Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is Your Definition of 'Normal'?

What is normal? What do you understand by normal? To most of us, ‘normal’ is ‘the way it is around here’. If you live in a smart part of the city, then ‘normal’ is going to smart restaurants, having a highly paid job (or your partner has one), having a good education and having plenty of money, which gives you choices.

If you live in a rough part of the city, ‘normal’ may mean being part of a gang, not having enough money, relaxing with drugs and alcohol, no job and an education that is optional.
If you and your friends and family eat a lot of fast food and do little exercise, you’re probably overweight. But most people around you are on the large side too, so that’s normal, isn’t it?
Those who belong to the local golf club and send their children to public schools will socialise with friends who have the same interests – that’s normal.

Normal can be a very dangerous concept. We all have our view of what is ‘normal’ but these views will differ widely. Does this matter? I would argue that Yes, it does matter.

Regardless of our own situations, we need to understand that other people live very different lives to our own. Obvious, perhaps, but the vast majority of us carry on our daily lives as if other people’s ‘normal’ doesn’t exist. If we do think about it, ‘It’s over there’ or ‘What can I do to change it’ are typical reactions which might trouble us for a few seconds before we move on to something more interesting.

In the 21st century, social mobility and the ability to move around the country are more difficult to achieve than ever before. Generous final salary pension schemes in some jobs mean that those employees lucky enough to have this benefit will not change jobs. They remain in place until they retire. Welfare benefits make it unviable for many unemployed people to take a job. They can’t move either.

Those in well paid employment do have more flexibility. In many cases they also have a selfish view of the world and ‘look after number one’. It isn’t until they fall off of the career merry go round that they realise how difficult life is for many people – they see a different ‘normal’.
Some cities are almost segregated with the members of different races living within their own communities and hardly mixing with others.

So what is the answer to this? One response would be to show people a new ‘normal’, one that they’ve never been exposed to before. This could be achieved by taking people out of their own environment and moving them to another area, where they would mix with other people with completely different views of what is normal. Taking people out of their local comfort zones where they might be ‘a big fish in a small pond’ and moving them elsewhere, where they become a much smaller fish in a much larger pond.

A way to achieve this would be to introduce compulsory ‘Social Service’ – a 21st version of National Service. Everyone leaving school would do a year’s Social Service at a location away from their home town. They would meet a wide range of people from varying backgrounds whilst working on projects which helped local communities, helped the old and frail and worked to help society as a whole. Putting more emphasis on ‘We’ and less on ‘Me’. Within this, the illiterate would be taught to read and write, everyone would gain new skills in relation to their interests and abilities and those at the top of the social tree would be introduced to some of the harsh realities of life.

At the end of this, many people would have a new view of ‘normal’ and it would transform the lives of most of the people.

Yes, it would be expensive but look at the current alternative – would you want to live in some of these other ‘normal’ lives?

The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for Mid Lifers. Advice and Guidance will soon be available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join so what are you waiting for? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Midlife Women with a Vengeance

Midlife is a time when everything changes and life is calling you to shed what no longer works and 
find what will work for your body and your mind.

Do you have a plan?

Do you even know where to turn for information you can trust?
Join Gregory Anne Cox as she interviews 13 experts in all aspects of midlife mind and body health, whose collective mission is to give you the goods to rock your second half.
They’ve got the information you can trust to bring you vibrant healthhelp you lose weightground and calm you in any situation, and bring some humour to the push-me/pull-you that is our daily struggle.
Take a look at who has agreed to be on the phone during September for a series of 60 minute interviews - nothing but honest, life-changing information!
(If you’ve come back here and have not yet signed up, what are you hesitating for? Reserve your FREE tele-spot here)
Spending time with these successful professionals will be a great gift to give yourself if you care about your health and feeling your best.
When was the last time you felt really, really great? When did you last wake up in the morning refreshed and remain feeling that way throughout the day 'til it was time to hit the hay?
Can't remember?
Do yourself a favour and listen to Gregory Anne and her guests - you know you're worth it!

The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ever wondered what a colonoscopy feels like?

If you've had one you'll understand and if you haven't, your time is coming. 
This is from newshound Dave Barry's colonoscopy journal: 

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a colour diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR ASS!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous.  Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavour.

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep.

You mix two packets of powder together in a one-litre plastic jug, and then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a litre is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humour, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you really wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom.You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another litre of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening in the John, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers or even a gold watch would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand.  Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep.. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too smashed to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house..

