The Best Way To Find A New Career Direction That Fits And Fulfills You As A Leader (Without Starting From Scratch)

October 27, 2022 by Silviu Cojocaru

Read time: 7 minutes

In a world focused on short-term solutions and job hacks, I'm going to walk you through a long-term approach to find a sense of direction in your career that will give you fulfillment, purpose and personal satisfaction.

Without conscious effort, your career direction is going to be determined by your desires.

And your desires are influenced by:

  • Society standards
  • The paths of least resistance
  • Confused chemical signals in your body

A career and life worth living can’t be built on autopilot.

Most of us rarely take time to think about the direction of our life and career.

“I’m 30 and have no career direction.”
“I’m 40 and have no career direction.”
“I’m 50 and have no career direction.”

And when we stop to reflect… We dwell on what’s not working.

When you learn to find a career direction that fits and fullfills you as a leader, you start to do work feels right, have time for life outside of work and continue to grow in the direction YOU want. 

Unfortunately, most leaders don’t even know where to begin.

Here's a simple guide that's been used by 20k people over the last 3 decades: 

#1 Learn to get unstuck - get off autopilot

Over the years you’ve collected a library of shoulds:

  • “You should have reached Director or  X level by now”;
  • “You should be married and have X kids by Y age”;
  • "The only way to find be accomplished is to have X salary".

We pick up shoulds... and without realising... we make them our own.

Living life on autopilot = letting other people’s shoulds direct your career direction.

One client told me…

"My father said – women aren’t as good as men – so I thought I should choose a career to prove I’m smart. To prove him wrong. I did it. But I don’t like what I’m doing. And now I understand why."

Another client discovered…

"Years ago, I was fired. Since then... I fear the lack of stability and feel like an impostor.  Since then... I thought I should choose jobs that are secure. Now I realise that all I’m doing is running away from something I don’t want instead of focusing on what I actually want to do."

3 Steps to get off autopilot:

1) Assume you’re choosing everything: beliefs, feelings, reactions.... everything.

Think about it… if you don’t choose your feelings, beliefs, behaviours, labels, reactions, etc. – who does?

Recognise that no one can make you feel angry, stressed, like an impostor, insecure and no one can make you believe that you're not good enough.

Out of the thousands of choices you could make you CHOSE that emotion (anger), that reaction (stress), that label (impostor) or that belief (I'm not good enough). But you chose it on autopilot.  

2)  Identify the payoff for your (previously) unconscious choices

You make every choice to get a reward — we call that payoff.

At some level, the brain sees even the worst logical choices – “I’m not good enough” – as positive. Your brain (in this case your ego) is trying to protect you. 

EXAMPLE: I chose to believe I’m not good enough so I won’t try to go after the career I want. The payoff: so I won't fail and get criticised.

3)  Turn off autopilot: get the same payoff through a more conscious choice or let go of the need to have the payoff

If your payoff was to prove to your father that you’re smart / avoid his criticism… do you actually want this payoff?

If you still want the payoff, is choosing to believe "I'm not good enough" the best way to achieve that payoff? If not, fine, you can drop the belief and choose a different one.

You can find a more in-depth exercise on how to get unstuck in a previous issue of this newsletter.

“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.” ― Shannon L. Alder

#2 Discover who you were before the world told you who you should be

A common mistake when trying to find a new career direction is… deciding what work you want before defining who you are.

You are not your body, beliefs, shoulds, emotions, labels, identities, or personality. 

I can now hear you say... "Ok Silviu, so who am I then?" 

3 Steps to define yourself:
1) Get clear on who you're not 

What you present to the world is your persona. Beneath your persona are your emotions. Beneath your emotions are your self-concept and self-esteem.

For clarity..
  • Self-concept = how you chose to see yourself or the mental image you have created of yourself: e.g. failure, victim, impostor, perfectionist, a hero, etc.
  • Self-esteem = how you chose to feel about yourself: e.g. ashamed that I’m a failure.

Beneath your self-concept… is the real you. The real you is what we call — Just Me or Essence. That's who you really are.

2) Get in touch with Just Me

When people judge you, they judge the perception (story) they have about your persona.

When you beat yourself down, you judge your self-concept.

The best way to remember who you used to be before the world told you who you should be is to come from your essence.

3) Write a few principles to direct your life - we call that a Personal Mission Statement 

No work-life balance can substitute for your lack of understanding of who you are:
  • how do you want to relate to work, money, family, fun, love?
  • how do you want to show up at work, with friends, with family?
  • what do you want to see and have in your life?

When who you are goes against what you do at work, that leads to => internal conflicts => mental health being impacted.

When you align your work with Just Me, you stop wearing a mask at work, choose work aligned with the real you and won't get to retire with regrets. 

"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are."
                                                   —Kurt Cobain

A few mistakes leaders make when defining themselves:

  • Try to cover their insecurities
“I’m a hardworking and caring individual” can cover up the fact that “I fear I’m not good enough”.

  • Continue to borrow other people's standards and ideas of success
“I want to be perceived as smart, independent and confident because deep down I know that's what people respect... I want to be that."

That’s why getting off autopilot (step #1) is a prerequisite before defining yourself. 
And step #2 is a prerequisite for step #3:

#3 Remember your Work Purpose (WP) - it'll help you find your career direction

"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable."
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Once you complete step #2 and have a direction in life, you also need direction in your career.

Having a Work Purpose (WP) gives you that direction.

Not many people would disagree with the fact that the world would be a better place if we each of us contributed towards improving it through our work. 

