How to Map a Path to your Ideal Career
Where do you want to be in life? It’s a question we often forget to ask ourselves as we struggle to keep up with the everyday demands of work, family, friends, life, hobbies, and so on.
But working in a job that doesn’t excite you is like cooking a meal you don’t like eating…every day. Over time the monotony can wear you down, and eventually it just makes you sick. It can also make your loved ones sick if they’re always seeing you unhappy, or you end up taking your frustrations out on them.
Having been in recruitment for years, and spent the better part of my working life in career-related industries (such as private education), I believe whole-heartedly that being in the wrong career can negatively impact your personal wellbeing.
Finding work that you enjoy – that challenges you and makes you grow – is an important part of a healthy life. And in my work, I have been lucky enough to uncover a few techniques to help you get there.
What is the “you” of today telling you?
Before we even finish high school, we’re bombarded with people urging us to make fast and permanent decisions about our career.
“Go to university”, “Study this”, “Get a job here”, “Join the family business”.
Whether we make the choices on our own or are influenced by others, we are definitely very very young when we make them. And what’s funny is that even though it may be 20 years or longer since you’ve finished school, you may still be listening to that younger version of yourself.
The current you may not like your choice at all. The current you may be bored, stretched to the limit, tired, depressed, or just thinking “Is this it?”.
If this is true for you, the first step to making a positive change is to take stock of who you are today, not who you were yesterday.
If you’re not sure what you enjoy, don’t be afraid to try new things. Without putting your financial situation in jeopardy, find out if you can “taste test” new career options (possibly in your current role, such as asking to take on new responsibilities or volunteering to be part of a project at work) that appeal to you, and it may lead you to discover your ideal path.
It doesn’t matter how old you are…you almost certainly have time to make a change. Research tells us that the average person changes careers 5-7 times in their working life. And even if you are 50 years old, the retirement age is not what it used to be. You may only be half way through your life and still 15-20 years from retirement, and consider how far you could go in a career you’re engaged in for 15 years!
Questions you may want to ask yourself include:
- What tasks do I like to do?
- What do I want to learn?
- What type of people do I want to work with?
- What might I do if money were not an issue?
- What type of work would have me looking forward to Mondays?
Your answers may not even align to a particular industry, but they will still give you an idea of what you should be doing to feel fulfilled. For example, I love the service industry because I love empowering people to make their lives better. Any job that didn’t allow me to do that would leave me feeling empty.
Working backwards to your ideal career
I have a passion for sports, and have been an avid athlete my whole life. When I was 18, I started lifting weights (powerlifting) and enjoyed it so much that it led to me competing at a national level and breaking nine Australian records.
What intense training taught me is that – no matter what goal you are working towards – you need to start with where you want to go, create a plan by working backwards, and then consistently put in the work over a significant period of time.
This means having a clear picture of the “end state”, and then asking yourself what activities you need to do (and when) to get there.
You will need to set a timeline with short/mid/long term goals, and have patience. It takes time to make positive change and you may not see results from your efforts straight away. But rest assured that every little change you make today has a bigger and better effect tomorrow.
You don’t get a six pack overnight, and you don’t build a new career overnight.
But if you know where you want to go, and create a practical map that plots the path to get there, every little step you take is a step in the right direction.