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Confused About Your Career? Why That’s Good & What To Do Now

Confused About Your Career? Why That’s Good & What To Do Now

Do you ever pine for the Middle Ages? Oh, those lovely medieval times when life was so limited. How great it must have been to have someone shove a rake in your hand and tell you to go dig potatoes all day long.

Life must have been great when you didn’t have the stress of figuring out a career. No, you just were told: “You’re a blacksmith. You’re a beer wench. You’re a princess.”

There’s no confusion.  You just get on with your potato hoeing, and life is good.

Right?

Uh, wait. What if you don’t like being a potato hoe? Tough potatoes, kid. Who do you think you are?  A minstrel? No. You’re options are limited, so suck it up.

OK, so that’s not what you want.

What you want is to stop feeling confused about your career path. You want certainty that you are doing what you were meant to do and that you will be successful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, thinking that you should have this all figured out by now, come with me.

I will tell you why you are confused, why this confusion is a good thing, and what to do about it now to feel fulfilled and excited by your life.

The Source of Your Confusion

Every summer for the last 8 years, I have taken groups of teens backpacking and camping in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. We go deep into the woods for up to 22 days at a time, carrying our food and gathering our water from creeks.

We hike an average of 4 miles a day, and the students learn how to navigate. I don’t guide them; they have to learn how to read the land, read a map, and use a compass so they don’t get lost.

The Appalachian Mountains is one of the hardest places in the world to navigate. There was a time when these mountains were taller than the Himalayas, but erosion over time has worn them into beautiful, rolling, feminine mounds. There are very few peaks to climb to use for triangulation, and in the summer, the lush foliage can make it nearly impossible to see for more than a tenth of a mile.

As a consequence, one rolling mountain knob looks like another. It takes practice to learn to read the subtle distinctions of the land.

Additionally, the maps we use are from 20 years ago, at best. In twenty years, any man-made structure can change. Roads and trails can be re-routed. So you can’t trust the map.

Finally, the compasses that we use go out with hundreds of students and get abused. Sometimes the compass might work well, other times no.  It can’t be fully trusted, either.

Imagine a dozen 14–16-year-olds, most of whom have never done anything like this before (probably never even used a map before), hiking through the woods with limited abilities to understand the world around them, inaccurate maps and potentially faulty compasses.

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Again, I don’t guide them. They work together to figure it out after I teach them the foundational skills.

If they make a mistake, I let them get lost. They have to learn pretty quickly or else they may end up hiking an extra 10 miles because of the mistake.

This is bad news for me, because I have to hike it all with them, knowing we’re going the wrong way the entire time.

Why do I let them get lost? Isn’t that mean?

No. In fact, it would be mean not to.

One crucial navigating skill is learning how to recognize that you are lost, figuring out where you are, and deciding what to do next. If I rescue them or they think I will rescue them, they stop thinking critically.

By letting them get lost, I am teaching them significantly more than showing them the way.

So what does this have to do with you?

You are doing the same thing right now.

Why You Are Confused About Your Career

You are trying to read the subtle distinctions between careers with very limited understanding.

Should I go to law school? What is the difference between a business and entertainment lawyer and a defense attorney?

I want to work with kids. Should I be a teacher, a social worker, a pediatric doctor, or a camp counselor?

Is it better for me to get an MBA or just start my own business?

I have the training, but what’s my niche?

When you don’t know what it’s actually like to be in each job on a daily basis, everything blurs. To a novice, every mountain looks like the next, so how are you supposed to choose?

Plus, you too have an unreliable map that was made 20 years ago. Many people are training for career possibilities that will be obsolete in 10 years. If you trained to be a librarian, you may find yourself a bit screwed right now.

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Technology is rerouting the trails and roads we’ve used for centuries. How are you supposed to confidently invest in the education and training for a career that may not exist in a decade?

And remember that faulty compass?

