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When the fear of not being good enough keeping you stuck in a job you hate–and what to do instead

We all want to be good at what we do – it’s inevitable. We want to do a good job, and have people tell us that we have done a good job. That warm, fuzzy feeling from hearing ‘well done, great job’ is addictive.

But is this what is keeping you stuck in a job you have fallen out of love with?

I get it – you’ve been doing the job for years. You know how it works. You know what to do, when and the best way to do it. People come to you for advice on how to get things right.

And that feels good.

But what doesn’t feel good is the thought that you are treading water, doing the same job day after day, week after week, month after month. The nagging suspicion that there must be something more than this groundhog-day work life.

(sorry, couldn't resist a picture of a groundhog - pretty cute, eh?)

So you spend lunch breaks scrolling job sites, thinking about what else you could do – but you’re worried that you don’t know how to do anything else.

What if there is nothing else you are as good at as what you are doing now?

And so you stay where you are, the fear of not being good enough keeping you trapped.

But what if I told you it was ok to not be great at something when you start off? What if that was all part of the process?

What would you do if you gave yourself permission to try something new?

It’s a scary thought, I know, especially since we have often spent many years working towards being great at one thing. The idea of starting again can be enough to make us hide under our desk.

But the thing is, we all have tons of transferable skills that we can take with us from one career to another, the things we have learnt in one job will often make transferring into another a lot less scary than we initially think – it’s often not about making a leap and starting again from scratch, it’s more about taking who we are, and all we’ve learnt, and building on that, just in a slightly different environment.

So what can we do to overcome the fear of possibly-not-being-great at something new?

1. Think about your skills - and how you learnt them.

What are you good at – can you power through a complicated spreadsheet with ease, or control a group of unruly teenagers with just a raised eyebrow? If speaking another language is second nature to you (even if you’ve never used it at work) then make a note. Also consider your less obvious skills – if you can whip up a meal with a random selection of ingredients, or knit a great scarf, add it to the list – you never know when skills might be useful! Take a moment to consider which of things you are good at you actually enjoy – you might be great at building complicated financial models but if it doesn’t excite you, it might be time to think about using other skills.

2. Consider your strengths

By this, I mean the parts of your personality that shine through. Are you great at bringing people together, managing disagreement or being upbeat in challenging circumstances? What role to you (often unconsciously) play in your office, or with your group of friends – are you the peacemaker, the organiser, or the person people confide in? And if you don't know - ask! Chat to a few close friends about what they think your strengths are - as well as making you feel good that people value what you offer, it can be enlightening to hear what other people see are your best points.

3. Look at where you skills and strengths collide

And consider what things make you happy – when you feel at your most brilliant. Chances are they are when you are getting to combine your strengths and your skills. This is the core of who you are, your “package” you can take forward into a new environment.

4. Explore possibilities

Now that you know your core ‘package’, look at where you could use it. Consider new environments, industries or locations. Think about where your skills could be useful, even if there would be new things to learn as well. If you have an idea in mind that is completely different to what you do now, consider how your strengths or skills could be useful in that area, or in an related area. Remember that you have a whole package of strengths and skills already – how can you leverage these to allow you develop the other skills you need?

Try not to let the fear of having to learn new things put you off - you probably didn't start out being great at what you do now, so think about the process of how you came to be great at it. Remembering that you were a beginner once before (and how you built up from there) can often help alleviate some of the fear around trying something new.

5. Test it out!

A core pillar of the coaching I do is around testing out ideas – think about how you could get more of a feeling for your new idea without going all in straight away. Think of it as dipping a toe in the water, allowing you to experiment and find out if it’s for you. Some examples of mini projects you could try out include: asking to chat with people who already do what you want to do (LinkedIn can be a great resource for this, or ask friends who they may know), making samples of products for family / friends or selling at school fairs or taking on a short term voluntary role in something you are interested in (many companies are surprisingly flexible about employee volunteering).

The key is not to feel trapped in what you do now – instead, look at the core of who you are, what you are great at and what you love, and then see how you can use this as a base to find a job (or a collection of jobs!) that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

If this has got you thinking, why not head over to my free facebook group, The Returnity Lounge, for lots more career development support?

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