One of my favorite parts of coaching is watching the progress that takes place. Sometimes it’s so minute, an average observer might miss it. Other times, it’s so unbelievably big, both the client and I have to step back and simply bask in its glory.
Progress can sometimes be hard to define. It’s the step between here and there. It’s the motion of doing and achieving and yet, at the same time, still striving for more. Progress is what happens when you feel the pull of your dreams, and instead of just sitting there, wishing and waiting, you dive in. Progress is that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other rhythmic plodding of hard work.
And yet…many don’t appreciate the beauty of it. Making progress means you’re still not done. You have more work to do. That’s the mindset some people get stuck in.
I encourage you to see progress for what it is—dramatically different from completion—and love it for that same reason. Progress is the epic journey from where you are to where you want to be. It can be long and irritating and frightfully uncomfortable. But that’s the nature of transformation.
Here’s how to make progress happen:
Explore with a Curious Mind
There are different kinds of journeys in life. For some, you’ll have a clear destination in mind. For others, you’ll wander until the right road appears. In all cases, exploration is a critical part of making progress. Even if you know precisely where you want to end up, the process of veering off-track with intention and curiosity can actually help you chart your course more effectively. It can reassure you that your path is right or it may help you identify new trails to blaze.
Just be sure to drop breadcrumbs as you go so you can always find your way back when needed.
Take Slow, Deliberate Action
Action is indeed a critical part of progress on any journey, but not just any action. Progress is thoughtful and measured. It’s not some wild game of “Guess What’s Next?” Each step is taken with purpose and its impact carefully dissected before taking another.
This isn’t to suggest risk can’t be taken or your pace must be painfully sluggish. Make movement with intention and let speed not concern you.
Establish Your Rhythm
Progress is methodical. It’s a steady march forward. While speed should not concern you, cadence is another matter. Build momentum in the beat of your footsteps. Keep it constant and firm. Let the sound of progress resonate in your soul and in the world.
Bring a Companion
Any journey is more enjoyable with a partner—someone to celebrate the victories and share in the frustrations. But when it comes to making progress, a companion offers much more than company along the way.
This person is not a leader or a follower; he is an ally, a teammate, a support mechanism to help keep your stamina up when the road ahead is cold and unwelcoming. In your darkest hours, he will remind you of how far you’ve come and help maintain your rhythm when every bone in your body is begging to give up. Your companion will hold you true to your highest, most magnificent self and won’t let you be less.
Above all else, making progress is not like winning a race. Yes, it requires endurance and, at times, extreme exertion. But the journey is the reward, not the finish line. Progress happens in the day-to-day. Recognize your evolution. Give yourself the respect you deserve for making it happen. Don’t brush it aside like a pesky disturbance between you and your goal. Savor it. Remember that this progress was made by you. It’s the result of your sweat. And progress itself is the epic journey.
The idea of career reinvention is nothing new. It’s an annual tradition for some people. I used to make a New Year’s resolution every year to “figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” Luckily, I got to cross that one off the list a few years ago!
But, truth be told, career reinvention is a continuous process for most people. We’re all constantly growing and changing, so our professional goals have to be regularly re-evaluated and tweaked to keep up. Otherwise, what used to make us happy will soon make us miserable.
Of course, career reinvention doesn’t always have to be dramatic. Sometimes, minor adjustments can have a major impact. The process itself doesn’t change though, whether you’re in need of a serious career overhaul or a minor makeover.
The figure below describes the process I use to help people in the process of career reinvention. It’s adapted from the book Finding Your Perfect Work: A New Career Guide to Making a Living & Creating a Life by Paul and Sarah Edwards.
Here’s a short overview of what this means:
This is the stage in which you imagine what you want and begin to create different scenarios and predict possible outcomes. Most of us do this naturally. When we talk to our friends about work, we imagine what it would be like in their shoes. We think, “Would that make me more happy or less happy professionally?” We constantly envision the future and where we’ll be.
This is the stage in which you begin testing different ideas and make wild leaps of thought to see what sticks. It involves research and testing the waters. This is a critical phase of the process that is often overlooked.
