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Should I Risk Pursuing a Career I Love, Or Stay Put?

Kathy's Video Blog "Work You Love"

Welcome to Episode #5 of my weekly video blog Work You Love!

Today, I’m addressing a critical career change question that I received from Marie this week on the LinkedIn group Connect: Professional Women’s Network, Powered by Citi:

“I love working with animals but I have a hard time pinning down what I want to do with that.  I’ve tried grooming, vet’s office, animal care, caged animal research …but now I’m thinking of changing again to ecology or animal conservation.  I tend to get bored if I’m in the same position for too long but then I don’t move up in whichever company I’m working for.  What do you think is more valuable …searching for the right career (what if I don’t find it?) or gaining experience in one field?”


Great question.  Here are my thoughts on that:

 

 

I hope you’ll take these messages to heart and strive to find the right career that aligns with your values, passions, talents and skills. I did, and it changed my life.


Today’s top message (and tweetable):
CLICK TO TWEET:
Don’t take no for an answer. FIND the right career – you deserve it, you need it, and the world needs you.


Thank you for watching Work You Love, and many happy breakthroughs!

(If you have a burning career question you’d like me to answer, SUBMIT IT HERE! I’ll do my best to address it in some form in the weeks to come.)

Also, I’ll be serving as a career adviser/expert all day October 30th on the LinkedIn’s group Connect: Professional Women’s Network.  Join me there!

Don’t Chuck Your Career Before You Take These Steps

I’ve spent eight years working with mid to high-level professionals and executives to achieve greater career success, growth and leadership, as well as to transform their careers completely.  I know a good deal about the process personally too, as I’ve traversed a number of diverging career paths over the past 20 years, including publishing, marketing, market research, marriage and family therapy, coaching, speaking, and teaching.

If you asked me my views on career reinvention five years ago, I would have said some very different things than I do today.

So what’s different?

In the past three and a half years, I’ve learned what’s required (for myself and others) to navigate through highly challenging financial times while at the same time successfully creating a more fulfilling professional life.

I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky, follow-your-bliss nonsense here.  I’m talking about real-life positive career and life change that lasts and continues to reap benefit and reward.

The Myth of Career Ecstasy

Today, as new clients come to me – both men and women — I see an alarming myth that thousands of midlife individuals have been suckered into believing.  It’s hitting boomer folks hard, and truthfully, I don’t see this same myth prevalent in younger generations.  I call it the “myth of career ecstasy” – the damaging, misguided notion that all it will take to make your life happier and more rewarding is to chuck out your old, unsatisfying career, and land in a new one, despite what else is falling apart in your life.

Here’s how the story goes:

A midlife professional woman comes to me after 15+ years of corporate work.  She’s awakened to the following realizations, and they hurt:

  • It feels as if her work has no contributive value in the world any more (for instance, she feels she’s “selling” something that doesn’t matter at all or isn’t of positive influence in the world)
  • She’s bored out of her mind doing the work she knows best and desperately wants a change
  • Her family needs her substantial income of $100M+
  • Her husband and children have grown accustomed to her overfunctioning and her perfectionism, and don’t want things to change too much. (Note: she handles over 75% of the domestic responsibility as well as her full-time job, and she’s worn out, stressed and depressed.  And her overfunctioning has held her husband back from contributing his fair share, financially, domestically, and otherwise.)
  • She feels an urgent need to change her personal and professional situation
  • She’s in a financial trap, not having saved enough money to take several years off to re-strategize, gain new education or training, and reinvent her career path
  • On top of these stresses, there are relationship, behavioral and other issues with her family members (elderly parents, children, spouse, etc.) that need urgent addressing
  • Despite the fact that numerous dimensions of this individual’s life are truly in “breakdown” mode, she believes that it’s a new career she should focus on, as (in her mind) that will bring her life the joy, peace, excitement, meaning, health, and purpose she longs for.

The problem is, it’s simply not true.

