A few years ago I found myself at an impasse in my career. I was unhappy with my day-to-day and felt I could do better for myself, my family, friends and colleagues. I was tired of being the person at the barbeque, dinner party, or neighborhood get together that always complained about her job.
My impasse did not come from a lack of trying. I was regularly looking for new opportunities and was even offered a position at a different company. I believe my mistake was looking for more of the same type of position.
During this time I had lunch with a former colleague. After explaining to her what I was going through, she asked if I had met with a career coach. I had not heard of a career coach and was intrigued by the stories she shared of her friends that had used one to help them focus on their careers.
Over the course of the following months after that lunch, I learned quite a bit and am pleased to pass on what I have learned since then.
Are you a jackhammer or a hummingbird?
One of my favorite authors and speakers, Elizabeth Gilbert, has a theory that some of us are jackhammers while others are hummingbirds. The jackhammers are passionate about one thing and continue working on that one thing. For Ms. Gilbert, her passion is writing and she identifies with the jackhammer. The hummingbirds go from one different experience to the next, weaving their past experiences into the new ones. I strongly identify with the hummingbird. If this sounds like you too, I highly recommend checking out Elizabeth Gilbert explaining this here.
Work with a coach
Kathryn Saxer, the career coach I worked with, had a powerful impact on helping me find my way. There are two things she had me do that guided me well:
- Limitless brainstorm: When I felt stuck and unsure about what to do next, Kathryn taught me not to limit myself. She had me list everything I was thinking about that I wanted to do. From there, I researched what would be involved to prepare me for the position. For example, some of the positions I wrote down required me to go back to school. I would list the type of degree it required and all the steps I would need to take to sign up for classes and how much it would cost.
- Create a visual: Kathryn also advised me to take up an entire wall in my house and put up words, pictures, and drawings so that I could see the different scenarios I was thinking of pursuing. Once I did this exercise, it wasn’t very long before I found a position that was an excellent fit, and different from what I had been doing.
Have a visual for your vision
This exercise was so successful that I still use it. On my wall today I have words that reflect the type of career I want to have. These help me focus on what I want to continue cultivating for myself. I include images and words for the vision I have for my future and I even have a space for the vision my husband and I have for our backyard.
Taking up a wall in my home is a liberating thing. I’ve passed this advice on to friends and some have also found this concept helpful when looking for a new home. My husband and I did this when we were house hunting a couple of years ago and the home we ended up buying far exceeded our expectations.
There are a few other components to keep in mind while collecting your ideas. When I was changing careers, I was asked, “how do you want to feel when you’re at work?” and “what do you want to wear?” I knew that I wanted to work in a place that had some flexibility around being in the office every day. I also knew that I wanted to work in a place where it was okay to wear jeans to the office. Thinking about these details helped draw me nearer to where I wanted to go next.
The most important thing I did when I was in an unhappy place was to take action. It can be overwhelming to figure out what to do and if you do only one thing – perhaps it’s writing down one word on a piece of paper and tacking it to a wall in your house – you are one step closer to finding your way.
I am grateful to help others by passing along what has worked well for me. If you have a similar experience with different tools and ideas that have worked well for you, please feel free to share them in the comments.