I gain a lot of insight when chatting with my clients, and this happened just last week when I came away from a call feeling particularly inspired. This client cemented the fact that we should be clearly focused on the direction we are heading with our careers and understand the why behind it.
My client has had a seemingly solid career when you look at it from the surface. She is currently in her late 40s and has been working for around 15 years without issue or interruption. However, as soon as I opened the conversation about her recent career history, I learned that all the roles were at the same level and there was no career growth from beginning to end. She had essentially hit a plateau. Now, this is common to many people but what she said next had me posing quite a few questions to her so I could begin to understand some of her current views.
She told me she had about five good years left in her to give to a promotion of some sort but, at present, was just waiting to see what came her way. If nothing did, then potentially, her current level would be as high as she would go. These comments threw me a little. I wondered why, if she knew she only had this limited amount of time left to give to her career, she was not looking to make a change. Why was she not actively striving to move forward?
The scenario might be familiar to many of you, but, of course, her why or reasoning for each decision is unique only to herself. Looking back at her career, it was clear the first part was based on stability because her husband had been out of work. Making risky decisions at that point in her career was just not on the cards. What followed then was a mortgage and a child, and, not surprisingly, her focus was on earning money and helping to support her family. Again, not a great time to rock the boat, particularly if she was satisfied with her income.
But fast forward to now, and her circumstances are certainly very different. My client seems both capable and ready to change. She is prepared to accept a new challenge if one appears but seems a little hesitant to do so. What is stopping her from creating that next chapter for herself?
This conversation made me realise that our life is just a series of chapters in our book of life, with jobs and situations fading in and out. My client was very clear on her chapters from the past but not so certain about what came next. She has a stability chapter where she was the sole income earner. Then she had the financial chapter in which her focus was to add to the money pot and pay the mortgage.
But here we were at a brand-new chapter – blank pages ready for the taking. A book not yet written and holding so many exciting possibilities. Sitting around and waiting for something to happen when her career time is limited seems like an odd choice when you put the chapters in perspective.
It is at this point in her life that she needs to rethink and come up with a challenge – something to stimulate her mind, enthusiasm, and career fulfilment. Something to get the blood flowing. My challenge to her was to pick up that big, beautiful pen, think about her narrative and deliberately write the next chapter. Surely if we only have one book to write, then we must make it as great as we possibly can. One that, when we look back, pleases us with the content.
When you look back to the chapters that make up your career and life, I hope you enjoy them. I also hope you are deliberate in the creation of what comes next. Think where you want to be, set your intentions, and take those steps to create your next chapter to life.