Are you feeling the pressure to find THE career that makes you jump out of bed every Monday? The one career that you are going to be passionate about forever?
This is something that many of my clients are looking for when they meet me for a career consultation. They are looking for the ‘light bulb moment’. Often they even write in the questionnaire form “I need help finding my passion”.
Let’s get real here. Should you really need someone else to help you find your passion? If you are going to be passionate about something, it is likely that you already know. Career counsellors do not have a magic wand. We are not going to grant you a passion. Instead, we will work with you to help you identify work that energises you, utilises your strengths and is aligned with your interests.
So, what do you do, if you haven’t experienced any light bulb moments?
Choosing a career or making the decision to change career is a huge decision, and there is a lot of external pressure to get it right due to the cost and time lost if you get it wrong.
So, how about thinking about this in a different way?
Do you go out on a first date expecting to find a lifelong soulmate? Let’s hope not. Do you go out house hunting and expect to find your dream house on the first day? Unlikely. It is no different with careers. You cannot expect your first role to be your dream job, and it pretty rare that this actually occurs.
Therefore, how about approaching things differently. Instead of putting yourself under pressure to find a lifelong career, instead look for a career that you will be satisfied with for the next five to seven years. The way technology is changing so rapidly it is really hard to plan much further than this anyhow.
Instead of searching for that light bulb moment, look instead for some ‘little twinkles’. Instead of searching for a career that you are completely passionate about, look for work that uses your strengths and makes you feel good MOST of the time. It is very rare that people love every aspect of their job. Suddenly, the pressure is taken off and you can allow yourself to test ideas and enjoy the journey to finding your ideal career.
So, what are the ‘little twinkles’ that lead you to a new career?
One of my clients (let’s call her Stephanie) has been a lawyer for six years, a career that she ‘fell into’ because she achieved good marks at school and was particularly strong in humanities. Stephanie didn’t ‘choose’ law, instead, she drifted into it because she didn’t choose anything else. There was pressure from her school and her parents to follow a career that would earn her good money and law seemed to be a popular choice amongst her high-achieving peers. A story I hear almost every day from clients aged in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Stephanie is a very caring and empathetic individual who gets much satisfaction from helping people. She hoped that she would complete her law degree and eventually work for the United Nations as a human rights lawyer. Instead, she found herself working in the corporate and commercial department of a top tier Melbourne law firm, a cutthroat, competitive and task-focused environment. Not the ideal culture for a relationship-focused individual who avoids confrontation and is highly sensitive to criticism. As a result, when I first met Stephanie she was desperately unhappy. She had worked incredibly hard for six years and was good at her job. However, she was burnt out and felt completely drained by the work and the dog-eat-dog environment around her.
Based on the personality and interests assessment that Stephanie completed as part of her consultation, it became quite evident that Stephanie was best suited to careers that would provide her with the satisfaction of helping people and building relationships. The tests revealed that her ‘best fit’ careers that were also aligned to her interests included; counselling, psychology, social work, coaching, healthcare and wellness. Not surprising given that she went into law with the aim of ‘helping’ people. I encouraged Stephanie to start testing out some of these ideas in the real world, as well as exploring other areas within legal that may have a strong relationship focus such as legal aid, family law, immigration law and employment law.
Over the next few months, Stephanie was very proactive in researching and testing out her ideas. She commenced a Pilates instructors course, set up meetings with lawyers in some other areas of law, attended information sessions on psychology and social work, completed free introductory online healthcare courses on Alison.com, set up coffee meetings with healthcare professionals and read books on positive psychology. All the while looking for some ‘little twinkle’ moments, those little moments that lit her up and filled her with excitement and curiosity.
Fast forward several months and Stephanie has applied for postgraduate study in Coaching and plans to continue on with her Pilates course. She hopes to transition slowly out of law over the next few years with the view of possibly having a portfolio career that focuses on helping people. She is also looking for opportunities internally and externally where she can test out her coaching and mentoring skills working with junior lawyers.
So, how can you discover your ‘little twinkles’?
Sometimes the ‘little twinkles’ are right there waiting to be discovered and sometimes they are harder to find.
Here are a few ideas to help you find what makes you tick:
Instead of scouring job search sites relentlessly, get out of the house and start doing some things that you haven’t done before. Whilst you embark on these new activities, take notice of the things that you enjoy most and the times when you get that little fizz of excitement in your stomach.
Think about your current job and reflect on past jobs. What aspects of those jobs energised you most? Was it the time spent engaging with clients? Problem-solving? Analysing data? Counselling colleagues about their relationship issues? Organising team events? Researching? Graduate recruitment? Writing? Sometimes you can break down previous roles into different tasks to work out the aspects that you enjoyed most.
What books do you enjoy reading? What Facebook groups are you a member of? What section of the newspaper do you read first? What do you enjoy talking about most with your friends? What do friends come to you for? What podcasts do you listen to? What activities allow you to be ‘in flow? ‘In flow’ means that you lose all sense of time. You get so engrossed in what you are doing that you forget to eat lunch. I am often ‘in flow’ when coaching clients. I look at the clock and realize I am half an hour over time. However, I can tell you that I was never ‘in flow’ in my first career as a tax accountant. I was constantly looking at the clock and wishing the minutes away. So NOT ‘in flow’!
Take the pressure off finding the perfect career
The new rules of work do not involve climbing a corporate ladder and pursuing a lifelong career. In this new age, individuals will have several careers. They will move sideways, diagonally, backward and inside out. They may be self-employed, freelance or have a portfolio career that involves receiving income from multiple sources. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find your dream career. Instead look for work that will energise and sustain you for the next five to seven years. After that, you may well transition into another career area taking your transferable skills with you.
There are possibly multiple careers out there that will suit you. Don’t feel the pressure of having to choose the right one. If you are confident that the work will interest you, that you will be using your strengths and that it will be sustainable, then go for it!
Due to technology, jobs are changing rapidly so we can’t possibly plan for a career that will be forever. Likewise, our values and passions change over time. What we were interested in our 20’s may be very different in our 40’s. Likewise, the values we had earlier on in our career often change after having a family or experiencing many years of working life.
I see many clients who chose careers based on values such as status, high income, and career progression. They thought they would be happy if they had a well-paid corporate job in the Paris end of Collins St. However, come mid 30’s and they are now looking for work that will fulfil new values such as; meaningful work, flexible hours, helping people and contributing to society.
So, instead of focusing on ‘forever’ just enjoy the journey and focus on what feels good right now.
Take small steps towards a new career
Once you start noticing some ‘little twinkles’ then start stringing them together. If you enjoyed reading an article about a particular topic, then why not look for a free online course to take it one step further. If you are enjoying the free online course, then perhaps check out a half-day workshop that you can attend to meet other like-minded people.
One of my clients has an extensive accounting background and has been in senior finance roles for over a decade. After much self-assessment, he realised that his ‘little twinkle’ moments were not managing teams and getting involved in business strategy, but rather the time when he worked alone problem solving and using advanced Excel functionality to analyse data. These were the times when he was ‘in flow’ and the times he felt energised. The staff management and leadership meetings instead were rapidly draining his energy.
Since making this realisation, he has enrolled in some more advanced business analytics courses and has started attending a Power BI meet-up group in the city on a monthly basis. He is meeting like-minded people, developing new skills and immersing himself in the world of business analytics, the baby steps that are required for him to transition into this new career area.
So, don’t sit around waiting for that lightbulb moment to knock you down. Instead, tune into the small things that give you pleasure. The quiet moments when you feel energised and at peace. Follow the breadcrumb trail that will lead you to the work you were meant to do.
Relax, forget about forever, and instead just enjoy the journey.
If you would like to chat about making a potential career change, feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a call.