If you’re looking to revamp your career, there’s no shortage of advice books at your local Indigo or in the career counselling section of Amazon. What makes Sarah Vermunt’s new work manual Careergasm: Find Your Way to Feel-Good Work (ECW Press, $19) stand out from all the rest is she strips out all the yawn-inducing, sometimes straight-up nonsensical corporate jargon that makes so many other how-to’s insufferable, injects just enough casual language to make youngs feel comfortable, and breaks it down into totally digestible, doable, realistic chunks (no abstract “If you dream it, you can achieve it!” mantras here).
It also helps that Vermunt seriously knows what she’s talking about. From her own personal pivotal moment when she took the leap from a soul-sucking teaching job to an enriching life-coaching career—after a breakdown in a Starbucks, no less—to her years of experience coaxing clients to uncover and go after their true passions, the Toronto-based writer and former business professor knows her shit when it comes to carving out a meaningful career.
But how in the name of Ryan Gosling do you figure out what kind of work gives will give your life meaning, you ask? Through manageable, tangible steps that Vermunt (thankfully) spoon-feeds the reader along with super useful advice that applies to life in general. Herewith, six tips for having multiple, uh, careergasms, whether you just want to jeuje up your current work situ or change directions entirely because it’s never too late for a career climax. Spoiler: it involves a healthy dose of self-acceptance and making many, many lists.
1. Figure out what weird things you’re good at then find the root of that talent
Are you the person all your friends call on for your book recos? Chic, so does that mean you’re supposed to be like a book critic? you might be wondering. Vermunt says to drill down to the core skill behind that gift. As in, you’re probably good at intuiting what people like and want. Now that’s a skill that could apply to a cool new career path. Vermunt explains in her book how these kinds of soft skills that seem unrelated to your career path can actually be the best indicators of what your transferable work skills are. Vermunt writes: “When we don’t use our gifts, there’s a heaviness we carry in our hearts and minds. When we do use them, there’s a lightness about our work.” Should you make a list of weird special talents? You betcha.
2. Go on, feel jealous. Then use the jealousy as a tool.
You know that green-eyed monster that fills you with rage when a co-worker gets a promotion/lands a coveted client/always has the most polished shoes and yours are eternally scuffed? Vermunt spells out what we’ve always kind of known in the plainest of terms: jealousy is a normal human emotion. It also really isn’t about the other person, it’s about you, she writes. Furthermore, it’s how you use jealousy that matters. Constructive use of jealousy: feeling motivated to take on a big, complex project in order to expose yourself to different stakeholders at your company and work towards a promotion. Negative use of jealousy: pouring honey into your coworker’s new Loubs.
3. Embrace your inner toddler
Vermunt recommends channeling the impulses from your terrible twos into a pair of lists that should help guide what kind of workplace you’d love and what working conditions you just couldn’t tolerate. First, make your hissy fit list, as in what from your current work life you hate. She says to include non-work stuff too, if it really gets your blood boiling. Second, make your “squeals of delight” list and include all the things in your daily life that make you feel tons of joy (again, work- and non-work-specific). Next, pay attention to the themes that emerge and use them as indicators for the kind of work environment you’ll feel warm and fuzzy in. An example from the book that resonates: if small talk and networking make your skin crawl, chances are you won’t feel so great in a traditional corporate office.
4. Always remember that social media is just a highlight reel
We all know this deep down but it’s the easiest thing to forget when you’re sitting at the office feeling sorry for yourself and your Insta feed is just shiny biz trips and professional humblebrags. Vermunt urges us to remember that what most people show on social media is the positive stuff, or, as she puts it, “we are all occasionally full of shit.” The sooner we have this tattooed on our brains, the better.
5. Search for clues to what your true passion is in your job history (even if you p. much *hate* all of it)
“When you use your work history as a teaching tool, the dots start to connect,” Vermunt writes. “You notice that your previous experiences were there to teach you something about yourself, and making a career change, even a radical one, no longer feels like you’ve been wasting years of your life.” Vermunt suggests going as far back as you can remember (like, babysitting jobs back) and writing down two things you genuinely liked about each of your former jobs. It can be v. v. hard to mine anything positive from a soul-crushing gig but there are good things hiding and, as Vermunt explains, “it’s all valuable stuff.” Next—you guessed it—look at the themes that emerge (for example, Vermunt herself had reporter, advisor, and marketer in her career history; the common themes that emerged from all of those gigs were creating, organizing, and helping). The through-lines you identify could be an important ingredient for a fulfilling new career, she explains.
6. Don’t apologize for the hustle
Making a huge career shift almost always comes with a tricky transitional time when you might have to take on freelance or part-time work that might not be directly related to your recently-identified passion. Vermunt says people feeling sheepish or embarrassed about this is super-common. She urges us to “remove the cloak of shame around the various ways we make money” and own the damn hustle. Working part-time at a retail store while you write your book? OWN it, Vermunt says. #PREACH.
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