Is your career something you always wanted to do? I don’t mean when you were a child and wanted to be an astronaut. I mean when you sat down and decided to pursue a career, what were the influences that pushed you in one direction over the others?
Were they internal or external? Reality or fantasy? Specific or broad?
Did it come from a guidance counselor in high school? A discovered interest in college?
Were you expected to continue the “family business”? Were you following your passion or dream? Did it fall in your lap?
Chances are they were a mix of these. Or maybe you just woke up one day and realized you had stumbled into a career.
That’s kind of what happened to me. In middle school, a career assessment said I should either be a surgeon, or a park ranger (??). I loved Psychology in high school, and, foregoing the park ranger route, I decided on Psychology as my major in college.
Not disciplined enough for college at 18, I dropped out after one semester. I settled into restaurant positions and worked my way up to general manager. One day I moved and took the first job I could find, which happened to be in a retail paint store. I worked my way up to general manager again. I looked up and 15 years had passed. I was a manager.
However, I wasn’t satisfied. I was cynical, grumpy, and depressed. I had never wanted to be a restaurant and retail manager, but I had found something I was good at and had found a modicum of success doing it.
Then came a time of intense introspection and change for me. I found Industrial-Organizational Psychology, a branch of Psychology that deals with leadership, motivation, and workplace behavior. I returned to school, finished my undergrad, and completed a Masters degree. I was getting closer to finding satisfaction. Following well-intentioned advice, I initially decided to go into Consulting, but that felt like wearing someone else’s skin. No satisfaction there.
Then, at an industry conference where I was slogging through networking events and sessions on how to “leverage” things and create “synergies” for the client, I happened upon an Executive Coaching session, and I knew within minutes that I’d found something interesting. Not only could I “leverage” skills I had developed during my time in retail and restaurant management, I was also pursuing a career that honored my lifelong passion for Psychology. There was also the unexpected bonus of how it felt to connect with people as they shared insecurities and fears about their lives. It turns out I’m an empathizer. I’m really good at it, and it feels incredible. Talk about synergy!
Now here I am: a Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness Coach, and I’m the most satisfied I’ve been. I provide massive value to my clients, and I am energized by what I do. It sounds like a cliche, but I don’t really feel like I do that much work.
So, for those of you out there who are feeling unsatisfied with your career, I wonder if it would be useful to do some digging into why it is you feel that way. Are you doing something that’s important to you? Are you taking advantage of what you’re good at? Do you know what you’re good at? Or what’s actually important to you?