideal Career Profile,” a description of your ideal opportunity without worrying about what the job title on your business card is.

There’s this interesting pressure, I think, that a lot of people put on themselves in terms of their career and having to make the right moves and do everything right.

— Lisa Lewis

If it seems like it “might” fit, write it down!

Step Three:
Based on your answers in Steps One and Two above, make a list of companies and organizations that might fit the profile and priorities you’ve determined.

For instance, if you would love to be in a high-tech startup in Austin, Texas, you can easily Google “startups Austin” for a list of possibilities.

If you’re looking for a position in finance in a larger company, you can find a list of the Fortune 500 or 1000 and cross-reference by industry, geographic location, etc.

Don’t be too quick to rule out possibilities at this point.

Step Four:
Take the list you created in Step Three and hit up your network. Who knows someone whose cousin works in tech in Austin? Who in your LinkedIn network is connected to University of Phoenix? Start working it, and reach out.

But you’re not going for the traditional “informational interview” that’s really “hire me” in disguise. You really are just trying to confirm if the work you were born to do (i.e., your signature strengths) exists within these companies.

The conversation might go something like this:

“Hey there. I got your name from my cousin, Sal. He mentioned you’ve been in the startup scene in Austin for a while. I’m in the early stages of investigating a career shift, and I wanted to know if you had 15 minutes sometime so I could learn a little more about what you do and your company.”

Can you see what you’re doing here? You’re stacking the deck in your favor!

Why?

You’re interacting with these potential colleagues, managers, co-workers on YOUR terms. Not only are you taking the lead in reaching out, you’re doing so from the foundation of your strengths. In other words, you’re interviewing them (but don’t let them know that!).

This approach, of course, makes the traditional job search method seem downright ridiculous. If you curtail your job search ONLY to advertised “open positions,” then you’re focusing on a lot of organizations that are unlikely to be a good fit at all

… of course you could shove yourself into them like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to fit the glass slipper.

This doesn’t even touch the idea that what Company A defines as a “business development agent” could be VASTLY different from Company B’s definition. You’re basically shooting blind!

Instead, if you start with the companies that are most likely to be a fit (or you’re best guess), and are most likely to need your particular strengths — regardless of the job title — you’ve got a leg up. You’re halfway to “Hired!”

We want you to take charge of the process. Think of it as a reverse recruiting process… you’re doing to them what they do to their applicants. If they have a bunch of possible employees, they’re going to search through that stack of resumes pretty fast, looking only for the ones that have a hope of fitting. You’re doing the same thing!

Then, by the time you get to the interview stage, you already know your strengths are a great fit for their organization. And it’s much easier to position yourself well in the interview, as you’ll see in the next section.

Action Step
While I REALLY want you to go through the four steps outlined above, I’ll start you out slow.

Write down three jobs or opportunities that fit your criteria and DON’T QUALIFY YOUR ANSWERS!!!

What I mean is, don’t start automatically filtering out possibilities before you even really consider them. Your brain says to you, “That’s not realistic so don’t consider it!” or “That seems unreasonable, don’t put that down.”

As a result, you are capable of so much more than you let yourself believe, because the really great ideas, the really great careers and the really great life is filtered out as “unrealistic” or “unachievable” almost as quickly as they come in!

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How Do You Use Your Signature Strengths in Your Interviews?

You know it’s coming, but it still freezes you in your tracks like a deer in the headlights.

Maybe it’s right after you sit down in the visitor’s chair, across the desk from the interviewer.

Or maybe it’s ten or fifteen minutes into your conversation- just when you start to think you might escape this time.

But then it hits you. The interviewer flips through your file, folds her hands on top of her desk, looks at you expectantly and says the words that strike fear in the hearts of every job-seeker:

“So…tell me about yourself.”

So many options for answers…and so few of them are RIGHT.

How do you answer the “tell me about yourself” question? Especially in a way that showcases your strengths.

Do you start at childhood? Or do you fast-forward to high school and the time your science fair project won honorable mention in the the all-county finals? Or perhaps she’d like you to fast-forward to today and tell her all about your recent success at achieving a PR in the WOD at the local CrossFit box?

In fact, in my 14 years as a hiring manager and then career coach, I would say there’s a 70 to 80 percent chance you’ll be asked this question in some format in your next interview. And there’s about a 90+ percent chance you’ll answer it wrong.

Those aren’t great odds!

But never fear. Once you learn how to frame your response, you’ll actually look forward to answering this question. It’s a huge gift, an opportunity for you to tell them exactly why they should hire you by demonstrating how you already fit what they’re looking for.

What ARE they looking for?

When a hiring manager says, “Tell me about yourself,” they don’t want a ten-minute discourse on your likes, dislikes, and your views on the latest episode of “The Bachelor.” Instead, they’re looking for information that allows them to intuit whether you’ll be a good fit at the company and in the particular role they’re interviewing for.

The better you can position yourself, the better your chances of standing out and making the interviewer sit up and say, “Heck YEAH!” (even if only in their head).

How to frame your answer

I advise my clients to use the “Present/Past/Future + a little love” framework. It looks something like this:

Interviewer: “So, tell me about yourself.”

You (smiling internally): “Well, currently I _________________________. (present)
Before that I ________________________. (past)
In the future I ________________________. (future)”

Interviewer: “You’re hired!”

Okay, okay. It’s not quite THAT effective, but it does work amazingly well. The key is knowing EXACTLY what your signature strengths are, and how those strengths are relevant to the position and company you’re interested in.

If you can nail this, whatever job you end up in is going to be such a good fit. It’s gonna feel like you just arrived home.

— Lisa Lewis

Now that you’ve got a general idea of the framework…

Testing it out…

Let me provide a specific example for you.

Let’s say I’m a Human Resources manager interviewing for a position in Training and Development (I only have a little bit of Training and Development experience so this is a career change)

Interviewer: “So, Tell me about yourself?”

Me: “Currently, I’m an HR manager with ___________. I’m responsible for the labor budget of around $7 million and all things people related. One of my favorite things is working on training and development projects. For example, I got to create a training program from the ground up to teach our leadership teams how to coach with a growth mindset. After we put it into practice, we saw an average increase in productivity by 9% with the departments of all the leaders that went through the program.”

Before that, I worked with other companies in other types of HR management, specifically in global retention, and I got to ______________.”

In the Future, I would love to work with a company helping them improve their business by making Learning, Training and Development a real living part of their organization and culture. I’ve discovered that my favorite things I have done in the last 10 years are all in this area!

Why it works

You probably picked up on a few things I did in this example:

1. I answered the question only with relevant information. I didn’t add extraneous information, no matter how impressive.

2. I focused on what positions me as an expert. I talked specific metrics, such as reducing turnover 10 percent and managing a $7 million budget.

3. I shared my passion. I didn’t say, “I’m really strong in blah blah blah.” I said, “What I love to do is this.” People assume when you love something, you’re good at it. So when I say, “I love getting buy-in on company-wide initiatives,” I’m actually helping them see me in the role.

Also, managers want to hire not just for competency, but for energy and engagement as well. Telling them what makes me excited shows them that I’d bring that motivation and energy to the position.

Now it’s your turn:

Write out your script in the “Present/Past/Future + a little love” framework, focusing on your strengths and the relevant portions of your story (as you interview with different companies and for different positions, you will need to customize this every time to what’s relevant for them).

Practice sharing your answer verbally until it sounds natural. Test it out live in your next interview.

Want to download this interview script?

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Now What?

Now you’ve got a great idea of:

  • What Signature Strengths are and how they’re important to your life satisfaction
  • How to determine your unique Signature Strengths
  • How to use them to position yourself for your next interview

As you might guess, there’s so many other ways you can apply this new knowledge to your life and your career… (and we’ll dive into that in some future Master Guides and other resources, so make sure you sign up for the HTYC email list to keep up on the latest releases!).

Don’t wait until you have “total understanding.” Don’t wait until you feel like you have a “perfect plan.”

Right now, we want to encourage you to put your new knowledge to work.

Most people find success in ANY area of their lives — from career to health to relationships — by taking IMPERFECT action BEFORE you think you’re ready, and then continue to make adjustments.

But what most people do instead is to wait. They think they’re not ready. They make the challenge in front of them SO HUGE in their brains that it’s nearly impossible to move forward!

Maybe you can relate.

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“What if I make the wrong decision, it might all be a big waste of time.”

Have you ever blown a decision way out of proportion?

You feel like it’s so big. That if you screw it up then everything else hinges on this.

You deliberate and analyze it to death. Then it becomes so difficult that you put it off for a while. You know you should decide but you find other things to occupy your time.

Finally when you’ve reached the last possible second you finally give in and order the Turkey Club Sandwich from the menu!

If that seemed at all ridiculous for ordering food, you should see when we’re trying to make decisions about our career.

It feels like the entire rest of your life will depend on this!

And it does but not in the way that you think it does. When you don’t make a decision, that’s still deciding not to decide, which does nothing for you. But when you do make a decision, even an imperfect one, it allows you make adjustments and move forward.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson and he says,

When you make a decision the universe conspires to make it happen.

This is very much how it feels because when you make a decision about what you want to do. It doesn’t lock you into something;What instead it actually can free you up.

By now you know a lot more about your past, your strengths, what you want out of life and some viable options for your next step.

You have learned a lot about yourself, and a lot about what you really want in your career. Don’t let all that hard work and knowledge go to waste!

It is time to begin shaping your destiny! Make a decision. Don’t decide the rest of your life, decide the very next step. Decide what you will do this week, this month.

Some ideas:

  • Take one of the assessment tests listed in the resource section at the end of this guide
  • Sign up for our next online training to learn more about applying your strengths to your career change
  • Learn your strengths and use them to get your job offer with one-on-one help with one of our insightful and supportive career coaches
  • Join the next session of our Career Change Bootcamp to pull together your career change plan
  • Share your findings with a trusted colleague or friend

When you’ve made your decision, I would love to hear about it. You can find my email at the very end of this guide.

Click on it and let me know what your NEXT RIGHT STEP is.

I can’t wait to help you Happen to Your Career.

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Resources & Assessment Tests

Assessments of any kind can help speed up your understanding of your strengths and your self-awareness, if used properly. The problem is without any action and application you won’t be able to get anything useful out of it.

Remember learning is comfortable (and enjoyable) for most people. Taking the steps you need to so you can apply that learning, not so much!

Alright now that, that is out of the way, let’s talk about some of the assessments we use.

Assessments Disclaimer: Action beats assessment every time!

Strengths Finder 2.0  This is a book paired with an assessment that very accurately shares your top 5 strengths categories. It uses the mantra that you succeed because of your strengths NOT because of making weak areas better. I purchase a copy of this book for all my coaching clients if they haven’t taken this recently! Note*** if you decide to purchase Strengths Finder 2.0 to make sure you purchase a new copy because the key code that allows you to take the online assessment can only be used once.

DiSC Profile – DiSC is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication. DiSC is non-judgmental and helps people discuss their behavioral differences. If you participate in a DiSC program, you’ll be asked to complete a series of questions that produce a detailed report about your personality and behavior. There are A LOT of places that sell DiSC Profiles, this is the one we recommend. Many times this is used in teams, but we choose to use it with individuals, because it helps you understand why you behave and communicate the way you do.

A really interesting sub component of the DiSC is that it will typically give you two sets of results; One that is really what you want everyone else to think on a day-to-day basis and one that is what you revert to in stressful situations (your normal state). This can be exactly the same or vastly different for you. In coaching, this helps me quickly understand why people have the barriers or challenges that they do.

These are the two assessments that we work with all the time but there are many others that I have taken that can add value when trying to identify your strengths and expand your self awareness.

Some others in no particular order:

The Passion Test – identifies the passions you should prominently work with. We often work with this one too!

MBTI –  Myers Briggs Type Indicator

True Colors

All of these assessments can help provide insight but without application and reflection they are simply entertainment. And we all know entertainment is great (and a must) but it doesn’t typically help you get where you want to go.

Resources from Happen to Your Career

One-on-One Coaching — Work with one of our highly skilled and trained career coaches to get one-on-one support in defining your signature strengths and mapping out your career change strategy.

Learn more about one on one coaching here.

Strengths Finder 2.0 — This is an assessment that very accurately shares your top 5 strengths categories. It uses the mantra that you succeed because of your strengths NOT because of making weak areas better. I purchase this for all my coaching clients if they haven’t taken this recently!

Career Change Bootcamp — The premier online class intended to help you identify your ideal career and make the career change while getting paid what you’re worth. PERIOD. This eight-week, guided, step-by-step system has helped hundreds of people move from pain to passion and create fulfilling work lives.

Learn more about Career Change Bootcamp here.

HTYC Podcast — A free web-based audio show where we bring people that have successfully moved to working with passion and purpose into your life to help provide both inspiration and direction for you to transition to work you love using your strengths and talents. 150 episodes — and counting!

Happen to Your Career updates — Stay on top of the latest and greatest resources for smart, savvy professionals like you. You’ll get periodic updates regarding what’s happening in the HTYC world, from the latest blog posts and podcast episodes, to new “Ultimate Guides” like this one.

When I took the Strengths Finder Assessment, one of the things that was incredible for me was just realizing, ‘Oh! Those are strengths!’ I didn’t realize that being able to relate to people is a strength. I just thought that was a thing.’ And I think that being able to give verbiage to that helps for you to be able to own it and then be able to take that and look for it in future roles. And be able to speak powerfully to it in an interview.

Lisa Lewis

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Career Change Guide for High Performers

How to Become a Career Coach

A Career Change Guide

If you’re unhappy enough with your career to have found your way to this guide, then I have good news for you and I have bad news about the career change advice below. 

The good news is that by following this guide, you can change careers, find truly meaningful work, be well compensated and transform your life in less than a year.

The bad news is that everything you are currently doing to find meaningful work is wrong.

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Every complex problem has a simple solution, and it’s wrong.

H.L. Menken

You will NEVER find meaningful work by doing any of the following:

  • Learning to love your current job (doesn’t work);
  • Finding your passion (not really a thing);
  • Finding something that you’re good at, even if you don’t enjoy it (you’ll still be unhappy);
  • Realizing that money isn’t important (it is important);
  • Making a super amazing resume (mostly irrelevant).

If you’re looking to do any of those things, then I can’t help you. It’s been real. Adios. 

But, if you’re looking for help finding a career that fits you, provides you with meaningful work and compensates you really well, then you’re in the right place.

My team and I wrote this guide to help you understand the entire process of finding meaningful work, from where you are now, reading this guide, to where you want to be, working at a new job on an intentional career path that is meaningful, fulfilling and well-paid, ready to share this guide with a friend. 

This is the only guide that explains the stages of career change, the relevant sociology and psychology and stories of real people who we’ve helped along the way.

But I’m pretty sure my definition of “career change” is different than yours. Here are some examples of what I mean by career change.