In her case — and for hundreds of thousands of women professionals in the world today — it’s not a wholesale career change that will bring you the satisfaction and fulfillment you want.  Instead, it’s taking hard, urgently-needed action that addresses the root causes of your troubles that will make the difference in your career and life.

Busting the Career Ecstasy Myth: The Top Six Steps You Need to Take to Change Your Life for the Better

Here’s what needs to happen for your life to change for the better… and it isn’t job change, for now.

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE ON FORBES.COM

What are your top three life and career challenges today and are you addressing them head on?

10 Ways to Be Better, Not Bitter Through Deep Challenge

Working as a therapist and career coach over these past eight years, I’ve seen what life can do to people.  I’ve observed deep trauma and crisis, such as when a beloved spouse abandons his/her family for another lover, exclaiming to the marital partner of 20 years, “I’m sorry, but I never loved you.”

I’ve seen drug addiction and alcoholism ruin people’s futures.  I’ve witnessed cruelty, obsession, abuse, and despair, and watched uncontrolled midlife crisis wreak havoc on families.  And I’ve watched these harsh economic times bring men and women to their knees.

All through it, I’ve seen people broken by their despair, as well as those who have risen above – who’ve become better, not bitter.

How do some people turn their crises into fuel for positive change, while others become angry, resentful, victimized, and hopeless – beaten by their challenges?

There are 10 traits I’ve observed in those who find a way to be better, not bitter, after tribulation and crisis.  These 10 traits are:

1.   They remain accountable.  They realize their part in what’s happened to them, and don’t play the victim game.

2.   They are optimistic.  Despite what’s happened, they hold tight to a hope for a brighter future.

3.  They are well-boundaried. They know where they begin, and others end.  They keep compassion alive in their hearts, despite what’s happening around them, and they tune out the negativity, gossip and cruel judgments others throw at them.

4.   They ask for help. They reach out for support when they need it, and they get it.

5.   They find lessons in their challenges. They seek to learn and grow from all their experiences, and refuse to be broken by them.

6.   They avoid self-hatred and self-reproach.  They know they’ve made some big mistakes – and admit them full out — but find a way to be self-accepting and forgiving through it all.

7.   They revise their negative behaviors. They understand that repeating the same negative behaviors and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.  They change their ways.

8. They let go of the need to control. They have an ability to bend and be flexible, and go with the flow of what life gives them.  They don’t break themselves against what comes their way.

9. They see a bigger picture than what is before them. Despite how bleak the moment may appear, they have a deep sense of connection to the world and to life, and they sense that there’s a bigger picture unfolding than what meets the eye.

10. They have the courage to embrace change. As scary as change can be, they embrace it and accept that it is within change that expansion — and a richer, more satisfying life — lies.

If you’ve faced tremendous challenges these past several  years but want to be better, not bitter, take a look at these traits, and examine the degree to which these match your behaviors.  The closer you come to embracing these traits, the freer you’ll be from the sadness, regret, and limitations of your past.  You’ll let go of what isn’t working, and you’ll co-create a new future that is more joyful and rewarding than you ever imagined.

Are you stuck in bitter, or flowing towards “better?”

The Top Six Reasons People Want to Leave Their Careers

(Thrilled that this piece was published on Forbes.com last week!)

As a career and executive coach, I’ve spoken with hundreds of professionals who’ve shared some version of, “I really want to leave my job and change my career, but I’m not sure what to do or where to go from here.”

If I’ve heard this message once, I’ve heard it 1000 times now.  People spend years crafting careers that appear successful on the outside, only to find that at some point, usually in midlife, the career comes up short. It’s missing a vital component (or several) that turns the work into something dreaded – less than fulfilling, lacking in purpose, unstable, inauthentic, unsustainable, or a combination of all of the above.

I’ve personally lived this experienced as well – waking up at age 40 to depression, exhaustion, chronic illness, lack of ability to balance my family life and work, and feeling completely disengaged from the corporate professional identity I’d spent 18 years forging (see Breakdown Breakthrough for more).

