When most of us think of building a career, we have this quintessential image in our minds of what it will be like. We picture how we will dress, how we will carry ourselves, how we will express and interact with our colleagues and peers, the level of excellence we will demonstrate in our work, and the sense of accomplishment we will feel when we can finally utter the words “I made it” – or at least this was the sort of career fantasy I had growing up. However, as I think most of us know, reality and fantasy don’t always align. The idealized scenario I had created in my mind was flawless, but the world, and our ever-changing nature as human beings is anything but that.
So, what happens when a young woman enters the workforce and realizes very quickly that she isn’t living out her “dream” career scenario? Well, for starters, frustration and a few tears, but more importantly, it is the time to revamp your career ambitions, reevaluate what you want out of a job, and then start to make the best strategic decisions to make it happen.
Have a sense of purpose
For most women, we want to have a sense of fulfillment and purpose when it comes to our careers. Granted, we all have our own motivating factors, whether it is money, status, or simply the desire to live comfortably. But, setting those factors aside, I think it is imperative to be able to answer this key question when it comes to building a meaningful career, “What purpose do I serve?”
We all are looking for a reason to get up in the morning, and frankly sometimes the motivation to make money isn’t enough. I think we all, as individuals, want to know that our time and our efforts are going towards something greater than ourselves, and that we are waking up every day with some sense of purpose when it comes to our careers. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself uninspired and dreading for the alarm clock to go off every morning.
If you can’t justify or answer in a compelling manner “why” you have the job you have or “what” it is about it that excites you and gives you a sense of purpose, then my dear friend, you are clearly at the wrong company and in the wrong position, and it’s time for you to go explore your horizons (or Indeed.com), and go out and find a job that does satisfy your need for fulfillment.
Recognize when it’s time to leave
I will be the first person to tell you that goodbyes are the hardest thing for me. While for some a job is simply just a job, for me, it is where I spent 40-50 hours of my life per week and my colleagues become the people I spend more time with than friends and family. Sometimes, these work relationships are strong and good, and other times and they are bad and destructive, either way, there is a certain level of comfort in knowing what to generally expect each day.
However, regardless if you like your colleagues or not, if the actual work you are doing is unfulfilling and you are constantly left feeling like something is missing and you’re wanting more, that means its time to sit with yourself and be honest about your current job circumstance. My biggest advice to you on this is to not let your comfort level hold you back from moving forward. You deserve to excel and succeed, but you need to do it in a place that fits you and provides you with what you need to grow.
If you reach a point where you feel stagnant in your career and the only challenge you have on a day-to-day basis is pleasing your boss, then you my friend are at the point where it’s time to cross the threshold and answer this key question: “Why am I still here?” If you can’t answer it in a compelling and thoughtful manner that has meaning to you, it’s time to start exploring alternative options.
Don’t feel guilty
I don’t know if it’s just me or if all women experience this, but there is always an underlying sense of guilt when leaving a job, even if it is or was the best decision for you. However, it comes down to one thing, and that’s business, which is something that can’t be taken personally. Just as companies hire and fire talent based off of changing needs and wants, you too must treat your career development in such a manner.
Am I saying to step on people’s toes, be disloyal, and conniving? Absolutely not. Making a strategic career move for yourself doesn’t mean morality and character go out the window. The point is, you can’t feel guilty for keeping your options open when it comes to your career and jumping on a new opportunity when it presents itself. Bow out of your current position with grace and poise, but own your decision and know that you gave them your best while you were there, but that at this point in time, making a move is the right decision for your personal and career development.
Let me repeat this loud and clear, own your decision, and never feel guilty for making your desires and wants first priority. You have to live with yourself, not your boss.
Make sure it’s worth your time
When building your career, there are a few factors that have to add up. For starters, can you align yourself with the company’s mission? Is the type of work you would be doing of interest to you? Do they provide the type of company culture you are looking for? What does the compensation and benefits package look like? Did you connect with the staff that interviewed you? These are some of the key questions you need to find the answers to by doing your research and asking key questions throughout an interview process.
My dad always told me, “You’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.” I think we sometimes forget early on in our careers, or simply aren’t aware, that an interview isn’t strictly designed for us to sell ourselves. A company needs to make itself attractive to potential employees, in other words, to you as well. Job interviews are like dates. You don’t just commit to the first guy you go on a date with simply because he implies that he is paying for your dinner. You ask the strategic questions necessary to determine if this is a mutual fit and if you want to continue the conversation.
This requires one very important thing from your end. Knowing your worth. You need to confidently know that you have something to offer and bring to the table. I’m not saying to play extremely hard to get, but make sure that what they can provide for you as a company from a cultural and monetary standpoint fits your skill sets and rightfully rewards you for your work.
Do not accept defeat
We all have felt that feeling of disappointment when we realize we might not be doing what we were meant to or want to do. I know some of you may be sitting there reading this article thinking how much you hate your job and feel like you’ll never find the right path for you. Nip that negativity right in the bud!
Your career, like life, is a series of peaks and valleys. You won’t reach success, unless you know what it’s like to fail, and failure doesn’t mean you have had to single-handedly lead to the deterioration of a company. Sometimes you’ll work at a job you don’t like, have managers you can’t stand, and feel complacent and unchallenged.
But what separates those that go on to build meaningful careers and those that don’t? Perseverance. It is the willingness and the drive to press on and fearlessly continue to explore new opportunities that will enable you to find and build a career that adds value and meaning to your life. Accepting that this is how it is and a job will always just be a job is the worst attitude to have. Empires and nations weren’t built in a day, and neither will you career. Have the patience to press on through the trials and fight for the career you always wanted.