Tag Archives: meaningful work

13 and counting…

Today, to celebrate my blog’s first anniversary,  I’m writing my 100th post.  It’s about my 13th job. 

That I’m up to job 13 means that I continue to stay faithful to my self-proclamation – as a strategic job hopper. 

I am now working as the commercial director at an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of medical supplies.

That said, rest assured that I will continue to blog – and to work on my book projects.  That’s another pact I’ve made with my readers.  I even have some inspiration to drive me through my back-to-back schedule as a writer and employee (and wife).   The other day I came across a CEO of a 50,000-large organization who blogs.  Logic tells me that if he can, well I can too. I say.  And it’s been 2 months since I’ve been keeping my pact – with you.  So far, so good…

In the spirit of keeping it real, here I answer questions I’d be asking about the change I’ve just made in my career.

How does it feel to be back on high heels and a business suit?  

As much as I loved my jeans/t-shirt & bare-footed existence (while I was writing full-time), I’m enjoying the change.  It feels kinda’ good to dress up.

Is my work-life still being guided by my reason for being?

Absolutely.  I would not have it any other way.

In addition to waking up every day as a writer with the vision to inspire and empower people to create, follow and  succeed on their own  path –  my vision as commercial director is:

To defend the safety of patients (yours and mine).

I’ll elaborate.

The OEM I work with is my family’s business.  For close to three decades this small giant has been manufacturing disposable medical supplies – like syringes and catheters.  Our company was born to produce high quality medical supplies – not a small feat in a Latin American country.  In fact we’re the only Latin American OEM supplying the market – the rest are multinationals. 

Why have I made it my vision to defend the safety of patients? 

At the risk of getting in trouble, I will share with you what I learned in my 60-day induction to the healthcare system in Colombia. 

After traveling around, visiting some of the largest hospitals and meeting with providers of health-care products (i.e. drug-store chains), it’s quite evident that most buying decisions are being made by administrators – not scientific commitees or nurses and doctors.  It’s obvious that the main driver is cost reduction, not quality or the improvemet of patient safety.  Priorities are inverted.  Product sterility and patient safety are often last on a long list of commercial priorities. 

As a manufacturing outfit, that for close to three decades has been following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and is certified by world-class regulatory bodies (ISO-9001-2001) – we know what it takes to manufacture high quality goods.  And this is where we differ from most of our competitors.  In other words, most lower cost products being used at hospitals and being sold at drugstores across the country, have not passed the test of our quality assurance laboratory. 

It’s these findings that set me on the path to defend the safety of patients. 

Simply put, if I, as a manufacturer don’t fight for patient safety, then who will? 

And that, my friend, is another fulfilling reason to wake up for everyday.

So was it nepotism the main reason behind my appointment at my family’s business?

Valid question – I’d be wondering that too if I were you. 

The answer is a resounding no.  

I pose the question on your behalf to share with every aspiring strategic job hopper the number one insight I’ve gained after more than a decade of hoping around jobs: (drum roll please…)

Every single job has a reason for being in your career. 

(Read that one more time – and make a mental note.)

Right now it may not be obvious to you what that is, but nonetheless, there a reason behind every experience.  Taking from my own path, not so long ago I discovered the reason behind my tour de force through the healthcare industry in Australia. 

Starting out, I had no idea that I would one day work in my family’s business.  That possibility was not a reality when I accepted my first, second, third or fourth job in the health-care industry in Australia.  On top of that, a decade ago when I moved to Sydney, Australia, I had no idea that years later I’d be coming back home.

The opportunity opened up a few months ago.  And because of my experience, because I endured stapling papers and stuffing envelopes as a marketing coordinator; waiting ad-infinitum in doctors’ offices as a medical sales representative; using my right brain to understand complex market data as a consultant; and finally (almost) giving blood as a national sales and marketing manager at a start-up malpractrice insurance company – I am now ready to cease this opportunity.  Which at times, I admit, feels like a dream come true.  Yes, I now feel that every single experience is an integral part of my career puzzle. (yes, even the time when my boss wrote me a memo for refusing to order a cab for another manager or the time when…) 

Yes reader, I have arrived. 

Being that I am now working with my family, does that mean that my job hopping days have come to an end?  Must I now remove ‘strategic job hopper’ from my blog’s heading? 

It’s hard to say – mostly because more than ever, I’m aware of my modus-operandi – and hence I’m open to the possibility that I will eventually seek out other opportunities.  Because…why not?

In line with my strategy, I am giving my current job my absolute best. That’s mostly because that’s how I know how to work.  It’s also because it is my family’s business. And lastly, it’s because I recognize that I have no idea what the future will bring.  That means that my professional track record is still on the line.  In fact, delivering results matters more now than it ever has. And more than ever, I feel prepared to deliver.

Will this blog be about strategic job-hopping?

Actually, it never has been.  Since day one, my writing,  has been  guided by my vision to inspire and empower people to create, follow and  succeed on their own path. 

While I strongly advocate strategic job-hopping, that is not the driver behind my writing. Inspiration and empowerment are.

