I find people are pretty fluent at talking to their strengths. We don’t like to call them talents, in the UK at least. But strengths seem ok. These are skills that we’re naturally good at. Usually these things overlap with what we enjoy doing. Or did. So, we built a career on them. Smart.
A pathway to success? Sure. In the career space, others hold up those things we do well and appreciate us for them. Not as quantifiable as education where we literally get scored and learn what we seem good at. A different number is crunched as we trade our time and get paid for our grown-up strengths later. We feel valued for them. It’s all good.
Or is it? Think about when our corporate homes give us training. They call it investing in us, because we’re worth it. But let’s be cynical for just a second. That investment is to bring our weaker skillset in line with what we’re naturally strong at because it plugs a skills-gap in the team. So now we get better at things that are not natural. If, over the years, we get promoted away from what we were best at and likely enjoyed most, we become less and less aligned. Is it still so good?
I’ve been asked 3 times this week ‘is it too late for me to make a career change’? My answer is always a fast ‘No. It’s never too late to be who you are meant to be’.
But, here’s a shortcut. Don’t get stuck operating at the surface – playing to strengths – innate or cultivated. It’s a wrong turn.
We’re all refreshingly different. We’re not good at keeping in touch with what is shifting underneath the exteriors we inhabit but dig deep. What really matters is what’s going on beneath the surface, at your core.
I call it an ‘aspiration-action’ gap. Secretly hoping for one career pathway but getting propelled along, building an expertise of others’ choosing. Too often, there’s a gap. And it’s one that matters if you want to feel fulfilled doing work you love instead of praised and paid for doing things that may come easy enough, but you’re not excited by. Or worse, just going through the motions feeling less and less alive as you go.
Mine for your value-set. These are the things in life that spark a feeling of genuine aliveness when you express them. The tricky thing is we’re generally unaware of them. Oh, and they evolve.
None of us are the same person we used to be. As make sense of ‘events’ in our lives and careers, we evolve. It’s really about meaning-making, but it’s also why we need to keep in touch with who we are, at our core.
This evolution of Self is why a perfectly successful career can give way to frustration or feels empty later on.
To give you a couple of examples. One successful client of mine felt cheated by the revolving cast of characters involved in his company’s buy-out. He is a senior operator and had felt great ownership of his corporate home until then. The value that mattered here was integrity. He was highly successful at doing the job but had grown allergic to his corporate landscape when it lost integrity. Performing his everyday remit with ‘allergies’, was coming at too high a cost. He had to react, to take on board the new allergy that illuminated and jarred against his personal integrity. He made a plan to leave and realigned what mattered most in his next move.
For me, values came into focus as I became a mother. Heading up a department doing PR for the worlds’ largest baby-care brand, I became my ‘target audience’, and found the transition bumpy. What mattered most spoke louder than what I was competent at. So, the learning curve of mothering ‘won’ but felt like a defeat in some important ways because no-one mentioned this turn-key thing – my values.
Competing priorities will always collide when our sense of self had evolved but we get stuck performing an ‘old’ role. Psychology tells us this kind of inner conflict is felt most fiercely if the role given the most time (e.g. work) is the least salient (for me, e.g. mothering). And something has to give.
Ultimately, the psychological drive to resolve this kind of identity vs. role conflict is so great – we will just sweep in and fix it in one direction or the other. But opting for the quickest route to ‘make the pain stop’, is definitely not the way to optimise ourselves.
Values are the way we can optimise ourselves. These are so much more than a list of important beliefs. They are more like the compass that will keep your career well-aligned with who you are, at your core.
How so? By informing your next steps, your career choices. By showing you how to integrate your sense of self with the life you want to lead. One where you feel alive because you’ve aligned what you do with who you are…really.
Knowing your core values will bring some self-awareness but please know, it’s acting on them, expressing them that makes the real difference.
A well-trained coach will know how to intuit at the deepest listening level. They can identify your values within what feels like a rich conversation. Then illuminate them for you to see. But not everyone has a coach. So, I’m going to teach you to do this for yourself (and a friend).
Here’s how you are going to find the 3 most important things you don’t know about yourself (any more) and start to make a plan that realigns work you love with who you are…at your core.
If you feel ready to have a conversation, mining for your values or planning how to realign your work with who you are now you’ve illuminated them, do email me and we’ll arrange that. [email protected]
Originally published at www.helenhanison.com