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My evil secret

Posted by Paul Hellman  April 27, 2012 11:00 AM

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Skip business school, I advise those who want to accelerate a management career; instead, spend a few years in a mental hospital. You could even work there.

It's good to know something about irrational behavior because there are days when everyone at work seems, more or less, insane. Usually what that means, of course, is that we just don't understand them.

What's more surprisingówe often don't understand ourselves.

"The key to what you really want," says David Maister, a consultant and former business school professor, "lies in something that you donít like to admit.

ď'I donít like to admit it but I really want to be rich.' Fine; go out and get rich. 'I donít like to admit it but Iím a snob.' Thatís all right; go work with 'upper class' people.

"Play to your 'evil secrets,'" advises Maister, "donít suppress them" (Maister's Laws of the Job Search).

I'm sure there are exceptions. If you secretly dream of becoming a world-class homicidal maniac, suppression may be in order.

But most secrets aren't evil, they're energy.

The hard part: figuring out your secret. Before consulting, and before working in mental health, my jobs seemed random. But they weren't. Take a look:

1) Mailman, New York City. Great job, several summers during college.

2) Encyclopedia salesperson, Boston. Terrible job right after college; I lasted 30 days.

3) Taxi cab driver, Cambridge. Ok job, but lots of negative feedback. When I drive, even now, passengers often become agitated. They seem desperate to escape.

Are you desperate to escape your job? Maybe you've suppressed your secret. Mine didn't become obvious till later, in business school.

Ed Schein, a business school professor, had researched a concept he called "career anchors." Your career anchor, said Schein, is your #1 priority at work.

Schein identified eight anchors.

When I saw his list, one anchor jumped out: autonomy. That's what had attracted me to those jobs, and later to consulting. That was my evil secret.

What's yours?

Tip: You can't sustain enthusiasm if your job doesn't fit. Notice what energizes you. Do more of that.

© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.