25 Things I Love About Work

25 Things I Love About Work

This morning before I sat down to write, I was feeling stressed out because I got off to a late start and don't have as much time to write as I normally do. "What will I write about in such little time?!," I wondered. "I have to get this done ASAP so I can make those website updates today!," I thought.

Then, a sweet little ping of inspiration hit me: I can have fun with this.

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Is Your Emotional Frequency Making Work Harder?

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequencyThis post goes out to all you spiritual woo-woo types who, like me, are finding ways to blend ancient wisdom with modern-day professionalism. I've got my flower child headband on, my kombucha to sip, and my Birkenstocks are close by in case I need to run out and hug a tree. Here's what I'm proposing today: your energy (or vibe) might be making work a lot harder than it needs to be.

It's something I think about and am attuned to personally in my work, and I want to expand upon a scientific concept that I learned about on Jess Lively's podcast, which you can check out here.

The concept that got me thinking about all of this is quantum mechanics. On Lively's podcast, she tells us about a groundbreaking experiment that Einstein did that I'll attempt to put into very simple lingo below:

  • He wanted to find out what got electrons moving
  • He used light and found that the intensity of the light wasn't what got things working - it was the frequency
  • If the light was of a low frequency radiation, it would take way more intensity to get the electrons to move
  • But with a high frequency light, he only needed a little intensity

Now, for this to make sense or even matter to us, we have to buy into the belief that all matter emits vibrational frequencies. To quote physicist Don Lincoln, "Everything—and I mean everything—is just a consequence of many infinitely-large fields vibrating."

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequency

This includes you and the emotions that you feel. Using techniques from the field of applied kinesiology, David Hawkins demonstrated that different emotions emit vibrations of varying frequencies. You can see his "Scale of Consciousness" in the photo to your left.

Are you still with me? 

Do you wanna smoke some peyote and dance under the full moon? I kid. Mostly.

If it's true that everything - including our emotions - vibrates and that low vibrational frequencies are less effective in creating movement than high frequencies are, then it could also follow that approaching our work from a place of shame, anger, and fear is a recipe for suffering.

This has been absolutely true in my experience, and I can share a little anecdote in case it's helpful.

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, Let the Pain of Not Knowing Lead You, I went through a pretty rough patch in my worklife last year. Business was slow, I didn't know what I was doing, and I was really worried about money. I definitely wasn't at my best.

Everything with work felt hard. I felt like I was trying to force something that just wasn't meant to be. I looked at job postings online. I almost signed a contract gig even though it gave me the heebie-jeebies all over. I felt desperate and lost.

Here are the two primary factors that got me out of that awful, no-good place:

Admitting how bad and ashamed I felt that my business wasn't really working, and...

Raising my emotional frequency by having fun and taking care of myself.

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequency

Nearing my 30th birthday, I'd had enough and decided to splurge on a trip to a cabin in the Mt. Hood National Forest with my sweetie. It was right along a river, had no internet connection, and it was quiet. So quiet.

I really enjoyed myself there - I read, we cooked, I laid in the hammock listening to the river bubble by.

And when I checked my email the day we got home, I'd made more money than I had in the past three months.

This hasn't proven to be an anomaly, either, I promise. My work resonates the most, whether it's through sweet emails from blog readers, workshop sign-ups, or opportunities that cross my path, when I a) set it up from a place of wholeness and inspiration and b) check out to go have more fun.

I never, ever, get the most exciting opportunities when I'm bummed out, desperately checking email or forcing the work.

There's a major difference between worn-out, raggedy ass hustle and aligned, intentional flow.

If you're finding that the electrons in your life aren't exactly moving in the right direction (or aren't moving at all), I'd encourage you to consider addressing your emotional frequency.

When you're focused on the thing you're trying to activate, whether it's a career you love, an intimate relationship, or anything you really want, notice how you feel.

Do you feel desperate? Do you feel angry that it's hasn't landed in your lap yet? Do you feel ashamed that you're so torn up about it?

Or do you feel excited about the idea? Do you feel like you can just assume it will show up? Do you feel light about it, even if it requires a lot of planning or action?

megan leatherman career coach human resources work emotional frequencyYour body knows the difference between forcing and creating. And luckily for us, we can change our emotional frequencies so that our actions are actually helpful instead of being rooted in those low vibes.

Here are five effective ways to amp up your emotional frequency so that you can do less pushing and more enjoying no matter what it is you're trying to make happen.

