How to Have Meaningful Conversations at Work
Advocacy, Inquiry and Meaningful Conversation at Work

Pursuing Your Dream


Cathy Scott writes in Forbes on how to leave an unsatisfying job and pursue your dream career:

How-to guides are regularly published about the process of pursuing new careers. I, however, don’t believe a guide can show you exactly how to do that. You have to first believe in yourself, and then take a risk. (my emphasis) Otherwise, you will stay in a dead-end job afraid to step away from your comfort zone.

I see a lot of people who keep looking for those "how to" guides. They want steps, a road map, an expert who will show them exactly how to do it. But what they really want is certainty and safety of the kind that they think they have with their unsatisfying job. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't. 

Having struck out on my own to create my own dream career, I know that what Cathy says is correct. It isn't about "how to" guides. It's about being willing to choose what you love, being willing to choose happiness over safety.  It starts with believing that you can do it and then taking the risk. It's about making the leap

Sure, eventually you will want and need practical information about how to move forward. Maybe you will need new education or training. Maybe you want to start your own business and will need help in doing that. 

But the biggest step you will take in pursuing your dream is to allow yourself to have it. The second step is finding the courage to pursue it. Don't look for the "how-to" guides that will make you do this. The only place you can look is within yourself. 



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This reminds me of a quote I came across a number of years ago after I left my now-ex-husband (another big leap that required believing in myself):

"How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."

The quote is by Trina Paulus in Hope for the Flowers.

That quote kept coming back to me as I made the career leap this summer. I did things to make it more secure: staying at my existing job until I had a big project ready, saving up money so we had a cushion in case things went poorly, etc. But there was definitely risk.

Even though I know job security is basically a myth (I left Cisco right after they laid off 6500 people in a week), in some ways I'm more conscious of that risk now because I'm the one directly responsible for making things happen. I'm the one to choose which projects to pursue and which ones to turn down. I have to decide when to turn projects down even if I don't have a lot of other work lined up because it isn't the right fit for who I want to be now.

Christy, I think you're making an important distinction in how you feel about risk as a self-employed person. You are more aware of it when you're the one solely responsible for bringing in the projects, making the decisions, etc. When you work for someone else, there's a layer of insulation from that. You may be aware that you could lose your job, but it feels different, somehow.

I think you're right that it's about how you are solely responsible for making things happen, which for a lot of people can be pretty difficult to feel. I'm guessing, though, that while you may have some dark days (I think all self-employed people do), this kind of risk feels better than waiting for the hammer to drop.

I love the quote, btw--so true!

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