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Home » Laura Berman Fortgang: Find Your Dream Job Without Ever Looking at Your Resume (Transcript)

Laura Berman Fortgang: Find Your Dream Job Without Ever Looking at Your Resume (Transcript)

Laura Berman Fortgang

Here is the full transcript of author and career coach Laura Berman Fortgang’s TEDx Talk: Find Your Dream Job Without Ever Looking at Your Resume at TEDxBocaRaton conference.

Laura Berman Fortgang – Author and career coach

Everybody knows somebody who hates their job. Maybe that somebody is even you.

In fact, half of the people in the United States who work would do something else for a living if given the chance. That’s an epidemic.

Look, I know, it’s hard to change, it’s easier to stick with the devil you know. Walking away from a paycheck and benefits – that doesn’t fit conventional wisdom, and doing something more meaningful – I mean, who wants to make less money? But when I think about this subject, I think of my grandfather, my immigrant grandfather who left Poland, alone, on a boat, at 17 years old, to go to New York City. I wonder what he would think about us talking about being happy at work.

“Happy?” he would say “Happy at work? Put food on the table, that’s ‘happy’. What are you talking about, happy?” My dad, first generation American, he was the first to go to college, the first to have a “good corporate job,” his was the 1960s’ version of being happy at work. But he really wasn’t.

Today, the research shows that to be happy at work, people want to be engaged. They want to have mastery over their subject matter. They do want to know that what they do matters more than the paycheck they get. So, if we know that, why is it that 50 per cent of us can’t figure out what we want to do with our life? I think it’s because when we are in doubt, we look to our resume. We look to our credentials, what we’re qualified to do.

What we’re qualified to do is not necessarily what we’re meant to do. It isn’t necessarily what’s going to bring us satisfaction. Think of an egg, if you will. From a little hummingbird egg to an ostrich egg, all of them are roundish shell. For people, that shell are our credentials, our track record, our accomplishments, and our resume. A lot of us get attached to that shell, it becomes our identity, and that’s what makes it hard to change.

But to get to the good stuff, you have to crack the egg open. Because inside is the yolk, the golden center. That’s where the DNA is. That’s what determines how each egg is unique. For people, I call that yolk their “life blueprint”. Everything that can be taken away is the shell. The status, your identity, what people think of you, the perks, the salary.

But what can’t be taken away is the yolk. That’s where the discovery of career satisfaction can happen. Maybe it’s more important to understand that career satisfaction doesn’t come from what you do. It comes from who you get to be while you’re doing that job. Who your job allows you to be, that’s where the happiness comes from. So, the shell is what you do.

But the yolk is who; who you get to be. When I was in my 20s, I wanted nothing more than to be a Broadway star. Well, I did reasonably well; I got my union card, I worked in reputable theaters, and I gave myself five years to make it, and at year eight, I was still waiting on tables. So, I grew despondent, I really did. I was almost suicidal over the fact that I thought that I failed at the only thing I ever wanted. Why haven’t this dream come true for me? I’d worked so hard, I invested so much. 10 years after I left show business, I had an epiphany about this.

I remembered a scholarship that I was up for, for an acting program where they asked me: “What would be possible if you were successful as a performer?” The answer came to me in a flash. I knew it was like the right answer, the Miss America pageant answer, the eldest child answer, the “I’m going to get the scholarship” answer.

So I went up to the mike and I said, “Well, if I were successful as a performer, people would see me on stage and be moved to change something in their life.” That answer got me the scholarship. But it wasn’t until ten years later when I realized what I really had said; the performer was the shell causing change from the stage. That was the yolk. That was me.

So I hadn’t failed at my dream after all; I just suffered from a misinterpretation of my dream. I needed to allow the dream to change form. I think that’s what’s wrong for a lot of us when we can’t figure it out.

No one’s taught us to pull the dream apart and understand the true significance of it. We’re told we could be anything we want to be when we grow up. But when we go to pick that college major, the question changes from, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to, “How are you going to make a living with that?” We haven’t been taught what are dreams and imaginations really mean to our career trajectory.

John was someone who heard me speak about this concept and he was very skeptical. He said, “Laura, I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do. I’ve had every dream for my career come true. So this cannot possibly hold any weight”.

But at the time we met, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. He was struggling with that. I want to tell you a little secret: I don’t believe anyone who tells me they don’t know what they want to do. I believe they do know; they’re just too afraid to speak it because then they have to do something about it.

