Monday, December 23, 2013

How Not to Reflect on Your Career

At the end of the year, we naturally reflect on our lives, which is a wonderful impulse, but when the sun goes down so early and stress levels are high, it can be tough to think clearly.

A few tips:

Don't do it alone. Reflection can be a conversation. Talk it out with your spouse, your best friend, your dog. Someone you can trust who gets you talking out loud (which is different than ruminating alone, spinning your wheels). Choose someone who has a different view of the world than you. Or a different flavor of personality. Just make sure that person won't criticize you into the ground.

Don't do it online. Take a break from media, from the phone and tablet and laptop. Go low tech on this one. Grab a pencil and paper and write your thoughts out. Or try meditation to calm the nerves.

Don't be too harsh. I hear so many people berate themselves for not starting sooner, or not achieving X, Y, Z by a certain point. The end of the year doesn't have to be about tallying achievements. Go deeper.

Identify how you solve problems. Warning: it involves emotions. What emotion are you feeling? When have you felt like this before? Was it when you were trying to find that first job? Were you trying to figure out your major in college? How did you figure it out? What strengths did you naturally tap into?

I've been trained as a writer, so I can journal my way out of a lot of problems, but maybe you're visual. Can you Pinterest your way out of the problem (okay, I know I said to stay offline, but this could be an exception)? Can you cobble together a picture of what you want instead of your current career life? 

Don't think big moves, think lateral, or organic. You're in a job and you feel stuck. Don't abandon the whole career. How can you make a lateral move in the company? How can you acquire new skills on the company dime? What can this job evolve into?

How can you get more autonomy and feel more skilled in your career? Research shows those two things can make a worker feel satisfied. Can you take a class, ask for a month off for a rewarding trip, gather a pile of books that will take you in a new direction?

Just some questions for the end of the year. Happy holidays, and here's to a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jobs I Covet

I love my job, I really do. But sometimes the eye wanders, you know? Here are some jobs I'd apply to this week if I weren't a career coach:

I've always wanted to try being a window dresser, especially at this time of year...

Never wanted to be in marketing, but I think I could do unmarketing.

If I owned an RV, I would try this.

Why, yes, I do want to be a hero. How kind of you to ask.

If I were slightly more insane, I'd totally do this. And usually I have a policy of getting advanced degrees only if you need them, but I'd definitely get the snow science degree to do it.

Hope you have a good week!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Required Reading before Grad School

Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle against graduate school marketing departments. The brochures, the photos of smiling grads tossing things, people in suits going off to work that they've secured because of their amazing degrees.

But graduate degrees are expensive, especially if you aren't sure what you want to do. And it turns out they may be a bad move if you do know what you want to do.

If you're looking to change the world, for instance, public policy programs may not be the place for you, according to yesterday's Washington Post. Public policy school graduates aren't making a dent in the world problems, and worse, and no one in positions of power is reading their research,
according to the piece. Definitely an article worth reading if you're considering a policy degree.

Graduate schools increasingly are producing dissatisfied customers, especially in the humanities. A NY Times piece last month details the process of repackaging a PhD, and clues us in on how some graduate schools are trying to make their students more marketable outside of the Ivory Tower, since tenure track has become so unlikely for so many humanities PhDs. Another must-read for potential graduate students.

An attorney is even offering $1,000 to whomever comes up with the best reason not to attend law school, because times are so tough for many law school grads. Eesh. Got an ulcer yet?

The answer may be to get excited about STEM careers, the science and math-track positions that may go unfilled if we don't increase numbers of students heading in that career direction. 

But I majored in religion in college, and I'm not ready to give up on the humanities. I like this solution: make the humanities majors who don't write the next Harry Potter blockbuster series into superstar public school teachers. And fund the arts like we do football stadiums, so there are actual jobs for musicians and artists, not just a cuthroat race to the top (and nothing for those in the middle of the talent heap). Yes!

