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Know When to Hold or Fold Your Career
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

Working on something you care about is the most important ingredient to a successful career and a happier life. Passion is the key to success.Changing Careers in Midstream
A few years ago, NPR ran a series of broadcasts called, “Take Two. The programs centered on workers who didn’t like the hands they were playing and traded their careers for new ones. For example, Robin Baizel and her husband were librarians for nearly 20 years. They left their jobs at the University of Alaska and moved to Sparks, Nevada to open The Canine Club, northern Nevada's premier dog daycare and training center. “I was 48 years old,” she said, “with a bad back. I moved from a sitting, desk type job to one that is now very physically demanding and without a decent health insurance plan. Was I scared? You bet. Was I excited? You betcha. But I am now happier than I can remember ever being, doing something I love. I wouldn't change a thing. Life doesn't get much better than this.”See: Listeners’ Letters on Changing Careers, Ketzel Levine,

Then there’s Charlie Clements, who decided to trade 23-years in a pressure cooker, joyless software career for something he loved to do. “The addiction to the money and position was intoxicating for both my wife and me, but the pressures and work conditions took a real toll on me emotionally and physically. My blood pressure shot up and I knew I had to leave, but dreaded telling my wife. The sudden disappearance of the kind of money I was making was scary. When I finally informed management I was leaving, I felt a massive weight melt away. I have always loved cooking and had always fantasized about owning a restaurant. So, I entered culinary school and now find each workday a joy.”

As I listened to the string of stories on NPR, I realized there was a common thread that ran though the storytelling. Gobs of money may attract people to careers, but the attraction of money alone soon fades. For instance, Mary Hiers was a rocket propulsion engineer at an Air Force base. She loved to write and changed careers in mid-stream. “I am now a freelance writer making approximately one tenth of my former salary, but I am happier and more fulfilled than I ever have been. The change is an adventure and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”

Money doesn’t drive careers; passion is the key. I could not devote the number of hours weekly to my career at MasteryWorks without loving what I do. Working on something you care about is the most important ingredient to a successful career and a happier life. Passion is the key to success. When you care, you’re energized. You can take setbacks when successes take you to the top of the mountain. You don’t mind working hard and long when you love what you’re doing. You enjoy a sense of meaning and pride.

Look at the hand you are playing and see if you should hold or fold your career. You may be in the right organization but the wrong job. You might be in the right job but in the wrong industry. Or, you may need to stop, revisit your dreams and start anew. Here are some important factors to help you decide.

Do Your Values Fit the Culture of Your Organization?

Many employees tell us they simply don’t fit their jobs and that they would rather be doing something else. Recent studies support the notion that half of American workers are not engaged and 20% of workers in America are totally and irreversibly disengaged. They simply don’t fit into their organizations. See:

Over the years, I’ve met so many people who felt trapped in their careers. I probably have interviewed thousands of people. Being yourself at work is critical to success. Your personality, skills, style, values and interests need to be appreciated and in sync with your organization culture as well as your work.

  • Do you work in an organization that shares your values or do you have to fight to be true to yourself?
  • Do you feel that your personality fits the culture? Or, do you feel tense, stressed and/or undervalued at work?

Does Your Work Matter?

I’m inspired and constantly energized by the thousands of people I have met over the years working for hundreds of organizations committed to making the world a better place. When people work in a culture where they are part of something larger than themselves – something that’s aimed at improving the lives of others, they tend to become highly engaged and passionate about their work. Look around. Start by pondering on:
  • Who benefits from what you’re doing?
  • What difference are you making and what difference could you make?
  • Does your work make the world a better place?

Are You Learning On Your Job?
I’m a non-stop reader. I like to mine books for nuggets of ideas and theories about career development, career management, politics, business, entrepreneurship, start-ups, etc. For example, I just bought Seth Godin’s new book where he argues that you should treat your work as art. Using this metaphor in “The Icarus Deception,” Godin believes it’s your best chance to “stand up, stand out and make a difference.” Godin looks through a different prism at work in the context of art. 241pp, Portfolio/Penguin, 2012

New ideas about your work provide a continuous learning process. For me, it’s principally been books, blogs, mentors, print news/ezines, videos, business/social media, IT and telephone communication. The choice of continuing learning tools doesn’t matter, just so long as you’re in a job where you can continue to learn.

  • Does your work require creativity and innovation?
  • Do you problem solve and develop creative solutions?
  • Does your organization support your learning on-the-job?

Work that’s challenging excites and motivates. On-going learning will make or break your career. Any job that doesn’t require continuous learning and creativity will be automated. It’s only a matter of time.

Are You Working With People Who Inspire and Mentor You?
Bill Green, the recently retired Chairman of Accenture, a global management consulting, technology and outsourcing company, reinforces the notion that everyone needs to be inspired and mentored. “The health of the U.S. economy depends as much on v-tech (vocational-technical education) as on Caltech. I should know. I’m the proud son of a plumber, and was accepted to the plumber’s union and a two-year college on the same day. While the first route would have led to a worthy trade and a good living, I happened to choose the second. At Dean College in Franklin, Mass., professors showed me how to find my talents and develop skills valued by employers.” Matching Education to Jobs, Bloomberg Business Week, The Business Blog, March 30, 2012,

  • Do you have a teacher, mentor, coach, manager who inspires you?
  • Do you have opportunities to work with them, problem solve with them or just brainstorm your own work issues?
  • Do you see options and possibilities for your career advancement?
  • Do you work in a culture that rewards innovation and achievement?

If you answered, “YES,” to most of the questions above, you’re career and job is in great shape. Give thanks! If your answers were “NO,” start looking for work that meets those criteria.

Technology adds immeasurable possibilities to developing your career. We all need to get wired to learning what’s going on in our industry and profession – trends and issues that shape our futures and enrich our skills. This article examines some popular tools to enrich your skills in your profession, to enhance your learning, to foster efficient work practices, to manage and/or participating in projects, to improve your communication skills, and to augment your networking and business media skills.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks, Inc., provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is the leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.

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