Besides it being National Career Development month, November can mean so many different things to different people. It can mean family gatherings, turkey dinners, the start of holiday shopping, students coming home for the first time since they went away to college and, perhaps, your beginning to think that, perhaps, next year, you should start thinking about changes you might want to make on the career front. There’s so much to do and think about related to the holidays that any consideration of work-related decisions often end up getting pushed off until AFTER the holidays, until NEXT year. The reason(excuse) we give ourselves is that no individuals or organizations will be making any major changes until the new year or until the next fiscal year begins. We think that no one is going to be hiring til then so, why bother.
Well, in fact, that last thought is one that may not be entirely true. Not all organizations’ fiscal years begin and end with the flip of the calendar from one year to another. And, even if you were thinking of applying to a company that you believe won’t be hiring until 2020, wouldn’t you want to be ready to apply to that company and be prepared to compete for and win/earn that job in a mere six weeks from now? And, if so, a mere six weeks could provide you with a time crunch to be ready, making it important to be able to make the most of the time you have to reflect, prepare and act in a way and direction that will improve the fit or match between who you and what you do as you navigate your career path in the coming year.
And, in order to be able to do that, would you agree it might be important to start with a review of who you are in the areas of your interests, personality type, skills and values? AND, if you’re going to start there, consider that such a review might not be accomplished overnight or in a vacuum. Give yourself some time to reflect not only on where you’ve come to date in your career, but also on how you got here, what you liked and did not like about the journey and whether you gained or lost energy along the way. Have you received at least as much, if not more, out of your work as you’ve put into it, getting more out of your work than simply your pay check? Is your “energy bank account” in the red or the black at this time of the year? And, if you’re feeling depleted to the extent that you’re not even sure how you’ll navigate the demands of the holiday season and/or can only look forward to having the time away from work that the holiday will afford you, perhaps you have a little more thinking/reflecting to do on your work situation than you thought.
And, there is no better time to begin that reflecting than now. After all, isn’t coming to the close of one year and the beginning of another a usual time for reflection? Yet, this year, why wait until the clock is ticking down to the ball drop on New Years’ Eve to begin? How about taking a few minutes every so often over this coming Thanksgiving holiday weekend to reflect on what you think and how you feel about your lifework?
What are your gifts and the talents that you’ve enjoyed using over the last year, those for which you are grateful, that you would like to use as much or even more over the coming year? What are the contributions or differences that you’ve made to your family, employer, organization, community during 2019 and what additional contributions would you like to make in 2020 and beyond?
Then, consider how you can make the most of all the opportunities you’re likely to have during the coming holiday season to connect with family, friends, colleagues and potential collaborators. Share your answers to the questions above and ask for input as to how you might use your talents to have an impact on the differences you would like to make. You’ll never know what you can learn that can help you move toward a more satisfying and fulfilling lifework in 2020.
AND, here’s wishing you a 2020 of more fully integrating who you are with what you do!!!
Know thyself may be the best and most underrated advice the world has ever received. According to Socrates, knowing thyself is the beginning of wisdom. Knowing oneself is essential to career and life satisfaction. Knowing myself has been a crucial ingredient in my life and career satisfaction.
Often we view our careers through the prism of success, which is usually defined by others. We read an article on our phone about a successful manager. Nowhere in the article is the person asked if they’re satisfied with their choices. We see a successful person at work, and we think I can do that job. But is that job in my best interests. Will I be fulfilled? Some of us were allowed to explore other options by being fired or retired. We know we still want or need to be productive, yet going back into the same industry may not be an option due to a non-compete clause.
Some folks are lucky and can stay in the same industry. They can dust off the resume, reach out to their network, and find a new opportunity. There are others, like myself, who knew they were not happy and wanted more out of life. They were leaving the safety of the past to do something closer to their hearts.
Unfortunately, our heart struggles with our head. We have financial and other obligations. There is the chorus of voices from family, friends, business websites, You Tube, Instagram, Pinterest, and other media declaring what your future should be.
When I faced that decision, I listed the pros and cons. I went to a few different job clubs and NFP organizations. All were good IF you knew what you wanted. If you did not know what you wanted to do, no 30 second elevator speech would solve your dilemma.
