We change and we grow and as we do, our interests and passions as well. If these two can be easily picked and discarded, our professional career is a more complicated matter. Now more than ever, due to the lockdown/self-isolation, we may have become acutely aware of some neglected or postponed dreams and plans.
The pandemic and ensuing social distancing may have brought to the surface ideas, thoughts and situations, un-dealt with previously, that are now seeking acknowledgment and resolution. In fact, two of my dearest friends have started contemplating career changes during this time: one of them, desiring to start from scratch and gently allowing herself time for self-discovery and exploration whilst the other, re-framing and seeking a change that would bring more joy and personal fulfillment in her chosen career. Or perhaps, the pandemic brought on the loss of your job.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, then this blog post is for you.
Start by elimination
Often times, when we consider what we would like to do professionally, a great nebulous void opens up. We think and feel that we simply don’t know. I suspect this happens for multiple reasons: we do not yet know ourselves, nor do we have enough diverse life experience to have glimpsed the inkling, the fire that fuels our long nights and sheds a light into the unknown; and/or, life’s unexpected or planned changes and challenges, and the day to day grind (repetitive, tedious and monotonous) blocks and shadows our inner voice. At times, just like in a relationship, we grow in one way whilst our professional development stays stagnant.
The simplest and easiest thing to do when we feel utterly lost is to start by elimination.
What is it that I know for a fact that I don’t like? that I don’t have any interest in? what is it that I could never do or I’m unwilling to do?
Therefore, just by making a list of things we know with utmost certainty we do not like and have no aptitude for is an empowering way to start. Suddenly, the nebulous dread of not knowing is lifted and we start having something to work it.
A free, quick and simple online career test that takes less than 5 minutes to complete can be found here. Based on your answers, the results, in percentages, will offer you broad fields from which to choose from as well recommendations on where to start if you are a teen or an adult. This career personality profiler is a more in depth test that matches your personality and interests with specific tasks/jobs and takes roughly 15 minutes to complete.
If, however, the new industry that we are drawn to or have been dreaming about is one we do not have much experience in, then the next step is to find out as much information as possible about it. Most importantly, whom do we know, like and trust, that can shed some light on the matter? has the job/professional career we long for and can ask them about it? perhaps over a coffee/lunch break? can we skype and zoom with them?
This exploratory, playful process is so important due to the fact that just because we think we might like a particular job or field, that doesn’t make it so in reality. From here, actively observing, volunteering, interning and gathering as much information as possible, is our next logical step.
Start where you are
Another way to explore our future professional career is by looking at our current job, and/or the ones we have had before.
What aspects did you like the most? when did you feel enthusiastic, engaged, hopeful, vibrant and full of energy? what were you doing at work when you felt that way? did you coordinate a team, did you work in a team, did you work alone on a project, did you collaborate with someone, were you given the responsibility to create something, to analyze or direct?
And what activities of your current/previous job did you like the best? when did you feel like thriving, like you were valued and involved? what aspects of your job came the easiest to you, were effortless and you felt naturally successful at them?
Most importantly, what do you do, when you work, that does not feel like working?
This is where our strengths lie and this is where our gifts to others, and ourselves are. And remember, just because an aptitude seems too easy, insignificant or unmarketable, it doesn’t mean that in the right context cannot become a valuable asset.
To further this process, the next step is to ask for feedback from trusted coworkers. What specific strengths and abilities to they think we possess? in which circumstances do we shine at work? what do they think we’re really good at and what do we think about their evaluation? is it a surprising one or reinforces what we already know or suspect about ourselves?
Then, what skills, hands-on experience and knowledge can be transferred and used in our future, desired career? what can we build on? what is the foundation on which to make the change?
Decide and commit
We become what we decide to become, through our daily thoughts and actions, and it can be the same with our career or chosen professional path.
Just as we choose to be righteous, fair and positive, to the best of our abilities, we can sit down, reflect, take our time and decide on a career or job that fulfills a higher calling or meaning, that we have rationally, logically chosen for ourselves.
Skills can be learnt and built upon. Through perseverance, dedication and in time, you can become an expert in anything! Sometimes, rationally choosing something that motivates us completely, then building a set of skills to monetize upon is a very logical and lucrative decision. As long as you like most of the things regarding the job and the benefits outweigh the negatives, and it’s a job that you can do and sleep tight at night, then this might be a very viable option as well.
Keep in mind
Lastly, and this is important, our burning passion/interest does not need to match our chosen career/current job.
I feel like this message is not emphasized enough in our fast-paced, career-driven culture. It is okay to have a job that you like most days, you are satisfied with, pays the bills and allows time for the things that are important to you. And I am not telling you to settle! far from it. If there is something that nags at you, that you’ve wanted to do for forever, that hasn’t left you, then by all means you owe it to yourself to start doing it in any capacity that you are able to. Start now and never waver.
What I am referring to is the fact that not all of us can, or should, become CEOs, influencers, entrepreneurs, successful business owners, etc.. We also need artisans, carpenters, artists, writers, teachers, dreamers and creators, waiters and drivers and engineers that really enjoy their work and are very good at it. There is a place and a purpose for each of us.
In fact, very rarely are people born with a specific aptitude/talent that they discover early on, pursue for the rest of their lives and become renowned, recognized and generously remunerated for it. These people are the exception, not the norm.
For the majority of us life sways us, this way and that, teaching us to compromise along the way whilst, if we are lucky, learning to cultivate our deepest passions and interests in whatever shape, form and time is left available to us after the loved ones are being taken care of, chores are finished and bills are paid. And this is okay.
Our jobs are very important, of course. They supplement more than our livelihoods, they fill us with a sense of purpose, of community, a sense of shared goals and values, so how we feel at work matters, so we absolutely should do the work of discovering what place suits us best, just as we are now, recognizing that this too might change in time.
As a general rule, I think that we want to have a job where we can do more of the things we like and are good at, less of the ones we don’t, that employs our given and nurtured skills in the best possible way and challenges us optimally, and the effort invested to discover it is never wasted.
Now, do you find yourself in a similar situation? has the physical and social separation brought to the surface a change in how you see your current job and career? perhaps for some of us, this is the perfect opportunity to explore and look for something that truly makes us happy and fulfilled. Let me know down below!