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere.  I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood.  Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent.  I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colours. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Dave Barry is a Midlife Pulitzer Prize-winning humour columnist for the Miami Herald.  

On the subject of Colonoscopies...
Colonoscopies are no joke, but these comments during the exam were quite humorous..... A physician claimed that the following are actual comments made by his patients (predominately male) while he was performing their colonoscopies:

1. 'Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!

2. 'Find Amelia Earhart yet?'

3. 'Can you hear me NOW?'

4. 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?'

5. 'You know, in Arkansas , we're now legally married.'

6. 'Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?'

7. 'You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out....'

8. 'Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!'

9. 'If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!

10. 'Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.'

11. 'You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?'

12. "Now I know why I am not gay.'

And the best one of all.

13. 'Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?'

The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Understanding your own Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have our own strengths. Conversely, we also have our own weaknesses. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is one of the keys to being successful in your life – both your career and your personal life. This is particularly important for people in midlife who are re-evaluating themselves and where they are going to go in the second part of their lives.

Similarly, there are opportunities to be seized and threats to be avoided, if at all possible. The analysis of all of this is known as a SWOT analysis, a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis. (In fact, most people refer to it as a Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats and Opportunities analysis – this ends on a positive (Opportunities) rather than a negative (Threats). SWTO doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well, though!)

To carry out the analysis, draw lines to divide a piece of paper into 4 quarters and write Strengths as the heading for the first quarter, Threats as the heading for the second quarter, and so on. You now have 4 sections on the page.

Firstly, think about your strengths. Ask yourself questions like:
·         What do I do better than most people?
·         What do I know that others don’t?
·         What am I good at?
·         What resources can I access?
·         Who is in my network that can assist me?
·         What are my values?
·         What experiences can I draw on?
·         What would my friends say?
·         Etc

Answering these and similar questions will help you to assess your own personal strengths. Write down your answers in the Strengths section of your page.

Now for your weaknesses. It is usual for people to come up with more weaknesses than strengths, so don’t worry if you have a longer list in this section of your page. Questions to ask yourself include?
·         What do I avoid doing?
·         What do others do better than me?
·         What was the reason for mistakes that I made in the past?
·         What scares me?
·         What skills do I need to improve?
·         Which personality traits are my weak points?
·         What would my friends say?
·         Etc

You now have your Strengths and your Weaknesses written down. These are both ‘internal’ to you – you can affect them yourself. 

Opportunities and Threats should be considered as ‘external’ to you – they are products of the environment around you which you can or, more probably, can’t influence.

Thinking about the opportunities open to you:
·         How can my friends, relatives and my network assist me?
·         Is my work sector expanding?
·         Will the growth of the internet help me?
·         How can I benefit from a declining/growing economy?
·         What is happening at my workplace which I can use to my advantage?
·         What mistakes have my competitors made?
·         Can I move more quickly than my competitors?
·         Am I able to relocate?
·         What opportunities exist to upskill?
·         What could I achieve if I went outside of my comfort zone?
·         Etc

Lastly, we look at the threats:
·         Am I working in a competitive environment in which a colleague or competitor could undermine my efforts?
·         Is my company going through a period of change?
·         Will the state of the economy affect me?
·         Could my job be replaced by a machine, or outsourced to India?
·         Do I have a new young manager who discriminates against older employees?
·         Etc

Once you carried out this analysis on yourself you will be in a much better position to move forward objectively. You will understand what you are good at and what you like, whilst acknowledging those areas which need work. You will also be more aware of the opportunities that exist for you – they are there right now, it’s up to you to recognise them and grab them with both hands!

Good luck!
The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More Midlife Memory Lapses ...

I need to phone a friend. I go upstairs to get my mobile phone. As I’m going upstairs I take up some letters to put on my desk. Having put the letters on the desk,  I come back downstairs and go to the garage to get a hammer to put up the picture that my wife has been asking me to hang for ages.

As I’m going to garage I take out a tin of paint which I store on a shelf. I decide to mow the lawn – it’s a nice sunny day and the lawn is beginning to look scruffy. I wheel out the mower and spend the next 30 minutes walking up and down the lawn. When the grass box is full, I detach it from the mower and carry it over to the compost bin. I take off the cover and empty the mowings into the bin. This is repeated three times. On the way back to the lawn after the third trip, I notice that a bush needs pruning – I get the pruning shears out of the shed and prune the bush. I then finish mowing the lawn.

I also need to trim the edge of the lawn. I find the long handled shears in the shed and trim the edges.  Then I notice that the bird feeders need to be filled. I put down the shears and get a bag of bird food. I fill all of the feeders.

