How to Find the Right Career When You’re Undecided

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question we have all been asked countless times from early childhood all through our school-age years, and sometimes even as adults!

It’s a great question, and probably one that you will want to explore regularly in your life.

Finding the right career even when you’re undecided can be a challenge, but one worthy of investing your time to discover.

Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life!

I will spare you platitudes like “do what you love and the money will follow.” But I do strongly encourage and promote the idea that you can “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life!”

To live a meaningful life filled with passion and make contributions worthy of your skills, talents, and abilities, you have to spend some time evaluating what you want out of your life and career. You will need to match your skillset and values with your position, which will take some thought and effort on your part.

If you want to know how to find the right career for you, read on.

How Often Do People Change Jobs?

We live in a unique time in history. Regardless of your level or specific area of education, you will have many choices in your life. You will probably hold many jobs (and possibly even multiple careers) throughout your lifetime.

Many people also choose to add to their education base more than once throughout their careers. This not only opens up more options but this also opens you up to more job or career changes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S.), the average person will change jobs 12 times in their lives.

Those statistics vary depending upon age bracket, gender, and geography but regardless of where you fit into the stats, it will be vital for you over time to continually hone your skills, add to your resume, and enhance your “hire-ability”.

Fortunately, with a little focus and effort, it is relatively simple to improve your skills and raise the bar on your education through the virtually endless options for personal development, business training, and general education online.

Why Do People Change Jobs so Often?

There are numerous reasons why people change jobs often, including:

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  • More money and security
  • Benefits and perks
  • Satisfaction
  • Relocation
  • Layoffs and company consolidations
  • Better overall feeling of contribution
  • Feeling valued

…and those are just a few!

Regardless of whether you are happy in your current employment situation or you’re feeling like it is time for a change, there are ways you can find or create a more satisfying and personally fulfilling career.

In fact, there are far more opportunities now in our modern, globally-focused society to design the kind of career that can not only make you happy but also feel like you are contributing.

If you are on the hunt to find the right career, there are a few tips you should consider before settling on your next position.

6 Steps to Find the Right Career When You’re Undecided

1. Start With a Complete “Personal Inventory Exercise” (P.I.E)

Most people build their resume and job search parameters around their specific education and work experience. While the degree (or degrees) you have and your previous job experience are important, you also have an entire set of unique life experiences that contribute to what you know and how you operate in the world.

Don’t underestimate the value of your life experience.

When working with a new coaching client, the first thing I do is walk them through a Personal Inventory Exercise (or P.I.E., as in “all the pieces of your PIE”).

Begin by pulling out a sheet of paper, journal, or a blank document on your computer and just start writing.

Your P.I.E. should start with the obvious elements like your formal education and work experience (including paid and unpaid work, internships, literally every job you had all the way back to your paper route when you were 12, or selling Girl Scout cookies).

What have you learned from each of those?

Starting with your education is ideal because it is easy to remember and will help to get you into a good flow.

Then, just keeping writing.

Put down all the workshops, seminars, independent study, work-abroad programs, arts, music, writing, books you have read, and audiobooks you have heard.

You can also include intangible pieces of your PIE, like your relationships (friendships, romantic, marriage) and what you learned from them, like painful life experiences like the loss of close friends or family members and parenting skills.

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Include also your travels and what you learned from other cultures, domestically or internationally.

When you finish, review everything, sum it all up in a few paragraphs and now you’re fully cocked and loaded for the next steps in your career discovery journey.

The ultimate purpose of doing this exercise is the profound insights you will glean from simply taking the time to realize just how valuable you are before you get started on your career search.

It forces you to see your own value based on a broader view. It allows you to see yourself as more than just a product of your formal education but also your ongoing life experience and independent interests.

You will likely be surprised and perhaps even amazed at what you discover through doing an exercise like the P.I.E.

2. Focus On Your Values

Understanding your core values will help you focus on the job you really want.

