Have You Become Inured to Career Pain?

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I just read a New York Times article on resilience by Priyanka Mattoo. And I was reminded how tough the last few years in my banking career were for me. I was miserable. But unlike Mattoo’s boss, mine had no idea because I always put on a happy face. My body though, told the true story. I had bizarre daily muscle spasms while walking an hour to work. My body was trying to stop me in my tracks. But I’d take a few deep breaths, try to relax and soldiered on through the pain. I was seeing a chiropractor a few times a week just to stay mobile. 

I knew I wasn’t happy in banking. But I didn’t know what the right job was for me. So, I continued on at the bank, meeting with recruiters and looking for another job. I was raised to tough things out. My mother is a stoic at heart and not at all afraid of hard work. My background helped me to become very resilient. I can still tough things out for longer than most people, which was why I found life coaching so liberating. What? You don’t have to struggle? You can find work that you truly love and enjoy?

If only I knew how to figure that out at the time. I didn’t know about the tools you can use to objectively assess your natural and possibly hidden abilities. Like Mattoo, I ended up experimenting. I followed the advice of friends and my coach who assured me that I’d be a great coach. So, I signed up for coach training. Even so, I went into coaching very skeptically and reluctantly until I started practicing and discovered that I loved it. At the time, I was the youngest life coach in the world and one of the first. (That’s how I got the lifecoach.com domain name –early bird!).

I worried though, “Could I really make a proper living and pay my exorbitant NYC rents as a life coach?”

There were so few life coaches at the time, it was a brand new, unproven field. It felt like making a very scary leap into the unknown. I would have loved to have more confirmation at the time that I was making the right decision.

Americans still carry the burden of the Puritan work ethic with that niggling insistence that work must feel like hard work or it isn’t work, its play. Thankfully, the research shows that you are more likely to be successful if you enjoy your job and if it is a match to your deepest core values and your innate talents. Obvious! Figuring out a new career path used to be a matter of trial and error, but now we have the tools to figure this out faster.

Years later, after I had been thoroughly enjoying my new career as a life coach, speaker and author, I took one of the most sophisticated computerized career assessment tests in the world. I wasn’t surprised that it revealed in black and white that yes, coaching and speaking are my top natural talents with writing coming in third place.

Just like any other professional, I still needed to develop and refine these natural abilities. But the raw talent was already there under the surface, just waiting to come up for air after being stifled for years. What was surprising after years of being considered a successful manager, the assessment revealed that management was the most difficult task for me–not a natural fit at all. It just goes to show if you work hard enough, you can do just about anything and succeed. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be happy or fulfilled doing it!

And the exercise Mattoo’s husband gave her– to write down five alternative careers– is a good one. I’ve written about it in Coach Yourself to a New Career along with many other exercises to help you figure out the ideal career. If you can relate to her story, then rest assured that now is the time to find a career you really enjoy. One that will have you bouncing out of bed in the morning, eager to start the day instead of hitting that snooze alarm for the umpteenth time. Life is too short not to enjoy your work, if you can find it!

For more information about the career assessments in the Career Change Kit click here.

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