That One Piece of Paper: Step 3

 

Look, my one piece of paper is filling out! Step 3 is entitled, “What working conditions do you like best, because they enable you to do your best work?”

Just an observation before we get into the nitty-gritty. Most of my concerns about the working environment have to do with relationships — both between managers and employees, and also between coworkers. I think this has a lot to do with my work history. But a few physical considerations did appear, like needing to eat whenever I need to, and also ergonomics generally.

The book suggests a chart with four columns. In the first column, you list all the jobs you’ve ever had. In the second column, you list all the distasteful working conditions in those jobs. Here is my list:

 

I decided to eliminate the things I couldn’t control (like rude customers), and tried to come up with broad themes for others (like the idea of a distrusting and disrespectful boss instead of each smaller idea), and listed ten broad distasteful working conditions to prioritize. What Color is Your Parachute has a great way to help you prioritize those ten items, but it very clearly says “copyrighted” on it, so I’m going to skip showing you that step.

After prioritizing, I now have this list:

The last step to identifying the working conditions that allow you to do your best work is to come up with opposites for the distasteful list. Mine looked like this:

Which I further simplified on my “That One Piece of Paper” flower:

I’m actually really excited about this list, because it is going to help me with part of interviewing that I always struggled with. I never know what questions to ask about the company/organization, but now I have some idea. I’m going to ask, “Tell me about the opportunities that your employees have to enrich themselves,” and “What kind of time do your supervisors invest in management and leadership?” Or, “How accessible is your supervisor in this organization?” It also gives me some idea of what to ask during informational interviews at companies or organizations I’m interested in working at. “Please be as honest as you can, I won’t repeat this. Can you trust your coworkers?”

Yay! I am becoming an expert in my own best work, which was one of my goals for the summer.

(Reward time! Uh. Maybe a work blouse? I need to get shopping! Even better, I have PERMISSION to shop for things. :D)

 

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That One Piece of Paper: Step 2

 

Step 2 for creating That One Piece of Paper is called “What are your preferred People-Environments that you are most like to work with, or serve and help?” The basic idea is to figure out what kind of people you want to be surrounded by.

What Color is Your Parachute? suggests a scientific categorization and quiz developed by Dr. John L. Holland to describe six different people-environments. These environments are:

Realistic: People who have an athletic or mechanical ability, prefer to work with machines, objects, tools, plants or animals and prefer to be outdoors.
Investigative: People who like to observe, learn, investigate, analyze, evaluate, or solve problems.
Artistic: People who have artistic, innovative, or intuitional abilities and like to work in unstructured settings, using their imagination and creativity.
Social: People who like to work with people — to inform, enlighten, help, train, develop or cure them, or are skilled with words.
Enterprising: People who like to work with people — influencing, persuading, or performing or leading or managing for organizational goals or economic gain.
Conventional: People who like to work with data, have clerical or numerical ability, carrying things out in detail, or following through on others’ instructions.

The author of What Color is Your Parachute put together an exercise that helps people decide what group of people they would like to be with. The book reads:

Below is an aerial view of a room in which a party is taking place. At this party, people with the same or similar interest have (for some reason) all gathered in the same corner of the room.

I redrew it here:

1) Which corner of the room would you instinctively be drawn to, as the group of people you would most enjoy being with for the longest time? (Leave aside any question of shyness, or whether you would have to talk to them.) Write down the letter for that corner.
2) After fifteen minutes, everyone in the corner you have chosen leaves for another party crosstown, except you. Of the groups that still remain now, which corner or group would you be drawn to the most, as the people you would most enjoy being with for the longest time? Write down the letter for that corner.
3) After fifteen minutes, this group too leaves for another party, except you. Of the corners and groups which remain now, which one would you most enjoy being with for the longest time? Write down the letter for that corner.
The three letters you just chose, in the three steps, are called your “Holland Code.”

I have a tendency to cheat on activities like these, and put how I would LIKE to be instead of how I actually am. So, I skipped to using what the internet has to offer based on the suggestions in the book. I took two tests. One was at http://www.self-directed-search.com/, which cost $4.95 and one was at http://careerkey.org/asp/your_personality/take_test.asp, which cost $9.95.

