Career Judo: The Martial Art for the Mindful Career

Career Judo: The Martial Art for the Mindful Career

Career Judo: The Martial Art for the Mindful Career

Career Judo: The Martial Art for the Mindful Career


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Whether you’re a college student seeking a major, a twenty- or thirty-something looking to advance your position in life, or an accomplished individual who’s considering a transition for more fulfillment, there is a path to a meaningful career for you. It will take focus, energy, and grit, but it will reward you in more ways than you can imagine. With insights that will empower, motivate, and inform you, Career Judo guides you through a progression of action steps to clarify and accelerate your journey of positive change and career transition.

Career Judo combines a lifetime of insights with over a decade of practical strategies and resources that have been applied successfully by my students and clients. Like the colored belts you are awarded as you advance in judo training, this book offers stepwise levels of trusted techniques and a progression of knowledge, skills, and resources to help you achieve a meaningful change in your career. Each “belt” in Career Judo provides viable techniques that you can immediately engage to craft your career map and achieve results.

Most importantly, just as you would learn how to balance your own unique strengths against those of your opponents in the dojo, Career Judo helps you discover what makes you unique and valuable in the job market and learn how to demonstrate that powerfully to potential employers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504384766
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 08/25/2017
Pages: 142
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)

Read an Excerpt




"When I discover who I am, I' ll be free."

— Ralph Ellison

Many people are convinced that because of a bad boss, evil coworkers, or even just a bad fit for their personality, they have to leave their current job. But it may be just that they need to re-align their focus and concentrate on those aspects of their job that they enjoy and that plays to their strengths.

That process of career course-correction is known as job crafting. It's when, instead of changing your role, you realign it by proactively seeking out opportunities to take on new tasks and to cultivate new interactions in your work. It's a time when you focus on the things you do well and the tasks you might enjoy. Job crafting may seem like a simple concept, but it can be very powerful because it allows you to increase the control you have over your career. As a result, you are demonstrating a desire to learn, grow, and evolve in your career, while staying with the same employer, for the present.

Try it out. Start by looking at the tasks that you currently do in your job and see if there are some that you really do enjoy. Perhaps you can trade tasks or responsibilities with a colleague, team member, or subordinate to see if you both might have more satisfaction in the trade. Also consider working on teams with others. Where can you lend your unique skills to the rest of the organization? If you start to think creatively with your tasks and roles, you may find that you are able to create the role that you've always wanted, without too much trouble, after all.


But maybe you've tried all that, or you instinctively feel like it's not the direction for you. What next? Maybe you really do need to find a new role for yourself or even a new career. If so, then take a moment and reflect on how much time you usually spend on making other major life decisions. For example, you would probably spend many hours researching which new car you want to purchase; you'd spend a good bit of time planning a European vacation; you'd take an extensive amount of time planning a major event like a wedding or a reunion. But, if you're like many others, you probably don't expect to spend the same amount of time researching a new career role. Instead, you "hop and hope": you hope that your next job hop will make you happier in your career.

Your career decisions are just as important, if not more important, than any of your other life decisions. After all, you spend the majority of your waking hours doing what you do for a living, and if you're unhappy with your job, then that unhappiness will find its way into all other aspects of your life. Just think of the last time you had a bad day at work or school. Were you able to check that negativity at the door when you came home?

Finding a career fit that is both meaningful and rewarding to you is important. Just as in judo, where muscular strength alone is not enough to succeed, you can't simply force yourself to try harder or be stronger in a job or career that is no longer rewarding or purposeful. But when you gain insight into your skills and strengths, values, interests, and personality, then you can leave the "hop and hope" approach behind you. You can learn to leverage your unique strengths to overcome perceived circumstances and forces that you believe to be working against you. And you can do this right now, regardless of where you find yourself in life.

Many people come to me for career coaching after they've already launched themselves into a career sector. They're usually seeking guidance either after they got frustrated from jobs they took following college, at a mid-life transition, or after they've been working in an industry for many years. But it's all good. It's never too late to gain insight into yourself and to discover new career paths or roles that may be a better fit for you. Whether you remain in the same industry or even the same company, learning more about what it is that you enjoy doing, and do well, can make a profound difference in all aspects of your life. Just imagine going to work every day and feeling satisfied with your job choice, having that quiet sense of knowing that what you are doing is personally meaningful and is allowing you to live a more authentic life.

So let's get started. In order to find that career fit, you'll have to invest time in what career counselors and coaches describe as the "Four Cornerstones of Career Self-Knowledge". The first "Cornerstone" is about your unique skills and strengths.


