The Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore - Read Online
The Pathfinder
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DO YOU JUMP OUT OF BED EVERY MORNING AND RUSH TO A JOB YOU LOVE?

Or is the work you once enjoyed now just a way to pay the bills? Perhaps you're even doubting your career choice altogether. Let The Pathfinder guide you to a more engaging, fulfilling work life. Based on breakthrough techniques developed by Rockport Institute, an innovative and award-winning career-counseling network that has changed the lives of over 10,000 people, The Pathfinder offers invaluable advice and more than 100 self-tests and diagnostic tools that will help you choose an entirely new career -- or view a current job from a new, more positive perspective. You'll learn:

* How to design your new career direction step by step so that it fits your talents, personality, needs, goals, values, and is, at the same time, practical and attainable

* How to deal successfully with the "yeah but" voices in your head that keep you going back to the same old ill-fitting job, day after day

* How to land the perfect job in your new field, plus tips on writing a really exceptional résumé, personal marketing, and networking (even for those who hate to network)


Whether you're a seasoned professional in search of a career change or a beginner just entering the working world, you want to make the right choices from the beginning. No matter where you are in your journey, if you want work to be more of a dance than a drag, The Pathfinder will expertly coach you through the process of designing a career you will love.
Published: Touchstone on
ISBN: 9781451626032
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NICHOLAS LORE is the originator of the field of career coaching and the founder of Rockport Institute, an organization that has guided thousands of professionals, executives, high-tech people, artists, support staff, and government officials through career change, and has helped numerous young people design their work. He has been commended for excellence by two U.S. presidents.

This Is the Perfect Book for You If:

You’ve walked a city street with other people on their way to work. Many of them look resigned, stressed, or a little blank. These people are obviously not looking forward to their workday. Suddenly you realize that you are not just an observer. You are one of them.

Or

Like a leaf in the wind, you have been blown into a career by the winds of circumstance and by decisions that seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

Or

You entered the job market with high hopes that you would be starting a terrific career. By now it is painfully apparent that you made some sort of misjudgment: Somehow you have found yourself in the job from hell—or, even worse, you are bored most of the time with the daily grind of tasks that don’t even begin to make use of your intelligence and abilities.

Or

You used to really enjoy your work. It used to be full of challenges. When friends sang the career blues, it never crossed your mind that anything like that could ever happen to you. But now your gum has lost its flavor on the bedpost.

Or

You have visited career counselors and read numerous books on career and personal growth. You have done everything you can think of to find your true vocation. You know much more about yourself. Yet dark clouds still obscure your future direction.

Or

You are a mindful young person. You and your friends are trying to figure out what to do with your lives. You want to have a career that really sings and soars, that gives you a real life. Your friends are deciding their fates the same way their parents did—and you know how that turned out.

Or

You had a job. You knew it wasn’t the right one, but at least it paid the bills. Now it is gone or about to slip away. You could follow the crowd and repeat your last mistake or take this opportunity to carve out a new and better future.

Or

You are good at your job. You just don’t seem to have a sense of purpose. You want to do something that means more to you personally. You may close your eyes and imagine pounding through stormy seas at the helm of a Greenpeace rubber boat just inches ahead of a Japanese whaling ship. But then the vision fades. When you open your eyes, you are back in your day-to-day life. Sure, it would be exciting on that boat, but it doesn’t seem very realistic. Nevertheless, you definitely want to do something with your life that matters.

Also by Nicholas Lore

Now What?

For Mitra

MY WIFE, TWIN FLAME, AND INSPIRATION

CONTENTS

Section 1 • LIVING A LIFE YOU LOVE

CHAPTER 1: THIS CAN BE YOUR GUIDE

CHAPTER 2: YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO

CHAPTER 3: HOW TO DECIDE

CHAPTER 4: USE THE PATHFINDER AS YOUR GUIDE

Section 2 • HOW TO GET FROM HERE TO THERE (THE LIBRARY)

