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What My Five Careers Have Taught Me: Top 10 Lessons of Career Reinvention

I’ve significantly revised my career numerous times over my 25 years of working, and each time, I’ve learned some powerful, surprising lessons — about myself, my capabilities, perceptions, misconceptions, and about what it takes for me to attain what I want.

Each career shift led me down a new path, and often, the destination wasn’t at all what I’d hoped or planned.  Huge mistakes were made, certainly, but what I’ve learned has been of great value and utility, allowing me to focus ever more closely on what matters to me.

As I examine my trajectory, my career paths have involved the following fields, industries, and skills (or a combination of these):

  • Copywriting and marketing – in scientific publishing
  • New product development and market research – in book clubs, publishing and membership services
  • Marketing – professional book clubs
  • Product Management –  in consumer membership services
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Life/Career Coaching
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Women’s Career/Executive Coaching
  • Writing, Speaking
  • Marketing Consulting for Entrepreneurs
  • Executive Recruiting

In remembering who I was as a youngster and young adult, and all the endeavors I loved throughout my life and the roles I’ve assumed, I can now see core, recurring themes about who I am and what I love to do,  including:

  • Understanding human behavior
  • Helping address people’s needs
  • Serving as a empathic listener
  • Discovering and testing new models and creating new solutions
  • Transforming chaos into order
  • Identifying compelling messages/benefits and finding well-matched receivers of those products/benefits
  • Communicating through writing, speaking and performing
  • Using positive thinking and positivity models to be of help
  • Connecting people with endeavors they thrive at
  • Supporting people through dramatic change

I’ve marveled at how my deepest values, preferences, and interests have remained almost unchanged since I was a child, and I’ve seen this same phenomenon in hundreds of folks I’ve coached.

The key lesson I’ve learned through my career reinventions is this– what you loved as a child and young person you most likely still love.  And the key to having a fulfilling professional life is to find the right form in which to honor the essence of who you are and what you love.

As one of my favorite authors, Maria Nemeth, of The Energy of Money says, we’re all happiest when we’re giving form to our Life Intentions in ways that support our lives and help the world.

 So what have my numerous careers taught me?  Here are my top 10 lessons:

1)      Starting over as a beginner is a refreshing, and empowering step that keeps you engaged and enlivened

2)      Being a non-expert reconnects you to your humility

3)      You need a great deal of help from others to be who you want to be

4)       You have core skills and talents that long to be utilized in this lifetime (and you’ll be sick and sad if you deny them)

5)      If you’re doing something you love, but the form of it doesn’t fit your life needs and priorities, you’ll suffer

6)      You can’t hurry love – you won’t succeed if you’re in a desperate rush to be great at something you love

7)      Applying yourself to something new reaffirms your courage, gifts and weaknesses, and what you need to heal in yourself

8)      There is absolutely no security or stability except in what you feel inside of yourself

9)      There is no perfect career – there’s only the perfectly imperfect journey of applying yourself to something you love and value

10)   Embracing a new professional identity changes you because of the new realities you create (which is completely different from dreaming about it from the outside, for all eternity)

I remember being moved after reading this beautiful passage from Viktor Frankl’s powerful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, (a MUST-read book for everyone), and it has stuck with me all these years:

“…The person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.  What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person?  For the possibilities the young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered.  These sufferings are even the things of which I’m most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

In the end, it’s about living life to the fullest.  If finding new work is something you dream of, all I can say to you is, “Do it.”

What new work do you dream about doing?  Do you have the courage to make that dream a reality?

The Top 6 Reasons People Want Out of Their Work

I’ve recently become immersed in executive search work through my new role as Marketing VP for Synergy Partners USA – a specialized executive search firm based in Wilton, CT.  I’m loving the new work — it helps me be of service both to individuals who want to enhance their careers, and organizations who want top marketing talent to help them build and grow.  I’m also connecting with terrific HR and senior management folks committed to diversity and providing career development programs for their female talent as well, which I love to provide through my firm Ellia Communications.  It’s cool!

As a career coach and in exec search work, I’ve spoken with scores of professionals who’ve shared some version of, “I’m really ready for a change, but I’m not sure exactly where to go from here.”

If I’ve heard this message once, I’ve heard it 1000 times now.  So many people spend years crafting careers that appear successful on the outside, only to find that at some point, usually in midlife, the career comes up short.  It’s missing some vital component (or several) that turns the work into something less than fulfilling, lacking in purpose, unstable, inauthentic, unsustainable, or a combination of all of the above.

