Everyone wants a job they love. We all want to wake up excited to go to work, spend our days accomplishing goals we’re proud of, and come home feeling pleasantly fulfilled. Oh, and somewhere in there, we’d like a paycheck that provides us with a comfortable lifestyle and may one day put our kids through college.
That’s the dream anyway. But, in reality, we often have to settle for less. We put our dreams on hold in order to put food on the table. That perfect, dream career is exchanged for a livable wage, a decent commute and stability.
To say that you should never give up on finding that dream career sounds a bit naïve. I understand that the world requires us to make sacrifices and, at times, we have to put the needs of our families above our personal desires for career fulfillment. But I still encourage everyone to hold tight to the dream. Not because I think it will one day magically come true. But because nothing is permanent. And, even if you have to momentarily let it go, it’s not to be forgotten completely.
The Path Changes
Many people have told me the path to their dream career looked nothing like what they expected. They took non-traditional roads and explored uncharted territory to get there. It seemed for a while that they were off course. And then, amazingly, they were able to guide their current path in the right direction.
This happened to me, in fact. I had buried my dream of being a writer and was working as an Executive Assistant. I channeled my creative energy into a blog, where I wrote about my challenges at work and how I was overcoming them. My writing was seen by millions and a few years later, I sold my blog and became a fulltime writer. I never would have expected that the path I was on as an Executive Assistant would lead me to my dream of being a writer. I had to manipulate the path somewhat and turn it into something a little different, but it worked.
The Destination Changes
I’ve known many people who tell me they woke up one day and realized they were in their dream career, and it was nothing like what they thought it would be. The job they had taken to make ends meet on the way to another destination turned out to be more than just a stop along the road.
A friend of mine, struggling to become an actor, finally accepted a fulltime position as a customer service trainer. About a year into the gig, he told me wasn’t interested in going on auditions anymore. He felt he had “fallen” into his dream career and it was something he never expected. Sure, it wasn’t as glamorous as being a movie star, but he felt fulfilled. He was using his talents in a way he had never thought of before.
The World Changes
I couldn’t have envisioned my career ten years ago. Even five years ago, the technology I use on a daily basis was only just being developed. The world is constantly changing and growing and, with it, new careers are emerging. In the future, technology we can’t begin to understand will become a part of the mainstream and it will shift our society in ways we can’t predict. Our limits are ever-expanding, and our career possibilities are growing each and every day.
I think about the courses available to college students today and it completely boggles my mind. They are facing a whole world of opportunities that we never had at their age. They can get degrees in online social media! Such an idea never existed five years ago. What will be available in another five years? How will it impact our business world? How will it change your idea of a dream career? No one knows.
You’re not the same person you were yesterday. Ultimately, we’re all changing, every minute of every day. Our dreams are fluid. What once might have seemed like a dream career may no longer suit you. Be willing to let your dreams change and not feel guilty or that you’ve failed. Sometimes, you have to let go of old dreams to let the new ones in. That’s not “giving up”. It’s growing up.
Let your career dreams live through you. Don’t stifle them, ignore them or forget them. They are a part of you. But give yourself the freedom to make your own way. Because we live in the real world, not a dream world. We have responsibilities and families and mortgages. Remember that everything changes and let the world surprise you. Never give up on yourself, your dreams or the possibilities that exist.
I think we, as a society, don’t give the fine art of compromise enough credit. We’re an “all or nothing” kind of people. We avoid the middle ground because it feels indecisive. It’s better to just pick a side; “go big or go home” as they say.
Many of us think in black and white, especially when facing tough career decisions. We only see two options; one is “good” and the other is “bad”. But of course, we don’t know for sure which is which. So, we go back and forth, hemming and hawing about which road to take, and the whole time, we’re ignoring our options in the middle.
When we limit our choices, we limit our ability to see the middle ground. We start truly believing that there is only black or white; grey no longer exists. We create an unnecessary limitation.
“Should I stay at this job I don’t like or quit and follow my dream to start my own business?”
“Should I ask for a raise in this tough economy or just settle for what I’ve got?”
On the surface, these seem like rational choices. We look at them and think, “Well, you have a decision to make.” But inherent in each one is the idea that there are only two options. What if there are more?
What if, instead of quitting your job to start your own business, you cut your hours down a bit and started a business slowly?
What if, instead of asking for a raise, you proposed a new pay-for-performance program?
What if, instead of accepting or declining the promotion, you tailored it to better suit your career goals and countered the offer?