My results for Self-Directed Search looked like this:
R = 10, I = 25, A = 21, S = 37, E = 26, C = 26

My results for the Career Key test looked like this:
Artistic = 9
Conventional = 6
Enterprising = 3
Investigative = 5
Realistic = 5
Social = 16

It was clear, by far and away, that my first letter is “S” for social. But after that, all the scores bunch up. In fact, one of the explanation of scores for SDS said that a difference of less than 8 was negligible. (An aside: Barbara Sher says that her Scanners tend to have high scores in most categories on most aptitude tests. Confirmation bias?)

So I thought about it. And I ended up deciding that at the party, I would definitely like to hang out with the Social crowd. I like helping people. And then, I decided that I would probably like to hang out with the Investigative crowd. I like learning new things and solving problems. And finally, to be honest, I probably would like to hang out with the conventional crowd. I like things that are clear cut and having specific instructions. I put that Artistic is probably a close fourth, considering that one was one I WANTED to put in, perhaps as the second one, and that I do think of myself as a creative.

Now my party looked like this:

Which resulted in writing the following “temporary statement” on my flower: I would like a job or career best if I were surrounded by people who like to work with people and help them (S), like to investigate and analyze things (I), and who work with data and details and instructions (C). (And sometimes people who use imagination and creativity (A).)

Now my flower, my “One Piece of Paper” looks like this:

(I haven’t picked out my reward yet. But I will soon! I’m thinking a shirt for more casual wear.)

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step 1

 

All five sheets of paper laid out on the counter. Step 1 is called “What knowledges that you already have in your head, do you most want to use in your life and work?”

The idea is to figure out what you already know so you can see what kind of jobs align with them. I had a lot of fun figuring out what I already knew.

The suggested categories to think about what you already know are this:

Studied in High School or College or Graduate School
Learned on the Job
Learned from Conferences, Workshops, Trainings, and Seminars
Learned at Home: Reading, TV, tape programs, study courses
Learned in my Leisure Time: Volunteer Work, Hobbies, etc.

I like to collect information, so I didn’t want to tackle these lists just off the top of my head. I knew I had most of this written down, but the question was where. Here’s the list of where I knew I could find things, basically lined up with the above list:

High school, college, and grad school transcripts
My “master” resume that lists all the jobs I’ve ever had
My Evernote account, where I keep notes on all the things that interest me
My list of e-courses I’ve taken
My Goodreads account, which lists all the books I’ve read in the last five years
My home, which has all my hobbies and projects strewn around

What Color Is Your Parachute? says, “this chart is asking you what subjects you know anything about, not whether you like the subject or not. […] Put down something you’ve only read a few articles about (if it interests you) side by side with a subject you studied for three semesters in school.”

So I did.

And I came up with a chart that is too long to share with you easily. I tried taking a picture, but I used a separate price if printer paper for each category. I ended up making a page for this, which you can find at this link and on a tab at the top of the page.

Take a look, it’s long and ungainly. But no matter, there’s still work to be done.

The next step is to make a matrix, which will help to identify what I’m enthusiastic about, and what I have expertise in. This is what that chart looks like, for me: It isn’t supposed to be used like an axis, but I kind of did it that way. Of course, administrative tasks aren’t really my most enthusiastic and expert knowledge, but I am pretty serious about canvassing being something I am an expert at but one of my least favorite knowledges.

As you can see, I have a lot of things that I am enthusiastic about, but do not consider myself an expert in.  I am actually probably something of a “scanner,” which is what Barbara Sher calls people who like to learn lots of things, and feel stiffled when they’re asked to choose. Which made the next part difficult.

The next part was to choose my three favorite knowledges, and begin thinking about where they might intersect. You’ll see from the picture that I didn’t choose three. I chose three categories of favorite knowledges.

I think that some of my favorite knowledges are: peer coaching/tutoring, adult learning, research, and communication. I also think that social policy, family and marriage, pregnancy and parenting, and self-compassion are also things that I really enjoy knowing about and using. And finally, in the third circle, I put that I know a lot about seeing the big picture and pulling out meaning, and that is something I want to do in my grown up job.

