I never used the career counseling (as it was then called) service at high school. I knew I wanted to go to university so I never saw the need to engage with the careers team (oh the irony!). And then at university I don’t even think I knew such a thing existed. So I just finished university and applied for a job and got it. When I didn’t like that job any more I left and then looked for the next one. And after that job I went traveling. And then after the next job I went traveling again!
There has never been a plan for my “career” and I am actually happy with that, as what I did without quite realising was I followed my interests. Each time I looked for work I asked myself “What kind of work do I want to do now?”.
As I talk to more university graduates I wonder whether the word “career” is getting in the way of people making choices in their lives.
I’m not sure I’m on the right career path.
I don’t want to take that job because it probably won’t help my career.
I don’t know what I want to do, so will stay in this job until I know what career path I want to take.
The more we are focusing on the “thing” that we will do, the less we are actually focusing on us and who we are and what we enjoy and the strengths and skills and experiences we have.
I have always had a propensity for filling in forms and ticking boxes. So at my local library when I was a teenager I did complete a computerised career survey which told me I should be a teacher or a social worker. I didn’t want to be either of those things so I just ignored it and moved on. (I have since done a few other such “tests” in my life and teacher and social worker always seem to feature strongly!) Of course looking now I can see that a lot of the skills and strengths I have are often used by teachers and social workers – listening, sharing ideas, helping people grow, wanting the best for people. But because I didn’t like the title I didn’t look at what was beneath it.
I think so many children and adults are still looking for the titles in their lives.
I want to be a policeman. I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to be a management consultant. I want to be a ballerina. I want to be an engineer.
But those are just names.
We don’t know if the role of “management consultant” will exist in 20 years time. So if you spend all your time focusing on the “thing” that you will do then what happens when it becomes obsolete? We need to stop the focus on the thing we will do and start focusing on who we are.
If we focus on our interests, loves, strengths, innate abilities and who we are and what we have to offer the world, then we have a much stronger basis to make choices.
We can adapt and re-engineer and grow our “career” in a way that suits the changing environment and suits us as individuals.
So are you questioning what job you want next or wondering if you are on the right career ladder or wondering what your career path actually is? Then take some time to ask yourself these questions:
- What do you enjoy?
- What are you good at?
- What things do you love doing day in and day out without even thinking about what you are doing?
- What about that job advert interests you?
- What skills do you have that people always acknowledge and thank you for?
- What are you doing when time just passes by in an instant? Where do you lose yourself?
- What companies or individuals do you find inspiring? What about them inspires you?
- What aspects of the role have you enjoyed in previous jobs?
- What gets you fired up, energised, excited?
- If you could write your next job description what would it say? What key elements would be there?
Let’s stop worrying about the career path and instead focus on finding ourselves and ways to be paid to bring us to life.