I did not know myself when I entered the career counseling process. Donna had me take the extended version of the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator along with a couple of other tests. I knew I was an ENFP from taking the short form test a few times. What is your Personality Type? Once I completed the expanded version, light bulbs went off for me. The expanded data gave me insights into aspects of my personality that the short form indicator did not cover.
For example I tend to be a high E (Extroversion) I love to be in front of a crowd, working in a group, giving speeches, and seminars. Ask me to sell face to face one on one, and I am not so good, and the expanded Indicator revealed that.
So what was my career path?
1) I spent ten years in retail banking until the structure and rules got to me.
2) I left banking and went to seminary and became an ordained minister for ten years. Preaching and teaching was my strong suit. I served people in a time of need.
3) When our son was going to college, and I needed to earn more money, I entered IT consulting. This job was one on one consulting, and I was at best average most years. I was walking up a steep hill that was exhausting, given my Type.
4) When the economy crashed in ‘08 I was fortunate to be able to return to the church for ten years. I “retired” in 2018.
What am I doing now? Writing a novel, occasionally serving up a blog article, substitute teaching in area high schools, and taking care of elderly parents.
You might be wondering what all of those diverse occupations have in common and how I could be somewhat successful in all of them?
Deep down inside, I am an interpreter/futurist. I look at the horizon and see and understand things other people do not. I can take difficult to understand ideas and concepts and translate those concepts into understandable terms and insights people can use in their lives. I do this best in a group setting because when I explain the information I use humor, passion, and group discovery to cement the new ideas. What may usually be dry and mundane comes out fun, exciting, and enlightening. I could have never planned my career path. Once I knew myself I quit trying to fit my square peg in a round hole.
Trying to fit in is where I think a lot of career searchers end up. We hit a wall. We may think it is the company; maybe it is ourselves, perhaps it is the economy, our boss, the weather, who knows what. It could be any or all of these. Before we assign blame outside of ourselves maybe we need to shine the light inside and ask do we really know ourselves, or are we the person everyone else wanted us to be?
I leave you with a few questions to consider.
What career advice would I give my 18 year old self?
What career advice would that be at ages 30, 40, 50, and 60?
If there were no limits, what would you do?
If no one would judge your new career path, what would you do?
Take time to consider the answers because, within the answers you will find your true self.
In closing, people forget that Madonna used to work at Dunkin Donuts; Sean Connery (James Bond) was a ditch digger and a milkman; Tom Cruise was a bell boy, Kanye West worked for the GAP, George Clooney worked in a shoe shop and cut tobacco. Jennifer Annisten worked as a telemarkter; Lady Gaga worked in a Greek restaurant as a waitress, and Amy Adams was a waitress at Hooters. Were you start does not make a difference.
Know yourself to free yourself and let your future unfold.
Recently, I reached a milestone in my career – my 10 year anniversary as an Organization and Talent Development professional. This was a significant personal achievement for me, in large part because I did not begin my career in Organization and Talent Development. Previously I had a successful 15 year career as an Environment, Health and Safety specialist for a large oil company. And, it was during this time that I met Donna and began my journey toward changing professions.
This February we celebrated a major family milestone – my Mom’s 85th birthday. We rented a room in a restaurant, invited family and friends, ate some delicious food and cake and asked everyone to share a story about my Mom. The stories people told made us laugh and cry and reminded us of how many good times we shared.
The memory of my Mom, which I shared at her birthday party, involved a family hike to a Smokey Mountain “Bald”. Balds – like the name suggests – are high-elevation, grassy spots in the mountains with amazing, panoramic views. That summer, our family vacation was camping in the Smokey Mountains. It was our last day in the park and we were returning from shopping in the nearby town when my mom insisted we stop and climb up to the bald – there would be no second chance.
There was quite a bit of moaning and groaning that warm, gray, rainy day as we, a family of 8 (children ages infant to 15 and 2 adults) started the 3-1/2 mile walk up the mountain to Andrews’ bald. People coming down the trail would pass us and express skepticism that we’d make it to the bald and back before dark but we kept walking. Eventually we reached the bald. Emerging from the forests of spruce and Fraser fir trees was an open meadow of tall grasses. The view was spectacular and mystical. I remember feeling my breath being taken-away by the beauty of the fields and inspiring sights. In retrospect, I am so thankful that my Mom insisted we make that hike!
