In these challenging times, we all need to stay flexible around a stable core. What does that mean? That you may have to enter a whole new field, develop new skills, or live in a different way. But there is a core that doesn’t change, a “youness” that will remain no matter how much and how well you adapt. To think about this it helps to differentiate between who you are as a person and your behavior. Your behaviors might need to change, but your personhood remains the same.

During a job search, getting more in touch with that “youness” is crucial because it’s the raw materials you bring to any and every work situation. This core is made of four elements: what you love to do, the unique ways of thinking you are excellent at that you’ve been doing your whole life, as well as what deeply matters to you and the environments that bring out the best in you. How you express these four, where you aim them, and how you understand them can and does develop over time. But there’s some persistent essence, a steady ground note like the beat of your heart. It’s why wherever you go, there you are, as Jon Kabat-Zinn famously said.

Take me, for instance. When I lost my job in publishing, a friend who was one of my authors, invited me to join her consultancy, Professional Thinking Partners. I had to learn lots of new skills, like leading groups and coaching. What I brought with me that was unchanging was my love of reading, writing, talking, and thinking, my combination of analysis and ability to foster the growth of other people, as well as my belief in the ability of people to change, and my tendency to do my best in an environment that offers both time alone and with others. These were my raw materials that I had offered authors and staff as an editor and publisher of a self help publishing company. Now I aim them in a new direction.

So it is for you too. You bring what you love, your dominant ways of thinking, your values, and the environments that bring out the best in you with you as you look for work. The more you know what these are, the more you can be clear on the value you bring an employer, and the more you can make sure to fold some of these elements into your life to give yourself stamina to keep on looking.

About MJ: A member of Professional Thinking Partners who is recognized as a leading expert in change, M.J. Ryan specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito Lay. Her work is based on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting edge brain research. Her new book, titled “AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For” was recently released published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.

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