Dear Joyce: I am 30, female and a Washington lobbyist earning in the high $50,000's. But I'm no longer getting satisfaction from my work. I am trying to get in touch with my feelings to decide what next. Suggestions? -- R.S.A.
Find out what you value, then look for a delivery system that stocks your ideals.
Some people in the career-change market are mildly dissatisfied with their non-critical jobs. That's what happened to James "Jae" English, 49, a former Xerox executive in Los Angeles. Several years ago he was first in line to accept a voluntary "reduction in force" offer that came with a generous financial settlement. Seeing himself as unchallenged and underemployed, English felt as though he was spending his days patching cracks in the corporate structure rather than in creative building.
After clarifying his values and concluding that his dissatisfaction was with the corporate structure in general, not Xerox in particular, English sought out business brokers to help him prospect for small business opportunities.
With a wife and small child, English moved to San Diego where he bought Prototype Model & Mold, a plastics manufacturing company with 25 employees. The company was losing money and banks wouldn't lend, so English had to finance the company from personal savings. Well-educated with master's degrees in both engineering and business administration from top schools and well-equipped with a blue-chip record in corporate America, English has been working 60-hour weeks for the last three years turning the company around.
It's been a washboard road, and English's wife, Kathie, says she wouldn't do it again. He would.
"Anxieties were excruciating for the first few months as I went from working in an environment of white-to blue-collar staff, from being paid to paying and moving from a big to a little company. But I can't see myself working for anybody again," English said.
Others seeking career divorce are more than mildly dissatisfied -- some suffer severe inner conflict. Donald Marrs, 56, was a big player in big marketing and advertising circles 15 years ago when he decided to turn anguish into fulfillment.
Since he was against smoking, he felt it was wrong to do cigarette ads. Out of health concerns for his kids, he couldn't do sugar cereal ads aimed at other people's children. Since he was energy-conscious, he was uncomfortable doing ads for gas guzzling cars.
"My ideals conflicted with the career I'd been building for 15 years. Disconnected from my values, I was living 'split' and didn't know it," Marrs says. Marrs decided to listen to his inner voice and began a journey that led him through famous corporations, Hollywood film studios and into the darkest corners of hisown psyche.
Recently he wrote a book about his discovery that happiness comes from being true to your values in the workplace: "Executive in Passage: Career in Crisis -- The Door to Uncommon Fulfillment," published by Barrington Sky, (800) 729-0129, $19.95. Reviewers are giving it four stars, calling it a road map for difficult transitions.
For the past decade Marrs has operated Marketing Partners Inc., a Los Angeles marketing and advertising company designed to offer small businesses the quality of creative and strategic work usually available only to giant corporations. Marrs works only with clients who want their companies to reflect their deeply held personal values.
When questioning the purpose in your life's work, the place to start is with an examination of your value. Many career-change books discuss the formulas, but Marrs' book shows how it's possible to create a successful career based on ideals.