The Often Illogical Process of Career Transition

Feeling unsatisfied and starting a new career?

Jim Weinstein is a well-known career advisor in Washington DC who can assist you with his exceptional guidance in obtaining a smooth career transition. His perspective on solving career-related issues is, “As a coach I know the techniques to keep you focused and motivated. As a leader of business and non-profit organizations I can provide you with a wealth of insights on career advancement.” As a career development counselor in DC, he helps to uncover the obstacles surfacing through insightful questioning or career testing. Whether you need guidance to find the right job or want to make a smooth career transition, he can help you take concrete steps in the right direction.

Are you wondering if it’s time to switch careers? Perhaps you realize that you haven’t looked forward to most of the work you do in years. Or some significant life event has occurred that causes you to shift your perspective and priorities (e.g. the birth of a child or a serious illness). Or you’re “burned out” (as I became after almost 20 years in the fast-paced, high stress world of advertising). Or you’re yearning to do work that impact your community or even the world in some positive way.

BUT you don’t know how to discover where that that new career path lies.

This is the dilemma with which many of my clients are struggling. Often they have taken career tests (e.g. MAPP), personality assessments (e.g. Myers-Briggs) or personal inventories (e.g. Strengths Finder) but have discovered that the tests shed little new light on which paths to pursue. Frequently these exercises tend to reveal what they already know about themselves, or suggest directions that are unappealing.

The main reason that the kind of tests cited above often fail to answer the “what’s the right new career” question is that they rely on linear processes: straight-line connections between thoughts. If you test strongly as a communicator, then you should go into a career involving writing or presenting. If you score high in empathy, be a therapist. Analytical? Consider forensic accounting. Unfortunately, most of these career ideas have usually been considered and rejected for a variety of reasons. What’s needed is a leap of thought, an inspiration, not an extension.

“We tend to think of problem solving as the implementation of logical steps toward an answer that is predetermined and inevitable.” * (At least to a great degree). “Analytical thinking and logical thinking, is all about the exclusion and critiquing of ideas so that the brain can become a guided laser that operates with surgical precision. Analytical thinking is ideal for weighing options in a well-defined problem, but that power is also its weakness: it is antithetical to inspiration.” *

Inspiration often comes from connecting seemingly unrelated dots. To quote Albert Einstein: “A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. That means it is not reached by conscious logical conclusions. But, thinking it through afterwards, you can always discover the reasons which have led you unconsciously to your guess and you will find a logical way to justify it. Intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”

So what do I recommend as tools to consider in helping to chart a promising new path? A combination of:

1. (Day) dreaming – When we dream the mind is freed from the constraints of logic and current reality. All kinds of crazy combinations of characters and situations appear. Allow yourself to daydream, to free associate. Make time in your schedule to do nothing rather than check Facebook for the 6th time that day.

2. Conversations – Talk with people you admire and hear about their paths to career satisfaction. Even if they’re in a field that holds absolutely no interest for you, valuable tidbits can emerge (e.g. about analogous starting points, processes, and sources of inspiration, be they people or podcasts).

3. Structured Exercises  – Open-ended exercises such as those that appear in my current favorite career book, “Roadmap” (by Roadmap Nation) can generate lots of new avenues of thinking, far more than the closed-ended multiple choice format of most career tests.

4. Professional Guidance – I’ve worked with hundreds of people to discover new goals based on existing likes, strengths, skills, and values. A particularly valuable function that I serve is to consistently support the process of exploration by providing MOTIVATION and ACCOUNTABILITY, both of which are often required to see the process through. Another is that, based on my breadth of experience, I make suggestions derived from other client experiences that may be applicable.

The Often Illogical Process of Career Transition

Jim Weinstein is a well-known career development counselor in Washington DC who has played an integral role in helping hundreds of professionals, at all levels, deal with the hardships of a testing work environment. In addition to being a successful career advisor in DC, he is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach. In this segment, he discusses the innately challenging and stressful process of career transition.

Are you wondering if it’s time to switch careers? Perhaps you realize that you haven’t looked forward to most of the work you do in years. Or some significant life event has occurred that causes you to shift your perspective and priorities (e.g. The birth of a child or a serious illness).  Or you’re “burned out” (as I became after almost 20 years in the fast-paced, high stress world of advertising). Or you’re yearning to do work that impacts your community or even the world in some positive way.

BUT you don’t know how to discover where that that new career path lies.

This is the dilemma with which many of my clients are struggling. Often they have taken career tests (e.g. MAPP), personality assessments (e.g. Myers-Briggs) or personal inventories (e.g. Strengths Finder) but have discovered that the tests shed little new light on which paths to pursue. Frequently these exercises tend to reveal what they already know about themselves, or suggest directions that are unappealing.

