Is Work Working for You?

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Career change, career coaching, find work you love, revitalize your career

Is work working for you?

Your work has a huge impact on your quality of life and personal happiness.  Answering the 14 questions below will help you reflect your work and where you are in your career journey, and what to do next.

Please rate each statement according to your level of agreement (1 = never agree, 5 = always agree)

1. The work I do reflects my most important values.

2. I really look forward to Monday mornings.

3. I have lots of upward mobility in my current role.

4. My job is helping me to develop the skills I need for career growth.

5. I’d be delighted to be working in the same role and company in 5 years time.

6. I never complain about my work to other people.

7. I can balance work success with achieving significant personal goals.

8. My job lets me use my personal strengths.

9. My career is exciting and energizing.

10. I am recognized and rewarded for the work that I do.

11. I love the culture that I work in and it allows me to thrive.

12. I have a clear vision for career success and am actively working to achieve my goals.

13. I have the right career support (mentors, advisors, network) in place to allow me to thrive.

14. I feel like my work makes a significant difference to the world.

How is well is work working for you?

Now add up your ratings for each question.  If you scored:

0 – 35: This probably isn’t news to you, but your work just isn’t working. Don’t despair.  Now is a good time to revitalize your career journey.  A good place to start is to go back to basics and do some career planning.  It’s hard to be successful without having a clear definition of success.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, look for support to help get you out.  Remember, every great career journey starts with a single step.  Take a look at this article on Finding Work that Matters to get started.

35 – 55: Your work is ticking some boxes and there are other areas that need a tune-up. You may be able to address some of the challenges by shaking up your current role, or making a change in your current organization.  However, it may take a more radical career shift to address some issues.

Take a look at where you are not scoring well and create a plan of attack to revitalize these areas.  Our guide to Thriving at Work in the 21st Century is a great place to start.

55 – 70: Congratulations, your work is providing you with a lot of satisfaction and success. Take a look at the questions where you scored less well and think about how to polish the halo.  Here are some ideas for setting a clear vision and goals to keep your career journey moving forward.

Please share this with your friends and network, and if you’d like to stay up to stay up to date on the latest thinking about thriving at work, click here to join our mailing list.

Photo credit: Arenamontanus (Flickr Creative Commons)

25 Ways to be Happier Today

Why be happy? Why not?

career coaching, career change, find work you love

Be Happy!

Why today? Life’s too short to wait for tomorrow.

Why 25 ways? That was how many I could think of.

How? – pick any idea from the list and do it today.  Feel happier.  If you feel bold, pick more than one!

1. Take care of yourself – savour your shower, shave (if appropriate), moisturise, deoderize, wear that perfume or cologne (don’t overdo it unless you want space on the Tube).  Take care of yourself – because you’re worth it.

2. Dress the part – spruce yourself up and choose an outfit that makes you look and feel great.  When you look your best, you’ll feel your best.

3. Choose your head for the day – which head will you choose?  The happy one, the grumpy one, the angry one, the peaceful one?  Your choice will determine your day.

4. Smile – smile and the whole world smiles back – grimace and you’ll end up stepping in dog poo.

5. Take 10 minutes to do nothing – go on, it feels great – just space out and enjoy yourself.

6. Do one thing from your sh!t list – you know those little things that are driving you nuts – do just one of them.  Feel the weight come off.

7. Commit a random act of kindness – whether someone needs help or not

8. Give yourself a break – at some point today you’ll probably start giving yourself a hard time.  Stop and apologize.

9. Slow down – try being the tortoise for a change.  Try walking half a pace slower, stopping to smell the flowers, looking more closely at the world around you.

10. Turn off email and your mobile for an hour – the world might collapse into a fiery ball… or nothing will happen.  Let them wait.

11. Organise some “spontaneous planned fun” – treat yourself or somebody you know to dinner, a massage, a walk in the park, some quality time.

12. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while – preferably someone you like

13. Buy treats for your office / team / colleagues – you have to live with them every day so bribe them to be nice with cake.

14. Stick your favourite up-tempo tune on the stereo at high volume – dance around the living room like a nutter (note to emos – feel free to sway instead)

15. Spend a little time outside – sit in the park at lunchtime, have a picnic, take a walk

16. Stretch yourself – try something new, take on that scary dream you’ve been meaning to start, face up to a fear

17. Make time for someone special – let them know how much you care

18. Take a TV sabbatical – it will forgive you and still be there for you tomorrow (this one goes for video games and the internet too)

19. Daydream – if you’re so inclined, let your mind wander for a while and enjoy it.

20. Set a new goal – it’s exciting to start something new – use 43 things to tell the world about it.

21. Plan a vacation – what kind of break are you craving and where would you like to go?  Make it happen.

22. Exercise – we have endorphins for a reason, so appreciate them

23. Get creative - Draw / Paint / Sculpt / Write / Photograph / Dance / Express yourself

24. Count your blessings – take a minute to be grateful for your life

25. Come up with your own plan – this is the best rule of all.  What is the thing you’d most like to do today?

It’s not too much to ask and you owe it to yourself.  Have a great day.

Penny for your thoughts

How did you make today a happier day?  Please leave a comment or pass this along to your friends.

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Photo credit : Lel4nd (Flickr Creative Commons)

How to avoid getting fired by George Clooney

Reading time: 3 minutes and 53 seconds
Part 3 of the 15 Secrets to Career Success in the 21st Century.

Career Secret 7: Stay in Control (and avoid George)

Up in the Air won a host of Oscars for its potrayal of corporate life in the 21st Century.  George Clooney plays a corporate highway man, jetting around the US with the mission of “downsizing” companies.

The “downsized” employees react with shock, horror and helplessness.

In the 21st Century world of work, there is no such thing as a job for life.  Assuming that having a job gives you security is a dangerous thing to do.  It can lead to complacency and shutting off great opportunities.

The truth is you always have many choices about how to make a living. You could take full-time employment in various sectors (corporate, government, non-profit, academia),  contract, free-lance, be an entrepreneur, volunteer, sit on a board, and sell homemade handicrafts at fairs.

To avoid George Clooney arriving at your office and giving you that speech, it pays to make sure you stay in control of your career and keep making choices.

You can stay in control:

By regularly taking time to set and check in with your career vision and goals, you can have a plan that looks beyond your current work.

By keeping up your skills and developing new transferable ones – you will open more options for the future.

Through professional networking  and building out your contacts  - you can lay the foundations for the next steps of the career journey.

In the 21st Century nothing is certain, except that you always have a choice.

Secret 8: Set your career vision

career coaching, career change, careershift, find work you love, successful life, well rounded life

What's your career vision?

There was a recent story about a man who bought a boat in London and wanted to sail it back to his home in the South West of England.  He didn’t have a map or any navigation system.  He assumed that if he set off and kept the land to his right, he’d get there eventually.  He ended up sailing three times around the Isle of Sheepey in the River Thames before running out of fuel and giving up.

He had no vision, no plan, no map and no compass.  He didn’t think ahead.

Without a career vision and a clear plan, our careers can end up going round and round in circles.

Setting a vision is about creating the long term direction for your 21st Century Career.  A vision is like your guiding star in the sky – it tell us the general direction we need to head in over time.  It also helps you make important short term choices.

Career visions should be big, juicy, motivating and challenging.  They should stretch you and light a fire in you every time you think about them.

Some examples of career visions might be:

  • To become known as one of the world’s best project managers, work with top organisations to help them successfully complete projects and also lecture and write about the subject
  • To become a chief technology officer helping innovative companies to develop technology that can create a sustainable future for the planet
  • To lead a non-profit that campaigns for the equality of employment rights for everyone and changes the face of the modern workforce
  • To build a company that bakes the tastiest cupcakes in the world and delights its customers with the coolest branding in the marketplace
  • To have a successful and lucrative career in finance that allows my to be financially independent by 40

Creating a career vision requires thought and time.  You’ll need to ask yourself some serious questions about what work means to you and what you want to get out of it.

