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Career Dreams: Ask Not What You Can Get – But What You Can Give

21 Feb, 2012

Career Dreams: Ask Not What You Can Get – But What You Can Give

I coached a woman who is really burnt out on her job/career and wants to make a drastic change. In spite of the fact that she herself is a career counselor, she’s been spinning her wheels and getting totally discouraged. Her situation has been difficult for a long time, but now it’s heightened by her fear that she can’t have what she wants because of the poor economy.

I tried my best to break through her fears and her traditional approach to gaining the contribution she wants, but I’m not sure she was able to hear what I was saying through the fog of her anxiety. My hope is that my written words might work greater magic and in writing to her I might offer some insight to others who have a similar challenge. So I write to all of you out there who are holding back from what you really want to do because you can’t see your way to it.

Sometime ago I heard a story about a man who was on his hands and knees, rummaging on the ground for his lost keys under a street lamp. A second man comes along and offers to help, dropping to his knees as well. As they pursue the lost object together, the second man starts a conversation: “So where did you lose the keys, anyway?” he asks. The first man points away from where they are into the dark area around them. The second man scratches his head, “You lost your keys over there, but we’re looking for them here?” he asks incredulously. “Why here?” he continues. The first man says, “Because the light is better here!”

This story illustrates the lunacy we all face when we take action that is counter to what we really want. Say you want to pursue a career in making films. You’ve made some films and you’ve made some attempts to connect with organizations in the film making business, but you haven’t yet landed on a “job” in this field. At the same time, you’re tired of doing the paid work you’re currently doing and discouraged about finding work in the film world. You just don’t think it’s possible because with all your efforts of networking, you haven’t yet found a connection into that arena.

What do you do?

I think you need to look at this situation from a new vantage point. It’s not a vantage point about looking for a job. Chances are if you look through this lens, you’ll not get what you want. You need to look from the vantage point of what you want to give to the world, not from what you want to get from the world. This may seem like semantics, but it’s not – it’s really a shift in focus. Instead of looking to get something, you’ll be looking to give something.

What can you give to the world with your film making/journalistic talents this woman may ask herself? Since she is currently a career counselor – is there a film she could make that would spur people to action in learning more about various careers?
For example, there is a Web site called fabjobs.com that recruits experts in a vast number of fields and asks them to write books that outline the ins-and-outs about getting established in those careers –

FabJob Guide to Become an Actor, an Advertising Copywriter, an Antiques Shop Owner, an Archaeologist, an Art Curator, and an Art Gallery Owner are just the titles under “A.”

If our aspiring film maker would approach this site with an offer to create some companion videos, she might just create an opportunity for herself. Granted, this would be a risk and it would be trying to create something from nothing, but if she played her cards right and created some really great films, she might just be adding the kind of value this Web site would be happy to pay good money for. After all, in this age of streaming video, books may start losing their luster. She could demonstrate with a pilot for the site, how hungry customers might be for such video.

Another site to approach would be vocationvacations.com – a site that was established to give people a taste of a career dream through a vacation experience, prior to jumping into the new field with both feet. Our aspiring film maker could suggest some videos about the success of the participants on this site. She might offer to do some video capture of some of the mentors on the site.

I know it’s a stretch for many of us to be thinking more about proposing something than fitting into an existing position, but especially in these times, it’s important to take some risks and put ourselves out there. We never know if we are tapping into an unmet need that creates opportunity in a way we couldn’t have imagined.

I started my career in collaborating with people to get their career dreams met back in the early 1980’s when the country was in a bad recession. My clients even then taught me the lesson that I had read in books such as What Color is Your Parachute? That if you wanted to get a foothold in a career that you truly loved, you’d have to go out there and propose something – not once, but many times. Whenever they would come back with an offer that resulted from something they proposed, we couldn’t believe our eyes – this approach really did work!

To succeed at this approach yourself, give yourself the opportunity to decide just what it is you want to be doing next. Do a bit of research to see who out there would really profit from your making that contribution. And challenge yourself to give your skills away out there – propose, propose, propose. And look out for those who want what you have to offer!

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