MY DEFINITION OF “CAREER CHANGE” IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS: REAL WORLD EXAMPLES

Linnea told us her goal was to find a meaningful career with a step up in leadership. Seven months later, she achieved a career jump that was four levels higher to VP, and in a larger company.

Jessica designed her ideal career, and then created an opportunity in that career. She received a job offer with a salary of $130,000. We discussed it, and she accepted the position — after negotiating her compensation up to $380,000. She did all of this in just four months

Kristy decided she didn’t want mediocre work any longer. Instead she wanted all the best parts of being on vacation (traveling and wine tasting), combined with her favorite work activities (writing and managing operations). She created her own role as Chief Communications Officer for an online wine and travel company

Those examples aren’t even on the radar for most people (maybe you didn’t realize those things were even possible) but we get to share in these types of stories because we’re helping people like Linnea, Kristy and Jessica every day. 

Those examples are just the beginning.

WHAT’S REALLY POSSIBLE FOR YOUR CAREER (AND LIFE)

What if you interviewed for a junior level position. Immediately after the interview you turn them down because it’s not what you want, then the company calls you with a job offer — for a senior level position. – I’ve seen this happen many times.

What if you could spend more of your day doing work that challenges you to grow in meaningful ways, but you did it with an organization and a boss that actually respects your needs as a human being? It’s possible. We’ve got hundreds of stories like this.  

I promise you one thing: to do work that is both fulfilling and pays you very well, you will need to drastically alter your mindset.

If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.

Somerset Maugham

Here’s an example of what I mean that comes from real research.

Very few people on Earth have what they would call a “great job” and earn more than $100k annually. This guide teaches you how to become one of them.

But first I have to show you what NOT to do.

HOW TO NOT DO MEANINGFUL WORK 

Years ago, my wife Alyssa and I moved to Portland, Oregon after I’d accepted a highly-paid but unexciting job as a Regional Manager for a franchise company. We bought a house – twice as expensive as anything my parents had ever owned. I started my new job, supervising 20 people. If I did well in my first year, they promised me a BMW. Suh-weet. I felt safe, successful, optimistic. 

But it didn’t last. 

My commute to work was three hours a day. My work schedule was 70-80 hours per week. I didn’t have weekends. I didn’t have time off. I never saw Alyssa. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t work. I was scared. I gained nearly 50 pounds. I developed panic attacks. (I didn’t even know what panic attacks were before that!)

I began looking for a way out. The window. Not kidding. It was only two stories. If I “fell” (jumped) out the window, I’d probably just break my legs. They’d have to give me some time off… right? Would insurance cover that? Was that fraud? What if I got in trouble? Or got fired? I felt a panic attack coming on. I decided against the window.

Next to the office was a burger place. I decided to stress-eat myself sick and then tell them I needed to go home. I sat down and had three burgers, fries and a huckleberry milkshake big enough to fill a bathtub. It didn’t work. I got sick, but just nauseous enough to sit at my desk, writhing in pain. Not enough to go home. Damn.

I was trapped. Wife. House. Car of my dreams. No way out. Had to keep going. 

I went on this way for a year. Then one day, on the way to work, I had a panic attack so intense that I knew I was dying. In the car. Alone. On Interstate 5. Bumper to bumper traffic. No way for an ambulance to reach me.

I could see the headlines. “Fat loser dies in car because the real world was too hard for him. He is survived by his wife and his student loans.”

EVERYONE HAS A TIPPING POINT

I didn’t die. But I decided something had to change. I brought my concerns to my boss, who listened politely. 

Three weeks later, he assembled my team, called me into his office, told me I was fired. 

But he did give me a choice. I could walk in the other room and tell the 20 people working for me that I was leaving, and he would give me three months severance. Or I could walk out the door without telling them and get two weeks pay. I needed the money. One last humiliation. I stood in front of my team and told them I was leaving. There were tears (mine). I was a failure. I apologized. I left. Me and my three months severance.

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that things are difficult.

Seneca

Driving home – my last commute – I decided to never live like that again. I spent the next 10 years searching for career fulfillment. I sat for over 100 job interviews. I transitioned to Human Resources leadership and conducted over 2,000 job interviews. I learned executive and leadership coaching. Along the way, I held many “dream jobs,” but then my dreams would change, and I would move on. And throughout the process, I was learning and growing and building my skills and honing in on what I really wanted. Finally, I started my own business helping people find career fulfillment. And I love it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF THIS GUIDE

Scott is an author, coach (with 20 years of experience), and host of the Happen To Your Career Podcast – Which has been called one of the best career podcasts over 200 times by places like Forbes and LifeHacker.

His work has been featured globally on MSNBC, Glassdoor, The Muse, and many other publications. He’s regularly paid to speak at Universities and Organizations about meaningful work and career happiness.

He’s also the CEO of HappenToYourCareer.com and now helps others avoid those same mistakes he made trying to find meaningful work.

Scott and his wife, Alyssa, live with their 3 kids in Moses Lake WA part of the year and somewhere else in the world the rest of the time! More about those adventures at FamilyPassport.co!

He absolutely loves thinking he’s up on music before it becomes trendy (you can’t tell him differently) and his extended family tree takes a whiteboard to be able to explain.

He also dislikes writing in the 3rd person, but really hopes you love this guide!

I have a fulfilling career, but this isn’t about me. Or about the people we’ve helped find meaningful work. This is about you — your career change and what meaningful work means for you. 

So what does “meaningful work” mean? Here’s what I have found most people need to have a fulfilling career — see how many of these describe your current situation.

WHAT SCIENCE SAYS YOU NEED TO HAVE MEANINGFUL WORK

Here’s just a few of the most important pieces. You’ll find a complete list of the highest impact areas in Stage 3: Identifying your ideal career. Also here’s a link to my personal collection of much of the research, books and articles that have helped me form these conclusions.

  • Autonomy. You have control over how your work gets done. This includes creative control over your work and other times it means having flexibility to work when you want, like working remotely or taking time to be at a family event. 
  • Learning. Your job allows you to be a permanent learner. Every day, you learn something new about your work, your customers, how to be a better business person. You constantly learn new skills. Particularly those that you have curiosity about. 
  • Growth. Your job allows you  to become more than you are. A better business person. A better person, period. A better version of yourself. 
  • Creativity. No one wants to feel like a robot – learn to do one thing, do it over and over until you break and they replace you. Awful feeling. Your career allows you to activate your creativity by finding novel solutions to new issues. You are always doing / making / achieving something new.
  • Contribution. There are two kinds of contribution – what you contribute at work, and what your work contributes to others. At work, you know that your voice is heard and that your opinion matters. You believe in the company’s mission because you are helping to shape and guide that mission. And what your work contributes to others is about more than making money. You and your co-workers  help each other out. And your work makes life better for your customers.
  • Values. I can be my full self here – that’s how you feel when you think about work. You feel free to express and embody your values at work, and you know your co-workers will support you because you share the same values.

How many of those do you have? How many would you like? 

Career change is a mountain climb. It’s an adventure. It’s risky, it’s scary, it’s challenging, and if successful, it can be rewarding beyond description. But you have to make the choices that get you from where you are to where you want to be. I can guide you, but ultimately, you have to find your path up the mountain. 

This guide will help you determine if you’re prepared for career change, and if so, to provide you with specific actions that you can take to discover your path up the mountain.

HERE’S HOW YOU’RE NOT GETTING UP THE MOUNTAIN.

Let’s talk about what I know, from experience, is not going to work:

  • You’re not merely trolling LinkedIn and Indeed. Job boards can help you find a new job. If that’s all you’re looking for, then feel free to go job-boarding. The overwhelming likelihood is that you will end up in the same situation that you are in now – unfulfilled, inadequately compensated, or both. Career change is not about finding a new job. It’s about imagining a new life.
  • You’re not starting over. Career change isn’t Chutes and Ladders. You’re not falling down and starting from the beginning. You don’t have to go back to school. You’re taking the personal strengths and professional skills that you have built throughout your life, and activating them to find meaningful work. Career change is not moving backwards. It’s moving upwards.
  • You’re not choosing between meaning and money. To feel fulfilled in your career, you need to derive meaning from your work, and you need to feel well-paid for it. Scientists – people in lab coats, probably wearing glasses, possibly with test tubes – have studied this question. You will not achieve career fulfillment by choosing either meaning or money. Getting up the mountain means finding both. And with that in mind…
  • You’re not taking a pay-cut. Repeat, you are NOT taking a big pay cut. You are not moving to the desert and living off of stuff that you find. You are not couch surfing while you journal about how money doesn’t matter. You are a talented, highly-skilled, dedicated worker. There is a place for you in the global economy where you can bring your abilities and expertise to bear on work that you find personally meaningful, and be well-paid for it. That is what’s waiting for you on the mountaintop.

Everyone who helped make this guide has been where you are. Just as unhappy. (or worse relatively happy with a “good job” but still not fulfilled) We’ve been just as scared. Just as sure that there was something better out there and just as unsure about how to find it. We got up the mountain, and we can show you how. 

And once you know how to do this, once you have acquired the skills to find or create opportunities to do meaningful work, you will always have the ability to do it again. So the next time you need to move on to the next phase of your career, you will know exactly what to do. Not start over, not troll job boards, but identify, locate and conquer your next adventure.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined! As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler

Henry David Thoreau

Learning these skills and applying them is not quick, and it’s not easy. So if you think this process is not for you – too much work, too much trouble, not worth your time – that’s completely understandable. Thanks for reading and best of luck.

If you’re still reading, if you’re ready to do the work to find your path up the mountain, to change not just your job, or your career, but your life, then your climb begins with this guide. 

The first stage is the most important, and the one that is most predictive of success. If you can accomplish stage one, you will probably make it up the mountain. 

Think you can do it? Put your boots on…

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

I’ve said a lot about how this process will be more challenging than you think (and that’s true).

As a palate cleanser, please accept this advice on how to make this process easier:

You do not need to read this entire guide.

Of course, you are welcome to read every word of this guide. It’s witty and informative and grammatically immaculate. Feel free to luxuriate in my ebullient prose.

But if you want to save a little time, take a look at the stages of career change listed below. After helping thousands of people change careers, I promise – one of these stages applies to you. Find the one that best describes your situation and click the link to jump to that section.

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STAGE 1:
DECIDE TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN – CHOOSE CAREER CHANGE?

Only 4% of people on Earth work in what they consider fulfilling careers. There’s nothing wrong with the other 96%, it’s just that finding a fulfilling career is hard. The first stage in the career change process is to determine whether you are prepared to do what it takes to join the 4%. You want to change careers, but are you truly prepared to climb the mountain to meaningful work? 

WHY YOUR GUT MATTERS TO YOUR CAREER CHANGE

Career change doesn’t begin with a thought, it begins with a feeling. And more likely than not, that feeling doesn’t come from your head, it comes from your gut. When you think about your career, how do you feel?

I’ve interviewed hundreds of former clients on my podcast and gut feelings are a common topic.

Alissa: “For me, having that intuition, it does help you kind of put that pause in things where you go, okay, something is off. Psychologists talk about the difference between your emotional brain and your logical brain. Your intuition is your emotional brain, but then you have to say, okay, logic brain, what do I do with how I feel? And that’s really where they get married together.”

Jason: “My coach helped me realize that following my gut or intuition has really helped me out. Being an engineer by default I’m analytical and don’t like to follow my gut. It was a kick in the pants and also her helping me understand what my gut is saying. Put your head out of it for a minute and let’s sit with it.”

Michal: “If something doesn’t fit or whatever your gut is telling you, you’re smart enough to know that, I got here and this is great, but I’m going to move on.”

What is your gut telling you?

IS CAREER CHANGE RIGHT FOR ME?

You have questions – I know, I had the same ones. Let’s run through them.

  • Is career change really possible? Yes. We’ve helped thousands of people transition into fulfilling careers – we tell a few of their stories below. Think of how many impossible things have happened since January 2020. Do you really think that your changing careers would be crazier than any of those things? Yes, career change is possible.
  • How long does career change take? The amount of time it takes to change careers is different for everybody. It may take 30 days or 18 months. But you’re not going to make it up the mountain by sprinting to the summit. Career change is a process and it takes time. Our clients’ average career change takes 6-9 months.
  • But how do I know what’s out there for me, or how to get it? Of course you don’t know what’s out there for you or how to get it – if you knew, you’d already be doing it. Discovering new career options IS the process. They are out there. You will find them. You just need to begin. 
  • How do I begin? By reading this guide. Congrats! You’ve begun. Now keep reading — the guide is full of client stories that will show you how the process works.
WILL I REGRET PURSUING CAREER CHANGE?

Changing careers feels like a leap into the unknown. What’s out there for me? Am I going to land in a huge pile of money like Scrooge McDuck in his vault? Or will I be the Coyote chasing the Roadrunner off a cliff?

For the answer, we turn to our most trusted source – nerds. Here’s what science tells us about regret.

  1. We tend to regret inaction more than action. If you try something and fail, you are less likely to regret it than if you don’t try at all.
  2. The most common source of regret is the belief that we have failed to become the best version of ourselves. By failing to pursue our dreams, we set ourselves up for lifelong regret.
  3. Reversible decisions are more often regrettable than irreversible decisions. We are less likely to regret our choices if we believe that we had no alternative, and we did what we had to do.

If you’re a total nerd or maybe just a little emo, here’s my complete collection of research and notes on regret.

There is the risk you cannot afford to take, and then there is the risk you cannot afford to not take.

Peter Drucker

So, will you regret career change? You are more likely to regret not trying it than trying it. (Yay Science!!) And if you believe that your current career does not allow you to be your best self, then you are more likely to regret giving up on yourself than you are to regret fighting for yourself.

The key realization is that you don’t just WANT to your change career — you NEED to change careers. You have NO CHOICE but to change careers. This is where many people get stuck. 

Can you stay in your current career and be happy? Can you keep living your present life and feel fulfilled? If not, then you don’t WANT to change careers, YOU NEED TO CHANGE CAREERS. Once you accept that fact, you have no choice – you must change careers. And you will not regret doing what you NEED to do.

When I reached the point that I contemplated jumping from a window to get time off from work, I didn’t want to change careers – I NEEDED to do it. But it still took me almost a year before I began the career change process.

Laura, a former client, realized she needed to change careers three years before she began the process of doing so.

Another client, while walking to work one morning, contemplated stepping in front of a bus to avoid going to the office. Still, he remained in his career for five years before pursuing an alternative path.

This is what I mean by being ready for career change. We all WANT to achieve our dreams. We all WANT to become our best selves or live our best lives. But only when you realize that you NEED to do it, that you have NO CHOICE but to do it, will you be ready to pursue career change without regret.

Career change is hard, but so is staying in an unfulfilling role. Here are a few stories of former clients and how they decided it was worth their effort to scale the career change mountain.

EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT REASONS FOR PURSUING CAREER CHANGE

Here’s Nadia, a former client, describing in her own words how she decided to change careers.

“It suddenly felt like all the doors were closed. I had nowhere to go. I had walked away from a very successful career and in my heart of hearts I knew there was no going back. I knew, practically, I could go back. But I knew I’d be miserable. And that was not what I wanted and I was desperately looking for a way out. And I was totally lost. I was despondent. I thought I’d made the biggest mistake ever. And then I found Happen To Your Career through Twitter, of all places. And then I thought, it’s now or never. I was at a turning point. It was like, something has to change. I had some savings. And it was a case of, let’s make this happen.”

SOME PEOPLE CHANGE CAREERS TO ESCAPE AN UNFILLING JOB TRACK

Elizabeth felt pigeon-holed at work, relegated to a narrow set of responsibilities with no opportunity to learn or try new things. Friends, colleagues and her spouse noticed that she was becoming withdrawn, disengaged – not just from her job, but from her entire daily life. She would come home from work and seem defeated. Work that had previously been exciting became boring.

There were days when Elizabeth came home energized, excited. With reflection, she realized that those were the days when she got to learn something new. Elizabeth understood what was missing from her role – it was the opportunity to learn new things. She needed more responsibility for a greater variety of issues so that she could continue to grow in her work.

Elizabeth brought her concerns to her manager, laying out her ideal role. The manager promptly shot her down. She said Elizabeth lacked the skills to handle the responsibilities that Elizabeth wanted to take on – even though Elizabeth had been practicing those skills for 10 years.

At that point, Elizabeth knew she had to change careers. She knew what she wanted from her career. She knew that she couldn’t get it in her current position. And she knew her manager was not going to allow her to change positions so that she could achieve the things she needed to feel fulfilled.

Elizabeth pursued a career change. Seven months later, she had done it.

JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE GOOD AT SOMETHING DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD KEEP DOING IT!

Laura never loved math, but she was good at it, so she became an engineering consultant. After a while, she got bored, went back to school and got a Master’s degree. With that new credential, she pivoted into sustainability consulting, and for eight-and-a-half years, she was happy. She progressed through four different roles at a high-growth startup in the future-facing sustainability field. It was exciting. She felt passionate about it. Until the feeling faded.

After eight-and-a-half years, there was nothing new for Laura to learn. She headed a team of 10 employees who were looking to her for guidance and inspiration, but she no longer shared their passion. Laura’s job became a burden. She decided to change careers.

Seven months later, she accepted a position in her new career.

TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF CAREER CHANGE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Subscribe to the Happen To Your Career podcast. We have hundreds of interviews with people who have successfully changed careers. The podcast is a great resource to help you determine whether career change is right for you, and what to expect once you decide to go for it.
  • Read books about career change. I’d love to tell you that this guide is all you need to understand career change, but the truth is that there are a lot of great books to check out.You can hear interviews with many of their authors on the podcast.
  • Keep reading the guide. As we continue on, get ready for Stage 2…

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STAGE 2:
PREPARE FOR THE CLIMB – MAKE SUCCESS INEVITABLE

You’ve decided to change careers. You’re going to climb the mountain. But there’s a lot of work to do first. At this stage, your goal is to prepare yourself, and the people in your life, for the difficulties you will face on your climb. This includes (spoiler alert!) the moment when you will get most of the way there and then decide to quit. Sound scary? Daunting? Intimidating? It is. But we’ll get you ready.

The best to avoid failure is to make success inevitable. The way to make success inevitable is to plan for problems before they happen. Because I have helped thousands of people through this process, I know how it is likely to go — the fun parts, the hard parts, the parts that are going to make you want to quit. The great advantage of this information is that we can prepare for those problems now, so when they arise, we will already be prepared with a solution.

Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.

Fyodor Dostoyevski

If you were planning a literal mountain climb, there would be lots of no-brainer equipment you would need — boots, coat, tent, sleeping bag, water bottle, Sour Patch Kids. That stuff’s easy. The tougher question is, who do you trust to guide you up the mountain? Who would you bring on the most challenging journey of your life? These are the people you need on your side for your career change, and now is the time to let them know that you need their help.

ASSEMBLE YOUR SUPPORT TEAM

Stage two is a gut check. You’re about to undertake a difficult, complicated process to change your life. 

So — who’s coming with you? 

The first conversation you have may be with your spouse or significant other. This conversation will be a two-way street. You are going to need your significant other’s support, especially when the climb gets steep and you get frustrated. 

But your spouse or significant other also needs to hear from you. What will this process mean for them? What about money? You’re changing your life — what does that mean? Are they invited to your new life or are you leaving them behind? When you say, “I need you to support me,” what does that mean, exactly? 

This might be an easy conversation or it might not, but have the conversation now. Tell your significant other why you need to change careers. Tell them that you do not expect the process to be quick or easy. You need them to be there when your knees start to buckle and you think about giving up. Make a plan for any financial disruption. Make sure there is an open channel of communication so you can check in with each other while you’re going through the process. 

Another key conversation is to identify the friend who you’re going to call when you’re ready to quit. This is your personal Ghostbuster. When things are at their very worst… who you gonna call? This person. 

Prepare them. Tell them you are changing careers, it’s going to be difficult and complicated, and the day will come when you will call them to say that you are giving up on career change. When they get that call, their job is to convince you to keep going.

KEEP YOUR BALANCE AS THINGS CHANGE

Career change is going to unbalance your life. Your daily routine will be disrupted. Your self-image will be disrupted. Your finances may be disrupted. You may feel off-balance. If other areas of your life are already off-balance, you may become overwhelmed. You may lose your balance and fall off the mountain. Your career change may fail. That would be bad.

Therefore, to whatever extent possible, you need to make sure that every other area of your life outside of your career is as stable as possible. Friends, family, relationship, finances — anything you can do to keep these aspects of your life in balance will exponentially increase your odds of completing a successful career change.

Assembling your team is a big part of keeping your balance. But be gentle on yourself. Don’t make the process harder than it already is. If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, now is probably not the time. If you’ve been thinking about changing your diet, maybe it can wait a few months. Career change is your challenge right now. Don’t pile other challenges on top of it. Climbing a mountain is hard enough — no need to add ankle weights. 

CONTROL FEAR SO IT DOESN’T CONTROL YOU

We know the career change process gets harder as it goes along. There are set-backs, reversals, rejections, promising leads that do not work out. As you climb higher, the path gets steeper, the air gets thinner, it becomes more difficult. Your patience may wear thin, but so may your rationality. Fear will begin to creep into your mind, and then flood it. “This isn’t working, why isn’t it working? What am I gonna do?” Fear will cripple your ability to make rational choices about your career path.

I know from my experience as a job seeker and a career coach, as well as from research, that the best thing you can do in a job interview is to show the interviewer as much of your true self as possible. If you’re “faking it,” “just trying to get through it,” “trying to give them what they want,” then you’re going to end up with a bad result. Either you won’t get the job, or, even worse, you’ll get the job, but the version of you that gets hired is not going to be your true self. And that will leave you back where you started — bored, miserable, unfulfilled, having wasted all of that hard work and sacrifice just to land in another unhappy situation.

Fear makes this problem worse. You should go into a job interview feeling relaxed, excited, eager to learn, open-hearted. Instead, fear makes you nervous, desperate, frightened, overwhelmed by a feeling of, “this has to work.” You feel like if you don’t nail this interview, the interviewer will push a button, a trap door will open under your chair and you will drop into a tank full of hungry sharks.

The best way to combat this fear is by surrounding yourself with people who can help you through your career change. There’s nothing worse than being alone when you’re scared. You think about how scared you are and that makes you more scared and the fear grows in your mind in a cycle until it consumes your entire conscious thought process. Break that cycle — surround yourself with friends. This is what your team is for. Also…

BUILD IN MULTIPLE LAYERS OF HELP

If you were climbing a mountain, you wouldn’t wear just one layer, you would wear several. That way, if the cold gets through one layer, there are others that will still keep you warm. These layers are a redundant system — they reinforce each other. An airplane has three redundant on-board computers, so if one isn’t working, the other two can keep the plane flying. Blockchain technology for cryptocurrency also works this way. Every cryptocurrency transaction is confirmed thousands of times to ensure that it’s authentic. 

Your preparations for career change should be the same way. You need redundancy. You need multiple friends, multiple reasons to keep going when things get tough. You need redundant fail-safe mechanisms to keep you climbing when you feel like you’re ready to give up. Again, your team is your most important asset. 

FULL IMMERSION — THE BEST WAY TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL CAREER CHANGE

Full immersion means doing everything you can to dig into the process of career change — study it, learn about it, care about it. The people who are best at career change and have the best outcomes are the ones who are genuinely passionate about the process.

Who’s more likely to make it up the mountain — a climber who spends 30 minutes a day reading about mountain climbing, or a climber who thinks about it non-stop? The more time and energy you spend on career change, the better your outcome will be. Your mind will turn its energy to the creative problem solving you need to do to make your career change happen. Who do you know who can connect you to a certain company? Who can you talk to about a certain industry? How can you get in front of the person you need? 

Full immersion also doesn’t always have to mean “extra time”. You can layer it in to the existing parts of your day in the nooks and crannies of your schedule. Here’s an example:

What do you notice when you look at this? There’s all the normal parts of a day, it’s just the process of learning about and doing career change are layered over the top. In ways that don’t necessarily have to take additional time. I show you this because one of the biggest obstacles to finding and doing fulfilling work that pays well is time. 

If you tell yourself that there’s no time, there will be no time. But instead if you figure out how to use the time you have differently, you’ll eventually be very pleased with what’s possible. We all have the same 24 hours in a day.  

The Happen to Your Career podcast is a great way to be thinking about career change while you’re doing other things. There are also lots of great books about career change. And if you’re a to-do list person or a bullet journaler, make yourself some lists. What do you want out of your new career? What problems have you always wanted to solve? What industries have you always wanted to try?

Turn your mind to the problems of career change and let your mind amaze you with the creative solutions it thinks up.

HOW DO YOU MAKE SUCCESS INEVITABLE? 

Meet Linnea Calderon. 

Linnea is self-described multipotentialite (a term coined by my friend Emilie Wapnick). It means Linnea has a lot of different skills and interests, and sometimes has difficulty deciding which one to pursue. So, after 13 years in the financial services industry, and with a newly-minted MBA, she came to us for help to determine what to do next. At the time, Linnea’s job title was Senior Strategy Consultant. Less than a year later, she had a new job in a new career — with the title of Senior Vice President. In one move, she jumped four seniority levels.

After we helped her with her career change, Linnea came on the HTYC podcast to share how she did it. She attributes her successful career change to two points of emphasis — full immersion and extreme preparation.

Here’s how she described immersing herself in career change on the HTYC podcast:

Use a variety of different avenues and educate yourself, so one of the things that I did was along with the podcast, that I would listen to driving to work or at the gym, I also … bought books about specific topics that I was interested in. I’ll give a shout-out — How Do I Write This Email by Danny Rubin. Same thing with negotiation. That wasn’t my strongest point. So, after listening to Josh Doody’s podcast, I bought his book Fearless Salary Negotiation, read it, did the exercises. And so my advice would be to use different avenues and educate yourself during the process, because the more you know the more power that you have behind yourself and the confidence that you will have when you get to the point of when you want to go after your wants.”

And when it came to preparing for meetings and interviews, Linnea did her homework. Linnea moved up four job titles — that was an extreme result, and it came from extreme preparation. Here’s how she described her preparation on my podcast:

I would say one of the keys to my success was very in-depth preparation for every single interaction that I had, whether it was an informal coffee, whether it was an interview, whether it was following up in an email or a handwritten letter. Every interaction that I had or knew I was going to have, I prepared for to the nth degree. And so that way there was no question that I couldn't answer or anything that I couldn't be prepared for because I genuinely prepared a lot, probably more than I ever have."

What I love about Linnea’s story, aside from the great outcome, is that Linnea didn’t need any trick or special skill. She just worked hard on high impact activities — anyone can do that. 

When we showed Linnea resources to learn about career change, like my podcast and the books discussed on the podcast, she devoured them. When we taught Linnea how to approach people for informational interviews to learn more about their jobs, companies and industries, she threw herself into the process and worked hard to maximize every interaction. 

Extreme results come from extreme preparation. Immerse yourself in career change, do the work, and you can achieve well beyond what you think is possible.

What Extreme Full Immersion Looks Like – A Week in the Life

What do you notice when you look at this? In this schedule theres still all the normal parts of a day. However in this example there’s quite a bit of extra time spent on learning and doing career change too. This isn’t Linnea’s actual schedule but it is very similar to how she was operating.

She also went from a Manager level role to a Vice President level role – with a large organization. To make that happen, you don’t just do the bare minimum, you’re spending extreme amounts time, energy and effort to get extreme results that very few other people get. 

Linnea is not superhuman. She’s simply figured out how to use her gifts, talents and time differently to get extreme results. She invests in herself at an extreme level, she learns at an extreme level. You can too! 

Want to hear Linnea’s entire story in her own words? Here she is telling the story of exactly how she went from a Manager level role to a VP level role. Listen on the Happen To Your Career Podcast.

WANT TO BUILD YOUR OWN PLAN FOR INEVITABLE SUCCESS?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Linnea’s Story – Get an idea of how this works in the real world.
  • Build your personal “Team”. Identify 2-5 people (this includes mentors, coaches, friends and (select) family members) who will be on your Team to make sure you’re successful.
  • Communicate to people on your personal “Team” what you’re doing, when you’ll need them and what you will do when it gets hard. Use this template:
    • Hi [INSERT NAME]! I’m going to be changing careers and I would like your help. If you’re up for it, I would like to say/do [INSERT ACTION/WORDS] when I say/do [INSERT ACTIONS/WORDS]. Would you be willing to commit?
  • Not sure where to go next? Or getting stuck? Just want to move faster? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here. We will help you figure out the very best way we can help!

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Stage 3:
Choose Your Mountain – Identify Your Ideal Career and Life

You’re ready to climb a mountain, but which one? The next stage is to not only identify your new career but to imagine your new life. This is a fun one, but not an easy one. We’ll help you determine what it is that you truly want from your career change.

What’s fun about this stage, but also challenging, is that you have to dare to dream.

To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying ‘Amen’ to what the world tells you to prefer is to have kept your soul alive.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Yes, there is a list of characteristics of fulfilling work (below), but those factors have to be placed into a context. If you want to buy a car, I can tell you that it should have four wheels and an engine, but that doesn’t tell you what kind of car to buy. Just like you can’t take a strengths assessment or personality test and then BOOM out pops out a list of the perfect jobs that would be an amazing fit.

FACTORS OF MEANINGFUL WORK THAT YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT

Here are the factors that make work fulfilling. Think of this as a checklist. If your job is missing any of these factors, then your job satisfaction will gradually erode until you feel unfulfilled. This list comes from my experience helping thousands of clients change careers, in addition studying the current research and doing research of our own. 

