“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

I was in a favorite store the other day and was drawn to two Soapstones at the counter: one was roughly carved into a heart and the other was a smooth heart. They were captioned “work-in-progress hearts” alongside Maya Angelou’s quote and I was captivated.
Over the last seven years, I have had the honor of helping clients embrace the concept that they are works of progress. Clients come to me in all stages of transition but no matter if they are at the beginning, in the middle or nearing the end of employment or a life change, their spirits are often broken and their confidence is shattered.

It’s normal to get stuck

It’s normal to go through life and work, first doing what’s expected and then what we think is the next right move. Some of us get married and start families and life starts to get more complicated. If you’re lucky, you’re working at a job or in a career that you truly enjoy but more often than not, your responsibilities have increased as a result of the natural cycle within your organization. You start feeling unmotivated, unchallenged and stuck. You realize that moving to the next rung of the ladder may only happen if other people leave and you start feeling resentful. Or you lose confidence and slide into complacency, convincing yourself it’s fine to stay where you are. The incremental raises and an occasional promotion are fine! You have bills to pay, a mortgage or rent, maybe a family to support. Besides, how could you possibly start over after all this time?? Much easier to stay where you are.

Then today’s job reality hits and you’re down-sized out of work or you finally quit but without a plan for next steps. Many clients come to see me at this point. They’re shocked, surprised, angry, resentful and nervous. I completely get it because I was in that position a couple of times myself. They’re broken….but all I see is an opportunity to emerge better and stronger.

Everyone – yes, that includes you! – has inner strength and the ability to succeed

At one point, you were gainfully employed because your skill set made you valuable. Your perspective, key learnings and experience aren’t gone just because your job is or might be. You were driven to succeed then and you have the tools and know-how to succeed again.

First you have to be willing to take a fearless inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Put your ego aside – there’s no room for it if you want to move forward. A weakness or deficit is a sign that something in your current or former job wasn’t a fit. It could mean it’s a skill that needs sharpening or it could signify work or tasks you aren’t interested in. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results! Love numbers but dislike accounting? Don’t pursue an accounting job just because it’s the safe route or what’s expected.

“Sam” has a PhD in chemistry and has primarily worked in an academic setting. Recently, he left his university position to pursue employment opportunities where he can combine his passion for science and experience in a lab. He sold his house, moved to the coast and secured an interview with Amazon. It didn’t happen without a lot of planning, but he clarified what was and wasn’t important to him and went after it 100%.

You have to look back before you can move forward

I’m a big proponent of LifeMapping as a way to uncover a person’s earliest passions — activities that brought them pure joy, contentment or happiness. By charting their life choices (school, jobs, hobbies) we discover a thread and strategize about how to incorporate the passion into present day.

When I was a child I was drawn to nursing. I LOVED candy stripers (aka young hospital volunteers) – the fun, red striped uniforms and the service they provided. My LifeMap uncovers lots of jobs or tasks where I have been in service to others. Today, I consider the kind of work I do with clients to be a type of emotional and practical nursing – tending to feelings and emotions that elicit fear and uncertainty and providing cures for what ails them in the workplace. It’s a career I created for myself after decades in corporate America, once I got clear about what I loved to do and, just as importantly, what I did NOT want to do.

Point being: loving what you do is not just a motto. If you can remember when you felt most connected and engaged, you can identify and pursue opportunities that will reinvigorate those feelings and tie you to a purpose.

You are the only one who can get you THERE.

I’m thrilled when clients come to me and say they can see the future but need help getting there. They don’t cling to a sense of entitlement that things “should” be easier. They recognize and accept that the employment landscape has changed. They get to work and learn new ways to position themselves for the next right thing.

“Joe” was downsized out of a 20-year career with one company. He had a solid network of friends and contacts who would help him find a new job in no time. But his network didn’t deliver because he’d never built authentic relationships with them. Once he humbly accepted that truth he developed a strategic networking plan and is now successfully connecting with like-minded people who are in a position to help. Rather than wallow in resentment, he learned what he needed to do. And he’s doing it.

Your path can take you anywhere you want to go if you’re willing to do the work. Once you know better, do better. Reclaim your identity, purpose and unique value proposition; make authentic, intentional connections and be open to the possibilities!

How will you progress in 2018? I’d love to hear from you!

Roni Chambers is Chief Possibilitarian and an expert at helping people transition to more meaningful careers.

We Are All Works in Progress

time to read: 4 min

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