Chapter One: Get Aligned CHAPTER ONE GET ALIGNED
By her senior year of college, Alisha had become seriously concerned about her future. She’d started her freshman year confident about what she would do after graduation. She always loved writing, being creative, and learning about other people. Growing up, Alisha idolized Barbara Walters and wanted to follow in her footsteps and become a journalist.
But over time, a little voice crept into her consciousness. Her parents had emigrated from Korea to the United States with very little, and here she was at Harvard, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions. Shouldn’t she be using this one-in-a-million opportunity to set herself up on a path toward success and financial security? Suddenly her dream of becoming a journalist felt frivolous, and even a little selfish. So, during her freshman year, Alisha switched her major from English to sociology, rationalizing that it was more “business”-oriented and therefore more practical.
As graduation loomed large and official adulthood crept closer, Alisha was feeling anxious, even panicked. She worried that she might have actually squandered her education by denying herself the chance to pursue what she was genuinely excited about. Now she feared it was too late to turn back. Her anxiety (or as she referred to it, “that sick feeling”) grew and grew until Alisha was almost paralyzed by it, barely leaving her room except for meals.
Then the recruiters came. Descending on campus in droves, they represented hedge funds, consulting firms, and investment banks, pitching the students on careers befitting Ivy League graduates. These soon-to-be grads had gone to the “best” schools; didn’t they deserve the “best” jobs (not to mention the enormous paychecks)? The recruiters assured them that starting their careers at such elite companies would put them on the fast track to guaranteed success.
But what exactly was
success? Alisha wondered. Financial security? An impressive title at a big-name company? Or was it something more personal, and harder to describe? She banished that sick feeling and dutifully dressed up in what she hoped resembled business attire and joined the rest of the students who jostled to get into the right networking events in front of the right recruiters. Everyone was competing for the pot of gold that was promised at the end of the rainbow. All they had to do was follow it.
Whether it’s silently modeled or explicitly stated, many of us are raised with a vision of what our lives will look like: stability, a spouse, kids. Certain professions are deemed serious, and others silly. As adults, we take that vision on as our own, even though it’s inherited from those who came before us: our parents, schools, society; our churches, role models, and mentors. When we are faced with making critical decisions, we may orient toward that vision without question, choosing paths that will lead us to the “right” destination with the least amount of struggle.
Early on in my own career, I was very lucky to have been challenged to push myself past what I thought I wanted, to what I deeply needed. Just a few months after I’d graduated, I met Stephane, who was around fifteen years older than me and much wiser, and who would go on to become a mentor of mine. I vividly remember a conversation we had where he asked me what my definition of success was. As I began to answer, Stephane waved his hand, motioning me to stop. “Whose voice is that?” I was confused. I hadn’t said anything. “Try again,” he said. I’d barely uttered a sound when Stephane put his hand up again. “Try again.” Now I wasn’t just confused, I was annoyed. But before I could say anything, he smiled. “Is that voice your mother’s? Your father’s? Your school’s?”
I then realized that what he was doing was pushing me to consider that there are infinite ways to imagine the future and that I was allowed to have my own, personal definition of success, not bound or limited by who may have influenced me, or what I’d been exposed to. He was also challenging me to be brave and think for myself. Coming up with my own definition of success meant that I had to question—and maybe even reject—what I’d always thought to be true and start fresh with my own ideas.
This is what Alisha had attempted to do during her freshman year when she set her sights on a journalism career. But her inner critic had quickly swooped in to protect her from taking a risk, and she changed her course. Four years later, even though she felt lost, Alisha actually knew more than she realized. That sick, anxious feeling was like a signal trying to alert her that she was headed in a direction that was unlikely to lead to purpose and fulfillment. Still, it would take some time (and real-world experiences) before she was able to heed the signs her body was sending her. In this chapter we’ll see how Alisha, a high achiever most anyone would consider “a success,” confronts the assumptions about work that she’s carried her whole life, and how they’ve influenced the decisions she’s made in her career—not always for the best.
Overcoming external expectations means recognizing that you have the power to define your own direction, no matter your circumstances. To change your way of thinking, you have to confront the assumptions you carry, where they come from, and how they’ve influenced your decisions, for better or worse. As you do this work, you may find that you begin to look at the unknown as exhilarating, not terrifying. There is no formula whereby you answer some questions and out pops your dream career. Instead, you’ll learn how to trust your instinct over your inner critic and create a system to evaluate opportunities that are aligned with your
values and goals. And while it will always be a little scary to stand up for what you want, you’ll feel pride in taking control of your career. You’ll also be more motivated, which in turn will help you do your best work, putting you in a position for rewards and recognition. You’ve earned it.
LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCT
When Alisha received a job offer from a big consulting firm shortly after graduation, she took it immediately. While this wasn’t what she would necessarily have imagined for herself during college, it would at least put her on a track where she knew she’d have financial and professional security. She assumed that sick feeling, still with her since college, would go away soon.
A few months into the job, it was still there, but Alisha was so busy that she barely noticed it. She was putting in long days at the office, so what little energy she had left was spent doing the minimal self-care necessary for survival: sleeping, eating, and showering. The workload was grueling, but it was the norm; everyone was in the same boat, so who was she to complain? This was the price you had to pay for a big paycheck.
No stranger to working hard in college, Alisha could handle long hours and taking work home on the weekends, but it was the office politics that really rankled her. After proving her competence on smaller projects over a few months, Alisha got the opportunity to lead a project for a high-profile client. She prepared for weeks, only to have the opportunity to present her hard work to the client taken away and given to someone else the day of the presentation. “I was laying out all the slides of our PowerPoint to do one final review. As I was walking the team through it, a senior executive walked in. She thanked me for my work and informed me that Paul would be presenting it to the client. I was stunned.” Paul was a newer employee and from what Alisha could gather, a master at politicking. She, on the other hand, would describe herself as an introvert. She’d never considered this a liability before. It didn’t matter whether or not you were gregarious, she thought; what mattered was how well you did the job, right? She’d been raised to believe that working hard would get her ahead. And it had, until then. But now something was off, and she didn’t know what.
Like so many other women, Alisha assumed the problem was with her. She needed to not just work hard, but schmooze better, and be aggressive in the way that the company clearly rewarded. She never really considered that contorting herself into what the company needed her to be wasn’t the only way to work. But it was hard to see any other way, given that most of her friends were having similar experiences. Clearly this was just what it meant to be a working professional.
Alisha hit her breaking point a year later when she returned from a major business trip. She’d gone to Korea, where, almost as soon as her team landed after a fourteen-hour flight, they rushed right into their first client meeting. For the next three days they ran around the city, gathering firsthand market research, talking to locals, and all the while Alisha (who is half Korean) was real-time translating from Korean into English for her teammates, then back into Korean. “A two-way language translation is incredibly draining mentally and difficult to pull off well, and doubly so when you are doing it for your direct boss. I was obviously sent on this business trip because of my language skills, and because it would save the company thousands of dollars (perhaps tens of thousands) rather than paying an external interpreter.”
Upon her return to the United States, Alisha promptly got sick. She was able to hold it together for a client presentation, but the next day, jet-lagged and ill, she called in sick. She figured she could take a day to recover, given how hard she’d just worked. Wrong. Early that morning the phone rang: it was her boss’s boss, calling to express his concern—not for her health, but for her absence. If she wasn’t willing to put in the hours, he said, he was worried that she wasn’t cut out to be a consultant. Alisha was taken aback. She’d been killing herself working around the clock! The conversation then spiraled into whether she was a good fit for the company. Similar to the time her presentation was given to Paul, Alisha was left feeling totally unsure and unsettled, not understanding where things had gone wrong.
As upsetting as the call was, it was the catalyst Alisha needed to be brutally honest with herself. Why wasn’t
she getting ahead at this job? Why wasn’t she happier? It wasn’t just the work-life balance that was exhausting, it was also constantly trying to twist into what she thought she needed to do and be in order to be successful. Alisha was starting to wake up to the possibility that as much as she needed to be right for the company, the company had to be right for her as well. The relationship needed to go both ways. This duality was something she had never really considered before. Instead of pushing the dread and discomfort away, Alisha needed to pay attention when things felt wrong and get to the bottom of it.
CHALLENGE YOUR ASSUMPTIONS
In the 1950s, psychologist Karen Horney identified a phenomenon that Alisha—and so many others—subscribe to: “The Tyranny of the Should.” Her theory posited that we have two views of ourselves: the “real self” (who we are) and the “ideal self” (the model of who we think we should be). If we feel our real self isn’t living up to the ideal (hello to all the perfectionists and “imposters” in the room), we believe we are fundamentally flawed, and as a result, can have a hard time fulfilling our potential. Unless we challenge the assumption that there is some ideal self we should inhabit, we’ll continue the cycle of self-doubt, self-flagellation, and dissatisfaction.
