CareersFinding Your Passion

You Already Have Enough Information to Make a Career Decision

Many people Parker Palmer quote: Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.come to me for career coaching because they’re lost, aimless, uncertain about their next moves.

They know what doesn’t work, but they’re not sure where to go next.

They often have people in their lives who know with utter certainty what they’re meant to do with their lives, and they see a huge chasm between where they are and where they think they should be.

What’s extraordinary about those sessions that I have with the clients who come in thinking that they’re completely rudderless is that it doesn’t take long for them to uncover what really matters to them and to match it up with where they’re going.

As the Parker Palmer quote so beautifully states,

Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.

Looking Backward Provides Vital Clues into Your Next Career Move

One question in particular provides strong insight into who you are:

Who has influenced your career, either positively or negatively?

Think about key people in your life, your parents or caregivers, your mentors or heroes, your teachers, your bosses. How did they touch you? What did you learn from them? Perhaps they inspired you, perhaps they taught you what NOT to do. Perhaps they saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself and opened the door for it emerge. Regardless of the tone, telling your story will uncover a vital connection for you about who you are, where you’ve been, and also where you’re going.

Use the comments to write about one person who has influenced your career path.

My Own Story About An Influential Person

Here’s one of my stories in response to this question: Pamela was my boss when I was probably all of 25 (I’m almost double that age now, so it seems like a very long time ago).

She’s still my friend, and she still offers me guidance, but at the time, she was one of the first people to give me a vision of a strong professional woman.

She was in a senior role where we worked, and she had influence over what happened. She wasn’t afraid to speak up, but she knew how to use grace to convey her message, how to be appropriately feminine and powerful in a male-dominated organization, and how to advocate for her staff and give credit where credit was due.

I actually changed my name because of her. About 6 months after I got married, I was still using my family name. My older sister got married before me and she didn’t change her name, and since we’re a family of girls and a family of strong feminists, I thought I was supposed to keep my name rather than change it when I got married.

Well, here’s what happened: one day, I was in Pamela’s office when she answered her phone, and she picked up the phone and said smoothly and with authority her full name and the name of the organization where we worked. I thought, “I want to talk like that, with confidence.”

I practiced it (really, out loud), and I stumbled over it. But when I tried it using my husband’s name instead of my given name, it flowed out smoothly, and I had the same tone as Pamela.

I was a little embarrassed to change my name because it seemed like such a superficial reason to do so, just because I liked it, but it was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done for myself, and it was based on Pamela’s influence.

Please tell one of your stories below in the comments.

11 thoughts on “You Already Have Enough Information to Make a Career Decision

  1. What a great line that is, listening to your life telling you who you are. That is perhaps the most important thing that anyone can do when it comes to just about anything! Thanks so much for that! Seems like you are helping people realize that truth be told they know more about what it is that they want to be than they think they do–and that is an amazing thing!

  2. I remember being so confused about what to do with my life and not knowing what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t until I finally started listening to my body and going down the painful path that I didn’t want to go down, did I finally discover my purpose.

    I lost my sister 7 years ago to cancer and I tried to push all my pain aside and not think about it or deal with it. But because I was hiding it and not addressing it, the pain was taking over my life. Once I finally addressed my prolonged grief, I knew I had to help people who are struggling with the loss of a loved on like I was.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    1. Maggie Graham, Career Coach says:

      It’s it amazing how much wisdom our bodies hold? I’m so glad you listened, and that you’re turning towards your sister’s death and creating meaning from it. What a wonderful tribute to her.

  3. What has influenced me in my career the most has not been a person but a situation. When I was younger, I always wanted to be a clinical psychologist. But then I developed a chronic illness – the limitations of which prevent me from working full-time. I really struggled with what I would do. At the time most of my friends had full-time jobs, and I was having to give up my dreams. In the end, I decided I’ve always loved to write and that I could put my two interests together (psychology and writing). I started my blog as a way to practice my writing skills and hopefully in the future develop a freelance writing career for myself.

    1. Maggie Graham, Career Coach says:

      What a great idea to combine these 2 parts of yourself!

  4. I know what I want to do now, but I just have to get there.

  5. Bruno was my boss when I was still in training in an insurance company. I was supposed to switch departments. The person in HR said that they made a mistake, no women should work in the department I was in. I said what? Why? I like it here! Bruno stood up for me and together we had to go all the way to the CEO for an interview. We managed that I was the very first woman working in that department, and I was only 19 years old.

    Then a year later, when my Dad died, Bruno (and my work) was my anchor. With him I could talk through what nobody else wanted to talk about.

  6. Thanks for the reminder to listen to myself and to think about who has influenced my career. I don’t think I can narrow it down to one person, but I do find inspiration in people who have a clear idea and passion and keep at it even when it takes time for them to find success.

  7. I was influenced early in my life by libraries and librarians, which influenced me to get a master’s degree in library science and to become a writer.

  8. There have been several people who influenced me, but one woman in particular was a mentor to me whether she knew it consciously or not: Sylvia. When I first started at that job, I was terrified of the conversations with the clients on the phone, being able to portray confidence and mastery via those phone conferences.

    I began sitting in Sylvia’s office during the calls, and seeing her calm connection, her ability to remember everyone’s voice, her professionalism and grace under pressure … I decided I wanted to be more like that. Within a year, those same clients gave me an award for listening to them.

    I have gone on to host hundreds of business calls and presentations. I even spoke recently to a group in Spanish (my second language). I no longer fear talking to strangers. If I trace my comfort level back to where it started … it was in the small office of a regal, silver-haired lady, with the demeanor of a queen.

  9. I had a lit teacher in high school who I believe had the most amazing life- he had been a writer and an actor and settled into teaching. Now I think he’s an education consultant. What he really instilled in us though, was to never be afraid to take an opportunity of interest. I also believe that sometimes you have to pursue a passion, leave it for a while, and then come back to it wiser and more decisive. This has been the case with me. I spent time in a “career” because I thought that’s what I should do- but really what it did was make me realize how miserable I was when I wasn’t in the saddle or teaching kids to ride horses! So I’ve come full circle, and can now make long term goals. Everything happens for a reason- all those things I learned working in law firms and managing offices has given me a very good business foundation for my future training facility!

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