Bottom line, think hard before you apply to graduate school, and be prepared for the tough job hunt if you go.

Monday, December 2, 2013

On Gifts for Job Seekers

This is the time of year when career coaches list gifts for job seekers, things like nice pen sets for the interview, a Metro card for heading to interviews, or even one month's payment of their electric bill. It's a nice gesture, but sometimes I think it's like getting someone on a diet rice cakes and nonfat, sugar free coffee creamer. Who wants to be reminded of their jobless status again and again?

Of course, if someone you know is really hurting, then an offer of help is appropriate, and you know your friends better than me. This is just my approach, but I usually get the person the gift I'd give them if they were employed. A book about their favorite hobby, a necklace they've admired. All gift-giving approaches stay the same.

What I also try to give them:

My complete confidence in them. I've seen it time and again. Family members or friends worry aloud in the job seeker's presence about the economy, or the job seeker's industry, or the job seeker's own background as it relates to the job their targeting. Or friends might not say anything, but they get a pitying look in their eyes. When I work with people struggling with their career, many get stuck under the sheer weight of other people's anxiety. It can be hard enough searching for work or trying to make a change in your career while burdened with everyone's worry.  I don't bypass their situation. I just say something like, "I heard you were looking. I'm sure someone with your skills will be snapped up soon. If there's anything I can do..." Yeah, it could come off as condescending, but I hope not. I just say it and move on with the conversation.

"How 'bout those Steelers?" I divert conversation should too much focus suddenly fall to the job seeker. Then I get them their favorite beverage.

I'm on LinkedIn. Sounds like a selfish thing, but it's an easy, discrete way for all of us to offer up our contacts to someone without the person having to ask us. So, I ask the job seeker if I can link to them, and then let them take it from there. They can include my network in searches for companies they're targeting, and then if they want an introduction they can request one by email.

If you're the job seeker, well, I'm sure someone with your skills will be snatched up soon! Some things I've done in your position:

I've dragged myself to more parties than I wanted to. I'm an introvert, so my tendency is to hunker down at home and read a good job-related book and tell myself I'm furthering my career. This is my fallback position and I know it, so I try to stretch myselfbeyond this. This had a few benefits. One, I dress in something other than sweats, my unemployed uniform of choice, always good for the self-esteem. Two, I get out and let people know I'm interested in a certain position, and did they know anyone with an opening?

I didn't worry about gifts that year. Instead, I got my closest family members something small and personal and then let the rest go.

I kept job hunting through the holiday. There's no reason to stop, and sometimes you can get your resume in front of people when they have down time at work. Why not go for it?

I read through professional kudos. One thing I try to do at any job is save a file of thank you notes and other proof that other people think I did a good job. Then when I go through a rough patch, I pull up that folder. Sometimes it's the smallest things that give me a lift. A friend did a spoof front page of a publication I used to edit on my last day of work. I have it framed by my desk, and it always makes smile. If you don't do this, start! Even if it's just a thank you note for some gesture you did that's not career-related. Likewise, send other people those notes. Write your stylist a thank you card for Christmas and get specific about how their work affected your life. Create good career karma!

Just a few suggestions. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Movies for Career Inspiration

It's Thanksgiving week already. Hopefully you have time to sit down with a good movie after the tryptophan kicks in. If you do, here are a few of my favorite movies for career inspiration.

Pirates of the Caribbean, the first one. It's all about the point where the British stop calling him the worst pirate they've ever seen and start calling him the best. Sometimes we just have to believe in ourselves until people see us for the pirate that we really are.

The Hobbit. Get out of your comfort zone. When the wizard comes knocking and the dwarves raid your pantry, just relax and go after some treasure already.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A classic with Steve Martin and John Candy. Good for those coping with insane coworkers or bosses. Sometimes the insane people have good reason for being annoying.

