It’s about time to don the cap and gown. Starting next month, many new graduates will receive their diplomas and venture out from campus life to pursue their Professional Destinies. But do they really know what to do? And what to expect? For most graduates, the answer is a big, resounding—no!
Some, if they’re anything like me, compromised and picked the wrong major (I chose economics, and promptly disregarded almost everything I studied to become a marketer and author).
Some picked a major they’re actually interested in, but don’t have a clue how to apply it in the unfamiliar, grown-up working world.
And some—the lucky ones—got it completely right and can’t wait to start their perfect new career (yes, they have to make the rest of us look bad!).
Still, many because of the economy may be tempted to take the very first job that comes their way. Here’s why that might not be the best life choice.
Steve Jobs (who we must say has experienced a degree ofsuccess in his profession) told students at his commencement speech address at Stanford University:
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
This is great advice, but can be downright unnerving. What if you don’t know the right next step? What if the whole thing just looks daunting, overwhelming and formidable? How do you gain the self awareness, confidence and plan of action to move forward?
Almost every day I get a note from college students and recent graduates who have benefitted from reading Professional Destiny (and some who give it as a gift to their parents!). They say things like:
“Thank you for writing this book and for explaining in a concise, organized manner the jumbled mess inside of my head. I feel as if I can now move forward. Eureka! Sweet victory.”
So in the spirit of helping our new grads relieve career anxiety and make the big transition into adult life, we are offering a special Professional Destiny Graduation promotion—
Order Professional Destiny between now and May 31st direct from the publisher and save 20% using this discount code: 4BH9PQ56. (Also available through Amazon at retail price of $14.95)
I was told three times last week that I really should watch the Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about nurturing creativity and overcoming the fear of failure. Being told once is always interesting, twice gets my attention, but three times… hits the blog! Since failure is a favorite topic among us authors (see Failing Your Way to Success, inspired by JK Rowling), I read the signs of this consistent prompting to mean that the subject is quite worthy of more discussion. It’s important because the fear of failure goes hand-in-hand with pursuing anything new and different. And unless we overcome it—we may stop ourselves from doing what we were born to do.
Here’s a liberating perspective of how to deal with fear that Gilbert introduces in her talk:
“I recently wrote this book, this memoir called Eat, Pray, Love which, decidedly unlike any of my previous books, went out in the world and for some reason, became this big, mega-sensation, international bestseller thing. The result of which is that everywhere I go now, people treat me like I’m doomed. Seriously—doomed! Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, ‘Aren’t you afraid—aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to keep writing for your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?’ So that’s reassuring, you know. But it would be worse, except for that I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I first started telling people—when I was a teenager—that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same kind of, sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?’ The answer—the short answer to all those questions is, ‘Yes.’ … But, is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do?”
Gilbert goes on to share the idea (dating back to ancient Rome and Greece) that, instead of the rare person being a genius, all of us have a genius. It is our job to show up and do the work and invite the genius, the divine inspiration, to flow through us. This way if our work is brilliant, we stay humble because we know we had help. But if our work bombs, it’s not entirely our fault—we just know that our genius was temporarily out to lunch.
In my book Professional Destiny, I cover the topic of fear in two chapters. It’s worth such emphasis because nothing stands between us and our greatest work as much as doubt and fear. Fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of not being enough, or fear of not having enough. And unless we find a way to tame our fear, it can stop us from moving forward.
Gilbert gives us a great perspective on how to overcome it: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment, then ‘Ole!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”
Yesterday I was interviewed by David Rawles for the Career Solutions Radio Talk Show. He asked several questions that took me back to the beginning—to the very inception—of Professional Destiny. And since that story hasn’t hit the blog rolls yet, I thought it would be fun to share the Cliffs Notes version here.
About ten years ago, I had a profound moment that changed my life and perspective. I was sitting on the porch at my house in Boulder, Colorado, looking across the street at the stunning Flatiron mountains thinking, “to everyone else I look like I have it all: two beautiful daughters, a good husband, friends, a great career, high income, a wonderful house and excellent health—yet deep down I feel an aching emptiness inside.” I had a nagging feeling that there was something more I was meant to do, but I didn’t know what it was.