Why are so many folks miserable in their work and long for change?

Here’s what I’ve found to be the top six reasons people are dissatisfied with their work and want out:

1. Balance: They find it impossible to balance work and outside/family life
2. Money: The money they earn isn’t enough to sustain them or their families
3. Skills: The skills and talents required for their work aren’t are a good fit
4. Respect: They feel chronically undervalued or mistreated
5. Meaning: They experience little positive meaning or purpose in their work
6. Struggle: It’s simply too hard to keep going with it

In short, they’re saying: “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this.”

As the economy rallies, more and more employees are asking themselves, “Can I leave my job yet?”  But I’ve discovered that if the above challenges aren’t effectively addressed in some core way BEFORE you leave your current job or career, they’ll follow you wherever you go. 

If the above describes your experience, read on for some tips to help you create the change you want — away from feeling trapped, toward feeling more confident, courageous and committed to making positive career change today.

1) Commit Yourself to What You Want

A fulfilling, satisfying life is not going to just fall in your lap.  You have to claim it, and commit to getting it with concentrated, continual effort.  You have to work it. 

How?  First, figure out what is the most important thing in the whole world to you.  What matters more than anything else?  (For more on this, see Ric Elias’ moving TED Talk on 3 Lessons I Learned As My Plane Crashed). 

Formulate this priority in terms of a “to be” statement such as “to be a great parent” or “to be a successful entrepreneur” or “to be a helper of others.”   Then commit yourself to honoring this priority.  Stop over-functioning (doing more than is necessary, more than is healthy, and more than is appropriate) in your life, your family, and work, and let go being perfect in the areas that don’t matter to you.

2) Refine Your Focus

Do you know exactly which talents and skills are easy and natural for you to use, that give your work a sense of purpose?  Do you know what type of work would represent an ideal fit? Are you in touch with your core values, standards of integrity and life goals? 

We have to understand our unique answers to these questions before we even contemplate making a major career change.  Why? Because if you don’t understand who you are and what you want uniquely, you’ll end up making career change based on the wrong reasons and incomplete information, and the new career will disappoint you once again.

Take my Career Path Assessment (CLICK HERE to access the free Assessment survey) and figure out what you want to do more of, less of, and never again. Then find a way (either in your existing job or in a new field or job) to tap your true and natural talents more frequently and deeply.

3) Access the Courage to Make Change

During the eight years I’ve been a career coach, I’ve literally met thousands of miserable, depressed professionals who share their story of misery, but then do nothing concrete about it.  I’ve analyzed why this is so – why so many people remain paralyzed in their misery – and I have some hypotheses as to what holds us back from life change (stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on that). 

But what I do know is that if you don’t take concrete action that is different in content and process from what you’ve done before, your life and career will not change.

In the end, you can’t solve a problem on the level it was created.

Whether you’re in your own business and it’s simply not working, or the job you’re in brings too much struggle every day, it’s time for change.  Let’s face it, most of us wait until there’s a full-blown crisis (read about the 12 “hidden” crises working women face) before we do something different.  I’ve personally lived through all 12 of the major crises professional women face, so I get it.  But I’m asking you NOT to make the same mistakes I did.  Get outside your own head, and get outside help to figure out what you really want, and how to get it.

So, what’s your top reason for wanting out of your line of work?  And are you ready to do something about it?

The Myth of Career Bliss: Why Chucking Your Career Doesn’t Solve Your Problems

I’ve spent eight years working with individuals to achieve successful professional growth, change, and reinvention.  I know a good deal about the process personally too, as I’ve traversed a number of diverging career paths over the past 20 years, including corporate marketing, market research, marriage and family therapy, coaching, writing, speaking, and executive recruitment.

If you asked me my views on career reinvention five years ago, I would have said some very different things than I do today. 

So what’s different? 

In the past three years, I’ve learned what’s required (for myself and others) to navigate through highly challenging financial times while at the same time successfully achieving a more fulfilling professional life. 

