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Home > CareerCamp, Class, Education, Podcast, Show, Speaking, Video > Video & Transcript: It’s Your Career, After All with Douglas E. Welch

Video & Transcript: It’s Your Career, After All with Douglas E. Welch

February 3rd, 2015

Here is playlist and transcripts for all the video clips from this talk and series. You can watch all of the clips in the series using the video linked below.

Video & Transcript: It's Your Career, After All with Douglas E. Welch

It’s Your Career, After All with Douglas E. Welch

Today, we’re talking about something that’s probably quite a bit different from what you’ve heard in all the other talks today. in all the other talks today we focused on the externals — the resumes, the interviews, the dress styles, making the best of your job, pleasing your managers, pleasing your coworkers, please everybody else. Something that I have always done in my career column, Career Opportunities, since 1997, is I’ve done exactly the opposite. when I started writing that column I always figured there was plenty of people out there who have better advice about resumes and interview skills and all that stuff. What I wanted to talk about was the personal side of careers. The fact is, there are a lot of externals that go on — we have to worry about our resumes and our interviews and do we have all our ducks in a row and our paperwork and that’s required. Part of, any part of career or life, there are always those hoops you have to jump through. It’s not fun, but it is required. You’ve just got to do some of that, but I am going to say something a little heretical — I am going to say a little career heresy here and say those things are not the most important things about your career. In fact, those externals are some of the — in the big picture — least important things about your career. The fact is, your career is about you. It’s not about someone else. It’s not about your manager. it’s not about your boss. It’s not about the company you work for. It’s about you. You have to live within your career 24/7. You’ve got to deal with it. It’s about you.

We spend all this time serving the needs of other people. There’s a time in your career when you need to serve yourself and, unfortunately, I think most of us forget that — or perhaps we never learned it. Perhaps we’ve been indoctrinated in the 1960’s style of management of “Be luck you’ve got a job.” How often do you hear that? Right? Yes, you are somewhat lucky to have a job, but that doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it. A job that is sustainability is not a career that services you for the rest of your life. So, yes, be grateful you have a job. Go find a better one. That’s always my mantra that I put out there.

You’ve got to balance between your work and your life and people, nowadays it’s been common to say “There is no work/life balance.” There’s balance in everything. Everything I do in my life and this sounds very zen-like, very Buddhist-like, but i believe that everything in your life is about balance. You know. as a joke about, if you like a cocktail every once and a while, is “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” The point is, balance. Yes, you can have those times when you go out and you have fun with your friends and there’s time when you stay home and work. There is a balace in all things and it’s a constant seeking of that balance — because you are never, ever there. Life is a constant ups and downs and cycles and everything else. You’re never really there, but it’s something you seek. Any goal is something you reach for. You’re never going to reach the goal. Because a goal is an ideal, but you need to be trying to aim towards that goal. I’ve talked in some other talks of mind about the fact that, if you’re on a shop, you’re never really on-course on a ship. Ships are being constantly pushed by the tides, the winds and everything else and if you were to plot the course of a ship — not under auto-pilot — and even then its just to a lesser degree — it’s like this. You look at Columbus’ trip across the Atlantic it’d like this, because they were constantly fighting to remain on course and that’s what you do in your life and your career. You’re constantly trying to head in the right direction, knowing that you’re never going to head directly there in a beeline.

So, you spend all your time — get your resume in order, get your interview skills down, get that new suit, that new dress — get all those externals set down. Get all your ducks in a row. Once you do that, the hard work begins. Once you do that, then you’ve got to go to a nice quiet room, out into the woods, down by the lake, wherever, your favorite place and think. I tell people about this all time in my column, you’ve got to do some hard thinking. Because that’s where the work really gets done in your career. You have to think very deeply about the internal aspects of your career. Now, the great thing about this is as you think more about the internal aspects, as you talk more about yourself and what you want, it actually helps with the externals. How are you going to write a goal on your resume if you don’t really know what you want to do.How are you going to write a cover letter about what you want to accomplish in the world if you haven’t really thought about it. Now, I say this because I meet so many people who don’t ever think about these things.

