Miserable in Your Job? Wake Up Your Dreams.

wake up 2373187031_87a9803e8c_mMaybe you’re sick of it–that  “follow your dreams” bit.

It can be annoying when fabulously successful people deliver that seemingly hackneyed message. Their words make it sound so easy, as though our dreams are actually clear to us and the path obvious. Their encouragement can even sound a bit like criticism. Ugh!

We often convince ourselves that realized dreams are for other people–mostly celebrities, pro athletes, and people a lot smarter than we. That’s our first mistake.

Open up.

Our desire for approval (and fear of disapproval) from friends and family can be a powerful force.

So, most of us keep our dreams private for too long.

Choosing a career that’s far afield from what you really want sets you up for big disappointments. The sad truth is that most people do just that.

When I coach people facing career crossroads, I ask them this:

Describe briefly the career/job you’ve always dreamed of having that you have never pursued or have only toyed with.

In the list below, the arrows tell you what these folks saw as their dream jobs:

  • Senior corporate finance director after 30 years → Manager of an entertainment-related facility
  • Entry level accountant → Sports team front office administrator
  • Business analyst → Own and operate a bed and breakfast
  • Single mother of four with a medical degree out of the workforce for two decades → Practicing and teaching alternative medicine
  • New college grad  with an English major →  Wine dealer/Travel writer/Set locator for movies/ Travel company founder

 Dreams linger, so it’s never too soon or too late to embrace them.

Your dreams belong to you and you only. Your challenge is to pursue them–on your terms.

Wake up your sleepy head.

Our dreams start in our heads. To make them real, we need to be awake and in gear.

Actor Ryan Reynolds is the voice for the garden snail  who dreams, quite unbelievably,  of being the greatest auto racer in the world in the animated Dreamworks film, Turbo. As Reynolds says, the message in this fantasy film is important:

No dream is too big. No dreamer is too small.

It’s often the case that we start small as we explore our dreams, testing out whether or not we can cobble together plans to achieve them. Each step inches us closer to our vision.

That’s how it worked for county singer, Dolly Parton, who ,throughout her career, has said she always dreams big dreams.

The fourth of 12 children, the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Tennessee, Dolly grew up, as she describes, “dirt poor,” living in a rustic, one-room cabin, and singing in church.

Her talent for singing and songwriting, her grit, willingness to work hard, her charity, and her willingness to dream bigger and bigger dreams propelled her career. She’s never stopped dreaming.

Neither should we.

Fear not.

It’s never too late to get started. So consider these steps:

  • Put a sock in your mouth–to stop the “I can’ts” you mutter that self-sabotage
  • Turn over lots of rocks–to find out what’s needed to realize your dream career
  • Nibble at the edges–to find an entry point for your first efforts
  • Pick your spots– set some specific goals and a timetable for your plan
  • Step forward–involve yourself in some way no matter how small
  • Keep moving–by gradually increasing your participation

You can turn your dream into reality by simply putting yourself out there.

Say “hey.”

Converting dreams into reality requires consistent and persistent hard work, sacrifice, mental toughness, and resilience. You’ll need to muster your courage, withstand  disappointments, and protect your self-belief.

Your dreams also need the help and support of others. So share them with the right people.

It’s important to ask for what you need when you need it from those who truly care about you and your dreams. Your moment will come but the ride is what it’s all about.

Photo by SanitMB via Photoree

5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Career

feet 166161247_9e1be2f4ff_mA job is a building block. A career is what we build. When starting out, we’re never quite sure what we’re actually building, if anything. We could end up with a useless pile of sticks or a really cool house on a mountaintop.

Careers are not built by ourselves alone. So we need to understand the roles we play (including how we play them) and the potential impact of the supporting cast.

All eyes are on you.

It’s often said: “My career should grow because I do really good work.”

But good work is only one part of it. Well-chosen and savvy professional relationships are another. Without a cadre of colleagues at all levels who attest to your competence, value, and ability to “get along,” your career will likely advance slowly, if at all.

The quality and effectiveness of your workplace relationships are noticed and become part of your personal brand. You can shoot your career in the foot easily by saying or doing things at work that  paint the wrong picture of who you are.

5 cautionary steps

These five steps can help you avoid sabotaging your career along the way:

  1. Don’t get ahead of yourself

The way employees move up is different in every company. Start by figuring out what the leadership sees in those who have been given more responsibility. Be alert to what is said about those who have been promoted. You need to know but don’t have to agree.

Advancement is not about when you think you’re ready. It’s about what the decision-makers think. Until you know, for sure, that you have regularly met the company’s performance standards, defer asking to be promoted or given plumb assignments.

  1. Keep your wants close to your chest

Managers are generally the ones who create opportunities or obstacles to your growth. You may want to assume that your boss is on your side, but that isn’t always the case. So it’s important to build a strong, credible performance portfolio.

Once you tell your boss what you want from your career, s/he has the leverage to help or hinder. So be prudent about how much you let on and when. Timing can be very important.

I once had a client who, at each job change, told his boss that he was “title sensitive” which was also code for wanting to be a big player. In each case, his career stalled.

  1. Don’t screen yourself out of opportunities

Too often, I’ve heard job seekers and careerists express an interest in positions and job challenges that are a notch up. They say, “I read the duties but I don’t meet  all of them, so I don’t think I should apply.”

It’s not your decision to (de)select yourself. That’s what management’s paid to do. It’s rare to find anyone fitting all the requirements of a job or assignment. What companies are looking for is the one who brings the best blend of knowledge and experience to the role. That may very well be you.

  1. Don’t follow someone else’s plan

The most important person to please with your career is you.

Lots of careerists pursue paths that well-meaning others have suggested or chosen for them. Then they wonder why the work doesn’t make them happy.

The first sign of self-leadership is our willingness to identify a life plan and then to start putting the  building blocks together, including those that construct our careers. When you don’t follow your own plan, it’s easy to go adrift.

  1. Don’t get seduced by the glitz

The trappings of better pay, high-sounding titles, greater authority, and any number of perks have a price. I’ve seen many people chase those things without seeing the personal and professional tolls that go with them.

There are advantages to career growth, but you need to make sure you understand how important they are to you…not to someone else…to you. Sometimes we need to see what’s behind the big door before we choose it.

Avoid self-sabotage

None of us ever sets out to make a mess of our careers. Sometimes we just do because we weren’t paying attention or had lost confidence in our ability to turn things around. By taking hold of your career, you can avoid self-sabotaging it.

Photo from davemendelsohn via Flickr