Thursday, 29 April 2010

Happiness and career choice

An article in Thursday's Guardian talks about the rise of depression in the UK, particularly amongst women. One paragraph quotes Lorna Martin, author of Woman on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown:

"I think we're conditioned to think that sadness shouldn't be part of the human condition, but it is. It's like all of these difficult emotions, like loss, fear of mortality...seem so difficult, so they're just pushed away – then they bubble up."

Many of us choose careers in this way, too. We pursue this thing called happiness, and we try to avoid difficult emotions. The problem is that no emotion - least of all happiness - can be controlled by our feeble minds for long.

If we try, the only effect is that we begin to narrow our lives by limiting our willingness to experience ourselves as we are.

The only thing we can control is our behaviour. So instead, we ask our career change clients to identify what it is they truly value. We then ask them how willing they are to pursue this direction if it means taking all of their difficult history, negative thoughts and negative emotions along with them.

Ironically, if they are willing to do this, then happiness often occurs. But it is a different brand of happiness than the one they set out to achieve.

It's a sadder, more complex and vital form of happiness. It's the feeling that - no matter what life threw at me - I stood for something.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Bloom News

4 bits of news from Bloom:

1. We've just published our new e-brochure listing the services we offer organisations.

2. We're now the official UK partners of CareerStorm Navigator - an internationally respected online career management tool.

3. I've recently done an interview with Make Hay Ethical Media about the Bloom Project and where we're going.

4. I've also recorded a podcast with Neil Crofts, creator of the Authentic Business Directory, about meaning and how to find it in your life.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Joshua Bell and the death of passion

Last Tuesday I went to see Joshua Bell play at the Royal Festival Hall. I've written before about Joshua Bell, and although I know nothing about classical music, violins or indeed Joshua Bell, I did really enjoy it. Mainly because of Bell's enthusiasm and vigour and obviously outrageous talent.

Then a funny thing happened at the weekend. I read a tepid review of the concert. Here is some of it:

Bell’s sweet, ethereal tone is always a pleasure to hear, but this Beethoven concerto sounded small-scale, prissy even, in the massive opening allegro ma non troppo, taken at a very measured pace. Bell’s introverted account of the concerto solos and a grandly scaled but earthbound account of the Eroica, seemed to pay tribute to the monumentality of Klemperer’s famously expansive interpretations of these works, but lacked the old German Kapellmeister’s inexorable, rugged momentum.

What struck me, apart from wondering what a Kapellmeister is, was the contrast between the passion which I saw Bell put into his playing and the cold analysis of the review.

How must this feel? After all, Bell is 34. He must have practiced violin since he was 3 or 4 and for most of his early years playing this must have been because he really, truly just loved doing it.

Then someone writes a review like that. It must be pretty unpleasant.

To me this shows the great danger of following your passion as a career, which is what most career coaches tell you to do. We don't agree, because becoming a professional can kill passion in the thing you love, as Seth Godin points out.

Identifying a career is far more individual, more nuanced than that. Choosing a career should be based on what you are like as a person, as well as what you love doing. It should be based on what you want from life as well as what you love.

This is not an easy sell to clients - it's far easier just to say 'do what you love and all will be well!'. In Bell's case his overwhelming talent is part of who he is, so there is far more value in pursuing this no matter what. Hopefully he has linked what he does to a higher value, too. So for him the choice (if not the practice) is relatively easy.

But for most of us, what we love doing is only the first step to working out what it is we should do as a career.

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Great Escape....NEW SERIES

This is the first in a series featuring people who have made a career change to something bolder, more interesting and less mainstream.

If you want to be part of this series, please contact me ( and I'd be delighted to feature your work.

Name: Simon Rollett*

Hi Simon, what do you do?
I'm a self-employed designer – websites but also logos, brochures, artwork and
a more recently an online clothing business too.

Have you always done this job?
No – after school I trained as an architect but there was no money in it – then: a clerical role
with a local insurer, then editor of a construction data journal and my last employed position was Creative Director of a local I.T. Company of some 200 people.

Why did you change?
After 5 years as Creative Director, the role felt claustrophobic – there was so much I wanted to design outside the requirements of my job - I needed to at least try the freedom of self-employment.

How did you first get into the job?
While still Editor of the Construction Journal, a friend told me about a recruitment evening (at the I.T. Firm). I'm lucky enough to have a flair for art, but I had never been employed to use it apart from a few private commissions for friends. So I hastily put together a portfolio of 'made up' album covers and logos etc and attended the recruitment evening. I secured an interview and managed to present my made-up portfolio to the M.D. I was lucky; he liked my work despite my lack of commercially applied skill and I secured the role. This was where I gained a good deal of the experience necessary to support me today.

What about this job are you particularly good at?
I like to think it's interpreting the brief: assessing my clients' goals and services
to create a logo/brand/brochure which conveys the credibility of their business.
I believe that company media has the massive responsibility of conveying that
company's credibility to its audience – so it should never be taken lightly.

What are you passionate about?
Whatever I'm talking about!

Do you ever lose track of time when doing your job? When?
Yes – all the time - half the time I don't even know what day it is. I'm often so involved in a project that when I look at the clock it's midnight or later and I didn't even know...

What sort of personality would you say you have? How does this fit your job?
I'm a creative-impatient-independent-dreamer-perfectionist. (although I have been called a lot worse) The first three qualities were instrumental in taking the leap of faith and working for myself – the latter two are a constant process of distilling my ideas (which potentially spawn even more ideas) into appropriate elements for design, and then trying to compromise my perfectionism within a realistic boundary: every bit of work I do I would have liked to have tried more variations of – but when it looks right it IS right.

What’s the most important thing to you about your job?
Being in control of what I like to do.

What are your plans for the future?
To grow my clothing business interest into a household name – not for the sake of being a household name, but rather because that will be recognition of success in my endeavour.

How would you like to be remembered?
With a smile.

Tell us a secret about your job?
Paying more than £35 a YEAR for hosting a small website is a rip-off.

What career advice would you give to yourself if you were just starting out?
[!!] “Being good at what you do is MASSIVELY, UTTERLY and COMPLETELY different to
doing it as a business – it doesn't matter how good you are if no-one knows you are there.” Then I would slap myself in the face and tell it AGAIN repeatedly until I was confident I believed it.

Imagine you’re 80 years old, looking back on today. What advice would you give yourself for the rest of your career?
[1]Plan: Even a lame biro list on a beer mat is better than no plan at all. Why plan? Planning saves wasted action. [2]Like Nike says: Just do it. [3] Keep going. [4] Stop wasting time moaning about how much time I don't have (O the irony).

Do you have a message for our readers who may be thinking about career change?
If you're passionate about it: you could (should) do it for a living. For me, to not even try to achieve what I wanted for myself was doing myself a huge disservice.

Simon - thank you and good luck!

* Simon designs Bloom's newsletters.