You have most likely spent close to nine million minutes of your life, thus far, in school. You have learned to read, process complex math concepts, articulate your thoughts, and most likely become an intelligent, well-rounded person. Despite the time you have invested in your education, there is one thing you haven’t been taught—the ability to confidently answer when asked what you want to do after you graduate. In truth, it’s simply the more grown up version of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When it comes to determining what career path to follow, there are a variety of strategies, tips and techniques you can use.
1. Discover your unique talent and gifts by hunting for clues in your life. Often, your unique talents come so naturally that hunting for them can be challenging. Begin to look for tiny clues by taking out a blank piece of paper and ask yourself the following questions. List everything that comes to mind:
- If you had unlimited amounts of money, what would you do for free that would add meaning to your life?
- If you could start a business that wouldn’t fail, assured of success, what would it do? Who would it help or benefit?
- What parts of school or work do you enjoy most?
- What daily activities do you like to do most?
- When someone needs help or advice, what do they come to you to for?
- What are your hobbies, or what did you love to do before your worries about career and income suppressed them?
- What sections do you go to first in the bookstore?
2. Think of a career as not a job, but as something that allows you to share your unique talents with the world. Getting a job sounds plain boring, horrible, and completely devoid of joy. What if, however, you could work in an industry or career for which you had passion? Once you begin to understand what your unique talents might be, begin to imagine work that inspires feelings of elation, fulfillment and adventure. What might make you so excited about going to work each morning that you would tell friends and your parents that you are “passionate” about your career?
3. Begin to design the life you want for yourself, using your unique talents as the framework for your creation. While part of this creation is identifying and then pursuing your dream, it most likely won’t be “the dream”—your ultimate ending point. I began my professional journey in the mid-1980s, my career path twisting and turning as I worked in a variety of jobs. I explored and exploited my unique talents; writing, creative thinking and teaching.
Armed with a B.A. degree in political science in 1988 I took a job in a public relations agency so I could write. I enjoyed writing, but didn’t excel at selling. I decided I wanted to teach. I returned to school to become a Registered Dietician, stopping just before graduation once I realized that my future career could involve distributing grey sheets of paper with food plans to resentful cardiac patients. Nevertheless, I recognized that I wanted to teach students who were motivated to learn. During my next job as Communications Director for a non-profit organization, I was able to harness my creativity and write.
Ten years later, divorced and raising three children, I received a Masters Degree in Education, finally pursuing my life long dream to of teaching. Yet, still, three years into this career, I wondered how I might weave the things I loved doing most—teaching, writing, and my love of personal development and adventure—together with my unique talents. Finally, at age 42, I became a Life Coach.
4. Armed with the knowledge of your unique gifts, begin to envision your life in two years. Inspired with knowledge of your unique talents, begin to give yourself direction. On another piece of paper, answer the following questions:
• What do I want my life to look like in two years?
• Where do I want to live?
• Who do I get to meet?
• Who is on my dream team?
• What big decisions did I make that took me to this place in my life, two years from now.?
• What skills did I master? What did I learn?
• What resources did I use or harness?
• What beliefs did I change? What fears did I break through?
5. Embark on the journey of moving toward your vision with curiosity. Once you become aware of your unique talents and the life you want to create, continue to engage in curious questioning of yourself, friends and mentors. This process is life-long, but to begin it may take months for something solid to click. In the meantime, take these steps:
a. Keep a journal, noting things you loved to do in each day. Keep fleshing out clues to what makes your juices flow.
b. Talk to friends and family, asking them what you enjoyed when you were younger.
c. When you meet a business person whom you admire, ask him/her when they discovered their life’s purpose, and what steps they took to figure it out
6. Check in to see if your dreams are on track with what you want and who you are. As your dream and career choices begin to crystallize, be patient, testing what you discover to ensure it represents you and your values. Once you land on a possibility, check to make sure it meets the following criteria.
* Would this dream add to my life?
* Am I inspired by this dream?
* Does it align with my core values, not those of my peers or family?
* Does this career allow room for me to grow, change and transform as I grow, change and transform?
* Does this dream allow me to continue on a path of learning as I excel?
In taking these steps now you can create a life you love, increase the odds that you spend the next nine million minutes earning an income that will sustain your needs, and become a person who is happy, fulfilled and quite simply, jazzed about going to work.
Marni Battista is a certified life coach and, as the founder of DatingwithDignity.com, a bona fide dating expert.