Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

Turning a new page

September 29, 2008

Here’s some advice from Robert Gordon, a coach who specializes in working with professionals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

Downturns and downsizing have a tendency to send the recently redundant scrambling for the personal development sections of their favorite business bookstores. Career Intelligence, a classic from more than a decade ago, reminds us that we’ve trodden this ground before. Written by career management specialist Barbara Moses as a guide to help baby-boomer knowledge workers navigate the lean, mean “new work” realities of the 1990s, its tone is remarkably resonant today, and Moses’ strategies remain clear and instructive.

Moses offers a powerful framework to help professionals to manage their careers in uncertain times. At the heart of her approach are two key principles:

Be A Career Activist: Most of us have become very good at advocating for our children’s educations, our personal health, or the conditions in our neighborhoods. But whether it’s because we’re distracted, pressured, or overwhelmed, we find it much harder to be activists for our own careers. “It’s no longer possible to be a passive player in your own career management,” says Moses. “You have to take responsibility for ensuring that you remain marketable” in tough economic times. We need to learn what we have to sell, and cultivate those assets. “Being a career activist means thinking about the landscape of work and opportunities in a radically different way. It means being prepared to live in an uncertain work world where the only certainty is you: your skills, your flexibility, and your capacity to adapt to change.”

Know Yourself: By the time we are well established in the world of work, we’ve often subscribed to a narrative about ourselves that may no longer be particularly accurate. We urgently need to separate our work identities from our jobs and titles, and replace them with an identity that is rooted in our greatest interests, genuine preferences, and personal values. Moses reminds us that “if you see yourself as the owner of a unique set of talents, skills, competencies and experiences that you can use in a wide range of settings, you expand your range of options exponentially.”

There is an enormous range of self-assessment guides on the market, and Moses has authored at least one, but my favorites remain the remarkable Now, Discover Your Strengths, and Strengthsfinder 2.0.

Ultimately what Moses advocates is that we identify what we are truly good at, what we are passionate about, what we most deeply want to do – and do it. She is my no means suggesting that this will be easy. But if we never even make an effort to find the work that we truly love, we will surely live to regret it.

Know a book that will help the newly unemployed? Share your recommendations in the comments below.

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