The phrase square peg in a round hole is an idiom for something that does not fit. There are many women who are living their lives as square pegs in round holes and doing jobs that are just not them.
Sometimes they do not even realise that they are doing this and they continue day in day out, year on year, going to a job that does not give them any fulfilment. There are many reasons why they are in this position. It could be as a result of expectations from their families that caused them to enter a particular profession. It could be that what they wanted in their early career is no longer what they want now that they are in their mid or late career.
Unfortunately some women have become so stuck in a rut, they do not have the confidence to do something different. They go to work, do a good job but their heart just is not in it. Eventually over time, this will take its toll and will start to have an affect on how they feel, feelings of unfulfilment and that their work has no meaning. This can lead to boredom, fatigue, even burnout.
Without meaning and purpose in what you do, it can all seem pointless. What do you think happens when you continuously do something that is pointless?
It does not have to be this way. When you are in the midst of it all, sometimes it can be difficult to see an alternative. This is even more so if financial commitments mean you need this ‘secure’ income to pay the bills and feed the kids.
Often family and friends will also put their fears on to you as well, telling you that you are lucky to have a job in this day and age. Or, there aren’t any secure jobs out there so you better stick with what you are doing. It is easy to absorb the fears of others and make them your own when you do not feel confident about pursuing what it is you really want. The fears of others on top of your own fears magnify the fear and you can then start telling yourself that you are lucky to have a job because there are so many people out of work who cannot find jobs. Whilst you should be grateful that you do have work and are able to pay the bills and put food on the table, you do not have to achieve this by doing something that you do not find fulfilling.
Is this all you want out of life, to do a job just to pay the bills? What about enjoying life and enjoying the work that you do rather than being part of the ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ brigade and constantly wishing the week away.
If this is you and you can’t figure a way out of your situation, ask yourself the following questions to start to provoke your thinking about pursuing a career that you will find fulfilling: –
1. What is keeping you in your current situation?
Is it financial reasons or is it because the hours/location etc fit in with childcare or other caring arrangements? If so, what aspects of your current role do you enjoy? How can you do these more often? What is the possibility of transferring to a different department?
As a single mum for many years, I stayed in one place for 8 years as the location, my financial situation and the flexibility meant that where I was situated worked well for me and my son. When I found the job no longer fulfilled me, what I did to make my job more fulfilling was to take on extra responsibilities that challenged me and further developed my skills. Once my son was of an age where he was more independent, I pursued promotion and alternative roles in different locations.
2. Whose fear is it?
Would you look for another job if people close to you were not telling you that you should stay where you are? If other people were encouraging you to find something else, would you do it or would you still stay as you are because you cannot imagine doing anything else?
If the fear is as a result of what others are telling you, listen to what you truly want and do something about it. If the fears are genuinely yours, speak to someone who can look at your situation objectively and help you to work out how you can overcome them.
3. How will things be if you do nothing?
If you do not do anything about your situation, how will you feel about going in to work day in, day out doing a job that you do not find fulfilling 5, 10, 15… years from now? What impact will this have on your family and your personal life?
4. What do you really want from a career?
Do you want a job that gives you autonomy? Do you want challenge or do you want something that is very routine? Do you want something that is authentic to who you are? Do you like helping others or do you prefer working with figures? Are you a creative person working in a non creative environment?
What do you really want from a career?
The majority of women that I work with are in their mid-late career and are looking to pursue something with meaning and purpose that is authentic to them. However, one of my clients is in her early twenties and has recognised that the career path she had chosen is just not her. As someone who is very creative, studying the sciences was taking its toll and she dropped out of university to establish a business that enables her to use her creativity.
I think that it is amazing that at such a young age she has the courage to cast aside the fears of those close to her and pursue the thing that she is truly passionate about.
5. What will you do about your situation?
If your job is not fulfilling and lacks meaning and purpose for you, no one can do anything about the situation but you. If it is not possible to find fulfilment in what you currently do, speak to someone about how you are feeling and explore the possibilities.
Remember, you do not have to be a square peg in a round hole but it is only you that can do something about it.
Carol Stewart, The London Career Designer, is a Personal Development, Career & Business Coach and founder of Abounding Solutions. She works with women in their forties who are unhappy at work but are too scared to do anything about it. She helps them to develop the confidence to make a career move and find something that they love. This could be a complete career change or it could even be exiting the corporate environment and setting up their own business.
Carol herself made a significant career change in 2011 when at the age of 44 she left the organisation she had worked in for 28 years, went back to university and set up her own business.
She is also a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Member of the Association for Coaching.
Carol’s free ebook ‘5 Steps to Pursuing Your Passion at Mid-Life – A Guide to Designing a Career You Love’ can be downloaded at http://aboundingsolutions.com/ .