  1. Meditate. I know I harp on this a lot, and every guru in the world is telling us to do it, but there's a reason. If we can't get disciplined in our mind, it's harder to notice and shift our emotions. One of my favorite meditation apps, which all of my clients love too, is Headspace. It's free for the first 10 meditations. Try it out.
  2. Have more fun. I don't know what counts as fun for you, but having fun is absolutely the responsible thing to do. Do more of it. Most of us don't get enough.
  3. Treat your body right. If everything emits a frequency, and if higher vibes are generally more effective, how do you think that box of Pringles I just ate is gonna help? It's not. We're more able to do better work, quantum-leap work, when we're well rested, our gut is balanced, and we're moving our body regularly.
  4. Fast from social media and email from time to time. It's almost like there's an inverse relationship between how well my work goes and how often I'm online. At some point, the scales tip and all my fastidious checking and browsing becomes detrimental. Step back. For at least a few hours, or a day, or whatever you can manage. I promise it will up-level your vibe.
  5. Be careful about who you hang out with. Only the most "enlightened" among us can be surrounded by complaining, negative, toxic people all day and not be impacted. The rest of us are very sensitive and pick up all sorts of stuff from the people we're around. If you want to keep your frequency high, try to limit the amount of time you're with people who make you feel like shit.

Those are five of the things that have worked for me consistently and that continue to nurture my soul, work, and relationships.

Try some of them out the next time you feel like work is unnecessarily hard, or like you're pushing for something that's just not budging.

I bet you'll notice the movement kick in - movement that's graceful and light and that feels so easy you're not sure it's real.

If you're a working woman who wants more of this kind of ease and flow in her career, I'd invite you to check out my upcoming series of mini-retreats, A Wild New Work.

 

 

 

Let the Pain of Not Knowing Lead You

A few nights ago, Chris and I watched a documentary called Prescription Thugs, which is essentially about the prescription opioid epidemic in the United States. I can't say I'd really recommend the film, but it got me thinking about a dark side of our boot strappin', problem-solving culture: careers work pain coaching megan leatherman

Many of us believe that pain is always bad.

Sometimes pain is a bad sign - it can be your body's indication that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

Other times, however, pain is a good thing. Pain protects us by making sure we don't touch hot surfaces, run into sharp objects, or hurt ourselves in other ways.

Pain can also be a necessary gateway we have to pass through in order to get to the other side of something.

This has been on my mind a lot as I approach giving birth in just a couple of months. Well-meaning moms and doctors have often shared horror stories about the pain of childbirth, and there's a whole narrative swirling around that says "pain in childbirth is bad, so get rid of it."

The epidural and other pain-relieving medications have been lifesavers for many moms, and I believe every woman should be given the opportunity to give birth in whatever way she wants to - painlessly, painfully, or otherwise.

But the idea that pain is automatically bad is wrong - in childbirth and in personal growth, the pain is necessary in order to complete the cycle of bringing new life into the world.

Not knowing what to do with our gifts can be incredibly painful.

Sometimes the question feels so big that we just want to avoid it, hopping from misfit job to misfit job. But the denial that something is painful or the belief that it shouldn't be painful can actually make things worse. As the Zen master Alan Watts says:

"There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering."

Finding your way and giving birth to your gifts is excruciating sometimes, and that doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong.

The pain of not knowing can actually help us get to the knowing if we'll sit with it, stop pretending that it's not happening, and maybe even befriend it.

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If there's a part of you that hurts because you feel like you've lost your way in life or your career, I'd encourage you to try something a little "out there" but incredibly effective:

Ask the pain what it needs.

Imagine the pain as a color or a shape inside of you - give it some texture and dimension. Approach it lovingly. Then ask: what do you need right now?

Maybe it just needs time to work itself out. Maybe it needs you to do that thing you're afraid to do. Maybe you won't get a straight answer right away, but keep paying attention to how it feels in your body. Notice it and try not to be afraid of its presence.

The pain you feel can be a gift - it indicates that there's something more for you out there.

If you can lovingly accept the pain of not knowing, you give yourself the space and self-compassion you need in order to find what you seek.

Not knowing what you want to do in your worklife can feel incredibly isolating, which is why it's so important to surround yourself with others who are positive and encouraging. The Facebook group I facilitate is one such community, and I invite you to join us.

How to Know If You Need a Professional Tune-Up

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In just a couple of weeks, my friend Claire and I are starting a series of "professional support groups" called Realigning Your Professional Self. We wanted to put this together for a couple of key reasons: First, there are not enough spaces where professionals can vent, gain perspective, or just be seen and heard. Work is hard, y'all, and without a safe place to process what goes on there, we can get burnt out, resentful, and lost.