That means that my posts will remain faithful to this vision.  Now they will benefit from my new experiences – as a commercial director in a Latin American country – with the perspective gained after more than two decades working, first in the US and then in Australia.

My advice to you:  stay tuned.  My blog has just grown up – it’s one year old!

Thank you all for your support during one of the most amazing years in my life.



A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Hero # 8

(This post is part of a pact I made. Click here for the full story.)

Meet Monika.

Since the moment I sat down to speak with her about her career path, I was overcome by a sense that our mass-produced, fast-moving world does not deserve people like her.

Monika is a classically trained master gold and silver smith. 

To you and me that means that half her life – since the age of fifteen – she has been perfecting the craft of fine jewellery-making mostly by being an apprentice of Germany’s top jewellers. 

Possibly Monika will be inclined to correct me on this because ever since she can remember, fine jewellery-making has been a part of her life, much before she was fifteen years old.  Her father is a master gold and silver smith who works out of a studio in their family home in a town outside of Cologne in Germany.  When Monika was ‘old enough’, between 8 and 10, her dad started to pay her to do the menial jobs that he was not too keen on doing like welding and braiding pieces of gold. As she told me: ”I must have been quite good since I was making good money…” Sitting on her dad’s lap, working at the bench, marked the beginning of Monika’s love affair with very, very small details.

Creating one-of-a-kind pieces that put smiles on people’s faces is where Monika finds her career Nirvana.

In her words:  “When I’m working at my bench I feel content, it gives me inner peace, it feels like home.  I’m calm and I get back energy.”

Note to self: Tune in to your feelings.  Trust them.  Feelings don’t lie.  They don’t know how.  Good things feel right, bad things feel not quite right.

Listening to Monika describe how she works on a piece of fine jewellery, is as soothing as watching a prima ballerina float on stage, as intense as following an elite athlete compete at an Olympic event and as nerve-wrecking as seeing a neurosurgeon perform brain surgery through a microscope.  It’s quite clear that when she’s working at the bench, she’s in the here and now.  For her every movement counts.  In her words: “My gut guides me through the process…every detail matters and there is endless learning.” So much so, that she feels that she could spend her entire life in jewellery school because there is so much to learn.  She should know since her 72 year-old father often tells her that he’s constantly learning new things about the craft.

When I set out to share Monika’s story with you, I was secretly hoping to learn from her ability to feel contentment on a single path. I naively thought that Monika was so obsessed with small details that she found happiness in very minor things. After speaking with her for a few hours, I found a person who’s driven to find meaning in her work.  And even though she feels a strong pull towards the craft, she questions whether this is her own path or if it’s one that she inherited. 

Note to self:  Questions are important. Honest answers are vital.

For the more Machiavellian types, her questioning would seem impractical.  After all, what matters most is arriving at a destination, not the path taken. However, Monika has always been one to follow the beat of her own drum.  Among the conservative community where she grew up she is considered a pioneer  and known as one who walks out of step with the crowd.  As she explained to me, by nature, she has an inner need to create and follow her own path.   It is not enough for her to experience bliss while sitting at the bench, making fine jewellery.  It is not enough to be considered one of the best in her craft.  To be able to continue to dedicate her life to it, she needs to know that her passion for the craft came from within herself.  That it is not something she’s drawn to because it is all she has done or because it’s a family tradition.

In search for answers, at the age of 25, after she graduated as a master jeweller, she moved from Cologne, Germany to Sydney, Australia.  As soon as she told me this, I quickly scanned the globe but struggled to find a connection between those two points.  She said that the language played a big role in her decision (she’s fluent in English).  She also has a ‘thing’ for opals.  More important, she wanted to go as far away from her home-town as she possibly could.  As soon as she told me this last part, she started to laugh – at herself.  Shortly after moving to the other side of the world, she realized that while she left her home-town oceans away, she had not been able to get away from herself! 

Note to self: When you change your outside circumstances, you are not changing yourself – which could possibly be what most needs changing.

After five years of living in Australia, Monika has found more than what she came looking for.  Her initial plan was to work in different things to find out if anything else came close to jewellery-making.  If it did, well she would know that she was meant work in something else.  If it didn’t, she’d know that her life’s path was to take over her parents’ shop back home. 

Among the most memorable experiences, she worked at a cattle ranch.  And after nine weeks of doing different things like painting, renovating and wood-working, even though these were all forms of craftsmanship, she felt it was not the same.  In her own words: “That was an interesting and unique experience, but exhausting!…At times I’d ask: ‘What am I doing here?’”  She also worked at an ice-cream store and at several other businesses in the hospitality industry.  Yet nothing came close to making her feel what she does while working at the bench.  And nothing paid as well as jewellery-making, even if she’d take a job mass-producing jewellery.

It was during her travels up the New South Wales coast that she came upon a town called Byron Bay (a.k.a. Byron). For those of you who have been there, you’ll know what a special place it is.  With its surfer culture and artist community, few places emanate such good vibes.   In Byron Monika met a community of jewellers who like her have an interest in Numerology. Inspired by what she describes as a chance meeting, shortly after she completed a course in Numerology and began to explore ways to integrate its principles with fine jewellery-making. That was when she realized that even though she did not find her craft on her own – it is a God-given gift that she can make her own.

