The advantage of not being sure about your career
Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about the crisis of meaning engendered by the pandemic and the consideration of toxic workplaces that are causing many companies to quit en masse. Indeed, recent research suggests that more than half of all Americans are considering changing jobs because they feel their employers don’t care about their concerns and want flexibility to become a permanent part of their job. their professional life. Some have felt a sudden explosion of clarity about what they do – and don’t want – to do next for their careers.
But what if you are not sure? What if, beyond your general feeling of unease or dread, you were grappled with a deeper sense of uncertainty about what to want next? You hear coworkers say things like ‘I want to make a difference’ and ‘I want to feel like my work matters’, and worry in private:’ Well, I want those things too, but there’s- is there something wrong with me if i dont know exactly what it is?
In our opinion, there is nothing to fear if you are going through part of this existential career rumination but are not sure which way to go. In fact, not knowing what to do can be your biggest competitive advantage.
We think it’s helpful to sit still with this state of liminal uncertainty. In our experience, many of those who claim to have the answers may have set a “goal” simply to appease their previously unrecognized lack of meaning, or they have simply succeeded in convincing themselves that they have a firm idea but have ignored. the many options and possibilities available. In a way, people search for meaning as a drunk person searches for the keys to his lost house – next to the lamppost, not because that’s where they left them, but because it’s the key. only easy place they can see.
Here are five ways to profit from the ignorance of the sequel.
Let the unknown open you to possibilities.
Without an “answer” to the next step, uncertainty raises better questions about what might be the next step. Not having a specific destination to focus on (e.g. I want to be a life coach or I’m going to be a vet) allows you to step back and wonder about career paths you might never have. considered. For example, Deborah, a former HR manager looking for her next chapter, allowed herself to explore a variety of possibilities before embarking on her next career. She conducted informational interviews and traveled abroad to see the work “on the ground” related to causes close to her heart.
Consider the times throughout your career when you have felt you were doing your best job and felt the most satisfied. In what other contexts could such moments be possible? For example, maybe you have a finance job that requires complex data analysis, and the times when you feel your best are the times when your knowledge leads to breakthrough solutions. Consider what other environments outside of finance could benefit from your advanced problem-solving skills.
Learn to read the right signs.
Like driving on an unfamiliar highway, ambiguity forces us to be vigilant. The key is to be vigilant with curiosity, not fear. For too many people, professional uncertainty and the resulting anxiety lead to suboptimal choices. Fearing our obsolescence, our lack of employability, or that we are ill-equipped to convince others of our value, we sell ourselves short. We ignore the signs that might point us to something adventurous and settle for something familiar, even if it is not satisfying.
But think of Kate, a Ron client and an accomplished marketing manager. Bored after two decades of classic marketing work, she accepted severance pay after her company merged with another. Within weeks, she received several offers for senior marketing positions, including a Marketing Director position, which she had always thought was her main role. But Ron could tell she really didn’t want to. All the fear-based signs told him to play it safe. But her biggest passion was creative work, especially teaching others to unleash their creativity. Thinking back to where she spent her time, the job she loved, and the impact she appreciated, all of these signs were pointing in a different direction. She spent several months trying her hand at teaching upper classes in creativity for entrepreneurs. A year later, she established a creativity center for entrepreneurs in partnership with a local university.
Be fundamental in defining your career.
Leverage your introductory career space by stepping back and listing your skills portfolio to ensure the widest possible applicability of what you are good at. Lisa, a professional Dorie featured in her book Reinvent yourself, realized rather horrifyingly that she did not, in fact, want to become a lawyer – a goal she had spent the past 10 years pursuing. Instead of wallowing, Lisa took stock of her cross-skills and realized that with her legal training in oral argumentation, she could be a persuasive salesperson and with the language skills she had learned. for her doctorate, she could work internationally. Ultimately, she was able to apply her skills to a career that she truly enjoyed in the wine industry.
You can also identify the areas in which you want to grow. In the same way that researchers conduct basic or exploratory research to uncover new problems, defining your future in terms of skills rather than jobs will widen your openness. Ask yourself the question: are there areas in which you need to deepen your skills? For example, if you’ve worked in sales and honed your pitching skills, consider taking a step back and honing your public speaking skills. If you are working with specific technologies, think about how you can help others use them effectively. Use this time to complete the widest applications of what you’re good at and consolidate all the flat sides.
Let the ambiguity make you more adaptable.
The constant turmoil of today’s world demands the ability to light up a dime when needed. But humans are predictability-seeking machines, and we don’t like to rotate unless we have to. In fact, much of our apparent search for meaning is simply an inherent obsession with order, familiarity, and predictability, as these are the foundational dimensions of reason and stability that keep our stress and anxiety going. from a distance. Our natural instincts are to impose certainty on ambiguity in order to regain a sense of control.
What if, instead, you allowed yourself to bend over in discomfort? By dealing with the ambiguity, you weaken its hold, making the unknown less terrifying. Instead of asking, “What threat do I need to mitigate?” “When faced with the unknown, ask:” What does this ambiguity allow me to do that greater certainty would not allow me? For example, rather than focusing only on the opportunities you are already qualified for in order to feel more “employable”, try areas where you may be less qualified but which you have always been curious about and appreciate. the freedom to try something. without having to prove anything to anyone.
Certainly, there is a basic level of mental and psychological maturity needed to embrace uncertainty and recognize what you don’t know. But as Voltaire noted, “doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” By increasing your adaptability, you make yourself all the more attractive to future recruiters who seek the characteristic of agility in countless jobs.
Learn to live with purpose.
While the hyper-specific nature of a personal “goal statement” is appealing, it is often rooted in false precision. Frequently, the personal goal turns into generalized slogans that are inspiring, but offer little practical advice.
Rather than aiming for a narrow target such as “I want to create my own consulting firm” (often born out of a desire to overcome the constraints of the company and control its destiny) or a vague and broad target such as “I want to help people live better lives â(a common aspiration after mindlessly working for years in a boring job), think about what it would mean to live more voluntarily every day.
For example, to have more control over your time, what habit could you build into your routines to set aside time for yourself: to explore future career options, to take care of yourself, to spend more time? with your friends ? If helping others is something you enjoy, think about places where you could volunteer on a regular basis or younger professionals you could mentor. Living wisely means aligning your daily choices with a set of values ââand intentionally choosing some options over others based on those values. Rather than trying to live a goal, learn to live with a purpose. You can do this whether or not you are pursuing a career change. And if you do, doing it in a more targeted manner will likely increase the quality of the choice you eventually make.
Admittedly, living between two career chapters can seem maddening. Given the choice, we would all prefer to have clarity instead of facing the fog of not knowing. But for many, finding clarity is an iterative, sometimes necessarily messy process. Grabbing a false precision to allay your anxiety will likely lead to greater discomfort later when you realize you’ve jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Let go of the false obligation to know something that might not be knowable now. Shaping the next chapter in your career deserves all the time, care, and attention you can give it. Don’t resist uncertainty, accept it. Like buried treasure, it contains clues to possibilities you’ll be glad you weren’t past once you discover them.