My wife calls out from the house to remind me to go to the Post Office. I go to the garage to change out of my gardening shoes and see the hammer that I came out to get an hour ago.
Since I’m going to the Post Office, I’ll call in at the shop on the way. I call in at the shop, buy the groceries and drive home.

After arriving home I go upstairs to check my emails and notice my mobile phone lying on the desk. I remember that I was going to phone my friend. I ring the number and as I’m waiting for him to reply I look out of the window. I see an open compost bin, which I should have closed, the mower, the pruning shears and the long handled shears all on the lawn, which should have been put away and a large bag of bird food, which should also have been put back where it belongs.

My wife shouts up the stairs to ask me when I’m going to hang the picture and why I haven’t posted her parcel.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

If you recognise these symptoms, you too may be suffering from MADD – Midlife Attention Deficit Disorder. Don’t worry, you’re not alone and all of your friends and family will be exhibiting the same symptoms before too long!
The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for Mid Lifers. Advice and Guidance will soon be available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Career Advice for the Over 40s

Guest post by Lorraine Wright

Why do people in their 40's, 50's and even 60's suddenly find themselves looking for work? Here are two real-life scenarios.

At 61, James C. felt secure in his executive job at a prosperous aeronautical firm. In 30 years, he had never taken a sick day, and had brought millions in revenue to the company. So he was completely blindsided when, caught in a nasty dispute between two battling VP's, he ended up being handed an early, and definitely unwelcome, retirement. He was devastated and angry, and considered legal action.
Elizabeth N. also felt secure. After 25 rewarding years of staying home and raising a family, she had never wanted a career. She, too, was blindsided when an unexpected divorce left her, at 45, as a single mother with three young children, little money, and nothing on her resume but an outdated college degree and a few part-time retail jobs.

James was at first understandably bitter and angry, and even considered legal action, but quickly realized this was counterproductive. And he wasn't ready to retire. He decided to get a job, any job. Through networking, he heard about a company looking for someone to oversee a huge contract. The catch was, the company needed someone who could travel overseas immediately, and work with no supervision whatsoever. In other words, they needed someone mature with years of experience. James got the job, and worked successfully for this company until he decided to retire.

After taking a few months to get her bearings and deal with the emotional shock, Elizabeth invested in several computer courses. Then, she applied to a Temp agency, and over the next four years developed many new skills, gradually advancing to higher level jobs. At age 50, when she heard of an office manager's job, one requiring a mature person, she jumped at it, and was finally able to support herself doing a job she enjoyed.

Why else do people over 40 find themselves looking for work? There are many other reasons: People are downsized, laid off, or their companies shut down with almost no warning; some people take early retirement, picturing how wonderful a life of leisure will be, only to find themselves bored witless after only a few months; others are horrified to see a lifetime of carefully-invested money melt almost overnight to half or less of what it was, due to the shaky economy. Some people have their retirement dreams shattered when their investor disappears with their precious and hard-earned nest egg, and sometimes, women are widowed, and suddenly find themselves with much less income than they expected.

At first many people in these situations feel shell-shocked, and paralyzed. But with a little time, some good financial and career advice, and armed with knowledge and a good resume, many people in their older years can find themselves happily and gainfully employed.

Every situation is different and success is never guaranteed, but don't give up: "Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning." ( Denis Waitley )

Lorraine E. Wright
21st Century Resumes designs technology-friendly, attention-grabbing resumes and cover letters, customized uniquely for each job seeker, to present them at their very best in today's crowded and competitive job market.

The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for Mid Lifers. Advice and Guidance will soon be available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Midlife Advice and Guidance

The Mid Life Survey has been running for the past few months and will continue until the end of the year. At the end of June, I published the results to date on this blog.

Since then, people have continued to complete the survey and add their comments to some of the questions. Some of these comments have been from midlifers who are seeking help with their issues.

The Mid Life Survey is anonymous, of course, so we have no way of contacting anyone to follow up these requests for help.

The Mid Life Coaching Panel will shortly be finalised and members will be able to contact the coach of their choice. In the meantime, if you would like assistance with issues relating to career, relationships, lifestyle or family, please email:

Karen can work with you in person, over the telephone or by email and she will definitely be able to offer you the advice that will help you to move forward.

Everyone deserves to live their life as positively as they can – don’t waste your opportunity!
The Mid Life Opportunity ( is a community for Mid Lifers. Advice and Guidance will soon be available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here