Anyway, back to John. Since he challenged me, I said, “Okay, what are all your career dreams that you had come true?” He said, “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a magician. As a young adult, I wanted to be an architect, then I wanted to change and be in advertising and marketing and be responsible for huge billboards in New York City.” He goes, “And now I want to do something with my love for the outdoors, maybe an adventure travel guide or something.” But he couldn’t reconcile how that fit with the rest of his life. But I could see it.

So, this is where I need your help. If you go – if you go out and you see a wonderful magic trick, one that blows your mind, what’s your reaction? Show me on your face what your reaction is.

[Audience: Wow!]

Wow! So, if you go to a city that you’ve never been to and you’re looking up at the architecture, what does your face look like? All right, now if you’ve been to New York and ever seen a billboard so large that a woman’s navel is the size of a cruise ship, what does your face look like? Wow!

So, you see. Everything that John did evoke a universal human response. Across culture, language, or age, “Ooh, aah, wow”. All those jobs were what he did, but who he was was someone who inspired awe. If you go out in nature, you will be in awe.

So, it was completely in his blueprint for him to go and become someone who worked in nature and took others into nature to inspire awe. Today, he owns a company where he designs and manufactures gear for outdoor enthusiasts. He found his way.

So, the formula seems to be: something from the past whether it has come true or not, re-examine for its true significance, married with your skill set of today, equals a satisfying new chapter. Now, there are people who have said to me over the years that they’ve never had a dream, that they never had anything that ever called to them, they don’t have any memory of anything they’d ever wanted to be when they grew up.

Over the years, what I’ve seen as a common thread among these people is that they all had a rougher childhood than most. They either grew up in a dysfunctional home, maybe there was raging, maybe there was alcoholism, perhaps they were worried that a relative who was sick or sibling who was sick, they didn’t know if they were coming or going, any child who has to keep their guard up all the time, and doesn’t feel safe can’t dream. If that’s any of you, don’t worry, there is a solution for another time.

I’ve also met people who have had a round of success with their career, but it was based on something that was a reaction from their past. So, they succeeded, but now they don’t know what to do because they have no criteria.

So, that thing from the past, if any of you have ever made a vow, anyone who’d ever said, “I won’t be like my mother,” or “I won’t be like my father,” or “I’ll never be poor,” or “I’ll show them,” that’s a vow. If you did that, it was a reaction to circumstances of your life, and it probably served you well. Look, a lot of people have a lot of ambition based on things they don’t want in their life. But there may come a point where that motivation is no longer useful to you because you’ve outgrown it.

And then, what do you do? Karen was someone that I met in this situation. She was a top salesperson, she won all the cars, all the trips, but she started talking about how she was feeling really anxious because she felt like she was losing her mojo. She didn’t know if she could keep up this pace and she didn’t know how to discipline herself to be as ambitious as she was before I suspected that there would be something in her story that would tell us what was going on.

So, there it was; at 17, she was ready to accept a scholarship to play basketball for college, and she found out she was pregnant. She gave up the scholarship, she had the baby, and she made a vow. “I will not be a teenage statistic.” She had that baby, she had another baby with the same guy, then she married him, went to school, got this great job, succeeded wildly, and now she couldn’t figure out why she could make it work.

Well, she wasn’t a teenager anymore, and she had well proven that she wasn’t a teenage statistic. So, once she had the awareness that she needed to just change why she worked, the motivation for why she worked, she was on to new paths. So you see, your resume is only part of the equation.

All the things that happened which made that resume, that made your life story, that’s what reveals your blueprint. That’s what reveals the themes and the imprint that is your yolk. I want to live in a world where people stop competing at work, because they realize that they are so unique that there’s nobody to compete with. Everyone’s unique, we don’t cross over, we don’t have to compete.

I want a world where we don’t torture our teenagers to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life at 17 years old, because we’ve taught them that their dreams have many ways that they can come to be.

I’d like to see a world where nobody suffers to make a living because they understand that they are not wedded to the shell, but they can evolve from the yolk. So, before, I told you that half of the people in the US would do something different if given the chance. Half! That is an epidemic.

But it’s an epidemic that has a cure. The cure is understanding that career satisfaction doesn’t come from what you do. It comes from who you get to be while you’re doing it. The beauty is, who you get to be is the real you.

Thank you.

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