I have a little booklet I wrote called the Career Compass — I’ve actually given a presentation here on Career Compass about how to decide what you want to do in life. One of the aspects of that is, most people are wanting to head North and they are heading due south. It’s not just that they’re of course. They’re going the entire wrong direction. I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve seen it in all the people I talk to. If you let it happen, it will. Knowing what you want to do will let you make a better resumes. I will let you make better interviews. It will let you write better cover letters, because you simply know more what you want to with your life. The more you know about what you want, the more you can communicate that with others and help them understand not only what you can do for them — which is highly important to the person on the other side of that interview table — What’s in it for me? — How do you make my life easier? They also learn about what you want out of a career, hoping to find a combination of skills and talent and personality that allow both of you to win. Because, if it’s not a win-win, get out. If it’s not a win for both parties involved, in anything you do in your life, get out, because someone is losing.

You have to learn about your person wants, needs and desires. These are three words that I come back to again and again and again and again in my career columns and everything I do. Wants are those cool things we want. We want the flashy car. We want the nice house. We want the you know, whatever accoutrement or luxury that you would like to have. Needs are what you need to survive. You need the money. You need a place — a decent place — to live. You need a decent family life. You need to live geographically close to your job, if at all possible. And you desires are those things that go far beyond wants or needs and these are the intrinsic parts of your life that reward you. It’s a little difficult to talk about, but your desires are those things that — given your druthers, to use and old fashioned phrase — given your druthers, these are the things I love to do. These are the things that would give me the most joy. Well, as you might imagine, the ability to combine those three things together in a career — chances are you are going to have a darn good career, because your thinking about those three, necessary parts of any career that combine to make a whole that is much bigger than any of the three individually.

It is that very internal thing to, the desire is something that –well, I’ll give my own example. I love presenting to people. I love sharing what I know. I love teaching people. I’ve heard the word passion about it. That is something that drives me. You get what’s called a “teacher’s high”, I’ve heard it called when you come out of a class and you’re like, “I’m all wound up.” It gives me as much as I hope it gives you. That is one example of a desire that perhaps can go unspoken for a long time if you don’t think about it. You need to find those things. You need to notice those things. Those things that just, Wow, you come out of them with more energy than you went in. Even if you go on a long hike and your dead, physically dead tired at the end of it, but you just feel great! ok. Maybe you need to be a ranger. Maybe you need to lead wildlife hikes. Maybe you need to learn about birding. You know, what’s that telling you? That feeling is telling you something that you need to notice and look into more deeply.

You have to live with your career every day. Your boss doesn’t have to live with your career. Your wife doesn’t have to live with your carer. Your husband doesn’t have to live with your career. Your children don’t have to live with you career. You have to live with your career every single day. It better fit or you are going to drive yourself mad. As just a poor example, imagine a pair of shoes that don’t fit. Remember how agonizing that can feel if you are in a pair of shoes — or a dress, or a suit, or pair of pants, — that don’t fit. How just annoying it is. Now multiply that by about a million and you have a career that does not fit.

So the object is not to have a career that doesn’t fit, because it’ll effect everything in your life negatively. It will effect your family life, your work life, your personal life, your relationship with your children, everything. There is no way that a bad career can not effect your life. We like to think, “Oh, I just divorce that part. I go home and I turn off the job” and I say good luck to you, because I can’t do that. I carry that right here with me every single day all the time. Is it just the type of person I am? Yes, to dome degree. I tend to carry those things with me, but I’ve talked with enough people to realize that I’m not the only one. When I have an irritant in my life like that I carry it everywhere.

No one can care about your career as much as you can. no carer counsellor can care about your career as much as you can. No boss can care about your career. Certainly a company can’t care about your career as much as you do. It’s not their career. It’s not about them. Your career is about you. It’s just a simple fact of human nature that you’re the one that can care about it the most — or should. We can all be altruistic. We can all do good works for people. We can go out and we can volunteer and help our families and take care of our parents — our elderly parents — or whatever is required. We can do those altruistic things, but at our very heart we have to take care of ourselves. I always like to say that we can’t help others until we’re at a position of being stable and in a good position ourselves. if we try to do that we end up further diminishing ourselves. If we’re constantly putting out work as a caregiver and not servicing our own needs at all, we will burn out. Who was talking about burnout the other day — before we started? You will burn out. You simply use up your energy in trying to do that, because you’re never refilling the well. You’re never refilling that tank.

