Have you ever had the lingering feeling that it’s time to quit a job, even though, on paper, the job looks fantastic?
Stop me if this sounds familiar:
- Have you always dreamed of becoming a (fill in the blank), but haven’t actively pursued it because it’s impractical, it’s too late, or you’re thinking that what you’re doing now is good enough ( when in fact you feel deep in your bones that you don’t).
- When you talk about (fill in the blank), you are lively and excited; when you talk about what you’re doing now, you’re not.
- You are doing well professionally, maybe even exceptionally well, but you always feel like something is missing.
- Your life is good by most standards, but you are still not satisfied.
If any of the above rings true, it’s time I shared with you the best two-word career advice I’ve ever received: Stop hiding.
Since my childhood, I knew that I was born a designer. I was that local kid who always painted, drew and wrote stories about the world, expressing herself through color, emotion and words.
But as I got older and prepared to enter the workforce, I began to suppress my real self, settling for “creative adjoining” roles, like an advertising account manager instead of a copywriter.
Because I really like and work well with people and intuitively understand both strategy and creativity, becoming an Account Manager was a given. I was excellent at it, so naturally I progressed in this area. But the more I managed projects, budgets and people, the less I could express myself and contribute creatively.
Playing it safe, “Account Amy” killed him in his career – and “Creative Amy” along with it.
It wasn’t until years later that a friend called me about this. He noticed that I had unconsciously placed myself on the periphery, but wanted to jump out of the shadows and jump into the action.
He told me it was time to stop hiding.
This two-word career advice opened my eyes and forced me to face what I had neglected for decades: recognize, embrace and put my talents to their best and best use.
And maybe it’s time for you to stop hiding too; Here’s how:
1. Be clear about what you want
If like me, you have passed years of doing the same thing over and over again, suppressing your desires, you must allow yourself the space and grace to revisit a long forgotten dream. Take the time to think and aha a moment or two for clarity.
And even if you already have a good idea of what you want, it helps to seek advice from a trusted friend or mentor. Those who know us best see us through completely different lenses than the ones we see ourselves, and (spoiler alert) are often much nicer and more honest. If you’re not sure what your next step is, confide in someone who can walk you through the disconnect between where you are now and where you want to be. They’ll likely be part cheerleader and part master builder, reminding you to be honest with yourself about what you want.
2. Overcome your fear by changing the narrative
Why are we hiding? Because it’s less risky than exposing yourself.
We are afraid of being vulnerable or of being ridiculed. We wonder why we have the audacity to think that we could get what we really want, plagued by “impostor syndrome”, foolishly believing that we are not good enough. Or somewhere along the way, well-meaning individuals sowed doubt in our minds, convincing us that pursuing what we wanted was a bad idea because it was too late or impractical. These negative stories resonate in our heads, stagnating our growth and preventing us from pursuing our dreams.
To overcome your fear you have to change the narrative, and that starts with the stories you tell yourself. For example, when you switch from “I could never be one (whatever you want)” to “I am one (whatever you want)”, you replace the self-sabotage discourse with an affirmation discourse of self, helping you let go of limiting beliefs and adopt a growth mindset.
Words have power, especially the ones you say – or don’t say – to yourself.
3. Take action to stand out
When you clearly know what you want and change the way you talk about yourself, the next (and most important) step is to step out of the shadows and take action.
For me that meant introducing myself as a writer. When I stopped hiding, amazing things started to happen. People “saw” me – the right people. And I’m not just talking about clients who trust my creative abilities or those who have engaged with my content. The most important person who finally saw me as “Creative Amy” was the woman who looked at me in the mirror.
Real change happens when you align your attention with your intention and then take action. Because action breeds more action, and when you finally heed the advice to stop hiding, your career path will change for the better.