Over the course of the last months I’ve realized how many people struggle with their careers. The interesting thing is that many of my clients, friends and family members (including myself) have the same problems when it comes to ‘making a career’. It seems to be a common thing in the middle 20’s to middle 30’s (though of course it’s not limited to this period in life) and so I thought it might be useful to share a few of my insights as a coach in this area.
I have a holy lot of science to back up what I am talking about yet I have chosen to tackle this in a more relatable way and tell you a few stories to highlight my points. So today we’ll have a look at the problem of making a career you are never told about in school! My main point here why I talk about it is that everyone seems to feel alone with this. But from my experience it’s so common that we should really talk about it out loud!
I have three different scenarios here (there are a few more but in my experience those are the three most common). I know many of you can relate to at least one of them. Let’s have a look:
You’re in your 20’s and you have just started your first job after college/ university. You’ve worked hard in school, gained valuable work experience and graduated with a very respectable degree. You’ve accepted a job in a very reputable organization a few month back and actually you should be on top of the world. Your family is proud and your friends and former class mates are a bit jealous. Everyone is convinced how really great everything is working out for you – besides yourself! You kinda hate it! You’re feeling wrong. The job isn’t at all how you thought it would be. Reality took over. You drag yourself to work every day. Your performance starts to suffer and you feel like you’re working on auto pilot. Committment or engagement are empty words for you. Slowly you get more and more miserable and it starts to affect your social life, maybe even your health. You really really just want to leave and never come back. But what then? What will the people say? What will your family say? After all you’re living the dream????
You’re in your late 20’s or early 30’s and you’re actually feeling pretty good at where you are in life. You’ve made yourself comfortable in a job that brings you enough money to live a good life. You’re neither a high flyer nor a manager but you work on mostly interesting projects and work doesn’t bother you much. You’ve actually never really been interested in being a leader so you’ve never tried to climb up the corporate ladder. Then you meet a bunch of old friends from college. One is managing a team of 10, one just sealed a big job for her company and one is a high flying consultant travelling for work a few weeks each month. Sure they work more but they also earn so much more money than you AND their lives seem so much more facinating than yours. But wait, haven’t you all been studying together? With pretty much the same courses and results? You start to wonder why you’re in such a different position. You start thinking you should do better. You should make more money. You should be more driven. You should give more. But thinking about pursuing this kind of career seems not really desirable as well. All this leaves you pretty miserable and with a feeling of low self esteem.
You have never been a driven person. School was primary a place for social interaction. Learning, studying and graduating just ran alongside. Now graduation has been a while ago and you’re working in an office job. Your job is easy for you and you have a great bunch of colleagues. You’re even friends with many of them. Your salary pays the bills and that’s all you demand of your job. You have a thriving social life, you have many hobbies and interests and you’re overall happy. Yet people look at you and ask when you will finally start to grow up and start working in an adequate position. Your family shake their heads at you and tell you if you ever want to make a career you have to start now! They have always supported your education and now you feel you should pay them back. But work is just not something you particularly enjoy and growing in a new role would mean you would have to cut back on your social life and the things that actually make you happy. Shouldn’t you focus more on your career? You feel like you’re letting down your family and ‘waste your potential’!
So, although all three scenarios seem rather different they do have a common thread! It’s the incompatibility of the person’s internal career with the external career!
What does that mean?
Think of the external career as a basic bitch! It’s the perception of career success. It’s what society, family, friends and often the respective person as well think a successful career entails. It’s climbing the corporate ladder. It’s being driven. It’s making money. It’s status and prestige! The sad truth is that you can reach all this and you can still be super miserable with what you’re doing. It’s a one fits it all approach. It will never work and we know it!
People who work in a job that matches their internal career are more content with their career decisions, and in general much happier! Think of the internal career as the manifestation of the picture you have of yourself in a job role. Just as a random example: if you see yourself as a creative person, a people person with a feeling for trends you might never be happy working as a business analyst even though you have a damn degree in this field. Maybe pursuing a job where you can be creative and work with people like being a stylist might be fitting better. Sure it’s less prestigious and you might make less money but can status buy happiness?
What can you do?
Well first and foremost I think that it’s necessary to find out what kind of career will make you happy. This might mean you realize that you’re comfortable where you are even though you’re not ‘living up to your potential’. This could also mean you’ll find out that you need to change career paths and that you maybe even ‘waste your degree’!
And then comes the difficult part: You have to accept it!
Even when this means society, parents, friends, co-workers or your boss don’t understand it. In the end of the day only one person has to understand it: YOU! It’s your job, your life and you have to be happy with it. Sadly accepting this seems to be the hardest part! But I think that if you do, it’s worth it. I have not once heared anyone say that they wish they hadn’t made that step! I can promise that it won’t be easy and it also might take some time. Back then when I was in this situation it took me 9 month to finally accept what I needed and not to feel like a failure!
What’s you really should keep in mind!
There are three things I can’t put enough emphasize on!
Success is highly subjective and no one besides yourself can evaluate this for you!
If you’re unhappy with where you are in life, change it! It’s never too late!
Be honest to yourself about it and try to get to the bottom of your decision making. Is this your dream or someone elses?
The thing is that we change. ALL THE TIME! And yet we’re forced to decide on what we want to do with our life when we are teenagers. It’s horrible when we think about it. The good thing is that nowadays we can change what we do multiple times as well. There is no such as THE CAREER anymore! It’s not static, it’s an adaptable concept!
Have you made similar experiences?
So with this lighthearted topic of today I’ll disappear in my early blogging weekend! I have a big presentation next week and I need to prepare for it. Have a great weekend!