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Who is the "Real You"?

Search America By Harvey Weiner, Managing Partner
Search America 

What is the relationship between what you do for a living and what you do with your life?

Personal values, those priorities by which we judge the real person inside, drive what we do when nobody's watching. Our behavior, on the other hand, reflects characteristics by which others judge us. Our opinions and even long-held attitudes, may change, and often do throughout our lives, but our core values are not, or rather should not be dependant on circumstances. You would not, for example, sell your child, commit murder, or embezzle. But, on your resume, you might exaggerate your education, stretch employment dates to conceal a time you were between jobs, or even (No, not you!) overstate your compensation in an attempt to secure a higher offer, without a second thought.

Just who are you? Have you been masquerading so long that you've lost sight of the real you?

Here's the Career Doctor's shortcut to finding the "you" which you may have misplaced along the way.

Ask yourself:

1. What activity in which I am (or have been) involved makes me feel best about myself?

2. What have I accomplished that makes me proudest of who I am?

3. What would I want my children to be able to say about me when I'm not around?

4. What do I do, day-in-and-day-out, that induces a sense of satisfaction?


1. What do I do about which I feel ashamed or disappointed in myself?

2. What would I not want my kids to know I am doing?

3. What rumor, true or not, would cause me to feel indignation if it were said about me?

When we identify those actions which we would not commit, even in private, or when it is unlikely anyone would ever learn about it, then we are beginning to achieve insight into our personal values.

The answer to "what types of work-related activities do you really enjoy?" determines which goals or accomplishments are important to you and give you a feeling of satisfaction.
Now ask the crucial career question: "Do the circumstances of my job conform to my personal priorities, my values?"

While it is not difficult to decipher which daily tasks we really enjoy, the challenge of scrutinizing our personal priorities is much more complicated. That's because there are often factors unrelated to the job that come into play.

To demonstrate the importance of values in our daily decision-making process, let's consider the following:

* A candidate observed that, if he were to accept my client's job offer, he'd have to work so many hours during the first few years just to correct the many perceived deficiencies that his family would suffer inordinate hardship. Dinners without his presence, fatherless vacations, single-parent college tours, soccer without dad, etc. The job just seemed so much more daunting than he'd expected it would be before the final board of directors' interview. I respected that, which must betray some of my own core values. But then he said, "However, if I could get the board to increase the compensation by 25 percent I'd accept the job."
Crash! What I heard was, "I'd sacrifice my family for money." Would he be just as willing to concede other, seemingly less important values? We hired another candidate.

* A search chairman requested that we not reveal to prospective candidates the fact that 49 percent of the club's members had recently voted against a major, costly renovation, one which would entail a hefty assessment and the replacement of a landmark clubhouse. The board, in their wisdom, had decided to go forward with the project anyway. Although the board's action is not as rare a decision as one might think, asking that we not disclose this fact was insulting to our values. We declined the search. Two years later the new board -- with a different search chairman -- engaged my firm to replace the manager they'd hired, under false pretenses, through another source. There are no winners when core values are compromised.

* I once arranged for a manager to take a job with a club that provided him an opportunity to devote the necessary time and resources to run for the presidency of the CMAA. The club's understanding president happened to also be a leading volunteer in his field. Though the compensation was lateral with his current position, and the job was located in a higher cost of living community, the candidate's personal priorities persuaded the club's board that they could hire a manager fit to their immediate needs. The president's flexibility made the difference.

* Recently, a particular search seemed ideal for one candidate whom I had known for many years. His wife had coincidentally grown up in my client club community, so the situation seemed ideal -- until his wife heard about it. Her response was, "I wouldn't ever again live in that &%*$# town for anything in this world." Evidently, some rather unpleasant memories surfaced. The candidate judiciously declined the interview and we found alternate prospects.

Think your current job may run counter to your values? Here's another Career Doctor shortcut:

1. Did the board of directors, in my interviews, accurately define their club's culture and their expectations of management?

2. How may I have inaccurately presented myself in interviews?

3. What components of my job do I feel uncomfortable discussing with my children (or spouse or minister or mother)?

4. How often, and about what issues, do I find myself reminding the club's leadership of their unfulfilled promises? Do they even perceive those promises as obligations?

5. What actions are expected of me, which my gut tells me conflict with my values?

6. What is it about my job that keeps me awake at night?

7. Is there some alternative career path that's been nagging at me for awhile? How does it differ from my current situation?

Richard Nelson Bolles, in his seminal career-change book What Color is Your Parachute (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA 1991-), suggests that, when seeking career or future-job guidance, that we keep ourselves open and sensitive to insights as they pop up. Some of the values Bolles cites are: truth, beauty, nature, justice, spirituality, righteousness, ambition, compassion, security, service, popularity, status, power, friends, achievement, love, authority, glamour, giving, integrity, honesty, loyalty, sensitivity, and caring. Which, he asks, hold the most meaning and importance for you?

The self-knowledge that comes of asking ourselves these questions will help us see more clearly who we are willing to work with and for, and who we are not. "Those who share your values," said Bolles, "will be on your hit parade; Those who don't, won't."

A successful values-based career and the relationships built during that career must be based on integrity. What values are you communicating when you:

* Commit to your son that you will be at his soccer game then get caught up in a meeting with the club's house chairman? You have telegraphed your priorities to your son.

* Promise to meet a friend at a 7:00 tee time then get stuck in the pro shop schmoozing a member till 7:15? Your friend will eventually sense where your priorities lie

* Schedule a management team meeting and show up unprepared? Your staff will quickly determine your respect for them and their time.

* Permit a director or member to publicly criticize an employee. Staff will see a weakness of character and lose trust and confidence in your leadership.

The point is, everyone has personal motivators which guide our minute-to-minute choices. The two crucial issues we each must address in our working lives are: What do I want to be and what do I want to do? Now, could there be any more important question than, "Is what I am doing for a living what I want to do with my life?"

The Career Doctor is Harvey Weiner, career coach to thousands of club managers, and managing partner of Dallas-based Search America, 800.977.1784. Since 1974, Search America has represented over 750 private clubs in their search for management personnel.   Search America

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