I completely understand the feeling of being overwhelmed and stuck in a rut. A few years back I was completely blocked and unsure of what the next step was for my career. I was so deeply entangled in my situation that I couldn’t see the wood for the trees and it was difficult waking up every day having this cloud over me. As overly dramatic as it all sounds, feeling directionless affected me hugely. What I was able to ascertain during that time was that I had to break free of my comfort zone (even though it wasn’t really as cosy as it sounds) and get back in control of the wheel.
I took the first step and decided that I wanted some help. I discovered coaching and the process really helped me to understand more about myself, where I thrive, and how much I have to be grateful for in my life. It gave me a different outlook on everything. I had really been living in autopilot, doing what I thought I “should” do and while I could survive doing that, it was exhausting. Instead, I wanted to thrive. Once I accepted my strengths and weaknesses, what I truly wanted to prioritise at this point in my life, and the skills I enjoyed using, the vision I had for my life and career became demystified and my confidence started to soar.
That’s why I love the following quote from feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.“
Fear takes more of a back seat when we start living in service of our vision. Read on for some helpful tips on gaining clarity and getting yourself unstuck.
Ask Yourself What Is Intrinsically Important To You
There are some important questions that we need to ask ourselves when gaining clarity around our lives and careers.
Firstly, ask yourself what are your core values. If you are struggling with this, think of times you were:
- feeling the happiest
- feeling fulfilled
- feeling proud
What about the people, place or situation made the above times stand out? What recurring themes are coming up for you from the above? These are most likely you core values.
Our core values are our guiding light that makes up our unique essence. When we honour our core values in day to day life, we achieve a much greater sense of fulfilment and joy.
There is also a work values test that you can take here to find out what really motivates you.
Once you identify your values, ask yourself how well they align with the values of your current organisation?
Identify Your Key Strengths & Skills
A very well known positive psychology theory is known as the Strengths theory (Proctor, Maltby et al. 2011). The research has shown that people will see more success on their journey when embracing their strengths, especially in challenging situations.
As humans, we tend to have a negative bias and often focus on our weaknesses rather than acknowledging our key strengths and skills.
To identify your strengths and skills, reflect on career highlights and challenges you have had. What got you through them and made them such a success? What internal resources did you draw on to succeed?
There are also some fantastic resources online to easily find out what our key strengths are. One of my favourites is from the forefather of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. He has created the VIA Character strengths finder test which you can find here.
There are also some good online resources to identify your top skills. I like the following one from CareerSmart which you can find here. However, just because we are good at something, does not necessarily mean we enjoy using that skill so it is also important to keep the below questions in mind:
- What are your key skills?
- What skills would you like to bring forward and leave behind?
- What skills would you like to develop?
Create Your Vision
After doing the above work, it’s time to create the vision that we want for our careers and our lives.
Knowing what is truly important to you, if I were to ask you to close your eyes and imagine your career and life 5 years from now, what would you want that to look like? What impact would you want to be making on the world?
Allow yourself to dream big. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to your vision. From this vision, set 3-5 career SMART (Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Timely) goals that you would like to achieve based on your aspirations.
Write Down Your Career Vision Statement
A career vision statement is a concise future facing 2 sentence paragraph that encompasses our values and our goals.
To do this, you can start by writing down the most important values that you want to express at work, what you want to achieve, and what you want from your career.
An important thing to note is that our career does not have to be our passion. You may want your career to provide you with the financial freedom to buy your first home, provide a great life for your family, travel the world or have time to invest in your passions outside work. Our career vision statement completely depends on our personal wants and needs. However, it is important to gain clarity on our “why” to keep us moving forward, and since we spend a good chunk of our lives working, we want to make the day as pleasant as we can for ourselves.
For job hunting, a career vision statement can also be useful to put on a LinkedIn profile, share with recruiters, or update the headline with on a CV.
An example of my career vision statement is as follows:
My vision is to be a compassionate and impactful career development coach. I want to bring more joy and freedom to people’s work lives and at the same time be the best healthy version of myself that I can be.
Once you have the career vision statement created, consider how you currently see yourself reaching this vision. Set smaller goals that you can work on for the next 6-12 months that will move you forward, and then get even more granular by scheduling in action steps.
Although our vision can be really motivating and an important step in gaining clarity, the most important piece is focusing on the journey there. Create small ways every day to live a life aligned with your values to make the impact that you want.
When we stop managing our career in ways that we think we “should” manage it (usually based on the pressure we put ourselves under and the expectations of others) and start managing it in a way that gives us what we want and need, we’ll never look back.