When kids can’t answer, “What do you want to be when you grow up, we laugh. As grownups, when we can’t answer that question, we think “I’ve got a problem. What’s wrong with me?”
Given the dizzying pace of change in the work world, confusion is far from surprising. Sixty percent of the job and career choices available today didn’t exist when we were kids.
On top of that, businesses have been wildly transforming themselves. They’ve downsized, merged, expanded, reorganized, spun off, changed focus, or gone out of business, leaving a lot of bewildered employees in their wake.
As businesses have changed, we’ve changed, too. We used to trust our employers to take care of us. We thought, “If only I do good work, my employer will raise my salary, promote me, and one day give me a nice pension.” But after our hard work and loyalty were “rewarded” by being thrown out on the sidewalk, we’re not so willing to trust.
Some of us long for human interaction and meaning in an era that values technology and the bottom line. Others have become disillusioned as our professions have changed. Doctors and lawyers, for example, were once two of the most revered and satisfying professions. Now many doctors say managed care has made medicine intolerable, and lawyers find themselves distrusted and the butt of jokes.
No Wonder We’re Confused!
Whether by choice or because we were forced to, many of us have found ourselves looking to reinvent ourselves. But the traditional choices we find in the job postings don’t excite us. If we don’t want to do any of those traditional jobs, what then? Surely there must be something else?!
One thing that continues to amaze me about career counseling is that it often takes only a short conversation to discover that some people who claim to be confused really know quite clearly what they want. Why can’t they see it?
For one thing, it’s dangerous to do something different. You could fail. Of course, you can also fail in a traditional job, but in that case you can blame the bad boss, the unstable company, or the unpredictable economy. Bucking tradition exposes you to the wisecracks of your brother-in-law. Your mother may say, “I told you so.” Your friends may think you’ve gone mad. Because of this, we conceal our hopes and dreams from others–and even from ourselves.
Bryan, a highly-talented executive, was unemployed for over a year; he couldn’t figure out why he resisted applying for attractive positions and sabotaged the interviews he did get. Eventually he realized that deep down he didn’t want to take orders from another boss. With that clarity, Bryan built his own business. After a couple of very tough years, his business is thriving.
It’s common that people who say they are confused really do have a “mission.” That is, they see a need, a condition, or a situation that needs improving and they feel drawn to make a difference.
Lisa was an intelligent woman who had goofed off in school and barely graduated. After several years of tolerating the mind-killing jobs she was able to find with her education, she said enough is enough. Motivated and more mature, she completed her college degree.
Great accomplishment; now what? Lisa had two job offers but neither felt right. Instead of just helping some company process more insurance claims, she wanted to help others like her to get on track with their lives. She now works in a program that identifies and prepares at-risk high school students for college.
Frustration, confusion, paralysis, and feelings of hopelessness regularly occur when people look outside themselves for their goals. Instead, look inward to find things you’ve always loved, you’ve felt passionate about, that arouse your curiosity, you’ve been told you do well, or that come easily to you. These indicators can help provide clarity. When you ad information and courage to that clarity, you’re ready to pursue very satisfying work.
Tom Harrington, Brian Hall, Brad Binnington, and Bronwen DiAntonio
In each newsletter issue I recommend a career resource. The resource may be a website, book, local group, or meeting.
This issue’s resource is 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.
Dan’s book is one of many resources presented on his 48days.com website. MIller presents timely information and materials online, and through books, audio products, and in-person seminars in Nashville, Tennessee.
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
- Feel stuck or stalled in your career
- Are worried about a layoff
- Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
- Have been looking for work but not getting results
In this 90-120 minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. Contact me for more information.
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