For eighteen years, I got up every day and went to work at a job that I didn’t particularly like in an industry that didn’t excite me. The money was great, the perks and benefits were unmatched and the company was stable, providing long-term job security. Some might even confuse it with living the American dream. But my heart just was not into this job. Day after day, I went in because I thought that’s what one was supposed to do. Finally, feeling like a rat running endlessly on a wheel and going nowhere I concluded it was time for change. But what choices exist when there is one skill on your resume and you’re midway through your working career? When I learned about TTI Success Insights and the sciences they use to help companies put the right people in the right positions, I was intrigued, albeit with an air of skepticism. If it were so simple, why hadn’t I been exposed to this groundbreaking information earlier?
Deeper than DISC
Though I had not worked with TTI Success Insights previously, I had been introduced to DISC earlier in my career as a sales executive and later sales manager. But that particular DISC came from another provider and did not contain any of the other sciences which help to show the entire picture. In the case of my first exposure to DISC, the program had labeled me a leader (true), someone fast paced and self-motivated (true) and someone who should excel in sales (also true.) Sure, I was a good salesperson but I was not a happy salesperson. Though this company’s DISC said I would be good at my position, it didn’t analyze my motivators, missing a key piece of puzzle. And because of this, I continued to work every day for eighteen years doing a job I simply didn’t like to do.
Sure, I developed skills and a track record of success. I did well in my field and built up a reputation as a solid, reliable worker. My outward face was always positive, but inside I began to dislike, and later loathe, going into work every day. All success aside, I am living proof that if you don’t enjoy what you do, and have no passion for it, you are fighting an uphill battle and will never realize your potential. It’s neither good for the individual nor the company.
Sales is a competitive field and I am a brutally competitive person by nature. But competitiveness is relative. It’s fun to compete in areas one enjoys, such as sports or poker. When the passion isn’t part of the equation, the drive for competition wanes quickly. How exactly, then, did I get myself in this predicament to begin with?
Discovering your passion
As a communication major, journalism was a primary area of study within the major. I realized very early on that writing appealed to me and came fairly easy to me. It was also my saving grace throughout my entire school career, achieving “A” grades on papers to counteract my typically average “C” test scores. When a professor would announce an assignment of writing a paper, the class sighed while I thought quietly to myself, “thank goodness.”
During my junior year in college, I decided that becoming a writer would be my path for employment upon graduation. If it’s true you are supposed to do something you love as your job, then this certainly fit the bill.
Driving in the wrong direction
As luck would have it, I took a business prep class around the same time I settled on journalism as a career goal and one of the tenets of the class was to write a resume and send it out. And, we were instructed to participate in any interviews that might come throughout the process. After all, this would be great professional experience.
I sent out exactly one resume, to a blind p.o. box, not knowing what company I was applying to. A few weeks later I received a phone call from this company, and the company just happened to be Cleveland, Ohio’s major daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer. It seemed like an act of serendipity; just having identified my potential career path as a writer. I saw this as a golden opportunity to work for the major daily newspaper, even if at first, it wasn’t in a journalist position. So much for a “learning experience” interview, I wanted this job!
It turned out that the job indeed was not a writing position, instead it was a sales position. As a young, energetic, competitive person, I was undeterred, believing that just getting my foot in the door was all it would take to eventually get me into the position that I wanted, the writing position. I already envisioned myself as either the music writer or the baseball beat writer. Either way, I couldn’t lose. If selling a few classified ads helped me along the path, so be it.
I got the job, rearranged my school scheduled, and figured out a way to accommodate my impossible schedule. I somehow crammed a forty-hour work week, twenty-credit hours of school (considered full time and half) along with band practice three nights a week. In addition to pursuing my college degree, I also happened to be founder, lead guitarist, songwriter, manager and public relations director for a local Cleveland band, Dreamer. No rest for wicked it has been said, and it was never more true than during that period of my life.
Selling came easy and at first had relatively little stress involved with it. The job was easy and paid fairly well. Even though it didn’t satisfy my soul, it delivered a nice income for a single, 21-year-old male who now was able to discover a new found freedom. I purchased my first house at the age of 22 in Cleveland, Ohio, as I worked toward finishing my degree.
Fast forward about a year or so and I made that trek downstairs to the editorial department to inquire about getting my REAL job; you know, the writing job that I planned to get from the moment I first interviewed with this company. Though I was confident and typically did well at whatever I set my mind to, I wasn’t prepared for the blunt answer I received at that meeting. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I worked for a top 20 newspaper in the country and that absolutely nobody, including me, was going to get their “start” here. I was instructed that if I wanted to even be considered for employment, I’d have to go elsewhere, build up a resume of at least five years journalist work experience, and then I’d have the chance to re-apply, with absolutely, positively no guarantees of anything.
I didn’t see that coming. The world had come pretty easy to me up to that point and I assumed falling into the journalist career would be much of the same. When I picked up my shattered psyche and thought about next steps, I realized that I had been given the “golden handcuffs” by this company. Having earned a few notable raises by this point, I was making good money, had extensive paid vacation, the world’s greatest medical benefits and a hearty 401(k). But more importantly, I now had a house payment to consider, so walking away from this seemingly golden goose was much less of an option knowing that every 1st of the month I needed to have a check ready for my local savings and loan to maintain that cool new roof over my head.
Living with work stress
As I transitioned from inside to outside sales, the golden handcuffs got tighter and tighter. On the plus side, my 401(k) was growing substantially, my vacation expanded to four weeks, I was thought of as a rising star in the company, earmarked for an eventual management position. Being raised by my grandparents, I witnessed first-hand people working for one company their whole lives, intent to earn a living, support their family, and eventually retire with a modest pension and a watch. And just maybe, they’d live long enough to enjoy retirement.