A way to replace those “shoulds” is to understand where they came from. That means digging into your past: how you were raised, the messages you received, how those around you influenced your opinions and choices about work, including whether or not it was gendered. For example, growing up, were you taught that certain jobs were or were not meant for women? It can be hard to imagine ourselves in industries and roles that for so long have been deemed “male” (engineering, construction, tech). With so few women at the top or in visible roles, we can feel even more cut off from those spaces. As the saying goes, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Throw some imposter syndrome into the mix, and our vision of what a career “can” or “should” be becomes even more limited.
Sadly, these limitations can be as much internal as external. I’ve heard from too many women who don’t think they’re good enough or deserving enough to have a job that brings fulfillment. It’s not that they don’t want it, it’s just so far from their current circumstances that they can’t even consider it a possible outcome.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time for a gut check. How much have the “shoulds” dominated the way you’ve approached your career? How much are you guided by your voice, versus the voice of your parents, schoolmates, or the culture around you? Take some time to consider the following questions—you can write down your answers if you like or simply think them through, but allow yourself the space to really consider what has influenced the beliefs you carry about your career path.
UNDERSTAND YOUR INFLUENCES
- What career paths did you have exposure to growing up?
- Did the adults around you discuss their jobs openly? What was your impression of them?
- Did adults in your life ever explicitly share their expectations for your career? What did they say?
- Did anything in your environment influence what you thought of work in general, and the way you looked at your own career?
- What has been the major driver of your career choices? Has anyone commented on those choices and if so, what did they say?
- Have you ever done (or not done) something only because you thought it was the “right” thing for your career? What was the outcome?
- Have you ever regretted any of your career choices?
- Have there been times in your life where your gut told you something but you didn’t listen to it? What do you think was stopping you?
- Are there any professions or roles that you feel are totally inaccessible to you? Why?
Alisha never actually felt pressure to follow any defined path. In fact, her parents encouraged her to pursue whatever she wanted; it was Alisha who put pressure on herself. She was acutely aware of how much her parents had given up to come to this country, so she never considered a job that might be associated with financial insecurity.
As you examine your assumptions, where they came from, and how they’ve influenced you, you might start to feel unmoored. You’re in a sort of no-(wo)man’s-land: you may have identified expectations you’re ready to let go of but haven’t yet landed on a new worldview that’s consonant with your values, and what truly resonates with you. How do you get to that point? Let’s begin by digging deeper into your past for the clues that will help orient you toward the future.
The best clues can be found in the things that energize you, or in other words, when you’re “in flow.” Coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is defined as a state of complete involvement in an activity for its own sake. As he describes it, “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought flows from the previous one; in a way, it’s like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Think about times in your life when you’ve felt in complete flow: when you’re fully engaged, all cylinders firing, time melting away.
As you examine those memories, go beyond just what you were doing; where
you were doing it is just as important. Our environment has an enormous impact on how we feel and our ability to do our best work. Take into account things like what time of day it was, what the space looked like. What about people: What level of interaction did it require? Was it in front of a computer; did it require physical activity? There are dozens of bits of information to glean that, once you process them, can help you determine what is important to you in a work environment or field of work. This can also help you decide if there are things you want to negotiate for at your current position (such as flextime or remote working—more examples will follow), or if you’re stuck in a situation that’s never going to lead to job satisfaction, even with major changes.
On the flip side, what depletes your energy can also provide you with a ton of helpful clues. So much of knowing what you want comes from experiencing what you don’t want. As Alisha learned the hard way, she hated the lack of work-life balance at the consulting firm and that being aggressive was a requirement for getting ahead. She also missed being creative. Because these factors were inherent to the position she was in, she realized that it would be nearly impossible to achieve “flow” in her current job.
Laying out clearly what elements enhance or deplete your energy can help you figure out if you are in the right position, or what you can do to improve your work environment. Here’s a chart with Alisha’s examples:
Being creative (specifically writing and designing)
Lots of travel
Collaborative work environment
Hierarchy/bureaucracy at work
Doing mission-driven work
We often think that “work” automatically means “hard work,” and anything that feels natural or comes easily doesn’t really count or somehow shouldn’t be taken seriously. Because of that, we spend so much of our energy trying to fix what’s “wrong” with us, rather than cultivating and leaning into our strengths.
