PURPOSE: What to do When Your Career Isn't Enough
In America, our careers define us.
Whether we’re making small talk at a party or on a first date, one of the first questions asked is ‘so, what do you do?’.
What we do is part of our identity, but, unfortunately, for so many people, what they do for a living is not in alignment with their gifts, desires, and interests.
It’s not easy to find a job or land a career that meets that criteria because most of us haven’t spent the time to understand what we need in order to have a fulfilling job.
Also, for many people, they see work as just a means to an end: a paycheck, and if they’re lucky, good benefits.
Some people were lucky and embarked on a career they find rewarding. But, for many of us, we’re not so lucky.
For many, there’s a disconnect between the work they do 40+ hours a week and the work they desire to do.
Getting stuck in this gap creates feelings of frustration, emptiness, and resentment. We all want to feel our time is well-spent on things that mean something. We don’t want to tread water for 40 years while we live for the weekends, holidays, and vacations.
What do we do when we hate our jobs, feel empty carrying out our responsibilities, and live for quitting time?
IS YOUR CAREER ENOUGH?
If your job isn’t providing you with what you need to feel challenged and fulfilled, you likely already know the answer to the question ‘Is your career enough?’.
But, maybe it’s not that simple.
So many of us are conditioned to see our jobs as drudgery - something you do to pay the bills while you live for the weekend.
You may not even realize you need that sense of fulfillment and purpose.
You may not think about what it would feel like to know you’re providing value and your ideas and contributions are appreciated.
You deserve to have more…
You deserve to feel your time and energy is appreciated and valued. To be fully content with your life, you need to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Your life needs to have meaning, so you know you’re spending your time on something that matters to both you and the world.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CAREER IS NOT ENOUGH
If you’re feeling that emptiness, resentment, and frustration at spending so much of your life at a job that isn’t making you happy at your core, you’re likely thinking I’m going to tell you to quit your job and follow your dreams, right?
That’s definitely one option, but it’s not the only option.
Sometimes your path to fulfillment and purpose won’t be through your career.
Here’s the thing about purpose - when you find yours by knowing your gifts, values, and passions then you can use those in so many different environments.
You can certainly embark on a new career to honor those needs, but knowing your purpose allows you to bring that to whatever you do - even your current job.
So, if your job isn’t fully answering your need for fulfillment and meaning, it’s okay for it to simply pay the bills and your lifestyle. That’s an intrinsic benefit in itself. But, here’s the thing: your choices outside of the corporate walls are your own and in many cases, will be where you find your buzz.
Let’s explore a few of these both options...
OPTION 1: FIND A NEW CAREER
The obvious first choice if your career isn’t doing it for you is to find a new one.
Maybe the industry is one you’re passionate about, but the particular company where you work is the issue.
If that’s the case, you’re lucky! You probably have the easiest situation to “fix.”
You simply have to look elsewhere for a company that’s more aligned with the environment you need for success (with that said, I know finding a new company isn’t necessarily ‘simple’!).
Or, to take it a step further, maybe the industry and career you’re in are no longer serving you.
In that case, it may be time for a shift.
Depending on the degree of the change in the industry and career, this may be a significant move!
But, regardless of whether you’re making a slight change or a complete overhaul, removing yourself from the current situation may be all you need to jumpstart your passion and fulfillment.
It’s not uncommon for people in their 40s to embark upon establishing an Encore Career.
OPTION 2: FIND OTHER PASSIONS OUTSIDE YOUR JOB
For some folks, though, leaving their current job may not be an option - either ever or in the near future.
The pay and benefits may be too great to walk away from, or perhaps, your dream job would require you to relocate.
Your desire to embark upon an encore career may be in your future but needs a significant investment of time to get that going (i.e. maybe you have to go back to school).
Sometimes, making the necessary changes to find fulfillment in your career isn’t something you can do overnight (or maybe at all).
The lack of immediate options can, understandably, make you feel defeated: “Why bother trying, there’s just nothing I can do to change things.”
But here’s the thing, fulfillment and purpose don’t have to come solely from a job!
That could mean taking on a new hobby, starting a passion project, volunteering, traveling, etc.
Our souls don’t care where the passion and fulfillment come from; it just cares that you find it somewhere.