For the next several years, I worked in a few notable Fortune 500 companies and wasstruck by how many people were “asleep” as I walked around. There was no real light in their eyes. So many smart, talented people were merely going through the motions of work each day simply to collect a paycheck. They seemed numbed out. And I was one of them.
So I began my search by reading voraciously, observing others and trying out new things.
Mark Misage - Physics Teacher
Then I met ordinary (yet at the same time extraordinary!) people who were lit up by their profession and who were intent on making a difference. I was fascinated by their stories and decided to learn from them. One was a physics teacher, one was a children’s author/motivational speaker and one was the founder of a global charitable organization. Each experienced a nudge to change, each faced significant challenges, and each chose to follow their dream. Their candid and inspiring first-hand narratives are included in my book.
All of us have something that we were born to do. It’s our Professional Destiny. We have a giftand we have a purpose—and we are meant to express them in a meaningful way. It’s this notion of making a genuine contributionthat matches our interests, which differentiates our Professional Destiny from a job. A job is something we do merely to collect a paycheck.
When we feel like we have made a difference, we are fulfilled… and we have the wonderful, energizing feeling that we’re finally doing what we were born to do.
Stay tuned for part two of this interview series and the discussion of the five back-to-basic steps that are essential in following your Professional Destiny.
A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by Eilene Zimmerman, a journalist who writes for many national publications including the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and FORTUNE Small Business. This interview was for her personal blog, takingmyownadvice.com, which is a warm and engaging chronicle of her journey through transition, as a mother and soon-to-be ex-wife, as she avidly seeks a career and financial education.
Here is an excerpt of our discussion as she quizzed me about my experiences and the Professsional Destiny approach:
“Here it is April 1st and it’s no joke, I can’t figure out if I really need to talk to a coach. I’m torn, probably, because I spoke last week with Valerie Hausladen, and that felt like a coaching session in and of itself. Of course it wasn’t, it was an interview about her new book, Professional Destiny: Discover The Career You Were Born For. Her take-away is this: ‘Anyone can make a change at any time.’ But she also realizes change takes time. Her book is about transitions, something I’m interested in myself, as I’m in transition at this very moment.
Hausladen’s story is anything but straightforward, and that’s the rub. Making changes in your life can be tough, can take a while, and the path isn’t always linear…
Hausladen hadn’t changed her life overnight–it took a decade. She had always wanted to write a book and finally did it. She became a coach and started her own management consulting firm–Edge Communication Group in Austin.
She’s not suggesting that people up and quit their well-paying (or, in this economy, even their not-so-well-paying) jobs, but she is saying take that first step. ‘If you can’t leave your job, start doing one or two things a day towards what you really want to do. Connect with others in the industry where you want to be, get some more information about changing jobs or careers, ask for resources. Just do something towards that goal every day,’ she says. The first step–whatever it is–doesn’t have to be right, says Hausladen. It just has to BE. You have to take it and then if it’s wrong, you learn from it. But many of us are almost paralyzed by the choices we have–or think we have. You have to pick something or you’ll never pick anything.
Even if you haven’t worked in fifteen years and your teaching credential has long since expired, or the last time you worked in HR they didn’t have computers, don’t be discouraged. Maybe start by volunteering. Or by simply going online and researching the industry. Calling a school to see what that nurse practitioner program entails. Etc.
Maybe it sounds just a little corny when Hausladen says, ‘Take the first step and the next one will show itself.” But she’s right–you just can’t see the whole destination yet. In time though, with a little luck and hard work, you (and me) will.’”
To read Eilene’s full post, including more details of my personal transition, click here.
Eilene Zimmerman is a journalist based in San Diego, Calif. who writes about a variety of topics, including business, social and political issues and family life. Her work has been published in national magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Glamour, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, FORTUNE Small Business, CNNMoney.com, CBS MoneyWatch.com, Wired, Harper’s, Salon.com, Slate.com, Psychology Today and others.
Once a month she writes the “Career Couch” column in the Sunday New York Times Business section.
Professional Destiny® is about finding the career you were born for. I've created this site to help you in your pursuit. Here, you'll find excerpts from my book, as well as new ideas and stories to help you make the most of your natural gifts. We're a community, so please join the conversation!