Let’s look at the word “career” for a moment. A career is typically understood to be any working experience throughout your active life (both paid and unpaid); from your first “paycheck” job to the day you retire from actively engaging in work (volunteer or otherwise). However, most of us would argue that isn’t a career; my client’s come into career coaching identifying a “career” as the professional pursuits they have on their resumes. The work that launched them into professional life, the work they are most proud of, the work they feel their best at.
While we can (and should) be selective on what we represent to others on our resumes and social media profiles (so as to attract and retain the types of work that really interest us), this “selective reasoning” often obscures the fact that many of us end up getting bumped around in our careers, following meandering paths of employment based alternately on hard work and luck. Let me ask you this; is your profession a career? If that question gave you pause then let me ask another one; where does your career “compass” point?
In order for our work to be fulfilling and gratifying it needs to be grounded in meaning and purpose. If we haven’t intentionally sat down to think about what we feel our purpose is in what we do for a living, then many of the benefits of a working life cannot be leveraged (beyond the paycheck…and money alone isn’t enough to give us well-being in our work). Often our working lives become “scenery”, something we go through, not unwillingly, but without a lot of conscious thought, joy, gratitude or intention. If looking at your career from where you are now makes you feel like you are not where you want to be, you’ve got an example of the collateral damage drifting through your working life can cause. Dissatisfaction, malaise, anxiety, imposter syndrome and many other energy-sucking feelings arise when we don’t take full accountability for actively managing our career, recognizing our own great potential.
You may be in the best profession, in the best job and in the best company for you to be working in right now and you might not even know it. Take a moment to look around and see (and if you are in the right place, take time to enjoy it). If you know you are not in a place that makes you feel good about yourself in your work, then where would you like to go? Plan from there back to where you are now. Yes, this takes time. Yes, it means facing potential gaps in knowledge and skills. Yes, it means investing in yourself (or convincing your current employer to invest in you). You are worth it, right? (Hint: the answer is “yes”).
Most of us spend 10 hours or more a day getting to, being at, and then getting home from work (work plus commute). That is a lot of life to be living in “meh” because your potential isn’t being engaged. No one else is likely going to determine your career course with purpose and intent, only you can do this for yourself (and you are worth it). So, how do you want to invest your abundant potential?
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
- from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
(Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash)