WE'RE ALL WRESTLING WITH FEAR WHY AREN'T WE MORE STRATEGIC?
Why don’t we just follow our passions? Why do some and not others succeed at living the life they want and doing the work that most fulfills them? Over the years, these are the questions I’ve constantly wrestled with, for myself and for those I coach. I began to notice a pattern that appears in just about every employee I encounter in the workplace, regardless of title. It’s not rocket science and it may seem similar to other theories of human behavior. But it’s helped me navigate many sticky situations and several others dig themselves out of a career mudslide.
I find that people tend to operate on a sliding range of fearful to loving mindsets. The more insecurity present, the further down the fear scale a person’s mind goes. The more hope and confidence the person possesses, the further up the scale towards big-picture strategy and helping others the person focuses.
All We Need Is Love? So why a love letter to the employee in all of us, tough love or not? Well, because I think it’s love that is the one thing people want to experience through their work but no one is willing to say that out loud. After all, “love” is the four-letter word that causes many of us to get uncomfortable. Drop the “f” bomb in the workplace and we might get a stern look, but more often than not, we’ll be deemed honest and straightforward. A cut-through-the-shit kinda person. But love? That will get a groan and eye-roll and we won’t win any points. Why? Because we’re told to leave our personal lives out of the workplace. Be professional. We’re told not to take things personally. It’s just business, after all. Yet in the same breath, we’re told to be engaged, motivated, and give 100%. Everyone seems to be afraid that if we start uttering the word “love” we’ll start hugging each other for hours on end, singing Kumbaya, and getting lost in a self-help circle of trust. How are people not seeing the contradiction in this approach?
Maybe when we worked in more of a factory system, when we needed people to be satisfied with repetitive work that required little to no creativity, maybe then this was necessary. It certainly would have been helpful in shutting down the individual’s curiosity and passion. But in today’s work environment, we need highly engaged individuals regardless of which position they happen to sit in. And engagement requires love. When we love what we do, we are more likely to operate in “the flow.” When we love what we do, we are using our unique gifts.
This also means the work itself is a reward, and we are less consumed with (often) meaningless titles. We get energy back from the energy we invest, which reduces burnout. Instead, our work feeds our spirit and we have more zest and purpose in our lives, with more of our authentic selves available to our loved ones. Does that mean we do everything on a volunteer basis for no pay? No. When we love ourselves, we also treasure what value we bring to the table. We don’t shy away from negotiating for our skills and services. Instead, we understand that we bring a value that we can be proud of. We are aware of how much our services can command based on supply and demand, not on worthiness. We know we’re all worthy.
CHAPTER 8 – CALL ON CLIENTS
Earlier I shared the story of my first real job interview when I was 14 where the manager explained: “Now was not the time to be humble.” As you can imagine, I’ve had a ton of interviews since then. After the military, I felt desperate for a job. But going on interviews felt, well, kinda gross – like I was some sort of prostitute selling myself. I honestly wanted a hot shower after every interview. I hated it. Now, as a consultant, I go on interviews once a week, if not more. And I love it. So what changed? Well, my perspective did. And with a change in perspective came a change in approach. I read a bunch of interview books after the military, and from what I could tell it was all about making a good impression. How to show up professionally. What I needed to say to seal the deal. But the big mistake of these books was to make the interview about the person trying to get the job. It’s not. The interview isn’t about one person. Ever. It’s always about a relationship. It’s about how well those two or more people click, and whether they can help each other. It’s about connecting vs. flinging one-way sales pitch. As soon as I recognized this, the playing field completely changed for me. Below are my top 10 tips for great interviews. • Build intimacy as quickly as possible. Most books and articles are going to tell you to do your research and get to know the company. I agree. Do it. But don’t do it so you can look smart for the interview; do it so you can start to understand the needs and challenges of the world you are asking to be a part of. If I know the name of the person or people I’m interviewing with, I Google them. Not to be a stalker, but to get some clues as to what matters to them and how I might be able to make the interview feel safe. • Treat the interview like a date. Remember, you are on equal footing here. If you go in with an attitude that they have all the power and you’re just hoping they like you, you’ll come off as desperate. And the smell of desperation is, well … it’s not good. Instead, think of your greatness. Remember that you are in charge of protecting that precious commodity that is your talent, your worth, your gift. That means you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. You are looking for the best place to set up shop for your talents to flourish. If you don’t get how precious your talent is, you will allow people to misuse and neglect it. Just like in a relationship, if we don’t value who we are, we risk ending up in a dysfunctional and even abusive relationship. Why? Because we don’t know better, don’t believe anyone else would want us, or are afraid of not being able to survive if we leave. (I get that this comparison may come off as dramatic, but anyone who has worked for someone who has chipped away at their dignity and self-worth will recognize the truth in what I’m saying.) Also, showing up this way teaches people that you bring value and inspires them to value you just as highly.
CHAPTER 18 – VETERAN TRANSITION TIPS
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
One of the hardest things about transitioning is all the fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of all the “hardships” everyone talks about nonstop. It creates anxiety and doesn’t help with solving anything. Just like in life, Yes there are real challenges, Yes there are unexpected speed bumps and roadblocks and heart-wrenching disappointments possible. But just as possible are completely unplanned and unexpected opportunities, helping hands from people you’ve yet to meet, and heart-fulfilling surprises. This is life.
I love that for the first time in decades, the country is back to embracing our veterans, wanting to thank them for their sacrifices and lend a hand by creating job opportunities. But there is an underlying message that seems to be weaving itself into all the commercials, job fairs, and even documentaries: Veterans have a difficult time finding work after the military. But here’s the truth. If you’ve read the previous chapters, you know that getting work is the new skill all people need to acquire. Technically, veterans are no different than anyone else going through a career change. Looking at it from that perspective – as a job change vs. a veteran’s transition – will help you eliminate some of this extra “challenge” that isn’t really there.
Now that’s not to say that there aren’t some unique challenges and opportunities connected with changing your job out of the military. There are, and I’ll do my best to highlight them and provide tips to make them work to your advantage as much as possible. Also, I want to be clear. I’m not being flippant about today’s employment challenges. They are real, and depending on what you do, you may find a shrinking job pool or even discover your particular field has dried up altogether thanks to advances in technology. Or you may have done something very useful but also very particular to the military and find that work just doesn’t exist in the private or government sector. But that doesn’t make you any different than a million others who are challenged by their own jobs becoming less relevant. It’s not a handicap; the mistake is assuming you are not first and foremost a business owner.
Even while serving in the military, you were still a business owner. You got paid for being in the military. Yes, it was probably not equal to the value you provided for our country. Just like teachers, police officers, and other civil servants, service members rarely get paid for the real value of their work. We can complain that a reality TV star famous for nothing more than stunts and a reckless life makes a hundred times more than the men and women who protect our country, but that’s capitalism. If you create the demand and sell the value, then you get the money. Supply and demand. It may be oversimplifying, but it’s essentially the truth. Now, you can resent that or you can embrace the freedom that comes with it.
Personally, I love the fact that no matter your class, race, gender, beliefs, or station in life, if you can come up with a product or service that people want to buy you can make money. The demand is what dictates the monetary value even if others don’t see it as a cultural or moral value. But that also creates the opportunity for anyone to create anything and take a stab at building their own destiny.