3 Steps to remember your WP: 

1) Understand what Working on Purpose actually means

Working on Purpose ≠ saving the environment.
Working on Purpose ≠ working as a firefighter, nurse or monk.
Working on Purpose ≠ working for minimum salaries for non-profits or charities.

Your WP is what YOU decide you want to contribute to making the world a better place.

Here's a simple way to think about Working on Purpose...
If the world was a vase broken into billions of pieces, and each of us had one piece… your WP is YOUR piece  — without which the vase continues to leak.

You have a significant contribution to make. The world needs you to deliver your WP. 

Your WP = the contribution you choose to make through your work. 

You’re already delivering a contribution in your job, otherwise, you wouldn’t get paid. 

One of the reasons you don't enjoy your work is because you're asked to "add someone else's piece"

2) Do not mistake your ego for your gut instinct

Your ego is trying to avoid getting hurt. And because that pain is deep (usually felt in your belly or stomach) — you think “ that’s my gut instinct”.

As a result, your Work Purpose becomes “do something in line with my gut feeling” = find work that doesn’t trigger my insecurities. 

3) Be aware of any wounds you carry from earlier in life

Your Work Purpose is implicit — available to you but not apparent.

The participants in the Academy don't say "thanks for helping me discover my WP" as it always seem to have been there, but they just didn't see it. 
One of the many sources of awareness is: the hardships you endured in your life — sometimes life "trains" you to deliver your WP by challenging you.

Reflect on what life trained you to do by looking at your wounds. This is the concept of Wounded Healer.

There's a beautiful moment when leaders look back and start to see their struggles as preparation to deliver their Work Purpose. 

When you have a Work Purpose you:
  • grow quicker, become more competent and get paid more
  • feel like you belong as you play a useful part in the society
  • feel more motivated, appreciated and fulfilled

Once you remember your WP, align it with your career trajectory. Here’s how…

"I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire".
―Stephanie Sparkles

#4: Identify the 1st stage of your purpose-driven career

In the industrial age (up until the 1980s), career planning looked like this... 

Get a job. Make your boss happy. Climb the ladder. Retire.

With the arrival of the informational age, doesn't work anymore.  

We need to stop thinking of our careers in terms of jobs.
Career comes from the Latin “carus”, which means vehicle.

At the Aha! Moment Academy, jobs are vehicles to

  • Contribute — work that feeds your soul and leaves you feeling filled up at the end of the day
  • Grow — never feel as though you are wasting your talents or your potential
  • Earn — work that generates enough income to support the lifestyle you truly desire
  • Meet — you spend 1/3 of your life working so you deserve to have fun with colleagues and be happy doing it
  • Enjoy  — when your career fulfills your WP, it’s easier to stick with it, even on the tough days.

What vehicle will you use to deliver your WP while maximising your potential and living a life worth living?

To define that vehicle we need to look at: 

A. Skills: 

  1. Define the skills you already have to deliver your WP (you will get paid for them).
  2. Define the skills you want to build (this will help you create your strategic plan). 
  3. Define your financial situation.

B. Finances:

1. Do you have savings? 
2. How many months can you live without savings?
3. Can you afford education or a salary cut or is that completely out of the picture? 

Career Development Spectrum (CDS):

All careers develop through 5 distinct stages:

  1. Craftsperson Stage: gain mastery of your skills & learn to have fun at work 
  2. Managerial Stage: learn to sell your skills & develop discipline at work
  3. Leadership Stage: focus on serving others & develop passion for your work 
  4. Expert Stage: develop a unique solution & gain courage to challenge old ways of thinking

5. Creator Stage: blissfully deliver your contribution.

Based on your skills, finances and the stage of the career development stage you're at in relation to your WP, the first vision stage in your career plan will be one of the following: 

  • Take a Seed Job© (a job that provides you the money, time, training, people to prepare to deliver your WP later) 
  • Complete further education or training 
  • Start a business 
  • Take a job delivering my WP in the same field
  • Take a job in a completely different field (career change)

#5: Develop A Fulfilling Career Direction That Fits 

Finally, develop the rest of the stages by asking:

"Once I successfully accomplish X stage, how can I continue to deliver my WP (or prepare to deliver my WP)?" 

Strive to have about 3-5 vision stages through which you will deliver your WP. 

At the end of this process, participants in The Aha! Moment Academy, find that do work that fits and fulfills them by doing one of the following:

  • changing jobs in the same field
  • changing fields or industries
  • changing careers
  • starting their own businesses

Example: a client remembered that her work purpose is to bring people together and share good music. She was working as an account manager. Her initial though when she remembered her WP was "I want to be a DJ". But that career change was risky and hard to accomplish.

And since her finances didn't allow her to take a long career break she decided to continue to use the skills she built (See step #4). Using the Career Development Spectrum we identified that the first vision stage for her was to get into Spotify. Then, to develop her leadership level skills she intended to start her own initiatives within Spotify - organise live events.

The next 3 steps of her career plan were: work in organising live festivals, continue to train as a DJ at bigger events and create her own festival (the final stage).

These stages may change with time, but having a longer vision and direction for her career helped her use the employers to prepare for the next stage. 

TL:DR (too long didn’t read): 
#1 Get off autopilot 

# 2 Define who you are 

# 3 Remember your Work Purpose 

# 4 Identify the 1st stage of your purpose-driven career

# 5 Develop a fulfilling career direction that fits

See you again next week.

Whenever you're ready, there are three ways we can help you:

1. Work with us 1-1 to help you strategically manage your career here.

2. Work with us as part of a group to find and transition into a meaningful career stage here.

3. Tailor an individual coaching program based on your goals and challenges here.

About The Newsletter

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