You hear the advice all the time when people are searching for their career path and purpose:
Explore what interests you. This is how you choose a career.
While that is a start, it might not be your best source of unlocking your dream job and how to choose a career that focuses on your passion.
Just do a search on ‘finding your career path’ or ‘how to choose a career.’ You see a page full of ‘find your career’ quizzes.
Don’t rely on these.
While career and personality tests are great tools to begin your career exploratory process, they are not an absolute. These tests will guide you to the right areas of focus.
How to Choose a Career Using Your Fear
When we fear something, we avoid it. Your fears are a vast territory you actively avoid in searching for your career path and purpose.
If there is a fine line between love and hate, there is an even finer line between fear and passion. That line is keeping you from your destined career path.
Think about that for a second.
When you find something or someone intriguing, there is a level of fear involved.
Think about all of that potential when deciding how to choose a career! All of those things you are intimidated by or wished you have the courage to do give you a wealth of career options to explore.
Fear is how I chose my career and discovered a new career path and by doing something that I actively avoided and that terrified me – training.
As you will learn, I was forced to face my fear.
I’ll walk you through what happened and how you can choose your career being more active in exploring fears.
Fear as a Key to Career Progression and Purpose
I started in IT consulting as a business analyst. I was leading a team for a large-scale systems conversion and loved what I was doing.
Because of resource constraints and an aggressive timeline, I was asked to train a few client classes to prepare them for the new system.
I wanted to die.
I am not kidding – I felt like throwing up at the thought of it for the two weeks before it was going to happen.
- I had never trained.
- I had never learned how to teach.
- It is systems training, and the most boring classes I had sat through to that point were – systems training classes.
- It was a four-day class – with no structure built into it.
- I was thrown a few powerpoint presentations and told just to train it.
The Night Before Discovering My Job Path
As powerpoint slides were strewn all over the hotel room and bed, I remember looking at the weather.
I wished for a tornado or something to cancel the class. That is how terrified I was. I did not want anyone hurt, of course,
Career Progression Plan of Attack
As I sat in the back of the room waiting for my introduction, I quickly thought of everything I hated about the other systems training courses I had attended.
The only times I have been bored to tears – literally so bored I had to fight off tears – were in systems classes.
The only thing I did to survive the day is to slap myself in the restroom, followed by splashing water on my face. At least that was always my survival technique for systems training.
Plan to Do It Differently
I decided to use the slides as a guide, be myself (that sounds so stupidly cliche but true) and work to have conversations with the crowd as opposed to simply talking at them.
Imagine training as a dynamic chat instead of just being spoken to for EIGHT long hours a day.
Gain Support By Being Honest About Your Fears
After I had gone through my background and introduction, I wanted to be as honest with the crowd as I had to be with myself.
I was going to need their help – and patience – over the next four days to get me through this experience.
I broke every consulting rule and only said,
I am not a trainer. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever trained a class. I’ve been to a lot of systems training classes. You have too, right?
The crowd answered with an affirmative.
Constantly Get Input and Adjust While Exploring a New Job Path
My next comment was rather animated as I reenacted the expression I was describing.
So you’ve walked out of all of them, jumping up and down with excitement and absolute joy that it was a fun learning experience right?
The crowd laughed and started feeling comfortable being honest with a “noooooooooo!”
I went on to engage them:
What was it that you did not like about the systems classes you’ve been to in the past?
It turned into a great 20-minute discussion.
What they did not know at that moment is that I was taking all of their feedback and quickly devising my approach to the four days we would be together.
They were becoming comfortable with me and enjoying the 7:30 AM start time.
I concluded the impromptu feedback session with,
So how about we do the next four days as a partnership. I’ll do everything in my power to use your comments to help you learn and love this system while having a great time. So you can provide me feedback – and lots of patience – while I do this for the first time.
How does that sound?
Fear Begins to Turn to Fun – and a Job Path
It not only got them to a place of wanting to be there – it quickly got me to a place of ME WANTING to be there! As each hour passed, I learned so much and applied those lessons to the next hour.
It felt the most overwhelming exhaustion over those four days.
I did not know I had just found the job path I was destined for all along.
Get External Feedback for Validation for Your Job Path & Career Progression
Upon leaving for the airport to return home, I remember a mixed feeling of pure gratitude for the experience and a sort of sadness that I would not be doing it again.
Or so I thought.
The next week, the principal client sponsor asked my project VP if I could be a part of as many of the 20+ training sessions over the coming weeks. The feedback she had received was fantastic, and the performance of the group was quickly rising.
It was tough, but I managed to toggle both roles. I learned a ton.
The most important lesson I learned though was THIS was my career progression, job path and purpose.
The exact thing that terrified me was the exact thing I was meant to be doing!
That was 1998. I’ve since started a successful company that focuses specifically on workforce development.
How strange it is to think of THAT THING – my fear – turning into not only a job path but a company.
Had I never done it – and had there been that tornado I wished for – I might never have found my job path.
The Lesson I Learned From Exploring Fear
Try those things you are terrified of or assume you do not like. You might conclude that it is the career progression and job path of your dreams!
Think about the number of things you could never imagine having the courage to do. That is why exploring fear is one of the most untapped strategies in how to choose a career.
How to start depends on where you are in your path of career exploration.
If you have a mentor or formal career advisor, start there with talking about those areas that intrigue you but also scare you.
If you are deeper into your career progression, match those areas to a path that is reasonable to keep your plan going. At the very least, it might shake things up enough to give you a renewed spark in your current career.
That spark can also help you avoid burnout.
Do you want to rekindle a career passion or find a new job path?
Here is a great read from Fast Company with some resources if you are looking to rekindle that fire in your job.
It might just be a discovery that leads you to an entirely new job path and passion.
The possibilities are as endless as your imagination and support.
When you feel lost in how to choose a career, go against the grain and explore your deepest fears.
I would love to hear if you happened to stumble upon your job path through doing something that terrified you.
If you need help starting the process, leave a comment below, and we’ll assist you along the way.