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?
- I spent ten years in retail banking until the structure and rules got to me.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.