When I was about 8 or 9, I remember my Aunty asking me what I wanted to be when I was older. My response was ‘either a clown in a circus or a lawyer’. To me, they both seemed like good options.
My desire to be a circus clown didn’t last long but wanting to be a lawyer did for a bit longer time. As I went into my teens, I watched LA Law avidly and thought that being a barrister looked pretty cool. Then I wanted to be a writer and flirted with the idea of journalism. For a while, I wanted to teach English and Drama. Eventually, I joined the Royal Air Force. Not really a natural progression there. The truth was I never really had a dream of how my future would look. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I felt hamstrung by having no burning desire to do one thing.
I look at people that have had a childhood dream and I envy that clarity of knowing what they want to do. But for most people, occupations are often things that we end up doing. That doesn’t mean you don’t love what you do, but it’s rarer to hear someone say that they are doing something that they always dreamed of than it is to hear someone say that they sort of fell into something.
We’re lucky, our generations, because we live in a world where one career is no longer considered the norm. Finishing one career and retraining for a second is a viable option for many. A second career can often be a more considered option and relate to things that we have learnt along the way. I see many of my friends and family retraining for second careers in caring professions, sometimes as a direct result of personal experiences of using such a profession. For others, a second career represents an opportunity to exercise strengths that they didn’t realise they even had when they were making career choices at 18 or 21 or 25.
But all too often, I meet with clients that have recently realised that they are in a job or career that they fell into and they have no idea how they got there or why they are still in it. They would like to leave to do something different, that inspires and energises them, that fills them with passion. But they have no idea what that is. And without that clarity of a dream, the idea of leaving a career where they are known, where the money is satisfactory or good or great, where there is stability and the job is a known quantity, is simply something that is too great a step to make.
When days like Make Your Dreams Come True Day come up (honestly, this is a real thing, on 13 January!), many people can feel like this just doesn’t apply to them in a career-sense. That doing something passionate and fulfilling is just something that won’t happen to them.
But every one of my clients that has come for coaching thinking about career transition has left with a great sense of how to make their career more fulfilling. And that doesn’t necessarily mean leaving that career. If you’d like that sense too, here’s a couple of questions to spend some time really reflecting on.
- What part of your current job do you really enjoy? What is it about this that brings you enjoyment and satisfaction?
- Is there a way to do more of this? This doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your primary job. If you can’t increase it within paid employment, is there a volunteer opportunity where you could do more of this? Or a hobby that you could start?
- If you woke up tomorrow and you were in the perfect job for you, how would you know? What would have changed?
- How many of those changes can you enact? Just because something isn’t in your job description doesn’t mean that your line management may not be open to a discussion about changing that.
- Is your real problem your immediate line manager? A Gallop poll found that 75% of people who left work voluntarily did so because of their management. If your manager is the problem, can you have a meeting to try to make things better? Is there an opportunity to move within the company to a different team? Is there anything you can do to change the way that you react to your manager?
If you feel that there is nothing you can change about your present situation, how does it feel to think that you will still be in this job, in this organisation, until you retire? If that feeling fills you with dread, remember you have the choice to leave. You may not know your dream but you don’t always need to know your end destination when you begin a journey. Sometimes it is enough to just put a foot on a path away from a place you no longer want to be.