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Get Engaged and Accelerate Your Success!

August 20th, 2015

Not engaged as in married –- engaged as in work. Think of how happy you’d be going to work each day saying to yourself, “I want to,” not “I have to.” The difference? It’s being engaged in what you do at work. What does “engaged” mean? It’s feeling motivated at work, routinely applying your strengths and interests in your job, being committed to performing well and curious to learn and grow in your field. Unfortunately, statistics reveal 71% of U.S. employees are not engaged in their work.

Gallup research shows a strong connection between employee engagement and performance. The more actively engaged we are the more likely we are to have less sick days and raise productivity, quality, customer service and job satisfaction. A significant factor in feeling engaged is the opportunity to routinely use our strengths on the job. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged and three times as likely to report an excellent quality of life (Marcus Buckingham). When employees are engaged and thriving in their overall lives, even during difficult times in their organization, they are likely to maintain strong work performance. That is why more corporate wellness programs are including employee engagement in their wellness and wellbeing initiatives.

It is 2015 and we are never going back to thinking employees are “hired hands.”  Progressive organizations understand that healthy, high performing companies focus on the “whole person” at work. They appreciate the mind-body connection and the impact opportunities for growth and use of strengths and interests has on engagement and individual and organizational success.

So who is responsible for helping us become more engaged? Employers may help and that is great. However, ownership of engagement, satisfaction and career success is also on our own shoulders. Going after our goals with healthy enthusiasm for a more fulfilling life is up to each of us to make that happen.

Whether you are a business owner, manager or employee you may be thinking, “how can I become more engaged or how can I help my employees?” The answer involves uncovering and applying individual strengths as described in the following three steps.

1) Clarify skills/strengths that help you feel strong. Begin by brainstorming what you do well, what triggers your enthusiasm and motivates you. Also, you may want to complete the quick online Strengthsfinder assessment of your top five strengths (www.gallupstrengthscenter.com).

What is a Strength?

Activities that energize you, that you are drawn to and feel easy and natural doing.  Strengths are made up of talents, skills and knowledge. Talents you are born with; skills and knowledge you obtain through learning and practice. Here are some examples:

Strength        Specific Use

Verbal –          Negotiating contracts
Social –           Interacting with people to plan events
Technical –     Resolving computer challenges
Artistic –         Selecting color and fabric to design a room

 2) List your work responsibilities and top priorities and find areas to apply your strengths. Identify 1-2 strengths you want to incorporate and match each with a current or new responsibility where you can contribute to your goals and/or organizational goals.

For example, if your strength is writing and you would like a chance to do it more often, look for a new or existing opportunity or project involving writing in the organization. Specify ways you can assist, possibly for the corporate blog or customer newsletter.

3) Have an open discussion with your manager to suggest ways to build 1-2 strengths into your work. Plan out the discussion. Remember, the object of this exercise is to help improve your job satisfaction AND fulfill a need for the organization.

Here are sample phrases you might want to use in your conversation. “I’m looking for opportunities to build on my top strengths to ensure my maximum contribution. I’ve found a couple ways I can align my skills with some of our current goals. Before I go into detail, what are your thoughts on giving this a try?  My key strengths are ____.  My ideas to apply and build them are _____.  How does this sound? What suggestions do you have for me to use my strengths more often?”

Note- this is not a discussion about your weaknesses. Those are much more difficult to improve because weaknesses typically make us feel depleted. The point here is that it’s much easier with less time and effort to concentrate on developing areas where we feel strong. The end result is to set goals and expectations every week based on your strengths. Step three may be the most challenging, however being bold and speaking up is essential to advancing your career.

Best of luck on getting engaged and accelerating your success!

– Sunny Klein Lurie, PhD. Advanced Performance, Inc; Fast Focus Careers

Think Like an Owner for a Career Change

March 13th, 2014

Your actions are all initiated by you. Many career professionals will agree that YOU must take the initiative to change your current career. Owners and entrepreneurs don’t wait; they initiate. They use stress, fear and other emotions to propel their businesses into action.

Owners and entrepreneurs believe in an ability to build and direct their own destiny. This mindset puts you in the driver’s seat. You permit yourself to have the power. You don’t hold off until others give you permission and allow you to achieve. Owners understand they must take charge of growing and adapting their business, just as we need to do in our career.