CHAPTER 5: WHY YOU DON’T GET WHAT YOU WANT

CHAPTER 6: THE POWER OF COMMITMENT

CHAPTER 7: MAKING DECISIONS—A SHORT COURSE

CHAPTER 8: GOALS AND PROJECTS

CHAPTER 9: QUESTIONS

CHAPTER 10: WHEN YOU GET STUCK

CHAPTER 11: THE BOTTOM LINE—RESEARCH

CHAPTER 12: RIGHT LIVELIHOOD

CHAPTER 13: SEVEN KEYS

CHAPTER 14: THE ROCKPORT CAREER DESIGN METHOD

Section 3 • DESIGN YOUR CAREER

PART 1 • WHO AM I? PERSONALITY, TALENTS, ROLES, FUNCTIONS

CHAPTER 15: TEMPERAMENT AND PERSONALITY

CHAPTER 16: YOUR CORE PERSONALITY

CHAPTER 17: NATURAL TALENTS

CHAPTER 18: NATURAL ROLES

CHAPTER 19: THE GAMES OF LIFE

CHAPTER 20: THEY PAY YOU TO PERFORM SPECIFIC JOB FUNCTIONS

PART 2 • WHY WORK? MEANING, PURPOSE, GOALS, REWARDS

CHAPTER 21: PASSIONS, MEANING, MISSION, PURPOSE

CHAPTER 22: VALUES AND REWARDS

PART 3 • WORK WHERE? WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT

CHAPTER 23: WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT

PART 4 • PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

CHAPTER 24: WHICH CAREERS FIT BEST?

CHAPTER 25: FINAL RESEARCH AND MAKE THE CHOICE

CHAPTER 26: WHAT IF NOTHING FITS OR I CAN’T DECIDE?

Section 4 • MARKETING AND JOB SEARCH

CHAPTER 27: PERSONAL MARKETING PRINCIPLES

CHAPTER 28: THE JOB SEARCH

CHAPTER 29: ROCKPORT TYPE AND TALENT INDICATOR

RESOURCES AND CONTACT INFORMATION

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INDEX

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

—JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

The

PATHFINDER

Section 1

LIVING A LIFE YOU LOVE

You have never used a book like this before. It is designed to take you through the process of choosing your future career rather than just reading about doing so. As you continue through The Pathfinder, it will become your personal career coach and guide. Many people say that this book seems to be speaking directly to them alone. Of course this is not true, but you will find that you have an opportunity to develop a very personal coaching relationship with The Pathfinder. This relationship will help you deal successfully with everything you need to consider, as well as learn practical new ways to move forward from your present uncertainty and design a career that will fit you elegantly, perfectly, like custom-tailored clothes. I hope you will choose to be a participant, and not just a reader. If you want to change your career, or if you are a younger person making a first-time career choice, you’ve found a book that was written just for you.

CHAPTER 1

THIS CAN BE YOUR GUIDE

Once, I was in the same situation you are facing today. It was time to decide what to do with my life. I committed myself to doing whatever was necessary to make a truly excellent career choice because I passionately wanted to wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work each day. This is the book I searched for then but did not find.

I remember an extraordinary, imaginary book that first framed my boyhood vision of what I hope The Pathfinder will be for you. Each month, Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, would find themselves in the middle of a full-tilt comic-book adventure. When things got completely hopeless, when the forces of chaos seemed sure to win, they always pulled off a miracle. Out of their knapsack came their infallible guide and problem solver, The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook. It had an absolutely perfect, creative solution for every situation they stumbled into, no matter how obscure or difficult. It was the complete guide to life.

Since then, I have passionately sought those rare volumes of chuckery that surface in the real world. Every once in a while, one appears—the seminal guidebook to some aspect of life. Inspired by these wonderful books, The Pathfinder is intended to be one small chapter of The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook: how to decide what to do with your life. Whether you are in midcareer change or are making career decisions for the first time, it is designed to get you successfully through the process of planning your future.