When you examine your strengths, it’s important to go beyond the ones that have an obvious connection to your career and find things that are innate to you, qualities that you might not think would be related to that “other” life that happens at the office. Maybe you’re great at organizing parties, maybe you’re a masterful networker, or maybe you’re the one your friends always confide in to help solve their problems. This isn’t to say you should necessarily become a party planner or a therapist, but it does give you clues to use as you seek out and evaluate opportunities. It’s about translating these soft skills into jobs that not only require them but put them front and center.
The following list of questions can be used in two ways. First, give yourself a chance to define your own strengths by thinking deeply about the questions below. Then, enlist the help of an outside perspective. It can be challenging to see yourself objectively, so enlist a few trusted friends or colleagues to answer these questions about you, too. Compare their answers with yours and see if there are patterns you discover.
ASK YOURSELF, AND YOUR WING(WO)MAN
- What is my greatest strength?
- What are things I do really well?
- What do I do/say/think/see differently from other people?
- If you were to describe me to someone else, what would you say?
We’re often encouraged to “follow your passion!” which sounds motivating at first but can become frustrating and confusing. Usually one of two things happens: you either have so many things you’re passionate about that you don’t know which one to pursue, or you have no clue what you’re passionate about. I think a better way to orient ourselves is toward something that makes us curious, or a problem we want to solve.
DIG INTO YOUR INTERESTS
- What are topics or activities that I’m continually drawn to?
- What are things that move or motivate me?
- What are problems I want to solve?
- What things am I most curious about?
- (Bonus: Ask a friend): What do I never shut up about?
PUT THE CLUES TOGETHER
Once you’ve done the above exercises of finding your strengths and what gives you energy, it’s time to identify patterns. The things that come up repeatedly are more clues you’ll use to point you in the direction of new careers and opportunities to explore.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, it’s difficult to know what options are out there if you’ve never been exposed to them before. When I graduated from college, my mother helped me define my strengths, experience, and values, as well as things that I liked and disliked, what I was great at, and what I was passionate about. Then she helped me brainstorm opportunities that might be a good fit. For example, in high school, I helped organize a campaign to raise money for an all-girls school in Afghanistan. Because it was something I did that was self-motivated (and that I enjoyed), it demonstrated a potential career path. My mom introduced me to this thing called “development,” which is a fancy way of saying “raising money for nonprofits.” I was extremely fortunate to have someone like my mom to guide and encourage me, otherwise I might never have known that that job even existed.
In order to connect the dots, let’s take what you uncovered in your energy memories and combine it with your aptitudes. Like the exercise I did with my mom, this means writing out what you like and don’t like, your skills and strengths, and things that you’re passionate about or interested in. Even if it’s not entirely obvious what jobs you want to apply for, you’ll have a starting point to explore.
Here are some of Alisha’s examples:
PASSIONATE ABOUT OR INTERESTED IN
Time outside of work to live my life
Zero work-life balance
Ability to do independent work
Lots of public speaking
Attention to detail
Supportive work environment
YOUR MOTIVATING VALUES
Exploring job fulfillment doesn’t mean deprioritizing financial security. We all need to pay our bills. What I am asking you to do is to not give up on the possibility that you can both love what you do and
make money from it. In fact, the more you love your job, the better you’ll do, which hopefully, in turn, means making more money! What’s important is understanding all of your values and then seeing how they fit together. I want you to identify what you want out of your job. Are you after a big fat paycheck? Having people think you’re important? (No judgment!) Flextime? These are what are called extrinsic values: tangible, definable things that are the by-products of your job or occupation. In other words, what you get out of it, rather than what you put into it. Your intrinsic values are things that, when you use them at work, you find personally rewarding.
Putting these values into two columns will make it easier to see how they can translate into job opportunities. Here’s what Alisha’s two columns of extrinsic and intrinsic values might look like.
INTRINSIC (PUT IN)
EXTRINSIC (GET OUT)
- Connect directly with an audience
- Help others
- Be a leader
- Stable paycheck
- External recognition or praise
DETERMINE YOUR PRIORITIES
It’s important to remember that while the ultimate goal is to find the intersection of your interests, skills, and values, no one job can have it all. A good amount of career unhappiness comes from the misguided belief that it can. It’s better to know your priorities and focus on opportunities that reflect them.
