You’ve put in the work, you’ve dedicated yourself to a career path, and maybe even gotten an acclaimed degree or two along the way. So why does it feel so…off?
You want your life to be more fulfilling, but you feel stuck and overwhelmed at the thought of possibly sticking with the wrong career path, or picking a new one that isn't right. As a clarity and career coach, whenever I hear someone come into my office, telling me they need clarity, I let them know that clarity isn’t their issue; disconnection is.
When you are connected to yourself, it becomes easier to notice who you are, what your skill sets are, and what interests you. From there, finding a career path is quite straightforward. That’s why I start off by making sure I’m asking the right questions.
Here are five steps to get clarity in your career and align with what you really want to get out of 2020 and beyond.
Who Are You Inspired By?
Back when I was a graduate student, I remember looking at people like Condoleezza Rice, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sheryl Sandberg, and Oprah, feeling totally inspired by them. I thought of their careers often, followed their content and saw them as mentors that didn’t know me…yet.
What I didn’t realize then was that my interest in their careers was pointing me to areas of my own career that I wanted to develop. Whether it was traits within myself I wanted to hone or an actual career path I wanted to follow. Looking back, I can see it all clearly now. My fascination with Rice pointed to my desire to become a keynote speaker. My love for Gilbert was guiding me towards being an author. The interest I found in Sandberg represented my desire to become a career coach helping clients break glass ceilings in their careers. Finally, my obsession with Oprah’s inspirational conversations were sending me into the personal development world.
The result now?
If Rice, Gilbert, Sandberg and Oprah had a baby, I like to think it’d be me! Dreaming big over here, yes, but I do feel like a blend of them all. I had no idea how much my fascination and inspiration with them was revealing to me about who I could become on my career path.
Who inspires you professionally? Think about listing your top 4 people, be it your mother or Oprah herself!
Plus, studies have found that people who experience inspiration are more open to new experiences and report better focus on tasks completed each day.
When Do Others See You At Your Best?
Ask people when they've seen you at your best. Everyone sees life through a certain lens. It is great to have input from other perspectives to give you that 360-degree snapshot of who you are and where you excel.
Suffice to say, you are your own worst critic. In fact, rigorous studies have shown that your coworkers, even strangers, are better than you are at recognizing your job performance and personality traits. According to a study in Psychological Science, we all carry blind spots to our personality, especially traits that are very desirable or undesirable.
It’s time you get a clear picture of how people experience you in the workforce, or life in general. This is why I recommend sending a message to your closest friends, family, and coworkers. Ask them for input on when they believe they have seen you at your best in your career or life. Ask what it was about those moments that made them think as such.
Then, ask.yourself: what skills am I using in the story they share? Is it communication, problem-solving, or simply being around other people?
What Qualities Do You Bring Into A Room?
Many clients have come into my coaching practice telling me that they want clarity as if it’s something they can quickly order right along with their coffee. But, here’s the truth of the matter: clarity comes easily when you’re connected to yourself. That’s why clarity really isn’t the problem, it’s disconnection.
That’s why I recommend you start off with going on a fact-finding mission to also discover your core nature. What’s that, you ask? It’s who you are when you’re in your most natural and honest state. The words people would use to describe how they experience you when you’re in a room with them are the feelings and traits that you uniquely bring to the table, or feelings that are lost when you leave the room.
Take me for example! Friends have told me that they experience me as funny, chatty, curious, wise and loving when I walk into a room. That’s my core nature, and it’s useful for me to know that in my career.
List what words make you uniquely you, and consider careers where this way of being is ideal. The value here is to not limit yourself to one or two job titles, instead, see your core nature as an energy that can lend itself to many different careers and industries.
Who Were You As A Child?
“I want to be a writer and a mom.”
These were my words on stage at my preschool graduation. My principal told me to go up to the microphone and tell everyone who I wanted to be when I grow up.
Over time, I lost this truth about me. I grew up. I get scared that I’d never make enough money or be successful at writing and eventually forgot that I even had a love for it. The outcome? Believe it or not, I got so off course that I ended up doing counterterrorism at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
But guess who I am now? The writer I knew I was meant to be when I was five years old.
Let’s face it. We are all born with soft hearts. As we age, they harden. We become a bit more afraid or jaded by the world.
That’s why I recommend looking at an old picture of yourself and taking a trip down memory lane. Think about what you loved as a kid. Go back to when you didn’t necessarily crave social validation. Or you weren’t so focused on building a 401(k) or paying your mortgage. By the time these fears set in, the truth of what you love is harder to notice in your career. Then see how that translates into a career today.
I always remember my favorite birthday gifts weren’t fancy sparkle dresses or makeup. They were journals and poetry books by authors like Shel Silverstein. Use your childhood as a tool to connect with what’s slipped away from your career today.
Where Do You Expand and/or Contract?
When you ask people for answers they have likely told you to, “follow your gut”.
Well, recent studies have begun to show just how deeply our brain is connected to our gut, which is why our gut is now being called “the second brain.” With more than 200 million nerve cells in your intestine that activate and provide a response when things feel “right” or “wrong,” it makes sense as to why we feel a pit in our stomach when something’s wrong. It’s because those neurons that make up our brains are also in our gut… And they’re responding to our environment from a highly intelligent place.
Pay attention to your workday, and notice when you feel expansive versus when you feel yourself contracting. Take note of the tasks that give you energy, versus the ones that deplete you.
If you are willing to connect to your body and feel the wisdom it has to share, you will begin to find clarity and create a path forward. This allows you to start living and creating from a more intuitive place.
Creating clarity in your career really comes down to reconnecting to yourself and acknowledging what you actually want. As Albert Einstein brilliantly once said, “you cannot solve problems from the same level of thinking that created them.”
Allow yourself to break free from old thought patterns and be open to the clarity that is waiting for you.
Ashley Stahl is an award-winning American counterterrorism professional turned entrepreneur, podcaster (You Turn Podcast), keynote speaker and career coach. She coaches women on how to find their purpose, master the job hunt, and eventually transition into entrepreneurship. More than 500,000 email subscribers have registered for her free online trainings on how to step into leadership, raise your confidence, get clarity on your best career path or land more job offers.