Not everyone has a pre-determined career path or a single passion that will lead them to a dream role (click to Tweet). Most people don’t even actively choose what they do – they fall into jobs by accident or sheer luck.
While it’s normal to go through one or two difficult patches at work and useful to acknowledge that no role will perfect in every way, you’re going to spend the greater part of your life at work so you want to be happy with what you do.
1. Give up the idea that there’ll be one single thing
You don’t need to choose one career path to last you a lifetime nor do you need to have only one job at a time. There are several different ways to approach this.
Many multi-talented people have a corporate job that pays the bills and a part-time role that satisfies their passions.
Small creative business owners often perform a multitude of roles within their businesses. This is certainly the case for me. As well as being a coach and meditation teacher, I’m an event co-ordinator, web designer, photographer, graphic designer, writer, speaker, strategist, marketer, PR, HR manager and occasional CFO.
Some people have a long-term career goal that they can’t fully realise in the shorter term but they take steps to keep that passion alive day-to-day (e.g. you want to be a yoga teacher but you know it won’t pay the bills so you keep up your practise and continue your spiritual education).
Try this: Mind map all of the things you love doing and think about how you could bring these elements together either in your own business, across multiple roles or across your lifetime.
2. Be open to uncertainty
Most of us want to plan for career change. We want to know what role we’re ultimately working towards and we want to break our goals down into manageable, achievable steps.
If you don’t know what you want to be doing but you do know that it’s not what you’re currently doing, be open to uncertainty for now. It’s ok to not know – what matters most is that you stay open, curious and committed.
Try these: Quit your job and try something entirely different. Start a creative project on the side to discover a new interest. Go travelling and look for inspiration while you’re away. Give up your excuses about not having enough time, money or energy to explore new ideas.
3. Your work doesn’t have to fit with all of your strengths
Despite the fact that Positive Psychology says that we should engage our top strengths every day at work, each of us has strengths that deplete us when we use them. You might have been great at maths at school but find nothing more boring than reconciling the bank account or working on an Excel spreadhsheet.
Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you have to love it.
Try this: Create a second mind map noting all of the things you’re good at and compare them to your mind map of the things you love doing to make sure you get the mix right. If it doesn’t energise you, stop doing it.
4. Do something creative
Most jobs (and often even the creative ones) are somewhat repetitive and they keep us using a set of skills and strengths that we’re familiar with. If you have an inkling that you’d like to be doing something different, even if it’s something you’re not naturally good at, listen to that. You don’t know where it might lead you – for now, just be open to the idea of stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new.
Try these: Take an art class. Spend 15 minutes every morning writing. Learn to sail or play lawn bowls. See a foreign film or a contemporary dance performance or a live band. Spend a day being a tourist in your own city. Volunteer at your local community garden.
5. 20 ideas in 20 minutes
Most of us limit ourselves to career options that are sensible and safe. Brainstorm as many ideas as you possibly can and importantly, challenge yourself to be open-minded and creative and even a little bit crazy. Don’t limit yourself to things you know how to do, don’t over think it, don’t play it safe and make sure you push yourself to get to at least 20. It’s often hard to get started on this exercise but if you stick with it, you’ll get to a point where the ideas start to flow.
Try this: Create a third mind-map and spend the next 20 minutes coming up with at least 20 ideas for career options. If you’re really stuck, refer back to your earlier mind maps or flick through your favourite magazine for inspiration. You’ll be amazed at how a single image can kick start the creative process.
6. Take one step
Narrow your options down to a maximum of five different areas to explore. In the coming weeks (or months) take one step to explore each of those ideas further.
Try these: Talk to someone who is in already in that role and find out what they love about it and what they find difficult. Take a week off work and volunteer in your role of choice. Keep taking small steps until you learn that an option is something you want to pursue further or put aside.
We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: ‘Kate James is a coach and mindfulness teacher and the creator of the Life Purpose Programs. She works with people who want to live confident, creative lives. Her most popular offering is her half-day Discovery Session. Kate can be contacted at totalbalance.com.au.’