In Motivation

The best way to combat career insecurities? F-O-C-U-S

Today, I’m merging two of my favorite concepts – the simplification of ideas, and made-up acronyms – and offering an acronymic reminder for situations where career decisions are concerned. Cheesy? Somewhat. But stick with me.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend over coffee – telling him about the multiple career directions I was weighing and how confusing it was getting, given that each potential direction was so vastly different from the other. In the process of trying to wrap my mind around each distinct opportunity, a lot of insecurities were bubbling up, as each potential role surfaced a new set of my own perceived deficiencies.

I don’t have enough sales experience for that position. 

I don’t know much about the industries of their clients.

I’d have to play a lot of catch-up for my technical skills to meet those requirements. 

<insert hair-pulling emoji here>

My friend made a profound suggestion. What if there isn’t always a single “right” decision. What if this was a time of abundance, and I got to choose which of many “right” decisions I wanted to pursue?

His words changed the way I was thinking. Instead of focusing on where I would be lacking, what if I approached each opportunity by looking first at how I’d be a fit?

Here are the five components of that perspective shift that began to shatter my insecurities – in the form, of course, of a cheesy, made-up acronym.

Find your gifts.

If you want employers to see you for more than the work experience listed on your resume, you must first identify your total value. What are your talents and passions? What have your teams said about you in the past that highlight your strengths? What is your work style, and what motivates you in your career?

I spent a good deal of time taking personal assessments, researching job markets and digging through the aspects of my job history that I either loved and wanted to carry forward, or that were lacking and I wanted to rectify in the future. Just because your experience to-date has placed you on a certain career trajectory doesn’t mean that it’s fully representative of the potential you’d bring to a variety of organizations.

Gain an understanding of your distinct skills, talents, passions and motivations, and become an expert on the full sum of your value.

Own your experience.

As you look through your work history, it goes without saying that we’re supposed to pinpoint examples of how we contributed to successes and how we navigated through challenges (Who else is having flashbacks to “Interviewing 101” from college?).

Go further than that as you recall your work history now. When you think outside the vacuum of one specific job or one specific situation that meets the metric of “success” or “learning,” you’ll see that your experiences can translate to the demands of roles that are very different from the ones you’ve held in the past. In previous roles, how have specific elements of your experience – successful projects, difficult conflicts, company culture shifts, personal growth, mere observations – primed you for the opportunities and challenges in the role you’re considering?

Y’all. This is powerful. Your work experience has the power to transform into a collection of evidence that demonstrates how you’re equipped for a new role.

Cut out the noise of comparison.

Comparison between ourselves and others sets unrealistic expectations for how we should perform. Likewise, comparison between our career success in one modality sets unrealistic expectations for how we should measure ourselves upon entering new modality of work.

As I compared my level of knowledge in new roles with the level I had reached in my career path previously, I was faced with all sorts of ways I would be lacking. In the industry I was in, I had intimate knowledge of its language, culture and objectives. In these new roles, I did not.

Past accomplishments are critically important to recognize, but stop measuring your future potential solely against the scope of your past jobs. The lessons you learned translate to so many other situations. When you can speak not only to your work history, but also to how you’ve navigated throughout your work experience to grow, it speaks volumes about your ability do what’s set before you.

Utilize your support system.

When I seek council from the people who know me well, it never fails to get me out of my head and see things from a refreshed perspective. Not only are they a constant source of encouragement, but my closest circle can view my career situations with limited bias and identify both watch-outs and upsides that I haven’t seen. They know my desires, strengths and flaws, and they have my best interest in mind.

Be sure to go to people who will also ask the right questions. After spouting off a long list of things I liked about a job description, a friend recently asked me, “But what’s your feel for the culture?” It reminded me of a whole other side of the job, and it prompted me to ask more probing questions about the work environment, leadership team and company direction in my next interview.

Career decisions can bring out your inner worst critic of yourself, so it’s important to have trusted sources who will ask questions, listen to your thoughts and offer honest feedback.

Stay true to your objective.

Decision-making is way less black-or-white when there are several ways you could exercise your passions and skill set. And it begs the question, when multiple doors open, how do you know what to do?

I think we need to ask ourselves different questions when we reach this point – questions that get to the core of how potential directions align to our ultimate goals. That list looks different for everyone, but I’ve been continually asking myself questions such as: Is this a team that desires to help one another thrive? Will I be part of a bigger picture I am passionate about supporting? How will I offer distinct value that meets a need? Will my wellbeing be supported and encouraged?

Whatever your list looks like, don’t lose sight of the things that are most important to you.

Tamara builds relationships, serves people, and solves problems. You can connect with her via LinkedIn or Facebook.

*Photo Credit:  Christy Shaterian Photography 

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