Caught in a Career Crossroad? Unsure of your future?
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Become your own Solution Focused Therapist with these 3 techniques.
I recently spoke to a young lady who was at the crossroads of her career.
She's a young twenty-something year old, who had just resigned from her first ever job out of university as a Marketing Associate. She decided to resign hastily, as she really didn't like the nature of her work.
She was told in her initial interview that her job would be an avenue for creative work. Instead, it turned out to be quite a lot of sales, speaking to clients and managing timelines / budgets.
Sadly, misleading new hires does happen quite often in the hiring process - in any case, her work was the opposite of what she had imagined.
After a year of hanging in there, she finally threw in her letter of resignation without securing her next role (Boomer alert: it's not the 1950s anymore. Keep quiet and go away please).
Yet, doing so at least gave her the space to recuperate. It's what she needed at that time. Now at least, she has much clearer expectations and insights on what working is like - she knew for certain that she wanted to pursue something with a strong focus on being creative.
What that creative thing was, she wasn't quite sure. So here's how asking questions from Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) could help.
A short summary on Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).
As a quick rundown before you get bored, the gist of what this therapy is all about is in its name.
The Solution-Focused part of SFBT describes that it's a therapy that is mainly for people who have unclear goals, or who are stuck in a decision, and are interested in finding a solution. This is opposed to people who want to talk at length about their problems, like in other forms of therapy.
It's also meant to be a brief form of therapy, since the focus is on solutions rather than delving into a problems, like deep diving into your childhood. Often, SFBT can encompass a single therapy session.
So here's the first of three technique from SFBT that I posed as a question to her.
1) The "Exception" question.
Me: "Hey, I totally understand that the last job really kind of sucked. You mentioned you practically hated it. It's amazing you stuck around for so long. Was there anything good about the job that made some days feel okay? Were there exceptions?"
She: "Hmmm. I definitely didn't like the sales and budgeting part of it. I'm not cut out for sales. But I liked that I was handling different things. There was a lot of variety in the projects. Also that that some of my colleagues became close friends that I could talk to and hang out with after work".
Me: "Great! What about the creative part of the job. Were there bits that you liked?"
She: "Ya! I liked designing presentations as well as getting involved in preparing advertising materials for the clients. But, still, it's only a small part of the job."
Me: "Right. So it sounds like if there was more focus for you on the design bits, it'll probably make you happier about the job?"
Asking ourselves the exception question can help us to uncover the things that we inherently like - the things that have the ability to grant us joy, and even the aspects of our work that we truly value.
The truth is, even when we feel so absolutely stuck in a place where we start to hate our existence, dislike our jobs and feel like we are in day prison sometimes, there are always exceptions.
There are things that can give us joy. And these are the same things that we should focus on and making sure they we build more of them into our current work, or in the next career going forward.
For her, we managed to uncover that what she enjoyed were a variety of things to do, good teammates that become like friends, and finding joy in doing creative things.
Now with that in mind, let's paint a clearer picture of her next role.
2) The "Miracle" Question.
Me: "Great. At least we've identified some areas in your previous job that you liked! Let's keep those in mind as we move on, but now, I'm going to ask you a question. It might seem a little odd at first, but do your best to answer. Is that okay?"
Me: "Thanks. Now, suppose that tonight, after you've gone to bed and have fallen asleep, a Miracle occurred. All your problems are solved and now you're in a job that you really love. Since you're sound asleep, you don't know that the miracle has happened. So, when you wake up tomorrow, what would be some of the signs you will notice that the miracle has occurred?"
Her: "Hmmm... (takes a moment to think).. well... I think the first thing I would notice is that I'm excited to go to work. The office would be the kind of open space office and when I get to work, I could say hi to my friends and chit chat."
Me: "Awesome! Okay anything else?"
Her: "Ya, I definitely can see myself doing more creative work. I wouldn't mind continuing working on presentations, or brainstorming and proposing advertisements and commercial ideas to people."
Me: "Great. So it's kinda like what you were doing in your first job?"
Her. "Yes, but much much more of that focus. Hmmmm, but also, I can see myself moving into more film-making or video production too. I guess that is like a little interest of mine."
Me: "Wow, thanks for sharing. You've painted quite a clear picture of your Miracle haven't you? And it sounds like you have two ideas of what you wanted to do next?
Her: "Ya... I guess I did!"
So as you can see, asking yourself the Miracle Question can help you paint an idea of what your life would be when you have a clearer vision of your goals and interests, as well as when all your problems are solved.
In the case of this young lady, it has catapulted her from an over-focus on her problems and feelings of uncertainty, into a story where she is problem-free and happier.
The Miracle Question gives you the freedom to just imagine and rewrite your story of the yourself, bringing you a step towards a happier, better version of you. With more clarity on that self-image, you can start to build a roadmap on how to get to that version of you.
However, do notice that this smart young lady has described two different choices ahead of her:
To still continue as a Marketing Executive but with a strong focus on brainstorming and proposing of advertising ideas.
To pursue her little passion of getting involved in Film- or Commercial-making.
So let's introduce the third technique.
3) The "Scaling" Question.
Me: "Alright, now it seems like you have two choices ahead of you. It sounds like they are both interesting pathways for you to pursue as a career. Is there more certainty now in what you want to do?"
Her. "Kinda. But I'm not sure which one I should focus on. Or at least as a start. I mean, the marketing one I have some experience in, but the film-making one I don't know if I'm good enough?"
Me: "That's really understandable. Okay, I've got a question. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy do you think you would be if you were to make a decision today and go into marketing? 10 being most happy and 1 being unhappy?"
Her: "(takes a while) It would be a 7 or 8.
Me: "Ok cool, I think you see where I'm going with this. So same thing, from 1 to 10 how happy would you be pursuing video production or film-making, even though you don't have a lot of experience there?"
Her: "(super fast speed) Definitely a 5 or 6"
Me: "Well, there is a clear winner there isn't it?"
Her: "Haha yes."
Me: "One last question, since Marketing is already a 7 or 8, what would turn it into a 9 or 10 for you?"
Her: "Definitely knowing that I'll spend 90% of my time in the creative department and also having a good mentor to guide me."
Me: "Great. Well, think about all that you've shared. Don't you think that you've now got quite clear goals on what to look out for and do next in your career?"
Her: "I guess... but do you think I'm too quick to say yes or no to the other option? The film-making one?"
Me: "Hmmm, I don't think so. Your answers haven't come out of nowhere you know. I think it's something you've thought about many times before."
Her: "OMG! Yes! I keep thinking about film-making and stuff but I think it's just a small interest. I do enjoy the marketing part and it's something I keep yapping about to my friends! Thank you!"
Me: "Hahaha. Well, thank you for sharing. I hope you see that you found the answer on your own!
So there you have it. As you can see, I merely facilitated this conversation by asking questions. You can try asking yourself these three questions from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy whenever you feel like you're stuck in a problem, or are inundated by choices.
Sometimes, we logical creatures might tend to overthink things by weighing all the pros and cons, and get caught up in Analysis Paralysis. Yet, often, there already exists a feeling or instinct about what you like or don't like. Try putting a number to it!
So try the above out! Who knows, just like her, you probably have the answers to your own problems already :)
As a disclaimer. This is not a replacement for Counselling or Therapy hor. If you are really struggling, please get professional help. Later I kenna sued.
Take care and thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. That said, if you do get stuck and need someone to listen in, let me know. You can talk to me here!