Idea #1 in What Color Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career- changers 2015 Resumes Are Not the Best Way To Go About Finding A Job. “Resumes are people in the form of paper.” (Proprietary phrase) An employer typically looks through a pile of resumes, in print or online, to see which ones to eliminate, so as to get the stack down to a manageable size for interviewing. Resumes therefore have an atrocious success record (only 1 out of 270 results in landing a job). (On the other hand, some employers do search for key words; and a resume can be a good way for you to gather and organize information about yourself.)
Idea #2: “Google Is Your New Resume.“ (Proprietary phrase) You actually have two resumes: the one you compose, and Google. Google is your new resume. Most employers search on the name of any job-hunter they decide to interview.
Idea #3: The “System” is Broken. The idea that the U.S. has a “job-hunting system” is a myth. Employers as well as job-hunters can’t find what they are looking for. There is a shortage of jobs; but vacancies go unfilled at the end of each month because job-hunters are using outmoded ways of trying to find them. There are dozens of ways to look for or find a job; they are not organized into anything like a coherent system.
Idea #4: There Are More Vacancies Than You Think. The number of job vacancies in the U.S. is not to be guessed by the monthly unemployment report (typically issued the first Friday of each month by the U.S. government), but by the JOLT Monthly Report (Job Openings & Labor Turnover), also issued by the government, which reports the number of vacancies still unfilled at the end of a previous month (typically runs 3,000,000 or more, per month).
Idea #5: Job-Hunters And Employers Go Looking For Each Other In Exactly Opposite Ways. (Proprietary diagram) The job-hunter’s favorite way is the employer’s least favorite way, and vice versa. This is a proprietary diagram illustrating how the order of methods a job-hunter prefers to use to seek employers is the exact reverse of the order of methods that an employer prefers to use to seek employees.
Idea #6: “The Five Best Ways and Five Worst Ways to Hunt for a Job.” (Proprietary concept) There are twelve ways job-hunters can search for those jobs that are out there. The question is: which methods have the highest success rate, which ones have the lowest? This is rarely ever talked about. Scientific studies are impossible to come by. But a number of articles, surveys, etc. over the past 40 years have suggested that the five methods with the highest success rate are: 1. Beginning with a self-inventory (this apparently works 12 times better than resumes); 2. Joining a job-club with a step-by- step program (10 times the success rate of resumes); 3. Using the Yellow pages of your phone book (9 times the success rate of resumes); 4. Knocking on the door of any employer, preferably those with 50 or less employees (7 times the success rate of resumes); 5. Asking everyone you know for job leads (5 times the success rate of resumes). As for the methods that have the lowest success rates, these are—starting with the lowest—1. Looking for employer vacancies (“job-postings”) on the Internet (4% success rate); 2. Posting or sending your resume to employers (7% success rate); 3. Answering ads in professional journals or websites (7% success rate); 4. Going to state or federal employment agencies (14% success rate); and 5. Going to places where employers pick up workers (22% success rate).
Idea #7: The Importance of a Self-Inventory. The most successful job-hunting begins with your doing research on yourself (“the Flower Exercise” (Proprietary diagram)), rather than beginning with research on the job-market (what are the jobs in demand, the “hot” jobs, etc.). Beginning with yourself results in successful job- hunting 84% of the time; when you begin with the job-market, this results in finding a job only 4% to 50% of the time, at best.
Idea #8: The Limitation of Tests. “Tests” (like the Myers-Briggs, the Strong, etc.) cannot tell you what job to choose; they can only tell you what jobs were chosen by the people-who-answered-the-test-the-same-way-you-did. Tests are about families (of similar people); they can tell you what family you belong to, but you may be a maverick in that family.
Idea #9: Love vs. Can Do. It is not what skills you can do that matters most; it’s what skills you love to use, among those that you can do. Passion plus competency, not just competency alone, is key to securing employment. Therefore, deciding on your favorite skills should not be an intellectual exercise, just choosing between words, but an emotional exercise, choosing between words-rooted-in-stories. Heart, then intellect; not intellect, then heart. Stories then skills; not skills then stories.
Idea #10: You Are the Given. All job-hunting strategies are a choice between going the traditional route (where it is assumed the job is the given, and you try to shape yourself to fit it) vs. going the creative route (where it is assumed that you are the given, and you try to find a job that fits you).
Idea #11: Breaking Down, then Building Up. In creative job-hunting, you treat every job-hunt as though it were a career change, breaking down your past jobs into their basic building blocks, then rearranging those building blocks in a new way so as to create the same job (now with its factors prioritized) or a new one—your call. (Proprietary diagram)
Idea #12: ”What, Where, How”. (Proprietary concept) Creative job-hunting rests on your
finding answers to three questions: what? where? and how?
