“How Do I Find Out What I'm Good At?”

Lucy's confidence has been hit hard. She knows it's time to move on, but, despite everything she's done, she can't see what skills she could use in another role. What do you do when nothing's becoming clearer?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm a software developer.

After graduating, I worked as a software developer for a very small company (although my role actually involved much more than just software development).

After a few years I found a new role working for a logistics company as a web developer. It was after becoming unhappy in this role that I moved into my current job.

How do you feel about your work?

I feel like a misfit.

I thought this role would lead to lots of new opportunities, but actually I've ended up feeling trapped in a position that is neither rewarding nor interesting to me.

I enjoy the salary (although I feel that I don't deserve it) and my place of work is fairly close to home, so the commute is convenient. I admire the ideas behind the products that the company is producing, although they're poorly managed and badly written.

But I feel very uncomfortable a lot of the time from being a rare female in a very masculine environment. There's a lot of bad language and negativity that is passed off as 'banter'. For example, I am recently married and I earn an equal wage to my husband, so it's quite frustrating hearing some of my male colleagues speak about being breadwinners while their wives "spend all their money on shopping".

I've worked in male-dominated environments before, but they were mature, friendly, professional and understanding. In this role, I find the conversations childish; in fact, they distance me from my team.

I don't enjoy sitting in front of a computer all day every day. I don't like being a 'code monkey' with no real involvement or opportunity to give my input into projects. I hate waking up every morning dreading the day to come, and coming home upset every evening. And I don't enjoy doing work that is not rewarding, where I don't feel valued, and where communication is poor.

I'm just a resource. I feel like anybody could do my job just the same, if not better. This is mainly because my confidence is so low.

I've approached my manager about my issues in a professional manner, but he's not been able to make any changes that encourage my confidence or to allow me to work on my skills. I find that I'm getting more and more upset about my situation. The last few discussions we've had have been quite difficult: he's been stern with me, told me that I'm weak, and that I should just be more confident, as if I could just switch my feelings on and off.

This has made me feel even more that the whole situation is my fault.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'm not sure about what exact job role I would like, but I do know a few things.

I know that I would like a more customer-facing role, so that I am not staring at a computer all day.

I don't want a role that involves being knowledgeable about computers or technology. In fact, I want to move away from that whole world.

I want to work with like-minded people in a professional and friendly environment.

I want a job that is rewarding, engaging and worthwhile.

I'd love to be able to see evidence of my work and how it has made a real difference to people's lives.

I'd like to work in an environment where people said good morning, and took time to turn away from their computers for a friendly conversation.

It would be nice if my colleagues had similar interests, so that we could talk about them sometimes, and if they spoke about family in a positive way.

And, most of all, I need my confidence back.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I don't know what I'm good at.

I have found many career routes of interest to me, but they are varied. I'm drawn to things ranging  from business analysis to primary school teaching, or even something where I promote a healthy lifestyle.

But, because I'm struggling to identify my skills, I'm not sure which route to take.

And I'm worried that if I get it wrong, I'll end up in a role where I'm just not good enough, or where it's completely unfulfilling.

I've done lots of research; I've contacted careers advisors; I've made mind maps trying to work out who I am and what I want; and I've discussed things with friends and family (who are hugely supportive). However, nothing's getting any clearer.

I feel very lost.

How on earth do I go about finding out what my skills are?

Can you help Lucy?

  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Lucy could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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