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Career Pathing: How to Find Your Passion
Career path: Pursue Your Passion
Finding a career that aligns with your passion can be difficult. Often, fears and outside factors can make it hard to commit to moving forward with big picture plans and career goals. Nonetheless, it is possible with self-reflection and self-awareness to develop a plan that truly aligns with your passions and goals. In this interview with certified career counselor Megan R., we will discuss how to make your passion your career.
In this episode, you will learn how to get clarity about your passion. You will also learn the other factors and hindrances that stop you from pursuing it. Knowing these can help you better understand yourself and the path you have to take.
Tune in to the full interview to learn how to make your passion your career path in the happiest and most successful way possible!
In This Episode: How to Make Your Passion Your Career
- Learn how to take inventory of what’s going on in your life
- Learn how to break out of choice paralysis
- Understand how to reflect on your past experiences and make meaning out of them
- Find the importance of work-life balance in choosing your career
- Value yourself and practice self-care
- Discover the power of career counseling and how it can help you
- Find out why you feel burnout
Choice Paralysis and Getting Unstuck
While 2020 and the pandemic resulted in sudden changes in our lifestyles, they also gave us plenty of opportunities. This time at home allowed us to take inventory of what's currently happening in our lives (and what isn't). For some of us, this past year has been a form of an awakening – realizing what we may be missing or seeing potential areas of growth both personally and professionally. When it comes to “getting unstuck” and “getting started,” here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you managing your time in the best way possible?
- Are you on the right career path?
- Is your work in line with your passion?
While the answers to these questions can lead to a more precise understanding of where you're currently at and where you would like to be, they can also lead to choice paralysis (and more questions!). Now, we don't want to deter you from exploring these questions and really diving into your answers because this is an important step in the process of discovering your passion. However, it's important to be aware that this feeling of choice paralysis is common! And you're going to get through it!
As Denver Career Counselor, Megan R. puts it, “Sometimes we become so hopeful and so excited about what could happen next, [we] start to grapple with…paralysis analysis. Saying things like, ‘I put all of these options in front of me. And I don't even know if half these options are viable.'“
So, how do you get unstuck when you want to move forward in your quest for find the perfect career path? It helps to understand the problems that hold you back from making a choice.
When you want to get really clear about your next steps and make sure they are in alignment with your overall goal, career counseling can assist you in that step. A career counselor can help you unravel the worries and fears that you may be experiencing and help you find a clearer understanding of what your next move should be. They can also help you set things in motion once you find the right path.
Finding Work/Life Balance On Your Career Path
Some of us may be scared to pursue our passions because of the needed dedication that would take away from non-work related life. The best way to prepare is to have a plan. When it comes to work/life balance, it's important that you understand what changes may need to take place, especially temporary changes. This way you can be prepared for any challenges that may show up when you begin your journey on a new career path. Here are some questions to reflect on:
- Does your career change require additional schooling or higher education of some sort? If so, do you need to keep your job while in school?
- Do you have a spouse and kids? How will you balance your most important relationships?
- Do you have a roommate that is also sharing your workspace at home? How will the effect your experience and how can you set yourself up for success?
To better understand how your work/life balance may be affected by these changes, Megan suggests asking yourself, “What kind of timeline are we working with here?” Knowing the answer to this question will help you understand how to pace yourself through these changes and will help allow you some wiggle room along the way.
Megan refers to this process as “identifying the landmines.” Landmines are the sudden changes that may happen in your life. It can also help you prepare you when suddenly facing these challenges, making it easier to move forward.
Career Pathing: What Is It?
Career pathing is the process of determining the career development course of an employee inside an organization. Initially, the trait-factor approach determines where a person should work. It factors in your traits and the job you are most likely to succeed in based on other's experiences. While this may have helped before, it is essential to acknowledge that human beings and society are getting more complex.
Career counseling is beginning to shift into a life design paradigm. In this design, you take into consideration that your employee is a complex human being. So you must help them understand the answers to these questions:
- What are the roles that I hold?
- What are my long-term goals?
- What are my values?
When the answers to these questions are taken into account, the “employee” who holds a particular role, is now seen as an individual on a particular career path. This way of thinking can help employers better understand their employees career goals and help support them on their career path.
How to Find Your Passion
For some, their passion is clear as day. Others find it hard to understand and define what it is. The most straightforward approach is to start at the beginning and ask yourself these questions:
- What went well in my past jobs and hobbies?
- What didn’t go well?
- What would you like to replicate from previous experiences?
- What would you not like to happen again?
It is easier to work from the past because these are events that already happened. You don’t need to think about creating new answers; you only need to reflect. You need to make meaning of the past first for better self-awareness. Reflecting and brainstorming on the past can also give you a roadmap to follow when choosing your career path.
