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The Cognitive Prism and Emotional Intelligence

December 30, 2015

We all see things differently. Not literally – when the sun shines we pretty much all see it the same way – but emotionally.images

Our opinions, world view, emotional triggers are all a function of a complex cognitive prism that colors how we see the world.This prism is created both from our personality  and the events that shape our lives: the old nature vs. nurture debate that’s been going on for years.

I’ll let the psychologists figure out which is more dominant, but from a coaching standpoint, they combine to  help us create a view of the world that is unique.

What seems to make perfect logical sense to one person, is patently absurd to someone else. What seems like a logical assumption, which become the basis of a decision, seems obvious. In truth, it’s a coach’s job too help clients see that there might be some other interpretations.

Recognizing alternatives is one facet of emotional intelligence. Self realization helps us understand that there is a cognitive prism filtering every bit of information coming into our brain. Understanding the biases that are inherent in the prism, helps us understand why others disagree, and finally, taking steps to correct the distortions of the prism helps us grow.

In truth, many people don’t really want to make changes, but the real key is understanding that there may be a bias your view of the world. You can decide if adjustments are necessary.

Dealing with your our prism is key to your happiness, your interaction with others and every aspect of life – both at home and at work. This is emotional intelligence.

I was reminded of this prism a few days ago when I was working with a high school junior who was trying to figure out ‘the rest of his life’ during our 45-minute phone call. I was trying to help him decide where he should apply to college and what careers interested him.

Many young people have a wide range of interests and have a difficult time separating a career from a crush on a favorite teacher. The young man I was assisting had a range of interests that was even wider. He had always been a voracious reader and is familiar with topics ranging from history and religion to politics, economics and engineering.

For him, narrowing the list had become almost impossible, so he had decided to use income as his measuring stick. As he told me,”I really like history and enjoy reading everything I can find, but the only job I would probably ever get is teaching, and I know that doesn’t make that much money, so I think I’ll just consider that a hobby.”

He also ‘knew’ that engineers have the potential to make more money so it seemed logical that engineering was the best choice because at least his starting salary would be higher.

He could see no purpose in getting a liberal arts degree. Beyond the notion that an undergraduate degree limits your employment options,  he needed some facts to go with his assumptions.

I suggested that before our next call he do a bit of research.( If I just told him the answers he wouldn’t believe me anyway)

I gave him two weeks to answer the following questions:

What percentage of new employees in high tech had degrees in the social sciences?

What is the average lifetime earnings of a social science graduate?

What percentage of social science majors go on the get an advanced degree?

I am hoping that the answers will help readjust his prism and help him understand that some of the assumptions he was making were not based on reality.

If he still insists that an engineering degree is the only option, I certainly won’t try to talk him out of it, but he should  know all the facts before he makes his decision.

Next time you have a decision to make ask yourself what underlying assumption you might would to re-evaluate.

 

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Career Conundrums

April 18, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Tech — Tags: , , — admin @ 5:51 am

Everyone needs a career coach. I realize that’s a bit self-severing coming from a career coach, but it’s true.

The thought occurred to me this week when I received LinkedIn requests to congratulate my connections who were passing employment milestones.

What is your next career?

What is your next career?

Everyone has questions, no matter what stage their career has reached.

The new college graduate wonders about accepting a job offer, thinking she doesn’t want to ‘get stuck’ doing ‘that job’ for the rest of her life.It seems to be a revelation when I point out that the job will change quickly, and in the current  job climate, 1 year may be a career.

Young people who have reached the 1-year mark, start to worry all over again about what they should be doing next. They’ve had one boss and are convinced they could do his job.

They see a friend or two changing jobs and wonder if they should be looking too. In most cases they haven’t even bothered to ask their current employer what their future might look like, if they stayed.

I can remember calls from clients who have been working in the same position for 3 or 4 years and have developed enough maturity to question what they want to do next. Some just know, they don’t want to do what they have been doing, but don’t realize how valuable that knowledge is. At least they’re  beginning to understand how lucky they are to have a choice and how many choices there are.

Ask a lot of older employees with well established careers, and they’ll be happy to point out  that they have no idea’ how they got to this stage in their careers, it wasn’t a plan, it just happened.

Then, there are the long-term employees who have worked for the same company for 5 or 10 years, and have actually earned a reputation and may have gotten a call from a recruiter. The knowledge that someone may actually value your skills has to be weighed against what are now, significant financial and family obligations. The decision gets much tougher since it may involves children, spouses, extended family and a host of other issues.

It’s impossible to make decision like that dispassionately, because everyone you talk to, except a coach, has an opinion.

Finally there are people who have spent 20 or more years with one company.These veterans are wondering about all the decisions they have made, and how they just woke up one morning and wondered,  “Is that all there is?” I have yet to meet a client at this stage who doesn’t, at some point tell me, “Ya know, what I really want to do is start a company that…” You fill in the blank.

They are often speak glowingly about their idea or dream and the enthusiasm is infectious. The trick becomes trying to figure out why they haven’t created their new career. Working through the list of why they can’t, is often a revelation and can take several sessions. In the end , they will either realize that they might have a good idea, or that they really just like having the dream.

Whatever career anniversary you’re having, a coach can’t make decisions for you, but we can make sure you ask the right questions.

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Forty Years of Parachutes

September 20, 2011

At 84, you might think that Richard Bolles was ready to slow down. But the author of the seminal career coaching guide, “What Color is Your Parachute,” says that after 40 years of updating his work he has no intention of stopping.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the East Bay Coaches Chapter, Bolles left no doubt he has plenty of new ideas and that his books are still relevant as United States suffers through the worst recession in 60 years.

In an hour-long presentation that ranged from the humble beginnings of his book and career, to comments on modern politics he offered lessons on attitude, re-framing and relevance. Proving that he deserves the honor of the nation’s career coach.

He urged members to understand their own needs and experiences as a way to empathize with their clients. “What else do we live for? he asked, “than to use our experiences to help others?”

He suggested that coaches need to point out to their clients, depressed about lengthening unemployment, that despite the monthly numbers, there are still 6 million people who change jobs every month. “It’s all about attitude,” he told the group. Pointing out that if you think you won’t get the job you probably won’t. “Your job is to help your client be one of those 6 million.”

“Looking for a new job is now a survival skill, and we have to look at it that way,” he says. “just like food, clothing, or shelter.”

He says that while times have changed the basic dichotomy of how people look for jobs and how employers look for employees has stayed the same. “Employers just want to avoid mistakes, but potential employees still think that sending out millions of resumes will get them noticed. It won’t.”

Bolles has updated his “Parachute” books every year, except 1975, since it was first published in 1970. He includes a coaches appendix in the back but insists that, “people need to keep up. they have to have read my current edition, if they want to be included.”

Bolles, who lives in Danville, California, also had some pointed words for politicians, who he sees as short sighted as they cut back on the support system that US job seekers need, but more importantly he bemoans the lack of empathy he sees in Washington.

“I can’t believe that politicians and their supporters are cheering at the thought of people without health care, or the number of executions in a state.” he notes. Bolles says he has voted for both democrats and republicans, but adds, “this GOP is not mine, their only goal is to make sure Obama is a one-term President, so they can get his job.”

Bolles has been proclaimed “America’s Top Career Expert” and his books have been called among the most important of the last 80 years. But he says he plans to continue writing, holding workshops, and lecturing. “I’ll be updating my books,” he says “until I’m forced to say goodbye to my lovely wife.”

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