Psychologist Helping People in their Careers


This is a transcript taken from my talk with Meredith Fuller....

Nigel Rawlins: Hello and welcome to the Wisepreneurs podcast. My name is Nigel Rawlins and I work with a range of women who are professionals in their field. They're often 50 to 60 years old who want to start their own business. In this podcast, I'll be interviewing a range of guests who will be able to tell you how they've done it themselves, and others who will give you hints and ideas and tips and maybe the confidence you need to go out and start your own business. Well, welcome Meredith. To the wise printers podcast. You work as a psychologist and you help people with their careers. Can you tell me how you got into that?

Meredith Fuller: It's very unusual story. When I was a child, my mother was a deserted wife. We had no money it was before we had any social security benefits, and she was in a situation where she couldn't work. Because she was at home looking after her disabled mother and aunt. And I was approached by Athol Smith, international photographer, at four to become a professional child model. And that led to becoming a professional actor. And I also did the training at the National Theatre in acting. And I had an epiphany when I was eight or nine that sealed my career development. And this is unusual because most people don't know what they want to do until they're much older. So I'll explain because it helps us understand why I can have continued to work in career development for over 40 years where normally psychologists don't spend very long in this particular field. I was the youngest in the class. I'd won a scholarship to do the next group up, so I was very young, we had an improv evening where they wanted a psychiatrist to interview the other students, and they were coming in doing weirdo funny talks and whatever. And they all said, Oh, you do that, you know, because no one wanted to do that. And I sat there, and each, you know, iabout 20 of them, each person came through and they were all being, you know, over the top.  And as I sat there, asking them questions, listening to them, I had an amazing knowing. I want to be a psychologist. It was so clear to me. While I loved theater and writing in the arts and drama and whatever. I knew that wouldn't be enough on its own. I had this feeling that I would always do lots of things, but that would be the central location. And I'm always curious about things, and I follow my curiosities even when I was very young. And when I was in grade six, and then when I went to high school in my first year, I did a very unusual thing. I wrote down everyone's name in a notebook, and I wrote down what I thought they would end up doing in the future. And so its a very odd thing for a child to do. But I was very good at it. Because over the years, this is actually what happened to so many of these kids. And I realized there was something in me, that was so good at understanding someone's personality, their behaviors, their values, their interests, and observing behavior, and I could see what would be a likely trajectory for them. So that's where it started. And over the years, I fell into all the right courses because of unexplained accidents and bumping into people. There's something we call propinquity, which explains a lot of people's career development. It's something about who you hang with that impacts. So I did my degree, my post grad, my masters, worked in the university went out on my own into private practice, and have really dedicated my life to being concerned for people and working with people, but never losing sight of my interest in expressive arts, creative arts and wanting to help as many people as possible, understand themselves.

Nigel Rawlins: Well, talking about careers, you actually work with me over 20 years and help me make that shift. Making a shift. And especially with this podcast, we're really talking about professional women making a shift to self employment if that's what they want to do. Let's talk about work for a moment in the past and I think it's pretty clear nowadays that work used to be a three stage process, something like that. You'd go to school, you go to work for life, then you retire. And it seems because we're living longer now and work is a lot more precarious and different, that it's a multi stage career, that you could be in and out of work and doing a whole range of things. So what what are your thoughts about work nowadays?

