Sunday, 30 September 2007

Seth Godin

Interesting blog this one. Here Seth writes about the power of blogs and marketing. Or rather, attracting people with the right mindset to the right place at the right time and then delivering your message.

The relativity of time

Another fascinating article by the consistently excellent Oliver Burkeman in yesterday's Guardian.

Friday, 28 September 2007

There is an option

When I was growing up, unemployment was a real and genuine terror. Boys from the Blackstuff was horribly real and I remember how grinding the sense of poverty was. It takes a while to un-learn that jobs are not something to be grateful for, no matter what they involve.

But un-learn it you must.

Because life has become - for most people who'll ever read this - less about survival and more about choice than ever before. Most people now have a choice, but convincing yourself that you can do work that you love takes some doing.

Maslow once linked happiness to following our 'true natures'.

Are you letting your true nature guide your life? Because if not, there is a choice.

And at this point, I'd wholeheartedly recommend How to find the work you love, by Laurence Boldt. It may help convince you.

Monday, 24 September 2007

The Sound of Paper

Some time ago Laura wrote about the therapeutic effects of blogging. I believe in this too, and enjoyed the Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron. Here's an interesting post on the possible science behind this.


Friends who I've worked on this spreadsheet with have sometimes struggled with it. I think it's about imagining, in detail, what your life looks like when it revolves around a job you love. Think about every single detail. Describe the hours, dress, colleagues, pay, surroundings.

Think about the job itself - the content of the career, or the subject. Do you need to feel passionate about your work?

Then think about what you will actually do. Meetings, phone sales, travelling, research, analysis - what do you like doing? What would an ideal breakdown of these activities look like in a pie chart?

Now think about hygiene factors: pay, pension, freebies, childcare etc. How important are these to you? How much do you want to earn? And how much do you need to earn? Work both out.

How about where the job can be done? Would it mean being in one place, or is it flexible? Do you want to travel abroad and would it enable this? Is working from home important?

There may be other features, like focusing on one subject (being an expert) or many, or a job with high levels of autonomy, or teamwork, or integrity, or its ability to combine with something else? Maybe you really want to work for yourself, get a promotion or manage a team?

And finally how does it fit your strengths you've already outlined?

Work out, in detail a series of criteria which essentially describe your perfect career, and the life it enables. Write them down and weight them according to their importance - try it!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Martin Seligman

Another interlude, but the brilliant psychologist and creator of Positive Psychology, Martin Selgiman, is in London and speaking at the following events:

Getting specific

Let's assume that you are through the worst of limbo, and now are at least doing something different or trying something new. Let us also assume that you have a good idea of what your strengths are, as difficult as these seem to be to act on. Finally, let's assume that exercise is providing you with sufficient control over your life to feel as though your actions do have an effect on the world.

You now have the tools to get a little bit more specific about your potential career. It is difficult to provide generic advice to such an individual decision. Even 'do the thing you love' would not work for everyone I know.

But an excellent piece of advice for me was to create a personal framework with which to judge potential jobs. This framework is a list of criteria you value in your job. This could be money, hours, ability to work where you want, autonomy, ability to have flexible hours, clear promotion structure. But it should also cover the type of work you aspire to. Mine included elements of creativity, one to one work, and the chance to be an expert in something (rather than being a generalist as a management consultant). List these criteria in a spreadhseet and weight them. On the left, list the jobs that interest you and score them against your criteria.

The end results look like this:

But this is not the end of your career decision. It is just the beginning.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Step 4: recognising limbo

The brilliant Oliver Burkeman wrote in this week's Guardian about self help gurus who always talk about their 'lowest point'. The point at which they pick themselves up, brush themselves down and start all over again. They recognise that things can only get better, and then LO! then they do.

My problem with that is that I knew I was unhappy, but was also aware that things could be much, much worse than they were. I had a good, high paying, high status job, a flat in London (miracle!), nice friends, lovely holidays...could I really complain about a lack of fulfilment?

Yet in the meantime I hated my job so much I would see Friday nights as just being closer to Monday mornings. I could barely speak to my family about my job and got quite depressed.

But the last thing I felt like doing was risking all the good things in my life to try and get a bit happier. This is what I mean by limbo. If I had had a real problem I'd have solved it. But I had no idea how to deal with this.

So, before you get out of limbo, you have to recognise it. But how?

It's clearly difficult to generalise but from my experience:
1. Listen carefully to how others complain about work. Do you hate your job more than they do?
2. Do you spend time straining to avoid work?
3. Do you hate the idea of being your boss?
4. Do you feel embarrassed when you tell others what you do?
5. Would you be disappointed with your life if you were to die tomorrow, doing what you do?

And yet, do you feel paralysed by the thought of doing something else? Like you have too much to lose, or don't know what you would do anyway?

If the answer is 'yes' to any or all of these questions, it may be time to accept you're in limbo. And that this is as dangerous as the 'lowest point' all those self help gurus waffle on about.