Friday, July 08, 2016 Gabby Bill 0 Comments

Careers can be a lot like dating.

It all starts with courting. 
You're assessing potential employers, trying to see how many qualities they have that you can "check off" your list. Then you pitch yourself to them, crossing your fingers that they see only your best qualities (because that's all you're showing them, of course).

Then the first date. 
BAM! You've scored an interview. Your palms are a bit sweaty. You've rehearsed some small talk, just in case there's awkward silence. When you leave, you just know your interviewer is going to talk about you to their just hope they're saying nice things.

The terrible, horrible wait. 
The three-day text rule is unbearable. You want to call and ask for an update, but don't want to seem clingy or desperate. Then just when you can't bear it anymore, your phone buzzes! You got the job!

The honeymoon.
Your first day is great. Meeting your teammates is like going to a non-awkward family dinner where everyone loves you and wants to talk to you. Every assignment is new and exciting, and even the annoying curmudgeon on the team is bearable. Why doesn't he realize how awesome this place is?

...but then it declines. 
Time goes on. It's been six months since you've gotten a new challenge. Your assignments feel rote and while you do your best to get 'em done, your heart's not in it. You can't believe that you ever thought this emotional, flawed human being that is your boss was perfect. And why won't your direct report stop leaving banana peels on your desk?! Patience? Yeah, that's gone for good.

And then you feel guilt.
"But careers are hard work," you tell yourself! "I made a commitment, and I'm not just going to throw in the towel when things get tough."

Or are you?

Just like realizing the person you thought was "the one" maybe isn't, it's hard to know whether it's time to walk away from a job opportunity that once seemed so promising. And this can be especially scary when you know it's not as simple as walking out the door, declaring yourself "single" and being handed a replacement job that perfectly suits your needs.

But just as it is frightening, staying in a job where you're truly unhappy, unfulfilled or simply not challenged can be just as detrimental. Just as we deserve a caring, loving partner, we deserve a job that makes us feel like we're contributing to the world in a way that's meaningful to us.

So how do you decide when to stay and when to go?

1) Start paying attention to yourself and your emotions.
Spend a few days in an "out of body" experience at work. What I mean by this is, I want you to monitor yourself and keep track of how you feel and react in the situations you encounter. What emotions fill you up when you wake up in the morning? How does that change as you get ready for work or as you walk into the office? What fluctuations occur throughout the day as you complete certain tasks, interact with certain people or handle certain challenges?

2) Chart your emotions and look for patterns.
Do you feel excited about the work day, but then find yourself falling into a funk when your boss criticizes your work? Do you want to bang your head against the wall when you're asked to do one task, but then feel the stirrings of excitement at the next? It's important for you to identify the source, or sources, of your discomfort and then see what you can attach them to. For example, does your unhappiness primarily revolve around a person or group of people you work with, a process or procedure mandated by your group or company, a task or set of tasks or something else entirely?

3) Stop thinking about your current job for a moment and try to imagine your ideal job. What are you doing in this job? Where are you working? Who are you working with? What emotions do you feel while you're doing this job? Break down your ideal job into discrete components, rather than looking at the job as one holistic piece. Perhaps you're working outside feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, while teaching children a new skill? Perhaps you're in a high-rise building wearing a sharp suit and being clapped on the back by a teammate after securing a deal.

4) Draw some conclusions. How does your ideal job compare to your current job? Are there a lot of overlaps, but just a few key gaps, or is it mostly the opposite? Are you noticing that your unhappiness is tied to an area of your current job that is more easily changed (like a nasty teammate, a very specific task you don't enjoy) or to something more permanent or pervasive (the company's broader philosophy or approach, the entire job family in which you're working)?

When you can pinpoint the root of your dissatisfaction, you should be able to see whether or not the problem is with an aspect of your job, this specific job or your broader career. If it's one of the first two, the path forward is simpler. Sometimes something as small as an honest conversation with your boss can help remedy the issue, or if you like your company but not your job, perhaps you can talk about an internal transfer that would rejuvenate you. If you dislike your company, but not your job, you at least know it'll be pretty cut and dry to transfer your skills to another role in your field, and provided you can keep up a positive attitude while you're waiting, you can hold on to your job and search for something new while keeping your paycheck.

Of course, sometimes it becomes obvious that you've just outgrown your career, or maybe you realize you were never well-suited for it in the first place (and trust me, this is WAY more common than you know). For me, it became obvious that a career change was necessary when I was so unhappy I prayed to get sick, just so I didn't have to go into work. Couple that draining emotion with the fact that I no longer felt inspired by my field, and it felt like walking through quicksand just to get through the day.

But what do you do if you discover that a career change actually would be beneficial? How do you navigate the waters of trying to figure out what you do want to do, how your skills transfer and how you can break into a field where you potentially have no direct experience?

You probably won't be surprised to hear that my advice is to hire a coach, and I'm not just saying this because I am a coach, but because I credit my own career success to the hours I spent working with coaches (and I still have my own coaches today).  Does this mean you can't change careers on your own? Absolutely not. But for me, having a support system, and knowing there was someone out there with expertise that had my back, gave me the confidence, accountability and extra push that I needed to make decisions and take action, even when it scared the living daylights out of me.

A great career coach can help you wade through all of the conflicting emotions spinning through your head. They can help you nail down the framework for a job that will actually align with your strengths, skills, values and preferences. They can be the objective outsider who sees beyond your limitations, who challenges your skewed belief systems and who pushes you to embrace new perspectives and possibilities. They can help you set goals, stick to them and ultimately move you into a new job faster and with less trial and error than you could on your own.

Regardless of the path you choose, know that it is NORMAL to want to change careers, and that realizing that you're ready for something new is a sign of growth, not of being broken. Embrace that change within you and progress onward to discover the new, exciting person you're about to become. Good luck!

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Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting