Posts Tagged ‘career fulfillment’

Photo Credit: Inju @Flickr

Photo Credit: Inju @Flickr

You’ll do what comes naturally – or not

Folks who blog are folks who want to blog. Fellow bloggers, quit wasting your breath (or blog posts) on telling people they should blog for a better career.

They won’t do it and they’ll give you dumb excuses. And, if they do blog – it’s not because you advised them to. The blog-curious only need validation of what they will (inevitably) decide to do. 

Just like a writer will try to use any outlet to showcase her creativity or a marketer that wants to highlight his insights– people with ideas will already have pursued blogging.

They’re doing it now.

Which brings me to my next point.

More blogosphere for me

The blogosphere can function in a vacuum. There are all these seperate blobs of communities that crop up around bloggers (read: personalities). There’s lot of opinions on how to engage non-bloggersor get more folks to blog or get respect for blogging blah blah blah.

I say: stop.

Granted, there are a ba-jillion crappy blogs, but there are just as many good ones as well. Your relevancy to the blogging community isn’t going to instantaneously diminish because you didn’t get more people to blog.

It only diminishes when you aren’t able to share, develop and reconstruct ideas and connections. People who don’t know how to connect with that possibility have no business blogging.

I’m not telling you to rob a liquor store

Blogging is like a dirty word to some people. If you suggest it, they start gasping like you’re trying to convince them that prostitution is merely speed dating. These notions are fine when you’ve at least tried blogging (or speed dating). 

Non-bloggers only seem to concentrate on the irrelevancies of blogging, how it has nothing to do with them (or the “real world”) and insist on questioning it’s usefulness. But value and relevancy are not always one in the same.

They intersect at different points. And, I’d be more interested in engaging people who are trying to figure that out.


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Photo Credit: Envios @Flickr

Photo Credit: Envios @Flickr

With very little cash, I headed towards Washington, D.C. to gain a little more perspective on my (possible) future as a social justice maverick who uses artwork as an advocacy tool.

The Rayburn foyer, where our exhibit is being displayed, has hideous carpet. I wonder if all government buildings in D.C. have such crappy design.  

Tonight, we are taking 3 hours to set up the Congo/Women exhibit (lasting well into 12 am), despite 12 volunteers and an energetic 3 year old (L’s son).  

After we’re done, my colleague W and I leave and head to our hotel. I get an immediate gush of smallness. Everything feels so tiny now. I feel so tiny right now. I hope I don’t feel any smaller tomorrow, I fear I might disappear.

W and I have a meeting with an NGO the next morning to pitch a partnership with our Human Trafficking project.  During the meeting, they don’t ask many questions, but they want to snatch our marketing materials. I feel like the bad guy when I tell them they can’t keep them.

W is nicer than I am about that kind of stuff – she offers to send a digital copy.

W always thinks of the nicer stuff to say. I’m a little too forward and direct with people sometimes.

After handshakes and goodbyes, we cab over to the Rayburn. We have to hang around for several hours because our event doesn’t end until 7 pm that night (we arrive shortly after 12 pm). And, we have to break down the installation afterwards – but that shouldn’t take long.

Our guest speakers arrive and the program begins. After hearing Stephen Lewis, my gush of smallness evaporates.

Nothing is out of place.

What I’m doing makes sense.  

No ridiculousness or second guessing anything that is happening. I think that can be rare for people.  When you’ve been out of work for as long as I have, second guessing becomes par t of your daily language.

To clarify, there are a lot of things you can do while you have a job that don’t make sense. You may think they are unnecessary, a waste of time or even beneath you. Yet, when don’t have a job; there is very little excuse to do things that don’t make sense to you.

And, that’s the core of good, stimulating and worthwhile growth – the stuff that makes sense. Stick to the continuities that are logical for you before you become part of doing something (for a paycheck) that doesn’t make sense.

Instead of hammering at what you think works, do what makes sense to you no matter how out of whack it may initially seem (like going to D.C. with very little money to help set up a one-night exhibit in a government building).