Meredith Fuller: What's interesting about women is, historically, they've had multiple roles at different times that didn't necessarily reflect the trajectory of a lot of males. So they might have had periods of unemployment underemployment, home duties, part-time, family, business support. And that's been really good for women because it helps them develop all the parts of themselves. And then as they've become older, we noticed that people are farm more interested in being true to themselves. If a relationship isn't working, if it isn't good for both of them, they're more able to go on their own or they they're forced to go on their own and be self reliant. So we're actually finding a huge number of women in the 40s 50s 60s and 70s, who were starting their own businesses, home based businesses, coming in as consultants, leadership, project teams, developing all sorts of work related activities, multiple jobs, than ever before. And because we're living longer, they have far more opportunity to really exercise these talents. And it's very helpful because neo-work, the work that's coming in the future, is about a meandering path where you do the work, that you wish to do, that needs to be done, that people will remunerate you for, at different times. And it doesn't last forever. And it's something about reflecting the lifestyle and the self, that impacts on what happens. And also the tribes that you move with, the people that you bump up against, like the propinquity, the odd connections that mean you'll be able to do A, B, C, or D, and so on. So the women who always had a very unusual life, are so well suited to now, where we're recognizing that a lot of the skills they have make them excellent leaders, excellent. business owners, excellent entrepreneurs. I think what's exciting is that we don't know exactly what the shape is. But what we do know is that there are unusual opportunities. And these all have to be tempered, obviously with responsibilities who you have commitments to, you know, being able to have enough money to function well, but more than ever, it's a very exciting time to live your dreams. And I find a lot of women will end up doing something that perhaps they considered as a very young child, or reflected something about their play or their interests or the books they read or the films they loved, that they really probably didn't recognize at the time. But now can embrace. Unlike, traditionally, a number of women only had a few different roles that they could envisage because most jobs that we have now weren't even in existence.

Nigel Rawlins: Because one of the issues that I think about is in your career counseling. You've got people who are maybe younger, who are not necessarily satisfied in their, their jobs, and they're trying to explore what is probably more attuned to what they're doing. How do you work with those people? If they're young Obviously, if they're older, they probably had quite a bit of career development in their own self. So how do you balance those that so somebody younger, somebody older? What advice would you give them? If they came to you and say, Look, I'm not happy in the job I've got, what should I do?

Meredith Fuller: I'd even go back another stage. And I'd say, let's look at it sociologically. We have so many young people who struggle to have a place in their family, in their social group intracyclicaly with themselves, they  don't know who they are. They don't know what their values are. They don't know what their personality structures like. They don't know much about the self because we're not a reflective society. So they feel very lost. And they can have unreasonable expectations about what the world offers because we we imbibe these weird messages about– you can have it all you can have it all now get to the top, you know you're a loser unless you make a lot of money. Or you have to work for yourself and be successful. And that means certain things. And it's got nothing to do with that individual. So they don't really understand the self in relation to how they need to live their lives. There's a lot of issues, I think about not understanding, who am I? What do I love to do? Where am I least stressed? What comes easily to me? What's joyous for me? And what am i intrigued about? So one of the first things is getting people curious and interested in things because so many people are so stressed or struggling with issues of anxiety and depression or feelings of isolation. They can't even hear that little voice within whispers: ' What is your vocation? What What are you here for?' And also, the other thing we have to understand is that there isn't enough work and what is work? Well, if we if we enable people to say: think of your life in chunks. And what's the chunk that's best for you to be doing right now? It may be working, it may be parenting, it may be helping family it may be reflective time, it may be traveling, rather than thinking of a line that is to be followed- this this idea of a meandering life makes much more sense where we really have to be open to possibilities that may present themselves and learn what to say yes to and what to say no to. So the first thing is to get them to take an internal journey about who am I really, and that's the hard part for a lot of people because it means they need to look at their behavior. It means they need to understand what drives them, what motivates them, what exhausts them, feedback from other people, observing what they're drawn to do, what they avoid, getting a sense of trying things out. It's hard work. But it can be helped with vocational inventories and, and tools and questionnaires and methods and techniques to help them accumulate the sort of material they need. But one of the things that seems to me to be pivotal, having at least one other person in your life, who believes in you, who cares for you, who supports you, we only need three, three to five people in the world to help us be human. But if you can have at least one other person, it could be a parent, a teacher, a colleague, a neighbor, another student, someone you meet when you're at school, someone else who can hold you in mind, who can validate you and help you process: how can I live my life? Because for a lot of people, they will never know what they really want to do, but they just know who they like to hang with. So you encourage them to spend more time with their tribe, the people who are like them, and learn by exploring what works and what doesn't. So it's messy. It's untidy, it's not structured. And this is the world we're in now. So, the most lost, ironically, are the most found now, whereas the younger people who have a very rigid plan, well, I want to be a lawyer, and I want to do this and I want to do that, and I want to do it in this amount of time, and they've got a very specific plan. Life isn't like that anymore. So being flexible enough to roll with the punches, and understand that you need to look at your life in toto. It's about lifestyle, and not measure yourself via the success of others, its very hard when we're bombarded all the time with social media and other platforms that show that everyone else seems to be having a ball with lots of disposable income and lots of friends and everyone is having a terrific time. And the individual can just feel neglected and invisible. So it's helping people find out who are they really? And what's the true life for them? And how can they manage to incorporate enough to live, enough relationship, whatever that may be. And a sense of reasonableness. It's not reasonable for people to be 100% happy in a job. It's not reasonable to always be earning more. It's not reasonable to always do the same thing or expect that that place will be there tomorrow, because most places we find merge, disappear, fail. It's something about seeing yourself as the product, you're the product. People want you for something and there'll be an exchange of energy, whether that's money or batering or whatever, and living a consistent life with your values, attitudes, behaviors, responsibilities, and what you can manage at the time and being able to delay gratification. If you want it all and you want it all now, you're gonna struggle.