Second, not everyone needs a major career overhaul. Sometimes we just need small tune-ups along the way, as if we're getting a regular "Career Oil Change."

It can be tough to know if we really need something to be different in our career or if something else is at play in another area of our lives. If you're feeling relatively healthy and stable in your body, your relationships, and your finances, it's much easier to pinpoint a work-related issue.

Even if you're not feeling stable in those areas, however, there are still a few sure signs that a tune-up would be useful:

  • You constantly feel overwhelmed and mentally "flooded" at work
  • You get a pit in your stomach when you walk through the office door or even think about going to work
  • You find yourself getting anxious, angry, or sad at the end of your weekends
  • You're exhibiting physical symptoms that weren't there previously, like a racing heart, excessive sweating, headaches, etc.

Other less urgent signals might be things like boredom, feeling drained at the end of each day, or just sensing a tug toward something new.

None of these signs mean you're bad or that you've done something wrong, they're simply your intuition trying to send you a message.

You probably need a little professional realignment, and knowing what kind of tune-up you need is immensely helpful.

When we're in that space of sensing that something's not quite right, we can ask two powerful questions that are posited by Chris Guillebeau in his fun and accessible book, Born For This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do.

The first question to ask ourselves is: Is it working?

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Is the work you're doing actually working, as in: Is it bringing in enough money for you? Are you able to produce quality work? Is what you're creating resonating with the people it's meant to resonate with? Basically, is your career functional?

The second question is: Do you still enjoy it?

You might be getting promotions left and right, but do you hate the work? That's a red flag. In order to create a career that's energizing, meaningful, and a reflection of your unique giftedness, it's critical that you actually enjoy the day to day work.

Try to determine whether you enjoy the work itself or the fruit of the work, like praise from others, the "status" it gives you, industry accolades, etc. While all of those things might be fun results, if you don't feel a connection to the work itself, you may not be operating in alignment with your strengths, which can eventually feel really draining.

If your answer to both of those questions is "yes," then you're probably in the right spot professionally, which is great!

If you answered "no" to one of them, then maybe it's time to make a career pivot or switch some things up in your current environment. This might mean that you need to take on more responsibility at work, foster more connection with your peers, or commit to doing less each day. Your first step if you answered "no" to just one of them will be to try and optimize the aspects of where you are right now.

If you answered "no" to both of them, then something bigger needs to shift so that you can be expressing your gifts in a way that's more fulfilling and in a way that actually works. If you're in this bucket, there are a lot of amazing resources available to you, whether it's a book like Born for This, a career coach you connect with, or (the most amazing resource) your own intuition.

A very important point: going through this exercise will only be helpful if we can be completely honest with ourselves as we answer those two questions.

If there's any part of you that hesitates to admit that things aren't working, or that tries to convince yourself that you do still enjoy it when deep down you know you don't, notice it.

It can be really hard to admit to ourselves that something we've worked at for so long just isn't fitting for us anymore. I've been in that place, and I can tell you how uncomfortable it is.

This summer, I reached a breaking point in my own worklife where I knew that the answer to that first question, "Is it working?" was a "No." My work didn't seem to be resonating with my community, the money wasn't flowing like I needed it to, and things were just totally stagnant.

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It took a while to accept this reality, but finally I broke down to a mentor and, in-between tears, I admitted that things were broken.

Just saying those words was incredibly freeing. It didn't mean I knew how to fix things, but I was putting so much effort toward strategies that were getting me nowhere, and in that moment, I got to reclaim all of that misguided energy.

It felt terrifying to face the shame I felt. I had been subconsciously hiding this secret, that things weren't working, because I thought that if I admitted it, it meant that I was a failure - that I couldn't be an entrepreneur, or a coach, or a help to anyone. But that wasn't true.

It was my own fear of facing what was really going on that was hindering my ability to support myself and others.

As with every other time I've spoken the truth to myself, I felt free.

I could rest. I could cry and admit that things really sucked. I let myself feel some self-pity, I declared that I wanted things to be different, and then something really lovely happened: the clarity I needed came to me and I've had the best three months I've ever had in my business.

I say all this because while Guillebeau's questions are elegantly simple, our egos can over-complicate things in order to try to protect us from the truth.

