Before you can crush a career, you have to choose one.
When I was 8 years old, I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew at that very moment, I wanted to be a writer. I was already writing short stories and poems and I had quite an imagination. I had imaginary friends and I told lots of stories about their imaginary world. There was show on television at the time called The Waltons. The main character in the show was a teenager who dreamed of being a writer and during the decade the show was on tv, he became one and the show followed his path based on a true story.
As I matured, my dream did not waver. My father was an attorney and he desperately tried to get me interested in law. I wasn’t interested. In high school, I wrote a novel for an independent project. My senior year, I was editor-in-chief of the award winning school newspaper and I was hooked. Studying journalism in college, I was on my way . . . . except . . . I wasn’t.
After my first trip to college in the early 80’s, there was a major recession. I couldn’t afford to support myself being a reporter, even if I could have found a job and I didn’t have enough life experience to produce meaningful writing. Instead, I went into the advertising business. It’s a long story, but it would be three decades before I wrote my first book, the very thing I dreamed of almost all of my life.
Some people, like me, just know what they want to do in life. They discover their talents early and are fortunate to have people in their lives that encourage their dreams and coach them on the journey to achieving them. Others find themselves frustrated and uncertain of their path. Sometimes, people are derailed from their path and have to chart a new course. Start with identifying your skills, interests and aptitudes that you already have.
So, how do you identify your skills, interests and aptitudes that will help you choose a career?
First, consider what activities you enjoy most. My middle son became a fitness fanatic in college. He transformed himself from athletics as a social hobby in high school to a disciplined athlete in college. The transformation was more than just his body. The changes he made left him more confident and happier with himself. He wanted others to experience what he had so he pursued training and a career to become a personal trainer to help others transform, too.
Next, you want to consider your strengths. What do you do better than most people? What do other people tell you that you do well? Ask others for help in identifying your strengths, because sometimes they can better identify your strengths. They see things you might not see. After a couple of years personal training, my son, Trevor, was finding it difficult to pay his bills on the salary of an athletic trainer so he had to consider another full-time job and pushing personal training to a side gig. As he was thinking about what he could do, others began helping him see that part of his success as a personal trainer was his ability to sell clients on the benefits of personal training and staying with the program. His interpersonal skills are exceptional. These are all important skills for salespeople. He did not realize that he had special skills in these areas until others pointed it out to him.
You also want to recognize your area of non-strength. What do you not do well that you want to avoid in your career? What do you not like to do? Ask trusted advisors to help you identify these areas too. Trevor had chosen personal training because he could not see himself sitting at a desk all day. He knew that he needed to move and expend energy during the day. Sales gave him the opportunity to move around more and joining a start-up company ensured that he had enough variety in his day since he does not like repetitive tasks.
Think about life experiences you have had. Do you like working from home or do you prefer to travel. Do like to work in teams or prefer to be more on your own? Do you want a secure, predictable role or do you prefer something a little more high and risk, high reward? Do you have an entrepreneurial mindset or do you see yourself more in an established organization and culture?
Lastly, consider what the world needs that you offer. What problems need to be solved that you care about and want to solve? What types of organizations value your interests, experiences and skills? What types of jobs are going to most value your skills, experiences and interests?
Use available resources to help you determine your abilities, skills and strengths. There are many popular assessments and inventories including the Harrison, PathwaysU, StrengthsFinders and others. Talk to your college career counseling staff where you are a student or an alum. Many communities and churches have free career counseling services that you can join that provide assessments and follow-up feedback.
If you are one of those people who is unsure what career you want to pursue, I can assure you that you are not alone. Click To Tweet Trevor was in that position. He did not know what he wanted to do and through personal experience he thought he had found the perfect career for him. It didn’t work out just like he planned, but he did not get discouraged. He transferred some of his greatest strengths into a different type of job and he still can train as a side gig if he wants to do so. He is loving the career he has chosen and succeeding, too. The most important thing to do in times of career uncertainty, is to get started in something and keep going until you land in the right place. If you keep doing the next thing, you will eventually find the right thing. Click To Tweet
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