Die Hard. Young Bruce Willis, and Alan Rickman in something other than Love Actually during the holidays. A double win! Saving the day doesn't necessarily mean being the most popular person at the office Christmas party. Sometimes it's the guy behind the scenes. Like, way behind the scenes.

Edward Scissorhands. One more with Johnny Depp. Diane Wiest is the queen of transferable skills. Meet a frankenstein creature on the job? Break out the pancake foundation. Also, Edward himself is a classic example of turning your most freakish quality into a job.

World War Z. I love Brad, I really do. Feel like your job changes by the minute? Here's some inspiration for adapting at work. Also, it's never bad to count to ten, for whatever reason.

Just a few I love. More ideas here and here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Mini-Guide to Fiction for Your Career

Career reading doesn't always have to be nonfiction. Settle back with some good literary fiction to improve your career, because research shows you'll do better on interviews with a little Alice Munro.

Loved this piece about which novel to read before your interview!

Know your Myers-Briggs type? Match yourself to the lead character in literature with this piece. I'm Anne of Green Gables.

When you're feeling like telling your boss off, nothing beats a little Bartleby.

Or, for a more modern take on a career slump, I like the surreal and funny Kings of Infinite Space, by James Hynes.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Passion Then Career? Or the Other Way Around?

So you're sitting at your desk, wondering if this is all there is. You've been at your job for a few years and it's lost its novelty. Or you thought you were majoring in the right subject, but now you're not so sure.

Sometimes we treat passion for our work as a resource that slowly (or not so slowly) runs dry. Stamped out by idiot bosses, cruel multinational corporations, the vagaries of a crap economy. But what if it doesn't? What if passion could grow over time as you gain in competence?

I dug up an old Cal Newport post on this. Newport teaches computer science at Georgetown, but also writes about ways students can succeed and be happy. Based on his reading of recent research, he believes passion follows hard work and mastery of a skill. I believe it too. It's why I don't go crazy giving people a billion assessments, or get hung up on their Myers-Briggs type. There's so much more to choosing a career.

In a sense you have to earn passion for something. You start with a hunch that you might like a type of work, might be good at it, and then you set out to learn how to do it.  As you advance in your career, you can trade your skill for more autonomy and quality peers. These are the makings of a satisfying life.

Sounds simple, but careers can derail on several fronts. Maybe you chose the wrong skill to try to master. Maybe everyone is trying to master it too, and you're beginning to resent the competition. Maybe you decide to trade mastery for salary but didn't pay so much attention to finding autonomy. Maybe prestigious titles trumped finding the right situation for you.

And what gets lost in the whole "follow your passion" approach to careers is the fact that there are things that we are better at than other people. It's hard to see your own talent clearly in a world where everyone gets first place trophies, and grades are inflated, and we're all encouraged to have good self-esteem. Failure is hard to detect. A lot of failure isn't loud and embarrassing, it's quiet and polite. No one tells anyone they stink anymore. (And I think that stinks, but that's another matter).

I see so many people dabbling in so many things. They have too many interests, and no dedication to any one pursuit. They're afraid to make a decision, so they double and triple major and burn out on academia altogether. Add to that the trouble we have focusing on any one thing while we text, tweet, and YouTube our way through the day, and we have a mess on our hands.

We need to have the courage to commit to something and give ourselves a chance to love it. A scary proposition. The risk!

But I thought this recent post at Harvard Business Review is right on about making decisions. We need to focus less on the moment of decision-making and instead see a decision as something we can make a success. We don't just decide on a career and then sit back and watch it magically materialize around us. We need to work for it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Persisting In Spite of Rejection and Failure

Any career change, job hunt, or career decision requires one thing: persistence. Persistence in the face of rejection from your top choice of employer, from the one person you think could help you decide between consulting and art school, from the professor you thought would write you a recommendation. It's tough to keep going.

Rejection is failure, plain and simple. And failure can be a skill that you can get good at. Successful failure, if you will. And if you get good at failure, you will persist.