The truth will feel clear and expansive to you. Even though I didn't like the fact that I had to answer "No" to that first question, it was so lucid that it felt like an immense relief to accept it.

We have to be honest with ourselves if we're going to find our way.

If you're seeing the signs that something isn't working for you anymore, it can be an amazing opportunity to practice authenticity. You can choose freedom and answer those questions in a way that resonates deeply with you - the way that only the truth can.

What Nature Can Teach Us About New Year's Resolutions

On December 21st, we passed through Winter Solstice - that gate that comes once a year to remind us that we're returning to longer days and more light. Between now and the Summer Solstice in June, the light will slowly, almost imperceptibly, return. megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions

I love two things about the Solstice:

  1. It always comes, twice a year, without any interference from humans. It's a sure thing, and a good reminder that we don't have to force change - the Earth shifts and moves in its own perfect time.
  2. It's a slow change. Instead of everything changing in a jarring instant, it happens in increments that add up over time, until before we know it, we're out playing in the daylight until 9:00 at night. It's smooth and artful.

 

Contrast this with the pushy, neon energy of New Year's Eve.

I think it's sweet that people want to celebrate bringing in the New Year, but the whole champagne-popping, bright lights-flashing, party-hat scene has never jived with me.

Not only does the celebration itself feel empty, but the amount of "New Year, New You" marketing emails and advertisements that come at us this time of year feels pretty overwhelming.

The intent behind all of these emails and programs isn't negative - there really is something to the idea of starting a new year that's invigorating. But the urgency associated with them is so unnatural.

It's healthy to seek change and create goals that come from our depths and really support our dreams. That said, too often we're pushed into creating rigid programs for ourselves that rarely end up producing the benefits we were seeking.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions

We enroll ourselves in "Boot Camp" or commit to "Whipping ourselves into shape," believing that the new year is a time to fit into stuffy boxes of personal change.

If there's something your heart really wants to be different in 2017, I think that's beautiful.

But instead of creating an Excel spreadsheet outlining the steps toward change or signing up for a program that treats you like something bad that needs to be "fixed," I'd encourage you to take a different approach.

Keep it simple and give it space to grow.

The Solstice comes twice a year without our having to will it. The light waxes and wanes, the waves ebb and flow, and the flora and fauna thrive when it's time.

We can take notes from the natural world around us and follow a similar arc in the journey of our souls.

I'll give you an example that I think illustrates the benefits of this approach.

I was working with a client we'll call "Jo," who was feeling really desperate to have a new career in 2017. She created to-do lists, she set ambitious goals, and she gave herself a firm deadline to go by.

And yet, every week, making time to focus on her career changes would get pushed aside. I'd check in with her about her progress, and she'd feel down and frustrated that she couldn't get to the things she wanted to, but she remained committed to her deadline.

So there was tension: not much was happening in the present moment, which made her feel bad, but she didn't want to abandon the rigid structures and timelines she had set up for herself.

It was a recipe for failure, and she was feeling like shit along the way.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions

So, through some honest reflection and re-configuring, we came up with a new approach: ditch the lists and the deadline, and put that energy toward one hour of career nurturing per week.

One hour in which she was giving her dream of a new career the space to grow, without the pressure to check everything off or figure it out by a certain date.

When we break out of rigid systems that aren't working for us, there's tremendous freedom and creativity released.

And that happened for Jo.

Sure enough, she actually started creating the dream she'd envisioned. She looked forward to that hour every week. She was playful with it and found that it created the momentum she needed in order to do the hard work of transitioning into something new.

Making the changes we want in the new year can be a natural, fun, and enlivening process.

We may feel the pressure to set deadlines and whip ourselves into action, but oftentimes that just paralyzes us in a space of inaction and shame because we're "not doing enough."

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutionsI want to support thoughtful professionals make the changes they seek in healthier, more sustainable ways.

On January 11th, I'm offering a free webinar called How to Work in a Wild New Way, and it has nothing to do with pushing you to make resolutions or commitments that don't align with who you really are. It has everything to do with making work fit for you naturally, in your own perfect time, and I'd love to have you join us.

Click here to learn more and sign up.

One Powerful Thing You Can Do to Feel Less Overwhelmed

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI'm due to have a baby in March of 2017, and I never knew (until being pregnant myself) how much pressure there is on new and expectant moms. There are about 1,000,000 things you're "supposed" to be doing before the baby arrives: take lots of supplements, eat more protein, stop drinking so much coffee, kegels, sleep more, buy things, choose a name...the list goes on and on. Oh, and on top of all that: relax! Stress hurts the baby, and you need to keep your blood pressure down.