Why are so many folks dissatisfied with their work and long for change?

Here’s what I’ve found to be the top six reasons people are dissatisfied with their work and want out:

1. They find it impossible to balance work and outside life

2. The money they earn isn’t enough to sustain them or their families

3. The skills and talents required for their work aren’t are a good fit

4. They feel chronically undervalued or mistreated

5. They experience little positive meaning or purpose in their work

6. It’s simply too hard to keep going with it

In short, they’re saying: “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this.”

If the above describes your experience, read on for some tips to help you create the change you want — away from feeling trapped, toward feeling more confident, courageous and committed to making positive career change today.

1) Claim More Balance

Balance is not going to just fall in your lap.  You have to claim it, and commit to getting it.  How?  First, determine the three most important priorities you are committed to achieving in your personal and professional life.  What are the three things that are vital to you to bring about — that matter more than anything else?  Formulate these in terms of “to be” statements such as “to be a great parent” or “to be a successful entrepreneur” or “to be a helper of others.”   Then commit yourself to these.  Stop over-functioning (doing more than is necessary, more than is healthy, and more than is appropriate) in your life, your family, and work, and let go of doing too much and being perfect in the areas that don’t matter as much to you. 

2) Power Up with Money

To get out of financial distress, you have to become intimately connected with your money.  Create a solid budget with strong financial goals, and stick to it.  Understand what you need to survive and thrive.  Examine your spending – are you buying things in order to soothe your soul?  If so, stop over-spending.  Look at your beliefs around money that you learned as a child from living with your family.  Are your beliefs about money positive or negative, expansive or constricting? Do you believe you deserve wealth and abundance, or are you ashamed of the money you have or don’t have?  Overall, the key to overcoming chronic financial problems is to heal your relationship with money through positive and healthy beliefs, actions, and choices.  Develop an empowered money relationship, and you’ll no longer act in ways that create financial distress or drain you of your financial power.

3) Change Your Skills Focus

Do you know exactly which talents and skills are easy and natural for you to use, that give your work a sense of purpose?  Do you know what work would represent a perfect fit? Find a way (either in your existing job or in a new field or job) to tap your true and natural talents more frequently and deeply.  Take my free Career Path Assessment and figure out what you want to do more of, less of, and never again. 

4) Respect Yourself

If you’re chronically undervalued or mistreated at work and want people to change their treatment of you, start with SELF-respect.  How? Through courageous action that builds your own self-esteem – action that you know you should be taking, but haven’t found the nerve to take.  Don’t wait to become more authentic and real in your work. Speak up about who you are and what’s important to you.  Make yourself right, not wrong.  If you know something needs to be communicated, figure out a way to do it as soon as possible.  Find an advocate, sponsor or mentor at work to help you speak up in the right way so that you will be heard and respected for your viewpoint.  Start enforcing your boundaries so that you know exactly what you will tolerate and accept from others, and what you won’t. 

5) Honor What Gives Your Life Meaning

It’s a highly-destructive and misguided myth in our culture that we can’t make good money doing what we love.  We can, but it takes grit, determination, and courage and flexibility to pursue a path that you love and to make it work for you financially. 

Determine what endeavors and activities bring you joy and meaning, and bring these forward.  The key is to 1) understand the essence of what you want, and then 2) find the right form of it.  To find out if the new path you’re fantasizing about is right for you, research, research, research– interview people in the field, read all about it, get training and education, find a mentor, and determine a way to “try it on’ before you leap.  You might discover that earning money following your passion isn’t — in the end — the right thing for you, but you love to do it on a part-time or hobby basis.  If that’s the case, step up and volunteer or join a community that lets you honor your heart-aligned passions.  

6) If It’s Too Much Struggle, Change

Whether you’re in your own business and it’s simply not working, or the job you’re in feels crushingly difficult, it’s time to make change.  Let’s face it, most of us wait until there’s a full-blown crisis (read about the 12 “hidden” crises working women face) before we do something different.  I’ve personally lived through all 12 of the crises  I write about, so I understand.  But I’m asking you NOT to make the same mistakes I did.  Get outside your own head, and get help to figure out what you really want, and how to get it.

So, what’s your top reason for wanting out of your line of work?  And are you ready to do something about it?

A New Kind of Year

Hello and Happy New Year!  I hope your holidays were lovely, and you feel refreshed and excited about the New Year.