What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to fight for? In other words, what do you consider to be a “like to have,” what falls under “I’d rather not,” and what is a “need to have,” otherwise known as a deal breaker? This is an opportunity to do a gut check and force yourself to be unsparingly honest as you consider what these things are for you. Remember that you are parsing out what you
actually want and need vs. someone else’s expectations. Here are some examples based on Alisha’s experience:
I’D LIKE TO
I’D RATHER NOT
Be in media
Have office politics
Lack of work-life balance; being expected to work outside of normal work hours
Work in New York
Work autonomously (prefer team)
Not being creative
Make less than $85k
Anything less than $75k (bottom line)
As soul-crushing as the consulting job had been, it did something amazing for Alisha: it woke her up to her deal breakers. What her boss’s boss told her on the phone that day she was sick verbalized what she’d been feeling (but ignoring) since she started the job. If she wasn’t a good fit for consulting, she had to figure out what was
a good fit for her. (Notice that I didn’t say “what she
was a good fit for.”) For the first time, Alisha’s own needs were setting the bar.
Evaluating the clues from her energy memories and digging more into her interests revealed to Alisha what her nonnegotiable priorities were: work-life balance and creativity. At the consulting firm, she was always interested in what the design team was doing. She subscribed to design industry newsletters and played around in InDesign and Photoshop. Alisha didn’t consider it as a realistic career path (she was still stuck in the “shoulds” mindset), but she couldn’t shake the joy she felt when she designed things. So, she kept turning toward it, finding networking groups to join, reading about the industry, and searching for as many free education resources as she could.
The more Alisha played with design, the more seriously she took it. When she worked on small personal projects, she felt “in flow” and she didn’t want to stop. She began to pay attention to a growing de-sire to try her hand at doing independent design work. She challenged herself to learn how to use Photoshop and when she became proficient in it, she posted on Facebook that she was looking to do some pro bono work. Getting to experiment without the pressure of being paid would allow her to continue to learn and gain more confidence. Once she had a few projects under her belt, Alisha looked at her savings account and figured she had about a six-month runway to try to make it as a freelance designer. She decided that even if it went nowhere, she could use it to show a prospective future employer that she was self-motivated and willing to take risks. Alisha knew she had a lot to learn, but given how much she’d already taught herself, she was confident that she’d find a way to make it work. Shortly after that, she gave her two weeks’ notice.
Not everyone can quit their job, but we can all take steps, no matter how small, in a direction that feels right in our soul. Instead of trying to work backward from some predetermined end point (like the corner office or proverbial white picket fence and 2.5 kids), the goal right now is to gather as much information as possible about what lights you up and what makes you tick. Take a step in a direction—any direction—and see how it feels. Read a book, learn a new skill, watch a webinar. Too often we feel paralyzed when we’ve put in work but don’t yet know the answer; taking action means you’re making progress.
Signing up for a class? Progress! Showing up for the class? Progress! No doubt you’ll be busy, tired, and at times uncertain (no one ever said making change was easy), and it will be tempting to quit and return to what you’re comfortable with. Don’t. From the beginning, set yourself up to be accountable. Put things on a calendar, designate a buddy to check in with you, or give yourself a reward when you accomplish something you set out to do.
That will help you get into the habit of feeling good and giving yourself permission to continue. By doing that, you’ve shown yourself that you can—and deserve—to take back control of your career. Just be aware that the voice of the “shoulds” may threaten to get loud again. That voice thinks it’s protecting you from the prospect of failure that comes with veering off the “traditional” road map. Remind yourself that you’re not throwing caution to the wind; you are being deliberate about moving in the direction of career fulfillment.
Learning to quiet the inner critic is getting more in tune with your instinct and allowing yourself to trust it. Tell that inner critic to hush if it starts to get loud again, but thank it first; it is just trying to protect you from potential pain and suffering. Ultimately, this is about learning to have faith in yourself, and it’s a lot harder to do that if you always have this little voice inside that’s telling you to be afraid. If you take one step and it feels good, take another. If it doesn’t, try something different. The most important thing is to keep moving forward.
THE SECOND WORKSHOP I organized for Ladies Get Paid was about how to get unstuck in your career. A friend of mine from college heard about it and reached out to tell me she’d be there. She was unhappy at her job in hospitality and needed a refresh. I was actually surprised to hear she hadn’t gone in the direction of politics, since she’d been really civically engaged during college.
The workshop went well, and my friend felt encouraged to keep going. She hired Megan Hellerer, the coach from the workshop, and they worked together to come up with different things she could try to get a better sense of what lit her up. One thing Megan made sure to remind her was that a step in one direction or another didn’t mean that it had to become her career. It was possible to be passionate about something and not make it your paycheck. Still, my friend soon realized that she might want
to make her passion her paycheck… but she was concerned there wouldn’t be much of one. She was headed back in the direction of political activism, and while it instinctively felt right, it might not pay off her student loans.
