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Sustainable Motivation and the Power of Passion

February 26, 2016 2 comments

a-passion-your-life-passion-in-lifeMerriam-Webster dictionary defines Motivation as “a force or influence that causes someone to do something”. However, the power of motivation and its ability to be sustained is much more complex and slightly different for each individual. Sustainable motivation is one of the greatest factors in one’s ability to achieve a goal or complete a task. So, if you are finding yourself struggling to get something done, drained by the process, distracted, disinterested . . . it is likely because you have not tapped into a sustainable motivation for doing what you are doing.

I see brilliant and competent students struggle daily to achieve at even a moderate level. Part of the problem is that we often frame our motivation for doing something in extrinsic terms (coming from outside of us). I want to complete this degree because I have been told that it will most likely result in stable employment. I need to complete this course because it is a required course for this degree. I need to do well on this exam so that I can get a good grade in this course, so that I can complete my degree and gain employment. As Thomas Koballa states in his article “Framework for the Affective Domain in Science Education” “Students with performance goals often are preoccupied with gaining social status, pleasing teachers, and avoiding “extra” work.”

Wow, no wonder if those are your motivations that you are having trouble finding the energy to complete the tasks necessary. The trouble here is that what is referred to as the affective domain is not factoring in to this equation. The affective domain is that part of our existence that arises out of emotions, feelings, values, and opinions. It is the part of us that evokes passion; it is an intrinsic motivator. Rather than attempting to motivate yourself towards achieving an extrinsic goal, like doing well in a course so that you can progress in your degree, I suggest framing your goals in a way that taps into your affective domain. Why do you care about what you are doing? Think about the context, the potential for impact, how it aligns with your skills and interests.

The energy to keep going despite hardships, to push through even with conflicting priorities and complex challenges needs to come from within. So if you are having trouble relating on an emotional level and seeing the purpose of what you are doing, take some time to explore that. Talk to others that are passionate, go and speak to your instructor about the course material. I can guarantee that your professors have passion for their subject matter as they have likely dedicated a large portion of their lives to the study of it.

See your degree as more than a sequence of equations, principles, theories and facts that need to be memorized and mastered, see it as a pursuit of knowledge that can have an impact on your life and the lives of others. No matter what you study, bring your values, opinions, feelings and passions into the subject matter. In doing this, you will be far more likely to want to get out of bed in the morning, go to class and learn.

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A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’

May 21, 2014 Leave a comment

tired_at_workAlthough I frequently guide students towards careers that will enable them to do something that they love and are passionate about, this article makes an excellent point that it is not always as easy as “do what you love” nor should it be.

By GORDON MARINO
May 17, 2014
Student advisees often come to my office, rubbing their hands together, furrowing their brows and asking me to walk along with them as they ponder life after graduation. Just the other day, a sophomore made an appointment because he was worrying about whether he should become a doctor or a philosophy professor. A few minutes later, he nervously confessed that he had also thought of giving stand-up comedy a whirl.

As an occupational counselor, my kneejerk reaction has always been, “What are you most passionate about?” Sometimes I‘d even go into a sermonette about how it is important to distinguish between what we think we are supposed to love and what we really love.
But is “do what you love” wisdom or malarkey?

In a much discussed article in Jacobin magazine early this year, the writer Miya Tokumitsu argued that the “do what you love” ethos so ubiquitous in our culture is in fact elitist because it degrades work that is not done from love. It also ignores the idea that work itself possesses an inherent value, and most importantly, severs the traditional connection between work, talent and duty.

When I am off campus and informally counseling economically challenged kids in Northfield, Minn., a city of about 20,000, the theme is not “do what you love.” Many of them are used to delivering papers at 5 a.m., slinging shingles all day or loading trucks all night. They are accustomed to doing whatever they need to do to help out their families. For them, the notion of doing what you love or find meaningful is not the idea that comes first to mind; nor should it. We put our heads together and consider, “What are you best at doing?” or “What job would most improve your family’s prospects?” Maybe being licensed as a welder or electrician? Maybe the military? Passion and meaning may enter into the mix of our chats with the understanding that they sharpen your focus and make you more successful.

My father didn’t do what he loved. He labored at a job he detested so that he could send his children to college. Was he just unenlightened and mistaken to put the well-being of others above his own personal interests? It might be argued that his idea of self-fulfillment was taking care of his family, but again, like so many other less than fortunate ones, he hated his work but gritted his teeth and did it well.