What a challenging year 2010 was for so many, including me.  In thinking about what I would like to bring about in 2011 in my life and work, I’ve decided to take a very different approach to my planning and envisioning process. 

I’ve suffered a good deal of heartache and disappointment over the past years because I overly-attached to what I thought I wanted to achieve and create.  When these events or experiences didn’t come to pass, I was let down, only to learn later (days, months, and even years afterward), that what I hankered for so keenly wasn’t even what I truly wanted in my heart and soul. 

 Over-Attachment Causes Suffering 

I’ve observed that we humans attach ourselves with full force to a specific outer “form” of something we think we want (this new job, house, business, etc.), because we believe this “thing” or experience will bring us happiness. 

 What I’ve learned is that experiencing joy, fulfillment and “success” is much less about outer experiences and things, and much more about the process of living – namely, letting go of what we think we should be doing and being, and instead, embracing with gratitude and gusto the person we are and what we have already created, and moving forward from a perspective of acceptance rather than resistance.  After all, what we resist, persists.

 A New Process

So this year things will be different for me.  Sure, I’m excited to set out key goals for my life, work, and business.  But at the same time, I’m ready to let the year unfold as it will, embracing what comes, learning and growing from it, and knowing that much of what life brings is out of my control.  I know now that if I can be fully present for the ride rather than resisting it, life is more joyful, peaceful and fulfilling. Make sense?

I encourage you to set out for yourself the heartfelt goals you’d like to achieve, but also forge a new process of living whereby you are able to deeply and wholeheartedly feel, embrace, and cherish who you are and what you have in your life, each and every day.

Sound good? Let’s do it together.  Let’s plan, envision, and embrace.  Here’s to a new kind of life experience in 2011.

What can you accept and embrace today that you’ve been resisting?

My 52 Mistakes Project – Mistake #52 – The Biggest

Hi Friends – happy to share the second installment of my project “My 52 Mistakes” – a social media and research project aimed at providing an open, authentic forum for women to explore, understand and grow from their biggest mistakes in life and work, and to help other women by sharing the amazing lessons we’ve learned from our missteps.

Today, I’m talking about my Mistake #52 – the biggest, most impactful error I made (so far!).  This mistake involved my remaining deeply stuck in struggle, sickness, and sadness for years in my worklife, not grasping until I was in my forties that I am special, unique, and powerful, and can make the difference I truly want to, in my life and in the world.

Hope you enjoy it!  PLEASE share this link with every woman you know, and please comment – let me know what you think of this mistake, if it resonates, your biggest mistake, what you learned, and where you are today.

Thank you so much for your honest and courageous sharing.  It means the world.

Wishing you many happy breakthroughs.

7 Reasons You Hate Marketing – And How to Learn to Love It

In ramping up my marketing consulting work with women consultants, practitioners, and entrepreneurs these past months, I’ve heard these words over and over:

 “I hate marketing.”

 or, more specifically…

 “I hate promoting myself.”

It’s an amazing thing to observe – that so many women today view marketing as sleazy, embarrassing, scary, or simply overwhelming.

Women tell me that marketing and networking are deeply challenging (and scare the pants off of them) for the following reasons (these are exact quotes):

 “I just feel like that sleazy used car salesman I hate.”

 “I don’t know how to go up to people and share what I do.”

 “I feel so intrusive to just blurt out that I can help someone.”

 “I’m too shy to do what’s necessary.”

 “I don’t understand how to do this – it’s all so overwhelming.”

 “I think I have to be like her (an aggressive, in-your-face networker) to be successful, and I just can’t.”

 “I love the work I do – why do I have to do this other marketing stuff?”

If these statements resonate with you, help is out there for you!

I’m here to tell you – marketing is not what you think.  And the sooner you can embrace your “inner marketer,” and learn to love her, the happier and more fulfilled you’ll be in your work.

 What Is Marketing?

First, marketing is not the hairy monster you’ve imagined.  It’s simply about letting people know you exist – via any and all of the many neat methods and forms available today – so that you can be of powerful and joyful service to the world. 

It’s about sharing your unique messages in an authentic, compelling way so that the people you love to serve can find you, and identify that you’re the right one to help them. 

Marketing is about bringing yourself to the market you want to help, and communicating, “I’m really awesome at what I do and offer, and I LOVE my work.  May I be of service to you?”

How to Embrace Your “Inner Marketer”

Let’s break this down to look at what’s really beneath the challenges you face in marketing. 

