Are Success and Work-Life Balance Mutually Exclusive?

 

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Success. Work-Life Balance. Two terms that are bandied about and widely discussed. Are they mutually exclusive? Is it possible to be ‘successful’ and achieve work-life balance? It’s a real problem for far too much of the working population. And many will tell you it’s not possible in today’s 50 – 70 hour a week work environment, but I beg to differ.

Let’s begin by defining each of these terms, and they are not easy terms to define because they are highly personal, meaning different things to different people.

SUCCESS: What does success mean to you? There are the trappings of corporate success. A six-figure salary. The corner office. A big title. Then there are the more intrinsic measures of success. Happiness. A life full of meaning. A simple life full of family and community. Maya Angelou defined success as “liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”. This definition resonates with me. ‘

WORK-LIFE BALANCE: This is another definition fraught with interpretation. There are people who indeed ARE their job. Their identity is WHAT they do. And, they are happy. Most definitions I found in researching this blog, referred only to the amount of time you spent working. They all focused on ‘work’. I prefer going back to the origin of the term ‘work-life balance’ from the mid 1801s, when Paul Krassner provided his definition of happiness as “to have as little separation as possible between your work and your play”.

There was a time in my life where I recognized my life had become my career, leaving little room for anything else. Yes, I had recognition. Yes, I had financial rewards. But I had little else, and I do not define myself by my work, so I wasn’t happy. I was exhausted, emotionally drained, empty. I made the choice to leave my job in tech and pursue work in non-profit. While I took a reduction in salary, I still made a comfortable enough income, and was able to pursue personal pursuits and live a life that was fuller. To me, this meant a more ‘successful’ life, a life that allowed me to be happy. I will admit, it’s a struggle to maintain a balanced life. As an entrepreneur, I do find myself at times, working far too many hours. But, I constantly work to keep it in check. ‘Play time” and my personal life nurture a very important side of me, one that keeps me happy, content and energized to continue doing my work.

In my coaching work, I run into people all the time who are either seeking a new job to find that balanced life, or work with me to seek ways to balance their personal pursuits with the job they have. In the end, I believe Krassner had it right. The less your work is separated from who you are, the happier you will be at work. And very likely, you’ll perform your work better, and most likely with more ease, allowing you to put in fewer hours so you can attend to your personal life. This is at the core of my work. I truly believe far too many people have not found that work that ‘is’ them, that work that comes so naturally that it doesn’t feel like work. I used to be an accountant. It was PAINFUL! I was a top student and performed well, but the nature of the work completely stripped my soul. As a result, I was miserable, underperforming and scared. Only when I discovered my true calling, educating and coaching, did my work become, and I hesitate to use the word, easy. Easy because what I do now is who I am. I can’t separate helping people find happiness from the person I am. As a result, I love my work and most days, it barely feels like work. As a result, I don’t end my day mentally and physically exhausted, unable to get off the couch. No, I am energized most days and eager to engage in personal pursuits. This is what I wish for everyone.

So, no magic bullets here. It takes effort, reflection and time to discover the answer that works for you. It may be the 60 hour work week. For many, that is their happiness. But life is short and you spend more time each day at work than doing anything else, so if you’re not happy, if your life is out of sorts, do the work to make a change and discover the life that you are meant to live….happily. And that is success!

 

Want to get your life in balance? Seeking a new job or career? Contact me know to find out how I can help. Schedule a complimentary 15 minute call with me.

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Congrats! You’ve landed that new job! Now what?

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After all your hard work, applying for job after job and networking like crazy, you’ve landed that great career opportunity! Take a moment and savor this time. You’re about to enter the honeymoon phase. You know that time. It starts when you accept the offer and typically runs for 3 -6 months. During that time, you’re in heaven: learning a new job, learning a new culture and coworkers, getting comfortable with what’s expected of you. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. You arrive home each night happy and tired from everything being so new. Enjoy this time! It’s sweet. But for many, it passes far too quickly. Sometimes, and all too quickly, some of the same things that drove you from your old job crop up, or the new environment isn’t quite what you’d hoped it would be. Worse yet, the culture isn’t how it was represented to you. So, what do you do?
After 20 years of being an employee myself, and now as a career coach, I see many different scenarios play out. The following are the three most common, and I spend much of my time coaching clients who have successfully landed a new job, but recognize there is continuing work they need to do.

