Industrial Myth 1: Career Fail Is Bad Luck


Good morning, campers!

Today we will start our talk about Industrial Mythology. These are the tales we tell ourselves about working, originally dutifully passed down from generation to generation. Oh, the injustices laid at the door of Fortuna! (an image of the Roman goddess of luck, Fortuna, appears for you)  As if life was a thing that simply happens to people!

Here’s the truth: If you let life blow you around like a piece of driftwood, it will do just that. Yes, you will end up on some beach somewhere.

As a kid, I believed that somehow the winds of Fortune would magically blow me toward my “dream job”.  I believed in the myth of the “career ladder”. Just “start somewhere” and climb up from the bottom. This belief was the driver. All I did was unquestioningly follow lock-step grade to grade winning A after A and B after B. I was an excellent student. I got to the honor society, but I was totally unprepared for life after high school graduation (so, I went to college). By becoming life’s flotsam I handed my fate gift wrapped to the winds. Then, I complained to myself and commiserated with everybody who would listen about how “Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined it” and how all my teachers lied to me about “how things should be”.

The emotional reward was a seething sense of resentment against school which goaded my sense of “righteousness” into high gear. Feeling superior. Nothing like it in the world…The amazing thing is how many people in 2016, in the early 21st century still hang on to this tattered old medieval belief that a human being’s life is in somebody/something else’s control. This is straight out of that basic “crap-app” package that the “social factory”(the culture) installs into maturing mental operating systems (you).By merely “drifting” through life with fingers crossed you are handing your powers to decide what happens to you to Fortune’s tides. Next time, we’ll talk about how to “hack” Luck and make that driftwood into a surfboard.



A Sense Of Purpose



“Purpose” is a hot button word these days. Human resource professionals to philosophers are abuzz with it. It’s eel slippery and everything is tied to it. It’s one of those concepts that the closer it is examined, the clearer it is. Then, it becomes clear as ice and disappears into everything. We study and obsess on the subject until it suddenly means nothing. Funny thing: when a strong sense of purpose is in place, everything else falls into order.

In my ministry to the weekly job club in my neighborhood, the number one prayer request is for Heavenly direction. We humans want to have confidence in the “rightness” of our decisions. We want to know for sure that our paths are straight to “the target”. Unfortunately, life is nothing like our left-brained imagination and will not cooperate with any of our straight-to-target plans. Who is brave enough to tell the truth about the real, crooked-as-a-dog’s-hind-leg paths we take to get to “where we are born to be” in life? This is the very reason so many methods to locate life purpose crop up every day–everything from drawing to channeling. The prophets mumble.

We get annoyed to distraction with the “trial and error” methods of discovering, pinning down and hog-tying that one thing we enjoy and do best that the world needs so much people will pay good money to have the service performed.  Remarkably, our perception of “purpose” and that “one thing” are as closely bound together as mace is to nutmeg.

Many look at “sense of purpose” as something that drops down on us from above. Others see it as something that is deeply buried and must be unearthed. Whether we catch it in a bucket or wrestle it out with a shovel, purpose is the keystone of life’s arch.


yellow light!Some resumes do not say, “come to a screeching halt”, but “advance with extreme caution”. These are the “yellow lights” potential employers pick up on in resumes. There are very good books and articles available in the market on-line and off about what to do about resume “red flags” or “red lights” (like an incarceration event), or the leaping red flares that signal that an applicant will not be a great hiring choice. My purpose is to update the list of things that make potential employers suspicious.

World Wide Job Gypsies

Not only has this applicant traveled from job to job, breaking camp every 1/2-2 years, but has gone “from sea to shining sea”. Movement from job to job has no recognizable pattern. Career movements appear unplanned.

Whip and Buggy Era email address

Applicant email address still has @AOL or @hotmail at the end of it. Yellow light: this person does not care about keeping technological knowledge and skills current.

Cannot be found on Social Media

Applicant either has a LinkedIn profile without a picture or no LinkedIn profile at all. Applicant has no presence on Google+, Facebook or anyplace else on-line.

Applicant cannot be “texted”

Probable technology phobic and still uses a “flip phone”. Scared to use smart phones or is averse to learning new things, so cannot be linked into any extra-office sharing system.

Snail paced career movement

Applicant served in one job more than 5 years at one company with no forward movement (no upgrades in responsibility/titles).

Grand Canyons

Huge time gaps between positions. Possible incarceration events, protracted health challenges or recovery episodes? Oh, this is going to be a discussion, but not in any interview at this company!