I think these are all subjects that are related. I think that I could perhaps boil the first circle down to communication, the second circle down to policies that effect people’s personal lives and the third one is pretty boiled down.

And actually, this relates well to the things I discovered in step zero. These all seem to be about the creation of meaning, forging connections with others, making the world a better place, and the creation and collection of knowledge. Pretty cool.

This is what my “One Piece of Paper” Looks like right now:

What are some things that you know about? What are the favorite things that you know about?

(As a reward, I bought myself another dress. It’s this one, also from Target. I should get it tomorrow in the mail!)

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step Zero

I’ll have to admit that before I wrote up the SMARTER goals for this, I had already done most of Step 0 and some of Step 1. I find that I often start projects with the best of intentions, but without putting a SMARTER list together and holding myself accountable, I rarely follow through. But blogging about this is definitely helping me to make sure I will finish all these steps.

I think that putting these exercises onto my blog from What Color is Your Parachute? is permissible because of the concept of “Each One, Teach One” that the book ends on — it says that because not everyone has these skills, it’s important that we who know about them pass them on. If I get a cease and desist letter, I’ll take down the exercises but I think my answers are mine to share.

The first activity is “Who Are You?”

1. Take ten sheets of blank paper. Write, at the top of each one, just these three words: Who Am I?
2. Then write, on each sheet in turn, just one answer to that question. And only one.
3. When you’re done, go back over all ten sheets and expand now upon what you have written on each sheet. Looking at each answer, write it below, why you said that, and what turns you on about that answer.
4. When finished with all ten sheets, go back over them and arrange them in order of priority. That is, which identity is the most important to you? That page goes on top. Then, which is next? That goes immediately underneath the top one. Continue arranging the rest of the sheets in order, until what you think is your least important identity is at the bottom of the pile.
5. Finally, go back over the ten sheets, in order, and look particularly at your answer on each sheet to What turns me on about this? See if there are any common denominators, or themes, among the ten answer you gave. If so, jot them down on a separate piece of paper. Viola! You have begun to put your finger on some things that your dream job or career, vocation, mission, or whatever, needs to give you if you are to feel truly excited, fulfilled, useful, effective, and operating at the height of your powers.

I modified slightly. I used old, out-of-date business cards that I had laying around my internship. This kept the project much more tactile for me, and helped me think I wasn’t wasting paper. But that was about the extent of the modifying.

Who am I? Here’s my top ten list & what turns me on about them:

1. A woman. I am a person! My body is amazing. The cycles, the way I can be active, the ability to gestate and breastfeed and give birth. My nurturing side, my vulnerable side; my dark, my light; my “feminine genius.”

2. An intimate partner. The safety, the companionship. Working as a team. Backing each other up. Friendship. Enjoying the same things. Having someone accept me for who I am.

3. A mother. A chance to teach her. To learn how to be positive and encouraging. To re-do things for the first time. Seeing beauty and wonder in her eyes. Knowing I am important to her.

4. A writer. A chance to create meaning. To create connection. To know about humanity more deeply. It is part of my connection talent.

5. A fangirl/critic (I couldn’t come up with a good one word for this.) I find joy in the creation of others, and also think about what meaning that creation puts forward. The dialogue of culture, the way it is an area of both protest and oppression.

6. A student. Formal studenthood has a goal, a deadline, an arbiter of right and wrong. But more broadly, this is an acknowledgement that there is much to learn from other human beings, my daughter, my partner. I like to reflect and assess and improve. I like to fail and try again.

7. A researcher. There is knowledge out there that needs to be found, understood and interpreted. Finding out the unknown. The joy of discovery, of putting together the puzzle pieces.

8. A Christian. The social justice. The movement towards a kingdom on earth, thy will as in Heaven.

9. An activist seeking justice. Because making the world a better place, through influence and policy and enforcement/administration is the key to meaningful work for me. Because we NEED change.

