Episode #129 – Marc Miller reads a chapter from the upcoming third edition of his book, Repurpose Your Career.
The chapter, “Life as a Square Peg: Gets Tougher as You Age,” from the upcoming third edition of Repurpose Your Career, addresses the challenges of working in a career or a workplace environment that does not fit well with your personality. Marc explains how to learn what type of work personality you have, and how to find the unique work environment and qualities that will fit you best, so you don’t have to fit a square peg into a hole of the wrong shape for you.
[1:04] Marc welcomes you to Episode 129 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. Career Pivot brings this podcast to you; CareerPivot.com is one of the very few websites dedicated to those of us in the second half of life and our careers. Take a moment to check out the blog and the other resources delivered to you, free of charge.
[1:33] If you are enjoying this podcast, please share it with other like-minded souls. Subscribe on CareerPivot.com, iTunes, or any of the other apps that supply podcasts. Share it on social media or just tell your neighbors, and colleagues. The more people Marc reaches, the more people he can help.
[1:54] Next week, Marc will interview Rich Karlgaard, who is the publisher of Forbes Magazine and the author of Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.
[2:12] This week, Marc will read a chapter from the third edition of Repurpose Your Career called “Life as a Square Peg: Gets Tougher As You Age.”
Now on to the podcast…
[2:25] This chapter, along with the two previously released chapters, is now available to the Repurpose Your Career review team. If you’d like to be part of that team, please go to CareerPivot.com/RYCTeam and you’ll receive new chapters as they become available.
[2:48] Marc is looking for honest feedback and would love to get an honest review on Amazon.com after the book has been released.
[2:57] Marc currently plans to release the book in mid-to-late September with both a virtual and a real book tour. He will be in Austin, NYC Area, and D.C. during the months of September and October. Marc would love to meet his readers and listeners.
[3:15] Reach out to Marc at Podcasts@CareerPivot.com if you’d be willing to give him some advice on venues or groups that would be interested in hosting an event.
[3:28] “Life as a Square Peg: Gets Tougher As You Age.” You play a role at work. The closer that role is to your authentic self, the happier you are likely to be. We act on the job to fit into the culture. We behave as we believe our boss or team expects us to.
[3:54] Many business cultures show little value for interest in the arts, expect employees to follow the rules, award employees for being extroverted, want you to check your emotions at the door, and value strong, engaged leadership. Some of these behaviors may differ from how you normally function.
[4:17] When you’re younger, it seems easier to be an actor at work. The older you get, the more exhausting it is to put on ‘the show.’ After decades of acting, you just want to be left alone to do what you do best. You don’t want to pretend interest in things that aren’t relevant to doing your job. You know your job better than your boss does.
[5:01] This is especially hard when you’re a square peg in a round hole. Some people are square pegs because their personality doesn’t lend itself to the social dynamics of the workplace. That is Marc’s situation. Marc is an introvert but he has to act the role of an extrovert.
[5:24] Some people are square pegs because the culture of their industry doesn’t fit them, like an engineer who is highly emotionally intelligent. Sometimes they came to a job from another country and everything about this culture requires them to act in a way that is different from how they grew up behaving.
[5:44] Marc has been working with quite a few square pegs who do not fit into the traditional roles that organizations define. Some squeeze themselves into those roles and end up unhappy and unhealthy. Stress wreaks havoc on their health.
[6:09] Personality Square Pegs: Marc, an introvert, used to be able to stay in character as an extrovert for a long time, in his 20s, 30s, and 40s. In his 50s, staying in character became exhausting. Periodically, Marc would be completely depleted, which was not how people knew him. He would take a long time to recharge, especially if drained.
[6:41] Our society is biased toward extroverts. Extroverts make more money. They are taken more seriously as leaders. They are perceived as more competent. Susan Cain pointed out in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking that many of our great thinkers and artists have been introverts.
[7:03] That’s only one kind of square peg. There are others.
[7:08] Creatives: Creative people have a high interest in music, art, and literature. Many creatives have abandoned those interests because they can’t fit into what our economy values or is willing to pay for. These people often express their creativity in colorful spreadsheets or attractive Powerpoint presentations.
