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Career Paths: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, it's good for you

Just over a year ago I started to feel quite scratchy about my job. The itch got bigger and bigger and started to overwhelm my view of my career. This was not helped by the fact that I am approached the big-40 and had started to feel a rising level of panic that I was not the the success I 'could' have been and wondering if I was genuinely following my 'passion'?

A year on and I've finally learnt the truth - there is no golden bullet to stopping the itch, the itch is good, it's telling you are at the top of your s-curve and are ready to gain new skills and experiences. I've also learnt that you don't need to be following a passion to feel happy in your role but rather you need you to be living your values while working to be happy.

Here are some of the important ideas I've learnt along the way;

Figure out where you are on the s-curve but don't jump too quickly

I'm a massive Whitney Johnson fan and in particular love her idea of the career s-curve. The idea is that as you move along the curve of your current career journey you get to a point where you begin to plateau. Once you realize you might be at the top of your curve then you have two options; leap or stay on plateau.

In the case of the leap you are either looking for a new job or a internal change - your new s-curve. The alternative is to stay on the plateau. This is something I know I actively chose to do while my kids were younger as I was also juggling other caring commitments at the time and the leap to a new challenges was too overwhelming. While on the plateau I didn't just stagnate but I actively chose to job craft. This allowed me to stay engaged while also developing skills and experiences that supported me when I was ready for my next s-curve leap.

While being at the top of an s-curve means you might be ready for a new challenge you need also to make sure that it is the right time in your wider life for a new leap and don't feel guilty if you choose to actively plateau for a while.

Your work does not have to be your passion but you need to be living your values

About a year ago I started thinking about undertaking a radical career pivot. I have a strong passion for diversity and inclusion and have a natural tendency to want to help people and started to discover all these interesting and exciting jobs that could fit around this passion. This made me question what my purpose in life was and more specifically whether my career should in fact be my passion.

I investigated several roles in the diversity and inclusion space and spoke to as many people as possible and nothing seemed to quite fit the career pivot I was looking for. That's when I decided to really try to understand what really drives me at work and if it is only by following a passion that I was able to be happy at work.

That's when I started looking at my work values - please see my blog on how I determined my work values. Once I had determined my work values I was able to see how aligned my passion and my work values are but also that my current career and my work values are also well aligned. This obviously was a bit confusing until I discovered the idea of a passion project, a creative outlet which might or might not be your career. That light bulb moment made me realize that I can have a passion project and a career and the two don't have to be the same - which then allowed me to start this blog you are now reading.

Discovering your passion is important but it doesn't have to be your career. Determining and living your values is far more important and a key driver of your happiness at work.

There is no final destination when it comes to your career and you don't need to have a five or ten year plan to feel happy and successful and nor do you have to be following a passion. In fact I feel that sometimes planning your career too much can create a type of tunnel vision that means you miss out on opportunities that your future self would love. Understanding my work drivers and where I am on the s-curve at any point in my career has given me the skills to make better choices at work about my career and has allowed me to 'get comfortable with being uncomfortable'.

If you enjoyed this post please check out my other blog posts on the topic including How to be More Selfish and How to Deal with Mental Load Overload.

All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.


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