Article, 5 Ways Your Career Can Thrive In Turbulent Times by Alan Kearns :

Five ways your career can thrive in turbulent times.
Alan Kearns

Currently you are hearing mostly negative news - lay-offs paired with the mortgage crisis incurring financial challenges, instability of the Canadian dollar and the "R" word - yes the recession seems to appear in all of the major news stories. This economic phase we are entering is more uncertain than those we have seen in a while. You may have had a situation where your department was being outsourced, where the bank called in the loan on your business enterprise or you didn't get the promotion you were expecting. Many professionals choose paths such as working for the Government, teaching and medicine for some assurance of predictability and stability.

Why do some people thrive in uncertain circumstances? Why do others really struggle, never seeming to reach their potential, especially after unexpected set backs in their careers? Do you know with certainty where your career is going this year? This weeks podcast features George Butterfield, the founder of a leading walking & biking touring company, Butterfield & Robinson. For over 42 years, his company has provided over 350 tours per year, from Texas to Tuscany. I will be sharing 5 key ways in which he has built his career and his company by seeing opportunity in unexpected places and events.

George's Story

George Butterfield grew up in Bermuda and was educated in Canada. He became a Rhodes Scholar and ultimately decided to attend law school. "My father told me doctor, lawyer or accountant. It seemed to me that a professional degree was a nice kind of insurance." During his time in school, he exercised his entrepreneurial spirit by launching both a restaurant and a travel company which specialized in taking students to Europe.

Upon graduating from law school, he followed a traditional career path. He joined a mining company as an assistant to the president - the big corporate job. After spending two years along this path, something unexpected occurred. The company asked him to take a new role and move to a different country. He had a decision to make - should he move or should he follow his entrepreneurial spirit. Amidst the variables of this unforeseen situation, which was the best path to take? Where might the best opportunities lie?

He chose to take the road less traveled and focused full-time on developing his travel company. My brother-in-law, who helped found the company, often asked George how he would make the rent. George walked to the beat of his own drum. "I will never see a dividend. Fortunately, I have been able to provide a great living for not just myself but the many people who are part of our organization".

From the beginning, the company took a different approach. George sensed that people were looking for more of an experience, not the typical 24-hour buffet cruise experience. George saw a different kind of opportunity in European travel. He saw slow and green. Now remember, 40 years ago were different times, neither slow nor green were hip marketing tools. But George loved taking clients to Europe as a way of expanding their horizons and showing others the world from a different and unique perspective. "For me money is nice to have but not the driving factor. The corporate world was too constricting for me. I would do better under my own terms".

When you take walking and biking tours, you experience the culture first hand - a very different way from bus tours in which you are shuttled from one site to the next. While yes, it is more predictable, you miss out on great experiences like smelling fresh manure, watching cows graze, battling a flat tire or waiting for sheep to cross a road. His guides play a crucial role in managing events and facilitating the best overall experience. George's company also tends to bring clients to visit areas of the world that have not yet been popularized or overrun with tourists - places with their natural charms in tact.

Here are some key things that George's firm does that enables them to succeed in the highly competitive and ever changing world of travel.

5 ways to thrive:

1. Expect the unexpected: George's guides know that every trip will bring a new challenge, something completely unplanned. What is your mindset when you are faced with the unexpected? How do you react when things do not go as anticipated, when you do not get promoted, face a layoff or move from a location? As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"

Action - Create a Plan B scenario based upon the unexpected, such as having to leave your job.

2. Plan: Carefully think through every detail of each possibility. What is your career plan for the next 3 years? I am amazed at how much work people put into vacation planning but how little they put into career planning.

Action - Construct a 3 year plan of what role you would like to have and the steps you need to take to get there.

3. Slow down, watch, and listen: Most of life's best experiences happen when you slow down and connect with people and nature.

Action - Take one afternoon this month and go somewhere you normally wouldn't and just think, paying attention to the opportunities of your current situation.

4. Guides: The key to George's business is his guides. They have taken all of these trips before. They understand the culture and the country. Because they bring context and wisdom to their work, they are able to manage the unexpected and help create memorable experiences. Yes, there is the internet, and yes, there are books, however, nothing beats the personal advice of an expert.

Action - Meet with a career expert this year (yes, that is a shameless plug). Professionals like myself understand the career planning terrain and culture and may help facilitate a memorable and thought provoking career transition.

5. Enjoy the ride while you are on it: Vacations are wonderful in that when you are on them, time feels infinite. Time is not now, not yesterday nor tomorrow. We tend to smell the roses, notice the scenery and enjoy the moment.

Action - Ask yourself, "What do you appreciate about where you currently work?"

Action - Next time you read the headlines, take a deep breath, slow down and ask yourself what is great about this?

His final piece of advice -

"It sounds trite: follow your heart. You cannot make a plan for 40 years out. Whatever you like doing, you will be pretty good at it." By being true to himself, George has influenced thousands of clients for the 40 years that his company has been in business. You need to have courage and smarts. Like George, it is not only good for your soul but your soles as well.

Walking along the road with you!
Alan Kearns



Alan Kearns is associated with the What Color Is Your Parachute? career search team, as well as being certified in the Highlands Career Assessment Methodology and the DISC Personal Profile. Alan was a founding member of the International Association of Coaches (IAC) and also has memberships with the Career Masters Institute (CMI) and the International Association of Career Management Professionals (IACMP).


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