Burnout: How Does This Happen?
Unfortunately, many people don’t know what career counselors are. Even Megan shares that she didn’t know about them until she is already in the field of counseling. Because we skip this process of taking inventory of ourselves before we even pick our college degrees, we lack self-awareness. And so, along the way, only some of us stay on the path we chose. In contrast, others get bored or experience burnout.
Why does burnout happen? There are typically one of two reasons for burnout:
- We stop finding joy in what we are doing because we stopped reflecting. When you stop reflecting on your experiences, it's easy to lose sight of what you enjoy and what you don't. You can quickly find yourself in a monotonous cycle of going through the motions. By setting time aside to reflect on your day or week, you're allowing room for growth and understanding. You get to learn a little more about yourself, your passions, and even your dislikes.
- Outside factors also influence this lack of motivation. These outside factors could include sudden life changes like marriage, children, or sickness. When important life changes occur, we can revert to working out of necessity and not because we love what we are doing.
By finding meaning in your past experiences you can foster hope and make looking at the future easier.
Changing Your Career Path
Are you ready to make a change to your career path? Congratulations! This is an exciting and hopeful time. To best set yourself up for success when changing your career path here are some important career path tips to take into account.
1. Begin working with an expert career counselor. By connecting with a career counselor early, you can receive expert advice on setting up your career path, your timeline goals, and putting together the steps for achieving these goals.
2. Reflect on your experiences. When you reflect on your experiences you better understand what it is that you enjoy (and what you don't!). Setting aside time daily or weekly to reflect on your experiences will help you make more confident choices moving forward on your career path.
3. Know that it's okay to move slow. Instead of jumping into these drastic changes, know that it's okay to move slow and take small steps as you move forward. You don't have to have it all figured out on day one.
4. Make space for a healthy work/life balance. If quitting your current job means financial instability, then maybe it's better to wait to fully quit your current position until you're more financially stable. Also, keep in mind your most important relationships. How will these changes affect your family, your partner, your friends? Make space in your career path for those you care the most about. Although your time together may change a little in the meantime, it's still important to maintain these relationships throughout these changes.
- Interested in learning more about Megan R and her career counseling services? Read her bio and schedule a free consultation with Megan here: Meet Megan R!
- Growing Self – Learn more about our free online career resources for you!
Megan R., M.A., LPCC, NCC, CCC has shared invaluable information about finding your passion and choosing your right career path. What did you connect and relate to the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.
Did you like this interview? Subscribe to us now to discover how to live a life full of love, success, and happiness!
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How to Make Your Passion Your Career
Music Credits: So Many Things by Aurora D’Amico
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
Career Pathing: How to Find Your Passion: Podcast Transcript
Access Episode Transcript
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast
[So Many Things by Aurora D’Amico plays]
Dr. Lisa: That's So Many Things by Aurora D’Amico. Beautiful song, and perfect for our topic today. Because today we're talking about how to get clarity when you could literally go in any direction, it seems like. I think that's one of the weird benefits, almost, of this experience that we've just been through together, of having it feel like the world is basically just falling apart. Now we all have to regroup and rebuild. But in the kind of hidden opportunity there is that it disrupts things, it creates space. It's harder, I think, to make major life changes when you're already in this like, really clear, entrenched path, and everything is just moving in one direction. It's hard to get off that train sometimes. But when things feel a little iffy, and when there's not a ton of clarity about what exactly is going to be happening next, it can create this space, this opportunity to think about, “Well, what do I want to have happen next? And how can I potentially design it?”
I think a lot of people are in the space right now. And some people it's showing up in their relationships, some in the sort of existential what am I doing with my life thing. And there can be many components of that, certainly, but an important one of those is, “What am I doing with my career?”
I think that's why, I mean, here at Growing Self, we've seen a ton of clients showing up with an interest in talking about their careers. So, we do career counseling, and career coaching, professional development, coaching, and that's a lot of what we're doing lately—is talking with people about how to either make a pivot in their career, or go more deeply into their chosen career path. But the most important thing that I'm hearing over and over again from our clients is, “I need meaning. I need this to be in alignment with my passion and what I really want to be doing with my life, because I know there's sort of this renewed awareness that life is short, and that we need to make it count.” So that's the theme.
In addition to that part, been seeing just a ton of really smart, resourceful, successful people, who are in a decent place, but they're, they're saying, “I feel like it could be more,” right. They're also saying that they feel like they have a lot of different opportunities that they could go in many different directions. And that in itself, while it's a good thing, can also feel really paralyzing, because people get very anxious about, “Okay, so I could do 10 different things, but which one is the right thing?” Especially when they're all, maybe kind of interesting or kind of good and they have to choose one, in order to make it happen. Then there's this stress. They wind up getting stuck, an indecision, where they feel like it's hard to make any choice at all, which then just perpetuates more of the same. As we all know, we can stay stuck in the same place for quite a long time without that energy to go in one direction or the other.
