The Ground Rules: How to Argue with Yourself About Your Work Life

Art: Monica Bond @ https://www.ciaozen.com/

As many of us are, I am particularly hard on myself when it comes to work life. I participate in egregious inner conversations concerning a host of topics; including an inability to tolerate boredom and a long-standing uneasiness speaking in front of large groups. When these arguments arise, I am particularly unfair and inflexible. Admittedly, these conversations are infrequent, but are surely damaging.

Being hard on yourself isn’t a rarity — but it is can weaken your work life core. Indeed, we all have bad days and weeks. We all have relative weaknesses. We all have doubts about ourselves and an armory of bruising experiences that could feed that opinion. Yes, from time to time, we all participate in “inner speak” that does us no favors. But, how do we prevent this dynamic from becoming a habit? How do we stop the assessment of ourselves from becoming rigid or petrified? How do we shift (even slightly) our deepest doubts about our own work lives to avoid a deeper fissure?

We might learn something from how we share our broader views and values on subjects other than work life. Moreover, the process of conversing effectively about our own career internally, can benefit from some sage old wisdom & research.

  • Commit to fighting fair. Closing yourself off to a competing or more positive view, will encourage long-standing damage. (Bringing up a highlight reel of every blunder or failure, will not help you overcome a fissure in your foundation.) Make a pact with yourself to construct an equally powerful positive reel to combat negative arguments and soften the dialogue.
  • Examine what lives behind the doubt. Where there is smoke, there is often fire. Look at the contributing events that may have caused the fissure to develop. What really happened? How can you be instrumental, not helpless — in preventing a similar situation? Mitigate the effects as soon as possible. You can take responsibility for your own contribution, without losing respect for yourself.
  • Don’t throw yourself overboard. Know when to engage in this internal argument. It is easy to throw up our hands and launch into extreme negativity, when you are at your worst (in the midst of the challenge or issue). Try to avoid the entire argument, until your environment is more stable. Calmer minds prevail — and help you move to the the other side of the argument.

Ultimately, our work life core is ours to protect and nurture. Make it a priority to always fight fair.

About the Artist: Monica Bond is a New York-based illustration artist, working with both analog and digital techniques to create art from the soul. In each piece she emphasizes the message, “this moment is your life.” Her passion for creating art became the driving force of her own life when she discovered that the artistic process itself brought her purpose and peace. Monica grew up between Milan and New York, went to college in Rome and now lives outside New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Marla Gottschalk is an I/O Psychologist & work life blogger who explores core stability and the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Core Files: Expectations, Reality & Moving Beyond the Breach

Amanda Kloska @unsplash

“Yeah, it might be all that you get. Yeah, I guess this might well be it.” – Theme from Ted Lasso, by Marcus Mumford & Tom Howe

During a coaching session, a client & I stumbled upon a vein of the past involving a less than perfect manager. The relationship ended years ago; yet, the leftover angst created by the relationship was definitely present. The manager wasn’t a horrible boss by any stretch of the imagination. However, it had left an indelible mark on how my client viewed his own capabilities.

I should go on to say that in my opinion, the perfect manager or role does not exist. In fact, reflecting upon my own path, I cannot think of a single job held, project completed or key individual that hadn’t “let me down” in some way or another. But — hold on. Not let down, in the manner your mind may rush toward. Not in a manner synonymous with either neglect or incompetence.

I was let down by the nature of my own expectations.

And these expectations, were only bounded by my personal stores of optimism and hope.

The underlying issue of course, is getting beyond the gap that exists between expectations and reality. You may be the type of individual that is ever-hopeful, usually leading with the belief that the best will unfold. Yet, none of us have control of the work life universe. Moreover, I would venture to say that gaps between expectations and reality are likely a key contributor to so many career outcomes. Outcomes such as lowered engagement, broken psychological contracts & turnover.

How might core stability help? I’m not certain. Yet, I have the sense that a strong “home base”, has much to do with the recovery phase of a let down.