Next time you’re facing a tough career decision, take a few minutes to explore the other opportunities you may not be seeing. Don’t let limited thought patterns trap you in black and white, either/or choices. There are always more options. You just have to look a little closer to see them.
Picture this: You’re driving along, singing at the top of your lungs to your favorite tune on the radio, and—all of the sudden—you realize you have absolutely NO IDEA where you are. You’re completely lost.
At some point or another, it’s happened to all of us. Why? There could be a number of reasons:
Maybe you failed to print a map or forgot to program the GPS for directions.
Maybe you had directions but you just completely ignored them because you were sidetracked by that great song or because you thought you knew what you’re doing.
Or maybe your directions were bad. They could have been based on old maps and roads that no longer exist, or perhaps they were provided by someone who’s not trustworthy (we’ve all encountered the well-meaning local who accidentally points us astray…).
Whatever the reason, being lost is no fun.
But what does this have to do with your career?
Interestingly, the word career has its origins in the Latin word cararia, meaning “road.” At certain points along the way, you may end up lost.
And the reasons are much the same as those listed above:
You fail to print a map or program your GPS for directions.
You just blindly follow the career path you’re on expecting that, ultimately, you’ll reach the destination you desire—though, in reality, you might not even truly know what that is.
You have directions and you’ve just completely ignored them because you’re sidetracked or because you think you know what you’re doing.
You create a career path but when it gets hard or, when something more interesting comes along, you allow your attention to be diverted. Your well thought-out plans get pushed to the wayside.
Your directions are bad—they’re based on old maps and roads that no longer exist or they were provided by someone who’s not trustworthy.
You allow others to create your career path or you create a career path based on things you no longer want.
Does any of this sound familiar?
You’re not alone if so. And, here’s the good news: You’re in the right place.
Career coaching is specifically designed to help you when you’re feeling lost by providing guidance—a map with which to navigate the road of your career. My role as a career coach is to listen and reflect back what I hear. I ask questions and together we find the answers. Ultimately, my goal is to help you do three things:
1. Make decisions.
2. Create action plans.
3. Successfully execute those plans.
That’s it. Looks pretty simple from the outside, but anyone who’s lost can tell you that these three things make all the difference. And, on your own, they can be overwhelming tasks. Here’s what I offer at each step:
1. In making decisions, my job is to take the emotion out of the process. I’m an objective third-party without a horse in the race, as they say. Talking to me isn’t like talking to your significant other or your friends. I’m there to help you see the situation as it truly is and possibly identify other opportunities you’ve overlooked. The decision is still yours; but I’m there to facilitate the process.
2. In creating action plans, my job is to break it down for you. I make sure you’re taking logical, well-orchestrated steps to get you to your chosen destination. We build your map one step at a time. It’s my goal to simplify the process for you. I help identify and organize to-do items, and together we establish reasonable timeframes in which to achieve them. You end up with a tangible checklist to get you from point A to point Z.
3. In executing your plans, my job is to keep you accountable and help you overcome challenges before they knock you off course. This is where coaching truly changes lives. All too often, I see people with great intentions who simply get overwhelmed by fear or lose motivation before any progress is made. I’m there to confront these patterns and bring them to your attention. Everyone needs an outside force to do this. It’s almost impossible to do it for yourself. My role is to push you, to bring out the best in you, and to help you share your greatness with the world.
Along the way, I might also make recommendations, share personal experiences and offer straight-forward advice, but most of the time, you already have the answers. You know what’s best for you; I help you articulate what you already know and turn it into tangible success.
Coaching isn’t therapy. It’s not some touchy feely hand-holding session where we talk about wishes and dreams. It’s down and dirty and sometimes, it’s very uncomfortable. But you’ll never feel more alive and more in sync with your purpose. And that, my friends, is my purpose.
If you’re lost in your career, I can help. Let’s build your map and take a road trip.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a big fan of podcasts. Radio Lab (produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR) is one of my current favorites. A recent episode on the topic of “choice” discussed a fascinating scientific research study that had unexpected results and significant implications. Here’s a summary:
Two people are given two different sets of numbers to remember. One person gets two numbers, while the other gets seven. After being told their number sets, the two individuals are asked to walk down a hall and go to another room where they’ll be asked to recite their numbers. While walking down the hall, they’re approached (in a seemingly unplanned fashion) by a kind staff member who says that, as a special thank you for participating in the study, they can have one of two special snacks. The first snack is a big, gooey slice of chocolate cake. The second is a small, healthy bowl of fruit salad. They were asked to make a choice between the two.