[7:32] Autonomous: Autonomous people don’t like staying between the lines. They want the freedom to do it their way. They’re good in chaotic situations where they get to make the rules.
[7:44] High Empathy: People with high empathy treat people with kindness and caring and want their colleagues to treat them in the same way. Marc has worked in high-tech for most of his career. High-empathy people are not generally welcomed or considered the norm.
[8:01] Low Authority: Low-authority people would prefer having a colleague to a boss. Trying to micro-manage them is not pretty. Their personality is largely incompatible with today’s work environment.
[8:18] Industry or Company Mismatch: The Project Manager. Marc had a client who was a top-flight IT project manager. Her boss would give her a project; she would run it for a year, then her boss would give her a new project just like it. This was a dream scenario for a lot of project managers, but not for her.
[8:45] Unusual for her profession, she wanted to constantly learn new things and tackle new challenges to develop in her career. She talked to her boss who was surprised. He had been keeping her in her comfort zone. That was the last thing she wanted.
[9:12] Musical Technologist: Marc has met multiple musical technologists. It’s very common for engineers to have a high interest in music. Marc talked to “Ron,” who works for a large hospital system. He evaluates systems and stays on top of all the technology the hospital implements.
[9:36] Electronic Medical Records and related technology have accelerated the rate of change. Ron has a huge interest in music that he put aside for years. Ron can keep up with the technology but he doesn’t want to. What was once fun is now a lot of work. He spent the last years caring for elderly parents. He is done fitting into the round hole.
[10:23] The Creative Technologist: “Sam” wandered into technology a long time ago when he graduated from college. He has worked in IT departments of large companies and gotten pretty good at it. Now he’s in IT security, a hot area, but he is sick of it. He is both mentally and physically tired. In his 50s, he no longer fits into the round hole.
[11:01] He is physically fit and can do his job but he no longer wants to do it. Sam is highly creative and would love to marry his technical knowledge with some form of art. He is now exploring video options with virtual and augmented reality. Can he make a go of this and keep putting his children through college at the same time?
[11:27] Cultural Dyslexia: These are people born in an indirect culture, such as India, China, Japan, but who spent their teenage years in a direct culture, such as the United States and Europe. They attend Western universities and acquire Western personality traits. They do not feel they belong in either their birth culture or their adopted culture.
[12:00] We will see a lot more cultural dyslexia as people move around the world. Marc has seen cultural dyslexia cause people great angst as they try to fit in that round hole.
[12:18] Square Pegs and Financial Requirements for the Second Half of Life: Marc was blessed that his first tech startup job left him debt-free in his late 40s. Marc had children in his late 20s. Many others waited to establish their careers before having children. Many in their 50s are putting children through college.
[12:48] We have lived through two horrible recessions that decimated retirement savings and children’s college savings. Many square pegs feel they have no choice but to stay in their ill-fitting niche. This is one reason Marc and his wife moved to Mexico. They enjoy a lower cost of living and a slower pace of life.
[13:16] For many people, the task is to define and then find their own unique career hole. Marc shows his process for helping square pegs find their unique career hole.
[13:28] Define Your Career Hole: Another way to put this is “Know thyself.” You cannot target your ideal working environment unless you know what it is. You cannot find your unique career hole if you can’t define it. Can you clearly articulate what your ideal working environment looks like? For 99% of you, the answer is no.
[13:54] Reflect on when you’ve been happy in seven different areas in your career: Boss. When did you have a boss you really liked? What made that person a good boss? Team. When did you have a really great team? What was the makeup of that team? Value. When did you feel valued at work? What made you feel valued?
[14:20] Structure. How much structure do you need at work? Who should create that structure? Variety. How much variety do you need in a day? Emotions. Do you need a supportive emotional environment at work? Activity. How much activity do you need?
[14:40] You can use Marc’s Career Reflection Worksheet to help with this. Once you have clearly defined when things were really good in the past, go back to times when things were really bad.
[14:54] Marc uses the Birkman Assessment with his clients to pick out situations that highlight what causes them stress. Once you have identified those situations, you can determine how to avoid them. You can clearly identify the shape of that unique career hole. You can start the search, locating your unique career hole.