How can an intelligent person, committed to choosing a new career path, decide exactly which direction to pursue? That is a question I began asking many years ago. At the time, I was restless and bored with my job. I ran a conservation and solar energy company on the coast of Maine. I had written and been responsible for passing legislation that saved thousands of beautiful historic houses from destruction and had recently been commended for excellence by the White House. My office looked out on a beautiful harbor where lobster boats and foghorns greeted the new day. Yet I had trouble getting through the workday. Even with an extensive background in psychology and Eastern philosophy, I had difficulty understanding why my workday left so much to be desired. How could it be that working on interesting projects in an idyllic setting and making a positive difference in the world and getting recognition could get boring? It was an absolute mystery to me.

I then searched all over New England to find someone to help me solve my problem. I called nearly every counselor in the region. I told them I was seeking to choose a new career where I would be able to wake up in the morning and look forward to work. I said I wanted to find a vocation that was challenging, creative, and that I would passionately enjoy, where I could use my talents to their fullest, doing something that mattered to me. None of them seemed to know what it took to have a really phenomenal career. In fact, I could tell from their voices that many of them didn’t seem to love what they did, either.

Finally, I took my problem to a wise old man who was a fellow member of my boat club. As it turned out, I was lucky enough to pick the ideal supporter, R. Buckminster Fuller. Many people have heard of Bucky because he invented the geodesic dome. The building at Epcot Center that looks like a huge silvery ball is one of his many revolutionary designs. Bucky was much more than an architect. If you can imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda combined in a real person who was at the same time a master futurist, scientist, engineer, architect, inventor, mathematician, philosopher, and mystic, you get a little hint as to who he was. I struggled with my dilemma for what seemed like eons. Ultimately, with his encouragement, I decided to dedicate my life to tackling the very problem I had so much trouble solving myself. I founded an organization dedicated to developing more effective ways to help people make career and education choices.

Since 1981, that organization, Rockport Institute (www.rockportinstitute.com), has been a pioneer in developing career coaching programs that successfully guide clients through the process of career decision making. These programs consist of clear-cut steps that help clients choose a specific career that will be highly satisfying, give them the opportunity to reach their goals, use their talents at the highest possible level, and be practical and achievable. From the beginning, we have been committed to developing the best tools to help people make the best decisions. Rockport Institute has helped many thousands of clients from all walks of life: young and old, rich and poor, scientists, professionals, executives in career change, artists, professional athletes, students, and people reentering the workforce. Our clients include people who have been fabulously successful and others who never reached their goals because of an ill-fitting career. We have had the opportunity to serve as personal career consultants to several national and global leaders, C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies, senior policy makers of four presidential administrations, and people in nearly every field of endeavor. Our clients have one thing in common: a strong desire for a very fulfilling career.

For the last thirty years, as director of Rockport Institute, my single-minded passion has been to help intelligent, complex people like you live remarkable lives that are self-expressed and satisfying by stretching themselves beyond their everyday circumstances and the perceived limitations that hold them back. I have written this book to duplicate, as closely as possible, the experience you would have if we were to sit together in the same room and work step-by-step until you reach your goal: knowing for sure what you will do with your life—or, at least, this part of it. In these pages, you will find a pathway through the process of deciding what to do with your life that can actually get you to (or closer to) the goal line. For the first time, you will have access to most of what you need to reach your goal of picking an outrageously excellent new direction, choosing your first career, or tuning up your present path. By looking from new perspectives at the questions you have previously been unable to answer, you will finally have a chance to sort them out.

You will also have an opportunity to look into areas of your life you may have never considered before. You will find some of these components absolutely critical to making the best possible career decision. The Pathfinder will help you break everything important down into small, bite-size pieces and deal with them one by one. Far from offering a generic, cookie-cutter approach, this book will enable you to customize your journey through the morass of questions and uncertainties to fit your own particular needs.

I will completely respect and appreciate you and your unique nature. At the same time, I won’t pull punches or be too polite to give it to you straight. I don’t mind at all if you jump up and down and curse me when you get frustrated. After all, I’m just a book.

The Pathfinder will help you examine every aspect of your life that relates to career. Designed to be a universal guide, it should work for you regardless of your age, background, education, point of view, and experience. If you are a recently deposed emperor, you won’t be treated like a teenager. And if you are a teenager, don’t worry, you won’t be treated like a deposed emperor. Rather than just discussing theoretical ideals about career fulfillment, The Pathfinder is designed to actually take you toward your goal of deciding exactly what you will do with your life.

