New Directions: Successful Strategies for Career, the Workplace, and Personal Growth

New Directions: Successful Strategies for Career, the Workplace, and Personal Growth

by James G. Ward


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New Directions: Successful Strategies for Career, the Workplace, and Personal Growth by James G. Ward

Careers don’t just happen.
Our definition of career and how we approach the workplace have undergone a profound paradigm shift. In the modern economy, career transitions are common: Layoffs, changes in management, corporate downsizing, mergers, restructuring—even a difficult boss—can all lead to a new job or even a completely new line of work. What do you do when you have to find some new direction?

Managing a long career is hard work, but author James Ward offers a practical career toolbox, full of strategies for success at every career stage, including

• How to choose and plan your career path
• How to handle career transitions
• How to find a job
• How to succeed once you’re hired
• How to create a strategy for the future

​Ward turns his thirty years of professional coaching and HR experience, firsthand observations of a changing business landscape, into actionable career strategies. It’s critical that you be willing and able to transition into a new job—sometimes into a new career. New Directions provides the tools necessary to excel in today’s shifting professional world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626343535
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 01/10/2017
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jim Ward, MA, PCC, is a seasoned human resources executive and professional coach with over twenty-five years’ experience working with individuals and corporations to solve their business and human capital issues. Having had the benefit of living and working in Asia for many years during his corporate career, Jim understands the importance of diversity, cultural sensitivity, and globalization. He has a master’s degree in human resource management and completed the Columbia Coaching Certificate Program at Columbia University. His company, New Directions Consulting, provides coaching and human capital strategies to corporations and individuals. He lives in Southern California and is married with two adult sons. In his spare time he is a recreational triathlete (albeit a slow one). He can be reached at or at

Read an Excerpt

New Directions

Successful Strategies for Career, the Workplace, and Personal Growth

By James G. Ward

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2017 James G. Ward
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-353-5


Careers in Today's World

You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.

— Yogi Berra, baseball legend

What Is a Career?

It doesn't happen all at once [that] you become. It takes a long time.

— Margery Williams,The Velveteen Rabbit

Douglas Hall, in his book Careers in Organizations, defined a career as a "lifelong sequence of role-related experiences." A traditional view of "career" is paternal, providing stability and direction. Prior to the Second World War, and shortly thereafter, workers' careers were simpler to manage because control was in the hands of the employer. There was generally one employer and one career field across a person's life span. Hard work paid off through retirement.

Today, we know that the new realities of managing our careers are more complicated. Often we see individuals having multiple careers in their lifetime, which can span different fields of endeavor altogether. This process can be carefully planned or simply managed haphazardly. Regardless of the individual circumstances, this process can lead to personal fulfillment or be totally frustrating. The cyclical nature of the global economy requires us to think about work and career differently. Since the 1970s, managing a career has become much more complex and difficult, due in part to globalization, rapid changes in technology, and economic turbulence. The rise in alternative work arrangements has become part of the current employment landscape.

As a result of all this change, we have experienced the death of the psychological contract between employer and employee. The concept of "lifetime employment" is essentially dead. Employees now work for and with multiple employers over their working careers.

Donald Super was an early pioneer in the field of career development and one of the first thought leaders to do serious research on the subject. In one of his many research articles, "career Development Theory," he outlined his career model, which was based on the belief that a person's self-concept changes over time and develops as a result of that person's lifelong experiences. Super's theory of career development identified five stages — growth stage, exploration stage, establishment stage, maintenance stage, and decline stage — that individuals go through; and as we mature, our vocational maturity increases with age. Careers could be conceptualized in stages:

Growth stage (birth to age 14): Developing self-concept, attitudes, and understanding of work. Parental influence is important.

Exploration stage (ages 15–24): Exploration of interests and career possibilities through education and hobbies.

Establishment stage (ages 25–44): Acquisition of skills, experience, and expertise becoming established in a given field.

Maintenance stage (ages 45–64): Maintaining job security and continuously making adjustments to improve position. Career advancement strategies.

Decline stage (ages 65+): Decreased output, preparing for retirement. Disengagement from the workforce.

