In career counseling, the core premise is that work that is a good fit for you will utilize your learned skills and innate talents and will present in a way that matches your temperament/personality and your work/organizational style. Rather than deciding ‘I want to be a lawyer’ and therefore I need to become someone who is intellectual, a keen negotiator, assertive, willing to work 80 hour weeks, etc., the approach focuses on understanding who you are, and allowing that knowledge to point you in a good direction.
There are many career tests that can give you insight into what might be a good fit for you in your work life. As research for this blog post, I just took one online and it said this about me: “ability and desire to bring out the most in others….You instinctively understand others' needs and you are very adept at giving a timely word of inspiration and affirmation. You have the natural, positive ability to "rally people" to action…. You are able to see the “big picture”, while also putting a high value on organization, productivity, and meeting deadlines.” This list is a small sampling of the traits and skills that make me well suited to be a coach. When seeking clarity about direction, I’m a big fan of this approach.
But what if I already had that clarity and knew that I didn’t want to be a coach at all and really wanted to be a lawyer? What would happen then? Would I be doomed? Would I need to change? Would it even be possible? And if it was possible would I have to change my values? Or my time with my children?
One of the fundamental tenets of my coaching practice is that uncovering your skills, talents, temperament, and productivity style can be useful NO MATTER WHAT YOUR DIRECTION. Let’s say I have three clients who want to get more regular exercise. The first is very athletic, organizes best by setting long terms tasks and working methodically toward a goal, and is most motivated by accountability to others. The second likes to move if it feels fun and playful, organizes best by having routines, and is motivated by the intrinsic reward of feeling alive in their body. And the third has never really consistently exercised, organizes best taking slow steady incremental steps, and is motivated by meeting other people’s needs. The first might end up in a training group for a marathon, the second in a weekly dance class, and the third taking a nightly walk with their dog and their fitbit, each day a little farther. Regardless of their differences, all three are now getting regular exercise. By understanding who they are, how they get things done, and what motivates them successfully, they can move toward their goal regardless of how well it lines up with their profile.
So if I wanted to be a lawyer, it would need to be me, as I am, who became a lawyer. In bringing my skills and talents, I’d recognize those parts of me that can articulate any argument passionately and that cherish a devil’s advocate. I’d organize myself by pulling out to look at the big picture: like my belief that our justice system is flawed and has intrinsic biases, so that I’d have my compass pointed in the right direction as I took slow and steady steps toward researching law schools. I’d call on my passion for social justice and being a part of the solution to be my motivation. And I’d understand my work style and needs around work/life balance as I looked at programs and eventually jobs. By understanding who I am, how I work, and what drives me, I could accomplish this goal, or any goal.
As it happens, I don’t want to be a lawyer, and have used my skills, talents, organizational style, and intrinsic motivation to build this coaching practice, where I have found great joy in my work. And while it may seem a natural fit for me now that I'm settled in it, it was just a fantasy when I was looking at it from the vantage point of my previous career.
Do you have passions you don’t pursue because you think you’d need to be different first? What if who you are is actually a perfect fit with whatever you most want to do? Can you imagine the limitless possibilities?
Kendra Lubalin is a coach at Get There Coaching
Kendra works one-on-one with clients to clarify their dreams, break them down into bite-sized realistic steps, and then reach them using their own organic work/organizational styles.
She offers free 20-30 minute initial phone consultations.and offers sessions by phone, Facetime, or Skype