I can still remember the experience of walking into my first judo club even though it was 40 years ago. The floor of the room was covered in light grey tatami mats interwoven between several cement pillars. Each person was dressed in a gi, a white uniform, and was wearing the traditional obi, a colored belt. From the edge of the concrete room, I quietly watched the class progress, awestruck.

It was nothing like I had ever seen before.

The students bowed to each other very respectfully and then an older man wearing a black belt led the group through a variety of exercises and routines and offered demonstrations of techniques. He was the sensei, our judo instructor. I watched in amazement as the judoka (students) practiced a series of throws (tachi waza), which transitioned into free practice (randori) and grappling on the mats (newaza).

I was hooked; it was all I could do to stop myself from running out from the side of the room and jumping onto the mats.

Just as a judoka learns a lot by doing throws and mat work and practicing with their training partners, you can learn a lot from your career interactions, too. Whether you're responding to colleagues, peers, clients, or your boss, you can learn a lot about how to best apply your unique skills to the work at hand.

Most people tend to take a very narrow view of the skills they use on the job or in school. Then they stumble by asking the wrong questions, like, "Do I have the skill set that matches this job description? Do I have what's necessary for this assignment?" But if you try to determine your unique skill set first, and then look for a role that provides a solid match, you'll have much more success.

So let's start you off at the beginning by looking at your skills holistically: as a complete package. I'll take you through a series of exercises to help you see what you bring to the table — your skills, gifts, talents, and passions — in your hobbies, your volunteer activities, your place of worship or spiritual practice, your exercise or fitness routines, your family life, your community engagement, and circle of friends. What are those things that people have always told you that you've done well, both in the past and currently? You'll start to think about the total set of skills and strengths that you offer and often demonstrate.

Let's look at the different kinds of skills you have:

Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are the ones that you always have in your metaphorical backpack. They are not necessarily innate, because they, too, can be learned. However, they are the skills that you use confidently, you know that you are good at them, and others have told you that you have these skill-sets. Transferable skills are the ones that you can take with you as you move from job to job and task to task, and are not dependent upon a specific role or title. Examples would be an affinity for solving math problems, using tools to build things, being organized, and speaking to people in a friendly, confident manner.

Motivated Skills

Now, from your list of transferrable skills, select the ones that you would elevate to a higher order list of Motivated skills. These are the skills that you do well and also enjoy doing, hence, you are motivated to do them. Ultimately, you would like to see more motivated skills show up in your next job description. They are the items you are going to want to focus on.

Exercise 1: Lists of Transferrable and Motivated Skills

A solid approach to determining your skills is to brainstorm a list of all of your perceived skills in all areas of your life.

Use the suggested resources at to help you make a list of your transferrable skills. Again, they're the ones that seem to come naturally to you, whether or not it took training to learn them. Remember to look at yourself holistically: consider all your life roles. They might include being a daughter, son, wife, husband, mom, business analyst, project manner, runner, amateur musician, and a volunteer member of a community non-profit, for example. Your initial list may contain 30 or 40 entries from a variety of categories, such as analytical skills, technical skills, and communication skills. Then, from this first list, choose the skills you would consider your motivated skills, and create this critical second list. Keep this handy as you move forward with your career exploration.

Once you have a list of your motivated skills, keep it nearby as a reference for the rest of your job search. Use it to remind you of many motivated skills that you want your next job to include. You can tape the list next to your workstation as a daily reminder to channel your energies into uncovering the roles and environments where you may be most satisfied with the work you'll be doing.

This doesn't mean that you will need to abandon your transferable skills; they will remain in your "backpack" while you give greater attention to the items on your motivated skills list. Your motivated skills will provide the direction and guidance in your search for a career role that fits you better.

I can give you an example of this from my own life experience. In my previous career in healthcare administration, I was responsible for completing regular bookkeeping, banking, and accounting tasks. My two semesters of college accounting, my continuing education credits, and on the job training prepared me for the financial management responsibilities that ultimately represented about 60% of my job. I was very good at these tasks and could balance large budgets to the penny. Yet, over time I started to truly despise this part of my job. When I took the time to take notice of the work tasks that I truly enjoyed, I became aware of my motivated skills that had to do with training and development, mentoring, coaching, and teaching.


In addition to other martial arts and sports, judo is known to instill strong values in youngsters, novices, and anyone else who spends time learning and practicing it. Self-discipline, humility, commitment, and determination are some of the more widely known values; even a black belt must return their focus to these precepts. Getting up after you've been knocked to the ground will instill humility in anyone!

