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Do something crazy!

May 31st, 2009 1 comment

Career Opportunities podcast logoDo something crazy
By Douglas E. Welch

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Douglas will be traveling back to Ohio to visit family and friends from June 28 through July 13. Would you like to meetup?

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If you are like me, one day can seem much like another. If we allow it, our daily rut can become so deep that we can’t even see a way out. We wander from bed to shower to coffee to work to dinner to home to bed without so much as a single thought that there might be a better, or at least different, way. You don’t have to live in that rut, of course, but if you want to get out, you will have to expend some energy. You will have to look for some new alternatives to the same old, same old. You just might have to do something crazy.

Now, when I say crazy, I don’t necessarily mean anything life threatening. Sure, some of my friends have found excitement in skydiving, white water rafting and jungle treks, but I think there are much simpler ways of putting some energy back into your life. In my case, one walked right into my life. A friend recently called with an interesting request. Over the last several years, he has been producing a horror musical he had adapted from a film. He had put on this show in his down of Bakersfield, California and elsewhere in the state. This time, though, he was bringing it to the big city of LA and was asking me personally to take on a small role.

For those who might not know, my degree is actually in theater and I quite enjoy working there. That said, I don’t find much opportunity here in LA due the professional nature of even the smallest productions. I haven’t acted in nearly 25 years, although I have performed music in public every so often. Still, I had to think long and hard about deciding to accept a role again. It seemed so far outside my normal daily life, but that is exactly what made me decide to do it. I saw this as life offering me an opportunity to get a little crazy, to get out of my rut. I think I would have been a fool to ignore it. It is rare when such opportunities come looking for you.

What has this bit of craziness done for me? First, if has introduced me to a score of young, talented people who have not lost that youthful optimism and energy for life and their work. Life can be tough and we all get beaten down a little over the years, but surrounding yourself with young people can be a great way to break out of your older mindset and perhaps find a new interest to pursue or new energy for your existing career. This is the same reason I recommend that you attend BarCamp events and other un-conferences. You gain the energy of youth and also, in many cases, the young want to know what you have to say. Finding an audience for your knowledge and experience can be one of the most rewarding aspects of these events.

Second, acting is a new challenge that is entirely different than my daily work. Putting myself into a different character and a different mindset is not only fun, but it gives me new insight to my daily work. I often find myself thinking new thoughts, having new ideas, applying theater experiences to my presentations and generally being more aware of what I am doing and how I am doing it. This is the power of rut-busting activities. They break not only the rut of our daily schedule but also the rut of our daily thinking. When you are faced with new opportunities and new activities you can’t help but think new thoughts. You mind has to deal with new inputs and, in many cases, creates new outputs to make use of them.

For your own sake, go out today and do something crazy,. Again, you don’t have to jump out of a plane, but something as simple as visiting a new restaurant or a new part of town, signing up for piano lessons, performing for your child’s school or even being in a play like me can open new doors in your mind, your life and your career.



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Video: Douglas speaks to Tuesdays with Transitioners

May 27th, 2009 Comments off

Douglas E. Welch speaks to the career group, Tuesdays with Transitioners, which meets each week in Northridge, California. (62 mins)

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The New Career Danger Zone

May 25th, 2009 1 comment

Career Opportunities podcast logoThe New Career Danger Zone
By Douglas E. Welch

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Let’s Meetup In Ohio!

Douglas will be traveling back to Ohio to visit family and friends from June 28 through July 13. Would you like to meetup?

Email career@welchwrite.com and watch the Career Opportunities Community Site for more information.

Discuss this column and podcast
on the Career-Op Community Site

Over the last several decades, the age at which someone needs to have cemented their career has been steadily dropping. Where, in the past, it would not have been surprising to see workers in the 50’s and 60’s, now many of these people have been “aged out” of the work place. In fact, in the course of my own career, I have come to see that 40 is the new career danger zone. If you haven’t moved into management, or into your own company, the chances are very high that you will be fired or laid off in the coming 5 years. In some cases, if you can make it through this danger zone, you might continue with your current company in your current position, but for many of us, 40 is a career milestone that we will have to face head on.

I normally don’t like to use hard, age-related, milestones when discussing life and career, but my own experience has shown that many people are more than willing to use age as a deciding factor in job decisions. We all learn and grow at different rates and we all have different goals at different times, but much like the now mostly abandoned concept of “middle age,” those around us will apply certain stereotypes to us once we reach a certain age. Once we reach the age of 40, people will start to look at us differently — treat us differently. This is especially true in work environments where management can be younger than those they manage.

I have seen this in direct action over the last 20 years as my wife worked in television. The entertainment industry thrives on youth and has always been quick to abandon those “of a certain age.” My observations about television and movies are what opened my eyes to this same trend as it began to make stronger inroads into business as a whole. This century-long youth obsession has started to effect even the most staid of companies as younger people have been indoctrinated into it much more than the youth of the past. In the worst cases, younger managers can see 40 year olds as being at the end of the line in their careers, regardless of what these workers might have achieved or currently be producing.