So what we're talking about today is how do we begin to break out of that paralysis, especially with new opportunities on the horizon and pick not just a path, but the “right path.” To help us with this, I have invited a colleague of mine on today's episode. We're going to be speaking with career counselor and professional development coach, Megan Rankin. Megan is my colleague, here at Growing Self, and she is amazing. She is a legitimate expert on this topic. She has a whole master's degree in career development. And I mean, so this is what she specializes in. She's a certified career counselor. She's been doing this for a while and she is also has a background as a therapist, too. She's here today to share her perspective on what it takes to get clear about that career path and start putting things into motion, especially when you have a lot of options. So Megan, thank you.
Megan Rankin: Of course, yes. Yay. Well, absolutely, no, thank you for having me. This is definitely to kind of piggyback off of what you shared. A lot of my clients come to me at that point. It's not necessarily a crisis, or “I don't know what to do,” but they do have a lot of options in front of them. A Lot of times, it's “I just need someone to talk this through with, and I would love a little guidance on how do I take that next step. How do I even know a next step is warranted?”
Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of that going on. I think COVID stirred a lot of that up for us. And as a career counselor choosing to see that as a great opportunity, right, take inventory of what's going on in our lives. And make sure we are using our time well, when we're working from home or maybe unemployed or whatever COVID brought for us in our career.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely. Well, I love your positive spin and that idea that it's an opportunity, and that—I mean, I know, it sounds kind of trite but hidden in difficult life experiences, there usually is an opportunity of some kind, but we just have to have to find it.
Okay, so if we go into this more deeply. Say that you have a career counseling client who's showed up and is in that situation. They're stable, maybe it's not a bad situation, but they're really having that sense of wanting more. They want a career that is in alignment with their passion, and they're doing something that they kind of like, but it's not as good as it could be. I'm wondering, if you could just, maybe you could start by just taking us into what are some of the things that you see these clients grappling with? I mean, not so much specific choices, but like, how does it feel?
Megan: Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting, it's a catch 22, right? Because if we do have a positive spin on it, and say, “Okay, this is a nice time to take some inventory and look through some things.” There's hope in that, and we love hope. We want to see hope. It's where I start a lot of time, let's foster help, if that doesn't feel like it's kind of readily available for us.
You were mentioning, it almost creates paralysis. Sometimes we become so hopeful, and so excited about what could happen next, that clients start to grapple with, oh, my gosh, paralysis analysis. “I put all of these options in front of me. I don't even know if half of these options are viable, if I should even be researching any of these options. Do I even like half of these options? What about all the other people this might affect?” I have a lot of clients that kind of forget. It's very normal.
People are affected by your job, right? Yes, it's a very personal experience, your career, because you're the one showing up doing the work advancing or not. But what about the family? Who are you living with that's impacted by this career choice? Do you have kids? Do you have a spouse? Do you live with roommates, they're also working from home, and if you make a career pivot, now you're going to work from home with them.
Definitely, grappling with just the context of their career. That is something that I don't take lightly as a career counselor. My therapy background kicks in and says, “Hey, what else is this spilling into?” Yes, you've got a 9 to 5 self that we're going to explore, your career self. What about when you close your laptop, or you hang up the phone, or you get back in your car and drive home? So not only are they grappling with just the options that are out there, we're also grappling with what kind of transition are we actually embarking on? If we do choose to shake some things up, and what's going to kind of be different if we do take a step in the next direction.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that's so important. I could see how that's a really necessary place to start. It's like, not even just what you want to do, but like the context of everything. That's a great point because I hear from people all the time that their career can become so consuming. So, like much of their life, it's almost difficult to have anything else. They get home at the end of the day, and they're so wiped out or exhausted. Or if your career pivot is going to require graduate school, and you have to maintain your job through that, how will that impact your personal life? Having that kind of conversation first to map it all out can be necessary.
Megan: Right. Well, we hope it saves us from a little heartache, right? Because if we do have the beauty of we’re not rushing into jobs. Sometimes that happens, we do have timelines, we do have families to support. But in exploring the context, that helps us determine what our timeline is.
Often when people come and meet with me, and then we start exploring the options, one of my very first questions is, “What kind of timeline are we working on here? Are you looking to be working with me for a long time? And we can take this, bit by bit? Because the salary that you're working with, or the paychecks you've got coming in cover you?” Or are you looking at me like, “No, Megan, this change needed to have happened yesterday. We're trying to move the ball really, really quickly here.”