Nigel Rawlins: That's definitely true. So really what we're talking about there in a way is transitions, making shifts, knowing when to make a shift. So the clients you've had in the past with career transitions or not happy, what makes them come to you.

Meredith Fuller: I'm most interested in people who are not happy and who are struggling in work, it can be making them physically, emotionally, mentally ill, it can cause great distress that impacts on their lifestyle, their health, their relationships, their sense of self, and they will come to me because there's something incredibly wrong. They're invisible. They drag themselves out of bed or can't get out of bed. When they doing their job, it feels like torture, like they're in quicksand or they're drowning. They're prevented from enacting their true selves. So it's like a voice internally that says: 'This isn't what I'm here for. This isn't my purpose.' So people really tend to come because they want to understand their purpose. And also people have difficulty if they appreciate what their purpose might be. How do I make this happen? One of the biggest difficulties is impatience. Most people are so impatient, and they don't understand that transition change, movement, growth, development ,is not linear. It can't be predicted, but we need to help them understand how synchronicity, propinquity doggedness, hanging in there and doing things that look like a zig- zag can assist. So everything is strange. Like, some people will come and they'll say, look, I want to do X, I hate my job. And then when you explain, this is what you're doing. This is what you do. This is how you might train. These are the people you'd be with this is part of what the job entails; their shocked, oh, I don't want to work that hard. I don't want to give up my salary. I don't want to study, that will impact on my social life. Oh, yuck!. And then they come back 10 years later and say, I'm in the same situation, I'm even more unhappy. And we say 10 years have passed, the same period of time has passed. You didn't do all those other things. If you had done those other things, there could have been a shift. So you see that it is a longer range issue, but the time still goes on. Sometimes people won't have the opportunity to make massive change until something happens. So we talked about our archetypes and we talk about life, different stages in your life, the first half of your life, you're expanding, growing, and the second half of your life, you're coming within the self. So there's an extraversion of the first half. that's different to the introversion of the second half. Usually, for the second half of our lives, we understand the self more, we've had more time on the planet to work that through. And there are more and more opportunities all the time because our society is throwing up opportunities and taking away opportunities. So the terrain changes. If you're able to say, I understand where I function well, where I feel in my true skin, where I feel visible validated. I can live with doing work that maybe gives me 40 to 50% satisfaction Gee, if you get 60%, that's great. The Odd person might get a lot more but generally speaking, if most of the time, it's good enough; that's terrific. It's hard for people to appreciate that it's all the unexpected things that can assist as well as the plainfullness. Because we're actually inviting you to take a chance and take a risk, and you don't really know where the journey will take you. You can really only map your career retrospectively, it's like at the end of life, you can look back and say, Aha, now I know why I'm a wisepreneur, very successful running my own business. Now, at 72.

