Is It Time To Re-Think Your Career?

Do you ever step back and evaluate what makes you happy?

What about second-guessing a big life decision?

It’s an interesting phenomenon that occurred during the pandemic lock-down. More people had time and space to reflect on their lives, and I know several who made career changes or even moved to a new location that better supported their desired lifestyle.

One of the books I read recently, Think Again, by Adam Grant, explores the benefits of being around people who disagree with us, challenge our convictions, and prompt us to rethink and unlearn.

The book is filled with great examples of how rethinking has resulted in discoveries in innovation and the benefits of changing our attitude of “being right.” The concluding chapter, Escaping Tunnel Vision, particularly resonated with me, and I thought I’d share my key take-aways.

I’ve previously written about the benefits of grit but can now see that grit and determination have a dark side when choosing a career path.

The example that Adam Grant offers is when his cousin, Ryan, knew early in life he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. Ryan spent years in school to become a neurosurgeon. Toward the end of his education, he realizes it’s not really what he wants to do. However, he’s too invested, and his grit and determination kick in, and he soldiers on.

He doesn’t rethink his career aspirations – he doubles down. It’s a pattern call escalation of commitment. It happens by constantly searching for self-justification of our prior beliefs as a way to validate our past decisions. It is a major factor in preventable failures.

Ryan, like many, fell victim to identity foreclosure. This is when we settle prematurely on a sense of self without enough due diligence.”

Our self-identity can start when we are kids when asked the question, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?”

As Grant argues, the more appropriate question to ask is, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?”

This question prompts a response that helps you define the activities that will fill your day, NOT your title or professional identity. As Grant states, “Identity foreclosure can stop us from evolving. In some ways, identity foreclosure is the opposite of an identity crisis. Instead of accepting uncertainty about who we want to become, we develop compensatory conviction and plunge head over heels into a career path.”

I think it’s rare that our interests and career aspirations don’t change as we grow older. Is the work you found meaningful and fulfilling when you began your career still motivate you to jump out of bed to tackle the day ahead? If not, it’s worth making time to reimagine your future.

Here are some reflection questions to get you started should you RE-THINK your career. (I suggest you block out at least half a day, 1-2 times a year, for this reflection activity.)

Consider these questions:

    • Am I happy at the end of most workdays? Do I enjoy what I’m DOING?
    • Do I feel connecting to the content of my work? Is it meaningful to me?
    • Are there areas I need to re-skill or up-skill to make more of a contribution?
    • Am I learning something new each day?
    • Am I easily distracted at work? Unable to focus; lack the desire to focus on the work?
    • Am I sticking with this career because of the compensation and how it supports my current lifestyle?

Be honest with yourself and look at your situation objectively. Do your responses suggest that it’s time to make some changes?

Remember, you always have a choice – there are consequences to that choice – but you can make choices to initiate a change.

Rethinking is liberating and can lead to living a more fulfilling life by making some changes. Consider how shifting what you DO (a.k.a., how you spend your time) would make a difference in your happiness!

Martha is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.

Martha Duesterhoft