Let's imagine you are about to talk to an unhappy customer. You've known for the last few days that this awkward conversation was coming and you are dreading it.
Here's another way of looking at the same event.
It's a chance to show how well you can use your professional skills.
Do it well and you can add it to your list of stories to tell next time you go for promotion or apply for another job. Treat every challenging experience as an opportunity to add to your collection of stories you can tell in 30 seconds.
Your future interview panel is likely to ask: 'Tell us about a time when you handled a challenging conversation' or 'Tell us about a time you gave excellent customer service/managed competing demands/worked well with others'. You get the picture.
It's called 'behavioural event interviewing' and it's based on the idea that past perfomance predicts future performance. It's very common. Flawed, but common.
Behavioural event interviewing also tests a candidate's ability to remember relevant examples while stressed. Unless you prepare your stories to tell, your best responses may be in the car on the way home.
Be prepared - a collector of stories. Your technical or academic qualifications may get you the interview, but the stories that prove your so-called soft skills will set you apart from the other candidates.
Take out your CV and add a table with two columns. On the left write the skills you have. On the right, provide the evidence - refer to the stories you can tell (in shortened form). Each time you have worked through a challenging event, make a note to keep with your CV. You won't show the interview panel your collection of notes, but you can go through them as part of your preparation.
When those interviewers ask, 'Tell us about a time you...', you'll be thinking to yourself, 'Thank you for asking'. It beats a long silence while you search your memory for something to fill it.
Encourage those who report to you to be looking for stories to add to their CVs.
Would you be encouraging them to leave? No. You're encouraging them to stay, to develop their careers while they are with you. That beats leaving early because the work seems overwhelming or unrewarding. Collecting stories is affirming and gives a sense of purpose to the work we do.
First, relax. Few of us discover our life's passion in a moment of inspiration. We have to find it.
Here's what the researchers who've studied top achievers advise.
Try new projects and new roles at work. See what seems interesting. If there's nothing, finish the projects and leave the new role after a reasonable time. Keep looking.
Found something that seems interesting or satisfying?
If you keep going will that activity give you eudaimonia?
Activities that help others are a source of eudaimonia. (It's Greek.) You might think of eudaimonia as the satisfaction of a life well-lived - not just a life of hedonistic indulgence, but a life that allows you to look back and say 'I made a difference'.
Think about the contribution you are making to others. Are you helping the team? Are you helping people who really need your service? Are you helping humanity?
If you keep going, will you be acting out your values? Will your activity or interest allow you to become your best self?
What can you learn about that activity or role? Keep an open mind whether you want to continue.
Think you have found something that fits your interests, your values and could lead to eudaimonia?
Take opportunties to develop your skills and know more about the topic. Over time you will find that you are naturally drawn to relevant information. You'll spend more and more time on the activity.
Researchers like to compare finding our passion at work with finding a life partner. It's not realistic to keep hoping that the one-and-only will just happen to come along. Instead, choose the match that seems about right, put the effort in and make it work.