How to get focused and find fulfilling work

Part one in a seven part series about how to successfully find your next fulfilling opportunity.

If you’re reading this blog, the chances are that you’re considering moving on with your career. The big question is, do you really know what you want to do next? Do you have the focus you need to find the right opportunity for you?

A job hunt without focus is a recipe for frustration for you, your prospective employer, your friends and family (they’ll get sick of hearing you vent).

As a career coach, I spend my life helping professionals to find work that brings challenge, enjoyment and fulfilment.

Work in the 21st century provides a massive range of opportunity to use your talents, skills and experience.

Within business, there are more sectors, industries, niches and specialty companies than ever. Employers range from fast-growing start ups to corporate titans. You can work in an office or totally virtually.

On top of that, there are a huge range of opportunities in the government, education and social sectors. From social enterprises to think-tanks and universities to charities – the variety is endless.

The first step to your successful job hunt is to figure out what really gets you motivated and the type of organization you want to work for.

Once you have this focus you can:

  1. Create a targeted and successful job hunt strategy (see my next post for more)
  2. Create tight and focused collateral (your story, CV, cover letter)
  3. Clearly communicate your intentions to recruitment consultants, the organisations you want to work for and your interviewers
  4. Have confidence and clarity in yourself that you are making the right move

How to find your focus

The first step is to identify the criteria that you are looking to fulfil from your next opportunity. Take some time to think about:

Culture – what kind of environment do you like to work in? What size of team /organization? How much autonomy do you want (and how much support)? How much flexibility (location & time)? Entrepreneurial environment or established culture?

Challenge – what do you want to learn? What experiences are you looking for? Are you looking for stability or variety? What are the opportunities for advancement?  What kinds of problems do you want to solve? How much risk do you want to take?  How open to failure are you?

Pleasure – what kind of work do you enjoy most? What sectors / industries are most interesting? What will get you out of bed with a smile on your face? What are you fascinated by? What type of work will play to your strengths?

Purpose – where does the next role take you in the long run? What kind of life do you want to live and how does it fit with that? How does the job meet some of your values / deeper needs (e.g., making a difference to people, creating opportunity for others, providing validation)? What makes work feel worthwhile?

In answering these questions, you can build up a clear set of criteria for your next role to fulfil.

How to come up with a long list of options

The next step is to look at your options. The best starting point is to create the longest list of options you can based on:

  1. Your thinking and research to date
  2. Existing or potential opportunities
  3. Looking at people in your network and beyond and seeing which roles seem interesting
  4. Undertaking broader research (informal interviews, networking, internet searches, brainstorming, asking recruitment consultants) to generate new options

How to narrow down your long list

Once you come up with your long list, review each serious option against the criteria. You may find that along with this analytical approach, your intuition may tell you strongly what feels best.

Remember you ultimately need to come up with a next step that feels motivating, exciting and fits with your long term career plan. Once you’ve convinced yourself, you have the focus you need to move forward.

I’d suggest you write a clear description of what you are planning to do and why, in as much detail as possible to make the case.

A great way to consolidate this is to prepare a one or two paragraph summary of the job you are looking for. Be as specific about the type of company, industry, and role you would like.

This crystal clear statement will help you to focus on finding the right role for you.  It is something you can share with your network, recruitment consultants and potential employers.

Now that you are focused, next time we’ll talk about how to create a job hunting strategy that really works.

Image Courtesy of JLC Walker (Flickr Creative Commons)

Do you Work to Live or Live to Work?

Has your life slowed down for the summer?
Have you managed to fit in some quality time with friends and family or headed off for some well earned R&R?
I hope you’re taking a little time to look after yourself and prepare for your next adventure.
Here at Less Ordinary Towers, things seem to have been more hectic than ever.  We’re expecting our first child in December which is super exciting, but is already causing some sleepless nights (as the bump grows).
This also necessitates a relocation to accommodate the new arrival – so a summer of talking to estate agents, lawyers, surveyors etc. etc.
On top of that, we’ve been extraordinarily busy with a stream of new clients ready to take on their big career challenges and start amazing businesses.
It was very appropriate that last week I was invited to the studios of the Guardian newspaper to debate the question “Should you work to live or live to work?”.
It’s a great question for you to ask yourself.  To listen to the podcast click the link below (my interview starts around 13 minutes in).
Given everything that going on, I’m not sure exactly of the answer for me!  I do know that work should bring excitement, challenge and fulfillment and add to your quality of life, and that is what Less Ordinary Living is all about.

Ebbs and Flows

Is it possible for an entire nation to slow down all at once?

Here in London, it feels like we’ve been taking it easy since April.

Between Easter, the Royal Wedding and our May Bank Holidays, we’ve had an endless stream of days off work.  Couple that with the warmest spring on record, with lots of sunshine and a vacation mood has prevailed.

I think people here have twigged that not working can be quite the enjoyable experience.  Rush hour has been a bit less rushed, people are ambling rather than striding, eating has moved a bit more al fresco.

Personally, I’m loving it – it’s quite different from the usual endless rush to get things done.  It feels like an ebb in the endless flow tide of life here.

It’s natural

Of course, this contrast is quite natural.  Nature provides a clue of the importance of ebb and flow in life.  The different seasons provide a cycle for the natural world – different times for growth, seeding, mating and resting.

Each aspect provides a vital link in the chain of continued life – if you’re a squirrel the hibernation is just as important as the times of frantic foraging for food.

It’s easy in this 24-7-365 world to assume that the pedal needs to be constantly on the metal.  There’s a fear that if we’re not at full steam ahead we might fall behind and never catch up.