This is not about being reckless. It’s about taking steps towards the most fulfilling risks and reaping their rewards.

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Photo Credit: Regolare @Flickr

Photo Credit: Regolare @Flickr

Perhaps this post is ill-timed. Maybe, in a deep recession, I shouldn’t suggest that job hopping is (still) beneficial

Nonetheless, today, I’m interested in giving you something a little ridiculous to think about.

You can always top yourself – NOT

Besides the completely 1990’s phrasing used above – topping yourself  is not always the (greatest) end result.  

Outdoing what has already been done becomes a repeat exercise in …what?

If you are determined to best yourself over and over again as long as you can – it will ultimately become unfulfilling, not to mention, BORING.

Among other things, moving away from (or beyond?) your professional zenith requires spreading your scope of experience while maintaing focus

The tricky party is being fooled into believing a unique and forseeable set of risks are in your way.

In reality, you’re only re-hashing previous obstacles. Why accept the possibility of exhausted options when, instead, you can reinvent the same challenges over and over again?

Its a paradoxical complexity shading a simple truth: such challenges ask for very little. In fact, they may insist you become medicore (on the inside) bit by bit.  

Have principles. Learn to walk away

Dave Chappelle essentially gave Comedy Central the kiss of death when he refused to return to Chappelle’s Show. The common knowledge – opinion? – is that the comedian felt his style of comedy was becoming warped by the writers and producers.

Others contend that he was crazy and out of control.

This is not the first time people have travelled down a successful road, danced with greatness and then, moved on. Despite what the world may think about such actions, acting upon them empowers you beyond the usual shifts in career and job adventures.

Instead of becoming subdued by your own power and success, take it at “face value.” Respect it for what it is – and what it isn’t.

Respect for your work (and yourself) requires handling decisions on whether to exploit it and your talents for fame or fortune. Prepare to live with the consequences of accepting or rejecting either of those paths.

Once that is done – you can walk away- and have it be your choice.

Leave a Mystery

Knowing everything you could possibly know about something leaves little to wonder about. What happens?

You move on. The allure is lost because your interest depletes to zero. In an information saturated world, you aren’t necessarily growing just because the knowledge is there.

Leaving mysteries expands the the 3-dimensionality of your career. If you are interested in expanding your professional peak without becoming stale, engage in a mystery.

In short, fresh perspectives breathe new life into your own professional vision.

Being at your peak has little to do with how much you already know, but what little there is left to find out. 

How far are you stretching your current knowledge? What are you giving others to discover and what are you discovering from them?

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The Emerald City

The Emerald City

There are days when you wake up and can seize the day. Your opportunity to achieve great things is limitless. The world is yours and it is good.

And, there are other days when your freshly ironed shirt of self-confidence has several creases of self-doubt in it. This is one of those days.

The “it’ factor of my life appears short-sighted. Should the unlimitedness of my potential be something that really is attainable in a lifetime?

Is it supposed to be? Every twenty-something I know feels like their life is heading toward some vast unknown greatness or never-abiding flux and uncertainty.

I get disappointed when I’m not sure where my path is headed.  I’m not looking for answers. I’m looking for proof. I want proof that I’m doing something right.

The great things that I want seem so far out of reach. What is this greatness? It’s so grand. It’s all mysterious.  It’s shrouded in adjectives that only seem to blur what it really is.

In passing moments, I wish I could see what the other people say they see in me. At other moments, my talents feel like wisps of smoke that can be blown out by anyone. The grand spectacle that could be my life is just some normal person playing out a bunch of theatrics – like the Wizard of Oz. 

Yet, unlike the Wizard, I don’t have a big balloon in which I can sail away into “new and unfound things.” I have to stay right there in the Emerald City and eke out an existence amongst the others.

Keep performing the silly theatrics and hope no one notices.

There are times when I feel I should be tougher. Smarter. Stronger. More interesting.