Here is what my client & I spoke about:

  • Learning through the wave of emotion. Where there is emotion, there is meaning. Where there is meaning, there are elements that are vital to our workplace identity. In many cases, leaning in and processing our own shock is the task at hand; where that level of shock is correlated to the degree of how we actually got things wrong. There is value in our reaction to the outcome, in that we can prepare for it when it next occurs (and it will). This can only happen if we begin to understand what we truly value and protect it with a calm, supportive internal dialogue.
  • Re-framing. Whatever happened has happened. We cannot manage the world or dictate what occurs; as our expectations cannot always guide outcomes. Our assessment of the character and capabilities of others can be off. Our hopes may be unrealistic. However, we can learn to handle that disappointment in the best way we now how. In many cases, this might involve backing up to examine the larger dynamic of the event — and gaining a deeper understanding of the operating eco-system. Ultimately, increased clarity is one key that may help us handle the expectation-reality continuum.
  • Sharing what you need/want/expect. Expectations aren’t always foolish, if we are willing to know ourselves and communicate what we need from either an individual or situation. What is foolish — is thinking that others will always take the time to accurately read our hearts & minds — or have the motivation to do so.
  • Manage narratives. A lingering story can often emerge about ourselves when these gaps erupt, and these do us no favors. How we might have appeared or been assessed by someone, shouldn’t define us forever. We need to depend on the internal currency of our known strengths to rescue us from the breach.

How do you process the gap between expectations & reality? Tell us in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & blogger who explores core stability and the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

You Should Be Your Own Muse

Hai Tran @unsplash

Muse

1: any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences Clio is the Greek Muse of history. 2 : a source of inspiration especially : a guiding genius.

My grandmother used to stock a drawer on the end of her bright, pink kitchen with paper. When I visited her as a young child, it was always one of my go-to spots. Whether she placed that paper to indulge my penchant for sketching, I’ll never know. But, I’m grateful that she provided the materials which acknowledged the importance of creativity. Being able to create something, whether great or small, helps us build a stronger core; one that extends to both life & work.

Yet, inspiration can be difficult to come by — even in the best of circumstances.

In times such as these, it may seem frivolous to indulge the notion of an “inspirational state” (more about that here). But, I have come to think it essential to our work lives. Something that underscores the best of being human. Yet, if we continually rely on others to help the creative process ignite, this puts us at a distinct disadvantage.

While you are likely grateful for what you do have in this moment, your life & work may have suffered from a lack of inspiration. The usual “triggers” may be absent or limited (serendipitous hallway conversations, conferences, time away from our desks, quiet moments). But, I’m a stubborn sort, and feel that there are ways to build the potential for creativity within our daily lives. I’ve relied on this vantage point for some time now. On some days I am successful. On others days, not as much. But, I am resolute and committed to the process.

To combat this internal gridlock, we must find what we might need from within ourselves. More specifically, to find our own energy sources. My own journey has led to a number of observations — including this: We must learn to function as our own muse.

Here are a few of my tips & techniques:

Pay attention. You must become more sensitive to your own distant drummer & indulge the pangs of interest. What are you drawn toward? A development in an adjacent field? A new writer? Design thinking? Attempt to not dismiss a seemingly random element that attracts you, however unrelated it may appear to your work. Read more on that topic. Talk more about it. Ultimately, if your brain engages with something — the benefits are likely to spill into other areas.

Get a hold of morning rituals. What are you consuming along with your coffee, first thing in the morning? What fills the first moments each day? How might this affect you? How can you better control negativity, tension & stress (which likely fight inspiration and creativity)? Know this: cultivating inspiration & creativity is an art form — and not the result of divine intervention.

Stop the energy drain. There are people & situations that truly drain us — drowning our abilities to serve as our own muse. If someone or something consistently leaves you in a funk, stop the exposure or contain the effects as soon as possible. Process why the interactions affect you in that way. Resolve to change your perspective or move beyond it.

Edit your physical surroundings. Most of us have been sequestered to a much smaller world over the last 22 months. As a result, our immediate surroundings have become more and more important. Pay attention to where you work. Pull out items or mementos that help you feel safe & settled. Organize your office. Insert a healthy dose of art or music. Do what you can to trigger positivity.

Utilize a dreamy state. Writer’s block, a well-known ailment, known to be difficult to tackle — has been around for centuries. This article offers a glimpse regarding how mental imagery can open the door to recovery. In a sense, writer’s block is simply a creativity deficit. A frozen state, in which the sufferer is caught without a worthy muse.