So in establishing a timeline, it does give us a little wiggle room. It also helps us when we think about that long term. I call it identifying the landmines. Right, when we're looking into our future and what's out there, it can be really helpful to anticipate some things. It doesn't take away. Right? Landmines happen, big transitions happen in our lives, I think we could all agree with COVID, we all experienced probably one of the biggest transitions that we could not anticipate. But even just a little work around. “I might struggle with networking. It tends to make me feel a little bit uncomfortable” If we can anticipate that, when it comes to the networking piece, we've already known, “Hey, that's going to be a little scary. Maybe we take some of the scariness out of it.” And we now spend a little extra time in that field or in that arena of job searching, makes it a little easier moving forward. So in looking at context, we can anticipate sort of what’s going on.
Dr. Lisa: That makes sense. Because it's like there's a difference between somebody who really just needs a different job, like stat, versus somebody that you're working with, and it's conversations around, imagine like, “Do you want children? Where do you want to be living? What does your partner think about?” The phrase that's coming up is that designing a life type conversations compared to getting a different job, because those two things are really different.
Megan: Yeah. Well, and you're kind of actually speaking to some really big paradigm shifts that we did see in the career world. For a long time, moving forward, it was kind of that trait factor approach, right? Where if you have these skills, these aptitudes, well, here's a job that you can do. We've seen success for people like you in the field, go for it. There's still some really great knowledge we can glean from that.
As we're getting more complex as human beings, our society is getting more complex, so as our context, right? And you're kind of pointing out the kind of this life design paradigm that career counseling is really shifting into, and that takes in consideration, what are the roles I hold? What are my long-term goals? What are my values? It takes the employee and makes them into a human, rather than just an employee. Because good career counseling acknowledges the human in you. And says, “Hey, where are we getting this information from? What information is important to you when we are looking for jobs?”
Absolutely, life design is—that's where I feel most comfortable operating. And that's actually how I'm able to act as someone who honors her therapy path while being a really good career counselor. I kind of blend the two in that way.
Dr. Lisa: That's perfect. Because I think sometimes that's what people think is going to happen when they show up for career counseling. It's like you're going to give them a couple of tests, and then you're going to compute their scores, and then say, “Okay, you should be a forest ranger. Here are three places that you can apply and go do that.” Right. And, but yours.
Megan: See you when you’re done.
Dr. Lisa: There's that old school mentality. But what you're saying is that there's so much more to it, that it's not just what you could do, or that you would enjoy doing, or that has the benefits that you would be interested in. It's who are you as a human and what's your “Why?” Why are we doing all of this?
What Is My Passion?
Megan: Absolutely. The “why” is huge. That's what we focus on a lot of times, and especially when that word passion comes up. I have a lot of clients, “Megan, I want to do something I'm passionate about, I'm passionate about it.”
In kind of determining passion, first, we're starting with defining passion, because my passion is going to look a lot different than your passion, versus the guy walking down the street, he has a different passion than you do. So we're really spending some time defining—what does passion even look like. Because if we don't know, we're just shooting in the dark. Right? So we start with that.
Then as we're kind of moving forward and figuring other things out, I'm asking you about, “What did your parents have to say about career? What did your teachers have to say about career? How is that influencing the work that you're doing? Is that playing a factor in this?” Maybe you receive some negative information about the world of work and about career and that's actually holding you back, and we didn't really understand that just yet. That kind of matching approach would neglect that.
But looking at the person as a human says, “Hey, let's check out the messaging around this.” Or even, “What does the culture say about this? What messages are you intaking from our culture, from our society? Are you disqualifying yourself before we even put it on the table? Or do you have preconceived ideas about, “Well, I have to do that because of X, Y, and Z.” Right. We want to define passion. Those pieces, that's part of understanding your passion and getting clarity around the why.
Dr. Lisa: I think I'm hearing you say, the first step is to do some exploration on how you got to where you are right now, almost. It’s did you create this? Or were you sort of bending in the direction of these cultural forces and messages? Sort of differentiating what's you and the authentic self-directed part, versus what your mom thought you should do, or where your mom thought you should be when you are 31. Is that what you see happening?
Megan: 100%. Absolutely, yeah, definitely. In that connection, you’re really surprising for people, when I do ask questions around their past, they're like, “What do you mean? We're preparing for my future, five years?” “Yeah, we are. We're going to hold space for that.” And they've got a lot of cool questions oriented around that. The conversation around that, though, is so much more fruitful if you trust me for just a little bit and allow us to kind of pivot and turn back and say, “What brought you here? How did that go for you? Do you have some thoughts about your career?”
I also a lot of times in job searching, maybe when we are kind of getting into the more tough—kind of what we will call hard skills, right? Are you interviewing well, is your resume in line? Does your cover letter look good? When I kind of explore a lot of that, sometimes there's parts of our job past that we actually haven't made peace with. We need to spend some time around that. Right? So let's say you were in a job, you had a really negative experience, maybe management, you didn't enjoy management.
