Mapping Your Next Career Path
You are at your 3rd or 4th job in your career path, you worked in different companies and locations, you are good at what you do, but you’ve been feeling for some time that this is not where you see yourself going forward. You want to change career but have no idea about what direction to take, and if someone asks you “what do you want to do?’’, you freeze and respond: I don’t know.
When we are kids we get asked more or less the same question, just in a different format: “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. And when we are kids, we don’t care about what is possible or what we “should” do. We respond with our heart and enthusiasm, inspired by our imagination and feelings, or based on what we already love to do, whether it’s drawing, singing, or playing football.
I remember one of my classmates in elementary school, who since she was little she said she wanted to become a Vet. The years passed by, no doubts, no question marks, and she did become a Vet. But this is not the story of the majority of people (at least in my experience). Many people find themselves in jobs that are simply the result of a practical choice they made years ago. Many, including myself, have changed jobs, companies, and even countries in the search of what they really wanted to do until they finally got there.
There’s no right or wrong path but in the second scenario, when you realise you want to change career path, it’s easy to get discouraged, feel you’ve been wasting time, and beat yourself up because you don’t know what you want to do.
Perhaps the problem with the question “What do you want to do?” is that is one of those questions that feels like you need to have a WOW answer (like when we were kids), otherwise you are not really answering the question.
Yes, it’s true that if you are thinking of changing career, you need to answer this question. Nevertheless, I found that as in many things that feel overwhelming, one of the best ways to deal with them is to break them down into smaller pieces or steps.
For me, this question is simply the umbrella question for the followings:
What’s important for you, in your career and life, and how does one impact the other?
What kind of activities or projects energise you, and when you are working on them time flies?
What type of people do you enjoy working with and feel inspired by?
What kind of environment stimulates your learning process?
The answer to these questions will be a significant guideline to find what you really want, beyond a job title, which is often only the surface of the real answer.
Be honest with yourself and spontaneous about your answer. Don’t think about what it “should’’ be, and at least in this phase of research, don’t worry too much about how you’re going to make it happen. Then, when you say or write your points down, pay attention to how you feel about them. Sometimes we tell ourselves (and people around us) stories about who we are and should/have/or need to be, but it’s how we feel that can tell us whether those stories are true.
These questions require observation, openness, and patience. More often than not, you don’t come to these answers by just thinking about them, they come to you in the form of little yet important signs in your day to day life.
Stay open, engaged, and be willing to try and make mistakes as well. When you find your answer, you will have the clarity you need to take your next career steps. That same clarity will fuel your motivation and commitment to make it happen, and to continuously progress along the way.