Nigel Rawlins: Yeah, unfortunately, it can take 20 years, and I think this would scare most people off. I mean, how do you live? How do you pay the rent or pay the mortgage? If you're gonna make that sort of shift

Meredith Fuller: A number of people are making new decisions, like we have quite a number of younger people who are saying, look, I don't need to purchase a house. I maybe won't partner up. Maybe I'll spend a life where I live with friends. Maybe I'll travel. Maybe I'll redefine my expectations about consumerism or what's important in life, I might recalibrate lifestyles, because I don't want what goes with that other picture, which is feeling that I'm in jail. So people will have to look at what's important to them. And that might change, every few years that might change. And you don't know if you can't listen to the self and what it's whispering. And there are some physical constraints. So for example, if you choose A and B, that means you can't do D and E for maybe the next eight years, but then you can. If you play with how that might be about. So if you can't delay gratification, sometimes you end up getting nothing that you want, and everything you don't want. So it's being able to tease out what's best for me right now. Who do I best need to be with and what can I tolerate? A number of people are able to say, I'll tolerate a day or two a week doing things that perhaps don't thrill me, but enable me to live well enough. As I study, retrain, volunteer, learn, travel, meet other people. And see that ais the journey. So it really is asking us to question our expectation. One of the exciting things now, a lot of young people say we don't have to have traditional roles. A lot of young men are able to say, 'well, I don't want to work, I love home duties. I'd like to be with children or I want to do my art. Women who can say, I don't want children. And I want to be heading up a huge organization. We're much more flexible now about who are we, who are we not, and that's very exciting. We're also changing the order of things historically; you know, there's women as Maiden, you know, then, you know, then partnering; the Married Woman who has children, then we might have the Crone: she's the wise woman who's older. But we're not doing that in sequence anymore.  We might have Athena who's out there, traversing the world righting wrongs and doing great things. And we might find that we didn't want to have the mother within us early on, but we might want to do that in their mid 40s. So people are changing the order that they do things and they might find that they don't know what they want yet, and they're able to sit with the ambiguity. If you understand what's possible, and what's likely and you can tolerate and live with it, that's important. Some people might have unrealistic expectations. They don't see themselves accurately, they don't understand what they don't know. They don't know what they don't know. So they might want to do something that just ain't gonna happen. That whole career area is gone, it wouldn't have suited them, it would be struggle. But there's something else emerging that they wouldn't have even thought of, but they don't know until I just play at it, and it happens. So it's something about being with other people where you are most relaxed and can go with your flow. And those people can help you see what you're really best at. So for example, for a number of people who are discontented, it's often because they really don't belong in a large group, and in a structured group and going to a place they are people who are far more mobile and it's about movement and who they bump up against with and doing different things and following their curiosities and it's to help people understand what their processes is. That Seems to be critical, and also to help them to quickly learn how to skill up. You know, in the old days, that was all of go and get a degree, well, we haven't got time for that. Sometimes you can skill up in a three month course. Or you can skill up by following someone doing volunteer work, accompanying someone doing short courses, figuring out by yourself, there are many ways of learning now. So it's more about understanding what your gaps are and what you need to infill. Sometimes we're learning that it's better to work with your strengths and say, Well, look, I have a gap ABCD, but I don't want to go and do an MBA, I'll pay someone to do the things that I'm not good at, or I don't like, or get together with a group of people where they all share their difference. So it's learning about relationship. And of course, one of the ironies is, we're looking at all of this in this digital age when a lot of us are losing our capacity for relationship. So this is why We're really inviting people to learn what's healthy and learn how to have satisfying relationships because they're really pivotal in self care, and being able to connect with the new work possibilities.

Nigel Rawlins: My question is, who's going to best do this sort of work for themselves? I mean, it's just for everybody?

Meredith Fuller: No

Nigel Rawlins: So what sort of person can actually take the stress and make the leap and do this sort of stuff and take the risks involved and maybe spend money that they saved or something for a rainy day?

