What do you want to be when you grow up?
As I have discovered, along with the majority of my clients and many of my friends, family and networking colleagues, we rarely have a career for life nowadays.
Most young people — hell — most people — are fully aware of this, yet society still seems to expect school leavers to choose their career at a young age with limited life experience. And for them to be happy with it. Forever!
The cultural norm is to know what you want to do and, unless something pretty major is holding you back, you damn well go and do it.
That rarely works and hardly seems fair for us to put that pressure on people who are still figuring out who the hell they are. Our pre-frontal cortex in our brains is not fully developed until we are 25 years old for crying out loud. Give us a chance!
I’ve had full career changes so far and many random jobs in between. It’s been an incredible experience filled with self and professional development, meeting and making some of my closest friends, enabled me to experience ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ moments (2012 Olympic Opening & Closing Ceremonies)
Yes, part of me wishes I had ‘found’ coaching earlier, however, if I had I may not be the coach I am now and I doubt I would have the lifelong bug of continuous learning and improving.
What did I want to be when I grew up?
Prepare yourself for a bit of a personal tale folks. If you read my blog & subscribe to my weekly emails you will know I am not a fan of divulging my life story, however, my career journey is fairly relevant to all that I do so I’ve decided to care & share.
Now my career journey is far from over and I am beyond excited about the opportunities that are appearing each day with new clients wanting career confidence coaching, with organisations supporting the wellbeing of their teams and with businesses looking to motivate & propel their employees.
Where did it all start? I wanted to be an actor from a very young age and despite many a warning of how tough the ‘Biz’ is (and by golly it really is) I went ahead and was supported to the hilt by my amazing parents. I tried for 6 years. I wasn’t anywhere near good enough or tough enough to succeed or cope. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
On leaving the industry, I entered the world of events in hospitality staffing and worked in a small company helping the founders to grow it to become a major player in temporary staffing. It was my first taste of ‘proper’ business and I loved it. I was one of those annoying people who enjoyed their work, who got on with their colleagues, who didn’t mind the crazy long hours. I actually loved Mondays. My job became my life and for a while it was wonderful.
Then I paid the price for it becoming all encompassing. I hit burnout. Or it hit me. And I had no idea what to do or who to turn to.
I felt like a failure and like a fraud. I believed that I would be fired every day for no apparent reason, part of me wanted to be fired because I was exhausted, miserable, anxious, stressed, depressed and wanted out. But I had no-where to go in terms of another job and I didn’t believe any other company would hire me because I had a meaningless degree (in my opinion), no qualifications to back up what I had been doing for the last 7 years and had only got this job through hard work and luck.
Classic imposter syndrome at play there along with daily anxiety and depression. Not the most fun emotional place to be in folks — I don’t recommend it.
Then one Monday morning when I was just about getting myself together (talked myself out of bed and into the shower, went through my gratitude list as I biked slowly to work, numerous coffees, etc) a colleague came merrily skipping up to my desk (she still enjoyed her job) and told me all about a coaching weekend course she had been on, that I would love it and should go on it as I did it with the team and it could lead to a qualification blah blah blah.
I remember thinking, very cynically, that either this is a weird pyramid scheme she’s trying to get me into or it’s going to be a weekend long sales pitch.
To reclaim my morning peace I said “thanks” and yes “I would definitely try it”
A few weeks later on a Saturday morning there I was sat realising that this was what I wanted to do in some form. A few hours later, I met a friend for drinks and he took one look at me and said “What’s happened? You look happy. You haven’t looked happy for ages”
I told him that I was going to re-train to be a coach, quit my job and start my own coaching business.
Then, over several glasses of G&T we planned out how I would do it and still pay my mortgage.
And here we are today.
Moral of the story folks? For me there are a few:
- Listen to what people suggest — you don’t need to take their advice but it may be worth dipping your toe in the water.
- Give it a go. If you have a passion, a gut feeling or just the same thought coming back to you then chances are there’s something there to explore.
- Don’t pop someone else’s balloon. My G&T friend could have very easily have turned around to me and said that was a ridiculous idea, that it was too much work, that I would never survive. Instead he looked me dead in the eye and said “I cannot wait to hear more about this — let me get us a drink”
- Keep the napkin that you write all the ideas on
So my message to anyone who classes themselves as a young person — don’t panic, don’t rush — yes have a direction and some goals to get you & keep you on track, but first of all consider the life you want to have and then think about the career and work that fits with that life.
Your job has to facilitate your life, not the other way around; it’s lifework balance folks.
But why should this week be just for young people? For the record, part of me doesn’t fully accept I am grown up at all.
What about us oldies looking for a career change?
I met an old friend (not in age — in the years we have been friends!) for tea and cake (ok — maybe we are a little old — but it’s cake!) and she mentioned that she is not happy at work, never really has been fulfilled or felt that the industry was for her but she started when she was fresh out of school, did well and carried on.
She said that recently she has wanted to do something else but is not sure what. She’s stuck, confused, lost.
So she went looking for ‘grown up careers advice’
How interesting. Us oldies should have it all sorted out by now shouldn’t we? We should know what we want in and from our lives, where we want to be geographically, emotionally, spiritually and all the rest of it.
We should be heading up that career ladder or creating a family or travelling the world or saving the planet or…
But why?! Why should we have it all worked out? Why should we be following what society’s rules dictate?
I’d rather like to ban the word ‘should’ along with it’s annoying friend ‘could’ (“I could go back and study but…)
Anyway — back to us grown ups trying to work it all out — again!
Yes there are careers advisors out there and well worth a chat to, however, before you venture down that route I’d recommend answering the questions I posed to my-not-so-old-yet-grown-up friend:
- What do you want your life to look like? To be filled with?
- What gives you energy & joy?
- What are you really good at? Where are the parallels with Q2?
- Based on the above 3 questions — what will the world pay you for?
These are just 4 out of 14 questions I give to new clients considering a career change as we want to uncover their values in life and at work, what they are good at and what they enjoy doing.
For some clients it is an organisation move, for others it is more or less responsibility, several choose to start their own business, others decide to re-train or make a sideways move.
Everyone is different yet we all compare ourselves to each other. Please stop. If you have to go down the comparison route then look back over the last 12 months — 3 years to compare your old self with you now.
Wow — haven’t you grown!
For more grown up career help and career coaching get in touch for a chat (with or without the cake) firstname.lastname@example.org