Archive | June, 2012

Figuring Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

29 Jun

The other day I was talking to one of my good friends about where we saw ourselves in 10 years. While there is no doubt that my friend’s receptionist job is right for her right now in this transitional period in her life, she was clear that she didn’t think she saw herself doing that forever. So she asked me, what do you see me doing? I thought about it, about the things the she is interested in, and told her that I think she would be a great personal trainer and fitness coach. She agreed, happily, smiling like had never seen her smile. It was clear from that moment that fitness was her passion and that eventually she should be doing something in that field.

But what? How do you know what you want to do?

When we are little our parents always ask us what we want to be when we grow up and we give them answers – a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an actor, etc. But what do you do when you are a grown up and you are still not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life? Not many of us have the luxury of quitting our day jobs to really find out what it is that we want, so how on earth is one supposed to determine, out of every job out there, that one particular job is what they want to spend the rest of their life doing?

Like a lot of people I went to college and then, because getting a college degree is not enough these days, made the decision to go to law school. I am happy, for the most part, that I went to law school – mostly because I met my husband there, but also because I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge of having to basically learn a new language and loved seeing the results when I got the highest grade in the class on the final exam. So then, when I graduated, I took the bar exam and attempted to get a “lawyer-like” job.

My first job was as inside counsel to a small Atlanta firm. I was grateful for the opportunity and for the fact that my boss was simply amazing – one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met. But then I discovered that I didn’t particularly like sitting at my desk daily not having very much to do on some days. So I put my feelers out there and landed a totally different job – a job as a litigation attorney at a law firm. I have only been working here 6 months so I don’t really know if this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I do know that I enjoy it, but I also know that I have a lot of other goals and dreams besides being an attorney – I want to write a fiction novel that gets published (right now I have started tons of books but have only finished one) and I would love to do a fitness competition. What I don’t know is if one of those goals – writing or being a fitness competitor – could possibly be the thing I want to do with the rest of my life.

I read an article by the Daily Muse on Forbes that interested me. It was about this very subject – how you find what you want to do with the rest of your life. The author of the article talks about hating their desk job, which according to the article is quite common. So what did they do? They quit their job and tried to meet with as many people in the field that they thought they were interested in. They set up meetings to ask people for their advice and made appointments to shadow various people for an entire day. What result did this have? It confirmed that what they thought they wanted to do they in fact did want to do.

I think this article is a good read and should be read by anyone struggling to find their passion. It has inspired me to reach out to those around me. While you might not be able to quit your job and travel to meet with people, you can talk to people doing what you like in your town. Take them to lunch, email them, and ask them to tell you about their journey and about how they found their passion.

Have you ever sat back and wondered why you were working at a job you hated only to realize you had no idea what you really wanted to do with your life? What did you do to discover your passion? What advice would you give others?

Why Women Can’t Have It All According To Anne-Marie Slaughter

22 Jun

Generation Y women have grown up hearing that we can have it all if we really want it. We can have the high-powered career, the money, the man, and the children without having to sacrifice one for the other. But is this really true?

In a controversial op-ed in the Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter penned an article entitled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. The article recounts Slaughter’s experiences in Washington working a high-powered government job and her struggles to be the mother and professional that she wanted to be.

In the article Slaughter states “In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.”

Of course Slaughter’s situation is not every woman’s situation. Not every woman dreams of working 80+ hours a week in Washington, or anywhere for that matter, and being away from their family for weeks at a time. Not every woman believes that having a high-powered career is just as important as her family.

While I do think that Slaughter’s points are interesting and well thought out, I do think that her concerns about women not being able to have it all do not apply to everyone. Take Lindsey Cross who wrote an article entitled Dear Anne-Marie Slaughter, I Have It All. In her article Cross is upset by Slaughter’s statement that women can’t have it all because she says that she has the job she wants – being a freelance writer and getting paid for it – and also gets to spend time with her family and daughter. Cross writes, “I guess the reason that this debate makes me frustrated is because it lets an admittedly small number of women speak for all of us. I’m sorry that Anne-Marie Slaughter had a hard time prioritizing what she wanted with the needs of her family. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have it all. She doesn’t get to decide that for me.”

The work-life balance debate is one that is always swirling around the internet discussing how a woman who is a mother, wife, and employee can have it all. What I think it all comes down to is a choice. Just like men, women have to decide what is important to them. Sure, some men are able to work longer hours because they know that their wife will take care of everything at the house, but he is able to do so because that wife made a choice. There are plenty of men out there who have also made the choice to allow their wife to work the longer hours – Slaughter’s husband did it for her. When you have a family the decision of who is going to focus more on work and who is going to take care of the daily tasks around the house is a family decision and one in which the woman has a voice in. If a woman wants a high-powered career that will take her away from her children and daily life then she has to decide whether this career is the best thing for her family.