One of my favorite takes on failure.

One of my favorite failure stories: Climber Alan Hinkes, one of a select few mountaineers who have reached the top of the world's highest peaks, once sneezed so hard he slipped a disk and had to abort a climb. That and more interesting  failures here.

Finally, some tips on what to ask yourself after rejection during your job hunt.

Have a good one!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Costume Career-killers and Other Links.

Good Morning! Ah, Monday. Time for that eighth cup of coffee. Here are some links as you sip.

Beware echo chambers when making career decisions.

Want a middle class job? Try heading south.

My fashion dream come true. Hopefully, they will put "business casual" in a can.

A person with not one but two cool jobs.

And of course, a Halloween link. How costumes can be a career killer.

Have a good one!

Monday, October 21, 2013

On Being Nonessential

I've never been an essential worker, so I have to talk about the other side of the equation. The government shutdown, now thankfully behind us, divided the workforce into people we can't do without, and people we can. I like Joel's Stein's take in Time. We all know who's essential in this world: doctors, farmers and the like. He owns his nonessential status, lumps it in with the arts, but points out that nonessential workers can make life beautiful.

I hear from a lot of people about what they want in their future careers, and so many people want to be essential. They want to influence large groups of people. It's a criteria that comes even before "working with animals" or "finding exciting work." They list careers like the law and banking as possibilities, things that have status.

But this need for status, to at least appear important to the world, really screws up our chances at career happiness, and it gets us stuck in a boring way of looking at the world.

I once attended a career counselor conference session about finding meaning in work. The presenter relayed an account of a hospital janitor who had once been a doctor in the country she had emigrated from. Many people saw that as a huge drop in status, but the janitor found that she was sometimes the only person alone with someone if they died in the night. When she heard someone in need, she could be there for them, if not in the same way.

Is she nonessential? If a family couldn't make it to the bedside of a loved one, but the janitor could assure the son or daughter that their mom wasn't alone when she died, isn't that essential? Our views of careers need to allow for this scenario, and scenarios like it. Can we view each other with curiosity and imagination?

And what do we learn from the colossal fail of government to pass a budget? I think it's part of the same problem. We're quick to judge each others' usefulness. It's like we can't get out of consumer mode when we view our fellow human beings. What can they do for me? Our lawmakers are just trying to deliver the goods. They've perfected their "brands" and they go into the government to get what their constituents and donors bought from them, either with money or a vote. There's no room for logic anymore, for compromise.

So if we're going to move forward from this fiasco with some dignity, we need to allow for some mystery in the world. Could there be a scenario where the janitor is more important than the heart surgeon? Could we imagine dedicating ourselves to something nonessential, with the idea that maybe we would end up essential in a different way?

I saw the Gravity this weekend, and I loved the objects floating in space stations: the Buddha, the statue of a saint, or even a Marvin the Martian toy. I like to knit, and sometimes I make these toys for people. They're not nearly as useful as hand knit hats, but sometimes they're something to hang on to in a different way. It's the kind of uselessness that I pride myself on.

I'm not essential as a career coach. I believe people can get on in life without me. But I can make the experience better. So can other people in our lives who can listen with an open mind. Being essential isn't, well, essential. It's enough that we're alive, that we treat each other well while we're on this planet (or orbiting it). And maybe some of us are here to be the George Clooney in the movie, to point to the sunrise and say, "Look."

That can be its own kind of essential.

Some nonessential links for your Monday:

A resume app, so you're never without your credentials.

A checklist for "engaging" with information.

The November issue of Real Simple magazine has a great article on how people in different professions stay in the moment.

Have a good one!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Living Frugally, and Other Links

I was hoping this Monday would be all about recovering from the shutdown, but it's dragging on. Lordy. With that in mind, I'm liking these tips for living frugally.

Speaking of money, here are some ideas on learning to love negotiating... inspired by kids.

Mastering business casual (for women) can be tricky. Here are a few tips.

