Some people grow up with a clear picture in their mind of what to do with their lives, or what to become. In other words, they know what their dream job or occupation is. If you are one of those people, congratulations, you are in the lucky minority. This blog post is for the rest of us; the vast majority of people who still don’t know exactly.
Choosing the right career path is one of the most important things for anyone, but especially so for a young person who is still defining her/his direction in life. Which occupation to choose, what to study, what kind of work to do?
For lots of young people these are also some of the most stressful decisions that they are coping with. The choice of occupations, jobs and companies is huge. Furthermore, many educations are very generic, and don’t point you directly to one occupation. Having a lot to choose from is a good thing, but at the same time it makes deciding that much harder.
I have personally wrestled with these career questions countless times in my life. It has never been easy and the answers have changed over time, but I have learnt some things along the way. Here are the 5 tips I came up with.
1. Understand that finding your dream job is a (long) process
My first job turned out to be exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life – said no-one ever. Still, there are so many people out there who seem to want everything the world has to offer right here and right now. You must understand that finding your direction and place takes time. Deal with it – otherwise you will just end up resenting your current state and create loads of unnecessary stress.
As you begin to realize that you can’t and don’t need to know all of the answers to your questions just yet, the stress starts to fade away.
2. Explore new paths – especially the ones you doubt
Say yes to new things; be open and curious. Make it a habit to expose yourself to new ideas and experiments. More than anywhere, this advice applies to work, studies and career. Take detours if you feel like it, and don’t be afraid to change the direction.
Ok, probably most of the people will agree with that, but here is the real kicker: it doesn’t just mean that you should always do only the fun and nice stuff. Be bolder than that. Make it a habit to also try the things that you doubt or dislike (or what you think you dislike). That’s where the most interesting exploration and biggest positive surprises will happen. Why? Most of us have very deep preconceptions about what we like and “should be doing”. Quite often, these preconceptions turn out to be completely wrong – but you first need to dare test them.
Personally, I never imagined doing anything related to sales – quite the contrary. After doing a bit of sales in some project, I realized that it is actually fun as hell, which later led me to do it for a living.
3. Make your every work experience a lesson that guides you forward
No matter how much you might like or dislike your current work or field of study, you should always keep in mind one thing – every new experience teaches you something about yourself, your preferences and obviously about the work you do.
Most people might think that it is a no-brainer. Still, many people lack the right attitude – and that’s what really matters. When you adopt this ‘learning attitude’, you realize that even the “bad” work experiences are very useful for you in the long run, and you will see your work and studies with fresh eyes.
With every new work experience, you begin to understand a bit better what you really want and don’t want to do for a living. You find out surprising things about yourself and your abilities. Furthermore, you begin to realize what you are really good at.
Start by asking; what have I learnt about myself at my current work or studies? “I would enjoy to get even more challenge” and “I want to be in a work with more contact with people”, are some of my own answers from the past.
Continue by asking; what did I learn about this job or field? Again, some of my own ‘aha moments’: “Wow, this is actually a lot cooler than I imagined!” and “This is totally different from what I thought.”
4. Interested in another field? Try it as a hobby first.
Many of us sometimes get these moments when we doubt our career choices and regret that we didn’t choose to do something else with our life. The grass is often greener on the other side. Or we just get very enthusiastic about some new thing.
The good thing is, that today it is easier than ever to try and learn new things independently. So try it as a hobby. Or take an online course to learn it. Internet is bursting with free materials to learn almost anything these days. These are easy ways to test if this interest of yours could actually become your next career path.
I have seen that the “hobby strategy” has worked well for many people. Myself, I got interested in the IT field and web development, so I started to create my own website. It has not turned into a new career path, but it has been fun as hell and thought lots of interesting and useful things.
5. Don’t be too “fast”
In tip 2 I wrote about exploring and trying out new things. However, there are also the moments where it is best to just persist and patiently keep at what you are doing.
Just started a new work but didn’t quite feel it as your thing yet? In this kind of situations (and many others) you do yourself a big favor by resisting the urge to quit.
Why? Because often it takes time to really get into a new field or work. Sometimes it can even take more than a year, before you truly understand what that job or field is all about. And that’s the point where most things really turn interesting and rewarding. If you have ever played tennis, you know that the first time sucks (you never hit the ball), but when you learned to play it suddenly became really fun. Same applies to most jobs.
If you must remember just one thing of this blog post, let it be this: don’t worry about not knowing yet what kind of career to choose. It takes a bit of time. Meanwhile – enjoy the exploration!
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Author: Mika Laaksonen, Head of Development at aTalent Estonia