Dr. Lisa: It’s toxic environment kind of thing?
Megan: Toxic. Yeah, absolutely. Yep. Something that may be dragged you down. Maybe you got fired, or you got let go, and you haven't done any healing around that experience. When we kind of move forward and work on those hard skills, that actually might come up a little bit. If we can do some work on it before we get to that resume and cover letter, it's going to make that resume and cover letter work really fruitful.
That can be a surprise for people when I say, “Hey, tell me about what brought you here? How did you get to sitting in front of me from the start to the end? And let's pull some of that apart.” Trust piece comes in, because I asked them, “Can you trust me this is going to be effective?” Because sometimes, people are like, “This is dumb, I don't want to talk about it.” And I honor that, it can be hard, right? That typically indicates to me though, we do need to do a little work around what brought you here, and make sure we kind of make sense and meaning, right? The life design. When we're thinking about you as a human and how you've designed your life, I got to know what artistry and craftsmanship you do.
Dr. Lisa: Oh my gosh. I have never actually thought about it in that way before. But it's almost like shifting from a career or a job. I am such a relationship person. I'm running it through my relationship filter right now. But it would be impossible and not wise to jump into a new relationship without doing a little bit of an autopsy on the last one and how did that impact your… Even the dating coaching clients around talking about relationship history, where have you been, and certainly for couples, because these life experiences are so impactful.
What I'm hearing you say is that you're slowing people down sometimes to mine the growth experiences out of like, “What did you learn about yourself and your values in this situation with this toxic narcissistic boss?” What are you going to take from that, right?
Megan: Everyone's had one. Additionally a nice add on to this, not only do we kind of understand our past a little more and make some meaning out of it, there's some—you said the word kind of mining, right? I think of hidden gems. So when people talk to me about, “Hey, I want to do something I'm passionate about.” You kind of stare at the abyss that is your future, how hard is it to define passion? Oh my gosh, you could spend 45 minutes sitting in silence and never fully defined passion.
So when I have clients that give me that blank stare of, “I don't really know,” I say, “Hey, let's take an easier approach. Let's start with your past. What went well, what didn't go well? What would you like to replicate? What could you do without never occurring again in your future?” Looking through those past experiences can be a very, very comfortable place to start. It's already happened, you're not having to create new answers. You're just reflecting what occurred. And it raises self-awareness, it kind of flexes—I use the kind of gym analogy a lot with clients—we're flexing muscles together.
The big muscle we work with in the beginning is reflection. Can you reflect on what's occurred in the past and make meaning out of it first, like we just chatted about? But can we also glean some really cool gems from it? “Did you really like working with kiddos in that last place? Really, you did? How are we going to fit that into our definition of passion? What does that mean for your future when we plan and kind of strategize and brainstorm together? What’s the past?” To see if that can give you kind of a roadmap.
Dr. Lisa: That's great. It's really that exploration and the mining to figure out who you are and what is important.
Okay, can I ask you a question? This is somewhat random, and I'm sure it's probably different for every person that I know. Here, in our practice, what we see a lot of, the types of clients are people who are sometimes fairly well established even, in careers in which they are objectively successful. They're okay. Nothing terrible is happening, but they're just not feeling it. They're bored sometimes, or they're like, “Eh, is this all?”
Question one related to that, how do you think that happens? Usually it requires at least some intention to get on a trajectory. A lot of times, it happens when we're so young. We need to choose college majors when we're 18. I don't know about you, I didn't know if I was coming or going when I was 18. I mean….
Megan: I got a lot to say about college majors, don’t even worry about it.
Dr. Lisa: I mean, do people just like get on this trajectory before they even truly know themselves? Is that how the situation is created? Or do you see other things lay there when you have a 29 year old who's dreading going to work on Monday? How does that happen?
Megan: Yeah, a couple of different things. And you kind of, you touched on it right, with each person there’s a little difference. But college, absolutely. If someone does go the kind of “traditional route,” where they finish up their secondary schooling, they finished high school, and they are going to move into a university setting. And yeah, there's a lot of pressure in those four years, if you do a four-year degree, if you do a two-year degree, to kind of make a stamp right? And say, “This is what I'm doing. I picked this major.” If you're one of the really great people, and you go to your career center, awesome. Maybe you've done a little work around that.
Fun fact, I'm a career counselor, and I never once went to my career center. No, it happens, yes, we're the—oh my gosh, we're bad. The bulk of us are like this, we didn't even know this field existed until we got into it ourselves.