Need a nook for working on your career dreams? Here's an interesting way to squeeze one in.

Cool job: Running Concierge. 

Hang in there!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why I Started My Business, and Other Monday Links

It's a rainy Monday here in the great state of Maryland, and many of my neighbors are off work, furloughed. If you find yourself with some time this a.m., here are a few career related links for you. And let's hope everyone is back to work soon.

How to sell your sports experience in an interview. 

Some thoughts on building a career that I think are right on.

Why I started my business, and why the Mommy Wars reporting misses the point. Go here.

Don't know where to start with career exploration? Consider a Pinterest fieldtrip. Go here for some tips...

Have a good Monday!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

When Time Is Up

I’ve cooked a few Thanksgiving dinners, and the turkey usually turn out dry and stringy. I start out with high hopes. I go organic, free-range, and I use some crazy brining bag. By the time the thing is ready to come out of the oven, though, I’m in a political argument with my dad and my kids have created a fort out of the dining table.

I finally had  a decent turkey one year because I bought the Butterball with the thingy that pops up when its done. What I really need is a turkey that walks itself out of the oven when its done. The thingy worked, I got the bird out, and it was juicy, tender and actually tasty.

The thing about our careers is, they can bake for years while we do other things. But suddenly, time is up, and our work demands our attention. If we don't tend to it, it can end up like a dried out organic turkey, full of good intentions, but low on taste. I may carve out time for everything I need to do, but is it enjoyable? Is it juicy?

Recently my own Butterball thingy went gone off. My oldest started kindergarten , and suddenly I feel the passage of time. Soon it will be Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring, summer, 2014, 2015. I want to be with my family when I’m with my family, present, creating memories and then I want to sit down and do really good work. Juicy work, not overcooked. 

I think lots of people might have a Butterball thingy. Maybe it’s not kindergarten, maybe it’s turning 25, 30, 40. You know something must change but you’re not sure if it’s something big or small. That’s my favorite career coach conversation, because it can save you so much money, time and heartache to give that question the full weight and consideration it deserves. You can’t be arguing proverbial politics while you’re doing it. And that’s the kind of work I want to do for people. Give them the time and space for the questions they need to tackle. 

I don't claim to have all the answers. I'm still stumbling along like everyone else. But I trust the process, the value of a juicy conversation. Then maybe we can all sit down to some delicious work.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Decision Tailgating

There's a road near my home that I usually take at about 35 mph. It's curvy, treacherous when wet, and I just don't like to go too fast on it. I always get tailgated. It's a byproduct of living in a major metropolitan area, I know, and I just try to deal with it.

I've noticed, though, that my career counseling clients sometimes face a similar problem. Some attract what I call decision tailgaters. These are people who, sometimes because they care, sometimes because they're impatient or have something at stake, ask about a decision you're trying to make and pressure you to speed up the process.

There are decisions that should take a long time in life, and trying to figure out how you're going to spend the bulk of your waking hours is one of them. Still, sometimes clients don't give enough thought to how these tailgaters affect their decision. It's the same feeling as when you look in your rearview mirror on an icy morning and see someone five feet from your bumper. You want it to not matter. But the blood pressure rises, the palms grip the wheel a little harder, and your decision making can really be affected.

The difference in the scenarios of course is that there's no doubt what the car tailgater's motivations are, but your decision tailgaters will couch their pressure in terms of concern and caring. But what it really does is bring your ability to make a decision into question. And that's no small thing. Decisions take confidence. It's a crucial ingredient.

Sometimes I think my main job as a career counselor is to let you know I have the utmost confidence in your ability to make a decision. How do I know? Because you've executed a million decisions by Friday, and if you're still alive and functioning in this crazy world, chances are you've made some decent ones.

You may get your tailgaters to back off a little by talking with them about their concerns, and maybe letting them know, ever so subtly, that you've made some decent decisions before, like marrying them, if it's your spouse, or befriending them, if it's a buddy. I'm sure there's something to dig up for your parents. That can be a tough one though.