One thing is apparent from reflecting on these recent milestones: Change is continuous and inevitable. It may sound trite, or obvious, but it is true. Consider the digital transformation we are all going through now as one example of huge societal change. My mom remembers 5-digit phone numbers and party lines when she was younger and today she is a pro at texting. Today I wanted to share two tips that I have found helpful in successfully navigating and embracing change, both personally and professionally: 1) Build self-awareness; 2) Learn the art of perspective-taking.
When I first started working with Donna, she introduced me to a number of personal assessments, such as the Myers Briggs or the Self-Directed Search. Working with Donna helped me build my self-awareness and my understanding about how what I do impacts others. Even though years have passed, I still have my folder of self-assessments and periodically refer to them. New self-awareness can also come from simply asking others for feedback and listening, without defensiveness or justification, to what’s said. Building self-awareness is a lifelong journey and the knowledge I’ve gained has been invaluable to me in my career and personally. It’s like the keel of my boat…keeping me centered and moving forward while the waters around me may churn.
Recently I’ve been exploring the life and leadership coaching profession. One thing I’ve learned from this experience is the value of “perspective-taking”. It’s human nature to go into situations (like the complaining at the start of our hike to the bald in the Smokey Mountains) with our blinders on and this limits our ability to grow and fully experience the richness of life.
Perspective-taking, in this context, is a simple tool anyone can use. Here’s how it works: When you find yourself in a sticky or uncomfortable situation simply ask yourself, several times, “What’s another perspective I can take here?” The goal of perspective-taking is to pause, identify multiple views on a circumstance and then choose the perspective you want to adopt going forward. Perspective taking is about opening our minds, being flexible and making a conscious choice about how we want to be in a situation.
There is no check-list that will guarantee success and happiness in our ever changing world. In fact, reaching our end-goal is actually a passing moment. What is truly important – and what leads to a fulfilling life – is consciously designing an enriching and fulfilling journey to achieve that goal. That journey is made up of many small steps and decisions and “re-starts” (i.e., when we stumble we begin again). Understanding oneself and perspective-taking are two abilities that I think, can help us all successfully embrace change and chart a fulfilling personal and professional life-course.
Tom Drouin – A Different Kind of Work
Yogi Berra said “When you reach a fork in the road, take it.” In 2010, after a thirty eight year career – thirty seven great years and one that caused me to think about a different future – I was nudged into retirement. I had had a fulfilling professional career of diverse experiences, corporate leadership, and meaningful roles as a mentor. I got up every morning with a purpose. Work gave me a place to go, people to engage, tangible value to create, and a paycheck to comfortably support my family.
It’s not uncommon for people in the workforce to define their value and worth in terms of their title and compensation. If that’s you, moving into another phase of your life opens opportunities to think about a different way of defining your value. For me, initially it was about those tangible things, but eventually it morphed into the equity that I had built up over a long career. Equity in skills, experience and knowledge, and as importantly, in behaviors – the things that I could share with others. How might I spend that equity in productive ways but without a corporate scorecard in retirement?
Fortunately, I had started to spend down my equity while still in the world of work. Leadership roles in Scouting, coaching, in the church and with various not for profits got me started in “paying it forward” without compensation other than in satisfaction for trying to make a difference in others’ lives.
Impending retirement is a major milestone. Statistically, if you retire in your mid sixties, you’re likely to live for another twenty years. Life without your career requires significant adjustments and a lot of thought. I couldn’t imagine twenty years of relative idleness; a life dedicated to hobbies and exercise. I joined a networking group to find part time work. I started a consulting business to “keep my hand in”, but without the passion to do much more than dabble. I wasn’t motivated by another paycheck. I was mindful that, at some point, my wife and I would occupy the same living space during the daytime – something that wasn’t part of our marital experience. When she retired we were going to have to make a significant adjustment to our living pattern!
That’s when I decided to leverage my planning and organizing skills and reached out to Donna at Career Path to help me figure out the next stage of my life. Donna’s got processes that played to my curiosity, guiding me to be more introspective and to explore whether my gut instincts about my true interests could be confirmed. I knew that I was always considered as a good strategic thinker and creative idea generator. Myers – Briggs indicates that I’m an INTJ – an introvert, but someone that has learned to mask as an extrovert in order to succeed professionally. How might I find an outlet for my aptitudes without exhausting myself in the process? She guided me to frame those answers.
