Experiences, opportunities, resources, supports and values as well as your own self-awareness are important factors in being able to confidently know what career is a good fit for you.
Having reservations about what to do as a career is normal no matter what stage of life you’re at. Some lucky people find their passion at a young age, however, it’s not realistic for everyone to expect that. Experiences, opportunities, resources, supports and values as well as your own self-awareness are important factors in being able to confidently know what career is a good fit for you. And still these factors can all change over time, altering your career goals (sometimes many times).
If you are feeling stuck or uncertain about which direction you want to go or about the job you are currently in, consider:
Don’t let the opinions of others dictate your decisions
Another important thing to consider is the impact others have on your decisions regarding employment. There will always be people who make you question your career; is it a good fit? Am I making enough money? Is money what is most important? Will this business survive? Am I even making a difference?
Sometimes caring individuals tell us what they think is best for us. However, if we feed into their perspectives too much, they can alter our own values, beliefs, and employment-related decisions, sometimes leading to resentment, confusion, and discontent if those choices don’t work for us. That’s not to say that another person’s point of view is never helpful because sometimes we do need someone unbiased or distant from the situation to give us a clearer perspective. Still listen and consider their advice, but keep in mind what it is YOU want. Listen to your values, be assertive with your needs and put yourself first. You are the one who will have to live with the decisions you make and holding onto blame towards others for a decision that didn’t work out is an unhealthy way to project feelings of disappointment. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Even if you later realize the employment or career decision is not working out, it does not have to be permanent.
Know your values and let them guide you
Choices we make are a reflection of what we value, however sometimes being bombarded by others' opinions, suggestions, and advice can persuade us into making decisions that do not reflect what we believe in most. If we listen to our values and allow them to help guide us, we can make meaningful decisions which can enhance our overall satisfaction with life. However, if we don’t act in accordance with our values we can be left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. When choosing a career or making a change to your professional life it is important to consider this.
Ask yourself, what do you value in employment? (i.e. making a difference in the community? Maintaining work/life balance? Using creativity?) And consider working with organizations that have a mission and values that align with yours, that act in accordance with those values. It is not only important that the job reflects your values in employment but that it also nicely compliments other values in your life. Do you value family with utmost importance but are in a job that requires you to miss birthdays, recitals and work excessive amounts of overtime? Or do you value creativity, but your workplace is resistant to change?
If your values don’t align, this can lead to unhappiness in your career which can sometimes spread into other areas of your life. You may not be able to find something with absolutely everything you want and value, however, being aware of this can help you make decisions that meets some (maybe most) of your needs.
Get rid of the “should-statements”
When choosing a career/making a change in career, get rid of the “should” statements. “Should” statements are common negative thinking patterns that can contribute to feelings of worry and fear. “I should have applied to that other job, maybe I would have been happier”, “I should have taken a different program in school”. Thinking this way is unhelpful. It means you are focusing on the past and things that are unchangeable and are not focusing on what it is you do have control over currently. Making “should-statements” regarding your choices can leave you feeling inadequate, as if you are not doing enough or making the right decisions.
Each decision you make has a reason behind it. Just because what you wanted a year ago or a month ago does not align with what you want now does not mean that you did anything wrong and that you can’t take steps to make changes now. If you notice yourself thinking this way, take a step back and observe where this negative thinking is stemming from… try to look at the situation in a different perspective: “ That job I chose not to apply to may have been a better fit… Maybe there will be other opportunities in the future or I can find something similar somewhere else”, “I learned a lot from the program I took in school but I think my interests may have changed since”.
Take control over what you have control over
If you are feeling stuck or unhappy in your role, take a step back and see if there are any changes in your role that could help you feel more satisfied. Maybe you have flexibility within your role or can adjust your schedule to better fit your needs, maybe simply sharing your feelings with a boss/supervisor can help resolve any problems that may be interfering with your happiness. Take control over what you have control over. Sometimes simple changes can make all the difference.
You can be fulfilled and find satisfaction by doing things you are passionate about, that align with your values outside of your career
If you are in a job that does not fit your values or does not feel rewarding, but you are okay with that, then that is totally acceptable too. Some people feel it’s necessary to have a career that they find fulfilling, others do not. A job to some may just be a necessity to make an income and provide for themselves and their family and nothing more. You can find fulfillment engaging in opportunities outside of your day-to-day job that reflect your values and inspire you to grow as an individual.
Remember, you are never stuck
You are never too old to go back to school or to change your career path. Don’t let these common misconceptions prohibit you from doing something you love and being happy. You are working to live, not living to work. Regardless of the position you are in, leave the pressures of career related stress at the door each day and go on and live your life!
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