Several times I have had the pleasure of being asked to be a guest speaker for a first year Psychology class a friend of mine teaches, “Life and Career Planning.” I met my friend and mentor, now a vibrant 80-year-old, nearly four years ago when she came into a workshop I was giving when working in a position as an employment specialist.
Two years ago, as I was driving onto the campus for one of these talks, I felt such a sense of anxiety pass over me. It had been seven months since I had spoken in front of any group of people. I am not unaccustomed to either talking, or getting in front of people to do so! My stomach started churning more turbulently as I drove closer to the parking lot.
My fears? “It has been too long!” “I have nothing to say!” “No one will want to listen!”
I called another friend from the parking lot for a pep talk. She reminded me that the only thing that was truth is that it had been seven months since I’d spoken in front of a group.
The talk went brilliantly.
I don’t know from where I dig it all up. I hadn’t really planned anything. I usually just “wing it,” though I hear that planning might make it less stressful. I’m not so sure that would be true for me.
I began by asking the students what they hoped to gain from a class in “Life & Career Planning.” I followed it with a question that others tell me is a gutsy move: “What is it that you expect from me today?” It gave me just enough time to categorize in my head what I was probably going to say anyway. I simply needed time to make sense of it as it would relate to them.
Their answers? They wanted to hear my own story of my work experience. They wanted ideas, options, and answers. They wanted to be inspired.
My own career, as it is and has been, is “all over the place.” So by using my own life (anonymously) as an example, I showed them how to take all that has been done in any working or volunteer capacity, define the skills and the personality traits possessed, and to begin to identify where that “good fit” might be-sometimes in a direction that may not seem to be an option. The next step is to cross off the job skills that give little pleasure and highlight those that excite a spark of hope, matching personality traits to the skills that are life-giving.
So little time was spent on those specifics. I wanted to help them to approach looking at themselves differently. I shared my belief that the job search will take care of itself once they know themselves. I encouraged them to see a job search as simply as one facet of life.
I shared the four things I believe are important in how to plan life and find a career:
1. Find your passion–know who you are and what drives you to be yourself.
2. Think outside of the box–find alternative ways to do what it is you want to do. Don’t limit yourself to what others view as the right or wrong way, but be open to doing things differently than what the norm might prescribe.
3. Inspire yourself–though we often look to others to inspire us, true inspiration comes from within. The etymology of the word is from the Latin, “inspirare,” which means to breathe. Inspiration is what breathes life into us. Read books, find quotes, journal, etc. which encourage growth. Surround yourself with others who support you in what you want to do in your life. Look for mentors, who help to give you the strength to find your inner breath. But ultimately, be your own inspiration! Dig deep!
4. Have a sense of humor–be able to laugh at yourself.
After 40 minutes or so, I opened it up to their questions.
The first question was, “In the course of your life, did you ever have any fear?” I laughed and answered, “Yes, as recently as walking into this room!” as I shared the fear I felt driving to the campus.
Another bit of feedback I received was that they thought I was “a motivational speaker.” Again, I laughed and told them “only for about the last 30 minutes!” I seem to be surprised or amazed when others see me as strong, confident, fearless and accomplished, when I feel just the opposite sometimes.
What I appreciate about these moments is that I’m given a reminder that my inspiration comes from within me. I must continue to surround myself with those who support the notion that I already am an inspirational speaker, a mentor, accomplished and successful, and a role model. I must learn to hold on to it, believe it, and live it.
Now, I just need to find a way to get paid for it!