So slow down, even if you've attracted a tailgater or two. They may have the best of intentions, but then again, they just might be impatient.


Here's a song to play, back from the days when videos were, you know, actually on TV. Because every little thing that you do is magic. OMG, the hats in this.

Friday, February 15, 2013

So, Tell Me About Yourself....

This dreaded opener is often asked at the beginning of interviews, and it's surprisingly difficult to answer. Where to start? You're a complex individual, and I think there's something in us that resists being summarized in a few minutes. And selling ourselves is somehow depressing, isn't it? We're not commodities.

But polishing an answer is like carrying a crisp copy of a resume wherever you go, because you can drop it into conversations at a conference you're attending, or even at a bus stop when someone asks you what you do.

Tips for answering:

1.  Before you think about the content of your answer, think pacing. As in, how fast are you answering, and are you coming off as a Gilmore Girl because you're answering too fast for the human ear to track you? Record your voice and listen.

2. Now, for content. Keep it relevant, but not too relevant. Throw out something quirky now and then, something that isn't all about achievement and can lead to conversation. So, where were you born? Are you a native, or from a far-flung country? Fill in your college, your major, companies or organizations you've worked for. But also, what do you do in your down time? And what projects are you working on now?

3. Wrap it up and ask for something. Well, not really ask, ask. Let them know why you want to work for them, if you're in an interview, or if you're at that proverbial bus stop, let them know you're job searching. This is so easy to say on paper, but so tough to do in person. We're not accustomed to asking for things from strangers. There's shame involved. Remember, though, it's a gift you're giving, this sharing. You're letting people know they're worth your time, and you're interested in their organization and their work.

When all this is put together, practice it in front of a mirror, recording it on your laptop memo program, or with a friend until it fits in a 30 second speech.

Here's my version of a quick intro. Depending on the context, I might also add that I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, that I teach knitting in my free time at a local yarn store, or that I'm trying to learn Mandarin but am mostly tongue-tied at this point. What I hope for is that I hear those magical words. "Oh, really, I did X,Y, Z too. Or I know someone who grew up there." You never know what will help you make a connection.

Friday, February 8, 2013

On Self-Doubt and Being Boring

This week has been a bit of a struggle. We've all been sick with the stomach flu, and at one point both my kids vomited at the same time.

What, you're still reading? Okay, then, I'll try to get to my point. We all have weeks that make us doubt our choices, and this was one of them for me. Unfortunately, becoming a career coach has not made me immune to career doubt. I spend most of my days with my young kids at home, fitting in part-time work where I can, you know, trying for that elusive career unicorn: work-life balance (which I do think is a myth, but a pretty myth with a rainbow mane and sparkly horn that I can't stop searching for).

On weeks like this, I fantasize about putting on a suit and going to a busy office full of adults and discussing matters of the utmost importance, then dining in vomit-free restaurants, where I sit down the entire time and don't have to break up a shoving match over the sippy-cup with the fishies on it. Did I mention I'm sitting down?

I thought I'd go back to work full-time after my first child was born, but I had a difficult childbirth, an emergency C-section. I felt like motherhood had broken me, and I needed time to rebuild myself into this new creature: A mom. I decided to stay home with my baby, and it's a decision I don't regret. Still, some weeks, like this week, I start to wonder if I should be going back to work full time. Like many moms at home, some weeks are so hard. And I wonder why more at-home parents aren't raving lunatics. Seriously. It seems like everyone's making it look so easy.

It's the loneliness that makes me doubt myself. There are people who stopped asking me about my day-to-day life after I decided to stay home, and it hurt. We're not close anymore. It's funny, I think there are some fascinating aspects to caring for young children. At-home parents have a front-row seat to developmental milestones, and not just first steps. The other day my son learned to jump. The joy on his face as he left the ground was unmistakable, and I loved helping him work out the details of how to do it again. We take so much for granted with our bodies, and seeing someone learn to launch himself, literally, is exhilarating.

