Confused about your career? Good! Now do this…

Read Time: 6 Minutes

In a world where we’re all pressured into knowing exactly what we should be doing for work, it’s easy to get disappointed when you feel confused about your career. Your social media feed is full of other people getting job promotions or taking the leap into entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, you’re stuck wondering what to do next. While you may be thinking that being confused is a bad thing, it’s probably exactly what you need to create a breakthrough.

Confused Business People

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference talking with a group of people about career progression. I asked the guy next to me what he wanted to do for a career and he bluntly replied, “I actually have no idea.”

Maybe it was the way he said it or that it completely caught me off guard, but I literally laughed out loud and gave him a high five. This was the most genuine answer I’d ever heard.

People just don’t do this!

We are so pressured into having it all figured out that many of us can’t even imagine being so upfront. Maybe a bit of vulnerability is exactly what we need because at the end of the day no one has it all figured out.

In fact, just a few minutes after the group broke, another guy from the group, a recent Columbia grad with a great job as a lawyer, confessed that he too was confused. On the outside, he seemed totally confident in his career. Yet, he was just as lost as the other guy – just scared to admit it publically.

Whether you are a lawyer, an entrepreneur, or a recent college grad – it’s okay be to be confused.

As Tony Robbins says, “confusion comes right before a breakthrough.”

Because being confused simply just means that your outcome doesn’t match your expectation. What you want isn’t what you currently have and you aren’t sure.

From here, you can do one of two things:

  1. Change your expectation

  2. Change your outcome

While changing your outcome is the ultimate goal, it’s not always possible right away. So if you are confused, good.

Now, start by taking a step back and rethink how you can shift your expectations so you are no longer needlessly stressing yourself out. Here are a few ways in which I’ve found work really well.

Let go of the “need to know”

Whenever you have a problem, all you want is to fix the problem and move on, right?

Same goes for your career. You get impatient and frustrated. Fed up with your boss, your lack of a promotion or whatever else is causing your confusion in the first place. All you want is to just want to know what to do.

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this. The fact is that you will never know and are needlessly stressing yourself out, which fuels your frustration even more.

The best thing you can do is to focus on where you are at right now and make decisions based on what’s in front of you. Right now. Today.

Letting go of the “need to know” will open up so many more opportunities. It will eliminate your stress and help you see things more clearly, which will eventually lead to what you wanted in the first place – clarity through all of the confusion.

Become a Career Master

On your path to a great career, you’ll no doubt come across many different types of people. According to in The Master’s Path found in George Leonard’s book Mastery, these people are bucketed into three groups: the Amateurs, the Stressors, and the Masters.

The Amateurs – get excited when they start a new job or get a promotion, but when it comes time to work hard they give up easily, quit, and find a shiny new job. Then, they rinse and repeat.

The Stressors – similar to the amateur but when the going gets tough they stick it out. Instead of quitting, they push through the hard work at any and all costs.

They stress themselves out and think that “pushing through” will lead them to a happy and successful life on the other end. But as you and I know, that’s lead to extreme burnout or failure in other areas of life like failed relationships and marriages.

The Masters – Ah, the masters. While they go through the same progression as the two before there is a major difference: they know, predict, and expect each part of the process. They love the growth, appreciate the hard work, and learn from the obstacles. They don’t get overcome by emotion and thus ends up wildly successful each step along the way.

What happens when most people are stuck or confused in their careers, they let emotion override their decision-making abilities, falling into the Amateur or Dabbler category.

The more you learn to become methodical, patient, and calm, the closer you will be to becoming a career Master.

Look Inside

Too often when people are stuck or confused about their careers, they tend to ask frantic and wild questions about what the right strategies are for them to get unstuck. This behavior rarely leads to positive solutions.

So rather than running to update your LinkedIn profile or tweak resume at the first sign of confusion, the first step is to take a step back and figure out why you’re confused.

Think about what’s causing the confusion – is it your work environment, your boss, your impact (or lack of), or just simply money? Once you identify what your primary stressor is, it will release the need to fix everything in your career and allow you focus in that one area.

Once you have that primary stressor, go deep into it. Too often when people are confused, they stay on the surface, they allow emotion to get the best of them and facts somehow become irrelevant. To break this pattern, take a look under the hood of your stressor and figure out why it’s causing you unrest. It’s there where you will find clarity.

Here are five questions you can ask yourself to dig deeper and lead you to clarity:

  1. If I knew that this stressor was helping me in some way, what would that be?
  2. Why is this area of my career important to me?
  3. What is the root cause of my discomfort with this?
  4. How am I contributing to this causing discomfort in my life?
  5. What is one thing I could do right now that would make this better?

Turning Confusion to Clarity

At the end of the day, everyone wants to be happier in the work that they do. Being confused is typically not a point in which we want to get to, but it’s something that many people experience on their career paths.

This confusion can be a good thing or it can ruin you depending on what you do with it. What you do with it, is up to you, but hopefully, I’ve provided some helpful technique that will turn your confusion into clarity.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.