  • Autonomy/Flexibility. You work when and how you want to. You have input or authority over “how the work gets done”. You are not micromanaged, electronically surveilled, or otherwise made to feel like a tool in someone’s hands rather than an adult human who is permitted to use her judgement and expertise to execute her assignments. 
  • Challenge. Your work challenges you and pushes you to expand your capabilities. You are stretched outside your comfort zone, but not pushed so hard that you feel as if you’re drowning.
  • Growth/Evolution. As you acquire new skills, experience and expertise, you grow and evolve, and your job rewards that by growing and evolving with you.
  • Team. Your boss and coworkers are supportive. You don’t feel taken for granted or exploited. You and your coworkers are not put in hyper-competitive situations or otherwise forced to root for each other to fail. Simply put — you like the people you work with.
  • Impact and Contribution. You see a direct connection between your work and how it helps other people.  
  • Values. Your work is a reflection of who you are as a person — morally, ethically and professionally. You do not have to hide or compromise yourself in order to do your work. You do not have to give up on something you always wanted to try. You are able to bring your complete self to your job. 
  • Direction. You know what you are doing at work and why you are doing it. You understand what is expected of you and how these expectations fit your project’s goals and your company’s mission. You are able to ask for and receive feedback, to know if you’re meeting expectations and achieving both your goals, and your employer’s goals, for your work.
  • Signature Strengths. Your job leverages your strongest abilities so that you feel able to maximize your skillset in your work. You are not using one of your professional skills in your job while others waste away. You’re bringing every skill you have to your work.
AVOID THESE! DETRACTORS TO MEANINGFUL WORK

And here are the detractors, the things that are going to ruin a great (even ideal) career situation.

  • Extremely long commute. On average, your trip to work takes over an hour. 
  • Instability. You do not feel that your job is secure and believe you could lose your role at any time.
  • Undermining. A series of unfortunate events negate your work. For example, several projects that you’ve worked hard on are all cancelled.
  • Inadequate pay. Your compensation doesn’t meet your basic needs or feels unfairly low.
  • Unsafe coworkers. Your coworkers or boss threaten your physical or psychological safety. For example, a coworker bullies you or a boss constantly yells. 
  • Underqualified. You are assigned work that is far beyond your capabilities and feels hopeless or continuously erodes your confidence.

So what do you do with all that? The list doesn’t tell you what industry to be in, what title to seek, what duties you should have (we’ll get to that in Stages 4 and 5).

You have to decide what you want. You have to choose which mountain to climb.

YOU ONLY NEED CLARITY NOW

What is “clarity?” Clarity is not a flash of inspiration that hits you while you’re emptying the dishwasher. Clarity comes from the conscious process of reflecting on your real world experiences, deciding what’s important to you, consciously acknowledging those needs and then acting on them to the exclusion of all else.

Achieving this degree of clarity about your career goals is not easy. It requires hard work to delve into your experiences and really try to understand yourself. If you had a job you enjoyed, why did you enjoy it, and why did you stop enjoying it? If you had a job that went badly and you were laid off, why did it go badly? What was missing from the situation that you needed?

Clarity comes from having the real world experience to determine what you want, declare those priorities, and then act on those priorities, and only those priorities. Clarity means not compromising what you want because of fear or the expectations of others. Clarity takes courage.

Scott Anthony Barlow

Fear will encourage you to avoid this hard work. Fear will scream at you that you need money, and any job that you can find that pays you money is the job you should take. Just find a job and make it work. Fear will tell you to think about what others want for you. Everyone sees you as a lawyer — what will they think of you if you suddenly decide you’re a novelist? Won’t they be weirded out? Or disappointed? Ken Jeong left a successful career as a doctor to become an actor. When he told his doctor friends that he was quitting medicine to take up acting, what face do you think they made? 

If you do not have clarity about your career goals, then your career change will not be successful. And achieving clarity requires courage. 

A great way to approach this problem is to use the puzzle method

Think of the goal that seems silly. Think of the goal that seems impossible. What if you could achieve that one? 

That’s what Kristy Wenz did.

WHEN YOUR CAREER LOOKS LIKE A VACATION

If you look at Kristy Wenz’s Instagram, you’ll think she’s on vacation all the time. Actually, she’s the Chief Communications Officer for WineTraveller.com, a role that she and the CEO devised specifically for her. She wears a lot of hats for WineTraveller and handles many responsibilities, including — you guessed it — travelling to vineyards and tasting wine.

How did she pull that off? By knowing what she wanted.

After 20 years in marketing and PR, Kristy wanted the usual trappings of fulfilling work from my list, above, but she was also looking for a few other things in her new career, as she explained on my podcast: “I knew I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to communicate with people. I knew I wanted to somehow be involved in food and wine and travel if I could because I love how it brings people together.” Kristy also wanted her career to connect her to history and culture. 

Travel? Wine? History and culture? Those aren’t career goals — those are stops on a European vacation, right? Wrong. Not only did Kristy create a role for herself that checked all of her unique career-goal boxes, she also found a situation that met every item on my list.

“I also needed something that was going to be flexible and allow me to work remotely. I put in a lot of time but on my schedule, which is wonderful, especially as a mom. I get to write, I get to be a manager, I get to jump in with ideas, I have a seat at the table and work with a dynamic group of people who are really amazing, and that was important to me, as well. Just working with like-minded people. People with similar values and the same goals and missions that I have. Everything fell into line and I honestly did not think it was possible even six months ago.” – Kristy Wenz

Kristy had the audacity to ask for what she wanted. She defined what she wanted and went out and got it in the real world. 

HOW DID KRISTY FIGURE THIS OUT?

The first thing Kristy did was to take a hiatus from work. She and her family moved to Europe for several months. Kristy hoped the time away would give her clarity about her next step. It didn’t work. 

Kristy realized that clarity wasn’t just going to arrive. 

That’s when we began working together with Kristy and made a plan to help her figure out her ideal career change:

  • Create her “plan for inevitable success” (discussed in Stage 2). Kristy focused on taking one small step every day so she felt momentum including time with her career coach and other important people in her life. 
  • Build an ideal career profile (mentioned above). Kristy did exercises to gain a deeper understanding of her strengths and understand what levers needed to be pulled in her next job opportunity.
  • Conduct “career experiments” (discussed below in Stage 4). Kristy test drove some viable career options to make sure she was on the right path. 
  • Kristy wanted her new career to involve writing, so she got a gig working with a small online tourism and wine website to write some articles. (just one of several ways she was test driving potential opportunities)
  • Kristy realized that she loved writing but didn’t want to do it 100% of the time, which became a key piece of her ideal career profile. She realized there were other pieces of her past roles that she wanted to keep doing, like operations and marketing. 
  • As Kristy reflected, learned and experimented more, she also discovered career needs she’d never had, like the ability to travel as part of her job.

Once Kristy had developed her ideal career profile, she was able to pursue her ideal career:

  • Kristy identified a company with a mission that matched her career goals of incorporating wine, travel and history and culture into her work. It was a startup online magazine called WineTraveller.
  • As a career experiment, Kristy got a contract job writing for WineTraveller.
  • In the course of doing that work, Kristy realized that WineTraveller might need a full-time person to help with exactly the things she was interested in doing, specifically, writing and overseeing company operations.
  • Kristy approached the founder of WineTraveller about a permanent role and, over the next few months, negotiated with him to craft a brand new position specifically for her. 

Want to hear Kristy’s entire story in her own words? Here she is telling the story of exactly how she went from PR (public relations) to Chief Communications Officer. Listen on the Happen To Your Career Podcast

TRYING TO DEFINE YOUR IDEAL CAREER?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Kristy’s Story – Check out what it takes to create the ideal role for yourself.
  • Go through the Figure It Out–8 Day Mini Course to help you identify some of the most important elements that you need for your next career step and beyond
  • Take the Clifton Strengths Finder Assessment to begin to recognize and articulate your strengths
  • Use the categories mentioned above to write out what you want for each area (Use the Puzzle Method). Here’s a checklist to create your Ideal Career Profile. Then begin to prioritize and identify the top 5 items
  • Not sure how to read or implement your Clifton Strengths report? Or completing your Ideal Career Profile? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here

Get the Guide Right Now!

Want to get this Career Change guide in your inbox (plus some extra career change goodies)?

Stage 4:
Do a Day-climb – Try Your New Career

You know what you want. Or do you? Before you hoist your pack and start clambering up the mountain, we’ll show you how to design career experiments to investigate your new career. Call it test driving, wine tasting, ice cream sampling. The point is to try your new career before you commit to it. That way, when you start climbing the career change mountain, you’ll be rock-solid certain that it’s the right mountain for you.

You know your Signature Strengths. You have identified your ideal career — possibly. You can’t be sure — you’ve never tried it. Before you commit to a path up the mountain, it’s time to run some experiments. Try before you buy. Test drive. Have a free sample. If you have identified a new career path for yourself that is truly a good fit for you, this will be fun. If not, then you will find out before committing yourself to the wrong path.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Career experiments take many different forms. They may be temporary positions, contract gigs or opportunities to try new roles at your current job. The goal is to use your Signature Strengths to practice the skills you hope to use in your new career. If you want to be a copywriter, can you get a contract gig writing copy for a tech company? Can you help work on the copy for the new website at your current company? If you’re interested in HR, can you help with the process of making your company’s new hire (you will be working with him… doesn’t it make sense for you to be involved…)? If you’re interested in software engineering, can you find an online class and see how you like it? Better yet, will your current employer pay for you to take it? You’re not looking for a full-time job yet. You’re just trying things on.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DECIDE YOUR CURRENT JOB NO LONGER FITS YOUR VALUES?

You fill your iPhone with numbers from the CEOs you’ve just met by interviewing them for your blog.

Wait… What?

That’s just one of the many ways that our client and HTYC Podcast listener Eric Murphy made a career change to his dream job.

Eric was working 10-14 hour days in his engineering role for the gas company in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was going well… except that he began to feel like he needed work that helped others. He realized working in the gas industry didn’t fit his values. He began to think about switching to work on a different energy source — solar.

He had no idea that he was so far off.

HOW DO YOU MAKE A CAREER CHANGE WHEN YOU’RE BURNT OUT, HAVE NO TIME, AND DON’T KNOW WHAT FITS YOU?

That’s exactly what Eric wanted to know! 

Eric wasn’t just trying to make a career change, he was also trying to figure out what career and company really fit him. 

We help every client through this process: 

  1. Determine your Signature Strengths. 
  2. Create your Ideal Career Profile
  3. Target only those companies and opportunities that fit your Ideal Career Profile. 

Eric was unique because he was simultaneously seeking jobs AND trying to discover his ideal role. 

If you’re thinking about pursuing career change but you don’t know exactly what career you want, that’s ok! Discovering what you want is part of the process!

What worked for Eric, and might work for you, is what we call the Test Drive Method

THE TEST DRIVE METHOD IN ACTION
BUT HOW DID HE GET THE ATTENTION OF CEO’S?

Honestly? Most of the time he just asked. You will be surprised how many people will say “yes” when you ask. 

But he was still nervous about asking for time from people, so here’s another unique method he used. Remember how he thought he might be really interested in working with a Solar technology company? Well here’s how he contacted their CEOs and got to learn about the solar industry at the same time.

Just because this test drive was right for Eric, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. What creative solution can you find to the problem of meeting people in your prospective new career?

When we worked with Eric we helped him design a way to experiment that fit his goals and what he still needed to learn and explore,and helped him build relationships with people who could help him. 

There are many ways that we do this and there are 6 more common experiments that we use regularly to help test drive. You can find those here.

TRYING TO DESIGN AN EXPERIMENT TO FIND THE RIGHT CAREER WITHOUT THE RISK?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Eric’s Story – Get an idea of how it actually looks to conduct career experiments.
  • Review your Ideal Career Profile or Checklist (from Stage 3). Begin to identify several potential roles or Target Companies that could be a good fit.
  • Read about 6 most common experiments that we use with our clients to avoid career risk and design their own experiments and choose at least 5 experiments that fit your situation whether that is creating a blog, working a gig job, etc.
  • Getting stuck identifying potential roles or target companies? Or having trouble implementing a career experiment? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here.

Get the Guide Right Now!

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Stage 5:
Start to Climb – Pursue Your Ideal Career and Life

You’re climbing! Finally! And whaddya know, you’re good at it! At this stage of the process, we’ll help you use your Signature Strengths to move you up the mountain towards your new career. Get ready for personal achievements, “a-ha!” moments and key realizations. We’ll show you how.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Albert Einstein

Just as everyone’s ideal career may be different, everyone’s strengths are different, too. Your plan for achieving your ideal career needs to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. If you enjoy chatting on the phone and can quickly build a rapport with new people that way, then your career change plan may emphasize connecting with people on the phone. If you’re more comfortable meeting in person, then your plan should include seeking in-person meetings (COVID permitting). Conversely, if you’re uncomfortable in large groups, then you probably shouldn’t focus your career search on group networking events.

Leveraging your strengths builds confidence and momentum in your career change, and that will help you move through the inevitable setbacks and challenges you will encounter. If you reach out to five people and four don’t respond, but the fifth has a great 30-minute phone chat with you, then you have a win — points on the board, a feather in your cap — to build your confidence and keep you moving up the mountain. 

That being said, there’s a difference between not wanting to do something because you’re not good at it, and what you don’t want to do because you’re nervous. Don’t use “this isn’t one of my strengths” as an excuse to avoid the sometimes uncomfortable work of career change.

Be brave so you will be remembered.

The Odyssey by Homer
USE YOUR STRENGTHS TO MAKE JOB SEARCH EASIER: REAL WORLD EXAMPLE 

Here are two drastically different examples of how real people gave consideration to their strengths while crafting a job search plan. 

Strengths: 

  • Easily having deep relationship building conversations with other people (when she was one on one)
  • Asking deep profound questions that allowed her to take genuine interest in others (and other people to quickly like her as a person)

Strengths: 

  • Understanding what people need and want (what creates motivation and is relevant for others) 
  • Ideation and creation: Coming up with new ideas and creating something out of nothing

Strategy: 

  • Get her to as many one on one conversations as possible with people that can help her or with authority to hire her (showcase her connecting and curiosity strengths)

Strategy: 

  • Developed mini websites to get the attention of the CEO for specific job postings. (Showcase the ability to create and tailor to exactly what they need)

End Result: 

  • Had conversations that led to interviews and to her exact ideal role.

End Result: 

  • Skipped to the interview stage without having to fill out applications with several CEOs of medium size companies (yay!)

