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Is it time to reinvent your career?

"The idea of reinventing yourself in your career is intimidating and even overwhelming. Yet, every week I talk with one or more mid- to late-career professionals interested in finding 'next' in their professional endeavours," consultant Art Petty writes on his blog.

The "next" they are seeking is deeper than a job change. They are driven by a need for more purpose – to do more with their skills, and recapture the idealism of their youth. He says "almost all are driven by that quiet, ticking clock that says, 'Time is growing shorter. If I want to make a difference in a new way, I need to get on with it.'"

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That can strike at any age, of course. Better to take control of your career sooner than later. In doing so, here are six stages of career reinvention he has delineated:

  • Determination: It starts with a tussle between the emotions you are feeling and the practicalities of your life and situation. Despite the need for stability and income, your inner self is opting for adventure and significance.
     
  • Self-discovery: He finds most who are opting for career reinvention still have fuzzy and vague ideas. They need to fine-tune their purpose. It helps to focus on three areas: What conditions allow you to be at your best; how do others perceive your key strengths, or as he dubs them, “superpowers”; and examine your back story, family history, professional life and milestones that brought you to this point. “Skip this step at your peril,” he warns.
     
  • Exploration: Develop ideas for potential choices and directions. Define one or more causes that excite you and draw upon your “superpowers” and, as well, exemplify how you operate at your best. This puts your self-discovery into practice. Check out vocations, organizations or entrepreneurial opportunities but don’t rush to judge. Explore.
     
  • Experimentation: Test the best possibilities, perhaps with a side gig or extracurricular activity that helps you see if it works for you. Some people do this with the blessing of their firm and manager while others prefer a distinct separation. “The challenge in this phase is to define the experiments necessary to reasonably assess a fit with your criteria. Every person and every situation is different. There’s no easy formula to follow here,” he writes.
     
  • Conditioning: As a winner emerges, you need to prepare yourself for the considerations – financial and otherwise – of such a change. Develop a plan, which will include what adjustments you will need to make. “The goal in conditioning is to think through and prepare for all aspects of bringing life to you pursuing your cause,” he says. Don’t jump too quickly at the new opportunity; slow down so that you can ultimately move faster.
     
  • Launch: It’s now time to make the switch. It won’t be easy. But you should be prepared, and are heading to a better place.

2) Beyond boredom

There is considerable focus these days on engagement at work. Jennifer Moss, a Kitchener, Ont.-based consultant, says the real issue – the source of declining work engagement – is boredom. And the answer begins with meaning and gratitude.

Our brain seeks novelty to be motivated. It does not respond well to repeating tasks with little sense of accomplishment. Yet that can be today's reality, not just for assembly line work but many roles. "Boredom is the sense in your brain you are not moving forward," she says in an interview. And nobody is impervious to it.

She feels a lot of boredom is a result of managers failing to explain to us the value of our contributions. So we don't feel valued; the work we do doesn't seem important or challenging.

In her book, Unlocking Happiness at Work, she points to a study that found textile assembly workers could be energized by helping them to understand how the linen they make for hotels helps the staff at those establishments serve clientele better. It seems like a small trick, but it's a crucial one – helping yourself or others to see the value and meaning of their work.

She urges her clients to hold a "reason of the week" meeting, where people talk about what their work this week has meant to customers – what they have accomplished. Doing this at the end of the week builds in a moment of self-reflection. It can help people to understand one another's contributions. It builds empathy, an important workplace trait.

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Obviously this works best in a small unit. But in a world brimming with technological collaboration tools, she says it can be handled on a broader scale. She is working with 8,500 teachers in one project and can imagine a company where everyone from the CEO down could share a reason each week for why they are doing their job and what their contribution was. "If you are the lowest person on the totem pole you can see what the CEO gives as his reason for the week," she says. But even confined to a smaller group – work she says is composed of "microcultures" – this can still be effective.

Tied to it is gratitude for what is being accomplished and what everyone has done to help each other. She says we can reduce boredom, increase productivity and decrease procrastination by taking two minutes to think about what we are grateful for before starting the working day. You should do this as an individual. If you're a supervisor, get your team to do it. One study found that building the trait of gratitude in the brain by following such a regimen for 10 weeks increased a sense of happiness by 25 per cent. And when people are happy, boredom is likely to be reduced and they will be more engaged in their work.

Her own research found procrastination was reduced by a gratitude practice by over 30 per cent. Sleep and health seemed to improve, and individuals were more inclined to work out physically. "Gratitude is the grandparent of happiness," she says.

Her own workplace, in a former tannery, has what she believes is the world's largest gratitude wall, so high that employees have to use a ladder to post gratitude remarks – notably thanks to colleagues. Clients are expected to offer their own contributions.

So try gratitude – if not a wall in your house or at work then just by writing down, once a day, before work or before bed, what you are grateful for. Set a calendar appointment for the end of the day on Friday in which you will take five minutes to thank somebody – a quick e-mail will do – for some help they gave you during the week.

"Gratitude is very simple to exercise. You can get a big bang for your buck doing it," she says.

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3) Hand pain and your cellphone

Here are some tips from entrepreneur Urmet Seepter for reducing hand pain from cellphone use:

  • Set aside the phone from time to time and take a break from using gadgets.
     
  • Use the phone’s voice-to-text feature to free your hand from typing.
     
  • Try the stylus pen more since it can reduce the repetitive movement of the thumb when typing.
     
  • Switch hands when holding or using your smartphone to avoid putting all the pressure on just one hand.
     
  • Put the smartphone on the table when typing to relax your palm and thumb.

4) Quick hits

  • At your office party, don’t complain about the food, drinks or party itself, advises HR consultant Tim Sackett. Somebody put the event together trying to make everyone happy, and you look like an idiot if you do nothing but complain. Also: Make sure you talk to senior executives before your third drink.
     
  • Here are eight words that suggest in your résumé or cover letter you’re a trailblazer: Spearheaded, pioneered, ignited, piloted, transformed, revitalized, modernized and optimized, according to The Muse.
     
  • Success in every field is based on sales skills, entrepreneur Mark Cuban says.
     
  • December can lead you to be so busy closing sales and distracted by the holidays that you let your prospecting slide, warns sales consultant Colleen Francis. It’s the reason first-quarter results in the following year often fall short.
     
  • Larger, wider and capitalized text is easier for glancing – quickly reading short text – compared with smaller, narrow and lower-case text, the Nielsen Norman Group has found.
Strategic IQ is more about understanding how other people are going to behave. This is a skill that is hardly developed in formal education, which would cause some people to believe that this is a born skill Special to Globe and Mail Update
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