In addition, we know that in our thirties and forties unique changes can take place in our lives — for example, the way our personal lives become more important. Starting a family can have an effect on this change in focus. All of this can lead to a new and different view of career. At some point, workers reach plateaus; when this happens, climbing the hierarchy of the corporate ladder may no longer be the goal. Today we are seeing a profound paradigm shift in how we view our relationship to work. Members of the millennial generation — those born in the 1980s and 1990s — want a better work-life balance, and often prefer to be self-employed to allow greater flexibility. Simply put, this generation is no longer putting the company before all else in life.

What has replaced the organizational men and women of yester-year? The self-managed career has; these days you are in charge of and control your career direction.

The Self-Managed Career

Choose your career not on the basis of what you know, but who you are.

— Anonymous

The self-managed career has replaced the traditional view of work; individuals now have greater control over their own destiny. To a certain degree, employees now regard themselves as free agents. Douglas Hall has written extensively on the new career contract, beginning with his 1976 book Careers in Organizations. He further developed his theory in his research paper "The Protean Career: A Quarter-Century Journey." Hall coined the concept of the "protean" career, named for the Greek god Proteus, who was able to fluidly transform his shape to avoid revealing what he knew and who he was. The protean career is one "in which the person, not the organization, is in charge." This new concept of personal career management means the worker is continuously learning, remains open to new possibilities, and has the potential for multiple careers and occupations over a lifetime.

Today's workers are in charge of themselves. The emotional gains resulting from the new definition of career are greater self-reliance, a feeling of empowerment, and an enhanced sense of self-worth. Individuals accepting the new self-managed career definition typically seek jobs that suit their core values and passions and that offer greater personal flexibility and work-life balance.

What does all of this mean in terms of the right career strategy? Does it mean you are to be self-serving, blindly and opportunistically moving from one employer to another? No, what I am saying is to be mindful and prepared. Organizational loyalty is important. However, don't put one hundred percent of your faith in the organization to take care of you. Take control of your career! Adhere to the self-managed career definition. The profound changes in the business climate over the past twenty-five years require us to think differently about ourselves, our careers, and how to navigate organizational ambiguity. A recent Gallup research report showed that seventy percent of US workers were not engaged at work (i.e., not happy or satisfied with their employer or career choice). This is a staggering statistic. All the more reason to adopt a new way of thinking about your career. It's more important to be engaged and satisfied with your work than to spend thirty years in a job you hate or a career you are unhappy with.

Career Choices

We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish.

— Anthony Robbins, American motivational speaker and author

Career choices are easy, right? Not so fast! Choosing which job to take is easy compared to choosing a career. It's the age-old chicken or-the-egg dilemma — which comes first, the job or the career? For example, you can't have a career without having a job, and there's no job worth having that isn't part of a career. Many of us would see a job flipping burgers at the local fast-food restaurant as not worth having, unless you had a clear path to becoming a store manager or multi-unit manager.

We may tend to think of our career choice as a lifelong commitment, but the reality is that in today's world we often have a series of mini-careers over our lifetimes. This realization might put less pressure on individuals as they think about what "to do for a living," but some pressure still exists. Although you may have studied to be an accountant, engineer, teacher, and so on, you may find you need to take a new direction. Career uncertainty is a common occurrence. It was not that long ago that once you chose your field of study, you were on a direct path to a lifelong profession. High school and college students today are faced with this important decision of what to do for a career, vocation, or trade. Hopefully today's college placement offices offer more support and realistic direction than they did when I graduated. For years the Department of Labor published its annual Dictionary of Occupation Titles, which highlighted thousands of available occupations. I remember the placement office giving me this book to review during my college days. That was the extent of their advice! This publication has now been replaced with the Occupational Information Network database ( Individuals today have unlimited online resources to help bring clarity to the topic of career choice and options. In addition, today there are a number of good psychometric tools available to use to guide individuals as to their interest, occupational skills, and career orientation. Recent news articles tell us there is a renewed interest in and premium placed on technical skills, and vocations requiring skills training are on the rise. In many cases, students are staying off the path to college and opting instead to gain vocational training.

Following your passion and interest, in my view, is the most important aspect of career choice. It doesn't matter what you choose as a career — doctor, lawyer, nurse, plumber, welder, teacher, or farmer. The important thing to know is we do have choices! Remember the adage "Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life." This should be your goal as you ponder your career choices.