  1. You fail to change those bad habits that haunted you on your last job. Each new job is an opportunity to reinvent yourself, to shed any old habits that were detrimental to your career. You know that major faux pas you committed at your last job that nobody could forget? Well, the new company doesn’t know anything about it, so you get a fresh start. I once had a client who asked me to work with him to help him ‘show up differently’ when he started a new job. He’d been at his last company for many years, had grown up there, and recognized there were things he’d like to do differently with this fresh start. Through professional coaching, he was able to take on his new role and be the person he wanted to be in his new company and position.
  2. The culture you thought you were joining was more toxic than you imagined. Yes, it happens. You arrive on your first day with what you think is your dream company. They say great things about their culture, they offer a great compensation package, and it seemed like a no-brainer to accept their offer. And, maybe things go well for a few months, during that honeymoon period. But, then it happens. It starts small. A single bad encounter, an off-putting comment from a coworker, or maybe someone goes behind your back. Ok. You take it for what it is and move on. Then it happens again, and again, and yet again. In the worst case scenario, you start to take it personally, or it may even demoralize you to the point that you lose confidence. Having been there myself, I know this is one of the most uncomfortable places to be. The best solution is typically to start your exit strategy. If this is the accepted culture, it’s not likely to change. So in order to stay and thrive, you would have to change. And really, is that what you want to do? I doubt it. The best thing to do is to start taking steps to move to a new job, being very careful to examine the real culture of the next company more carefully.
  3. You thought you were going to love the work you’ve started doing. The job sounded exciting. Maybe it’s a job with lots of travel and that was a prospect you welcomed. Then you discover that spending far too much time in airports with delayed or cancelled flights, visiting different cities, but only seeing hotels, restaurants and offices isn’t the joy you anticipated. Or maybe you landed a job in your college major only to discover that’s not the work you want to do. That happened to me. I was a happy and successful accounting major in college, but learned accounting was in no way the right career choice for me. The solution, once again, is research.

I hope you never find yourself in any of these, or other, situations, but chances are at some point you will. Don’t remain stuck. Life is too short and you will do your best work when you are making use of your skills and working with the people and company that are a fit for you. Keep your resume fresh, your LinkedIn profile active and ALWAYS be passively looking for that next job.

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Webinar Wednesdays are Back!

So pleased to announce the 2017-2018 schedule of Webinar Wednesdays! Join me on the 2nd Wednesday of each month for a 1-hour workshop on all things career and job-search related. Registration will be available later this week.  Register HERE.WW are back

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Is Your Career Ready for Fall?

12017593_10206875504221872_8360884219408029451_oMy leadership development career has always been on the school cycle, rather than the calendar year. So to me, September is the start of a new year. So, it’s only natural to see September as the beginning of new things.

We’re in the last month of Summer 2017. While most of us are still enjoying some needed down time, vacationing with family or friends, or in my case, getting away alone to regroup, that nagging thought about how to grow our career in the coming year also starts to filter into our minds. Admit it, you’ve heard that little voice all Summer long, but have been pushing it aside so you can just enjoy yourself. Well, September is less than a month away now. It’s time to start putting some thought and effort into planning how you’re going to achieve your goals in the coming year.

Here are some questions to ask to see how ready you are:

  1. What is it you want to achieve in your career in the coming year?
  2. How about the next 5 years?
  3. Do you even know what you want to be doing? Has the current career lost its appeal?
  4. Are you looking for a new job?
  5. Are you thinking about taking a sabbatical and wondering how to make the most of it to ensure a smooth re-entry?
  6. Did you recently graduate from college, took the Summer off and now ready to start your career?

All of these are typical questions people come to me with as they seek guidance in advancing their careers. And they are good questions; questions you SHOULD be asking yourself. There are many places to go for help.

  1. If you’re employed and seeking advancement, talk to your manager. Establish a development plan with a goal in mind so you both can be calibrating against the plan regularly.
  2. If you’re ready for a new career, you’ll need to do some work assessing your skills, interests and passions. What is it you were meant to do in life? There are many places you can go for this work. You can do your own self-assessment like I did when I made a career change years ago. You can buy a good book like Designing Your Life and work your way through it. Or you can work with a career coach. I love helping people along on the discovery of the work they’ll truly love and making that a reality.
  3. If you’re looking for a new job. Read up on current trends in career searching. It’s a brave new world full of new tools and techniques. Resumes are no longer laundry lists of responsibilities. LinkedIn is critical to your job search, and Networking is the golden ticket to a successful search. Again, there are lots of online resources and books you can use to self-navigate this process. Or you can work with a career coach. One of the key elements of my work with job seekers is providing support. As a former job seeker who made every mistake possible, and now a cheerleader and confidence booster, I help my clients reclaim their lost confidence and through my personal coaching, help you stay upbeat and positive throughout the very difficult, and sometimes disheartening, process of seeking a new job.
  4. If you recently graduated from college, well, you have a lot to learn about the professional world. It’s not all about you! Too many young people that I work with approach the job search with only their own needs and goals in mind. They forget why companies hire them. Learn to ask questions about the company, show interest in working with them and contributing to their goals. There’s much to learn about professional dress and communication. You can’t speak to a prospective boss the way you speak to your college buddies. Again, there is online information and books galore on this topic. Or seek out someone you know who is a seasoned professional. Maybe a parent, aunt or uncle, or family friend. And, yes, this is something a career coach will help you with as well. One of my favorite aspects of the work I do is helping prepare young people for the job search and watching them accelerate their career launch.

