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Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 3: Explorations

Part II: Susan's Saga 
 Episode 3: Explorations

In the previous episode,  Susan's career counselor gave her a common-sense but welcomed homework assignment: explore. "Planned serendipity," the counselor called it.

That's just what Susan was ready for, so she dove in. First, it was yoga. Or I should say, first, she bought a $165 Lululemon yoga outfit, $68 yoga mat, and---I'm not kidding--$38 yoga towel. But while the mountain and fighter poses were fine, even the supposedly easy dog-bending-down pose was, well, unfelicitous to her long-dormant body. "I can't believe some of them--They're like the contortionists in Cirque du Soleil." And yoga as a career networking opportunity? Not exactly: All of her classmates seemed less oriented to career than to the upward-facing-dog pose, and the conversation never got more career-related than which bodyworker to hire to heal them from yoga.

But Susan liked being physical, albeit a little less so, so she signed up for a hip-hop dancing class. But her hop wasn't so hip and conversation was impossible in the next-door lounge. Susan thought, "Twenty minutes in here and you're deaf. Maybe the owner is an audiologist trying to (ahem) drum up some business."

Okay, so maybe that was the wrong kind of dancing. Figuring she'd merge her dancing desire with her spiritual searching, she went on a retreat, the highlight of which was moonlight nude shamanic dancing. She couldn't make herself take her clothes off. Hell, she couldn't even make herself stop laughing as they waved sage brush and incense around as their bodies swayed and bounced in the moonlight.

Working on Rent with the kids in the middle school kept her grounded, although there was one kid she wanted to pillory. Right before Easter vacation, that kid decided he was going to try to climb up the set---He made it halfway up before the canvas tore, right in the middle of the Empire State Building. 

She felt like resurrecting him but instead attempted an Easter vacation rebirth or at least rejuvenation on a whitewater rafting trip in Costa Rica. Should she go on the Class II, Class III, or most challenging Class IV? She decided to be brave---and fell out of the boat, bobbing down the river. Thank God for a branch that stuck out. She grabbed on just before she would have been in need of resurrection. 

Back in Sage River, Susan sat by the fire, reflecting on her explorations and realized she needed a different sort of exploration. So she joined Rotary.

The next episode is posted HERE.

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 2: Career Counseling

Part II: Susan's Saga 
 Episode 2: Career Counseling

In the previous episode, Susan started to contemplate life without David--including a fear she'd end up a bag lady. She decided to look into finding a career counselor. 

First, Susan called a career coach she ended up calling The Moneygrubber: He'd only sell a $4,900 bronze package, $6,900 silver package, or $9,900 gold package. Susan thought, "Way too much. Besides anyone who makes you commit that much money up-front probably is afraid that after a session or two, you'll quit."

Susan called the next counselor, "The Tester:" That counselor would devote three sessions to an alphabet soup of career assessments: DISC, SII, and, of course, the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.) One of the few specifics Susan still remembered from her college courses was when her psychology professor said, "Those career 'tests,' especially the Myers-Briggs aren't much better than a horoscope."

Susan called the third counselor "The Listener:"  "Uh huh," "Tell me more." "I hear you saying" (then parrots back.") Susan thought, "She'll never teach me anything. She's like those consultants who steal your watch to tell you what time it is."

Susan decided to do at least one session with the fourth coach, Michelle, whom she called The Practical Dreamer. Susan liked that Michelle said, "I keep my head in the clouds, feet on the ground," whatever that means.  Susan also liked that Michelle would, a week before the first session, email Susan a probing new-client questionnaire to complete at home. That would serve as the springboard for the session. That way, Susan wouldn't have to pay the counselor for all that questioning-and-answering. Plus, Susan would have the time to reflect on the questions rather than having to come up with a great answer on the fly.

In fact, Susan felt she got more from answering the questionnaire than from the session. Susan's questionnaire answers made clear that her career non-negotiables were: a creative component and working in an organization rather than solo so she'd have lots of people contact and a support infrastructure. Her best abilities were staying calm, leading kids, and a refined aesthetic. Her core value was education. Susan wondered whether all those stood out simply because her most recent activity was directing Rent at the middle school.

Susan also worried, "Isn't all that too vague?" Michelle responded, "Getting more specific would be false precision. You could be content in many fields and settings. For example, you never would think of being in soybean processing but if a nice person offered you a good job helping him to set up his soybean processing facility, I'd bet you'd give it a try. Right?" Susan agreed. 

At the end of the session, Michelle gave Susan a homework assignment that, while just common sense, felt right: "Explore new vistas, maybe volunteer. Put yourself in places you might learn more about yourself, be exposed to new career ideas and to people who could give you a good job lead." 

Susan left after that two-hour session feeling she had gotten her $400 worth but decided not to make another appointment. She'd simply follow Michelle's advice to explore. 

The next episode is posted HERE.

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 1: Career Fear

Part I of Days of Our Work Lives ended with David dying and his wife Susan guiltily feeling glad that she'd now be free to be herself....if only she knew what that was. 

Part II: Susan's Saga
 Episode I: Career Fear

Susan sat by the fire. It seemed like only yesterday that David was beside her for their fireside chats, although "chat" is a misnomer--David never turned off his intense brain, always wanting to talk-through problems: family ones, work ones, societal ones. Indeed, in their last "chat," he played out a scenario that could result from all those jobs getting part-timed/temped, automated, and offshored.

Part of her was relieved she wouldn't have to endure any more "chats." Frankly, her favorite part was when he finally finished and they could stare into the fire. But being reminded that those chats would be no more, that everything with David would be no more, saddened her, scared her:

 "How will Adam be affected? He was just starting to do okay in school. And the $250,000 David left me won't be enough to live on forever, even here in Sage River. Ten hours a week of singing and piano lessons won't give me enough income. I'll need to look for a job. Maybe not immediately but soon. And, oh my God, that means interviewing, and probably by whole panels of interviewers." Susan had an outsized fear of any sort of public speaking ever since she was ten and forgot her lines in the Christmas pageant.

"But I don't even know what sort of job to go for. I have no skills. I have a 15-year-old degree in sociology, and except for my piano teaching I haven't done any real work except a little temping and my typing sucks and I hate computers. David loved computers. Except for Facebook, shopping on the Net, and email, I avoid the computer. I hate the computer. Who would hire me?

"And what's my passion? People who have a passion knew it from when they were a kid: They wanted to be a fashion designer, a video game designer, an entrepreneur, whatever. I'm interested in a lot of stuff but no one thing stands out. 

"I'm afraid I'll end up as a bag lady! Maybe I need to see a career counselor."

The next episode is HERE.

(Much) more Chinese real estate money heading here

San Francisco’s Kidder Matthews is partnering with a Chinese real estate consortium “to act as a bridge for Chinese business investment which wants to come to the Bay Area.” The partner in question is Tsinghua Real Estate CEO Chamber of Commerce — yes, that’s its name — an association of 3,000 Chinese realtors with what [...]

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