December 2004

Volume X Number 4

The Three P’s -- An  Understanding


In less than a month, I will be observing my tenth anniversary at Goodrich  and  Sherwood.  When I became a full-time career counselor, after a dozen years in health-care management, I was, at thirty-five, one of the youngest in the country. Now, as I watch my daughter, Elizabeth, start her professional career as a Sociology Professor at The College of New Jersey, I wanted to reflect on some of the gifts to which those years have given me and on their relevance to career development.


Process -- All human life is a journey, and the ride should be as much fun as the destination.  As a young professional, I see Elizabeth focusing on the milestones -- receiving her Ph.D., doing research, and publishing to obtain tenure, but I am proud of her dedication to teaching and development of outside interests. Many clients are so focused on attaining their career goals that they ignore relationships, minimize social and avocational activities, and lose the sense of fun inherent in the process.


This week, I received two invitations to art shows from former clients: the first, from a graphics designer who resumed painting; the second, from a successful scientist who now teaches pottery on Saturdays.  They both credited my encouraging them to make time for something they loved.  I don’t think at thirty-five, I would have done that, because I did not see the process as clearly as I do today.


Pacing -- Related to process, but more tactically-based, the metaphor is usually understood in sports, where we see the need for athletes to decide how to allow some slow intervals to enable sprints. 


I have often used the analogy of two pictures of President Bush jogging. The first was taken in Iowa, on a flat, completely straight road. The other was taken in New Hampshire, where the road winds, goes up and down hills and valleys and through dense forests. Our career transition clients want to run through Iowa, to have a clear open run from A to B, but the reality is that the course is much more like New Hampshire -- and it requires pacing. 


Accepting that you cannot control the search is similar to developing a sense of, as the country western song goes, “knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em,” as well as when to play more aggressively.


Patience is usually derived from the ability to take a longer view, which helps if you have experience. Many of our coaching clients have difficulty with showing patience, although they have created value for their employer many times by the same “bull in a china shop” behavior that often threatens to derail their career.


Teaching younger colleagues has taught me anew the importance of taking the time to really listen to what clients say about their life journey and goals.  At G&S, we take as much time as the client needs, trying to balance the desire to achieve the goal and the fear of change and the unknown. 


Related to patience is being able to choose which issues are core, and which tangential.  My son, Jeff, in his fourth year as a high school math teacher, said his greatest challenge in dealing with teenage students is learning to pick your battles carefully -- not bad for someone at the august age of 26!

Births and Careers


The Christmas season brings me greetings from many of you readers, both corporate and former clients.  In the last two weeks, four of you wrote to say you were becoming parents, only one as the result of personally being pregnant.  A banker is adopting from a Latin American country, a PR executive became a single mom with a three year old from China, and a professional gay couple are expecting twins by in vitro and an egg donor.


When I called to congratulate each, there were questions about what to say, and when to say it, at work.  When pregnant women are in job search, the obvious has to be dealt with, and we strategize based on the client’s situation. The other situations are a little different, but in the end, we develop a plan that takes into account balancing expectations of both roles.


A chance call from Dr. Judy Lee, who runs a private adoption service, confirmed a rise in adopt-ions. Judy reported that for the first time in twenty years, she has more American-born babies available than adoptive parents. While I recognize that not everyone wants parenting, it is, in this holiday season especially, nice to know it’s a choice.  


Help from Strange Places


One of the paradoxes of career transitions is that you never know who will be helpful to you.  Usually those closest to a client are not that helpful, because they would already have helped if they could have.


Recently, we have seen the adversary phenomenon repeat itself with several different clients. Lawyer clients have always been advised to -- discretely of course -- inform other attorneys, with whom they have been adversaries, of their search, since, if they respected their work, they often can be helpful.  Recently, an information marketer was led to his new job with an international firm by one of his major competitors.  Similarly, a senior advertising executive was hired by a specialty firm headed by a former competitor. 

So, if there are still some holiday professional gatherings you’ll be attending, don’t miss the chance to give good wishes to all, even if you’re not “looking,” because you never know…..



Books  I’d  Recommend


The King Arthur’s Flour Baking Companion, by The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc., Woodstock, VT; The Country Man Press, 2003, distributed by W.W. Norton & Company, $35.


Truth be told, I am much more of a cook than a baker, and I bought this book as a present to my wife, Caren, who actually does find time to make desserts and holiday cookies.  While it contains some excellent -- and well-tested -- recipes, what I like about it is the depth of information on all facets of baking, from different ingredients and the derivation of various cooking styles,  to the types of baking utensils.  It’s all here.  When I read something in the newspaper or food press, this is a good resource to use for background or further clarification.


The writing is simple and straightforward. They neither assume you know everything nor nothing.  For example, from their introduction to the chapter on Cakes:


“Have you ever noticed that all of life’s happy milestones
-- birthdays, graduations, weddings, and anniversaries -- are marked by cake? And cake, though perceived by some   a more formal dessert, is also the essence of comfort food -- sweet, soft, and often chocolate.  It’s a throwback to most any American’s childhood.”



Seasons’ Greetings


In this season of celebration,  when gifts of all kinds abound, I am reminded of the maxim which appears in every issue of Forbes magazine -- “with all thy getting, get thee understanding.”  I wish that for all my readers, and may 2005 bring new peace to all the world.