By: Mark Guterman
Not long ago, I had a very busy day of coaching. My clients that day were professionals and managers, ranging in age from mid-20’s to mid-50’s, in various stages of job search or career transition, and all searching for meaningful work. Regardless of their specific circumstances and issues, everyone wanted to know, “How long will this take?” The question was deeper than how much time does it take to get a new job or to make a career change. It showed a fundamental disbelief that meaningful work was realistic or even possible.
My answer was, and always is, a variation of: “It takes however long it takes.” That response, of course, is not helpful to clients and so I never say it out loud. I wish I knew how long it was likely to take or at least be able to make a reasonable prediction, that if they do certain things, positive results are likely in a given time frame. Unfortunately, the search for meaningful work rarely, if ever, goes according to schedule and it almost never occurs in a linear fashion. The combination of a changing work world along with our individual quirkiness in going through the process creates too many variables for things to go according to plan.
Instead of wondering about how long it might take, it makes more sense to think about what we can do to move the process forward with goals and aspirations clearly in sight. If the goals are not clear, then the work needs to focus on figuring that out; if they are clear, the process then focuses on the actions and experiments that are likely to move us ever closer to their achievement. By focusing on the process, and each of the necessary small steps, the pressure of when transforms into the excitement and discovery of how. It turns the search for meaningful work into a learning process, and rather than dwelling on the daunting nature of the tasks ahead (which we all know can bring us to a grinding halt), it puts things into manageable and controllable bites that can be taken one step at a time.
Furthermore, by shifting our focus from how long to what’s next, a sense of realistic expectancy comes into play. That is, we don’t need to know all, or even most of the answers; we simply need to figure out what to do here and now and then proceed to do that. Operating this way gives us a reasonable expectation that we will begin moving, perhaps slower than we like or need, but moving nonetheless. And, ultimately, it is the steady movement forward, which becomes the experience of momentum, that gets us to our goal of meaningful work.
MeaningfulCareers.com was created by Mark Guterman and Dan King, two guys with a shared commitment to the power of meaningful work. They help professionals find greater meaning in their careers, lead happier, more satisfying lives, and instill lasting value through their work. For more information and resources visit: http://meaningfulcareers.com.