I recently left my job after 10 years. I had a really good position, working with great people in a growing company and I was fortunate with the opportunities provided to me. But, something was missing. I wasn’t happy so I set out on a journey to find out why and how to be happier.
My parents came from the generation where you worked for the same company your entire career and it wasn’t a matter of whether you liked your job or not, you just did it and didn’t complain because that’s the way it was done. So with this as the background for how I was brought up, what was wrong with me that I wasn’t content in my job or that I didn’t value the opportunities presented to me (and there were many)? To help me figure this out, I started working with a life coach in 2012. I was a little apprehensive at first, wondering how could a coach really help, but after a few sessions, I quickly saw the value of the coaching and the opportunity to gain a different perspective.
After a series of exercises and journaling to get to the root of some of my truths, it simply boiled down to me not being happy because I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing. I’ve always been passionate about my career and pride myself on being the best that I can be but, you can’t fake passion and I lost mine for the position a few years ago. I should have left my job then but I was scared because at that time in my career, I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I regret this decision as it wasn’t fair to my boss, the company or me but you learn from your mistakes and be a better person for them.
So what did I take from my experience that I can share with you? First, you need to be truly passionate about your work to be happy and do your best work. If not, it will impact both your professional and personal lives. So, are you happy with your work? If you’re not, take the time to find out why. Have you hit a plateau in your job? Do you not like your current roles & responsibilities? Do you not like the industry you’re in? In my case, after 10 years, the industry no longer aligned with my values and some of my new job responsibilities no longer leveraged my strengths. As my job evolved over the years, I don’t think I was in the right role to best take advantage of my skill sets but rather than be proactive about my situation, I became reactive.
And this gets me to my second point -- don’t let ambiguity paralyze you in making decisions. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next so I stayed in a job I wasn’t passionate about and not as effective as I could be. Ambiguity, while scary, provides lots of opportunity and you need to embrace this opportunity vs. running from it. You need to empower yourself to assess your situation and talk to your boss because in most cases, there are solutions that will work for everyone and you need to be able to see them. Trust me, it’s never as bad as that voice in your head make it out to be.
Third, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In my mind, I had a negative stigma attached to working with a coach (or some other professional) as I thought it would make me seem weak. I always thought at my level, I had to have all the answers. The reality is not asking for help made me look weak. Effective leaders know their strengths and weaknesses so regardless of where you are in your career, take advantage of the opportunity for someone to help you. It will be the best decision you’ll ever make.
And last, it’s imperative that you are happy! When you’re happy, you see the world and any problems you are facing in a totally different light. So make a list of the things that make you happy, and do them as much as you can. If you’re happy in your personal life, you’ll be happier in your professional life. And even if things are not perfect at work, being happy will allow you to attack these issues and any fears you have more confidently than if you’re not. We all have a choice to make so I choose to be happy and know that everything else will work itself out.