Full Backstory: 

Nadia, a former client, wanted to transition out of her teaching career. As a teacher, she was accustomed to meeting new students, getting to know them and connecting with them. She had a talent for it and she enjoyed it. Her strengths? Connecting with other people deeply 1 on 1 and showing genuine interest and curiosity through deep questions. Yet, when she approached her career change, she was apprehensive about the application processes, Resumes and CVs and even communicating with people via Social Media. Also she didn’t have anywhere near as much direct experience as other people she would compete with if she relied on sending in traditional applications.

This meant we wanted to leverage her strengths by getting into as many of those 1 on 1 conversations as possible where people could see how amazing she was and decide they wanted to work with her.

Full Backstory: 

When I was interested in finding a job that allowed me to work remotely (back before there were lots of companies that did remote work and competition for the few were really high) I was struggling to get attention. 

By leveraging my strengths of putting myself in other people’s shoes to understand their exact motivations and my strengths of generating unique ideas and them quickly implementing them I was able to get traction. 

I ended up taking a skill I had recently learned (designing websites) and creating mini websites complete with videos personalized to the CEO. 

It worked and it got me multiple interviews while bypassing the traditional application process. 

CAREER CHANGE IS ALREADY HARD ENOUGH 

You can make it much easier and much more possible for you by considering how to apply your strengths throughout the process. We do this at Happen To Your Career with every person we help because it allows them to have a competitive advantage in an otherwise hard process. 

As a bonus, it helps people literally get hired for their strengths because they are using them from the beginning. Instead of trying to go through a traditional application and interview (the entire time trying to be someone they are not!)

Career change is an adventure into the unknown. The unknown will trigger fear in your mind, and fear will trigger resistance: “I don’t feel right about this.” → “This isn’t going to work.” → “I’m not doing it.” If you think it’s a bad idea to ask a stranger for a 15-minute phone call to chat about her experience at a company you like, then acknowledge that feeling, but interrogate it. Not everyone is best-suited to every form of interaction with other people. But be honest with yourself. Are you genuinely not good at talking on the phone, or are you letting resistance paralyze you?

RIDING THE HAPPINESS ROLLERCOASTER

Alissa Penny worked in HR (human resources), first for a manufacturing company and then in the public sector on behalf of municipalities. For a few years, she enjoyed it. But her husband got a new job, they moved, Alissa got a new job with a new municipality, and the new job didn’t go well.

Alissa became unhappy. Then stressed. Then extremely stressed. Then she began to experience periods of temporary blindness — her eyes would stop working. At that point, Alissa realized that her situation had graduated from “I’m not happy at work,” to, “My life may be in danger.” She needed to make a change immediately. She discussed career change with her husband, who was supportive. She quit her job.

As Alissa explained on my podcast, she wanted to continue working, but was unsure how to move forward with her career. She thought:

I still want to work, I enjoy working, I like the work that I do. So how can I make this happen in a way that I get to do what I like to do, what I do best, and really help the people that I have a huge passion for helping — municipalities, underserved employees, nonprofits, that kind of thing?

It was actually Alissa’s boss who suggested at her exit interview that Alissa consider consulting, but Alissa ignored the suggestion. A few months later, after working with Happen To Your Career, identifying her signature strengths and assessing her priorities for fulfilling work, Alissa realized that the thing she wanted most out of a new career was control — over her environment, her duties, her schedule. She still wanted to do HR, but on her own terms. Suddenly, consulting seemed like a good option.

WHAT IF IT TAKES LONGER THAN YOU EXPECT?

Alissa, who had never worked on her own before, never formed a company, never run a business, decided to become an independent consultant. She reached out to 200 contacts offering her services. She received responses from two of them, and got no clients. Not what she was hoping for. 

Panic set in. How stupid, how embarassing, what a waste of time and money. Did she really think she could start her own business? 

But, she stuck with it. Even when she didn’t get any clients in the next two weeks. Or the two weeks after that. Or the two weeks after that. Until, all at once, she landed three clients. 

The lesson for Alissa was patience. Taking her business from nothing to something was harder and took longer than she expected. But it happened. She learned to just keep showing up, keep doing the work, and the business would grow. From the podcast — “I know that this time next year, things are going to look very different. And as long as I stay consistent, and I maintain my patience, they will be okay.”

TRYING TO MAKE A CAREER CHANGE PLAN THAT LEVERAGES YOUR STRENGTHS?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Alissa’s story – Hear what the ups and downs feel in the real world.
  • Using the example above build a plan for your career change that leverages your strengths (take a hint from Stage 4).
  • Take a moment and review and update your resume and LinkedIn profile using checklists here and here.
  • Check out the HTYC Mini Guide to determine if you actually need a resume (spoiler alert: you may not!).
  • Not sure how to build a plan that leverages your strengths? Want to make sure you have an extremely effective interview? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here.

Get the Guide Right Now!

Want to get this Career Change guide in your inbox (plus some extra career change goodies)?

Stage 6:
Mid Climb – Overcoming Setbacks and Adjusting Your Plan

You can’t do it. You’re not smart enough. Why did you think you could change careers? Whose stupid idea was it to climb a mountain, anyway? It’s too hard. You want to quit. This stage is about discovering a path forward when you are absolutely certain there isn’t one. There is. We’ll help you find it.

Everyone we’ve ever worked with (yes, everyone!) goes through some variation of this as they begin implementing their career change plan. 

This is the part when all the bad things happen. You realize you will never be happy. You understand that the universe does not want you to achieve your dreams. 

The Secret, The Alchemist, Tony Robbins — ALL WRONG! 

You lie on your bed, fully clothed, staring at the ceiling, listening to The Doors, wondering if anyone actually likes The Doors. You decide to give up, go back to your previous career. It wasn’t that bad, right? You did it for a while — what’s another 30 years? The stress will probably force you into early retirement, so maybe only 20 years, maybe less …

Honestly, I know it sounds mean, but I love this part of the journey, because I know how it ends.

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

John Lennon

Think about every movie you’ve ever seen. Think about the moment when the hero is completely done for. Rocky is getting pounded. E.T. is dead! Marty McFly is on stage at the Under the Sea dance dissolving into oblivion while Biff is in the parking lot beating up George. It’s all going wrong!

And then what happens? Rocky fights back. E.T. wakes up. George punches Biff and Marty goes back to the 80’s. It all worked out!

The same thing will happen to you, it will just take longer than it does in the movies. You will reach the moment when you cannot go on, and then you will draw on the resources and the plan that you prepared for this moment. We planned for this back at Stage 2, remember?? 

Your friends and family will help. Your coach will help. The other people you identified to be a part of your team will help. You will look at how far you’ve come and you will know that there is no turning back.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU TRY?

You will also take a beat, analyze what you’ve done so far and assess what has worked and what hasn’t worked. If what you’ve been trying hasn’t been working, then what else can you try? 

This is a time to think about not only building up your existing skills, but also building new ones. You’re good on the phone, but could you be even better? You’re not great at job interviews, but you can improve. This stage is an iterative process of generally improving your career change skills to get you the rest of the way to the top of the mountain.

Mitch Hedberg said, “An escalator can’t break. It can only become stairs.” When your career change begins to go well, you will feel like you’re riding an escalator. Then the escalator will break. That’s ok — you can still take the stairs. Remember, you don’t WANT to change careers. You NEED to change careers. You will keep going. And you will make it. 

All of my clients experience difficulty in the course of their career change, but no one has described it to me more eloquently than Rob.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOSE FAITH IN YOURSELF?

Rob struggled for a long time on his own in a very unsatisfying career before coming to me for help. Here’s how he describes the feeling that his career change was going to fail, and how he overcame it.

“No one wants to have an extended period of strife and grief and certainly, on the career side, you get to a point where it’s pretty rough. Coaching helped me the most in terms of having a little faith in myself. ‘You’re not the only one that’s been here. Yeah, this is rough, let’s talk about it.’ This idea that while it might seem that this is a solo endeavor, there are a lot of people out there who do want to help. I came to this process feeling like, ‘I’m just a failure,’ but I got through that and I owe that largely to our coaching sessions. There’s not an instant anything. You have to use your faith in the process of going towards your strengths and using those to guide you along that path and really building something that begins to look like a career.” 

HOW TO KEEP GOING: NAVIGATING CAREER CHANGE WHEN A PANDEMIC HITS

I mentioned a bit of Nadia’s story in Stage 1: Considering Career Change. Nadia was a teacher in England. She loved her students and felt at home in the school community, but couldn’t avoid her growing sense that the work was making her miserable. When she decided to pursue career change, she felt scared, bereft, guilt-ridden and regretful. She was desperate to give up and retreat to her teaching career, but knew she couldn’t. Eventually, her career change process began to gain traction. 

As I was thinking, ‘Oh, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I think I’m getting somewhere, the world changed. COVID arrived, and then all I’m hearing is, people are not hiring. I reached out to a recruiter and what I got back was, people are looking for experience. Come back in maybe six to eight months’ time when things are a little bit more settled.

When you’re moving from one sector to another, how are you going to have a network? My teaching colleagues are certainly not going to turn into corporate giants.

Nadia was also concerned that her network was too weak to support her career change into a new field.

WHAT DID NADIA ACTUALLY DO TO KEEP GOING?

Nadia adopted a few tactics to keep her career change on track. 

1) Accountability – First, she met with her coach (Phillip) every week to review her progress. This created a system that she didn’t have to think about to keep pulling her forward (don’t underestimate this) 

2) Getting Uber-Specific – They developed a spreadsheet and set weekly goals for her progress, down to the individuals who she would contact. This made Nadia accountable for her progress on a weekly basis. It also took ambiguity of exactly what she needed to do each week.

THERE COMES A TIME WHEN EVERYONE HITS A “SKILL WALL”

Everyone we’ve ever worked with that has the goal of getting paid very well for fulfilling work that fits them hits the same point in the process: They encounter a “skill wall”. This is the point where they realize that the skills required for getting meaningful work are different than what’s required for getting a regular job. 

This is where everyone runs into a wall and they often don’t see how to do the process any differently. To do it differently (and be successful) you will also need to up your skills.  

Nadia also worked on developing her skills. When she first approached us for coaching, she was not great at sending emails to reach out to people. We worked together to develop her skill and her comfort level in sending messages to strangers. Ultimately, that was the skill that made Nadia’s career change possible.

The magic of that was to say, let’s look at people who are currently doing these jobs. Let’s do some research and see who you can connect with. And that is where the door opened and the light shone.

Here’s a real example of Nadia’s upping her skills. This is one of the first messages she sent and also the email she much later sent that led to her getting a job offer.

Subject: Your SAP Position

Dear Jim,

My passion for learning with a proven ability to deal with complex issues systematically and creatively led me to seek a career in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Whilst studying for the Masters I acquired hands on experience with SAP All-in-One and loved every minute of it. The value it brings to an organisation in terms of end to end solutions for all business processes and supply chain visibility was breathtaking.

My experience of working as a consultant brought into sharp focus the importance of a well designed implementation strategy. I transformed a faltering implementation into a success by initially focusing on the following three areas;

  • Mapping business processes – gained a deep understanding of their business functions and experienced them firsthand
  • Bridging gaps – between SAP functionality and the client’s business requirements, and by eliminating silos within the organisation
  • User acceptance training – educated myself on the impact employees had, and continued to, sustain along with an understanding of their psychological needs

Being endlessly curious, insightful and a natural relationship builder, I enjoy asking probing questions that help me understand even the most intricate business issues. I synthesise this knowledge with subject expertise, providing fresh perspectives and identifying new opportunities for growth.

The design of the company’s Application Management Cycle offering a lifetime solution, resonates deeply with me. A holistic approach with specialist knowledge, harnessing expertise to join up business goals with technological capabilities, and ongoing client care, is a recipe for sustained success. I would be proud to join your team and believe my strengths, energy and ability to learn new skills will serve your company very well.

I look forward to learning more about your company and discussing the value I could add as your next SAP Business One Consultant.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to meet with you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Nadia

Here’s the email that allowed her to make a connection (with someone she didn’t know) who later introduced her to her future boss. Take a look see if you can spot the differences. 

SUBJECT: We studied Bus. Analytics at ********** University

Hey Mike,

Forgive the impromptu email, I came across your profile whilst researching SAP Partners on LinkedIn. 

Turns out we both enrolled at ******* in 2015 and studied Business Analytics units together. Unfortunately our paths didn’t cross, though I felt a sense of kinship when I saw you were awarded Best overall Performing Student in your course, just as I did in mine!

What really grabbed my attention was your career journey from assembly line worker in ******** to Business One Consultant at ****** in ******; wow!  Currently I am looking to transition into SAP implementation and on the search for advice.

Specifically, I’m curious to know how you made the transition from assembly line worker all the way to SAP Business One Consultant? Additionally, what was it like to complete SAP certification?

If you’d be willing, I would love to have a 15 minute call with you to learn about your experiences and advice on what it takes to break into an SAP Consultant career. 

Just reply with a ‘yes’ and we can work out the best day and time that works for your schedule.

Many thanks, 

Nadia

There’s a lot of psychology built into this email that we won’t even get into in this guide, however one thing you might notice is that it’s much shorter and very specific in what she is asking for. She even makes it easy on the other person to say “yes” to her request.  

BTW if you simply rip off this as a template and think it’s going to work for you, that may be an indication that you could also up your skills as you’re going through the process of your ideal career. 

HOW DID UPPING HER SKILL LEVEL LEAD NADIA TO HER IDEAL CAREER?

Nadia found a connection on LinkedIn who currently worked at the company that Nadia wanted to join and had been in her university class. Although they never met at school, they had taken a class together and had both won awards in it. Nadia reached out to him for an informational interview, they connected, and that experience led then to building  a long lasting relationship with that connection. “I asked for a 15-minute chat. My shortest conversation was 45 minutes.” Eventually, Nadia connected with someone who offered to send her resume to a former colleague who worked at Nadia’s target company. That led to a phone call, an interview, and Nadia’s first job in her new career.

With hindsight, Nadia also attributes her successful career change to personal resiliency. 

You can have the most fantastic coach in the world, but if you are not resilient within yourself then it’s not going to work. We talk ourselves out of things without even trying.

TRYING TO OVERCOME SETBACKS AND STAY ON YOUR CAREER CHANGE PATH?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Nadia’s story – Get an idea of how to keep moving forward despite setbacks.
  • Look at the plan you built (from Stage 5), make any adjustments if necessary to make your plan more effective. Don’t forget to tap in the personal Team you built (from Stage 2) to give you an assist!
  • Once you have an interview(s) lined up, prepare using the Interview Checklist. To dive even listen to the hand-selected HTYC podcasts on nailing your interview here and here.
  • Feeling stuck in conversations? Have an upcoming interview? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here.

Get the Guide Right Now!

Want to get this Career Change guide in your inbox (plus some extra career change goodies)?

Stage 7:
Reach the Summit – Find Your New Role

They said you couldn’t do it. You said you couldn’t do it. But you did it. You got a job offer in your new career. You reached the summit, now don’t fall off. We’ll guide you through negotiating your opportunity and mastering your arrival. Congratulations!