You DO NOT have to be fearless to run your career as an owner. Just as owners may have some prudent fear in running their business, you may have fear of failure and of wasting money, time, and energy. Fortunately, you can succeed with fear. So, if your fear of not trying slightly outweighs the other factors, then that’s all you need to forge ahead. However, owners operating in a volatile economy must have a game plan that embraces change and promotes the development of survival skills to sustain their organization.

When thinking like an owner, be sure to consider:

  • Taking Initiative

Owners are aware that things could fall apart at any time, even when things seem to be going well. They understand they must consistently take initiative to make changes in their business if and when a new direction is needed. Complacency and extended delays in business are simply unsustainable. The same is true for careers. Staying stuck in a career that is no longer working has a way of taking hold if we remain stagnant. The longer we are in limbo, the more mental or financial pain we endure from not moving forward. Sometimes we need a jolt to get unstuck. The main point is take action when it’s time to seek a new career.

  •  Tolerating Risk

Change, and therefore progress, always involves risk. Not crazy risk, but reasonable levels of risk. The people who are by nature risk-averse will feel uncomfortable with that. But experience tells us that perhaps the only way to offset the fear of the unknown is to understand the greatest risk comes from sticking with business as usual. If people can be convinced that a career at a standstill could mean soon being unemployed, they may suddenly develop an appetite for trying something new. In this new work era, risky is the new safe. Give it a chance, try something you normally wouldn’t do. Start small, read news from unusual sources, check in with an old colleague, or sign up for an online learning program in a completely new field. See how that feels, then take it up a notch.

  • Moving After a Disappointment

Don’t fixate when things go wrong. Successful owners do not avoid mistakes and failures; they learn from missteps and move on. When attempting something new, if it doesn’t work somewhere along the way, or you don’t get the position you want simply try again with a different strategy. Disappointments are a normal and expected part of the career-rebuilding process. Don’t become preoccupied with the negative. When reinventing your career, if you have a letdown, embrace the lessons and keep going. It’s important to pull the lever and move on.

At the end of the day, only you can take charge of your career. Find the drive and ambition required to pursue the job you wish to have. With the right mentality anything is possible. Live it, own it, change it!

By Sunny Klein Lurie, Excerpt from her new book, “Jolt Your Career From Here to There: 8 Strategies for Career -Change Success”



8 Simple Steps for a Great Interview

February 6th, 2014

You landed the interview. Awesome! Now make it work.

Easily three-fourths of candidates make basic interviewing mistakes for jobs ranging from entry-level to executive.  Here are eight practical ways to shine:

1. Be likable. Obvious? And critical. Making a great first impression and establishing a real connection is everything. Smile, make eye contact, be enthusiastic, sit forward in your chair, use the interviewer’s name…. Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself you possibly can. We all want to work with people we like and who like us. Use that basic fact to your advantage. Few candidates do.

2. Never start the interview by saying you want the job
. Why? Because you don’t know yet. False commitment is, well, false. Instead…

3. Ask questions about what really matters to you.
(Here are five questions great job candidates ask.) Focus on making sure the job is a good fit: Who you will work with, who you will report to, the scope of responsibilities, etc. Interviews should always be two-way, and interviewers respond positively to people as eager as they are to find the right fit. Plus there’s really no other way to know you want the job. And don’t be afraid to ask several questions. As long as you don’t take completely take over, the interviewer will enjoy and remember a nice change of pace.

4. Set a hook. A sad truth of interviewing is that later we often don’t remember a tremendous amount about you — especially if we’ve interviewed a number of candidates for the same position. Later we might refer to you as, “The guy with the alligator briefcase,” or, “The lady who did a Tough Mudder,” or, “The guy who grew up in Panama.” Sometimes you may be identified by hooks, so use that to your advantage. Your hook could be clothing (within reason), or an outside interest, or an unusual fact about your upbringing or career. Hooks make you memorable and create an anchor for interviewers to remember you by — and being memorable is everything.

