I sat across from one of my clients recently and listened to his advice:
Be honest about what you want and who you are; otherwise, it's impossible to find.
When we first spoke a couple weeks ago, he had been hesitant to tell me what was really going through his head: Technology bores him and he'd secretly love to coach volleyball full-time.
This wasn't an easy thing to admit. Technology is in vogue and coaching volleyball certainly doesn't appear to be a path to prosperity.
We discussed, though, what made coaching volleyball so fulfilling and what he didn't like about his previous corporate role. What became clear is that he loves figuring out what inspires his team and bringing out the best in his people, whether on the volleyball court or behind a computer. He believes in developing people and wants a company that does the same. He doesn't care what they do so much as he cares about who they are, inside and out.
He wants a company with integrity.
The challenge from nearly every person I talk to, however, is: How do you find them?
Today he walked in to tell me the story of how he found exactly what he’s been looking for because he’d been honest in an interview. Even though his first impulse was to try to figure out what they wanted to hear and dish that up, he took a different approach.
He told them the truth: He is outstanding at building teams that work really well; money isn’t as important as health insurance; people come first, always; technology is secondary.
Based on those answers, they invited him to fly out to headquarters and meet the rest of the team.
I nodded my head, excited for him about this opportunity; excited he had the courage to be honest and that his honesty was bringing him closer to what he wanted.
The more honest he was, the more they prodded. They wanted to know if he is for real.
It turns out that if you want to work for a company with integrity, you have to practice it yourself.
This seems like a "duh," but it's not as easy to do as it sounds. How many times have you been told, "Oh, well, you can't say that. They don't want to hear that"?
This message is reinforced again and again. We can't say what we really think because it's not what people want to hear. Little by little, we shy away from knowing what we know; and therefore, telling the truth, especially our truth.
Integrity begins with knowing yourself well enough to be honest about who you are. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple or easy to do.
Research shows that women start to lose their sense of self at around the age of nine; that is, their ability to know what they want and who they are. Generally speaking, as a culture we teach girls early on to be pleasers and to accommodate others.
This process starts even earlier for boys. Starting around the age of five, they begin to receive messages about what it means to be a boy: being tough; not crying; not playing with dolls, not to do things that are “girly,” etc.
It is a universal human need to seek approval, and in the quest for that approval, we learn to tell people what we think they want to hear and behave in ways we think will win us approval.
However, the way we have grown up may be at odds with what we see and experience in reality. We are taught NOT to know what we know.
No wonder, then, that most of us get stuck at some point in our lives. We get confused about who we are and what we want. The midlife crisis is a real thing because it brings us face-to-face with our own mortality and prompts the questions: How did I get here? Why am I here? Do I like who I’ve become? Is this really what I want my life to be about?
I believe getting stuck is a gift—not a gentle gift—but a gift nevertheless if we can figure out the lessons it offers.
Being stuck is a sign that something has got to change.
The challenge is that we often can’t see how or what to change, or feel powerless to do so, because we are in a box of our own making, limited by our beliefs and assumptions we have adopted over time.
Sometimes we’re ready to open that box up and shake out the contents; sometimes we aren’t.
But please know this: you don’t have to stay stuck. It doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being.
Being stuck doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing something wrong. It could be a sign that you are beginning to take yourself seriously, and that what you seek is greater integrity. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
What if being stuck is simply a sign that it's time to be honest with yourself?
I was stuck in career purgatory for close to 15 years, trying to like jobs that weren’t a good fit and “settling” for roles that used ten percent of my talents. Now my mission is to help people find a career that matters, without wandering around for 15 years!
If you are wondering what happened to the client I referenced at the beginning of this post ... He starts his new job in February—at a company whose values mirror his own.
If you want some help getting un-stuck, please email me for a free consultation.