It’s been nearly seven years since I left corporate life. For the past six years I’ve been a volunteer member of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. I deploy my skills as a mentor, strategic and creative thinker and planner to help small business entrepreneurs. I spend fifteen to eighteen hours a week mentoring clients and presenting workshops, and avoiding administrative activities in the chapter. Been there, done that! I sing in the church choir, taping feelings of joy. With what I do outside the home, engaging with people, I know I must find time to recharge the batteries. With my wife still working, I’m the designated house elf. I satisfy my enjoyment for cooking and manage the household details that she handled before she started her later in life professional career. I’m a life-long student of history, so I indulge my interest in learning with extensive reading. I’m also a life-long exerciser, and combine that with friends who do the same. Together, my wife and I travel and relish our grandchildren. In short, I’ve found a balance, using the skills I developed throughout my career to help others with enough “me time” to stay refreshed every day. Don’t stumble into retirement. Plan it, try it, revise it but, above all, keep it active.
Step 5. Be a life-long learner by engaging in professional development opportunities.
When you finished elementary school and realized that you’d completed one phase of your education, did you look forward to the next step, middle school? When you completed middle school did you look forward to moving on to high school? And when you were completing high school what were your thoughts and feelings on the subject of education? Were you more thinking, I’ve had enough of this or I want to learn more and I know what that is, where and how to get it, or I want to learn more and yet I don’t know what that is and/or where and how to get it?
NOW, as an adult, where you’ve put a few phases of learning behind you, what are your views on continuing your education? AND, where there once was a time when you looked forward to the next level of learning, does the prospect of there being more to be learned loom large like a mountain on the horizon while you have little or no energy to make the climb? Are you feeling relieved that your formal education is behind you or are you the consummate student always seeking more knowledge? Or, are you living somewhere in between, having some awareness that ongoing learning is probably a good idea yet you’re not feeling motivated to begin it’s pursuit?
Well, which ever case presented above best fits your experience, what ties them all together is the thread of motivation to engage in the learning process. It takes motivation or a reason to do something to apply the amount of energy necessary to overcome the inertia of doing nothing. It’s not as simple as the old saying suggests, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You CAN teach an old dog a new trick if the dog is motivated to learn the trick. I think the real “trick” is to discover what will motivate the dog to engage in the new and desired behavior. SO, what motivates YOU to learn something new?
And, just in case you’re finding it a bit challenging to get excited about being a lifelong learner, here are a few reasons you might want to engage in the learning process and ways to do so in the coming year that you might not have considered.
For those of you who think of practicality first, I’ll start with the obvious reason to continue learning throughout your career. That is your employability. The reality that the world of work is competitive is a stark one that ought not be ignored. You not only must be competitive with the most current and well demonstrated skills to “win” a job, you must also continue to acquire and hone the skills necessary to keep your position and adapt to the changing requirements of your job lest you find yourself replaced by someone who can out-perform you. And, if you want to be eligible for salary increases and promotions with your current employer, you must develop the competencies needed for positions beyond the one you hold today.
And, what do you think it will take for you to do that? It will, undoubtedly, take learning and practicing new things. And that learning could take place, not only through some formal degree or certification process outside of your work setting, but could occur through your seeking the advice of mentors within your company or through your offering to assist on projects not specified in your job description or volunteering to help out in departments other than your own. Exhibiting your willingness to grow, learn, contribute and demonstrate new competencies where you are currently working can go a long way to making you an indispensable member of your organization.
Next, you can, of course, learn for the pure satisfaction of feeding your need to grow or test what you may experience as limiting boundaries. If you’re happy with your current field in general, you can always look forward to cultivating a deeper working knowledge of your area of expertise, acquiring the latest, cutting edge information available and subsequently enjoying the feeling of knowing you are always ready to rise to whatever challenge presents itself. This type of information can not only be acquired through formal means, but can be obtained through continuing education made available through professional associations and their trade journals, conferences and webinars. Are you a member of your professional association? Do you take advantage of all they have to offer to help you become an expert in your field?
