During my career in banking, my employer required each employee to take a Predictive Index test. The test consisted of a singular piece of paper with an identical list of 100 adjectives on each side. On one side, we were to put a checkmark beside each adjective that described who we truly were as a person—the words that defined what came naturally and effortlessly to our real self and personality. On the flip side, we were to put a checkmark beside each adjective that described who our employer expected us to be. The answers were plugged into a computer program that generated a report, and the goal was to measure just how far we were having to stretch ourselves to fit into the role required to efficiently and adequately do our job.
It was amazing how revealing and accurate the results proved to be, and how they explained why some employees were struggling. For example, if an employee was in a position of branch manager, yet they possessed no natural ability to lead and were unable to enforce rules or administer discipline, it was concluded that the chasm between what was being expected of the employee and what they were naturally able to muster was too wide. It wasn’t that the individual was inferior to anyone else or that they did not possess the natural ability and propensity to contribute something meaningful. They were simply being asked to stretch too far outside their comfort zone and would be best suited to a different position within the bank. Reassigning such a person was not an insult. It was a good decision—not only for the bank but more importantly for the well-being of the employee.
The only outcome to the pursuit of trying to wriggle your true self into someone else’s conflicting expectations is complete frustration. All of us possess God-given, natural gifts, talents, and abilities that were innately endowed to us by Him, and we best thrive when we identify them and pour our energy into doing things that allow them to flow effortlessly and without hindrance. In only a few steps, we can not only assess the wisdom of our career choice, but we can make necessary adjustments to minimize the stress of continuing in the wrong one.
Take Time to Self-Reflect
Set an appointment with yourself. Guard it with as much care and consideration as you would a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with another person. Go to a quiet, uninterrupted space and ask yourself these questions. How do I feel on my commute home from work? Am I happy? Do I feel fulfilled? Does what I am doing feel as if it matters? Am I making a positive difference? Am I in a rut? Do I feel frustrated? Is my creativity being fully tapped into? Be honest with yourself and don’t rush. Take time to listen to what your heart has to say.
Accept the Truth
If your answers to the above questions leave you feeling a sense of satisfaction and peace, stay the course. You are obviously where you are supposed to be. If you find that you aren’t content with your answers, open your mind to the possibility that it may be time for a change. If you identify that what is being expected of you at work is more than you are able to give without a great deal of stress, try to imagine how much better your life could be if the weight of that burden were removed.
Give Yourself Grace
There is no shame in acknowledging and owning that you have chosen the wrong path. The shame would come in continuing on it once you realize it isn’t for you. Just because you spent years, money, and energy in attaining a degree in a particular field does not mean you are trapped in a career you loathe. The truth is, sometimes we don’t know what we are best at until we are in the trenches actually doing what we have trained for.
As a teenager, I used to read Cherry Ames books and fantasize about becoming a nurse. That is until a patient passed away during my shift working as a nurse’s aide, and I realized I wasn’t capable of the emotional detachment required of medical professionals. In my case, I was blessed to have discovered that I was not the fictional character Cherry Ames before misdirecting years and money in pursuit of becoming a nurse. Sadly, this isn’t always the case, and guilt holds us prisoner as we think the only choice we have is to stay in a life of misery to justify sunk cost and time invested. The only thing you can do about spilled milk is to start cleaning it up. It does no good to cry over it or rue that it happened. If you could go back and do things over, you would. Since you can’t, forgive yourself for past mistakes, start with a clean slate, and make changes based on what you wish you had done in the past. Start now and move forward without a backward glance.
Identify the Real You and the Right Fit
If you have concluded that you need to change direction, ask yourself these questions. What are you good at? What comes naturally to you? What, after doing, leaves you with the deepest sense of fulfillment? What type of career path would allow and enable you to do those things?
Begin searching and researching with a mind that is open and willing to think out of the box. To avoid making another wrong turn, if finances allow, consider taking an entry-level position in a field of interest to give yourself a tryout before pursuing educational requirements and options.
A boss once told me that the only thing consistent in life is change. Thankfully, in the case of discovering you are on the wrong career path, this can be a good thing.
About the Author: Cheryl Smith is the author of the books Biblical Minimalism and Homespun Devotions: Volume One. She loves to spend time with her husband and son in the mountains, sing and play bluegrass music, and write.