Take care of the “yellow lights” to keep them from turning into “red lights” that can really stop the progress of a career.

Help! Help! My Funnel Is Empty!

Leads drive the employment campaign

The job funnel

It’s the bane of every salesman’s existence:no leads.

This is how the story goes: no leads–no appointments. No appointments–no opportunities to sell. No opportunities–no sales. No sales–no income. The end. Believe it or not the one thing that scared the crap out of me when I was attempting to get into sales was facing The Empty Funnel. I tried it with makeup; I tried it with kitchen knives; I tried it with health products; I almost tried it with financial services. Same thing. How exhilarating it felt when I floated to the top like fresh Guernsey milk cream at the end of a series of interviews at one company. No biggie for me. You see, I am a veteran inside retail sales rep and customer service is one of my areas of ability. Yes, I won that rookie sales job but I had to walk away from it on the second day of orientation because the very first thing the company asked all the aspiring salesmen to get was THE LIST.

Not a drop

Not a drop

New salespeople were always asked to come up with a list of 200 or so names, addresses and phone numbers. I did not understand this at first, but, THE LIST to a salesperson is 22K gold. THE LIST for an internet marketer is platinum. THE LIST of names of companies and hiring managers is what fills the all-important funnel of leads. Here is a very good explanation of that idea from, “The Career Sherpa” blog. Also, look at Peggy McKee’s Career Confidential. Once upon a time, I tried to do public relations for a start-up business, but made the mistake of not understanding that my job was prospecting for new customers for the business–filling the funnel up. Believe me, prospecting for leads is not easy for introverted souls because introverts like to keep smallish circles of influence. They often resist networking (building relationships is so energy-intensive). Some companies look at introverts on a sales force as trouble.

Just in case somebody is still thinking that a job search is nothing at all like outside sales, let us step back into the discussion about resumes. A “job hunt” (misnomer) is really a sales campaign and the rules of outside sales apply. I say outside sales because in-store salespeople are another related but specialized kind of sales personnel. For inside sales, traffic comes into the shop location from the street. Not so with outside salespeople. For them (and for job seekers) there always has to be a full funnel of opportunities to present the products–specialties, skills an abilities–to a targeted audience. An empty funnel means a longer time being not employed. Period.


Would you believe....?

Would you believe….?

The question is, “Why on earth don’t you settle down and get a job like a normal person?” Or, is it, “Why the **** (choose your own bad word) do you go from-job-to-job so much? Then there is the ever-refreshing, “Why can’t you keep a job?”

I just brought all this up (UGH) as the possible thinking behind the one question that scares applicants the most:”Why did you leave your last job?” Of course it must be answered. The potential employer does has a right to know, so, “Non of your beez-wax!”, although flipping like an Olympic diver on the tip of the tongue, is never the right answer. Oh, yes, there are “right answers” and none of them are:

  • My last boss was a jerk
  • It was a conspiracy against me
  • I lied on my resume
  • I stole millions from the company

Some people–some we even elected to positions of power–can really say that they bad-mouthed the boss, were the object of bullying, lied about having an MBA or stole #Big-Bucks from consumers, friends, family, and shareholders. Regardless whether or not they made the news for what they did, there is a way of handling it on the resume. If the immortals of imfamy can, so can all of us lesser lights. Of course, if there was an “incarceration event” (prison) it is better for the applicant to be candid about it then NOT GET TOO DETAILED. We humans become the stories we tell ourselves. Negative stories make for negative outcomes in interviews. Someone who has spent a substantial amount of time out of the workforce caring for a relative can actually tell that story provided it is short, to the point and told in a positive way. A military wife is not required to hide a lifetime of making multitudes of “homes on the base” in support of a spouse’s career in the armed forces.

The norm is that workers, especially younger ones, seldom stay at one job for more than 2-3 years. There is an unspoken rule, though. Frequent job change might be expected these days, but  the “hopping” has to suggest a thoughtfully planned array.

Resume, Resume, Wherefore Art Thou, Resume?

Wherefore art thou, resume?

Wherefore art thou, resume?

Is it possible to add one more word on the blasted heaths about resumes?