I’m not talking about pie-in-the-sky, follow-your-bliss nonsense here.  I’m talking about real-life positive career and life change that lasts and continues to reap benefit and reward.

The Myth of Career Bliss

But today, as new clients come to me – both men and women — I see an alarming myth that thousands of midlife individuals have been suckered into believing.  It’s hitting baby boomer folks hard, and honestly, I don’t see this same myth prevalent in younger generations.  I call it the “myth of career bliss” – the damaging, misleading notion that all it takes to make your life happier is to chuck out your old, unsatisfying career, and come up with a new one, despite what else is falling apart in your life.

Here’s how the story goes:

A midlife professional woman comes to me after 15+ years of corporate work.  She’s awakened to the following realizations, and they hurt:

  • It feels as if her work has no contributive value in the world any more (for instance, she feels she’s “selling” something that doesn’t matter at all or isn’t of positive influence in the world)
  • She’s bored out of her mind doing the work she knows best
  • Her family needs her substantial income of $100M+
  • Her husband and children have grown accustomed to her overfunctioning and her perfectionism, and don’t want things to change too much. (Note: she handles over 75% of the domestic responsibility as well as her full-time job, and she’s worn out, stressed and depressed.  And her overfunctioning has held her husband back from contributing his fair share, financially, domestically, and otherwise.)
  • She feels an urgent need to change her personal and professional situation
  • She’s in a financial trap, not having saved enough money to take several years off to re-strategize, gain new education or training, and reinvent her career path
  • On top of these stresses, there are relationship, behavioral and other issues with her family members (elderly parents, children, spouse, etc.) that need urgent addressing
  • Despite the fact that numerous dimensions of this individual’s life are truly in “breakdown” mode, she believes that it’s a new career she should focus on, as (in her mind) that will bring her life the joy, peace, excitement, meaning, health, and purpose she longs for.

The problem is, it’s simply not true. 

In her case — and for hundreds of thousands of individuals in the world today — it’s not a wholesale career change that will bring you the satisfaction and peace you want.  Instead, it’s taking hard, urgently-needed action that addresses the root causes of your troubles that will make the difference in your career and life.

Busting the Career Bliss Myth: The Top Six Steps You Need to Take to Change Your Life for the Better

Here’s what has to happen for your life to change for the better… and it isn’t job change, for now. 

1)  Power up and speak up – Figure out who you really are, and what you’re intrinsically worth as an individual in this world.  Start honoring what you want to create in your life, and make your partner at home a real partner so you’re not doing everything at home and everything for everyone else around you (see Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s powerful TEDTalk on this and two other key behaviors that will propel women forward in the workforce).

2) Build a stronger, more empowered relationship with money – take control of your finances.  Know down to the penny what you need to earn, and learn how to save more, manage better, and grow your money. 

3) Determine your three TOP life priorities, then make sure you’re attending to those before you even consider career change.  For instance, if you’re dealing with a serious health issue, or a child’s behavioral problems, or the need to move, or you’re facing foreclosure, you must attend to these priorities first.

4) Stop procrastinating and get going – look at where you feel most disempowered and helpless in your life and your career today.  Take steps to address these power gaps.  Unless you do this in your life and job now, your problems will follow you no matter what new career path or job you take.

5) Re-purpose and re-focus your skills and talents – In these very challenging employment times, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and chucking your whole career spend some critical time with a trained and skilled career coach, mentor, or advisor who can help you identify what you’re truly great at and enjoy doing, and determine the best, most appropriate way to bring forward these talents and skills in a job that fits your needs. 

6) Then develop a S.M.A.R.T. transition plan to get you from where you are today, to where you want to go.

 In short, don’t look to career reinvention to solve your problems.  It won’t.  Only you can solve your problems.  And the time to start dealing with them is now.

What are your top three life priorities today and are you addressing them?

 

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Kathy's CAREER PATH SELF-ASSESSMENT SURVEY!

 

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