Help! I Don’t Know What To Do Next In My Career (How Do I Pick One Thing?)
The #1 question that people ask me is: “How do I find my passion?” in some form or another. It’s one of the most important questions that you can ask, but one of the hardest ones to answer.
If you follow my story, you know that I struggled with this question for most of my ’20’s and early ’30’s. (In fact, I’ll be sharing some more about this in the next two weeks. Get ready!). So, I know first-hand how frustrating it can be to have random idea after random idea, but no real direction.
Smarter minds than mine have coined the phrase: “Clarity comes with action.” And I cannot support or repeat it enough. You only figure out what action to take when you actually start taking action.
BUT – I also realize that this is easier said than done, and that there are some foundational steps which will make the process a lot smoother for you.
So, instead of throwing you into action today (breathe easy, but don’t relax too much!), I want you to consider doing some pre-homework.
Start with daydreaming
Step 1: Before reviewing your options and jumping into brainstorming mode, I want you to start daydreaming. What are the top 3-4 absolute “must-haves” in the type of work that you want? And, I want to make a concrete distinction here: must-haves or things that you value are not NICE -to-haves. They are literally things that you must have in order to be happy at work.
For example: A client of mine and I were talking about her must-have around making a lot of money. That was an absolute must (she said). However, when we were poking and prodding that idea, she realized that the $$ mattered way less to her than the type of work and working with really smart people. Right now, she’s making a lot of money but not loving the work OR working with people who inspire her. Her must-have was really a default setting for her, and because she was focused on the wrong thing, she limited her options (and also kept taking jobs she hated).
Money IS important (it’s how I support my bacon and chocolate habit, after all), but for many of us, we confuse a certain amount of money with a must-have instead of a nice-to-have. So, as you make a list of what you must-have in your next job or career, poke at it a little bit to make sure that you are getting down below the surface on what you want (and if it is money, that is ok. There is no judgment in this exercise!).
So, once you get a list – say you decide that you must:
a) Work with food, doing something with veganism or food education or cooking
b) Work outside or not completely in an office everyday
c) Have a stable income of at least 50K per year
d) Have creativity and decision making power, but not be responsible for managing people…
Figure out your must-haves and compare them to your job list
Take your list of ideas. I know that you have them! They can be different and crazy (work with animals! Teach at Georgetown! Write a best-selling book! Do PR for a restaurant! Start an amazing blog that changes lives! Compete on Top Chef!) and you can find all of them interesting.
But here’s the thing: You aren’t going to find all of them the same level of interesting. So take the top few choice (pick three, you can do it!) and match them up against your must-have list. Are there any overlaps? Do you see something that lines up?
If you look at our example list and the idea list, you see that “Work with Animals” is probably one you can cross off. It doesn’t fit the idea of doing something with food. But doing PR for restaurants might actually fit the bill. Now you have a starting point that is fueled by your own needs (you know what you need to be happy at work, you’ve just written it down!), and not just by things that “sound interesting.”
If you have a few ideas that are covered by your must-have list and you can’t decide where to start or how to narrow things down, start doing research. Which one best fits your:
1. Education level (will you need to take drastic steps to qualify/certify etc? If so, are you ok with that?)
2. Willingness to try (even if uncomfortable)
3. Is something that continues to keep you interested.
Chances are, one or two things will leap out at you, and that’s where you start. Talk to people, google things, read books and keep learning. You’ll be surprised at what ideas occur to you, or what opportunities come your way once you commit to taking action in one area (even if you aren’t 1000% sure about it).
Once you start moving in a direction, the universe has a way of rewarding you.
The great thing about your career is that it is fluid, and sometimes the journey that you think you are on is not actually where you end up. But the only way to figure it out is to go after it.
So take the first step. Figure out what you need to be happy. And then use that to narrow down the list.
You can do it!
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