5. Know what you can offer immediately.
Researching the company is a given; go a step farther and find a way you can hit the ground running or contribute to a critical area. If you have a specific technical skill, show how it can be leveraged immediately. But don’t say, for example, “I would love to be in charge of revamping your social media marketing.” One, that’s fairly presumptuous, and two, someone may already be in charge. Instead, share details regarding your skills and say you would love to work with that team. If there is no team, great — you may be put in charge. If there is a team you haven’t stepped on any toes or come across as pushy. Just think about what makes you special and show the benefits to the company. The interviewer will be smart enough to recognize how the project you bring can be used.

6. Don’t create negative sound bites.
Interviewers will only remember a few sound bites, especially negative ones. If you’ve never been in charge of training, don’t say, “I’ve never been in charge of training.” Say, “I did not fill that specific role, but I have trained dozens of new hires and created several training guides.” Basically, never say, “I can’t,” or “I haven’t,” or “I don’t.” Share applicable experience and find the positives in what you have done. No matter what the subject, be positive: Even your worst mistake can be your best learning experience.

7. Ask for the job based on facts.
By the end of the interview you should have a good sense of whether you want the job. If you need more information, say so. Otherwise use your sales skills and ask for the job. (Don’t worry; we like when you ask.) Focus on specific aspects of the job: Explain you work best with teams, or thrive in unsupervised roles, or get energized by frequent travel…. Ask for the job and use facts to prove you want it — and deserve it.

8. Reinforce a connection with your follow-up.
Email follow-ups are fine; handwritten notes are better; following up based on something you learned during the interview is best: An email including additional information you were asked to provide, or a link to a subject you discussed (whether business or personal.) The better the interview — and more closely you listened — the easier it will be to think of ways you can make following up seem natural and unforced.

Posted by Sunny Klein Lurie, Fast Focus Careers

Written By J. Haden



Find a Better Career

February 14th, 2013

Tough times can shake people’s faith in their ability to make a career change to something better. In the midst of a sluggish economy many people are staying in unsatisfying jobs where they are unhappy and under-employed. To pull free of the wrong job fit or find a rewarding career after a job loss, it’s time to rethink your approach. Here is one important step to take to begin the process of finding a better career.

Discover YOU: your strengths and passions.

Often individuals who thrive consistently have high self-awareness about their strengths and passions. Many successful people including Oprah and Richard Branson, Virgin Air have said a condition for great achievement is passion. When your strengths and passions are applied in your work, your potential and enthusiasm are limitless. People who use their strengths and talents are more than three times as likely to report an overall excellent quality of life.

Once you clarify your authentic strengths and interests, you’ll be a powerful force when interviewing and striving toward your career goals. Do not look for a new job before you identify your strengths because you are likely to become underemployed and mismatched in the wrong position.

So how do you determine strengths to select a path that is right for you? Begin by brainstorming what triggers your enthusiasm and what motivates you. Sit down in a quiet place to list 20 things you like to do. Then look for patterns. Do you prefer working with data, people, things or ideas. You may discover, for example it’s more important than you realized to be physically active and your work should not be behind a desk all day. Or you want to be around busy and loud environments, which might rule out a secluded one-person office. You’ll know a particular career is right when you are curious and enthusiastic about getting started.

Get clear about yourself by answering the following questions:

– What is one skill or strength you do well that you would like to use in your work?

– Which of your previous work results are you proud ofand what were you doing?

– What tasks and topics get your heart racing?

– If you could do one thing in your professional life that would have the most positive impact, what would it be?

After completing the questions, it helps to talk through your answers with someone. Talking about yourself with a peer helps to uncover patterns and shines a brighter light on your skills and interests. It is critical not to isolate during a career move; it’s the kiss of death. Sometimes what you need most is a person who believes in you. It’s interesting that other people often can see for us what we may not see for ourselves. Other people can push us through walls that block us, sometimes just by having a new set of eyes on the problem. Often creative ideas are born during discussions with a different perspective. Many times, all it takes is an encouraging word or new idea from a friend to move forward. But a career change is not easy and next time we will cover the next step to help you handle change.

by Sunny Lurie, Fast Focus Careers

Thinking About a New Career

January 13th, 2013

2178788631_4554876975-1A low risk way to test a new career is try it on the side. Many people want to experiment before leaving their full time job. Even if you are busy, “side launching” is a viable and effective way to begin your new career or business. These ideas can help you get going:

1. Be disciplined and consistent about the hours you choose to work on your idea. Is it from 5 to 7am before your family life or other commitments begin — or are late evening hours better? Are you carving out time on the weekends? Be honest and clear with yourself about where to find pockets of time and make it a part of your routine; your road to success will be faster.

