“Do you know what your dream job looks like?” is a question I ask a lot!
“Well, there are lots of things I can do but I’m not sure what I’d really love to do. I just don’t know!” my clients often explain, in despair, when we first meet up.
“Well, what are your strengths?” I ask. “I don’t really know….” comes the frustrated response.
“Your strengths are hiding and when you find them, you will be closer to being able to identify your dream job.” I reassure them. But, where are they hiding?
Don’t hide your light under a bushel!
You know that old saying,“Don’t hide your light under a bushel!” Most people do this all the time. Except the bushels under which we hide our light are simply two little words that we have a habit of saying far too often. It could be an attempt at humility or maybe it’s old-fashioned British reserve but whatever it is, it’s not helpful when you’re looking to identify your dream job and showcase your strengths, rather than hide them away.
Just and Only
So what are these two little words? Well, I don’t want to give them a fanfare or anything; they are just and only….. Yes, JUST and ONLY. Oh and before I explain how damaging they can be, I’d like to make a point here about common sense, too, because it’s all related.
Common sense, as we all know, is anything but common! Ask anyone whether they have common sense and they will usually agree that while they have it, nobody else seems to! It’s a major source of frustration for lots of people! However, when we share our own particular brand of common sense, we tend to use those words, just and only A LOT!
For example, when we are giving advice:
“Look, you only need to simmer it.” says the Head Chef to the trainee with a boiling pan on the stove!
“We only need to click once!” says the Trainer with a roll of his eyes!
“Just turn it off and back on again!” said every IT Support worker ever!
“Just ask for the order…” says the Sales Manager, in despair!
To the speaker, these statements are pure common sense…. But to the listener, the learner, this so-called, simple advice might as well be rocket science! Certainly, it’s far easier said than done!
Anyhow, let’s get back to our strengths… When we talk about our hobbies and our interests we often do so using the same words, just and only. We love doing these things and we are interested in them enough to get up early or stay up late working on them, for free. We’ll happily give up whole weekends to indulge ourselves. We spend money on them – lots, sometimes! We even use them as an escape from “real life.” Yet, we stick them in a boring list at the end of our cv and don’t consider them to be important. When asked, we say something like:
“Oh, I just doodle in my spare time.” (Promising Illustrator / Artist with stacks of sketch-books by her bed.)
“I’m only a home-cook!” (Budding Chef with 250 cookery books on the shelf!)
“I just like taking pictures.” (Potential Photographer with a professional camera and thousands of beautiful images on memory sticks that nobody else has ever seen.)
“I just like tinkering with stuff…” (Emerging Engineer.)
“I only write my stories for fun…” (Future Author)
“Just” and “Only” can belittle the activity. These words detract from the importance and value of these hobbies and interests and yet they are often the only things we do that are keeping us sane! The inference from these statements and one which I recognise only too well in my previous self is that if you love doing something, or find it easy, it can’t (or shouldn’t) be classified as “work.” Work, after all, is meant to be hard if it’s worth anything! “Work hard, play hard” was a common mantra in a company where I used to be a manager. “If you want to earn good money, you need to work hard…” is advice that we’ve all heard at some stage in our lives, isn’t it? Yet, in the next breath we are complaining about premiership footballers who are being paid millions to play a game!
To help me write this post, I conducted a little research in a wonderful Facebook group called the Local Business Network (LBN). Now, the members of LBN, are generally splendid individuals who run small to medium-sized businesses and want to encourage people in their area of the UK to do business locally, with them! Most of them have probably experienced something of what you may be going through at the moment. At some stage, they were likely working for someone else and dreaming of getting out of there. They wanted to be self-employed so they had to work out what their business would be, how it would look and what they wanted it to achieve. And then, they made it happen.
So, I asked them:
Please can you describe what you do, in the simplest terms, beginning with “I just….” Or “I only….” ?
Over 50 members replied and here are a few examples of their answers. I wonder if you can guess what businesses they are in?
Helen: I just love supporting people and their pets.
Steve: I just create media for people who can’t.
Becky: I just love creating craft items and making things look pretty with buttons.
Sophie: I just love making gorgeous cakes.
Katy: I just renovate tired looking rooms to amazing ones!
Debbie: I just write down my dog’s adventures and inspire children to write their own.
Hetty: I just help people through their financial fog.
Louise H: I just [in case people don’t know how to use their sewing machines] teach them to sew and make wonderful things.
Sharon: I just give the confidence to family members to support a loved one who is dying. I only work from the heart and help reduce the fear of dying.
Viviana: I only try to make people aware of the damage that cosmetic chemicals can cause. Just making organic skin care.
Kerry: I just send out cards to brighten people’s day.
A couple of the members voiced objections to writing the words “just” and “only” and I was delighted with their observations. Others happily overlooked the instruction and simply told me what they did without using these negative words.
What do you notice about these statements, though? I hope you realise that these people, who are actually living their dreams, are describing what they actually do in the same way as you might give common-sense advice to others or play down the things you enjoy. Any of these statements could come from someone who only did what they do, in their spare time, for free.
But these brave souls decided that they would do what they love AND get paid for it! – And YOU CAN TOO!
“I only….” “I just….”
Listen to yourself and try to catch yourself starting a sentence with these words (or get your friend/partner/colleague involved and catch each other!) and you will soon start to see clues to your strengths and be on the way to being able to identify your dream job.
The things you do well, naturally, without thinking, because it’s “common sense,” that you enjoy and that you dismiss as unimportant, for whatever reason, are the keys to unlocking the career cage that you’re in right now. Find them and you will change your life for the better! By the way, I’m not saying that your dream job is necessarily to run your own business. You may wish to work for another organisation and that’s great, as long as you are doing work that you love and being rewarded well for it. People who love their work tend to be reliable and perform well; they are enthusiastic about it and they are fun to have around. Believe me, most employers are happy to pay top dollar to have someone like that on the team!
If you would like help with this exercise or wish to discuss your situation with me, please leave a comment below or contact me privately. Remember, if you’re not in your dream job, you’re in someone else’s! Act now.
PS: There’s a bonus to the exercise that I set the members of LBN. Many people agonise over their “elevator pitch.” A great way to be able to articulate what you do, is to start with “I just…” or “I only….” Once you’ve got that statement sorted out, you can simply remove “just” and “only” as superfluous and state what you do, with pride! Yay!