After a few more non-jewellery related jobs, Monika accepted a job at one of Sydney’s finest jewellery shops.  And for the past two years she has been learning about Australian stones (opals and blue sapphires) and creating pieces based on her knowledge of Numerology and other New Age principles.  She must have struck a chord because in 2008 Monika was the recipient of Australia’s most prestigious jewellery design award, the Jewellers Association of Australia Design Award, with her Ying and Yang bracelet.

Note to self:  What is that one thing that you enjoy doing and you tend to be great at?  The combination of enjoyment and skill are the foundation of your strengths.

Little by little, Monika is weaving a two-strand career.  By doing so she has been able to preserve a family tradition – one she’s passionate and quite skilled at – and quench her thirst for meaning.

Note to self: Be open to finding this and that answers.  Go beyond this or that.

Yet something tells me that Monika’s search for answers is far from over. 

Through Numerology, she gave me a peek into her soul.  She explained that the number 8 captures her soul’s purpose.  It stands for several traits, among them independence, fairness and assertiveness. According to Numerology people like her are quite rare, often described as higher beings.  Even so, I found Monika to be quite humble and very grounded.

Based on her birth-date, she explained that she tends to be very head driven. That means that at times her mind does not allow her to listen to her heart. And that has been one of the sources of her inner conflict.  As she told me: ”When I’ve listened to my heart, everything falls into place.” The trouble is her head is usually making too much noise for her to listen to what her heart wants.  During the few moments that she has listened to her heart, she feels jewellery-making is what she’s meant to be doing. As she told me: “I feel drawn to it.  It flows.  It feels easy.”

When I asked Monika what she has learned along her journey, she said:

“Mostly to listen to my gut…my tummy guides me.”

Note to self: Trust your intuition.


WARNING: This may rock your world*

This time last year I was in the middle of making an important decision for my career and life.  I had to decide whether or not I would resign from a corporate job that looked fabulous on the outside to write on a full time basis.  To begin with I had national management responsibilities and was the youngest member of the executive team in a multi-million dollar startup.  I was working with like-minded people and reporting to a female CEO worthy of imitation.  My pay package was quite competitive and I had a 20-minute commute in mild traffic – and across Sydney’s Harbour Bridge which offers a stunning view of the Opera House.

So who in their right mind would even consider resigning from a job like that? Before you judge me too harshly, know that as good as my job sounds, it was not meaningful to me.   It was the role I was aspiring to for years but was ultimately unfulfilling – and that did not feel good inside.

Maybe you’re thinking that I’m asking for too much.  I think it’s quite the contrary.  I left looking to give more, not receive more. 

“How so?”  You ask. 

I reached a point in my career where I’d taken enough.  Among other things, I had the flashy title and the salary I set out to achieve five years earlier.  It was time for me to give back.

In this, my final post for 2008, I share with you the questions I answered and the guidelines I followed that led me to discover what I really want to do with my life. 

Read – at your own risk – if you’re also looking to lead a more meaningful life.

Start with the end in mind.  Begin by asking yourself: “What do I need to achieve in the following five years to feel fulfilled with my life?”  When you answer, allow yourself to dream huge.  Craft your answer around ‘and’ not ‘either/or’ terms. 

If you don’t know what you want, start by writing down what you don’t want, or want less of in your work life. In my case I knew that I wanted to contribute in a more meaningful way.  But I did not know what that meant exactly. I knew that I had to do something that was genuinely me.  Not follow a ‘me-too’ path.  I also knew that selling insurance and managing a team were not what I called ‘contributing’.

Fill your goals with meaning.  Now ask yourself ‘Why?’  “Why do I want to achieve my goals?” Identify what it will mean to you, the ones you love, your community and the world in general once you achieve your goals.  Take time to look inside.  If you find it hard to answer this for a particular goal, be open to the possibility that it could be because that goal is not as important as you originally thought.  If that’s the case, don’t be discouraged.  Instead use this as an opportunity to identify a more meaningful goal.

Knowing the real reasons why you want something so much will help you stay committed to your goals and focused.  For those very reasons, this is the most important step in the process.

Develop a plan.  Finally, ask yourself: ’How?’ In other words, ask: “What do I need to achieve my goals?”  Focus on the resources that you’ll need.  How much time and money will you need?  Do you need to up-skill?  More education? Experience?

Then take time to think through the obstacles that may come across along the way.  Take it a step further and come up with at least two solutions for each obstacle.  Make sure not to confuse real obstacles with your fears.  To tell the difference, test your thoughts against reality.  Are you being catastrophic? Or are you generalizing?

It took me a few days to complete this three-step process, but I guarantee that the time I spent working through it has been one the best investments I’ve made on my career.

May 2009 be a meaningful year for us all.

Take a deep breath – with a little smile.


*Rash decisions may lead to career suicide.