2. Decide whether and when to tell friends, colleagues and your boss. You may be surprised by their enthusiasm and support. When I knew I was leaving Key Bank to begin my own company, I told my manager several months ahead and they were supportive.

3. Determine benchmarks for yourself that indicate when you would consider making your side work a full time venture. What would you be willing to sacrifice for a time if it meant being able to devote more energy to your new career? Be realistic but also be willing to go for it! Thanks to Ladies Who Launch for these ideas.

-Sunny K. Lurie, Ph.D.

Tips for a Career Journey

June 1st, 2012

Dear Class of 2012:

As you head into the post-academic world, you have an opportunity to focus on your own career destiny and I encourage you to tap the power you have within you. You earned your degree with a tremendous amount of effort, time, and, more than likely, a big financial investment that may also translate into significant student loan debt. As you begin your career journey, I share this wisdom to help you find your way in the world-of-work.

Your First Job Won’t Be Your Last: Studies show that adults change careers five to seven times throughout their working lives. So, test drive jobs and see if they are career worthy and don’t settle for roles that don’t play to your strengths. Your first job out of the gate is a single step on a lifelong career path and you have the right to change your mind as often as you like.

Networking 90/10 Rule: You know how important it is to build your professional community and connect with people to tap the hidden job market. Plan to spend 90 percent of your time being seen and heard so others can consider you for opportunities. Social media is a great way to network but only spend 10 percent of your time behind your computer so you maximize in-person connections that will distinguish you beyond the competition.

The Zig Zaggers: Since career changing is expected, understand the power and the liability of Zig Zagging when changing jobs often. You will be perceived as a flight risk if you don’t stay in a job long enough to earn your worth but you can also be a wealth of new ideas for an organization that needs your skills and experiences. Consider your movement wisely and understand the career world is small — never burn a bridge and maintain professional connections especially when you move away from a job.

Empower your Network: In addition to the graduation well wishers, your friends and family are probably asking how they can help. Accept their gracious offers and tell them what you do well so they know how to connect you with their circles of influence. If you have specific organizations you want to work for, ask your network to check their Rolodexes and LinkedIn connections to see if they can make a personal referral. Share your strengths story so your network has an easy to remember conversation to share with others that illustrates what makes you unique and employable.

Be a Skills Agent: It’s OK if you still don’t know exactly what you want to do career wise. This is the time for informational interviews and test driving. But, you must have a clear picture of your professional strengths and competencies so recruiters and employers can help you fit into a role in their organization. Don’t focus on job titles but rather focus on concrete skills examples that illustrate what you do well.

Are You LinkedIn?: With 150 million members (that number grows daily) LinkedIn is the number one professional networking resource out there. Recruiters and headhunters troll this site regularly searching for new talent. Fill out your profile in total, use a professional photo, and seek out recommendations to endorse you for specific skills and accomplishments. Join Groups, participate in discussions, and use this tool often and to your best advantage. A dormant LinkedIn account will do you no good.

Be Your Own Best PR Agent: You should be packing your resume, personal business cards, and your professional portfolio with you everywhere you go. Seriously, you need to become your best self advocate and be ready to discuss how you bring value to an organization at all times. You are responsible to market yourself and in this ultra competitive market, there is no such thing as top of the class entitlement. I don’t care where you minted your degree or how high your GPA is — you must be able to showcase what you do well in an articulate conversation and demonstrate your emotional intelligence and your strengths.

Take a Risk: So perhaps your dream job does not materialize right off the bat but another opportunity does surface. Take a risk, try something new, and expand your comfort zone. You may just find something you love and an accidental career you would have never considered otherwise. The greatest risk is not taking one at all. You are also more employable when already employed.

Be a Solution Provider: It’s easy to go into the job search focusing on what you want. While that is important you must also be a solution provider. In our current economy you may land contract or temporary work that leads to full-time permanent work so be industrious and lead with I Believe I Can Help You…and provide a solution to an issue or concern.