What are the (transferable) skills you most love to use? using a “Transferable skills List” and a “Special Knowledges Grid.” (Proprietary diagrams)
Where would you most love to use those skills – in what field, what setting, with what kinds of people? taking into consideration such factors as the place or places where you would most like to live, your preferred working conditions, people environments, values or goals in life, level of responsibility, and salary.
How do you find out the name and title of such jobs, places that offer such work, plus the name of the person-who-has-the-power-to-hire-you-for-the-job-you-want.
Idea #13: “The Prioritizing Grid”. (Proprietary diagram) Mere random lists of assets you have (factors, experiences, skills, knowledges) are useless unless they are prioritized. The real job you find may overlap your dream job only in certain areas; you need to be sure it is your favorites that are in that overlap. I invented a Prioritizing Grid, which allows you to prioritize a multitude of things by comparing them one by one at a time, in pairs.
Idea #14: HR = Eliminate. In approaching an organization, try to avoid the HR (human resources) department, if they have one. HR’s job is primarily to eliminate job-hunters, so the boss only has to interview a few individuals out of the many who apply. If you are interviewed initially by HR, say nothing that will get you eliminated. You want to be talking to the-person-who-actually-has-the-power-to- hire-you-for-the-job-you-want.
Idea #15: Finding Positive Factors by Beginning with Negative Ones. For example,
in figuring out your favorite working conditions, you do this three step process:
Listing negative working conditions you’ve endured thus far.
Ranking these negatives from “most disliked” to “least disliked,” using a proprietary “Priority Grid”.
Taking this list of ranked negatives and replacing each term with its positive opposite, or near opposite. Now you have your desired working conditions, in exact order of importance to you.
Idea #16: During Difficult Times, Creative Job-Hunting Turns to Three Kinds of
Practice Interviewing, often called “The Practice Field Survey” (Proprietary concept of John C. Crystal), which involves interviewing fellow-enthusiasts, about any enthusiasm a person has (such as movies, skiing, computer games, reading, or any hobby or curiosity). Its purpose is to become comfortable with interviewing people, in a non- stress environment (because a job isn’t being sought at this point).
“Informational Interviewing” (Proprietary phrase) The best and most up-to-date information is not to be found in print or digital; it is to be found in face-to-face conversation with people. I invented the phrase “Informational Interviewing” (sometimes called Information Interviewing). This involves interviewing workers who are doing work a person thinks they might be interested in doing, in order to discover if they are on the right track.
Interviewing for Hire, which involves interviewing employers, single or a group, to discover if they want you and if you want them. When systematized, this is referred to as “The Pie Method” (Proprietary diagram of Daniel Porot).
Idea #17: Go After Any Organization That Interests You, Whether Or Not They Are Known To Have A Vacancy.
Idea #18: Small Companies (With 25, Or 50, Or 100 Employees At Most) Are The Best Ones For A Job-Hunter Or Career-Changer To Approach, especially job- hunters with handicaps, or older job-hunters, or returning vets.
Idea #19: Resumes Are Just One Way To Get In To See Employers. The chief alternative is to approach an employer in person, using a contact or bridge person if possible, to secure an invitation. (A “bridge person” (Proprietary concept) is someone who knows you well and also knows the organization you are trying to reach, hence can serve as a bridge between you and them, and get you invited in.)
Idea #20: In An Interview There Are Only Five Questions An Employer Is Most Concerned About. Assuming you are interviewing with someone who actually has- the-power-to-hire-you, and not some one further down the food chain whose job is only to eliminate as many candidates as possible, these are the five essential questions they absolutely need answers to—even if they never ask you these, directly:
1. “Why are you here?” This means, “Why are you knocking on our door, rather than someone else’s door? How much do you know about who we are, and what we do here?”
2. “What can you do for us?” This means, “If we were to hire you, will you help us with the tasks and challenges we face here? What are your relevant skills, and give us examples or stories from your past, that demonstrate you have these skills. Tell us about yourself.”
3. “What kind of person are you?” This means, “Will you not only fit in, but actually inspire those around you? Will you be a pleasure to work with or will you be a problem from day one? Do you have the kind of personality that makes it easy for people to work with you, and do you share the values that we have at this place? And by the way, what is your greatest weakness?”
4. “What distinguishes you from, say, nineteen other people whom we are interviewing for this job?” This means, “What about you will give us more value for our money? What makes you unique or at least unusual; do you get more done in a day, or are you better at problem solving than others, do you have better work habits than others, do you show up earlier, stay later, work more thoroughly, work faster, maintain higher standards, go the extra mile, or . . . what? Give us examples or stories from your past, that illustrate any of these claims.”
5. “Can we afford you?” This means, “If we decide we want you here, how much will it take to get you, and are we willing and able to pay that amount—governed, as we are, by our budget, and by our inability to pay you as much as the person who would be next above you, on our organizational chart?”
These are the five main things that are on an employer’s mind during the interview, even if these five are never once mentioned explicitly by the employer. Anything you can do, during the interview, to help the employer answer these five questions, will help make you an outstanding candidate for the job.
