Risk Taking, Love, and Career Clarity

Searching for a job can be a lot like dating.

Think about it: We seek out a career that lights us up and makes us feel like we have purpose -- a job that fits like a glove. The same can be said about the search for our romantic partners. We're looking for someone who excites us, who motivates us. For a person we just click with.
But how do we get clear on finding that job? That person? What qualities should we be looking for? What boxes can be left unchecked?

As a career coach to millennials, I see many of my clients struggle with that lack of clarity. They know they're not in the right career, but they don't know what the right career would even look like -- or how to go about figuring it out.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: The best way to get clear on the answer to these types of big life questions is to take action.

It's tempting to wait for that light bulb moment -- where suddenly you know exactly who you are and what your purpose in life is. But for many, such a moment will never come. Purpose is such an amorphous concept, and it may not be something we can ever truly know with our earthly intelligence. Nonetheless, you can know what type of career you'd be successful at and enjoy.

So if you're giving up on waiting around for that big, "Aha" moment to push you toward the career you're destined for, what can you do to get clear on what that could look like?

Take a risk.

It doesn't have to be extreme, like skydiving or bungee jumping. But one of the most effective ways to gain a broader perspective about who you are is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Do something outside of what's usually normal or safe for you. Expansion is powerful -- it allows space for new possibilities. It makes you see things differently. Moreover, it can be incredibly empowering to do something you didn't think you could do.

How do I know? Because taking a risk helped me while I was going through my own period of clarity seeking.

Before I transitioned into career coaching, I was working as an attorney. During that time, I took a risk that felt wildly dangerous to me.

I told my true feelings to a guy I cared about.

We met back in law school, and had remained close friends. The attraction between us was no secret, but we never addressed the conversation of a deeper relationship head on. At the time, it felt far too risky to admit to my true feelings -- so I didn't. For years our friendship went on, and I never spoke up about the depths of my feelings for him.

It wasn't until I wanted to make changes in my life and find work that was more meaningful that I began to consider telling him how I felt.

Job searching and soul mate searching -- they really do parallel one another.

Of course, just as I was considering taking this leap, he told me that he had met someone.
They were serious. I was devastated. So I did what was standard for me -- I hid. For weeks he tried calling and texting me, but I couldn't bear to tell him the truth: I was crushed that he was dating someone else.

Finally, he called me from a number I didn't recognize, and I picked up. When he asked what was up, I lied. I told him everything was fine, that I was just busy. After the call ended, I felt awful. I realized I wasn't protecting myself by denying what was true for me anymore.

That night, I wrote him an email. I laid it all out on the table. How he had never given me fair consideration as a partner because he wasn't looking for a relationship when we met. Why he was amazing, why I'm amazing, why we would be great together. The wonderful relationship that was possible between us based on the foundation we'd already created as friends. I put my heart and soul into it. Never before had I been so open and honest.

He never responded.

Even though it didn't go the way I might have liked, taking a risk and allowing myself to be vulnerable made me see myself differently. Although I had been someone who kept her cards close to her heart, I was able to put myself out there when I truly wanted something. I knew that I was risking the loss of our friendship in the process. But speaking my truth was important enough to me that I was ready to take that chance.

This experience helped me take the leap to launch my own business as a career coach. I had put myself out there and been rejected before, and I knew there was a chance it could happen again while making this transition. Still, I was willing to do something different to move forward, because I had done something more terrifying than leaving a secure job. I had put my heart on the line and survived rejection.

I didn't get the guy, but I got something even more important -- greater love for myself. And that self-love increased my desire to work for work that mattered to me.

Seeing yourself clearly and finding the will to expand can be incredibly useful when seeking career clarity.

What risk could you take to expand the way you see yourself?