And then, there are the opportunities to learn and grow in your areas of interest outside of your “JOB” to develop skills not required of your current position. Would you like to develop your abilities to lead, mentor, teach, or simply enjoy engaging in a new hobby to develop your creativity, writing skills, problem solving abilities, or other competencies on a list that could go on and on. Anywhere you can volunteer your time and energy outside of work where your interests inspire you to apply your gifts can help you develop increased levels of competence and confidence that can serve you both personally and professionally.
Where all of these reasons and platforms for learning can afford you a richer and more fulfilling life/work in so many ways, at the very least, please consider how they might equip you with marketable transferable skills that will afford you the flexibility you’ll likely need as you’re called to respond to opportunities that are sure to present themselves in this ever more rapidly changing global economy. So, here’s hoping you’ve found even a small amount of inspiration herein to seek out some new learning opportunities and that you’ll enjoy a new year filled with much satisfaction and fulfillment in your lifework. Happy lifelong learning to you in 2017 and beyond!
Late 2014 I contemplated leaving my comfortable corporate job as Treasury Analyst to pursue something different! I didn’t know what that would be – only that I needed a change. Coming from a Bulgarian background, career counseling was not something I understood and accepted. Despite my skepticism, I ended up working with a career counselor over a 3 month period. I wanted to better understand my strengths, weaknesses and passions in life, and to make an informed decision about my professional life. You might say that I could have figured it out on my own, but I needed the guidance and support through this process. I felt stuck!
I was skeptical at first, but Donna was able to help me look inwards and understand what specific items energized me at work. She always said “Think of you as a lamp, what activities light you up?” Pretty quickly, I realized that I was unhappy because my role was very repetitive, and my company was happy with the status quo. On the contrary, I was energized by constant change, and having a positive impact in the world and in people’s lives. That was the first step in my journey to making a career change.
After the rude awakening that my job would never satisfy me, except for my comfortable paycheck, I made a commitment to explore my options. My career counselor advised me to connect with several professionals including a mortgage broker and a financial advisor. After a few phone interviews, I was able to gather the pros and cons of each position that I was interested in, and determine which best suited my requirements in a profession.
The decision became clear! I was going to get my licenses and become a financial planner to individuals and small business owners. I had a passion for investing and planning. After all I started planning for retirement at 20 but I never connected the dots that I could make a viable career out of my hobby. The next step was kicking fear to the curb!
My biggest fear was giving up the paycheck! In practice for my new career, I re-arranged our family budget so my husband’s paycheck could support us in my first year in business. We had a baby on the way too, so being disciplined and methodical was a necessity. I used MINT (a free app) to set up a budget for every category, from our mortgage to our discretionary spending. I implemented this while I was still in my corporate job to see if the changes were feasible. Once you are committed to making a change for the better and equipped with a plan, the sky is the limit. I gave my notice two months later and the rest just worked itself out. Some days are hard, and changing careers isn’t easy, but if you have a big “WHY” and a good plan you will succeed.
Many of you might have similar feelings, being “stuck” in a job or career you don’t like, not being fulfilled by your limiting job description, wanting to have a positive impact in others’ lives or simply wanting to follow your passion.
Fear is a powerful force holding us hostage, whether it’s the fear of change, the fear of giving up a stable paycheck, or the fear of failure. One way to take charge is to ask for help, because oftentimes someone on the outside might see what we don’t – the endless possibilities if we just have a plan.
This is the fifth in my series of blog posts on the Five Steps of Proactive Career Development created by the Illinois Career Development Association (ICDA)
Step4. Network in person and via social media throughout your career.
Networking! NETWORKING! N E T W O R K I N G! Enough already, you think to yourself. Are you tired of people telling you that you need to be networking more or afraid to extend yourself to interact with people you don’t know? In either case, it’s important to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings on the subject and even consider examining their source. The idea of having to stretch beyond your comfort zone can produce anxiety. The image of having to “stick your neck out” over and over again, extending your hand—yourself—to people you don’t know can be overwhelming, especially if you’re thinking only about the pain and anxiety of the act itself apart from the benefits and possible positive outcomes that you well ought to have in mind as you actually engage in the process. So, to help allay some of the fears you might have about networking and to supply you with a little fuel to build some fire or passion for networking, let’s spend a few minutes clarifying what networking is and give you a few reasons why you might actually want to network, and even enjoy it.
