The 5-Minute Exercise That Will Save You a Lifetime of Career Frustrations

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image courtesy of Jonas' Design

I spent 26 years of life thinking I was someone else.

I thought I was practical, assertive, competitive, traditional, and extroverted. I thought I was the perfect candidate for climbing the corporate ladder. I recall wrapping up all-nighters in college reasoning it would all be worth it because I was gonna have this big job someday.

There were so many things I wanted to study–psychology, sociology, nutrition, counseling–but c’mon. I was a business girl, right? I took myself very seriously. Those subjects were nice, but where would they lead me? Not to a high-powered, high paycheck position, and that’s where I just knew I was headed. Because I was SO GOOD at college. I loved every second of it and studied my face off and would have gladly studied more.

And so you do great in college, and then you graduate and start working for a big business, and start building this beautiful, impressive career, right? That’s how it worked, right? I was so smart and so hardworking, and people like me ruled Corporate America…right? We worked in business, because what else is there? Academia? Counseling? Mmm hmm. And how much do those pay?

Right. I’m built for more than that.

These were my mostly subconscious thoughts. This is what I believed about myself.

And then I entered the business world and it fucking trampled me.

Not Knowing Who You Are Totally Screws You

Every job I’ve had post college has made me cry. Often and hard. Each one of them–all marketing roles–caused me so much stress that I was unhappy pretty much all the time.

I always felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, and I always felt like all the information I was supposed to understand was scrambled in my head. Clients adored me because I’m polite and genuine and appropriate and it’s impossible not to like me, but I struggled to perform and meet their expectations. I spent almost every weekend working because I was constantly behind, and I allocated most of my free time to trying to teach myself all this stuff my coworkers seemed to just naturally grasp.

I should have been fired from all these jobs. But my managers knew I was working my ass off, and I think they probably felt sorry for me. I also think they didn’t know how to help me, because I sounded like I knew what I was doing. (Sidenote: The ability to speak intelligently has gotten me into so much trouble. People who sound like they know what they’re talking about do not get training or support to better understand what they’re talking about. They are not “squeaky wheels,” if you will, and so they get no “grease.”)

And here’s the crazy thing: I’ve actually been rather successful. I’ve gotten promotions and awards and raises. It seems counterintuitive, and it is, but I got these things for one main reason: I WORKED NON-STOP. I was able to be a productive employee in some of these roles. A high achiever, even. But it’s because I spent countless unpaid hours educating myself and playing catch-up.

I knew on some level there was a disconnect here. I knew it shouldn’t be like this. But I just kept blaming myself and citing inadequacy. I berated myself for not being smart enough or efficient enough or level-headed enough.

I had no idea I was simply a terrible fit for business.

You Think You Know, But You Have No Idea

It was maybe October or so of last year, and I was crying on the phone to my mom about work, a common scene. I’d heard my company was considering eliminating my whole team and outsourcing our work instead. I wondered out loud why shit like this kept happening to me. Why was it one frustration after another?

My mom said something she’d said before, but for some reason, this time, the words shook me: “Marketing isn’t a good fit for you, and it never has been.”

I bawled. I begged my mom to just tell me what to do. I had no idea what was a good fit for me.

I had no idea who I was.

I knew I had to figure my shit out, and I decided to approach my “good careers for Cassie” exploration with a pretend clean slate, as if I were considering for the first time what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to keep all options open and rule nothing out. It was apparent I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, and I had to get myself back on track. I accepted that this may very likely mean I’d have to let go of the years of experience I was clinging to. Staying in the industry because I felt too far in to backtrack was clearly not worth it.

As I explored, I was reintroduced to the Jung Typology Test while reading Penelope Trunk’s blog. I’d studied it in grad school (I actually took a Career Counseling course) and even took the assessment then, but failed to recognize the significance of type studies or my results. After seeing Penelope recommend it so highly, I retook it in my “clean slate” frame of mind, taking care to ignore anything I thought I knew about myself, and to just answer as honestly as I could. (This is key. Don’t let your perception of yourself influence your results; it’s probably wrong. Example: I’m an exceptional communicator and fantastic conversationalist, so people called me an extrovert all my life, a totally misguided notion. The first time I took the test, I scored as an extrovert, because I answered like an extrovert. Forget what you think you know about you; just answer honestly.)

This time, my results had a huge impact.

