There are various times in life when we are asked what we want to do with our career. Even from a young age, people start asking us, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s found relatively harmless when we reply, at age seven, “I want to be an astronaut, or a ballerina, or a marine biologist.” Adults typically laugh, pat our heads, and let us carry on with building our fort. Yet, as we edge closer to making a decision, the feedback we receive to the question of career vocation starts to become more opinionated. Oftentimes, the encouragement to consider things like money, stability, and societal judgement start to sprinkle the feedback (or, in some cases, dominate) from the adults who reply. As a mother, I understand the desire to steer your child towards a career that has the highest probability of delivering financial independence. But the challenge with this approach is that there are not three careers that match the gifts and desires of the diversity that makes up the human race. But, for a number of logical reasons, we start to listen to the advice of the adults whom we trust and respect and we fall into a stable career. And, for many of us, one day we wake up hating our 9 to 5 (or 7 to 11). If you find yourself in a similar situation, this article is for you.
As we get older and more experienced, if we’re not in the right career, a dissonance starts to slowly develop and after some time, resonates so loudly that it’s hard to ignore. Some people do manage to ignore it and push it to the side. (“It’s a job- you’re not supposed to like it.”) I was not one of those people. On top of the nagging voice inside my head that I was in the wrong career, I also started to feel more and more agitated and resentful that my job was becoming increasingly demanding and success in the future meant further sacrificing things that were important to me, like time with my family. I remembered once reading that Confucius said: “choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” He seemed pretty smart, so I decided to test his theory and, at the age of 36, I started my search for a career that would be fulfilling. Having come out on the other side and now, finally established in a career I love, here’s my advice to you, fellow soul-searcher.
Steps to Finding a Job you Love
1. Slow Down- this seems counterintuitive to creating change (and for those of us who identify as Type A) but it’s the most important first step. Shed the extraneous tasks from your life and create space for your introspection.
2. Make lists- think about what you like and what you hate about your current and past roles. Turn that into a “Must Have” and “Must Avoid” list. This are the broad strokes that are starting to paint the picture of what your dream job looks like.
3. Start talking to people and searching the web- once you identify what you like, start to brainstorm what form that could take in a career. Start searching online and reaching out to friends, colleagues, and even strangers to research some areas you might be interested in. Don’t be afraid to email someone you don’t know to see if you can pick their brain (or get a mutual contact to introduce you- LinkedIn is a great place to start). Be respectful in your approach and considerate of how much time you take. Remember to thank everyone who helps you. Ask everyone you speak with what they like and don’t like about their job and what their day-to-day looks like.
4. Form a short list- from your research, start to put together a short list of careers you are interested in. Then, find out what additional education or training you will need to step into each new role and determine if the average salary supports your lifestyle. Choose the one that suits you best.
5. Build a plan- once you’ve identified your new chosen vocation, build a plan that will allow you to get the additional training you need and build a timeline, with milestones along the way, as to when you can step out of your current role into your new one.
6. Find a support system- this won’t be a linear process so you will need support. Find trusted sources who you can call when you’re having a tough day to pull you out of your funk and set you back on track to your dream job.
7. Celebrate the small and big wins- make sure you celebrate small accomplishments throughout the process to keep yourself motivated and encouraged. Congratulate yourself for having the courage to make this change.
8. Give back- once you’ve successfully transitioned, look for ways to help others who might be going through a similar journey. Use the distant memory of the pain you once felt to help others get to the other side.
It might seem irrational to think that the distance between you and your dream job is only eight steps away but I can tell you from personal experience and from working with others that this is what it boils down to. As in anything, the devil is in the details. Find a way to stay the course and if you want the process to be faster and easier, hire a coach. Even if you end up in a different destination at the end than the one you intended, embrace the ebbs and flows that life throws your way. Life’s a journey, not a destination- you might be pleasantly surprised what you learn about yourself along the way. But whatever you decide to do my friend, don’t stay stuck in the pain of a job you hate for too long.