Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Are You Doing What You Love?
Do you love your job? Do you even like it? I used to think that people who jumped out of bed in the morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to take on the day, were either grossly exaggerating or were on some very lovely medication. I always liked my work, and there were some parts about it that I really liked. But I rarely woke up overjoyed to begin the day. Now I do -- every single day.
So you want to know what changed for me? I got to know myself a little better, and I stepped outside of my comfort zone. After more than twenty years as a public relations professional, I finally admitted to myself that it wasn't the best fit for me. Parts of it were, but not enough. If this resonates with you, take a look at the steps I took to change the course of my life.
1. Know Thyself
If your work doesn't reflect and support who you are and your values, you are always going to feel off-kilter. I started by taking a bunch of online assessments -- personality tests, career tests, and motivation tests. There are plenty of free assessments online and many other in-depth tests for a fee. You also can work with a career coach to administer and explain them as well. These test results are like the outline for a book or project. They give you a rough idea of who you are and what makes you tick. Some people think assessments give you a label, but I think they are great. They give you a starting point and set you off in the right direction.
2. Value Your Values
If you want your work to have meaning, substance and purpose, it needs to reflect your strongest values. For me those values were serving, creating, interacting, uplifting, and communicating. Now I'm a life and career coach rather than a publicist. I found some of those values in my past career, but now I have all of them. Hence, the happy pill mornings! Some people have a hard time defining their values, so go on the internet and look up a values word list. Pick the values that are most important to you in life and in your career. Narrow it down to your top five, and be brutal about ensuring that your work supports these values.
3. Don't Freak Out
You might start feeling all dark and twisty about changing careers. Don't get sucked in by fear and limiting beliefs. Keep your day job while you make it your mission to find something that makes your head spin with happiness. Yes, that's possible. Suspend beliefs that will sabotage you, like "I can't afford to start over" or "There's nothing better out there that I'm qualified for". Open yourself to all possibilities. Assume, better yet know, that something great is out there for you, and you are just working your way toward it. It sounds mystical and magical, but really it will help keep you focused and positive.
4. Joy and Dreams
These two can be clues to show you the way. Get yourself a nice piece of paper and your favorite pen. Write down everything (legal) that brings you joy. This can be a hobby, a relationship, an environment, or anything that really makes you happy or adds meaning. Below that, write down anything from age 15 and older that you dreamed of doing, but for whatever reason you haven't. Travel, skydiving, taking a cooking class. Now, take your lists and circle anything that might have application to your career. From those, circle any that you really want as part of your career.
5. You Know Who, Now Go Do
At this point you should have a pretty good idea of who you are, what you value, and what you really feel excited or passionate about. Use all of this information to start researching some potential career applications. I have a client who went through this exercise and discovered her passion through a personal tragedy (the loss of a child). She combined her creative talents, her interpersonal skills, and her compassion to create a beautiful business of presenting group rituals to help people with their major life transitions. She is amazing and so energized about her new career. Think creatively. This process might move you from one department to another at the same company, or it might be the beginning of a brand new business venture.
6. Write A Vision
Once you have an idea about what you want to do, write a vision statement about it. Writing things down always makes them more real. So write a story about how you see yourself in your career, the specific work you are doing, your income, your surroundings, the location of the job, and the type of people with whom you work. Post it where you will see it every day. Read it over and over.
7. Make a Plan
Now it's time for strategy. How are you going to get there? Will it involve interviewing, updating a resume, making calls, financial planning or saving money, getting a business license? Again, make a list of what you need to do to get the ball rolling. Taking action will make you feel safer about the change and more enthusiastic about your vision materializing.
8. Depend on the Kindness of Strangers
Ask for help and support. This is a big change, and it takes courage and accountability. Hire a career coach, go to a counselor, find a mentor or friend to bounce things around with. It's so easy to stay stuck in the same place because it's safe and secure. Once you have the momentum to do the work to find what you love, don't let fear or inertia undermine that. Stay the course. It is so worth it!