Career Change and Risk: It Can Lead to Greater Success in the Workplace


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Come on, admit it. Do you envy people who are doing work that they love?

Many of us do. We grind away tolerating work environments and colleagues out of step with our values, interests and skills. Yet we hang in there for a variety of reasons -— most prominently our paychecks.

But our situations can improve. Abraham Maslow, psychologist and father of the humanistic psychology movement, shifted the tides in his field by insisting that we start studying healthy people to learn what they were doing right so that those who weren't so healthy could adopt more effective strategies.

In the same way, if we look at people who love their work - we can identify principles, ideas and strategies to incorporate in our own lives so we can learn how to love our work too. As a certified professional business and personal coach, specializing in working with people with career issues, I'm always on the lookout for ideas to make work more enjoyable for my clients.

In her now classic book, Skills for Success, Adele Scheele relates the story of a young woman, poised on leaving her thankless administrative assistant job to return to school for her masters degree. Ms. Scheele asked her whether there was anything about her present job that she loved.

Yes, as a matter of fact there was! But it happened so quickly early in the day that the rest of the day paled in comparison. The part she liked best was when she was asked to scan the morning papers (this predated the Internet) for information relevant to the company's business and place the clippings she had found on her boss’ desk.

Instead of doing this activity daily, Scheele suggested the woman collect a number of these articles throughout the week and add to them with library research she found relating to the issues. She was also instructed to think about her reasons for clipping a certain article and call people and organizations cited in the articles for more information. On Friday mornings she was to set aside an hour or so with her boss and others who would be interested in her presentation.

She followed through with this suggestion and found to her delight and amazement that her boss was thrilled with her presentation. Together, they immediately worked out an arrangement for her to change her title to “Intelligence Administrator" and that she would take on the responsibility to gather intelligence about their competitors, the industry and trends that were important to their business.

Instead of leaving her company in disappointment, she went on to create a job and a career in the emerging field of corporate intelligence. What do we learn from this example that can be applied universally in your life?

  • Small changes can make big differences. We can find such small changes by shifting our attention from what's not working to what is working. Notice how the question – “What DO you like about your current job?" made such a difference and led to an opportunity to expand what she loved to do.
  • Risk doing something different. If we continue to do what we've always done, we'll continue to get what we've always had. Rather than being risk avoiding, we have to expand our tolerance for taking calculated risks in our work activities.
  • Demonstrating intelligence and enthusiasm can result in greater recognition and a new job. The more we can stand out and demonstrate our unique interests, capabilities and ideas, the greater the chance we will be tapped to use such qualities in work that suits us best.

    So what small changes and risks can you take right where you are that will lead to new and more enjoyable opportunities for you? Please write to us and tell us your stories so that we can pass on your positive experiences with our readers and inspire us all.

    Melanie Keveles MA, CPCC, Certified Professional Life Coach. She’s a “dream champion, ” working with people who want to change career direction, start a business or publish a book. She’s available via e-mail at , by phone at 715-394-4260, or .

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