Whether you're trained in martial arts or not, you have internalized certain core values, ideas, and beliefs about what you know to be a more authentic way of living life. When you start to think about a new job or career, you need to consider if your values are in alignment with a potential company and role. For instance, if you feel strongly about environmental sustainability, then you may not wish to work for a Styrofoam manufacturer. While that may seem obvious, many can be blinded by the trinity of "Pay, Benefits, and Title," and hesitate to look deeply into a company's culture and practices.

Many people make the mistake of approaching a career by asking, "How can I morph myself into this role and make it work?" But this is where you can easily end up hopping and hoping again, only to unwittingly land in a position that goes against what you believe to be important in life. You might even have thought that if you got everything you wanted in terms of "Pay, Benefits, and Title," that the rest would take care of itself.

The truth is that the rest doesn't take care of itself. You need to consider "the rest of it" up front. Instead of going after a specific job title, start thinking about the environments in which you will thrive. Then find that right place. Turn the process around by first looking into your unique values and then finding a role and organization that speaks to you. You have to determine what your priorities and values are before you dive into a new job. No other person can decide for you what your value system is or what type of organization or company will be in alignment for you. You must put in the effort to find a strong fit.

Exercise 2: Values [??]

One great way to determine what you value most is to examine what you didn't like in your current or previous roles. Ask yourself what would have been better, if it weren't for "X"? Consider things like:

• the commute — How far would you really be willing to drive each day?

• the physical space/environment of the workplace — Are you comfortable in a cubicle? Do you like to work alone or along with others?

• the type of sector — Would you be most comfortable in a university, within the financial sector, in technology or healthcare, etc.?

• the organization's leadership

• the type of people that you want to work with — thinkers or feelers?

• the diversity of the workforce

• the potential for advancement and leadership roles

• the amount of travel

• the company's record of social responsibility and community engagement

Now flip that list around and create a list of what you do want to see in your next role:

1. Deal-Breakers

2. This is your "must-have" list. For example: Commute under 45 minutes; An organization promoting Green technology; or, No travel.

2. Compromises

The items that you are willing to compromise on based upon the quality of the opportunity.

3. Can Waits

Things like promotion opportunities, bonuses, a new title, tuition reimbursement, etc. Whatever you're willing to wait for.


Career construction is another method to help you understand your career path. The framework was developed by Mark Savickas, Ph.D., and essentially helps to shine a beautiful light on the clues and common threads that exist within your life story. These vital bits of information help you discover a core theme in your personal holistic narrative that informs the next steps in your career path. What gives you meaning and purpose and how does that meaning and purpose relate to others? How are you of service to others? According to Savickas, the belief that what you do matters to others will help to bring focus to your identity and promote a sense of social meaning and relatedness.

Career construction [??] helps you understand that many of the key projects and events in your life matter, both to yourself and as a positive ripple to other people. You'll key in on your personal theme by reflecting upon meaningful experiences from your life roles and see how they combine with your list of motivated skills. Then you'll align your theme with your current goals and future actions. This allows you to focus your energy and exploration on the types of roles (the work) and environments that are in alignment with your theme.

To help you learn more about yourself, you can reflect on your past to see and notice the patterns in your own personal narrative. What themes and patterns emerge in relation to your career? The point is not to determine your career through any types of codes or easy classifications; the point is to subjectively consider what your career narrative says about you and where you want to go in the future.

Exercise 3: Journey to the past

For this exercise, spend some time journaling about these two questions:

• What are three of your earliest recollections?

• Who did you admire when you were growing up (real or fictional)? List three heroes/role models

When you're done writing, review your answers. What patterns or trends can you link to your work or desired career? Where would you most like to go, based on your past? It would be ideal to complete a full career construction interview with a counselor or coach who is trained in this model.


In judo, testing for the next belt is seen as an opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities, improved knowledge, and refined techniques you've accumulated. It's also an incentive to learn more and grow from the experience. Just like testing for that next belt in judo assess your knowledge and skills, a formal assessment can help you to understand more about yourself, like your personality preferences, character strengths, and current areas of interest. Keep in mind that an assessment is not an absolute; it's simply a tool to provide focused information to help you digest and apply to your process of exploration.


Excerpted from "Career Judo"
by .
Copyright © 2017 John E. Long, Ed.S. with Erin Newman.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Influences and Acknowledgements, vii,
Special Thanks, xi,
Introduction, xiii,
Chapter 1: White Belt, 1,
Chapter 2: Yellow Belt, 27,
Chapter 3: Green Belt, 51,
Chapter 4: Brown Belt, 74,
Chapter 5: Black Belt, 96,
Chapter 6: Beyond the Black Belt, 104,
About The Authors, 117,

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