Why, of course! Over the years resumes have morphed from roughly hacked tombstones into personal epics. Here’s what I mean: many folk take their names, contact information and data about all the jobs held, slap them on a nice piece of paper in crisply starched, latest fashionable language and call it a resume. Beware of unscrupulous resume writing professionals who do this too (and charge tall lettuce for it!). Feh! Boring,uninteresting, ineffective and just like all the thousands of others recruiters take a 5-second blink at. Having a resume that looks like all the others in the pile on a recruiter’s desk is the fastest way for it to get crumpled into a wastebasket ball.

Consider that the resume is only one move in the job mating dance. The dance is a series of steps calculated to move the seeker closer to the goal–the interview. That is exactly why a resume should be the most wonderful crown of feathers or the sweetest song or something that makes the dancer different and gets positive attention. Look at this: the very hottest place to “do your dance” these days is on a YouTube video. Some headdress!

The 21st century twist on the basic job search mating dance is the addition of social media to the marketing mix. That’s right: marketing mix. “Resume” can be interpreted, “sales brochure” because a job search is at its core a well thought out and executed marketing campaign. That makes the job seeker not only the product maker but the Project Manager as well.  So, today’s effective, hard-hitting job search campaign will include an updated resume, a clean Facebook view, a Twitter feed and a fully optimized LinkedIn profile. Add to that a website/online portfolio for artists and writers. Next time, how about a closer look at the challenges the “new job search” present and how to handle them?

Heaven, the Racetrack and the Hamster Wheel

This Lenten Season, I have taken on a personal/professional growth goal: working through Dan Miller’s 48 Days To The Work You Love. To force myself out of my one cracking great weakness, procrastination, I borrowed the book from my local library instead of purchasing it immediately. Believe me, this is one work worth the shelf space. It is available in traditional print and Kindle version at . Currently, I am  at the point of defining for myself the words vocation, career and job. Why don’t we travel together in this journey awhile? It would be a hoot!

Career "The Racetrack"

Career “The Racetrack”


We must have clear, personal meanings for vocation, career, and job since these words are too often used interchangeably. A closer examination using the Oxford English Dictionary shows just how farcically inaccurate doing that is.  Consider that the word, “career”, which comes to the English language from a 16th century French word, “carriere”:a “road; a racecourse”. In turn, the French word comes from the Latin, “caraia”:a track for wheeled vehicles. Its root is the Latin word, “carrus”, or, wagon. This is probably where we got the word, “carriage” and “car” from. So, a career is a racetrack–like the Roman Circus Maximums in the movie, “Ben Hur”. Don’t you love this rushing around and around in a circle? Nascar: that’s a career!

Samuel hears the call.

Samuel hears the call.


Gazing deeply at the word, “vocation”, we see in the Merriam Webster Dictionary that this noun strikes one of the main chords in “passion” (another word bandied about these days in employment lingo).  Having a vocation means having a strong desire to be/to belong someplace or in something. Vocation has a “fixation” or object/place of desire. Until the employment profession co-opted the term, it used to mean the personal answer to a divine call toward living a life dedicated to serving in a priesthood. The word has roots in Middle English, Anglo-French and Latin–combining “vocare”, to call, and “vox”, voice. A person with a vocation hears a “call” to a specific kind of work and is in essence “saying yes” in answer to that divine summons. Drawn toward heaven: that’s a vocation.

The J. O. B. (just over broke)

The J. O. B. (just over broke)


Last of all there is the word, “job”. A job is “a paid position of regular employment”, according to the Oxford Dictionaries. This noun seems to be the “one-dollar bill” of economic currency, embracing the idea of a “task” or a “responsibility” carried out on a regular basis. I cannot get a fix on exactly where this word comes from, but it sure carries a nasty connotation that focuses on every-day, basic, common, and even difficult and dirty tasks. It is even used as slang for paid criminal acts. Of all three, this is the word that has in its morphology become an action word. The hamster wheel:what we have to do every day to earn the salt…or the lettuce.

So, tell me…what is the definition of these words in your life?


The VP falls asleep in congress

Now, the man pictured above was caught on camera enduring another obviously impossibly long meeting. This man is fully employed…and he is tired. If this highly paid executive can get weary at work, what about the hundreds of thousands of people who are not working? I say let us get off our friends’, relations and our own backs and face the reality that looking for work is hard work and job seekers have a right to be tired. Think about this:

The very day a once-employed person becomes unemployed, BOOM! That former-worker immediately becomes the project manager of the biggest project in a lifetime: getting another job.  Immediately, everything is her direct responsibility.

