How To Find The Courage To Go After Your Dream Job

Biological Engineer By Samantha Sutton, PhD
Biological Engineer
Samantha Sutton has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow. She has presented her life design philosophy to companies such as Google and the National Cancer Institute as well as universities like Duke, Stanford, and Yale.

OK, so you know that you want to love your career. But you also know that your current job situation just isn't cutting it.

You have explained these feelings at length, time and time again: to your partner, to your sister, to your best friends and even to a random person you met at the grocery store.

You complain about what your current job is missing, then sigh hopelessly, realizing hat you don't even know what your "dream job" is. Maybe it doesn't even exist?

Sure, you have a few ideas. You share them eagerly and frantically with others. But then, just as whoever you're talking to starts to get excited for you, you dump a bucket of cold water on the discussion by explaining how all of your ideas are impossible. Game over.

So you tend to finish up the conversation with a grand flourish of throwing your hands in the air and making some statement about winning the lottery. Unrealistic fantasy feels safer than actually considering alternative options, right? Does this sound familiar?

If so, for the sake of you, your career and everyone who is just a tad bit tired of hearing your frustrated career story, I am going to give you a tool to get you unstuck.

First, let's get one thing straight. Making a career change isn't as simple as applying for a library card. It is a special, deep and thoughtful journey into who you are, what is important to you and how much grit you have to make it happen. It is a true journey in that you will change, grow and face challenges. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Most people don't really give the process the gravitas it deserves.

Then, once you are appreciative of the journey, you will likely run up against some strong emotions. And that is where most of us get stuck. You might feel:

  • Afraid that you will fail and look stupid and run out of money and have to live in a cardboard box.
  • Regretful that you got yourself into this predicament in the first place. Why didn't you study something different in college?
  • Angry that other people steered you in the wrong direction. Why didn't your parents give you better advice about what to study in college?
  • Hopeless that it's too late and you aren't good enough to make it happen.
  • Jealous of your friend Jennifer who just has it all figured out. Go away, Jen.
  • Ashamed that this is all you have to show for yourself after X decades of being alive.

Which of these resonates with you? You can pick more than one. Many of my clients have felt all of the above.

Each one of these emotions feels terrible. If we let ourselves stay with these emotions (and over-identify with them), we become despondent, sleepless, irritable, and extremely uncomfortable.

So what do we do? Typically, we run away. I call this "running away from the fire." Because, lordy, these feelings sure can feel like a painful and intense burning!

But here's the problem: we can't possibly make a big change in our careers without experiencing at least one of these "negative" feelings. I have never seen it happen … though I dare you to be the counter-example.

As a result, we stay stuck. On the one hand, we feel dissatisfied with doing nothing. But on the other hand, we simply can't stand the emotional pain of making a career change. Hence the dissatisfied feeling of being in career limbo, where all you can do is complain about it to the people in your life.

The key to making a career change, then, is to become a master at walking through the fire, rather than running away from the intensity. Acknowledge that you are going to feel intense feelings, and darn it, you will keep on going anyway. Feelings won't kill you, even if they might feel dangerously hot with intensity.

From there, have good "talk-back" for your feelings. Make sure to remember the following things about these common, "negative" emotions:

  • Fear: The things you fear rarely ever come to pass. When I first started coaching, I was afraid my clients would fire me after one session once they saw how truly "terrible" I was. On the contrary, eight years later, I am still in touch with many of them.
  • Regret: You have absolutely no idea if something from your past was the "right" or "wrong" decision. When I first left science to become a coach, I thought that those 6+ years spent getting my PhD were a waste of time. Now I see that that training is one of my biggest assets as a coach.
  • Anger: You are the captain of your own ship. No one is responsible for you reaching your destination other than you.
  • Hopelessness: In this world of endless opportunities, it is very rare that someone is truly at a dead-end unless they choose to be.
  • Jealousy: Waste of time. What does Jen's success have to do with yours?
  • Shame: You have done plenty in your life thus far. You just don't take a moment to celebrate it. Please do.

What career change are you contemplating? What emotions are getting in the way? And what are you going to do about them? Write me a note and share.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my free Find a Career You Love video for more tips and tools.

And do you want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join live July office hours.


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