Idea #21: Time Is Important to Notice. In an interview for hire, talk half the time, let the employer talk half the time. If you dominate the interview, you come across as self-absorbed; while if you speak too little you come across to an employer as having something to hide. In an interview for hire, let the length of your answer to an employer’s questions be between 20 seconds and 2 minutes at most. (Employers hate job-hunters who drone on and on.)
In an interview for hire, notice the time frame of the questions the employer is asking. If the questions move from the time frame of the distant past (“What school did you go to?”) to the present (“what are you looking for now?”) to the distant future (“where would you like to be in five years”) this means the interview is going very favorably for you.
Idea #22: At the End of All the Interviews At That Place, Ask for the Job.
This concept from “What Color Is Your Parachute?” teaches job-hunters to always ask for the job at the end of an interview, if they decided they want to work there. It can be simply phrased: “Considering all that we have discussed here, can you offer me this job?”
Idea #23: Always Send A Thank You Note The Same Day. This should be sent, without fail, to everyone you talked to at that place, that day, digitally or handwrit/typed, or both. Often this will get you the job. (It need only be two or three sentences.)
Idea #24: Job-Hunting Is By Definition A Long Process of Rejection. The pattern of your job hunt will likely sound like this, after interviewing at a number of places: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES YES...... “After each rejection, take comfort in the fact that you are one NO closer to YES.” (Proprietary concept and diagram of Tom Jackson).
Idea #25: Always Have Alternatives. It is crucial for everyone to have alternatives, at every turn in their job-hunt; which means, more than just one way to go about it, more than just one target, etc. This habit comes more naturally to some people than to others. But keeping your hopes up, depends on this.
This is the kind of question you find yourself pondering as you get older, if you're searching for wisdom. And I'm definitely searching for wisdom.
I found the clue in an intriguing conversation I had last fall with a friend of mine from Geneva, Switzerland.
He was telling me about a survey he had heard about. His recollection of this particular survey was hazy, but no matter. For me, all surveys or studies fall into two basic categories: those whose findings I disbelieve, no matter how great the evidence; and those whose findings I do believe, no matter how little the evidence. This was the latter kind.
It was a survey (best he remembered) of restaurant patrons, to find out why they did or did not recommend a restaurant to their friends, after dining there. The findings were:
If people ate out at a restaurant, and both the food and the service were below their expectations, they tended to tell 3-5 people about the bad experience they had there, and didn't recommend that restaurant.
If only one of those two (the food or the service) was below their expectations, they tended to tell 1-2 people about the bad experience they had there, and still did not recommend the restaurant.
If the food and the service just met their expectations they tended to tell no one about that restaurant.
But if the food and service surprised them because it exceeded their expectations, they tended to tell 2-4 people about the restaurant, and heartily recommended it to them.
Then my friend hammered home the key finding: "The key to a restaurant or any business getting raved about is that it must give its patrons a surprise. We are always looking for Surprise, not only in restaurants, but everywhere in life."
I realized how true this was. One of my friends once raved about a restaurant to me because he had asked for a particular kind of ice cream or sorbet for dessert, and when it arrived he found out it wasn't on their menu, but without a word to him they had an employee run to pick some up from a nearby place. Surprise!
Another recommended a restaurant to me, because he was a regular there, and on unpredictable occasions – once every three months, more or less – when he would ask for the check, they would inform him that the owner had picked it up, and the dinner was free. No wonder he loved the place: we are always looking for Surprise.
A good business, a good employee, a good job-hunt, a good relationship: Surprise is the key to all of these. Your boss notices you made an extra effort to accomplish a goal given you, instead of just saying, "Oh well, I tried." Surprise! Extra time, extra effort, extra initiative – these are the accepted marks of a good employee, and they all add up to Surprise. (If your employer isn't surprised or impressed, start thinking about finding some other place to work.)
And speaking of finding some other place to work, a good job-hunt likewise has the element of Surprise at its heart. The would-be employer notices you've taken the time to figure out what your best and strongest skills are. Surprise! Or the employer notices you've taken a lot of time and effort (in information interviewing) to find out about that place, before you walk in. Surprise! The job-hunter who thus surprises the would-be employer is usually the one who gets the job.
And in relationships, the same truth obtains. In the film, "Playing by Heart," one of the characters wishes her mate would surprise her by uncharacteristically suggesting they do such a simple thing as just go for a walk together. In relationships, as elsewhere, we are always looking for Surprise.
We have seen enough to catalog the four characteristics of Surprise:
It revolves around expectations.
You're offered behavior that exceeds what you expected.
It almost always involves what the Bible calls "going the second mile."
It's doing more than other people would.
It always involves the giving of a gift, but often that gift is time and not money.
A surprise is best when it is time that is given, when we least expect it.
It makes us feel loved.
It makes us feel special, and makes us feel warm toward the person who gave us Surprise.
