John M. O’Connor (Career Pro Inc.) is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina.
Most people don’t recognize their value comes from within. It’s what you bring to the table by simply being the best version of yourself. Or, to put it another way, your value is like broccoli.
Broccoli is an uncool, uninteresting and relatively mundane but powerfully important vegetable. Often, people try to dress it up by deep-frying it, slathering it with sauce or using some other technique that otherwise makes it unrecognizable. In doing so, we lose much of the nutritional value and the benefits that include everything from essential vitamins to improved immunity to better bone and tooth health. Meanwhile, our Western diet has yielded a great boon for hospitals with an avalanche of health issues. The solution many have proposed is less processed foods and more plants, specifically vegetables like broccoli.
Now, how does this relate to you and your business? In my coaching practice, I work with my clients to get back to simplicity. I strive to help them realize that what lies within is often much more powerful than what you accumulate to appear “better” or more successful. Do we realize that before the polish, the spin, the degrees and the corporate accomplishments, what lies inside of us could be considered greatness? Not many do. Maybe the broccoli within sounds bland, but it is the pure and untouched part of us, our own personality and gifts, that truly makes us unique. Here’s how to find and celebrate your inner broccoli.
In my work with clients, we focus less on what I need them to do to add to their capacity, personality and skill set and more on how I can help them remove blockages that prevent them from making important career and life gains. What are those obstacles that have gotten them stuck in a career rut? It could be self-deceptions, misconceptions, confidence issues or preconceptions about their ability to achieve. This happens at the entry- or early-career level right up to the C-suite. I recently spoke to a partner at a prominent law firm, and he confided that he felt like an imposter with the status he had been granted in the world.
We can all have imposter syndrome at times. But career blocks arise at different times. They can spring up during personal setbacks like divorce, the loss of a spouse or child or some other traumatic event. They can kick in when you get laid off or when your company closes and you are let go without a lot of notice. In all of these situations, your confidence can be affected and you might begin to wonder about your skills and capacity to climb the career ladder and achieve.
What do people do to make up for what they lack or what they perceive they lack? Sometimes it’s good things like continuing their education, getting certifications or taking on new relationships, new roles or new responsibilities at their organization or in the community. All of those things can be great but what might you miss by chasing these new things? A lot of my coaching is about trying to find out who the person is apart from their skill set and reminding them of the value they bring without the adornments, the additives, the titles, the money and the status.
Examine your personality traits.
One of my secrets in coaching is to first discern personality traits — the character traits and the gifts that a person brings to any relationship. This can be done through conversation or assessments. One of the easiest ways to do this is to get a journal and go to town interviewing people that used to work with you and for you. You could even go as far back as those who coached you in sports or academics years ago. If you’re unsure how to start, try asking them these questions:
• What do you feel are my best traits when it comes to working with others?
• What are the gifts I have that I might not appreciate?
• What did I do for you that may have been beneficial, that I might have taken for granted?
Celebrate your value.
If you, like many of us, sometimes struggle with self-confidence and self-appreciation, know that once you start channeling and understanding your inner broccoli, you can rest easier. Realize that who you are will be with you in every conversation. The intangibles that you don’t seem to have to work so hard to gain will be there in spirit in your spoken words and actions. Realize the power you have to help and, if you need a reminder, look back at those answers you recorded in your journal. People will need you to be that person you have been for others again — celebrate what you have accomplished and it will help you to accomplish more in the future.
In conclusion, I’m not saying you should never indulge in Twinkies and Cheez-Its. You can go off the diet. What is important is to remember that the real nutritional value lies in the broccoli. And the same is true of your career. What you may initially perceive as the “boring” part of you is your true character and that matters more than the add-on parts of you. When you have integrity and don’t place too much value in your pay, title and status, you don’t have to wonder about what you stand for and believe in as you move forward in your career.
John M. O’Connor (Career Pro Inc.) is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina. Read John M. O’Connor’s full executive profile here