As my career coaching work has evolved over the years, I’ve trained my focus on helping mid- to high-level professionals who are at a decisive crossroads in their jobs or careers, and are committed to making the best next move. Most often, these men and women know something critical has to change in their work, but they’re confused as to exactly what needs modification. There’s so much going wrong that it’s hard for them to identify one thing to address first.
I’ve seen continually that when we’re deeply unhappy in our work, and experiencing pain, mistreatment, disillusionment and regret about the focus of our careers and the people we’re working with, we often want to run away as far as we can from the pain, to the opposite end of the working world.
For example, an HR executive who’s fed up with their toxic leadership desperately wants to chuck it all and start an online lifestyle business. Or a Finance VP wants to stop obsessing about the bottom line and turn to working in the non-profit arena to feel he’s making a meaningful difference in the world, and so on.
While these might be the best moves for these individuals, thousands of times it’s not. Instead, unhappy professionals are engaging in what I call the “Pendulum Effect”–knee-jerking from the pain and trying to escape their chronic career problems. That often leads them to chuck everything they’ve built and start over completely.
I’ve seen (in my own life and hundreds of others) that running away to an entirely new career often doesn’t address or fix the real problem–and that is who you are when you are working. This includes your boundaries, your ego, your way of communicating, how you handle stress, your decision-making process, how you relate to others, how you deal with critique and challenge and so much more.
Those elements of your approach to living and working don’t change just because you’ve quit your job or career. They’ll show up again in the new field or job, unless you do the inner and outer work to become someone who is more confident, self-respecting, powerful and impactful and able to stand up calmly and resolutely for yourself.
Before you make any changes in your job or your career, it’s critical to address this one thing before you make any moves: the way you are operating in the world.
When you do the work to strengthen and grow personally, you elevate yourself and ensure that your career will become more satisfying and aligned with your values. The degree to which you are able to grow and expand yourself to operate at the highest level is what will ensure that you can experience more reward and success in your jobs and professional endeavors.
This strengthening process involves closing the seven damaging power gaps that keep professionals from thriving. And elevating yourself to the highest level involves honing what I’ve seen are the nine essential skills for success and happiness in your career. They all involve strengthening who you are and how you show up in the world.
You simply cannot have a happy, rewarding and successful career if you are seriously lacking in these skills:
- Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence
- Communication Skill
- Building Strong Relationships
- Decision Making
- Advocating and Negotiating
- Work-Life Balance
- Boundary Enforcement
- Career Planning and Management
(Here’s more about three of those.)
How can we tell if we’re deficient in these skills and need more development to thrive? Below are some prime indicators that these skills need improvement now:
If you review this list and feel a bit overwhelmed because you feel many of these skills need development, that’s ok, and there’s good news. It means you have the self-awareness to understand that in order to be happier and more successful, some growth is required.
Choose one or two skills from the list above that you feel need the most development, and take proactive measures this month to build these skills. You can do this in many ways, whether it’s taking a leadership training course, working with a coach on your communication style, seeking help from a therapist to address your emotional pain from the past, prioritizing your life outside of work more highly, or deciding how and when you want to negotiate your next raise or promotion. Don’t wait. Take concrete steps now to change how you see yourself and how you interact with the world.
This one small step on the path to your growth and expansion can change everything for you.
To build a happier, more rewarding career, take Kathy Caprino’s Amazing Career Project training course and her new webinar The Most Powerful You: Close Your Power Gaps and Rock Your Career.
I’m a career and executive coach, writer, speaker, and trainer dedicated to the advancement of women. My career coaching firm—Kathy Caprino, LLC—offers a wide array of programs, training, assessments, videos, and courses that help women “dig deep, discover their right work, and illuminate the world with it.”
Along with contributing to Forbes.com, I write on Thrive Global, LinkedIn, and my own blog at kathycaprino.com/blog and am a frequent media source on careers and women’s issues. My book Breakdown, Breakthrough and my TEDx talk “Time To Brave Up” share critical ways to stand up and speak up for yourself and transform your life.
My new book, The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths To Career Bliss, is due Summer 2020 from HarperCollins Leadership.