"How to find a career that I enjoy?" Guess what? If you're reading this, it is very likely that you've asked that to yourself frequently of late. After all, with all the burden of the soul crushing career and the fact that you need a change, it should be easy to jump out right?
Wrong! Career paralysis is real. And when I say this, I mean it. I was stuck in my consulting career for a good 1.5 years wondering what to do next, floundering about from exit option to exit option. And don't get me wrong, but the smarter you are, the bigger this problem is!
Why? Because you like to think through things and that is very likely why you are at your current job, optimising every bit of data that comes your way. If you are anything like me, you're also balancing showing up for your colleagues every day while cursing the leadership for taking on more than they can chew on their plates. You have the picture perfect career on paper but the moment you dig a bit deeper, you know it's a house of cards, waiting to take a break and not come back! After all, is the paycheck you get at the end of the month worth the soul-sucking job that keeps you busy all day and night?
No! But why can't you get out of the loop of rinse and repeat?
I'll tell you why. It's fear. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of being judged. Fear of being overwhelmed by all the unknowns we have to solve for. It's easier to be in the state of status quo... easier, but not helpful! The idea is to move and get unstuck as soon as you can. Even if that means making mistakes. Even if that means losing a bit of time and money. Because there is no inertia like the inertia that says "in this economy, I am lucky to have a job" or one that says "at least it pays the bills". Funny thing is I never was one of those people but that 1.5 year when I was stuck, it was bad. I was thinking, "What if this is as far as I will ever get?" and that was heart wrenching for someone like me who was ambitious for not only my career but also my life. So, what did I do?
1. Networked with as many people as I could within and outside my firm
I am quite introverted but that has never stopped me from networking like a pro. Why? Because the more introverted you are, the more the odds that you prefer one-on-one conversations than group ones. And nothing like one-on-one connections when you're trying to form a real bond. I used this like my super-power. I went to networking events, I used apps like Shapr, I connected with alum and mentors on LinkedIn. And most importantly, I kept in touch with recruiters who surfaced new and interesting opportunities to me.
2. Spoke to career coaches
Like many overly smart consultants, I had wondered if coaches were indeed worth paying for. In fact I didn't for the first couple of coaches. I went to my firm's internal career change team and they provided me with a firm sponsored coach. It was frankly useless.
However, I was slipping down further and further. So I decided to actually see someone properly. And I have to tell you the truth about coaching - you need to be ready for them. If you're not ready, even the best coach will be useless. But the value that a good coach can add to your career is phenomenal.
3. Got mentors
Till this point, I had thought that mentors are only for the lucky ones. Or wondered why anyone would want to help me figure my life and career. However, opening up to people who had navigated the same dilemmas before and those whom I admired, opened my eyes to what top performers have access to - the gift of mentoring. And it's a gift from you to you- all you have to do is to reach out and ask for help.
4. Took personal development courses
I am a nerd of the highest freaking order. So I didn't stop at coaches and mentors. I went ahead and bought a few expensive courses. And those made me take action. The thing is, when you intentionally spend both time and money for what you want to be changing in your life or job, you actually end up doing it. And most good courses take pride in you taking action rather than hitting the buy button and hoping that your problems will vanish.
5. Started this blog
When you read through the earlier entries of this blog, you'll find a series of career diaries that I got friends, colleagues and associates to share with me. This helped both them and me - it helped me understand where I want to go with my career. It helped them to cut out the fluff from their weeks. In fact, I started this blog as a note to self journal which when shared has become incredibly helpful to people. So, even if you're terrible at writing and can't be bothered to blog, I do recommend having some journal because it helps you clear your head, massively!
Career paralysis is real but it can be solved. I am a living proof of that and if I can, you for sure can. You don't need to be a rocket scientist, you just have to be diligent and show up everyday. For yourself.