Transform Your Work Experience

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Apr 292014
 

Usually, when a person becomes dissatisfied with work, he/she first thinks of changing jobs, but the job may not be the primary issue. Perhaps it is one’s attitude toward work. Here’s why.

The experience of work is strongly governed by factors internal and external to the person. Internal factors include one’s motivation and unresolved emotional issues, matters that can strongly influence how one views work. Here are some examples. When one’s motivation is to prove self-worth through accomplishment, as was true in my case, there can never be enough external proof of that self-worth. Psychology tells us that self-worth issues must be addressed with self-reflection and body awareness, both internal processes, in some cases with the help of a therapist.  If you have doubts, read my book to see how a career of substantial accomplishment didn’t help me feel better about myself. Only when I started the internal process of self-reflection did I find what I was looking for.

Unresolved emotional issues include attitude toward authority, often related to one’s relationships with parents. When one has a strong negative reaction to hierarchy and authority, it can be difficult or impossible to accept coaching and direction. Negative experiences with siblings can also lead to problems as a team player and in relationships with peers.

When work issues arise, it is very difficult for most of us to look at ourselves to see if we are part of the problem. It is much easier and less confronting to see the problem as an external one having to do with the environment, type of work, peers, and supervisors. However, if the basic issue is, for example,  one’s difficulty accepting direction and working with peers, changing jobs may not help if that new position has the same requirements.

While it may be uncomfortable to look inside, the good news is that we have much more influence on our internal processes than we have on the external environment. Self-reflection is always possible, but making the workplace more acceptable to us may not be even with a job change.

Internal and external factors that influence job satisfaction are complex, and the above discussion is only any introduction. However, the “bottom line” is to look inside and outside when dissatisfied with work. There are circumstances under which a job change is needed, but in many cases a more satisfying experience can be achieved without such a change by looking inside.

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 Posted by at 6:47 pm

When Seeking a New Position, Broaden Your Vision

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Apr 192014
 

When I was retiring from Exxon at 51 and seeking a new position, I was fortunate to have an outplacement counselor to advise me. He helped me prepare for the search by determining my personality type, looking at my primary interests, defining target industries, preparing a resume, and dealing with several other important issues.

I didn’t realize it as I went into this process, but this counselor helped me see that I was preparing myself to find a position very much like the one I was leaving. Here’s how I came to understand the need to broaden my vision. I had been general manager of Exxon corporate research, and when I identified an opening for general manager of corporate research at a large chemical company, I set my sights on that job. I convinced the “head hunter” who had the task of helping fill the position that I was a viable candidate who had experience in the same position in an organization about twice the size of this one. However, the company decided not to interview me, because I didn’t have a PhD. My counselor listened to me as I railed about how unfair and absurd this decision was, and when I had finished, he simply said, “Bob, why don’t you concentrate of companies that are interested in your capabilities and not your pedigree.” I asked what he had in mind, and he told me that small companies would be interested in whether I could do the job regardless of my education. Up until this time, I hadn’t even considered small companies.

Subsequently, I started looking seriously at small companies, and this new focus in only about two months led me to Fuel Tech, a startup of which I eventually became CEO. I had a very productive four years at Fuel Tech, starting as research director. I received about 20 patents for my work there. Some of those patents provided important protection for that company’s primary business, reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions, for about 20 years. My book contains more information about this important period of my life.

The advice I received from my counselor was pretty obvious as I reflected on it years later. It makes complete sense to look at all the options, not just the ones with which we are most familiar and comfortable. However, our human tendency is to simplify life by limiting options. In doing so, we severely limit our future and the possibility of finding the job that is a perfect fit, the one that allows us to express who we are through what we do. The period of transition to a new position is a wonderful and appropriate time to look at work with fresh eyes and “spread our wings.”

Particularly for those who have been searching for a job for a long time, I recommend broadening the vision and the target opportunities.

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 Posted by at 12:13 am