How to Achieve Career Happiness (When You’re Not Sure What To Do Next)

Discovering Your “Right Fit” Is Key

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but I do know this isn’t it.”

It’s frustrating when you come to realize your chosen career isn’t cutting it anymore.

Yes, the work you’re doing is paying the bills, but it’s providing little else — joy, satisfaction, motivation, recognition, inspiration — you name it.

You’re miserable. You know you have the talent, knowledge, skills, and abilities to do so much more. And, you want so much more, from your work, and in your life.

It just isn’t happening. It feels like it hasn’t been happening for years now and it’s time for a change.

But with no clear path ahead, you’re not sure what to do.

Sure, you want to make good money, to make a difference, to find work that makes you happy, fulfilled and successful. And, you certainly don’t want to end up in another job like this one.

What should you do?

In this post I will share the story of one of my former clients, Maria (not her real name), who was unhappy and wanted to know what path to take to gain more fulfillment in her career. Hopefully, you can learn from her story and feel motivated to find the right direction for more happiness in your own career and life.

Maria’s Dilemma

If you’re anything like Maria, you’ve worked hard for a well-known company and have been successful in your career. A business analyst, Maria was so good at her job she was literally handed promotions over the seven years she’d been with her company.

She managed a global team. She had earned a seat at the decision-making table. She was proud of what she’d done. She had gone further in her career than she had ever thought possible.

But she hated her job (and, by extension, her life).

She was so fed up with the stress of an overwhelming work load and being available 24/7 for a global work force she had no time or energy left for fully experiencing other parts of her life. She was more than ready for a change.

But to what?

Unsure of what to do next, she had been reading career self-help books for the last four months. She had asked family and friends for advice. The suggestions she got were endless and often confusing and contradictory.

She searched job sites on weekends when she’d come home on a Friday night saying “I’ve had it!” She fooled around with updating her resume on Sunday, then promptly shoved it in a drawer Monday evening telling herself she’d just have to make it work, due to the start of another busy week.

Meanwhile, the months were ticking by.

When “Making It Work” Doesn’t Work Any More

The point of no return came one Friday evening. On a rare occasion when Maria and her husband were both at home, he told her he could see how miserable she was.

Just hearing someone say “miserable” out loud, confirmed how unbearable her situation had become. She was upset that it showed, and confessed that she was more than ready to do something different.

With his support, Maria made a decision. She was done. It was time to move on. But how and to what?

As so often happens in life, by deciding to take action, an opportunity presented itself.

Maria decided to listen to an on-line webinar called, “How to Thrive, Not Just Survive, In Your Career.” She liked what she heard and realized reading all the books in the world and gathering all kinds of friendly advice might not get her where she needed to be. She decided to take action and hired the presenter and career coach — me, to help her find her path to career happiness.

You Have a Purpose

Some of the words Maria heard on that webinar that so clearly resonated with her were those of Rumi, the 12th century Persian Mystic and Poet,

“Everyone has been called for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in his or her heart.

Like me, she believed you are born with a distinct set of talents and gifts. You are designed like no one else. You have a special role to play and a unique contribution to make.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t help but being you. When you go to work, you bring yourself with you. No matter what job you’re in, you’re going to be doing what you were born to do.

The problem comes from doing what you were born, or designed to do, in the wrong place, in the wrong position, or for the wrong people or organization.

How do you know when a job isn’t right for you?

You feel much of what Maria was experiencing. You feel at odds with something — a boss, a co-worker, what your company stands for, the way things are being done, or what work zaps out of you day after day.

You’re unhappy. There’s a lack of fulfillment and motivation. You may not be recognized, appreciated or rewarded for what you contribute. You resent the hours it steals away from what you’d rather be doing, or who you’d rather be spending your time with.

Imagine that you have a natural talent for seeing a problem and knowing, right away, how to solve it. You know exactly what needs to be done, so deep is your conviction, there’s no doubt you have the answer. But you have a boss who won’t listen, or you work for a company that doesn’t care, or won’t provide the resources for you to fix what you see is wrong.

