WorkLife Stories
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WorkLife Stories

How To Discover YourWorkLife Purpose

How When Faced With Accepting a Permanent Position or Leaving My Job, The Lack of Purpose I Felt Actually Helped My Decision to Move On.

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I worked in the world of finance for many years, and while I enjoyed it, and worked with great people in a good environment, I never really had a passion for it. Because of this I chose to work on a contract basis rather than follow a career in banking. Over the years I worked in different departments, which allowed me to continue to learn and develop; and this also kept the work interesting. It also afforded me a great lifestyle and allowed me to embrace my love of travel.

Then the economic crisis happened. The bank made the decision to stop all contract work in order to make the positions of full-time employees secure. I had been considering moving on to doing something different, so although I was offered a permanent position, I declined because I felt this was the push I needed to make a change in my WorkLife.

While I was figuring out what I wanted to do next, my friend Pauline asked me to deliver the job-search element of a programme she was teaching. She had been let down by the original trainer at the last minute, and needed someone to stand in. I had no experience in this, but Pauline persuaded me that all I needed was a common-sense approach. This was in the early days of the internet, so I could not get the course material I needed online. Instead I drove the two-hour round trip to my nearest bookstore and returned home armed with enough books to develop a one-year training course — a tad excessive for the two days I needed to prepare for!

I had two days to develop the course, and travel to Ireland to deliver it. The client would not pay the last-minute high-priced airfare, so I had to travel from England to Wales by train, get the ferry across to Ireland, catch another train, and then a bus. I barely slept for days. Instead I did what I always do when I am out of my comfort zone: I over prepared, then I went with the flow.

And it went amazingly. I really connected with the people attending, all of whom had been impacted by the recession. Because of this their confidence, self-esteem and spirit were low. I knew we had to work through this before we could work on the practical sessions I had planned. So my plan went out the window, but that was OK because having over prepared allowed me to be in the moment of knowing what to do and to go where the flow took me.

I got the group talking about their WorkLife achievements: things they had forgotten about, or had taken for granted, or had never considered to be anything special. We all sat in awe listening to the amazing stories being shared, and through this they each began to realise how much they had to offer to employers. Once they had that realisation, we were then able to move onto the practical elements of their job-search campaign, preparing their CVs in a way that represented their skills, attributes and their amazing achievements to date, along with their potential. We planned their job-search approach, practiced interviews and explored how they would negotiate the job offers coming their way by considering what they wanted over and above the package being offered — whatever this was that was important for each of them at their particular WorkLife stage.

As I made my long return journey home, I was buzzing. It was a little surreal because I was both exhausted from lack of sleep and energised from the experience. I somehow knew this was what I was meant to do: to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLife in line with what was important to them. I do not think I was able to define it exactly as that in that moment. I think that evolved over time. But I do remember having a strong sense of my WorkLife purpose, knowing I had found my passion. I also knew I wanted and needed to do this properly.

To serve people I needed formal training: a solid theoretical base to build my knowledge from. As my belief in life is “when the student is ready, the teacher will come”, I found the perfect pathway. I undertook a degree in Career Coaching and Management, and then secured a position with a careers consultancy agency. I did this by approaching every single agency in London asking for work — an opportunity to put my learning into practice, to be in a position to continue to learn, improve and develop my skills through hands on practical experience. To ultimately launch my new WorkLife.

Assignments WorkLife Purpose Assignment

To discover or rediscover your WorkLife Purpose ask yourself the following three questions:

1. What is a defining moment in my WorkLife, and how did it impact me?

For example:

Mine was when I sat with the people attending the course I was delivering, which I was expecting to be very practical, only to discover that before we could move onto that I needed to support them through the emotional impact of having being unemployed. Somehow I knew instinctively that having them talk through their WorkLife achievements was what was needed. I was then blown away by their stories and the immediate positive impact this had on their morale. This experience allowed me to know what my purpose was, and the strength from the passion I discovered in those two days has allowed me to create a WorkLife true to my purpose and passion.

2. How did I get to where I am in my WorkLife and Why?

For example:

In my story, while I had enjoyed my work in finance, I had never followed a career path. This was because I was not passionate about it, nor did it give me a sense of purpose. When I was faced with accepting a permanent position or leaving the bank, the lack of purpose I felt actually helped my decision to move on. My friend Pauline asking me to help her out was in no way planned, nor could I have envisioned how it was to lead me to discovering my purpose, and yet it did. I believe that is because I let my curiosity guide me, and curiosity is an important value to me, one that has guided me throughout my WorkLife.

3. Do I belong here?

For example:

I had a sense of belonging in banking. This was because I worked with good people, in a good environment, and I continued to learn and develop. These are more of my values, and these were being met. Yet I knew I did not fully belong there. I did not feel fulfilled in my WorkLife. But in that very brief experience I had with the people on that first training course, I knew immediately I was where I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to do. I was at the very beginning of my new WorkLife journey, and yet it felt as though I had arrived. It was as though I had finally come home to where I belonged.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

As your self-awareness about what is important to you in living a fulfilled WorkLife continues to grow, asking these questions will allow you to go deeper into your heart and mind, knowing what you want — or as importantly, what you do not want in your WorkLife. Listen well and be observant to the feedback you gain through the answers these questions bring about.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

This assignment is to help you realise the importance of using questions to get to what really matters for you at every stage of your WorkLife, and to then use the information that comes to you through the answers to make that happen.

Ask yourself:

Did today matter?

What if anything would have made it better, more meaningful, more fulfilling?

Did I live my WorkLife today true to my purpose?

Words of Wisdom

There is a purpose within each of us. For some people it is inherent from a very young age, for others it reveals itself at a later stage in life. Whichever is relevant to you, you will not necessarily have the full vision when you start out, and that is OK. You just need to take one step and see where it takes you, then you take the next step, and the next step.

As you walk along your WorkLife pathway, you will begin to gain clarity around your purpose. From this your vision will form and grow; and from this you can begin to do what you need to do, in order to make your purpose a reality, in order to live your WorkLife with purpose.

This story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Use Your Purpose To Help Others. From The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.



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Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O' Reilly

WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer. Telling people’s powerful stories of WorkLife struggles and successes. Author of School Of WorkLife Books.