Everyone faces tough times at some point in their career. And most of the challenges that we experience are ones that we can share with each other at some point in our lives.
Here are a few examples of some major career challenges you may have experienced. Which ones can you relate to?
1) You've been a loyal employee at your company for a couple of years and are ready to take the next step to a promotion. One of your colleagues who is in a higher position is leaving, and you're hoping to step up to that role. Unfortunately, the promotion was given to one of your co-workers who is in your same position, and has even been at the company for a shorter period of time.
2) You have interviewed for a job you're really excited about. You met multiple times with people at the company, and have done all you can do to put yourself in a position to receive an offer. However, you received a call letting you know the company was going to hire another candidate.
3) You've been a job for about 6 months, but it's never felt like the right fit. In fact, you've even started looking for a new position. You're called into a meeting with your supervisor who says that it hasn't been working out, and informs you that you're being laid off.
4) You're going on the 5th year at your job. You're feeling bored, burned out, unmotivated and it's showing in your performance lately. You are ready for a new challenge, either at your current company or at a new job but don't know how to make that happen.
While these are common challenges that many people face in their careers, what sets everyone apart is how they are dealt with. Each one of these situations are difficult and don't have an easy solution to overcome.
The first thing to do to move forward in these tough situations is to acknowledge them for what they are, and understand that it's normal to feel upset and frustrated when they happen.
But, to move past them, you should remind yourself that all experiences are opportunities for growth.
The road to success in your career is never a straight line, and there will always be detours, wrong turns, and bumps along the way. The question is how will you handle those obstacles when they come along.
In tough times we can't always explain, or find the reasoning behind what happened. All we can do is move forward. And the best way to do that to learn, grow and move to the next step is to ask yourself this one question:
WHAT'S THE OPPORTUNITY?
When you accept the circumstances and are ready to move forward after a setback, asking yourself where the opportunity lies within the challenge will allow you to see the situation in a different way, ask yourself empowering questions, and open yourself up to new possibilities.
Let's look at the scenarios above again and possible opportunities that can come from them:
1) Passed over for a promotion. What's the potential opportunity?
Schedule a meeting with your supervisors to review your performance, and express your interest in moving up in the company.
2) Didn't get the job offer. What's the potential opportunity?
You've expanded your network through the contacts you made from the interview process.
3) Laid off. What's the potential opportunity?
Pursue a new direction in your career that you've long wanted, but have been putting off for years.
4) Bored at work. What's the potential opportunity?
Take a class to develop new professional skills and explore a new field of interest.
Of course it's not always easy to see the benefit from a difficult situation, but no matter how tough it can get in your career, there's always an opportunity to learn, grow and move forward in both good and bad times. It may not be in the direction you expected, but it may lead you on a path towards something bigger and better for you in your career.
I just returned from a conference with other career development professionals, and it's always an event that I love and look forward to each year.
Leaving the conference, I walk away with TONS of great ideas, best practices, inspiration and new tools to help support my clients and develop my own professional skills.
But my favorite part, and the most beneficial aspect of any professional gathering, is the community.
It's growing new and old professional relationships and friendships with other people who love to support the careers of others as I do. It's an opportunity to exchange ideas, but also to share the ups, downs, frustrations, rewards and most importantly the enthusiasm for what we do.
Not only that, but the relationships that are formed lead the way to form partnerships, hear about potential job opportunities, and connect with people who will be supportive of each other in their careers in the future.
No matter where you are in your career - if you're exploring new jobs and industries, want to grow in your current position, or just want to find a way to stay connected to your interests outside of work, you need to find and build your community.
Find the people who share your interests, relate to your struggles, celebrate your successes, value your ideas, and want to support and help you grow in your career.
Where can you find your community? Everywhere!
You don't need to spend money to fly to a professional conference (although it IS an amazing opportunity to learn and network). Find a group on meetup.com, join a social club, attend local alumni events, volunteer with an organization or cause you believe in, organize a happy hour with your colleagues, or invite someone who you'd like to get to know more professionally to grab a coffee.
Having a community of people who want to support you professionally will do wonders for your career. You will learn new insights and ideas, you'll discover new professional opportunities, and most importantly, you'll know you're not alone on your career path.
"Finding your passion" is a riddle that confounds many people, but we're told that once you do, things get a lot easier in your career and life, right?
Not according to research!
In a recent study, psychologists at Stanford aimed to take a deeper look at the science behind "Finding your passion," and question how valid the advice was.
The researchers surveyed Stanford students from different fields of study (either science/tech or arts/humanities) and measured their interest in academic articles both related and unrelated to their fields. Additionally, they also measured the openness of the students to learning more about other potential areas of interest.
So what did the researchers find? Is "Finding your passion" the key to discovering and leading your ideal career path?
The short answer is no, it's not. According to the study, passion is better "developed" than "found."
Essentially what the authors are arguing is that if you are solely fixed on "Finding your passion," you risk closing yourself off to other potential opportunities that may bring fulfillment in your career. Along with that, you might be more likely to abandon potential careers and areas of professional interests when you face challenges as you "follow your passion."
The authors of the study use the analogy of dating. If you're searching for your soulmate, or "The One" (e.g. "your passion"), then you probably have a set criteria by which you are strictly judging potential partners. If someone doesn't meet the criteria, or you face a challenge in that relationship, you might give up on that person thinking that they're just "not the one." But if you're open to the idea that there may be many potential options that can lead to lasting love, it expands the opportunities you're willing to pursue.
