“What job is right for me?”
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this at one point or another.
Figuring out what to do with your life isn’t easy. But you don’t need to feel pigeon-holed into a single career. Instead of treading a single path, many of us explore many different roads.
The key is to stay curious, grow in self-awareness, and not become paralyzed by all the choices at your fingertips. If you’re wondering what to do with your life and how to find the right career, these tips can help.
What job is right for me? How to find out
1. Research all of your options
When I was growing up, I only knew about traditional job options, like doctor, teacher, and firefighter. I didn’t know much about other industries because I hadn’t heard of them or they hadn’t been invented yet.
It’s tough to know what to do with your life if you don’t truly know what your options are. To learn more, speak to friends and colleagues. Do some research using the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re a student, speak to a career counselor.
Learn about different jobs and what skills and qualifications you need to get them. And remember that new roles are being invented all the time. One of the best skills you can have in our ever changing economy is the ability to adapt.
2. Take a personality assessment
A career should align with your strengths and interests. But what if you’re not sure what those strengths and interests are?
Personality assessments can reveal a lot about your likes and dislikes. Reputable tests, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five personality test, can offer major insight into your preferences.
These tests also offer guidance on careers that match your personality profile. Remember that these tests are not meant to be limiting. Instead, they should expand your self-awareness.
3. Define your core values
Just as reflecting on your personal preferences will help you find direction, identifying your core values can too. What’s important to you? What contribution do you want to make in the world?
Maybe you place a high value on security and stability in your career path. Perhaps you need flexibility, adventure, and creativity. Some people thrive with structure and routine, while others feel miserable living a nine-to-five life.
Journaling is an effective way to root out your core values. Plus, it will help you step outside yourself and consider the impact you want to make. Once you’ve articulated what’s important to you, consider ways to align your values with a specific career.
4. Shadow someone at work
Growing up, I thought that working as a fashion magazine editor in a Manhattan skyscraper was the epitome of career perfection. Why? Because that was the storyline I saw in tons of romantic comedies.
It’s easy to get caught up in the image of a job without actually understanding its day to day responsibilities. If you’re intrigued by a position, try to shadow someone for a day or two.
Just because a job looks glamorous in the movies, or is the next step up on the ladder, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Before committing to a new career or promotion, gain firsthand experience of what it’s actually like.
Internships can also teach you about an industry. Just make sure you’re getting an educational experience and not just fetching frappuccinos and lunch for the office.
5. Find a mentor
Mentors can play a powerful and influential role in your life. If you’re in college, find out if your campus has a mentoring program. If you’re working, you may establish an informal mentoring relationship with a manager or co-worker.
Effective mentors don’t just teach you how to be successful in your career. They also give you support and encouragement as you work toward your goals.
6. Volunteer or try a side hustle
Plus, if you’re working without a paycheck, then you probably really enjoy the work. If you find something fulfilling, then you may find a way to turn it into a full-time job.
7. Build your growth mindset
Often, the only obstacle standing between you and the right career is yourself. If you don’t believe you can achieve a goal, you prevent yourself from doing so. This fixed mindset about your talents and intelligence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead, you need to embrace what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” With a growth mindset, you can shift our focus toward hard work and commitment. You see challenges as opportunities for growth, and setbacks as chances to try new methods.
Rather than worrying about your current abilities, focus on your potential. With effort and resilience, you can end up miles from where you started.
7. Take other people’s advice with a grain of salt
Have you ever gotten advice that rubbed you the wrong way? Even if people are trying to help, they’re limited by their own perspectives and life experiences. Even the best-meaning advice may be wrong for you.
Only you know what makes you tick. Listen to other people’s advice about what to do with your life — but take it with a grain of salt. Because no one knows you better than you know yourself.
8. Think about the sacrifices you’re willing to make
Even if you’ve identified your passion, you can’t expect to love your job all the time. There’s a reason they call it work. You may have to put in long hours, deal with uncomfortable situations, or stress over deadlines.
When exploring careers, think about which job would be worth some sacrifice. What are you willing to experience discomfort over? If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, then why suffer?
9. Take action
You’ve probably heard the mantras, “do what you love” and “follow your passion.” For many of us, these sayings don’t inspire. Instead, they paralyze.
These sayings suggest that we should find our passion and then act. However, the formula really works the other way around.
Passion isn’t typically something we’re born with, but something we develop. Only by taking action do we acquire skills, gain knowledge, and build our passion in a particular field. You won’t know what you’re most passionate about without trying many different things.
Don’t wait for a lightning bolt of inspiration to take action. Instead, follow your curiosity and see where it takes you. As philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There is no reality except in action. Man is nothing else than his plan; he exists only to the extent that he fulfills himself.”
10. Be the author of your own life story
Figuring out what to do with your life can cause a lot of stress and uncertainty. Choosing one path feels like you’re closing the door on others. Often, you must filter out the advice of other people and listen to your own voice.
What if instead of feeling stuck by your choices, you could feel liberated by them? Instead of freaking out over tough decisions, you could see them as opportunities to show the world who you really are.
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer when choosing a job. With each choice you make, you make your own reasons for doing so. You create your own meaning and become the author of your own life story.
You hold the pen to your personal narrative — so get writing!
Are you considering doing an unpaid internship to learn about a new career? Check out this article to learn about the pros and cons of working internships after college.
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