I well remember a conversation with my career counsellor when I was 16 at high school.
She said, “Oh, you are great at biology, you should work in a laboratory, go and apply at the state services commission for an Agriculture and Fisheries role”. I didn’t have a clue what to do, so I did what she suggested and ended up in an administrative role with Inland Revenue…..
Mmmmm…. maybe not exactly what she had in mind, but often we go through the early part of our careers unsure of what we are suited for and what we should do. I certainly had no clear direction through most of my career. I based my decisions on what opportunities came up and things that sounded like I could learn something new or were fun and challenging. During my career I have been an Auditor, Administrator, Customer Service Rep, Collections Agent, Change Manager, Trainer, Area Manager, Call Centre Manager, Project Manager, Solutions Leader, CIO, and now a self-employed Coach and a bookkeeper for my husband. I learnt so many things from each role.
A theme emerges, however from our endeavours, and we can look back on our career and see that we have unique strengths and our values and experiences have combined to create a thread. Following that thread allows us to understand what it is we are suited for and answer the question ‘How did I come to be here?’
It’s a great exercise to look back and see what we learnt from essential junctures in our working life. We tell a story to ourselves and others about our career and the lessons we learnt along the way. That story deserves to be repeated positively and well to learn the lessons through reflection so that others can learn from it, and we feel good about our lives and decisions. Not only that, it gives us material to consider what it is we want to focus on next to use our unique combination of skills and knowledge and interest.
We seldom ask ourselves the question ‘If I could do anything I wanted, what would that be? We get tied into the concept of having responsibilities, being grown up and meeting our current obligations. We forget to dream sometimes.
There have been multiple times during my career when I have loved what I do and felt incredibly passionate about my work. Those were the times I bounced out of bed and then spent many happy hours ‘getting things done’. Feeling passionate or engaged about what we do is a recipe for reduced stress, increased focus, creativity and feel we are making the most of our lives.
12-15 careers throughout our lives are what is considered ‘normal’ and portfolio careers (multiple elements at the same time) are quite usual. People are working in several different areas of opportunity to either test out an area of work, continue their income stream while pursuing a passion or else because they like the variety of different functions or roles. For me, being both a coach and a bookkeeper is excellent for variety. I also notice that people often think about their careers as one thing or the other and have a lot of fear that moving from what they are doing will be financially risky or may not turn out the way they expect. However, many people do create opportunities to test out an idea or passion alongside their current role and then do both roles. Doing both makes lots of sense to me.
When we are intent on following our passion, it is also beneficial to surround ourselves with passionate people. Passionate people help us to keep focused on our path, and we inspire each other to stretch further rather than settling for the status quo.
I hope you are passionate about what you do, surround yourself with passionate people and bounce out of bed each day. If not, maybe it’s time to step back and reflect on what your passion is…. and how you could pursue it with the unique set of values, strengths and experience you have.