Every day I thank my lucky stars that I am doing work that I love, and I can genuinely say that I look forward to going to work each day to coach my clients. You see, I have my own business as a Career & Interview Coach and I get to help people every day. I get to utilise my signature strengths – relationship building skills, communication skills, sense of humour, empathy and compassion.
But, it hasn’t always been this way.
I started my career in 1997 working as a Taxation Consultant for a Big 4 accounting firm in Melbourne, Australia. I was courted by the graduate recruitment teams of these firms at university career fairs, extravagant welcome cocktail parties at their lavish offices and felt excited by the idea of working for a large corporate and attending all these costly events. I was a country girl who was a going to make the big time! Amazingly, I didn’t even think to ask what I would be actually doing with my time and what the work involved!
It started off well. I really liked the people in my department, enjoyed socialising with the other graduates and loved working in the CBD of Melbourne. However, after about six months, the novelty started to wear off and I realised that I hated the actual work I was doing. I found it didn’t come naturally and despite being an A student at school, the complex tax problems just didn’t seem to gel. Reading tax legislation and tax cases bored me to tears and I found it really hard to concentrate in our weekly training meetings. I started to realise that perhaps this wasn’t the dream after all.
However, I am not usually someone who doesn’t finish what I start, and I felt that I just needed to work harder to keep up with the other graduates in order to get more interesting work. I suffered through two further years of exams to become a Chartered Accountant and experimented in a few different teams and departments until I decided it was time to look elsewhere. At this point, I had met with many recruiters trying to plan my escape but they all just tried too push me into another tax role someplace else. I felt completely stuck until it dawned on me that perhaps I might enjoy being a recruiter too. Meeting with new people every day, building relationships and working in a job where you were able to talk all day!
I interviewed with a few firms and before long I was leaving a global firm to accept a position with a start-up no-name recruitment firm and for a position that required no qualifications at all. However, in my heart, I knew I was making the right decision and I quickly succeeded in my new line of work. At the time I couldn’t explain why, but in hindsight it is very obvious.
In my first career as a tax consultant I wasn’t utilising any of my natural strengths that I was able to use in recruitment and now career coaching. There was absolutely no need for empathy and compassion and I was regularly glared at by the managing partner when he saw me conversing with my colleagues. Talking was frowned upon during working hours, yet this was my greatest strength, and I was only able to use it at Friday night drinks (possibly over-compensating at times)!
If you are in a career rut, then do some self-assessment to work out what your natural strengths are, and how many of these you are actually using in your position description. Using them in the lunch hour or at after-hours events don’t count (unless this is part of your job description). If you are not utilising your strengths, then chances are, that you are instead trying to overcome weaknesses which is draining and de-motivating. When you are overcoming weaknesses, work feels hard and doesn’t come naturally.
It isn’t easy to make a big career jump, but heart over status is really important when it comes to finding your ‘best fit’ career and meaningful work.
If you need help identifying your key strengths, then contact Leah, Career & Accredited Strengths Profile Coach, via the Relaunch Me website to see how you can better utilise your strengths in the workplace.