A Dream Deferred
When I first became a coach, I really wanted to work with people in search of satisfying and fulfilling careers. However, my own path was so convoluted that I doubted my ability to guide others through their own transitions.
Obviously, I knew something about making decisions and trusting my heart, but I was so fixated on the specifics that I missed the larger lessons I was learning at the time. Instead, I decided to focus on the “easier” (to me) issues of perfectionism and procrastination.
It wasn’t until I’d been doing this for awhile and decided to check in with some of my more successful clients that I discovered something surprising.
That thing I thought I couldn’t do? I’d been doing it all along.
At the time of our coaching, these clients tended to be un-, under-, or unhappily employed. After working with me for a few months, they found better situations and ended up feeling optimistic about the future. It wasn’t until I talked to several of them in a row that I began to see the pattern.
That’s right – despite claiming all along that I wasn’t a career coach and knew nothing about helping people achieve the same results that I had, each one of these women had crafted a path to greater happiness while working with me.
Underselling yourself isn’t modesty – it’s blindness.
“Fake it ’til you make it” isn’t terrible advice, especially when it comes to matters of self-confidence. However, it can backfire when you’ve been slowly “making” it all this time but forgot to stop “faking” it – i.e., you’ve been improving, but your confidence hasn’t.
This is when things like “imposter syndrome” (when you’re perfectly qualified but feel like a fraud) come into play. You over-prepare for things, worry over every little detail, obsess over your perceived shortcomings, and dismiss your successes as flukes. You live in dread of being “found out” as less skilled than everyone thinks you are.
Once I was able to let go of my assumptions about what “career coaching” really entailed, I was able to see how my strengths had contributed to my clients’ progress. As it turned out, I didn’t have to know where they were going; all I had to do was help them get clear enough to figure it out on their own.
This was a huge epiphany for me.
I no longer had to fake confidence that I didn’t really feel.
As much as I’d wanted to work with people in career transition, my lack of faith in my own abilities stopped me from specifically trying to reach out to them.
But when I took the time to look back and examine some of my past successes, I didn’t have to have faith that I could do it, because I’d already done it. I didn’t have to hold on to some nebulous “belief in myself” because the facts told me I was already successful.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one doing this.
My clients were doing the exact same thing. They already possessed all the makings of their success, but just couldn’t see them. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. They just needed to get to a place where they could stop discounting their gifts and their intuition so that they could see that they already had everything they needed.
When you’re living inside your own head, it can be almost impossible to get perspective on your strengths and abilities. It’s easy to discount them because they’re easy for you.
I get it: I spent years feeling that achievement wasn’t valuable unless I worked extremely hard for it. Now, I’m learning to lean into my strengths and play up to them and not take them for granted.
Here’s a quick and easy way to do this in your own life.
Whether or not you’re interested in changing careers, I can’t imagine that it’s a bad thing to get new perspective on what makes you awesome.
Here’s the exercise:
Take a typical day in your life and write down all the things you do, beginning with getting up in the morning and making breakfast.
Move through the rest of your day, noting down the tasks and projects you’re in charge of, the things you get done, and the people you interact with.
For each of those things, ask yourself, “What did it take for me to be able to do that?”
Even something as simple as getting up in the morning can take strength of will or self-discipline. Maybe you’re drawing on your innate qualities of dedication, conscientiousness, or scrupulousness.
What skills did you have to utilize to get through your day? What strengths, abilities or qualities did you need?
You don’t have to get pedantic about it or take it to a level of tedium – all we’re doing is bringing a new level of self-awareness to the ways you’re already rocking your life without realizing it.
I think it’s important to note the difference between skills and preferred skills.
Just because you’re really awesome at putting together spreadsheets or meal plans doesn’t mean you like them.
It’s good to notice all the skills you have to draw on, but it’s also worth paying attention to how much of your day you spend doing things you’re good at versus things you’re good at and enjoy.
I hope you found this exercise illuminating! I’d love to hear what it brought up for you. If you’re wishing for a job that that uses more of your skills, check out my career transition programs to learn how coaching can help you make the jump.