The main reason that the kind of tests cited above often fail to answer the “what’s the right new career” question is that they rely on linear processes: straight line connections between thoughts. If you test strongly as a communicator, then you should go into a career involving writing or presenting. If you score high in empathy, be a therapist.  Analytical? Consider forensic accounting. Unfortunately, most of these career ideas have usually been considered and rejected for a variety of reasons. What’s needed is a leap of thought, an inspiration, not an extension.

“We tend to think of problem solving as the implementation of logical steps toward an answer that is predetermined and inevitable.”* (At least to a great degree). “Analytical thinking and logical thinking, is all about the exclusion and critiquing of ideas so that the brain can become a guided laser that operates with surgical precision. Analytical thinking is ideal for weighing options in a well-defined problem, but that power is also its weakness: it is antithetical to inspiration.”*

Inspiration often comes from connecting seemingly unrelated dots. To quote Albert Einstein: “A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. That means it is not reached by conscious logical conclusions. But, thinking it through afterwards, you can always discover the reasons which have led you unconsciously to your guess and you will find a logical way to justify it. Intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”

So what do I recommend as tools to consider in helping to chart a promising new path? A combination of:

1. (Day) dreaming – When we dream the mind is freed from the constraints of logic and current reality. All kinds of crazy combinations of characters and situations appear. Allow yourself to daydream, to free associate. Make time in your schedule to do nothing rather than check Facebook for the 6th time that day.

2. Conversations – Talk with people you admire and hear about their paths to career satisfaction. Even if they’re in a field that holds absolutely no interest for you, valuable tidbits can emerge (e.g. About analogous starting points, processes, and sources of inspiration, be they people or podcasts).

3. Structured Exercises  – Open-ended exercises such as those that appear in my current favorite career book, “Roadmap” (by Roadmap Nation) can generate lots of new avenues of thinking, far more than the closed-ended multiple choice format of most career tests.

4. Professional Guidance – I’ve worked with hundreds of people to discover new goals based on existing likes, strengths, skills, and values. A particularly valuable function that I serve is to consistently support the process of exploration by providing MOTIVATION and ACCOUNTABILITY, both of which are often required to see the process through. Another is that, based on my breadth of experience, I make suggestions derived from other client experiences that may be applicable.

*From the book “Solitude” by Michael Harris

Psychological Blocks to Pursuing a Better Career

In this segment, Jim Weinstein – a renowned career advisor in Washington DC, discusses the psychological / emotional barriers that often stand in the way of professionals in pursuit of a more fulfilling career. As a career coach in DC, he has counseled many clients who were unable to pursue their career alternatives due to psychological blocks. Mr. Weinstein is also a life coach who helps people regain lost momentum in life through practical solutions.

I recently met with a client who stimulated my thinking for this week’s post.  She’s a very successful lawyer who has “burned out” on her profession, but has been unable to move forward pursuing alternatives without really understanding why.  She keeps promising herself that she will take steps to network or research her way into new career choices but finds she keeps putting off those steps.  In my first meeting with her, almost two months ago, I had detected some guilt surrounding her consideration of alternatives to the law, but in our session last week we were able to pinpoint the source of much of it.  Her mother raised a family (with modest means) of three gitls, sending two to Ivy League schools.  The third child, however, suffered from such severe developmental problems that she needed virtually constant attention, and the mother sacrificed her career in order to provide the disturbed daughter with the required care.  My client felt that it was somehow inappropriate or selfish of her to be unhappy with her career situation given all that her mother had been through, and the sacrifices that her mother had made in order to provide her with a top-notch education.  Guilt stood in the way of her taking the steps she needed to in order to find greater fulfillment in her work life, guilt of which my client wasn’t even really aware.

There are several other kinds of psychological / emotional barriers that a not insignificant number of my clients encounter as they explore career options.  A common one is perfectionism – the search for exactly the right combination of elements that will virtually guarantee happiness at work.  This is a pursuit that is almost certainly doomed to failure, for several reasons.  First, and most importantly, there are far too many variables in a work setting to be sure that all of them will align in the way one would like.  Think, for example, of the importance of interpersonal relationships on the job with one’s boss and co-workers.  As pleasant as they might seem in an interview kind of a setting, what kind of interactions will there be six weeks or six months, not to mention six years, into a new career?  What if the boss you went to work for quite or is fired and you wind up reporting to a tyrant? How political will the place of employment turn out to be?  How can one know in advance whether a company or organization will thrive or wither long-term?

Second, work that might be engaging initially might become tedious over time, and there’s no way to ascertain the probability of that happening with a great deal of accuracy.  Yes, due diligence in asking people in your targeted career about what they like and don’t like about their work, and how the work “wears” with them over time is helpful. But what may hold another’s interest for the long-term won’t necessarily hold yours.