Yet we are far more multidimensional.  We have complex bio-chemical systems that need care and maintenance to keep us physically and mentally healthy.  Our bodies naturally go through cycles of fitness, and illness which impact our lives.

We also have a wide range of needs, desires and motivations for acting.  We need the basics to survive physically, a range of mental stimulation to survive mentally and then have more complex drivers that bring happiness and fulfilment.

Life is not a simple game of do as much as you can – it requires ebbs and flows to run smoothly.

A little respect

Respecting our ebbs and flows means not trying to boil the ocean and do everything at once.

There are times of peak activity when we can focus on particular aspects of life that rise to the top.  In these times we really do feel a flow – taking on big challenges seems natural and rewarding.

At other times, there’ll be ebbs – moments when it is important to recognize the need to slow down or de-prioritise a certain area.  Like a farmer with a fallow field, sometimes we’ll need to leave an area of life to recover for a while before we can return to it.

For me, this less busy time has provided a great lesson in ebbs and flows.  At first I tried to push hard with work to keep growing the business, but it just felt sticky and difficult.

Rather than continuing to bash my head against the wall, I’ve focused on other aspects – finding a new associate to prepare for the next spike, and starting to write my first book.

Slowing down a little has let me re-prioritise other aspects of life.  I’ve been able to spend more time with family than ever and am loving that so much.  I’ve focused on exercise and meditation and feeling more centred and focused.

It’s been easier respecting the natural flow rather than struggling against it.  By tuning in to what I’m feeling a bit more, I start to get better feedback on what is working and what is a no-no.

Similarly watching the way the world is responding to my actions, there are clear signals as to when to twist and when to stick.

Taking cues internally and externally has helped to find a better balance and avoid frustration.

Take a moment to think over the ebbs and flows you’ve experienced in 2011.

What are they telling you?

Are you ebbing of flowing right now?

Which areas of your life are coming easily?

Where are you stuck?

What is most important at the moment?

Enjoy your flows, and ride those ebbs – they are guaranteed to be less ordinary.

Welcome our new Associate – Hedeel Mahdi-King

Less Ordinary Living is growing.

It’s my pleasure to introduce the new addition to our team, Hedeel Mahdi-King.  Hedeel has a range of experience from years in the city to running her own business.  She’ll bring her talent and knowledge to the team.

Here she is in her own words…

I’m absolutely delighted to join Less Ordinary Living.


I guess it’s no surprise I’m taking this step; I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family and was always up to my elbows in every aspect of running a business, right from the research and development stage through to the ‘what to do when things go a little off-plan’ stage.

I’ve paid my dues and spent six years working in they City as a corporate lawyer.

I’ve also spent some time running my own business, and seen first hand the challenge and excitement this can bring.

Over the last few years I’ve worked with a variety of people to help them turn their ideas into living, breathing businesses.  I’ve also helped established businesses grow and/or diversify.

Recently I’ve worked with people from professions such as law, banking, architecture, catering and e-commerce move into completely different careers such as agriculture, design and build, personal styling and event organisation.

My passion lies in helping others achieve a life they want, and most importantly, a life that they love to wake up to each morning – challenges, stretches and all!

I specialise in:

-    working with individuals who feel trapped take stock of their lives and create a more fulfilling reality (from small tweaks to complete revamp!).

-    helping people who want to be self-employed make the transition.

-    working with people to turn their ideas into living, breathing start-ups.

-    helping independently owned companies grow, diversify or consolidate their offering.

The buzz for me is in helping clients become more aware of their choices and helping them to make more positive, exciting, and yet still entirely pragmatic decisions.

All that’s left to say is that I look forward to working with some of you soon.


Effortless Success!

Don’t believe the hype.

This is the type of headline that bombards us every day.  Frankly they really get on my wick.

The world is full of miracle cures for happiness, crash diets and flashy new products that instantly boost your sex appeal.

Making lasting changes takes more than changing your brand of deodorant.  It takes planning, motivation and commitment.

Spring into Action

Spring is in the air, bringing a sense of renewal and opportunity. It’s  time to dust off the cob-webs and re-boot a few life programmes that are not working.

If you know it’s time to change, here are five ways to get things moving in different areas of your life (commitment definitely required!):

1)   De-clutter your life – if your house is turning into a landfill site and your paperwork has taken over the table.  Set an objective (for example to clear out the spare room by the end of March) and commit 10 minutes a day to making it happen.

2)   Introduce a new virtuous habit – whether it’s a morning walk, 30 minutes exercise 3 times a week or taking 10 minutes quiet time to breathe every day, start something that can make your life better.  Here are some more ideas on how to do this.

3)   Audit your career – set aside an hour to honestly assess how you are making a living.  Think about what you enjoy, what gives you meaning and purpose, how your work fits with your life goals and what you’d like to be doing in 5 years time.  For a helpful test to see if work is working click here.  Here are some ideas on how to start changing things.

4)   Learn something new – what have you been fascinated by for years and done nothing about?  What skill would you love to learn (yes, origami does count).  Find a course and go learn!

5)   Get out there and meet people – if you’ve been hibernating, it’s time to shake off the sleepy dust.  Join a group, find an event, sign up for on-line dating (if you’re single!), call up your friends and re-activate your social life.  It’s ok to get out there. More on friendship here.

The advertisers would have you believe that the key to your happiness is a shiny new product.

The reality is that the power lies in your hands.

If you want something, get out there and make it happen.

Photo credit: Robert S Donovan (Flickr Creative Commons)