May 19, 2009

Summertime: Lifeguarding your Career

The summer is a wonderful time to think about life and the future. Things tend to slow down: it's just too hot to rush.

As an academic year employee, I am blessed by having the the summer off and to spend time with my family. We usually travel, hike, and swim ... the usual great summer weather activities. I also spend long hours sorting through and cleaning out closets and files, organizing the stuff of my life. I just do a lot better with little or no clutter.

While I engage in this mindless summer cleaning, clearing and sorting ritual, I think about the different compartments of my life. I think about when I did this and when I did that. I think about the various phases and stages of my personal life and my career.

During high school and college I spent summers as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. It is an awesome responsibility to watch over the lives and safety of so many people at a swimming pool or a lake. Being organized and attentive to detail is essential to being an effective lifeguard and swimming instructor. Planfulness and watchfulness are also key requirements. Being proactive, planning ahead, anticipating problems and hazards, and eliminating them is part of the job. The whole idea of lifeguarding is to avoid having to pull someone up off of the bottom of the pool or lake. Pumping someone back to life is not easy and it is not pretty.

Helping people plan careers is a lot like being a lifeguard and swimming instructor. You spend a lot of time teaching people how to help themselves. I also try to avoid having to salvage someone after a disaster. It is much better to help before a crisis emerges.

I just hate having someone come to me after they have struggled for months with their career or their job search. I hate having to pull them out of the deep end. It's not so bad if they have been floating along in the right direction, or even if they have been safely treading water. But I hate to see those who are flailing about and barely keeping their head above water, becoming fatigued and starting to choke. It makes me wish I had gotten to them sooner and said "Hey! Put on your life jacket!"

So if you are out there swimming in the career waters, and if your feet can't touch bottom, let me tell you right now: "Hey! Put on your life jacket! "

If the water surrounding your career is getting turbulent, start now, start early ... get started on planning your next moves and start swimming in that direction. Get organized, stay alert and stay aware of what's happening around you, focus on your skills, interests and motivations, develop a strategy and a plan to research and pursue your options, and make sure you are ready to face the task ahead with a good attitude and a positive self-presentation. These are the challenges you face and the tasks that lie ahead.

Don't give up and don't let yourself drown. And don't expect someone to pick you up off the bottom of the pool. If your life is cluttered with baggage that is weighting you down and dragging you to the bottom, clean it out and let it go.

An old familiar song says that it's "summertime and the living is easy." But unless the living really is easy for you, it's no time to let the heat slow you down and put you to sleep. Get started and keep moving. Take advantage of opportunity. Don't let these be lazy summer days. Ask yourself each day: "what is the best use of my time right now, today, this week, this month, this year?"

Copyright: Cici Mattiuzzi, 2009