Third, one’s interests change over time as well, so a field for which one had passion at age 38 might turn out to be distasteful at age 40 due to changes in personal circumstances (for example the death of a parent, sibling, or spouse).  That was exactly what happened to me at the end of my career in the advertising world – work that had previously felt exciting and stimulating became superficial and essentially meaningless.

Related, but somewhat the inverse, is the fear of making the “wrong” choice (rather than the perfect one). People who have had previous work difficulties (e.g. getting downsized or fired) are often overly particularly anxious about the possibility that they will find themselves in the same situation again.

Another psychological / emotional factor that can stand in the way of pursuing a more fulfilling career is the hovering presence of expectations: the perceived expectations of parents who have worked hard to ensure their child is successful, or of peers whose opinion of one’s success is judged important, success most easily measured in monetary terms.  Or of a family line that has always worked in a particular business or profession. I say “perceived” because many clients misinterpret their circle’s expectations.  In my experience people who care about you are able to sense when you are truly happy, even if you’re not earning the amount of money that they think would be necessary for their happiness, and seeing that you are happy is what’s most important to them. If it isn’t perhaps you should reexamine the value of their friendship.

The very important first step in eliminating the blocks I’ve cited above is the simple recognition that they are there. Unfortunately, most people are unable to look at themselves objectively and analytically enough to be able to detect the presence of these barriers.  That’s where someone like me can be invaluable – someone who’s knowledgeable about both career counseling and psychological variables.

Lots of Ways to Make Your Current Job Better – Part 3

“There is no magic pill to achieve happiness at work”, says Jim Weinstein, a career adviser in Washington DC who has been assisting people deal with workplace challenges for many years. As a career development counselor in Washington DC, he has observed that nearly everyone has had a horrible job at some point. According to him, when you are dejected at work, you tend to feel sorry for yourself & that’s understandable. But there is a lot more than you think you can do to relieve your misery. If you have been dragging yourselves to work every day, Mr. Weinstein has some great advice for you to make your job better.

This third installment of suggestions on improving your job focuses on things that will enable you to experience the job as it is more positively, as opposed to changing aspects of it. The ideas below are primarily from the Positive Psychology movement, a paradigm that stresses increasing the focus on positive aspects of life rather than emphasizing discovering the causes of negativity, as much of psychology has traditionally done.

1. The Three Things List:

At the end of every work day, write down (by hand rather than type)* three things that went well at work that day. Ideally they should be things in which you had some role. So, for example, a water main break that caused the office to close early might be considered a positive development, but you had nothing to do with it, whereas a co-worker complimenting you on your outfit would be something you had a hand in.

2. Reframing

If something bad, or even mildly annoying, happens to you on the job try thinking about how that might represent an opportunity. For example, if an overbearing boss has returned something to you with a load of corrections, you might look at it as a chance to practice reacting less negatively (you might say to yourself “that’s just the way she is” rather than taking it as a personal indictment or attack), or look at it as a way to improve your writing skills (if you can remain open to at least some of her suggested edits).

3. Practicing strengths

Make a list of five of your greatest strengths. These could range from clearly job-related ones (analytical ability, attention to detail, organizational ability, critical thinking) to more broadly applicable ones (compassion, optimism, generosity, authenticity). Then select one of these strengths and for one week look for opportunities to apply that strength each day. Keep a written, daily record of the way you found to do so.4. Identify ways in which the work you do is beneficial to others

4. Identify ways in which the work you do is beneficial to others

Even if you feel that you’re just a cog in a gigantic bureaucratic wheel, you are making a contribution to some outcome that will positively impact a group of people. Think about (and then write about) that impact. So if, for example, you’re a statistician at the census bureau you could focus on your helping to create data that will be used to more equitably distribute government resources. Or if you’re a paralegal just reviewing documents in a patent case you could focus on your contribution to greasing the wheels of the justice system. Granted, identifying your contribution can be a big stretch…..but through stretching you can grow.

5. ABCDE

From the world of cognitive psychology comes a technique that can be helpful in turning around negativity. It requires you to analyze upsetting events in five steps, in the following manner:

A. ACTUAL event (what happened?)

B. BELIEF (what does it mean?)

C, CONSEQUENT FEELING (how does holding that belief make you feel?)

D. DISPUTE THE BELIEF (what evidence is there that your belief could be wrong or too narrow?)

E. EFFECT (what is the effect of disputing the belief; how do you now feel?)

An example: Your Christmas bonus is a lot smaller than you thought it would be (A).

B. I’m not doing well at this job

C. That makes me feel crappy

D. Maybe the bonus pool shrunk this year

E. Relief that I wasn’t singled out for negative treatment.

This technique is not designed for you to keep your head buried in the sand; there may be negative developments that call for prompt corrective action on your part. But in general people tend to  “catastrophize” far more than is actually warranted.

