CRANK THE DELOREAN, DOC
Welp, you guessed it. We’re going back. Way back. Maybe even way-way-way back for some of you. Today’s steps for crashing through mental barriers on the way to career happiness require us to get into the heads of our teenage selves. (Some of you may have just shivered at the thought.) Grshcrshgrsh. The car’s grumbling to life. Buckle up for a wild ride! … … …
TWO MONTHS UNTIL GRADUATION
We’re back in the halls of your high school. You slam your locker shut—trying to get it to stay closed for once—and hop back into your conversation with your pals. “Who’s taking Cindy to prom?”“Have you listened to the new Nirvana album?” (Swap for The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, Celine Deon, or N’sync depending on your age.)“What major are you choosing this fall?” You’re mid-answer on the third question when you realize you left your english book in your locker, and have to rush back to grab it before you’re late to Mrs. Buchanan’s class. You spout out “history” or “communications” or “psychology” as you rush back to grab your book, hoping the locker latch kept everything inside this time.
CONGRATS, GRADS. (TWO MONTHS LATER)
It’s graduation day. You pop in your favorite mixtape on the way to the school. There’s a feeling of hope and the unknown in the air. You turn up the volume on your senior song and dream of what’s to come. The opportunities are unlimited. You think about how much you’ve loved high school, and how everyone says college gets even better. Your significant other has chosen a different college, and you’re not sure it’s going to last long distance. But it’s not time to worry about that now. You hop out of the car, grab your grad gown, and get ready to toss your mortarboard sky high. … … …
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Now, “Mcfly” back with me to present day. Like the pals in your high school hallways, I want to ask you a few questions: Did you marry your high school crush? Do you still listen to your mixtape on repeat? Do you have the same haircut you had while taking Mrs. Buchanan’s english class? Imagine being forced to choose your spouse when you were a teenager. Or keeping your hairstyle from senior year for the rest of your life. Or having a mixed tape you made in your freshman year of college become the only music you can listen to the rest of your life. It all sounds ridiculous, right? That a decision you made before you even hit two decades of life would end up affecting the following 80 years? Well for many of you, a decision you made long ago IS still influencing the majority of your life: Your College Major. Maybe it’s time to step out from under the expectations you set decades ago.
ESCAPE THE HIGH SCHOOL SHADOW
The yearbook photos are cute and nostalgic, but what’s not cute is letting that fresh-faced teen with the awkward trim call all the shots in your life. In our interview with Author Gretchen Rubin earlier this year, she talked about the concept of drifting. She defines “drift” as “the decision you make by not deciding.” I don’t know the details about how you chose your college major. Maybe you felt a real passion for your choice. Maybe you drifted into something your advisor suggested. Maybe you hung all the pages of your course catalog on your dorm wall and threw a dart at it. Whatever the case, your choice may not be relevant anymore. You can stop living in the shadow of your high school self.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MY IDENTITY?!
But for many people, the thought of swapping industries or changing a title on a business card feels like abandoning everything they’ve worked for in their lives. Even though they don’t feel ultimate career happiness, it seems insane to sacrifice decades of effort to start over somewhere else. If you’re feeling the fear of identity loss and wasted time as you imagine choosing a new career outside of the scope of your college major, it’s okay. That’s natural. But I want to challenge you to think of your potential career change as building on your identity, not losing it. You can still use the skills you’ve built up in previous roles for future goals. You can identify your strengths and apply them in new contexts. Don’t sacrifice your past. Build on it.
YOUR PERMISSION SLIP
We’re people who are used to requesting permission. In elementary school, we ask for permission to go to the restroom. In high school, we ask for permission to stay out past curfew. In adulthood, we ask for permission to take vacation. If you find that you’re needing someone to give you permission to reach outside of your college major, here it is. You have permission. It’s your own decision. My friend Phillip talks to people who need to give themselves this permission all the time. Phillip joined the Happen To Your Career team a couple months ago, so there’s a chance you’ve actually chatted with him already! Every week, he jumps on calls and talks to people seeking career happiness. This includes people who are in situations where they need to get out of their jobs ASAP or the high achiever who liked their job five years ago but is ready for something that fits their life TODAY. Throughout these conversations, Phillip’s found three major categories of career seekers.
THREE CHALLENGES FOR HIGH ACHIEVERS
- What’s next?
Yvonne knew she wanted something new, and she realized she’d have to identify her unique gifts and strengths to land a dream role. She started completing all the essential personality and strengths identifiers: Myers-Briggs, DISC, Strengthsfinder 2.0, and the Buzzfeed quiz on which Hogwarts house she belonged in…She compiled a ton of information and felt herself becoming more self aware. But there was one problem…she didn’t know what to do with all this info!
- What’s important now?
Amy didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew it wasn’t her current role. Ten years ago, she’d found a job that fit her exact lifestyle, salary, and culture needs, but she wasn’t the same woman she’d been when she smiled for her first company badge photo.Her priorities had changed. Could she find a career that fit her current needs?
- What’s out there?
Sophia had a sneaking suspicion she could love her career. She’d always worked a job that paid the bills and fit her calculated life plan, but she hadn’t really stopped to think about doing work she loved.Sophia made previous decisions based on what she perceived to be available instead of what she actually wanted. When it came to her career, she wasn’t living…she was existing.
THREE ANSWERS FOR CAREER DREAMERS
When Phillip has these conversations, he focuses on three major pieces of advice that will help every career seeker. First off, Phillip loves to tell people (like you!) not to run from questions. Let yourself wonder, and then go find your answers! Lean into your curiosities instead of quieting them. To put it another way, let’s go back to the classroom. Were you the kind of student dozing in the back section or sitting in the front row, pencil poised to learn and grow based on the day’s lessons? When it comes to finding a career you love, you’ll need to become the first row student, focused and ready for what’s next. Secondly, Phillip continues to recognize how important people skills, networking, and relationship building are to living out career dreams. The problem with networking is it feels so selfish! There’s a sliminess that coats every business card, a feeling of insincerity over authenticity. Phillip’s solution? Be ridiculously helpful. Be the bridge for others. Build genuine relationships, offer to help other career seekers, pass along opportunities that don’t fit you. Live a life of generosity and networking will begin to lose its grimey connotation. Lastly, get out of your head! Since most of Phillip’s conversations are with high achievers, he sees an unending trend of perfectionism. The problem with perfectionism is that it slows down progress. We ask all of our students to sacrifice perfection in their career search. Imperfect progress will lead to career dreams—not the starts and stops that come with a need for perfection. All in all, I think we can agree on one thing…none of us are the same people we were in high school. So let’s stop living like it. Take back your independence from your teenage self today!
To find out even more common challenges and ways to overcome them, listen to Phillip on our podcast episode.
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