I (secretly) wonder if my life is staid because it is in so much flux. Change may be good. But, it becomes irrelevant when it’s unnecessary. And, there are times when I think my changes are unnecessary. I want to be validated by my own pursuits. This can be a problem. The ROI of my investments aren’t immediately evident – I begin to wonder if they are worth the time and effort.

There’s that self-doubt creeping in .

In high school, my mentor’s notes would say, “Raven has great potential, but she doesn’t speak up.” Other teachers would say, “She lets others influence her on how well she does. She listens to other people too much.”

I think that somehow I’m not doing all that I should. There’s always more…more…more. I feel impeded by my own laziness – perhaps even, doomed to mediocrity. That’s scary for me. I want to make plans that stick and don’t fail me.

But that’s the unwanted part of the learning process. Finding what works. It’s frustrating because you don’t think you have the ability to ever make the plans that will stick.

There are days when you are great. You snatch all 24 hours and what you set out to accomplish actually happens. There are other days when it’s someone else’s turn to be great. Your potential for wonderfulness isn’t up to snuff and someone else has come in to fill the void.

Our chances to achieve the wonderful wanes on Tuesday and reaches its zenith on Thursday. Then, slowing down again the next day and on Monday – it’s like nothing ever happened. We are outstanding again. 

Yet, not all days are meant to be great.

Sometimes, they are there to only fill the void. Nevertheless, on the days that are empty, I’ve decided to do this:


I’ve been lazy about finding a job. It’s not for lack of trying, but more out of frustration. I haven’t been scheduling informational interviews or networking like I should. I’ve been in job-search purgatory. That’s not helping me when I have mortgage.

If I am to do anything, I need to start talking to people – mainly by doing informational interviews again. As of late, I’ve been relying too much on just the old, standard ways of getting a job. WAKE UP. We’re in a recession – I have no option to be passive (read: lazy).

My professional goals center on work in PR/Corporate communications for an NPO dedicated to social justice.

I know that’s very specific, but it’s either that or get paid to do what I enjoy already – which is my volunteer work. I have a background in cultural programming, but I won’t mind using that experience in a new industry  or a different type of career altogether.

I’ve also become mildly interested in having social media be a part of whatever career path I choose. Right now, I’m the pseudo-online community manager for the NPO I volunteer with (I helped create our e-newsletter, blog and set us up on Twitter and Facebook).

I read up on whatever I can about  the role of social media in the non-profit world.

And, of course I blog.

Volunteer Work

I also “work” as a community journalist. Yet, my goal for this year is to have a portfolio of at least 7 articles by the Spring. I’ve barely completed 2. I have to harass my Editor to give me more assignments, not drag my feet and actually get over my fear of interviewing people.


Three things I have to get over at once before May.  I’ve also become lazy about deadlines. Time to buy a new organizer – perhaps the electronic kind to supplement my notebook.

Maybe not.

Since I also work as a co-Curator for my volunteer NPO, I’m supposed to be promoting our Darfur exhibit (and finding venues for it). I’ve started, but I’ve been frustrated by all the museums, centers, etc. being booked until 2011. We’re ready to take the tour out for 2009. I will need to discover different opportunities in which to adequately showcase our work. That means digging much harder for contacts and using up my cell phone minutes.

Might be a good time to change my rate plan.


I (quickly) thought of going to graduate school. Yet, right now, I don’t think my professional goals fit with advanced schooling. Generally, I thought b-school would be a great idea, but I’m still on the fence.

I’ve been keeping in tune with the world of PR and social media, but I’m not sure what else I could be doing to add to my “self-education.”  You learn by doing. What else could I be doing? I will have to research and figure out the plans that will stick.

Well, that’s it (for now). I think I’ve filled out enough stuff to supplement the void – and hopefully, the empty days won’t seem so empty.

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Photo Credit: Stewf @Flickr

Inspiration is viral – I’ve been bugged.

Nisha Chittal and Aman Sanghara wrote posts regarding the validity and usefulness of Liberal Arts degrees. 