Be Resilient:One of the most sought after competencies by employers is the ability to deal with adversity and change. It’s tough out there in the real world and it doesn’t get any easier once you land a job. Showcase your resilience and be ready to discuss how you have overcome challenges, including how you are dealing with a tough job market. Proving you are resilient may land you an opportunity.

The Class of 2012 is the succession plan for the future. You have the opportunity to identify your passion, carve out a niche for yourself, and thrive in a career knowing that you can always change direction. Create relationships with influencers and connectors and be ready to talk about what makes you unique.

Celebrate the successes you have earned — I am cheering you on all the way. Now the tougher journey has begun but I have confidence that you will succeed if you assume the responsibility and take the power you have and use it wisely.

by C. Dowd Higgins, Huffington Post

Posted by Sunny K. Lurie, PhD.
CEO, Fast Focus Careers
Key words: Career management, career counseling, career planning, career change

Projects are the New Job Interviews

May 29th, 2012

Resumes are dead. Interviews are largely ineffectual. Linked-In works. Portfolios are useful.

But projects are the real future of hiring, especially knowledge working hiring. No matter how wonderful your references or how well you do on those too-clever-by-half Google brainteasers serious firms will increasingly ask serious candidates to do serious work in order to get a serious job offer.

Call them “projeclications” or “applijects.” World-class talent will engage in bespoke real-world projects testing their abilities to deliver real value on their own and with others. Forget the “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” interrogatory genre; the real question will be how well candidates can rise to the “appliject” challenge and help redesign a social media campaign, document a tricky bit of software, edit a Keynote presentation, produce a webinar or peer review a CAD layout for a contract Chinese manufacturer.

Exploitive? Perhaps. But most organizations have learned the hard way that no amount of interviewing, reference checking and/or psychological testing is a substitute for actually working with a candidate on a real project. I know advertising agencies that have an iron-clad, inviolable rule that they will only hire creatives who have successfully done freelance work with an account team. Similarly, a fast-growing Web 2.0 “software as a service” company doesn’t waste its time asking coding candidates trick questions during job interviews; they have potential hires participate in at least two “code reviews” to see what kinds of contributors, collaborators and critics they might be.

Sometimes these sessions effectively pit a couple or three candidates against each other. But there’s nothing fake or artificial about the value they’re expected to offer. These organizations treat hiring as part of their on-boarding process. Hiring becomes more holistic rather than “over the wall.” More importantly, everyone in the enterprise now “gets” that people only get hired if and only if they deliver something above and beyond a decent track record and social graph.

Ethically, the most interesting behavior I’ve observed is that firms exploring “projeclication” hires aren’t asking for free labor. They’re paying below-market rates for their candidate’s insights and efforts. If I were a 20-something coder or a forty-something marketer, I’d undeniably have mixed feelings about giving my best efforts for discount compensation. That said, it’s worth something to know what it’s like to really work with one’s colleagues on a real project as opposed to the all-too-misleading charade of iterative interviews. To my mind, this approach is an order of magnitude more ethical than the “free” and unpaid internship infrastructure that has gotten so out of control in so many industries.

But just as many organizations have grown more skillful conducting Skyped interviews and using web-based quizzes and questionnaires as qualifying screens for candidates, my bet is we’ll soon see new genres of project-based hiring shape enterprise human capital portfolios. Facebook and Linked-In are obvious venues for “app-sourced” — that’s “app” as in applicant, not application— business project design. Increasingly, project leaders will design milestones and metrics that make incorporating job candidates into the process more seamless and natural. College graduates, MBAs and older job candidates will learn how to sniff out which “applijects” are genuine invitations to success and which ones are sleazy bids for cheap labor. In the same way job candidates learn how to interview well, they’ll get the skills to “appliject” well because they understand how to optimize their influence and impact within the constraints of the project design.

Ultimately, the reason why I’m confident that “projects are the new job interviews” is not simply because I’m observing a nascent trend but because this appears to be a more efficient and effective mechanism for companies and candidates to gain the true measure of each other. Designing great applijects and projeclications will be a craft and art. The most successful utilizers will quickly be copied. Why? Because the brightest and most talented people typically like having real-world opportunities to shine and succeed.

