Profit from Experience:
The Key to Your Right Livelihood May Be Right in Your Own Backyard
We all know the story of Dorothy in the Wizard
of Oz. Swept away to the enchanting but forbidding Land of Oz by a tornado,
Dorothy endures all manner of challenges in an attempt to achieve her one and
only dream of returning home to her family in Kansas. It is not until the end of
her frightfully wondrous journey that Dorothy has an epiphany. "...if I ever go
looking for my heart's desire again," she tells Glenda, the Good Witch of the
North, "I won't look any further than my own backyard." More often than not it's
the same way with career options.
Too many people either fail to see or outright
dismiss how the personal experiences in their own "backyard" are ripe with
possibilities for income streams or indeed complete careers. Every small
business I ever had originated from some event, realization, or challenge I'd
For example in the early 80s, I took a course at
the University of Massachusetts called Dynamics of White Racism with a dynamic
and utterly passionate doctoral student named Judith Katz. To say that the
course had a profound effect on my world view would be a gross understatement.
So much so that I didn't just want to study with Judy Katz I wanted to BE Judy
Katz. (If you're interested in the field of diversity training you can read an
interview with Judith at
That single course also set me on my future career direction.
A senior at the time, I went on to enroll in the
same graduate school Judy was just getting ready to graduate from. A few years
later, I was the founding coordinator of what is now the Social Justice program
there. I paid my way through school as a self-employed facilitator conducting
training programs on racial awareness and diversity for resident assistants
(dorm counselors) at colleges and universities around the country.
When it comes to actually applying your experience
to your work, who you are - your personality, your temperament, your skills -
are as important as the thing you love to do. In this case, the key to my
success as a speaker standing up in front of audiences as large as 400 to 1200
people about potentially loaded "isms" was my sense of humor. I used it to
effectively diffuse tension, minimize unproductive guilt, and get everyone -
regardless of race, gender, religion, physical ability or sexual orientation -
to take the issues seriously and yet also learn by laughing at themselves.
I loved being a graduate student. The hours were
pretty flexible and although I had assignments to complete, in a lot of ways I
was my own boss. Things were going pretty well... that is until it came time to
actually hunker down and write a 200-plus page dissertation. That's when the
self-doubt, procrastination, and intense feelings
of intellectual fraudulence set in. It's also when I stumbled upon study in a
psychological journal on the so-called the Impostor Phenomenon by Dr. Pauline
Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes.
No one could have felt like more of a fraud then I
did. I mean who was I kidding? I was this 24-year old, working class, first
generation college kid and the only one to go on to graduate school in a
doctoral program with all these mature, much smarter, and far more worldly
professionals. I mean, who did I think I was? I'm still not sure how I managed
to slip through the admissions process undetected. But there I was. So rather
than waste three years of course work, I realized I'd better finish what I'd
started and get out before I'm discovered.
That's when it hit me. If I have to write the
darned dissertation anyway, why not focus my own research on understanding
perfectionism, fear of failure, ambivalence about success, chronic self-doubt
and other self-limiting patterns and philosophies that seem to plague so many
women and quite a few men?
Studying the thing that was the most troublesome
to me at the time was what helped me work through it. The writing part proved to
be every much the ordeal I knew it would be, but at least I knew I'd have a
publishable document at the end. Researching achievement blocks and interviewing
other women from different fields and stages of their careers help me to lower
my own internal yardstick to a far more attainable human level. As exciting, I
like to think that the over 30,000 people men and women alike that have
attended my workshop on How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to
Think You Are have benefited from my experience.
From here, my career took a detour that led me at
age 30 to take my first real job-job. What a change from the comparatively
care-free life of a perpetual student. Talk about your rude awakening. You see,
my consultant friends at the time were pulling down the big bucks consulting to
corporations. Most of my clients, in contrast, were colleges or professional
So I decided to take a job in the corporate
management development and training department at a Fortune 500 company so I
could 1) demystify the corporate world (that took about a week) and 2) earn my
corporate credentials to take with me when I returned to consulting. My plan was
to stay in the cube world for a year, two tops. After a year and a half, I
switched to a management job in strategic marketing and five years after that,
there I was well-paid but miserable.
When my mom passed away unexpectedly from a heart
attack at the too young age of 61, I realized life was too short to not work at
what you love. For the next year and a half, I spent just about every waking
hour of my personal life plotting my exit strategy. Little did I know at the
time that I would go on to take everything I was learning about finding your
calling, about the beauty of multiple income streams, and what it takes to
change course and turn it into my vocation.
There are lots of ways to use your own personal
experiences and the unique insights and lessons learned along the way to guide
you onto a new career path. In the next issue we'll look at some creative ways
that people have done just that. You'll meet people who have taken their
dysfunctional financial habits, bad food habits, physical disability, stint in
corporate America, even their own troubled youth and turned them into viable
income streams. You'll see how they found a way to share their unique approach,
technique, experience, and even humor with others and get paid to do it.
Between now and then, take some time to reflect on your own life and think about
how you, too, might profit from experience.
Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at
what you love on your own terms.
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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