Since graduating from high school, throughout college, and up until about a year ago, I went back and forth in my mind trying to determine what my true career path was. Along the way, I considered pursuing jobs in social work, education, public relations, theatre, film & television, sales and journalism — without a doubt, an eclectic group of industries had crossed my mind.
The one profession that continued to resurface was writing and journalism. It made sense. After all, I enjoyed the art of stringing words and sentences together and I’d written since I was a little girl.
My fondest childhood memories are those that involved my writing. Picture me alone, sitting in my bedroom — a place I would often resort to when my brothers shunned the idea of playing with their “little” sister. Hours were spent scribbling poetry, song lyrics and short fictional stories. To accompany my writings, I also sketched artwork that I felt appropriately illustrated and brought life to the words.
No one else, not even my parents, had read my work or took a serious interest in it. They didn’t need to. It was nothing more than a hobby at the time anyway, even though I often dreamt of eventually becoming a successful writer and book author.
Despite my obvious devotion to writing, for some reason as I grew older, I moved further and further away from the very thing that brought me the most joy and greatest fulfillment. I started to rationalize the pursuit of one career over one that involved what came naturally to me. Saying things such as “At least I’m getting paid a nice salary,” “They give good benefits,” or “I love the reputation that comes along with working for a company that’s a leader in it’s field.”
None of my rationales benefited or supported my living out or pursuing an ideal career — one that I felt most passionate about. If anything my rationale, while logically sound, only crippled the ability to pursue my dreams.
In those early days of career pursuit, I neglected to stop and ponder some very critical, yet simple questions that could’ve more swiftly moved me toward my current, more satisfying line of work.
Today, I’ll share some of those questions with you. Hopefully, you’re in a much better place than I was. Or perhaps you can wholly relate to the above circumstances. If so, then I wish you well in determining what you’re destined to do best and how that translates into a career. My hope is that you’ll discover it sooner rather than later.
The following list of questions serve as a perfect jumping off point for college students. But even if you’re well into your career and are thinking of changing gears, they might help you reassess if you’re making the right moves and keep your goals in check.
Question #1 “What do you do well?” Take out a sheet of paper or make a mental list. Jot down each and every task, activity, side interest, or job that you perform well. You might’ve won awards for your performance, gotten compliments on your work, or were promoted to a certain position due to some results you’ve achieved. Or, maybe it’s something that comes naturally to you and, like me, you’ve been doing it all your life. Does anything on the list stand out? Is there one particular thing you gravitate towards the most?
Question #2 “Do you enjoy doing it?” Examine the list closely, and give yourself some honest feedback on this one. You might perform something well, but do you also genuinely enjoy doing it? Sure, you could select a career based on the fact that you’re really talented and people have been quick to acknowledge that. But why not add to the equation the happiness factor?
(Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Emotions like happiness are so fleeting. So why should I choose a career based on a feeling?)
The level of joy you experience while performing a task is a proper indication of how successful you’ll be in your chosen career. The more you enjoy it, the more you’ll do it right? (More on this topic at a later time.)
How happy are you when you perform the activity that you gravitated toward the most? Would you do it for free simply because you enjoy it so much? It’s widely known that the people who are most successful in their careers, and garnish the greatest fulfillment from them, are those that love what they do. They’ve carved out a niche for themselves, are passionate about their chosen career paths, and are making leaps and bounds as they climb their way to the top of their industry.
Question #3 “What profession best matches your set of core competencies?” Now that you’ve outlined what you do well and what brings you most joy, it’s time to determine which types of jobs run parallel with your attributes. When I decided to embark on a career in journalism, I felt it was the best fit because I enjoyed writing, telling stories, meeting interesting (and not so interesting) people, and serving as some sort of authority on a particular topic. Journalism met practically all the qualities that ranked high in my best career quotient, and that also matched the tasks which I performed well in — writing and interviewing.
Question #4 “In what type of setting do you work best?” Are you a loner? Or do you need to have regular interaction with like-minded professionals? Do you thrive in deadline-driven environments? Or do you perform best while working on long-term projects with open-ended timelines?
These types of questions are crucial in the process of uncovering career nirvana. It’s important that when you think about these questions you’re brutally honest with yourself. If you’re currently at a job that you dislike, prepare for your next position by figuring out the type of environment you do work best in. Your work conditions and surroundings could make or break the potential for a successful career.
Question #5 “What will it take to get you on the right career path?” Whether you’re still in school, a college graduate, or seasoned professional, it’s imperative during any type of transition in life to be prepared; and to be well informed on what it’s going to take for you to get to the next level. Will you need another college degree? Graduate level, perhaps? Additional training? Maybe you just need to connect with the right people through a bit of networking. Or, all it takes is a chit-chat with a superior at your current company to determine next steps toward your overall career goal.
Do your research, talk to other professionals who are in a position to provide constructive advice, take some time to figure out who you are and who you want to become in the long-run. Then start determining the steps you need to make in order to get there.
Keep the Discussion Going
If you could choose any profession, would it be what you’re currently doing? Or is there another career you’ve always dreamt of pursuing? If you were to pursue your ideal career, are you guided by a set of realistic goals? And are you willing to put in the work to achieve your dream?
Maybe you have a career goal that’s complimentary to what you’re currently doing (i.e. writing a book, creating a personal portfolio website, becoming a public speaker or consultant, etc.). It hasn’t jumped off because you haven’t taken any steps toward achieving it. What can you do this week to get your side project up and running?
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