It's a horrible, annoying spiral of "not enough" that's so easy to get sucked into.

On top of trying to be a good baby-grower, I'm running a business, which has had to shift and accommodate as I grow and approach giving birth.

I know 2016 has been a year of next-level stress and change for many of us, and we've seen that played out on a larger scale through global events.

It's not difficult these days to feel overwhelmed and like we're not doing enough. In fact, I think that's kind of the baseline for a lot of people, especially those of us who want to grow and develop into more awakened, loving professionals.

A not-so-helpful thing can happen when we're experiencing life stress: we add on the pressure to deal with that stress in a "better" way.

For example, not only did I feel the pressure to be a good pregnant woman, I found myself feeling bad about not managing that pressure in a more "enlightened" way. In an attempt to grow and develop, I'd listen to podcasts about how we need to separate from our egos more, or about how we need to manage our time more intentionally. I didn't listen to these podcasts because I really wanted to, I listened to them because I believed I wasn't handling things in "the right way."

I totally believe the things I heard on those podcasts, but berating myself for still having thoughts that made me feel anxious only compounded my sense of feeling overwhelmed.

If you're feeling the weight of a shifting world, a heavy load of responsibilities, and the pressure to constantly improve yourself, I want to share one thing you can do today to give yourself some breathing room:

Stop trying to be better.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantDon't read another article about how you can change until it's because you want to. Don't get any more advice from anyone until you've taken some deep breaths and centered yourself again.

Let go of the pressure to be and do more.

Chances are, you're being and doing enough already.

I'm all for self-improvement and development, but sometimes I find myself turning the desire to grow into an obligation and another thing I'm not doing "correctly." But the thing is, we are all already growing. In the natural world, everything that is alive can't help but grow - even when it's on the path to death.

If we are part of the natural world, then we can't help but grow, either. Even in the midst of what feels like a burden we can't possibly carry or get through, we are growing. We're progressing in small ways every moment without even trying.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and like you're not handling it the way you should, please give yourself some grace and let go of the need to be better.

I know this is a hard lesson to learn - I'm learning it, too - but we have to stop hating ourselves and trust that we're evolving even when we don't feel very good.

So just be who you are today.

Do the best you can, and accept that it's enough.

When you're ready, you'll make the tweaks you need to in order to feel more grounded and less overwhelmed. Magically, those changes will be much easier to make when they come from you, not from external pressure to be better.

 

Be Where You Are

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Generally, the people who come to me for coaching are looking for help with the future. They wonder what they'll do for work, how they'll make a living doing what they enjoy, or how they'll get unstuck from office politics.

They wonder what will happen, which is a fair question when you're not comfortable with what is happening.

I love the future. I could live my entire life there, imagining possibilities, wishing for this that and the other, creating plans and spreadsheets, on and on.

The tricky thing is, fixating on the future makes it that much more elusive because it robs us of the energy to do something to create that future. We imagine and pine for the life we want and in the meantime, neglect the steps that could actually take us there.

The other week in one of my daily meditations, I tried an exercise I heard about on a podcast with Jess Lively. You write a question down and then wait for your intuition to answer, which you also write down. It's like you're taking notes for a conversation between your mind and your intuition.

This particular morning, I woke up feeling anxious about work, which I know is a total waste of time, but I'm human, and it happens. In my meditation, my mind kept going to the future, worrying about how I'd do this, how I'd make that happen, etc.

So I asked my intuition:

What can I do today to help make my business thrive?

Here's the answer I got:

Be present with every client today. Love them. Let go of the need to fix things.

Be where you are.

You see, I was freaking out about the future despite the fact that I had a full day of client work to look forward to, in a new office that I loved, with women who are brave and a lot of fun to be around.

My business was thriving, but my ego and my lizard brain were going berserk. My intuition showed up to help me re-align with the kind of person I want to be in the world.

You know what could really cause my business to un-thrive? Worrying about how to get more clients in the future and being blind to the people who were already showing up, doing the work, and giving me the opportunity to support them - right now.

What I keep learning, and what I share with the people on this path with me, is that the magic is right here. 

All we can really do to create a future that we'll love is to love this present moment - to be here now, to accept what's happening, and to take the next, most open-hearted step forward.

Imagining the future you want to create is a lot of fun, and a worthwhile exercise for sure - it's something I do with everyone I see for coaching. But it has to be balanced by presence.

