Picture this, and tell me if it sounds familiar:
You spent years working hard in high school and college. You got good grades, you joined countless clubs and extracurricular activities, and you preferred to lead rather than follow the pack.
You probably had a lot of unofficial titles: Maker of the Dean’s List, Winner of Important Awards and the Queen of Internships.
The obvious next title to add to your impressive résumé was “She of the Enviable Career.”
Your twenties, and even into your early thirties, were going to be about having an amazing career that fueled a beautiful and fulfilling lifestyle.
And then … it didn’t quite turn out that way, did it?
Well, it didn’t for me, anyway, and I was that girl.
I had spent my entire life fueled by one core mission: Be a stellar student. I loved being a student. It was a full-time job and its only real requirement was “impressing people with your knowledge.” Yeah, I could definitely get down with that.
Except then, I got my first job out of college (in the public relations career path that I had chosen, by the way), and it felt … purposeless.
I blamed the dread, the low energy, and the lack of fulfillment I felt on the job itself. “It’s too entry level.” “I’m not intellectually stimulated every day.” “I don’t like my boss.”
So I spent my lunch breaks and evenings half-heartedly job searching, hoping to find something “more challenging” and “with a more youthful culture.”
Fast-forward a few years (and mountains of personal evolution later), and I’m now a certified coach who co-created a process that helps other Millennials figure out their passion and take action in a way that’s actually doable and affordable.
With my training, experience and the gift of hindsight, I can tell you exactly why my endless job searching was completely misguided. I can’t go back and save myself the trouble, but I’ll let you in on what it really meant, and how you can bypass it.
The answer is more obvious than you might think: Endless, half-hearted job searching is a symptom of feeling purposeless.
After we graduated, many of us lost what made us great students: drive, passion and purpose.
We were fulfilled because most of the tasks we undertook each day, even if some of them were drudging or boring, served a higher purpose–be the achiever, get the great job, have the amazing life of your dreams.
Except most of us didn’t stop to think what the reality of getting what we wanted would actually look like. We didn’t all foresee the monotony, the often-toxic work environment, and the empty feeling of spending your time doing something that doesn’t feel meaningful.
It’s a recipe that leads many of us to ask, “Is this all there is?” and “Is this what I spent years chasing?”
So, we start chasing all over again. We don’t know what to do, besides try to go after a newer, shinier goal. On to the next job, because it’s bound to better than this one. You just got unlucky this time around, right? Once the culture is a little different, and the pay a little better, everything will be fine, right?
You can change jobs as many times as you like. You can endlessly job search all night every night. But nothing will change unless you stop chasing hollow goals, and start re-connecting with how you want to feel.
Because that’s why us Straight-A Queens did so well in school, it made us feel fantastic. We were lit up with passion, vigor, connection, motivation and power (or fill in the blank with your own feel-good emotions). The way we felt every day fueled us with purpose.
If you’re feeling disconnected from your job and think it’s time to go find another one … stop. The things you think are going to make you happy–more money, a different culture, a better boss–are bullet points on a checklist that has nothing to do with purpose, fulfillment and feeling good.
If you want to get back to feeling how you used to feel in college, then ditch the checklist and start asking yourself: “How did I feel back then, anyway?” Passionate? Energized? Motivated? Independent?
What were you doing that made you feel that way? And how much of that are you getting to do now? (The answer is so often: “Um, none!”).
It’s time to throw out the overachiever’s goal-oriented mentality, and pinpoint what used to fulfill you. Then, start pursuing those good feelings, not the hollow checklist.
After all, you’re a Straight-A Queen, and I bet you can figure it out.