Fear of judgment and staying in the wrong jobs

(Demographics have been altered to protect identities)

A young woman started work at a prestigious business institution — her dream job. She was ambitious, a go-getter, top of her class at University, and highly invested in her future. She was excited when she received the job offer. She felt validated.

A few weeks later, she found herself speaking with me about how incredible her job is and how she didn’t understand why she wasn’t performing as per her high standards. She found the days long and for the first time in a long while, she frequently checked her phone for the time or messages. This was behaviour she wasn’t used to and wanted to know what to do to change it immediately.

If you’ve clued in, she was bored already and didn’t even know it. If you haven’t, the signs are in the frequent watch or phone checking.

18 years working in the corporate and public service world for some big names, I’ve seen more than my fair share of bright eager “students” bored with their “schooling.” Most of these employees stay at their jobs not because they’re afraid to be jobless, but because of the corporation’s name. They fear judgement for leaving the prestigious jobs and fancy job titles and high five or six figure salaries.

Many conversations later and after digging beyond the superficial problem, the young woman confessed that (1) all her parents’ dreams were built on her academic and future career success (2) she’d been indoctrinated from a young age to aspire to work for specific companies known for their prestige and weight. Coming into the new job, she’d hoped to quell the deep unhappiness of not pursuing work she loved and fall in love with her parents’ plan for her.

This is actually more common than you think. I’ve spoken with people in their mid-fifties who worked where their parents advised or ran businesses they didn’t have a passion for. I’ve helped C-suite executives separate their desire to please their parents from their desire to pursue work that holds personal meaning. I was glad that the woman before me was in her twenties and could still change her mind.

Letting her speak about what she was deeply passionate about and the ways her true leaning showed up in her earlier days including the niche she pursued at work (marketing) was something to behold. When people talk about what they love they physically change into bright shiny spokespeople/instruments. Have you ever noticed that? Their energy is infectious and they are captivating. Especially those with well thought out strategies and projected outcomes. They usually get instant buy-in to their vision.

It wasn’t long before I helped the lady get clear on her personal vision, one that has nothing to do with pleasing others including yes, the beloved parents. I helped her see how her parents would get what they needed (not necessarily want) when she pursued with the same spirit and work ethic they had taught her, what she was created to do. Immediately there would be trouble but in time loved ones see how their desire to protect sometimes gets in the way of their charges learning and creating their own paths.

Part of the strategy included multiple conversations between her and her parents so that they would know what she was doing and her reasons. Ongoing communication was important to her and so we factored this in. Meanwhile, with a clear vision of what she wanted to do and after granting herself permission to pursue meaningful work as she determined it to be, she found employment in the company and field of her dreams.

More important than the job, she learned to tap inward and check-in with herself for the decisions she makes. Constantly asking why helps you understand your motives and career choices. Look for examples of people living the lifestyle you want. This helps you see more possibilities than challenges. It’s all possible, but (1) you’ve got to want it (2) you’ve got to believe it, and then (3) you’ve got to go for it and give it your all.

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