It might seem hopeless at first glance. Obviously, we can’t change our physical age. We might get away with shaving a year off here and there, but time eventually catches up with all of us. That said, we can all seek to improve our careers by pursuing 2 avenues that can help to protect us from this youth bias by essentially making it irrelevant. You can never be sure of your job, but you can take actions that improve your position.

In my mind, today there are 2 possible paths for any worker as they age. First, you need to insure that by age 40 your position in your company or industry is strongly cemented. This typically means that you must be in management and not out on the “shop floor”, whether that be in a manufacturing company, a financial institution or on a movie set. People over 40 who are still working “in the trenches” will soon find themselves facing questions about why they are still there. Is it fair? Of course, not. Sometimes this is the most effective place for a person to be working, but those around them will come to see it as a sign of failure. They will wonder, both silently and out loud, what is holding you back. If you find yourself in that position today, you need to start thinking seriously about your career options. Regardless of your skill, you could be on the next layoff list.

Second, do everything in your power to start your own company. This might be a small consultancy like my own, a small business or even something larger, but whatever the form, you must do it. Placing yourself in the position of power is one of the few ways to insure that your career won’t be interrupted by age bias. As my wife is fond of saying, “when you work for yourself, there will never be a day when someone comes to tell you you no longer have a job.” Sure, businesses can falter and fail, but placing yourself in your own business is one way of protecting your career as you grow older.

Whether you are approaching the age of 40, are already well beyond, or are young enough to find it difficult to imagine, you need to start planning and working for the day when you face this critical career milestone. Today, the age of 40 is taking on the stigma once reserved for 65. While you aren’t expected to retire, you will be expected to have achieved some stability in your career. Otherwise, those in power may decide that you need to look elsewhere for the next step in your career.



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Opportunity Lost

May 10th, 2009 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoOpportunity Lost
By Douglas E. Welch

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In good times or bad, opportunities that come knocking should never be ignored. Certainly, every opportunity will not be right for you, but too often we reject, or simply ignore opportunities. There are many reasons why this might happen — inattention, lack of confidence and even fear — but if you want to keep your career moving forward, you must tackle each opportunity as it is presented. You never know which one will be the next, important step in your career.

Opportunities can be found anywhere and sometimes present themselves at the oddest moments. Perhaps you are having a discussion with the owner of your local coffee shop, who mentions off-hand that their computer is crashing or that they know another customer with a similar problem. You might find opportunities at a friend’s party, picking up your dry cleaning or hanging out with friends at the local pub. The ubiquitous nature of opportunity means that you must constantly be on the watch for it as it appears. This almost guarantees that you will find more opportunities, but then you need to work on the next step — taking advantage of them when and where they appear.

It may seem odd, but I regularly see situations where people have opportunities practically walk up and kiss them on the mouth and then they do nothing about them. They simply walk away as if nothing has happened. There is no exchange of phone numbers, no promise to call later, no attempt to continue the connection. Nothing. To be fair, I think we can all look back on moments when we did the same thing, but that doesn’t excuse the problem. I am sure you do much the same as I do and firmly plant your palm to your forehead when you realize what you have done. Unfortunately, opportunity is fleeting and, when missed, is often gone forever. While you can’t beat yourself up over every missed connection, hopefully you can learn from your mistakes and be more aware in the future.

There are times when you need to be even more sensitive to opportunities — when they are presented by friends, co-workers or clients. Failing to follow up on an opportunity presented by this group reflects badly not only on you, but also on the person who is connecting you with the opportunity. While I don’t have the world’s largest network, I regularly try to share opportunities with my friends.

I hope that they can find some good in each opportunity, but also understand that only a handful of connections will ever work out entirely. I typically present the opportunity to my friend first to see if they are interested before passing off their name to the potential client. In this way, they can decide whether the project or job is interesting to them before taking the next step. You don’t have to accept every opportunity, but being open to the opportunities is very important.

One frustrating aspect of opportunities, though, is when I offer an opportunity only to be met with indifference and inaction. Sometimes it seems that I see more in people than they can see in themselves. I can understand the reluctance to pursue an opportunity in some ways. I know I have faced these same fears myself. You start to “futuretrip” and the “What ifs?” begin to pile up until to you are too afraid to do anything. Still, I am sure you have felt this same frustration when your friends fail to grab onto the opportunities you present. This doesn’t mean you stop trying, of course, but it can make you less inclined to share future opportunities. Remember this, too, when you are on the receiving end of an opportunity. Ignore them enough times and they might stop appearing.

Sharing your opportunities with those around you, and accepting them when they are presented, is one important way the career world turns. Whether you decide to accept an opportunity or not is much less important than simply being open to them when they arrive. Ignoring the equation on either side can limit your career opportunities and leave you wondering why the next step in your career is so hard to find.



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Video: Visibility and Your Career from LaidOffCamp LA

May 5th, 2009 Comments off

Douglas speaks to LaidOffCamp LA on May 1, 2009 on Visibility and Your Career.

laidoffcamp-visibility



 

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LaidOffCamp LA – Visibility and Your Career

May 4th, 2009 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoLive from LaidOffCamp LA – Visibility and Your Career
By Douglas E. Welch

Douglas speaks to LaidOffCamp LA on May 1, 2009 on Visibility and Your Career.

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Photo: Morgantis on Flickr.com

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