Using this book as your guide may take you all the way to your goal of designing a career that is both perfect for you and practical. It has guided many thousands of intelligent, committed people all the way to having 100 percent certainty about what they will do with their lives. Others make it most of the way or partway to that goal, but need time, experience, professional coaching, or something else to cross the finish line. The Rockport Career Design Method you will use throughout this book helps you answer the question What am I sure will be the important components of my work? The most powerful way to design your career is to become sure about the answers to questions such as How will I make best use of my natural talents and personality? What workplace environment will support my best effort? How important is it to do something that personally matters to me, and what specifically will that be? Asking and answering those big questions about your future build islands of certainty that move your career design project forward. Becoming absolutely sure about one piece of the puzzle makes it easier to sort out the other pieces.

You Can Do It!

The difficulties you may have faced, the times you have gotten stuck, and the less than perfect decisions you may have made previously do not signify that there is something wrong with you or that the world of work must be a hard, dark, cold, dreary place. If you want to do something with your life that really sings and soars, all you need to do is to start your journey here. No matter what your situation, you can do it if you go for it wholeheartedly and keep going until you arrive at your destination. But remember, this book can’t do it for you. Only you can make the choices that build your future work, piece by piece.

Decide How You Are Going to Keep Track of Everything

Before you start this career design process, please decide what format you will use to keep notes and do inquiries. If you are 100 percent digital, create a folder or whatever works for you to organize this project. If not, get a good notebook. An old-fashioned three-ring binder would be perfect. In any event, don’t use your head to store your clues, insights, decisions, and questions. Write them down.

CHAPTER 2

YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO

The Pathfinder contains inquiries as a way to generate clues about what is important to you. These inquiries are tools that provide a useful way to ask good questions and choose definite components and elements of your future work. Here’s the first.

INQUIRY 1

Back to the Beginning

Remember back to your childhood, back to the beginning of the journey. Remember your childhood visions of the future.

What were those dreams? What were those wild fantasies of yours? What seemingly perfect careers did you imagine as you were growing up?

How did you feel when you imagined yourself in the midst of one of these fantasies? Feel now what it felt like then.

If you were like most of us, you dreamed of an exciting future where you were passionately engaged in life. Perhaps you dreamed of being a rock star or a professional athlete, a detective, or the first empress of the galaxy. You might have envisioned yourself as a brilliant surgeon, as an artist, or swinging from a vine over a bottomless chasm. Wiser now, you might smile at the naïveté of childhood dreams. Your vision may not have been reasonable or practical, but it was certainly passionate. It put you in the midst of a life that was fully lived.

How well does the word work fit with your childhood dream job? Doesn’t it seem strangely out of place? The way these fantasies usually occur seems to fit better into the category of adventurous vacation or getting paid to play. Our dream jobs are more play than work. When people dream of being a lawyer, they aren’t thinking about being buried under endless piles of deadly dull paperwork or having to defend an unscrupulous client. In our dreams of being a fireman, we are fighting the fire, not repacking the hoses or passing long nights in the firehouse playing endless games of pinochle with two cards missing from the deck.

When you get down to the very skinny truth, under all the sophisticated conversation and pretense, no one really wants to work if that includes a life of suffering. One definition of the word work that is not in the dictionary, but nevertheless is a part of our internal dictionary, goes something like Work—something I would rather do less of or something I have to do when I would rather do something else. Underneath all the serious reasons people give to explain why they want to change careers, lead a company, write a book, or drive an eighteen-wheeler, there is an essential, powerful motivation that’s not discussed in polite, sophisticated company. They want to do something they are passionate about. They want satisfaction, an adventure. And they want to have fun.

I don’t mean idle, frivolous fun. In our visions, we savor life, we are brilliant at what we do, and people appreciate our contribution. Our dreams are shaped by our own individual inner templates of what matters the most to each of us: self-expression, adventure, power, a certain picture we have of success, enjoyment, making a difference, being a member of a team that’s going for it 100 percent, making beautiful things, personal growth, solving problems, healing, teaching, machismo, raising a family.