And I talk with caregivers a lot. At the age I’m at and my wife and I are “of a certain age” and when these start to take place and I am always counseling them — I always praise them for what they’re doing and I say, “What have you done for yourself, lately? What have you done for you?” Because I know that it of they don’t do something for themselves — if they don’t get away — if they don’t have those regular breaks that they can take — they will burn out and they will fail. Same thing applies to your career. You have to refill that tank and concern yourself with your own career, and develop your own career otherwise you simply will burn out and you will end up in a job that you hate and you’ll feel trapped. And will talk a little bit about trapped in a bit.

People ask me at age 50 “What do you want to do? What do you want to be when you grow up?” I really don’t know. I am one of those people who doe snot have a single point of goal out there in the woods. Mine is more like a starfield. I have a variety of interests. Often they are totally divergent. If you look at my blogs, I write about careers. I write about food, wine, and other,stuff and books on my other blog. I write a gardening blog. I write a blog on New Media and I write a bog on technology. Those are kind of my basic star points out there and I’ve never been able to decide between them. I always have some interest in all of those things, so I pursue them. One will be more active than another at any one time. They are all kind if in the farming terminology we say something lies fallow. Which means you let a field, you don’t plant that field that year, you let it lay fallow to rejuvenate and some of the projects will go fallow for a little while and some will come back up and that’s just the way I live my life.

I’ve talked a lot about how your career is about yourself. It’s about you. You need to think about yourself. The first pushback I get from people is “Well, that’s just selfish. You’re just being selfish.” You’re not being selfish. I take the term self preservation. It goes back to the concept I said about you can’t help others unless you are in a position that is stable. You will simply chew yourself up, eat yourself up, burn yourself out, whatever. So when thinking about these things, there are certain times you need to say, “No.” You need — if you want to use the term — you need to be a little selfish. You need to practice self-preservation. You need to understand what your limitations are. What your feelings are. What your desires are and service them.

If you’re constantly doing what others want, you’re not living your life. You’re living someone else’s idea of what your life should be. It’s like those people who are always telling me to Focus! They have no idea. They are capable of focusing on one thing. I am not. We are different people and if I try to live to their standards, I’m going to chew myself up, because that’s not who I am. We all need to realize that. Don’t try to be the square peg in the round hole. (inaudible) I actually had to read it, because I liked so much when I wrote it, I actually had to read it here. If you’re constantly doing what others want, then you’re not living your life, you’re living someone else’s idea of your life — and i actually added a little here — a life that better serves them than you.

You have to make your own decisions. We let people make decisions for us way to often. Whether it’s our spouse, our family, our co-workers, our boss, whatever, we let people make decisions for us too often. And that leads nowhere, for you personally. I don’t know if you have ever heard of it, this is kind of an odd example, there is a couple of apps out there for the iPhone right now called Secret and Whisper and these are apps — you don’t need necessarily want to download them these apps, but these are apps that allow you to anonymously post things in your life. And they can get pretty wild sometimes when you see what people post, but the things that just keeps recurring — I keep seing these similar messages again and again and again in these anonymous sites are, “I wish my boyfriend would do something stupid so I could break up with him. I wish my girlfriend would find someone else so I could break up with here and have an excuse to break up with them. Have an excuse to leave. Have an excuse to…” Why are you looking for an excuse to do something, If you want to break up – BREAK UP! Why are you letting them make the decision. In a form — and I am going to use a very charged word here — it’s cowardice. You are being cowardly with yourself. You can be cowardly with the world. I can understand that. Life is scary sometimes, but don’t be cowardly with yourself. Make the decision that needs to be made and live with it. Now, I’m not asking you to make wild, crazy, off the cuff decisions. Think about the decisions you are making. What did say here, I called it a particular thing…You only need a reason of your own carefully decided. Ok? I think, sometimes, when we think we’re making decisions, we’re jut doing it off the top of our head — even ourselves. “Well, I’m just blowing this off.” Carefully decided decisions. But make them. Don’t hope to be fired. Find a new damn job!

