Welcome to the Texas Exes career blog courtesy of Amy Wolfgang, owner of Wolfgang Career Coaching. Here you’ll find thought-provoking, actionable career tips, hints and exercises designed to help you manage your career. Comments? Questions? Ideas? Email us!
I Used to Love My Job. How to Find a Job You Love.
Falling out of love with your job happens over time. The key is to be actively managing your career. Yes, jobs change but more times than not, it’s the changes that you experience that cause you to fall out of love with your job. As time rolls on it’s important to assess how your life is changing on a number of fronts:
- Did my family dynamics change?
- Are my interests different?
- Do I want to be using different skills?
- Am I no longer inspired by my company?
Let’s take a look at each of these and discuss an objective approach to address.
Your lifestyle changed
Big changes in your life include getting married or divorced, having kids or your kids moving out, becoming your family’s primary provider and so on. When you see these scenarios coming, or if they happen suddenly, it’s time to start observing your feelings and your performance at work. It’s hard to observe when you have a lot of other things on your mind. If a life event changes your family dynamics rather suddenly, it’s even more important to observe your feelings before jumping to quick decisions. Use your observations to determine what changes will help you enjoy your job again. The best scenario may be to leave your job but that should be after you are clear on the reasons for your feelings rather than a sudden reaction you act on.
Your interests changed
Lifestyle changes are relatively obvious compared to subtle changes in your interests. It’s important to see if the reason for your feelings about your job are related to the type of work you are doing versus the environment. Read some job postings for other companies that match your skills and note your reaction – are you excited about the prospect of a new workplace or does it seem like the same old job, just at a new place?
You want to use new skills
Many times you become fascinated with using new skills by observing someone else’s job. Maybe you want to move from sales to marketing, use more analysis and reporting, perform more research instead of execution, or become a SME (subject matter expert) rather than project manager. That’s fine but it’s important to make a clear distinction between the job and the skill. Write down the skills you want to use but then go and find out more about the job that you liked. What does the average day look like? Are you just as excited but the other job responsibilities? Is there a way to use the skills you want in your current job?
You are no longer inspired
Over time, we often become disenchanted with the mission of the company we work for. The choices by executives, employees with poor attitudes, or the lack of connection between your work and the company’s mission can strip you of the affinity you feel for the organization and pride you receive from working for it. When you realize that you are no longer inspired, don’t assume the grass is greener on the other side. Seek out firms that inspire you and then try to connect with people there. Find out how they are different and how people feel there. You know the questions to ask to find out if you’ll be let down by working for this company. The other route is to seek out the people or projects at your company that really do inspire you and strive to make a difference.
Observation and investigation are the keys to noticing that you are changing and you need a career change. This is a big part of actively managing your career. When you see changes like these coming you have the ability to understand what career change you actually need. Otherwise, you often wind up in a career crisis where you are trying to make big, sudden changes and hoping you somehow make the right choice.
Do More of What You Love in Your Career
Thinking over your career to-date, what was your favorite job? What about that job made it your favorite? Perhaps you liked the ability to use a specific skill set, the work environment, interactions with your co-workers, etc. Maybe you don’t have one favorite job. Instead, ask yourself, what did you like best about each of the jobs you have had?
Favorite Career Activities
When I did this exercise, some of my answers were:
• helping people learn
• training and instructing
• problem solving
• influencing positive process improvements
• helping employees strengthen their skills
• building relationships
• making connections
• creating something new
• creating methodologies
• creating a culture
This list helped me identify how I really like to spend my time. I then compared it to the work I was currently doing. Was I doing the kind of work that gave me energy, the kind of work I loved to do?
The answer was “yes” and “no”. As a little career management test, I identified the areas that didn’t give me energy and how much time I was spending in those areas.
Less Time on Least Favorite Activities
The next step was the tough part – how could I do less of the things that don’t give me energy and spend more time on things that do? There were obviously some activities that, no matter what, I personally had to continue doing. Luckily those activities don’t require me to spend a large portion of my time on.
For the ones that required more time, I had to ask the questions:
Could they be delegated to someone else?
If the answer is no, how could I change the work so that I might enjoy it more?
If the answer to that is “I’m unable to”, how do I make a plan to move into a different role that includes more of the things I want to do?
You might not be able to make big changes quickly, but likely you can make some small, immediate changes that give you more energy. Then use this momentum to begin creating a longer-term plan to do more of the work you want to be doing.