The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.

—MARK TWAIN

If you were to look around, there do seem to be some people involved in careers that include all the elements we value. There is a satisfied minority that actually looks forward to going to work. Sure, they call it work in front of other people. They are being polite.

Reality 101—What’s Really Going On out There?

Most men would feel insulted if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then throwing them back again, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now.

—HENRY DAVID THOREAU

When I was a boy, my friends and I would watch the men in dark suits walk to the train station for the ride into Philadelphia. We were, in our blessed state, Tarzans of the jungle pretending to see the civilized world for the first time from our hidden vantage point at the edge of the bamboo grove. The men seemed to drag enormous, invisible weights along with them, as if they were sucked toward the city by some mysterious, invisible magnet. We imagined that they were zombies answering the call of the voodoo master. We did not have to stretch our imaginations very far. They did look a little like zombies. They had lost the joy of living.

From The Huge Book of Hell © 1997 by Matt Groening. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books USA, NY. Courtesy of Acme Features Syndicate.

Every once in a while, I take a ride on the subway during the morning rush hour. Even though I no longer watch from the edge of the jungle, I still observe people on their way to work. At first glance, they seem fine, concentrating on their newspapers or lost in thought. But look again, with the eyes of a child. What’s really happening here? Perhaps resignation is the best word to describe the general mood. Many of these folks are enduring, submitting. My friends and I were being theatrical in imagining zombie magnets pulling people to dark fates, but, hey, let’s face it: These people are definitely not looking forward to going to work. Maybe they are still half asleep? Might they awaken by the end of the day? Take the same subway when people are on the way home from work. Any improvement? Actually, if anything, it has gotten worse. Now there is fatigue mixed with the resignation. Some of them look like they’ve just done fifteen rounds in the ring.

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.

—LILY TOMLIN

To make these observations a little more scientific, I have also ridden the subway when people were on their way to see their beloved football team play. The train is filled with a spirit of excitement, enthusiasm. People talk and joke with others they have never met before. The mood is playful, with the channels of communication open, the passion for life obvious. It’s irresistibly delicious. So now we know, after careful scientific inquiry, that it is not the subway ride that darkens the riders’ lives. It must be something about their work.

Not everyone on the subway is dreading work. As a matter of fact, some people are more satisfied than they look. They are hiding it. Try stepping onto the subway one morning filled with enthusiasm, doing a little soft-shoe routine, whistling, radiant, alive. People will shoot you looks that suggest that you must be on the way to the Mad Hatter’s tea party. You are a threat to their resignation. If there were more people like you around, they might have to wake up and get a life. They want to make sure that you do not disturb their somnambulism, so they glower in your direction to stop that infernal dance that’s intruding on their dark daze. So the people who love their work play it cool. They camouflage their enthusiasm in order to look normal.

If you divided the subway riders into categories, based on overall career satisfaction, you would discover a wide range of levels of fulfillment. Many surveys have looked into this question over the years. Some of them paint an overly rosy picture because people tend to respond to casual How’s it going? questions with all’s well. In-depth surveys suggest that most people are not satisfied with their work. At Rockport Institute, we surveyed 1,500 college grads from ages twenty-one to sixty in an attempt to get at the unvarnished truth. Here’s what we found. (We did round off the numbers a little.)

The Career Satisfaction Scale on the next pages contains some good news as well as some very bad news. First the bad: 40 percent of American workers are at least somewhat unhappy with their jobs. Ten percent are in a condition I call career hell, a condition very dangerous to their well-being, their health, and to everyone around them. If you include the Neutrals, fully 70 percent of us go to work without much enthusiasm or passion.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.

—NORMAN COUSINS

The good news is that about 30 percent of us experience career satisfaction, either liking or loving our work. To me, the most exciting news is that about 10 percent report that they love their work. This significant minority has somehow managed to pull together all the important elements to have its dreams come true. So often we imagine things going well for a distant and mysterious group of people, such as the ones we see on TV: the movie stars, writers, and Nobel Prize winners. To have fully 10 percent of people operating at the highest levels of career satisfaction gives hope that you can do it too. After all, how difficult can it be to be in the top 10 percent if you dedicate your energy to achieving that end?

