Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Interview With Kerry Hannon, Author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness

1.      What inspired you to write your book?  I spend quite a bit of time speaking to audiences around the country about how to find work after 50. When I look into the audience, I see a palpable fear in their eyes of outliving their money. These are people who want to work and need to work, but finding a job for this age cohort is a slippery slope.  Ageism is alive and well in the workplace. Although the employment picture has improved, it’s far from rosy for this group of workers, in particular. I give my audiences action steps and give them hope that they can do it…and find work that matters to them. Then I come home and meet friends and colleagues who whine and complain about their job, about how they’re miserable, that their boss is a pain and so on. I want to shake them and say, “Stop it.” Be grateful you have a job. If you aren’t happy, do something about it. No one is going to do it for you.  It’s often an internal shift, an attitude adjustment and taking action to find joy in your work—sometimes it’s joy found around the edges. But as the refrain goes, life is too precious to be unhappy. And it’s far easier to find ways to fall back in love with the job, or employer you have now, than to find a new job–especially when you are over 50. Sometimes you do have to look elsewhere, but in the meantime, there are even small changes you can make that allow you stay in a good place until that plays out.

2.      What do you hope readers will do as a result of consuming your book?
KH: My goal is to provide readers of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness with the tips they need to thrive in their current work—to build new outlooks, find satisfaction around the edges of their daily duties, and craft a more entrepreneurial attitude toward their job. I hope to empower them with the tools to take control of their lives in manageable ways.

I hope readers will examine their job responsibilities, their work rituals, and their attitudes toward their work, to do an MRI of your job. And then to ask the hard questions: What new habits or routines can they craft to bring more love to their workday? Can they look into telecommuting, mentoring, volunteering, raise their hand and ask for new duties, sign up for continuing education or professional development programs offered by their employer, start a walking group at lunch time?

What inner changes can they make to rekindle their hope, eagerness, and resilience? How can they learn to celebrate even their smallest successes and those of their co-workers?

In the process, I hope they identify what makes them feel good about work, and how to recognize the negative thoughts that creep up in their loop of self-defeating talk.  I hope they learn that by truly looking someone in the eye, listening, and supporting their colleagues and championing their successes, they can renew their own energy, gain confidence, and build the resources to face new challenges.

My approach is a positive, can-do look at work that offers creative solutions. Bottom line: I hope they will find novel ways to design their job so it works for them.

This is a book about taking control of your own workplace happiness, but it’s grounded in the real world. This is not pie-in-the-sky conjecture. These are actionable steps.

Finally, I hope they remember to laugh more. A recent Gallup poll found that people who smile and laugh at work are more engaged in their jobs. And the more engaged you are, the happier and more enthusiastic you’ll be. This won’t just trickle down to the quality of your work; people will want to have you on their team. Plus: couldn’t we all use a laugh?

3.      What challenges did you overcome to write it? I love my job, but like everyone, I have to always remember to balance my workload, to focus and meet deadlines with grace and gratitude. Writing a book can be all-consuming, but when you work for yourself, your publisher is just one client. You can’t live off of your advance, so I had to constantly find ways to weave in reporting and writing Love Your Job with completing other assignments for clients like The New York Times, Money magazine, PBS Next Avenue, AARP and Forbes, along with my speaking schedule—and of course, walking my dog and riding my horse and spending time with my husband, my 85-year old mom and nieces and nephews. Happy times, but I had to hit the pause button, look up and smile, push back from the computer and get out in nature and open my eyes and enjoy the present moment. Sounds corny, but so true.

4.      What advice do you have for recent college graduates and the job market? Every job will have its challenges and good and bad bits. It’s often a mash up. But the goal is to find happiness in your life and feel like you’re relevant.

It’s not always about the money. Yes, salaries are important, and they make you feel valued. But when I ask people what they love about their jobs it’s usually the people they work with, the mission of the company or nonprofit they work for-pride in the product or service, the opportunity to always be able to learn new things and grow, to travel, to have the flexibility to work from home or flex-hours.

So when you look for work, think about the cultural fit and what else a job has to offer beyond the pay and prestige of a title. And remember loving your job is a two way street. You need to bring the enthusiasm and energy to every job you have. No one can give that to you.

Just four in 10 workers are highly engaged in their jobs, according to the Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study, but I believe there are a few ways you can fall in love with your job even if you don’t like it right now.

If you find yourself in a slump at work, do something about it. Don’t be a victim. If you can make it work where you are right now, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.

Not every day will be a high. That’s unrealistic. As I said above, what it means to love your job is a mixture of effort and joy, good days and bad days.

Regardless of our career stage, we all run up against difficult bosses, feeling stuck with no signs of promotion, feeling like we have no work-life balance, bored and burned-out.

All of my advice in Love Your Job is geared to helping people making the most of where they are right now.

I don’t suggest that sticking it out is always best for the long-haul, but it can give you the time to hit the pause button and not make any rash moves. It’s far easier to find a new job when you already have one, regardless of your age.

My techniques are all about building hope, optimism, value, enthusiasm and resilience—my HOVER approach. By building these psychological inner muscles, you’re nimble. You begin to see your options and the possibilities and can prepare to make a successful shift.

5.      What do you tell people who were downsized after 15-20 years at the same job? Pick up a copies of my books: What's Next?: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy ... And Pays the Bills.

Keep in mind that nothing is forever. You may wind up doing lots of different jobs in your 50+ years. You may want a job for a season, for a few years to gradually unwind into retirement, or even for a few hours a week. Then too, you may be looking for a job that really does turn into full-blown second career.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if you test a number of different kinds of jobs to find what you really shine at or want to do in the years ahead. You may even strategically build an income stream from a tapestry of work you enjoy and are skilled at doing.

Be patient. It can take a little time and you may need to re-train.

What are you up against? Some employers figure your salary demands are out of their ballpark, and that if they hire you for less, you’ll resent it and probably jump ship if you get a better offer. They often perceive, true or not, that you’re set in your ways, or lack the cutting-edge skills, or even the energy to do the job.

Then too, some hiring managers might surmise that you have age-related health problems, or are likely to, and that will be a problem if you take too much time off for periodic sick leave.

And, of course, there’s the nagging issue that you’ve got an “expiration date,” and you’re not in it for the long haul, even if that’s far from the truth. Finally, there’s reverse ageism—the employer thinks you won’t want to take orders from a younger boss who is probably making more than you.

It’s up to you to lay their worries to rest. The vital first step in fighting ageism is to be physically fit, energetic, and positive in attitude. That’s just the top-coat. You need to speak up about your flexibility in terms of management style, your openness to report to a younger boss, your technological aptitude, your energy, and your knack of picking up new skills.

Job search is difficult for everybody. And everyone seems to have a different take on what it takes to break through. It’s not automatically your age that’s holding you back. People want to employ people they know, or someone they trust.

And your experience does matter, but maybe not as much as you think it does. For many employers it’s not about the candidate with the best credentials. It’s about fitting in with a crowd, its culture, so you’ve got to make it personal on some level.

And that means networking. Reach out to everyone you know and tell them you’re looking for a job. Seek out informational interviews. Get out of the house and volunteer. Be proactive and start job hunting as soon as you can. The longer you put off job hunting, the harder it is to find a job.

6.      Are you following a career path that you expected to be on? Absolutely. When I was a kid–I wrote my first book at 12– I always announced I wanted to write books in my career. And now I am writing my tenth book. Admittedly, I thought I would be writing novels and books about horses–not jobs and personal finance, but I love that I am touching lives and making a difference with my work

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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