Cultivate career success with self-discovery, a long-term plan and persistence

Dear Joan:

I am having what many now call the Quarter-Life Crisis. I feel like my life is collapsing around me but I have this piece of hope left but I need guidance.
I am a 23 year old female and I have been at my company now for almost six months and have recently transitioned into a sales role and I feel like I am now pulling teeth, and every day I feel like I’m losing more and more of myself at a job that is completely not me.
I have no way to grab my creative passions (which I have still yet to figure out exactly). I really want to do something drastic like move to NYC and leave Orange County but these are my dilemmas: I don’t have another job lined up, I have no savings and I probably won’t for a while. It seems like I’m in a no-win situation...I get paid, and then pay my bills and nothing is left to save after taxes. I have no credit or credit cards to help support me if I needed to.
On top of that, my parents have lost everything financially, even their home, and they are staying with my grandma in a one bedroom and now my grandma is dying of cancer.  Ultimately I support myself 100% and have no one to help me so I live alone, pay my rent and bills, and pretty much have nowhere else to live if I want to get out of the rent situation.
Please help me! I feel stuck. I make decent money, but I have endless bills and I’m trying to still pay off random things from my past when I was irresponsible. I want to move into a job I love and also launch this website I’ve been wanting to do, but right now I don’t know how to figure out what I should do first and how.
Can you please help? I feel like I can’t work here one more day, straining at a computer screen, and I’m starting to feel like I’m cheating my great boss because I don’t have it in me to cold call and sell anymore but get paid for it...
 I just want to get up & move! How?
If life were like a movie, we’d be able to find our life’s passion just at the moment all seems lost. Some twist of plot would open up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we would be millionaires by the time we were thirty.
I remember having a meltdown in my twenties…I wanted to leave my job and do something that would channel my ambition and passion but I just had no clue what that would be. Looking back now, I realize I found what I was looking for but the journey had far more twists and turns than I ever could have imagined. The secret was finding out what my special talents were and being persistent in searching for ways to apply them.
Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. By that I mean there are a few things you probably need to do first to discover what those special talents are before you can start moving toward something you love. If you jump without any plan at all you could just end up more frustrated as you hop from job to job. Then you will have a checkered past to explain away.
First, do some legwork on your own to discover your strengths and skills. Think back to your school experiences—activities you enjoyed, clubs you were in—what were you good at and what interested you most? What have supervisors, parents, teachers and friends said were your talents?
What is your dream job that you would do for free if you could? Ask your friends what they think you’d be good at. Once you have a list, it’s time to schedule time with some people who could guide and mentor you. You may even want to meet with a career counselor to help you with a plan.
In my situation I couldn’t afford a counselor, so I identified a few broad career areas and began to ask my friends and acquaintances who they knew in related fields. I was surprised at how much help people were willing to give me. I asked questions about what their jobs were like; I shared my perceived strengths; and asked them where they thought my skills would be an asset.
Over time, I began to hear a consistent message about the two or three fields that might be a good fit for me. Often they would refer me on to talk to other people and my focus got sharper on what I wanted and on the people I wanted to meet.
Once you have a better sense of the direction you want to go, you may even want to have a conversation with your boss. You say that you have a great boss, so why not ask for some career advice? Simply explain that you would like to discuss some career options and get some input on your strengths and weaknesses. You shouldn’t mention that you hate you job but it’s okay to ask him or her what other jobs you might be qualified for. If you are a hard worker and your boss is a good developer of people, he or she will probably be willing to help you, even if it means you end up moving to a different job.
If you find that you are so ill suited for your job that you are at risk of getting fired, start looking for a different job immediately. Suck it up and keep your performance at a level that keeps you out of trouble until you can find a new job.
In the meantime, pay down your debts and get a credit card so you can start developing a credit rating. Be careful with the card and keep to your budget. Once you are free of the debt, you will be in a much better financial position to make a geographic move if you want to.
Moving across country to start over is fine if you know what it is you want to do. Just moving to get the sensation that you are “doing something” could be a mistake. You’ll just be in a foreign place with the same questions and no support system.
You are much smarter to do this investigative work in your own backyard using the resources you already have. For example, networking usually uncovers job opportunities and you will likely stumble upon jobs that would be a better fit for you. Many people start out in a field in their home towns and once they get a track record then take that experience to different jobs in different cities—expenses paid by the new employer.
I know the feeling of just wanting the magic answer to the burning question: What is my dream job? It may seem trite but the answer lies in the journey as much as in the destination.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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