What I Learned from Oprah and Marcus Buckingham

April 18th, 2008

Okay, so I just finished watching Oprah’s "I Hate My Job Interventions" show with Marcus Buckingham. How cool is it that I actually found a work-related reason to watch an episode of Oprah?

Because I know those of you with corporate jobs don’t have the luxury of watching Oprah whenever you feel like it (I felt a little guilty about taking the time away from my computer myself), I’ll provide a little recap before I wrap up work and run out to enjoy a little bit of this beautiful day in New York City.

Here’s your "executive summary."

  • Oprah kicked off the show by citing a CareerBuilder survey that found that 84% of U.S. workers are unhappy in their jobs. This represents an even higher level of job dissatisfaction than those I found while researching my book (though I did find that up to 80% of corporate workers fantasized about leaving their jobs).
  • According to Marcus Buckingham, only a little more than one in ten workers say they actually have the opportunity to use their strengths at work.
  • There were four women profiled. All were struggling with different job dilemmas.
    • Vanessa, a pharmaceutical sales rep, said she disliked her job and the fact that it left so little time for her daughter. "I feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, and overworked." Marcus Buckingham coached her to get better at saying no to work projects and turning off her computer between 5PM and 8PM to focus on her daughter.
    • Ayesha said her job made her feel "tortured all the time" and that she loathed all of the job duties she performed on a daily basis. Marcus Buckingham coached her on how to build a bridge to a career that would better utilize her strengths.
    • Rachel was a teacher who was overwhelmed by the demands of her job. Marcus Buckingham coached her on how to make time for activities that re-energized her — like walking her dogs.
    • Beth was under extreme stress in a job that she didn’t feel qualified for. Because she worked for her husband’s company, she didn’t feel like she could walk away from the job without damaging the relationship. Marcus Buckingham advised her to have a conversation with her husband about changing her job responsibilities.
    • Good advice for all four women: Don’t bury your dream under mountains of "shoulds" and "have tos"
  • The bottom line, according to Oprah and Marcus, is that your real job in life is to find out why you are here. In order to make any kind of lasting contribution, your job must "feed" you in some way.
Buy The Book
gl hoffman

Here I am Pamela, sitting watching this Oprah on TIVO, Thank GOD for TIVO. It is saturday morning, and I am sitting here reading your awesome book, too.

Pamela Skillings

Hi GL,
So glad you are enjoying the book (and Oprah!). Love your blog and Jobdig too.

fran Sonneborn

There is an excellent book out about developing Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox, with a foreword by Marcus Buckingham. In it, Fox outlines a way for children to get on the right career path. Buckingham endorses this method with many kudos. It is worth the read.

Pamela Skillings

Thanks for the recommendation, Fran. That does sound like an interesting read. I will pick it up and take a look.

Ayesha Lone

Hi Pamela,

Great summary of the show. I’m Ayesha, one of the particpants from the show. I thought it was wonderful that Oprah did a segment on finding passion in the workplace. It was a life changing experience for me. Wanted to share my blog with anyone who is interested in my experience with the show and how I discovered my strenghts. Thanks for writing this!


Ayesha Lone

Sorry, need to learn how to spell :) Let me try that again.

Pamela Skillings

Hi Ayesha,
Thanks for stopping by. I really identified with many of the experiences you shared on the Oprah show. I know from experience how draining it can be to work in a job you hate. I loved seeing the difference in you just between the footage they showed early in the show and when you appeared in the studio. It is obvious that the career changes you have been making are agreeing with you! And thanks for sharing the link to your blog so we can continue to follow your story.


Hi, I did other things while “listing” to that show. Missed the part where she encouraged viewers to participate in a home workshop. It wasn’t….


I am a fan of Marcus Buckingham, I think he’s got it spot on about focusing on our strengths rather than trying to overcome our weaknesses… check out his books on this.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen the Oprah show but will be looking for it!
I’ll look out for your book as well.


Just stumbled on to your site. Excellent stuff! I read Tim Ferriss 4 hour week, looking forward to reading Escape from Corporate America.

David Farrell

the word focus, to pay attention to will undoubtedly bring more of what you are looking at.what you pay attention to grows period.
feeling,feeling, the main key in changing ones life. reach for releif on all thought levels,will help you feel happier.find the thought that gives you peace.


Now I know why I always hit the wall trying to climb the ladder..I was never suppose to anyway….on with my life…thank you for your reassuring message.

21 Reasons to Celebrate Your Layoff By The Pool « Pingback

[...] Celebrate your strengths. Author/researcher Marcus Buckingham says that we often make the mistake of trying to fix weaknesses, rather than playing to our [...]

comments are closed for this entry