There is a great book called Radical Careering that I love by Sally Hogshead — great book! Radical Careering and one of the things — it is more of a picture book almost. It’s like pithy quotes and stuff and one of them says, “Being in crappy job is not your fault. Staying in a crappy job is your fault.” (inaudible) That’s right. Crappy Anything. Staying in that, when you know better, is your fault and you need to see it that way. Please, don’t ask for excuses from others, because often times they won’t occur and you’re just sitting there going “Do da doo, not my problem. I’m unhappy but it’s not my problem because no one gave me an excuse.” No! You’re unhappy because you have haven’t made a decision. Make the decision.

When you are between a decision between you and your company, you have to make the decision that is best for…you. Ok? The company will only ever make a decision that is best for them. You should put yourself on the same level. If they’re going to do what’s best for them, I HAVE to do what is best for me. Even if you manager, your co-workers, company may not think it is a good idea for them, well, so what! If you don’t make the best decision for you, you are basically giving up any power you had to them and saying. “Oh, I guess your better than I am — smarter than I am. You tell me what to do.

“Your job search should never be an iterative process. A job search should always be something you are doing every single day. It ties back into serendipity, too. You should always be looking for those opportunities. You should always be doing things which create new opportunities for you, every single day. Looking for a new job is never — in my mind — something you do just when you need a new job. It is something you do all the time and that helps. I find that helps a lot. Because then it keeps you from feeling trapped. You can be trapped out of fear. You can feel trapped out of obligation to a family member, to whatever. You can — sometimes you just want to be nice. You don’t want to be seen as a bad guy. “Well. I’ll stay here because they really need me her at this job even though I hate — even though I hate doing purchasing, they don’t have anyone else to do purchasing so I’ve got to stay here and do it.” Wrong. Why? That’s not serving you well at all. Again, they’re winning and your losing. No. Win-win. I know it’s cliche these days to say it, but I really believe that. Both of you have to be getting something out of the agreement or one of you is losing and sometimes losing very, very badly.

There’s a large difference between being loyal and being trapped. I hear that loyalty word a lot bantered around today. Being loyal requires that your work situation be reciprocal, as I was just saying. It has to benefit both sides equally or at least as equally as possible. And that typically goes far, far beyond when “I do the work. They pay me the money.” That is like the lowest level of equality in any position. We all tend to forget ourselves that that company has something — we have something the company needs from us. Otherwise, they wouldn’t hire us. Right? They’re not paying us for nothing. We have a skill they need. They need to see that and you need to see that. That’s when you get in a situation where you’re working with someone, rather than working for someone. Unfortunately, the “working for someone” has come out of the history of work. That’s how we always register it. I wrote a column the other day — someone wrote about — “such and such GIVES you a job.” I said, “Now they don’t! You earn that job. If you didn’t do something to earn that job, they wouldn’t be hiring you.” We need to abolish that term out of dialogue entirely. Because what it immediately points up is the power dynamic — the distorted power dynamic that exists int hat work relationship. It’s never going to be equa, unless you’re working as a partner in a business you partially own, but you want to get that power ratio as close as possible as you possibly can. Your boss needs to understand that you’re bringing something useful to them and they are paying you for that usefulness. And if you forget that, you are precipitating — uh — participating in your own demise. You are punishing yourself. Don’t do that!

We end up trapped in situations because we’ve decided to what others want, not what we want. Simply, bare laying it out there. Don’t be the creators of your own traps. Too often, in our minds, that’s exactly what we do. And again, I’ll hold my hand up and say, “Me, too!” We trap ourselves in situations. The fact is, if you feel trapped, you are. So, if you are ever feeling trapped in a job, — red flag, Les Miserables-style, waving on the stage — there is a problem here. Ok? That feeling of being trapped is a clear sign that you are and you need to recognize it as such and then you need to whatever you can to make that feeling go away.

