One question I hear a lot from people is: “What should I do if I have too many different directions to choose from for my career path?”
I definitely struggled with this when I was starting out in my career. And I know a few other people who have as well. So today, I wanted to address this question for those of you that have a fuzzy mind and don’t know which direction to take for your career.
I feel as if I’m experienced enough to answer this question, because I come from a background of different career paths, loads of published articles – and if I put all my professional experience on my CV it would spill way over the usual two sides of A4.
What I’ve come to realise from understanding what it is someone wants to do for their career, is that it usually plays out in one of two ways:
- It could be the case that actually, you’re only passionate about your ideas in theory.
It’s like that underlying idea you’ve got for something, but you don’t realise it until it hits you between the eyes. It builds and builds, and you can use these images to picture this huge idea even before you’ve said anything or written something down on paper. But if you start to seriously think and plan out your idea, you’d soon realise it’s not the right one.
- You come up with so many different scenarios that are a great fit for you, and that you know you’d be good at.
But you spend so much time building them up in your mind instead of acting on them, that by the time you start to go for one idea, you’ve got another direction to try out. Or “something else” has gotten in the way.
This is no way for you to have the career of your dreams, my friend.
If you’re struggling with this huge, multi-directional fork in the road or have “too-many-ideas” syndrome, get reading the rest of this post for my take on it.
Oh, and there's also a nifty little workbook you can download to help you through this.
Before you even start thinking about what it is you want to do for a career, there’s an even more important question to ask yourself:
Who am I?
The answer should be based on your talents and also your personality.
How To Explore Your Talents
Something I advise all high school students to remember when they’re applying for subjects to study at college is this:
Do what you are good at.
This is exactly what you need to think about when choosing your career direction. So here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to figure out what you’re best at:
P.S Here's where you'll need the workbook...
- What project have you worked on when you’ve been the most passionate and committed?
- When do you find yourself being most creative?
- What is your greatest achievement?
- What do other people tell you you’re good at doing?
- What do other people ask you for help or advice with?
- What project throughout your life have you enjoyed doing the most?
- Which three of your skills do you rely on the most?
- What tasks do you like to do at work/for side hobbies when you have a choice?
- If money wasn’t a concern, what would you like to be doing?
When answering these questions, don’t restrict yourself to one word or one sentence answers. Write in detail. Then at the end, use your answers to identify patterns. What careers could your passions and skills be used in?
How to Explore Your Personality
There are two ways to do this – write down the characteristics you can think of, and then take a personality test. Once you get your results, you can write down all the words that describe you.
By taking a look at your personality, you can learn what you’ve got in common with other people and what sort of people you might enjoy working with – plus potential friction points.
But it also shows you what motivates you.
Once you’ve got a long list of words that describe your personality, you’ll soon realise that who you are is determined by the choices you make, especially in your career.
It’s like with blogging – when you know your “why” it’s easier to see how your work fulfils you.
Now you can find out what it is you want to do.
You career direction has to align with who you are.
So when you’re researching potential options, the key is to look for similar words and see if they suit who you are. It works like a charm.
Here are some different ways you can do this:
Start by thinking off the top of your head, and come up with a list of jobs that you think would suit you, based on your talents and interests. Then you can look on job boards, company websites and social media to see if anything else relates to you.
What’s important to remember here is that the industry you work in is just as important as the job title.
My job title is Marketing Coordinator. If I was looking for that type of job, there’d be ones popping up in loads of industries.
But you’ve got to pick the right industry, not just the right job.
I could’ve been a Marketing Coordinator for the finance industry or the gaming industry – I love marketing, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed doing it in those areas. Which is why I chose education.
Once you’ve got a list you can narrow it down even further and pick your top five career options.
a final note...
It might sound great on paper to want all these things you're passionate about to be part of your job.
But you're only passionate about these things until you actually do them and try them out.
Why don't you go right back to your roots and think about what you wanted to do when you were little? I was never going to go into the same career as my Dad, because Law doesn't interest me. But my Mum worked in Education and still does now. That really interested me.
But I didn't want to be a teacher. And I loved writing, and then I loved journalism, then I loved social media and blogging. So how did all of those fit together?
Marketing for a sixth form college.
It's like when you start a blog. You think - I love makeup, I'm going to start a beauty blog because I'm so passionate about all things beauty.
But then three or five posts in you stop - because in theory you were SO passionate about it. But now you're doing it, it's not actually something you want to fulfil long term.
So ultimately, there are two ways you can do this...
Find something that ties everything together and build your career path based on that theme.
It could be that everything revolves around motivation. So you could hunt for jobs in the areas that you're interested in and good at, based on whether it includes being a motivator.
Or it could be talking to people. So you find a range of jobs relating to that. This could include retail, counselling, public speaking, coaching and so on.
This is you taking the complexity out of the situation and focusing on one thing only. Even when there are different directions you could take.
The second option, if you really can't decide and are equally passionate about lots of things, is to try out each career path until you find the right one.
It's never too late. You don't have to worry about moving from job to job - that's what I've done and it's paid off.
If all your career directions really are that different, you can try them out and see which one you're best at and which one you love the most.
A lot of people might say to you 'just pick one' like it's the easiest thing in the world. But I'd advise against that.
When you're passionate about something you feel it in your heart - it's not simple enough to just pick one. Try everything or find a common ground and see which one feels most natural to you, instead of picking one.
Because what if you pick the wrong one and then you're stuck there?
It might take you a while to get there, but you will find it.
And if all else fails, just start something. Do it voluntary or do it yourself. You don't need a job immediately to start pursuing your goals.
One last thing - please don't convince yourself to stay in a career that you think you're passionate about when you're not happy. Please. It doesn't work that way. Just because you think you're passionate about something, doesn't mean it will fulfil you.
I'd love to know your thoughts - leave a comment and let me know, do you struggling with finding your career path?