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: Jan. 2018
A Fulfilling Career Requires Maintenance
If you are fortunate enough to have a fulfilling career, you can probably distinctly recall the challenges you faced getting to where you are. You’re probably not interested in going through those again! Here’s the key to avoiding future career challenges: maintenance. We don’t often think about the maintenance of our career but, just like anything else in life, we need to so we don’t have a break down. We need to check-in on our career regularly to make sure that it continues to fulfill us even as our life, priorities and the work itself change.
Aligning your career with what you want to do can be hard work. Trust me, I know. Even as a career coach and business owner, I have to be very intentional about continuing to align my career with the skills I want to be using and the activities I am interested in doing. We continue to evolve over time and the work we are doing can evolve and head in directions we didn’t anticipate.
My job is pretty stable right now. Why wouldn’t it stay that way?
For example, new projects and new opportunities can cause a shift in the work we are doing on a day-to-day basis. Over time, small shifts, or shifts on a project-to-project basis can cause a significant change in the way we feel about the work we are doing. It can cause a conflict with how we want to spend our time. Additionally, we experience life changes, shifting priorities, and even changes to what we value in our lives and careers. The fulfilling career we once had is now less so.
How do I “maintain” my career and prevent this from happening?
It’s important to continue to evaluate what we want to be doing and how we want to be doing it over the course of our career. It’s regular maintenance… for your career. We need to do regular check-ins and conduct regular evaluations. This will allow us to make small shifts or small changes to keep us on track before our career gets too far out of alignment.
One of my clients calls this her ‘career tune-up’. She sets an appointment to see me every six months to make sure her work is still on track with her goals. She’s decided to take small steps on a regular basis, hoping to avoid a larger pitfall. Life is busy. We have so many competing priorities as it is. However, I strongly encourage you to schedule regular career check-ins or tune-ups with yourself or mentor.
How do I conduct a ‘career tune-up’ and make it a habit?
- Get it on the calendar - Make it an immovable meeting. We tend to be quick to rescheudle things that can nourish or feed our soul or better our lives in order to do things that seem more important in the short-term.
- Determine your evaluation criteria - Identify how your are going to evaluate your career. There are many ways to conduct this career check-in. The most important aspect is that the questions you ask or the way you choose to evelauate your career are important metircs for you personally.
- Set action items - determine the actions you need to take in order to reach the metrics you set for yourself. The actions don't need to be dramatic but you can't ignore them. The great thing about maintenance is that it isn't hard and, hopefully, prevents having to make a dramtic changes.
There is no right or wrong way to structure your career check-ins. Here are some examples:
- Evaluate your career goals and see what type of progress you are making toward those goals and what might need to shift.
- Review the skills you want to be utilizing in your career and see how many of those skills you get to use and at what frequency. What seems in alignment or out of alignment?
- Review your core values, see if any have shifted and how your career is currently matching those values.
- Revisit your life mission statement and see if your career is in alignment with that mission.
- Look at your list of 3 words for the year and see how you are adjusting your life and career to incorporate those three words.
- Use this time to evaluate any skills gaps you might have toward the next step in your career and develop an action plan around them.
There are a number of ways to evaluate your career that are meaningful to you. The hardest step is often just making the time. Make this investment in yourself. Take some time each year to make sure you are on the path you want.
This pro-active approach should lead to a much more rewarding and fulfilling career and life.
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: Nov. 2017
Leadership Development at the Growth Edge
As a coach, I regularly work with a coach myself for personal and professional development. We are currently working on a specific area of executive development for me.
As we were talking about that specific area last week, I had the ‘aha moment’ when I realized the past behaviors I utilized in this specific area are no longer serving me. I would argue that they never really served me to begin with.
However, I have yet to define the behaviors that will replace it. Not having answers, like that, can be an overwhelming and scary feeling.
Can you relate to that?
When I mentioned this to my coach she said, “You are at the growth edge.” That phrase and image rang so clearly for me. It felt like I was at the edge and the only way was down… and it was scary. I couldn’t see the possibilities of navigating that edge.
That visual reminded me of a vacation I took with my family years ago to Costa Rica. We went zip-lining in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You literally zip-lined through clouds! When the person ahead of you started the zip line, they disappeared into the clouds. You didn’t know what was going to happen on the other side. You had to have faith (and strong safety guidelines) that what was on the other side of that cloud was worth it. It was. The view was amazing. The experience was amazing, yet scary.
So here I sit on my growth edge. Excited about what’s next in my leadership journey. Scared about how I am going to get there. My coach and I have tools we are working through to ease the fear, to learn, to observe, to learn some more and then to take action on new behaviors.