So, as you continue to enjoy your last days of Summer and your mind begins to occasionally look ahead, start planning. Don’t wait. Fall is a great time to land new work. Everyone’s back from Summer vacation, the kids are back in school, and recruiters are eager to fill those open positions before the end of October and the busy Winter holiday season. My advice is to start now, even if you start slowly, so you can have all the prep work done before the hiring starts.  So, go out now. Buy a book, find online resources, or contact a career coach to see how they can help. And yes, enjoy the rest of your Summer! It only comes once a year.

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Dating and the Job Search are Not That Different!

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Whether teaching a class about the job search, or working with a client individually, I frequently compare the job search to finding that right relationship. People laugh initially, but start to pay attention as I continue to explain.

  1. You kiss a lot of toads. When you’re single and searching for that person to spend your life with, you date people. With each successive experience, you learn more about yourself, what you want in a relationship and, perhaps more importantly, what you don’t want. It’s the same with the job search. You go on a lot of interviews and learn what companies you like and which you don’t. With each successive interview, you learn more about yourself, and what is really important in a company you want to spend most of your days working at. Do you like the people you meet during interviews? Feel a connection with them, or does it feel extremely forced? Pay attention to these signs. If it doesn’t feel good during the interview (when they are courting you), then you’re most likely not going to be happy there. After all, isn’t that first date the most important?
  2. You start to learn who’s right for you and who’s not. Yes, it’s important to share interests and values, to be able to live with each other every day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If your prospective mate is a homebody and you want to be out and about on weekends, you’re not going to fit together well for long. In a job search, it’s critical to understand the values and culture of the potential employer. If work/life balance is important to you, and the company you’re considering is known for working people 60-70 hours per week, it’s not going to be a match made in heaven. You’re going to be miserable and regret the day you took the job.
  3. You experience rejection. Ah, yes. It stings. Sometimes you know the relationship is coming to an end and have a conversation about it. Sometimes they call and dump you on the phone. And sometimes, they just stop calling and you wonder why. Yes, same thing in the job search. You have that interview you think went really well, only to learn they didn’t feel the same way. They call and dump you, or they just stop calling. I call this the ‘black whole’, others call it ghosting. It hurts, you get burned a little. Most of the time, you don’t know what went wrong. You can only move on and put it behind you.
  4. They have a flaw. Well, nobody is perfect, right? But is he/she perfect for you? Can you accept the one or two flaws and thrive in this relationship? Some call it compromising. I call it accepting that we are all human and none of us is perfect. There will always be something about our partner that we don’t love, but we learn to love and accept. Companies are the same way. They are made up of human beings, so yes, they have a human element and are not perfect. It’s best to approach the job search with eyes wide open. While you’re looking for the best of each company, acknowledge those elements that aren’t perfect so you can decide if you can live with them.
  5. Creating the perfect resume isn’t unlike creating your profile for those online dating sites. With both, you must encapsulate your life, your goals, and your personality into a single profile that will appeal to the right person, then hope it has the impact you intended and draws the right audience.
  6. Sometimes you just get lucky. That perfect job, just like that perfect-for-you person, simply appears in your life and it’s a match made in heaven! If this happens to you, consider it a gift and go for it.

So, when you’re looking for a new job, think about all the dating skills you’ve gained throughout your life and employ the same tactics and skills. You’ll be surprised how well it works! Not good with dating? Well, maybe it’s time to hire a career coach who can help you throughout your job search. I often play the role of not only coach and consultant, but cheerleader, advisor, and voice of reason. Often, a little help goes a long way.

I am a career coach with deep experience helping individuals live their career dreams; offering programs for individuals seeking a new job, those with an eye toward the future who want to develop a plan to grow professionally, and people ready to launch their own business and become an entrepreneur. Contact Andrea at andrea@colecoach.com, or 206.658.7919 or book a complimentary 30 minute exploratory call with her to learn more about her services:https://colecoach.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?appointmentType=2546844

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Finding Strength in Loss

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I sit here today, still numb by losing my mother last month. There have been 4 people who have shaped my life and who I am. I’ve lost 3 of them and am struggling to move on without these great forces.

