It’s Sunday evening and you are dreading going back to work tomorrow for no reason in particular. You can hardly remember when you loved your job and looked forward to going to work each morning. What’s changed? “Everything,” you immediately think. Realizing this statement is more true than false, you start to wonder: Is this job what I really want to do?
Many of us experience this quandary. It may mean we are bored because we have outgrown our present position and its responsibilities. Or that we are on the right bus but the wrong seat as Jim Collins explains in “Good to Great.” Perhaps we have chosen the wrong field to pursue or maybe the profession itself has changed. Maybe we have changed our minds about what we want and need in our career! Whatever the reason, it is important to listen to these thoughts and explore their cause.
What led you choose the career you did? Some of us knew what we wanted to do from the time we were young. I always loved science, especially the laboratory. I knew from the time I began high school Medical Technology was the perfect college major for me. I thought I wanted to be a research scientist, until I was one! Once I was in that position, I could not get away fast enough from what seemed to me to be a too repetitive and monotonous work routine. Fortunately, I was able to switch to a clinical laboratory position, where I loved my work for many years.
Many make the very important choice for their livelihood for the wrong reasons. It could be that their friends are choosing it as their major in college or they think they can make a lot of money in the profession. Maybe they know someone in a particular career who seems to love her job or they their parents or career counselor persuaded them to think this is the perfect occupation for them.
Regardless of what the reason may have been, it is never too late to make a change into an occupation that leaves you feeling as if you cannot wait to go to work each day or to make changes in your present position so that do enjoy working every day.
How can you know what is the right profession for you? I encourage you to do some self-exploration. Start by clearing a few hours to spend with yourself. Find somewhere relaxing and inspiring, perhaps a park, by a favorite stream, the local library or maybe even the corner coffee house or internet cafe. Bring several sheets of paper and colored pens to stimulate the creative part of your brain.
Once your settled, think about the reasons you chose the career you are now in. Write them down as they come to mind without judging or eliminating any thoughts because they seem silly. Ask yourself, “Are these reasons still true for me today?” Our desires change as life proceeds. Progress brings many new options and opportunities. Another way to uncover what is most important to you is to ask what you do not like about what you are doing now.
Do some research. Talk to those in a career that appeals to you. Shadow someone on-the-job, if possible. Be sure to compare the list of factors you developed that are important to you in a job with those in the new position you are considering. Remember, the grass always seems greener from outside the fence!
If the original reasons you chose your career are no longer right for you or the motivating factors are no longer there or enough, maybe it’s time to move on to a new, more stimulating and rewarding career.
How do you know what to do? Think about what you are doing when time passes so quickly you do not even realize several hours have gone by. What about doing this pursuit makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? Ask yourself what you are passionate about , is it being with children or animals? Teaching? Serving others? Creating something with your hands? Using technology to make things simpler, easier for others and yourself? Developing processes and structure? The things you are passionate about and enjoy doing most are strong clues to what makes you happy while working.
Another good question to ask is, “If I could do anything without worrying about how much money I would make or if I have the right education what would it be?” Write these dreams down as they come to mind. Again, don’t be critical. Let your mind, heart and soul speak to you. Let this question simmer for a while and see what comes to you. Then take time to list ways you can build a career around these things. Be imaginative in developing in your mind and on paper or computer screen your ideal job and work place. Search the Internet and/or peruse the library for more mind-expanding ideas.
Another method to help you discover what you really want to do as a professional is to utilize assessment tools. The Strong Campbell Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and DiSC Personal Profile System® are great at determining your strengths and motivational preferences. Another is to work with a career coach. This person can help you decide what you most love to do and what is best for you at whatever stage of your career you are presently in.
Now for the easy part. Once you know what you want and need to make you happy at work, what do you do? Look at what you want to do, determine what you need to get there, then put together a plan and strategy to do so, being sure to include a time line. The hard part is taking consistent, persistent, focused action toward your goals. Any time you choose to do something significantly different than you are presently doing, or expand your responsibilities, something will come up to make you feel as if you cannot do it. Since most of us rarely can do anything consequential totally on our own, find someone such as a partner or close friend to support you, a colleague to mentor you and/or a coach to teach, guide, encourage, support and inspire you as well as keep you accountable. A coach is also a great person to help you move beyond your biggest obstacle — fear! Be sure to include rewards into your plan to keep you moving forward and to celebrate your progress at significant milestones in your plan.
I encourage you to invest your time and energy in designing and developing a plan and strategy to have more of what you want in your professional and personal lives rather than complaining and resisting what is. Doing so leaves you exhausted at the end of each day. And, often causes you to develop a negative attitude virus which is very contagious and often affects all around you – both at work and home. It’s your life. It is up to you to manage it. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you cannot, either way you are right.”
Suggested Reading List:
Live the Life You Love, by Barbara Sher
Living Your Best Life, by Laura Berman Fortgang
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers
Artful Work, by Dick Richards
The Portable Coach, by Thomas J. Leonard
Coaching Into Greatness, by Kim George
Get Unstuck & Get Going, by Michael Bungay Stanier