The so called ‘big resignation’ shows us that people are feeling brave enough to take a step away from the devil they know, towards the unknown.
But where do you start with working out what’s important to you?
In my work as a career coach, I am seeing more than ever before, people reflecting on what really matters to them in their career. Not just blindly continuing on the escalator of career progression.
A client confided in me recently that in their 15-year career to date, they have never held a role that they really enjoyed. While they could point to projects and elements that excited them, in the main, they were just following a career they had fallen in to, because of the subject they studied. They were keen to be promoted, because they wanted to be seen as doing well, and having the more senior title and the benefits that came with it. But day to day they didn’t actually like the work they did.
It made me wonder how many other people feel the same? When I reflect back on my corporate career, I had highs and lows. Fortunately, more highs than lows. Some challenging times, a couple of nightmare bosses, some hugely inspiring leaders and lots of fun along the way.
It took me becoming a coach, and investing time reflecting on those times to pinpoint what made the difference between the highs are the lows:
In the highs I was playing to my strengths, being true to my values and doing what I genuinely enjoyed doing, not what I felt I ‘ought’ to be doing.
We all have things we can do – our skills and competencies. Our professional toolkit. We also have things we are great at and are energised by – these are our strengths. It makes a big difference to our energy levels whether we are getting to use our strengths or not. As well as feeling more energised when we use our strengths, research shows we also feel more confident and resilient.
Find out what your energising strengths are and make sure you are in a role that gives you the opportunity to be using them regularly. The easiest way to discover them is to take an online questionnaire like Strengths Profile, which is my personal favourite (other similar tools are available and may be used in your organisation.) But you can also discover your key strengths by reflecting on these coaching questions:
Our values are the essence of what’s important to us in life – what really matters most. Our personal guiding principles. They may evolve over time and can affect what we do and how we do it.
Identifying your own values is therefore significant for ensuring that the values of the business you work and the leader you work for are aligned, or at the very least, not add odds with, what is important to you.
At one point in my career, I felt like I had to strap on my metaphoric armour every day when I went to work. I had to rally myself for the battle of the ”banter”. I managed it for a good few years, but life is so much easier if you are able to take your whole self to work and don’t have to pretend to be someone you aren’t. It is not the same everywhere. Every company culture differs. Culture even differs within one business, depending on the leader.
If in your heart of hearts, you feel like you don’t get to be true to yourself at work, perhaps that is a sign it is time for a move.
I was volunteering at a school careers fair a few years ago. I was representing HR and recruitment careers. I was sitting next to a very successful MD of a supermarket who was representing the retail industry. The parents at this high achieving school herded their children well away from us. We were laughing as they ushered them towards the legal, medical and management consultancy stands. Having started my career in retail, I was a double no-no. But I am fine with that, because I love what I do. I loved retail, HR and recruitment (even with blips). I felt sorry for those pupils though, because they were discouraged from even exploring something their parents didn’t have on the plan for them.
The client I mentioned earlier, who has never enjoyed their role in 15 years got encouraged into their profession for University and then the ‘recommended’ career path just took over.
Be brave enough to check in with yourself. Are you doing the thing you always wanted to do? Or just the thing you got into, and then felt like you had to keep going at? How much of the work you are doing do you genuinely enjoy?
It is not too late to change direction. It is NEVER too late to change direction, whatever your age.
Give yourself permission to take some time to reassess what’s important in your career – to discover your energising strengths, to pinpoint your values and to think about what you really enjoy doing, and make sure your role is aligned to them all.
If it’s not, be brave and start the ball rolling for making a change.
Ellie Rich-Poole is The Recruitment Coach.
She coaches people at a critical moment of transition, helping them to move forward with positivity. She goes on the journey with them as a supporter and challenger to help them get to action and get results. She helps leaders land their perfect role and be brilliant in it, by playing to their strengths. She supports individuals stepping up internally and changing the way they work, as well as those moving externally.
She was named a LinkedIn ‘Top Voice’ for Careers in 2022.