If you want to put new life into your business, into your job, into your relationships, think of how you can depart from the norm, go the second mile, offer your time, and pleasantly surprise them when they least expect it. We are all searching for Surprise in life.
A keynote address presented at the International Conference on Careers Guidance: Careers Guidance - Which Way Now?, in Bled, Slovenia, Wednesday, May 5 th, 1999
I have been asked to speak this afternoon about Life/Work Planning. I would like to begin simply.
Almost everyone already does Life/Work Planning, in some area of his or her life – though without using that title. But if you got up on a Sunday morning and you thought of eight different things you might do that day, before you discarded five of them in your head and decided to do the remaining three – then you have already done Life/Work Planning. Or if you thought about your vacation time last summer, and started out by imagining three different ways you could have spent your vacation, before you finally decided which of those three possibilities was most interesting, or even fascinating, to you – then you have already done Life/Work Planning. Or if you came to feel that too much of your life was devoted to work, and you figured out how to build in more time for your family and for leisure – then you have already done Life/Work Planning.
In other words, the title may be new to some of you, but the activity is something that almost all of us, including the most dedicated dreamer among us, has already experienced.
The discipline called Life/Work Planning is only a more systematic, thoughtful and thorough way of doing something you already do occasionally, intuitively, and without much agonizing thought.
Thus to decide you want to really do Life/Work Planning as a program is like deciding to take up walking as a discipline. In that case, you would not be undertaking a totally new activity. You already walk. But to choose walking as a discipline is to move from just ambling around the house, or taking short walks to the store, and determining to walk for a longer time, and at a brisker pace, and with some sort of schedule. In any case, you are just expanding something you already do.
Life/Work Planning as a program represents the same kind of change: you are merely deciding to do, in a more disciplined way, more regularly, and for a larger bloc of time, that which you already do.
The history of Life/Work Planning as a program is that it was invented some thirty years ago in the U.S. From there it eventually migrated to other countries, most notably Switzerland, France, New Zealand, Australia, England, and Germany.
There are names associated with this history, of course. In the U.S., Kirn and Shepherd. The first textbook in the subject, which is still widely used, was written by myself, back in 1978. In Switzerland and France, the leading teacher of Life/Work Planning has been my dear colleague, Daniel Porot. In New Zealand, Felicity McClennan. In Australia, Paul Stevens. In England, Walt Hopkins. And in Germany, John Webb and Madeleine Leitner. So we may think of this as a historical movement spreading as such movements do, from country to country, among vocational and careers guidance people.
But I believe that even if a country were shut off from the rest of the world, it would eventually discover Life/Work Planning all by itself.
Think of vocational and careers guidance as like a tree. If we saw through the trunk of a tree, and if it be large enough, we of course discover it has a series of concentric rings. Our field has its own concentric rings, that appear as the field matures down through the years.
The innermost ring, the oldest, the place where job-hunting systems usually begin, is with the simplest task: "finding people jobs." But over time our field eventually evolves to also include the next ring outward, which is "helping people change careers." And then, over time, it grows to include the next ring outward, which is "helping people plan for their future careers." And – this is my point – given enough time, vocational and guidance systems will inevitably grow to include the outermost ring, "helping people with Life/work planning."
So, as I said, even if the vocational and guidance system of a particular country were shut off from the rest of the world, I believe it would eventually discover Life/Work Planning. Its own clients would force it to. Consider their own personal history. They – or shall I say "We" – begin by wanting to find a job early in life that puts bread on the table, clothes on their back, a roof over their heads, and gives them – it may be – an interesting group of people to work with. Voila! In order to do this, they need us to help them with The Job-Hunt (the innermost ring of the careers guidance tree).
As time moves on, they have to change jobs, and eventually careers. Voila! they need us to help them with Career Change (the next ring outward).
Often they learn to do this, and learn to do it well, but if they have to keep changing careers as they grow older, they realize they must start planning ahead – further down the road than just at headlight range. Voila! they need us to help them with Career Planning (the next ring outward).
And then, they may learn to do this well, but in mid-life often their spirit grows restless, like a caged tiger pacing back and forth within its cage. Their work is satisfying, but... Long forgotten questions from their youth resurface in their minds, such as, "Why am I here on earth? What was I put here to do? What is it I want to accomplish with my life before I die?" Their interest is no longer just in work, though it may revolve around work. But there are larger issues now; they want to look at their whole life – their learning, their leisure, their relationships, and even their faith. Voila! They now need us to help them with the outermost ring: Life/Work Planning.
To be sure, these stages are not necessarily related to age. For the past twenty five years I have been teaching a two-week course every summer in the U.S. on Life/Work Planning, attended by guidance people from around the world, and our youngest students are 17 years of age. That is to say, a hunger for Life/Work Planning may be found in even the very young. It does not have to wait until we reach a certain age.
