Career Advice

Jeff Saperstein (jsaperstein@jeffsaperstein.com, jeffsaperstein.com, linkedin.com/in/jeff-saperstein) is a career-transition coach based in Mill Valley. Read past columns.

An important step in career planning is to answer two simple but profoundly difficult questions:

What do you want to accomplish?

What is hindering you from achieving it?

Sure, it is easy to say, “I want a promotion, more money, freedom, prestige, security, lose weight, etc.”

However, these answers may skirt the real issues.

What we say we want may be conditioned by what we believe others expect or have determined for us — what American psychologist Abraham Maslow termed externally generated self-esteem.

And what hinders us includes our own limiting beliefs of what is possible, often conditioned negative attitudes, false interpretations and a hidden demon that we are not good enough, smart enough, deserving enough or put together enough to succeed.

What does fear that hinders sound like, and how it can be reframed for success?

Jane is a 50-year old woman who has graduated from prestigious schools with degrees in engineering. She worked in large telecom firms and then spun off as a Consultant in Silicon Valley. She has gone from gig to gig trying to help other start-ups succeed and has tried to start up her own business.

When asked what she wants to achieve, Jane says she wants to build a $30 million software startup. She has neither headed a company nor brought a startup to exit, but she has the knowledge of how she has seen others do it.

Her father gave her love if she was smart, did things successfully and shined. He disdained her if she did not excel. This was indeed the source of her demon. She could see that her expectations to build a $30 million startup were a result of conditioning. She admits that she is disappointed with herself for what she is now doing in her career and fears she is not going to be who she imagined she would be.

As we went deeper into what she really wants, she articulated that she would really like to help enable the next generation of leaders in software services development. Her desire is to be in an environment where she is valued and trusted, where her creativity, curiosity, collaborative leadership can lead to great solutions executed with others. Her real strength is in how to guide others in assigned roles and to direct a team.

With these realizations she can begin to build realistic goals and a plan to achieve what she really wants.

Amy had been a professional fundraiser for 16 years. She has been out of work for a couple of years and is raising baby triplets. She wants to go back to work when her kids can be enrolled in preschool.

But Amy says she hates fundraising.

She says that the world pigeon-holes her into fundraising; Everyone she knows in her business community associates her with being a fund development professional. She is stuck.

We begin to identify transferable skill sets that enable Amy to build on her organizational and fund development experience, but get her out of a role she no longer wants to play.

Amy is passionate about certain global issues and she can focus her job search to an organization that she can bring value to, but enable her to have flexible time to raise her children.

Career Advice

Jeff Saperstein (jsaperstein@jeffsaperstein.com, jeffsaperstein.com, linkedin.com/in/jeff-saperstein) is a career-transition coach based in Mill Valley. Read past columns.

So what does life-changing fearlessness look like?

Bill had been a seeker as a young man, had lived in an Ashram, and followed the 60’s hippie lifestyle. Eventually, he worked his way into human resources and rose to a high-level position as the lead career coach for a Fortune 100 company. He has an established reputation for excellence in executive coaching.

In his mid-50s Bill realized he was getting diminished satisfaction. While receiving external confirmation that he was at the top of his game, he recognized that he was no longer doing what he really aspired to do.

Today at 62 Bill is transitioning out of executive coaching and devoting his time to being a Hospice worker.

He lives simply, on a mountaintop with his dog, and comforts those who are about to depart from the world. Bill told me he almost feels guilty for how good he feels holding the hand of an unconscious elderly woman with the knowledge that this loving kindness will be the last experience she will have on earth.

You can see from each of these true case stories that at different life stages our needs and aspirations may change. You can reduce stress and increase your happiness: reset your life plans to better fit your present consciousness and circumstances; find your real “Truth” of what you want to become; identify and reduce the mental, emotional barriers; set realistic goals that may be a stretch, but are attainable; and begin the steps to action.