Choosing a career path can be a daunting task. Whether you’re a college student feeling unsure about what to do after graduation, or you’re a professional simply looking for a change, it takes some self-reflection and honesty to answer this question.
Get to know yourself
First, take time to get to know yourself. What are your values? What matters to you? If you want to choose a career path that’s right for you, it’s crucial that you become self-aware and know the answers to these questions because they can help guide you throughout your career. So many of us climb the corporate ladder, shape-shifting as necessary depending on what organization we work for, pausing only when something we’re told to do sends shivers down our spines. Instead of taking the time to identify our values, we plod along just hoping to avoid making any terrible mistakes.
A better plan is to craft a values statement, identifying the things in life that are most important to you. This will help you get to know yourself, and it will help you know when to say no to the things that will only be distractions from your real goals. Gaining clarity on values can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as likes and dislikes. Aligning your values with the mission of the organization may help you in deciding which employer is going to be a cultural fit for you personally. Having this clarity can also help you in assessing your passion and deciding how you want to make your mark in the organization you are spending the majority of your time working for day-in and day-out.
Find your passion
What gets you fired up? What motivates and inspires you? This may require you to get real with yourself. Maybe you’ve been pursuing a degree in
something because it’s just what your parents told you to do. You acquired skills in school, but you’re realizing it’s not what you’re passionate about. While it is totally possible to excel and climb the ladder on skills alone, you’ll only get so far before you burn out because there wasn’t
anything deeper motivating you. Take inventory of your skills, experience, and knowledge and align them with your values. Let that be your measuring stick as your search through jobs and organizations. Even if your job skills aren’t in line with your passion, a job at an organization that does align with your passion can be the answer you’re struggling to find. Finding your passion is closely related to knowing what you want and why you want it. You have to know what matters most to you. You have to know what your goals, priorities, and values are. You also have to know what your own definition of success is, which brings me to my next point.
Know what success means to you
There is no one picture of success. What sounds like a perfect career trajectory to one person sounds like a total nightmare to another. For example, one person may relish the idea of climbing the corporate ladder in a top law firm, making partner by age 33. Another might cringe at that prospect, preferring to learn the ropes at a small firm before branching out on her own in a private practice.
Only you can decide what makes you successful. To you, it might look like a seven-figure salary, or it may look like catching every single one of your child’s soccer games. It might mean volunteering a few hours a week in your community. Success might look like all of that or none of that to you, but only you know what success means to you.
How would you finish each of these statements:
- I feel most fulfilled when__.
- I feel happiest when __.
- I feel satisfied when__.
- I measure my success by __.
- I believe my purpose in life to be __.
So, as you get to know yourself and discover your passion, think about what success looks like to you. All of these things feed each other, and together, they will guide you in your search for that just-right job. Sometimes you may need to start out in a position that is not ideal but will lead you to what
you’re really aiming for. And that’s okay. You have to start somewhere. Don’t shun an opportunity that may not tick all your boxes but can give you a foot in the door, leading to that position you’ve had your eye on.
Knowing your strengths, finding your passion, and defining success on your own terms will help you take those first steps on your career journey. Onward! This is your time, your career – find success on your terms.