Don’t Do What I Did

Believe In YourselfI get random requests from people who want to do what I do.  I’m usually flattered.  Always unsure about what they want to REALLY know.  The request goes something like this:  “I want to do what you do.  Tell me how to do it.”

My immediate response is either “Don’t do what I did!  Don’t quit your job, sell your house, move across the country and start a business” or “If you want every insecurity you didn’t even know you had to come to the surface, start your own business.”  No really.  It’s a toss-up between the two.  But while I think they need to hear this advice, that’s not what most people want to know.  Go figure.

No, everyone else isn’t crystal-clear about their career direction.  You are not the only one who hasn’t figured it out.  Nor is everyone else 100% self-assured and free of fear.   

You think they’d ask me questions about how I found my niche, or what sort of training I got, or what it takes to be a successful career coach.  Nope.  Here are the top four things that people want to REALLY get out of any conversation we have about my job/career:

1. Encouragement

Going after any career option, never mind a “career dream,” can feel like an incredible risk.  Sometimes, we just need someone to tell us that we can do it.  Or to show us an alternative way.  They are relieved to know that I’ve both struggled and gotten lucky.  It makes it feel do-able.

2.  Permission

Yes, I know… you shouldn’t look for permission from others.  But heck, there’s a pretty strong anti-empowerment message with the whole “Don’t quit your job before you have another one” smart advice.   No one can make this decision for you.  It’s your career, your life, and you have to decide what is your best option.  Sometimes, quitting a toxic job or situation is the smartest thing you can do.  Some of us (ok, me) will hesitate as long as there’s a safety net in place.  It’s weird that we have to get permission from others, but whatever.  I’ve never been much of a rule-follower so here it is:  It’s OK to want a career you enjoy!!

3.  Hope

We need hope when we’re letting go of something else but before we’ve got a firm hold on the next thing.  Isn’t this the scariest part of any career transition?  You’ll need some hope to make it to other side.  The hope that there’s something better on the other side.  When things are falling apart, or you’re miserable at work, it makes sense that you might be craving some hope.  When I was changing careers, staying in action helped me feel hopeful.  It was when I stopped, even with the smallest of steps, that I started to lose hope.  Don’t make this mistake.

4.  Not feeling alone

No, everyone else isn’t crystal-clear about their career direction.  You are not the only one who hasn’t figured it out.  Nor is everyone else 100% self-assured and free of fear.   They have insecurities and doubts.  They wonder if they’re making the right decisions.  You are not alone in your thoughts and feelings about your career.  It can feel like everyone else has it figured out but you don’t.  I didn’t have it all figured out.  And guess what?  People love to hear this part of my story.

I’m sharing this with you now, because over the next month or so, you’ll be socializing more.  People you meet may be interested in learning more about what you do.  Or maybe you’ll decide to do some career research and talk to people to help you sort through career options in preparation for the New Year – excellent strategy, btw.

Have generous conversations and be authentic.  And feel free to share hope, encouragement and permission.  In the spirit of the season.


P.S.  One last piece of advice that no one asks for but I think they need?   Try to make a lot of mistakes.  I have learned way, way more from each of my mistakes than I did from all of my successes added together.