I'm in the wrong career, get me out of here!
My clients currently range from the tender age of 17 to 67. The youngest is worried about want she wants to be when she’s grown up, the oldest is worried that he’s just spent 40 years in the wrong profession. In between there are some 27-year olds who think life stops at 30 and some 45-year olds who shout “I’m in the wrong career, get me out of here.”
Why is it so difficult to find something we really want? Did you want to work with animals when you were a child? So did I. What happened? What stopped us from doing that? The parents who told us we need to get a “proper job”, the siblings who were already more successful than us, the teachers who decided in their wisdom that we were losers, the husband who told us we’re too intelligent to waste it on animals…
I so admire my 67-year old client who decided to do a degree in history and then teach at a community college. Chapeau! When I asked him what or who stopped him first time round, he said: “Me! I can’t blame it on anybody. I wanted to earn a lot of money, so I became an accountant, then a management consultant and by the time I realised that money can’t buy happiness, it was too late to change careers.” And after a short pause and with a smirk on his face he added: “I wish I had met you 40 years ago. You would have stopped me from doing the wrong thing, spending such a long time in the wrong jobs chasing after money I didn’t need in the first place.” “ No, I wouldn’t have stopped you”, I replied, “but I would have created a space in which you would have stopped yourself and had allowed yourself time to reflect on what you really want.”
A research team in the US wanted to find out more about what makes people happy and asked elderly people what kind of advice they would give to us youngsters. Two answers kept coming up independent from cultural backgrounds, marital status, family sizes, education or income levels: firstly, take time to get to know yourself and secondly, learn how to follow your own heart. I would add a third piece of advice which complements the other two: start loving yourself.
In a career context that means you need to find out a) what you’re good at and b) what interests you. Not the same thing at all! And then be strong enough to just go for it and not listen to parents, teachers and other decision-makers of your life. Oh and start loving yourself. Be in peace with who you are. Self-acceptance is a very powerful instrument.
Just a thought!