When you persevere through the ups and downs of career change and arrive at the point that someone is offering you a job in your new career, your first inclination will be to just take it. Don’t quibble, don’t haggle — accept before they change their mind!

But, as you will have learned and re-learned throughout this journey, your unique combination of strengths make you exceptional. Once the organization has taken a sufficiently strong interest in you to make you a job offer, they won’t give up on you so easily.

I don’t have a lot of respect for talent. Talent is genetic. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Martin Ritt

Before you accept a position, take your time and make sure that you are getting everything you need to set yourself up for success. Whether that’s flexibility, vacation time, additional compensation or other benefits. You and your new employer will both be happier if you work together to assure that you are positioned to succeed in your new role.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PREPARATION MEETS OPPORTUNITY 

Mike Krzyzewski, the hall of fame basketball coach, has said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. 

With that definition in mind, Karen was very lucky. Having worked in philanthropy for several decades, Karen was ready for a change. She wanted to move on from her current organization but find a different role in the philanthropy industry. Karen and I worked together to identify her signature strengths and design her ideal new role. 

Around this time, Karen’s employer hired someone new. Although Karen’s bosses told her the new employee would be under her supervision, when his hiring was completed, it turned out — surprise! — that instead of Karen supervising him, he would be supervising her. Karen was not thrilled.

However, this new employee had left a job at another philanthropic organization. Karen realized the new employee’s former job fit all of her criteria for the new role she wanted. And, because of her deep network of contacts in the philanthropy community, Karen already knew the CEO of this other organization. Karen told the story on my podcast:

I already had a good relationship with a lot of the people there and with the CEO there. So I reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, this might be kind of awkward, but you know, the position that just became vacant because we hired that person away from you — I’m interested in coming over there.

I had my ideal career profile that I could say, ‘alright, check that box, check that box, check that box, oh, you know, I want a little bit more time off.’ So I actually negotiated for that. I said, ‘I’d really love to have a few more days off.’ And so I got that. So it really does help you identify what you need what you can bring to an organization and where you should negotiate.

Within a few weeks, Karen had an offer in hand for her dream job. And because Karen had spent the time to identify exactly what she wanted, she knew exactly what to ask for in negotiations with her new boss.

NEGOTIATING A JOB OFFER TO MAXIMIZE YOUR CAREER FULFULLMENT?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Karen’s story – Hear how to negotiate to make a dream job even better.
  • Use the HTYC Negotiation Plan to create your customized strategy and make your dream job even sweeter!
  • Break open the champagne, do a happy dance, give yourself a pat on the back… just celebrate reaching the summit!
  • Need help negotiating your job offer? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here.

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Stage 8:
Master the Mountain – Thrive in Work That Fits

Your new life on the summit is great, but it’s still life. You have a fantastic new career, but it’s not perfect. We’ll help you through the growing pains of adjusting to your new career and life.

New job, new career, new life. If you know that it takes some time to break in new shoes, you know that it will take some time to break in your new life, too. If you’ve done your career change correctly and landed a job that leverages all of your many signature strengths for a high salary, then your new role is likely to be exciting, but also highly demanding and overflowing with new information for you to learn and apply at warp speed. You will be drinking from a firehose. You will be building the plane as you fly it. Very exciting, very challenging, but also potentially frustrating. Give yourself some time to adjust.

Everyone has only one true vocation: to find himself.

Herman Hesse

Now that you have done the hard work to improve your career situation, the next stage is to work on improving yourself. You may bring habits, attitudes, behaviors to your work that may slowly undermine even an ideal job situation. You have issues with authority figures, you may under-communicate (not acknowledging messages, not sending follow-ups, not making sure that instructions are clear), you may have difficulty with boundaries (getting too close to co-workers or not close enough). This stage is about fine-tuning your professional habits, which can make the difference between having a job and thriving in it.

GOOD EXHAUSTED VS BAD EXHAUSTED

Laura left her old career because work made her feel exhausted. After landing her dream job in a new career, she still went home everyday feeling exhausted. But, she was able to distinguish between the bad exhaustion of her old job and the good exhaustion of her new job. Here’s how she explained it on my podcast:

I’m being challenged. And I’m exhausted, because I’m working hard. And I’m learning every day. And there’s always room for improvement. Before, I would leave work exhausted because I was bored. I still leave work exhausted. It’s just that now the exhaustion is from flexing my brain and personal development and much more excitement about the work that I’m doing and being invested in it.

 

TRYING TO ADAPT TO A NEW ROLE?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

  • Listen to Laura’s story – Get an idea of how thrive in your role.
  • Listen to Melody Wilding talk about setting boundaries in your career.
  • Make a list of what skills would allow you to have a better quality of life? Is it drawing boundaries? Learning to have very difficult conversations? Asking for what you want/need in a way that works for you? Learning to allow yourself to be happier internally? Write them down?
  • Take the above list and determine simple ways you can practice these daily.
  • Want to know how you can thrive in your role? Schedule a conversation with our team by clicking here.

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Stage 9:
Ascend the Next Mountain – Evolve in Your New Life

Career change is an on-going, iterative process that will last through the rest of your career. As you grow and evolve, your needs and dreams will grow and evolve, also. Your career path will be a constant process of refinement to move yourself closer and closer to your ideal, even when that ideal changes. But now that you have the skills and have applied them once, you will always have them at your disposal. 

The statement I hear most often from people changing careers is, “I just want to find a career that I can stay in,” or, “I just want to find a company that I can stay in.”

But humans don’t stay in one place. They grow, they change. It’s unavoidable, even if it’s inconvenient. So, saying that you want to find a place you “can stay in” will not only place unfair limits on you as a professional, it will place unfair limits on you as a person.

You should not expect to find a new role in a new career and keep it until you retire. You should expect to continue learning, continue growing, continue refining your ideal career profile, and know that you will have the tools to pursue that ideal, even when it changes.

SKILLS THAT LAST A LIFETIME

Now that you have made a career change once, you will always have the skills to do it again. Not necessarily because you are looking for an entirely new career. Maybe you’re just looking for what’s next in your current field. But you’ve been through it before. You’ll know the signs. When you feel that sense of purpose and contentment slipping away from your work, we can help you take the next step.

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.

Agnes de Mille
YOU FINISHED THIS CLIMB, BUT YOU’RE STILL A CLIMBER

Tanya was a television and live event producer when she came to us for help changing careers. She enjoyed producing but wasn’t happy in the entertainment industry. She kept pivoting between entertainment companies, trying to find her place in “the business” — television, concerts, other live events — but nothing felt fulfilling. Tanya was ready for a change. But not only did she want to change industries, she and her significant other were making a move from New York to London. That meant finding a new career in a new city on a new continent, where she did not have a strong network.

Where do you start when you have no network? 

Tanya started by drilling down and identifying exactly what she wanted from her new career.

Ultimately putting in the work and effort, really paying attention to myself, thoughts, and gut on what worked and didn’t throughout my career, my wants, what I was looking for, my motivations, my minimums, ideals, etc. and putting it on paper. It helped me put myself in a different light evaluating my needs and wants. I could see myself through a bigger lens. I was able to properly position myself in this career transition, which was the missing key.

I did everything you coached us to do. The reach outs, massaging your network to get introductions and being bold and forward. I do that in my job, but was hesitant to do it in my search.

 

Once she knew what she wanted, she found a company that she believed could give it to her — Wanderlust. Then, she got after them.

Tanya’s efforts paid off. She landed her dream job with her #1 company choice: Wanderlust. As you can imagine she was ecstatic — for one whole year. But after some changes at the company, It quickly turned her dream job into a place she could no longer work at.

YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DREAM JOB STOPS FEELING DREAMY

This time, finding her next opportunity was no problem for Tanya — she just ran through the same process that had brought her to Wanderlust. No fear of the unknown. No existential hand-wringing about what it would mean for her self-identity. Tanya knew that every step in her career was just one step. And when she was ready to take the next step, she had the tools to do it. That’s the greatest value of this guide — once you learn these skills and apply them once, there will never be anything to stop you from applying them again. These are skills you will keep for the rest of your life.

Career change is an on-going, iterative process that will last through the rest of your career. As you grow and evolve, your needs and dreams will grow and evolve, also. Your career path will be a constant process of refinement to move yourself closer and closer to your ideal, even when that ideal changes.

Now that you’ve gone through an overhaul process of career change to meaningful work, you have the tools to keep changing, tweaking and refining. Sometimes this means changing your role or company again (and it will be so much easier the next time), but most of the time it means taking tiny steps to move you closer and closer to your ideal career and life, like taking on a passion project at your current job.

After beginning her career with an academic position that did not suit her and successfully changing to a new academic position, Michal put a premium on making sure that her new role would give her room to grow and evolve as her career progressed. We discussed it on my podcast:

One of the most fantastic things that I love about my supervisor now is that when I interviewed he said that he doesn’t expect me to stay there forever. He wants to create opportunities for me to grow, and the highest compliment to him would be if I stayed in this role for a while and then moved on to something else. And when he said that, I said, ‘Yes.’ This is what the process is about — doing something that fits your life in that moment, and if it doesn’t fit, being flexible enough to think that I can always move on and I can always find something that fits better. Something’s going to happen eventually. Somewhere, something in life is going to come up. And so it is really impossible to find that perfect place where you’re going to stay forever.

Don’t have conversations because you are looking for another job. Have conversations with people who are doing things that are interesting because you’re interested in them. That’s going to open a whole world to you that you don’t know about.

Life changes, so will you and so will your career. That’s why Michal is always seeking to connect with new people. Even if you’re not in the market for a new job or a new career, keep reaching out, keep learning, keep making new connections. Keep your channels open. From Michal’s podcast episode:

TRYING TO REFINE YOUR IDEAL CAREER?

DO THESE THINGS NOW:

Trying to refine your ideal career? Do these things now:

Conclusion:
How can I help you?

Congratulations! You now know everything there is to know about career change! So get out there and be somebody!

No, not really.

I’ve been a career coach for over a decade, and I learn more about careers, career goals and career change every day. The reality is that every person is different, so every person’s ideal career is different, and every person’s career needs are different. And people change, so their career needs and goals change, too. Understanding your personal and professional strengths, and how to leverage them to create your ideal career, is a lifelong process. 

But if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this guide (and, seriously, let me say not only, thank you! But also, wow!) then hopefully you understand that simply by analyzing your career goals, recognizing that there is an ideal career for you and pursuing that ideal career, you are far ahead of almost everyone else. 

I’ll continue to update this guide with new stories and new ideas as I continue to develop and refine my understanding of career change, so please check back.

If you are interested in discussing your ideal career and how to achieve it, I’d love to chat. Please feel free to set up a time to talk here.

You can also check out my eight-day career change mini-course to help you get started on your career change. That’s available here.

And if you’d like to sign up for email updates to learn more about career change, you can do that here.

Thank you again. And best of luck with your career.

— Scott

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The Top 3 Mistakes During Career Change

Top 3 Mistakes that High Performers Make When Changing Careers

Understand the Top 3 mistakes high performers make when changing careers AND how to take steps to never make these mistakes again (or in the first place). This training will show you how to leap over these common barriers and find a career you love that pays well too!

Training

90 min Master Class Recording that will teach you exactly what we see that stops high performers from reaching career happiness and how to avoid it.

This is only for you IF… 

…you’re serious about doing the work to create a career and life that is aligned with who you are and who you want to be. 

This class focuses on how to avoid the biggest mistakes that high achievers make (while changing careers) and instead be able to focus your time where it will be most effective. Working with career changers since 2012, I’ve personally learned what matters most is putting your energy into only what will allow you to do ideal work. We have observed these three common mistakes most high-achieving job seekers make in their search for career happiness. So we’ve put the years of research and observation discovering the psychological missteps that occur when high achievers decide to change careers into this class.

Trust us. It’s not what you think. When you take the time to watch the training here’s what you will learn: 

  • How to avoid the trap that smart critical thinkers make when they change careers
  • A cure for surfing for jobs on the job boards and not seeing anything you’re remotely interested in, or seeing only things you feel totally unqualified for
  • Why conventional “networking” rarely lands you a job you love AND fits you! 
  • Why salary is counter-intuitive when it comes to doing work you enjoy 
  • How to set yourself up so that career opportunities fall into your lap seemingly randomly (but they’re not)
  • Why you’ve got to stop trying to “Narrow down the list” of careers that fit (and what to do instead)
  • Why most of us think we have to choose between enjoyment or money (and how we’ve proven with our clients you can have both)
  • Why it’s been so hard to get clarity on what you want — and what you can do about it, starting today
  • How to avoid the mistakes and misconceptions that limit average applicants in their job hunt
  • What they’ve learned helping 2000 people make career moves — and how you can use that intel to find career happiness
  • Why you want to cry when you look at job boards and postings (unfortunately, it’s pretty common!)
 

I would highly recommend: popcorn, a glass of wine and a notepad you can fill to the edge!

Pro Tip: Change the video speed to 1.2x or 1.5x if you have less time available. But watching it will cause you to think differently about your career change!

Thank you for the HTYC podcast and for hosting webinars like this one… Both resources helped me work through my career transition with more confidence and re-frame my approach to finding an entirely new professional path.

I’m happy to report I’ll be starting a new role on Monday that is a complete 180 from what I’ve been doing for the past 7 years. I believe it will be a success because I know I can offer my transferable skills and signature strengths to help my new team.

Thank you again for doing what you do!
– Melissa

Ready for Career Happiness?

What Career Fits You?

Finally figure out what you should be doing for work

Join our 8-day “Mini-Course” to figure it out. It’s free!

Guide to meaningful work

I just got done reading an article on Forbes that says: “Meaningful work is leading people down the wrong path because it’s causing them to go after something that’s impossible or to expect too much.”

Harvard Business Review published a study saying that 9 out of 10 people would trade an average of 23% of their salary for more meaningful work. 

Gallup organization published a report that claims that “What the world wants is a good job.” 

Payscale.com features some of the most meaningful occupations ranging from anesthesiologists to radiation therapists.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. There’s so much conflicting information out there about what creates more fulfilling, more desirable work: 

  • Is it the job? 
  • Is it the company? 
  • Is it the type of role or occupation?
  • Is meaningful work really even obtainable in the first place? 

The short answer is “yes,” but in reality it happens differently than what most of the world thinks it does.

We often find ourselves battling the societal status quo and the pressure to “be responsible” and comply with whatever our company tells us to do. After all:

  • “We’re adults now”
  • We have families to provide for, futures to plan and save for”
  • “We need to be good, productive citizens of society”

Let’s go back to 2005, when the world had not yet heard of the iPhone, Hollaback girl by Gwen Stefani was one of the most popular songs on the radio, (and people still listened to radio). The dark ages right? It was that year I started studying what creates meaningful and fulfilling work, Primarily because I didn’t have it. I quickly learned that I had what Gallup organization calls a “good job”. One where I have a steady pay check, but I didn’t love it. I certainly didn’t derive purpose from it and most definitely didn’t describe it as meaningful. 