But what happens a lot of times, there's nothing wrong with picking that trajectory, sticking to it, moving forward. That shows dedication, that shows commitment, I think that's great. What I noticed when that happens is a lot of times, there's just a lack of self-awareness. Because when you think about that, there was really no pause that was required of you to take inventory. So when you let's say, do pick that major. And let's say I'm going to pick on human development, because that's what I majored in, right. So I picked that trajectory. I get into my very first job, I keep moving, I keep moving, I keep moving.
When I'm motivated by just getting the next job, never am I required to pause and say, “Why the heck did I pick human development in the first place? Why am I even enjoying this anymore? Am I enjoying this anymore? When my self-awareness and my reflection muscle, like I was talking about that exercise analogy, when that gets weak, when I'm not working out reflecting, it's not going to be my go-to exercise. I'm not going to reflect on what's happening. I'm not going to kind of initiate my own pause and say, “Am I actually enjoying it?” So that sometimes happens. That's one of the first things I see.
The second thing that I see for people, when they are let's take that 29-year-old, just don't even want to get up and go to work today, outside factors can influence that. Some people get married earlier than they had anticipated. They have children earlier than anticipated. They experience a cross country move that they had never thought was going to happen. They have a parent who gets sick that they now have to be the caretaker for.
A lot of times, what I just say, life happens. And it was by necessity that you just had to keep moving from job to job because that paycheck was really important to you. That's just as valid of an experience as someone who picked a major and stuck with it all the way till the end. That’s why when I'm with my clients, I'm taking time to figure out how I got there. We can make meaning around that.
I want to know when you tell me, you had kids earlier than you expected, tell me how important they are to you, though. And did you still use that time really well because I'm sure you did. Even if you were moving paycheck to paycheck, let's make some meaning around it, maybe take some of—I find when people are at that spot, there's shame. Right? They're looking at themselves at 29 thinking…
Dr. Lisa: How did I get here?
Megan: “I really envisioned something different.” Exactly. And there's a lot of despair, actually, that comes out of like, “Man, I don't really know how this even happened.” When I mentioned hope, right, it's really hard to do any kind of career work without hope. We're going to kind of figure out at that age 29, I hate this spot. “Okay, let's make some meaning of how you got here, though, first. That fosters hope, it's going to be a little easier to look forward.” So those are kind of the two big, I would say, processes that I see people get in there. It's dependent on each clients.
Dr. Lisa: It makes so much sense. But I could almost see how like having it make sense to your clients, too. You brought up words, I mean, big words like shame and despair. But to be able to tell the story about, yeah, “Here's what was actually going on in my life when I made this decision. And this is why it made sense at the time. I could see how, many times, these decisions are like the path of least resistance in some ways.” And then over time, it kind of snowballs because your work experience, your work history qualifies you for more of this situation. And so you’re like, you keep growing and developing in a field that you are sort of ambivalent about, to begin with. And then, at a certain point, like, you have a great income, you have all the things and it's hard to let go of, because there's almost a lot to lose without idea of—I mean, it's not always starting over, certainly, but I think it can be scary.
How to Find Your Passion
Megan: Yeah, but it can feel that way. It can feel even if it's not fully starting over, you're still probably for one of the first times in your life, out loud saying, “I'm not happy where I’m at.” And that alone can really be—it's jarring to kind of admit that though, sticking with this 29—I’m sorry for all the 29-year-olds out there, I'm sure people are doing well at 29.
Dr. Lisa: It's a crossroads that that age, yeah, 28 to 32.
Megan: And we love them, we love them. That can be—imagine having to reflect on your whole life and say, “Wow, my choices got me here. Okay, but I'm doing all right, I'm going to make some changes. It's a really scary part to be in.” That's why career counseling can be so wonderful. You finally have somebody to have that feeling with, if despair comes up, if shame comes up. A lot of people though, it's excitement. And it's, “Okay, I'm ready to do it. I can't believe we're finally—we get past that panic of oh my gosh, everything shifting, the excitement kicks in, the hope kicks in. The what's next?
A lot of people get really ambitious. They're like, “Okay, I've been waiting all this time, right?” There's this energy in them that comes up.We just got to make a little meaning of it first, and something that I really enjoy kind of letting people in on when we do start talking about “Okay, what's next, and how can we do this?” When we're making meaning of that past, or when we're naming some of the feelings that we're having, and we're just getting language around it, we're actually kind of using a double-edged sword. Not only are you going to feel a lot better about it and find some hope, you also just practice articulating that to an employer.
