10 Weeks to Wellbeing: Week 6 – Career
[First published in my Irish Sunday Mirror wellbeing column, 19th Oct ’14.]
Whether employed, self-employed or unemployed, how you feel about your work situation can have a massive impact on your overall wellbeing. A fulfilling career can promote increased confidence, a sense of achievement and purpose and a feeling of connection with others. Our jobs can also be a source of great stress, through interpersonal conflict, unbalanced workloads and non-meaningful work. Unemployment can cause massive damage to a person’s self-esteem and wellbeing; a landmark study published in The Economic Journal in 2008 showed that people can recover more quickly from the death of a spouse than from a sustained period of unemployment1. If you’re unhappy with your work situation, take heart: there are lots of things you can do to improve your situation.
Where are you now?
Remember: we are not our jobs. For many of us, our working status and circumstances make up a huge part of our self-identity, and confidence and self-esteem can crumble when work’s not working. But you continue to be you whether you’re in work or out of it, and whatever job or industry you work in. (If you feel like you’re mismatched to your job or industry, you’ve two options; try and change it from within, or get out and find a better fit.) In Week 2 we looked at ‘Self’ and the roles we play in life; revisit that exercise and think about who you are outside of work – with friends, family and your wider community. Think about what you love and do well at in your life that is nothing to do with a job or career.
Skills & Strengths
Create a record of achievement; a document listing all your current skills (professional and personal), qualifications, experience (including volunteering), strengths and any achievements you are proud of – whether that’s a career achievement or a life achievement like quitting smoking, learning to drive late in life, or overcoming a fear of some kind. This document is for your eyes only – whilst you’ll be able to copy and paste from it when filling out job applications or speculative letters, it’s particularly good for boosting your confidence when you need it and highlighting transferable skills you can bring to the workplace. I’ve often worked on job applications with clients who’ve insisted they’ve nothing more to add to their skills and experience section, but during conversation, suddenly remembered some experience, short course or project that is relevant to the current job offer. If you’ve little or no professional work experience, what experience do you have of organising, assisting or promoting events or activities in your community, social network or school? What strengths have you used in your life? If you find it hard to answer that question, imagine what your best friend would say your biggest strengths were – or ask them! Two popular strengths questionnaires are the VIA Inventory of Strengths (free, online) by positive psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, and Gallup’s StrengthsFinder* (access code available when you buy the book).
What do you want?
Do you want a career or business you can throw yourself into; one that matches your natural passions and provides great fulfilment in return for deep engagement? Or do you just want a job that is pleasant, pays the bills and leaves plenty of free time for hobbies, family life or other activities? Sometimes any job would be ideal – after relocation or redundancy, or when trying to get a ‘foot in the door’ in a new industry. What do you want and need career-wise, in the short- and long-term? If currently employed, do you need a change of job, a change of role, or just improved structures and processes?
What resources do you currently have, in addition to the skills and strengths outlined above? List contacts, assets (finances or equipment), current opportunities you’re aware of. If you’re un- or under-employed, take comfort that you’ve one huge asset that others don’t: time! If you’re in a job you don’t enjoy, it’s easy to focus on the negatives – but what have you gained from this job? What are the positives about your current role or employer? What can you show you’ve brought to the company, when negotiating for a promotion or other changes?
Who can you talk to to find out more about the career change you’re interested in, whether that be promotion, a new job, redundancy options, starting a business or developing an existing one? What skills, qualifications and resources are you lacking, and how are you going to get them? What courses do you need to do, and who offers them? If you don’t know what you need, think about who you could ask or what you could read to find out. What risks do you need to be aware of? Whilst it’s important to stay positive and hopeful to maximise your chances of success, it’s important to be informed and realistic about your situation from a financial and legal point of view. Use your local business library, advice services, online resources and your network to gather the info you need to move forward with your goals.
How do you want to be seen by higher-ups, potential employers, customers or investors? Examine your usual dress, language and body language – do these project the image you want to project? Video yourself doing a mock job interview, talking about your career goals or pitching your business, and watch it back imagining you’re someone in a position of influence – does the person on screen seem believable, capable and someone you’d invest in? If not, consider what changes you need to make. What about your online profile – what story do your LinkedIn and other social media profiles (or lack of them) tell about you?
With all of the above in mind, set yourself achievable goals and write down the steps you need to take to achieve them. Above all, make it your goal to stay hopeful and positive – find people who love what they do and be inspired by their success stories. Then share yours.
Next week: Finances.
For more information about my career coaching, including client success stories, see www.soulambition.com/coaching.
1Clark, A.E., Diener, E., Georgellis, Y., & Lucas, R.E. (2008). Lags and leads in life satisfaction: A test of the baseline hypothesis. The Economic Journal, 118(529), F222-F243.
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