It could, I suppose, be argued that my father turned necessity into a virtue, or that taking the best care you can of your family is really a form of self-service. But getting outside yourself enough to put your own passions aside for the benefit of a larger circle, be it family or society, does not come naturally to everyone.
Not all take this path. You may know the tale of Dr. John Kitchin, a.k.a. Slomo, who quit his medical practice for his true passion — skating along the boardwalk of San Diego’s Pacific Beach. But is it ethical for the doctor to put away his stethoscope and lace up his skates?

Thinkers as profound as Kant have grappled with this question. In the old days, before the death of God, the faithful believed that their talents were gifts from on high, which they were duty-bound to use in service to others. In his treatise on ethics, “The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals,” Kant ponders: Suppose a man “finds in himself a talent which might make him a useful man in many respects. But he finds himself in comfortable circumstances and prefers to indulge in pleasure rather than take pains in enlarging his happy natural capacities.” Should he?
Kant huffs, no — one cannot possibly will that letting one’s talents rust for the sake of pleasure should be a universal law of nature. “[A]s a rational being,” he writes, “he necessarily wills that his faculties be developed, since they serve him, and have been given him, for all sorts of purposes.” To Kant, it would be irrational to will a world that abided by the law “do what you love.”

Perhaps, unlike Kant, you do not believe that the universe is swimming with purposes. Then is “do what you love,” or “do what you find most meaningful” the first and last commandment? Not necessarily.

The faith that my likes and dislikes or our sense of meaning alone should decide what I do is part and parcel with the gospel of self-fulfillment. Philosophy has always been right to instruct that we can be as mistaken about our views on happiness as anything else. The same holds for the related notion of self-fulfillment. Suppose that true self-fulfillment comes in the form of developing into “a mature human being.” This is of course not to claim that we ought to avoid work that we love doing just because we love doing it. That would be absurd. For some, a happy harmony exists or develops in which they find pleasure in using their talents in a responsible, other-oriented way.

The universally recognized paragons of humanity — the Nelson Mandelas, Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Martin Luther Kings — did not organize their lives around self-fulfillment and bucket lists. They, no doubt, found a sense of meaning in their heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but they did not do what they were doing in order to achieve that sense of meaning. They did — like my father and some of those kids from town — what they felt they had to do.

Dr. King taught that every life is marked by dimensions of length, breadth and height. Length refers to self-love, breadth to the community and care of others, and height to the transcendent, to something larger than oneself. Most would agree with Dr. King’s prescription that self-fulfillment requires being able to relate yourself to something higher than the self. Traditionally, that something “higher” was code for God, but whatever the transcendent is, it demands obedience and the willingness to submerge and remold our desires.

Perhaps you relish running marathons. Perhaps you even think of your exercise regimen as a form of self-improvement. But if your “something higher” is, say, justice and equality, those ideals might behoove you to delegate some of the many hours spent pounding the track on tutoring kids at the youth center. Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.

Gordon Marino is a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College and the editor of “The Quotable Kierkegaard.”
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This post was published on The Opinionator

The Most Important Things For My Career Are:

February 27, 2014 2 comments
Image

Finding a career path

I frequently meet with students who are struggling to figure out their path in life.  Often I find the challenge is that they are spending a lot of time worrying about what they think they SHOULD be doing and not enough time reflecting on what they WANT to be doing.  As I have stated many times, it is abundantly important to focus on finding a career that is fulfilling and in line with your personal preferences, attributes, and skills. 

To start this process of reflection, think about the point that you are currently at in life – based on your likes, values, skills, and needs number from 1 to 5 the top priorities for you when it comes to your career.  As you move through your career your priorities will likely shift;  thus, it is good to take a look at these every few years to see if your priorities align with what you are actually doing.  If they do not, it may be time for a strategic change.