Did you know that adolescence actually extends to the age of 25 for the average person? What biologically signals the end of adolescence is when your brain fully links up into it’s optimal functioning. Before that, your brain isn’t wholly equipped to make strategic risk-management and predictive decisions by applying past knowledge to current problems.

That means your brain is not a reliably functioning compass until then.

Now, when do most of us decide about our careers? When we are in college around 19 or 20.

We put enormous pressure socially and financially on a 20 year old to have highly attuned internal guidance to make a decision that will determine the destination that we call destiny.

Yet we don’t even legally allow them to decide whether they can have a glass of wine with dinner.

Does this make sense? No!

It’s no wonder that I talk to parents of 20-somethings every day who are deeply concerned that their bright, talented child seems direction-less. “Where did we do wrong?” they ask.

You are not alone if you feel lost in the woods with limited abilities to read the land, holding an unreliable old map, using a faulty compass.

Why It’s OK to Be Confused About Your Career

Are you looking around the terrain of your life wondering, “How did I get here? Is this where I want to be or is this just where I ended up?”

The sheer panic drops down on you when you feel lost and confused.

Ah, man.  I made a huge mistake. I’ve wasted all this time. How could I be so stupid!

Sound familiar?

Guess what I tell my students when they realize they are lost?

Congratulations! You rock!  This is awesome! What great opportunity you have now!

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Why is getting lost a good thing?

Congratulations, you’ve gained experience you didn’t have before.  You didn’t intend to explore this path and discover this waterfall, but you did.  You wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.  You didn’t waste time. You gained know-how and perspective.

You rock because you figured out that you are lost. Many people never will. Or if they recognize that they are lost, they just ignore it, heading in the wrong direction forever.

You rock because you are aware NOW. That is a skill. Not everyone will use that skill effectively.

You rock because you are thinking. You rock because you are brave enough to see the truth.

That feeling of confusion is not telling you that you did something wrong. It’s telling you that you are on the verge of doing something right. (Oh, that’s good. Want to Tweet it?)

This is awesome because now you get to practice how to figure out where you are and where you want to go next. Not everyone will get this opportunity—not because it’s not available to them, but because they avoid it.

Learning how to figure out where you are and deciding where you want to go feels scary when you don’t do it often. You can feel paralyzed that you will make the wrong decision.

To feel successful in life, you have to learn to be an expert at this. Any parent, spouse, student, learner, business owner, leader, pilot, president, commander, artist—to be successful, they must learn how to recognize when they are off track and decide the new course.

Recognizing that you are lost is actually very exciting! Now you get to create a whole new possibility. What a great opportunity!

What To Do Now

Obviously, you care about your life and your career, or you wouldn’t be confused. Confusion can only happen if you care. When you don’t care about something, you’re just, “Whatever.”

“Whatever” is not confused.

But you are confused. Therefore, you rock.

Celebrate yourself and get pumped. Your life is ripe with possibility.  You can create anything you want.

Now, consult an expert. Great navigators love to share what they know. They are proud of what they’ve learned, and they know that navigating is hard.

Look around you. Do you see anyone who has the life or the career you want? If not, there’s this thing called the Internet. Keep looking until you find someone.

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Ask them how they got there. Ask them what they learned along the way. What was a key lesson for them? What tripped them up? What was difficult? What was easy? What do they love about their mission and work? What are the challenges they face?

Also, if you enjoy talking with them and can help them address any of their challenges, offer to help. Use any talent or skill that you have (especially the ones you learned while you were lost) to serve them, and they may find that they are compelled to help you, too.

If you don’t like talking to that person, keep looking until you find someone with a career that inspires you who you enjoy talking to.

Also, get a coach.  This person can be someone you pay or not.  It could be the same person as the one who inspires you. Whoever it is, they need to have a great understanding of the terrain you are in and have a sincere desire to serve your best interest without judgment.

Their personal identity should not be involved at all, which is why parents are not the best choice here. Even lovely parents are not good coaches in this sense. They have bias because they feel intimately connected to your past selves.  You need someone who can focus on the present and the future.

