The idea of having an “authentic career” sounds great, doesn’t it? But what does it mean?
I like this definition of authenticity – “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”, despite “external forces, pressures, and influences”.
Some people seem to know from an early age exactly what they want to do when they grow up, and then go on to do it. They not only do it, but they remain happy in their chosen careers.
They get it right the first time.
Getting Off Track
But most of us don’t. For whatever reason, we get off track. We “forget” those talents that come so naturally for us. We stop believing in ourselves and our dreams.
Have you ever heard things like, “forget that dream, it’s not practical”, or “you should do something that will make more money”, or “who do you think you are to believe you can do that”?
I grew up in a family that valued logic and facts. My strengths, on the other hand, include intuition and empathy. Being intuitive allows me to see solutions quickly and usually accurately. But I can’t easily give a step-by-step account of how I reached my conclusions. So it’s not surprising that I was seen as “too” sensitive and emotional.
These are the very qualities that allow me to be an effective career coach. But when I was younger, the message I got was that my way of being was wrong. I found it easier over time to just fit in, to take the path of least resistance.
For those of us who didn’t get it right the first time, our second chance often comes in midlife. It’s our chance to get back on track, to rid ourselves of the “shoulds” and “oughts” of others. Because it’s often in midlife that we feel an urge to be more authentic.
An authentic career is about being you. Not trying to live up to others’ definitions of success or their idea of the perfect career for you.
An authentic career is an extension of who you are, a blend of your strengths, values, and personality. That’s not to say that authentic work is easy. If it’s truly authentic, it will stretch you and, at times, may even feel too large for you.
In fact, as you begin working and living authentically, you’ll likely feel a sense of responsibility to share your gifts with others.
Finding Your Authentic Career
Finding your authentic career involves knowing who you are. Here are some things you can do to “get back on track”.
- Take some time to re-discover who you are
- Honor that voice inside and see where it leads you
- Express the truth of who you are
- Take a stand, take responsibility for your beliefs and actions, and be proactive
- Become aware of your values, preferences, and beliefs – and then base your actions and decisions on that knowledge
- Follow your purpose and passion!
When your work is authentic, your life and work blend together naturally. There’s no longer any need to dread Monday mornings or live for Fridays.
Now I’m curious. What does “authentic career” mean to you?