But my major point is this: Life/Work Planning does not evolve because some vocational or careers guidance counselor somewhere grows bored with his or her work, and wants to invent something new – just for the sake of doing something new. No, Life/Work Planning evolves because our clients' needs evolve, and they need more and more from us as they seek to build a truly holistic, well-rounded life.
Growth, over a life time, is not of course restricted just to our clients. It happens to us, too. At least, one hopes so. Unfortunately, vocational and careers guidance – like any profession – has its share of experienced, seasoned careers people out there who feel they have seen it all, and heard everything there is to hear. The spend more energy than they know merely in protecting their status as 'experts.' Their life's text has become, "There is nothing new under the sun." They have 'arrived.' They also, in some sense, have died.
But we who come to conferences, we tend to be a different breed. Many of us, in fact most of us, are open to new ideas, nay, hungry for new ideas, ever seeking to be more effective in helping other people find jobs. We recognize each other instinctively when we meet, and feel this common bond between us: the pursuit of excellency. We know we have been given people's trust, and our life's text has become: "Lord, let me be worthy of their trust."
Now, for those among us who want to grow, Life/work Planning is a topic made to order. That is, if we are seeking to find for ourselves a certain fullness of Life, a Life that is comprised of a balance between work, learning, leisure, relationships, and faith, then Life/Work Planning applies not just to our clients, but also to our own lives.
If we want to grow, then I believe that somehow, someway, sooner or later, we are each of us going to need to figure out how to do Life/Work Planning ourselves – and then how to offer Life/Work Planning to our students, our clients, our public, through workshops. Several day workshops, even two week workshops.
You will of course be told by other guidance people or trainers, that this is a U.S. -based program, and 'it won't work here.' As John Webb in Germany discovered: "I was told," he says, "that this is not part of our culture. 'You can't do that here, and expect it to work.' And, indeed, when I first said to people here, 'Imagine that you could go out and talk to people, and through these conversations gain enough information to be able to make an offer to an employer for a job that truly matches your skills,' many people looked at me as if I had just said, 'Imagine you could go out and flap your arms and fly.' "
Nonetheless, since 1990 when he trained with me, John has taught 134 successful Life/Work Planning seminars or courses in Germany during the past eight years, each one usually running for 2 1/2 weeks, starting on a Thursday and ending on a Tuesday. In fact, the Protestant Church there, on the State level, has just commissioned him to train others in Life/Work Planning, beginning in the year 2000. As well, he and another Life/Work Planner in Germany, Madeleine Leitner, have written well-received articles in German periodicals on the subject. So, I assure you that you can teach such programs, in your own culture, – so long as you have first run your own life through it.
Designing such a program is easy. Just consult with experienced Life/Work planners such as
John Webb in Germany (John@muenster.de) or
Daniel Porot in Switzerland (email@example.com) or
Walt Hopkins in the U.K. (firstname.lastname@example.org). They can show you how, without your having to re-invent the wheel all over again. Or, if you want the textbook, you can order it on the Internet at http://www.NetStoreUSA.com/bfbooks/091/0913668583.shtml
But what I want to particularly address, today, is the necessity – before you move to program design – of first grasping the most basic principles, upon which all Life/Work Planning depends. For, if you do not grasp these principles, your program will almost certainly fail.
So let me briefly enumerate what these principles are. For the vocational or careers guidance system, there are three.
There is a widespread belief that the whole vocational system in a particular country is essentially a man or a woman who stands with both arms outstretched: one, holding onto the hand of the employer, and the other, holding onto the hand of the job-hunter – student, blue-collar worker, middle-aged executive, or someone on the brink of retirement – equally helpful to both and equally loyal to both employer and job-hunter.
Well, I think this is a delusion, and one that has been responsible for a great deal of mischief, over the years. If you would in the imagination of your hearts go up in the air and look down from about two hundred thousand feet on the whole elaborate job-hunting system that countries around the world have erected, one thing will strike you above all else: and that is, that almost every part of this system – governmental, private, academic – is more loyal to the employer, than it is to the job-hunter.
You can see this when there is some mismatch between an employer's wishes and the job-hunter's wishes. The job-hunting 'system' will, at that point, tend to defer to the employer. And this, for a very obvious reason: "He who pays the piper, calls the tune." The employer has a continuing relationship with the whole job-hunting apparatus in any country, because he or she offers the prospect of repeated contacts and business; whereas, the job-hunter if he or she is successfully placed may not be seen again for many years.
We see this clearly. in the U.S., as in other countries, with any employment or placement agency. Suppose that agency has a real-live, genuine job-order for the particular kind of position a job-hunter is looking for. Or, well, almost ... There are, as it turns out, some pretty significant differences. Who does the agency try to change? Well, you know the answer as well as I. Except in rare instances, it is the job-hunter who will be told that he or she has to adjust, has to compromise, has to scale down his or her expectations, has to be more realistic about 'what's available' out there, has to settle for what the employer offers.