You’ll need to look into the future and visualise how you’d like your life to look in 10 or 20 years time – how will you use your time and talent.

As you develop answers, they’ll need to feel authentic and in tune with your values.

Most importantly, the vision has to be something that is exciting.  It will need to get you out of bed on a cold Monday morning at 5am, get you through the late night with the boss breathing down your neck, get you through the month with no sales.

Secret 9: Write your career story every day

career coaching, career counselling, find work you love, meaningful work, successful life, remarkable life

Write your career story

In the 21st Century, you write your career story every day.  You are a walking resume.

Every action you take and every choice you make at work adds to your professional experience and skills. Future career success is determined by what you do every day.

This point is reinforced by Reid Hoffman, CEO of Linkedin:

“I actually think every individual is now an entrepreneur, whether they recognize it or not. . . . Average job length is two to four years. That makes you a small business. . . . You are the entrepreneur of your own small business. How do you get to your next gig? How do you do your career progression? All these things now fall on the individual shoulders.”

This new career paradigm requires more flexibility, the ability to change course quickly and take new opportunities as they arise.

To do this there are two key elements:

1)   Develop transferable skills

Transferable skills are the skills that are needed to be successful in almost any work. They include turning up on time, communicating effectively, learning to influence others, writing persuasively, delegating, managing others, creating a vision for a project and many others.

Being able to demostrate these skills is the key to jumping into the next exciting role in a career journey.

Being able to execute these skills will allow you to be successful in that role.

You can deliberately plan to develop these skills and this will help you to write your work story.

2)   Write your work story

Our work story is the combination of all our career experiences. We summarize these and create a narrative that tells the world who we are – often through a CV and in an interview.

Our work story tells the reader or listener about the trajectory of our career – it explains why all our experiences to date make us the right employee, consultant, freelancer for the job.  The story demonstrates our key skills through a series of successful experiences using those skills.

Remembering that you are writing your career story every day can help to make good choices that expand our skill base, create another great example of success and develop the stream of our career narrative.

Secret 10: Collect People

No man is an Island”  John Donne

career coaching, career counselling, find work you love, successful life

Who are you connected to?

If you’re planning to become a holy person, live in a cave and commune with god, you can skip this secret.

For those of us who measure success on this temporal plane, everything we do relies on other people for success. People hire us, work for us, work with us, buy from us, sell to us, inspire us, collaborate with us,  recommend us, connect us.

More than 50% of all new jobs come through networking and informal connections rather than direct advertising.

Most 21st Century entrepreneurs use affiliate marketing and collaborations to build businesses that transcend their size as one man operations.

Getting a project done can become much easier if we can call on the right people to help think it through and make things happen.

Even more important is that our networks have networks too. If you have a network of 100 people, who each have networks of 100 people, you are connected to 10,000 people.  That is a lot of people to help you succeed in your career journey.

Collecting the right people is a key to career success.

For this reason, we should become people collectors and develop a network of great people.  So what makes a good network?

A good network needs a wide variety of different people who can fill different roles.  In my case, I think about people who are supporters (they energize me), inspirers (they help me create new ideas), advocates (people who actively champion me), connectors (those who have great networks and are prepared to share), mentors (wise folks who have trodden my path and can guide me).

The key in filling out your network is to fill it with people you like and have a natural affinity and connection with.  If you’ve ever tried to build a relationship with someone you don’t get on with, you’ll know that this seldom seems to work.

I think of a personal network a bit like an archery board.  As the level of intimacy and frequency of connection with a person decreases, you tend to have more of those people in your network.  You may only have 1 or 2 people in your absolute trusted inner circle who you speak with almost every day.  Yet you may have a broad network of hundreds of great people who you are Linked In to, and maybe connect only every couple of years.

