If anyone had told me back in my early twenties that I would end up quitting my engineering career in my thirties to become a business coach, I would have told them they were crazy.
Stepping away from my fifteen-year-long career as a consulting engineer in my mid-thirties was one of the hardest things I’ve done. No one around me could understand it. I couldn’t understand it either—I just knew I had to.
“But you’re such a good engineer!” people used to say.
“You’ve built such a successful career!” others said.
It didn’t seem to make sense.
I’d been so passionate about my career path and I poured my heart and soul into it. Starting out with a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Biotechnology), I then went on to complete an Honours Degree and eventually a PhD in Process Engineering. For nearly ten years, I worked as an engineering consultant in Australia and overseas, helping water utilities to optimise and upgrade their large-scale wastewater treatment facilities. I was passionate about protecting the environment. I wanted to make a difference. My work felt noble, satisfying, and fulfilling.
Except on the inside, things were unraveling.
What started out as unshakable tiredness eventually turned into what could only be labeled by doctors as chronic fatigue. It was a ‘mystery illness’. I woke up feeling exhausted and unwell every day. Nothing seemed to ease the extreme fatigue and brain fog that pervaded every waking moment.
For nearly ten years, my body was giving me all the signs that I was on the wrong path. I was constantly unwell, whether it be a lingering cold or flu, a gut problem, tonsillitis or hyperactive thyroid. I felt constantly unwell and miserable.
Still, I kept pushing through. I put on a brave face. I’d learned to wear a happy mask to hide what was going on underneath. My suffering was my secret. “I’m great!” was my standard response if anyone asked. No one knew of the hell I was living.
I struggled on until I was brought to my knees in 2010.
I was forced to reassess everything.
In the aftermath of my life crisis (which I write all about in my bestselling memoir Seeds of a Calling), I finally realised that my career was draining the life force out of me and it needed to stop.
Making the decision to quit engineering was massive and it wasn’t a decision I made lightly. But I knew it was what I needed to do.
As soon as I mustered the courage to quit, my health started to improve. It was miraculous. It was like a ten-tonne weight had lifted from my shoulders and my energy and health started returning with ever-increasing speed.
I spent half a year reflecting, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I started my own coaching business in 2013, and I haven’t looked back.
For me, entrepreneurship has been the path to freedom, happiness, and fulfillment.
And now I help others who want forge their own way.
But still, I couldn’t figure out why it had all turned out the way it did. And to be honest, it’s puzzled me ever since.
How could I feel so passionate about my career and yet get so unwell from it?
How did I get my career choice so wrong?
What went wrong?
I’ve had an epiphany in recent weeks.
Despite all the personal growth work I’ve done over the years, I’m always learning new things about myself.
I’m currently doing my certification in the B.A.N.K. Coding Methodology—a personality typing system that predicts our decision-making behaviour based on our deeply held values. Each one of us has a ‘B.A.N.K. code’ which is the order of the different values systems that are most important to us. There are 24 different B.A.N.K. codes possible from four different value sets (shown below). You discover your B.A.N.K. code (as a preliminary assessment) by ordering the cards below in order of their importance to you.
I’d done all the personality typing systems before—Myers Briggs, DISC, the Enneagram, True Colours, LSI etc.
But when my wonderful and talented friend and colleague Christine Thorpe introduced me to B.A.N.K., I knew it was powerful because it’s values-based personality science. It helps you understand what’s driving your decisions and behaviour.
My B.A.N.K. code is NKAB: Nurturing (22), Knowledge (22), Action (20), Blueprint (14).
What’s yours? Go here to find out.
Just this week, two things have dawned on me:
- Why I was drawn to science and engineering in the first place.
- Why I struggled so much in my career as an engineer.
Suddenly it all made sense.
I’d been drawn to science and engineering because KNOWLEDGE is my equal highest value: I value lifelong learning, science, universal truths, expertise, competence, accuracy, the big picture, technology, and research and development.
But my other highest value is NURTURING which is all about people, relationships, personal growth, teamwork and service. I wasn’t able to fully express my ‘nurturing’ values in my engineering career in a way that felt satisfying.
I’m also very high in ACTION, meaning that I need a lot of variety, flexibility, freedom and spontaneity in my work. My work as an engineer didn’t tick all those boxes.
Plus, engineering requires a dominance of BLUEPRINT qualities: Structure, systems, planning, processes, predictability, stability. Blueprint is not my happy space; it’s by far my lowest value set. And yet it was a critical part of my role as an engineer. I wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius.
I struggled as an engineer because I was out of alignment with my core, intrinsic values.
And I’ve only just realised this now, in my late forties.
How many other people are struggling in their careers because they’re out of alignment with their core values?
How many other people are struggling with health issues because they’re out of alignment with their values?
BANK has been such a powerful tool to help me understand what makes me tick.
My current role as a coach is in full alignment with my intrinsic values (NKAB) which is why I now love my work. I haven’t had a single significant health issue since realigning my professional work with my natural values.
I’m now living and working full-time in my zone of genius. And it feels great. Are you?
I’d love to know. You can crack your own BANK code now by going to this link. I’d love to hear how you go!
In service to your success,
Kate De Jong, PhD
Business & marketing coach for small business owners
0424 176 658