When clients come in for career coaching, I tell them that there’s no predictable time frame for finding and landing a wonderful job. Much depends on their own clarity, actions, resources and resourcefulness, in addition to external factors that are beyond our control. We then get to work assessing and exploring, while I hold them accountable to the actions they name, celebrate their breakthroughs, and help them stay optimistic and supported during doubtful times.
But there’s something that I never say out loud to clients, which is that my own dream job was nearly five decades in the making. After all, who has that kind of time?
But seriously, what I mean is that the journey to my becoming a coach, teacher and writer of personal transformation has been in process since I was a child, with clues that were always there, and some interesting detours and rest stops along the way.
As a kid, I could sometimes be heard “coaching” my fellow performers (onstage, alas…) in school plays. I also had a tendency to befriend children who seemed lonely or outcast. Later on, I built a fort in the backyard and pretended it was a classroom, dragging my little brothers in as students.
So yes, along with being an occasional know-it-all and helper, I was a bossy big sister.
In high school I began writing essays, and letters to the editor about issues that were important to me, like world peace, authenticity and freedom of expression. While my girlfriends were reading Seventeen magazine, I was devouring self-help books and studying feminism and nutrition. I also formed a support group with friends who, like me, were grappling with eating disorders.
My college years were spent exploring my passions and love of travel while planning for a career in journalism. After meandering through jobs in publishing, public relations and philanthropy in my 20s, I landed in public radio and stayed there for a decade. I loved using my creativity, telling stories and reporting about people who were overcoming the odds and making a difference. My favorite moments were those of meaningful connection with my subjects and listeners.
All of that changed when a panic attack, on the air, in the middle of a newscast, set me firmly on the path of recovery and healing at age 35.
As my own personal development became my primary occupation, I was led to live and later train at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I learned from some of the world’s best teachers of transformation. I’d never planned to become a yoga teacher but, in the midst of this major change, I had told myself that I wanted my next job to be one in which I “helped people and wore comfortable clothes.”
Two years later, I moved to the Boston area to lead my own workshops and yoga classes, and write about conscious living.
In my late 40s, I learned of an opportunity to study something called Positive Psychology, and my whole being said, “Yes!” I trained to become a coach and teacher in a field that echoed so much of what I already practiced and believed, and it’s the work I plan to do for the rest of my life.
I believe our ideal careers are found at the intersection of what we’re good at (aka our strengths, which you can assess here), what we love to do, and what we care about. We then need to factor in our financial needs, and we get bonus points if our work serves “the world’s great hunger,” as theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote.
Here’s what else I believe:
–There are career clues in what you’ve always loved and enjoyed doing well. If you’re contemplating a career move, take time to write about this. Learn to trust your gut and heart when saying “Yes” and “No” to opportunities (even when we don’t know what is next, we can get good at discerning what is not). Follow leads that feel enlivening, even if they make no sense. Give yourself permission to want what you want.
–Nothing is wasted. I regret none of the stops on my career journey, because they all got me here. I even use bits and pieces from seemingly unrelated past jobs in my current work. See all of your life experiences as opportunities to learn, discern, gather, grow and prepare.
–You might not always make a lot of money doing what you love. When I first landed in Boston, I worked for the circus to supplement my income. Cirque du Soleil, that is (that was me shouting, “Programs, get your programs here!” and selling overpriced merchandise). Years later, I worked as an administrative assistant for three years, while continuing to teach and write on the side, during a time of transition in my personal life. Today I’m grateful for multiple income streams.
—Doing work that we love is energizing, and feels like play. Using our strengths and skills in ways that are enjoyable and meaningful is essential to thriving in life. If you can only do some of that in your job, find other outlets, such as volunteer, family or community projects.
—You’ll have to build courage muscles to keep going for what you want when the going gets tough. Staying true to ourselves and our ideals is not easy, but it’s so worth the rewards of living with integrity and personal satisfaction. Get support, whether professionally or in the form of “believing mirror” friends and family members. Appreciate and reward your own bravery, too.
Here’s to your own quest for fulfilling work, and those lucky enough to be on the receiving end of your strengths and passions.
Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or video chat.