I’ve received several calls with requests for conversations lately. Once I scheduled the calls, there was a commonality to what was voiced. I recently participated in a series of interviews for a non profit (I’m on the board) where I heard similar stories. Each person voiced, in a slightly different way, a discontent or lack of connection to their work or a feeling that what they were doing lacked value or meaning.
Often the statement about, a feeling of emptiness or exhaustion at the thought of waking up and going to work in the morning, would be followed by,
“I work with really great people.”
“My company has taken great care of me.”
“I’m good at what I do and enjoy it.”
I recognized the pattern and the problem because I had faced it several years ago.
As a recruiter for over 25 years, my role has evolved but really not changed much. My title or responsibilities haven’t really shifted. Yes, I have been more involved with training and mentoring. Plus, I have been more of a rainmaker and brought in clients so other colleagues could work on my projects with me. In my business, it’s the depth of the relationships with clients and candidates, along with knowledge of the sector that deepen, rather than a ladder to climb.
About ten years ago I hit a wall. I was stuck. Getting motivated in the morning was tough, picking up the phone or opening my email, even harder. Big time doldrums. To keep myself focused I set a goal-six years till you have paid for your second child to be done with college, and then you can do something else. Six years seemed like a long time. In the scheme of things it was, but then again in a 25 year career it’s barely a fifth of my time as a headhunter.
Two things happened. First, I was able to put my head down and work through the rough spot. Then before I knew it I wasn’t hating my job any more. As I got closer to the deadline, I wondered why I had set it.
Why did this happen?
First, my job hadn’t changed, I had lived through two recessions and it wasn’t the economy that had put me in the doldrums. My clients evolved but were still in the research world. My daily activities were also similar.
When I focused I was able to realize that I did make some changes during those six years, and I believe these actions were crucial to shifting my situation.
I explored several other career options through informational interviews. Found out what other companies or positions would value my skills and what the compensation would be like. A friend suggested I volunteer with a few organizations to find one that caught my fancy. After I selected one that I was most passionate about, the friend suggested I get more involved, and potentially join a nonprofit board. I put more energy into participation at my children’s schools. Increased my exercise. Started writing blogs to share my career expertise from my work as an executive recruiter. Did more career workshops and took more career coaching calls.
Basically, I did things that fed my soul and expanded the activities I did to leverage my areas of expertise.
What I realized is that I was good at my job. That I had lots of flexibility to make my own hours, select what clients I worked with, and how I built my networks. That I was contributing to the success of my client’s businesses and my candidate’s careers.
The other suggestion about finding a non profit that I was passionate about was a piece of the puzzle. My search for a non profit resulted in a successful match with Empowered Women International. A group using entrepreneurial training to help immigrant, refugee and American born women gain economic stability. My work in the classroom with the students, as a Biz Pitch Judge, and on the board, was incredibly rewarding on so many levels.
I didn’t realize that a void had been filled in my life. Teaching the workshops, coaching, and my continued blogging on LinkedIn gave me intellectual stimulation I had been missing. These changes for me personally shifted the way I looked at my job. I no longer hated it and was counting down till my daughter graduated.
I discovered that sometimes we need to make a career change, but sometimes we need to shift our attitude or perspective.
I’d take these ideas a step further. What if you approach your supervisor or mentor and make suggestions about ways to improve your situation or the way things are done in the company? What if we like most of what are doing at work, but there are some things that bug us, why not work to change them first? Is looking for a new job the solution? Why not suggest a mentoring program? Maybe consider additional training or education, does your company have an education reimbursement program? What about lobbying to create a committee to work on an issue that you see as needing attention?
Most of all realize that while some people get to do what they love for a living, many of us do interesting work or have solid jobs, but need to do other things to gain fulfillment. Not one thing can provide all.