Should your next hire come from a great set of interviews and references? Or from knocking your socks off on a project?

by M. Schrage, research fellow at MIT, Sloan School
Posted by Sunny K. Lurie, PhD.
CEO, Fast Focus Careers
Key words: Career management, career counseling, career planning, interview, career change

Flexibility Beats Passion, Says LinkedIn Founder

March 1st, 2012

Listen up, job hunters…LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has pulled off something extraordinary in his book-writing debut. He has challenged a well-worn idea: the importance of letting your passions guide your  job hunt and replaced it with something better.

As far back as 1971, when the first edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? appeared, career coaches have been urging people to start by figuring out what they love to do most of all. Then, the conventional wisdom says, figure out a way to spend your life in that field, whether it’s being a pastry chef or a hedge-fund trader.

That’s fine advice in a world where we settle into one career for most of our working lives, Hoffman and co-author Ben Casnocha argue in the newly published The Start-Up of You. But, the authors  point out, such a world doesn’t exist any more. Opportunities come and go at an astonishing speed.

For example, you might graduate from college and then head off to India to be a public-health specialist. If that didn’t sustain you, you could spend the next decade collecting an MBA and then giving management consulting and government service a try.  Even those might not be your final destination; you might uproot yourself once more to become a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Such zigzags shouldn’t be seen as fumbled attempts to solve the passion question,  Hoffman and Casnocha argue. Instead, they say, bouncing around in the job market is healthy, normal” and maybe even optimal.

The most important virtue, in their eyes, is adaptability. You may have some early ideas about what looks most fulfilling, and you shouldn’t disregard those hunches entirely. But you won’t really know your passions until you discover what you’re really good at, and what pursuits are being rewarded. or at least tolerated in the marketplace.

In short, the authors say, “you don’t know what the best plan is until you try.”

Building up LinkedIn, as a social network focused on people’s work identities, proved to be a perfect fit. But even that isn’t Hoffman’s final destination. He’s LinkedIn’s chairman but not CEO these days, and spends much of his time as a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners.

For people who aren’t going to soar that high (which happens to be 99.9% of the book’s likely readers), Hoffman and fellow entrepreneur Casnocha offer a series of down-to-earth maxims. Most of the advice is quite good, though a few pointers seem forced. Among the authors’ suggestions:

– Develop an ABZ plan, where A is what you’re doing now, B is a logical next step, and Z is your fallback plan in case nothing goes right. Keep that safe landing spot in mind, and you can take more risks without being one step away from calamity.

– Maintain an identity separate from specific employers. Hey, it’s 2012. Even the best jobs can come and go, as General Motors, Kodak and a host of other companies keep proving. Whether you’re in sales, strategy or pastry decoration, the authors urge you to  Develop a public portfolio of work that’s not tied to your employer. That way, if one job becomes a cul de sac, you can still keep moving forward.

– Explore new career possibilities via side projects at first. That way you can safely discover if this year’s hobby might become next year’s main source of income. Move up Move down

Hang out with people who are already the way you want to be. This advice, of course, is tantamount to a plug to join LinkedIn and become an active networker, poster, etc. But it’s a valid idea anyway.

There’s a sunny quality to “The Start-Up of You” that comes from the authors’ decision to focus on the most successful examples of the principles they espouse. (That former World Bank staffer in India, by the way, turns out to be Sheryl Sandberg, now the chief operating officer of Facebook.) If some people have remade their professional identity too many times like itchy drivers constantly switching lanes on the highway, we don’t hear about them.

But Hoffman and Casnocha finish strong. They point out that the adaptive, entrepreneurial spirit that they champion is found in some of the world’s most prosperous and harmonious countries. When immigrants uproot themselves to get to the U.S. or other places where the entrepreneurial spirit is strongest, they validate the power and the appeal of an adaptive path.

By G. Anders, Contributor

Posted to blog by Sunny K. Lurie, Fast Focus Careers (statements I strongly agree with I’ve put in bold face)

Should I Stay or Go With My Passion?