The American Way of Career Selection

Before we delve into how you can make a career choice that fits you perfectly, let’s take a look at how people usually decide. The American way of career selection goes something like this: During your junior year of high school, the tribal elders, consisting of your parents and your guidance counselor, initiate you into ancient secrets learned empirically over many generations. They whisper the secret in your ear: Start to think about what you may want to do.

You, as green as the jolly giant, don’t notice that this meager advice might be insufficient to plan a brilliant future. You begin your quest. That night you pry your attention away from teenage angst and raging hormones long enough to follow their sage advice. You think about what you may want to do. Perhaps some ideas for potential careers appear out of the mist, like distant, mysterious mountains. Perhaps they don’t. You get no really useful guidance from school guidance counselors or your parents, none of whom realizes that such an important and personal decision must be based on knowing much more about yourself and the world than you do at this tender age.

Career Satisfaction Scale

0 to 10 Scale

10/10

Estimated Percentage of Population:

10 percent

General Description

Work occurs as passionate play. Looks forward to going to work; work seen as vehicle for full self-expression, fun and pleasurable; difficulties interpreted as positive challenges; personal growth and contribution to self-esteem linked to work; little distinction between work and rest of life; sense of purpose and making a difference; uses talents fully; work fits personality; usually exhibits eagerness and alacrity.

Effect on Personal Life

Self-actualized lifestyle; generous—often participates in service to others; loves life; active participant in all aspects of life; goes for the gusto, playful; high level of personal integrity; self-esteem not a major issue; significant increase in longevity and disease resistance.

Contribution to Workplace

Work is an expression of a clear personal sense of purpose or mission; self-generating, does not need supervision; trustworthy—will persist until objective is reached; almost always contributes and is appropriate to the situation; takes correction as an opportunity; the presence of a person living at this level raises others with whom he or she works.

8/10

Estimated Percentage of Population:

20 percent

Positive. Enjoys work much of the time; feels useful; has a sense of mission or that work is meaningful, career meets perceived needs, contributes to positive self-esteem; good fit between work, talents, and personality; high level of competence; value appreciated by others; would say work is pretty good. I like my job.

Satisfying career enhances other areas of life such as self-esteem, quality of family life and other relationships; increased resistance to disease and longevity; overall sense of well-being, enjoys life much of the time.

Usually makes a positive contribution to the organization and other people; effective worker; fairly flexible; needs a minimum of supervision but may not be fully self-generating; handles responsibility well; decision making usually based on what’s needed rather than personal agenda.

6/10

Estimated Percentage of Population:

30 percent

Neutral. Accepts work situation without struggle; can appear to be a valued worker in a procedure-driven organization. Common in government agencies and large, stable corporations. Some may say they like their work, others may grouse. If so, complaining is often simple socializing in an environment where complaining is a preferred mode of communication.

Leads a life that has little positive effect on the community but usually has no significant negative effect, either. Relationships and other aspects of life outside work may be normal but narrow.

May produce quality results in repetitive tasks; contributions are mechanical; little potential for real leadership, initiative, or creativity; resists change; conservatism affects judgment—at best, furthers own ends; would hire the person with the best résumé rather than the best candidate; destructive when placed in a position beyond grasp.

4/10

Estimated Percentage of Population:

30 percent

Negative. Goes to work because forced by circumstances to do so; actively dislikes significant parts of job; daily routine marked by struggle, suffering, clock watching, resentment, resignation; areas of life other than work may be satisfying; work either doesn’t use abilities fully or requires talents not possessed; may be a clash between personality or values and environment; complains about job.

Even though other areas of life may be healthy, career stress usually has negative effect on relationships, health, and longevity. May spend considerable portion of spare time recovering from work. Some erosion of self-esteem contributes to resignation or feelings of powerlessness in other areas.

Destructive to the workplace. Even if lack of satisfaction is hidden, it spreads to other employees; often ineffective because usually wants to be somewhere else; motivated by need rather than by choice. May need supervision to produce consistent high-quality results.