In the 21st Century we can use technology to keep track of our networks. We can use social networks (and Linked In is great).  We have the tools to connect with and meet anyone across the globe – we can email, IM, Skype, video conference and telephone.

The only limit to building a 21st Century network is your imagination in what is possible.  So get collecting and reap the benefits.

Photo credit: Kennymatic, VestmanAli Brohl

15 Secrets to Thriving in the 21st Century Workplace –Part 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes 12 seconds

career coaching, career consulting, find work you love, careershifters

21st Century Office?

The world of work has changed beyond all recognition in the 21st Century – learn how to survive and thrive in the new world of workclick here to subscribe and get  every instalment delivered to your inbox.

1. You get out of work what you put in to work

I have a friend, let’s call him Stan.  Stan had been at the same employer for 12 years, in the marketing team.  Whenever I met Stan, this is what I’d hear:

Those b@st@rds don’t appreciate me, they work me so hard and I sweat blood for them.  Every year, they give me a terrible performance review, no bonus and a rubbish payrise.  They pass me over for promotion.  It makes me sick, I just don’t care any more.

Stan was notorious in his office for his legendary procrastination skills.  He spent all day complaining to anyone who didn’t manage to avoid him.

His nickname was Levi, because he was always out the door at 5.01.

Stan had told me many times that he didn’t care and wasn’t prepared to work his fingers to the bone for no gratitude in return.  He had given up.

When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Stan’s employer let him go.

Stan was mystified, angry, indignant and talked about suing.  Of course he didn’t.

No-one else at his office was surprised.  They saw it coming a mile off.

Stan walked straight into Secret Number 1 – you get out of work what you put in to work.

He was barely in the office and when he was he did nothing productive.  He distracted other team members with his negative attitude. In return, Stan got poor performance reviews.  In fact he’d been on three performance plans over his career.

He was passed over for promotion because he gave out the signals that he couldn’t care less.

However you make a living, your career will have ups and downs. There will be times when you are flat out and giving everything and calmer fallow periods.  Learning to make this choice consciously and being aware that you will get back what you put is key to managing this flow.

Please, don’t be a Stan.

2. You have to take ownership of your career

career coaching, career counselling, new career, work you love

Suited and booted

Picture me as a tender 21 year-old dressed in my three-piece pinstripe suit with natty pink shirt back in the mid-1990s.

I’m striding into my shiny corporate office for the first day of world domination.

I’d arrived – from now on my benevolent employers would shower me with money, support, training and appreciation.

All I had to do was show up and collect the daily kudos.

I deluded myself that it was in my firm’s interest to take care of me, promote me and sky-rocket my career for me.  I barely put in any effort for the first year.

When it came to review time, I showed up expecting a pat on the head, a bone for being a good boy and a dazzling review.

My bubble popped.  It seemed that I was somewhere below half-way down my peer group and my managers were questioning my attitude.

It slowly dawned on me that I and only I really cared at all about what happened in my career.  It was my responsibility to set the direction, ask for the good projects, demand the training I needed, find the right mentor, look for ways to use my strengths and skills.

If I didn’t do it, these things simply wouldn’t happen.

You have to take ownership of your career – no-one is going to hand success and career satisfaction to you on a plate.

3. Everyone should learn how to make money independently

This lesson hit home to me the day I got my first cheque from a client after starting Less Ordinary Living.

Ten years of sucking at the corporate teat had brainwashed me into believing that the only way I could possibly make money was through steady employment.

Without a job I felt as vulnerable as a baby seal wandering through an Eskimo village.  When I quit my job, I really did see myself “living in a van by the river” as Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation eloquently puts it.

It took a week or two to start finding clients and in that period, I was close to running back to the corporate edifice and begging forgiveness.  The prodigal son, on a rapid return visit.