I was sitting at dinner once with a group of people that I really didn’t know. I had only met them for the first time — it was at a conference or something and I listened to the person next to me describe a horrible job situation. To the point of definitely mental abuse and approaching physical abuse and they had not yet decided in their mind that maybe it’s a good idea if they left. And I am like, “Ok, I’m sitting here as a neutral, unknowing 3rd party and I’m hearing your story. GET OUT! I’m going to call social services for god sakes.” You are trapped in this situation. I can’t believe you decide to stay there. We like to say that financial issues are our trap. Sometimes they are. I think they are far less than we think they are. I think our fear of financial issues is more powerful than the financial issues themselves. But we really have to find a way through that fear and back to our own self-respect and say, ‘You know what? I have more to offer. Even if they don’t see it. If they hired me, then there is someone else who will hire me.” That is another thing I often say. “I got this job. I can get another job, because obviously I have something to offer of they wouldn’t have hired me.” So, let’s look for the next thing.

Everything about your job search is external — resumes and interview skills and dress and all the other stuff. That’s fine. That’s required. Really those things are kind of “yeah, I know. I know what I need to do there and I’ve got pretty much a handle on what I need to do. Most of us, I think, in this room, have a handle on that. look to the internal factors — look at your wants, your needs and your desires. Don’t let one outweigh the other. Focus on your desires, if nothing else. Your desires are telling you something about yourself that maybe even you haven’t listened to in the past. Listen to those little voices in the back of your head — little prickles in your heart that when you know you do something really, really, enjoyable — those are pointing you in the right direction — if you listen to them. And that, at least gives you somewhere on your compass — “I want to go that way! How can I go that way?” It gives you a direction. If you get to know yourself better, you can’t help but be a better worker, a better job candidate, a better employee, a better “whatever you do.” The more self-knowledge you have the better you will be at doing whatever you do, because you just understand yourself more. You understand your limitations. I have limitations. I tend to worry way to much. It’s just part of my makeup and I have to things to adjust to that. The fact is, though, because I know that about myself, i can work against it. I can modify it. I can bring it back into balance whenever I can. You can’t help but being better if you learn more about yourself. It can be a little scary. There are some things about all of us that we don’t like about ourselves. My worry is one of the things that I so glad my son did not inherit from me and I tell him that regularly. He is much more chill than I am, which is great, but it can’t help make me better at what I do by knowing it. It’s in our ignorance that we lose ourselves. When we start to do what everyone else wants, not what we want.

Don’t allow others to trap you in a bad situation through coercion, being demeaning, — funny you brought up what you said again about the demeaning behavior — or being dismissive. Those are the 3 common traits that people will try to do to you. Don’t. Recognize them for what they are. Recognize them as what they’re feeling, not what you should be feeling. (inaudible) Demeaning, Dismissive and — oh, — through coercion, demeaning behavior or dismissive behavior — that’s the way I wrote it here. Most importantly, let me reinforce this in the conclusion — do not be the creator of your own traps. We all do it. We all do it! Been there. Right there beside you. Don’t do it to yourself. There are enough challenges in this world without creating more of your own. Do not do it to yourself.

Define, Control and Create the Career yourself and others need and desire. The fact is, if you are fulfilled in your career, people around you will feel fulfilled as well. You wil percolate good feelings out there, because you will be in the position where you can help others. You will be in a position to provide a good example, which sometimes in this world, the only thing we can offer is a good example. People don’t think about that, but just because everyone else is doing something bad doesn’t mean you have to. Be the good example and other people will follow it. Trapping yourself — doing any of these demeaning, dismissive, coercive things is NOT the way to build the career you deserve and that’s what it’s all about. We are not entitled to a great career — entitlement doesn’t figure into this, but we all deserve it. Because deserving it as part of our native, human rights and nature — we deserve a good career and we shouldn’t let ourselves — which often happens — too often — or someone else stops us from doing that. Or at least striving towards the best we can get. Does tat make sense to everybody? So we’re all going to go out there and fight the good fight, right?

I want to thank you all so much for listening to me today. I hope that this has been useful for you. As you mentioned, yes, you can find everything that I do on You’ll find links to all 5 of the blogs on the left hand side — the books I’ve written. The videos — the most recent videos are on the page. You can also check out my YouTube Channel. There’s a link to that as well. Where you can find out — I try to record everything I do, so a lot of the stuff is there and the weekly column is also a podcast, so you can listen to it on audio or you can read it, if you want.


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