Indulge, not stifle. Try not to shrug off an idea or collection of observations. Grab a notebook and record the source idea. Then use that page as a nexus for related thoughts & refinements. Return to those thoughts regularly and build on the threads. Be loose with your thoughts. Try not to edit your creative meanderings out of existence.

Get visual. Creativity breeds creativity. So being a bit closer to the visual arts, may help you feel more productive. I challenge you to discover 5 inspiring photographs or photographers at Unsplash. Note the subject matter and why you are drawn to it.

Go ahead and create something, anything. Whether you have raw talent or not — dabble. Choose a vehicle that attracts you, whether it involves paint, pencil, ink, a hammer or a camera. Remember that creative acts, can be pursued solely for your consumption and no one else’s.

Please note that you do not have to work in an known “creative field”, to benefit from the contributions of inspiration & creativity into your life. I would wager that both of these elements, fund both our well-being and problem-solving abilities.

Read more: Thoughts on Asimov’s The Eureka Phenomenon here.

Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Core Files: The Great Rearranging, Clarity & Thinking Small

Adib Harith @unsplash

In my mind, our expectations for the holiday season feel a bit misaligned. Many of us are juggling typically high expectations — in the midst of a pandemic world that simply feels a bit unhinged. Personally, it feels much like a bad dream playing out in slow motion.

Within our work lives though, it feels as if things are speeding up. That mountains need to be moved. That work has been put off. That we need to get going. Alongside all of this, we may have evolved as people (and so have feelings about work), in ways that may be difficult to pin down.

I would venture to say this is somewhat of a universal experience.

A “great rearranging” — so to speak.

On a core level, you should be free to feel the way you do about things — whether this has energized or drained you. Ultimately, it seems that we have been gifted an abundance of clarity. A reminder to step back. A realization that we should be focusing on what is important. And clarity is a gift, if we have a plan to wade through it.

So, what is to be done? How can we take what we now know about work life & use it carefully. Wisely. Precisely. How do we help our teams process this great “rearranging”. How do we get through it as individuals?

For what it’s worth, I’ve been thinking differently. Thinking small. Small moments. Small, meaningful gestures. Maybe we can apply a similar strategy to work life. Perhaps we can face where we are now at work — in measured, precise fashion.

A few suggestions:

  • Have a conversation about a single element of the psychological contract that may have shifted for you (or a team member).
  • Identify one career goal for 2022 — that holds true meaning.
  • Lose one goal that no longer serves you.
  • Re-examine one obstacle or blocker to success.
  • Be grateful for one glorious co-worker, client, supervisor or mentor.
  • Focus on one success that unfolded in 2021 & truly revel in it.

Let’s take a deep breath, slow down & think small.

But with a wild overabundance of heart.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker regarding the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Evolution : 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Now About Work Life

Photo by Ruslan Burlaka on Pexels.com

Living through history has again challenged us in ways that we could never have anticipated. It has forced decisions we never thought we would have to make, brought moments of both fear & relief and decidedly rearranged us as people. It has revealed our unheralded strengths — and chinks in the amour. Undoubtedly, we’ll come through to the other side as changed human beings. These changes may be revealed as subtle or drastic, nuanced or obvious, for both our betterment and detriment. (The permutations are endless & rich, mirroring the collective of being human.)

I cannot help but wonder: Should we stop & regroup before diving back in at full speed? They answer is a resounding yes.

Ultimately, a slow-to-boil argument with the way we work has occurred over the last 20 months— affecting individuals, teams & organizations. More shifting is likely ahead, not unlike the deep changes in thought & action that occurred after the 2008 economic crisis.

Things are changing (and have already changed) which affect how many of us work. But in the wake of the incoming shifts, we need to attempt to keep our heads clear & level.