In many ways, moving forward in your career is similar to dating. If you're too strictly tied to finding THE passion that you want to pursue as a career path, it may set you up for the possibility of disappointment and discouragement when challenges come along the way of pursuing that singular path. You might also close yourself off to other overlooked opportunities that you can discover and develop a passion for.
So what does this mean for finding a satisfying and rewarding career path? It means that the path of your career isn't fixed to one thing, like a passion. There likely is no one job, company, role or passion that will bring you the ultimate fulfillment you're seeking.
Instead, try new things, find unique opportunities, take more risks, and push past the challenges that come your way. Don't try to find the one passion to follow, but develop many passions in your career with openness, flexibility and curiosity.
When I was in college and ran competitively for my school's cross country and track teams, I devoted myself completely to running.
Running, training and competing was all I thought about. For better or worse, it affected how I ate, slept, studied and socialized. It was more than a desire that kept me going, it was a need. I was passionate about running. I was obsessed.
I needed to run every day and push myself to get to a higher level, no matter how it affected me otherwise. I never wanted to take a day off, so I even ran when I should have rested, which probably held me further from my goals.
Now, however, I run for other reasons. I'm still passionate about running, but I don't run for need. I run to relax, feel healthy, and reduce stress. I also use it as a way to keep myself motivated and feeling good at work and home. It's something that supports my life and career in a positive and harmonious way.
The psychologist Robert Vallerand identified two types of passion that people experience- Obsessive passion, the passion that's more rigid and is more of a "need" in life; and Harmonious passion, the passion that isn't overpowering and operates in harmony with other aspects of your life.
Obsessive passion, in the long term, can affect us negatively in multiple areas of our lives because there is a need to pursue it at all costs. Harmonious passion, on the other hand, isn't driven by need, but rather by desire. It fulfills us, makes us happier, but doesn't control us.
Think about this in terms of your career. What are your interests, skills, strengths that you consider "passions," and make you happier to pursue in your work life?
Which aspects of your career would you define as "obsessive" or "harmonious"? How do they fit in to your life in and out of work?
If it's an "obsessive" passion, how is it affecting your job performance? For example, you might be obsessed with preserving your reputation with your colleagues at work. How does that manifest itself in your work, and do those behaviors really help you move ahead? Explore where these passions might be hurting you and see how you can consider pulling back.
As for your "harmonious" passions, how do you see them supporting you and fitting into your life? Which of these passions make you feel more in "flow" and excited to include them into your work life. If you're passionate about being creative, for example, where can you add that to your daily work tasks, or outside of work so it feels like you're fulfilling that desire to push you forward, rather it feeling like life support?
Being passionate about your career and aspects of it isn't a bad thing, but it's important to reflect how that passion fits in to your overall goals and the progress you're making towards them. Do your passions complement your work life in a harmonious way that you desire to have more of them? Or do they hold you back out of obsession and need to pursue them at all costs?
In your search for more passion in your career, focus on the things that support you and make you feel happy and fulfilled without requiring excessive sacrifice. Devoting more time to your harmonious passions will make you feel excited, motivated and encouraged to work towards your bigger career goals.
We all have things that we're passionate about in our life. It could be a hobby, people you have close relationships with, a pet, a skill you're good at, a subject you enjoy learning about, and for those that are lucky, your career.
You may feel that you're not really all that passionate about your current job or career, and passion for your work is something you want more of.
But sometimes that search for more passion in our careers can keep us stuck, because we believe that if we're not passionate about where we are currently, then a fulfilling career can only be found "out there" in other jobs and companies that will provide the answer we're looking for.
One of the biggest blocks I see getting in the way of clients moving towards what they want in their career is the idea that they need to find the perfect position at a company that they're passionate about before they decide to take any action.
The hard truth is that you'll never know what's perfect until you get there, and that might take a lot of time, effort, and trial and error to get to that place in your career. And even then it might not always be what you expect.
But what if you could create more passion and excitement for your career right where you are, instead of searching for it like a mystical quest for a lost city?
It's possible to have more passion for your career no matter what your current circumstances are. Here are three ways you can find it in your career right now:
Follow the feeling - What aspects of your job or career make you feel excited, in the flow, and satisfied? Think about what you do at your job, and then more specifically think about how that makes you feel. Is there anything, even the smallest aspects, that make you feel happy and fulfilled? When you're chasing a career you're passionate about, it's not always about WHAT the specific job is that you're pursuing, but the WHY- the feeling that your dream job will bring you. How can you experience that feeling in what you do in your current job?
Take control of your circumstances - In your job there are aspects that are in your control, and others that are out of your control. Shift your thoughts and your energy in the areas that are in your control. You may not be able to change the fact that you've been assigned a big project on a tight deadline, but you can change how you respond to it. Instead of thinking "why did this happen to me?" ask yourself "what's the opportunity for me in this project?" When you feel more in control of your the way you view your circumstances, you can create a positive energy, and more passion for even the most difficult or mundane tasks.
Bring your passion to work - You've probably heard the idea that it's better to "leave your work at the office," which is harder and harder to do these days in a more connected world. Instead, find ways to include things that bring you pleasure outside of work into your job. If you like to workout, start a running club with your co-workers. Enjoy reading in your spare time? Carve out time during your day, even if it's a few minutes, to break away from your desk and catch up on a book.
In the search for more fulfilling work, there's no need to get caught up "following your passion" via a change in your job, company or career path. Passion for your work isn't something you have to chase, but can experience at any point in your career right where you are.
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