Making a career is not easy. When you graduate you feel glorious; you believe that everything is possible. However, this feeling fades sooner rather than later. When it does, we often find ourselves stuck in a rut. It is as if the life we are living is based on the lyrics of the Talking Heads. You ask yourself “How did I get here? Why am I doing this job? This isn’t exactly how I pictured it, what happened to my dream job?”
Frustrated you wonder what has happened, what you did wrong along the way. Sometimes you just give up. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be difficult to build a satisfying career, but we often make it that way. The key is to become aware of the different ways in which we sabotage ourselves.
1. Don’t take what others say for granted
It already starts in our upbringing. Our environment tells us how to behave and what we are supposed to do. We take those thought patterns with us in our life and career without even realizing they are there. Negative statements like “Life is like a jungle, only the strongest will survive”, “You are lazy; you need to work harder” and “You are nothing without qualifications” tint our belief system. I used to think if I had the right qualifications, I would get anywhere in life. After graduating with a Masters in Veterinary Science, moving to a different country (Dublin, Ireland) and getting a certificate in Regulatory Affairs and GMP in evening school, I still found myself in a customer service job. Qualifications can be a good stepping stone, but they don’t necessary land you in your dream job.
2. Start believing in yourself
When I applied for vacancies, I always received the same answer: “You don’t have enough experience”. In the meantime I’d meet other people who basically rolled into the Life-Science sector without effort. Why were they successful and I wasn’t? Maybe I didn’t work hard enough, maybe I needed to try harder…study more, apply for more vacancies, or work longer hours? It seemed to be all in vain, no matter what I tried. After a while I asked myself; “What’s the use? Why bother?” Faced with adversity, we often give up. I think this is a normal human reaction. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and to think “I am just not like this person, I am not good enough.”
However, this behaviour will get you nowhere, in fact, it helps you race towards a burn out. Don’t let yourself hit rock-bottom before changing your mindset. Notice your negative thought patterns and turn them around, look at what works, what makes you happy. What we focus on grows and changing your mindset is key to getting where you want to be.
3. Know who you are
For many years I believed I wanted a job in Life-Sciences. Now I am not so sure anymore. Yes, I still have a passion for science, but after job shadowing a few Life-Science professionals, I understood that this was not my dream. I did not want to spend lonely hours in a backroom of a hospital checking study reports, or filling in the same paperwork all day. I started to pay more attention to the things I already did in my current job that I liked and that I was good at: communication, problem solving, planning and writing. I remembered how as a child I always carried a little notebook with me and loved to write stories. What had happened? Why had I given this up and told myself that it wasn’t important?
Instead of spending so much time looking for vacancies or working overtime I decided to invest my time in things that I liked doing. I took up creative writing and joined Toastmasters, a club that focusses on writing speeches and public speaking. After a few months I was asked to join the committee of Toastmasters and to help organize the meetings. Around the same time, I wrote a short story and took the decision to enter in an international writing competition. A month later, a writing agency based in the US contacted me. My story was selected for publication in the fall edition of their magazine, would I be interested?
4. Step out from the Shadows and dare to be visible
It is scary to be visible. It makes you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. But if there is one thing I have learned, then this is it: If you want to be noticed, you can’t hide behind what is known and safe, you need to step up and dare to show yourself! When my previous company offered a sponsorship to a selected group of employees for a Lean Sigma Green Belt Certification, I was interested. However, I didn’t fit the profile. I gathered my courage and explained to my higher management why I should be in that course. Eventually they made an exception and I could take part. In the end, from the 15 people that enrolled, I was the only one to finish successfully my project and get certified.
Always follow your heart
While these tips might seem like a cliché they carry a lot of truth. You are most successful when you do the things that make you happy. Combine this with a positive mindset, a bit of courage, and wonders will happen. I still work in customer service, but in my spare time I am now helping a project manager and I am writing my first novel. I know my future will be bright because I prioritize what is important to me and what gives me joy. And so can you!
Last modified: October 22, 2018