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The Changing Values Landscape of the U.S. and How It Impacts Midlife Job Searchers, Part Two
The values landscape of our nation is changing, and with it your personal values landscape is changing as well. What does this mean and what does it have to do with midlife?
Researcher Dr. Paul Ray says that the predominant values set held by Americans has been one he terms Modernist, with roots in the Renaissance. Modernists presently represent 88 million U.S. adults, or 47% of the population, but the numbers of Modernists are shrinking as those who hold these values are increasingly leaving this subculture and choosing instead the values of one of the other two subcultures ray has found, the Heartlanders (representing traditionalist values) and the Culture Creatives (representing newly emerging integral values, never before seen in human history). Heartlanders represent 29% of the population, or 56 million adults, while Culture Creatives represent 24% of the population, or 44 million adults.
Those with a Modernist perspective tend to value religious and lifestyle pluralism, career achievement stepping stones, consumerism, a "winning" lifestyle, capitalism; tolerate societal fragmentism; and welcome the technologization of life. Many Heartlander values are the polar opposites of Modernist values: simplified and unified lifestyle options; an emphasis on putting families, not careers, first; buying in accordance with budget and values; a family-oriented lifestyle; a deemphasis on individualization and capitalism; a great desire to heal the fragmentations of American society; and a dramatically lessened interest in and dependence on technology.
Dr. Ray sees American society as approaching what he terms a "Great Divide" in which the mainstream Modernist subculture is shrinking as members move instead into Heartlander or Culture Creative camps. Midlife acts as your own personal "Great Divide" and challenges you to choose your own values. Are you a Modernist? Will you remain one? Or are you really more of a Heartlander and just beginning to recognize yourself? Or are you a Culture Creative who never before could name what you knew you were becoming? What about your present family and friends? Or your family of origin? Or the people in your faith community? Are you surrounded by likeminded others or those with contrasting values?
Review the informal lists above and see which subculture feels most like you. Consider reflecting on the questions raised in the last paragraph to help you explore your own personal values landscape. If you are surrounded by supporters, then no matter which category you live in, the changes ahead will be easier for you. If, on the other hand, you are surrounded by those of other subcultures, then not only the societal changes ahead but your own midlife changes will be more chaotic as well.
Most critical of all, though, make sure you incorporate your Modernist, Heartlander, or Culture Creative values into your resume summary, cover/follow-up/thank you letters, and interview responses. By doing so, you dramatically increase the odds that you'll end up working next to likeminded others, which, in turn, should assure you some measure of career satisfaction over the long-term.
Cheryl Lynch Simpson is a Spiritual Director and Solutions Coach who helps women discover and create the life they've always wanted to live. Cheryl is the author of over 30 print/Internet articles and the founder of Coaching Solutions For Women, a coaching website that produces and showcases career, business, and life solutions that improve the life balance of today's busy women. For a complimentary copy of her latest e-book, Ten-Minute Stress Zappers for Women Service Business Owners, visit http://www.coachingsolutionsforwomen.com.
American Idol Syndrome
I like Simon, one of three judges on American Idol. I find his feedback refreshingly honest. And while his words startle me with their ego wounding potential, the traditional feel-good, let-you-down-easy, sugar-coated feedback is not much of a gift. It's hard to tell someone they're not good enough and their dreams are not going to happen, at least in this venue. But not telling them is no gift either. Some contestants rise to the challenges he throws at them. Some don't. And, some can't. Which one are you? The people who influenced me most in my career were those who gave me the hardest critiques. Stricken with a bruised-ego for days, or on occasion for months, inevitably their feedback helped me make the right life choices to improve, change direction, or stay the course with intensity. In fact, the boss who was the hardest on me is the one I thank the most. Good was not good enough if I was capable of better, and she was quick to point out when that was. No sugar coating from her. And the funny thing? When I was honest with myself, I knew she was right. Being honest with yourself is one of the challenges to winning at working. We all have talents and abilities, but they're not always in the areas we pursue at work. Too many people I've run across in my career have American Idol Syndrome (AIS). Like Idol contestants auditioning with little or no singing ability, these people believe they are good at what they do. They can't understand why they don't get the promotion, the outstanding review, or the highest increases. They view themselves as varsity team material, but they play with junior varsity skills. When I was a freshman at Stanford, I got a D in biology. Stanford graded on a bell-curve, so an 84% that might traditionally put me in a B category, was near the class bottom. Accustomed to A's, first quarter grades woke me up. At first, I rationalized a D at Stanford was an A or a B at most any other school. But, reality prevailed. I wasn't at another school. If I was going to compete at the school I was at, it was time to use more than high school skills to bring results. Are you applying yourself? Are you as good as you could be to get the raise, the promotion, or the more interesting work? If these are things you want, don't suffer from AIS. Give yourself some Simon-esk feedback. Ego aside. A Simon-esk answer to the questions, "how good are you?" and "are you in the right field?" offers you a chance at becoming happier and more successful at working. The answers give you choices: you can stay the course; find a playing field at your skill level; improve your skills to compete where you are; or change directions. (c) 2004 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
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