As a career counselor, I have worked with individuals of all ages in all different stages of their career. The players differ, the issues differ, and goals for our work together differ; however the one thread shared by all is a need and desire for permission. Permission to recognize their importance as individuals, permission to realize and use the power they ultimately have over their lives to bring about change and to dream.
Often people come to me unhappy with their work, overwhelmed by responsibility, and sometimes feeling guilty for even thinking they want to bring about change. They feel like they must simply accept what is and believe they have no options. They feel powerless.
It usually has taken them a long time to recognize they are really unhappy with their work. They have lost enthusiasm, are not as invested as they used to be, and do not care about their work as much as they used to. But for whatever reasons, they stayed, becoming more and more entrenched in their circumstances.
When they start to feel like they cannot face even one more day, they panic. They feel so stuck in the industry, in their career trajectory at their advanced pay grade and earned benefits that they start to believe it’s impossible to leave. They need and want to make a change, but they are immobilized.
My job is to help them identify and work through these feelings and to emerge with not only a new understanding of the power they have to control their career, but also tangible solutions to barriers, real or imagined, a goal that matches who they are and what they need, and a plan for achieving it. Slowly, they start to take back control and believe they can break free. They once again become excited and invested, and have a renewed sense of hope and possibilities.
Ultimately, my job is to encourage them to give themselves permission to act, to believe that they are important, to help them identify and use their transferrable skills, to assist them to dream about what they want, decide if it’s reasonable and achievable, and then break down their career thoughts into realistic, attainable goals. Together we look at the steps they will need to take. We assess needs and what is viable given their obligations, responsibilities, values and life goals.
Though we easily grant permission to others, we rarely do that for ourselves. Frequently, it boils down to a feeling of responsibility that binds us to what is and prevents us from imagining our possibilities. We don’t believe we can make a change without having a negative impact on our lives and those we care about. But we can.
Giving yourself permission frees you to contemplate action and explore possibilities. It enables you to get back in touch with who you are, what you want, what you want your life to look like. And it allows you to examine some new goals and determine how you can meet those goals without negatively impacting life. Permission equals freedom. Permission equals opportunity to make a change that will make you feel alive once again. It is the first step in taking back your life.
The beauty is that you don’t have to act. If you explore your options and none work for you at the moment, so be it. Or perhaps there is a way to start taking action while you have the safety net of your job. Think it through. If you need to get more education, at least you will have identified that need and can start taking classes to prepare you to meet your future employment goals.
If you need some practical, hands-on experience, perhaps you can volunteer. If you need to rebrand yourself, you can start working on a new resumé that highlights the skills needed for the job you desire. Taking that first step opens the door to your future. If you don’t imagine what you want, you will never get there.
So dream. Explore. Identify. Develop a plan to move yourself forward. Give yourself permission and see where you land.