A Few Observations:

  1. Individual differences will still matter. Invariably shifts in work & workplaces, often manifest as a wildly shifting pendulum, rife with over-corrections. For example, discussions of hybrid work (a conversation indeed long-overdue) will likely swing toward less time spent in the office, possibly bypassing the individuals needs of contributors. This can ultimately lead to similar issues (poor fit, etc.) that may have existed before the pandemic. Remember to never forget what you need to feel engaged and excel. Respect this among your co-workers and within teams.
  2. Look at meaning carefully. I’ve always felt that work life meaning has been portrayed as something that is quite obvious, that somehow “bubbles up” spontaneously from within. In a way, this leaves the concept as something esoteric and in many cases, unreachable. How can there be meaning if we do not operationalize the concept for ourselves? Take the time to ask yourself what your work brings to the world — and why that has value to you. Encourage this within your team, to stem the tide of resignations and turnover that has already begun.
  3. Acknowledge that work may not feel the same. I can personally attest to more than one inflection point over the last 20 months or so. The parts of my work life that I never thought would become attractive, have become more so. Similarly, some of the bits that always fueled me, have lost their luster. We cannot underestimate how our experiences have changes us. I’m also certain, that we must consider them thoughtfully.

Taking Stock: 5 Questions
Try this exercise from the Core Stability Sessions.
Ask yourself the following.

  1. When was the last time you remember truly enjoying yourself at work?
  2. What were you doing?
  3. Does that represent a shift for you?
  4. Does that work also have meaning to you?
  5. Does that element play (or could it play) a strong role in your current work life?

Knowing yourself, is often the key to an engaged work life. Remember to invest in yourself by leaving room for thought and contemplation.
Have you already done so? What did you conclude?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker regarding the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

5 Work Life Rules That Stand the Test of Time

Alexander Schimmeck @unsplash

As a coach, it is vital to reflect upon my own work life and learn from its experiences. Ultimately, offering advice without introspection — could read as empty & hollow. As with most career journeys, there have surely been highs & lows. I’ve held roles that were for the most part glorious, where work felt like an expansion. I’ve also found myself in roles that were challenged from the start, leading to doubt and exhaustion.

All in all, no matter what the cards hold for us — there are constants that should be present to sustain us. These elements provide the foundation to both endure & expand.

Here are a few I’ve noticed.

  • Practice radical self-knowledge. I’ll be blunt. I only refer to this dynamic as radical — because we usually fail to truly understand ourselves, which deeply affects our journey going forward. Of course, no one can fulfill this for you. (Self-knowledge is essentially a labor of love.) This begins with monitoring your levels or energy, then understanding what feeds your workplace soul & what ultimately drains it. It is building in moments of pause to reflect on how we respond and change. There is no substitute. (When I work with teams, we never broach collective team dynamics until we complete the individual discovery process.)
  • Work where your skills & strengths are valued. Organizations are needy creatures, lopsidedly offering rewards (both intrinsic & extrinsic) when specific skills are required. For most of us, we’ll find ourselves in situations where the alignment of our skills & an organization’s current needs, is not present. Know that your strengths remain worthy — they are simply not simpatico with the business landscape of the organization in which you currently work. Recognizing this fact can protect you from harsh self-judgement and could free you to move along to thrive somewhere else.
  • Find career advocates (other than yourself). Self-reliance is obviously an important aspect of career evolution. For example, you must be able to reflect upon & communicate your core needs & goals. However, other perspectives of what is unfolding for you career-wise will benefit your journey (a 30,000 foot view for example, is vital). This article published at HBR, aptly discussed the notion of a career “Board of Directors”. These would be people who do not work with you directly, but are able to weigh in on career matters when needed. Start with 2 or 3 people who might offer opinions that you trust & respect. Try to avoid making career decisions in a vacuum. This will invariably backfire.
  • Make a habit of envisioning your future. One of the most useful articles I’ve read in the last 10 years is this one: You Need to Practice Being Your Future Self This piece tells the story of how we become mired within our current career context and fail to envision ourselves differently. While it is well and good to address current issues at work, this leaves little room for what could come next. Until we devote time to ignite our powers of imagination regarding work life — it can be difficult to grow.
  • Finding moments of excitement. Personally, I’m fine doing the difficult, and sometimes tedious tasks of my role. However, I find moments of exhilaration are necessary to sustain me. A pounding heart before a client presentation. The thrill of a new data set. Whatever excites you at work needs to be present, if at all possible. These moments may be indeed be rare indeed — but they fuel the work life soul.

Have I missed something? Please share it in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker regarding the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her consulting practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

10 Timeless Quotes to Combat Writer’s Block & Other Work Life Maladies

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block.

I’ve never experienced this state of mind personally, and my tool kit to combat it isn’t fully built. The experience could be the cumulative result of so many factors; the pandemic, family challenges/changes and my own evolution. On some level, I view this “forced hiatus” as necessary. A required break. A brick wall secretly erected to deflect my path. Somewhere, in the recesses of my unconscious, change is afoot.

