Still Preparing For Career Day 20 Years Later

ChecklistI vaguely remember things like Career Day where you are supposed to think like an adult and decide what you want to be when you grow up.  Like we had a clue.


But we were forgiven because we were teenagers.


Fast forward some 20 years give or take and so often we are still struggling with the same question – what do I want to do?


Sometimes we are lucky enough to fall into a path that helps us identify our value, other times we are pushed into it.  Then there are times that we just seem to be going along like a leaf in a stream not really engaged just going wherever the water takes us until we get derailed from a stick poking up from the bottom of the creek.


Now what?


We never really knew where we were doing or if we even really liked it.  So now we are looking for another position and we can’t tell you the first thing about what we want.


What’s up with that?  We have worked all our adult lives, shouldn’t we be able to answer the question “What do you want?”  In theory yes, in reality – good luck with that.


Now most people when they get flustered with not being able to answer that question feel like they have turned into the big pink elephant in the middle of the room.  Like they are alone, odd, the only one who struggles with that.


You are not.


I would hazard to guess if you put 100 random people in a boat and told them to pick a side – those who know what they want to do and those who aren’t sure the aren’t sure side would tilt that sucker over and we would all get wet.


It is the majority not knowing what you want.  It is ok, it is natural, human, there is nothing wrong with you and you have not started to grow a trunk.  So relax!


It is not always your fault that you don’t know – you have been influenced by outside factors.


Family friends and lovers or significant others telling you what you should do, what you shouldn’t, not understanding how you could think differently and taking cues from some skewed versions of life from society.


No wonder you are a wreck.  Relax!


In all the work I have done with clients in trying to figure out the maze that is their life I have discovered some common elements that hinder the progress of discovering what we want.


We have value for others but not ourselves.


If someone were to treat my best friend in a disrespectful manner I would blow a gasket.  It is totally unacceptable.  She is a loving, warm, intelligent and beautiful person and how dare anyone treat her as anything less.


Yet if I am treated in the same manner I don’t look at it the same.  I almost look at it in a dismissive manner.  We don’t always put the same value on ourselves as we do those we love.


We have expectations of others but not ourselves.


One of the best lines I ever heard is “you have greatness in you, do not disappoint.”  We do not see our own greatness, our own unique value that we bring to situations.  If we could recognize that then we would see that they truly are gifts.  When you have a gift you have a duty to share, an expectation to share that gift.


We forgive others but not ourselves.


Girls you will especially relate to this example – a guy treats you like crap and you break up.  You forgive him much more quickly yet you still kick yourself for either falling for it, putting up with it or “making some mistake” that caused it.


Um, no.  He was a jackass – unless he earns your forgiveness he doesn’t deserve it.  And you do not deserve the punishment.  You never did anything to forgive yet you are holding yourself hostage.  Knock it off.


We may have taken some bad twists and turns in our career and we look back as it was our fault.  There may be an element to that but before you so quickly forgive everyone else start with yourself first.  Acknowledge any part you played, think of it as a lesson and let it go.  Release yourself.


We let other’s expectations derail our dreams.


Sometimes you have a dream that when you say it out loud it sounds crazy.  Maybe you have said it out loud and people have actually told you that you are crazy.  Maybe your significant other or family has protested because it doesn’t fit with their ideas or centered around them.




First of all – be crazy.  Dream big, dare and think outside the box.  Thinking outside the box here means thinking of yourself first.  It is an odd concept but try it out.  Let’s be honest, kids grow up and move on, partners can leave either by choice or unforeseen events and even at the end of the day no matter how full your house is you lay down at night to just you.  What drives that person?


If you do have a crazy dream and others in your life to consider then it is a time to see how you can have it all.  You can you know.  There may be modifications that need to be made, but it is acceptable to want it all.


I was dating a guy and I mentioned that I was going to be moving in some years to possibly California.  He freaked.  He turned into a totally different person and we eventually broke up.  I really cared about this guy but I realized he didn’t care or he would have asked more about it.  If it would have developed into more than the timeline might have changed because he had kids or the location may have changed.  Who knows, but the point is I do have dreams – big ones – and the right person is going to accept that and together we work out the details so it fits not just my dreams but theirs.  I am not going to apologize for dreaming.  It is part of our essence.


We forgot how to be silent and multidimensional.


When is the last time you sat silently and just let random thoughts come into your head?  At first you might be barraged by all the day to day mundane stuff, but eventually your mind does quiet down.  Then you can start reconnecting with the most important person – you.


I am a mother, daughter, aunt, friend, coach and mentor.  I cannot bring my full value to any of these roles unless I am at peace with myself and know who I am.  I am also not a one dimensional person.  I am not just a mother, not just a daughter, not just an aunt, not just a writer etc.  I am a compilation of all these things.


I am also not one element.  I am spontaneous, a planner, organized, chaotic, emotional, stoic, assertive, shy, a social butterfly, socially awkward, sentimental, insensitive, driven and confused.  I have all sorts of elements that make me who I am.  I have learned to recognize each one of my elements and the value or challenges that they bring.


I have accepted myself.  Good, bad or indifferent this is who I am.  I make no apologies for who I am or that path that I have taken because it makes me who I am, drives me and helps me look forward.  The only way I was able to come to this place was by being silent.  Stop listening to everyone else and listen to that voice that you can only hear when you are silent within yourself.


We get tunnel vision.


When bad things happen we tend to look at them in one way and one way only: we screwed up.  It is our fault, bad things happen to us, we didn’t deserve it, etc.  We get so engrained with the negative and the pain or fear that we feel that we lose ability to view it from a different perspective.


I was released from a job and it was humiliating and devastating.  It wasn’t until a short time later that I was able to go back and see it as a blessing.  Had I not been released I might still be there, unhappy and unfulfilled, and never gotten to the place where I am now.


I had to thank the bad for allowing the good to come in.


We are more afraid of failing than succeeding.


In other words – we are afraid to try.  We don’t want to get hurt, look stupid or look foolish.


We are so stupid.


Have you ever been in a situation where there are a lot of people around that look like a flock of sheep and then one person steps out of the norm.  Does something that isn’t in line with rest of the group.  They look crazy – but they are having fun.  You can see joy in their face and happiness.  And everyone else may be saying, “what a fool” but inside they are truly saying, “I wish I were that brave.”


Be brave.


I’m not throwing stones here or saying it is easy.  Several years ago I reunited with the love of my life and we combined our families and were planning our dream wedding which we waited over 20 years to have; all was glorious.  Then months before the wedding he had an affair.


My world was crushed and I vowed to never open up again to never feel that kind of betrayal and pain.  How foolish I looked telling everyone he was the love of my life and how perfect my life was when it was just one big joke.


I licked my wounds, got silent and got brave.  I put myself out there again little by little.  I have met some wonderful people who have become valued friends.  I have also met some real assholes.  Life’s journey isn’t always peaches and sunshine.


Even with all the experience I still get burned.  It is going to happen.  You are never immune. I met a guy not too long ago who said all the right things and behaved in all the right ways.  Cut to the chase – I got played.  At first I fell back to the immediate patterns of not forgiving myself, not seeing my value and seeing it a tunnel vision sort of way.


But that lasted for a moment.  I’ve been through worse and yet I am still here, I have much to offer and instead of poor me it is more of well played and thank goodness I was spared any more crap.


You owe no one an apology for who you are, where you are or what you want.  Once you can say that in the mirror to yourself with confidence, conviction and full love and support of yourself then you will start to get some great ideas for career day.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


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