A Nobel pursuit: Reinvent yourself
If you've spent much time at a job, you know that when it comes to your career, you win some, and you lose some.
"And then," as Al Gore often jokes, "there's that little-known third category."
Gore, D-Polar Ice Cap, not only suffered through losing the presidency after winning the most votes, but also saw his old vice-president job go to Dick Cheney, R-Death Star.
Now the guy who used to be the next president of the United States has gone from losing the Oval Office to winning the Nobel Peace Prize -- along with an Emmy and an Oscar. It's the kind of career turnaround that's an inspiration to anyone who's ever suffered a big disappointment at work.
Which is to say: Any one of us who's ever had a job.
Five phases in career losses
Career disappointments don't need to be huge public losses like Gore's. Perhaps you were passed over for Assistant Squishee Manager at the Kwik-E-Mart, or blew a chance to be this week's newest president at Chrysler-Daimler-Benz-Depot LLC XYZ PDQ.
Whatever the loss, you shouldn't succumb to denial and seal your smoldering rage in an emotional lockbox.
"Everybody has had a career crisis of some sort," says Prudence Cole, a Grosse Point career coach who runs the Web site http://www.beingatwork.com/.
Cole notes that in the broad arc of a career, what at first seems like a loss can become a much bigger victory.
But first come five phases that mimic the stages of grief, starting with the shock and anger that comes from losing your work identity, then the bitterness and discouragement when you move into what Cole calls the valley of despair. That's followed by readjusting to the loss, then reinvesting yourself in work through acceptance to find new direction and grow from the loss.
"What I tell my clients is that if you start to climb, you'll end up higher than when you went into this," Cole says.
Let go of old stories
One of Cole's clients went through a career let-down like Gore's. Passed over for a top spot, he asked his bosses to clarify why he was overlooked, only to find that it had less to do with him and more to do with company politics.
"It's important to realize that it's not the whole world rejecting you," Cole says. "It's not even the whole company -- it's just one or two individuals. Work through and let go of the negative emotions that 'I'm angry' or 'I'm a failure' because that doesn't buy you anything. All it does is keep you stuck."
In the end, her client left and found greater success leading another organization.
"It was about letting go of those old stories," Cole says.
Which brings me to an old story about Gore -- the one where he claims to have invented the Internet. The inconvenient truth is that Gore never said anything like that.
And why would he? He was already inventing something much better: himself.
You can reach Brian O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or email@example.com.
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