Last month I had the honor of seeing one of my favorite speakers, Jen Groover, in-person at my alma mater, Ursinus College. I had seen her PBS Special, many of her other YouTube videos as well as a fireside chat that she did with Philly StartUp Grind. I had heard her tell the story of how she was driving to work as a young graduate with a knot in her stomach. She actually was so anxious about going to work that she fantasized about getting into a car accident just so she would have a good excuse not to go. Thankfully, she trusted her inner wisdom and followed a passion that led her to an epic career, twice. Seeing her tell this story inspired me to re-publish this article that I wrote in 2007. Plus, a friend recently shared here job grievances on Facebook, so the time feels very right to help her, and anyone else suffering mentally AND physically because they are enduring the wrong job.
I pursued the employment industry because I enjoyed matching people with opportunities and creating a win-win-win for the company, the candidate, and my firm. I moved into working one-on-one with jobseekers because I gained invaluable knowledge that I knew many people needed to help them succeed. And boy, I wanted them to succeed. Being a great judge of character is a necessity to being a great recruiter. It was clear to me after several months that I would rather help these people than determine that they are not good enough to present to our clients. (Author’s note: Within my first year, I also realized that judgment was actually an impediment to helping them, and I started to work on becoming more compassionate – a brand signature of my business today.) I stuck with recruiting for several years and had no regrets. The years that followed provided me with even more experience and knowledge. There did come a time, however, when I had to recognize that it was time to move on.
In late 2005 after I was married, it seemed as though everything that I read, watched or overheard was leading me to the same conclusion: I need to create something of my own to share the intelligence I had been procuring and provide services for jobseekers in my area that no one else was offering. Omens were coming from every direction; I even had a fortune cookie tell me that a change in vocation was coming. (Author’s note: I still have it on my desk in my home office to remind me how listening to these signs and taking action has paid off in my life.) Even with all of these signs, it was the help and encouragement of a coach that pushed me to bring my vision and mission to fruition.
As a career coach, I bestow the power to pursue a career path that leads to life fulfillment. There IS a formula for career happiness, and a process that, when followed with integrity, ultimately results in the ability to choose the best opportunity among multiple viable opportunities. So many people make decisions to stay stuck, or not try, often because of assumptions, bad advice, self-limiting beliefs, or, my “favorite,” the market. In doing so, people stand in their own way of happiness, either by not acknowledging that a change is necessary, or worse yet, recognizing that a change is necessary and not empowering themselves to make that change happen.
I do understand, to a point, the psychology behind not changing. (Author’s note: I am keenly aware now, after years of studying neuroscience, behavior-change gamification and human performance optimization, how our brains and our bodies resist change.] It is difficult and scary. You put yourself out there to have other people determine if you are good enough or not. And what if they decide that you are not? What if there really isn’t anything better? What if what you want isn’t attainable? Coincidentally, Jen Groover’s book is called What If and Why Not? and I highly recommend it if you relate to these fears.)
I have seen loved ones emotionally and mentally beaten down by work environments in which hostility between colleagues is tolerated while appreciation and recognition are scarce. The longer that they stayed there, the more they felt like disposable commodities. It was as though they should feel fortunate to be employed. It’s essentially a corporate form of mental abuse. It hurt to watch people who I know are unique, important, and deserving of so much more made to feel small and insignificant. (Author’s note: This was a big determining factor in what made me choose to make the contribution of being a career coach, as I detail in this blog.) Once I was recruiting, it hurt more, because I could see with greater clarity what they needed to be happy, and I knew it was attainable. Regardless, it still had to be their decision, their resolve, and their commitment that made it happen.
In an effort to minimize the number of people who waste precious time waking up every day to do a job that does not utilize their talents, does not fulfill them spiritually, financially, and/or vocationally and that they resent or despise, I will share with you some questions and answers that may indicate if it is your time to recognize the signs and create much needed change in your career for the sake of your life.
1. Are you regularly grumpy on Sunday evenings and every morning but Friday?
If you answered yes, this indicates that you have anxiety about going to work. Everyone gets grumpy sometimes. Even people that love what they do will have times when they wish they were somewhere else. Timing and frequency are the factors that have the most weight in determining the cause of the grumpiness.
2. While you are at work, are you spending more time finding personal business to tend to rather than critical deliverables that your boss is expecting?
While most people will admit that they tend to procrastinate from time to time, your job depends on your abilities to deliver. When you prioritize unimportant personal business ahead of what you need to do for you boss, that communicates that you only care enough to keep face, if you even care enough to do that. Your boss could very well be the problem, and you may not be able to keep your position in that company and change your boss. You can certainly change something.
3. When you come home from your workday, do you head straight for the television, your bed, or a drink?
We all are expected to output more these days. It can be exhausting. This is why it is even more critical to do work for which you have passion. It will be energizing more than it will be draining, and it will allow you to come home and tend to personal matters and relationships rather than spending hours decompressing and zoning out until you can sleep, wake up, and do it all over again.
4. Do you encourage your closest friends and family to NOT use your company’s product or service?
If this is the case it has to be a definite sign that you are not contributing your days and hard work to a company that is going to survive! Find a product or service that means something to you and then find a position within that company that allows you to use your talents and abilities to further their progress while you further your career.
5. Are you just brimming with ideas that no one at your company seems to hear, let alone implement?
Companies sometimes do not utilize the talent that they have to the fullest. This seems like such a waste of great energy and money! That goes for you, too, if you are staying there allowing all of your brainchildren to wither and die!
While the United States is still the land of opportunity, it is lagging behind in production and innovation. I would like you to imagine, please, every person doing what he or she loves to do. Wouldn’t we all be so much more productive and fulfilled? Idealistic? YES! Achievable? Maybe not for everyone, but it happens every day. If you want it to be you, it can, but you have to believe it and commit to it!
(Author’s note: RIP, Sheila Kutner, The “Velvet Hammer.” Your influence lives on through me and all of your clients who decided to commit themselves to careers that make a difference.)