Have you ever taken on a job or a task because you felt you SHOULD rather than because you wanted to?

I went to a networking event earlier this week, hosted by the Association of Women MBAs (AWM). The session was a presentation by Nancy Monson, a certified Coach whose practice focuses on “individual, team and organizational leadership”.

The title of the presentation was “Living a Life Aligned with Your Values”. It was clear that her presentation could go on for days and still not fully address the multiple issues and challenges associated with this deep topic.

She first asked us to choose from a list of values our top 15 values. Then we were asked to prioritize them and then assign a level of satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 with each of them.

When we discussed our level of satisfaction with each of our values, Nancy made an excellent point. She said that we need to pay very close attention to our language every time we say the word “should”. Because, she said, if we say we are doing things because we “should” then we are probably forcing ourselves to do something that is not in alignment with our most important values.

It reminded me of something my big sister once said to me. She told me to stop “shoulding” on myself. I started to consider how many times I have heard the word “should” as a recruiter in an interview with a candidate. There are many people in this world who are pursuing careers that they think they “should” pursue rather than the careers that they want. Not surprisingly, these people are often considered job-hoppers and have poor reasons for why they left each of their last positions.

So my question to you is this, if you are unhappy in your career, have you considered whether it is because you are pursuing someone else’s idea of what you should be doing with your life instead of your own?

I know that I have done this at least twice in my career. The first time was when I took a job working for NY State (see this post) and the second time was when I recently pursued (and achieved) a CPA credential. The first one I just chalk up to age and naïveté. I was told that working for the state was a “good” job with the “good” benefits. The second time I really have no excuse. I found myself attracted to accounting and once I began investigating it further through classes I decided that I had to take it all the way to the CPA. I definitely had a parental-inspired voice in the back of my head saying that the CPA is one of the greatest educational pursuits available.

About half way through the CPA process I realized that I had made a mistake, a bad turn, but when I finally admitted that to myself I promised myself two things. First, that I would finish the pursuit so as not to waste the time, effort and money spent up to that point. Second, I promised myself that when I was done I would do something GOOD with it; something that was meaningful to me. I now recruit for senior level finance and accounting professionals. I use my hard-earned CPA credential in my email signature and on my business card. This allows me to earn instant credibility with my clients and candidates. It works!

So, if you have pursued a career because you “should” that doesn’t mean that you are stuck. It just means that you have to get creative about how you are going to use it to achieve a more fulfilling life for yourself. I would LOVE to hear stories about people who have accomplished this in their own lives.

This content was previously published on www.careercourageously.com

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