Meredith Fuller: Okay, so I guess most people could probably relate to a wonderful cartoon Luenig did once and someone's hanging on to a rope. And, on the one hand, saying, too scared to let go, too scared to hang on. So he's stuck. This stuckness can actually describe someone's entire life. And as I said, Whatever happens, Time marches on. So you can look at yourself stuck, and you can still be stuck 30 years later, where you can say, I will surrender, I might drop down into this, I might shimmy up into more. But if I stay stuck, there's no movement, there's no growth, there's no difference. Who is more likely to want to move? The people who are curious, the people who do feel very constrained with structure-order-large places with defined roles, they often ache for ambiguity, and difference; people who have supporters. A lot of what's happening now is we've got situations where you might say, I'm going to let go, to embrace something new. It will cost me. I'll have to study. I'll have to let go of my prestige my title, my car. And I don't even know if training in this way will lead me to work. But I must do it because this is who I am. But I'll do my research first. And part of that is hanging around people who live the life that is more congruent with who you are, and finding out well how did they manage? How do they do it? And often this reality testing is terrific because they'll have a look and they'll say, Oh, no, thanks. I don't want to do that. I hate it. I thought I'd love it but I hate expressive arts for example, sometimes we have a fantasy our look, you know, I really want to be a stand up or I want to be a dancer. I want to be an actor and then you find out what does that mean? Oh, I don't like this! Others will say, gee, this is so important to me. I'm prepared to do another job, just to buy food. Because doing this expressive work is my lifeblood. And wow, I meet all these other people where I can learn about ways to live more easily, by asking. Most of us think we're only resourced within ourselves, and we look within ourselves for our resources, rather than, say, a whole lot of other people that can help resources, if we know how to ask. So it's learning what are the questions that can really help people?

Nigel Rawlins: That's wonderful. Well, is there any more advice you think that we can offer or some way to look or something to read, or some way to explore into this for them?

Meredith Fuller: I reckon if you're very stuck, it's helpful to go back and consider your childhood; your early childhood. What did you love doing the most? And it's process. It's not specifics, you have to look at your theme. I've always been interested in what people do when they don't have to do anything. What are the films you see; the books you read? The people you gravitate towards; the fantasies you have? The behaviors that you love- exaggerate them,- explore them. Ask yourself who are the people that you value admire, respect: the strangers, the celebrities, the people in your street, the other students at school? Find out what do they do? How do they do it? Hang with people see what happens. The more you're exposed to the more you can understand this, and then have a filter to say, I like it or don't like it. I enjoy it. I don't enjoy it. It irritates me and I'm exhausted or Wow, I just feel so energized. It's something about life, blood and energy. And that's often a good clue. But it's also about how might I make this happen in an unusual way? Some people will say, Okay, this there has to be a 15 year plan. But Gee, if we're living to we're 100 What's 15 years? Or Okay, if I do A for a couple of years, that will help me do B or well hang on. I really want to have a baby. I'm happy to stay with my baby for a couple of years and delay this other thing, because I can't have it all literally at once. Or no, I'll choose something else or I'll move, or I'll rethink how I spend or how I do food or whatever it is. So you learn what you need to survive and flourish. And it's always good to notice what comes easily to you and notice, who do you work best with? People will notice there's a real subterranean underground that's that's happening with lots of like minded souls who help each other support each other have a different way of living that's not caught up with the shoulds and the musts and you know, living me as if life I have to live in as if life that suits everyone else. I've got to make my parents happy, my friends, happy my partner happy my Facebook people happy, really what it's about is saying: What do I crave? And what's congruent? And what can I sustain? What doesn't make me sick? What energizes me. And maybe it means that one day a week I do something I love and maybe I don't get paid or volunteer, but that one day a week nourishes me for three days that I do two other different jobs, and I can live with it. So it's understanding those maps, that's also appreciating- we will lifelong learn and we will lifelong need to understand that humans are social beings, we have to understand our interpersonal ability. We all have different interpersonal skills: What are they? And who brings out the best in me? Who brings out the worst in me? And what can I tolerate? When will I say no to exploitation? When will I say no to this is such a bad fit? I refuse to keep doing this. Often it comes down to life and death. A lot of people I've seen say: If I keep doing this work or this lifestyle, I will die. That's a really good motivator for looking at otherwise, everything you read everything you see, everything you listen to, everyone you talk to you learn something from even if you learn or don't want to do that, or I can't do that, or, gee, that's amazing. I'm going to learn more about that. So it's all about tolerance. And it's certainly about not giving up. People who give up too quickly. People who say, Oh, well, if it doesn't happen in you know, 2.6 years are not doing it. The irony is, sometimes it can take 20 years, 30 years, 50 years, two years, we don't know. But it's about moving more towards something where it's healthy, it's satisfying enough. You feel that you're in your own skin, you feel you being your true self and you're able to tolerate change. And some of us will seek change and difference. And some of us, No, hang on. No, I'm better with structures, so all tuck with people, no, I'm hopeless in structures, I've got to get out and do something without them. So the more you know yourself, the better. But if you understand your personality, and as you grow, your personality develops and what you need at different decades in your life, that can really help. And do you know, the funny thing is, when you you talk to people about what's the most meaningful, and it's interesting, we're doing a lot of work at the moment talking to older people about what is most important to you. They all say the same thing. I used to think it was success, which was recognition or money or possessions or being visible or whatever, no, no, it's about love or it's about having a couple of people with me who care for me as I care for them. And I realized now, I just didn't get it then but I understand now. So it's trying to figure out what, what is that thing that draws you Some people love tasks. Some people love people, some people love starting, some people love finishing, to understand who you are and what defines you. You're a seeker searcher. You're always curious, you're always exploring the new, the different the novel, you always run into different people, you will always do that no matter what you do. The worst thing for you would be to shut up in a silo, where you're not able to explore what intrigues you. So if you understand your process, you realize, well hang on a minute. Is it really true that, oh, I'll end up sitting on the street the rest of my life and starve to death. I know, there are resources we can plug into. There are people Who can help us? There are people further along the path. So I say, explore everything possible. But don't sit there being stuck, feeling invisible. And in pain, we should never tolerate that degree of pain.