Help Society: I want to do something which contributes to improving the world we live in

Help Others: I want to be directly included in helping other people, either individually or in small groups

Public Contact: I want to have a lot of day-to-day contact with the public

Work with Others: I want to work as a team member toward common goals

Work Alone: I want to do projects by myself with limited contact with others

Competition: I want to engage in activities which put my abilities against others

Make Decisions: I want to have the power to decide courses of action

Work Under Pressure: I want to work in situations where time pressure is prevalent

Influence People: I want to be in a position to influence the attitudes or opinions of other people

Knowledge: I want to engage in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding

Expertise: I want to become an expert in whatever work I do

Artistic Creativity: I want to engage in creative artistic expression

General Creativity: I want to have the opportunity to express my creativity in many ways (though not necessarily in artistic ways)

Aesthetics: I want to participate in studying or appreciating the beauty in people and/or surroundings

Supervision: I want to have a job in which I am directly responsible for the work of others

Change and Variety: I want to have work activities which frequently change

Precision Work: I want to work in situations where attention to detail and accuracy are very important

Stability: I want to have a work routine and job duties that are largely predictable

Security: I desire the opportunity for a continuing position

Recognition: I want to be appreciated for my work, and receive acknowledgement in ways that are meaningful to me

Fast-Paced Environment: I want to work in circumstances where work must be done rapidly

Excitement: I want to experience a high degree of (or frequent) stimulation in the course of my work

Adventure: I want to have work duties which require frequent risk-taking

Financial Gain: I want to have a high likelihood achieving great monetary reward for my work

Physical Challenge: I want to do activities that use my physical capabilities

Independence: I want to be able to determine the nature of my work without significant direction from others

Moral Fulfillment: I want to feel that my work contributes to a set of moral standards, which I feel are very important

Community: I want to participate, contribute and belong to my community; however I define it

Time Freedom: I want to be able to work according to my own schedule

These topics for consideration come from a game that was developed by York University.  The game is called Who Am I? and helps players to gain insight into their desires, interests and abilities.  To learn more about Who Am I? visit: http://www.yorku.ca/careers/whoami/

Nothing Comes From Nothing

December 16, 2013 1 comment

HardWork_Header

At this time of year we are bombarded with advertisements trying to entice us to buy more, get this, give that . . . My favourite marketing strategy is the ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘buy two get two free’.  “Come listen to this presentation and get your free paring knife.”  We are led to believe that there is such a thing as free.

The reality is that nothing in life is free.  Someone is paying – whether it be the workers who are paid a pittance, the environment, or perhaps you are not paying with money but with your time listening to a marketing ploy. “Nothing comes from nothing and nothing ever could” (yes, I just watched the Sound of Music).  I have found that if I allow myself to accept this as a fact, I am much less easily manipulated.  If something seems too easy, if someone is telling me that something is free, I should be sceptical.

As a society we are constantly looking for the easy out, how we can get something for nothing.  We want to lose weight without exercising or solve financial hardship by winning the lottery.  The reality is, as Thomas Edison stated, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

When it comes to finding your ideal career, it is an upward climb; it is, indeed, hard work.  Just pulling together a decent resume can take days.  To be successful in a career search, you have to simultaneously be uncomfortably introspective and outgoing.  You need to take the time to understand yourself, your needs, skills, values, and passions, and then look for where those align with a company or a career.  You can get advice and tips, but ultimately no one can do the work for you.  You have to be willing to put yourself out there time and again and risk being knocked down.  Then you need to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and do it all over again.

Sound terrible?  Yes, indeed it may be.  There will be moments where you feel like you are a failure, like you have wasted your time, like you have done everything right and yet everything is going wrong.  You will feel that you deserve it this time around – and you might.  But still you don’t get the job.  And then, just when you think you can’t get up again, you can’t stand submitting another application or preparing for another interview, just when you are ready to quit, you try again because you remember those cheesy quotes that “nothing worth having is free.”

And in that moment between overwhelming exhaustion and opportunity is when things start to look up.  That is when you realize how hard it is to beat someone who never gives up.  (Babe Ruth)

So, in this New Year that is filled with cheap promises of easy comforts – do not be misled for nothing comes from nothing and nothing ever could.

Go To Class

July 12, 2013 Leave a comment
remembering Jeff

Gazette article that I wrote the year after Jeff died

We are at that time of year when students are frantically selecting courses for their upcoming year of university.  I love getting to talk with first year students about what courses they want to take, what they hope to do with their degree . . . Best of all, I love the students that come in well prepared and excited for all of the courses.  Those students that say, “I can’t choose, there are so many that sound interesting.”  When I hear that, I know that that student is going to do well.

On the other hand, there are the few students that have not yet found their passion and some that just don’t seem to want to be here at all.  When I ask “what courses are you most excited about taking?” and the response is “whatever course is the easiest,” I think, “Wow, you are in for a lot of lessons in the subject of life.”