10. A healer. Tikkam Olam — I am doing the work of repairing the world.

The common denominators seem to be this:

  • the creation of meaning (writer, fangirl/critic, researcher, healer)
  • the want of or forging of connections with others (partner, mother, writing, fangirl/critic, Christian, healer)
  • wanting to be present and mindful and joyful where I am (woman, partner, mother)
  • wanting to make the world a better place (writer, fangirl/critic, researcher, christian, activist, healer)
  • being willing to fail and try again (mother, writer, student activist, healer)
  • creation and collection of knowledge (writer, student, researcher)
  • want of structure (student, Christian)

This is the page that’s going in my “permanent” file that will become my One Piece of Paper:

This doesn’t help me figure out how to network or search for the right job for me. It only has broad principles. Time to keep going!

What does your top ten list look like?

( PS: I’m rewarding myself with a new dress for my internship. It’s going to be this wrap dress in purple!)

That One Piece of Paper: The Goal

 

So, you might be aware that I am about half way through my Masters in Public Policy. At the end of these two years of school, I’d like to get a job. To get a job, I will have to prepare. I know from finding my internship this past winter that it will take work to know myself well enough to sell myself well enough to land a job that will fit with me, and allow me to do the work that I want to do in the world.

Early this summer, I pulled a severe brown-nose move and contacted the Career Development Office at the Gerald R. Ford School of the University of Michigan and asked them what might be good reading to prepare for the job hunt ahead. I told them I was tempted by What Color is Your Parachute? 2012 by Richard N. Bolles, and they confirmed that it’s been a best seller since 1972 for a reason.

Most of the book read as common sense, but it did clarify some things. People in the Career office kept talking about “informational interviews” and I had no idea why someone would to want to talk to someone cold turkey about their job. Apparently, it’s something that smart job hunters do to track down the job that is perfect for them.

Chapter 13 of the book is all about the self-inventory that will help you find your dream job. There are several steps.

Step 0: Who are you?
Step 1: Favorite Special Knowledges
Step 2: Preferred People-Environments
Step 3: Preferred Working Conditions
Step 4: Desired Responsibility (and Salary)
Step 5: Preferred Geographical factors
Step 6: With these Goals and Purposes (and Values) in mind
Step 7: Your favorite transferable skills, in order of their priority for you

Richard N. Bolles calls this exercise That One Piece of Paper — because you take all this information and put it in one place, in an organized way, that allows you to see a bigger picture. I’m looking forward to what it says.

Looking at SMARTER goal setting:

Specific Goal: I want my “That One Piece of Paper”

Measurable:  This is an easy goal to make measurable — the steps are already defined for me, with each exercise its own defined mini goal!

Anticipate Success: What are the benefits of achieving this goal? The benefit of having my One Piece of Paper is, potentially, “hope, direction, and a lens to satisfaction,” to quote a text box in the book. The benefit will be in knowing what I’m looking for in a job, instead of reading every job description that I come across and going, “Eh, I COULD do this, but do I want to do this?” It will give me something to network around, because I’ll able to tell my network what kind of work I’m looking for. It will give me something to bring into interviews and ask questions of my interviewers, so that I’ll get to learn more about their company and if it’s a good fit for ME, as they find out if I’m a good fit for their company. Knowing, systematically, what I’m looking for in a job is really important to the process, and this seems like a great starting point for that.

Record your ideas and challenges: I’m going to do these exercises with as much room as possible. The Kindle Edition of the book provides links to download PDFs, but so far those PDFs seem to be small and cramped and hard to write in. I think I’m going to do all of this on printer paper, so it’s easy to lay everything out (I could do it in my moleskine, but then I wouldn’t have the flexibility of seeing everything at once). It’s going to be difficult to find the time — my work day stretches from 8 am until 6:15pm, and  I have a half hour break for lunch. But, I do also take about a half hour break to pump, and that time is my own. I can use that. When I get home, I usually end up putting the baby to sleep and not getting much time to myself before I sleep — but I’ll make this a priority. It’s important that it gets done to reduce stress later.

Track your progress: The official start date for the goal (though parts of the project are started and scattered) is today, July 19, 2012. I’d like to get this done before school starts on September 4, 2012. That’s about 6 weeks, and 47 days. Forty-seven days divided by 8 tasks is almost 6 days per task. So, about once a week I will need to have completed the next step. So, the next due date is July 25 — I’ll need to be done with step 0. Which should be easy because step 0 is almost complete.