Let's say we are in an instance where 29 years in the making, you've been working on this career, your resume shows that. Nw, let's say I'm in human development, and I'm shifting the business. “Oh my gosh, my resume doesn't look at all like what it should look like to get me into business.” So, when I'm in that interview, and they're asking me, “Hey, Megan, there's a pretty big gap between the direction you're headed and where you've been. Help us understand.” You've already spent time working with me, putting language to this experience, articulating it, understanding it, taking the shame out of it, taking the fear out of it. It's a really, really, kind of hidden skill that I try to get my clients to enjoy with me of, “Thanks for doing this hard work.” First, you feel better, benefit number one. Second, these employers are really going to enjoy what meaning you did make out of it, and you just kind of without knowing it practice interviewing skills. So, I’m little sneaky about that, but it’s good.
Dr. Lisa: But before somebody can sell themselves to another person or an employer, it's like they have to have sold themselves on “yes,” they have to get that cut that type of clarity. That is like working through it with you and having those conversations and yeah. Wow.
Dr. Lisa: Okay, so now, I don't know if this has come up in your career counseling conversations, but I have talked to clients who sometimes struggle with the situation, because I think it can be difficult to have to figure out how bad is bad enough for me to want to burn this all down and go do a different thing. But it's almost—let's see, what are the words? How can people get clear as to whether or not they are really unhappy with this job specifically, versus what is kind of normal and expected when it comes to any career path?
Personally, I feel like I'm quite passionate about the work that I do. I had to have a couple career iterations before I figured that out. I'm sure you feel the same, like, there are some days where you're like, “Oh, can I do this today? Yes, I can. I can do it. I'm drinking my coffee, I'm going to do it.” There's always ebb and flow, and I think that it can be difficult for people to sometimes be, “Okay, so if I feel this way sometimes, does this mean that I'm in the wrong career? Because there's something that it could be more passionate about? Or is this just what it feels like to be in a long-term career?” Like a long term relationship, you know? There are times when your partner, like the rest of us, is a mixed bag. It's not always fun. Just sorting through, doesn't mean I need a different career, or is this me needing to work on myself? How bad is bad enough to make—and I know that this is a big, complicated, probably incoherent question that I've just asked of you. I'm sure your clients probably come in, with some kind of download that’s similar around with that I said.
Megan: I am so used to, right making sense of the—I get a lot of “I'm sorry, I just thought about it.” That’s fine.
Dr. Lisa: Exactly. That’s what we do on this podcast, which is I just word vomit.
How to Find a Career You Love
Megan: Yeah, yes. Let the thoughts roll. Yes. You know what? That can be a really hard to kind of define that threshold, it’s a really challenging threshold to define. It is. A lot of times it's client to client, circumstances to circumstances.
First thing we're looking at, how secure is that job making you? Before we do any craziness, is this a job that paycheck to paycheck, if that paycheck were to go away, things would not be looking good? We have to take in the reality of the situation first, when we think about that, once we've done some work around that. For some clients, that's a really quick answer of like, “I'm good, it's time.” For other clients, we're going to have to kind of reach that threshold, get some skills around hanging in that threshold because we need to stay in this job for a little bit longer. That's okay.
Let's take the great scenario of I'm ready, “My savings is set. I'm good to go.” When we think about ebbs and flows, and kind of how we tackle them in a day-to-day situation, the first thing you're going to look at, and this is actually a really fun activity you can do with somebody or on your own: envision your life at a 10 year mark and a five year mark. Start as far out as possible. For some people that far out mark may only be two years, and that's okay. Some of my younger clients, when you're just getting out of school, it's going to be that, you're, “I don't really know this field just yet.” So, we're only looking at two years, that's okay.
Pick your timeframe. I'll do 10 years, and we'll use my personal life example. In 10 years, I've got a lot of goals around it. When I reflect on where I'm at currently, I asked myself the question of “Does this job align with my 10-year goal.” Typically, thankfully, right now, my answer is yes. So, when I'm pouring that cup of coffee with a sleepy man in my eye, because it's Monday, and I don't want to go to work, I say to myself, In 10 years, you're going to have done so much work to get here, it's going to be worth it.”
Now, let's say you have your 10-year vision, and when you think about that 10-year mark, I challenge you to think about where are you living? Who are you living with? What car are you driving, what groceries do you have in your fridge? Think about the lifestyle you want when you think about that 10 year goal. Not just “I want to have this job title.”Got to get more specific. When you think about and you detail out that vision, let's say the answer actually is, “Wow, in 10 years, no, my life looks a lot different. And the current role I'm in now is not getting me there. That's maybe how we're determining the threshold.
Dr. Lisa: that kind of difference there, is this a vehicle to get me to where I want to go. But first, you really have to be clear about that—where do I actually want to go? As opposed to just waking up every day and doing the same thing over and over again.
