Do You Feel Adrift in Your Work?
Recently I’ve been speaking with people who describe themselves as adrift. That’s a particularly evocative word for me because of an analogy I use often with people seeking new work. What I tell others is that they should consider work being like a river or stream. In large part this is because so many people will use the phrase of falling into their job or line of work.
So, picture this, you have fallen into this stream. And you get carried off by the current for some time. There can be so many things going on in your life from dating, vacations and children to sickness and loss that you might not even notice or even consider work in a serious way. For many people this can be years or decades before they look up and wonder where did that time go? But then one day it happens, and you do look up.
You wonder to yourself how I got here. And quickly you ask yourself (1) do I have the strength to make a change? Furthermore, (2) if I did, how would I determine what to do next? You feel the weight of making thoughtful choices that will lead you in the ‘right’ direction before you expend the energy it would take to make that change. Often, it is at those moments when someone might seek out a coach.
This was the case with Lance and Melody. Each had reached out in a moment of deep introspection. They had been consuming articles that indicated that people were resigning in droves and that there were an extraordinary number of positions available now. Yet, they felt completely frozen. Lance is 20 years into a career that he could resign himself to. Meanwhile, Melody has spent three years since her college graduation and wonders why her friends speak of work in a more positive way than she does. They feel adrift and don't want to get up and leave without knowing that what they do next will be better. They had built reputations in the field they ‘fell into’ and didn’t care to toss them aside so quickly.
The adrift can feel powerless and at the mercy of the inertia that has taken them where they are. What they see in the media and anecdotal evidence in their social circle of resignations also don’t offer specific comfort. If you are feeling anxious about being adrift, the possibility of having even less structure and greater uncertainty isn’t appealing.
So, continuing with our body of water theme, what is recommended when one is adrift at sea? The two things that are emphasized across scenarios when adrift in a boat/raft or in a wetsuit are access to food & water and maintaining your core body temperature. If you find yourself in a place where you are feeling adrift professionally, you can use the same mechanisms to help you gain your equilibrium.
Maintain Your Core Body Temperature: Whether you find yourself in an exceedingly warm or cold environment, you are in physical danger. And most people who are adrift have stopped engaging with others. They are feeling either embarrassed about their situation, uncertain what to say, or as though they should have figured this out already. So, they stop connecting with others. Doing so is the opposite of what you need.
It takes time to carefully construct what you should tell others about your current situation and about your future aspirations. Nonetheless, it is doable, and you are welcome to reach out to me for a bit of help about how to do so. Then, you can share this with those closest to you, so you have a vetted and consistent narrative. Also, you now have people who can be your champions throughout this process and who can make you feel worthy and supported. These are the people who may serve as your life preservers for the next little while.
Once that happens you may have what you need to open yourself up to other opportunities.
Access Food & Water The nourishment most people need when they are adrift is a sense of possibility. For one of many reasons they have stopped seeing a range of fulfilling options for work and so the goal is to create a process to help them determine the priorities that in combination may encourage them enough to look at roles. Once you’ve been stabilized by your friends and have the time to consider what you want next, you are in a place to take in the hope that comes from interesting possibilities through exploring fields or roles that give you a specific direction. Helping you decide on a destination is what takes you away from being adrift.
The measure of us as humans can be how we show up when we feel adrift and how we show up for others when they are. In my experience you will feel adrift and encounter those you care about struggling with those feelings often in life. It's a storm you will weather, and it will help you serve as a beacon for others. I see smooth sailing ahead.
—Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.