Don’t Live Someone Else’s Career Dream

John always had a passion for art, but thanks to his parents was encouraged to get his business degree and become a banker like his father. Though John is doing well financially in his profession and has provided his family with benefits and the security of a solid savings and retirement account, John feels little joy in his work. John, a mid-career professional, age 45, is seriously reconsidering his choice in professions. In fact, it’s John’s goal to pursue art in his next career adventure.

Now you might be thinking: “Whoa, wait a minute. John has no formal education or experience in the art industry. He can’t possibly find a job making as much as he did as a banker and will probably lose his savings on this whim.”

While this could be true, it is not what happened with John. 

John’s father and many people (including prior generations before his) believe that once you’ve pursued your education for the occupation that you chose that you’d stay in that career for the remainder of your life. Yes, that can happen. Many gainfully employed individuals started work after training or college and have been happily engaged in their profession ever since. But not everybody knows what career they want to pursue when they are 18 or 22 or even 45!

This described John. By following in his father’s footsteps, he lost sight of his own interests. Because of the pressure he felt from his parents to “pick something solid” for an occupation, his desire to impress his father and his lack of knowledge about the art industry, he strayed from his interests and went into banking. A noble profession, banking isn’t for everyone. John excelled in his career but by the time he contacted me for career coaching, he was longing for something new.

Dreams are not a waste of time. Dreams drive us to success.

John, like many people, had a dream but came to believe that a dream was only for the foolish. He went against his true calling in order to satisfy the externals—those around him who placed heavy expectations for his path toward success. John may have very well discovered that he was cut out to be a banker and a good one, too. His parents certainly had no ill intent in encouraging him to follow in his father’s footsteps and what John chose to do may have been the wisest course of all. The mistake came when he gave up on his interests entirely. He rarely made time to incorporate art in his life at all. His wife was not interested in it so they didn’t make time to enjoy it together. His friends and family were more interested in their kids’ pursuits of sports and whenever they took trips, John found himself spending a few lonely moments in museums all alone. There was no time for art and no time for John’s interests anymore. In his words, he had to “grow up” and focus on building a career and caring for his family.

Character is a great compass.

Making his family a priority says a lot about John’s character; but I wonder, what happens when you sacrifice all that you care about for the wellbeing and expectations of others? If you’re like John, you hit a wall mid-career. When we met, John had planned to quit working altogether. He grew to resent his career and the bank and was planning to throw in the towel—soon! We discussed his frustrations, his options and in time developed a plan for the future that wouldn’t require him to sacrifice all that he had built. In fact, there were more than ample opportunities for John to incorporate art into his “day job” and to start crafting a career that would transition him to the industry full time.

He was amazed to discover that the bank in which he was employed had a curator who managed the collections for the entire building. He also learned that there was an art council with a board of directors two floors up. These discoveries, and more, helped John change his perspective about his work and the bank. It also opened doors for John to incorporate art back into his life and work. His new career plan included getting directly involved in these two areas along with building on his capacity to contribute and showcase his talent. Much to his surprise, his wife is 100% behind his endeavors as it has changed John’s outlook, decreased his stress level and improved his engagement and attitude. John has not changed careers, but he is well on his way to engaging with the people who can help him make that leap.

Interests should never be abandoned.

Nor do you have to jump ship from your current career or company in order to keep your interests alive. Just like in John’s case, baby steps can give you the boost you need to rediscover what you love and help you articulate a plan to get you there.

How to Be Career Happy? Don’t Live Someone Else’s Career Dream

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