You will be frustrated to no end. Your creativity and problem-solving skills are being hampered and can’t be used. You won’t be recognized, appreciated, or rewarded for who you are — a problem solver.

When you know, without a doubt, what your authentic purpose is, and what you were designed to do, you hold the key to where you fit, and where you don’t.

So that was Maria’s first step. To discover who she really was. One of the quickest and easiest ways to discover your purpose, and the way that Maria discovered hers, was with unbiased guidance and support that came from an experienced coach and from a career assessment her coach recommended.

A benefit of coaching, as Maria soon discovered, was the deeper insights she gained. For example, you can be qualified to do many types of jobs and to do them well. To be happy and fulfilled, you need to enjoy what you’re doing.

Align With Your Purpose For a Change

When there’s a gap between who you are and the kind of work you’re doing, it’s a true sign you’re out of alignment with what you are born to do.

Through working with her coach, Maria discovered striving for balance was one of her unique gifts. Like the problem-solver above, Maria was constantly frustrated largely because her life wasn’t balanced. At work she was surrounded by disharmony and was often powerless to do anything about it.

So for step two, Maria and her coach delved deeper with some specific questions designed for her. It was soon revealed that Maria liked putting puzzle pieces together. She wanted to continually learn new things. She needed to feel like she was helping people rather than just putting out fires, analyzing numbers and reviewing spreadsheets (like she was doing in her current job).

Armed with more information about who Maria really was and what she needed to feel fulfilled, several career choices emerged.

In creating her path forward we made sure her past experience was taken into account, identified the type of environment that she would thrive in, and what was necessary to create the lifestyle she wanted.

Step three was using the clarity we had gleaned from our discussions to guide her job search.

Being in alignment with what you’re designed to do is like zeroing in on a bull’s eye on a target at an archery range. With your sights focused, you know exactly what to go for so that your light can shine.

This simple “bull’s eye” technique kept Maria from wasting a lot of time looking for jobs that wouldn’t be a good fit.

She reviewed, applied for, and interviewed for jobs that had the potential to make her happy doing meaningful work.

She felt confident she was on the right path.

With all of the preparation and exploration we had done, Maria wasn’t afraid of falling into the trap of interviewing for a job that was just like the one she was trying to get out of.

Find New Motivation and Your Right Fit

Step four was finding the time and motivation to look for a new job. In addition to finding a new direction, Maria received guidance from her coach that had her developing new skills and tactics to manage her overwhelming workload much more efficiently.

Finally she felt like she had some power over her career and life.

Beginning to move forward, her motivation soared. In addition to finding time to conduct her targeted job search, she was going to the gym, and taking healthy lunches to work.

Now it was time to make sure her aligned and focused job search included a revised resume.

Step five was to revise her resume so it got her in the door for new opportunities, and described what she did, what she could do, and who she was, ensuring a good fit.

Step six was to arm her with powerful questions. This way she could gather important information during her interviews ensuring that the position was a good fit.

And, step seven was to do some interview prep to make sure she was confident in any interview situation.

Within five months Maria had landed a position in an accounting firm close to home. She was able to balance accounts and to make more money. She was able to keep learning as new rules and laws were rolled out. She helped people be more successful in businesses and in their personal lives.

She was also able to balance her life.

She was less stressed. She was losing weight. She was going to the gym every day. She enjoyed her colleagues. Her evenings belonged to her. And, thankfully, she was spending more quality time with her husband.

Achieve Career Happiness In a Few Short Steps

Your purpose already exists. All it takes is uncovering it. (You may have to let go of who you thought you “should be” or who someone else, maybe a parent or a teacher, wanted you to be.) Then, it is easy to find the path that matches who you are.

Making the decision is the first step. Getting the support you need can provide the motivation to move forward to find your right fit.

With a target in mind, it’s easier to take inspired action. With the right guidance and help staying focused along the way, you’ll have the skills, confidence, and tools needed to take the next step, and the next one.

Before you know it, you’ll be in a job that aligns with your purpose. You’ll be happy because you are using all of your gifts, talents, and abilities and you’ll be recognized and rewarded for doing so. You’ll have your life back and will be doing what your heart was calling you to do.

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