The New Way to Create a Fulfilling Career Path
One thing that unites the people who consider a career change is that they’re always hungry to learn and grow. I’ve taken to calling us, lovingly, “learning junkies.”
The paradox of learning junkies is that we never stop wanting to be challenged, so the craving to expand doesn’t just go away when you get that great job. Learning junkies actually outgrow jobs faster than your average bear, and end up looking for new possibilities to keep expanding their knowledge.
When I first started leading people through career changes, I based the efficacy of my results on the permanence of the change. It's no surprise I was devastated when clients told me they’d made another shift. It took a long time to truly contextualize what was happening for my clients, and why it was actually a great thing they kept making moves.
After watching this growth and expansion cycle for several years, here’s the trend I’ve seen among learning-oriented individuals: You start out and discover a direction that sparks joy and excitement in your soul. You land the job (or start the business). You are flying high, often for months or years.
At some point, enough time has passed that some of the luster of the initially thrilling job wears off. Maybe some of the excitement dwindles as you settle in, or maybe a teammate's behavior starts to get on your nerves a little bit. There's an opportunity at this point to make minor adjustments to course-correct, perhaps by talking to your boss about the annoying coworker or starting a daily gratitude practice at the office.
But course-corrections don’t always resolve everything, and as a growth-oriented person, you’ll likely experience a shift in how the job “fits” you over time. You might outgrow your work and master the job, or perhaps realize that you don’t want to stay on that team forever. You’ll be evolving and changing as time goes on, and so will your values and needs. Almost inevitably, you'll find that your work doesn't match up quite as well with your values and needs anymore.
Sometimes it’s because the work changes: they’re asking you to work longer hours, violating your lifestyle needs, or your promotion ends up pushing you away from your strengths. Other times, it's because you’re stagnating or feeling “bored out” and burnt out. Often, thrilling life changes can spur us to readjust our career paths: You got married, had your first baby, are expecting baby number three, got your master’s degree, or moved to the city (or country) of your dreams. Sometimes these fundamental changes are a product of disappointment or tragedy.
No matter the cause, there will come a moment when you realize you current role is no longer serving you. You'll arrive at a decision point:
Do I stay here, feeling the way I feel, or is it time to make a bigger shift?
If you know someone who’s constantly complaining about their job, is not fun to be around, and yet won't do anything to solve the problem, you know exactly what it looks like to stay at a poor-fit job too long.
If you make the decision to do something about it, you'll move into a delightful and juicy introspective season where you reestablish who you are and what you want by doing lots of reflection. In a lot of ways, you’ll be seeing yourself with fresh eyes in a new season of life. It’s time to envision what you want most and imagine a reprioritization of your life to better honor your current priorities and values.
[Related: Job Hunting When You Have Many Interests]
From here, you grow right into your next career evolution. If you value learning, you can expect to be moving through this cycle over and over again throughout the rest of your career.
Seeing this growth cycle might be a relief or even a joy. You can continue to follow your natural tendencies to expand and stretch your knowledge. It also means you’re not broken or odd if you’re outgrowing jobs.
It’s truly the natural order of things, and anything else would be fighting your humanness. Don't beat yourself up about the speed with which you notice yourself moving through this progression. There’s natural variation with every learning junkie.
Many people wish there was a magical “silver bullet” for knowing exactly what to do next, so you can check the boxes, slide into your new career path, and kick up your feet until you retire. Unfortunately, there’s not one.
But once you start taking steps in the direction you think fulfillment might lie, you’ll notice what feels good and can keep moving toward that. You’ll also notice fulfillment gaps quickly and learn what you need to ask for to take impeccable care of your needs.
When you pair this approach with self-awareness, you’ll have the skill-set to powerfully and confidently make move after move throughout the years.
Come back to this model any time you need to audit your situation and make improvements, because you deserve to do work that helps you become your most alive, energized, joyful self.
Lisa Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Career Clarity.
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