When I meet my career counseling clients today, I realize that they see a man who loves his work. More than a few have expressed envy at the obvious joy I have in my work. ”I wish I could feel that way,” a recent client said as he conveyed his dread at heading back to his office. “I just feel anxious all the time, wondering what I am going to do for my career.”
They don’t know that my current work happiness was built on years of searching for career happiness and that I, too, had plenty of anxiety around work.
I started my career as an attorney. I liked my work in the public sector where I was doing good. I did not like my work in the private sector where I was doing little good.
Even while I was in the public sector, I knew the law was not a fit. I really wanted to build people and though I felt I was “doing good” through my work as a prosecutor, my higher purpose was to help others through counseling and education, not through ensuring justice.
When I went into private sector, my anxiety about what I wanted to do grew so much that I wondered if my normally perpetual cheerfulness and optimism was vanishing for good.
When I committed myself to the education-entrepreneur route, my career seeking anxiety disappeared. To be clear, I still had anxiety about building a business, money, and all that comes with entrepreneurship but I also had a great deal of joy related to building my career. But there is a huge difference between the feeling of being anxious-lost versus anxious building.
When I began career counseling, I realized that I was almost messianic in my zeal to get others to find a career they love. I wanted everyone to escape the anxiety and experience joy. ”It doesn’t have to be that way.” I would tell clients. You don’t have to be anxious about your career. You can be joyfully building it instead.