As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve found myself looking back at a year of change and feeling grateful for lessons learned. In the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share them with you in the context of career growth.
Lesson # 1 Follow Your Gut
Sometimes our brains get in the way. We get caught up in the idea that going to X graduate school or working at X company will net higher paying positions, more prestige, or a bigger title. Or we may feel stuck in a career rut, and be unwilling to change because the analytical part of our brain warns against it. This is our fear (Future Events Appearing Real) getting in the way, and stinking thinking ensues.
What would happen if we listened more to our intuition?
For me, living by my own standards, and trying to ignore the word “should” has helped me become more creative, productive, healthier, and happier. I am now following a path where I can truly connect with others and be of service both professionally and personally.
Balancing the head and the heart can help you make a plan for your future that resonates intellectually and emotionally as well. My hope is that following your gut will open doors that you never thought were there, like it has for me.
Lesson # 2 Let Go
In 2019, I transitioned from my role in talent acquisition at a Fortune 100 company. I moved on to a path giving me more time and freedom to connect with others as a coach. To start anew I needed to expand my network, reconnect with past colleagues and friends, and face down my doubts and insecurities. Sound familiar?
I had to realize that my efforts to control my environment and others was born of fear. The structure of corporate life gave me the illusion of safety and financial security, but I was afraid of failure. By letting go of my desire for control, my life continues to get better.
Sharing this lesson with my clients has helped them too.
· A corporate executive was let go from her company with a disappointing severance. When we worked on mock interviews, her negative emotions over how things ended with her former employer were tainting her responses. After we talked about acceptance, her nonverbal communication vastly improved, which will only help her in networking and interviewing as she moves forward.
· A high-level technology leader was having problems at his new company. He’d been a high potential leader in the top 5% of all corporate performers for 18 years at his previous employer, but this new role just wasn’t the right fit. When he was transitioned from his new employer after less than a year, he felt lost and insecure. We spent several sessions digging into his true passions, what he wants in his next job, and what success looks like. He was able to let go of several misconceptions. Now he’s focusing his career search on people, companies, and opportunities that are congruent with his authentic self.
Lesson # 3 Be Authentic
I’ve shared in the past my love for Zumba, and how much I’ve gained from its “dance like you just don’t care” mantra. Recently, I led a song in a Zumba class, and it didn’t go as well I wanted (my head got in my way). I was beating myself up over this, but my mentor pointed out I needed to show myself more grace.
It’s the same lesson I continually share with clients.
We set these standards that hold us back and feed our negative self-talk. If we allow ourselves to go outside of our comfort zones sometimes we can take the risks that bring positive results. In the career sense, this can mean asking questions we might otherwise be afraid to ask. Or taking a chance on a job that’s a long-shot. By doing so, we end up in a new place that is far more true to who we are.
Lesson # 4 Hang Out with Kindergartners
Spending time with kids is another great way to remind ourselves not to take everything so seriously. I recently volunteered in a Kindergarten class and was reminded that we really do learn everything we need in life at age five.
We need more play and curiosity in our lives. Even in our careers. I knew things needed to change for me, but I couldn’t do that sitting at my desk proving myself in a first-in, last-out work environment.
When I take the time to find joy, free myself to be silly and do something completely unlike me, that’s when I get a new idea or the fresh perspective I need to tackle a problem in a different, more productive way.
I say go swing on that swing, or take that acting or meditation class, or play the drums to respect all the facets of yourself and empower your full best self.
Lesson # 5 Join a Book Club
Making the time to get out there and join a community of people reading different books has inspired me. Reading books I wouldn’t normally read has helped to expand my thinking. Plus, I get to interact with people with various perspectives and have learned so much. For me, drinking red wine, laughing, and talking books with a diverse group of people has been a way to practice respecting one another.
If you’re not a reader, join a professional association or a club related to another hobby or interest. That’s how you meet new people and expand your thinking. Wherever you are in your career search, being able to engage with other perspectives and relate to a broader community is only going to help your trajectory.
Ultimately, this has been a year of change for me. And for that I’m grateful. This growth helps me prepare clients to be their Best You at work. While I focus on concrete elements such as networking, writing resumes, interviewing, and presenting yourself on social media, I also support my clients in finding the career path that suits their passions.
I want to empower individuals to be more productive, creative, and happier by being authentic. It’s really about regaining who you are and being comfortable and confident in that. When others see the Best You, it will pay off personally and professionally.