HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU THOUGHT TO YOURSELF WHILE SITTING AT YOUR DESK, “IS THIS REALLY IT?”
Maybe you really enjoyed your job when you started…four years ago. But now, you stroll into work each morning disengaged and hopeless. You wonder if there’s anything else out there that will make you feel as excited as you were in the beginning.
If you’re nodding your head in agreement to the scenario above–trust me, you’re not alone. In my observation (from HR days) about 50% of people go through this exact cycle during their first, or second or even third jobs.
Because, when we’re in college and told to choose a major, we go with what we’re good at. If we like math, we choose to major in statistics or engineering. If our parents were doctors, we might go on the pre-med track. There isn’t much self-reflection or foresight that goes into selecting the path that launches our career. Especially not our dream career.
Which is why most of the time, we end up on this career cycle: excited-learning stops-feels stuck.
We end up in careers that either: (a) aren’t a good fit, or (b) don’t have a continuous learning loop.
And, then–most importantly–we don’t know how to fix it when we hit the “feeling stuck” phase. We scroll through job descriptions online, and mope to friends about how bored/unhappy/sad we are about our careers.
LAURA’S STORY: FROM FOUR PROMOTIONS TO FAKE SMILES
Laura, one of our rockstar Career Change Bootcamp Graduates and HTYC Podcast guest this week, experienced a similar career trajectory before she landed her dream career just a few weeks ago.
Growing up, Laura always knew that she was good at math. Coming from a family of engineers, she decided to follow a similar path. After college graduation, she was unsure about what she wanted her career path to be–like many early 20-somethings. So, she became an engineering consultant.
But, Laura always knew something wasn’t quite right.
A few years after she started her career, Laura went back to school again and got her Masters Degree with the sole intention of finding a career that fit her values. And, she did. She landed an awesome job as an environmental sustainability consultant at an innovative company.
For a while, it seems like she had it made.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF PRETENDING TO BE PASSIONATE AT WORK?
For me if I’m not learning I’m not engaged. I work with a lot of people who are passionate and I almost found myself having to pretend to be passionate when I wasn’t really feeling it, which was hard on me.
Fast forward eight and a half years later, and Laura found herself pasting on a fake smile each day, forcing herself to act excited about her work. She didn’t want to let down her direct reports (now 10 of them!), but her constant need to “fake happiness” was taking a toll on the rest of her life.
It took Laura three years (three whole years!) to finally come to terms with the fact that she needed to leave her job.
And, do you know why Laura sacrificed her happiness each day staying in a job she knew she didn’t like?
Because, she felt stuck.
Even though Laura had a stellar resume and an extremely strong work ethic, she felt like she wasn’t smart or experienced enough to find a new role. On the podcast, Laura talks about the toll that “pretending to be passionate” at work had on her confidence levels.
When you are in a spot where you are unhappy and have been for awhile you lose some of your confidence of everything you’ve accomplished. From the outside someone looking at my resume would be impressed but I hated it. I wasn’t proud of anything I’d been doing because I wasn’t happy doing it.
Because, Laura’s mind kept convincing her that she wasn’t good enough; that she was going to stay in this job forever. Not only does it drain your energy to “pretend to be passionate” at work, but it actually tricks the mind into thinking that you’re not good enough for another role.
It made Laura ask that ill-fated question: “Is this really all that I have to look forward to in a career?”
GETTING YOUR CAREER CONFIDENCE STARTS WITH A LOT OF SELF-REFLECTION
When Laura first found us at Happen to Your Career, she had already taken action to start looking outside of herself for a new job by going to a career coach. Coincidentally, on her walk home from that session she found our podcast, and “binge-listened for about a week!”
At that time, Laura realized that she didn’t need to go through this process alone.
The thing that stuck was it was the first time I heard there were tools and processes to help me figure this out. I didn’t have to just look at job postings but I could do other types of work to think about what I wanted to do next.
That was in May of 2017. Seven months later, and she found her dream career!
Woah–not so fast though. Laura went through a lot of self-reflection, and dug deep to understand what that next step should be. During this process, Laura also began to get feedback, and collect “mini-wins” from her coaches, her friends, and many others to help rebuilt her identity.
At the beginning of her coaching sessions, Laura wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do in her next role. But, as she began to complete her self-assessment projects, she couldn’t contain her excitement. Laura couldn’t stop talking about how much fun she had completing these self-assessments (her husband might have gotten a crash course or two!). She kept this idea in the back of her mind, but still had a lot of searching to do.
Interestingly, Laura already knew what kind of culture she wanted in a company. She loved having the flexibility of wearing jeans and working from home when she wanted to. Even more importantly, she knew that the office should have a ping-pong table in it–for what it represented about the office culture.
But, from her experience in her last job Laura knew that a cultural-fit wasn’t enough. She had to find the right role, not just the right people.
That’s where she kept getting stuck. She felt naive about all the types of jobs that were out there.
FINDING THE RIGHT NEXT STEP IS NOT A CHECK-THE-BOX EXERCISE
One of the first things Laura did to understand all the job opportunities she could have was to hold informational interviews.
She scheduled dozens of interviews with people in and out of her network–which was a growing experience in itself. Laura admits that this was one of the most challenging, but rewarding, parts of her coaching experience. She’s not necessarily a self-proclaimed extrovert. But hey, why not?
Laura met with tons of people who helped her understand what she did, and didn’t want in a role. Some of those conversations could have opened the door to a job. But, while it was tempting, Laura said no when she didn’t feel it was exactly right.
Until finally one day–she found it.
TO SECURE THAT DREAM JOB, YOU HAVE TO BE AUTHENTICALLY YOU
Laura learned quickly that she loves to prepare. For her informal interviews alone, she would do research and write prep questions for almost two hours each time!
But, when she finally found the perfect job opportunity, she realized that she just had to be herself.
With the help of her career coach, Lisa Lewis, Laura practiced some mock interviews and found that her answers sounded good on paper, but “boring” during the actual interview. So, she stopped preparing as intensely as she might have, and got herself in the zone.
It’s less important that you know how to answer a million behavior questions but get yourself in a headspace to be yourself and be confident in those conversations.
Laura ended up securing her dream job. But, not only that–she has completely transformed her mindset from disengaged and hopeless to optimistic and confident. Laura is thriving in her career, as a new mom, and constantly achieving new goals (heck yes, Yosemite!).
Most importantly, Laura’s realized that she didn’t have to go through this process alone. Here’s her last piece of advice for anyone else who might be in her shoes from a few months ago:
Particularly as someone who has been successful it was hard for me to say I could not do this by myself. I’m a smart person I should be able to figure this out. As soon as I had my first career coaching experience it completely turned around my approach to find a new job. It completely gave me the power back and the tools I needed. If you know exactly what you want to do, you probably aren’t listening to this podcast, but if you don’t know there are a lot of tools, and resources, and people out there that can help you. For me that made all the difference.
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April 17, 2017
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