How to Find Career Alignment
Instead of setting resolutions that are destined to fail, each year I choose one word to focus on. This word serves as a guiding star for everything I do that year. I write it on a post-it note and stick it to my computer so I am reminded of my word every day. This year, I’ve chosen the word “Alignment.” While this is a word for me to focus on in my personal and professional life, it also feels like the perfect opportunity to help my clients find their career alignment.
Are You Out of Alignment?
What does it mean to have career alignment? Well, alignment is “the state of being arranged in a line or in proper position” and “the state or condition of agreeing with or matching something else.” Many times we think about our career as being separate from our personal life. But this is one reason so many people are unhappy in their careers. When your job is out of alignment with your personal values, it can cause extreme stress and unhappiness.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do you dread going to work every day?
- Does your job constantly interfere with your personal life?
- Are you in a toxic work environment?
- Are you undervalued?
- Do you feel like you’re wasting your career?
If you answered yes to any of these, your career might be out of alignment with your goals. Even if you answered no to these questions, you might be experiencing a more subtle feeling like something is missing or that you’ve never really figured out what you want to do “when you grow up.”
Imagine a drawer on a track. When it’s on the track, the drawer slides in and out of the dresser smoothly. When it is off the track or broken, the drawer can still be pulled out, but it’s wobbly, gets stuck frequently, doesn’t go back in correctly and is just frustrating to use. You start avoiding the drawer because it doesn’t work correctly. This is what it feels like to be out of alignment. Everything still works, but it’s not smooth and it doesn’t fit right.
Why Should You Align Your Career with Your Goals?
You might think to yourself, “well it still works, so why should I make a change?” Consider that the average person will spend one-third of their life at work — roughly 90,000 hours. This is too much time to spend doing something that doesn’t fit with the rest of your life.
Here are a few examples of what this might look like:
- You hate going to work because you are constantly getting yelled at by disgruntled customers and you have a hard time leaving that negative energy at the office.
- One of your personal goals is to spend more time with your family, but your job requires 50% travel, so you frequently miss family events.
- Your coworkers are cliquey, and you never feel like you fit in — sometimes you feel like they’re talking about you behind your back.
- Your boss is a misogynist and favors your male coworkers over the female ones, in fact, you suspect that your male counterparts are making more money than you are.
- You fell into this job and it’s not something you went to school for or wanted to do. You make decent money, but there is no room for advancement and you’re just punching the clock.
How to Find Career Alignment
There’s been a lot of talk about “The Great Resignation” following the pandemic, but the answer is not one size fits all — what it’s done is put pressure on your pain points. Things that were once an inconvenience are now unbearable! If your number one priority is your family, then a job that doesn’t allow you to prioritize family time probably isn’t working for you. You might end up getting something that fits better with your family’s schedule while allowing you the financial security to continue supporting your family. It is okay to want that — and it is attainable!
The first step is to figure out what alignment looks like for you. Start by making a list of everything you don’t like or wish you could change about your current situation. Then make a list of everything you do like. There is so much more than just pay or title, but those things might be more important to you earlier in your career. You also want to get to the underlying reason of why certain things are more important to you. For example, a certain salary might be your goal because you’ve lost your job in the past and struggled to make ends meet. Being financially stable could be of top importance to you. Or maybe you’re planning to start a family and flexibility is going to be the most important thing for the next phase of your career. Whatever your likes and dislikes are, put them to paper and understand why they are important.
What Will Your Legacy Be?
This next part will force you to think about your career as a whole. How do you want to be remembered when you retire? Do you want to have a lot of close coworkers at a big retirement party because personal relationships are important to you? You might want to build a company that you can leave to your family/children, or be remembered in your industry as a beloved mentor and trainer. Your legacy could also include things like a historic milestone — the first woman to do X, having your name on a published research paper, or being part of something larger like a life-changing product launch. Whatever it is, take time to think about the end of your career — where do you want to end up?
This could be vastly different from what you’re currently doing — hence the feeling of being out of alignment. Remember, your career belongs to you, your job belongs to the company. Getting in alignment means taking ownership of your life’s purpose. When you find career alignment, you are no longer a passenger in your career vehicle, but you are the driver. You decide where you want to go and create a plan to get there.
Once you’ve figured out what alignment looks like for you, you’ll want to spend some time goal setting and creating a plan of action. I’ve written another post on how to create SMART goals that will help you get where you want to go. When you have a plan in place, the most important part is maintaining accountability to the plan. How often are you checking in with your goals? How are you staying on track? This is where a career coach or group coaching can help you make continued progress. This isn’t a change that will happen overnight and won’t happen at all if you don’t stay committed to making regular progress. Don’t wait to feel confident to take action! Taking action is what gives us confidence!
Get Your Career in Alignment
You don’t have to settle for a job that doesn’t fulfill you or that makes you miserable just to pay the bills. Your dreams are within reach. 2022 is the year to find career alignment!
Monica Marcelis Fochtman is a career clarity coach and resume writer, and the founder of Sheldrake Consulting. She helps mid-career professionals and industry changers get unstuck and regain their confidence so they can love work again. She works one-on-one with her clients to help them not just survive but thrive during big career transitions. She provides personalized career coaching, job search strategies, resume and cover letter writing and interview coaching grounded in leadership development and career advancement. She earned her BA in English and Master’s in Higher Education Administration from Boston College and her PhD from the HALE Program with a cognate in Women in Leadership, from Michigan State University. Learn more about Monica.
Contributing Writer(s): Monica Marcelis Fochtman