The benefit to finding it outside of your job is that it makes the unfulfilling job a lot more bearable. You are no longer just punching the clock and living for the weekends where you crash, hide, and dread Monday morning.
You have something in your life that gives it meaning and that little extra spark of purpose.
OPTION 3: FIND FULFILLMENT IN YOUR CURRENT JOB
If you’ve been in your job for a long time, you may just be stuck in a rut. Humans need challenge and after doing the same job for years, it may have lost that edge.
The important question to consider here is whether your current job was ever fulfilling for you. If not, then a reboot or outside fulfillment is probably the right course of action for you.
But, if you can recall having that spark earlier in your career and loving what you do, then it may be a matter or reviving that flame and rediscovering fulfillment in your current job.
To do this, think back to when you first started your job - what did you love about it? What allowed you to shine? What tasks allowed you to get lost in time and the day to fly by?
Next, compare those answers to what you currently do? Are you still doing those tasks? If not, how can you bring more of that back into your job? If you are still doing all of that and it’s not igniting a spark in you, then what are some other things you can do that use those skills, but are entirely new?
In most cases, having a chat with your manager is probably needed. Explain how you love your job, but you’re no longer feeling challenged. Seek new responsibilities and challenges and see if that makes a difference.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Once you’ve recognized that you are in a career that isn’t doing it for you, you might be wondering where to start.
The first step is to figure out which camp you’re in - do you need to switch to a new company in the same field, look towards an encore career, find fulfillment outside of your job, or find find fulfillment within your existing job?
You likely know which fork in the road you need to take, so answering that question is probably the easy part. It’s what comes after that might be the scary part.
If you’re looking to switch jobs in the same industry, it’s time to dust off your resume, update your LinkedIn profile, and start the hunt. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs for which you feel you might not be 100% qualified! If it sounds interesting and you meet enough of the requirements, throw your hat in and see what happens.
If you’re looking to switch to an encore career, then it’s likely a steeper path to climb. The first step is to get clear on what it is that you want to do.
Then, look into what you need to make that happen. If you need to go back to school, then look into local programs and don’t forget to check online options for education! You’ll need to make a plan for the transition, but don’t get too overwhelmed with that at first. Just identify what it is you want to do, then the first thing you need to do to start down that path.
If you’re looking to find more fulfillment outside the corporate walls (which I recommend for everyone!), then you have to get to know yourself a little better.
You may already know things you love that you’ve put on the backburner over the years. Perhaps you took photography classes in college and loved it, but you haven’t picked up your camera in years; or maybe, you’ve always had a wish to learn to play the guitar. If you remember passions you’ve had in the past, revisit them!
You may crave something deeper than a hobby. If that’s you, consider what’s behind that desire. Is it helping or serving others? How about making a difference in your community?
REDISCOVER FULFILLMENT IN YOUR CURRENT JOB
If you recall feeling fulfilled and personally rewarded in your job and you love where you work, it’s time to look at your job through a new lens (see the questions I posed above), and have a chat with your boss.
The goal here is to get clear on what aspects of your job provide fulfillment, then look for ways to spice that up in your current responsibilities or take on new responsibilities that give you more of what you need.
Our careers are not our end all be all. We are so much more than our jobs.
If your career is no longer serving you, it’s time to shake things up. It doesn’t mean you have to leave your job, but if that’s the right course, even if scary, it’s one you need to explore.
Otherwise, it’s time to take the time to figure out what you can do outside of your 9-to-5 to find the ‘more’ that you’re craving.
Need someone to help you on this journey? I specialize in helping high-achieving women find purpose outside the corporate walls. Let’s work together to set your life on an entirely new path.
**BONUS: FOR MY EMAIL COMMUNITY!**
To help you get started, I've created a workbook for my email community to help dig into these concepts to further them on their journey to find their purpose.
My email community enjoys weekly emails on topics that explore finding their purpose and creating the life they crave. I also provide them with workbooks, journal prompts, audios, and other goodies to explore what they’re craving, what’s getting in their way, and how to make the life they desire happen.
In this workbook, you'll explore where you are now in order to discover ways to reclaim your fulfillment in your existing situation, PLUS you'll discover new ways to invite in more fulfillment and meaning to your life going forward!
If you’d like to get in on the fun, join my email community by clicking the button below and as a bonus and big thank you, I’ll send you this workbook so you too can dig in and start finding your purpose!