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Is Your Career The Right One For You?

Choosing the Right CareerDo you really know if your career is right for you? Just because it's been something you've been doing day-in and day-out for years doesn't mean it is what you should be doing. It just makes it habit. It's a job, but is it a career for life? Do you feel satisfied at the end of the day, or drained?

Here are some ways to really look at how you spend your time, and how to change that.

Believe it or not, a house painter inspired this article. 

Recently I had a screened-in porch built onto the back of my house.  As with most construction in the homestead, the addition seemed like a great idea until the actual work began.  I am sure my experience was no different than any other:  promises of two weeks turning into two months; lots of tracked in sawdust; workers calling-up the stairs with questions the minute the clothes hit the floor from the morning jog; and the hammering—oh, Lord, the hammering. 

Is Your Career The Right One For You?

So how does all this relate to how someone knows if they are in the right career?  It relates in that my assumption going into this period of construction, was that the people putting the structure up were only in the porch business as a last resort or as a temporary measure until returning to college.  What I learned instead is that these workers were far from resentful high school spring-breakers, but in fact, artists.

Artists?

Yes. I know for a fact that I saw in these workers all of the things that someone who loves their work exhibits:  eyes glazed in creative splendor; standing back with a satisfied appraisal at work well done; requesting feedback when none was given; repairing details not meeting the worker’s expectation—even though the customer did not consider it a priority and there would be no extra pay.  In short, an artist.

What’s more is that I realize now, that I was not only wrong, but perhaps arrogantly so,  in my assumption that the only real career happened behind a desk and involved a computer or college degree.  These guys really had it all – working creatively, making good money, leaving someplace better than when they found it. Yep.  No doubt about it, these guys loved their jobs.  Did they ever experience problems? Bad days?  Sure.  There seemed to be a good amount of supplies not delivered and bad weather and the occasional sinus headache complaint..  But these tid bits of irritation shared with me came with a decided lack of blame, pouting, back-stabbing or idleness.  Hmmm. 

So are there components to determining if you are in the right career — be it doctor, lawyer or house painter?  And if so, do these components provide the answer to this age-old question, no matter what your profession?  I believe so.  Who am I?  Why, I am someone who loves what she does, works about ten hours a week, stays home with her kid in her much-loved home and makes the same amount of money a year that she did when working over 60 hours a week. 

Through countless hours of career counseling, developing and delivering workshops, and of course my epiphany during the construction in my home, I have determined some important aspects to any career that you must be experiencing regularly to avoid burn-out and perpetual unhappiness.  And since you are busy, and need to get back to work, let me get right to it.  A person who is in the right career regularly.

Experiences the Zone.  Ever lose all track of time at your job—and leave invigorated?  Do people ever swing by your office to talk about something usually important to you, like sports or the latest gossip, and you barely look up to make eye contact?  Chances are you were in “the zone”.  You were loving your work.  Yea!  This just doesn’t happen to those that are not suited to their work.

I really want to give you a classic example at this point of a job that does not lend itself to “zone”, like “stamp lickers’, but after my screened-in porch experience, I have decided to keep a tad bit of humbleness in my assumptions about others’ choices.  Let me just say this:  I have been a stamp licker in the past and stared holes into the wall clock until it registered 5:01pm and then flew out of the office; and I have recently licked a few stamps trying to generate more sales of my latest book, and found myself in “the zone.”  Clearly title, task and money are not “zone” predictors.

Creates Original Output.  Are you regularly generating ideas or outlines or sketches that no one else has ever done? And not just a “once in a while” thing, but on a regular basis?  How about unique ways to organize? Or coming-up with unheard of solutions for team building?  Maybe you have created a solution to something determined to be too expensive and found an answer that cost “a shoestring”?  You are definitely sounding like a person who is on the right track.  What?  Your job doesn’t have the type of situations that allow for original output?  Guess what?  They all do.

Works Without Compensation — Gladly. Remember my house contractor who repaired little details?  Things like weather stripping color and a small crack in a piece of wood were important to him though I, the customer, could have cared less.  He came back out and repaired these items on his own time, with no compensation.  He knew I loved the porch.  I even told him I thought the final product was worth much more than was spent (of course this was long after the check had been written and cashed!).  So what was his motivation?  The same as anyone in the right career:  a job well done is its own reward.  Ok.  So that wasn’t original output…but my point is made.

Knows That the Grunt Leads to the Gold.  People in the right career are all the things we are told we “should” be:  persistent, working long hours, avoiding the office gossip break.  But when others comment on these qualities, on the long-suffering traits of this worker, instead of feeling superior or finally acknowledged, the person on the right career path finds these behaviors surprisingly easy to accomplish.  In fact, this person will be more than happy to share their methods with us.  There is little competition, because this person knows each contribution is unique and that there is plenty of “gold” for everyone.

Leaves the World Better Than They Found It.  If this one means nothing to you or you are unsure if you are doing this, then it’s time for some soul searching.  What about those that know exactly what I am talking about?  Just keep doing what you’re doing.  And thank you.

About the Author:

Stephanie Goddard Davidson is a nationally recognized speaker and certified trainer in such popular programs as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; People Skills for Managers and Individual Contributors; Franklin Covey's First Things First Time Management; and master certified for all Zenger Miller/Achieve Global management development programs.

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