Critical missteps can send you down the wrong path
Being a researcher at heart, I love to explore key trends that reflect the deepest challenges professionals face. And if I can, I like to distill down to the bare essentials the vital lessons that successful professionals and career changers have gleaned from their respective journeys.
Those lessons include how to avoid the three most limiting actions that so often lead to unfulfilling or even disastrous job and career moves. Successful professionals avoid these four moves:
- Attaching to the expectation that your new direction should guarantee happiness for your entire lifetime.
People get so stuck and confused – and take the wrong steps – when they operate with the hope or expectation that the next move has to meet their needs and wants until the day they die. Forget about that. If you’re like me and the vast majority of people I’ve ever met, you will change and grow so much in the next 20 years, that you won’t even recognize yourself. Successful people who love their work focus on making the one move that will create the most happiness and reward now and in the next chapter (say, for five years).
Tip: Determine your true, authentic action style and focus on career moves that will help you leverage and honor that style and your deepest values. That’s the pathway to success, if you do it in the right way.
- Always going for the “safe” thing, not the thrilling thing.
Passion is what you need to weather the harsh challenges. “Safe” career moves, on the other hand, almost never get you where you really want to be in the long run, for two core reasons:
- Nothing outside of you is truly “safe.” No job, employer, organization, direction, etc. is foolproof or change-resistant. Your industry or your job function can literally disappear overnight or in a few short years, even though you were sure it was “safe.”
- Safe doesn’t allow for growth, and growth towards our highest potential is what makes us happiest and most fulfilled. Yes, stretching out of our comfort zones is scary. But I’ve found there are two types of stretching – one that leaves you disappointed and one that brings you higher: Doing something “scary” that conventional society expects of you (like asking for a big promotion, or taking a more senior “desk job” because it’s the “responsible” path) vs. Doing the one brave thing that thrills and scares you to expect of yourself.
Tip: Identify the three most thrilling and juicy directions, then research thoroughly what it would take to assume the professional identity required of these directions. Research, shadow, intern, volunteer, contribute, run a project – try it on in every way possible, like a suit of clothes. Understand deeply what these directions would mean and demand of you. Then choose the one that fits the best with who you are and what you value, need and desire.
- Asking the absolute wrong people for advice.
Those who have tremendous success and joy in their work surround themselves with the right supporters, advisers, advocates and ambassadors who lift them up. Countless other professionals try to get help in their careers, but often ask the wrong people. They ask their spouses, their friends, bosses, family members, even mentors whom they think will aid them. But many of these individuals turn out not to be the best advisors. Why? Because they haven’t taken the right steps in their own lives and careers to reach their highest potential, and don’t know how to advise you correctly toward reaching your visions.
Here’s how to know whom to ask for help:
- Are they thrilled with what they’re personally doing?
- Can they offer advice that isn’t just about how they did it, but that will help you (with your unique style) become the best version of yourself?
- Can they get behind what you’re trying to do, even if they have fears and judgments about it?
- Do you feel they know and respect the real you (not just the public facade you present)?
Tip: Find five mentors who are doing what you dream to do, whom you admire, not only for what they’re doing, but how they’re doing it. Ask if you can connect with them and learn more about their trajectories, and what they did that was bold and scary, to get there. But don’t reach out to a total stranger. If you have no one in your immediate world who fits that bill, expand your horizons and grow your community.
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is an international career and personal growth coach, writer, speaker and leadership developer dedicated to the helping professionals build happier, braver lives and careers. The author of Breakdown, Breakthrough, and founder of Ellia Communications, Inc., the Amazing Career Project and Amazing Career Certification training for coaches, she is also a leading contributor on Forbes, Thrive Global, and LinkedIn, a TEDx speaker, and top media source on career and personal growth, leadership, and women's issues. For more info, visit kathycaprino.com and connect with Kathy on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.