I challenge you to think about where you are on the growth edge. Is there a professional development area where you feel you don’t have the tools or skill set to properly handle it? How are you addressing it? Are you addressing it?
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: Sept 2017
Top 10 Ways to Survive a Soul-Sucking Job
Many of my clients have been there. Honestly, I’ve been there. You go to work Monday through Friday to a job that feels like it is slowly sucking the life out of you. It is negatively impacting you at work and, even worse, it is having a negative impact on you outside of work. You dread Sunday evenings. I called it “the blue flu.” I felt sick on Sunday nights with the thought of having to go into work the next day.
So what can you do? Quit? Yes, of course. However, for most people, quitting without another job lined up isn’t a financial option. What can you do in the meantime to survive this soul-sucking job? Here are some tips that can help ease the pain until you find that next position.
1. Remember the Bigger Goal
First thing in the morning, remind yourself of your bigger goal: to find the job that fulfills you. Start the day by writing, reading or stating your goal out loud. Post your goal in places you will see it right when you wake up and throughout your day.
2. Password Power!
Use your computer password to your advantage. Choose a short phrase that reminds you of your goal. We typically type in our passwords several times throughout the day. Use your password to remind yourself of the bigger goal. Here are a few to try… YouareAWESOME88 TodayIStheDay1
3. You Have a Choice
Your perspective or approach to the day can be the key to surviving even the worst situations. While it doesn’t always seem apparent, you have a choice about how you want to approach the day. Set an intention of how you want to approach your day and how you want to show up at work.
4. Meditation Station
When your day feels overwhelming or at its worst, take a 5 minute meditation break. There are great phone apps you can use. Calming your mind can help you when the situation at work seems bleakest.
5. Attitude of Gratitude
To contrast the soul-sucking nature of the job, be sure to keep a gratitude list or journal. Remind yourself of those things in life you are grateful for. This list can go a long way in making your day seem more bearable.
6. Show Me the Good
Find the good in your day. It may just be a quick conversation with a colleague or the ability to answer a client’s question quickly. Recognize and savor those good moments, however few and far between they might be.
7. Add What is Meaningful
Identify activities you can add into your work day that might be meaningful. For example, perhaps mentoring others is a meaningful activity for you. Find out if you could add in a 30-minute mentoring session for a younger colleague once a week. This one activity could provide you with a sense of fulfillment that is lacking.
8. Tap into Your Values
Our values give us purpose and meaning in our lives. Spend some time identifying your values and defining them. In evaluating your next job, make sure your values are aligned with that job. It can make a huge difference in whether the job feels fulfilling to you or soul-sucking.
9. Use Your Support Network
Identify a “cheerleader” in your life and put her or him to work. Give your cheerleader specific ideas of how they can help you. For example, emailing you a bad joke every Tuesday morning, or sending you funny YouTube clips 3 times a week could be just what you need to bring some levity to your day.
10. Partner Up!
We all need help when we are making a big change. You are not alone! Find an accountability partner in your support network to help you through the process of getting a new job. Tell that accountability partner how you want them to hold you accountable and how they should approach you if you miss deadlines. They can partner with you to complete your career transition, especially when the process gets overwhelming and difficult.
While none of these tips can instantly make a soul-sucking job seem fulfilling, they are small steps that can really make a big difference in how you feel about your day, how you approach others and how you approach your life.
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: April 2017
Not Satisfied With Your Job? Get Your Marbles Back.
“How did I get here?” I hear this question often from my clients. Typically this conversation is in regards to their job or organization, but it could easily be a question related to their life or a relationship. It is a question that is often asked.
In some of the cases, my clients are wondering how they got to a point where they are not engaged in the work with their current organization. They joined the organization with high hopes of the contributions they could make, the challenges they could tackle, the professional development opportunities, the cultural fit, their relationship with their manager, etc. However, now it no longer feels fulfilling. They don’t know why or what went wrong.
The Marble Jar
Oftentimes, we talk about this scenario through the lens of Brene Brown’s concept of “trust and the marble jar”, though mine is a slightly different take here. We discuss the concept of when they started at the organization or in their new position, they were given a jar that was full of marbles. Over time, some of the marbles were taken out of the jar. The reasons why the marbles were removed vary for each individual, though it could be because:
- they were reprimanded by their manager in front of others
- they were promised vacation time but received emergency calls throughout their time off
- they were promised projects that did not come to fruition
- training opportunities were removed
- their manager was not open to their new ideas
- team members acted disrespectfully toward one another
Over time, though, some marbles were likely added in as well. For example:
- they were put on a project that developed their skills
- they were recognized for their contributions on a project
- a client sang their praises to their manager
For some individuals, though, more marbles came out of the jar than were put back in. It doesn’t typically happen all at once, however, I will get to that scenario later in this post. If each year, more marbles came out than were put back in, the marble jar may only be half full or less. This is typically when my clients recognize the pain of being at an organization or in a position that does not fulfill them.
