Work that makes you happy: Expert advice from Careergasm’s Sarah Vermunt
Sarah Vermunt has helped clients through some major career transitions. One started as a Wall Street lawyer and became a fashion photographer. Another went from banker to brewmaster. Then there was the TV producer who set up shop as a life coach.
And while big shifts helped these three, not everyone needs such a radical change to find happiness at work. “Sometimes a 180-degree change isn’t necessary,” Vermunt says. “Sometimes a small change — just 10 or 15 degrees in another direction — can feel radical, and that’s what’s important.”
Her own career transition was one of these semi-moderate course-corrections. Sarah has gone from burnt-out business professor to ultra-successful coach and best-selling author. Her book, Careergasm: Find your way to feel-good work, came out in March, and very quickly became a bestseller in Canada.
All that to say, this is someone who clearly knows her stuff when it comes to building a career that works. So, we asked Sarah for advice on finding a job that can really make you happy.
Workopolis: Careergasm is dedicated to “anyone who dreads Monday morning,” which it turns out is a lot of people. Why do you think so many people are doing work that doesn’t make them happy?
Sarah Vermunt: People are afraid of what making a change might mean. Many people have this fear that if they choose work that will make them happy they’ll end up living in a van down by the river. Not so! There are all kinds of ways to move toward more fulfilling work, but fear keeps us paralyzed.
Following other people’s lead is a part of the problem too. If you have a parent or a spouse or friends who taught you that you have to suck it up and do a job you hate, you’ll start to believe that’s just the way it is. Incorrect assumptions keep a lot of people who could be happy in jobs that make them miserable. So, they keep the crap job and start to feel the impending Monday morning dread every Sunday evening.
So, if someone looks around and sees other people doing work that makes them happy and they’re jealous, what can they do?
If you hate your job and you see other people doing work that makes them happy, of course you’re going to be jealous! And while jealousy is an unpleasant feeling, it can be a very useful tool.
We’re not usually jealous of a person’s entire life, but rather some specific things about their life. Like maybe the fact that they get to be creative in their work, or that they had the guts to take a risk and start their own business, or that they work for an organization with a progressive work culture, or that they didn’t let their fear stop them from making a radical change.
If you drill down to the specifics of what you’re jealous of, it will give you clues about what you want. It’s then your job to get you moving in the right direction.
What would you tell someone who’s currently at a career crossroads – getting ready to start down a new path, but not quite clear which direction they want to take?
Almost everyone I work with feels lost. They’re desperate for a change, but have no freaking clue what they want. Here’s my advice for those folks: It’s almost impossible to have everything mapped out before you start — whether you’re a new grad, in the middle of a career change, or an aspiring entrepreneur.
Risk is always going to be a part of change, so you have to be okay with a bit of uncertainty. This drives people crazy. Including myself. My inner control freak wants to have every little detail mapped out, but that’s not how life works. With that said, I think it’s necessary to have at least some clarity before you leap. Clarity first, strategy second. Your next thing isn’t likely to stick if you just panic and pick something out of left field, which is what a lot of people do when they have a crappy day at work and start rage scrolling through job postings. I actually have a free five-week Careergasm crash course to help people to think about what they want so they can get unstuck.
What do you say to people who know what they want to do, but don’t believe they can turn it into a career?
Get more information. A lot of people give up on a dream before they gather enough information. They assume it will be too hard and they just settle for something else.
One thing I have people do is to gather information from real people doing the kind of work they want to do. The best way to do that is through informational interviews, which is just talking to people to see if you can learn from their experience — what it’s like, how they got started, etc.
And if someone reads this and thinks, ‘What I really want to do is what Sarah is doing…’ What’s your advice?
Get yourself some coach training and some business training! Both are so important. I know a lot of amazing coaches whose businesses never really take off because they don’t understand the business side of things. And I know some killer business peeps that don’t have proper coach training, which means they might be able to attract people, but not ultimately help them. But the world needs amazing coaches, so just get the training and support you need and get moving!
Sarah Vermunt is the Founder of Careergasm and the author of Careergasm: Find Your Way To Feel-Good Work.