4 crucial ideas about the work world that you weren't taught in school

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Have you ever wondered how different your life would have been if would have chosen a different career path?

Where would you be today?

One of the frequent statements I hear when I am talking to others about finding their right work fit is:

I wished I would have known this when I was in high school. 

What would have helped you the most? Below is what I wished I would have known back then.

When I was entering high school, I had no idea what I would do with my life. Oh yes, I had some vague thoughts. It seemed clearer to me what I didn’t want to do. I was lost.

I felt as if everyone else BUT me had it figured out.

The harder I tried to think about what to do, the answer felt more elusive. What I felt was….  pressure.

I talked to my friends. I got more confused and felt inept. Who else could help? I had no clue.

So I pretended I knew what I was doing.

I picked classes I thought I might need. I made sure I had good grades. By the time I graduated, I still was baffled.

I suspect that others, like me, and went through the maze of life and got some pointers along the way.

But what if….   What if I could have learned what I needed in school? What if that maze didn’t have so many tangles and pathways that I never embarked on?

What did I not learn in school that would have been helpful?

1. There are many choices

 One of the challenges back then was how I was approaching the problem. I thought there was one answer. One type of work that I would choose and follow for the rest of my life.  

Part of the pressure I was feeling back then to figure that ONE thing out.

What I know now is not only are there many choices of occupations, that focussing on occupations is not the answer.

What we are all seeking, I believe, is a place of belonging. Of contributing to the world in a way that makes sense to us.

The work will be in alignment with who we are.

So the question that gives the best direction is:

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Who am I? 

 A big question but there are lots of fun ways to discover this. Here is a question to begin the process:  What excites you?

What else I wish I learned in school was:

2. What do I have to offer the world? 

This inquiry often happens when we enter the work world. Employers ask us what are our strengths. Wouldn’t that have been handy to learn in school?

I didn’t even know what a strength was. Oh, I had some faint idea that it was something I was good at. But I didn’t know what that was either.

What I know now is our strengths which I also call our gifts and talents, is so connected to how I feel when I am doing an activity. I will be engaged in a way that resonates deeply with me.

This is tied to another thing I wished I learned in school:

3. What the world really needs

We all want to make a difference. How we do that is unique to each of us. But what the world needs is for us to know what matters to us. Because what matters is where we will make a difference. The world needs a lot of that!

There is a great quote from Aristotle about this:

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”

What I know now is that how we make a difference cannot be discovered quickly. But oh, how I would have loved started exploring this when I was in high school.

What matters to us is refined over time. From our experience. From our world view.

4. No one has it all figured out

 Those students who were knew their path back in high school were also on the wrong path, on somebody else’s path or were so annoyed at not knowing, they picked something.

There were also some who just knew it. But they weren’t the majority.

What I know now is what we want to do for our work often doesn’t fall in our lap. It takes consideration and self inquiry.

 But oh how I wished I would have known that in school because I felt so alone. What if I would have had the company of others and we had a curriculum where we got to see a bunch of occupations in action?

 I would have seen people loving what they do, hating what they do and what it really takes.

What did I do to find work that fits for me?

I went to the school of life. One muddled and circuitous route. I observed other people and what they did. I asked a lot of questions. I paid attention to what excited me and what I wanted to learn more about. 


I wish I had known what I know now. Sooner. There were paths I wished I went down. Where I could have experienced mastery.


Here’s one of the best things about life. Some of the most powerful, life changing experiences we can have is what we stumble upon. Occupations I never could have imagined in high school have been added to my dream jobs list. 



What advice would you give to a high school student who has no idea what they want to do with their work life? 

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Hate your job? What you need to do first....

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I remember those days of new writing books and pencils with their sharp tips. I loved September with all of its possibilities.

I felt like I was on the edge of something bigger in my life. What would that be? I had no idea. But it was invigorating.

Do you notice those same longings this time of the year?

September is a great time for starting anew.

Having had the expansion that summer brings, now is a perfect time to look at your work life and point it in the direction you want.

Alongside those feelings of excitement, do you feel the trepidation of now knowing what it is that you want to be doing in your work life? Or how to get there?

Where to begin?

By making a commitment to yourself.

I am one of those people who have a pretty solid background in taking care of others. Single parent. Helping professions. Other people's needs are apparent.

Isn't it amazing how many things need handling. Our lives are busy from dawn to dusk (and beyond).

I am amazed when an entire day goes by and I haven't done a thing I wanted to do.

Do you feel the same? Where are you in the list of priorities?

You have probably heard the flight attendant tell you about putting your face mask on first in the event of an emergency. You can't save anyone if you are out of commission.

But do you actually follow that advice?

I suspect, no matter how many times we have seen the safety demonstration, if an emergency happened, you would automatically put your child's mask on first. Perhaps even the seat mate next to you.

