How school and career are sooooo different

“In school you get the lesson and then take the test… In life you take the test and then get the lesson.”  Source unknown

A client in his early 30s told me: “I got school. I knew what was expected of me. I chose to study or not study, and then got a grade that usually reflected what I put in.

But I keep ending up in jobs that don’t excite me and don’t challenge me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get there.  I don’t even know where “there” is.”

And then he got this aha look in his eyes and said:

“There’s no syllabus for finding a career!”

 It’s true: career is very different from school.

  • There’s no syllabus – no direct path to finding a job, getting promoted, or changing careers.
  • There are few, if any, right answers.
  • School is about individual, cerebral performance – career isn’t.
  • In school, you learn from studying. In career (and life!) you learn from adversity.

So if you’re aware of these differences, what can you do differently to successfully find, grow and enhance your career?

Craft your own syllabus, and also, perhaps, a pre-syllabus.
The pre-syllabus would be a set of specific steps to help you decide what lights you up and draws you in – to give you an idea of where you want to go. The syllabus would be the steps to refine that direction and get you there.

Shift your focus from finding the right answers to asking the right questions.
Experiment with what’s a good enough answer. Learn how to live with ambiguity. Practice telling your peers and managers and employees what you believe to be important, and of these priorities, what you do know. But also tell them what you don’t yet know, and strive to do this with humility and confidence at the same time.

Explore what it takes beyond knowledge to succeed in your work.
This includes emotional intelligence, working on a team, managing through conflict, getting along with your boss. People often get promoted not because they’re smart, but because they’re liked – and because their boss trusts them to get the job done.

Understand that your greatest learning often comes from your biggest flubs.
Identify what was beyond your control, and where you honestly, truly, really messed up! But do this gently and with self-compassion because we know: if we don’t take risks, we don’t grow. If we don’t fall, we can never learn how to get back up – again and again. There’s shame in failing – for sure! And it hurts! But by acknowledging it and working through it, we gain the strength and courage to take on new challenges and succeed.

Want a supportive partner to help you grow with confidence in a career of your choosing? Email me or call me at 612-922-4952

career coaching with Freda Marver

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