Megan: Yeah, right? Well, because we don't want to make any crazy decisions, just because we're not feeling happy at work, right? And I think the word burnout has been tossed around so much at COVID. And I work a lot with the symptoms of burnout, and it can be really challenging to kind of define it and look at it. When we're experiencing symptoms of burnout, it can be really easy to want to pull the plug and say, “Forget it. I'm going on to Indeed, I'm going on to LinkedIn, I'm finding a new job, I don't care. I don't want to do this anymore.” It's okay to have those feelings. Bring those feelings on in, sit with those feelings, journal them out, cry them out, scream them out, do what you got to do. Don't make a decision when you're in that specific moment, right?
Dr. Lisa: That’s a good advice.
Megan: Because that's when we see kind of the “Ooh, maybe we could have avoided some of this toss up that's happening, some of this uncertainty now that we just quit a job that was actually really stable, and maybe did align with our 10 year plan,” right? Having that 10-year plan and goal and vision already designed for you. Though, sometimes it can be nice just to escape to that for a couple minutes a day, enjoy your vision, enjoy it. Remind yourself why you're doing the work you're doing right now so those crazy kind of quick knee jerk reactions aren't dictating too much of your life.
Dr. Lisa: What a good point, and we could talk so much more deeply about this topic. Our time is limited, but that's a wonderful resting point and a reminder that, when we're not really well, like in burnout. I mean, there are a lot of symptoms of burnout that really do mimic depression. It changes that way you think, it changes the way you feel. What you're saying is, when you're in that sort of mental and emotional space, it is not the best time to make major life decisions with major life consequences. It's almost like, slow down, take some time to get real clear. Yeah, thank you for saying that.
Especially I think right now, in this day and age, people probably need to hear that because who is at their best, right now? In this particular moment?
Megan: Very few.
Dr. Lisa: Give it some time and space, and thank you.
Megan: Well, and it also kind of touches on another word that even prior to COVID got tossed around a lot, is self-care, right? How are you taking care of yourself? Now, if we think about, maybe you are kind of reaching close to that crisis point of I'm ready to throw up my hands and just quit. Yeah, what happens if those symptoms of burnout that you're feeling are because of a lack of self-care? If you just move into that next job and don't really address kind of the root of what's going on, we're just going to replicate that almost crisis moment again, right? So taking pause, and reflecting and allowing kind of the dust to settle, we're able to more clearly define what's going on and get to the root of that concern. When you do move into this next position, again, we're not repeating old habits.
Coming right back to me, “Well, Megan, I'm still just as bummed.” Well, the reality was, you weren't sleeping, okay, and we didn't fix the sleeping concern. So no matter what job you take, you're not going to show up healthy and rested, because you're not taking care of yourself. So kind of pause.
Dr. Lisa: That idea that if you don't work on yourself, you will, even subconsciously, wind up replicating the same sorts of patterns. Again, I'm thinking of relationships right now. That people have an influence on their environments, and a lot of times without even realizing it. You're saying that people could do that in their career, and you were talking about self-care, but I'm sure there's ways of thinking and feeling and ways of communicating and ways of leading and productivity stuff.
Megan: Well, and when I'm talking about that exercise metaphor, right, of are we flexing and exercising, self-reflection, self-awareness? The ability to just name where we're at. If we're not kind of checking in on some of those core—I would call them, soft skills that are really important for being a successful employee, or being a successful human being, shoot. We're going to jump the gun. If we don't really spend some time working on those things and getting those muscles strong. Because inevitably, and I tell a lot of my clients this, you're going to end up right back with me and that's okay, I love spending time with you, and I want to make you a self-sufficient, self-sustaining human being, who if and like when you reach these career transitions again, you kind of pull your tool belt back on.
You've got your strong muscles, and you get to do the work yourself because you already know how to do this. Instead of kind of letting it get to that negative almost crisis point where self-care has gone out the window and burnout symptoms are happening everywhere. We want to prevent that, preemptively, if at all possible.
Dr. Lisa: Wonderful reminders. Megan, this was such a fabulous conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with me today.
Megan: Absolutely, this is something I could have all day long.
Dr. Lisa: You're Passionate.
Megan: That's the best part, because some people are like, “Well, how did you get to where you're at?” I'm like, “If only you knew, there's been a lot of work to get here.” So thank you so much for letting me kind of chat your ear off and just share the world that I feel so comfortable. And I really appreciate it.
Dr. Lisa: Thank you again, Megan.
Well, you guys, I don't know about you, but I am feeling so inspired now after talking with Megan. If you are, too, and if you would like to talk to Megan, you can cruise on over to growingself.com to learn more about her. I know that she has a couple of wonderful articles up on our blog right now, at growingself.com. You can take advantage of those and our other online career resources that are all there just for you.
Of course, if you would like to speak with Megan, you can always request a first free consultation and get that party started. So, thank you again for visiting with us today. And I'll be back in touch next week with another episode of the podcast.
[So Many Things by Aurora D’Amico plays]
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