I learned those lessons when I was going into my second year of university.  A friend of mine, Jeff, was a year behind because he had been diagnosed with cancer and had been going through intensive chemotherapy during what should have been his first year.  I spent many days up on the cancer ward visiting Jeff.    During my second year, Jeff was able to register for his first year courses and on the days when he was up to it, he would rally all of his energy and go to class.  Jeff was told that his diagnosis was terminal and that there was nothing more that they could do for him.  Jeff knew that these were the last weeks of his life and his priority was not to go sky-diving and visit exotic lands; all he wanted to do was be a regular 20-year-old and go to his first classes at university. Jeff would have know that he was never going to graduate and yet he was able to see the value and gift that education was and spent his last few weeks learning.

While Jeff was learning about Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus, he was also teaching me an important life-long lesson – Go To Class!  It seems un-profound, but really he taught me the importance of taking full advantage of the basic things in life.  The best things in life are not those rare moments that are exceptional, but those everyday moments, the routine that we create, the regular ways that we occupy our time and build our life.  If we can find inspiration in the everyday, we will be present and engaged in ways that will invariably lead to success and happiness.

Jeff passed away on October 10th of my second year. He only made it to his first month of university.  From that moment on, I saw each class and assignment differently.  When I started to feel overwhelmed, tired and stressed, I would think of Jeff and it revitalized me. I have always gone to class.  It is a simple way that I pay tribute to Jeff’s strength and honour his memory. Although I graduated many years ago, I am committed to life-long learning.  Every year I take another course or attend a conference. I happily engage in the routine of my life and am grateful.

As you chose your courses and as the school year draws closer, think of Jeff.  When you are too tired, too stressed, too bored, too confused, . . . think of Jeff, pick yourself up and Go To Class.

What Now? A Recent Graduate’s Success With Finding a Job

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

end of ropeThis post is a follow-up post from a previous guest blogger Sonja Fernandes.

Growing up I was told, “Get an education and the job will come to you”. As it turns out, this is NOT the case. With that being said, I am sure I am not alone when it comes down to deciding what the best route after graduation is. I considered law school, teachers college, graduate school, continuing studies, post graduate programs, entrepreneurship and several job opportunities. After changing my mind almost as often as I changed my underpants, I decided to attain work experience in order to learn more about myself and to grow as a professional.

I have been employed in 3 different contract positions since graduating nearly one year ago and I wanted to share with you the obstacles that I faced and the tips that I learned along the way.

Where to look. I am always confused about where to look for jobs.  There are so many websites and databases out there that it’s difficult to know which one to use. What I have realized is that depending on what field you are interested in will determine where you should be searching. To get the search started, here are some websites that I found to be helpful:

  1. Being young. In my job search I’ve noticed that because I am young, I am able to take risks that I likely would not be able to if I had a family, for example. This is the positive side to being young but there is also a negative side. I have experienced various forms of ageism in my job search. The most notable is the fact that most jobs require 1-3 years experience. How am I supposed to get this while attending school full-time? My advice: get out there now! Even if it means volunteering at a place of work that you would like to be hired by one day. If it wasn’t for the work-study positions that I took in undergrad, then I would not be employed in the position I am today. Getting professional work experience in your field of interest while you’re a student is the key to landing a job after graduation.
  2. Uncertainty. There is a lot of uncertainty to deal with in the job search today. Our economy and society is going through constant changes yet educational standards have remained the same. There are so many options, projects, positions, jobs, careers that it can be overwhelming to think about. My best advice would be to embrace the change and educate yourself; find out what industries are growing, find out what jobs will be in demand when you graduate, find out what marketable/transferable skills are in demand ect. Go with your gut, follow your passions, and leave it to serendipity. Planning your whole life at the age of 20 ‘ish’ is so last century anyways.
  3. Google. In other words, the double edged sword. I have found Google to be an extremely helpful tool in my job search. I will use it to look up anything from employer profiles on LinkedIn to research about salary grades. With that being said, there is also a negative side to Google. Have you ever tried Googling your name? I recommend that you do and I also recommend that you look at the image section because I guarantee that there is a picture of you there that you were not expecting. Just as you will Google your potential employers, you should expect them to Google you as well and so make sure that the image you are portraying online is a positive one!
  4. Never stop looking. It is so important to search for jobs continuously. My favorite professor, Dr. Koehn, gave me this awesome advice: Even if you have a job, you should always be looking for other opportunities and that is how to achieve career related success. The students that he sees attain their dream jobs are the ones who never stopped searching. I try to check the job databases listed in #1 daily even though I am currently employed! I often see positions that I think would be a good fit for my friends or family members and they appreciate the time I take to help them and I like to think that this is good karma for me.
  5. Be an entrepreneur. Our society is in need of positive leadership, creativity and innovation. We no longer accept the conditioned belief that if we go to school, then we will be offered a job upon graduation. We are not in the industrial age; we are in the information age. It is time to stop relying on companies, governments, and educational institutions to provide employment solutions and instead take responsibility of our future. Being an entrepreneur helps you identify your skills, ideas, passions, core beliefs, fears and allows you to identify the direction you want to take your life and set powerful goals. In my third year, I started a volunteer training program called Volunteer YA (young adults) and I attribute my personal success to this entrepreneurial opportunity that I created for myself. There are also free resources on-campus, such as BizInc at Western and Fanshawe that will help you along the way!
  6. Seek help. The most useful resources students have are their on-campus career centres where services such as professional development workshops, resume writing and interview coaching are offered free of charge. And most schools allow their alumni to use their career services. Having that one-on-one attention should not be taken for granted because career counseling can cost anywhere from $75 to $450 in the ‘real world’

