Tag Archives: music

Finding Harmony in work: A strategy to re-soul your career

Harmony: Finding Harmony in work: A strategy to re-soul your career

In my earlier blog Resouling your career I defined harmony in the following terms: “Harmony is a joyful dance through and with life.” Here I want to expand on some practical ideas for finding harmony in your career. In part prompted by Ed Colozzi’s excellent comments on that blog, and in particular because I want to explore the idea of harmony because it has so much to offer to people in their careers.

Harmony is a metaphor derived from music to describe a fundamental aspect of nature where we respond strongly when some things are joined or blended.

In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches (tones, notes), or chords. In some types of music like jazz chords can be altered with “tensions”. A tension is the addition of an element within the chord that sets up dissonance with the bass. Usually in music, this dissonant chord resolves into a consonant chord.  Harmony is the sense of balance between the dissonant and consonant chords – between the tension and the relaxation.

So to my mind, harmony is about a dynamic, an oscillation between tension (I mean this in the mild sense and NOT stress!) and relaxation, a repeating pattern that resonates with us.  It involves the interplay between two or more elements and involves the careful timing to ensure the blends happen at the right time.  In career terms, being “in sync” with others or events may provide a sense of harmony.  Pitching in with contributions or ideas at just the right time, responding intuitively and spontaneously to others – these are all examples of harmony.

Obviously harmony extends beyond music and can be found in all walks of life if we are attuned to seek it out.  Cezanne stated, “When paintings are done right, harmony appears by itself. The more numerous and varied they are, the more the effect is obtained and agreeable to the eye”.  Harmony is an arrangement of the elements or parts of the whole that creates a strong positive aesthetic reaction in us. All the elements seem to work together to create a pleasing order.

Art and music teach us that the common underlying theme of harmony is a sense of connection where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and creates an immediate positive response in us.   It is not only a sense of connection, rather those connections appear to be dictated by a sense of order and belonging – the elements combine in very specific ways – to create that pattern of tension and resolution.  You cannot simply throw any random elements together and expect to get harmony.

In Chaos Theory of Career terms, Harmony can be seen as an emergent property of the dynamic complex interconnected influences in our lives and careers.  It explains why the idea of “fit” between a person and job should not be construed in static terms, but as a dynamic dance.  Harmony is dynamic.

I like to think of harmony in terms of dance because it melds the musical and visual elements of harmony.  In dancing, getting your timing right so that you are in the right place to meet your partner, or doing the the thing that is consonant with the music makes the difference between a satisfying dance and an embarrassing display!

In career terms harmony involves understanding connection, knowing how and when to join in. It involves timing and rhythm.  It involves feeling part of something bigger but at the same time remaining a distinctive element in that bigger thing. Harmony is about blending in AND standing out, it is not about subjugating your voice, rather adding your voice.

Listening carefully, observing, appreciating that you are distinctive and bring unique qualities to work.  This requires acceptance of both your strengths and limitations. It requires respect and close observation of others and nature to understand as much as possible how things go together and to spot opportunities where the addition of your contribution will create harmony.

I also want to clarify my comment in that earlier blog that you can’t do harmony on your own.  What I mean by this, is not that you need other people to achieve harmony necessarily (but often this is where the most obvious or accessible harmony can be found) rather whether it is communing with nature, or meditating, harmony necessarily involves the blending of your self into something greater, something bigger (thanks Ed for making this point in your comments on the Re-souling blog!).

Harmony James

I included album cover for this artist, because I love her name!!

Here are a few suggestions about how you can achieve harmony in your career:

1.  Harmonize with your self. Find time and space in your life to reflect on who you are and what you have to offer

2. Harmonize with your spirit. Try meditation, prayer or silent time (perhaps immerse yourself in a long bath or sauna!) to remove the background noise to listen to the quiet signals and messages

3. Harmonize with others. Immerse yourself in projects and connections – do not expect to find harmony in all of these, but use them as learning opportunities to explore the nature of your strengths and the types of work and people where you experience harmony

4. Harmonize with nature.  Find times to immerse yourself in nature.  This might be a walk or bike ride through the country, a visit to a beach, or it could be appreciating a flower, a flower’s scent or a bird in your back yard. It could be a camping trip, or sitting atop a mountain sipping hot chocolate while taking in the view.  When fully immersed you feel that instantaneous connection as a distinctive part of a vibrant dynamic, complex and inter-connected world.

5. Harmonize with time. Be persistent, harmony requires timing, and in careers timing is not always under your control.  So do not give up if your fail to harmonize in your initial attempts.

6. Harmonize with difference. Seek out friends, colleagues or team members who bring harmony – not people who simply agree with everything you believe – a carbon copy, remember you need that pattern of tension & resolution for harmony – this is why diversity in teams is so essential – without moments of tension you simply have blind agreement – there is no movement, no oscillation, no harmony.

