I hear so often from my career coaching clients that they just fell into their current career, or it is the career they thought they “should” pursue; sometimes it’s just a career that someone else suggested to them so they tried it out. The common theme here is people aren’t pro-actively choosing their career path. They aren’t spending quality time thinking about it. Instead they’re reacting to circumstance, to what someone else suggests, or just taking a job because it was offered to them.
I did that in my mid-twenties, this is what I call my “early life crisis.” I was in an interview with my prospective employer when I had a gut instinct that the job would not be a fit for me, but what did I say when they offered me the position? I said yes. Two years later I was crying about my career in the bathroom.
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take a job to pay your bills. We all need to remain financially stable, especially during career transition, but a common theme I see with my clients is that they didn’t listen to themselves when they were choosing their career. They didn’t start with what would make them happy, and if they did they got lost along the way.
One of my clients, Lauren, came to me and said she chose to become a lawyer in large part because it was what her family seemed to expect of her. Her father was a doctor, her brother was a lawyer, and her sister was a doctor as well. She came from a family of highly educated, specialized professionals, and she followed in their footsteps without fully thinking through what would make her happy. Fortunately for Lauren, there were things about the law she enjoyed but even those things were diminishing in their appeal. As she looked back on her career, she realized she chose her path in large part due to external circumstances, rather than following her heart or passion.
When you’re getting started on this journey of evaluating and possibly changing your career path, the critical thing you need to remember is to start with you. You’re the one at the end of the day who has to go home, look in the mirror, and decide whether you made a contribution that day by doing something that made you happy.
You are the only one who knows which career path will truly work for you. Throughout this process it is ok to gather opinions and advice from others, but do it very selectively. Only enlist the help of people you trust to give you honest, but unbiased feedback. Preferably from people who have some expertise in this area. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, find someone, or don’t share it with anyone until you’re certain.
At the end of the day, go with what feels right to you. Start with you.
Career Transition Coach