Sometimes clients come to me because they are struggling at work, feeling like they’re not making progress, not getting on with people or feeling like they don’t fit in.

Platitudes and empathy might help here, but there are times when you have to point out that one or all of the above are true. Not necessarily because of something the person is doing wrong or not doing at all, but because they are in the wrong place.

Sometimes you have to accept you are a square peg in a round hole and move on.

A conversation I’ve had time and again goes along the lines of:

Me: “Yes, I see you are struggling. Can you think why that might be?”

Client: “I don’t know but I just feel like I’m failing. I’ve tried and tried but it’s just not working.”

Me: “Why do you think you are failing?”

Client: “Well, (gives example) …”

Me: “OK, but in that example I’m not hearing that you’re failing. I’m hearing something isn’t working so let’s explore that in a bit more detail…”

After a while, what usually emerges isn’t that the client is failing but that they are in the wrong role or environment for their strengths, values, working style and sometimes for their expertise. It can happen. We take a turn or accept an invitation and end up in a place that wasn’t quite what we expected. But we are programmed to keep pushing, keep trying harder, keep trying to be good enough to make headway.

My next question is: “Have you thought that maybe this isn’t the right role (or environment) for you to succeed in?”

In short, maybe it’s them, not you.

It can be a relief or distressing to make this realisation, or a combination of both. There’s usually recrimination about how they ended up there and what they did wrong but once we’ve worked through that and put it in perspective, there’s the question of ‘how do you get out’?

And it’s important to accept that you may have to leave, that whatever you try, you cannot thrive where you are. I think about it like plants. Some like shade, some like sun and they’ll rarely do well in the wrong climate. Yes you can try, you can feed them and nurture them but at the end of the day, they might grow a bit but they just won’t flourish in the wrong environment.

One thing I’ve always had is a feeling in my gut, an instinct for when something isn’t working or is the wrong decision. It took me years and some wrong turns to learn to trust it, but even when I’d chosen something and it wasn’t working, I learned to have the confidence to change. Not always straight away, but I embraced that my instinct was right and I made plans to change.

Choice is important. Change is liberating.

And I’m now prepared to choose me, to walk away and choose something else. Why? Because I know what I’m good at. And I know how and where I can thrive.

Yes, there have been hard times. Yes, there have been times when I’ve had to stay in a role or company for practical or financial reasons. But acknowledging that you’re in the wrong role or place helps you feel like there is an exit. And, just so we are clear, it’s not because you’re failing.

If you’ve tried everything you can and it still doesn’t work, maybe you need to accept it’s not you, it’s them.

If you’d like help to move forward or gain some perspective on whether you’re in the right place to thrive, why not contact me and see where a session of Career + CV Therapy can take you?

Email louise@careertherapy.co.uk
Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by Dose Media on Unsplash

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