To begin, let’s confront the elephant in the room. What IS networking, anyway? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “Networking is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
What I like most about this definition is the word “exchange.” Networking is NOT a one way street, at least not from my experience. You never know just how a new connection might benefit either one or both of the parties involved, or even someone else entirely that either of the parties may know. The aim of networking, as the definition suggests, is to develop relationships, and as ICDA suggests, it’s done over time throughout your career. And the ‘throughout’ part suggests, in turn, that networking might look different and take on a different focus, aim, or energy depending on the place you are in your career. So, what would networking mean at a few different stages in your lifework?
Well, students might want to connect with others who can help them work through the decisions they’re making about what to do after high school, research college majors and career options, find internship or volunteer opportunities, feel connected to peers sharing information with each other as they go through the same process for support and shared learning experiences, find others who have attended the training program or college they’re considering attending, or find others who share their same avocational interests or hobbies, eventually learning there are ways to turn those interests into career opportunities.
In the case of someone conducting a job search, the reasons for networking are a bit more obvious, especially since some suggest 60–85 percent of jobs are found through networking. Do you know the saying “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”? That certainly applies when you’re attempting to uncover job opportunities in the “hidden job market.” How better might you gain access to something that’s “hidden” than through someone who has current and substantial knowledge of that market and operates within it daily? Job seekers may also want to network to help them research the fields, industries, and organizations in which they wish to work, not only to make certain these organization are indeed ones in which they would enjoy working but to also be as prepared as possible for any interviews they are actually offered.
And then there are those who, even though they are not looking to change careers or employers, are looking for ways to become increasingly successful in their current positions. For these individuals, networking may be the way to make contacts who will become clients who help them attain their sales or entrepreneurial goals. Additionally, those individuals who want to grow in their professional life and be proactive in their own career development may want to seek out possible mentors, LinkedIn discussion groups where they can share experiences and knowledge, and professional associations where they can develop relationships with peers, have opportunities to give back to their profession, and perhaps develop new skills and competencies by volunteering in areas that are not a part of their current job description. One additional reason to network, even if you are settled in your own work situation, could be to develop a pool of qualified and trusted people to whom you can, in turn, refer family, friends, coworkers, clients or patients and be confident that they will be well-cared for. There truly is a benefit to being known as a well-networked source of information and assistance, to whom people come looking to be connected themselves.
Now, if you’ve observed there might be one or more reasons for networking listed under a particular stage of career development that might apply to another stage, kudos to you. Give yourself a gold star! No matter what your age or stage of career development, know that reaching out to, connecting, and developing a relationship with another person can prove to be beneficial for both known and yet-to-be determined reasons over the passage of time. And yet, to reap these benefits, you must first reach out.
And to be prepared to do this, to share information, there are a few things you need to know. You need to know who YOU are, what you want to know, and what you have to offer, which may, at the moment, be only your gratitude for making an acquaintance and the information you’ve gathered. Remember a well-written and heartfelt thank you note can go a long way in your efforts to cultivate a relationship.
That about does it for this blog’s exploration of networking. I hope this post has left you with a new idea or two about how you might benefit from networking and perhaps ignited some passion for cultivating relationships to benefit your career development. And for now, remember, you can’t expect to scatter a few seeds on the ground, not come back until the end of the growing season, and expect to reap a maximum yield. So, I urge you, with mindfulness and gratitude, to cultivate, cultivate, cultivate. Happy networking everyone!
Stuck! That was it. I was stuck.
But what was the problem? I went to work five, maybe six days a week. I got paid every week, and not badly. Who was I to complain about a situation that many would love to have the opportunity to find themselves in? I tried to just stuff the ill feeling I was having down somewhere and to continue doing what I was doing, but it was affecting my disposition.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in education and after a poorly executed job search from which I was only offered a teacher assistant position, I chose to work for my brother at his body shop as the customer service and sales manager. I was damn good at it! I was trustworthy, a good manager, and looked out for both customers and the company.