So, when there is a mismatch between the employer's and the job-hunter's expectations, and something has to be reshaped, trimmed, compressed, or pushed into a slightly different shape, it is the job-hunter – and not the employer – who is selected for this honor. Which means, if you think about it, that the agency winds up – in spite of its best intentions – as advocate for the employer rather than advocate for the job-hunter.
To put it another way, in the attempt to match job-hunter and employer, The Job (or the employer's image of it, at least) is regarded as The Given; and everything else – including the agency counselor and the job-hunter himself or herself – must accommodate themselves to this Given. And this, despite the well-known fact that in any decent-sized company, employers often have a very unrealistic idea about what is actually involved in the job that they are hiring for, or what qualifies a job-hunter for that job.
Now, could we envision a program which handles this whole matter in another way? A program where the job-hunter and his or her wishes and aspirations are regarded as The Given, not to be tampered with, folded, spindled, or mutilated? Well of course we can – and that is, any place where Life/Work Planning is the program. For it is the fundamental thesis of Life/work Planning that the job-hunter is taken as The Given.
Life/Work Planning begins by asking: "what do you want?" "what are your favorite skills?" "what are your favorite fields of knowledge?" "what would you most like to learn?" "what kind of leisure would you most like to have?" "what is most important to you in your relationships, such as marriage or friend-ship?" And then it teaches the client or job-hunter how to find a world – an employer, a job and a life – that conforms to this Given.
One thing that may be said with confidence of virtually every vocational and careers guidance facility is this: It Is Helpful. And it is kept very busy being helpful.
But we need to go a little deeper. It turns out, there are two principal ways of being helpful. One is by rendering services. And indeed, in some state-run guidance and placement offices, rendering services is all we have the time or the budget to do. Period. You may want to do more, but there is no time (or budget) to do more.
Still, there is great virtue in rendering services. That virtue is that, if you are successful, you thereby pull your clients out of crisis situations, and they are terribly, terribly grateful to you.
But, the problem with this is that the crisis you just helped your client out of, is going to occur again in that client's life, almost certainly. The younger the client, the more certain it is that the crisis will. Indeed, we ought to write over the door of all our operations, "This will come again," just to remind ourselves that unemployment, career search, career change, are going to keep popping up, again and again, in the client's life. And, it may be, we're only 'there' this one time.
Of course, the next time the same or a similar crisis comes along in the life of this former client of yours, they're going to have to come hunting for you, like Diogenes with a lantern, asking you to 'bail them out' again. Because by rendering services all you really taught them was that to solve a crisis, they need you. Very nice for your ego. But terrible if you have moved on, or they did, and you are no longer near or ready at hand to help them, the next time out. And the help that is available to them is ineffectual or non-existent.
They're on their own. And baffled as to what to do. Inasmuch as they haven't a clue as to how you did what you did, when you helped them, the services you rendered might as well be an act of magic, as far as they're concerned.
So, it's a good thing that there is a second way of 'being helpful,' that we can aspire to. And that is, to empower or train them for the future, by using the present crisis (career choice, career change, or unemployment) to train the client on how to deal with this crisis anytime it ever reappears in their life, knowing that in the present crisis they are most open and most teachable.
This means we must explain everything. We must use no instruments which the client does not fully understand; give the client no summary of the results without explaining how those results were arrived at; come to no recommendations without explaining carefully to the client how we reached those recommendations; propose no job-hunting strategies with-out explaining what the virtues and limitations of each strategy are; and define our task not as helping place the client, but rather as teaching him or her how to place themselves. In other words, we must take care that each step along the way is carefully explained to that client, so they'll know how to do all of this, ever thereafter for themselves.
As I hinted earlier, in the U.S. and other countries this second way of being helpful is sometimes called "empowerment" because we don't know any better way to describe a process in which both the goal and the result is that the client becomes stronger and more in control of their own lives. The world is always astonished when it meets someone who knows where they are going, with their life; that is such a rare kind of strength.
If you are going to teach Life/Work Planning, you are asking people to believe they can change their lives. So if your client doesn't believe that, you'll never get to first base in getting them to do the paper and pencil exercises that Life/Work Planning requires.
In light of this, I regret to report that many of our clients are devout believers in what I call "The Victim Mentality." That is, an outlook or attitude that says, "My life is essentially at the mercy of powerful forces out there that are beyond my control. And therefore it makes little difference what I want out of life; I must learn to settle for whatever I can get, since I am essentially powerless to make my life be other than it is."
What these forces are held to be, that are holding them back, will vary from person to person. The Victim Mentality may seize upon:
Regardless of which multiple choice is chosen, the Victim Mentality, once it has you in its grip, discharges you from any responsibility for how your life is going, since you clearly are at the mercy of other forces. And Life/Work Planning, by this view, is nonsense, since there is really nothing you can do to change your situation or your life. By this view, you are doomed.
Now, to be sure, there is a sense in which we are victims, truly at the mercy of forces we have no control over. War, pestilence, famine, earthquake, fire and flood spring to mind.
