Is Your Next Work Hiding in Plain Sight?

Cambridge Center for Adult Education Program in Career Direction 

(The following is based on the homework for the 4 week course–some of the narrative is meant to be read by participants and not all references will be clear or fully described to the outside reader.  Please contact Kendall if you have questions)

Basic principles: We look at work with certain blinders created by class, education, the experience of others, as well as our own view of how work has worked out for us.  2) At a time when we are reconsidering our relationship to work, we need to widen our focus on what may be the relevant information we can draw upon for reimagining our work. 3) To do this we need to gain greater access to our life story, see what we are attracted to in life, revise what we may see are the essential works in our life, and be aware of long-standing themes and issues that may or may not help to shape our sense of purpose.  To these ends, the following exercises are meant to shed light.

IMG_55141) List 15 important moments in your life (positive/ negative/ combinations of the two–not necessarily work related). There may said to be among the moments that have influenced your growth over time  Once you’ve listed them, doodle a scene or object that relates to that experience and write a few sentences about each of the 15 moments.

2) Use your camera like a journal and take pictures of the things you notice this week. Take at least 100 pictures.  Don’t worry about composition or lighting.  These are visual journal notes.  We’ll check for themes in what you record.

wine-cellar in Chianti3) Come up with 5 job ideas a day and write a few sentences describing your version of that job idea.  These do not have to be job ideas for which you are qualified or would actually want to pursue once you reconsidered, but the goal here is to gain flexibility in coming up with ideas and letting the seeds within them germinate into something that does, in fact, have some impact for you.  Good luck



Examples of the 5 appealing jobs a day exercise:

Kendall’s Exercise for CCAE Course Is Your Work Hiding in Plain Sight?

Name 5 appealing job ideas a day for a wee (Exercise based on using 100 photo images taken during the week as prompts for helping to thing of appealing work). For week #3: We will look at themes in the work described and for patterns in the jobs listed spontaneously.

Travel writer: write for the Times as a regular contributor and tie that writing to my work at Overseas Adventure Travel where I book and plan trips in Central Europe, as area of special interest for family reasons.

Futurist: I’m a social scientist, without PhD, having gotten to my adjunct position at Babson through demonstrating an ability to forecast trends in famine and related outbreaks of local violence. I get to speak and write as a futurist and am polishing a TED talk.

Life Coach: though I hate the term, I am one because the work sits at the nexus of psychology, motivation, empathy, people skills and personal mission. This work appeals to me as the result of family members inability to get their lives together.

Performance artist: I trained at the ART then went to NYC and ate graham crackers until David Letterman saw the show I was in and he said to come see him.  Though I fumbled the “interview” I was passed along to his assistant who gave me the phone number I needed!!!

Cyber detective: I sleuth the corporate hackers who are “legally” stealing our data and turning it into spam and creating demand in people for products they never ever thought to buy.  This work is leading me to become a culture critic.

Culture critic: I write and speak about the things we can’t see because we are trapped within our “culture” – like accumulating debt because you need to look good to others, like home ownership has to be your goal, and that middle IMG_4931class life is the way to go. You travel and see others have forsaken much of that for tradeoffs you can’t imagine because you are within your own culture where people on the outside appear to do silly if not stupid !

Advocate-journalist-social media manager: I helped revived progressive Pacifica Radio and am their social media manager having learned about electronic media because that was where it was all going! Now I tweet and twitpic and Instagram for Pacifica and though I wish I were on the barricades, there are none to man, so PR is the closest to it.

Architectural critic: I’m a stringer for the Globe and Toronto Mail and call myself a guerrilla critic of the built world but I have tamer titles. My hero Jane Jacobs got me started and I teach at the New School and Hunter College where my courses are packed but the administration wants to throw me out because of the backlash from developers in NY that have been funding these schools and whose buildings are atrocities—and they know it but don’t like me saying so.


Write your life story: As we talked in class our conversation showed us that there are many ideas that are appealing.  In looking at our 100 pictures from the week before, they suggested many work ideas, many of them fun and interesting but not necessarily ones to act on though the jury is still out on that.  My guess is that a lot of the benefit of the exercise of taking 100 pictures of the moments that attracted us during the week lies in softening the mechanism within us that more freely creates ideas and allows us to move out of our habitual boxes we have seen as source material for work ideas.

