Saturday, October 11, 2008

Here is the full interview with Samuel Greengard, author of “AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life.” The excerpt is running in print on October 16th.

Q: How is recareering defined?

A: Unfortunately, there's no neat and clean dictionary definition of "recareering." In fact, the word isn't even in most dictionaries. In Finding the Work You Love, I adopt a broad definition of the concept. Recareering isn't just trading one job in for another. It's all about consciously shifting to an entirely different line of work. Yet, however a person approaches this topic, the goal of the undertaking is unmistakably clear: to find greater clarity in work, and thereby life. Ultimately, recareering knows only the bounds we place on ourselves.

Q: What is the greatest challenge people face when recareering? How do they overcome this?

Individuals face considerable challenges when recareering. First, there's the need to know that you're making a wise decision and selecting a career and job that's right. This may require counseling, therapy, discussions, research, and a lot more. Just because you love arranging flowers and you're good at it doesn't mean that you will make a great florist. You may have to deal with cranky customers and have to work with whatever is in stock at the moment. So, the first thing is it's crucial to know yourself.

A second challenge is getting much needed support from family and friends. It's tough to fight the current. If a spouse or partner is against the change, it's going to be even tougher (which may or may not be a reason to steer away from a recareering effort). It's best when everyone can talk the situation through and understand how it will impact them--and other family members (including children and parents).

A third area is the financial aspect. It may cost a lot of money to back to school or gain additional training. A different career may also lead to less money or more income over the long-run. And it could alter retirement plans. It's important to factor all of this in when examining a possible career change.

Finally, there’s the actual process of landing a new job in a new career. This requires special preparation, particularly for older workers who must craft a resume and interview well. Let's not pretend that age discrimination has vanished. Unfortunately, it is alive and well, though the best anecdote is to be so outstanding that an employer feels you are a can’t-miss prospect. This means keeping skills up to date, understanding technology, and displaying a passion and commitment to your work…and a particularly field.

The good news is that long-term labor shortages and demographics favor skilled workers—including older workers—and those who confront the challenges and prepare adequately are in a position to reap the rewards.

Q: How does one "Find the work they love?"

A: The first step is to imagine and dream. As I mention in the book, ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up and you’re likely to get an earful: anything and everything from doctor to toy maker; astronaut to veterinarian. That’s because kids—and the parents, teachers, and family members who raise them—promote the concept of dreaming and exploring. Fast forward a couple of decades and most of us are plowing through a heaping dose of reality. We have families to support, bills to pay, people to impress, and we feel we have an investment in our existing career. So, if you’re considering making a change, the first step is to start with a blank slate and imagine what you’d really love to be doing. Give yourself license to dream.

The next step is to understand the reality and nuances of a various career options. This involves researching various possibilities—something I discuss heavily in the book. It may also require personal or career counseling, personality testing, and even test driving a new career--something that Portland, Ore.-based VocationVacations specializes in. Another strategy is to do some volunteer work and learn about a particular field, and/or talk with people who are successful in that line of work. The theme here, if there is one, is that it’s essential to find the right match. “Finding the Work You Love” has the word “love” in it for a reason. When we love something or someone we’re going to be a whole lot happier.

The final piece to the equation is taking a leap of faith. It can seem incredibly risky to jump from one career boat to another but the thing that career-swappers must remember is that life is all about risk and growth. Stagnation is a risk in itself and the lack of action can lead to bitterness, unhappiness and a sense of diminished self-esteem. It’s also important to keep in mind that there really are no mistakes when it comes to career issues. It’s an ongoing learning experience and we can often learn as much from what we don’t like as we do from what we like. The key is to continue moving forward, make smart decisions, and learn as we go.

Q: What's your best advice for someone considering the big switch?

A: Just do it. If you’ve prepared adequately, there’s a very good chance that you will have the time of your life. “Finding the Work You Love” is filled with inspirational stories of people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond who have reinvented themselves and discovered true happiness.

Q: Does today's economy necessitate recareering (someone can't retire) or hinder it (I can't afford to change jobs/careers now)?

A: The economy is in shambles right now. Layoffs are accelerating and we’re all watching our retirement savings evaporate. But it’s important to stay focused on the big picture. If you wind up losing a job, you may need to examine whether you want to stay in the same career or make a change. It’s a natural time to engage in a self-examination process. But, otherwise, there’s never a perfect time to consider recareering. It’s best if the process isn’t focused on external factors and events but an internal need to do something more fulfilling and meaningful. So, the economy and current events should always take a back seat to following your passions, desires, and dreams.

1 comment:

Sage said...

Sorry to post here ... just wanted to comment on your article about avoiding negativity ... What a great article [: I cut it out! ... it seemed to partly reflect something I read about years ago called neuro linguistic programming. I admire how you organize your writing ... Keep up the good work!