How did you choose your profession?
Did you lie awake at night as a child fantasizing about spending 10 hours a day hunched over a computer?
If you're like most people, you probably fell into your profession.
When I was a kid, my secret dream was to be a televangelist. But I gave up on that after my mother informed me that I'd have to start going to church.
Gallup polling data reveals that a mere 20-30 percent of people are actively engaged in their work. That means, a good two-thirds of the people schlepping to work everyday are going through the motions, toiling away in jobs they don't particularly enjoy.
And we wonder why depression is on the rise.
We can blame bad bosses or poor management practices. But I believe one of the root problems is that most people stumble into their professions without enough self-knowledge to figure out what they would actually be great at.
We tend to choose a job based on the pay, what other people tell us we should do, and what happens to be available at the time. In the current economy, many feel lucky just to have a paycheck.
But if you're in a job you're not suited for, it's only a matter of time before you become miserable. And if you're miserable, chances are, you're not delivering superstar performance for your company or colleagues. As my dad says, "If you're unhappy with them, it's only a matter of time before they're unhappy with you."
I would know. I spent first five years of my career in the wrong job until a quick personality test (Myers-Briggs) revealed that I was never going to be happy in a job with no creativity.
One common source of career misery is people who are working in the right subject area but in the wrong role.
For example, many people become teachers because they liked history, biology or English Lit. Yet they get into the job and realize that they don't actually like preparing lessons or patiently helping poor students learn. A love of Chaucer isn't enough; a good teacher is someone who enjoys making personal connections with students.
The same thing applies to any other profession. If you're a quiet introvert who recharges by being alone, you probably don't want to be a customer service representative. You may love books or computer games, but the last thing you need is a job selling them.
When we're unhappy with our work, it's easy to blame our misery on the boss, company or the working conditions. It's scarier to admit that we might simply not be a fit.
Acknowledging that you're not well suited for your profession feels like failure.
But it's not.
It simply means that your job isn't a good match for your inherent skills or personality.
If you're an analytical, or a touchy-feely type, or a laser focused creative, that's probably how you were born. No amount of training or incentive pay is going to turn you into something you're not.
But it's not the boss's job to figure out where you would be better suited; it's yours.
People who hate their jobs wind up not being very good at them. You deserve better that that. And so does your employer.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author, columnist and business consultant who specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book, "The Triangle of Truth," has been cited as the blueprint for "how smart people can get better at everything." Visit www.TriangleofTruth.com for a short video intro.
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