Over the years though, a feeling kept creeping in. I wondered what I was missing having not ever worked in education and assisting kids to be their best. But as time went on, I took on a mortgage and a few years later was fortunate to meet the woman I was meant to marry. Any kind of occupation change seemed to be more and more far-fetched. Frankly, I was not sure that teaching was possible or what I really wanted to do and I had no other ideas.
But still those feelings were there. I did not like what I did with my time every day and there was nowhere for me to go. Upward movement only meant maybe partnership or perhaps managing multiple locations. Not for me. Remaining in the same gig for the next 20 to 30 years? No thank you…..
So, my wife and I were out west in the summer of 2011 visiting friends and family. As always happens when seeing folks you don’t see too often, the questions come up. How is work? What do you do? I hated those questions because I was now telling the truth. I disliked my work and I did not know what I really wanted to do. As this particular trip was winding down, I had never felt the dread of returning to work as I did at that time. It was bad, bad enough that my wife and I decided that something needed to be done.
Shortly after we got home I did some career counseling searches which led me to Career Path. I worked up the courage to reach out and we spoke on the phone. We agreed to move forward with some career counseling in order to help me understand what was happening and why I was so unhappy with what many would consider a good situation.
This experience helped me to understand that happiness in an occupation does not simply mean you have somewhere to go and they pay you for it. If you are not working to your strengths and doing something that you feel is important for you, it just does not allow for you to be the best that you can be. I realized that who I really am did not thrive in that environment doing that work. I was good at it, but it was not good for me.
In January 2012 at 39 years old, I enrolled in a graduate program. Later that year my wife and I were blessed with the news that we would have a baby in March of 2013. So now we decided to push all the chips to the center of the table. My classes were going well and I felt that the new career was the right move. I knew that I could not do the required internship without quitting my job and I knew that it would break my brother’s heart when I did. He was in denial that it would ever happen I think. But, somehow it all happened. Three weeks before my daughter was born I worked my last day (just shy of 15 years of service) so that after my wife’s maternity leave was over, I would be home with the baby a few days and also do my internship hours. As you may probably recognize, this was crazy. What the heck were we thinking? But I am here to tell you that things work out like they are supposed to, albeit with a lot of sacrifice and stress.
After earning my Masters of School Counseling degree, I did not find a counseling job the first year out. But I did get a job as (here it comes again) a teacher’s assistant, working directly for a high school counseling department. The following summer a counselor decided to not return at my school and I was hired full time as the replacement! Unbelievable!
Having now completed one full year and ready to return for year two, I can say with confidence it all worked out just like I wanted. I get to help young people think about their long term goals and I reflect regularly on what I learned during my counseling sessions in my work with students and parents. I now love my work! And my entire existence is better as a result.
In closing, I’ll say that I believe that we are meant to do, with our time, things that are important to us and that help us feel and be our best us. I believe that the workplace environment must match up to your interests and personality. If not the case, it is hard to be satisfied and live a happy existence. It truly is scary to step out of a comfort zone and go for the things that you feel are important. But I am a living example of how wonderful it can truly be! And to all you readers, I wish you the best and the fulfillment that you deserve!
Step 3: Develop and sustain a clear focus or mission for your life’s work and re-evaluate regularly.
What comes to mind as I consider the importance of sustaining a career development focus is the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Here is an excerpt from that conversation, beginning with Alice’s question of the cat.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“… so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.
And, every once in a while I’ve come across the following shortened version of this exchange attributed to Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” In either case, it’s quite clear how it might be challenging to choose a path when facing a career choice fork in the road especially if the traveler doesn’t know where they want the path to take them.
Might it also follow that if you don’t know what you want to pursue in terms of a lifework, any course of study or life/work path will get you there? Well, if that’s the case, you might as well throw a dart at a map of the world to determine where you’re going to live and THEN determine what you’re going to do to provide for your basic needs and hope you can receive at least some satisfaction out or your job/career/lifework once you get there.
Well, if that doesn’t sound like a particularly wise or satisfying thing to do, you might want to consider developing a focus for your future. And, where the eight or more hours you’re likely to spend each day engaged in some type of work for pay makes up a significant portion of our waking hours, wouldn’t it be wise to have a clear idea of just how you might want to spend that time and further help assure that time will be spent in an enjoyable, satisfying and energizing way? Does that sound better than the “dart option”? If so, then I suggest you spend some time thinking seriously about “where you want to get to,” to quote the Cheshire Cat. If you find that task to be a bit overwhelming, you might want to seek some assistance from a career development professional like a licensed career counselor, the career or alumni services department of your educational institution or someone in your organization responsible for human resources and/or talent management.
