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Are you giving away your career power?

Fresh out of grad school, I somehow landed a career counselling job despite having virtually no career experience. Naturally, I was completely out of my depth trying to help others navigate career loss and transition. While I understood the mechanics of career counselling and job search, I had no concept of just how complex and defining careers are in people’s lives. Twenty years later, I can see how greatly I must have failed those early clients.

What I didn’t know then was that careers are more than jobs. They form a massive part of our identity. Not only that, but our career is inextricably connected to our sense of value, how we feel about ourselves, relationships, health, and financial well-being. It’s no wonder that most of us put a tremendous amount of energy into building a satisfying career.

What I also didn’t know as a newly minted career counsellor was that we actually have a tremendous amount of power in our careers, power that we often give away without even being aware of it.

I learned both of these lessons the hard way, spinning my wheels in my own career off and on for the better part of a decade. During that time, I rode a wild ride of career highs and lows, loving my jobs for a period of time then hating them, being highly engaged until I slipped into frustration or boredom, and feeling dependent on others or the ‘right’ circumstances to make changes.

What I now know is that I was giving away my career power and, the more I talk to others about their careers, the more I see how prevalent this is. How do we even know if we’re giving away our career power? There’s an exhaustive list of symptoms we can look for, of which these are just a few: finding work tiring, exhausting or frustrating; dreading work; feeling like you’re underpaid; lacking purpose or meaning in your work; waiting to be noticed; or laying blame on others or company culture for things not being better. Honestly, a complete list would be a mile long, and almost anything on that list is reflective of an underlying belief that we lack the power to change things.

Here’s the thing: when we don’t believe that we can create change in our career, we are settling. And when we are settling, we are giving way our career power because we are failing to see our inherent capacity to make things better, whatever our definition of better might be. When we tell ourselves that we’re stuck with what we’ve got, or that one of a million things outside of our control needs to change before we can take action, our power has flown the proverbial coop.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Through years of talking careers with clients, employees, managers, friends and even myself, a little-known truth has consistently surfaced: all the power we need make our careers better exists inside of us. All of it. It is astounding what we can accomplish once we stop giving that power away. In my experience, the harder it is to find truth in that statement, the more likely it is that you’re giving away some of your career power.

And that's precisely the question I'll leave you with today: are you giving up your career power?

p.s. If this resonates with you and you want to explore how to reclaim your career power, get in touch.

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