What are your marbles?
Now is the time to start exploring. First, it is important to understand what your “marbles” are. These are unique to you. They likely come from:
- your values
- your goals
- the work environment you want to work in
- how you develop/maintain relationships
- your perspective or outlook on life
Then, tackle the following questions:
- What is the likelihood that more marbles will fill your jar in your organization/position?
- What needs to be done? Will it happen?
- What is your level of willingness to stay at an organization that continues to take marbles, but is not filling them back-up?
- What are your thoughts on finding a position/organization that may keep the marble jar more than half or three-quarters of the way full?
- What level of risk are you willing to take to leave the current organization/position for the opportunity to find a better fit? What are your ideas on how to mitigate that risk?
When your marble jar is smashed.
For some of my clients, they had a fairly full jar of marbles at their organization and then one day it was smashed on the ground. This happens through demotions, layoffs, company acquisitions, etc. When this is the case, it is extremely important to recognize and process the loss that was experienced. Many of my clients want to move straight into “action” at this point. They want to put the marble jar back together as quickly as they can. However, in order to move into intentional action that will get them to the right place to refill that jar, they first must work through the loss. It is an important step that can’t be overlooked.
This concept of trust and the marble jar, as outlined by Brene Brown, can easily be used with individual relationships, friend relationships, romantic relationships, etc. It can also be applied to many parts of your life. I really resonate with the visual she described and I hope it provides you with a useful metaphor to look at your job, your life, and your relationships. Comment below if you have recently had marbles added to your jar?
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: March 2017
How to Set Career Goals for a More Successful & Productive Year
This is the time of the year when many of our clients want an objective take on their annual or quarterly review from work. In many cases, my client’s goals are at the heart of a poor annual review. Here’s my list of ways to work with your goals in order to get a favorable review and find greater job satisfaction at the same time.
Create your own goals for the year
Your manager may help you create your annual goals, however, those are not the same as your personal career goals. Write your own goals and focus on what will make you more successful, what will make you happy, and what areas of improvement your manager identified the previous year.
Set SMART goals
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Force yourself to document your goals using these criteria and you’ll significantly increase your chances of achieving them. This exercise should drive the tactics you choose.
Set realistic goals and tactics
Your goals should be something entirely within your control. “Increase revenue by 50%” is not a reasonable goal. Instead, make smaller goals that you can control that, in turn, may produce bigger results. For example, “Call in to 50 accounts by February 28” is something you can control and realistically achieve.
Set calendar reminders to review your goals
Schedule calendar appointments every two months or every quarter – schedule them for the entire year. Put reminders so they prompt you to stop your regular work and revisit your goals. For each goal, ask yourself:
- How close am I to achieving this goal?
- Where am I coming up short?
- What new tactics do I need to make better progress toward these goals?
- Does my manager know about my progress toward these goals?
Track your progress
Track the progress you are making toward your goals. Make sure to document results and achievements when they happen. It’s much easier to remember your great achievements in real-time than to try and remember them at year’s end.
Find a mentor or accountability partner
Accomplishing your work goals is not easy. In some ways, it’s like trying to lose weight or start a new exercise routine. So find a friend to do the same goal-setting exercise and then meet with that person to review each other’s progress. Alternatively, you can find an individual who will hold you accountable for meeting your goals. (Someone besides your boss!) Knowing you have to answer to someone can be good motivation.
Collaborate instead of isolate
Many people think that working on career goals is something they are supposed to do alone. That’s not the case. If someone asked you to build a 2-story, 2,000 sqft house would you do it all by yourself? You would find experts in architecture, wiring, foundations and so on and solicit their help. In the same way, find people in your network or consider a career coach that can help you figure out how to accomplish your goals, even help create your goals.
Address obstacles blocking your job satisfaction
What do you dread about work? What frustrates you or makes you unproductive or unmotivated? What is keeping you from achieving your goals? Identify the root causes, think of solutions, and present them to your boss. Don’t delay.
My last tip is to regularly review this list and make sure you are on track. One of my clients printed it out and claims he will hang it on his cubicle wall – that’s not a bad idea! Either way, take your goals seriously and don’t treat them like your manager’s goals. They are yours and once you take ownership and focus on achieving them, you’ll be rewarded with a better annual review.
