When Your Career Doesn’t Fit
By: Marti Benjamin, MBA
Certified Career Management Coach
Certified “Get Clear, Get Found, Get Hired” Career Communications Writer
Champion for a Great Work-Life!
I used to have a pair of shoes that looked terrific sitting on the shoe rack in my closet. They were a perfect match for several things I love to wear so I kept them for a long time, even though I seldom wore them. Occasionally I would try them on, feel them hug my feet snugly and admire how stylish and smart they looked.
The problem arose when I tried to wear those shoes for more than a few minutes. The snug fit soon turned into a cruel pinch, making it painful to walk. Yet I kept those shoes for five years, trying them on occasionally and even wearing them out of the house when I forgot how miserable I’d been the last time. I resisted getting rid of them because they were more than a pair of shoes to me—they were a connection to someone special.
I acquired those cruel shoes from my sister. When she tried them on in her favorite shoe store, she thought they were snug but workable. Soon she discovered that what felt snug became unbearable after a few minutes, so she gave them to me. We both convinced ourselves that they would stretch the tiny bit necessary to be comfortable, if we could just get through that initial agony. They didn’t, but I kept trying because they reminded me of my sister. Before I could get rid of the shoes, I had to understand that my link to my sister existed whether the shoes stayed in my closet or went to the community garage sale.
When it’s your career pinching you uncomfortably
I often notice similar attachments to careers that don’t fit, with coaching clients evaluating their career options. For many, the work they thought would always be there has been replaced by technology or sent offshore; for others, the work is still there but it no longer fits. And for some, what once seemed like a rewarding profession has turned to drudgery and going to work is as painful as my cruel shoes were. It’s hard to let go.
In the past, we chose a career direction as a young adult, prepared for it through education and experience and lived happily ever after. Not so any longer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s average worker will have three distinct careers in his/her life and for those just entering the work force, it’s likely they will change careers five or six times before retirement.
How can you respond when your chosen career no longer fits?
Begin with a thorough examination of what’s working and what’s not. Determine whether the current career can stretch into a better fit. Perhaps there is another position, role or company for you.
If making the current career fit better is impossible and you need a new career direction, start the exploration with your personal strengths, those traits that have served you well in your work. Think about the most rewarding times in your career: What were you doing? With what type of people, data and things were you interacting. What made the work rewarding for you, beyond the compensation?
Identifying and labeling personal strengths is difficult. We are too close to be objective and we often imagine that we have strengths we want to have, whether there is any real evidence of them or not. Career assessments can objectively identify strengths and motivations. Armed with that information, finding a good fit is easier and faster than a trial-and-error approach.
Once you understanding your personality, talents, skills and preferences, you can begin to search databases for occupations that match. The Department of Labor’s onetonline.org website allows you to search occupations, take interest inventories and research growth industries.
You can also use job search aggregators like indeed.com and simplyhired.com to search for positions based on keywords. Review job postings to learn what companies hire these positions and the required qualifications. Think about who you know that can introduce you to people within the company or the occupation and ask them to help you.
Gather input. Talk with four or five people who know your work performance and ask them what career they see for you. Don’t debate or discount their suggestions, just thank them and go back to the research stage to learn more.
Gather information on career possibilities that ignite your interest.
At this stage, you want to generate as many options as possible. Don’t eliminate any yet, even if you think there’s no way for you to pursue a specific career.
Next week I’ll offer tips for narrowing your career choices to find the few that fit the best.
Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her business and career coaching practice. In this, her third career devoted to service to others, she applies the discipline of business while executing the mission of service. Since founding Business Energetix in 2004, Marti’s proprietary coaching systems have led fed-up professionals from frustration to a richly rewarding work-life. www.BusinessEnergetix.com