When it comes to making career decisions, many people are looking for signs right now. Signs that the pandemic is easing, signs that the economy is improving, signs of progress for social justice. It’s what we do. It’s our way of seeing if the path is safe. Looking for a prediction of how the future will play out. Seeking confirmation, we chose right.
May I make a radical suggestion? Stop searching for external signs to tell you anything. The only thing you need to make good career decisions in challenging times or peaceful times is knowing your True North.
Look, we can’t control the wind, but we can always control the sails. And if you want to control your world right now, you need your True North, now more than ever.
What is a True North?
Your True North, quite simply, is your truest expression of yourself. In other words, the gifts and talents you possess. It is the thing(s) you came here to do. It is no random occurrence that you are here, right now, on this planet, at this time. You are here because you have unique gifts and talents to share. Yes you! You are here, now, because you have to offer is needed.
When you identify your gifts and talents, they become your True North. They become your guardrails for decision-making and your anchor in turbulent seas.
Recently, my client Jamie, lost her job due to Covid. She called me because she was overwhelmed by the job search process. As a manager, she had a wealth of experience and loads of transferable skills. She didn’t know where to start. I reminded her of the work we had done together to identify her True North. In our work together, she identified the gifts and talents she is committed to sharing with the world. This little reminder cleared away her confusion and pointed her in the right direction.
Jamie’s True North, her unique gift her ability to develop talent on the team she manages. It is the work she loves, work she is passionate about, and work she is extremely good at.
By focusing on her True North, she realized that she was only interested in management roles that contain talent development responsibilities. Done! She was able to reduce the overwhelmed by cutting out positions that weren’t going to be a fit. But the best part of using her True North as a decision-making guardrail – she felt a renewed sense of confidence because she was clear on her direction. She was traveling in the direction of her True North.
Don’t know your True North but need one now?
I’ll be straight with you. For most of us mere mortals, identifying your True North takes some work. We need to invest the time to look at ourselves honestly, compassionately, and be brave enough to give ourselves what we really want.
Now there are a few of us who know our True North from their earliest awareness is. My best friend always knew she would be a teacher. Her earliest memories are of lining up her dolls when she got home from school and teaching them the lesson she learned that day. Today, she teaches women’s empowerment.
But for most of us, life has taken us on some detours, and finding our True North helps us get back on track. My client, Carol, knew she always wanted to help people heal. But that never felt right to her. We worked together to identify her True North. To her surprise, she discovered that her love of numbers was a key gift she wanted to share with others. Today she is an accountant helping people heal their finances.
If you’re thinking “I don’t have a clue as to my True North”. No worries.
You can begin to identify your True North by answering a series of questions designed to elicit the threads that will lead you to your gifts and talents. Before we get to the questions, I want to give you a couple hints that will help you be successful.
Being rigorously honest with the answers. If you have been doing work that you tolerate, that provides a paycheck but very little joy or very little challenge, these questions can bring up uncomfortable feelings. (That is why working with a coach can be so helpful.) If feelings of shame, frustration or anger come up, feel it, acknowledge it, and let it pass. You can come back to those feelings later. The goal here is being more honest with yourself than you have ever been.
Let it flow. When you are answering the questions, write down every idea that comes to mind. Your job is to brainstorm, not censor. Many of the ideas that will surface have been buried for a while. Let them be heard and seen. Write it all down. Exclude nothing!
Resist the urge to Judge. As you do this, the urge to place judgment on your answers will be front and center. Believe me, it will. I’ve seen it time and time again with my clients. I will repeat, resist the urge. Usually, judgment shows itself as that little voice that wants to make you feel silly for having such an idea. If your True North is doing ceramics, your little voice might say “Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t make a living at that”. Those voices tend to speak at times when we are looking to make significant positive change in our lives. Those voices come up to keep us safe in our little box, but at the same time, so small. For now, you are in a judgement-free zone.
Remember the payoff. You are asking yourself these questions so you can make better career decisions, decisions that are holistic and in alignment with who you are and what you really want to do. You discover and follow your True North in order to have control over your future.
So be honest, let it flow, no judgements and remember that once you have your True North, decision-making and control over your career will be easier.
Questions to answer:
- What do I love to do? What do I love to do so much that time seems to disappear while I’m doing it?
- What am I really good at? What do others say are my top five talents? Where does my unique expertise lay?
- What do I want to share with the world?
- What would make me crawl into bed at night feeling as if I had experienced a day well lived?
If you have answered the questions honestly and without judgement or censorship, you will start to see a theme. Follow the threads. Directions will emerge. Just like Carol who knew healing was her thing, but also felt that there was something else….she followed the theme in her answers. She saw how important working with numbers was to her. Now, healing tools and numbers are what she shares with the world. And, if she were ever to question her professional future, she can always come back to her True North and remind herself of her truth.
Finding your True North is exciting. It gives you an anchor, a safe harbor, when the world is wonky. When you have your True North, you don’t need to look for external signs to confirm or inform your decisions. Why? Because by following your True North, you will always have the answers.
For a deeper dive, click here to explore more ‘True North’ questions.