But then there's the drudgery, the housework and lack of adult conversation. Two years ago, Meagan Francis of The Happiest Mom wrote about boredom, and I was reading her thoughts and feeling inspired. Two years ago she chose fighting boredom as her new years resolution.  Her tips include choosing challenging media, taking action, and finding daily inspiration.

So, what to be inspired about in this week of dreary weather and stomach flu? There's a column I like to read in Harvard Business Review on careers. Recently Gianpiero Petriglieri urged readers who are questioning their career direction to stay with their career questions: 

"For all the value we put on plans and pursuits, what makes us who we are is often what we do with life's surprises. Temptations don't always point to what we really want, but often hint towards who we are trying to become. Maturity isn't the ability to pursue or suppress them. It is the ability to take them seriously without always taking them literally."

So, taking my business lunch fantasy seriously, but not literally....I think it's less about the clothes and the nice lunch, and more about a need for camaraderie. Because really, I like being boring, and I would love to hang out with other boring moms.

But in this age of Facebooking and Tweeting, boring is a luxury, one that's tough to indulge in. I've been afraid of boredom all my life. There's a part of me that fears that if I'm bored, then I'm boring to others, and if I'm boring to others, then I'm not worth much. If I can't deliver a good response to "What do you do?" when meeting someone for the first time, what then? If I can't be witty all the time, then who am I?

My hesitation with being an at-home parent, then, amounts to a reluctance to make peace with the part of me that has always been a homebody, who will always love a good book and a cup of coffee maybe with one good friend, more than a loud girls night out. I'm not one of those stay-at-home parents who says: "I don't know why they call us 'stay-at-home.' I'm never at home." People, I'm always home, and I like it. I love it. I have the frayed bunny slippers to prove it. A sunny spring day in the backyard with the kids, followed by an old Bruce Willis movie and a beer with the hubs? That's the stuff.

There, I've admitted it. And I'll be sure to go out and meet some new moms at the moms group mixer  soon. Tomorrow. But for now, some at-home time. Now, where did my toddler put that remote?

Friday, January 18, 2013

What Haunts You?

I'm going to try to get back in the saddle with the blogging. Sure, I've slacked off a bit, but 2012 was a crazy year, wasn't it? It's a new year, and so on and so forth. Onward...

I've written before about my love of the obituaries for career inspiration, and a recent obit in the Post reminded me of why I love to read these.

A famous Manga comic artist passed away last week. I don't know much about Manga, but the opener to this obit grabbed me right away. Keiji Nakazawa survived an atomic bomb. He was six, standing outside of his Hiroshima school, when the U.S. dropped the bomb on his city. Somehow the school building shielded him.

He pursued a career in comic book art, sticking to themes such as boy adventures, samurai, and baseball. But in 1966 his mother died, and when he collected the ashes, he said he noticed that there was barely anything left of her, that usually there were pieces of bone, but the radiation had affected her  down to her bones. He decided to focus his art on the bombings and their effects. His work was so moving that a group formed a nonprofit to translate his work into different languages.

What strikes me about this man is that he would never have become the artist he became without going to dark places, exploring a horrific event that he survived as a child, facing down who knows what demons.

It's not a place people like to go. Who would? But there are things that haunt you. We have all seen enough now in this world to ask ourselves what sticks to us, what can't we let go of? What do we have to do something about? A lot of times I see people who are frustrated because they are stuck trying to figure out their career direction. If only they had a passion, something they loved to do. They feel guilty that they don't.

It's fine to ask yourself what you love, what your passion is. But if you come up empty, it might be worth asking what haunts you? What do you detest more than anything? Maybe your passion isn't a sunny, happy place. And that's okay too. In fact, it's more than okay, it's admirable.