Are Your Priorities in the Right Place?
There are few things more confusing in your career than working hard your entire career only to wake up one morning and realize you’re no longer working towards something that matters to you. I speak with people on a regular basis who have had a shift in priorities, and the things that previously mattered are no longer their highest priorities.
Some of the most common scenarios I encounter where people have experienced a shift in priorities are:
- People who got into a line of work because it would pay well and they would always have a job who can no longer tolerate the work. They seek happiness and fulfillment in their work instead of stability and predictability.
- People who started their career in jobs demanding unusual hours who now find themselves ready to start a family, and yearning for stability, predictability, and the flexibility to be present for their family.
- People who forged career paths in demanding career fields who have reached a point in their career where they no longer prioritize climbing the corporate ladder. Their priority has shifted to seeking a healthy and happy life that isn’t dominated by being on call all the time.
Well, great. Now what? The key is finding a way to build on your experience and course correct to change the trajectory of your career in a direction that syncs with your new priorities. Sounds simple enough! Here are some hints on how to make that happen.
First - get VERY clear on what you really want. In a situation like one of these, people sometimes have a tendency to “rebound” and over-correct, swinging wildly in the opposite direction. For example, if you have been a personal trainer for 15 years, taking a role sitting behind a desk 40 hours/week to get the stability and predictability you want will probably not be a good fit in the long term. You were drawn to the personal training gig in the first place for a reason, and you must consider whether being on your feet and away from a desk was one of those factors. Could you be happy sitting behind a desk 40 hours/week? Be honest with yourself.
The second thing I suggest is to take stock of your natural strengths and of the skills/abilities you’ve gained up to this point in your career. People have a tendency to discount the skills and abilities that they have acquired in their careers, and oftentimes struggle to see how it can be applied in a new setting. Have you been in sales for 20 years? The fact that you are comfortable talking with anyone and everyone is incredibly valuable! Have you been responsible for establishing new processes for the past ten years? Process improvement and establishment of effective processes transcend industries and companies, and can be applied in many settings. Try and remove yourself from the situation and think of it as if it were someone else in your scenario. Can you apply your skills or industry knowledge to a different role that would benefit from your experience? Challenge yourself to think bigger and broader. Do you have any natural strengths that were underutilized in your previous role? Perhaps it is time to dust them off and see what they can do!
And finally - get okay with your decision to shift priorities. You will face judgment from others, especially those in your previous work environment. Your priorities may have shifted, but those of your peers probably have not, and it may be difficult for them to understand. You may lose some workplace relationships in the shift, but if you believe you have your priorities in the right place for you and your family, you can keep your chin up and weather the storm. Embrace your new chapter!
Shifting priorities doesn’t mean having to take a step back, and in fact, can even take your career to another level. Be thoughtful and deliberate in the consideration of your next steps, and hire a coach if you need help.