Also, if you like thinking of your lifework focus in terms of mission, you might like, and find helpful, the step-by-step process for “Finding Your Mission in Life” as can be found in the book What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Where the first two of the three steps of finding your mission according to Bolles, are spiritual in nature and particularly related to your religious orientation, the third part, he writes, is the “province of career counseling” as it relates to “the identification of talents, gifts, or skills.” So if you’re interested in developing a talent/gift/skills oriented mission statement, consider working through Bolles three questions under step three of the Mission section of his book. And if you’d like a little help identifying those talents, gifts and skills … well, by now, you’ve got a pretty good idea about what I’d recommend, don’t you?
Oh, and by the way, once you’ve clarified your focus, mission, purpose or direction to aid you in choosing the next step on your path, know that you can and will be likely to ‘course correct’ any number of times throughout your life. In fact, we can all find ourselves re-evaluating where we “want to get to”. So, know that you are not alone and that how you are learning to clarify what you want and where YOU “want to get to” will serve you well always. It WILL be worth the time and effort. And, in the meantime, here’s wishing you clarity of focus!!!
What do you do when your whole life you have told you are a shoe, you are a shoe, you are a shoe but you don’t want to be a shoe? Maybe you want to be a hat? These immortal words brought about by Rachel Green in Friends are as applicable to a career as it can be to any situation including your career. It can feel like an out of body experience. Have you ever felt like the whole world has told you that you are a shoe and every day you try your best to be a shoe? But at what point is it okay to say this isn’t me. This isn’t what I want.
Ever since high school every personality test or career quiz I took told me that I should be in sales. My parents said I should be in sales. My professors in college recommended that I take the Advance Professional Selling class because I would be good at sales. Then after school I got a job in sales. It makes sense. When everything is pointing you in a direction that is probably the direction you should go. So, then what happens when you find out you don’t like it?
Insanity is the idea of doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. I think many people find themselves stuck in the rut of what I should do vs what I want to do. Sometimes it might be what I am good at vs what makes me happy/fulfilled/alive, etc. I went to a few different jobs, all in the same industry, all in the same general requirements and I couldn’t understand why I continued to be unhappy, unmotivated and unfulfilled. This is what I was supposed to do, everyone said so. And that is why it was time to find someone else to talk to.
I found Career Path because a friend of mine had used them when he made a dramatic career change. I wasn’t looking for drama, just direction. Even though I knew the process would be different I was surprised when I didn’t get the “you should be in sales” answer to any of our sessions. Instead, we went through a series of questions and research and thought process and self-evaluation to discover more than just what I should do for my next job. I found out why I was reacting to certain situations and people. I found out what I needed to be inspired and why what I was doing wasn’t working. But, the best example of how this process was different is that I had an opportunity to take a new position. I brought the opportunity to my counselor and we looked at it from every angle and found that the position wasn’t any different than the positions that I was doing that were making me unhappy. She saved me from entering another cycle.
Since meeting with my counselor I have moved more towards a path of creativity and have gone to a smaller company where what I do directly impacts the company and its future. I am valued for what I do and how I contribute. And when a situation comes up where I am reacting I can identify what I am reacting to and evaluate my response. Is it my dragons talking? Or is there a legitimate issue and how do I deal with it. I can also notice I am more aware of my direct reports and when they are battling with issues. I am certainly not at the last stop of my journey. While my current job is similar to what I was doing and in the same industry it is helping me be exposed to many new ways of thinking. I am in school working for my MBA with an emphasis in strategic marketing (I’m a planner at heart). With each person I meet I am learning about directions I could go when I complete my degree. Who knows where I will end up? And that works for me.
Ironically, after all this process I think many people are facing this issue. You spend a long time doing what you think you should do but it isn’t what is going to make you happy. So it’s time to think, do you really want to be a shoe? Or do you know that it is time to try being a hat, or a purse, or a scarf…..
Jessica Gibbons-Rauch is the Director of Sales at Club Colors.