In essence, I think a woman that wants it all – great carrer, happy marriage, fulfilling relationships with their children – needs to speak up in their marriage and tell their husband how they feel and what they want. If a woman doesn’t speak up how can the husband know that she wants a different job?

What do you think? Do you think Slaughter’s or Cross is right? Do you find it hard to find a balance in your career and home life?

Are Terms Of Endearment Ever Ok At Work?

12 Jun

I recently came across this fabulous rant from the blog Rantings of a Sub-Editor. In it Cathy Relf, the author, discusses a phone call she had in which the guy on the other end of the line called her honey. Here is the call:

Cathy: “Hi, it’s Cathy, we spoke yesterday.”
Guy: “Oh hi, yes, thanks for sending that through, I’m going to look through it at lunchtime and get it back to you early afternoon.”
Cathy: “Super. Because I’m working elsewhere for the rest of the week, so I do need to see it off today.”
Guy: “Yep, definitely.”
Cathy: “Great, speak to you later.”
Guy: “Thanks honey.” [phone down]

According to Cathy, she was in charge of the phone conversation up until the point the guy on the other end of the line said “Thanks honey.” How did this make Cathy feel? Rather pissed, and I don’t blame her.

I have never particularly been a fan of words of endearment coming from people I either don’t know or whom I am in an argument with. Having another co-worker that I barely know say, “that’s great sweetie” would just make me uncomfortable and make me feel inferior. To me the “sweetie” in that context is completely demeaning (especially if the person saying it is in a higher position than you). Also, having someone I am arguing with tell me “settle down darling,” would literally make my blood boil.

It’s not that I don’t like terms of endearment, it’s the context they are said in that I don’t like. If my husband called me “sweetie” or “darling” I may wonder if he hit his head, but I wouldn’t get upset. But when certain words are used in certain contexts (like work conversations) they make you feel as if someone has made a power grab and left you in the dust.

When I read through the comments to Cathy’s post I was shocked to that some commentators believed she was overreacting. What do you think? Do you think that it is completely inappropriate to use a term of endearment in a professional context? Has anyone at work ever called you “sweetie,” “darling,” “love,” or any other word that made you feel inferior and unworthy?

You Have The Power To Make Yourself Happy

6 Jun

The other day I was listening to a good friend complain about her job. She was going on and on about how her boss micromanages her too much and drives her crazy on a regular basis. I let her vent because sometimes that is really all we need, and then I said, “But I thought you liked your job?”

She responded by saying, “I do like my job, just not all the time.”

This got me thinking, is not liking your job some of the time normal? I have days where I wonder whether my career path is the right one for me, and then my husband tells me that it is called work for a reason. While I tend to agree that work cannot be exciting all of the time, aren’t there people out there who claim that they absolutely LOVE what they do? I always hear actors saying how blessed they are and how much they enjoy their job, but are there really average-Joes out there who thoroughly enjoy their jobs enough that they can tell you with a straight face that they are 100% happy?

If you listen closely you will find that a lot of people complain about their jobs. Heck, I even complain about mine. Either the drive is too long, your boss is a jerk, you don’t get enough direction, your boss micromanages you, you aren’t learning enough, you are bored, you aren’t making enough money, or your work simply doesn’t stimulate you. At some point in my life or another I have felt every single one of those emotions, but does that mean that my career path is all wrong? Does that mean that I am unhappy?

Even if having those days where you hate your job is normal, how do you know if you are really happy?

In my opinion you have the ability to make yourself happy. Happiness is a decision you make and you alone hold the power.

Ok, I hold the power, what does that even mean?

To me it means that we have a responsibility to ourselves to take a step back and evaluate our situations and feelings to determine whether or not we are happy with our given job and life circumstances. If you feel down about your job one day try taking the time to really thinking about how you feel. Ask yourself, “why do I feel unhappy?” Is it because your boss just yelled at you or is it over something much more serious, like working your fourth weekend in a row and feeling like you want to cry or throw yourself off a bridge?

Once you figure out what it is that is bothering you, consider whether this is something you can live with forever. For my friend I mentioned above, I asked her if she could stand working for her micromanaging boss forever. Her answer – probably not. This tells me that deep down she is unhappy in her current situation. Sure, there may be days when she feels good about her job, but those days where her boss is overwhelming her stand out in her mind more so than the good days.