Your values determine what is most important to you in your life. More than you might realize, your underlying core values are also your ultimate drivers when it comes to decision-making.

For example, after exploring your core values, you may find that freedom and independence are important to you that you might decide to set aside the “job” market for an entrepreneurial pursuit.

So, spend some time getting clear about your personal and business values by asking yourself exploratory questions like these:

  • What is most important to you?
  • What drives and motivates you?
  • How important is money to you?
  • What kind of people do you prefer to work with?
  • What do you admire in others who work in your field?
  • Do you prefer to collaborate or work independently?
  • What is a “deal-breaker” for you? In other words, what types of situations (or people) will you absolutely NOT tolerate?

Understanding your own values is an essential element in this process.

Prospective employers often ask value-based questions in the interview process, so understanding your own values will help you in landing your ideal job or career once you have discovered what you want to do.

3. What Are Your Short And Long-Term Career Goals?

It is always surprising to me how many people I encounter who don’t know where they want to be in a year or two, or five years, or 20 years. After all, how will you get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going?

Setting specific goals help you stay focused on your desired outcome. Writing those goals down is vital to the process as well. With your personal inventory and values in place, it should be simple to start writing down your goals.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” ~ Napoleon Hill

One commonly used goal-setting tool is called SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Sensitive

Using the SMART goal system is a great place to start. You should also set specific goals in life categories beyond your career, like personal, spiritual, education, and any other area that is important to you.

While I am a firm believer in long-term goals, you can only take action in the short-term because, in reality, you can only work on today. So, having a system for tracking your goals daily is powerful. You might start with 90-Day or Quarterly (short, achievable), then 1-Year, 5-year, and 20-year goals.

This will give you both a short and long-term view of how you see your life unfolding, which will give you important insights on how to choose your career path.

4. What Kind of Career Do You Really Want?

With the foregoing in mind, now consider your ideal options.

Make a list of the possibilities that fit into your P.I.E. – your values and your goals – and then ask yourself the question that we started with:

“What do I really want to be when I grow up?”

Let that little kid in you just dream for a few minutes about the “perfect” scenario.

Imagine yourself in your perfect job environment, doing what you love to do (so you never work a day in your life).

What does that look like? How does it feel? What are you doing on a day-to-day basis?

Consider the type of work you have already done, and take note of what made you feel like you were accomplishing something important.

Which jobs did you do (or possibly observed others do) that were “in the zone” for you? If there was a certain part of your job that you always looked forward to doing, what was that?

5. Make a List of Possible Career or Job Options

Now that you have a clear picture of what you would like to be doing, you can start making a list of the possibilities that might fit those parameters.

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List the careers you already know that fit the bill. Then, do some research to determine what else might be out there that you have not yet discovered.

Ask people in your network or on social media channels for information about those types of careers, or who they know that might be currently doing what you want to do.

“Who do you know?” is a very powerful question to ask your friends, family, business contacts, and social media connections.

When you track down a few of the people who are either doing what you do, working at a firm that you are considering, or know someone who is, have a conversation with those people and ask questions to gain insights about that particular job or career.

Once you have performed your research, then you’re ready to take your final step.

6. Choose the Options That You Think Will Work Best for You and Go For It!

Now for the fun part! Make a list of your chosen options in order of top priority. Then simply set your targets and start connecting with the companies on your list that have openings in your field (or might in the near future).

You can once again contact people in your network, and ask that magic question:

“Who do you know at [this company]?”

In your research process, you probably even made some new contacts that might help you go in the right direction or refer you to the right person to contact for an interview.

Good Luck on Your Search for the Right Career!

All of these empower you when it comes to finding your ideal career path. The previous six steps are designed to give you more clarity about what you really want to be doing.

Depending on what you are seeking, it may not always be easy to hit the bulls-eye on the first time out. But remember that clarity and focus allow you to keep your eye on the prize.

Keep up your persistence and go after what you really want, so you can live a life that brings you satisfaction and purpose through your chosen career path.

More Tips on How to Find the Right Career

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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