After becoming an unlicensed mental health worker in order to slow the slip-n-slide into situational depression, the role of marketing executive immediately demands attention. The newly unemployed worker has to find and run a skills assessment, compare the results with what the market requires and upgrade where necessary. Upgrading skills calls for locating an educational agency, enrolling in coursework and financing it. That’s not all–

  • An employment goal has to be determined and that means becoming a researcher.
  • A timetable has to be created and steps toward the target plotted, so that means becoming a career strategist.
  • A marketing campaign has to be created and put into action including writing a resume (you’re a technical writer, now), creating an elevator speech, and practicing interviewing. That is public speaking–something many people would rather have a double wisdom tooth extraction than do. It can also include an occasional smattering of stagecraft.
  • All the while, the budget for this project is rapidly blowing up because being out of work becomes increasingly more expensive (figure out the gross loss of income and multiply by the time without a job). The CFO (Chief Financial Officer You) is never happy. That is the one who demands getting up at 3:00am to cry,worry and bargain with God.
  • Then, there is the administrative role. Somebody–guess who–has to write, answer and monitor emails; keep the appointment calendar; always answer the phone professionally; create business cards; on and on.

Plus, remember while all this is going on in one ring, the other two in this crazy circus are going on at full tilt–the spouse; the kids; homework; housework; managing chronic conditions (yours and other people’s); managing a household and relationships and more. Nobody does all these jobs like a rock star, but we cross our fingers, go to job clubs that coach job search skills and hope to get good enough at it to get that next job. Meanwhile, so much attention is given to acquiring job search skills that the skills actually used to perform the job act like muscles when they are not regularly used–they atrophy if not exercised. Why are job seekers so tired? So frustrated when the search drags on? Take a good guess!

Eureka! I have found it!

Monday, January 6 is the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany, a commemoration of the Magi’s discovery of the Christ Child. Look at this: it took these wise seekers about two years to locate their target. It took me that long to find my very first job, so an extensive search is not all that farfetched–especially not for those 40+ these days. If one of the goals for 2014 is to find a new job, get a new career, establish a new practice, write a book, or anything important in life, some of the same skills the Magi used to find the Christ Child will be needed. It is going to take a strong sense of mission, perseverance, mental toughness like a tortoise shell, and laser sharp focus. If you’re game to go, the ride this year will begin with talking about what it will take to finally “find that baby”.

Going my way?

On Writing For a Life

Pieter Claeszoon - Still Life with a Skull and...

Pieter Claeszoon – Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writers are very special entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, writers learn late that there is a business side of their art because of a belief that art has nothing to do with business. In order to exist art has everything to do with business.

This is how I learned: I never pursued art. Art chased me and Art has always loved me.

Believe me, I ran from writing for a living for years. Earlier in life, I was angry and envious of people who had abilities to excel in math and science. These people were all but worshiped in school as I was growing up. As a result of testing in the sixth grade, I was tracked into the non-academic track, relegated to remedial classes in math and told I would never be much more than a housewife.

In my strengths analysis (associated with the SAT’s) it was found that I had drama timing sense. I had spatial intelligence so that I could identify the three-dimensional outcomes of flattened shapes. I had color sense and a profound love for words. I had musical intelligence and,most pervasive of all, a deep need for periodic silence and solitude. Back then, introversion was something to be treated as a social malady and my talent mix does not usually lead to engineering.

In this culture, a creative child  is admired as a curiosity like two-headed cat, but the common thinking is that we would shrug off this “unreality” and somehow “grow out of it”. An adult with intentions of becoming a professional artist is judged to be weird at best and immature at worst. Career experts often recommend them to “have a plan B” or “get a real job”. Some parents even threaten not to support children who declare art majors and urge them to switch to accounting because of the fear that the arts have negative career potential after graduation.

To my brothers and sisters in whatever art loves them:

What the gypsy lady says is simple: discover the original factory installation talent and gift package as early as possible, then unashamedly work it to the hilt. The one thing I have found out in my short lifetime is that nothing develops well if not given all it needs for growth. Flowers never bloom when starved of light, good soil and proper nourishment. The plants may grow, but their development may be stunted and ugly. So it is with potential musicians. singers, dancers, painters, sculptors and writers. Regardless of whether or not you will ever make it to Broadway, get rich, and seem totally useless to an ugly, money obsessed culture like ours today, take your native strengths seriously, develop them passionately and avoid frustration and regret later.

I stopped running away from words at last. I turned around and embraced them and here I am speaking to you today.