And some of us, some of our clients, anyway, such as the homeless, the poor, the downtrodden, minorities, and outcasts, seem to be peculiarly at the mercy of powerful forces: prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism, idiotic laws, uncaring bureaucrats, blind justice, wrenching tragedy, and the like. It is even more difficult for them to believe that anything can ever change, about their life.
They are victims. And sometimes, we are victims. But nonetheless, there is a vast difference between being a victim, as we all are at times, and having the Victim Mentality. Being a victim means there are some areas of my life where I am battling powerful forces, but I will still do battle with them, and seek to prevail. Whereas, people in the grip of the Victim Mentality have essentially given up: what's the use? Why even try? I am depressed. I have no hope. It is the difference between a soul that is a fighter, and a soul that has given up.
I want to state a simple truth, for it is the very foundation of Life/Work Planning, and that is: every individual has more control over their life than they think they have. We don't have to turn to Life/Work Planning to see this. We can find illustrations of this in almost any area of life.
For example, some years ago a woman named Maryann was pointed out to me by a mutual friend. That friend pleaded with me to help her, since everyone else in her life had given up on her. She was the victim, though in her twenties, of multiple sclerosis; she was able to walk only with the greatest of difficulty. A neurologist, I was told, had examined her, and said there was nothing he could do. A psychiatrist had also examined her, and said there was nothing he could do. And so, Maryann came to see me. She entered my office slowly, walking with great stiffness to her whole body. I asked her how she felt. Hopeless, was her reply. Everyone had given up on helping her.
So I asked her a simple question: "Maryann, do you know what multiple sclerosis is?" "No," she said. "Well, neither do I. But let us suppose that it is almost purely physical, caused by a virus or damaged nerve sheaths or something like that, something purely physical, that you have no control over. And let us suppose that this part which is beyond your control represents 98 percent of your illness. Still, there is that other 2 percent that is under the control of your emotions, or your mind, and therefore it is something that you can change. Now, I have no skill at helping you with the 98 percent that is beyond your control. But we can work together on the 2 percent, or whatever, that is within your control. Do you want to do that?" And she said, "Yes."
After regular counseling, she lost much of the paralysis that was afflicting her – so much, in fact, that she became a clothes model on fashionable 57th Street in New York City, and was able basically to resume a normal life. Now, I tell this story because it is an illustration of something that is fundamental to Life/Work Planning: no matter how much of our life we think we cannot change, there is always that part that is within our control, and that we can work on – be it 2 percent, 5 percent, 50 percent, or whatever. It is always more than we suppose.
Let me give you another illustration, again taken not from Life/Work Planning, but just from everyday life. There was a man named Don, who was married, but was going through a very difficult time with his wife. In fact, he was thinking seriously of divorce. Consequently, he went to see a marriage counselor. "Tell me," said the counselor, "what's the problem?" "Well," said Don, "to put it quite simply, my wife has an explosive temper, and she is a constant complainer and a nag. The other night, for example, she wanted to attend an evening meeting down at the library. I offered to stay home, feed the kids their supper, clean up the kitchen, and put the kids to bed in due time. But when she got home, after the meeting, do you think she thanked me? No, she looked in the kitchen and saw there was one pan I had forgotten to wash. And all she said was, 'Why didn't you do that pan?' Can you imagine? After all I'd done that evening, so she could attend the library meeting! That's gratitude for you. She's a nag."
The marriage counselor was full of sympathy, at what Don had to put up with; and told him so. "You poor guy. That must be very difficult to live with." Don nodded, appreciatively. "But incidentally," the counselor continued, "why didn't you do that pan? Do you always leave out one little thing, when you're doing something for her?" In the days following, Don thought long and hard about this question, and realized that, indeed, every time his wife asked him to do something, he would always leave one thing out of the assigned task. He hadn't created her explosive ungrateful nature; but he knew, unconsciously, how to set it off. It gave him a sense of power over her. He realized that in his dealings with his wife, he was not as powerless as he had told himself he was.
I repeat, in the simplest exchanges of daily life – totally apart from Life/Work Planning – we can see that people always have more power over their lives than they think they have. They are always less of a victim than they at first imagine. No matter how much of their life they think they cannot change, there is always a part of it that can be changed.
Life/Work Planning is based upon this truth. In seminars, workshops, and individual guidance, Life/Work Planning says to even the most hopeless client: give me the part of you that can be worked on, and can be changed, and working together we will change it.
Now, it would be nice if the only people we had to convince were our clients. But, I regret to say, our clients are the least of our problems. Our greatest problem is ourselves. We must convince ourselves that our clients can change. No small task, I might add. Because if I were asked what is the greatest danger into which vocational and careers guidance people can fall, or if I were asked what is that factor that can most inhibit our own effectiveness in the work that we do, I would reply without the slightest hesitation. The greatest danger in this profession is that of falling into unconscious contempt for our clients. And I stress the word "unconscious," because if you know you have fallen into this state of mind about your clients, you can at least try to do something about it. But the greatest contempt, and the deadliest contempt, is that of which we are totally unaware.