Explain your goal to others: I realized recently that my blog is the perfect thing to keep my accountable. Sarah at Feeding the Soil talks about her goals with her community on her blog, and I am always so inspired by it. I’m looking forward to doing the same with you, my Empathizers. I will blog about my progress on this project. I want you guys to see me do this soul-searching work. (You are not alone in not knowing what you want out of life!)

Reward yourself along the way: I’m not sure what my big reward at the end of the project will be, but I think that my little rewards for completing each step will be buying a piece of clothing for my wardrobe. I usually deny myself that, and this will give me permission. Perhaps I’ll finally buy server space to host Practicing Empathy as a stand alone website?

The too long; don’t read version of the above is this: I’m going to do the self-reflection activities in What Color is Your Parachute to prepare for my job search this year. I want to be done by Labor Day, and I’m going to be blogging about my progress. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, and all the rewards along the way (including telling you about how this helps me in my job search later).

How have you figured out what you want to do with your life?

 

What is respect?

I have a vague memory of being a tween and having an authority figure snap at me, “Don’t disrespect me!”

I remember that I wasn’t sure what they meant. I didn’t see anything wrong with my respect for them, but they obviously did. I tried to ask what I was doing that was disrespectful, and they couldn’t articulate it to me. I just resolved to avoid this adult authority figure who didn’t have clear expectations for my behavior.

It wasn’t until I embarked on a style project that I found a definition of respect that made sense. The lesson was about attitude, self-esteem, and self-respect.

Respect comes from being personally and socially responsible. You build respect for yourself by behaving well. Behave well at work, with your spouse and children, with strangers and when no one us looking and people will respect you, and you will respect yourself. Part of behaving well is listening to others, and being polite.

Though this was a style project, about helping me dress better to be professional at my internship, it became an important marriage lesson. I began to realize that when I got angry at my partner, I did not behave well. I behaved badly. I tended to have a temper tantrum.

This was an embarrassing realization. I was not doing my part to bring respect to my marriage in the face of conflict. In fact, I usually place all the blame on him and whine about how I was wronged while throwing said hissyfit. Wow, that is hard to admit. This kind of behavior made it hard for my husband to look at my hurt honestly and help me heal

Respect is not throwing a hissyfit when your husband signs a card in a different space then you anticipated. (Just did that one…sigh, lesson not yet fully learned.) Respect is picking up trash even when it isn’t yours, our wiping down the wall where your toddler smeared ice cream. Respect is responsibility to yourself and others, socially and professionally, and behaving well.

What do you think? Do you have a better actionable definition of respect? This new found definition of respect connects to other things I have been thinking about.

“Good Job” is dangerous

One day, when I stalked out of my economics class crying, one of my classmates found me. In a display of empathy that I admire, she reminded me that getting your masters degree is hard. She reminded that the grade in my econ course was not a judgment on me personally.

I had fallen into the trap of thinking that the challenges before me (like life/education/family integration) were problems that were caused by flaws in my own personality. I was in the trap of a “Bright Girl.

A bright girl is someone for whom life always came easily, and they were praised for doing the right thing even if they didn’t know what they were doing. And as a result, they grow up thinking that if they have to try, if they have to make more than one attempt, then they probably are not capable. I have lived this way for many years. Luckily, things had come easily for me.

Until I became a parent. Through therapy, I became aware of the possibility of not taking things personally. I began looking at problems objectively. I was so thankful for my classmate’s reminder.

Baby crying? The baby crying is not a reflection on me. She is communicating, and it is hard to understand her. That doesn’t mean that I should let her cry, but instead of blaming myself, realizing that it isn’t my fault opens me up for persistence and problem solving. Does feeding her help? Picking her up? Etc?

The original example: Grad school is hard. There is a reason why not everyone goes. The fact that it is hard is not a reflection on me, it is objectively hard. I don’t have to change myself to make grad school easier. No matter what I do, it will stay hard. But I might be able to manage it, I may be able to problem solve, I may be able to ask for help.

So, Practitioners, what do you take personally? How can you look at it objectively? And how does that change your strategies for coping?

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Economics