Oddly, the people trying to remember two numbers almost always picked the fruit salad while people remembering seven almost always chose the cake. Coincidence? Nope.
Yes…But What Does It MEAN?
The researchers concluded that there are two parts of the brain involved in decision-making: the “rational” brain and the “emotional” brain. When the rational brain is busy trying to remember something significant (like a string of seven numbers), the emotional brain takes over in the decision-making process and, apparently, an unhealthy slice of chocolate cake is a thoroughly emotional choice. Those remembering just two numbers were more capable of using their rational brains and suppressing their emotional brains; thus, the healthier fruit salad decision was made.
It sounded like a stretch when I first heard it, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When making decisions, we need our wits about us. When we’re distracted, even by something as simple as remembering a string of numbers, we’re more likely to make decisions that appeal to our emotions. These are the choices that feel comfortable and reassuring. They aren’t necessarily the rational, well thought-out decisions.
Let Your Rational Brain Focus on the Important Things
So, what does this teach us? The simple answer is this: If you want to make smart decisions, use your rational brain. In order to do that, you have to make sure that part of the brain isn’t distracted by something else, like your to-do list or some unresolved conflict.
If you’re trying to make rational decisions and avoid emotional ones, don’t clutter your rational brain with unnecessary fluff. Keep it as empty as possible so it has the energy to focus on the important things. An easy way to do this is to simply write things down and get them out of your head.
When I heard about this experiment, I wondered how it might have gone differently if the individuals had been allowed to write down the string of numbers. The conclusions seem to suggest that this would have led to everyone choosing fruit salad since, having written down the information, the rational brain would have been free to make all the smart decisions in the world.
Sure, it’s not always easy to keep the rational brain focused, but just being aware of this information will likely inspire you to view your decision-making process a little bit differently. Next time you find yourself at a crossroads, ask which brain is in charge. If your rational brain is busy doing something else, grab its attention and get it involved.
The term “career management” is a bit abstract for some people. It sounds like this fluffy, indefinable concept that doesn’t really mean a whole lot. In reality, career management is a very significant and specific process that, when done properly, helps to ensure long-term career success.
According to CareerVision.org, it’s sort of like contributing to your own career piggy bank:
Career management uses concepts similar to good financial management. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a disciplined investment, made on a regular basis, yields a greater return.
In order to get the most out of your career, you have to put some effort into caring for it. Left to its own devices, your career may end up wildly off course. Without a structured career management plan, you’ll quickly find yourself doing what’s easy or convenient or what others want you to do. You may discover that your future goals don’t align with your present-day actions. And, before you know it, your career will be managing you.
1. Career Management is a Lifelong Process
The first point to understand is that career management is not a single event; it’s a part of your career journey. Don’t put it off until you suddenly realize there’s a problem. Just like a car, regular maintenance will help ensure a smooth ride.
2. Career Management is an Active Process
You can’t simply sit back and let others do the work for you. Otherwise, you’ll end up in someone else’s career! You have to be an active, engaged participant.
3. Career Management is a Structured Process
I believe that career management is most beneficial when it is carefully structured. Without structure, most of us would neglect it until an emergency came along. Structure helps keep the process moving at a steady, stable pace regardless of what’s happening.
4. Career Management is about Establishing, Tracking and Correcting:
Establish Goals: The real nitty-gritty of career management is in understanding what you’re trying to achieve. This, for many people, can also be the hardest part. Each goal should be broken down into tasks that, once completed, will achieve the goal. A timeline can then be created to map each step along the way.
Track Goals: Monitoring progress is a satisfying and useful strategy. Career management involves regularly checking in on established goals and the movement being made. This helps prevent stagnation and ensures career goals are being methodically incorporated into the rest of your life.
Course Correct: Career goals will change and grow just as you do. Part of the career management process involves monitoring and adjusting them as needed. Each step along the way will heighten your understanding of what you want and how to get there. The map isn’t set in stone. As you move forward, the career management process will help you identify new paths and new destinations.
Participating in a structured career management process demonstrates the important role that career plays in your life as a whole. For most people, your career can provide you with the means to achieve a great number of other personal goals, like buying a house or starting a family or traveling the world. Work also occupies a huge portion of our time spent on this planet, so managing your career is clearly a worthwhile investment of energy.