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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

Here’s How I Finally Found a Fulfilling Career After 10 Miserable Years

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All of my professional activities as a recruiter align toward one common goal: I’m on a mission to empower people to find career fulfillment. On any given day that may include working with a startup to find a new digital marketing manager, coaching a client on networking techniques, or composing job- hunting tips to share with readers.

Based on feedback I’ve received, I’d say my strengths are the energy and passion I put into my work. But if I’m being completely honest, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, it took 10 years and five relocations to cities across the country before I even gained a glimpse as to what I truly desired in a career.

It all started when I took a job right out of college that wasn’t right for me. I was motivated by the starting salary, the signing bonus, the company car, and the comprehensive benefits package.

And while I definitely appreciated all of those things, in the end, they weren’t enough to make up for how miserable I was. Yet I stuck it out for 10 whole years, enduring multiple moves always with the hope that the next transfer would be the one. It never was. And even though I was regularly promoted throughout my tenure, I wasn’t fulfilled.

Finally, after a corporate restructuring, I got laid off.

I was thrilled.

That may sound crazy, but I saw it as my chance to really figure out what I wanted to do with my life. So rather than rushing right back into a different job in the same field, I forced myself to figure out what kind of work would lead to a fulfilling career.

This is how I made it happen:

I Engaged Lots of Different People

I felt completely lost after getting laid off, yet I was also so excited to have a second chance. My first move was to brainstorm with people that had absolutely nothing to do with my previous line of work. I needed fresh ideas.

I sat and listened to retirees, to coffee shop baristas, to family members that owned businesses, to college students, basically anyone who’d give me some advice on how to discover the type of work that could bring satisfaction. Three pieces of advice stood out:

  1. It’s easy to do the exact same thing; don’t fall into that trap.

  2. You deserve the job you want; don’t settle for just any company that extends an invitation.

  3. Write down three job descriptions that look like the perfect job, then go out and find it.

Write Down the Picture-Perfect Position

Writing down my vision of the perfect role was a game-changer. It pushed me to think through the type of environment I perform best in, the industries that get me pumped, and what I envision to be rewarding day-to-day tasks.

The answer lay in the details: collaborates with a small close-knit team, utilizes blogging and social media, promotes a meaningful experience or service, interacts with clients one-on-one toward a mutual goal, aids individuals in reaching their personal potential and so on.

I took my list and searched online, typing in the keywords that got me the most excited in hopes of identifying job titles that closely matched my vision. The results came back—recruiter, nonprofit fundraiser, and salesperson for a socially-responsible company. Recruiter was the one that made the light bulb go off.

Do the Research

Now that I had a focus, it was time to gather information. I wanted to learn all that I could about recruiting. I read article after article online to get a feel for the industry. Doing that led to finding recruiters to talk to, whether they were business contacts of a friend or random profiles that I came across on LinkedIn.

I’d simply reach out with a quick message detailing my current transition and ask for a five-minute call to learn a little bit about what they do. Contacting strangers can make some people uneasy, but most folks that I reached out to were open to chat. I figured the worst-case scenario was people not responding. No big deal.

Test it Out

The more I understood my career track, the more eager I became to get things going. That’s when I reached out to a nonprofit organization who helped refugees find work. I became a volunteer and focused on building out my recruiting skills, skills I could put on my resume. I’d found a creative way to exchange my time for an opportunity to gain experience and perspective. It was a great way to see if this new path was in fact as good a fit as it seemed.

Volunteering worked for me—and you can read about my experience here—but I’ve seen people test the waters in a number of ways including: advertising online to provide dirt cheap services, participating in industry events, teaching or research assistantships, or simply shadowing someone for a few days.

Because it took me over 10 years to find a fulfilling career, sometimes I feel a little behind. But at least I’m on the right path.

I tell people all the time that it’s never too late to stop, to evaluate your situation and to ultimately change your career journey to one that suits you. From career coaches to online courses, there are resources out there to help you get on track and to discover your passion. And, look, I know that’s an overused word these days, but you’re going to spend a lot of your life working—doesn’t it just make sense to find something you love?