A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding a Career You Love
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding a Career You Love
Do you ever find yourself winding down on a Sunday evening—still buzzing from a busy weekend of friends, family, and fun—only to have a looming Monday morning hit you like a load of bricks?
Job discontent is tricky. For self-aware people, the answer feels like it should come from within. Individuals who believe happiness is a choice are left to wonder—why can’t I just be happy? For those who’ve spent years of effort working toward one professional goal—becoming a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher—the inclination is, again, to be self-critical. This is everything I ever wanted. Why don’t I feel fulfilled? Does anyone get real fulfillment from their job? Am I chasing something that just doesn’t exist?
You are not alone. The fact is—lonely and isolating though it may feel—job unhappiness is the norm. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace 2014 reveals that a mere 31.5% of people feel truly engaged in their work. This data point is sadly optimistic, as the highest measure since they began tracking this performance statistic in 2000.
How do you join the 31.5%? It isn’t easy, but the worst thing you can do is nothing. Like most things that matter, career love takes… well, work. Follow these seven steps* to discover a career you love.
Start with self-awareness
You need to understand who you are, your lifestyle priorities, and what gets you out of bed every morning before you can lean into one career over another.
While sitting down and asking yourself these questions is a good start, it can be overwhelming to start digging solo. There are tons of resources that can help you ease the burden while developing your self-understanding.
Meditation may give you a leg up when it comes to being aware of your mental and physical needs. A classic book called “What Color Is Your Parachute?” is a great place to start. It provides information and exercises that help you learn about yourself while matching career paths.
Highlight Your Priorities
While highlighting your priorities is a critical step, it’s also quite a challenging one. You see, it’s so easy to adopt the priorities of others around you; in fact, it can happen without you even realizing it.
If the majority of your colleagues make work their #1 priority, for example, and they enjoy coming to the office early and staying late each day, it’s easy to get swept up into that mentality. Even if you don’t love the extended hours, it starts to feel like this “should” be your priority nevertheless.
Similarly, there are those universal priorities in almost every career regarding working toward seniority, climbing the corporate latter, and doing whatever’s necessary to make the most money.
Well, guess what? Not everyone shares these priorities. And you don’t have to either. While your other career goals might result in getting a raise or a new title, these “standards” don’t have to be your primary concern.
So ask yourself this: “What are my priorities right now?” Whether it’s managing work-life balance, finding colleagues you enjoy, having more time for your family, or making a difference in people’s lives, every option is fantastic. The important thing is simply recognizing what your objectives are so you can find a career that fulfills those needs. (And if it turns out your priority is climbing the corporate ladder, that’s great, too! The key is knowing yourself.)
Choose Employers That Care About You
Being choosy about your employer is an easy component to overlook especially if you’ve been on the market a while; following an extended search, it’s tempting to accept the first offer that comes your way.
I’m guessing you’ve had an experience or two with less-than-stellar management; I know I have! But hopefully, you’ve had some positive situations as well. I recommend keeping both in mind as you consider your next position, and do some research on the company before accepting an offer.
The Importance of Community and Culture
As social beings who are part of complex societal structures, we are not alone in our decision of finding a career that we love. Although we may identify the type of work that we’re suited to do and that inspires us, it’s important to consider our social needs as well. For example, if you love to write and craft stories, but can become stir crazy or feel isolated when you don’t interact with others, then being a freelance writer or independent author might not be the right fit. In other words, the environment where you do your work is important as well. Some people work better when they have clear guidelines and a direct manager. Others like to work independently with little management and more flexibility.
In addition to completing certain tests or exercises (you can find examples in the Helpful Resources section) that might help narrow down your optimal working environment, it’s important to talk to others. If you think you might want to get into nursing, great. But have you had a conversation with a nurse to find out what being a nurse actually looks like? Can you shadow a nurse for a day? You may be drawn to the notion of helping people but not realize that being a nurse also requires a fair amount of heavy lifting, short (if existent at all) lunch breaks, and emotionally taxing situations. Of course, for some, this is exactly what makes being a nurse so fulfilling, but the point is that this type of work environment isn’t for everyone. The same is true for a business consultant or high school teacher.
“I tell my students to interview someone who’s in that career, take them to coffee or lunch, sit down with them for 30 minutes, and get all the information they can about what they do, where they work, what the culture is like,” Rios explained. “Sometimes we have things that come across our way and we’re like, ‘Yeah, that’d be really cool!’ But then we talk to people and find out more about the nitty gritty, day to day stuff of the role, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, maybe that’s not great for me.’”
Manage your career transition
Pace yourself and don’t take on too much at once. Career change doesn’t happen overnight, and it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the steps to successfully make the transition. However, you will get there with commitment and motivation. Break down large goals into smaller ones, and try to accomplish at least one small thing a day to keep the momentum going.
Ease slowly into your new career. Take time to network, volunteer, and even work part-time in your new field before committing fully. It will not only make for an easier transition, but you will have time to ensure that you are on the right path and make any necessary changes before working full-time in your new field.
Take care of yourself. You might be feeling so busy with the career transition that you barely have time to sleep or eat. However, managing stress, eating right, and taking time for sleep, exercise, and loved ones will ensure you have the stamina for the big changes ahead.
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