One of the most common questions I have as a Career Coach and as and LCI workshop facilitator is, ‘How do I go about finding my ideal career?’

Most people know what they don’t want and that is usually where they are at right now. The first thing I say is: ‘If you’re unhappy in your career, find one you like or find something to like about the one you have’. Then as a coach we often undertake 5 steps in a process of discovery to assist them in working through what that may be. The steps are as follows:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Figure out what you want
  3. Tell everyone you know
  4. Go for what you want
  5. Don’t let NO stop you

In this special post series we will sequentially cover each of these steps in more detail. In this post we cover step 1: know yourself. But before we move ahead and explore step 1, here’s a little exercise to find out whether you already have the “perfect job”. Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each of these questions:

  1. My work stimulates me
  2. I am proud of what I do
  3. I feel appreciated in my workplace
  4. I respect the people I work with
  5. I know where my career is heading
  6. I respond to calls and emails within 48 hours
  7. I don’t let paperwork pile up
  8. I complete my work within reasonable hours
  9. I manage my time well
  10. I delegate without guilt

If you answered YES to 10/10 you are doing really well and you can follow five steps to being more satisfied in your current position. If you did not say YES to all questions, you have some ACTION you need to take.

Note: there are also five steps that can help you find more enjoyment in your existing career or current position. These include improving your attitude; improving preparation and organisation skills; cultivating your commitment; setting effective boundaries; and learning from challenges.

Step 1. Know yourself

Many people today say they are stuck, stuck in careers they hate. However each of us has a choice. If we are unhappy in our career, we can find one we like or find something to like about the one we have. While this is very easy to say many find it is not so easy to do, most of us feel overwhelmed by this decision because we don’t know where to start and don’t know what we like. We then either procrastinate prolonging the agony or make an inappropriate career decision.

The first step to finding a new career, which is often overlooked, is understanding ourselves! By having an awareness of our core values, we can be clear on what we want our life to be about; these personal factors help us to identify an appropriate career. Without this self-knowledge, we will spend endless hours, weeks and even years looking outwardly for the perfect career situation rather than focusing inward on our core values and desires and matching our career choices accordingly.

Let’s take Jenny for example:

Jenny was an executive for one of the big 5 consulting firms and a part time MBA student. Jenny was unhappy in her consulting career for a number of years. She was drained at the end of each day and felt overworked and undervalued. She finally bit the bullet and decided to look for a new career. Jenny dusted off the resume and sent it out to a number of other consulting firms. Jenny attended two interviews for similar positions. Desperate to make the change Jenny took the first role offered to her. Within a number of weeks of starting her new role Jenny began to feel extremely unhappy and couldn’t understand why. Jenny had a new role, with a new firm so why was she so unhappy.

Jenny decided to take the initiative and find out why, and hired a life coach. Through coaching Jenny completed a number of exercises, the first of which was to “help Jenny understand Jenny”. She looked at a large list of values and listed down her top 3. They were creativity, self-respect and community, she then crossed checked these values with the type of work she was applying for and recognised the mismatch immediately.

Jenny felt her creativity was stifled as she was using a number of predetermined methodologies, she felt undervalued which hit at the core of her self-respect and due to the travel and short term placements she also lacked a sense of community with her employer. Obviously the career was not appropriate for Jenny as it compromised her three core values.

Often we bypass the need to look thoroughly at who we are and want to be. The outward looking focus can lead us to having self-defeating beliefs and values. Many of us just wait for things to happen in our career situation or seek out other people who will make the decisions for us.

By learning to change our thinking we can have more personal empowerment with far more freedom of career choice. People who take the time to learn to know themselves through self-review and understanding their values grow to like themselves better, are self-confident and by feeling good, they produce positive results for themselves and those with whom they work.

Today’s Action Plan: Get to know yourself well

To understand yourself well:

  • Develop a detailed list of values that are important to you. Approximately 10 to 20 values e.g. abundance, growth, integrity, flexibility
  • From the list identify your top 5 core values.
  • Looking at your list of 5 core values, list which of these values are expressed in your career
  • List which values are not expressed in your career. Having key values missing in your career is likely to be having an impact on you.
  • What can you do to bring all your values into all areas of your life?

In the next post of this series we will look at Step 2: Figure out what you want!

Written by Nicole McAuliffe

Nicole McAuliffe is a LCI workshop facilitator and Director of Creative Connections, a professional life coaching company that supports individuals and organisations in all aspects of career change and development and work life balance.

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