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Myths That Keep Us Stuck in Our Frustrating, Stagnant Jobs... And the Realities That Could Help Us Break Out
by Leslie Godwin, MFCC

"I have been stuck in this job for 12 years. I'm not qualified to do anything else."

"I don't like to take risks, so I couldn't be an entrepreneur."

"How can I pursue what I'd really love? -- I'm not an expert in that area."

Do any of these statements sound familiar? If so, you're in good company. Most people wrongly believe that they aren't cut out to pursue a career path they'll truly love. Let's look at some of the myths that might be keeping you from your dream career:

Myth One: "I've been stuck in this job for 12 years. I don't know what else I'm qualified to do."

If you are fresh out of high school or college and have never worked, volunteered, and you don't have any hobbies, you're probably right. But if you're in mid-career, have had several jobs (or varied assignments on one job,) and are respected by your colleagues and/or supervisors, you may have to come up with another excuse for not pursuing your dream career.

Reality: Feeling stuck can make you believe that you're hopelessly unqualified to pursue a more satisfying career path. When we feel stuck we start to believe we really are stuck, and create an explanation to justify our feelings.

Example: Ruth has been a teacher for 14 years and has worked with second through fifth graders. She wants to get out of teaching but doesn't know what else she's qualified to do. The first thing she should do is to stop thinking of herself as a teacher and start breaking down the skills she's developed over the years.

She's an expert at:

  • Making difficult concepts easy to understand
  • Speaking in front of a not-always-attentive group
  • Diplomatically handling relationship and other problems throughout each day
  • Quickly assessing a situation and responding appropriately
  • Managing paperwork, working as part of a team, building consensus among team members, etc.

Would you hire someone with these skills? So would I.

Myth Two: "I don't like to take risks, so I couldn't be an entrepreneur."

Reality: I recently read an article (which I could email you if you like) that debunked this common misconception. Actually, most successful entrepreneurs take few risks in either the start-up or running of their businesses. (Forget about what you read in business magazines, which are filled with dramatic tales of 19 year-olds who finance their start-up by maxing out five different credit cards, but quickly become multimillionaires even though they won't turn a profit for another five years.)

The reality is that most entrepreneurs are familiar with an industry and are able to solve a problem that people care about. (Like the teacher who created a software program to teach kids math skills while having fun. Or the mom who created toys for babies and young children that incorporate children's developmental abilities.)

Example: I was very risk averse when I started my first consulting business(I used to set up work/life programs for corporations.) I felt compelled to plan out every detail of expenses, income, and how much I'd need to put back into my business. I visualized the whole thing in tremendous detail, and that made me even more excited to start-up the business. After writing a detailed business strategy, I realized that my original plan wouldn't break even. This was really disappointing, but I made some changes, and came up with work I enjoy even more. I wouldn't have gotten to my current work if I hadn't been anxious about starting a new business and used that anxiety to map it out ahead of time.

Why not use your dislike of risk-taking as motivation to properly plan your business? You'll discover major problems ahead of time, you'll find out if you will enjoy doing that job, AND you may even come up with a better idea as a result of the planning process.

Myth Three: "How can I pursue what I'd really love? -- I'm not an expert in that area."

Almost everyone I work with has this concern. In fact, it typically crops up around the third meeting. This is when clients have decided to discover their calling and unique career path. They've begun to zero in on what that might be. Part of them realizes that they're now close to trying something they've always wanted to do. Since that feels risky and threatening, they come up with the unoriginal, but effective, concern that what they've decided to do is a worthy career -- it's just too bad they're not expert enough to do the job properly.

Reality: Most true experts (to distinguish them from spokespeople, celebrities, and most talk show guests) are simply people with a passionate interest and desire to solve a problem they care about or that they feel would make a difference in some small way. (Notice I said small way. No need to compare yourself with Mother Theresa, Princess Di, or Oprah.)

If you choose your career path wisely, you'll be learning and discovering new ideas for decades to come. If you genuinely care about your path, you may eventually become the world-renowned expert you think you have to be right now. But more importantly, you'll be involved in something that will become your niche. If you can tolerate the learning curve, you may really enjoy the path itself.

To me, that's the goal.

Leslie Godwin, MFCC is a Career & Life-Transition Coach, Writer, and Speaker. She publishes a free email newsletter on career and life transition. For information, email and mention that you'd like to be on the email newsletter list.

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