Losing a job can be an opportunity to change your entire life and discover what you really want to do — and who you want to be, says Helen Burton, a lifestyle empowerment coach. While Burton does not deny the trauma and stress of losing a job, she believes it can become a golden opportunity and a great time to “turn your ideas into action.”

Turning those ideas into action is the topic of Burton’s talk at St. Paul’s Job Networking Group on Saturday, March 18, at 8:30 a.m. at 214 Nassau Street. There is no charge, and the meeting is open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack of same. Call 732-512-1300.

Burton, whose coaching business, Love Yourself Coaching, is located at 2 Phylet Drive in East Windsor, understands firsthand what changing a career means. She began her coaching business four years ago, after “several years on a path of self-discovery.”

She had spent most of her working life with the state Environmental Protection Agency. “I knew there had to be more to life than contract management,” she says. “I heard about coaching and I wanted to work with people to help them make changes in their lives.” She started her business while still working full time for the state, but retired from that position last year and now coaches full time.

When Burton first began her path of self-discovery, she decided she wanted to help people make significant changes in their lives. She became a Certified Empowerment Coach, graduating from the Institute of Professional Empowerment Coaching, and now works with individuals and groups to “help them achieve total satisfaction and success in their business careers and personal lives.”

“Everyone has the answers within themselves,” says Burton. “Sometimes they need the help of a coach to discover these answers and create an action plan to make their dreams a reality.”

“When a person loses their job they often feel that they have lost who they are,” she says. “They feel they are their job. They no longer understand how they fit into life” says Burton. Instead, a healthier way to look at a job loss is as “a time to rediscover who we are, and what we want to do in life.”

Taking action is the best way to feel better, says Burton. “When you take action, even a small step, you feel 100 percent better about your situation, because you are doing something.”

Burton suggests these steps:

Take a mini-vacation. It may seem contrary to Burton’s first advice, but taking time out to refocus and think about things is the first step in any action plan. The mini-vacation doesn’t have to take a long time or cost any money, she says, but it must be long enough to get ready to focus on the next step.

“Take a walk with your dog. Go to a coffee shop or bookstore for awhile. Turn on the stereo and sit with your eyes closed for 10 minutes.” The point, she says, is to take some time to “relax, regroup, and refocus.”

Make an action plan. The next step, says Burton, is to come up with a plan. It can be as simple as making a few phone calls or something much more elaborate. But an important point, she adds, is to break the plan into small, easy to complete steps.

Once you have a plan, begin to put it into action by writing down and making a commitment to complete certain steps each day. “Don’t plan on doing 20 steps in a day,” she warns. If you can’t accomplish them all you will feel a sense of failure. Instead, plan on two or three steps in a day. “If you feel like accomplishing more, that’s great.”

Make a list. This applies both to those who have jobs they hate and to those without jobs. If you are unemployed, make a list of the things you disliked about your last job and the things you loved. This list will help you frame your job search. If you loved the work, perhaps litigation, but hated the large law firm politics, you might hang on to your profession, but concentrate on finding work with a smaller firm, or perhaps with a non-profit.

If you currently have a job, list the elements of the job that you enjoy — perhaps the work itself or your co-workers. Then try to isolate the things about the job that you hate. Sometimes it’s as simple as the commute. If everything else is positive, consider drawing up a telecommuting proposal, or try something even simpler. Maybe switch from a solitary drive to a car pool, or from a car pool to the train. Sometimes simple changes can give you a whole new outlook.

If you hate making cold calls, maybe sales is not for you. Or maybe you need to try to figure out a way to make them easier. It could be that writing a script before you call could make a difference. Maybe a few coaching sessions from someone who excels at cold calling, and enjoys it, could make a major difference.

Look at past jobs. Think about jobs you’ve had in the past. What did you like about them? What part of those jobs would you like to do again? What did you really love? Can you find a way to incorporate those passions into a new job or your current position?

Burton compares work passions to the structure of an egg. “Find the foundation of what makes you excited,” she says. “This is the yolk of the egg — what you are passionate about. The white of the egg is “the packaging, how you go about fulfilling your passions.”

Understanding and acknowledging your passions will help you to find a way to fulfill them, says Burton. “Maybe your passion is teaching, but you don’t have a teaching certificate, or you don’t really want to teach in a traditional school setting. Is there another way to fulfill your passion for teaching? Maybe you can mentor someone in your profession. You can often find another setting, a different way to do what you love.”

Talk to others. Once you’ve decided what your passion is, you need to learn how you can fulfill it. The next step, says Burton, is to set up interviews to learn more. These can be informational interviews, she says, not specifically job interviews. “Call someone who is doing what you want to do. Ask them for coffee and sit down and learn about their work.” People love to talk about their work and themselves and are usually very willing to take sometime to help someone else.

As a coach, says Burton, one of her most important roles is to help people be accountable. Making an action plans give people specific steps to use on the road to discovering not just a new job, but a new passion for living and a new sense of fulfillment in work.

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