Professional Resilience in the Millennial Generation

14005658457_0f53ee2a95_b Who knew that Darwin would have relevance to today’s young people who are entering the work force in 2012? Well, Nacie Carson did and does. She is the author of The Finch Effect, a book that offers five strategies to adapt and thrive in your working life. She brings her expertise in career development to every page of this book, because she understands so well the sense of entrepreneurship and the need for career adaptability that characterizes the millennial work experience. Talking with Nacie allowed me to explore what it means to learn as an author from another author.

As usual, I wanted to know how she brought the necessary knowledge to her work – you can’t write something unless you have something to write about. As she described this knowledge on two levels. The first is all about the substantive research that anyone needs to do. She had to know what those who were struggling in this economy to find work felt and saw. She also had to know from those who had found a way to be successful even in this economy – how they had done so and what characterized them. “I had to have an honest and authentic, human to human dialogue with each of them,” she said. She also had to have conversations with experts in career counseling, finance, entrepreneurship in a way that moved beyond the buzz words. “I interviewed about 100 people in all, and the amount of information was huge.”

Then, Nacie revealed something about writing that many authors face but rarely talk about. “I had to give myself permission to be the messenger of the message. I was bringing important news to the world, and I was concerned about my own worthiness to be the messenger. It took years to process through the substantive information AND to work through this sense of not feeling worthy of the task.” Having done qualitative research for many years, I felt comfortable about the substantive learning that is necessary. But I was most intrigued about how she learned what she needed to learn in order to ‘work through’ the sense of worthiness.

“I talked with many successful authors who were willing to have an authentic dialogue with me. Knowing that others were in the same place gave me the ability to sit in that place and do the necessary work. It was just knowing that I had company,” said Nacie. “I had to look in the mirror. If I couldn’t write with confidence, I couldn’t do my best. When I felt the ‘least’ is when my writing was the worst. But when I could sit in humility, I could get to a real place in my work The writing flowed, and my contribution became clear. I had to maintain the integrity of the facts, but I also had to add my own contribution.”

Just imagine having to sit and look squarely in the mirror, allowing yourself to see what is truly there. If I understand Nacie right, it was in those moments that she was able to learn and then perform at a higher level.

As Nacie talked, she began to weave both the substantive research with the more internal work that she had to do in order to learn and articulate her contribution derived from the findings. Nacie had to integrate the many points of information she had gained through her interviews. From the outside, it always looks easy – especially after the book has been written. But you still have to give yourself time to let the complexity of the information gel. “You have to analyze and interpret what you have learned in order to be ready to add your own contribution.” This is particularly hard when you have a deadline, and gel time melts away. She went on, “I had to allow myself to step away even against a deadline. These were times when I retreated to manual activities. I baked bread. I sewed. I gardened. I cooked. Anything that would allow my hands to work seemed to allow the gelling process to happen. But it took discipline [And a bit of courage, thought Madelyn.] to take time away from the keyboard to allow the mind to do its thing.”

Ilove hearing how people let the inner work of learning happen. Too often, teachers think they just need to say something again or in a different way to help the student learn, when the real secret is to ‘step away.’ I know for myself that when I do manual activities such as cooking or garden or just washing the dishes, it opens a quietness of my mind to let it make the connections needed for the unexpected insights to come bubbling up. It’s only then that I know that I have really learned.

Nacie was so articulate that I have decided that you need to hear more from her and will take time to expand on this blog next week. So stayed tuned for more amazing insights.

But before I move too quickly, take a moment now and think about how you give yourself quiet time for letting your mind digest what it has taken in so that it can create the insights that grow from that. How do you do it?

Photo by TexasEagle