I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone. There were many people just like me that were really there for the paycheck but felt like they had the potential and capability to be doing something much, greater, much more impactful and that I could feel not just good but great about. 

Actually, for me personally, I honestly thought that if I was going to be spending this much time working somewhere it was worth my while to find someplace that felt meaningful and paid me well. 

I later learned just how rare this is. In fact, today Gallup estimates that there are only 4% of people in the entire world that have careers that fit in this category. They also estimate that over 3 billion people would like to be in this category.

For me, back in 2005, this meant I had to find and learn from those people who already felt like they had purpose and meaning in their career. What were they doing differently? What did they know that I didn’t, Was it certain kinds of jobs or roles, was it that they had some kind of spiritual awakening? Were they meditating before meditating got popular? 

I just knew that I had to find the answer. I couldn’t go too many more days of soul crushing 2-3 hour commutes for a job that I didn’t believe in. 

I started asking people “what makes work meaningful to you?” Sometimes, I would hear things like: “work where I’m growing and advancing.”

“I think meaningful work is making a difference to the world. And in particular, for me, it's making a difference to people's lives.”

Caroline

“Meaningful work means to me is that your activities and what you're doing connects to a larger purpose.”

Steven

“When you do something, not on your own benefit, but helping someone else. And if you are helping a large amount of people, then it's even more meaningful.”

Thais

Those are all real people who have done a great job finding meaningful and fulfilling work.

THE NUMBER 1 KEY TO MEANINGFUL WORK

Since 2005, I’ve literally asked thousands of people this very same question. What makes work meaningful or fulfilling? Yes I know that sounds absurd and I’m probably the only person in the world running around asking everybody about their own personal definition of meaningful work for the last decade, but I got to learn a lot about those people and later about what creates purpose, passion, meaning and fulfillment.

The one thing that all humans need to feel in order to feel meaning and purpose became obvious right away.

Every single person needs to feel like they are helping other people. 

That’s pretty simple: let’s all go get jobs helping others! 

But when you start to think about it for a while, you realize that really, every single job on the planet is helping others in some way – whether you are pouring cement or curing disease, really every single job relates back to helping people in some way.

So what does this mean?

“I think the meaningful parts of my work is when I get to know that evasion story, for example, how successful was a case and the people are being treated by the products that we make, that Phillips make. So, when I think in this long chain, otherwise, I know that I’m a very little piece in this big chain. I feel glad for being part of it and for being helpful in this way.

We invest in technology that will go for that will improve healthcare. So, for example, in the part that I work in the business that I am in with Philips, it’s all about minimally invasive procedures, which really improve the patient lives. And everything here is focused on the patient. So, we are improving life of people improving treatments, saving lives… If you consider like the population is getting older and older, and each year we have more new diseases being discovered.

And then we have Philips, on the other side, trying to invest in technology, to improve the treatments, to improve the patients’ lives, to try to treat them, to save them in a better way, with a short recovery. So, this is a meaningful work because the business here is to support saving lives, and we support physicians on doing that.”

– Thais Sabino, Communication Manager of Image Guided Therapy Systems at Philips

IT’S DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE

From my personal perspective, I think that every single one of us, as individual human beings, beat a lot of odds to get here on this planet. There’s a reason why we’re here, and our lives have a unique purpose. So, if you think about the chances of you just getting to be here on Earth, and believe that there’s a purpose to your life, meaningful work is what helps us to fulfill that purpose and live our best lives. Research suggests that there are some common threads around what drives meaning and fulfillment in the work we do.

I think the first thing is solving a problem that you actually care about in the work that you do, and solving it in a way that that’s oriented to your strengths and gives you energy. I believe that work should bring us joy. It’s our responsibility as individuals to find work that aligns to our unique sense of purpose and gives us a chance to use our strengths to serve others.

I think that meaningful work means something different to everyone. There’s a really specific reason for that: we’re unique human beings.”

– Colleen Bordeaux, Writer and Human Capital Consultant at Deloitte Consulting

YOUR PERCEPTION AFFECTS YOUR MEANINGFUL WORK

Another problem we face with meaningful work may not be the company or the work itself. Sometimes, your perception or perspective of the work affects how meaningful the work is.

For example, if you’re having concrete poured for your backyard patio – the person who shows up to put that concrete in can either view it as as just making a patio and just another job, or they can view it as they are creating a place for family and friends to get together.

The same task, but one has a more meaningful purpose.

Or here’s another example we see all the time here at Happen To Your Career. We get a lot of people coming to us from companies like Google, Facebook, or Amazon. These are impressive companies and many people would love to work there. But is it meaningful work? 

One person who came from Google recently told us, “I feel like my job isn’t helping people, it’s just getting more clicks.” 

That same person could have taken the perspective that they’re helping many people find what’s important to them every day, every time they search on Google. 

So is meaning just a switch that you need to flip in your brain? A different mental lens you can look through to see how any task you might do helps others? Or is it more about finding out what type of work is meaningful to you? 

THE TWO PARTS OF FINDING MEANINGFUL WORK

OK, it’s definitely not as simple as flipping a switch in your brain, but At Happen To Your Career, when we talk about the ways we can find meaningful work, we separate them into 2 categories: internal and external. 

Internally, you can practice relating meaning to any task or job that you’re doing, An easy way to do this is to consider what the end result will be:

  • Who will be benefiting?
  • How will they be benefiting?
  • What happens if you don’t do your part?

But only doing this will just get you part of the way there. It’s only half of the recipe for meaningful work.

The other half is identifying the external context that you personally experience the most meaning and fulfillment.

This means uncovering your personal definition of what creates meaning for you. This means doing the hard work of understanding what people, causes, situations, and tasks are more or less meaningful to you. In the case of people this might mean who are the types of people who you enjoy helping. Do you get more meaning from working directly with an individual, helping groups, communities or maybe even larger impact like states or nations? The answer could be more than one, or it could be none of these and you personally derive more meaning from the way you’re helping or the type of cause you’re a part of.

When you put these two categories together, they give you the clues as to where you should look for work that is more meaningful work.

You begin to realize you have to be able to directly see and connect how you’re helping others.

Michal Balass realized that she was lacking meaning in her work and knew it was going to impact both her and her employer. So, after evaluating her needs and researching career opportunities, she found meaningful work.

“So, when I first started my job, the on-boarding was a steep learning curve, but three months into it, four months into it, I was getting my work done. And I was getting it done very quickly. And there wasn’t more for me to do. And I would create my own projects to preoccupy my time. And I acquired a lot of skills in that way. And it was very obvious that there was nowhere for me to move up. And I was a little sad about that, because I really liked the academic environment, I liked being on campus. But I also realized that if I’m going to get bored, I’m going to feel disconnected. And it’s not gonna be good for me, it’s not gonna be good for my employer. And I didn’t want to get to that point.”

OK, so it’s safe to say that Michal clearly directly sees and connects what she does for work to how it helps other people. She clearly gets meaning out of these types of challenges. 

But is this enough? If you’ve done a great job with the internal side of assigning meaning and and you’re fortunate enough to work in a job that provides these for you, is this enough to create work that feels meaningful and fulfilling for you? 

The short answer is no, but don’t worry, it’s not your fault, it’s our society.

SOCIETY AND THE STATUS QUO

It is rare to have a great job that is also meaningful to us.

Part of the reason is that many people and companies in our society have antiquated versions of what work should look like.

“We’re taught to think in exceptionally stale ways about work, and about the purpose of our lives. We tend to orient our lives and our understanding of work around ways that are handed to us through our education, through our culture, and through our families. We’re not taught that we can take a step back and think differently, consider what makes us unique, and where we can apply that to add value.

So, I think that’s one piece of it. And I think the second piece of it is that, in many ways, we’ve thought about jobs and designed jobs that are too small for the human spirit: they’re often focused on pixelated work, where the human beings doing the work are disconnected from how it supports the organization’s mission and how it impacts other human beings, and we’re not intentional about aligning individual strengths and passions to tasks and activities.”

– Colleen Bordeaux

Even if you know already know what creates more meaning for you, there are other factors that must also be present for you to have viable meaningful work. 

Some of the most important ones are that it must pay enough for you to meet your financial obligations and goals, it must be utilizing your strengths and allowing you to contribute uniquely and additionally the “how we help” others must be in alignment with the mission of the organization. 

If any of these variables are missing, it can take potentially meaningful work and turn it into something far less meaningful for you in reality. 

But when you have all of these in alignment, that’s where magic starts to happen.

That’s where meaning starts to intersect with purpose, passion, and fulfillment. 

“When I think about what meaningful work means… means to me is really, is that your activities and what you’re doing connects to a larger purpose. And in my case, we’re all about healthcare and improving patient lives and we do it across something we call a continuum of healthcare from birth to when you might be towards the end. And I know that the activities and the things that I do and working with my team has a direct benefit to helping somebody diagnose an issue or to be treated for something, and I gain a lot of pride from that and I feel like I have a connection to something bigger.”

– Steven Tyler, Senior Manager of Development Engineering at Philips

THE RELATIONSHIP OF ORGANIZATIONS AND MEANINGFUL WORK

There’s a fascinating study out there that was debuted in the Harvard Business Review. It involved 2285 Professionals and found that over 90% of them would trade some portion of their salary for work that was more meaningful. 

Maybe this sounds surprising to some, but, honestly, I was not surprised. Partially, because people usually want what they don’t have, and the reality is that most people don’t have meaningful work. But partially because we’re hardwired as human beings to try to make meaning out of nearly everything. Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister argues that this is because it helps us satisfy the need to create stability for ourselves.

What nobody is arguing about is that most companies are not focused on creating a meaningful work experience for their employees. 

But, there are some organizations that are doing this very well:

  • St Jude, Children’s Research hospital
  • Dave Ramsey’s company Ramsey Solutions
  • Disney

An editors note here, We actually reached out to 15 different organizations that our team here at Happen To Your Career believes are creating a meaningful work experience for their teams. We wanted to try to chat with some of their employees and leadership team team about what it looks like from the inside, however almost all of these organizations were hesitant to give us interview access.

There was one organization who said “Yes”, and pretty much gave us cart blanche access to their team and their leadership, That organization was Philips.

“I think, if you think about what gets you out of bed in the morning to go to work, and there’s always a combination of both people need to work both from a financial perspective. But to do something meaningful means you get out of bed with a smile. And I think enjoying and having passion for what you do is extremely important.

I think, if you feel so engaged with the company direction, and know how you can make a difference, I think the results there are much better for the company.

And I think, if you ask about the byproduct of meaningful work…doing this meaningful work, improving lives through innovation, as a mission, and actually has shown that innovation gets stronger and stronger, because you are engaging people in developing the solutions with our customers or our patients. And, we have a lot of new types of businesses now, digital models in the consumer domain, digital healthcare solutions, long term strategic partnerships with customers, based on very different business models that we’ve co-created. So that sort of innovation in our blood…continues to build as you’re engaged in this direction.

And I think the other byproduct is diversity. Because, if I observe Philips as well, in the journey, we are able to attract, I think, much more diverse talent on this journey we’re on, we’re no longer a big conglomerate, where people are not sure exactly what Philips did. We’re a health company, and we’re improving lives. And that’s a very compelling journey to be part of. I see therefore, that we are attracting talent…it’s a war on finding the best people because the best business results come from great people. So being able to engage a diverse group and attract strong talent is important.

And I would say finally, the other byproduct is engagement scores. And so, people are happy and feel part of the journey we’re on and satisfied if you like us, as an employee, and we see engagement scores increasing. So, in ASEAN Pacific we’re four percentage points above last year, were actually three percentage points above the global average, too, and then that demonstrates, again, that people feel very engaged in this journey.

– Caroline Clarke, Market Leader for ASEAN Pacific at Philips

Wait a minute, those are some pretty big impacts to the business that Philips has seen coming from creating more meaningful work.

More innovation, higher diversity and more engaged employees.

Those are pretty big reasons to pay attention to creating a much more meaningful work experience for employees. But, what about the bottom line? Is there any real impact there? 

I mentioned the study that was unveiled in Harvard Business Review about employees taking less salary in exchange for more meaningful work, but there’s also other studies that show evidence of the same phenomenon. So, certainly there’s a willingness for people to work cheaper for more meaningful work, but my experience is that is a short sighted way to make more profit.

Is there a link between employees experiencing more meaning  and profit?

“So, I think, number one is challenging old ways of thinking and orthodoxies around what drives engagement. Old ways of thinking  focused on perks, rewards and support. Those things, of course, matter. However, research suggests that in today’s working world, and looking forward, they’re mattering less compared to other factors. Focus is shifting to job fit, job design, and the ability to find fulfillment and meaning in the work that you do, and that applies to roles across the entire organization.

An MIT study showed that enterprises with top quartile employee experience achieve twice the innovation, double the actual customer satisfaction, and 25% higher profits than organizations with bottom quartile employee experience, which underscores why this topic is top of mind for organizations. A separate Deloitte study found that organizations are starting to invest in programs across industries to better improve on life at work, and are looking at the day to day experience that workers have. They’re getting beyond the idea of work life balance, and looking at how to make work more meaningful and give the human beings that work for the organization a sense of belonging, and trust and kind of a relationship with the people that they work with. And again, that plays off that bringing your full self to work”.

– Colleen Bordeaux

WHY ORGANIZATIONS HAVEN’T PAID ATTENTION TO MEANINGFUL WORK

OK, let’s review.

Organizations that focus on employee experiences create more profit. Employees want more meaningful work and work experiences and are willing to take less pay for it.

So, why haven’t companies really started paying attention to this?

Or are some organizations beginning to wake up and realize that more and more of the workforce is wanting more meaningful work?

“Well, I think if I look back in history, good companies have always done that. Have always had an interest in ensuring that their employees understand the journey they’re on and have a passion for what they do. And so, I think good companies do it,

I think what’s maybe changed is, it’s become an increasing focus, because millennials…have a different demand or stronger demand for a balance and a meaningful place to work. I think, if you look at people, they are getting married and having children later in life. So, they don’t feel that obligation or have that necessary financial responsibility to stay in one place and not take risk. I think they’re much more open to trying new things and moving companies. So, it’s very often I look at CV’s of millennials and they’ve moved companies quite a few times.

And therefore, it’s really important if we want to attract the best people and retain the best people, that we deliver a very good employer proposition, and engage them in very meaningful work, engage their hearts and minds and very much what they do. Also, ensuring that we are giving them the right development opportunities, taking even more risk, I think, with young people, to see how they flourish in different types of businesses and support them to also make a difference in the world, whether that is within their job, and also doing things outside of their job, and in terms of social programs, etc. to make a difference.”