*Handwriting has been shown to have a deeper and more lasting impact

Lots of Ways to Make Your Current Job Better – Part Two

People choose to leave their jobs for all sorts of reasons. Compensation & career progression concerns statistically top the list of reasons to leave the job; however there are many other underlying issues which lead to job dissatisfaction. In this segment, Jim Weinstein, a renowned career development counselor in Washington DC discusses the issues that tip people over the edge at work. He also suggests some interesting ways to make your current job better. As a career counselor, he has helped many hundreds of individuals in improving job satisfaction by recommending small changes in their routine. Mr. Weinstein is also a DC life coach known for his out-of-the-box solutions.

Some of the primary causes of job dissatisfaction, and some topline suggestions for addressing them, are listed here below:

COMPENSATION

Who doesn’t want to earn more money at their job? But recognize that some of the other factors listed below can have an equal, or even greater, impact on your job satisfaction. Nonetheless, you may succeed if you press for a raise at the right time and in the right circumstances (In other words, don’t lobby for an increase if your firm just lost a client or a source of funding, or if your boss is having a bad week!). Your case needs to rest on the value you are providing, NOT on industry averages or how long it’s been since your last raise or the fact that you just moved and have a higher mortgage. Emphasize concrete ways you are benefitting the organization, illustrating it with any numbers you can cite or significant qualitative examples such as client compliments, successful training of others, or positive publicity you helped generate.

Another suggestion – don’t overlook the possibility of earning some money on the side if you can improve your productivity and thereby free up a little time from your current schedule (see below). Opportunities range from tutoring to freelance consulting to selling items on eBay.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE, LOCATION AND COMMUTING

A fifty to sixty hour workweek isn’t something that most people enjoy; yet many workers routinely spend that much time at their jobs (plus commuting time, which can easily add another 10). There are, however, ways to effectively address this issue.

1. Organize better. Multi-tasking may feel like you’re whizzing ahead, but studies consistently show decreased productivity when several tasks are being attended to at the same time. Set priorities, calendar assignments, plan out work flow.

2. Delegate more. Yes, you may be able to do something better and faster than someone you have working for you, but if you don’t push them they will never grow. Hand-off some of your work.

3. Take care of yourself. Things like proper diet, adequate sleep, and exercise will increase your energy level and consequently your productivity, allowing you to spend less time working.

4. Explore the possibility of working remotely at least a few days a month. You’ll save on commuting time and may find that you are more productive in the absence of distractions that inevitably pop up at work. As always, try to craft an argument about how remote work can benefit not just you but your organization. Recognize, however, that you need to be disciplined if you’re working from home, and not allow the flexibility to do as you please sabotage good work habits.

COLLEAGUES

I often hear clients complain about working with difficult colleagues. Professional rivalry, racism, sexism, homophobia, or just plain personality clashes can make life at the job pretty miserable. One way of dealing with this scenario in certain (rare) cases is to ask for a transfer to a different department. A more broadly applicable strategy is to craft a win/win conversation in which you suggest to your difficult co-worker that there could be benefits in a more peaceful relationship. Those benefits could vary from sharing workload to teaming up to improve an organizational issue such as overly rigid departmental procedures, a micromanaging mutual boss, or crafting a strategy to deal with an obstreperous client. Please note that in order to maximize the chances that a strategy of reconciliation will work it needs to be sincerely proposed, so do the internal work necessary (counseling, self-affirmation, prayer, meditation, whatever) to get you into the right mental space.

ROUTINE

Many of my clients, particularly those in government, complain about the boring, routine nature of their work. It’s a lot easier to complain about this than to take action, but here are some steps I’d suggest exploring to liven up your day:

1. Stretch yourself and ask your boss for some additional and new responsibility that involves work that is more interesting/challenging. If the boss agrees (by no means a sure thing, of course) you will have to invest extra time to perform this new duty competently, but if you think of it as an investment that will improve the odds of your moving off of your boring or dead-end assignment it will be worth it.

2. If you’re in the government, consider requesting a “detail” to a short-term position involving work of greater interest. First you will need to explore detailing possibilities (some are posted, others can be identified through networking), followed by a persuasive argument as to why moving to this detail makes sense not just for you but for your superiors, who are unlikely to enthusiastically endorse losing body count, even if it’s temporary.

3. SHAKE THINGS UP! Redecorate your workspace. Rearrange your furniture. Take a walk outside. Drive a different route to work. Start earlier, leave earlier (or later/later). Instead of coffee and a danish try tea and a scone. Strike up a new acquaintance with a co-worker. Join a volunteer group within your organization (e.g. Department of Commerce, United Way, Marriott Walk to End Breast Cancer, AIDS, or Acme Manufacturing astronomy club).