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Friday, November 11, 2005

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7:53 AM     What Do You Really Want To Do With Your Life?

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Not long ago, I was telling you about a teleseminar that John West Hadley of JHA Careers was holding. Basically, it was a free informational teleseminar that gave everyone a bunch of good information about how to plan more long-term for your career as well as promoted their "Career Search Counselling" services.

After the seminar was over, John posted a list of answers that participants gave to the questions, "Where do you want to be in 5 years?" and "What is your dream job?" The answers to those questions told me what I've suspected for a long time:

Almost every single person looking for a new job in America today has no idea what they really want to do with their lives!

Well, it's time we fixed that. Today, we'll talk a little bit about how to start picking a path while not missing out on the blessings that are put into your life.

[NOTE: On re-reading this, it's a little long. But it's worthwhile. Print it out and take it with you, but read it all. You'll thank me later. Really!]


If you're anything like me and most of the people I come into contact with every day, you are sprinting from the time you hear the annoying grunt of your alarm in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night. There are more than enough things to do to fill 2-3 days that you have to fit into the 16 waking hours you have every day.

This is what I like to call, "Life's Natural Prioritization Method". That is, if you aren't going to use enough higher brain function to prioritize all the things you have to do, life will do it for you.

For instance, recently I had noticed that my registration for my car was out of date. I hadn't sent in the renewal in time (because I was too busy with other things, of course!), so now it was going to turn into a REAL pain-in-the-butt.

Rather than just mailing a check, now I had to go down to the County Tax Assessor / Collector's office to stand in the standard glacial-speed, hygeine challenged, bureaucratic mess of a line in order to get the stupid thing renewed.


You got it. I let it slide because there was (say it with me now) "Too much to do."

That lasted until a couple of weeks ago.

You see, "I was driving along, minding my own business" when a mean 'ol cop pulled me over for no reason at all. Actually, this "mean 'ol cop" was probably the best looking female cop I've ever seen. So, it wasn't all bad...

Actually, since we were out in the country a little bit, and she was a smaller, good-looking woman, I'm assuming that most people did not "Respect Her Authoritah". So, she had her hair yanked back so tightly that I can only assume it acted as a natural facelift, she was wearing a perpetual scowl, and she acted like I had recently kicked her favorite cat.

In any case, me being a large male, there was no way out of this ticket, so I was a polite, respectful citizen, waiting to get my ticket so I could get on my way.


Life had stepped in an helped me prioritize something that I should have done on my own. Now, my choices were to stand in the long, painful, time-sucking line and get the registration done in addition to getting the receipt to the appropriate county judge (with a $10 administrative fee, of course)


Keep doing nothing, have to pay something like a $290 fine (plus the $10 administrative fee), have it hit my record, and STILL have to deal with that stinking line!

In fact, the only way to not deal with that line was to wait until they issue a warrant for my arrest sometime in December, get arrested (undoubtedly, just to let me know what my priorities should be, it'd be right before Christmas), and go to jail for awhile.

Hmmm...the line vs. jail. Let's think about this one. The line lasts up to an hour, rather than days, weeks or years; the people might be lacking in hygeine, but at least they're not trying to intimately test MY hygeine; and if I leave the line, I don't get a baton across the back of my head.

That line isn't looking so bad now, is it?


It's the same with your job. No, hopefully not that baton thing, but the prioritization thing.

If you don't take the time to think about what you want to do, where you want to be, and what direction you're heading in, Life will take care of that for you in the form of bosses who may not have your best interests at heart.

And you may find yourself in a career that feels like there are people intimately interested with your hygeine and, if you step out of line, you're going to get a career-baton to the back of your head.

And now that I've painted such a lovely picture for you, let me tell you specifically what you need to do.


The biggest problem with this whole ephimeral "thinking about your career" thing is that most people don't know where to get started. The good news is that I'm here to help! And I promise: no batons.

Here's what you do:

  1. Set Aside An Hour A Week - This will last for the next several months, probably. But I really mean block out that hour. "Make an appointment with yourself," as they say. No interruptions. No checking e-mail. Serious, blocked out time.

  2. Get a Small Book or Spiral-Bound Pad - Sort of like a reporter's notebook. The reason that this is an explicit step is that we in the technology world tend to think and not do and because we tend to use electrons rather than ink. I'm as bad about this as anyone.

    However, for this particular excercise, I want it in pen (or pencil, if you prefer) and on paper. No, I don't care that you put all of your notes in your PDA - this is not conducive to that. Really, just get a stinking pad of paper. Do it now.

    And for the next few months, I want you to carry this pad with you at all times. You're going to make additions, subtractions, and endless notes on all of this stuff when you least expect it. Your brain is going to be activated to look for specific things now, so it could happen ay any time.

    Have you gotten that pad yet? I'm serious. Get off your butt and go get it now. Know where the supply cabinet it? Well, ask someone. GO! I know you like to "read through" stuff first. You might as well not read anything that follows if you don't have your pad. So, get it. Now. I'll wait.

  3. Decide What You Like To Do - Set aside the first several pages to list the things you like about your job. Yes, list 'em all. I don't care if it's job-related or not. If you like fishing, list fishing. If you like playing Civilization IV until the wee hours, might as well list that, too. If you like watching Barney videos, seek help.

    Also, while you're at it, list the things about work you like. If you like solving the technical problems that nobody else can figure out, list that. If you like managing people to create results in a timeline nobody thought possible, list that. If you like negotiating political minefields, building up a power base, and having an amazing list of benefits, there are even places for you, so write it down.

  4. Decide What You Don't Like To Do - The next several pages should be what you don't like to do. Meetings, getting yelled at, working with incompetant people, put it all down.

    Be very specific with this one, though. If you don't like meetings, write down exactly why or specifically which meetings you don't like. A lot of people say they don't like meetings, but would be the first in line at the "Annual Cheerleaders Who Love Geeks Meeting". What, specifically, is it about the meetings you dread that you don't like?

  5. Find Out What Other People Like and Don't Like To Do - You know the drill, set aside the next few pages in your notebook for what other people like and don't like to do. Think of this as something to talk about with anyone you know or see. You didn't have anything to say to them anyway, so this is a good conversation starter.

    The reason you're asking other people what they like and don't like is that, frequently, our brains are stuck in a rut. You may like some things that you are just taking for granted that would be in every job. When you talk to other people, they're in a different rut and will say some things you aren't consciously considering, but are good ideas.

    Oh, by the way. Let me give you one more incentive to do this part. All of those cute girls or guys that you've been wanting to talk to, but didn't know what to say? Here's your chance. You're asking them something about themselves (their favorite subject) and what they say is so important that you're writing it down. I can't guarantee that they'll go out with you, but they at least think you're significantly less creepy after this.

  6. Think About Things You Think You'd Like To Do - This is for things that you don't do currently in your own job. Look at other people's jobs. As you're talking to them about #5, think to yourself, "Would I want to do that? Does that sound cool / fun / interesting?" If so, write it down.

Okay - We'll talk about what to do with these lists the next time. But, for at least the next few weeks, carry around your pad and write down any ideas that come to you. We're talking about your career here, so there's no need to rush. In fact, it's even a little prudent to take your time with this part.

Have you got that pad yet?


PS: Since I'm stealing all sorts of content from John, let me also tell you that he has a Free 30 Minute Consultation to help you find a new job, advance in your current job, or make the most from the job you just got.

click to send to a friend ---> 


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