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Archive for May, 2011

It doesn’t take permission to do good work – Podcast

May 27th, 2011 Comments off

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Watching your child move through their school years can always be quite illuminating. It brings back memories of your own childhood while also allowing you to learn a bit more from these experiences than you ever did as a child. Today’s lesson came from the student council elections at my son’s school. Watching parents and children alike discuss the results, I realized that too many of us think that doing good work requires some sort of title. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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These thoughts arose from parents discussing how disappointed they would be if their child — who was a current member of the student council — lost the election and wouldn’t be able to do the fun things they enjoyed as part of that role. Without even thinking, my first response was — if they enjoy doing it, why should they stop. Even without the title of “class historian” they could still go out and take pictures and store memories for their classmates. While the current council member would get first priority of having their photos displayed at school, there is no reason the other child should stop doing something they enjoy.

Still, many people, not just children, think they need some official blessing to do something — whether in their life or in their work. They don’t feel they can, or should, take initiative until someone else, or some organization grants them permission. In my mind, this is why many people fail — or at least, fail to achieve everything they might. While I think the old adage of “It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission” is typically used to cover a number of interpersonal and corporate sins, there is a bit of truth there. If you find something useful, or fun, or interesting — do it! Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission. Give yourself permission and then run with it.

Sometimes, locked in our world of cubicles, offices or the shop floor, we severely limit our own capabilities. “I can’t offer up my idea on how to improve the supply chain. I am just a line worker. I shouldn’t point out these problems with the cash flow. I’m not an accountant. I’ll just keep my new product idea to myself. They wouldn’t listen to a receptionist like me anyway.”

We do this in our personal lives, too. “Why should I learn to play guitar? No one would want to listen to me anyway” or “I can’t start a catering business. I’m just a home cook. No one would hire me.” Leave the titles and official blessings behind and just do something that makes you happy. You don’t need the magic Blue Fairy to come down and turn Pinocchio into a real boy. You just need to do something you enjoy.

Sure, there will be some people around you who try to keep you in your pre-defined box. They will give you all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t do this or that. The worst of them will make fun of you or actively try to sabotage your new activities. Ignore them. Their actions say far more about them than they say about you. Those around us can be threatened when they see us growing, changing or really being happy about something. Understand their fears, but don’t let them stop you from pursuing the things that make you happy. That would be the worst thing you could do. You would be actively limiting your own life simply because someone else doesn’t like it.

(As an aside, watch for signs that you are actively trying to limit someone else. We all can fall victim to envy, spite and fear from time to time. If you do this to others, they will almost certainly do the same to you.)

Are you waiting for someone to officially bless your wants, needs and desires? Are you limiting yourself by thinking you need “permission” to take the next step? Do you feel you have to stop doing something you enjoy simply because you no longer (or yet) have the title that goes along with it? Stop. Do whatever brings you the most benefit, fulfillment and happiness. Your life is your own and should be lived in that manner. Others may scorn or scoff, but you will know when you are doing the right thing for yourself. You will feel it in your very bones. Seek out that feeling and dive in.Join me on these networks

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I Like This – May 25, 2011

May 25th, 2011 Comments off
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Helping others help you from the Career Opportunities Podcast

May 19th, 2011 Comments off

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All of us need a little help in our careers. We need guidance. We need advice. We need support. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to help others help us. We often go about asking for help in odd ways or, even worse, ignoring or questioning the help we receive. Helping someone is a two way street and if you consistently go about it in the wrong way you will soon find yourself without anyone to help you at all.

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A second item is now available. A 4,600 word transcript from my talk, Career Compass: Finding Your Career North from CareerCampSCV.


Write it down

For myself, I know that I can accept someone asking me the same question two or three times, but if they return to me again and again for the same issue I begin to wonder if there is a deeper problem, one that I can’t help solve.  That causes frustration in me and I pull away from helping in later instances.  When someone helps you, do everything you can to retain whatever they offer. Learn quickly and then apply what you have learned.  It will keep your support base available for support.

Nothing pleases me more than to see someone write something down. This small act shows me that they are trying to store the information for later use at a time when I might not be available. I can almost guarantee that if someone writes something down, they will never ask me exactly the same question again. Since a lot of the help I give is in the form of email, most of it is already written. Still, sometimes people don’t store that information in a way that it can easily be referenced and retrieved. They end up asking me for the same information again and again since it is easier than trying to find their own copy.  But that leads to burn out.

People are usually quite eager to help others, but a few repeated questions can easily kill off that desire. They can start to feel that their good will is being abused rather than appreciated. Remember, their advice, their information, their assistance is a gift. Accept it and use it like one or it may disappear forever.

Take it or Leave it

When I am asked for advice, I do my best to provide great, clear and useful information. That said, sometimes that advice might not work for the person that is asking for assistance. That is fine. I often tell people that they are free to use or ignore any advice I give. There can be a host of reasons for this. Maybe my experience is different then their own. Maybe they are not ready to take the major steps I suggest or need to take more time to implement them. That is perfectly fine. You should never feel beholden to act on the advice you are given.

That said, whether you decide to take my advice or leave it, please don’t expect me to engage in a debate over my advice. Too often I get replies that go through a litany of “but what about this, and this and this.” Often, it seems clear that the person asking had already made up their mind to do something differently and merely wanted someone to agree with and approve that other decision. If you have already made up your mind on some point or another, please don’t waste other’s time trying to support your decision. Own your decisions, if you have already made them and let others get on with their work.

We all need to ask for help and advice on occasion. Make it as easy as possible on those you ask. You will retain a contact, a source of information and very likely, a friend. Write stuff down. Use or ignore the advice given but don’t ask for advice on the same issue all over again. Thank them deeply for their time. Think of how you would like to be treated when others ask you for advice. Then, do the same when you are asking for help from others.


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I Like This – May 13, 2011

May 13th, 2011 Comments off
    A collection of career items I found interesting this week.

  • Career Rule #1 – "I Don't Do That" – May 11, 2011 – Rule #1 in this list is so, so important. (Don’t do something that you don’t do) I have had to be careful over the years and I haven’t always abided by the rule — much to my detriment. You’d be well advised to know when to say you don’t do something and stick with it.
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I Like This – May 6, 2011

May 6th, 2011 Comments off
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Douglas is coming to Cleveland, Ohio on May 11, 2011

May 5th, 2011 Comments off


I am going to be in Cleveland, Ohio (and my hometown of New London) from Wed, May 11, 2011 to Sunday, May 15, 2011 to kick off Saturday6,  a new, garden blog project with Troy-Bilt. As I am arriving a day early, I will be available for various meetups and consulting sessions based on all my areas of interest.

If you would like a private consult on your career questions, email me at to schedule a time. These consults are billed at my usual rate of $100/hour and would most likely take place near downtown Cleveland, as that is where I will be staying.

I am also open for an informal meetup on Wednesday afternoon or evening, if folks are interested. We can set up an event on Facebook or other service to allow for RSVPs.

I look forward to seeing you all and spending some time in my hometown again.

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