2/10

Estimated Percentage of Population:

10 percent

Career hell. Work is a constant struggle, takes an act of will to go to work each day; strong sense of resentment, deep suffering; major clash between talents or personality or values and requirements of the job; symptoms similar to people between 2 and 4 on this scale except that here the dissatisfaction is more intense and the person feels completely trapped; each day at work erodes self-esteem; profound negative effect on other areas of life.

Because work is so enervating, little psychological room to do more than survive; reduced capacity to support others; difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships; marked hostility or resignation toward workplace; life may be shortened by several years; diminished immune system.

Dangerous and very destructive to environment; liability to self, others, and workplace; resistance (may be passive) to supervision; poor concentration; agenda is at odds with organization’s mission; may feel vindicated by failures of others; needs constant watching.

Much later you find yourself queued up to pick your college major. You remember the mantra Start to think about what you may want to do. By the time you reach the head of the line, you have decided. Years later you will tell friends that your major in Polynesian philosophy seemed like a good idea at the time. Years pass. Like the majority of college graduates, you will have embarked on a career that has nothing at all to do with your college major. How did you make that final choice? Well, you say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

If you are a younger reader, you may think that I am exaggerating. I wish I were. Ask some of my older, midcareer readers who are hit-and-run victims of this process. Look closely. You will know them by the tire tracks across their souls.

Here are the results of two studies for all of you statistics lovers: In a Gallup survey of 1.7 million workers, only about 20 percent said they used their best strengths every day at work. In a Rockport Institute survey, more than 70 percent of successful professionals surveyed thought that they could have done a much better job of making decisions about their lives. They said that they had not known how to go about making choices in a competent way. In another survey, 64 percent of college seniors said they had serious doubts that they had picked the right major.

Many people put more energy, creativity, and commitment into deciding which house to buy or where to go on vacation than into deciding what to do with their lives. More often than not, they drift into a career that doesn’t really fit their talents or live up to their dreams. Others get stuck along the way and spend their lives making unnecessary compromises. Some blindly follow or resist the family career template. If they come from a family of cannibals, they’ll either dine at McFingers or become a strict vegan.

Since the do-it-yourself method, without professional assistance, often fails, what about career counselors? Some colleges provide extremely competent job-hunting assistance, but very few do an excellent job of helping students decide on a career direction. In fact, I have met just a few people who said that their college career center was useful as a source of decision-making tools and coaching, and most of them went to schools that use the philosophy, methods, and tools found in this book. The vast majority agree that college career counselors are well meaning but just do not have the necessary tools at their disposal to be really effective.

It’s not really their fault. Always look to the top to see who is asleep at the wheel. It is the college presidents who don’t seem to care. If they were anything other than totally complacent, it might occur to them to take a survey of alums and ask questions like, Did you make use of the career center to design a fitting career? If so, how effective was it in helping you sort out your life direction? What they would find is that nearly all college graduates agree that college career centers are totally ineffective when it comes to helping students design a career they will flourish in and love. Have you ever known anyone who decided what to do with his or her life as a result of visiting career services? Shouldn’t one important goal of every college or university be to graduate students who at least know generally where they are going and what they will do with their lives—based not on fantasy but on a powerful, in-depth investigation of the many facets of life that bear on career success and satisfaction? Of what real value is a career center that is good at helping graduates find jobs they don’t really want?

Most professional career counseling and coaching is not much better. Several years ago, I conducted a survey of people who had used professional career assistance in New England. Some said that the counseling or coaching was helpful, but the great majority had not been able to decide what to do with their lives. Being certain about your future career is like pregnancy: Either you is or you ain’t. You can’t be 68 percent pregnant. If working with a career coach or counselor doesn’t use a methodology that gets you to the goal of certainty about your future, you will still be where you started out: unsure, questioning, uncertain. Isn’t that the same situation you are facing now? Even though most career counselors are well intentioned, their methods were developed more than fifty years ago to help an unsophisticated public deal with simpler decisions. You may have been exposed to outdated counseling in school or in subsequent attempts to make career decisions. Most people who call themselves career coaches have little training. How effective were these methods in helping you? In these complex times, it becomes more obvious every year that the usual methods of choosing life direction and career path are pitifully inadequate.