Determining Your Personality Type Totally Saves You

I read description after description of the INFJ personality type, and was overwhelmed by the accuracy and the insight I now had into my own natural preferences, strengths, and inclinations. Everything made sense. Now I knew why I’d sucked so hard at all my jobs. Now I knew why I’d look at all my coworkers with their attention on the work in front of them and think, how are they focusing?! How do they keep their brains from dreaming and imagining and considering and philosophizing so they can get their shit done? Now I knew why my work felt like it was killing me.

I was so relieved to learn I wasn’t just deeply flawed as a member of working society, and so pumped up to feel like I had some solid information to guide me as I continued on this ideal career journey.

Things snowballed from there. I was a figure-my-shit-out powerhouse. I made significant progress every day. I knew who I was, and I knew how to help myself.

YOU HAVE GOT TO DO THIS. You have got to figure out your true personality type, and let the implications determine your career path.

Or, you could just feel that awful frustrated feeling forever. Your choice.

***

Discuss

Do you know your personality type? Have you ever sensed a disconnect between your personality and your work? Have you determined what is and what isn’t a good fit for you?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Chris says:

    I totally understand your frustrations. I too am an INFJ

    Now I knew why I’d look at all my coworkers with their attention on the work in front of them and think, how are they focusing?! How do they keep their brains from dreaming and imagining and considering and philosophizing so they can get their shit done?

    Oh. My. Goodness. That describes, very poignantly, how I feel all the time. I thought I was just distracted or dysfunctional. I took the MBTI assessment a few weeks ago and I am still learning what it all means to me.

    Reply
    • Cassie says:

      Wow it feels SO GOOD for someone to relate to that, Chris. I have honestly been trying to describe the feeling for about three years now, and was never able to. I eventually said it this way, and felt a strange sense of relief that I had finally put it into words. I told my boyfriend and my best friend and my mom, and they listened respectfully like they always do, but they didn’t get it. I could tell. And I should have known. Why should they, really? It’s obviously not common to experience this.

      Anyway, this happens a lot–I find a way to articulate something, and I tell loved ones, and they’re so sweet about it but just can’t relate, and I’m left disappointed. Really nice to hear it meant something to you!

      Best of luck figuring out what your type means for you. I’m such a big believer in it!

      Reply
  2. Jeff says:

    Nice article, Cassie. The only time I ever took a personality test it told me I should be a mime. So I became a Graphic Designer instead.

    Reply
  3. Lynn says:

    Great article. My first job at a Fortune 500 chewed me up and spit me out. My struggles closely align with the scenarios you describe in this post. I’m sure many people can relate. I thought I could educate my way to happiness, but I wasn’t taking time to learn who I was. We need all kinds of people to be a successful society. Feeling like death in an extrovert’s role doesn’t mean you are flawed or have social anxiety. You could simply be cramming yourself into a personality type that doesn’t fit.

    Reply
  4. Allison says:

    I commented on another post of yours “The Best Career Advice I Ever Got” – and I just had to reply again.

    It is like listening to myself when I read your post.

    I was the art kid my entire life, but for some reason I always pictured myself as a corporate mogul. A pant-suit bitch. And upon entering college I switched from being a graphic design major to a Marketing major in the highly acclaimed B-school at my University (which I now regret doing). It was the “right” move, the powerful move, the move that would guarantee my ass a cushy office with a view one day.

    I ended up in Corporate Retail and the lack of humanity there was enough to push me out. I too worked LONG hours, I worked harder then the others on my team, but it just was not for me and one day I was like WTF am I doing, this is going no where. I am on the track to promotion, but I don’t want that job.

    People loved me, just like you said, but I think my biggest talents are my acting skills. I am also nice, pleasant, a know-to-what-say type of lady.

    I ended up leaving that job to work for the family business, which was an interesting experience in itself. I am slowly on the path to either getting enough balls to take a leap or finding a good opportunity in a career I might like.

    Okay, that is all I had to say back to this post. Just couldn’t contain how pumped I was to read the similarities!

    Reply
    • Cassie says:

      DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS? Seriously, my heart breaks for you, but it’s so nice to hear someone feels like I do! Let’s keep in touch. :)

      Reply
      • Allison says:

        Haha yes … it’ll be all good though. Even though it has been confusing, I already feel 10x better knowing I’m sticking to my guns this time!

        XO

        Reply

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