The key marketing obstacles for women fall into the same four categories that I uncovered in my national research with career women.  (For more about the 12 “hidden” crises working women face today, and how to overcome them, see my  book Breakdown, Breakthrough.)

These categories represent levels at which we interact with ourselves and our world, and can be characterized as either empowered or disempowered, based on each individual’s specific situation, in:

  • Your Relationship with Yourself
  • Your Relationship with the World
  • Your Relationship with Others
  • Your Relationship with Your Higher Self

These same relationship categories apply to your marketing endeavors and marketing persona. 

Here’s what you need to understand to become a comfortable and easy marketer and networker who likes it:

Your Relationship with Yourself

Confidence and Worthiness:

The key marketing challenges for women are confidence and worthiness.  Deep down, many are not quite sure they’re great at their work, and don’t have the self-confidence to come out say “I’m very talented at this work, and would love to be of service to you!”

Tip: You need to step up to embrace how great you are in your work.  And if you don’t feel you offer high-quality products and services, then you need a shift.  Identify the new skills, talents and experiences that will bring your work to the next level.  Go out and get those skills and experiences.  Don’t wait.

Your Relationship with Others

Two key marketing challenges come up here: speaking up with power and authority, and connecting deeply with others in your communications and your interactions.

Speaking Up:
Many women are challenged in speaking up about and for themselves with power, authority, and command. 

Tip: If you believe that speaking out about your gifts and talents means you’re bragging, think again.  How can people know about your work if you don’t tell them about it – in your speaking, writing, and interactions? Release this misguided belief that talking about your work is pushy or arrogant.

Connecting:
Getting out there in the world with your products and services means you have to connect to people from the heart, help them find their pain points and show how your work addresses want they want most.  People do business with people they know, like and trust, so you’ve got to give them the opportunity to know you.

Tip: If you’re shy and uncomfortable about connecting and interacting with people, get out there and do more of it.  If you’re too self-focused and self-limiting, you’ll find it hard to make the authentic connections you need to bring your work and business out there in a bigger way.

Relationship with the World:

The two core challenges here are: Money and Service

Embracing Money:
Many women are simply disempowered around their finances, and around earning, managing, and investing their money.  Often, they can’t seem to establish great fees/prices for their work, and or command these fees on a consistent basis.  Further, many women don’t have the financial planning experience to make their marketing efforts profitable.

Tip: Get financial help!  First, you must have a very clear sense of what your products and services are worth in the marketplace – not what you think they SHOULD be worth, but the true and perceived value of the outcomes you give to others.  Then you must acquire the confidence and strength to obtain these prices and fees, and negotiate powerfully for them when needed.  Secondly, don’t overspend on your business (on marketing or other initiatives) before you’ve learned how to earn.

Being of Service:
You need to know how you want to serve the world, and how you do it best, above and beyond the competition.  If you don’t know how you’re different from your competitors, the marketplace won’t know either, and you won’t get the business you want.

Tip: Name and claim the niche you serve best and are most joyful at working in.  Find ways to become an expert and truly gifted in the areas that light you up the most, and communicate your stand-apart qualities.

Relationship with Your Higher Self

Finally, the two essential marketing blocks here in terms of accessing your most expansive, highest self in your work are: Finding Role Models and Being Open to Angels (the human kind – and others, if you wish!)

Finding Role Models:
If you think that the only way to do marketing is the sleazy, intrusive and shameless kind, you’re just stuck in a misguided story that’s holding you back.  You need a new set of role models that you can see, hear, and follow, who are doing it the way you want to.

Tip: Find fabulous visual role models of marketers who are doing it the way you love.  Follow my “marketingpeeps” list on twitter (@kathycaprino) for a start.  These men and women are just a sampling of amazing communicators and marketers who do great work in the most authentic, heart-aligned and compelling way possible on the planet!

Opening to Angels:
If you hate marketing, you’re going to struggle in your business and creative ventures.  It’s that simple.  So get help to overcome your fears about it.  Be open to the angels that come in your life who want to help you move forward.  Find people you trust and respect, and ask them for their critique (yes, critique!), advice and support.  You don’t have to do this alone.  Angels are waiting in the wings to help you.

*  *  *  *

Learning how to get yourself out there and share your authentic messages with the world – and powering up to deal with this success outcomes that will follow – is one of the most enlivening and exciting processes you can undertake.

 Are you ready to embrace your Inner Marketer? I think Yes!

Career Path Self-Assessment

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