At some point most of us have faced the dreaded career question from others: “What do you want to study in university?”, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, “What do you want to do with your life?” and among other questions along those lines. Through my experience, I found that many have no idea what to say, make up something on the spot to “sound smart”, or have some vague idea that isn’t really attainable to them (in their opinion).
In seeking help from schools and/or career counselors, they offer only lists of all the job possibilities based on fields of study – making the task of finding an answer even more daunting. There are a lot of fields out there! Do they really expect people to understand each and every field enough that they can make their life decisions on it? It’s challenging, I know, I’ve been there at one point myself. There are tools, quizzes, and all sorts of stuff online that say they can help but realistically a computer can never understand the real you. Hell, I had a computer program (which I was told was ‘professional software’) tell me I’d be a great Funeral Home Director… NO THANKS! I highly respect what they do, but that’s not for me.
So what did I do? I took a look at a few things about myself, for to find out what you want to do for your career (and with your life), it all starts with self exploration:
There are a lot of things we can do in our life, however as humans we naturally gravitate to the things we enjoy. After all, our brains are built to pursue pleasure and happiness, aren’t they? I enjoyed drawing. But that in itself is not enough to get a well-paid job in today’s technology filled world, so that meant I needed more. Something else that can go with it, that brings us to…
These are not the same as your passions (not always, but sometimes it is!). Sure, you may really enjoy something a lot – but that doesn’t mean you’re talented or good at it. I’m sure you don’t want to be one of those people who love something, show it to the world, and the world stares at you with wide eyes thinking, “OMG, this is terrible, how do I tell them without hurting their feelings?”. Take some time to explore the differences between the two – your passions and your skills – and ensure you fully understand which are your passions and which are your skills.
Don’t let this stop you from doing what you want to do with your life. Remember, you’ll spend countless hours at your job so it’s important that you can find some pleasure in it, but be realistic. For example, I had aspirations to become an actor. At the same time however, I wanted to continue to enjoy the lifestyle my parents brought me up in and remain in Canada. This means I needed money – not just to maintain my lifestyle and raise a family in the future, but so that I could pursue acting. I live in Ontario, Canada and if you’re familiar with this area you’d know that, as an actor, the chances that I’d be able to make a steady income (to maintain a ‘comfy’ lifestyle and allow me to raise a family) are slim to none. Thus, as disappointing as it was, I had to kick ‘acting’ off my list of potential careers because I valued having a family and my lifestyle more. This was a hard choice, but it was one that I had to make due to the job market in the area I wanted to live.
This may sound weird, but remember those stereotypes you learned about in elementary school or even in high school? About the type of person a doctor is, a farmer, or professor? There is a reason stereotypes exist and it affects who you are as a person. When deciding what you career you want, consider how it will affect you personally, on an emotional, mental, and physical level. Is it important to do to be fit? To be smart? To be healthy and popular? I chose to be an artist & designer because I wanted people to see me as that kind of person – for both good and bad of that stereotype. It makes me feel proud to be who I am. What you do should make you feel proud, regardless of what others may think of you.
In reading a recent post by Kevin O’leary, I thought it would be worth reiterating his wisdom. In summary, what you want to be is NOT the same as what you want to do for a living. Take sometime to think about this and even check out his post to learn more. In most cases, you’ll want what you do to support who you want to be.
Although my career experience was paved by some luck, it also had to do with how well I knew myself, how thorough I was in understanding the direction I was headed, and what my goals were. Based on the five concepts above, I purposefully put myself in situations that allowed for opportunities (that I was looking for) to show up – it allows you to ‘be in the right place at the right time’. Your goals can change at any point, but it’s important we make them. They provide direction in our career, life, who we are, and who we will become.