I believe there is a reason for all of this — and resolution will come.

You may be experiencing your own form of “writer’s block”. It may manifest as a lack of passion for your work, a nagging sensation of restlessness or the feeling that everyone and everything at work annoys you. I view this as valuable information to be processed and utilized. It can be the fuel for needed change. I don’t think any of us has been immune to the passage of history we have just experienced. You may be feeling the impact in this moment.

In the scheme of things, writer’s block may not rank highly in the field of life’s problems — but it is indeed real. So, rather than being absent on this channel, I’d like to share a few strategies for moving beyond this frozen inflection point.

These are a few of the quotes that seem to melt the icy path toward my keyboard. They explore topics such as creativity, the notion of a muse & why our work is vital to us. (Hopefully, topics for future posts.)

As always, respecting our core is vital. So, each of the following bits of advice addresses some part of our work life foundation. The first reinforces my philosophy that self-knowledge & respecting our individual differences is key at work. The last, that there is always something to be discovered and shared with others.

Please share your favorite quote in comments & what it means to you, whether or not it is one that I’ve shared. Looking forward to the conversation.

  1. No one is you, and that is your power. – Dave Grohl.
  2. Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place. – Rumi
  3. I am my own muse, the subject I know best. – Frida Kahlo
  4. A line is a dot, that went for a walk. – Paul Klee
  5. There is nothing so stable as change. – Bob Dylan
  6. The good life is a process, not a state of being. – Carl Rogers
  7. It is never too late, to be what you might have been. – George Eliot
  8. Love and work are the cornerstones of humanness. – Sigmund Freud
  9. If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. – Lao Tzu
  10. Somewhere something incredible, is waiting to be known. – Sharon Begley

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. She is the co-founder of Goba — a consulting practice that helps people & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work & organizations have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Reality Check: Does Your Job fit?

Aron Yigin @unsplash

I’ve been on somewhat of a bent lately — sharing both observations & articles (my own included) concerning job fit. Perspective is key here. Particularly if & when, we are stuck with one way of examining how we align with our work. At a root level, this topic occupies a good deal of bandwidth within my own career & with those of clients, whether that energy is selection or development focused.

This is for good reason.

Job fit matters.

This week I’ve re-shared my most well-read article of the past 10 years, both here at LinkedIn and at my personal blog — 7 Telling Signs Your Job is a Poor Fit. As my readers often do, they pose the questions that need to be asked. In this case from Supriya De:

“Thank you for the insights Marla. Are you planning a follow-up piece on what to do next when in this predicament?”​

I wasn’t actually planning on writing that piece, but realized that I should. In this case, it may be helpful to continue the conversation by considering specific topics that might address and hopefully improve job fit. (Please note that I’ve written on these topics previously, but had never thought house them under the topic of job fit.)

Here are a just few to consider:

  • Non-Negotiables. Understanding the unique set of work life elements necessary for us to truly engage (and excel) at work, is vital to find a role that truly suits us. Self-knowledge reigns supreme here — as no one else can conceivably complete this step for you. Indeed this requires a look inward, toward the work-life moments that either drained you or lifted you toward your potential. Yes, this demands both time & contemplation — but it is truly worth the trouble. Start with a list of 5 non-negotiables elements that you require to approach job fit. Own them. Declare them to others (diplomatically, of course) if necessary.
  • The Goal Test. Goals are a funny element to ponder, because we are endlessly told to acquire them — but never how to “give them the boot”​. However in many cases, goals can be the root of our job fit undoing. As human beings, we rarely allow for how we inevitably evolve. As we do, as both people & contributors (often unbeknownst to us), our goals also begin to shift ever so subtly. When we fail to realize that our goals have become misaligned, trouble can follow. Goals actually have an expiration date — and reach a point where they no longer serve us. I’ve seen this manifest with coaching clients (at various levels) who are very uncomfortable, but do not identify job fit as the issue. This forces these questions: “​Is this setting fulfilling? Are the goals espoused here in alignment with any of your current goals as a contributor? Do you wish to remain here longer-term?”​
  • Career Envy. When I first read about career envy at Gretchen Rubin’s blog (she experienced envy before leaving law behind and becoming a writer), it hadn’t really struck me personally. However, with time — it struck me as well. (I found myself quite envious of creative endeavors, wishing I’d chosen a field such as marketing or advertising. (I’ve since collaborated with creatively-centered organizations.) What I’ve learned is this: the pangs of jealousy may hold a window to our future. Reflect and carefully observe the career paths that evoke envy; then note the specific elements behind that emotion. Is it the setting? The types of projects that are completed? The end-products delivered to a client or customer?

