As a young child, I wanted to be a train driver.
Going to the city was such a rare but magical trip. Waiting on the train station was almost unbearable. As I watched the horizon, I would lean forward to catch the first glimpse of the old rattler coming around the corner.
It seemed like an eternity from when the train finally appeared, to when it screeched and groaned it’s way into the station. The doors then hissed, and opened. We took a careful but excited step onto the train, to take our first breath of that distinct old train smell.
As I grew up, I learnt that I loved the entire train experience. It was never really about being the train driver. Sometimes we get so caught up in the atmosphere of what surrounds a job that we forget about what the job actually is, and whether it’s truly what we want, and if it even meets our skills or needs.
I’m not one to sit still for long, and despite a very safe driving record, my attention to detail is weak when it comes to reading road signs. This is not the ideal skill set for a train driver, but perfect for a passenger staring out the window.
So often I hear about people doing countless years of university to get into a job they think would be fun, or will earn them lots of money, or because their parents told them that’s what they should do. But they hate it. They do something else.
We all have a different path. For me, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d spend almost all of my 17-year working career in life insurance. I could ask every child on the planet, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Not one of them would say, “I want to work in insurance”.
As a teen I wanted to be a paramedic. I’ve always operated on adrenaline and thrived under pressure, so perhaps this would have been a suitable career choice. However, an oncoming car hitting a helpless pedestrian (me) changed my outlook on life.
I decided to focus on tourism. I wanted to travel, see the world, and experience other cultures. I did a tourism TAFE (college) course while in high school, and studied Japanese. Again, I got caught up in the idea of travel, and didn’t really understand ‘tourism’.
We didn’t really have guidance counsellors at school, because perhaps they would have told me that the tourism industry doesn’t pay enough money to catch a bus to the next town.
Sometimes you need to recognise when a decision may be detrimental to your objective. So when I was offered a traineeship at the Sheraton in Sydney, I rejected my first, and at the time my only, job offer.
So my Dad said, “Why don’t you join the bank?”
“Not a chance, I will never work for a bank,” I replied.
Three months later I was working for the bank.
Seventeen years later, I’m still at a bank. Of course I’ve had my good days and bad days over that time, but overall it has been a fulfilling experience. I made the choice to progress my career and challenge myself everyday, and more often than not, I felt a sense of purpose in what I was doing.
Is it my dream job? Maybe not, but it’s given me an incredible platform of skills and experience. I’ve worked with some truly amazing and talented people. I’ve worked on projects that I’m proud to have been involved with, and I’ve genuinely tried to make a positive difference in an industry that has had to overcome negative public perception.
It has been my enabler to get me to this point in my life. Not only has it fulfilled many of my dreams already, including the opportunity to take a family year off and create ‘Roaming Days’, it more importantly has opened many paths for the future.
It’s not that I don’t believe in a ‘dream job’. But I’m an advocate for having the right job for a time in one’s life, as a job is only one portion of living a full life.
Wherever you are on your path, here are a couple of simple tasks you can do to check in with yourself:
1. Are you getting the most out of your job?
We’re each better suited to and enjoy different aspects of any job. Ideally, you need to understand what these are for you, and what psychological need(s) they are fulfilling.
A simple place to start is looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Try to identify what you need in your job, for example: ‘a sense of belonging’, ‘achievement’, and/or ‘respect from others’. Once you have your list, go through and write down examples of things that have happened at work in the last 3 months that have met your needs.
If you find that you are not meeting your needs:
- At a minimum, you should be doing tasks that you’re 1) good at and 2) enjoy doing. We all have things in any role that we dislike doing, but they should be the minority.
- Ask for further development or training, and continue to build your resume. Some of your needs can be met by undertaking such activities.
- Work towards a goal. It doesn’t have to big. Little wins will help to keep you motivated.
2. Does your job suit your skills?
A mentor once asked me to make a list of my skills. I realised that basically none of my core skills had anything to do with insurance, but rather soft skills like good communication, relationship management, time management and ability to deliver on tight deadlines, and so on.
I highly recommend this activity, it may open up opportunities you didn’t even know you had!
3. Can you manage a balanced lifestyle?
Work often becomes the centre of ones life. I’ve been there. We blame the job, or too much work, but we never blame ourselves and how we personally are contributing to the problem.
Over the years, I’ve made many changes to regain life balance. However, I’ve seen many people around me that are unable to enforce such disciplines on themselves.
It’s bad enough to spend a crazy amount of time at work, but it’s worse when all of your life decisions become based around it. For example: you can’t make family events, you don’t have time to spend with your children, you fail to give yourself any down time, and/or your fitness and health suffers.
The risk of your job becoming your life is that you lose all perception of the world around you. You’ll be out of balance, and this is not good for your soul. Do this simple life balance test to see how you measure up.
4. Do you have a passion outside of work?
Even if what you do is what you’re most passionate about, have another passion outside of your job. It helps create a balanced lifestyle because you have something other than work to look forward to and keep your mind engaged. As a result, your happiness levels are likely to increase – plus you’ll be more interesting (subject to your passion) 😉
5. Are you in the right job?
If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, if you don’t feel like the job is fulfilling in any way, if you generally dislike getting out of bed every day to go to work, YOU have to make the decision to change.
So really, it’s as simple as this, “Accept what you do, or change what you do”. Find you’re right job and make the most of your ‘working’ life.