– Caroline Clarke

Even though this is the case, very few organizations still haven’t taken significant action to create a much more meaningful experience for their employees or even considered this as an opportunity to attract new employees., However in a 2019 Deloitte Global survey of CXOs, 73 percent said their organizations had changed or developed products or services in the past year to generate positive societal impact.

I think it has a lot to do with just be a sign of the times. And, I think in today’s society, where in many cases, a lot of the basic needs of people are being fulfilled, people are looking for other means of getting to the top of the Maslow’s pyramid… And are looking for ways and means of giving sense and purpose to their lives. It’s a very much a generational thing, I think, where people want to make sure that whatever they do, is not only yielding into a good salary for themselves, or a nice leased car, but that they spent their lives in a meaningful fashion.

You need to differentiate though, because, if you look around the globe, and you look at the state of the economy, in the maturity levels of society in terms of social development, you see quite some differentiation in terms of the importance that here to meaningful work.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needsBut at the end of the day, I believe that people are generally motivated by having an impact whatever that impact is. And it can be big, as I said in the beginning, and it can be small. But that even if you work in a company or in an enterprise, that doesn’t have a big audacious goal that resonates in terms of driving societal impact, you can still in a very small scale have impact by enabling people to realize their own dreams and unlock their own potential. I think that is what you increasingly see across the entire society.

– Ronald de Jong

So, generally speaking, people have their basic needs met and are looking and needing their deeper needs met. This means that people are really needing to feel fulfillment in their lives and that what they do actually means something more than just survival. People want to make an impact. Organizations can help people by providing meaningful work, and this is something that needs to be in the culture of the organization.

HOW ORGANIZATIONS CAN START PROVIDING MORE MEANINGFUL WORK

“The way I have experienced our company is that, historically, and that’s deep down in the culture and in the DNA of the company, it’s a very…socially driven and people-focused company. And that goes back to our founding fathers. But, we have stayed relevant though for more than a century by reinventing ourselves multiple times, without losing sight of that focus on people and on society, in which we are part of.

I’ve also experienced Philips as a bunch of very talented people with part some resources to start with the brands, but also our intellectual property and financial means and resources. And the interesting thing is that we have a culture and a climate where you can create your own opportunities.

[In the Philips Foundation] by now we have more than 150 projects around the globe, a committed team that is work on reducing health inequality and providing access to care. And it was just an opportunity we could create by tapping into all the resources of the company. And by leveraging this focus on being socially responsible and having a strong interest and genuine interest in people. It’s an example on how, in big enterprises, where you have a lot of resources, you can also if you take the initiative and you show ownership, you can create and shape your own future and take initiatives that give meaning not only for yourself, but for the rest of the organization and probably many that are impacted by it.”

-Ronald de Jong

It’s clear that organizations taking the time and energy to create a much more meaningful work experience is good for business. But that reasoning alone isn’t enough for many organizations to make substantial changes to really do meaningful work well. 

So, can every single person, especially the leaders in your organization articulate the impact of the work they are doing and how they’re helping? When they do is it vague or even non-existent. If not, you can rest assured that most of your employees aren’t feeling the meaning. 

“In Philips, we talk about our mission being to improve the lives of 3 billion people. And first of all, I can break that down into even my own region. So, in the first quarter, globally Philips improved 1.55 billion people’s lives. And as I’m specific accounted for 139 million of those.

But I think it’s great to get up and go to work every day knowing that you can make a difference. And in the region, we have some great examples that range from consumer products like the air fryer, where we’re educating families on eating healthily and not frying with oil…through to specific healthcare solutions that we are really designing with our customers and co-creating with our customers.

So, we have some nice examples in Australia. We partner with the Royal Perth hospital and a company called Emory Healthcare to remotely monitor intensive care units. And they are based in Perth monitoring intensive care units in Atlanta in the US, which is really interesting, because it’s 12-hour time difference. And so, if we remotely monitor from Perth, with our algorithms, we can direct then the intensivist in Atlanta, to the patient that needs him or her most. And we’ve seen results around 26% improvement in mortality rates.”

– Caroline Clarke

Do those same leaders/teams seem driven by this impact?

Does it appear that the company is focused on hiring other people that are driven by this type of impact?

Is there evidence that they focus on the employee experience?

Not just the normal pay and benefits, but how are they harnessing every interaction as opportunity?

This is likely beyond the norm.

“One of the things we do is that we are trying to reinforce the notion that in each and every team meeting, and those meetings take place on a daily basis. We don’t only spend time on the content in the agenda, but we reserve at the end of the meeting, 15, 20, 25 minutes to also reflect upon how the meeting went in terms of process. The behaviors we have observed and the interventions that we liked; and also some of the behaviors that we didn’t consider to be that productive. That takes quite some effort. Because in the beginning, you see that the intent is there. But after three meetings, we have this pressing content topic that we need to transact upon. So, let’s keep the feedback for today. So, you need to stay at it.”

– Ronald de Jong

There are no perfect organizations out there, but you can begin to recognize those that do a great job of creating a much more meaningful work experience by doing the things we’ve outlined in this episode. 

Clearly communicating the impact that the organization is having on the people that it helps and making it easy to see a direct relationship between the work that is happening and how you’re helping. 

Also, a clear focus on creating a better experience for their team and going to lengths to hire others who are identify with the cause or problems that the organization solves. 

Even still, when there’s so few organizations doing this well and since what creates meaningful work is slightly different for all of us, it can be a challenge to turn this knowledge into an actual career.

3 EXAMPLES OF HOW REAL PEOPLE FOUND CAREER PURPOSE

All this might cause you to wonder, “Are these even possible together, and, if so, how do real people actually find these opportunities?”

With the help of science and some real people who have done a great job finding meaningful work and career happiness, we’re going to break down the answers for you.

So, the question becomes: “How do you find this elusive work that’s meaningful and meets your other needs like a certain amount of income?”

STEVEN TYLER

When I think about what meaningful work means to me is that your activities and what you’re doing connects to a larger purpose. And in my case at Philips, we’re all about healthcare and improving patient lives and we do it across something we call a continuum of healthcare from birth to when you might be towards the end.

I know that the activities and the things that I do and working with my team has a direct benefit to helping somebody diagnose an issue or to be treated for something and I gain a lot of pride from that, and I feel like I have a connection to something bigger.

For instance, my brother has a liver condition. And in one of the aspects of his treatment to maintain how he’s doing is he goes in for periodic ultrasounds…the technology that I’m working with is helping to ensure that his treatment is appropriate and that his medication and his levels are stable so that he can have the best life possible. So that’s probably the closest example I have to what I do at Philips and working in the ultrasound R&D group.

Philips…talks a lot about how it’s working to make the world a better place and aspects of that include sustainability with where the energy is sourced. So, in the Netherlands, a lot of the energy comes from wind. At the campus I’m in, in Andover, Massachusetts, we have a solar farm, which provides a portion of the electricity consumed at that site. We have as part of our training and our process and just our culture is a really thinking about what’s your impact to the world in terms of be a carbon footprint and in energy we use or when we recycling materials, we have composting, we have plastic recycling, battery recycling… it’s not what we’re there to do, but it’s something that’s in the forefront.

I would say another aspect of it is really kind of connecting to that purpose where, if I’m working on a piece of software that helps to enhance something that’s going to lead to a better treatment and diagnosis of somebody, I know that that work product is going to affect tens upon hundreds upon thousands of people’s lives, when that’s available to them. So, I know that there’s an always growing impact, I would say, in a positive direction with the things that myself and my team were doing.

OK, remember that what causes you to feel like you directly see and connect how you’re helping others is different for different people.

So what moves you is likely to be slightly different than Steven, and that’s ok. But I want you to understand that the first step is understanding this so you can see what those things that move Steven. He’s got a great idea of what creates more meaningful work for him, here’s how he applied that knowledge in the job interview.

“I went to do my research ahead of the interview. Phillips was transparent and shared the list of people I was gonna talk to. I looked them up on LinkedIn, and so, “Wow, okay. This person’s been here 23 years. That’s interesting.” That’s very out of the ordinary from what I was used to with managing people and having people come and go from my teams and whatnot. It’s like that. That’s pretty amazing. And then it’s like, “Okay. I’ll get the next person on the interview list.” And it’s again, like 25 years. When we look at the next guy. Yep, same kind of thing.

So, then I drive to the campus to go for the interview and… I get there a little early and I’m walking around just to kind of prepare. And in the parking lot, there are these a special set of reserve parking spots close to the front door. And they said quarter-century employees as a quarter century. Okay 25 years, and they were mostly full. And this is about, it just in my line of sight at the time, about 20 of them. Oh, this is just different. There’s something going on here, I don’t know what it is, but I got to learn more.

And then talking with the people, they just talked a lot about the support the company had given them, invested in their career, they felt a sense of purpose. There was a lot of camaraderie and strong relationships. And I said, “I really like that, that sounds good to me.” And so, I had that comfort level right in the beginning.”

A while back, I had the privilege of talking with Christy Wright, one of the people on Dave’s speaking team. She shared a little about her career with the YMCA before meeting Dave and his company. She started there as a very young director for a brand new YMCA center.

CHRISTY WRIGHT

I was charged with building a department from the ground up. And that center here in Nashville became the fastest growing center in the country at that time. And so the need was just unending and I think that’s what it is, and nonprofit and ministry specifically, the need is attending and businesses, traditional businesses may have traditional hours, and nonprofit, you never really off, and so a lot of times you feel like you’re trying to catch a tidal wave with a teacup. And it becomes very easy to get overwhelmed with just the need that’s just non stop. And so it’s very easy to burn out. And it’s very important to have balance and boundaries in order to kind of stay the course in that type of history.

It was a great season and it gave me incredible career experience all the skills and management that I was thrown in the deep end.

So I had really developed a lot of that kind of leadership very early on in my career that laid the foundation for the things that I get to do today.

After three years of being in that location, I kind of really just felt it was time to move on. And it was time to do something different. And so that’s when I really feel like God told me honestly that I’m going to go work for Dave Ramsey.

I was standing on my deck one day… and I thought, I just I’m never going to find a company. I believe in as much as this one. Like, I really love that we change lives and we help people. And I, however you want to explain it. I heard the voice in my head up God say, “You’re going to work for Dave Ramsey.” And I’ll be honest with you, Scott, I had no idea who Dave Ramsey was. I need to go Google this guy, because I don’t know who it is.

Well, I applied for a position doing a youth product. So as the youth product coordinator, and it’s interesting, because I’ve never done products before, but I’ve done programs through my nonprofit, I was aquatic director at the YMCA here in Nashville. And so I was over all types of swim lessons and swim teams and sports and that kind of thing. And so I was able to kind of make a case for myself in the interview process that I’ve done programs, same process for products, it’s just tangible goods. And so that was the position I was hired for. And I started there in the fall of 2009.

And so how I got into speaking, which is what a lot of people ask me, everywhere that I go is another crazy story that makes no sense. But Dave’s daughter, Rachel Cruz… she was actually in college at the time, and so and the spring of 2010, there had been an arrangement worked out where she was going to go speak at a conference all summer. And there was gonna be 20 different conferences. So she’d be in a different state every single day speaking at these conferences, and somehow during this whole process, I inherited this arrangement.

And so about two weeks before she’s supposed to go on the road…we get the travel schedule from the conference company. And they had booked the cheapest flights possible. And they had two and three connections. It was a complete nightmare. You’re going to New York to California to get to Texas. You’re in an airport 16 to 18 hours a day. It was just a disaster. And so her dad, Dave Ramsey, really, with a lot of wisdom said she’s not doing this. She’s not doing this travel schedule.

And so I as the newly one with this company got to be the bearer of bad news to them, that [Dave} would allow her to come to 1010 of those conferences… And he said, “Christy, I’ve got her slated. I’ve got her booked for 20 keynote presentations to at these different conferences all over the country. What am I going to do for those other 10?” And I said, “I’ll do them.”

So I want you to know that summer we went, you know, on the road, and Rachel did 10 events and I did 10 events, and then that fall, they created the speaker’s group, where we identified a real need for message bears because we were turning down 3000 requests a year for Dave to come speak and so they wanted to have a new group of speakers and message bears, and I was slid into that group, no addition to application, no questions.

One concept that seems to come up frequently when we talk about meaningful work is having a connection. Christy, for example, felt like she was missing something, but as she started working with Dave Ramsey’s 0rganization, she started to see the connection between what she did and how she helped people with their finances and businesses.

Earlier in this episode, we heard Steven talk about how he intimately felt the connection between what he did and how it help others – specifically how it helps his own brother. I also talked with Kasia Wiacek, who also works at Philips as a Supply Quality Manager. She described how she needed something more tangible and useful.

KASIA WIACEK

So, I started to work as a researcher and to University. And by coincidence, I was also working on the medical research. In the area of, well, electrical engineering, actually, and software, but for the medical applications, so that was the start. Somehow, I changed the certain moments from the research to industry. And I think maybe I wanted to have some more touchable results. Research is going often to be published and that’s it. And, it’s not always turning into the products or into the… something that is usable. It might end up somewhere in the draw and or a few publications and that’s it. I think I’m a practical person. So, at a certain moment, I thought, well, let’s do something practical and not only theoretical.

What it was, I think there are different definitions of growing for some people growing means getting higher in the position and higher and having more and more people reporting to them and doing less and less. But for me, it’s more that I like to do things and to make it interesting. It has to evolve, it has to have some new elements on things I can, I have to learn for, to do it correctly. But of course, I can also use my previous experience. Because, experience in one area can help you to understand better another area that’s not really exclusive if you’re working somewhere you will never use your experience from different positions, different areas.

CREATING MEANINGFUL WORK FOR YOURSELF

So what does all this mean?

It means that you must understand what you want and need most. What creates meaning for you.

It means that it’s not just about meaningful work. Having meaningful work but not having other elements that allow you to flourish can take away from the connection you feel and the impact that you’re having. 

It means that you own this and nobody can answer these difficult questions for you. 

But it also means that once you understand these truths building a career around what creates much more meaning for you becomes possible. It goes from unrealistic to completely realistic for you. 

Taking the time and energy to more meaningful work is definitely the harder road, but for those that are willing to take charge of their career, they believe it’s completely worth it. I think it can be for you, too.

Thanks to Philips for their openness and access to both their leadership team and employees as we put this all together.Check out more about what Philips has to offer.

Listen to the 3-Part Podcast Series:

If you’re unsure where to start in your journey for meaningful work, you can always go to FigureItOut.co and that will get you started in our 8-Day Figure-It-Out mini-course to help you determine what you need most to create a fulfilling career. 

Also if you know of a company that you believe is doing a fantastic job with creating meaningful work, I’d like to know about them you can email me directly scott@happentoyourcareer.com and that will make sure that me and my team know about them.

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