I realize that this short list is only the beginning of a host of topics that we could consider. However, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, I can’t think of a better to time to take stock and note how we have changed — and what we might require to achieve job fit.

Attempt to reflect upon your own industry, your organization and role.

How are you doing fit-wise?

Above all — embrace the you of today.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. She is the co-founder of Goba — a consulting practice that helps people & organizations build stronger work life foundation through core stability. Her thoughts on work & organizations have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post

First Jobs & Core Stability: My Advice to 2021 College Grads

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I can only think of a handful of moments that would have been a more challenging time to enter the world of work. (The economic of crisis of 2008 quickly comes to mind.) In today’s pandemic world, job interviews are likely remote experiences & the flow of your job search may feel weirdly isolated and opaque. Recent grads won’t have the advantage of site visits or sitting in the same room, face to face, with one of their potential team members or supervisors. Yet, we will muddle through it — with some of the adaptations becoming part our longer-term future. In the post-pandemic world of work, the idea of “the office” will have already evolved, and there will be increased opportunities to work at a distance (hopefully opening up new possibilities for far-flung career paths).

However, certain things about finding work should remain the same. At the root of all this, is effectively matching you with the work that will help you find success. In this regard, my work in core stability, might lend a useful lens to your job search. At the heart of the matter is this: you are you — and determining the role that would best align with you — is still of great importance. Focusing on this alignment, will likely make you a happier & stronger contributor to whatever organization you join — and you can play a key role in this process. The premise is simple: find a role that accesses your strengths & fully engages you. To achieve this, you must settle yourself & reflect. Core stability requires that we deeply understand ourselves and our work life non-negotiables. This requires that we practice something I refer to “radical self-knowledge”. As the name implies, it eludes to the notion that knowing you — what motivates you in work settings, drains you & engages you — will play a key role in your career journey.

In this spirit, here are a few things to consider as you enter the job market — keeping the principles of core stability in mind.

  • Know you. Never underestimate the importance of understanding yourself. The more self-knowledge you quickly accumulate, the greater the chance of a better job fit. Think of your experiences during your college years, grab a notebook and answer these questions: What motivated you and helped you to feel engaged? What was the setting? Type of team? Leader style? What experiences drained you? Ask yourself what the deciding elements were. Refer to your notes often. If possible, respect these elements when searching/choosing a role. (Read more about work life non-negotiables here.)
  • Role Setting. Doing what you do, is one thing. The actual place where you unleash all of your training and talent is another. For example, an I/O Psychologist can work in a variety of settings; a fast paced consulting firm, a larger organization or a university setting. Each has unique qualities. (I opted for a consulting firm, where I had worked PT as a student.) This may be the case in your field as well. Become an expert in setting differences and how these differences might affect the “gestalt” of your work life. Ask yourself this: How would the differences affect your work life well-being?
  • Know Your Teaming Preferences. Teaming will likely remain a critical aspect of your work life. If you are leaving university and have found teams troublesome, the issue may not have been teaming per se, but the qualities of the team in which you were working. Do you work best in a tight, close-knit team & or within a looser structure? Ask questions concerning both team structure and work flow, with regard to any potential role. Try to gain a clear picture of what teams might be like within your new role.
  • Understand your place in the customer/product journey. Perspective is the key here. So — attempt to visualize how your role fits into the larger scheme of things — and how this might affect your feelings about work. For example, as an engineer you might work for a specialty supplier or the larger manufacturing organization. What role would be more meaningful to you? What aspects of the work in these settings might contribute to engagement or disengagement?
  • Seek Clarity. Bottom line, if you cannot ascertain how your work life will look day to day, you need to probe for more information. The devil is in the details, when it comes to a potential good fit. Know the role and try not leave the details to chance. Burnout can arise in a fast & furious manner, when you are left in the dark.

