Choosing A Career is a daunting task for most of us. We have all had to be our own career coach without any training, and we can have so many career ideas and not know if we could succeed with any of them, and if we did, whether or not we’d feel happy about that choice. Of course, there are exceptions.
My nephew was one of those lucky people who always knew what he wanted. He started drawing and painting at age 2. I used to draw with him until he was about 6 and started imitating my way of drawing (not good) instead of continuing what he was doing. We led him back to doing what he naturally was doing, and today he is a visual artist and senior creative at an international design firm. Choosing a career was not that tricky for him.
Not so for most people, including me. I had many passions, but not so many career ideas, as I didn’t realize I could start with my passions to determine a career. The good news in my case was that I can now apply what I learned to my current work as a career life coach.
So how do most people go about choosing careers? Having led career talks, programs and coaching sessions for thousands of people, I can tell you that most people look at where they can make money using the skills they have. Pretty reasonable, right? Hey, that’s what I did and I established a very successful communication company of my own that earned me a good living and gave me lots of free time. Perfect? Maybe not.
The problem was that I began dreading my work days and tasks more and more over the years. Something inside of me said: This isn’t really you. You’re wasting your time. This isn’t what you love. This isn’t how I want to really contribute to the world–even though the work was pretty good, and the clients generally pleasant.
Thank goodness for that nagging voice. It forced me to rethink what I had done and led me on the journey to what I am now doing–helping people in finding and choosing a career they will love….without the pain and hassle I went through.
Be Your Own Career Coach
How did I do it? The secret lies in NOT starting out with skills and finances. Instead start out with who you are, what you love and what you value as well as what your skills are. That’s the first big step in generating new career ideas. Leave finances and realistic planning to the last and what I consider the fourth step. (More on the steps in other postings. Or check out my Guide to Lifework book for a complete program.)
The second step in becoming your own career coach is to take those key values and passions and skills and find out what you can do with them. That’s an exciting and creative process in itself, but when you realize what you want to do is teach or start a travel business or be an engineer, you can create focus and clarity with a LIfework Summary Statement that answers question 2–WHAT do I do for my career.
These statements look like:
I teach kids in the inner city how to read so they can go on and succeed in their dreams.
I help a large marketing firm organize and plan projects in a team effort to produce the most creative and effective campaigns with the least problems for our clients.
I help couples find peace and reconciliation after a divorce through couples counseling and workshops held at churches.
These are actually pretty elaborate statements. Yours can be simpler. It just has to work as a guiding tool for YOU.
Then you are ready for your third step in choosing a career–determining exactly what your day to day world will be like. So you’re a teacher–is that in a Montessori school in Chicago or a charter school for languages in a rural area? Are you working mostly on budgets by yourself as a planner or in a team? You need to paint a compelling picture that will excite you and lead you to your dreams. This stage can also include finances–how much will you earn.
Now, you are ready for all those practical elements of a plan. Your fourth question is: How Do I Succeed in making this vision real?
That question is answered with a step by step action plan relying on and developing a community of support (mentors, idea people, advisors, emotional supporters as well as some creative ways to look at your own thinking to make sure you don’t get down or stuck.
So choosing a career that you’ll love is a matter of just answering 4 questions. OK, that will take time. But I can tell you speaking from my personal experience as well as the responses of all kinds of clients, if you do it this way, you’ll not only wind up happier, but also enjoy getting there as well because it’s fueled by your desires, dreams and passions. Good luck.
Find out more about this topic, plus how to use mindmapping to help you with this process at Choosing A Career–3 Questions.
© 2008 Leonard Lang