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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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Career Success

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Adele has just been informed that she was not selected for a prized position at a leading financial services firm.  She is immediately angry and disheartened, blaming everyone and everything, including herself, for her not being hired.  She is unable to come to terms with the loss and is in a funk for the rest of the week, blaming, gossiping, writing disgruntled e-mails and spewing forth angry epithets.  She is unable to see the larger context within which the rejection took place.

 

One way to view a student, or any human being, is as an amalgamation of four components: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.  Much has been written about the physical and intellectual components in the Career Services world.  For clarity’s sake, by “physical” we mean writing a resume, interviewing, networking and showing up at work.  “Intellectual” refers to having the “smarts” to work in a particular field.

When we go to work we are expected to show up with our physical bodies and intellect.  It is understood that we will check our emotions and spirituality at the door.  Most employers are not interested in how we feel about the job or in anything spiritual related to getting assigned tasks accomplished.  They just want us to use our intellect and corporeal capabilities.  It has been said that your employer is only getting half of you.  This article will explore the emotional and spiritual realms.

 

Emotional

Let’s first focus on the emotional component which refers to the feelings and psychological frame of reference through which a person views his/her world.  Peter Senge of MIT in his book, The Fifth Discipline, refers to these as “mental models.”  These are the (usually) untested beliefs and assumptions we acquired as children from our family of origin.  Emotional health is defined as having the wherewithal to know yourself, your goals and to make decisions based on your personal awareness and, when necessary, with appropriate advice from outside experts.  People who are not emotionally evolved may make choices that are not in their best personal interests and end up living someone else’s (like their parents’) dreams, or choosing careers that are not a fit.  Most students do not realize that their emotional state has such a strong bearing on their career choice.

Touro-012414-GoalsChoosing a career, getting ready to graduate from college and finding a job involves very significant life changes.  These types of transition can cause students to be pushed over their emotional threshold and bring up all sorts of emotional resistance.  Some of the more common and potentially distressing emotional challenges are:

Codependency – becoming dependent on others to make our own decisions.

Lack of self-confidence – feeling I’m not good (smart, attractive, thin, etc.) enough to succeed.

Lack of control – over who I am or where I’m going.

Using early childhood survival strategies that are no longer applicable or beneficial.

Fear – making decisions based on any number of fears, e.g., fear of failure, not measuring up, etc.

Les Brown, a noted motivational speaker, said, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”

We are not therapists, but we believe a career service professional can spot an emotional block and do the student a tremendous service by referring him or her to an appropriate professional.

Self-knowledge is the major antidote for avoiding the emotional pitfalls of which we might not even be aware.  Students can achieve emotional health by working on their self-development by reading/studying about and enrolling in workshops on personal development, being involved in support/recovery groups and therapy.

Therapy can be a highly effective way for students with “disorders, relationships, stress, grief, childhood trauma, etc. to figure out who they are and learn to live life to the fullest,” according to psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D.  Contrary to popular belief, seeking personal understanding in therapy is a sign of strength.  It is taking action to achieve personal insight to live a better life, and there is no shame in wanting to develop personally.  Note that in this article we are trying to raise awareness, not to explore the subject in depth or provide an all-inclusive set of solutions.

In general, the emotional side tends to be the “problem” side.  The negative emotions of anger, fear, anxiety, jealousy, etc. are those with which students may need to wrestle.  This is not to negate the positive emotions, like happiness, love and joy, but rather to say that in our Western culture the negative ones tend to be more prominent and have the capacity to cause students to veer off course.  If this is the case, then the spiritual side can be viewed as the “antidote” to our negative emotions.

 

Spiritual

“Spiritual” refers to knowing there is a spiritual world, that a power, Hashem, greater than ourselves is in charge.  Each of us is capable of having an authentic, direct connection to Him, Who will gladly help us, if we ask.  Lest you think this is an off-beat, way-out approach when talking about career choices, know that Richard Bolles (with degrees in chemical engineering and physics from MIT and Harvard, respectively, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? and “father” of the career coaching profession) has an entire section of his handbook for career counselors devoted to Spirituality.  He writes, “In light of the fact that the overwhelming majority of our profession believes in G-d and the overwhelming majority of our clients believe in G-d, it is more than a little nuts that our profession by and large thinks it is not permissible to even mention G-d during career counseling sessions.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The foundations of a person are not in matter, but in spirit.”Touro-012414-Serenity

Believe it or not, even the world of business has embraced the usefulness of spirituality.

What spirituality has to offer to students who are trying to identify or search for a career is the following:

We have been given everything (strengths, talents, inclinations, etc.) we need to fulfill our purpose in the world – the prime example of this being Bezalel, the architect of the Mishkan.

The people, places and things that come into our lives, whether we like them or not, are there for us to reach our highest spiritual purpose, and working “on (our) purpose” is an awesome experience.

Acceptance of one’s life circumstances at every moment in time and cultivating an attitude of gratitude will keep us grounded during the most stressful (like looking for a job) aspects of our lives.

Whatever happens (like being rejected for a job) is for the best, even though we may not experience it that way in the moment.

If we ask, Hashem will answer; however, not always in the way we expect or want.

How can a person cultivate a spiritual perspective? Acquire a spiritual leader or mentor, read books and/or attend workshops on spirituality, develop a spiritual practice, such as meditating, journaling,  affirmations, etc.

In conclusion, the spiritual and emotional aspects are just as, if not more, important than the physical and intellectual factors.  If our student, Adele, at the beginning of this article was aware of the emotional and spiritual components, she could have chosen to see the rejection through a spiritual lens and reacted in a very different way.  She could have accepted the firm’s decision as what was in her best interest from a spiritual perspective.  Instead of getting bogged down emotionally and wasting time and energy being angry about the decision, she could have looked more calmly at what she might have done differently.  An emotionally evolved and spiritual view has the capability of bringing serenity to any situation.  She may well have thought of the Serenity Prayer: “G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” And moved on!

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