Let’s take a trip through my imagination.
Picture Michalis, an easy-going 23-year-old new business graduate, who smiles easily, has plenty of friends, goes to the gym three times a week and has a social schedule that’s booked months in advance.
He’s just been hired to join the sales team at a major company. His family is thrilled! Things are looking good for Michalis, right?
Now, let’s take Nathalie, a driven 35-year-old who is fighting to keep her modest health-food store from shutting down, while figuring out with her husband, Giorgos, how they can afford to send their seven-year-old daughter, Sophie, to a private elementary school.
Things look rough for Nathalie, right?
Except, what I didn’t tell you… is that while things look superficially positive for Michalis and stressful for Nathalie, the reverse is actually true.
This is because, deep down in his heart, Michalis is restless and unhappy.
He feels no real connection to what he’s doing, and, given the chance, would be happy to leave his present employment. Why? Because has no real clarity about his career, or what he should do to achieve his highest professional success.
Whereas, despite all her challenging material problems and responsibilities as a mother and wife, Nathalie is inwardly strong and motivated professionally.
And while she’s going through tough financial times, her heart is not divided. She knows she’s doing what she wanted to do, ever since she was a little girl – which was to own a business that made a positive impact on people’s health, and educated and supported them in leading better lifestyles.
In other words, she has clarity regarding her career, and this keeps her moving forward and maintains her focus and determination, without letting the external pressures bring her down.
So, if, like Michalis, you’re struggling with clarity about your career, here are five steps to help you work through feelings of confusion, procrastination, low confidence and stress regarding achieving your professional potential:
1. Shut out the distractions (and get quiet!)
Remember Michalis’ packed social schedule?
It isn’t just because he has lots of friends, due to his extrovert and fun-loving nature… it’s also because – whether he’s conscious of it or not – Michalis himself KEEPS it that way. He does this as a means of distracting himself from looking within and exploring what really bothers him.
Are you like this? Do you pour yourself into too many extracurricular past-times which, if I looked into your heart, don’t really matter with you that much, but which are a convenient way of spending time with your own thoughts?
And by the way – distractions don’t just include going from one social engagement to the next – distractions can be anything: over-eating, wasting time on attention-killers like social media and games – taking on responsibilities that are not appropriate for you to undertake…
Find your distractions, and eliminate them. And then, substitute them with quiet time for yourself – whether that’s a walk in the park, or some meditation in the morning, or a 15-minute reflection period as a pre-sleep ritual… spend time looking inward with courage and focus. You’ll be surprised how many answers to important questions you’ll discover in this way…
2. Record your goals – before, during, after
Michalis prides himself of being a spontaneous kind of character. He hated school, finding it boring and stifling, and isn’t very interested in journaling or making to-do lists.
To be honest, his manager finds this rather frustrating, and has told Michalis on more than one occasion that he needs to be more deliberate and actually write down his targets and goals.
Funnily enough, even though Michalis doesn’t do so badly as a sales team member, if he did as his manager wants him to do and write down targets and goals, he would perform better in the workplace, earning satisfaction and pride in his abilities. This would grant him the professional clarity that – even if he left like this particular job – he has the skills that could also translate into a different career, if he so desired.
Meanwhile, if he also wrote down his life goals, away from the workplace, he could then reorient himself towards a professional path more suitable to his highest personal aspirations.
3. Seek wise counsel or guidance
This is an important one. It would be really valuable for Michalis, for instance, if he actually discussed his feelings of dissatisfaction and confusion with someone who had more life and work experience than him, while also having the integrity and genuine interest in Michalis to guide him.
It will come as no surprise that, in our younger years, we don’t always have the insight and humility to realise that there is much about ourselves and life that we don’t know, and that it is valuable to seek the guidance of someone wise, dedicated and experienced.
And while new graduates and young professionals who are Millennials (i.e. born between 1981-1996) DO seek out feedback in terms of their work performance… because they love to collaborate with peers so much, they can be tempted to seek guidance from friends or associates who share their age. Even though, these peers themselves, will have similar life experience and self-awareness gaps and so not be ultimately best-equipped to offer the appropriate guidance…
So, if you are seeking clarity over your career… find yourself a mentor who has the experience, authority, preparation and commitment to you, to help you see your life from a different, big picture perspective…. While simultaneously having the skill to break down the journey towards your career goals for you into achievable phases and goals.
4. Identify blocks and skill gaps
This is fundamental. And identifying external and internal obstacles (such as deeper limiting beliefs), facing specific fears and discovering, accepting and setting out to address gaps in your skillset are a real key to achieving clarity on your career.
Because once you know how much ground you have left to cover when it comes to your desired professional path, you can create a self-development plan with a timeline and specific milestones towards it.
Clarity comes, layer by layer, as you take stock of where you are and what seems to be hindering your progress.
And of course, as you take the time to do this, you often discover that an obstacle or block can be re-framed to be seen as an advantage or resource, or at the very least neutral to your progress. You also often discover that the true obstacle is completely different than what you believed.
So, do some digging and be brave. Look without fear and face the truth about what’s authentically holding you back when it comes to work. Doing so will only enhance your clarity about where you are at, and where you want to go, career-wise.
5. Test by taking (smart) action
And finally, once you have a sense of where your true motivations, aspirations and obstacles lie… having shut out distractions, taken scheduled time-outs for contemplation and reflection… and having sought the guidance of someone experienced, authoritative and committed to your success… take some action in the direction of what you’d prefer, career-wise.
By the way… these don’t need to be wild, earth-shaking actions.
For example, you don’t have to suddenly hand in your notice at work. What I mean is to experiment with new mind-sets, and explore new skills, aptitudes and interests to learn more about your highest professional aspirations and whether you are getting closer to them, step by step, bit by bit.
Think of yourself like a new product getting to market… and test, tweak, reform and repeat incremental changes to your working life.
Remember Nathalie from our introduction? She – despite all her challenges – puts all the steps mentioned above into practice.
She starts the morning with some quiet meditation, keeps separate notebooks of personal and professional goals in which she writes every day, and she regularly meets with an older entrepreneur who advises her on her professional targets, helps her identify areas of weakness in her business and supports Nathalie as she tests out tweaks and changes in her customer service.
If you are seeking clarity in your career, get these five steps working for you, and watch your confusion dissolve, bit by bit, day by day.
To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com