"What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet."

Woody Allen

There are plenty of myths surrounding Christmas. Such as: Jesus was born on December 25th; Three wise men visited the infant Jesus; Xmas is a disrespectful abbreviation for the word Christmas; Santa was invented by Coca Cola.

Those are some myths, now here are the facts. No-one knows when Jesus was born; 'Three Wise Men was probably a reference to three stars which were in the sky at the time of Jesus' birth; The X in Xmas represents the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of Christos, meaning Christ; The original Santa Claus originated from Turkey - he was a generous bishop who gave to the poor, once leaving some gold in a stocking which had been hung out to dry.

What's all this to do with careers?

Well there are facts and there are myths and often we lose distinction between the two. And that applies to careers as much as it does to Christmas.

Where do myths come from? Who knows? Sharing stories about what's important in life help us to form an idea of reality and what we're dealing with. They can be a way of explaining the unexplainable and of providing parallel experiences so that we can illustrate concepts, ideas and moral issues so that we can learn how to go about life. They help us to make sense of the world around us and how we fit into it. In providing an understanding based on others' experiences they can predict what we will be dealing with and that predictability can shape our behaviour.

Now this is where it starts to get dodgy, especially when the perpetuated wisdom is somewhat removed from the original fact. Stories get distorted as they are handed down through the generations and they then assume a life of their own. So if we're basing our behaviour on something that's a myth rather than reality we have the potential, at worst, to make a serious mistake or at best, we're likely to miss out on something.

So if you really believe that Santa Claus drops down the chimney with a bundle of goodies on Christmas Eve then you may well be disappointed before this month is out (unless you have some very obliging friends and family in which case the myth has shaped their behaviour as well as yours).

What are some of the myths surrounding careers? Here are a few. 'It's easier to get a job when you're in a job'; 'A decision about appointment is made in the first 30 seconds of an interview'; 'If I put my age on my CV it'll automatically get assigned to the reject pile'; 'It's harder to get a look in if you've been made redundant'.

These notions are unsubstantiated by research, though you may hear many people talking as though they are reality. And of course they might be reality for a few people in a few situations, but you have to cut through all this to understand that these are not Universal Truths.

And of course whether you believe that they are truths or not is neither here nor there unless they affect your behaviour. The problem is that they do affect behaviour. So what I see a lot of is that people don't take action because they think that the result is a foregone conclusion - they're too old, too young, not qualified enough, over qualified, the wrong sex… the list goes on. So then the belief is that there's no point in even applying for work because they'll fall at the first hurdle. And I hear so many times the above given as justification for not applying for jobs.

How realistic is this? I know that I'm often accused of being perpetually optimistic but I'm not suggesting that you ignore the facts. I'd just ask you to think about how helpful it might be to you to perpetuate these myths for yourself. It's not at all helpful if it's going to prevent you moving on.

How do such myths make us feel? Helpless? Inadequate? Out of control, perhaps? You don't need to feel like this. Create your own reality. Weigh up for yourself what the experience is. Don't decide that something is reality before you've checked it out. That means taking action. If you apply for a job and they tell you you're not qualified enough, then that is probably the reality for that particular situation. But you don't know that before you've applied and it's not going to be the case for every application. That approach is called looking for problems.

Now here's a fact. FACT, I said. I know someone who, during her working life, has been appointed, not once, but five times, to a job for which she was not qualified. How? Because she was convinced that she could do it, that's how. And being convinced, she managed to convince the people she needed to influence.

I also know of someone who it was suggested was too old and didn't have the 'right experience' to get a new idea off the ground and change career. So, undaunted by this and with the courage of his convictions he set up his own business to turn his idea into reality, successfully.

Every day I hear of people who've pushed aside the myths of jobsearch to find a new opportunity.

Explode the myths:

  • Don't talk yourself out of a job change at the starting block but do your research. Move from an area of unknown to an area which is known. Know yourself and know your opportunity. If you've done your homework then there's no reason why you shouldn't get the opportunities you are seeking.
  • Consider each situation as a new one, so don't get daunted by the 'I've tried that before and it didn't work' syndrome. This is a new situation, you've done your homework, you're not depending on luck but sound research, so on that basis it's worth a try.
  • Get feedback. So if you're not selected this time find out why and then use that information to shape your ongoing jobsearch.
  • I know I often say this, but here it is again. Steer clear of those who are pessimistic and try to talk you out of your plan. Go with your belief and your research. You know best.
  • Use the opportunity for learning. What do you discover about yourself? Do you get any more clarity on what you really want?

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Recommended book

Lifeshift: Doing The Dream

Andrew Ferguson
ISBN 0-9536878-0-5 Paperback 250pp; £12.50

LifeshiftThis book is billed as 'the definitive guide to taking back your life'. That's a grand claim and Andrew Ferguson is stated as the pioneer of 'holistic enterprise'. No surprise that Andrew's approach is to look at career as a fulfilling concept within the whole of life, an approach which is very much New Age thinking applied to the world of careers. However, if these ideas don't alienate you, and I know that they are not everyone's cup of tea, he goes into considerable depth by integrating many concepts and this makes it quite satisfying to read by drawing on different approaches.

The book is based on the rhythms of life and the idea that we go along paths which we may or may not feel comfortable with. Andrew claims that we have 'roadmaps' for our set paths but that they actually cloud our vision and that Lifeshift is about finding a new road. Personally, I enjoy the detail of the theories which underpin the book and the preamble before he gets to the nitty-gritty of how to make the change, but many people might be champing at the bit for the exercises to take them forward.

Further evidence of this integrated approach is in Andrew's practical support through his Breakthrough Network and workshops. If you're after a quick fix this is probably not for you but if you're after a career book based on some philosophical ideas and you're happy to explore some theories, then try it.

Buy this book from



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