[15:15] Now, you have figured out what kind of peg you are and what kind of career hole you need. Create a list of open-ended questions you will use to investigate the companies where you’re thinking of working, to find out if they fit the bill. These questions will evolve, over time. Marc lists sample questions you might use.
[15:48] Develop a set of questions for each of the seven areas above.
[15:52] Next, target companies within your industry or profession that can hire you. You can dutifully use your questions to determine what companies have a unique career hole that matches your requirements. It will take a great deal of tenacity and patience.
[16:11] For some square pegs, it means going to work for themselves. For others, it means working for small organizations that are willing to create unique career holes for you. Do you know the shape of your unique career hole? Are you ready to define it?
[16:27] Find restorative niches. Marc appears to be an extrovert because he is a great public speaker. He can work a networking event with the best of them. He can meet and mingle with strangers with ease. When Marc is done, he is exhausted!
[16:46] Marc’s extrovert abilities did not develop overnight. In 22 years at IBM, he slowly became “a geek who could speak.” He was paid more money to do this. By his late 30s and 40s, his back would spasm one or more times a year and down for a week or more.
[17:07] Finally, Marc had a disk rupture and after taking three months off for bed rest, he kept going. Now that he is over 60, he has to be careful how much public speaking he does. Like other square pegs, Marc has to learn to take time to recover.
[17:23] Recently, Marc presented a workshop in Dallas, on working for a multi-generational company. He drove for three hours from Austin to Dallas in the morning, listening to podcasts, gave the two-hour workshop, and drove three hours back again. The time in the car gave Marc a restorative niche.
[17:44] Marc has to allow a lot of ‘alone time’ before and after being around people. If he does not, he is ‘dead’ for the rest of the day. As good as Marc is at being around people and presenting workshops, he is a square peg. ‘Shoving himself’ into that round hole is exhausting, especially now that he is older.
[18:08] If you are a square peg, a restorative niche might be listening to your favorite music while you work, doing creative projects in your spare time, or connecting with people with a similar cultural background. You still need to do the work to find your right-shaped niche, but this will keep you sane while you do it.
[18:31] Marc repeats his opening statement: In pretty much every job, you have to play a role, even if you work for yourself. You have to play a role with your customers or clients. The closer your role is to who you are, the happier you will be.
[18:47] Action Steps: Are you a square peg? Write down what roles you have been playing throughout your career that you would like to stop playing, now. Write down some of your personal square peg attributes and how they could be useful in different jobs and businesses. How can you find a way to work around them, where necessary?
[19:10] Write down some questions you can ask an employer that would help you see how well you and the organization’s culture could fit.
[19:18] Marc hopes you enjoyed this chapter. Marc is very much a square peg. Marc has never fit neatly in corporate roles. He has always forced himself to fit. When he hit his 50s, he found life to be exhausting. Marc now implements regular restorative niches whenever he does things that suck the life out of him, like being around a lot of people.
[19:45] You will find a link to the Career Reflection Worksheet mentioned in the chapter in the Show Notes for this episode at CareerPivot.com/episode-129.
[19:59] The Career Pivot Community website has become a valuable resource for the 50 members who are participating in the Beta phase of this project. Marc is preparing to recruit new members for the next cohort.
[20:11] If you are interested in the endeavor and would like to be put on the waiting list, please go to CareerPivot.com/Community. When you sign up you’ll receive information about the community as it evolves.
[20:25] Those who are in these initial cohorts set the direction of this endeavor. This is a paid membership community with group coaching and special content. More importantly, it’s a community where you can seek help. Please go to CareerPivot.com/Community to learn more. They are now starting a writers’ group.
[20:59] Marc invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.com/in/mrmiller. Just include in the connection request that you heard Marc on this podcast. You can look for Career Pivot on Facebook, LinkedIn, or @CareerPivot on Twitter.
[21:19] Please come back next week, when Marc interviews Rich Karlgaard, who is the publisher of Forbes Magazine and the Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.
[21:35] Marc thanks you for listening to the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
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