I recently talked with a client who was paralyzed at the thought of making another “mistake” in her career.
She was stuck and unable to choose a direction. Her fear of looking stupid, of choosing another career that she wouldn’t like, loomed over her. Her negative thoughts were keeping her from making any move at all.
Does this sound familiar?
Have you pursued a career, or taken an advanced degree, only to find it’s not for you?
What is your willingness to try something new?
If this rings a bell, then I’ve got some comforting thoughts for you.
It’s by your mistakes that you learn and grow. You need to know what you don’t want to do, too!
Making choices is part of being an adult and taking control of your life. The more choices you make, the more risks you take, the more “mistakes” you will make. That goes with the territory.
Here’s the key: Mistakes are a good thing, if you learn from them. It’s giving up and deciding to do nothing afterwards that is the “mistake.”
When I was starting out in my career, I tried nursing school and dropped out after 6 weeks. I tried to make a living as a commercial artist and found I couldn’t compete with other talented designers. After I got a teaching degree, I discovered that the city was laying off teachers. The list of professions I tried goes on and on.
When all this was happening I wasn’t very happy. I kept thinking, when am I going to find ‘the’ career that’s right for me? And it didn’t help that I had relatives who reminded me of the smooth career trajectory of my “smart” cousin who became an attorney.
As it turned out, I found several careers that fit for a while. I worked in a corporation for 12 years, was promoted 5 times and finally knew I didn’t want corporate life anymore.
I moved on to the next ‘right’ position. I never felt married to any profession.
I had careers and jobs that suited me at particular times in my life. When I was in my 30’s and 40’s, making my mark, earning a big salary, having a 4 -window office with a view and a title were important. Now, I could care less about those things.
Job satisfaction, making my own schedule, doing work that I love—those are the factors that drive me now.
Which brings me to a critical point: If I hadn’t made those career “mistakes,” I would still be wondering, “you know, maybe I could have been a (fill in the blank).
I have no regrets that I tried things that I didn’t end up staying with long-term. In fact, my past “mistakes” enable me to use my experiences to guide clients.
So what can you learn from my story?
Wisdom and self-knowledge come with making choices; experiencing the possibilities that are presented to you everyday. Focus on what you can learn about yourself, not on the fear of making a mistake. In the end, they won’t be mistakes. They will add to the reservoir of life skills that you can use wherever you end up.
Dale Kurow, M.S., is an author and a career and executive coach in NYC.