Job Satisfaction Authors Offer Directions To The Place Where You Belong

Job Satisfaction Authors Offer Directions To The Place Where You Belong

This article is © 1997 ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
Date: Monday, December 8, 1997
Section: Lifestyles/Spotlight
Page: 3D
Illustration: Color Photo (3)

Source: By Mark Wolf
Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

Related color illustration p.1D

Edition: Final

Don Hutcheson never thought of himself as a lemming. After all, he had started a magazine and founded a successful Atlanta advertising agency that was billing $60 million a year in 1990, not exactly a blinders-on, lock-step career path. Still, he was thinking about his future.

“I was interested in how people came to their jobs,” Hutcheson said. “Some people followed their noses, had fun with their job, and other people didn’t.”

His generation was full of people involved in careers that were
consuming but not fulfilling. They may have been taking home fat
paychecks, but they were mentally lip-syncing Is That All There Is?

He knew that all manner of outplacement firms, counselors, ability tests and personality tests were available to people dissatisfied with their jobs and their lives, but he concluded that no single program existed to guide people to merge such questions as “Who am I?” “What am I good at?” and “How do I get there?”

Hutcheson talked to his friend Bob McDonald, a psychologist he’d known since they were Russian linguists in the Army together, and the idea resonated.

“For years I’d had clients who were at some life or career transition point, and they were going to career counseling but they weren’t getting an answer to `What am I going to do with my life?’ ” McDonald said.

Hutcheson sold his agency, and McDonald took a sabbatical from his practice to spend two years researching and developing the Highlands Program, a series of tests, assessments and seminars designed to help people develop personal visions of what they want from their lives and careers.

What they found is the basis for their new book, The Lemming Conspiracy: How To Redirect Your Life From Stress to Balance.

“Most people spend more time planning their annual vacation than thinking about what they want to get out of life,” McDonald said. “Unless you have a vision, you’re not really in charge. The idea of lemmings was a metaphor for running off the cliff together.”

Their premise is that people’s lives are dictated by systems (how people work together in stable groups such as families or corporations) that subtly and silently enforce conformity in career paths.

“It’s epidemic,” Hutcheson said. “It’s invasive of every human being’s life. We are brought up in systems, from family to school to business. They’re not bad; they just do what systems do.”

Hutcheson and McDonald have identified eight critical factors that should go into any career choice: abilities, interests, personality, values, goals, stage of adult development, skills and experience, and family of origin.

“If you leave any one of these out or don’t give it any consideration, it comes back to haunt you later,” McDonald said. “What seems to be going on with people is, they get into what we call a `stress cycle’ in their careers and life in general. They start making short-term decisions, making themselves feel better right now and neglecting the big picture, the whole person.

“What we find is that when we’re in a stress cycle, we’ve neglected one or several of those factors, and the truth is, most people haven’t sat down and reflected much on any of them.”

The Highlands Program includes a 4 1/2-hour battery of tests that measures work style, abilities, vocabulary and other factors, an assessment of the results and 10 three-hour seminars. The program costs $1,350, or $500 for just the tests and assessments; those who buy The Lemming Conspiracy get a $75 discount on the tests and assessments. A student program of four three-hour seminars for ages 16 through college age is $850. The program has been licensed to psychologists in 70 cities.

“They look at what kind of role you play at work,” said Anne Gottlieb Angerman, a Denver licensed clinical social worker whose practice includes the Highlands Program. “ `Do you like to work by yourself or with other people?’ `Are you a specialist or a generalist?’ Generalists tend to move well from one role to another; specialists don’t.

“The more you understand your true abilities and not fight them, the happier you’re going to be. People who aren’t using their innate abilities tend to have more stress in their lives. “It’s not about getting a job; it’s about getting a life.”

Indeed, the vast majority of people who go through the Highlands Program don’t make huge changes in their jobs or careers. “It’s usually only a relatively small part of their careers they need to look at changing,” McDonald said. “It can be adding something to their career that would be really meaningful.

“We had a successful PR person who didn’t feel like she was giving anything back. Her boss didn’t want to lose her, so they figured out a way to do regular pro bono work for Habitat for Humanity.”

Businesses will be receptive to such changes, the authors believe, because employee satisfaction can be tied to profitability. Sometimes, employees take the Highlands tests and discover they are ideally suited to their jobs.

“I found out I’m extremely satisfied and have a great passion for my job,” said Kathleen Burrell, the disability behavioral specialist fornorthern Colorado human resources for Hewlett-Packard. “I scored highest in the match for counseling and consultation. I have to work with people; don’t give me a lot of data and sit me in an office crunching numbers or being in front of a computer all day.

“I often wind up working with people who are miserable at their jobs, and now I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with their inherent abilities vs. the skills they have to use in their jobs. Since I’ve taken the tests, I’ve had many people going through it and they believe it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.”

The hardest thing, the authors say, is stepping back and reconsidering the path your life is taking.

“We wrote the book to alert people that they have more options than they think they do,” McDonald said. `We don’t give anybody any answers,” Hutcheson said. “We created a structure. The answer is inside.”


Are You a Victim of `The Lemming Conspiracy’?

Here are some questions to assess attitudes about your career and reveal whether you’re trapped in “the Lemming Conspiracy.”

* Sometimes I wonder whether what I’m doing in my career is what I should be doing.

* Sometimes I wonder whether I could be doing something in my
career that would be more fulfilling and meaningful.

* I wish my career could express more of who I really am.

* I sometimes feel I have more stress in my life than I should.

* If I could choose to do anything as a career, it would be a lot
different from what it is now.

* I’ve never taken much time to reflect on who I really am and how
my career could best express that.

* What I did in college doesn’t have a lot to do with what I ended up doing as a career.

* If I had to start my career over right now and make the best
choices I could about a new direction, I wouldn’t really know where to begin.

* I’m not really sure what my most important natural talents are or
how to make the best use of them in my career.

* I don’t really know what the most important factors in my life will
be at my next major career-transition point.

Caption: Anne Gottlieb Angerman, a clinical social worker,
administers authors’ career test. FILE: CAREERS


All content herein is © 1997 ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
and may not be republished without permission.