The last two stages are where many people get stuck.
This is the stage in which you consider the reality of making specific decisions (like quitting your current job or accepting a new job), and you thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons. It can be easy to wallow around here, hemming and hawing and waiting for the “right” answer to simply appear…but it seldom does. You have to be willing to take calculated risks while also trusting your instincts.
This is the stage in which you set goals and begin making progress towards achieving those goals. This is the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other DO IT phase of career reinvention. It can be scary, uncomfortable and exhausting. But without this final phase, nothing is truly accomplished. This can also be a long phase in which many people lose motivation.
As the figure above suggests, this is an ongoing process. There’s never really a point where you’ll sit back, relax and enjoy the awesome career you’ve invented. A career isn’t a stagnant thing. It has to keep up with you and the world as a whole, and that takes a serious investment of time and energy on your part.
We’re always going through career reinvention, in big ways and small, making adjustments to find and maintain fulfillment. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or natural. Sometimes, you need a helping hand to guide you, keep you on track and help you maintain forward movement.
If you’d like a little support during your next phase of career reinvention, please take a few minutes to learn about my group coaching program called Reinvent Your Career.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, January 09th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Out of everyone in my group of college friends, I was the only one who still had the same job two years after graduation. Everyone else had changed jobs once, twice, even three times. So, I felt somewhat smug—as if I knew something they didn’t. It wasn’t until many years later that I understood the positive side of job hopping. It hit me when I suddenly discovered that I had forced myself to stay in a job I hated for five years. If only I had just left at the very beginning when I realized it wasn’t for me…maybe I wouldn’t have wasted all that time being miserable…
Of course, job hopping also involves a few pretty serious downsides. In order to make the best decisions in your career, it’s helpful to understand both the positive and negative aspects of bouncing around from one job to the next, and how it can impact your long-term goals.
Clearly, no one expects you to know exactly what you want from your career the minute you graduate from college. But, as you gain experience, you should become more astutely aware of what your idea of “the right” job looks like. If you find yourself stuck, feeling like nothing will ever make you happy, it’s time to do some self-reflection. If you need help, download my free mini-workbook which walks you through a process to determine what’s working (and what’s not) in your current career so you can begin pinpointing the things that may provide (or detract from) career fulfillment the future. Once you know more about yourself, you can be more discerning in the job search process.
Proactively searching for a job that matches your unique career wants and needs should help prevent job hopping, but there’s no guarantee. Sometimes, the only way to really learn what works for you and what doesn’t is to simply step in there and give it a try. I always recommend that, unless things are really unbearable, it’s a good idea to stick with a new job for at least a year. This gives you enough time to really get a feel for it and make an informed decision.
Most of us enjoy routine…up to a point. Then, it becomes monotonous. Job hopping certainly provides variety. You end up learning about many different businesses and industries; you gain a variety of skills and meet a wide range of people. This is what many job hoppers crave when they bounce around. They just want to escape the boring everyday routine. Be cautious of this! While it’s nice to experience new things, most jobs will have some degree of monotony. When you’re being paid, it won’t always be exciting and new.
If you’re a job hopper, or if you end up being one, you can always frame your scattered experience as being a good thing: you have a wide range of capabilities and broad point-of-view. However, in reality, your experience in each area is rather shallow. If you only stay somewhere for a short period of time, you’re not getting a deep understanding of what’s going on. That usually takes several years to accomplish and prospective employers may be concerned about your skill level.
Lack of Loyalty
Inevitably, once you’ve job hopped a few times in a row, employers will start seeing it as a red flag. They’ll wonder about your loyalty. They’ll worry that it’s not worth the time, money and energy needed to train you because, in a year or so, you’ll be gone. This can be a hard stigma to shake so you better have some strong justification for why you left each position and proactively address it in your cover letter. Don’t try to ignore it and hope they won’t notice.
You Don’t Know What You Want (‘Till It’s Gone!)