February 14th, 2012

I recently read a delightful series of “Life Reports” published by New York Times columnist David Brooks. In these reports, Brooks asked people over the age of 70 to reflect on their lives, what made them successful, happy, sad, regretful, hopeful, etc. Not only were the reports fascinating to read, but they also got me thinking about the decisions I have made in the past year and the changes that I have made in my life.

After college, I joined Teach For America as a high school math and special education teacher. I cared and still care deeply about education inequity; however, I realized early on that teaching full-time was not for me. At all. In fact, I realized that everything I had planned for myself (grad school, academia, policy advisement) was not for me. I wanted to sing! Act! Write!

What was I to do? Was I being selfish? Was I being irresponsible? I think not. Six months later, I am not only still pursuing my career, but I am also working for two different arts education organizations in New York City. With one, I, along with other company members, use theater as a means for educating youth about HIV/AIDS, sex education, bullying, and a host of other issues. In another job, I run an after-school singing club that uses leadership skills as the basis for its curriculum. And yes: I still audition, perform, and write my own music all around the city!

All this is not just to say that life is great or easy; rather, it is to convey the idea that you can follow your passion and deal with issues you care about. Care about medicine but really would rather sing than be a doctor? Want to end world hunger but really want to do ceramics? Want to be an advocate for kids but creative writing interests you much more than a JD? Well, you don’t have to go down that unwanted path. Here are my three nonscientific R’s that I have found to be extremely helpful:


It’s important to take time and think about what we really want. In our fast-paced society, most of us are always in a rush and rarely take the time to reflect on what we are doing. Are you doing things because you love them? Because other people think you should do them? Because of prestige? For financial security? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions; what is most important is that you are able to answer these questions honestly to yourself. At that point you can actually begin to assess what is most important to you and whether or not you are truly striving toward the things you value most. For some, that will be financial security. For others, it will be happiness. And for many, it will probably be a mix of both. But once you truly reflect on what it is you actually would love to do, then you can start trying to center your life around that goal.


So, you know what you want to do, but there are a few problems in the way: college loans, kids at home, parents need financial help, your pedigree might fall. These are all issues that worry many of us; however, we can never go after what we really want if we spend our entire lives putting our passions on the backburner. Also, most of us don’t have to deal with all of these issues at one time, but the older we get, the more responsibilities we will have. Why not be bold while we’re still young and don’t have as many financial burdens that come with building families?


Reward yourself. No, I don’t mean go on shopping sprees and vacations that you cannot afford. I’m suggesting that you look at what you love, whether it is music, writing, sports, or medicine, and make it a part of your life. If you like music but are not in a position to go fully into the music industry, make sure you treat yourself to a concert or two. If you love writing but can’t leave your consulting job, make sure that you give yourself an hour or two on the weekends to fulfill that passion. You work hard. Maybe you cannot make the big jump to a new career, but you still deserve to incorporate your passions into your life.

These have been helpful to me, and I hope that they can be somewhat useful to you. Happy living.

By: Lumumba Seegars

Added to Fast Focus Careers Blog by Sunny Lurie

Update Your LinkedIn Privately

September 1st, 2011

Question:  I am not actively looking for a job, but I want to make some significant changes to my LinkedIn Profiles so that I am branding my skills and experience in the best way possible. I’m worried that my LinkedIn activity will be seen as a ‘red flag’ to my employer and lead them to think I am actively searching for a new job. What should I do?

Answer: Great question! As more and more individuals begin to use LinkedIn (approximately 120 million people currently), the changes you make to your profile could be potentially shared with many individuals. Some of the changes you might make in LinkedIn like adding a new job position, adding a link to a website, recommending an individual or adding a connection send out ‘activity broadcasts’. In your situation, you do not want to share those changes with your connections.

The easy way for you to make changes to your profile that others don’t see is by managing your privacy control settings. You have the ability to manage those activity broadcasts (i.e. turn them on or off) and select who can see your activity feed. Keep in mind that joining a group will generate an update that cannot be turned off .

Here is a helpful link on how to show or hide your LinkedIn activities.

As with all of your information that is accessible via the web, make sure you understand what others can and cannot see (and understand the implications of someone viewing that information) before you add or change information about yourself.

Answer supplied by Amy Wolfgang.

Dr. Sunny Lurie photos by Perkoski