We can't neglect the gifts right in front of us and think more of them will just show up on command. We build a life - and a career - we love by honoring the gifts that are here now, by being present with the people in our lives, and by letting go of the need to figure it all out.

This is much easier said than done, of course, but I know we can all exercise this muscle.

Let's say you work with someone who drives you absolutely nuts - someone who gets under your skin every day. Your modus operandi thus far has been to resist them: to avoid interactions, to push back, and to complain about them to anyone who will listen. You think, "If they would just leave the company, my life would be so much better."

Can you be where you are with this person? Can you accept that no matter what the future holds, you're tasked to work with them right now?  Can you let go of the need to fix things with them and just allow yourself a deep breath?

Can you ask yourself, "What is the next most loving step - loving to myself and to this other person - that I can take in this moment?"

How does that change things?

Is it possible that by staying present and focused on the next best step, you're actually already transforming your relationship with this person into something more positive?

This practice could be applied to any situation at work - a desire to leave, an urge to figure out what your career will look like in five years, or anxiety about an upcoming performance review.

We're simply being asked to be where we are; then, when we're present, to take the most loving step forward.

It can be that simple if we'll let it be.

How to Re-engage with a Stagnant Job

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It can be really hard to know whether it's time to leave a stagnant job or just make some tweaks to improve the situation. If you're like me, then your first assumption when something really isn't working is to leave. Change. Move on. Most of the time, I appreciate my inclination to cut out what's not working and move on quickly, but that's not always a helpful impulse.

Sometimes when we're feeling the urge to leave a job, it's not because we really should - it's because our orientation to the job needs to change.

All of us get stagnant in our work from time to time, and we start to wonder how to shake things up again: do we leave? Do we stay? Do we stay but make changes?

Stagnation in a job can show up as fatigue, procrastination, or a general "numbness" to the work. There's a sense of agitation, like we just know that something's not right.

If you're feeling this way, I'd encourage you to slow down and carve out at least 10-20 minutes per day to get quiet and connect with your intuition. These periods of feeling stalled are so ripe for a deeper connection with our inner voice, which is there to help us figure these things out.

Assuming you're setting aside quiet time to still your mind, get outdoors, journal - whatever it is for you - then I have some ideas for how you can make the most of the situation while you're waiting for the answer to "what's next"?

Here are three things I suggest for folks who are feeling like their career is entering a transition period:

First, let go of the pressure to figure this out.

Your soul is on its own timeline, and it does not respond to our frantic rushing (trust me, I've tried). This transition will go much more smoothly if you can settle in and assume that the path will open up when it's time. Your life isn't a sudoku puzzle that you can solve with your mind. There are other things at play, and when we can stay calm and trust the process, we'll get the results that we need.

So, the mantra for this period is: "I'll know what to do when it's time."

Second, amp up the emotional labor you're putting into the work.

"Emotional labor" is a term I first heard from Seth Godin, and it's essentially the effort we put into cultivating meaningful connection through our work. It's the amount of effort we put into building strong, authentic relationships or expressing who we really are in what we do.

It's easier for many of us not to expend emotional labor at work. We like to hide behind our professional "personas." But if we're going to create careers that are meaningful, we have to expend emotional labor.

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We need your heart in the work you do, and you need it, too. When we shield ourselves from the work and don't make the effort to show up human, doing work we're proud of, we stagnate - no matter how awesome the job was at first.

You can amp up emotional labor instantly. You can genuinely ask your coworker about his weekend. You can check in with your gut as you start on your next task and see if there's more "you" that you can put into it. You can be honest when your boss asks you how you feel about something.

The more you can show up in this way, the more energy you'll cultivate at this job, which will multiply and create momentum for whatever's next.

Finally, toss your job description in the trash.

It doesn't matter what you're "supposed" to do at work. Forget about that for a minute. Here's my question to you instead: what needs to get done?

Where are there holes? Who's in pain? In your sphere of influence (which is larger than you might think), who needs help? How can you help them?

Stagnation comes up when we've mastered our day to day work enough to feel like we could be doing more. We're going through the motions, starting to feel bored, but then we wait for someone else to give us the freshness we're seeking. We think we have to stay in these boxes because anything else just "isn't our job."

Choose instead to look around you. What can you help with? How can you expand your influence in a way that feels generous and interesting to you?

Now, if you're feeling stagnant, you might believe that there's no point in exerting extra effort where you are. But now is exactly the time for you to see your organization and the work with fresh eyes. Try pretending it's your first day again. What do you see? Where can you connect? Where can you show up more fully?

