Listening to Detroit
About a month ago, I blogged about the eLearners.com Empowerment Tour, which visited Detroit over the summer. The career coaches who attended included Michael Cushman and Ayn Fox, and both said they were powerfully affected by the experience.
We've heard from Michael; now it's Ayn's turn.
Ayn Fox is a Career and Leadership Coach, partnering with adults to create meaningful, fulfilling work and workplaces. She is also the Catalyst of Creativity Lab, her own business where she designs and facilitates experiences for individuals and leadership teams to tap their creative spirit to solve career and business challenges.
The eLearners.com Empowerment Tour visit to Detroit marked the beginning of the second half of our 40 city tour. Though we had already experienced many people out of work, our visit to the Greater Grace Temple was by far, the most visceral experience showing the extent of the job loss crisis in our country. When the charismatic pastor invited those who were unemployed to stand up and come to be blessed, it looked as though half the congregation in this affluent mega church joined a long line that went on and on and on. Although I had heard the statistics, experiencing it, I was stunned! I felt it in my gut.
For many of the people we met throughout our time in Detroit, there was the fear of and for some- the reality of being in a dire circumstance, No job, no money to pay their mortgage and families to feed. For many, their dreams were shattered. Though as we listened, many were able to tap into a dream that would give them hope and energy to persist through the obstacles to make their vision a reality.
Clara, had been a successful entrepreneur in the food service industry. She started out using a few hundred dollars from her credit card and built it into a multi- million dollar business. When she took on a partner to help her expand even further, she was embezzled and went into bankruptcy. When she came to talk with us, she was thinking about going back to school to study nutrition. As we talked, she realized that her heart was in business and being an entrepreneur. She has ideas for inventions in the energy field and wants to get them patented and made into a business. Recognizing this is her dream, she decided to take steps to make her invention a reality and also to study entrepreneurship so that she would be more savvy about her business decisions.
Douglas had been laid off from his job as an engineer at an auto plant for nine months. Initially unhappy, he is now excited about doing something else. When he first started talking, he was thinking about teaching mathematics. This initially seemed to be a logical choice for him. Though once into our conversation, he suddenly blurted out “what I really want to do” and went on to tell me about an idea he had for a product that would be helpful for the environment, and that he wants to turn into a business. As he talked further, he started to think about how he might start bringing that idea into reality.
These examples show it is important to clarify where your heart is. Even if it is a logical choice to go into a field that is needed and builds on your past skills, if your heart isn't in it, you will either become dissatisfied with your career, or not stand out enough from the competition to get where you want to go.
Roger, a 48-year-old veteran with a blended family of four children, is an example of working toward his dream. Although he is fortunate to have a job, he has a dream to become a clinical psychologist and eventually open a guidance center with his wife. Though he only has 12 college credits, he is determined to continue his education. As a body builder, he has the opportunity to counsel young men whom he trains, so he can be developing his skills, even before he finishes his training. A strong vision, even if it needs years of study to make happen, can propel one forward, one step at a time.
Dorothy spent ten years, at one of the automotive plants as a mechanical engineer. She was doing what she loved before she was laid off. Since she was happy, she had never thought about what else she might want to do. As we explored further, we discovered that what she particularly loved about her job was starting with an initial concept and seeing it through to the finished product. Although she loved being in the auto industry she is exploring how she might transfer what she does to another industry that needs her engineering and project management skills. She is willing to relocate, has a solid education (including a master's degree) and a good track record. Her main challenge will be to get involved in the new industry she chooses.
My suggestion to people like Dorothy, is to act as if they are already in the industry. Read the journals, go to the conferences, and participate in the associations. Get known in the field.
During the eLearners.com Empowerment Tour we tried to make sure people knew they are not alone as they face a career crisis. These days, many people are being laid off; the jobs they are qualified to do are no longer needed, or they may be in a career that is not a good fit. Faced with a career crisis, it is important to take the time to consider what you would really like to do with your life. What is it that would get you up every day – excited to go to work? When I suggest this to people, they often say that they have no idea what they want. As we explore further, it turns out that most do have an inkling, though they think it isn't realistic. There is always something one can do to move toward what they want, whether it is going back to school or developing relationships with people in the field they are interested in.
If you are still drawing a blank about what you want to do, pay attention to what attracts your attention. Notice what it is that your drawn to read, to do, to talk about. Ask friends and family what they notice about you. Sometimes, something may be so natural to you that you don't even think of it as a skill or a passion. A vision for your future provides the energy to get through the challenges you face.