I coached a client last week who was stuck. She'd recently been notified that her job was being dissolved and she was struggling to figure out her next step.
In the course of talking with her, she made two common statements that, if she's not careful, will completely undermine her career decision-making process:
1. "My mentor thinks I should go into X job and I just wonder if I should do that because that's the path I've been on?"
2. "I just don't think I want to live in that state because my family is all there and I don't know that I can handle the relational dynamics."
What's the danger?
1. This first statement uses a simple, yet ugly little word -- "should." When we make decisions based on "shoulds," we are making decisions based on extrinsic factors -- peer pressure, parental expectations, money, or some other element. The danger of extrinsic motivators is that they will always disappoint in the long term. If you get a job because your mentor thinks you should, they will go on with their life and you'll wake up stuck in a job you hate. "Should" begs the question "according to whom?" In other words, what or who is the standard you are trying to live up to, not disappoint, or satisfy?
2. This second statement is an example of foreclosing an entire geographic location, industry, or career path because of an isolated experience. "I once had a bad experience with a friend in Seattle so I really don't want to live in Washington." Or, "I get that I'm a good listener but I don't want to be a counselor because I don't want to listen to people's problems all day." As if there is only one kind of counselor, and it's the kind that listens to problems all day. Not all counselors deal with drama, not all lawyers do try cases, not all bankers are on Wall Street, and not all teachers work with kindergartners. When you foreclose an entire field because of a bad experience, you miss out on potentially congruent options that would otherwise provide immense satisfaction.
So do these factors not matter at all?
As I told this client, let those be factors, but not drivers in the decision-making process.
Consider them, but don't put them in position 1, 2, or 3.
What should be in the first positions when making a career decision? In my opinion:
1. Talents. Will I get to do what I do best every day and get paid to do it? If so, you could take a job in Antarctica and learn to love it, because you are getting paid money to do what you do best!
2. Values. Does the organization share my core beliefs? Does the manager as well? If so, you will avoid values conflict, which is at the root of most discontent in career.
3. Environment. Do I like the culture? The location? And is it in a place I want to live? If yes, then don't hesitate to take the job.
Then and only then should you look at salary, geography, proximity to your ex, or any other factor. Again, these things matter, but not in the first position (or second or third).
...gets you into the circus, but doesn't guarantee you a seat."
I love this statement from a client I recently coached. His career path was all over the map, quite literally. He lived in 5 states, worked all kinds of jobs from a winery to a chemical company, and still felt totally lost.
We talked about his degree, and why he had originally picked the major he chose. As is common, it was somewhat arbitrary, based on a gut feel and his parent's influence.
He was feeling a bit of remorse that he didn't end up in a career path that aligned with his studies, but his statement above is the key: your degree simply adds credibility, and sometimes nothing more.
And guess what? That's ok.
Ideally, your college major would prepare you for a long and happy life as a X in X industry. Then again, most of us are choosing our majors when we have no clue what to choose or how to even go about making that decision.
If you're like my client, or like a friend I coached years ago who got his MBA "for nothing," fear not -- the degree is valuable in that it gets you into the door.
What matters once you're "in the circus?" Your talents. Talents that will take you from here to there.
People hire people who are specialists -- highly-skilled in specific areas. If you want to guarantee yourself a good seat, get clear about what you do best and do more of that.
Where should you start to figure this out? Finish these statements, then look for the common themes about what you do best:
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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