Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Barriers? What Barriers?

In supporting clients with their career development, often times the focus is helping individuals overcome barriers such as language, education level, or age.  However, classifying certain things as “barriers” as can be short sighted.  Often the very things that we view as disadvantages can be advantages.

At the moment I’m only a few chapters into Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, where he examines the stories of classic “underdogs” highlighting the role that the perceived “barrier” played in the success of the individual.  Typically the individual finds a way to change the game in some way; to play by his/her own rules where the disadvantages are actually a source of strength. 

Malcolm notes that often individuals with barriers strive relentlessly to become a small fish in a big pond.  Although this would typically signify success, all too often, you can’t get noticed with so many high achievers around you.  Instead, Malcolm notes that the underdog becomes successful by becoming a big fish in a little pond. This can take some “out of the box” thinking.

How can we help job seekers embrace their barriers? A starting place would be to reframe negatives as positives and provide supports that help clients build on these advantages. For example, language might be a barrier, but being fluent in another language can be beneficial in many different communities where clients or customers may also have language barriers.

Use the comment section to let us know how else you can reframe negatives.

Interested in learning more about Malcolm Gladwell or his book? Check out his recent TED Talk at http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_the_unheard_story_of_david_and_goliath.html.

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