Hoping these notes provide some guidance as you begin crafting your path. When I reflect back on my first role — it was purely chance that I landed where I felt both challenged & rewarded. I find this alarming.

I’d like to increase the odds to work in your favor.

BTW, you can read more about core stability in this post at the Harvard Business Review.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. She is the co-founder of Goba — a consulting practice that helps people & organizations build stronger work life foundation through core stability. Her thoughts on work & organizations have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post

 

What You’re Feeling is Burnout

Dave Webb @unsplash

I felt it was time to speak about burnout.

Considering the year(s) we have all muddled through, it can come as no surprise that many of us are feeling exhausted.

For unknown reasons, I never thought to share my developing burnout saga. First let me say, the dynamic was hastened by the pressures of the pandemic — yet the roots may have already been established. I’ve also realized, that when we fail to see the writing on the wall, burnout can take hold in a manner that can be difficult to shake.

It is real. We need to act promptly. To protect ourselves. (See an overview of the research here.)

As a consultant, I’ve discussed burnout with many over the years. I’ve seen burnout manifest during unpredictable organizational lows, as well as industry peaks. It can occur because of one perpetually trying client or the full brunt of a dire economic downturn. But, no one is immune. No one. We seem to experience burnout as individuals — and its particular course is also individual. This can throw us off the trail and possibly leave us unprepared. Know that burnout will not look the same across contributors, and should be addressed when it is likely a factor. (See my targeted session here.)

Above all, we should be discussing the issue and sharing experiences.

Personally, burnout manifested like a storm gathering courage in the distance. There were signs it was approaching. Pangs of apathy and avoidance. Yet, because this is alarming on many levels — particularly because in most cases (as was with mine) the work is our livelihood — we try to ignore its presence. There are so many reasons that we cannot simply pick up, check out or change course.

We assume there is nothing to be done, as we cannot change the things we must (and in many cases previously loved) and should do. We opt to compensate and press on.

However, there are costs to this strategy.

Engagement with our work wanes. Motivation plummets. As is the case now, we have also lived through a tumultuous time in history which has affected every breathing corner of our lives.

We cannot expect all of this this to steer clear from our work lives.

While we may not be able to walk away from our responsibilities, we can take the time to understand the winds within our own storm. This may offer clues that can lead to solutions. So, here are a few things to consider when approaching burnout.

Hopefully, the topics may alert you to something that can be addressed.

  • We have broken psychological agreements about work life with ourselves. In many cases, there is a psychological contract with ourselves, that we have breached. We may have briefly thought: “I’m extremely weary of this” or “I’m not as happy with this part of my career, as I used to be”, but we pressed on. The scales were tipping and we kept on going, without considering where that path might lead. The rewards were simply not keeping pace with the investment of time, trouble and emotion.
  • When to stop is never discussed. We are offered an abundance of advice about how to start something. Yet there is not nearly enough discussion about when and how (and why) we should slow down or step away. We conveniently forget that remaining productive over the long-haul requires balance & rest, even with the tasks that we love. We may not have had the strategies in place to achieve this.
  • We wait for a savior. It is unlikely that someone will approach you to say, “Stop this pace while you are still doing well.” You must take on the responsibility of your own psychological resources. Monitor feelings of hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism. Pay attention if one has fallen precipitously. This will be a clear sign.
  • Declare or wither. One pillar of core stability, is to embrace radical self-awareness regarding what you need to stay productive. We cannot always choose the roles, tasks, or people that are a part of our journey. However, if it is humanly possible to affect core elements before burnout sets in, do this. Declare the work life elements that are vital to your well-being as a contributor.
  • Acknowledge that living through history is an accelerator. As a child I used to try to imagine how others had lived through World Wars. What were they thinking? Could they go back to living normal lives that would include joy or a sense of calm? I can only hypothesize that they would not want to return to the elements of their lives that were already worn or troublesome. They would want to grab life and live it to the fullest. That a clear purpose to live well, would dominate.

I do not have the answers — only more questions. However, acknowledging what we have lived through and how this affects our work is vital. Above all, know that our collective journeys are personal, and this requires a very personal solution.

Do you have a strategy to mitigate burnout? How has this helped you? Share it with this forum.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work & organizations have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post