Was it all those friends that you talked through crisis in high school? Or how about the counselor that helped you navigate a crisis? Or maybe like some of us you just found yourself in the field by default...something like, what else can I study that seems interesting?
Reflecting on what brought you to this profession is an important guide when it comes to making fulfilling career choices.
Most of the cases of burn out I see are mental health professionals that are NOT doing the kind of work that they joined the field to do. Either they are seeing clients they don't enjoy, working in a bureaucracy they don't respect or not incorporating enough self care to really be present with their work. Either way, I am convinced that it doesn't have to be that way.
It is possible and even desirable to search out or create career opportunities that resonate with who you are and what you want to do on a core level. So...having had a moment of step by step thinking, I thought I would share a few insights on how to make this happen in your career life.
1. GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
Until you reconnect with why you joined the field, you won't be able to make choices from that awareness. Truthfully, you may have changed and grown since that first choice to become a mental health professional, so it may even be worthwhile to look at what drew you then and what draws you now. Don't skip or skimp on this step, this is your inspiration.
2. EVALUATE YOUR SELF CARE
If you are not taking good care of yourself and doing your own work, you will not experience career fulfillment no matter how perfect your work situation is. Consider it this way, "wherever you go, there you are"....including in your work life. If you are unhappy in your life, that will translate into work. Instead of letting the blame rest with work, be brave enough to find the true source of your unhappiness and get started on a journey towards living the life you want to live.
Examine every area of your life and be willing to take personal responsibility for what ever your see that you don’t like. Even if it seems overwhelming at first…take small steps towards making a difference in your own life. Your family, your clients, your friends and most of all YOU will thank you!
3. EXAMINE YOUR CURRENT CAREER STATE
Take an honest look at the work you do. Do you respect it, do you think it makes a difference in people's lives? Does your company operate in integrity, can you feel proud of what you do and of your coworkers?
Notice, I didn't start this conversation with questions about how much you earn. Truth be told, once your needs are met these other questions are so much more relevant. If you can't feel good about the work you do, who you do it with or the difference you make...a few dollars pay raise won't make a difference. True fulfillment is about building a life you can respect...from home to work and all points between.
4. DREAM A NEW POSSIBILITY
If you don't love it, start envisioning what you would. This is not the time to think practicality...this is the time to really feel free and imagine yourself without limits and constraints, able to hand pick the perfect work experience. Until you can at least honestly conceive of what you would want to be doing, how can you ever hope to recognize the right opportunities when they come.
Let yourself dream. See what you come up with. In our field, the options really can be limitless. I personally know of mental health professionals that are also songwriters, public speakers, nutritionists, financial experts, authors, personal trainers and jewelry makers…the list goes on. They have all fused these aspects of themselves into their work. You can do the same..Anything is Possible!
5. TAKE STEPS TOWARDS MAKING IT HAPPEN
Now, this my friend, is where the rubber meets the road. This is the time when you have to begin to take action to create what you want to see. There is a wonderful book, The War of Art by S. Pressfield, that describes the journey of creating your life's work so beautifully. In this book, he personifies “Resistance" and continually speaks about how it can show up in your life and stand between you and the full expression of your unique professional capacity.
In building a career life that you love, there will undoubtedly be moments of challenge, uncertainty and disappointment...but if you are on the right track there will also be excitement, inspiration and connections with beautiful and intriguing people. Commit yourself to a path that will lead to personalized career fulfillment, your clients and the lives you will impact are waiting for you!
Have you ever thought about building your practice?