By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I started out my career planning to be in one industry but have ended up in another. It seems that every time I get my goals planned in one direction, another direction opens up and messes up my plan. How do you recommend people deal with careers when every plan is subject to change?
A. You can deal with careers knowing that rigid goal setting is not your friend. Instead, be like a good sailor who sails with the wind and is ready to tack (change direction) when the wind changes. People who blossom into successful careers don't get too attached to a five-year plan because they will miss out on the opportunities change presents.
The Buddhist tradition talks about something they call "nonattachment." Buddhists aren't recommending we don't care about anything; they are just suggesting that people may discover more peace and effectiveness if they try on the idea that what is happening in your life is what is supposed to be happening.
Many of my clients, when they first come to me, are quite upset about the way their work and life are currently set up. They figure that if reality isn't going to conform to what they expected, then they will boycott reality. They take their toys out of their current sand box and sit patiently waiting for life to notice that they are refusing to play.The problem with this reaction is that life really doesn't care if we refuse to play. Life simply goes on dispassionately and lets us stew in our outrage. Eventually, if we are paying attention, we discover that pouting when we don't like reality does nothing to change reality.
"What if my work and life are exactly the way they are suppose to be?" allows us to consider what opportunities are laying in front of us. I don't recommend anyone assume a positive thinking attitude that everything is beautiful. The truth is that many aspects of our careers can suck. However, if we assume that even adversity has something that can benefit us, we will usually turn problems to our advantage.
We need to know that it is human and normal to whine when we don't like a turn of events. What separates exceptional people from normal people is that exceptional people, when they get done whining, look at problems to figure out how to turn that problem into a career benefit.
Let's say you have gone to school for years to train for a specific line of work and suddenly that industry isn't hiring. You could moan that this is terrible news. You could also ask yourself what skill set you now have that no one in another industry might possess. You can now sell yourself as a rare employee that brings in a skill set unusual and invaluable to a different industry.
We all spend a significant amount of time in our careers hoping for certain events and being disappointed when what we wish for doesn't materialize. Grieving that your job is different than what you first imagined is important. The larger the disappointment and the more sudden, the more you will experience shock and loss about your original dream.
As you gaze at the smoldering embers that used to be your goal, let yourself be warmed by the idea that the universe may actually have something in mind for you bigger and better than your original imagination could invent. Look at your situation again, studying it for clues about how you can turn what is happening into a career asset.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
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This was printed in the December 18, 2011 - December 31, 2011 Edition