They’re sparking an already long standing debate on whether or not lib arts majors/degrees serve any professional (or social) value beyond having wonderful cocktail conversation at parties.

Essentially, I’m biased. But, I’m going to tell you that there are drawbacks that come with being a math and science brainiac.

My boyfriend was an electrical engineering and physics major in college. He designs light bulbs. He’s quite good at it. And, he constantly nags me about turning off the lights. He hates light.

Don’t ask.

Currently, he’s pursuing his masters degree in product development. What’s that? I can’t really tell you. Yet, from what I can tell, you learn the ins and outs of how to design, market and sell anything.

So far, half of  the curriculum has included classes on communication.

One in particular is the art of negotiation.

Dealing with the abstract frustrates those who manage the concrete – the absolute known. It annoys them in a myriad of ways. They also make no bones about letting you know how useless they think it is.

And, the reason it’s useless?

I can’t argue with your emotions. I can’t measure that,” says my boyfriend. Oh, lord – did you catch that word – measure?

Since there is no immediate and obvious value in the argument, it’s dismissed. Everything’s an argument – there aren’t discussions.  Compromise? Does not compute. And, if you catch them in place where they don’t think the argument can be won – you hear this: “We’ll agree to disagree.”

Technically minded folks are just as apt (if not more likely) to shut down during a negotiation. Concrete thinkers don’t work in abstract because the whole world is in black and white. Well, at least their world. It makes them uncomfortable to venture beyond that.

Unfortunately, that can make them very poor negotiators. When you are constantly seeking a yes or no, wanting either/or and not allowing a but, you lose out on a whole lot more than you bargained for.

Obviously, of course, not all negotiations are abstract. Some are concrete and allow little room for compromise. But, in those cases, technically minded negotiators take everything at face value. They fail at trying to probe for the deeper meaning.

After all, there are no hidden meanings in a math equation. This plus that equals outcome.

Negotiations, however, are more complex than that. But, we already know that, don’t we my fellow liberal arts majors? We have to round out theories with facts, but we aren’t tethered to the terms of right or wrong. Actually, it’s quite liberating when you aren’t limited by finite and measurable data. You’ve got a lot more possibilities.

That’s why they call studies like political science, history, economics, etc.  the social sciences. It involves understanding how people fit into the world, not the other way around. It’s centers on finding the balance (and appreciating it) between the concrete and the abstract.

I’m not saying that the sciences have no value – of course not! I’m only annoyed that science majors want to place competing (or better) value on their education based on something like salary or that they work in “numbers” (or, oddly enough, an intangible idea of validity in the professional world).

It’s lame, quite frankly.

The art of being professionally engaging is negotiating your own talents and interests with relevance to the world and the people in it. I’m hoping my boyfriend is at least learning that in his communication classes.

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Monocat @Flickr

Photo Credit: Monocat @Flickr

On the second floor of Steinmetz High School, 6 girls are participating in an art therapy technique called Model Magic.

Each girl is supposed to shape the clay into a feeling they have about themselves. In essence, they are to physically mold their emotions into a physical rendering. When finished, the other participants guess what the girl was trying to sculpt.

Afterwards, each sculptor reveals the intended emotion.

R, a 15-year old 9th grader, has molded several shapes that are randomly fingered and “blobbed” on the clay mat. Descriptors like angry, confused, complicated and frustrated come from around the table.

Finally, she reveals, “I named it: You cannot save me because I do not want to be saved.”

R says she was trying to sculpt destruction.

Gwenn Waldmann, the woman who heads Art Therapy Connection (ATC), says these techniques are used to tackle ideas of self-exploration, self-awareness and identity. Other therapeutic techniques like the Friendship Circles and Hand Murals get participants to draw what makes them happy or how they see themselves. 

Waldmann enthusiastically advocates the use of art therapy in contrast to talk therapy. She believes such emotional scrapbooking provides tangible documentation of one’s emotional currents, triumphs and reflections.

I find this type of “therapeutic journeying” intriguing because self-discovery never truly stops.

