In a recent interview with Des O’Connor I was asked about the best ways to find a career that you love, that truly satisfies you. I thought this was a brilliant question, and wanted to dedicate some more time to exploring it.
Finding a Career You Love
I’ve spent a lot of my life searching for the career path that is right for me. I’ve also worked with countless people who were embarking on the same search. After seeing this process from the inside and out, I’ve realised a few things about finding your best career path.
A Bit of Background
I came barrelling out of University with a degree, determination, and motivation. But that was about it. I didn’t have much guidance, nor much of an idea of what I wanted to do. So, at that point, I did what any young, confused, but sensible person would do. I travelled. This was a great experience, but ultimately, I figured out that if I didn’t have a goal in mind, my travelling would be, well, aimless. I knew I had to come back and figure my life and career out.
So I started looking for jobs. I applied to anything and everything that I was even relatively qualified for. Initially, I bounced around between a couple of jobs that I did not like. I needed a job, so I jumped into those roles and worked hard. Eventually, I knew I needed to get out, and I began reaching out to PR agencies—something that I actually wanted to pursue. I continued to work hard, and keep my career plan in mind. By my mid-thirties I had a job that I really enjoyed, that really motivated me.
But then I made the mistake that I’ve seen countless other people make. I took a new position, because it paid more. It was a great experience to have, but I knew soon after taking the position that it wasn’t for me. I told myself that I would give it three years, and if nothing had changed, I would move on. Well, be careful what you wish for. Three years after starting that role, I was made redundant. They no longer needed my services.
Believe it or not, this was one of the best things that ever happened to my career and my life. Being let go from a job that I didn’t truly enjoy, gave me the freedom and motivation to pursue my true goals. It was at this point that I took the leap, and began my own PR business. Owning my own business, and being able to control my own time, lead me to finding my true calling as a personal and business coach.
How do You Find what Motivates You
So how did I come to find a career that suited me? It certainly didn’t happen overnight, and it took help from outside of myself. While working in PR, I had some professional coaching myself, which helped me work through my different options and embrace a positive mindset. It also helped me to align my personal beliefs and goals, with a career path.
The first thing I did, was determine what motivates me, and what makes me happy. For me, the answer was helping people, and finding solutions to complex problems. I’m driven by helping people through difficult situations—using my knowledge and skills to create solutions for people who are struggling.
Sometimes in our lives we become complacent, and we can look past the unhappiness in our lives because we’re used to it. But this unease and unhappiness can seep into our lives in subtley negative ways.
We will work on average more than 90 thousand hours in our lifetime. That’s a long time to be unhappy. Often, this unhappiness or stress is cumulative. It’s the product of months or years of stressors wearing you down and making even the enjoyable tasks at work seem like insurmountable obstacles.
As humans, our stress response is not very healthy for the environment we now live in. Our lives and our workplaces have evolved faster than we have—so we are left with animalistic stress responses that put strain on our bodies and minds. We need to find ways to align our goals and desires with what we are doing on a daily basis, to minimise this negative stress impact.
If we don’t stop these negative thoughts early on they can manifest throughout our lives in a number of hurtful ways. Stress leads to fatigue, lack of motivation, decreased immune system efficacy, and moodiness. Being tired, upset, unmotivated, and sick is no way to go through life. You will suffer, and the people you care about will be forced to suffer with you. It’s important to identify these negative indicators before they can harm your life and relationships.
Adjust your Mindset: Positive breeds Positive
Unfortunately, when you identify these negative feelings, there may not be a solution for the underlying problems immediately available. We’ve all had the fantasy of quitting our job and walking out, never to come back. But for most people, it’s just not feasible until you have a plan in place. What you can do, though, is change your mindset, and begin your escape plan.
Getting into a positive mindset will help you seek out (and find) positive experiences for yourself. That might mean finding the job you’ve always wanted, or finding the courage to go to a career fair, or talk to a career coach, or join a webinar in a field you’re interested in. When you begin to look at your life as a series of opportunities to improve, you’ll being to see more options than you even knew were available.
One of the first things that I like to do when I’m struggling to get in the right mindset, is to do some writing.
Writing gets our thoughts out of our heads, so that we aren’t constantly trying to mentally juggle all of our ideas and thoughts. Writing also influences how we think. Not only does it force you to think deeply and logically, as you string together coherent messages for yourself, it has also been shown to increase the positivity in your thoughts. Apparently, sequential hand movements, like those used in handwriting, activate large regions of the brain responsible for thinking, language, healing and working memory.
Take some time to collect your thoughts in writing. Use different pages or different headers to keep your thoughts about different topics organised. I find that this process helps, especially, if you do it in a quiet place, by hand.
Grab a piece of paper, and make a timeline of your career path. Start with your first “real job” or any experience that you feel started your career trajectory. Be sure to include:
- What you liked in each role
- The things you didn’t like
- What you excelled at
- Aspects that you were not so good at
- What you learned
Go back as long as you feel it’s relevant, and try to follow the timeline right up to present day.
Take a look at what themes or words are coming up for you. How can you connect the things that you enjoy from each role you’ve held—and what is similar about the things you didn’t enjoy. What are the common threads?
One woman that I’ve been working with recently did this exercise and she said that travel and people are her common themes—and that was her starting point. It doesn’t have to be specific. Just find a place to start from, so that you can begin your search!
The point of a skills analysis is to look back at your experiences, whether they be work experiences or otherwise, and determine what transferable skills you’ve gained. This is a great jumping off point for a career change. It helps with your job search, resume updating, and cover letter writing if you reach that stage.
If you’ve done the timeline exercise above, you can use that as a starting point. Look back at your different roles, and the skills you built and used for each one. Look at the areas where you excelled, and think back on what skills and expertise you pulled from to be successful in those areas. Start by listing them all however they come to you. Don’t worry about organising them yet, just get them all down on paper.
Once you’ve notched out all of your relevant skills, you can go even further by identifying the gaps in your skill set. Mark down the areas that you wish you had more expertise in. This exercise should leave you feeling positive about your skills.
We all have gaps in our skills. Being able to identify those gaps, and develop a plan to better yourself will leave you feeling accomplished and motivated. I highly recommend taking a deep dive into your professional history and skills, to prepare yourself for another step forward.
Explore Your Options
One you’ve accomplished these steps, you’re ready to start really exploring your career options. In today’s environment, there are countless ways to get involved, get your name out there, and network in your field. Get on social media and join the conversation around your desired industry or niche. See what other people are doing, how they are making a living, or not! Join professional networking groups on LinkedInor Facebook. Find a career coach who has expertise and experience in your field.
When it comes time to explore your career options, and find something that really suits your goals and desires, you’ll want to leave no stone unturned. The resources that exist today so far surpass those that existed at any other point in human history! Make use of those wonderful resources.
Before you can reinvent your career, you need to focus on yourself. Take a deep dive into your past, your skills, and your desires to see what truly motivates you. When you adjust your mindset, and begin to see challenges as positive opportunities, you’ll start to see opportunities everywhere. Get into a positive, growth mindset, identify your own skills and goals, and then make the best use of the wealth of resources that is all around you.
If you need help kick-starting your career reinvention, I’d be happy to meet with you! Get in touch today to get started on the next chapter of your life.