7. Harmonize with change – recognise you are change, are changing like the things around you and harmony needs the constant movement, the warp and weft, the alterations, to be maintained.


What is your idea of harmony? How do you find harmony in your work?


ps  check out this beautiful video posted via twitter just after I posted this – harmony!

Carole King Tapestry – Albums that speak volumes about careers and life

Carole King Tapestry – Albums that speak volumes about careers and life.

I am always out of step.  I was a huge Elton John Fan, just when his career dipped in the early 1980s and David Bowie was uber cool.   Now a couple of months ago a friend introduced me to the delights of Billy Joel’s Songs from the Attic, recorded during my early 1980s Elton phase, but comprised of songs composed in the early 1970s, I will review that in career terms in another post, but I want to turn to my favourite period, the early 1970s for a classic album that I discovered only a few months ago – Carole King’s Tapestry.  As I said I am always out of step.

It opens with I feel the earth move – which opens like a lovely V8 1970s muscle car. A big bass line to go with earth moving, skies tumbling, and a lovely career word – mellow. The song also talks of our limits of control and our impulsive reactions – good chaos notions.  Have you achieved total mellowness in your career? This was something to aspire to in the late 1960s and early 70s.  I declare a campaign to bring back mellow in the career counseling lexicon – a feeling of quiet contentment, reflective happiness and a lack of anxiety – something many of my clients would like to achieve.

So far away (doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore) – this for me reminds me of the transient nature of work, and the incessant travel involved and the transient relationships one develops.  Carole sings “if I could only work out this life my way” – how often have we felt this or heard this from our clients.   A song about closing our mind to the loneliness of travel – essentially change and how we manage it and maintain stability of relationships and place.

Its too late – a song about depression at the inevitability of change as people grow apart despite their best efforts to hold things together – the notion of slow shift or drift that can leave us feeling disenfranchised, lost and despairing.  “I feel like a fool” – a line reflecting that feeling that there must have been something more that I could have done – a plaintiff attempt at trying to rationalise the limitations on what we can control.

Home Again – “Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to make it home again it is so far and out of site, I really need someone to talk to” .  The powerful notion of home, being grounded, being with the familiar, in a trusting place with trusting and understanding people – a call for reassurance and the certainties that home represents in the midst of constant change and travel.  It reminds me of the importance of establishing a “home” for people in transition, that amidst change and chance, people need a sense of order, that chaos has both order and change – all change and no order is too much for anyone to deal with.

Beautiful “you’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart and then people are going to treat you better, you are going to find that you are beautiful (yes you are) as you feel”.  I love the optimism of this song, if the injunction is a little too strident!  It captures the essential importance of persistence and the importance of optimism and giving.  Uplifting.  Indeed it captures some of the more important things that we as counselors are trying to achieve.

Way over yonder “…is a place that I know, where I can find shelter, from a hunger and cold, …that’s where I’m bound”.  Another song about home, security, a safe place, a happier place.  It is a song about aspiration, self-improvement, about the benefits of being able to stand proudly in “true piece of mind”.  For me this can seen as occupational daydreams, thinking optimistically about what things will be like if all goes well.

You’ve got a friend – “when you are down and troubled and you need some living care, and nothing, nothing is going right, close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there, to brighten up even your darkest night, you just call out my name and I you know wherever I am I’ll come running to see you again, Winter, Spring Summer or Fall, all you have to do is call”  –  Well I could cynically say this sounds like the advertising speil of a telephone counseling service!  Less cynically, at face value, I just love the sense of service, connection and reaching out that this song expresses.  Given recent UK surveys have suggested a startling number of 30 and 40 somethings feel lonely, disconnected and unhappy in their work, maybe we need to give more time to the notion of loneliness and work’s contribution to it.

Where you lead – “I would go to the ends of the earth.. where you lead I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to, if you need me to be with you…”  Again this could be the stalkers refrain, but again it is a song about support and connectedness.  It is making the statement that I will compromise, and that what I thought I wanted and what it turns out makes me happy are different things.

Will you love me tomorrow – A gentle song about insecurity, again a refrain about the inevitability of change – is this a transient thing or something longer lasting. It reflects the caution that wisdom dictates from bitter experience of having our commitment dishonored.

Smackwater Jack – A cautionary tale of a frustrated man who takes it out on others with his shotman “you cant talk to a man when he don’t want to understand”   – this is the line that resonates with me, thinking about some of those uncooperative or even gung ho clients, who really do not want to be there, or only want to be with you as long as you agree and validate all their ideas, which may not be appropriate.  We have to find ways of taking the shotgun from them, to disarm them before we can make any progress.

Tapestry – “an everlasting vision of the ever changing view…impossible to hold…he moved with some uncertainty as if he didn’t know” If this isn’t a song about complexity and chaos I do not know what is.  Change, uncertainty, complexity, chance events, limitations, it is all here!