First, my Dad. The first man I loved, the first man I danced with, the man I looked up to and relished in being his little girl. While he was not the ‘best friend’ kind of Dad, he was always there, teaching important lessons. Whenever someone compliments me on my use of the English language, I know my Dad lives on in me through the lessons he taught so constantly. And the fact that my face is his face, keeps him close to me always. Nobody else has that ‘Charlie Cole smile’ so famous in my family.

Two years ago, I lost my beloved oldest brother. I’ve written before about his influence on me. While we weren’t close as children, him being the oldest, and I the youngest, we developed a deep relationship as adults that I treasured and had so many hopes of things we’d do in the future. His visits were more frequent in the later years. I look back now and am so grateful we had so much time alone together. Losing him shook me to my core. He was the kindest person ever, strong, brilliant and a good man, taken far too young. Even in his dying, he showed immeasurable strength and love.

Last month, I lost the third and most significant rock in my life, my mother. Again, life gave me a special gift when she moved in with me in November, giving us 5 months together. They were hard months. I had a hip replacement, she fell and need rehabilitation for 6 weeks, was increasingly sick and finally her heart failed. I think her heart was just worn out. She’d given so much of it throughout her 92 years.

My final pillar of the 4 is my sister, my first best friend, my confidant, my go-to person in nearly all situations. Realizing there are just 3 of the original 6 people in our family, has brought us closer, more cognizant of the importance of family. The two of us, and my other brother live far apart, but in our hearts, we are close and speak often.

So, as I go through Mom’s things and find touching reminders of our lives, I have periods of deep, deep pain and loss. This morning, I discovered an email between my sister and me at the time of my brother’s passing. With it was a tribute I wrote to him that Mom had saved. I also found a letter from her youngest sister, written in 1959, just months before she was taken too young. Mom saved so many treasures!

I also find myself with a deepening sense of resolve to live my life with more meaning. While I’ll never be the person my brother was, or the mother my Mom was, I can take what they gave me and be the best me I’m capable of being. That is my vow to them. I’ve been on a journey of living a happy life, making conscious choices about it: who to include, who to exclude, what is best for me so that I can be the best for others, how I can give back and live a life of meaning. The awareness of the shortness of life has now heightened this desire in me.

I don’t yet know how this will all play out. I’m eager to see how I can take these immense tragedies and turn them into something that will honor the people we’ve lost. I hope to be kind like my brother, reliable like my father, and loving and supportive like my mother. If I can accomplish that in my life, I think I’ll die with few regrets.

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A Final Gift for Mom

I lost my mother this week. It’s a loss that cuts deep, that I know I haven’t truly processed. However, among all the loss and grief, I have an immense amount of gratitude. Gratitude for a mother who loved her children fiercely, raised them to be independent and to stand on their own. There were never any favorites. She treated each one of us as individuals, somehow intuitively knowing what each of us needed. I spent most of my adult life away from her, but she was never far. Weekly letters or phone calls, visits as often as possible. She had a big personality that reached across the miles.17761005_10211349629112198_820693337345543875_o

Five months ago, Mom moved across the country, from Maryland to Washington, to live with me. At any age, much less 91, that’s quite an undertaking. It was both wonderful and difficult for us to learn to live with one another. You see, we are very much alike, something I only came to appreciate in the last 5 months. But we loved each other deeply and relished spending time together. She loved sitting in our living room and watching all the activity out on Elliott Bay, boats, kayakers, and ferries. As the weather improved, she enjoyed watching all the people walking by on waterside path.

Her time with me was short, and filled with challenges. She fell one month after arriving, and spent time in a nursing facility recovering. Only recently, was she starting to return to health. We were looking forward to so many things this spring, gardening together, ferry rides, even a trip to Hawaii. In what ended up being her final days, she was tired and weak, and I was worried. I cared for her, gave her everything she asked, and just tried to help her return to health. We had some lovely time together, where she shared stories from her youth. It was a special time.

On her final night, she was weak and couldn’t make it to bed without assistance. I helped her to bed, tucked her in and told her I love her. Those were my final words. I found her the next morning when I went to wake her. There are no words for that moment, no way to prepare.

But in death, as in life, my mother taught me so much. She helped me see how strong I can be, how deeply I can love, how I can rise to any occasion. I am the woman I am because of her. And the greatest gift she gave me was these last 5 months. During this time, not only did we share so much, but I learned just how much I am like her. We’ve both come over adversity, neither of us suffer fools, and we share so many of the little daily quirks – loved a clean house, but hated emptying the dishwasher.

I miss her desperately, I kept wanting her to come back to me, but she lives on, in my heart, in my siblings’s hearts and in the bold spirit that I shared with her. How lucky am I to have had such an amazing woman as my mother and guide through life! I’m grateful for the final gift I was able to give her, the gift of love and caregiving at the most sensitive time of life.

 

 

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