A long-term friend of mine recently confided in me that he was concerned about his son's overall direction in life. His son, Noah, had studied music in college and was not able to make a career in the music industry. His father was anxious because he felt Noah was on a dead-end path. Noah had held a series of low-end restaurant positions and was in his early thirties. My friend wanted me to meet with Noah, which I was happy to do. During several meetings, I listened and probed as to Noah's goals and ideas about what he wanted to do with his work and career. I found Noah to be a person with passion, drive, and obvious talent.

Although Noah's career trajectory was not obvious to his father, Noah did have a plan. His seemingly low-end restaurant positions provided him with insight into the restaurant business and contacts he would later need to achieve his goals. He told me that he had been studying to become a master sommelier, because there are multiple phases to this process and it can take years to achieve. One must pass each stage and exam before progressing to the next level. Noah was very realistic about the study of wine and what it would ultimately lead to in terms of career choice. He was also realistic about the types of career options, particularly the nontraditional hours often associated with this line of work. Noah was not the typical nine to five–type guy.

After completing his final sommelier exam, some eight months later, Noah was able to secure a position with an exclusive private country club as the head sommelier. The position paid well and offered good benefits. While this career choice may not fit the "traditional view," it was what Noah wanted for himself. He was successful at turning his passion into reality. His father was relieved that his son was now on a career path.

Career Planning

A winner has a healthy appreciation of his abilities and a keen awareness of his limitations.

— Sydney J. Harris, noted American journalist and author

Career planning is a tricky business. While absolutely necessary to having a successful and long-term career, the planning phase must be approached with eyes wide open. Most importantly, career planning should be done in concert with setting short- and long term objectives. Often this planning takes place over a significant period of time. And occasionally, careers just happen; and as a result of a series of haphazard events, we find ourselves doing what we are doing.

From the time we plan for college until the day we plan for retirement (or re-direction, as I like to refer to it), career planning is part of our everyday lives. In thinking about career planning, there are five essential components to approaching the subject in the right way:

• First, whatever your chosen endeavor, commitment is paramount; you will never be successful at anything unless you are committed.

• Second, know your strengths and weaknesses. Without a realistic picture of your skills, strengths, and capabilities, you will fail.

• Third, the willingness to take risks is important. In my coaching practice, I always encourage individuals to take a few calculated career risks. It's all about getting out of your comfort zone.

• Fourth, flexibility is important to maintaining perspective. The ability to flex to a specific situation, organization, and/or role is important.

• Last, the key to any form of career planning is to always have a backup plan. Prepare for the unexpected. When things don't work out as you planned or hoped, have a "plan B" in place and ready to go. The important thing is not to get caught flat-footed and without an exit strategy.


Stephanie, a recent college graduate, graduated at the top of her class in premed. She had taken the entrance exam to get into medical school, and scored in the top ten percent. Stephanie was in the process of applying to medical schools when she decided she did not want to go into medicine! She never got those applications off. Stephanie loved medicine, but she did not have the stomach for years of educational debt. Moreover, Stephanie passionately wanted to be a surgeon, but a recent serious hand injury would prevent that. She needed to adjust her plans. Many of today's college graduates have a similar story. Their career plans change after graduation.

Stephanie had worked in many different restaurants during college and worked weekends as a bartender. So she decided to become a full-time bartender and did that for the next three years, while trying to figure out which direction to take.

During this time she started taking business classes and eventually enrolled in an executive MBA program at a top-tier school. Stephanie's focus in business school was to bridge her interest in business with her interest in medicine. She wanted to figure out where those two fields intersected.

I was referred to Stephanie by a mutual friend and had several coaching sessions with her. After some psychometric testing, I discovered that one of her strengths was her outgoing personality. Stephanie was engaging and assertive, someone who had no fear of failure and displayed tremendous resiliency. After she graduated from business school, Stephanie began to explore medical sales. She interviewed with several organizations and found it to be extremely competitive, which did not dissuade her at all. The more research she did, the more she thought medical sales was the right career path to pursue. After months of an aggressive job search, Stephanie was offered a position in medical sales with a Fortune 500 medical device manufacturer. This organization manufactured medical devices for orthopedic surgeons, which allowed Stephanie to put her knowledge of medicine to practical use. In her role, she sold directly to doctors and was required to observe actual surgeries to advise the surgeon on the proper methods to insert these medical devices. Stephanie found a way to intersect both of her interests — business and medicine — while also putting to use her sales-oriented personality.

