Want a Career You Love? Just Follow Your Energy
Are you less than satisfied with your career? We often feel disengaged in our careers because it isn't aligned with our authentic energy. The good news is you don't need a complete overhaul to realize a career path you love. Here’s how to make your career feel more energizing and engaging.
In all my years working with women attorneys and leaders, one of the most common reasons clients seek my help is because they feel disengaged from their career. Take the example of Caren, a senior litigation associate at an intellectual property law firm. Caren felt stuck and was contemplating a significant career change, including the possibility of leaving the practice of law altogether. She felt lost and desperately wanted some direction on what to do next.
Why We Feel Disengaged
Many of us feel disengaged in our careers because it doesn't align with our authentic self and energy. I like to think of "energy" as the passion that fuels your larger career purpose. When you align your career with what energizes you, you leverage what you do best with what's essential and genuinely interests you.
Instead of following our energy, we find ourselves blindly following a career path that drains us. The more our careers move in this direction, the more we become separated from our authentic selves.
Over time, this conflict between who we are and what we do further disengages us from our careers. It also gets in the way of us realizing our full power and potential.
Is this where you are? Are you feeling burnt out and anxious about your future? You are not alone. I know, because I’ve been there too.
At the beginning of my career, I worked in a variety of law firm human resources roles. I loved the interpersonal dynamics, but many of my routine responsibilities felt like "work" to me.
While I didn't have a clear vision of my future, I just started paying closer attention to my energy. I noticed I felt the most energized when I could help empower colleagues with their career goals rather than the more technical aspects of my job. This awareness ultimately led me to find my dream career and higher purpose as a professional coach.
Six Small Pivots to Make Your Career Feel More Energizing
When we feel disengaged, we often think the answer is to completely overhaul our career, "I will be happy when I have a new job, new company, new career..." Unfortunately, rarely does a drastic change like this make much of a difference in the long-run without a deeper awareness of what truly energizes you.
If this sounds familiar and you want your career to feel more satisfying, here are six small but significant pivots to make it better aligned with your energy and authentic self:
1. Follow Your Energy
What things do you do in your career that feel the most natural and enjoyable? If you've never considered this, pay more attention to when you perform best, feel "on fire," or are working "in your zone." This is when you are the most creative and when time seems to stands still.
Caren noticed she felt most energized when she worked more collaboratively with clients on some of the more complex and technical aspects of their legal issues. Armed with this insight, she took steps to transition her role from litigation to counseling. Doing work that was more aligned with her true energy enabled her to develop a deeper level of expertise in an area she loved.
2. Reconnect With Your “Why”
Why did you choose your particular career path? The answer to this question can help you reconnect to your higher career purpose. Caren initially pursued a career as a patent attorney because she believed the law to be the best way to leverage her technical skills to help others. However, as her role became increasingly focused on litigation and less about serving others, she began to lose sight of the primary reason she had become an attorney in the first place.
This disconnect with our “why” happens for various reasons, but often because we just stop paying attention to where our career path is leading us. At some point, we wake up and realize we’ve followed a trajectory already mapped out or expected of us rather than relying on our internal compass. If you find this to be the case for you, maybe it’s time to reconnect with your “why” and take steps to get you back on your path.
3. What's a “Have To” versus a “Get To”
Which parts of your current job feel like something you “have to” do rather than “get to” do? While a relatively simple exercise, this can pinpoint the different areas in your job or career that either drain or energize you. When we experience something as a "have to," it's a sign it’s potentially draining and not aligned with who we are and what matters most to us. Things that feel like a “get to” are those you naturally gravitate toward and make you feel fully alive and engaged.
So, you may be thinking, “Does this mean I should avoid everything that feels like a “have to” in my career? Well, no! The point is to be mindful of your energy level and reflect on how doing different things make you feel. Sometimes just being able to reframe what you “have to” do as a means to what you “get to” do can greatly improve your level of engagement and job satisfaction.
4. What Are You Dancing All Over?
My career clients often hear me say, “You’re dancing all over it and don't even know it!” Just like we can't see our faces without a mirror, we aren’t always aware of where our true energy is because it’s too much a part of us to see clearly. In this way, a coach can help increase your self-awareness by serving as the mirror.
My energy has always been about empowering others, even though it wasn't something I was acutely aware of. I just saw it as me being myself. Yet, I earned the nickname "Coach" early in my career because people gravitated to me to help with their career-related issues. Now I can see that this is something I've been "dancing all over" throughout my career. I see it more clearly now because it's when I'm the most conscious, present, and engaged.
So, what are you dancing all over? If you aren’t sure, consider what others come to you for help with. What feels fun and easy for you? What would you even consider doing for free or if you won the lottery! I often see this show up as extracurricular interests and activities.
5. Leverage your Strengths
What are your core strengths? It’s probably what you do best and where you provide the highest value to others. There are many excellent assessments that can help you discover this for yourself. I often use these tools when working with my career clients. When you leverage your core strengths, you're also using talents and abilities that feel the most natural and energizing.
One of my career clients, Marlena, found her core strengths to be around networking and mentoring. Colleagues often approached her for help in this area, yet she didn't recognize it as something she could leverage into her career. Once she gained this clarity, she made a successful pivot as a networking coach and law school adjunct professor.
6. Make a Pivot, Not an Overhaul
Many of us who feel disengaged often think we need to pursue a completely different career path. However, the vast majority of clients I’ve worked with come to realize they don’t need a complete overhaul but instead just a series of incremental yet essential pivots. These small but intentional modifications can make a dramatic difference in how energized and fulfilled you feel.
In the example of Caren, she didn’t do anything drastic like quit her job or change careers. Instead, she discovered what truly energized her and pivoted toward roles at her same firm that was more intrinsically rewarding and better aligned with her values. It took time for this process to unfold fully, but this level of awareness and insight ultimately helped her land a very fulfilling role with a reputable pharmaceutical company.
Want Your Career to Feel More Energizing?
If you want a more energizing career path, start by paying closer attention to how you feel when doing different tasks. Notice what you are doing when operating in your “zone” and seek out more opportunities that feel authentic and intrinsically motivating.
Conversely, if you find yourself procrastinating or avoiding particular tasks, perhaps it’s because they aren’t aligned with your natural energy. If you can’t eliminate or delegate them, consider how to make them feel more energizing. Small changes in how or when you work can make a huge difference in how energizing it feels.
Want to fall in love with your career (again)? If so, please reach out to me to learn how I can help. You are also welcome to schedule a 30-min consultation call with me to learn how coaching can help you "get out of your own way" so you can achieve your goals and realize your full potential.
Jill Lynch Cruz, PhD, PCC, GCDF, SPHR
Executive Coach & Career Development Facilitator