Several times a day, the phone rings at our company with people calling to discuss their career problems. We get 10 times as many emails each day from people writing in about their career problems. By phone or by email, they always start with, "I need to explain my story. It's pretty complex ... " And yet here's what all of these people have in common:

  • They're experiencing a crisis of confidence.
  • They're frustrated and unhappy.
  • Each has a detailed account of what has led to his or her current situation.
  • Each is making the same (false) assumption about his or her situation.

It's Not Rocket Science. You Shouldn't Treat It That Way

More than 15 years ago, I started studying and working with people who felt unsatisfied in their careers. I'm a logic girl. I like process. I went to school for engineering. I decided to build a system for finding greater career satisfaction. To do that, I realized I needed to be able to diagnose each person's situation so a plan could be put in place. To the untrained ear, it might sound as if some people have a highly complex career problem on their hands. But, after listening to a large quantity of career stories, I noticed they all fell into four categories. No matter how complex the circumstances were surrounding a particular career problem, it still boiled down to one of these four major challenges.

1. Career setback. You've been fired, laid off, demoted, put on a performance plan, or are experiencing a stretch of unemployment.

2. No career direction. You have a job, maybe you've had several jobs, but each one has you feeling underutilized, uninspired, and unappreciated. Unfortunately, you can't seem to find something that brings you satisfaction. You've learned what you don't want in a job, but you have no idea (or confidence in) how to choose what you should do next.

3. Desire to change direction. You've been in a career for a while, and you think it's time to change professions. You want to break into a new industry, or use a different skill set, but can't figure out how. And you aren't in a position to start completely over.

4. Anxious to accelerate. You have a job you like and a career path in view, but you aren't moving forward at the rate you want. You're struggling to navigate the path to getting more of what you desire--and you're getting impatient.

Honestly, it's that simple. Yet too many people are failing to fix their career problems because they've convinced themselves their situation is too complex. Why? They tried fixing it on their own but failed. Thus it's easier to assume the problem is highly difficult to solve than to recognize not having the right strategy and resources might be the real reason they didn't succeed.

Test It. Then Do This

If you are reading this, then it's likely you are dissatisfied with your career in some way. I encourage you to clear out the long, complicated story you have going in your head, analyze the facts, and then ask yourself: Which one of these is my true issue?

Humans love to make things harder than they have to be. Give yourself a break and simplify your problem. Then look for specific resources that address your issue. The more you study the problem, the easier it will be to determine a game plan you can implement to solve it.