If you try these things, you'll start to create movement that will nourish you, and that movement will help clarify what it is you're meant to do next.

If you do these and get stalled at every turn by systems or peers who want to keep you in one particular box, then it may be time to leave.

But give them a chance. Do the work. Bring a little more of yourself to work each day. 

No matter where your path ends up leading you, you will have done your part to be present with wherever you are, which is such a gift to the rest of us.

How to Talk About Your Career When You Have No Idea What You're Doing

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

The holidays are coming. This means that there could be a lot of unstructured family time in your future, which you might be dreading.

Getting together for meals and merriment with well-meaning loved ones can be a real challenge when you're not feeling awesome about where you are in life. The same feelings can come up when you're trying to network with peers in the midst of a personal or professional transition.

It can be really difficult to talk about your career confidently and enthusiastically when you're just not sure what it is you're aiming to do.

But here's the thing:

It's okay to not know what you're doing.

It's okay not to know what kind of work you're interested in, or how you'll make a living, or what you're good at. A lot of people actually don't know this for themselves, they're just pretending like they do because it feels safer.

I commend you for not knowing, and while I know that's not a comfortable place to be in for very long, it means you've started the process of finding an authentic path, which is one of the bravest acts anyone can do.

So, now that you know it's okay not to have it all figured out, let's talk about how you're going to interface with Aunt Gertrude at Christmas Dinner.

I want to make the ideas below digestible so that you can easily recall them at your next networking event or family gathering. I'll give you a little acronym in case it's helpful: IFCBS.

I: Intend

Before you engage with anyone you're a bit nervous about talking to, get really clear on your intentions for the interaction. A lot of people (and I've done this myself) go into these conversations without having thought about it ahead of time and then end up feeling totally deflated and confused afterward.

So what do you intend to happen with your family or your network when you give them an update on your career? Are you intending to solicit advice? Are you intending to share without getting advice? Are you intending to be a little more open this time around, or maybe a little more reserved?

All intentions are good as long as they fit for you and are really clear in your mind's eye before you engage.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

F: Frame

How we frame our experience - to ourselves and to others - is incredibly important. Just the other day, I was working with a client who was feeling really nervous about seeing her family and having to explain that she "still" wasn't working. When she described what she'd have to tell them, she used a phrase like "Well, I still don't know what I'm doing, but I'm working with a coach, so I hope I'll figure it out..."

I noticed that and offered a different approach instead - something like "I'm being really intentional about my next step and I'm not ready to talk about it yet, but I'm feeling more energized than I ever have about the work I'm going to do."

Both of those sentences could technically be true, but can you see how they elicit different responses from others?

When I offered her that re-frame, her whole energy shifted. She sat up straight, took a deep breath, and took up more space in the chair. She came across as grounded and sure of herself, which was wonderful to see and will impact her family in a more positive way.

See if you can take what you normally tell people make it more powerful and positive. It might feel like you're faking it, but you're not - you get to decide how you frame your experience.

The more you hear yourself reframe your experience into one that's intentional and positive, the better you'll feel, which really impacts how you'll come across to others.

C: Curiosity

Family and friends can be really weird when we're in the midst of a big life transition like a career change. They often mean well but ask questions that make us feel small and defensive, like "What will you do with that degree?" or "But you can't make any money that way - how will you live?"

Curiosity is your friend. It's always your friend, but it's your bestie during family gatherings. Instead of getting hot and bothered because your dad is grilling you again about "when you're going to grow up," see if you can take a curious orientation instead. Ask yourself why your actions bother him so much. What is it about how you're living that causes him to act this way? What about his past is coming out at you?

The reactions others have about our lives is always about them. It is not about you. When you start stretching and making changes, it makes a lot of people around you uncomfortable because it can make them feel insecure about what they're doing with their lives.

Instead of getting defensive and allowing their insecurity to cause you pain, see if you can be like a scientist looking at the interaction objectively and curiously.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

B: Boundaries

Being in the midst of a career change is a precious, vulnerable, and scary time. You're working things out, and oftentimes, getting lots of input from people who want you to stay the same is a recipe for disaster.

You get to decide what you will and won't share with family members, friends, and people in your professional network. If you don't feel like explaining yourself to anyone, you can say "I'm really excited about where I'm heading, but I still want some time to figure it out on my own before talking about it with others."

Or you could say, "I really appreciate you asking, that means a lot, but I read on a blog that it can be helpful to keep the process private until I'm really sure of what direction I'm going in."

