“We all made a career choice when we were young, but that choice should not be a life sentence.”
– Lloyd White, Write a Winning Job Application
Death and disaster aside, most of us are alive for a long time! And work takes up a large part of our life. Let’s think about it: we are arguably our brightest and most focused at work, and our jobs drive a lot of our mental stimulation. We’re around our work peers a lot more than our friends or even family, so finding happiness in your job and career is vital.
So why is it that many of us find ourselves in a position where our job has lost its sparkle, its fire? Or worse, we find ourselves hating the thought of going to work or feeling that our contributions are meaningless?
It’s normal for us to change and for us to go through various career cycles in our lives. This is nothing to be frightened of. The more you accept this and adjust to it the more you’ll feel comfortable.
Your first career choice
We usually decide on our first career options when we have little life experience: we’ve graduated from (or left) school envisioning ourselves as a <this> or a <that>. And there are other influencers in our first job decisions, too. Parents are a big one, school results determining our entry options and personal interests usually all rank fairly high in influencing our choices.
The missing factor in our earlier career decisions is personal values. After all, in our late teens or early 20s, our personal values aren’t particularly honed!
Consequently, it is not unusual to find yourself thinking that your job just isn’t “you” anymore or that what you do just doesn’t matter.
As Careers Consultant and author Lloyd White says, “While some of these factors can be helpful, they do not guarantee you will get a job that makes you happy. There are other things to consider, such as doing something you value; something that you can home from each day feeling you have done something worthwhile.”
So why don’t more of us make the change? Sometimes there are valid reasons such as too many work stresses or situation problems that prevent you from taking the time and energy to change focus.
But often we don’t change out of fear. Fear of the unknown, naivete, or possibly even just garden-variety laziness may be all that’s in the way of you and your new career.
Sometimes, it takes a crisis for us to make a career change. Events such as a redundancy, redeployment, serious illness, divorce, or perhaps it’s seething disappointment from a lack of promotion or working under a boss you’d like to have removed from the universe. Any of these events can rattle us and motivate into career change – and possibly lifestyle change as well.
How to choose your new job
It’s imperative you choose a job that makes you happy. And an important part of making ourselves happy is doing something that fits in with our work and life values. Wondering what life values are? Here are a few examples:
Financial values: a family to feed, a mortgage to pay off, holidays and cars to pay for
Ethical values: working for a social or political cause that matters, creating awareness, fighting prejudice, raising funds or improving education for an area in need
Personal values: independence, autonomy, creativity, power, more control
Health values: a relaxing environment, positive stimulation, more physical activity at work
Social values: working as a team or alone
As you can imagine, as we change, these values may change, too. When you’re younger, you may love being around people and thriving on stress. You might value a good, stable income over other values. At other times in your life you may like more independence, less or more responsibility, less or more physical activity and so on.
It may only take you 30 minutes to write a list of these values to work out what’s important to you. Once you are clear about this, you can go about finding a career that suits your current life values. And when your life values match your career choices, you’ll be far more likely to find yourself in a career that you love.
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