How to discover if your current job really aligns with your values

What do you do for a living? And be honest, why do you it? You’re where you are now because of decisions you made. You chose to accept your current job, admittedly this could be because you planned and worked towards achieving it, perhaps you 'fell' into this role, or it could be out of necessity - to have an income.

In previous generations, fresh-faced recruits straight out of education had the difficult task of deciding what they wanted to do for their rest of their working lives. Factors like job security, career progression, and of course interests all steered that decision, however, the goal was to start a career and work their way up the ladder within one industry, ideally the same company.

In many respects this still applies today, but there’s a problem with the expectation of seeing through one career from school to retirement - what if you feel differently a month, a year, or even decades later? Surely that’s it, you’ve invested time and perhaps even money to gain the right qualifications and continued to gain much sought after experience in your field. Any yet you’re thinking, is this it?

Change

As you change, everything changes. Which means the reasons for your current career path changes too and that’s when you begin to feel different about your work. The changes can be subtle which build over a long period of time, but it can also be sudden and quite profound. The point being we cast doubt on where our future is headed and there’s something about our career that just doesn’t sit well with us. You can feel it, like a dull ache, there’s a pain which deepens the longer we stay where we are.

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Get off the nail

There’s a well-known story I’d like to share and perhaps you can relate to it.

A young man noticed an old man sitting on a porch, with his dog lying on the floor next to him whining. As days and weeks went by, the young man continued to hear the dog whining and so asked the old man "what’s wrong with your dog?" the old man said "he’s laying on a nail". The young man said, "laying on a nail? Why doesn’t he get up?" The old man then replied "It’s not hurting bad enough".

I’m sure we all know someone who’s always complaining about their job: the money, the hours, the tedious tasks and repetitive nature. Yet they stay, feeling stuck in a rut.

We can be quick to judge someone who’s clearly not interested in his or her job, especially if it’s apparent in a client or customer-facing role, but what we’re observing is someone who has, deep down, recognised they are not reaching their full potential, nor doing what they really want to do. The question is, how long will they allow the feeling of restricted growth to continue before getting off their nail?

It’s easy to remain in the relative safety of your comfort blanket i.e. your current career, than to take the necessary steps and change things. Consider how often we hear people who finally made a change had wished they done so earlier, just remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

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From tennis to marketing

Fresh out of university with a sports science and tennis degree, I can remember my first day as the new tennis coach for a national leisure company. I had played and taught tennis for many years previously but this was different, it was my first full-time role and the start of my career. Once my first group lesson had finished, I said to myself "this is it, you’re now set for the rest of your life".

For four years I thought I lived the dream and was lucky enough to have my job as my hobby. I taught tennis to kids as young as three all the way up to adults, from complete beginners to advanced. I had great clients such as professional racing drivers, including the Stig (who has a pretty mean forehand) but I knew something wasn’t right. My values changed and I wasn’t happy with where I was going. Another three years passed before I finally left my tennis role and started a completely new digital marketing career at Builtvisible and now Koozai. And yes, I wish I had done it sooner!

What do you value?

We owe a lot of our feelings to personal values. This is when we notice something does not sit well within us, like the job you’re doing, and we question change.

Here is a three-step exercise you can do which gives you a reality check on where you’re at right now with your career.

  • List five things that are important to you and a career. For example, flexibility and money might be two.
  • Rank them in order of importance, one being the most important and five the least.
  • Assign a colour to each. Green means you’re currently happy with where you’re at, amber is relatively happy and red not happy.

What do you notice? You should now have five qualities that are important you with a colour offering a ‘status update’ on your current situation. Lots of green indicates you’re in a career that’s in agreement with what you value, mostly red, however, can indicate you’re in a career that conflicts with what you value, suggesting change is needed to resolve these issues.

To conclude, if you’re debating a career change, how much does it have to hurt before you get off the nail?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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