ATC provides the tools for (troubled) kids to connect with the disconnectedness of competing and contradictory emotions. A lot of it involves being lost, silent and frustrated.

And, perhaps, that’s why so many twentysomethings have a problem with being lost. Being lost is contradictory because you already know you don’t know all the answers. Yet, it doesn’t stop the competing desire to have some of the answers now.

Beyond the obvious sentiments of being a generation that is accused of over entitlement and arrogance, Gen Ys sometimes treat their journeys to self-awareness like 15 minute El rides. Everything should be quick. Take me to my intended destination – no matter what.

ATC’s 34-week program focuses on getting participants to open up and express themselves. Expression is important. It fosters relevance and creativity. It provides value and (re)establishes our self-worth. Nonetheless, in an environment where it is discouraged it only breeds anger, resentment…even self-loathing.

Are you leading a life of discouragement?

And, I wonder how many twentysomethings are feeling they’re in environments that breed these emotions. The pressure of accomplishing professional (or personal) expectations is overwhelming. Or, dealing with the discouragement of unrealized dreams swirls a maelstrom of emotional chaos.

Waldman tells me that kids (and adults) will either engage in useful or useless behavior. Essentially, we use creativity or destruction to find our way (or lose our way) when dealing with traumas. And, it’s difficult to recognize the traumas. We don’t like being disappointed. The upsets can disengage us as well. Some people have the tools. Others, perhaps, do not.

It’s hard to be your own therapist because what haven’t you already diagnosed yourself with? I’m wondering what kind of (art) therapy will save Gen Y from life’s chaos.

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Kristina B@Flickr

Photo Credit: Kristina B@Flickr

Lately, when I talk to other professional colleagues, I mention that I have a blog.

Eyebrows raise.

When I encourage others to begin blogging – mouths twitch.

Of course, not everyone blogs. And, certainly they don’t have to if they don’t feel the need. I’m addressing those who are interested in adding a context of relevance to their current (or changing) careers.

I’m speaking to the frustrated few with loads of ideas and want ways to implement them.

Everyone blabs about how college students and professionals alike should start a blog. Start a blog to gain online presence. Start a blog to establish credibility. 

Nonetheless, that still doesn’t give much credence to would-be bloggers and the blog-curious.  They want to. They think they should. Yet, a few reasons keep them from taking that first step toward their computer: 

 It’s an online diary…

That’s fair. It can be an online diary. Yet, that’s like saying when you go outside, you can only run. When entering the blogosphere, your blog can do anything you want (and be anything you want).

There’s no over riding commandment that stipulates you must bare intimate secrets for the world to read.

Seriously. It’s your playground. Talk about something that interests you. And, if you don’t know where to start, read something that will give you food for thought.

I won’t have anything to say…

All those ideas buzzing in your 3 pound mass and yet nothing to say? If you are interested in the following:

  • Grooming your writing abilities
  • Learning
  • Conceptualizing ideas
  • Rounding out opinions

There should be plenty to say. Placing your thoughts into plain view for mass consumption is the real fear. The blog-curious worry that their ideas might not be interesting or great enough. Yet, if you want to create space and opportunity to reciprocate a flowing current of creativity– blogging will be a great tool for you.

And, just like any other tool, you can use blogging to shape your voice, hone your ideas and tune your (own) words.

It’s for geeks…

Oh, goodness. Are you kidding?! Do I have to address this one? Were you the type to beat up on the kids who got A’s on their spelling tests?

There’s no point…

If you don’t understand the meaning behind discussion or circulating your ideas – then, you are right. There is no point. Also, oddly enough, some people don’t see the validity in unfamiliar ventures if the reward isn’t inherently obvious. 

And, the risks of blogging are a little more than ambiguous on the surface (and the rewards are distinctively abstract).

You risk nothing if you melt into the background.

Truthfully, if you aren’t interested in risk , you probably have very little invested in your career (maybe, even in your life).  

Therefore, don’t blog at your own risk.

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