05/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Developing Your Criteria For Personal Success

"Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual." -Homa Bahrami

In my article last week (Unemployment: A Call to Self Discovery) , I explained that newfound unemployment can offer the time needed to engage in a process of self discovery. This is particularly important if you have come into the realization that the career you have been released from is a breath of fresh air after going through a period of "job dread," (you may want to review these concepts outlined in my last article). Perhaps with this lay off comes a voice calling you to your heart's center, beckoning you back to the steering wheel of your life, and into connection with the truth of who you are.

In a world where statistics show that people 18-40 years old change jobs an average of 10 times, it becomes critical to find security that lies within by engaging fully in this discovery period. Self-discovery is the first stage of any career planning process. Finding oneself newly in this stage sometimes elicits fear and insecurity. These feelings are valid and usually show up on the precipice between what we have always known and the great new discoveries we have yet to make, which is exactly where one finds themselves during a period of unemployment. Insecurity is experienced because we have trusted that it is the job itself that will provide us with the security we seek. However, as Bahrami's quote at the beginning of this article illustrates, we have moved into an era in which external security has rendered itself the illusion it has always been. Rather, we must go on this inward journey to connect with the true source of what drives us.

It is in this self-discovery stage where you can identify some of the key inner drivers that include your values and key competencies or preferred skills. These inform the work environment and career in which you will function optimally, and be inspired. Many people have engaged in some form of values assessments and skills assessments early in careers, perhaps as far back as college. However, as people grow, change jobs, change careers and change life circumstances, preferred skills and even values may also shift. These workplace values, and key competencies have a direct impact on your satisfaction with your job, with your career, and even with your life.

Sometimes, as in the case with unemployment our journey to self-discovery shows up through seemingly unplanned challenges, and often results in lessons that show us what is truly important. I received a story recently from a retired school teacher. In this story he illustrated that he always wanted to be a "retired school teacher." Nonetheless, he didn't apply for jobs as a teacher until after he went through a set up that almost sent him to jail. Upon leaving the office one day, when he was still a postal worker, he discovered that someone had placed an unopened, undelivered social security check in his unlocked motorcycle bags. Two postal inspectors approached him in the parking lot asked him to open his bag. They discovered the check, which led to him being fired, a year of probation and pursuing one of the greatest gifts of his life - becoming a retired school teacher.

I too realized that it was time to pursue my personal truth and calling on a full time basis two years ago. At the time I knew my career was moving in a different direction, but did not feel ready to let go of the illusion of security. I didn't have to. A higher force did it for me and the layoff came unexpectedly. I took this as a call from spirit to take the leap I had been putting off. I am profoundly grateful in the realization that this layoff was a great gift.

Here is another fascinating example of two people who are using their unemployment as a call to rediscovering their true values and gifts:

In addition to formal self-assessments that career planning centers and career coaches often utilize, here are some questions to begin to ask yourself that will support you in identifying your key values:
• What is most important to you in a non-work environment: support, competitive challenges, reputation, flexibility?
• What is most important to you in a work environment: creativity, security, independence, helping others, job outlook?
• What role does work play in your life?

Also, I invite you to take some time to engage in self-discovery through identifying your prime accomplishments. A prime accomplishment is something that you loved doing and that inspired you (whether or not bosses, peers, teachers, etc. rewarded or recognized the accomplishment). It energized you, made you feel good, and had real meaning for you. This accomplishment may be entirely unrelated to your current career and may have occurred at any point in the past (school, sports, artistic endeavors, volunteer endeavors, social endeavors, etc.). Make a list of 5-7 of these prime accomplishments. When you have completed the list identify the key competencies that were most important to you while engaging in the endeavor.

For instance, one of my prime accomplishments would be the work I did as an actor when I was younger. Some of the key competencies that are present in that work are creative expression, communication and the ability to develop effective relationships with others. Another prime accomplishment would be when I headed up the Rutgers University Lesbian and Gay Peer Counseling Center in my senior year. In this role key competencies were the realization of my ability and passion for the empowerment and support of others, organization, and leadership. I fall into the job change statistic mentioned previously in this article (partially because I have spent a lot of time as a consultant). However, when I identity my prime accomplishments and key competencies, I can honestly say that they have remained constant throughout all of my endeavors, and in this I can feel secure.

Identifying your values and prime accomplishments begins to lay the groundwork for your own personal criteria for success (not the criteria that parents, friends, schools, churches, have set up for you). It is in adherence to this that generates a truer experience of security. You may discover that you have been working in environments that don't support this criteria. However, now that you have brought this into your awareness you can allow it to inform your future career and job choices, and perhaps come into something even greater than you can imagine!

Please share your stories of how being laid off was ultimately a gift in diguise


Jason brings a decade of experience in talent acquisition to career coaching.

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