My rise up the company ladder may sound like a success story but, internally, it was far from it. Sure, twice a year I took one hell of a vacation, living it up to the fullest. But the other fifty weeks I was miserable. Long about noon on any given Sunday, I’d start getting the churning in my stomach knowing I had to endure five more days of this internal struggle between doing what I should do and doing what I want to do. There were people at the company who loved what they did; I just wasn’t one of them. I didn’t like sales, the stress, the expectations and the monotony of selling what amounted to blank space on a piece of paper (ads in a newspaper) for two owners that I never met. It was so unsatisfying knowing that if I dropped dead today, there would be another body in my Office Space-like cubicle the very next day doing the same monotonous job that I did, day in and day out and that I probably wouldn’t even be missed. This was certainly no way to leave a legacy, something that was, is and will always be important to me.
After finally leaving after eighteen years of service, I reinvented myself with an extreme career shift as a professional beer brewer. Brewing was satisfying because not only was I active, I was creating a product that people enjoyed and responded to. I felt like I was doing something worthwhile. Unfortunately, the $9 per hour wage (which I negotiated up from the $8 that was offered) simply wasn’t a long-term option, especially after making nearly six figures for several years preceding this major career change.
So what happens when the money runs dry? You run back to your uncomfort zone. My resume dictated I was a successful sales executive and manager so I went back to my personal demon, the sales industry, against every ounce of my internal instincts. Let me take a moment to declare that there is nothing wrong with sales; it’s a fantastic field for many people. And it’s a field that is absolutely needed in the marketplace. It’s just not the career that I believe I was put on this Earth to perform. And to date I have about 25 years total experience to know what I’m talking about.
My thought process this time around was that if I sold something I enjoyed, I may enjoy the sales industry much more. To that end I began selling craft beer. Sure there were some positives, especially the happy hours and the beer festivals. But, at the end of the day, I was still selling something. And I still didn’t enjoy the process. After a year or two, I’d lose interest in a particular job and move on. And then I did it again. I started to believe I had some sort of attention deficit disorder that made me lose interest these jobs. I blamed myself because I didn’t have the tools, such as the sciences of TTI Success Insights, to realize that I was doing the wrong thing all along.
Rediscovering passion for career
After departing my last and final sales job, I decided to return to an arena that I was passionate about - writing. I didn’t know how, where or when, but I decided to do whatever it took to succeed in the industry. Within a week, I became a freelance beer specialist writer for two local Phoenix area publications. The New Times paid me for my work, albeit very little, and I worked for The Entertainer absolutely gratis for an entire year to prove myself and build a resume. If nothing more, I was dedicated, and sometimes hungry due to the lack of income. Most of all, I was determined to break the chains of sales once and for all to do something I enjoy.
Honing my craft freelancing for a year and half instilled me with the confidence that not only could I be a writer, but I could excel in this field. Wanting to find the right fit with a company with which I could build a career, I scanned the various job sites looking for the perfect fit. It was going to be a two way process; I was going to interview the company as much as they were going to interview me. This had to be a fit for both sides.
Using DISC and Driving Forces to uncover potential
When I saw TTI Success Insights was hiring, I was intrigued. I knew they were on the cutting edge of DISC, and having taken DISC years earlier I was eager to learn more. However, I was well aware that DISC told me that I had the ideal qualities to be a successful salesperson, so I was cautiously optimistic that I could learn a little something more about myself and my place in the working world.
After completing my behavioral profile (DISC) and Driving Forces assessments, together known as the Talent Insights Report, I learned a tremendous amount about myself, especially how it pertains to employment. It turns out I am extremely competitive, which I knew, but also that I am extremely urgent, with both categories scoring a top score of 100. On the surface, this may indicate characteristics of a successful salesperson. Looking deeper, I’m also versatile and adapt to change well. And I’m extremely harmonious, meaning that beauty in my surroundings is important to me. This presents a conflict with a sales position where things are pretty similar, day in and day out, and never visually stimulating. But in writing, creativity is only limited by the mind’s ability to envision what it wants to envision. I can write about whatever I want to and immediately transport myself into the story I happen to be writing. And, I can complete that assignment wherever I care to complete it; inside, outside, at the park or by the pool.
It was the driving forces that really told the tale. My strongest driving force is Intentional, meaning I want to help people to achieve a specific purpose. I will rally “all-in” for a specific cause, but I’m not altruistic across the board. The moment of clarity for me came when I realized my second biggest driving force is Harmonious, and even more telling was that I was two standard deviations higher than the average person in this category, putting me in the “extreme” category. With my harmonious being so strong and dominant, it may actually be, in many cases, the main reason why I do the things I do and act the way I act. I need to be in a work environment that is appealing to me and avoid the mundane, boring and unexciting. And I viewed sales as exactly that; making that career an obvious non-fit based on my driving forces.
Driving forces: how to find the perfect career
When I combined what I learned about myself through DISC and the driving forces report, I was finally able to see the complete picture. For the first time I not only saw how I did what I did, but why I tended to do the things I do. It became crystal clear that I needed to pursue a career in a field that allowed me to help people where I was inclined to do so, and writing does that. And it was also clear that I needed to do something that made me feel like I was accomplishing something meaningful, to stay in line with my harmonious driving force. As the staff writer at TTI Success Insights, not only have I found that proper career that matches my driving forces, I have my own employer to thank for opening my eyes to this revealing and extremely accurate assessment of my best career path to follow.
To learn more about DISC, Driving Forces or any of the other valuable tools TTI Success Insights has to offer please click here to be directed to the website.