(You make me feel) like a natural woman – “I used to feel uninspired and when I knew I had to face another day, lord it made me feel so tired” – I beautiful song about completion, an optimistic song about sudden and unexpected change transforming a person – the Chaos Theory idea of the Phase Shift.

I know it is a risk to over analyse anything, let alone a work of art the Tapestry represents, but rather for me it is an inspiration  see Beyond Personal Mastery ® model for more details (http://tiny.cc/mastery).

There are lot of ideas in this album that apply to our lives and careers and in there I can see a lot of messages about change, complexity, phase shifts and much more besides.  Ultimately I love the optimistic note of much of it, as well as the wisdom and recognition of limitations and uncertainty.  All in all, some useful ideas for being “mellow”. What do you think?

I like strangling animals, golf and ….

I like strangling animals, golf and ….

Paul Simon began “have a good time” with “yesterday it was my birthday…”. Well that was in the 1970s and you couldn’t get your LED watches to work properly, the batteries kept running out. So we can forgive Mr Simon for being a day late with his birthday…probably waiting for Arty’s card to arrive. Anywhere where was I, yes, well, um, today it is my birthday, and I am still far younger than I look. I thought my age would one day catch up with my looks, but I have to take my hat off to my looks, they are doing a creditable impression of a 1970s kenyan long distance olympic runner – miles ahead of the pack before collapsing in an undignified heap shortly before being passed by the whole field – story of my life… How where was I? Yes,…well… everyone needs a hobby don’t they? They say that idle hands end up in front of the magistrate, or at least that was what my probation officer said, or was it my psychiatrist, I can’t remember… I am getting old you see. Anyway enough of channelling Frankie Howerd and on with the piece for today…no don’t, I thought of it too!! It’s on hobbies…enjoy. I will be in Melbourne when this gets published, I wonder if Jimmy Watson’s is open tonight…

If you want to get shortlisted for your next job, can I suggest that you take up Touch Football? However if you like camping or waterskiing, do not bother applying. These odd sounding recommendations come from some work that myself and a colleague in the recruitment industry, Kate Day undertook looking at the different hobbies that candidates had listed on their resumes and whether or not they were subsequently shortlisted for the job. We looked at a total of 999 candidate resumes that were submitted to a recruitment company for a variety of different jobs. Around 50% of the resumes listed hobbies, but it appears that there are differences across industry sectors in the tendency to include hobby information. For instance, Sales people obviously love their hobbies with 57% listing them on their resumes. In contrast only 32% of the Human Resource people those listed hobbies. Maybe the sales types have more spare time, or perhaps the Human resource people follow their own guidelines and stick only to the job relevant information.

A total of 159 different hobbies were listed across the resumes. The top ten most frequently listed were: 1st reading, 2nd travelling, 3rd Golf, 4th Tennis, 5th Swimming, 6th listening to, music,7th family ,8th rugby, 9th snowsking, = 10th fishing and going to the gym. Some of the least frequent included collecting cigarette cards, washing the car, tap dancing and keeping reptiles.

When it comes to getting shortlisted not all hobbies are equal. The ten best hobbies that were associated with resumes that got shortlisted were: Touch football, Squash, Cricket, Cooking, Wine, Rugby, Motor racing, Tennis, Socialising and Biking. When these hobbies were included, the chances of being shortlisted was increased by between 24% and 147%.

The worst ten hobbies to include turned out to be (from least worst to worst): Golf, Walking, listening to music, theatre, movies, art/craft, bushwalking, entertaining, camping and water skiing. Including those suckers on your resume was associated with a reduced chance of being shortlisted by between 28% and 73%.

So perhaps Monty Python were right and golf (along with strangling animals) is not that popular around here. Before the Camping Water Skiers Association of Australia confront me with a tent pole or “goofy feet”, I should point out that the survey although reasonably big may not be totally representative.

Interestingly, the desirable hobbies were on average slightly more likely to be included on resumes generally (average ranking 21) compared to the undesirable hobbies (average ranking 28). However, the most commonly listed hobbies such as reading and travelling were associated with only negligible impacts on shortlisting (+1% and -3% respectively). In other words, you are probably wasting your time listing these hobbies.

What are hobbies for? Are they an escape from the stresses of our day jobs, a coping mechanism to provide the rewards that our work cannot give us? Alternatively are they a dry run for a future radical career change, a try before you buy, or are they a means to an end? The answer is probably all of the above, and there is no straight answer to whether you should turn your hobby into work. For some it is likely to be a dream come true, and for others, it is a sure fire recipe to turn your escape into drudgery. As for whether you should include them on the resume or not, we found that overall including hobbies made no difference to your chances of getting shortlisted, but if you do include hobbies, some seem to be more popular for whatever reason than others.

A recruiter once told me, you should do a lot with your life to ensure that you have something to put on your resume. Maybe we should just aim to do a lot with our lives and not worry about putting it on the resume!

Jim Bright is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU National and a Partner at Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy.