Friday, May 29, 2009

Don’t get “ism’d” away from your goals!

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t continue hearing about society’s ills defined by terms ending in “ism.” Those being, ageism, racism, classism, sexism, and any other “ism’s” used to label discriminatory behavior. Sure there are plenty of laws attempting to prevent problems from arising due to stereotyping, but it can be very subtle and subjective personal attitudes that slip by. Perhaps these will always be around to some extent, but perpetuating them through one’s own negative self-concept is certainly not the way to enjoy life. Obviously, as evidenced by recent shifts in our own political, business and social environment, much progress has been made throughout modern society. However, as with anything of this nature, there is always room for improvement!

What I find most disturbing while working with my career coaching clients, is that many women of a certain age, view any challenge encountered in the job market as a reflection of their number of gray hairs or wrinkles. While, that may occasionally be true, what I’ve noticed is that they themselves are far more focused on that possibility than any other reasonable person would be… I don’t mean to dismiss their concerns, but what I am referring to is the aura of self-doubt and under-estimation of their potential that comes across during interpersonal exchanges.

While volunteering as resume reviewer at a job fair recently, I met several women who seemed to have lopsided posture due to carrying around some enormous chips on their shoulders. One lady in particular, had such a negative vibe going, I almost started to believe her claims that no one would be interested in hiring her due to her age. Ironically, had she not pointed it out, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to estimate her age. She and several others had convinced themselves that despite having appropriate experience, qualifications, education, etc., in their industries, they were out of options because all of the 20-30 year olds were more appealing candidates.

I’ve also seen this topic raised repeatedly in various articles and news stories. A consistent theme permeates this phenomenon – which is the perception of some type of disadvantage being used as a way to excuse or place blame on unrelated factors. What really needs to happen is for older women or any other demographic to eliminate irrelevant thought patterns from their mindset. Doing this will enable them to remain confident in their abilities, competence and attributes needed to portray themselves positively.

Using a few sports figures to illustrate the point, imagine Michael Jordon, Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods - three ideal examples of pure athleticism and talent. In Jordan’s case, it seems ridiculous to envision him entering a game without the objective of beating the opponent. Moving to Armstrong, how many Tour de France wins would he have achieved if he let his health or age stand in the way? Woods, from the start was one of the most unlikely golf legends based some traditions and old-fashioned thinking in that sport. Today, it’s hard to remember how dull and uninteresting many people found golf to be before his arrival on the scene. Watching any of these athletes in action is nothing short of edge-of-your-seat excitement, as their passion, determination and skill shines through. Characteristics they all share are: success driven by confidence, persistence, and of course TALENT!

As an aspiring snowboarder, I’ve noticed that when I “picture” myself getting better and more comfortable, I am less likely fall or get stuck. As a non-athletic, self-proclaimed klutz, my earlier attempts at this sport had the opposite results. Every thought that passed through my head was about not falling, not going too fast or too slow, or how uncoordinated I must have looked. Sub-consciously, those internal ideas determined my outcome – which was plenty of falling, going so slow that I had to remove my board and skate, causing even more falls, and of course not making progress to become more advanced.

Regardless of their background, job seekers in this market are indeed faced with steep slopes, icy conditions and many unique and unpredictable obstacles. Like me on a snowboard, they can choose to slide down on their rear as a human avalanche or build their confidence to make it down in style. Attitude and mindset can make all of the difference in reaching one’s goals.

TalentTalks, focuses on providing clients with unparalleled, distinctive talent management expertise in all areas of career management and human resource & organization development functionality – leading to individual and organization success.

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