The other thing prospective employers will assume is that you don’t really know what you want. When you tell them why you’d be perfect for the job and why it’s a position you’ll be thrilled to have, they’ll doubt your motives. Your past doesn’t indicate that you really know what will please you. Again, with a little clever maneuvering, you can frame it in such a way that your past actually proves that you know exactly what you want—and DON’T want.
But, ultimately, many job hoppers end up regretting their decisions. They fall into the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Once they’ve moved on and fallen into another monotonous routine somewhere else, they realize that the last job wasn’t so bad after all.
If you ever find yourself labeled as a “serial job hopper,” take some time to evaluate why it’s happening and how it’s affecting your long-term career objectives. Create strategies to overcome this issue so you can settle into a job that feels right and keeps your interest. Working with a career coach or participating in a group coaching program may also be helpful.
Career fulfillment (or, as I like to call it, career nourishment) can often seem like an elusive beast. Figuring out what it is and how to find it is a difficult process for many.
The first thing I tell my coaching clients is that career fulfillment isn’t something you FIND, it’s something you CREATE. And the process, while different for everyone, involves five essential steps:
1. Know Your Needs
The vast majority of the people I coach know quite clearly what they don’t want from their work. More often than not, it’s everything they’re currently experiencing. But that’s not enough. Knowing what you don’t want doesn’t give you a big enough picture. You have to know what you do want and, more importantly, what you need.
Your career goal isn’t to simply sidestep misery. You want to achieve (at least some level of) fulfillment. In order to do that, you must have a clear understanding of your unique personal and professional needs. It takes a lot of self-reflection but the good news is I’ve created a free mini-workbook to help you through the process. It outlines the Eat Your Career Hierarchy of Career Needs and helps you determine what’s working and not working in your current situation. If you don’t have it yet, pick it up here.
2. Listen to Your Gut
Intuition is something many of us take for granted. We push it aside and bury it because we’ve been trained to use logic instead. Your gut isn’t always illogical though. In fact, it’s often telling you the most basic, fundamental truth that your logical brain is trying to avoid.
When it comes to career fulfillment, listen to your instincts. What makes you happy doesn’t always sound logical at first. But, if you listen to your heart and set out on the right path for your soul, your brain will find a way to keep you safe on the journey and get you to your destination. This might sound a little hokey to some of you. That’s fine. Just go with it. Try listening to that quiet voice inside you, the one you’ve been ignoring, and see where it takes you. Then, let me know what happens.
3. Make Changes Thoughtfully
Many people looking for career fulfillment end up job hopping. They bounce from one thing to the next in search of the perfect match. Unfortunately, they often end up in a vicious, anxious cycle. The moment they feel restless, it’s on to the next thing. Instead of taking the time to carefully analyze what’s working, what’s not and why, they simply paper the city with resumes and take the first offer of a decent paycheck. Before you know it, they’re right back where they started, looking for the next job to hop to.
Don’t fall into this trap. When you’re ready for a career change (whether big or small), take your time. Think about it carefully and make decisions based on well thought-out strategies. This isn’t a race. You don’t have to jump NOW. Take your time, analyze your situation, and make slow, methodical progress towards your goals.
4. Learn from Others
Many of us are afraid to ask for help and this is such a horrible waste of wisdom! You are surrounded by so much experience and knowledge. All you have to do is tap into it. Your family, friends and colleagues have all been where you are. The things you are going through, no matter how unique they feel, are actually quite common. The people in your support network are dying to share their stories with you. Listen closely. Learn from their mistakes and triumphs.
And, should you find that a more objective point-of-view is what you need, consider working with a professional career coach. We’re trained to remain (relatively) neutral, present ideas with deep democracy, and help you clarify and act on what you already know—the feelings and ideas you’ve been burying.
5. Work at It
Finding career fulfillment isn’t a quick or easy journey. It takes time and effort. Engage yourself mentally, physically and, yes, even spiritually. Put yourself into the process. Be active. Don’t expect that things will change without significant work on your part. What? Are you afraid of work? Snap out of it. You have everything you need. It’s up to you to make it happen. Don’t give up when it gets hard. Don’t pretend it’s not worth the hassle. You are—most definitely—worth it.
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.