When you get off-track, they shouldn’t fix it for you. You need someone who can stand by you in the midst of your frustration and have faith that the figuring-it-out pain is crucial to your learning process. They will help, but they shouldn’t rescue.

In the meantime, if you have a job or you are going to school, show up and be outstanding. Give your full enthusiasm and talent to each task and interaction. You know that this current situation is not forever.  Any experience or skill you gain will just make you that much stronger and more prepared when you do decide where you’re going next.

The Future’s So Bright—You Know The Rest

Alright, my friend, I’m excited for you. It’s time to step up and lead yourself into the future. In the end, no matter what path you take, you are still creating your life. Have fun with it!

Nothing has more of an impact on your life than you. When you decide to do something, you are unstoppable.  There is no dream that is beyond you. You have the creativity and the will to push and push and PUSH until you breakthrough.

You’ve woken up and seen the truth.  Don’t go back to sleep now.  Don’t let yourself settle for less than you deserve. Don’t confuse “confusion” for “error.”

You are in exactly the right place at the right time to experience everything you’ve been seeking.

Focus on what you’ve learned.  Focus on what you can give.  Focus on how you can best serve.  Focus on your joy.

Have faith that anything you focus on, you will hit.

You can learn to read the terrain. You can learn to work with an unreliable map. You can learn to overcome an untrustworthy compass.

After all, I’m not still lost in the woods, am I? No. Every group of teenagers I’ve ever worked with has learned to navigate successfully under these conditions.

And they ain’t got nothing on you.

Featured photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o via morguefile.com

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Last Updated on October 13, 2020

How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

Have you been stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

  • Taking a job for the money
  • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
  • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
  • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
  • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

There are many other reasons why you may be feeling this way, but let’s focus instead on learning what to do now in order to get unstuck and get promoted

One of the best ways to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization. Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or do some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrate added value?

Let’s dive right in to how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position.

1. Be a Mentor

When I supervised students, I used to warm them — tongue in cheek, of course — about getting really good at their job.

“Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else.”

This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some truth in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

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This can get you stuck.

Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:

“Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role…You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong ‘personal brand’ equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call ‘a good problem to have’: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done ‘too’ good of a job!”[1]

With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

From Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

Let’s say that the project you do so well is hiring and training new entry-level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, make hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

Are there any team members who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

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  1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
  2. As a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower them to increase their job skills.
  3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job and creating team players.

Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

2. Work on Your Mindset

Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is explained through this quote:

“If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you—not the job—who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”[2]

In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings to help you learn how to get promoted. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

Present your case and show your boss or supervisor that you want to be challenged, and you want to move up. You want more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and the positive mindset you’ve cultivated.

3. Improve Your Soft Skills

When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills[3].

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Use soft skills when learning how to get promoted.

    According to research, improving soft skills can boost productivity and retention 12 percent and deliver a 250 percent return on investment based on higher productivity and retention[4]. Those are only some of the benefits for both you and your employer when you want to learn how to get promoted.

    You can hone these skills and increase your chances of promotion into a leadership role by taking courses or seminars.

    Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

    Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has a position similar to the one you want.

    Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of their meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what their secret is! Take copious notes, and then immerse yourself in the learning.

    The key here is not to copy your new mentor. Rather, you want to observe, learn, and then adapt according to your strengths.

    4. Develop Your Strategy

    Do you even know specifically why you want to learn how to get promoted? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one-year, five-year, or ten-year plan for your career path? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what”?

    Sit down and make an old-fashioned pro and con list.

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    Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

    Look at your lists and choose the most exciting pros and the most frustrating cons. Do those two pros make the cons worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes,” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want[5].

    The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

    Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • Why do you do what you do?
    • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
    • What does a great day look like?
    • What does success look and feel like beyond the paycheck?
    • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

    Define success to get promoted

      These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your work friends over coffee.

      Final Thoughts

      After considering all of these points and doing your best to learn how to get promoted, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. Then, you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

      Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose.

      More Tips on How to Get Promoted

      Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

      Reference

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