Joyce Teo – Straits Times Indonesia
You have toiled all year and it is finally time to wind down and relax before heading back to the same old slog in the new year.
But hang on, is what you are doing really your true calling?
“When you are young, you don’t really know what you want,” says leadership consultant B.H. Tan.
“If you are pretty good at your job, you will rise fast and make good money. But that’s when you ask yourself – is this what I want? If you examine yourself further, you may find it is not what you want.”
Older folk are not immune to this, though they tend to find it a lot harder to do something different.
A senior executive in a Singapore-listed firm feels stifled and wants a change, he tells a coach. But he is not doing anything about it. He is earning more than 1.5 million Singapore dollars a year and his wife would kill him if he quits his job.
The problem, sometimes, is with finding the real reason behind your unhappiness with your job. Boredom, disliking someone at work or a case of burnout does not mean the job is not meant for you.
Mathew Linus, a lecturer at the National University of Singapore Business School, says a true calling is found “when one is prepared to do much more than (what is) required excellently, voluntarily and enjoyably without regard for time or money.”
Executive coach Paul Heng says: “There are people who know something is not right (with their career choice) but they don’t know what to do with it. They just go into a state of inertia.”
Indeed, “most people will ignore their inner voice. And if they ignore it long enough, the voice dies,” says Tan.
And after a while, people will start to rationalize and think they made the right choice, he adds.
Most people do nothing about it as it is just too hard, he says.
But, says Heng, “if you feel you are becoming less and less motivated at work, it’s time to do some soul-searching.”
Here are some tips from the experts.
“Listen to your inner voice. It tells us things about ourselves that we ignore when we are constantly in a hurry,” says Tan.
“If you are into something that does not resonate with you, there is a certain alienation that will come at you. It’s not much fun and you’d sooner be done with it and move on.”
Heng says: “The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you want to do something about it.”
But finding your true calling does not happen overnight. “To raise the chances of it happening, you have to plan for it,” he adds.
“You need to allocate time for this, perhaps go away for a short break and just think about what you want to do.”
Sometimes, this is a gut feeling. If not, you can also make use of psychometric tools or talk to a coach or friends.
“Ask trusted friends what they think you could possibly do exceptionally well in what type of career,” suggests Associate Professor Thomas Menkhoff of organizational behavior and human resources (practice) at Singapore Management University.
“List your real strengths, talents and capabilities and whether your current career allows you to leverage on those.
“A psychological test conducted with the help of a career counsellor could help to shed light on the type of person you are, things you like or dislike as well as ‘good’ career choices… Research has shown that personality traits predict job performance,” he says.
Tan adds: “People have to come to terms with what they want. When you say you are bored, ask yourself what are your alternatives? If you don’t have a better one, you should stick with what you are doing.
“If you do have an alternative, ask yourself why it intrigues you and why you would be happier taking the second path.”
In Tan’s view, one has to be irrational to take the plunge into something different.
It takes a lot of courage, the experts say. And it comes with a price.
This may be changes that affect your lifestyle or salary, says Heng.
And this is why people should consciously work towards financial freedom, he adds.
When they are financially independent, when everything is paid or planned for, the choices are plenty, he says.
It may then be easier to muster the courage to change.
Linus says it is good to realize that it is very difficult to get one’s dream job.
“Most people would be happy and consider themselves lucky if there’s a 70 percent overlap of values and happiness between themselves and their organization,” he notes.
Prof Menkhoff says: “People sometimes forget that all career paths and jobs have some aspects that are not 100 percent enjoyable.”
But for those who know deep down that they are in the wrong field and feel the pain doing something that they hate day in and day out, make a New Year’s resolution and do something about it.
“We pass this way only once, so live a life with minimum regrets,” says Heng.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 021 2553 5055.