Why write your life story?  Contained within our story are seeds of what we are yet to do.  By looking at the themes, core stories, pivotal moments, chief family influences and the influence of the past and the history we were born into, there is much data with which to create meaningful options. More specifically, one major force in influencing our thinking of work as something to do vs something we need to do is the issue of purpose.  By writing our life story we become more acquainted with our possible purposes in life.  Unfortunately, for many of us there is more to learn from the darker sides of life experience–we have been marked by them in ways that are different than the ways our brains codes pleasurable / happy experiences.  There may be some genetic factors at play–IMG_3942some protective elements i.e., for our survival we need to be aware of what might harm us and therefore take defensive action. And while this may have been true at one point in our lives, it may no longer be yet we keep our defenses up.  In any case, we may need to revisit our lives no matter what the coloring of experience has been in order to update our own life narratives.  The story we tell ourselves about ourselves may be one factor that gets in the way of our seeing options that are otherwise clearly in front of us!

Write your life story in 3 ways.

1) The Twitter version of it–use 35 words to capture the whole time–include your childhood, multiple marriages, educational exploits, allies and straightaways, loves and disinterests. Everything in 35 words.

2) Do the same thing in 10 minutes–this is the brief bio on the back of the book that describes your amazing life to date.

3) Do the same thing in 30 minutes.  Once done, check for themes, recurring patterns. See what you’ve left out and make a note about it. Ask what is yet to be done in your life that may be related to :

unfinished personal business / grieving / saying good-bye/finishing a novel / reconnecting with a lost or improperly ended relationship / resuscitating an interest / unresolved issues with one’s homeland-creativity-talent or ability-etc

NEXT: List 5 ties you felt fully alive in your life:poetry slam in Florence

Write a paragraph about each one of those times and list the skills, interests, values and talents that are imbedded in those stories

NEXT: Continue with taking pictures. 25 this week and we will process them in class!


Generate a list of organizations whose mission or work is appealing to you. Then  scan the list and rank each: 1 for appealing; 2 for neutral, and 3 for no appeal. Choose 3 from a list of 1’s to develop into brief appealing scenarios in which you infused your own interpretation of the work you would do.  (The list we generated is at the bottom of this post)>

For week #4, we are to actually research 3 jobs related to the list. These may be existing jobs at these organizations or others that come to us as we research 3 work ideas and find their real-life counterparts.  It is important to make the connection between what appeals to us and how that appealing work may be expressed in the real world.  This research is designed to make IMG_5049this tie-in. (Whether there are existing openings at these companies is beside the point: for this exercise, you want to locate organization that have jobs that appeal to you whether they are available or not right now.)

Bring in the results of your research and the action steps you have taken so far. We’ll then talk about future action steps you can take once the class is over.

PRESENTATION: Everyone has 5 minutes to make a presentation to the group in which we each name:

1) Our preferred work (even if we haven’t found its real-life counterpart

2) Describe the work and the organization that houses or sponsors this work (Make up the name of an organization if you can’t think of one that exists: The Institute For Collecting & Disseminating The Life Stories of Political Refugees)

3) Present your business card (can be hand-made/ show name of project or IMG_5005work / Organization or affiliate name / Address where your work is based / and your logo or tag line or concept in a phrase (To develop history teaching materials based on the stories of everyday people caught in historical events)

4) Tell us the (imaginary) route you took from the development of your idea to actually getting work in that field.

5) State what you like and don’t like about this work (all work has disadvantageous elements to it–what is the downside and upside of your ideal work?)

Organizations we listed in the above mentioned exercise:

United Nations Refugee and Resettlement Program / Doctors Without Borders/ PBS / Netflix / TED talks / Road Scholar / MIT Visual Studies Lab / Google Think Tank / Cambridge Center for Adult Education / NPR / Vogue Magazine / Scholastic Publishers / USA Women’s Swimming Association / IMG_5569Red Cross / OPRAH / City Year / MIT-Poverty Action Lab / Gates Foundation / Stanford University’s Behavioral Psych Program / Readers’ Digest / Elaina’s House / Habitat For Humanity / Catholic Relief Charities / Local Government / Boston College

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