I have, over the years, run into a number of people in our profession (I regret to say) who have unwittingly and unknowingly come to this point. And, heaven knows, they are able to offer reams of evidence to support their contention that their clients are essentially dolts. The trouble with such data, of course, is that it is corrupted by the counselor's perceptions. Like the two drivers, going down the street, side by side, in parallel lanes, who both were approaching a green light. The first driver said to himself, "I'll bet that light will change to red, before I get to the intersection." And, with that, he began to let up on the accelerator and started to gently tap the brake pedal, in preparation for having to stop. And sure enough, the light turned red just before he got to it. And he said to himself, "I was right!"
The second driver, side by side with the first, also saw the green light. But he said to himself, "I'll bet I can make it through the intersection before that light turns red." With that, he accelerated his car a little more, and sped across the intersection in plenty of time, before the light turned red. And he said to himself, "I was right!"
What we believe, corrupts the data. In driving. And in doing vocational and careers guidance or counseling. The counselor who believes his or her clients are pretty hopeless, or 'unable to overcome their past,' or 'passive dependent,' will always accumulate – God knows – a lot of very impressive data for his belief.
But, we know well that the counselor who believes in his or her clients, who believes that they are capable of great change, and that they can take control and management of their lives if given the proper help, will find even more-impressive evidence for that belief.
So, how do we persuade ourselves that our clients can change? Easy. Thirty years experience in teaching Life/Work Planning has convinced me of the answer. We persuade ourselves that our clients can change, by first running our own life through the process of Life/Work Planning. For, there is an immutable law, written in human nature, which says the way to believe in your clients is to believe in yourself. The way to change your clients is to change yourself. If you are going to help them with deciding where they are going with their lives, first decide where you are going with yours. Sit down and run your own life through any process you intend to teach, before you presume to impose it on your hapless clients.
Now, many of you will find this truth self-evident, and wonder why I bother to mention it at all. Well, it's because in the U.S. at least I have seen so many vocational and careers guidance people who want to be more effective in their work, and will pay any price – except that of dealing with their own lives first. I am usually pretty understanding about this, about the limits of human nature, but sometimes I must confess it does get to me. I get frustrated to see such resistance, and when I get frustrated I have been known at times to fall into mild sarcasm: such as saying that our society has developed two beautiful ways to avoid the job-hunt: one is to remain unemployed, and the other is to become a careers guidance counselor.
Well, it must not be so among us. If we would be truly effective counselors, if we would teach Life/Work Planning, this must be our motto: "I will not try to teach others anything that I have not first mastered myself in and for my own life."
So, in closing, these are the questions each of us needs to ponder:
"What are the experiences I have had thus far in life, which most turned me on, and which I felt I did well?"
"What are the skills that I most enjoyed using, in those experiences?"
"If I had to put those skills in an order of preference, which is the skill I most enjoy using? And is it with data, or people, or things?"
"What are the fields of interest I most enjoy exploring – in magazines, books, seminars, workshops, and life?"
"If I could not do my present job any more, but I received ten million dollars and never had to work again, what would I spend my volunteer time doing?"
"If I had to visit different work settings, in order to learn more about them, which ones would I most like to visit?"
"How could I plan to have more leisure time, more time with my loved ones and friends, now, in this present time, without waiting for retirement?"
"What do I want to achieve before I die?"
An English author, named John Wilson, stated the rationale for Life/Work Planning better than anyone – even though he was not, at that time, writing about Life/Work Planning. In a book written thirty years ago, now long out of print, he stated it like this:
"My life has been a reasonably full life; but my chief regret is that it has not been full enough. What I regret is not the occasions on which I have suffered, or made a fool of myself, or made choices which led to trouble; I regret rather the occasions on which I could have said 'Yes' to life, and in fact said 'No.' The same is true in my relationships to other people. I repent not so much of the damage I have caused them by doing something, but the damage I have caused by not doing something: it is the missed opportunities of helping people, of enlarging their experience, of loving them, that worry my conscience – the sins of omission rather than of commission. The most tragic thing in life would be to lie on one's death-bed thinking of all the things one had not done, the experiences one had not had, but would have liked to. So if I had to push people at all, I should try to push them into fuller lives, to persuade them to say 'Yes' to life and not to say 'No.' On this earth, at least, we only have one life; and we might as well make the most of it."
That is what Life/Work Planning is all about. Helping our clients to make the most of their life, helping them to say 'Yes' to life, so that on their death-bed they do not lay dying and thinking of all the things they have not done, the experiences they have not had, but would have liked to have.
But first we must learn and re-learn how to say 'Yes' to life ourselves. Life/Work Planning is for us before it is for them.
So, in this journey, I wish you well. I wish you Godspeed.