You can also be totally open with the fact that you're in the muck and mire of a transition - it's up to you. The point is that it's important to know what our lines are and, when those get crossed, assert our needs and confidently redirect the conversation.

There's no reason you have to be interrogated this holiday season. You call the shots, and you get to decide what you do and don't want to talk about.

S: Self-care

Taking care of yourself is always important, but it's 1,000,000 times more important when you're going through a major transition. This holiday season (and anytime you're doing work on yourself), make sure self-care is a priority. That could look like splurging for a massage while the rest of your family goes shopping, taking a lot of space in your room, going on walks alone, using mantras, or having a friend on speed dial.

The holidays can be a hard time for many of us, for lots of different reasons, but by taking extra good care of our spirits and bodies, it's possible to enjoy them and the fullness they bring.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant
megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

Remember IFCBS this season and anytime you're in the midst of making a change that you're a little unsure about.

If you're in the midst of a holiday gathering or professional event and are just feeling exasperated and like you really do want to make a change but aren't sure how, I'm around. You can always drop me a note here or work with me in a more formal way.

I've been where you are and have felt that sense of dread knowing I'd have to update others on my career. I hope that maybe with this information, it will be a little less painful for you. Take good care of yourself this season, and please reach out if you need to.

What Happens at Work...Stays at Work?

I recently got to speak to a group of Human Resources students at Portland State University, and I went in to talk to them about integrity. megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

My intention was to share with them how powerful integrity can be in our careers, and how it not only sets us apart from others, but it keeps us healthy and full.

One definition of integrity is "the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished," meaning that when we're living in alignment with our values, we're complete.

The truth is, there are a lot of working people who have lost integrity. They've been shaped and rewarded over time to cut corners. They choose to hide their mistakes, or blame them on others. They're so afraid of not fitting in that they never challenge the status quo.

A funny thing can happen when we're part of an organization led by people without integrity: we become like them.

We excuse behavior that we'd never excuse in our personal lives. We look away from problems that we don't want to deal with. We stay silent even when the question that needs to be asked is burning inside of us.

We justify all this because, "that's business." Or "that's just what happens at work." We compartmentalize it even though the fact is that living out of alignment with our values erodes us over time.

Let's pretend that each of us is a stone, and every time we choose not to say how we really feel, act in a way that we don't admire, or go along with something we know is wrong, a drop of water hits us in the same spot.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantAfter years and years of this, our surface erodes. We have an indent. Or a hole forms and the air can flow through us.

This doesn't mean that we're bad or that there's anything to be ashamed of - as social creatures looking for connection, it's natural for us to seek the path that most helps us fit in.

But we're fooling ourselves if we think that we can live without integrity at work and stay whole.

What happens at work definitely doesn't stay at work. 

You carry it in your body, even if you feel like you can mentally or emotionally shut off. Those drips of water still hit your rocky surface, and while you can withstand changing for a while, eventually the water will win (it always does).

Fortunately, everything can change. You can regenerate. You can decide to notice the things at work that aren't in alignment with your values or who you want to be in the world.

You can notice how it feels to carry out policies that diminish people.

You can notice how it feels to enforce rules that you know are stupid.

You can notice how it feels to chase money that will go to pay for your company's destruction of the planet.

You always have a choice, and if you can get a little quiet and reflective, your insides will tell you when something is out of integrity for you.

You'll feel it. It might show up as stress, discomfort, a flushed feeling, fatigue, or back pain. Getting dripped on all day is uncomfortable, but luckily, it's not inevitable.

The question is always, "Who do I want to be?"

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantIf you want to be yourself, which I know is someone with a lot of integrity who deeply cares for others, then you have to be aware of what's eroding you.

Then, you have to decide whether or not you want to be someone who is eroded over time.

This conundrum is less about your work environment and more about your personal choice to live in alignment with your values.

Every work environment, no matter how "evolved" will create opportunities for erosion - pressures or actions that don't line up with us. Some work environments are much more corrosive, however, and if you're doing work all day every day that you know is hurting yourself, others, or the earth, I'd encourage you to revamp your resume and get out of there as fast as you can.

For most of us, however, this is a matter of simply choosing to speak up, to offer a new way of doing things, and to be an example of integrated living.

The next time you're given a choice between doing what feels true to you and keeping up with "business as usual," choose you.

What happens at work can either erode you over time, or it can nurture and expand you, but it will always stay with you either way.