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: February 2017
Engage the Being & Doing to Make a Career Change
As humans, we constantly strive to balance our two states – the being and doing.
The Being is who you are and includes self-reflection and developing awareness of yourself, your thought patterns, behaviors, etc.
The Doing is what you do and includes the actions you take and the plans you put in place, etc.
Personal and professional development requires engaging both the being and the doing. Self-reflection and self-awareness are key before an individual can take intentional actions toward their goals. They are intertwined.
Taking action without awareness can potentially take you down the wrong paths. Self-awareness without action will not push you forward towards the goals you want to achieve.
Many career counseling clients come to us seeking a change in their careers or lives. Most are predisposed to want to take action. They ask:
- What can I do differently?
- What should I be doing?
- Here is what I’m doing; what am I missing?
They want to “do”. Doing is important.
However, the doing side cannot be done without considering the being side.
- Who are you? Who do you want to be?
- How do you want to feel? What are your values?
- How is your life and career in alignment or out of alignment with those?
This self-reflection is necessary so that the actions you take are intentional and in alignment with who you are.
Jumping to the doing side typically feels good. We can cross things off our list. It feels like we are making progress. Oftentimes it is easier. These are tangible steps we can easily wrap our mind around. They make sense to us.
Oftentimes, the being side is not as easy.
It stirs emotions and thoughts in us that have been set for a very long time. It can take a lot of internal work to uncover these old stories, old patterns, and old beliefs. It can take even longer to rewire our brains - to create the new stories - to reshape our old patterns.
It can feel overwhelming and difficult. It can take a long time without feeling as though you are making visible progress.That’s what makes it so easy to then shift back to the doing. That feels better.
It feels like we are making progress. In many cases we are getting external validation that we are making progress, i.e. a job interview, a promotion, etc. However, the being side doesn’t go away. The work that needs to be done is still there.
Remember that two sides need addressing when you are looking to make a change in your life or career. They need to be in balance.
If you are feeling drawn to the doing, doing, doing; stop and ask yourself what inner work needs to be addressed first. If you find yourself stuck in the being side; you may need to engage a friend, family member or professional to help you move out of that stuck place into some doing work.
Engaging both the being and doing sides will help you make you successfully make a career change.
Posted January, 2017
Author: Amy Wolfgang
4 Checkpoint Questions for your Career
When you are dissatisfied with your career, what questions do you ask yourself before looking into your next career step? When you are happy with your career, what questions do you ask to make sure your career is on the right path?
In June, I attended the National Career Development Association (NCDA) Conference in San Antonio. One of the speakers at the conference discussed how a career management plan can be viewed in terms of “check points”, specifically, the four questions you are asked at a checkpoint to enter another country.
I expanded on these broad checkpoint questions and listed sub-questions below to help you drill into your next career-related steps. Ask yourself the following questions and record your answers. Do this exercise at least annually in order to learn more about what you bring to the table and what you are looking for in the next steps of your career.
Career Management Checkpoint Questions
Who are you?
- What are your personal characteristics and traits?
- What do you value?
- What interests you?
- What does your ideal ‘day off from work’ look like?
What do you have?
- What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you have?
- What is your educational background? What certifications do you have or professional development completed?
- Most importantly, what have you done with the skills, knowledge, ability and education you have?
Where are you going?
- What are your goals in the next six months? In the next year? 3 years? 5 years?
What are you going to do when you get there?
- How will you use your newest opportunity to help you meet your ultimate career goals?
- What projects are you going to seek out?
- What people are you going to try and meet and for what purpose (mentoring, networking)?
- How can you tailor this latest opportunity to ensure you are gaining the necessary skills for your next career step?
Career management ‘plans’ can seem daunting. However, you do have time, once a year, to ask these important career-related questions. Take the time to assess the answers, realize how they changed from the prior year, and determine the steps that can alter your career path to meet your current needs and goals.
At some point, create your own checkpoint questions and add them to the ones above.
Posted December, 2016
Author: Amy Wolfgang
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Amy Wolfgang is a leadership & career coach and owner of Wolfgang Career Coaching – the Official Career Services Partner of the Texas Exes. We have served over 2,500 clients and have hundreds of 5-star reviews. We offer exclusive services and pricing for Texas Exes members looking for 1) executive coaching and leadership development, 2) career development and long-term career planning, 3) career transition and career exploration, and 4) job search strategy, resume writing, interview preparation and professional branding. Learn more at www.WolfgangCareerCoaching.com and schedule your free 30-minute career consultation.