By George Dutch
As career professionals, we often work with individuals who are seeking work but not motivated to take actions due, in some cases, to job misfit; that is, they hate their current job or are demotivated to seek a similar job. They want a different kind of job, but have no idea what else they can do. As career professionals, we can help them get started on finding a different path, by taking the following three actions.
First, we need to remind them that none of their current work experience is wasted. We can clearly see that they have put the cart in front of the horse (the horse being that part of ourselves that represents our natural strengths, vitality, drive, energy). We can help them re-connect with that authentic part of themselves and show them how to harness it to their tool cart, that part of their job experience that represents all the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their careers.
Motivation is the natural result of putting the horse in front of the cart. In fact, the clues to our right work are often found in our childhood preoccupations. For example, in one study conducted by British behavioral scientists on the relationship between our desires in youth and adult success, 50 individuals were tracked over a period of 28 years, from the age of seven to 35. The result? Nearly all of the subjects wound up engaged in a professional pursuit related to their interests during the ages 7 through 14. While most strayed from these interests after childhood, the successful adults were those who found their way back to their childhood dreams by the age of 35, even if only as a hobby or avocation. Don’t you find that amazing? I do!
If you’ve read my book, JobJoy, then you know that I put a lot of emphasis on understanding what we did and how we did it during ages 7-14. What I have found over the years is that individuals who find jobjoy success early in life are often people who were lucky enough to have parents and other significant adults who recognized their natural talents and inclinations early in life, then helped nurture those talents into a specific vocation.
For most of us, this does not happen. We tend to drift away from our natural inclinations and focus on learned or acquired values and behaviors that have more to do with the agendas of others, or economic trends. Most individuals settle for this kind of career and that's fine. However, if they reach an impasse, we have a choice to help them through it.
Many of us fall victim to what the poet E.E. Cummings eloquently described: "To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best day and night into making you like everybody else is to fight the hardest battle there is and never stop fighting." I have found that many people lost this battle early in life and, by doing so, lost their memory of what they enjoyed most and did best as a child. The clues to our right work are always there in the details of our personal stories, our life history.
Second, ask your client to sit with you in a quiet office, no interruptions. Ask them to close their eyes, and quiet their minds. Ask them to let their thoughts drift back to childhood. Ask the following kinds of questions: What did you enjoy doing at age six or seven? What were the activities that gave you pleasure? How did the world open up to you?
Over the next five years or so, what kinds of subjects did you gravitate towards in school and outside of school? How did you get the attention you wanted? What teachers influenced you the most? Who were your heroes? This might be difficult for some clients. Ask them to go home and take the time to go through family photos, watch home movies, and talk to parents and relatives. Invite them to bring a list of impressions and memories to your next meeting. One way to find jobjoy in life is to move back with conscious intention to what we drifted away from early in life.
Third, remind your clients that it’s not as difficult as they might think! The world rewards excellence. And our best chance for excellence is to develop our natural talents and motivations into a specific job or career—that’s the route to personal and professional success! People who excel in their jobs often make it look easy and effortless. Like Robert Redford in the movie ‘The Natural,” they seem to have a knack, a flair, a talent for the core job duty; the same way Redford’s character had a natural talent for throwing and hitting a baseball. This work is child’s play!