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What to Do When You Feel Lost in your Career

I felt compelled to write on this topic because the other day I realized that for the first time since I graduated college six years ago, I finally feel at peace with where I am in my career. Throughout most of my twenties, I felt quite the opposite from this... I felt lost.

It felt like I was constantly searching for something that couldn’t possibly exist. Job after job, company after company, yet each time I’d always find that the job was so WRONG for me. All of these negative experiences lead me to believing this “story”, which I thought was very real and believed with every fiber of my being. Nonetheless, it was a story that my mind had written as our minds like to do.

The story was that I couldn’t ever find a job that wasn’t soul crushing or anxiety provoking, that would give me balance (boundaries separating work from down-time), AND decent pay. You may have a similar story, re-playing in your head that your mind has created based on some negative life experiences. Stories like, “You can’t quit your job; you won’t be able to survive if you leave.” Or “If you leave that bad relationship, you won’t find a better one, so stay because that’s better than being alone.”

Our mind, or really the ego aspect of our minds, is the driving force behind these stories. These stories are lies that our ego feeds us to keep us from doing what our heart/soul/spirit, whatever you like to call it, really wants. We do this because we think it keeps us safe and protects us. Fear is always the key ingredient weaving these stories together, but we sprinkle in our negative life experiences as well to further prove the point.

So, take myself for example. I had such negative experiences at corporate jobs that I believed that ALL corporate jobs would be like that: suffocating, confining, and creating a high level of discomfort and anxiety on a regular basis. But, how could I believe such a story when there are thousands of different corporate jobs out there at hundreds of different companies? At the time, I had only had three corporate jobs, yet I let that define my entire perception of Corporate America.

In actuality, the reason why I had such a terrible experience in those corporate jobs was because I was completely in the wrong field. I’m extremely creative and writing is one of my strongest skills. In those corporate jobs, I was doing transactional work and not project-oriented creative work. In one of the jobs, I was in a high-stress environment because I was often dealing with unhappy, irate customers. Many times they would yell and curse over the phone about factors that were outside of everyone’s control. A people pleaser is NOT cut out for that role. I would internalize everything even though it wasn’t my fault, and those angry phone calls would trigger frequent panic attacks.

Another corporate job which wasn’t customer-facing was my job in operations. It was very transactional, and required more of an analytical-oriented individual. It was basically following systems and processes, over and over again. This was also incredibly anxiety-inducing for me because it felt so monotonous and repetitive. I equated the existential anxiety I was feeling to being in a corporate setting, because I thought, “Well, I’ve had these different jobs (sales, customer service, and operations) and none of them have been right for me.”

My degree was actually in marketing and throughout my time in these jobs I would apply for marketing roles frequently, because I had a feeling marketing would be a better fit for me. I was right. However, each marketing job that I applied for would never pan out and I didn’t understand why. It was actually quite simple.

I had developed a resistance to corporate jobs based on the “story” that I had about them. This acted as a block to being able to attract that any corporate job into my life, even a marketing one. Resistance always acts as a block, even if it’s not conscious to you, the universe recognizes it. It will stand in your way.

When you’re feeling lost or stuck in your career, the very first step is trying to identify the fear-based stories that your mind has created. When you believe these stories, you’re allowing fear to hold you back. Your heart aches for something different and your mind tells you, “No, you CAN’T”. It’s immobilizing. You feel lost because you want to move, but your mind tells you to stay put. So, you end up feeling lost because you don’t know where to go.

It’s really important to identify these false stories that are running through your mind and to challenge them. Do you really know that it's true? Did I really have enough knowledge to decide that every corporate job that ever existed would be hell? No. But, I didn’t have the tools at the time to be able to challenge this thought.

So what stories are you believing? People can’t make money doing what they love? Jobs are always stressful and unpleasant? Do you really, with every fiber of your being, have the authority to say that it's true? Questioning your fears and challenging the stories of your mind will help you to follow your heart and take you where you want to be.