Friday, November 08, 2013

5 Things You Must Stop Doing Today If You Want A Happier Career

[] Working with mid-career professionals in major transition day after day for 10 years has given me a special window into what holds people back from building happy, fulfilling lives and careers they love.  Speaking with a stranger, I can detect in under five minutes those hallmarks that reveal when an individual will not get unstuck, but will remain bogged down for all eternity in career mediocrity unless she steps up to embrace change in how she behaves, performs, and views her situation.
What are these hallmarks? Here are the 5 behaviors you must stop today if you want a happier, more satisfying career:
1. Whining
Whining to me is a particular brand of complaining – it’s that annoying form of bemoaning and crying about what is, without taking any personal responsibility for it.  If you’re whining, you’re what I call a “below the line” thinker – looking outside yourself and blaming all the external factors and influences that have contributed to your being less than satisfied, but never looking at how YOU have co-created your problems and challenges.  

This I know – each of us contributes to his/her situation, each of us is a key player in what unfolds, and each of us can make it better, if we take the right steps. The first step? Stop whining and start embracing your accountability for what is and what can be.
2. Waiting for the perfect time
I’m disappointed (and I know what’s coming) each and every time I hear someone say about career or job change, “I’m waiting for the time when ______” (I have more money, my son gets older, my husband’s job is more secure, I get my raise, etc. – fill in the blank).   Even incredibly wealthy women say to me, “I’m not sure this is the right time to invest in myself.” The problem is, those who chronically wait for the “right” time don’t ever move forward.  They’re stuck in a perpetual limbo of believing that there will be a perfect time, a better time to change or revise their course.  The reality is that there is never a perfect time; there is only now. 
3. Hiding
So many professionals who dream of more, different or better in their careers are hiding – hiding from reality, hiding from themselves, and hiding from what they could become.  If you want a better career, you have to be strong, brave and confident enough to go out and seize it.  For that to happen, you have to power up, even in your current situation.  By “power up” I mean close your power gaps – those areas in which you feel afraid, less than, insecure, an impostor, and unworthy of recognition, leadership, power, authority, and responsibility.  Find ways right now, in your current situation, to step up to a bigger version of yourself. Ask to lead a new project, raise your hand to take on a new training program, research how you can contribute in a larger way, form a new networking group in your company, sit next to the President of the company and speak up at the next lunch-and-learn meeting – do SOMETHING that will prove to you and to others that you are no longer going to hide your talents and abilities.
4. Remaining in “confusion”
The most common career transition problem I help people resolve is “confusion” – answering the question, “What do I want to do and be when I grow up?”  Folks most often know what they don’t want to do, but have no idea what they do want.  The best way to address this is to: 1) understand more deeply who you are, how you’re different from all the rest, and what you care about most (complete my free Career Path Self-Assessment to gain more clarity on what you’ve accomplished and are longing for in the next chapter), 2) connect the dots with vibrant themes that tie together your natural skills, talents and passions, 3) determine the top 3 directions that are most compelling to you now and that align with your values, needs and goals, and 4) get out there and “try it on” these new directions in every conceivable way. 
Research these potential new directions thoroughly through action – shadow professionals in the field, interview people who’ve succeeded AND failed at it, take a compelling class or a course, immerse yourself in it through volunteering, network offline and online with people engaged in this activity or field, and more.  Explore, explore, explore.  I promise you, once you begin to get out there and physically “try on” these new directions, you’ll learn very quickly if they’re for you.  Your “confusion” will vanish.
5. Regretting
To my way of thinking, regret is the biggest waste of our time and energy. Regretting says, “I blew it, and all is lost.”  Regretting doesn’t let in the essential idea that you are exactly where you should be this very minute. Even though you may hate where you are, there is perfection in it, because your discomfort with today is exactly what will give you the energy and courage to propel you to a new level of being and doing.  Regretting says, “I should have known better.” But no one gets up in the morning and says, “Yes! I’m going to blow it today!” You did your very best with the information you had at the time.  Now you know yourself and your needs and wants better than you did yesterday, and you know for certain it’s time for a change.  So don’t allow yourself to go down the path of regret. It keeps you angry, resentful, self-hating, and sucks precious life energy from you – the very energy and vitality you need to go out and build the career you long for.
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If I could make meaningful career change after 18 years of corporate unhappiness, you can too.  After engaging in all 5 of the above behaviors and remaining in career “breakdown” mode for years (see my book Breakdown, Breakthrough for my personal story), but then finding the courage and strength to change after age 40, I’m confident you can too – if you walk away today from these behaviors that keep you stuck, small, and scared.

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