Finding that ideal career seems to be a challenge. After polling millions of employees, Gallup has found that only 30% of people worldwide admitted enjoying their work with only 13% of these feeling passionate and deeply committed to creating value. It doesn’t sound very hopeful, does it? So how do we avoid these grim statistics and find a career path we love?
Alexandra Gehringer from CollegeCandy wrote an article sharing what she’s learnt so far about How to Figure Out What You Really Want to Do In Life. This article is a response to Alexandra’s post, where I’ll be sharing what I’ve learnt so far about the journey towards loving what you do.
“You need to change your focus from finding any ol’ job to finding the job that’s best suited for you. How do you do this? It all comes down to having some really truthful talks with yourself.”
1. What do you want?
As I sat and thought about this, I realised I had no idea what job I wanted, so I changed the question: What qualities do I want from a job? Essentially, I was asking, what’s important to me? I pulled out my coloured pens, sheets of paper, cleared my desk and dedicated the next hour to answering this question. I evaluated all the jobs, volunteering and activities I’d been involved in, teasing out the aspects I enjoyed and the aspects I never wanted to see again! Slowly, I started to identify some key values: variety, productivity, personal engagement. With my long list of qualities I now had an idea of what I wanted, even if I didn’t have the job title clarified. A year later, I was thinking about the new job I had job and, unbelievably, it contained every value I’d highlighted as important to me the previous year. Yes, these values will probably change over time, and that’s okay; and identifying your career values now gives you the opportunity to start taking the steps towards a path that’s right for you immediately.
So sit and think about it.
After all, how do we know where to look if we don’t know what we’re looking for?
2. Know Thyself
Last week, I spoke to an entrepreneur about how she came to set up her business. It involved the process described above. She highlighted not only identifying what she wanted in a career, but also who she was as a person. She stayed tuned to her personality and how she worked best, how she tended to think and act. It became clear to her that in order to make the best use of her natural talents and qualities, and bring her the most satisfaction, achievement and happiness, a career change had to occur. Understanding yourself is crucial. We’ll never be satisfied doing something that goes against our natural tendencies.
“Investing in yourself, even when you don’t currently have the career of your dreams, is so incredibly important.”
3. Do you Believe you can do it?
Limiting beliefs come in a variety of shapes and forms but in essence they all do the same thing: prevent us from reaching our full potential. Beliefs such as “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not worthy”, “I’m powerless” and “I’m not allowed to be capable” have a detrimental effect on our motivation and desire to pursue an ideal career path. Some settle and accept the easiest path, some procrastinate and say, “I’ll do it tomorrow”; others spend lots of time and energy going in the wrong direction and others never focus on what they really want. These are just a few of the many possible reactions to limiting beliefs. Maybe some these sound familiar; maybe you know your own reactions already. Identifying my limiting beliefs and how I acted as a result has been one of the most fascinating and pivotal discoveries so far in my career journey.
Exploring what’s holding you back is tough, I can’t tell you it’s going to be a walk through the park, but if you really want to live a life you love, it’s worth it.
4. Say yes to opportunities
We all have a list of activities we’re not very good at or activities that we would probably benefit from doing but really don’t like. Public speaking and networking probably fall into these categories. Unless it’s part of the job description or unless the boss demands it, we’ll probably try to avoid these unnerving tasks. The problem is, quite obviously, that by avoiding something it’s very unlikely that we’ll improve. Without improving, it’s very likely that we’ll never learn to enjoy the activity; in turn, we’ll continue to avoid it.
Opportunities to challenge a fear, overcome an obstacle or learn something new show up all the time. The question is, do you take advantage of these opportunities? The first time I went to a networking event it was on behalf of the organisation I worked for. I was afraid. I had never been to a networking event before, I didn’t know what to expect and I was rather daunted at the prospect of being surrounded by suits shoving business cards in my face and expecting me to return the favour. After plenty of umm-ing and ah-ing I worked up the courage to accept. My reasoning was simple: I wanted to practise for the day when I took my own business cards to an event, stood tall and told the world what I did. It turns out that I didn’t need to worry because the evening was an absolute success. (Hurray!)
I left having learnt a few things:
- Anticipation is often worse than reality
- Practise progression not perfection
- It does get easier!
I once heard it said that Genius is Connecting the Dots. This is what Steve Jobs described doing in a speech at Stanford University. Saying yes to an opportunity today may lead to learning something new, a small and interesting discovery. It might not seem like much today but one day it might, just might, change your world.
Put into a new context, you might draw upon that old discovery, connect the dots and use it to create a dent in the universe.
“You could very well read about incredible positions you didn’t even know existed.”
5. Do your research
Researching organisations and roles broadens your horizons. Speak to careers advisers and look at job profiles online (Prospects, National Careers Service). Ask new friends what they do for a living, acquaintances what they do in their spare time and colleagues what they did before you knew them. When you find someone who’s been involved in something you want to do, interview them and find out everything you need to know.
Invest in yourself. What do you really want to do in life?