It is a matter of habit.

Habits form easily. Doing an activity in a way that works, we repeat. And repeat. Until it becomes automatic. And unconscious. Which can be both great and unhelpful.

So if you have been putting others’ needs and the demands of daily life ahead of yourself for a long time, making yourself a priority may not be that easy.

What do I mean by making a commitment to yourself?

  • Making an alignment between what you want and time for making it happen.
  • If you don’t know what you want, make time to explore what that could possibly be.
  • Investing time in yourself – planning times to do those activities that set your soul on fire.
  • Making your well being a priority (sleep, eating what makes your body feel nourished, body movement, quiet time, nature).
  • Taking your dreams seriously. (And lightly – there always needs to be a fun element here.)
  • Thinking about where it is that you want to go.
  • If you are feeling stuck or something is holding you back, find yourself someone who can help you. This does not need to be a lonely battle. Actually it doesn’t need to be lonely nor a battle.
  • Being aware of what you deeply care about. What really matters to you.
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Why is being committed to yourself important?

Being committed to yourself means following through on the plans that you make. If you are not following through on what you want to happen in your life, on your personal goals or dreams, this can affect you in a few ways.

Here’s some thoughts on why you need to place yourself as a priority.

When you say you are going to do something and you don’t do it, that has an effect on you even if you don’t notice it. My belief is the lack of commitment goes to the low self esteem bucket. The bucket that is full of unmet promises, often the kinds you make to yourself.

The ones that we don’t think matter. 

Except they do.  The low self esteem bucket affects how you view yourself. And how you relate to the world and how you relate to yourself.

Being disappointed with yourself becomes apparent in your self talk. Self deprecating, self diminishment. Statements such as, “You never follow through on what you say you are going to do.” “You always…. (fill in the blank).”

Over time, your bucket grows and grows.

This spills over into all of life, including work.


How do YOU make a commitment to yourself?


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Can MBTI really help you pick a good career?

Honestly, no. When it comes to a good fit, only you can be the one to determine that. What the personality assessment, and any career assessment for that matter, can do is give you some ideas.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is often used in the career exploration process. The tool has been translated into 21 languages and is used all over the world to help people better understand themselves.

I have used MBTI for over 15 years with individuals and groups. Part of the delight in doing MBTI-based groups is getting to see people like you.  The aha moments are inspiring and highly entertaining.

Finding your personality type can be a validating process. Responses I hear from people is relief in recognizing themselves and how they move through the world.

MBTI is based on the work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist who wrote Psychological Types, published in 1921. Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers developed the tool after reading the book and wanting to make it accessible to more people.

Indeed Jung’s work is heady material. Not for the feint of mind.

Even today, Jung's observations on the brain are impressive. 

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The result of doing the assessment is a 4-letter “type.” There are a total of 16 personality types.

When I first knew about the types, I questioned how 16 types could encapsulate everyone on the planet.

But there was much more than I had first seen.

The model is dynamic. There is a constant interplay between our dominant and non-dominant functions. The dominant functions are where we excel. The non-dominant functions are the least developed parts of ourselves.

This is all fascinating, dives deep into our outer and inner world, and slides into Jung’s work on the unconscious and our shadow side.

As for careers it is when we are working in our dominant function where we will do and be our best.

When we are using our non-dominant functions, we will struggle. For example, I can now see that when I was working in that factory, it was all about my non-dominant functions – focussing on details and doing repetitive work. The result was one disengaged, unhappy and unsatisfied worker.

Since 1940 when the first assessment was used, researchers have studied people and their types. They looked at people who experience the most satisfaction in their jobs. From that they developed listings of careers that might be a good fit.

Out of the four-letters that comprise each type, what researchers found is that the middle two letters are the ones that are most related to careers and fit.

What are the middle two letters? Here is a description of each of the letters:

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There are a total of 4 combinations of the middle letters. In the table below, you can see where each of the combinations like to focus their energy and how they do that.


What does this mean for careers?

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Below are some examples of careers that would fit each of the types above.

What kinds of careers work best for NT?

  • In the choice of careers, technical types of occupations appeal to NTs. This could include Information Technology, Engineering, and Law.

What kinds of careers work well for a NF?

  • Any type of career that involves encouraging people would appeal to a NF. They have interests in psychology and human resources.

What type of work would make a ST shine?

  • The practical and analytic parts of ST types would draw them to business, administration and law enforcement.

What are some careers for people with SF preferences?

  • Because they like working with people, careers that would interest this type include community services and specific kinds of health care.

A word of caution.

Looking at careers and personality type does not mean you can’t do an occupation that is not in your preference. It is a matter of how you might approach the situation.