However, she wasn’t ready to give up on a career path that fulfilled her, and she was determined to find ways to make it work. She needed more information. Also, if she was going to try to break into this field, she needed to get involved. Over the next few months, she participated in a number of progressive organizations, attended rallies, and even helped me brainstorm ways to get Ladies Get Paid members more civically engaged. By getting exposure and making connections, she was able to see that it actually was possible to make a living doing this work.
The next time I saw her was a year later, at a town hall I hosted on reinvention. The event featured women who’d done the hard work of digging deep and making brave changes in their lives and careers. There were over one hundred women in the audience, and at the end I encouraged them to share their own reinvention stories.
“I’ve always wanted to run for office,” said one woman as she stood up. It was my friend. “But women like me don’t run for office; people who look like me don’t run for office,” she continued. “But I’m going to do it. I’m going to run.”
The room erupted in cheers. Here was someone publicly declaring her intention to do one of the most difficult and vulnerable things that anyone can do. The point wasn’t that she might win, it was that she was brave enough to try, beginning by holding herself accountable. I was so happy for her, I cried.
And she did win. Less than a year later, she would go on to become the youngest congresswoman in US history. Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The first thing Alisha did when she quit the consulting firm was to join TheLi.st, a networking group that had been recommended by a fellow designer friend. She knew her limitations as a designer, so when she connected with prospective clients through the group, she set upfront expectations with them about her experience. Pretty quickly, Alisha was able to secure gigs creating basic assets such as logos or advertising banners; she also took on additional jobs like data entry and copyediting to have some money coming in during this trial period. A way she measured progress wasn’t just by the number of new gigs she got but also by the new skills she learned. It made her feel confident enough to keep going.
Six months later, the financial runway Alisha had allotted for herself was coming up and she needed to make a decision. Did she want to keep freelancing or find a full-time job? Tapping into the same skills of reflection and refinement that she used to extricate herself from the consulting job, she assessed where she was now, and whether her original instinct about design was still right for her. It was; Alisha loved what she did for a living. But she wasn’t quite sure about the isolation that comes with freelancing. She missed the camaraderie of being on a team (not to mention the steady paycheck). She also noticed that the work she particularly liked doing was for up-and-coming companies, usually consumer-facing and with a tech component.
Using all of those factors to guide her, Alisha began searching sites like PayScale and Indeed to discover companies that might fit what she was looking for. One opening caught her eye. It was for a designer role at a recently launched media platform. Alisha could not have found a better job: it combined her interests and strengths with an environment where she could thrive. An added benefit was that she’d be able to work closely with the engineering department, an area that Alisha was interested in learning more about.
She applied… and got the job! All the exploration, self-reflection, and self-teaching had paid off, and now Alisha was about to embark on an opportunity that never would have happened if she’d stayed at the consulting firm.
If you find yourself in a position like Alisha, where you feel stuck or are wondering what’s next, consider how and where you can grow. Whether your next step will give you skills, exposure, access to a larger network, or a financial cushion to get you through leaner times down the road, or if you want to pick something that will build upon your last job. Consider the industry as well: what direction is it going, and do you see a place for yourself in it? If you’re feeling good in your current job but looking for ways to grow, one way to envision how you might do so is to look at the career trajectories of your boss and other people who are high up in the company.
In Alisha’s case, now that she was in a role and at a company that shared her values, the agita and insecurity she’d felt at the consulting firm evaporated. “When I started my new job, it was almost like entering paradise. It was like, I see the light now! Work doesn’t have to make you feel small; it doesn’t have to make you depressed. You don’t have to work crazy hours. When I joined the company, I finally realized that, actually, there are other companies out there that care about their employees’ lives and creating great camaraderie between employees. It was truly incredible.”
When your work is aligned with your goals and values, everything feels lighter, just the way it does when you’re in an environment that doesn’t require some sort of contortionism. This isn’t to say it’s not challenging (it should be); it just shouldn’t feel so difficult that you’re having trouble getting yourself to do it. If you’re going to put the work in, don’t you want to be at a job where you look forward to each day, whatever it may bring? You deserve to do work that you’re proud of, and you’ll be more successful in reaching your career goals if you go in a direction that you’ve chosen with purpose.