When I have a bad day or am annoyed at work I always sit back and think about why I am mad or annoyed. Usually finding the answer and being honest with myself allows me to fix the problem. At my last job I found that I was always in a bad mood after work. It wasn’t because my boss was mean, it was because my day had been boring or very uneventful. Yes, I know that work gets boring and slow sometimes, but I was bored and slow all of the time. I took a long time thinking about whether that meant my current career path was wrong for me or not. I did almost everything I could to try to see if something else made me happy – I thought of applying to business school, I started writing a book, I created this blog, and I applied to other positions that I was qualified for. In the end I discovered that my current working situation was what was making me unhappy, so I made a change. Now I am working in a new position that fits my overall life and professional goals better.

We all have the power to change our own lives and get them moving in the direction that we want them to go. I always hear people saying they are stuck in a rut or have no other options, but I don’t agree with that. If you are unhappy at work figure out why and make a change.

Jobs Are Like Relationships – When Its Time To Move On You’ll Know

4 Jun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have all been in a relationship that starts out with so much potential that we start imagining ourselves living with a certain person forever. We dream of love, rings, wedding dresses, and children, only to find out somewhere down the road that you and the other person are not as compatible as you once thought. Either your personalities clash, your lives go in different directions, or you decide that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with that person. We all know that breaking up is hard to do, but inevitably if we want to move on with our lives (without that person) we need to do it, right?

In a relationship there are certain deal-breakers that present themselves that ultimately show us that we are no longer supposed to date that person. For example, you date a guy for two years and find out right before you plan to get married that he has been lying to you about his finances and debt. Deal-breaker, right? Or you are dating a guy who forgets to tell you that he had a child with a crazy woman who is now stalking you. Deal breaker for sure!

In life, when these deal-breakers present themselves and show us who the person we are dating really is we find it easy to dump them and move on (at least I did). I mean who wants to be married to someone who can’t be honest about his money? Not me!

Just as in intimate relationships, deal-breakers present themselves in our working relationships and careers. The following are examples of career deal-breakers that I would not stand for:

  • Having a boss that constantly yells at me or demeans me, making me feel inadequate and stupid.
  • Having a job that causes me too much stress for very little gain.
  • Finding that your learning has slowed and your position is becoming stagnant.
  • Hearing rumors that your company is about to go under.
  • Being physically and mentally miserable at work for any reason.

I am sure you have other deal-breakers than the ones Ihave listed, but my point is that they exist. These deal-breakers find a way to creep through the very crevices of your happiness and make you feel unhappy and unsatisfied with your career.  While these deal-breakers occur in everyone’s career (no matter what anyone tells you no one’s career and/or job is perfect), it seems to me that people have a harder time leaving an awful job than leaving an awful mate. Why is that?

Maybe leaving your job (and your steady income) seems scarier to you than pushing someone who brings you negative energy out of your life. Maybe the thought of being unemployed, which often has a bad stigma attached to it, embarrasses you. Maybe you feel as if you won’t be able to get another job making comparable pay.

There are a lot of reasons people may feel trapped at their jobs. Trust me, I understand what it feels like to be trapped. I used to spend hours on the internet searching for a way out of my old job, but never actually had the guts to quit. It ultimately took me about an entire year to find another job before I even thought about quitting a job that left me unhappy a lot of the times. 

You may be wondering how you know if something is a deal-breaker.  There is no definition of a deal-breaker, but trust me, when something is a deal-breaker you will know. You will know because whatever it is will make you unhappy. My advice: just use your intuition, you always know what is best for you.

What can you do when a deal-breaker presents itself at your current job?

  • Start looking for another job. Utilize social media and your contacts to see if there are any jobs out there that match your skills.
  • Try solving the problem by talking to your supervisor. If the deal-breaker is something that can be fixed, try being honest with your boss and see if he/she is willing to accommodate your requests.
  • Talk to other people in your field to see if the deal-breaker is common. Finding out if this deal-breaker will present itself at another job is important to know before you leave your current situation. For example, if you are a lawyer and hate having a billable hour requirement you will want to make sure that a different job won’t present the same issues for you.
  • Reevaluate your career path. If you find that you dislike multiple things about your current job you may want to reevaluate your career path. For example, if you went into sales and discovered that you hate having to drive around and service client maybe you will find a sales supervisor position more suitable to your personality.

Remember, just because you took the job doesn’t mean you have to stay there for the rest of your life. We live in a culture where it is more acceptable to go from one job to another, and a large reason for that is because Generation Y does not stay at a job they dislike.

So if you are stuck in a bad working relationship then breakup and move on.

What are your career deal-breakers? Have you ever left a job because one of them presented itself?