“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” Aristotle
The year was 1999. I had been promoted to President of the Information Technology permanent placement division of a national staffing company. At the time, I was, at what looked like, the pinnacle of my career.
My company was in a prime position for growth. I was making more money than I’d ever imagined myself earning. I was leading several offices and there were plans for many more. Outwardly, I was “successful”. I had made it.
Inwardly, I was empty.
It had been a few years since I’d had the level of career satisfaction that I’d experienced early on. When I started my career, I was filled with enthusiasm for the work and motivation for the money. I kept climbing the corporate ladder with the notion that more satisfaction waited for me at the top. Much to my surprise, I found a mixed bag of disenchantment with my new responsibilities and a fear of not knowing what I would do, if I didn’t do this.
My identity was completely tied up in my corporate persona. When someone asked me about myself, I listed my career accomplishments before any other roles in my life. I thought there was no way I could leave. I recited over and over the reasons why I couldn’t leave: The money’s too good. If I’m not “President”, then who will I be? I won’t be able to afford my life. People won’t respect me. I don’t know what other work I’d do. I can’t leave unless I have something that looks even better than this!
Even though I had reached the highest level in my field, I was disillusioned. And I felt like a failure. The very big and daunting questions I was up against were: “Now What?” and “What’s Next?” I believed I had a lot to offer the world through my work, but I wasn’t sure what. I wanted to feel like I was adding value to people’s lives and their work.
Culturally, we’re not usually in-courage’d to inquire into the question of “what’s next” unless it looks like a logical and linear career advancement. But, what frequently happens is that we begin to feel unmotivated and stuck in a job or career that no longer gives us the rewards we deeply desire. Many times, this doesn’t occur until after we’ve reached a certain amount of career “success”. We begin feeling empty and dissatisfied, wondering if all that work was for this and why this isn’t cutting it any longer.
The demotivation and the feelings of being stuck or lack of fulfillment, are the clues that something else wants to happen in your life. Entertain these feelings and stay curious. As you stay with your curiosity, you will notice that clues begin to emerge. Follow the clues as you would in a scavenger hunt. Allow yourself to be in a phase of inquiry. The prize of where it leads you will delight you.
3 steps to begin your exploration into what’s next:
- Read the book, Transitions by William Bridges. It will normalize a lot of your thoughts and feelings about change.
- Spend some time in nature and contemplate the inquiry, “My professional life would be twice as meaningful if…
- Carve out some time in your calendar, even if it’s only 30 minutes a week, to dedicate to either an activity you are interested in or an idea to investigate. Doing this will bring joy, open you up for other ideas and give you clues about where the energy moving you forward on your journey to what’s next.
With each query into what’s next, you will get to further explore and discover the deeper desires you want to express through your life and work, then, extend that out into the world.
Women who are wondering what’s next for you, take a look at my one-day retreat coming to Philadelphia on Friday May 19th.