Picture this: It’s 7:00am on a weekday and your phone jolts you to attention with a text. With a sinking feeling in your stomach, you know it can only mean one thing. Someone is calling out sick for work, and your day just got a whole lot worse. The dread fills you like heavy sand, and you think to yourself, “Does it always have to be like this?”
That was my wake up call in 2013 that something in my career needed to drastically change, and fast. On the outside, I seemingly had it all: a successful and thriving dental practice, a great husband and two kids, and a big house in a top rated suburb. I had achieved everything I had dreamed of. But as my success grew, I was getting unhappier, more stressed out, and I started to dread going into work. And it was starting to affect my health and my family life as well. Something wasn’t right, and I had no idea what it was.
Sometimes you can have it all: the money, the big house, respect in your industry, the prestigious title, and still not be happy. You might be asking, “So what’s wrong with me? Am I just being ungrateful? Am I not being challenged enough?” Or maybe is there a simpler and slightly more uncomfortable question — am I in the wrong career?
That was my startling realization. I had chosen the wrong career and maybe there was a better one out there for me; one that utilized my strengths and that I actually enjoyed doing. After several years of working with a life coach and searching for a new job, I finally found my ideal career as a career and small business coach. It’s truly amazing what a profound difference I feel now: I’m excited and energized to start work every day, I feel challenged, and I know that I am making a useful contribution to the world with my unique talents. My health and family relationships have tremendously improved, and I am much happier and fulfilled. And I’m getting paid to do it! Even in my late 40’s, I have found a new career path that I truly enjoy so much that I would do it for for free.
Many of us choose our careers based on several things: financial security, prestige, and doing something that we are interested in. Your early working years are often an experiment to see what’s out there. Sometimes you’ll think, “I’m okay doing this, and it makes decent money, so I guess I’ll keep plugging on.” Forward ten years later — you’re still in the same job, but you’ve lost any desire to keep doing it. So what do you do? You can’t just quit your high paying job; you have bills to pay, people to take care of, and expectations to live up to. So you just keep going on.
Remember the movie The Matrix? I’m going to offer you two pills right now.
Are you going to take the one that will continue you on your career the way it is now? Or, will you be like Neo and take the other pill, and possibly open your eyes to an entirely new life where you have a career that is fulfilling, uses your greatest strengths, that you absolutely love? It’s a little scary right? That’s when you know you’re on to something!
So how can you start to figure out how to find an ideal career you love? First, don’t quit your day job yet, unless you can do so without causing undo financial strain on yourself or your family. Here is a five item checklist using the acronym IDEAS to get you started:
1. Identify the issue
Being able to admit that you are not in the right job can be a tough thing to do, but if you don’t identify that it’s not the right fit for you, you’ll never leave. Write a list of all the things that make it not ideal for you and why you should leave. Forget expectations of yourself, of family members and friends- just ask yourself why this job is not ideal for YOU and write it down.
2. Determine Your Values and Strengths
Knowing what values are the most important to you is a crucial component for deciding on an ideal career. The values you have when you graduate from school are usually focused on money, prestige, financial security etc. But now, your most important values may be family or being able to work part time to be with your kids. So determine what your five top values are and use that as a compass when choosing your next career.
Determining your strengths is also crucial in knowing what you are really good at. Sometimes you can have a talent that you’ve forgotten about or pushed aside because it wasn’t useful in your current career. There are a number of online assessment tests that help you identify your top strengths. I recommend the CVI and Gallup Strengths Finder- these two will help you hone in on what you’re best at, and will also be useful to look at careers that highlight those talents. You can take the free CVI assessment on my website at www.balancedpathcoaching.com.
3. Explore What You Like
Remember something you liked doing as a kid or the last time you did something that you were really interested in that you lost track of time. Write a list of things you love doing or learning about. Start exploring new areas, even if it’s totally different than what you’re doing now and you have no experience in it. The key here is to find something that excites or interests you, not how well you can do it. Brainstorm possible jobs, even if a job like that doesn’t currently exist. Make up your ideal job if money wasn’t an issue and there were no roadblocks in your way that also aligns with your strengths and values. You have to be patient, because it can take a while to find the right fit.
4. Affirm Your Ideal Job Right Now
State out loud what your ideal job would be and be specific. What days and how many hours would you work? Would you work at an office or at home? What would your pay be? What would the company be like? Be as specific and add as many details as you can, even down to what your office space would look like. Get a mental picture in your head of what your workplace would be like, and how you will feel going to work every day.
This will be your anchor to strive toward. It can feel weird to affirm the job you want, but I’ve found you have to declare it before it will appear. Even if you’re not sure what it is yet, affirm what you do want in a job, and the rest will follow.
5. Start Now
Once you’ve found your ideal career, take the steps to make it a reality. Actively search online, read books, enroll in a course, join Linked In or start making connections.
The more people who know, the bigger possibility that they may know someone who may be able to help you. Make a plan to talk to two people this week about your ideal job, and two actions you can take in the next three days to get you one step closer to your goal. You need to work to find the ideal job so start now! The universe works in mysterious ways and help often comes from the most unexpected places- keep your eyes open to golden opportunities and help and be open to them.
Bonus Tip: Enlist help
If you’re stuck at any point in the five steps, find outside support in a career counselor, a mentor or a certified career coach. Often times you need an outsider’s objective assessment to help you see our strengths or suggest a career that maybe you’ve never thought of. Now picture this: you wake up at 7am excited and energized to start your day. You received a text the day before from a trusted friend wishing you luck on the first day of your new career. You know today is going to be a GREAT day. How do I know this is possible? Because I’m living it myself, right now.