When I was much younger and much more foolish, I made the most spectacularly poor career decision ever because I had little personal insight. I wasn’t anchored by my dreams and desires, or grounded in a firm understanding of my values. It left me very vulnerable to suggestion.
So when I was casting about for a new career, my husband who is a thinker/problem solver, pulled out one of his favourite phrases… “You know what you should do…” and made a persuasive case for me becoming a stockbroker. Great opportunity for women, great money, all I had to do was write the exam to get my securities licence, knew a guy that could get me a job yada, yada, yada. But the thing was it was so totally disconnected from anything I cared about, that it was a disaster in the making.
But even though the red flags were flying all over the place, I blithely ignored them. You’d think I‘d have noticed when I found the securities course so stultifyingly boring and difficult that I studied sitting wrapped in a sleeping bag on the patio in November so the cold air would keep me from falling asleep!
I’d been raised to believe in the work ethic, and so when a potential solution presented itself I shrugged, put my shoulder to the wheel, and got the job, which was indeed a disaster.
I discovered I was pregnant the same day I started my new job. As my girth grew, so did my stress level. I hated just about everything about the job. So much so that I developed chronic health issues. My well-controlled asthma spiralled out of control, and I developed a head-to-toe case of eczema. By the time my son was born, I was a physical and emotional wreck, and shortly after I returned to work, the new manager fired me, telling me that eventually, I’d thank him for doing me a big favour.
Please God, let me save you from that soul-crushing experience. Take my advice. Do the necessary inner work, learn to access your innate wisdom and find your magic juju so you can go forth and be brilliant in your new, meaning-filled career.
As a career coach, one of the most important things I do with the people I work with is to conduct a discovery process to help us get in touch with who they are and what they want for their lives.
We talk a lot, do some assessments and I’ve even observed them at home, and while they work, volunteer and interact with others because it allows me to pick up clues that they may miss! Seeing ourselves through a new lens from someone else’s vantage point is often very enlightening.
Until you know who you are, and what you really want, it’s impossible to find a meaningful career, because meaning can only be defined by what is meaningful to YOU. It doesn’t matter what your mother, husband, friends or society think is meaningful. It only matters what you think and feel about it.
Zeroing in on what’s meaningful to you is crucial to navigating your life with a sense of self-possession and confidence that you may not be feeling at the moment.
When you’re hunting for clues to what’s meaningful though, the danger is that your big, beautiful, very accomplished brain will jump in to figure it out for you and trot out a pat answer. But don’t let it! You won’t be able to trust that you’ve come up with the ‘right’ answer. Be patient and let your heart, your intuition and your longings come out to play.
For you to trust what comes up, and know in your bones that it’ll lead you in the right direction, you need to uncover the real you. The keeper of your dreams and desires. The one that hasn’t become a cluttered compilation of all your experiences, choices, compromises and the circumstances you’ve dealt with.
It’s similar to restoring an older house. If you’ve ever done it yourself or at least watched it on home renovation shows, you might have seen new wallpaper that has been laid over old, again and again. Or haphazard walls installed or doorways covered over to create new rooms. At some point, the gracious character and integrity of the house have been so compromised that the only way to restore it is to strip it back to the studs and begin again.
Stripping yourself back to the studs and starting again will ensure that you aren’t making career decisions based on old assumptions and decisions or disempowering beliefs that have become a part of your construction.
Your dreams, desires and values hold the key and will become the navigational aids you’ll follow on the journey to creating your meaningful midlife career.
I can’t emphasize just how important this step is enough. I know it can seem unnecessarily time-consuming when you’re anxious to move forward quickly, or the self-reflection becomes unbearably uncomfortable. But I promise this is where the gold is to be found. And the key is to learn to relax and let your dreams and desires bubble up naturally. You can’t force it. It takes patience and practice.
If you aren’t navigating according to your own dreams and values you’re vulnerable to making poor decisions that won’t land you where you want to be.
Finding your magic is like digging for treasure, but you need to get out of your head and dig into your heart and wisdom.
If you don’t have the luxury of a career coach or employment specialist tagging along behind you helping to fast track your discovery, the place to start is to get a journal.
It’ll be your best friend as you make your way through the self-discovery process. Out of nowhere, you’ll have ideas and insights about who you are, your beliefs and your behaviour. Capture and anchor them in your journal because they’re fleeting and an hour from now or tomorrow, you’ll be grasping at wisps of memory, wondering what felt so compelling about an epiphany but unable to grasp the thought again.
And here’s a tip, if you hit on a particularly brilliant idea or phrase that captures something of importance, highlight it, so that it’s easy to find later when you are desperately trying to recapture the thought.
Your journal will become a repository of insight, and the raw materials from which you can discover yourself anew, articulate your dreams, desires and values, and create new empowering beliefs to chart your course forward. I know you may say you’re not a writer, but get over it. You simply can’t carry all that information around in your brain.
And don’t even think about documenting your journey on your computer. It is not the same. Study after study has shown how important it is to actually put pen to paper. The act of writing your thoughts by hand activates additional neurons in your brain allowing you to access your intuition and integrate your learning more deeply. And cursive writing is even more effective because it activates even more neurons than printing.
It doesn’t matter if your handwriting is messy, or you don’t consider yourself a wordsmith. Do it as you like. Bullet point, incomplete sentences, poetry, or rambling essays written stream of consciousness style. It will gather and anchor your insights and revelations and open new doors for further discovery.
I’ll be writing about ways to unlock those rampant bits of wisdom in an upcoming blog post.
Annabel Melnyk has worked with more than 1600 career changers and now is focused on supporting mid-life women reimagining their lives to navigate major life change with clarity, ease and confidence. Download Annabel’s ‘Decisions & Destinty Matrix’ to get instant clarity about designing your destiny. Annabel.link/decisions-destiny