For example, I can see that a teacher could be in each of the 4 types.

  • A NT would do well in a role where they are teaching technical skills, focussing on concepts.
  • A teacher with a NF preference would do well in assisting people in practicum placements where they would encourage others.
  • ST teachers would do well in practical situations such as teaching esthetics or accounting skills.
  • A teacher with a SF preference would do well in environments such as healthcare where they would teach practical skills focussing on helping people.

The people who really enjoy the aspect of teaching would probably have a Feeling preference as they are fascinated with people and are energized by appreciating and supporting others.

Mostly it is a matter of what you are actually doing in your job.

For example, nurses can have positions where they primarily do desk work.

It’s all good news. In a world where specialization is becoming the norm and the number of careers is dizzying, knowing your preferences can help target your choices.

Delving into what makes you tick also leans you towards greater work satisfaction. Couldn’t our workplaces need more of that??

Interested in exploring your world through MBTI? As a certified MBTI practitioner, I can help you.  Check it out here


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Who’s in charge?

Once upon a time I asked a client what she wanted in her career. She said, “Why are you asking me?”

We laughed. Because wouldn’t it be great if someone else answered for us?

What we want in our career can be dizzying.

Sadly, what takes most of our attention is what we have to do on a daily basis. 

That is why it is easier for me to do the laundry than develop my marketing plan.

What I do know is I want to live a purpose-driven life, one that is in alignment with what is important to me, where I can use my strengths in contributing to others and where I feel like I am firing on all cylinders.

That kind of life/work doesn’t fall on your lap.

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It is deliberate.

The secret is to be proactive. 

Mainly because nobody else is going to do it for you.

Proactive behaviour is “anticipatory, change-oriented, and self-initiated behaviour in situations, rather than just reacting.”

It is all about self responsibility. 

I have been thinking about time lately. It is hard not to when you are studying astronomy. Even though the distance to the stars is such massive proportions that is difficult for my head to wrap around, I understand that each one of those stars out there is going to come to an end. A supernovae. A white dwarf.

Our sun has 5 billion years left. Phew!

Like everything thing in our universe, there is a shelf life.

As morbid as this sounds, knowing your own mortality is critical to your career success. If life went on and on, it would be easy to stay on your couch watching Netflix. (It wouldn’t be that difficult - there is an eternity of episodes on popular series.)

Change is our stimulus.

Unlike other products of nature, humans have the amazing ability to create the change that we want. To me it seems a shame to waste that bonus.

When you are not being proactive in your career, here’s how I see it playing out:

1.         You climb the wrong career ladder.

People who do well at their job are promoted to the next rung. Someone who is great at computer sales is promoted to a manager.

Except they may not be particularly good with being in charge of other people. Or they are doing tasks which leave them cold.

The increase in salary is alluring.

But there are some opportunities you should take and some you should not.


2.         You stay in a job where only some of your talent is being used.

Just enough that you don’t hand in your resignation. One day in a quiet moment, this question may cross your mind – “Am I living up to my potential?”


3.         You wait for retirement.

Retirement may not seem that far off. In this scenario, you may be spending daytime dreaming about all the things you are going to do when you are done with your J-O-B.


4.         You lose motivation.

If you are in an environment where there are others who feel trapped in their jobs, this becomes the new normal. Countdown to the weekend. Hump day. The jokes: “If I died and went straight to hell, it would take me a week to realize I wasn’t at work anymore.”

(If you want to see some entertaining jokes on hating your job, search for I hate my job and then look at images.)

The energy required to move yourself out of that stuck place feels too enormous to even know where to begin.


 5.        You start experiencing other issues.

Like health problems. Or unhealthy behaviours.            

Because not all parts of us agree with the idea that it is okay to stay in work that doesn’t fit for us. 


So how do you become proactive at work?

For me, this is a process I could learn more about. A definite work in progress. As a solopreneur, there is so much to learn. Some parts of the business I do well. And some parts where I suck.

What I have noticed is there is a payoff when I am proactive. It always moves me forward.

Wondering about how you can be proactive about your work? Here’s some thoughts:

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1.         Being proactive means looking at the big picture.

If you are unhappy with the work you are doing, what exactly is it that isn’t working for you?

Do you have a vision of where you would like to be?

Do you know how you can contribute the most?

Being proactive means getting a handle on what is working and what is not.


2.         Being proactive means making a plan.

Even if you don’t have the answers.

A plan could mean making room in your life on how to be proactive. It could be developing a vision of your work life. If you don’t have a vision, it is hard to know where you are going.


3.         Being proactive means taking some action.

Even if it is figuring out the problem. Here is an article on how to solve problems.

Are you being proactive? What are some ideas that you have used to get you moving in the right direction?

Click on the comment button below. Share your thoughts!