Yet when the work started to come and I took that first cheque to the bank, something amazing happened.  I felt liberated.

I actually managed to make some cash, under my own steam, without anyone else’s benevolence.

This feeling is not to be underestimated.   It symbolises that you have the ability to fend for yourself.  I almost felt primal – like a prehistoric man bringing back the first woolly mammoth to the cave.

I’d recommend that everyone tries making some money independently.  Figure out something you are good and passionate about and find a way to make a little bit of money from it.

Sell a service (doing someone’s garden, being a handy man, helping someone write their CV, wallpapering, painting, anything really) or something you’ve made (at a local fair, on ebay, through a website you made).

Once you’ve done this, you’ll realise that having a job is not the only way – even if you never choose to freelance or be an entrepreneur, you’ll know more about how to make ends meet in the worse case scenario.

You’ll take away some of the doomsday fear of redundancy and see that you have more choices than you might appreciate for making a living in the 21st Century.

A great way to do this would be the start a small business for $100 in 28 days program from Chris Guillebeau

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on these secrets and what you’ve learned about the 21st Century workplace.

Photo credit: jhderojas , Laverrue

Lessons learned from being a Chicken

Reading time: 1 minute 47 seconds

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How did I become the man in the chicken suit?

career coaching, career advice, find work you love, career group, careershifters


It all started eighteen months ago.  My client Terri was struggling to find the motivation to study for a particularly dry module in her upcoming HR exams.

We’d explored some of the more conventional motivational techniques – understanding how the exams fitted into the big picture for her career, getting someone to hold her accountable, setting rewards for success.

No dice.  This stuff was truly dull.

Suddenly a flash of inspiration – a little wager. Another client had purchased a chicken suit as part of her campaign to lead a less ordinary life (don’t ask!).

The deal was set – if Terri studied for and passed her exam successfully, I would walk down a busy shopping street in broad daylight… in a chicken suit.

Miraculously, Terri’s attitude to study transformed. Suddenly she was whizzing through the modules like a superhero on a mission.

Exam day came and the inevitable result.  Passed with flying colours.  Terri even got a lapel badge to proudly tell the world she is a qualified HR practitioner!

Fast forward to April 2010

The venue: the bustling Santana Row bar scene, San Jose, California.

The time: Friday evening at Happy Hour.

A 6 foot five chicken emerges sheepishly from a side alley.

A group of men in suits stop drinking their beers mid sip to stare.

A passing couple do a double take.

A security guard looks a little nervous and considers reaching for his radio.

The world starts to warm up to the idea of a giant chicken in their midst.

career coaching, career change, find work you love, careershifters

Chicken in action

Suddenly people start approaching.  “Could I have a photo? – My dad would love it” asks a passer by.

Children are waving and smiling, coming up to say hello.

In the frozen yoghurt place, everyone loves the chicken.  The guy behind the counter has never seen anything like it.  The chicken has made his day – “this one’s on the house”!

Deep down I wasn’t looking forward to wearing the chicken suit.  In the end I could hardly take it off.  I loved every minute of being a chicken.

Lessons learned from being a chicken

What do I take away from dressing up in a giant chicken suit?

  • Sometimes finding motivation requires something a little beyond the ordinary.
  • Doing something different is fun and inspiring.
  • Wearing a chicken suit showed me that there is no need to be afraid.  I normally loathe being the centre of attention, yet with the suit it was great.  Now I can imagine wearing a chicken suit to stir myself on to greater things.
  • I have a renewed respect for anyone who has ever been a mascot – giant yellow chicken suits are hot and cumbersome!

Over to you

  • What do you do to be a little bit extraordinary?
  • How do you motivate yourself when the going gets tough?
  • Have you ever dressed up in public and what happened?

More Inspiration

Evelyn Lim on how to get creative and map your mind

Jeffrey Tan at Art of Great Things on Being who you want to become