If you have worked hard trying to pick a satisfying career and it hasn’t worked out, please let the following sentence seep into the very core of your being: It’s not your fault! Nor is it the fault of a psychological shortcoming or some fatal flaw in your character. It is simply that the tools you have been using aren’t adequate to the task. If you have felt frustrated or depressed that you have been unable to choose well, that is completely normal. It’s got to get to you after a while if you try to pound in nails with a sponge instead of a hammer.

Every aspect of your life is directly related to how well your career fits you. People who are engaged in satisfying, challenging careers that match their talents, personalities, and goals usually achieve a higher degree of success than people who do not care passionately for what they do. They are healthier, live longer, and tend to be more satisfied with other aspects of their lives. They feel their lives are meaningful and a source of joy. An ill-fitting career contributes significantly to stress and depression, and has a profoundly negative effect on self-esteem.

We are what we repeatedly do.

—ARISTOTLE

Whether you are midcareer and contemplating a change or at the beginning of your work life and making a first choice, it is extremely important to make the best possible decisions. If you choose well, your life will be enriched in many ways by your work. If you make a mistake now, you place an unnecessary burden on your shoulders that may be difficult to carry and equally hard to put down.

You spend more time working than doing anything else. Since making the best possible career choice has an enormous impact on the overall quality of your life, attempting this adventure without expert guidance can end in disaster. Left to their own devices, people often find themselves in careers that don’t match their talents and desires. To someone who has never worn shoes, there would not seem to be much difference between size 10 and size 9. However, if you have size 10 feet and spend your life wearing size 9 shoes, you are constantly aware that a small miscalculation makes the difference between comfort and pain. Some people wind up bored or burned out. Some are successful yet remain unfulfilled. Midcareer people who take the risk to improve their lives by making a career change often find their new careers are not much of an improvement. Others pick something impractical or unrealistic, without considering how they could go about making the shift to a new field. These people have done their best, but their best wasn’t good enough.

If you do not feel yourself growing in your work and your life broadening and deepening, if your task is not a perpetual tonic to you, you have not found your place.

—ORISON SWETT MARDEN

The Benefits of a Career That Fits

You enjoy better health, a longer life, more vitality. Read the obituary notices of very successful people. Notice how many celebrated (and notorious) people live into their eighties and nineties. Other than inheriting good genes and taking care of your body, leading a satisfied, purposeful life is the most effective thing you can do to live a long, long life. Most of the people whose deaths are reported in the national media dedicated their energy to the wholehearted pursuit of something that mattered to them. That’s why they became so successful that their death was deemed worthy of mention. You may also infer that they must have found an elegant fit for their talents to have become so accomplished in their fields. Even the gangsters and dictators must have excelled at their evildoings to generate such worldwide notoriety. People whose work is fulfilling are more resistant to disease and heal more quickly when they do get sick. Why not turn your sick days into vacation days? People die in disproportionate numbers within three years of their retirement because they have nothing exciting for which to live.

You have enhanced personal and professional relationships. If you want great relationships, live your life fully. Others want to be around people who lift their spirits out of the petty pace of day-to-day routine. Your enthusiasm will spark those around you, who then become better company themselves. Having your working life be a major source of satisfaction and self-esteem has a powerful positive effect on the other areas of life, including your relationships. You’re more fun to be around.

You’re more successful and more productive. There is a close relationship between career satisfaction and material success. People who enjoy their work put their heart and soul into their careers. How much do you accomplish when you are completely immersed in a task that you really enjoy? Compare this with your productivity when you are forced to do something you don’t want to do.

You have heightened self-esteem. We have managed to turn self-esteem into something mysterious and complex. Simply said, self-esteem is the reputation you have with yourself. How much do you admire people who grumble about their lives, blame their circumstances, and resign themselves to a life of mediocrity? If your career is not satisfying and your self-esteem is low, you’re probably not neurotic. You’re just being honest with yourself! Create a future you will be proud of. Spend