The Wake Up Alarm In Your Career (and 3 steps to deal with it)
Do you know the popular saying ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’?. There are times in our career when those words get in our mind as a morning wake up alarm that keeps getting louder, unless we finally decide to turn it off and get out of bed. Sometimes (just like it happens with the wake up alarm), we decide to snooze it (at least for awhile), other times we are more prompt to respond to it.
When the alarm is about how we feel in our job, there can be different reasons behind the way we respond to it: sense of duty, financial commitments, frustration, ambition, excitement.. The list goes on. If throughout the day that alarm keeps going on in your mind, it's probably trying to tell you something. Boredom? Dissatisfaction? Desire for change? Excitement about a project you've always wanted to start but never did?
Perhaps you already know what is going on. You have kept it aside hoping it will go away and you’ve told yourself you just need to accept things as they are. Or you might simply feel that something is bothering you but you can’t really put your finger on it. Whether you find yourself in the first or second scenario, if you acknowledge it, you have already entered step 1 of how to deal with the wake up alarm in your career: Awareness.
There's no road to change without awareness. In a broader sense, awareness is the ability to perceive internal states (emotions and thoughts) and be conscious about external elements (events, people, places, objects). What I’m talking about here is self awareness, which means understanding who you are, your values and strengths, your weaknesses and limiting beliefs, your fears and dreams.
While you may recognise that something is going on, you might still need to develop a level of awareness that you can actually use to gain clarity and perspective. What’s behind that sense of boredom or dissatisfaction? What’s been holding you back from starting that project you’ve been thinking about?
When you dig down and give yourself permission to fully and honestly connect with yourself away from what you “should or should not” think and do, you develop a stronger sense of awareness. As a result of it, you also understand what you really want. Have you noticed how it's generally easier to complain but we hesitate when we are asked what we want?.
When you know what you want, you can evaluate possibilities, weigh pros and cons, and you are able to analyse what’s going on in a way that serves you. Analysis is step 2 of this process.
There’s no point in looking for a new job if you don’t even know what you are looking for, and why you are unhappy where you currently are (unless your current situation is so bad that you just need an immediate escape!). Equally, you might find that starting your own business is not really for you, or it’s actually not so scary as you thought. It’s important to be realistic, but the general point here is that there’s no right or wrong, there’s only what works for you.
Having said that, there comes a moment when you need to go beyond the reflection and analysis. Results start with awareness but happen with action.
Just like there’s no road to change without awareness, there’s no change at all without action. Action is the 3rd step in how to deal with the wake up alarm. Sometimes it may simply mean small adjustments in your day to day routine, other times it signifies a bigger change in your life. The common denominator though is constancy. Without continuous commitment and action, long lasting results are very difficult to achieve.
Think about how most of us are exposed to a huge amount of information every day, offline and online. We talk to different people, read books and articles, watch videos, jump from one social media platform to the other. You could spend the whole day browsing around. If you look in the right places, you can actually find amazing resources and inspiration that were not so easily accessible (including from a financial point of view) before the internet and social media. But how many times do we put what we learn into action?
In the same way, gaining awareness and analysing all possible options without acting upon them, won’t get you very far. Additionally, it’s in the action itself that most of the times we find the answers that we would have not found otherwise.
Engaging in this 3 steps process to deal with the wake up alarm in your career requires the right attitude and the willingness to get out of your comfort zone. Often, we tend to remain in that zone even when it's not doing us any good, but we still prefer it to the unknown.
If you combine these steps with the right support on a personal (family, friends, partner) and professional level (coach or mentor), you can achieve great results. The lesson learned will be something that you will be able to apply whenever necessary, in your career (and life!) journey.