Contents of Your "New Directions" Toolbox

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

— Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning

Recently, I found myself rereading Marshall Goldsmith's wonderful book What Got You Here Won't Get You There. I use this book a great deal in my coaching practice. When I think about goals, I think of the interesting challenge Goldsmith poses at the end of his book. He asks readers to imagine they are ninety-five years of age and on their deathbed. Before taking their last breath, they have the ability to reach back in time and speak to their younger selves. Think about this now: Having the benefit of time and experience, what advice would you give yourself about being a better professional and a better person? In essence, what have you learned in those ninety-five years with regard to professional and personal experiences? I frequently ask my clients this question, and they struggle to find an answer. Interestingly, I recently asked my very healthy, not-near-his-deathbed ninety-two-year-old father-in-law this very question. He responded that he wished he had been a better communicator. The rest, in theory, is easy. Act on the basis of the advice you would give to your younger self. Simple, right?

This is a great exercise to go through as we plan for New Directions in our career. Following the economic turbulence of 2007–2008, we are seeing an improving economy, which brings hope to us all. It opens up new possibilities. It's time to find your passion and do it. If you are unhappy with your current job/career/ boss, then make a detailed plan to change it. What career and personal goals have you set for yourself? Planning for change takes time; it does not just happen.


Excerpted from New Directions by James G. Ward. Copyright © 2017 James G. Ward. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group 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

Foreword xiii

Preface: Why Seek a New Direction? xv

Introduction 1

Section 1 Careers in Today's World 5

What Is a Career? 7

The Self-Managed Career 9

Career Choices 11

Career Planning 14

Contents of Your "New Directions" Toolbox 17

Like the Army: Be, Know, Do 18

Career Launch-Phase 1: Be 20

Career Launch-Phase 2: Know 21

Career Launch-Phase 3: Do 22

Section 2 Who's Seeking Work? 25

Who Needs a New Direction? 27

Our Journey on the Career Spectrum 29

Career Stagnation 30

Transitions: Letting Go and Moving On 32

Those Who Have Been Terminated 36

Endgame, or New Game? 41

Section 3 Job-Search Strategies 45

Where to Look 47

Relationship Building-Code for Networking 52

Informational Interviews 54

Resume Upgrade 58

Target the Cover Letter 60

Etiquette 65

First Impressions 66

The Interview Process 68

Practice, Role-Play, Research 77

Follow Up and Follow Through 79

Dealing with Recruiters 80

Section 4 Workplace Strategies 83

Happiness at Work-a Possibility? 85

Monday Morning Horrors 87

What Is Your Strategy? 89

Having Passion 91

Personality and Organizational Fit 93

College Graduates 95

Are We Really Listening? 97

A Dog's Perspective 99

Social Media and the Workplace 100

Cell Phone Captive 102

Do You Have Presence? 103

Inside/Outside 105

Workplace Habits 106

Are You at Your Best? 108

Motivation 110

Performance Reviews 111

Making Feedback Work 113

Dealing with Job Stress 114

Avoiding Termination 116

Managing Your Manager 118

The Know-It-All 120

Managing Egos 121

Operating Style 124

Good Boss/Bad Boss: A Personal Journey 126

What Is Leadership? 131

What Is Success? 133

Practice 135

A Seat at the Table 136

What Is Retirement? 137

Section 5 Personal Growth Strategies 141

Trust 143

What Is Character? 144

What Can Coaching Do for You? 146

Choosing a Coach 148

Dealing with Failure 150

What Is Competition? 152

Developing a Learner's Mindset 154

Job Burnout 155

Excellence versus Perfection 158

The Four Rules 159

What Is Time? 161

IQ versus EQ 163

Goal Setting 165

Individual Makeup 167

Knowing What You Don't Know 169

Conclusion: Channel Your Destiny 171

Appendix A Additional Tips for Your New Directions Toolbox 175

Appendix B Action Words to Use for Resume Development 179

Resources 181

Acknowledgments 185

About the Author 191

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New Directions: Successful Strategies for Career, the Workplace, and Personal Growth 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Suzanne-789 More than 1 year ago
Jim Ward's book New Directions is precisely what the title describes. In a compact compilation of 178 pages, he has created a powerful tool for anyone in the work place. Ward draws on his personal background to provide a vast array of successful strategies for career, the workplace, and personal growth. This is a must read, which will allow every reader to channel their individual destiny by applying the knowledge the author acquired through decades of experience.