I understand that every persons experience in finding a job is unique and subjective. So, I am going to be honest, it was difficult for me to write this post. With that being said, my hope is that just one person who reads this post is inspired by my experience and will find opportunities in their field of interest. The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to find meaningful work in today’s world regardless of the sector, your age, level of education, social status or experience.

Take the advice of Thomas Jefferson, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

Sonja FernandesSonja Fernandes is 23 years old and graduated with an Honors Specialization in Philosophy from Huron University College on June 4, 2012. Feel free to contact Sonja at sferna47@uwo.ca or on LinkedIn if you have any questions or comments about this post

Overeducated and Underemployed?

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

you-can-never-be-overdressed3There has been a lot of coverage recently of the high youth unemployment rates in Canada.  The national unemployment rate is 7.2% while the youth unemployment rate is 14%.  If these statistics have not scared you enough, what about the $23.1 billion in lost wages that Canadian youth will experience over the next 18 years? (According to a TD Economics report)  To make it even worse Martin Schwerdtfeger, senior economist with TD writes that “being unemployed at a young age can have a long-lasting impact on an individual`s career prospects.”

I read, hear, and watch these media reports and understand exactly why students are flooding into my office looking horrified about their future prospects.  I see why the anxiety, stress, and depression levels are high in this population.  Not only do we live with the constant threat of impending doom from terrorists and swine flu’s but, to top it all off, the current generation are going to spend thousands of dollars on an education and will end up unemployed or underemployed and broke.

If we send young people out into the world of work with expectations of disaster that is exactly what they will get.  I prefer a less defeatist approach.  After all, people are more likely to hire recent grads is they are full of energy and optimism.

So let’s turn it around.  Great News, 86% of youth are going to be employed soon after they graduate!  That seems like a not so bad number and the chances of ending up in that category are likely pretty high if you are taking the time to read this post.  It means that you are dedicated to doing something about your future, taking action, and getting results.  In fact, a report from the Certified General Accountants of Canada entitled “Youth Unemployment in Canada: Challenging Conventional Thinking“, points out that:

  • The highest level of youth unemployment (15.2 per cent) during the recent recession was noticeably below that experienced during previous recessions when youth unemployment swelled to 19.2 per cent in 1983 and 17.2 per cent in 1992.
  • Nearly half (46.8 per cent) of unemployed youth were able to find a job within 1 to 4 weeks in 2011 while the average duration of unemployment experienced by youth did not exceed 11 weeks in that year. In fact, the average duration of youth unemployment in 2011 was well below the shortest average duration ever experienced by young and mature workers over the past 30 years: 12.5 weeks in 2006 and 16.2 weeks in 2008 respectively.

The truth of the matter is that there are people without jobs and almost as many jobs without people.  What we need to do is educate youth on emerging markets and required and desired employability skills.  So rather than sit back and wallow in self-pity, blaming the baby boom generation for not retiring already, do your research.  Take a look at where the jobs are.  What are the growth industries? What personal and technical skills do you need to succeed? And then start planning.  Be strategic, focused and dedicated.  Take a couple technical courses, volunteer with an organization to gain practical skills, attend networking events and, most of all, stay positive.  You are more likely to be motivated by working towards a positive outcome than by trying to avoid a negative one.

And when you have just been turned down for a job and are starting to feel defeated, take the advice of Napoleon Hill that “most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

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