Job Satisfaction Authors
Offer Directions To The Place Where You Belong
This article is © 1997 ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
Date: Monday, December 8, 1997
Illustration: Color Photo (3)
Source: By Mark Wolf
Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
Memo: Headline p.1A - JOB
SATISFACTION / HOW TO PICK
THE RIGHT CAREER
Related color illustration p.1D
SEE END OF TEXT FOR INFOBOX
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
His generation was full of
people involved in careers that were
consuming but not fulfilling. They may have been taking home
paychecks, but they were mentally lip-syncing Is That All
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
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
``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
``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
``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
``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
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
CAPTION: Don Hutcheson and Bob McDonald. FILE: AUTHORS CAPTION:
Book Cover / THE LEMMING CONSPIRACY: HOW TO REDIRECT YOUR
LIFE FROM STRESS TO BALANCE. FILE: RETURNED - UNAVAILABLE
Keywords: EMPLOYMENT BOOK
All content herein is © 1997
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
and may not be republished without permission.