Nigel Rawlins: there anything else we haven't talked about? I think we've covered a lot there.

Meredith Fuller: I know I'm sounding a bit esoteric.

Nigel Rawlins: No, no, I think it's, I think it's very relevant. What we're saying is if, if you're not happy in your life, as it is right now, you're gonna have to do something.

Meredith Fuller: Yeah. And the best thing to do is anything. A lot of people will go and join a group, or they'll go and learn a new skill or they'll volunteer somewhere or they'll have chats with people about things. So they'll do a CAE course (Council of Adult Education) or they'll just study something because they're interested in it. And oh, gee, I was interested in history when I was 10. And I haven't had time because I've been so busy doing economics, but I'm going to do it now. It's following up those little things that you just adore doing that thrill you. I notice that when people are on the right path, they could be dead tired, but as soon as they're with the people who are doing the task or reading something or seeing something or making something that feels exciting and energizing they come to life, and they say goodness me, I was so exhausted but I am just bubbling over with energy and joy and brainpower and that's a clue. And as I said, y can't have that peak experience. 24/7 we have to be reasonable. You have to know all the emotions, so let's get real. We can't have a sense of entitlement to excellence and that everything will be perfect all the time. If I want to know sadness, I need to know joy. If I want to know boredom, I need to know excitement. I have to know the opposite. And I have to integrate my opposites. So often that journey to the self is the most intriguing journey to have. Other people can help you take that journey guides, psychologists, counselors, friends, partners, spiritual people, books, films. Everything can be a mirror. If you open.

Nigel Rawlins: Great, well Meredith, how do people find you?

Meredith Fuller: I have a website, my websites, www.meredithfuller.com.au

Nigel Rawlins: And we'll put that in the show notes so everyone can find you. And how do you work with clients? Do you see them in person? So

Meredith Fuller: All sorts of ways but I work with individual clients according to who they individually are, and this is the important thing. We're all unique. But there are patterns we can recognize if you understand what the pattern is. You can move towards work that's meaningful when you're helping that person determine or who am I really, and because I'm interested in patterns and I'm interested in psychological profiles, and I'm interested in personality, and I'm interested in types of people, and I'm curious about where the world's going next and what's happening, I will work differently with different people. And therefore, I can't give you a definitive response. But there are many other people too, that I refer to. So there might be some people that I see -you'll need this approach. I have a colleague, I'll refer you on. So it's about meeting someone else and appreciating, I can shine the torch a little bit further ahead, because this is the work I do and it might be shining to a process with me It might be shining to a process with someone else. It might be recommending something to do, read, study, whatever, but it's something about loving the people who have the courage to say, I'm in pain and this is intolerable pain. What can I do?

Nigel Rawlins: Well, thank you very much Meredith, it has been a wonderful talk and I hope our listeners really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you for joining me on the Wisepreneurs printers podcast. I hope you found it both practical and interesting. You can find it more by visiting my website at wisepreneurs.com.au Thank you again.

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